And, as far as that goes, only the Fervor Coulee kinda roots. Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, I’ve posted the nominees in the four categories I’ll be watching in February, if that is still when they have the extravaganza. This will get you there: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=981
Many bluegrass connections within these lists.
Maybe the world is finally figuring it out.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, and Fervor Coulee Bluegrass.
This review is a long time coming. Pretty much the theme around the Fervor Coulee bunker of late.
I bought the download of Truth Be Sold in early summer when it was released. The publicist sent me the disc a couple months ago. I’ve been listening to it the whole time, falling deeper under its complex spell the whole time. While it sounds just fine on the iPod, Truth Be Sold is an album that needs to be heard through an old-school stereo system- speakers vibrating the pictures on the walls. My apologies for the delay in featuring the album here at Fervor Coulee.
Leeroy Stagger Truth Be Sold Gold Lake Records
Leeroy Stagger’s eighth album Truth Be Sold aggressively announces its presence with a bold burst of rock ‘n’ roll power. “Memo,” replete with harsh reality, is just the opening salvo in a collection of songs that should stand as testament to Stagger’s well-established versatility.
Written in conjunction with guitarist/bassist Evan Uschenko and drummer Nick Stecz, the eleven songs comprising Truth Be Sold aren’t all modern noisy boy representation of power glam influences…but, mostly they are. Some hear Stooges and Stones, I hear Mott the Hoople and T.Rex, and on “Have a Heart,” Slade. The rambunctious “Goodnight Berlin” and the lead-off “Memo” are beautiful meldings of garage rawness and glam bluster.
More in your face than his previous Radiant Land, Truth Be Sold continues that excellent album’s themes of searching and alienation- elements that have been Stagger’s bread & butter for a decade- but lacks- intentionally, I believe- that recording’s overarching gentle beauty: if Radiant Land was the weekend’s promise, then Truth Be Sold is its aftermath.
Interspersed between the salvos of testosterone-fuelled bliss, Stagger and his crew demonstrate they are no one-trick bar band. “Celebrity” and “Break My Heart” are gentler, but no less fierce. Working with producer Steve Berlin for the first time, this Stagger outing doesn’t necessarily sound ‘better’ than previous releases, but it does feel different, more worldly and less personal. Truth Be Sold represents the ‘band’ Leeroy Stagger, the powerful live act that he is so comfortable fronting rather than the singer-songwriter on a stool persona he frequently assumes. Both are genuine, but they are completely different beasts inhabiting the same body.
“Cities on Fire” is a folk song filtered through Joe Strummer while “Break My Heart” mingles longing, self-doubt, and pedal steel reminding one of the clarity Alejandro Escovedo once brought to alcohol-induced introspection.
For me, the album’s standout tracks comprise the album’s final third. “Sold Down the River” and “Mister” are edgy songs balancing Stagger’s straightforward lyrical grace with the lively intensity a rock band affords: Slaid Cleaves meets the E Street Band. Admittedly, that sounds stupid- but it’s all I’ve got.
Like most of Truth Be Sold, “Mister” – first heard a couple years ago on Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1- has a catchy chorus, but unlike much of this album’s songs, the character sketched has great dimension and density: if you aren’t the guy who works for near minimum wage, whose aspiration exceeds his grasp, you know him. Truth Be Sold isn’t so much about story as it is about emotion.
This theme of wanting something different for yourself, but not having a clue how to go about achieving such connects the songs, and comes fully realized in the closer, “Jackie.” “But all I brought for you is a song,” the narrator admits, and one can’t be sure if he is incapable of bringing more, or if he’s just so caught up in his own spider webs that he can’t be bothered.
The repeated misuse of ‘your’ for ‘you’re’ within the lyric booklet is a minor irritant.
Truth Be Sold is a complex, diverse album- loud ‘n’ proud, political and opinionated, lost and found, hopeless and hopeful- that continues the path previously forged by Everything is Real and Little Victories, but is no step backward. Early on it earned a place on my 2014 Polaris Music Prize ballot, and it remains there- can’t see it falling off.
“We’ll listen to the record play, listen to the record play on…”
In December Leeroy Stagger, along with John Wort Hannam and Dave McCann, will be touring select Alberta locations with the annual Highway 3 Roots Review. He is also part of Barney Bentall’s Cariboo Opry in Bragg Creek, November 30.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, Donald
It took me a couple weeks to read, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading Murphy Henry’s history of women playing bluegrass. Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass is almost excellent, and examines the long history of women playing the music some of us love. http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2013/11/13/pretty-good-for-a-girl-women-in-bluegrass-by-murphy-hicks-henry/ will get you to the review.
It is replete with fascinating stories and little known facts. I’ve followed bluegrass pretty closely for 20+ years and I learned something from each and every page, and occasionally entire chapters were completely new to me. Names that I had only skipped across prior became connected to other personalities and events I had previously been aware of…dang me, dangling participle!
I very much enjoyed this book and recommend it to all who want to know more about bluegrass.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
I love music. I love listening to music, I enjoy reading about music, and I appreciate that I sometimes get to write about music, sharing my thoughts and opinions about roots artists- sometimes well-known, more often under-heard by most of us, including myself.
Last summer, I received a link for Laura Cortese’s release from earlier this year, Into the Dark. I was familiar with Cortese in only the most obscure ways. I had previously seen her name in print a couple times, only paying any degree of attention when I saw her as a member of Rose Cousins’ musical gang in the promo video for her We Have Made a Spark album.
I listened to bits and pieces of Into the Dark, but was continually distracted by the next bluegrass album or piece of CanCon that came my way: I know that in my efforts to listen to as many of the Polaris Music Prize candidates as possible this summer, I neglected many deserving new releases from within the roots world.
When I finally managed to concentrate on Cortese this autumn, I was blown away. I truly appreciate artists who make music that reminds me vaguely of what I’ve heard before- in the case of Into the Dark, I was making connections to Grey DeLisle’s albums of a few years ago- gosh, really? A decade?- and to Stan Ridgway, for some reason. The album is simultaneously lush and sparse, like the kind of music Alejandro Escovedo used to occasionally make, but Cortese’s music doesn’t sound like any of those mentioned artists.
It is all her own.
It is the kind of album that I will return to at times of contemplation, on late nights when sleep won’t come, the rain is pinging against the canvas of the gazebo, and an over-wrought mystery novel is calling my name.
That’s it- the connection I was looking for- Mark Erelli. What Cortese has done with Into the Dark reminds my of Erelli’s approach to songwriting, to music production, to singing.
I love the line, “When you know he feels the same thing…” Beautifully mysterious. Then again, the previous bit about the drummer drumming like its the last chance he’s got is damn fine, too. (I know, she didn’t write those words- I love the way Cortese recites them. There are plenty of gems of her own within the album’s seven originals- go find your own.)
It is a substantial release.
Interested? Read my review of Into the Dark over at the Lonesome Road Review, a place where one can usually find well-written (my contributions notwithstanding) reflections on roots music.
As always, I appreciate the time you took to visit Fervor Coulee.
Find more of my writing at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/fervorcouleebluegrass/ and I’m also on the Twitter mechanism @FervorCoulee.
Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, I’ve posted a piece including my reflections on some of the finest albums to be released these last couple months. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=978 will get you there. Let’s see: I touch on albums released by Alan Jackson, David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Si Kahn, Del McCoury Band, Junior Sisk & Joe Mullins, Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman, Terry Baucom, and Robbie Fulks, not to mention Mike Plume, Martyn Joseph, and the Ron Davies tribute. I may not be writing, but you can’t accuse me of not listening.
As always- thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
on Twitter @FervorCoulee
Bad iPhone picture of the night
Dale Ann Bradley returned to Alberta this week, her third journey to our northern bluegrass community since first coming our way about a decade ago. On this occasion, as each time previous, she brought a different band line-up with her, and while the others were stellar, her current group is arguably the strongest. [I will, however, never forget my first Alberta Coon Creek line-up with Michael Cleveland, Jesse Brock, Richard Bailey, and Vicki Simmons- still my personal choice.]
Without a doubt, Dale Ann Bradley is my favourite bluegrass vocalist, male or female, traditional or contemporary- whatever those final descriptors mean. Having previously been in the ‘presenters’ chair when Dale Ann came to the province, it was nice to drive up to the city last night and not worry about anything other than suicidal secondary highway deer.
As she has for a couple years, Dale Ann is sharing the stage with long-time friend Steve Gulley. Almost exactly a year ago, Uncle Phil joined up, and both were present last night. Gulley, for the most part, concentrated on bass duties while also serving as Bradley’s vocal foil. He pulled out his guitar for a few songs. Phil Leadbetter, master of the reso he is, handled the hub-capped guitar as only he can, and also contributed additional vocal harmony- unfortunately, I could not discern his voice within the mix.
Jamie Dean from Cumberland River Band handled the 5; I am only familiar with that group’s work from the Justified soundtrack, and based on his playing I’ll need to delve deeper. I missed the mandolin player’s name, but he had several things going for him- wonderful tone, seamless presence within the band’s sound, and he’s from Knoxville, always a positive.
The concert was held at the Capitol Theatre in Fort Edmonton Park. A great venue with terrific seating and sight lines. The sound was superior as well- minus the lack of Phil vox (but that could just have been my ears.) As always, the second best part of any area bluegrass show is reconnecting with friends and acquaintances. This being my first bluegrass show in two years- outside the bluster fleck that was the pseudo-grass I heard in Kansas City- it was wonderful to speak with several Alberta bluegrass pals, if only for a few minutes: folks like Marc, Anna, Curtis, and Ruth are always great to see. We have some good people in this bluegrass community, no doubt.
The first set was, for me, superior to the second. I thought the second was a bit staid, a bit by-the-numbers, with much of the band off-stage for several songs. Over the course of the evening, Dale Ann performed at least seven songs from Somewhere South of Crazy, including the Bill Monroe song “In Despair”- a show stopper- and “I Pressed Through the Crowd,” an old favourite. A handful of songs from the other Compass albums were performed, including “He’s The Last Thing on My Mind” and “Run Rufus Run.” I listened to Catch Tomorrow on the way in, and was once again won over by the strength of the album.
“The Piney Rose” proved to be as popular as ever, as did the show openers “Somewhere South of Crazy” and “Fifty Miles of Elbow Room.” Gulley took the lead several times, including on “Livin’ It Down,” (on which the instrumental presentation was especially powerful) “That’s Not What Ships Are For,” and likely the only George Jones song I don’t really care for, “The Window Up Above.” He also sang “California Cotton Fields,” taking Marty Raybon’s place on the Leadbetter feature; no “Moonracer” from Phil tho’, darn it.
Finally, Dale Ann again demonstrated that she is one heck of a guitar player, carrying the band’s sound firmly in hand. I could listen to her playing all night long. She was in terrific voice; then again, I’ve never heard Dale Ann at less than her best.
Given that I could put together a personal set-list that would not have duplicated a single song performed last night- so deep is Dale Ann’s catalogue- I more than enjoyed this concert. My mind didn’t wander, and I was only disappointed when they left the stage without performing “Me and Bobby McGee.”
Super musicianship. True people. Wonderful voices. Timeless songs. I couldn’t ask for more from a bluegrass show.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. I appreciate you dropping in.
on Twitter @FervorCoulee
and ends with the bluegrass community attacking itself from within.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.
@FervorCoulee on the Twitter.