Laurie Lewis- One Evening In May   Leave a comment

untitledMy review of Laurie Lewis’ new album is up at the Lonesome Road Review. One Evening In May is a live set comprised overwhelmingly by recently written and previously unheard (at least to me) songs. This isn’t a bluegrass album. But that doesn’t matter. It is a Laurie Lewis album, and that is something always appreciated.

As always, thank you for visiting Fervor Coulee and thank you for reading my roots music opinion. Donald


James King- Three Chords and the Truth   Leave a comment

James KingMy review of James King’s wonderful bluegrass album- like he could make any other kind!- Three Chords and the Truth- has been posted to the Fervor Coulee Bluegrass blog over at Country Standard Time.

It is a good ‘un, and I hope I’ve made a persuasive argument for it to receive more than passing consideration as the IBMA’s 2014 Album of the Year.

Three songs from the album, performed with his band, are linked below:

A nice live rendition of “Chiseled in Stone” here.

“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” courtesy of Ted Lehmann, here.

“The Devil’s Train,” here.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Roots Song of the Week: Carlene Carter- Little Black Train   Leave a comment

CarterGirl144The first time I heard Carlene Carter was, I now believe, on Joe Ely’s Live Shots album. Heard, but not really heard, if you know what I mean. Around the time I was getting into Johnny Cash and Rosanne Cash- early ’83 this would have been- Carlene’s C’est Ce Bon fell into my hands, and while the reviews of the album weren’t the strongest, I loved it. Still do. I found her singing on various albums, and her ‘almost hit’ with Robert Ellis Orrall, “I Couldn’t Say No,” was maybe the best song of the winter of ’83. Around the same time, I found Carlene Carter in a delete bin (cut-out bin in the US, I’ve learned) and my musical obsession was in full bloom. I went back and found the other early albums- although Blue Nun took awhile- and loved each and every moment of them.

No one was more surprised than me when she made it huge with “I Fell In Love” and all the rest. I bought everything that had her name on it, and heck, I even bought a Southern Pacific cassette because she sang on one song. Each of the albums she released since those heady days has done less well on the charts, but the quality of her music has never wavered. Stronger was a formidable comeback five or so years ago- not perfect- and her new album Carter Girl, to be released next week, promises to be even better. It is a set of mostly Carter Family songs, and includes a re-recording of “Me and the Wildwood Rose,” maybe the best song she has written.

While some of Carter’s decision making could be questioned, she has always had great musical taste. She recorded “Baby Ride Easy” with Dave Edmunds, and brought the song to the attention of Johnny Cash, whose version with Carlene’s mother June, is featured on the recently released Out Among the Stars. Listening to her albums with many years hindsight, one continues to be impressed by the quality of her songs, even if the production values are sometimes dated. “Come Here You,” “Sweet Meant to Be,” “Easy From Now On” (with Susanna Clark), and “Cry”- those are great songs. She didn’t write them, but “Never Together But Close Sometimes” and “Love Is Gone” from the first album remain in my personal Top 1000, or would if such a list existed.

Carlene Carter is one of the few artists about whom I cannot be impartial. It is more important for me to be a fan than a critic. Give me that, would ya?

I haven’t yet heard Carter Girl but am pleased to direct you to where she and Rounder are giving away a download of the album’s lead track. One listen and I hope you’ll hear why I chose the song as my Roots Song of the Week. Yeah, that’s Elizabeth Cook singing on there!

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald


Special Consensus & Eliza Gilkyson reviews   Leave a comment

eliza-bigIt has been a busy week here in the Fervor Coulee bunker, and the fruit of that labour has beenjohn-denver_country-boy-tribute posted over at the Lonesome Road Review in the form of two reviews.

First up is my review of the new Special Consensus album, abluegrass tribute to John Denver.

Also up is my review of the new Eliza Gilkyson album, The Nocturne Diaries.

Both of these albums are absolutely incredible, beautiful stuff.

Special Consensus, riding a career high since joining forces with Compass Records, are approaching their 40th year under the guidance of Greg Cahill, a banjo master. On this new album Country Boy, they are joined by bluegrass and Americana luminaries including Dale Ann Bradley, Jim Lauderdale, John Cowan, and producer Alison Brown. What holds it back from a 5 star label? Two too few songs, that’s it.

Eliza Gilkyson. Man, my words are truly inadequate. I’ve only been listening to her for ten or eleven years, but over that time I’ve come to respect her every bit as much as I do Tom Russell, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Rosanne Cash. Every time I think about Gilkyson, I remember the time- about six or eight years back- that I saw her join a First Nations circle dance at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival: the look of sheer bliss on her face as she danced has stayed with me ever since. Magic.

I appreciate everyone who visits Fervor Coulee- I hope you are finding writing of interest. Keep in touch, Donald



Gregory Hoskins & Gary Craig review   Leave a comment

a3212490856_2Gregory Hoskins & Gary Craig

The Map of Above, The Map of Below

For his eighth album, his first as a duo with percussionist Gary Craig, Gregory Hoskins (long-ago True North recording artist and leader of & The Stickpeople), has elected to continue peeling back layers to expose the earthiest roots of music and song-telling. Boy, does it work.

Elemental components of traditional blues and troubadoury- yes, I’ve decided that should be a word- are forged together creating a sweet and scathing affirmation of the human spirit. Hoskins’ straight-ahead singing is at the fore binding these songs into thematic consistency- love (obsession, rejection, longing…) hurts- but it is Craig’s drumming that serves as the sonic core.

Recorded in many places under varying circumstances across several months, the album has a holistic spirit that belies its construction. Such is the strength of their intimacy, the eleven tracks- two of which Hoskins has previously recorded in very different presentations- appear to have been very competently recorded over the course of an intense weekend.

Not knowing Hoskins, I can only guess at the darkness that haunts him, can only imagine the wee voices bringing substance to the visions he creates. Whether he is documenting reality, or creating a reality of imagination, Hoskins’ songs provide much to consider- even when lyrics inspire the listener to look away.

While Nick Cave and Paul Simon appear elsewhere as common reference points- and one can appreciate such- I’m thinking Stan Ridgway and Jane Siberry.

Colin Linden drops in some suitably tasteful slide touches to “Sweet Redemption,” while Hawksley Workman collaborates on “Surgery,” one of the two songs Hoskins previously recorded. Several tracks feature vocals solicited from and contributed electronically by fans and supporters, collectively credited as The Beggar’s Choir.

Relatively unheralded, The Map of Above, The Map of Below is an organic album: beautiful, natural, and genuine. As great art often does, it reveals itself as a creation of substance over time, through multiple listenings. With each play through, the songs increase in stature, and Hoskins’ layered vocal intensity becomes that much more impressive.

Explore outside your comfort zone, and take a chance.

Listen at

Thanks for reading Fervor Coulee. Donald


Dirk Powell- Walking Through Clay review   Leave a comment

untitledMy review of Dirk Powell’s Sugar Hill album Walking Through Clay has been posted by Aaron over at the Lonesome Road Review. The album came out in early February, and made its way to me this month. Seldom does an album so consume my attention as this one has. In my opinion, and that’s all I’ve got, well deserving of a five-star review.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald


Roots Song of the Week: Laurie Lewis- Sailing Boat   Leave a comment

untitledLast night I decided that I wanted to feature Laurie Lewis’ brave and challenging new live album within my Roots Song of the Week feature. Unfortunately, I could only find one of the songs streaming online, and it wasn’t the ‘right’ one.

I was pleased today then to find that Engine 145 decided to feature a track from One Night in May, both as a streaming track and as a video. “Sailing Boat,” it turns out, was the right song.

I suggest that One Night in May, Lewis’ new live album is both brave and challenging for good reason. On this trio album- Lewis is joined by long-time collaborator Tom Rozum and electric guitarist Nina Gerber- Lewis has elected to capture songs recorded live on a single evening at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage. (Some songs also feature harmony from the T Sisters, and one track has fiddling by Tristan Clarridge.)

Not only that, but she has chosen to build the bulk of the album around newly written songs. Therefore, few of these songs will have been heard by any but the most ardent of Lewis’ listeners. (I’ve been intently listening to Lewis for more than a dozen years, and nothing sounded familiar to me. Well, almost nothing. More on that later.) No “Who Will Watch the Home Place?” No “Tall Pines.” No “The Wood Thrush’s Song.”

This album then is a whole new listening experience, one that captures Lewis and her cohorts in a very comfortable setting. The song I’m bringing to your attention is one of the album’s most significant. “Sailing Boat” could have come from Guy Clark or Mary Chapin Carpenter. Like many of Lewis’ compositions, it uses finely hewn words to create images and a contemplative mood that remain fixed in the psyche long after the chords fade.

Beyond the quality of the production- both the sound recording and the album packaging and graphics (kudos Mr. Rozum)- what is readily apparent with this recording is that Laurie Lewis continues to peak. Her recordings stretch back some thirty years, and among them are several bona fide classics including The Oak and the Laurel, True Stories, Laurie Lewis & Her Bluegrass Pals, Skippin’ and Flyin’, and Guest House.  I would suggest that we add One Night in May to that list.

What was familiar about this album? A great version of “Ring of Fire!”

“Sailing Boat” can be heard over at Engine 145.

Happy listening. As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald





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