Over at the Lonesome Road Review, two new reviews have been posted. I’ve been enjoying the Mark Chesnutt album for a few weekswhile the Summertown Road album has been kicking around for several months. Both albums are worth checking out, depending on your tastes. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Link to the reviews: http://lonesomeroadreview.wordpress.com/
Archive for June 2010
This week, my six-month Sirius freebie expired. Now that that distraction is gone- as much as I enjoyed listening to Chris Jones, Elizabeth Cook, Mojo, and even Kasey Kasem on Saturdays, I don’t really need the service; I know I am my own best dj- So, I can concentrate on whole-album listening a bit more. With the end of the school year approaching, my disc listening will likely increase. For this week, here is what crossed my path:
Jason & the Scorchers- Halcyon Times The first Scorchers release in more than a decade, and for some reason it isn’t readily available on disc in Canada. After waiting for a couple months, I finally downloaded the album. I’ve listened to it twice so far, and am really enjoying it. Sounds like Jason and Warner haven’t missed a beat. It will become a favourite.
Marty Raybon- At His Best
Ian Hunter- Welcome to the Club Not as vital as it was in 1980, but a heck of a live album.
Oliver Schroer- Hymns and Hers and Camino Inspired by the recent release of Freedom Row, I started delving further into the Schroer catalogue. Hymns and Hers was a pleasant listen, but- for me- hardly essential. Camino is inspiring. While walking the Camino de Santiago through France and Spain, Schroer recorded himself playing his violin in churches along the route. The field recordings of birds, footsteps, and cowbells are as important to the recording as are the songs. The environments, the chambers, provide a depth to the instrumentals. This is where fiddle meets violin along a path carved by millions of footsteps over eleven hundred years. Special.
Mark Erelli- The Memorial Hall Recordings Likely my favourite folk singer that I haven’t seen live.
Marty Stuart- The Pilgrim Brought to mind by the new Dierks Bentley album, this concept album reminds one of how good Marty Stuart can be when commercial constraints are removed. Stands up to the Johnny Cash theme-albums that inspired it.
Kim Wilde- Kim Wilde
The Blue Shadows- On the Floor of Heaven To be reviewed in the paper this Friday. A wonderful reissue of an album everyone who loves roots rock should own.
Summertown Road- Summertown Road An uneven bluegrass recording that I’m reviewing for The Lonesome Road Review. Uneven is perhaps the wrong word- more like underwhelming. It is a fine disc, just not spectacular.
Andre Williams- That’s All I Need More listening needed.
Dierks Bentley- Up on the Ridge A wonderful collection of acoustiblue music. While it will sound entirely different, I was moved to download the Punch Brothers’ album of a couple years back.
Peter Case- Peter Case This one has spent too much time on the shelf.
Swamp Dogg- Total Destruction of Your Mind A find courtesy of an Oxford American music issue of a few years back. Memorable, if nothing else.
Phil Seymour- Phil Seymour While playing around on the ‘Net this week, I came across mention of this album and was inspired to pull it off the record shelf in the basement. I slapped it on the turntable, put on the headphones and was in a blissful power pop cloud for about 35-minutes. Side One- with “Precious to Me,” “I Found A Love,” “Love You So Much,” “Baby It’s You,” and “Let Her Dance” rivals The Cars’ debut album as the best first side in a recording career; of course, Seymour had done several projects with Twilley before this, so maybe it doesn’t count. Throw in “We Don’t Get Along” and it is a masterpiece.
Kevin Welch- A Patch of Blue Sky He can sing anything. A great voice. Welch has asked these questions before, has sung these same songs in other ways. Doesn’t matter; when someone sounds this good, captures himself this well with lyrics, it is to be admired.
The Feelies- The Good Earth The vocals are mixed so low, I found it impossible to sustain interest in any of the words. If this were an instrumental album I would have enjoyed it much more.
David Newberry- When We Learn the Things We Need to Learn A nice little listen.
Joe Strummer & the Mescalaroes- Rock Art and the X-Ray Style Only discovered last year. I love this one.
Larry Jon Wilson- New Beginnings and Let Me Sing My Song To You His songs may not have the depth of Townes’, but I enjoy his singing and guitar playing very much. I’ve never been near the “Ohoopee River Bottomland,” but Wilson makes me feel a connection to his world. I imagine I’ll listen again to his 2009 release this coming week. I hope he had a good life; never read too much about him. When I think of Eaglesmith, the term ‘cult artist’- so popular in the 70s and 80s- sometimes seem appropriate. With Wilson, it seems like a slight; this is a singer that should have been better compensated for his art.
If you haven’t heard him, you missed one of the greats. I only heard him through the Heartworn Highways DVD. After that, I searched out his albums, including the one that came out last year. His singing was like no one else’s.
Fred Eaglesmith- Cha Cha Cha Reviewed here: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4463 With every listen, this album reveals a bit more. And what it reveals, is good.
Fred Eaglesmith- Milly’s Café, 50 Odd Dollars, Dusty I listened to these the other night while prepping my Cha Cha Cha piece. Dusty shocked me. I thought I disliked the album, and because of that I haven’t listened to it since it was released. Surprise. It’s pretty good. I know what I didn’t like- the organ- but my ears have grown into it. Really glad I pulled it off the shelf.
The Sadies- Darker Circles Working on a review. Well, listening a lot in preparation of writing a review.
Bryan Sutton and Friends- Almost Live One of those albums I feel quite inadequate reviewing.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band- Preservation Treme wrapped up Season 1 last night; I thought it had finished up before Memorial Day, but it only took a week off. Great show. I hadn’t listened to this one in a couple weeks, but put it on after the show was finished. The last four cuts really appealed to me last night.
Ian Dury- New Boots and Panties!! Just had to listen to it again. Rhymes, rhymes, rhymes. Rhythms. Rhythms. Rhythms. Good.
Kimberley Rew- Great Central Revisited One of my favourite albums. He is a master.
Highwaymen- The Road Goes On Forever: 10th Anniversary Edition Pulled off the shelf while writing a review for the new Mark Chesnutt album. Enjoyable, and even more so now than when first released.
Kathy Kallick Band- Between the Hollow and the High-Rise Great title! One of my favourite bluegrass people, Kathy Kallick is. I’ll be listening to this one all summer.
Oliver Schroer & The Stewed Tomatoes- Freedom Row Even better the second week. Reviewed in the paper last Friday; link below…somewhere.
Dierks Bentley- Up On The Ridge The last time a major country artist- at the top of his game, while not exactly setting the world on fire with his previous release- was this brave, putting everything on the line to make music he loves was, well…never? Marty Stuart, who Bentley does remind me of at times on this pretty spectacular acoustic roots album, did something similarly risky in 1999 with The Pilgrim. While an artistic success, The Pilgrim died at retail. So far, Up On The Ridge is a chart success. It is a terrific album and the contributions of The Punch Brothers and Del McCoury push it over the edge.
Doc Watson- Songs for Little Pickers Any Doc is good Doc.
Mumford & Sons- Sigh No More Modern music for a non-modern guy.
The Wooden Sky- If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone The only release from my Polaris Music Prize ballot to make it through to the ‘long list’ stage; how can I be so consistently out-of-touch with the Canadian pressie masses? Pretty easily- only a very small sampling of music I would identify as roots made it through- see the long list here: http://www.polarismusicprize.ca/blog/148 Lots of good music, no doubt, but it is criminal that John Wort Hannam was overlooked- Juno nominated, Queen’s Hotel is wonderful folk album, one for the ages. The Wooden Sky is battling it out with Lee Harvey Osmond for top place on my ‘short list’ ballot. Had LHO had a W in it, it may have made my Long List ballot.
The Fabulous Ginn Sisters- You Can’t Take A Bad Girl Home I’m reserving judgment until I listen again. Some nice songs with lyrics clever enough for me to suspect Fred Eaglesmith had a hand in them- the writing credits prove me wrong.
Regular visitors may recall in March I shared some listening suggestions for those just beginning to explore the dusty backroads of the bluegrass world. Now that the Summer edition of That High Lonesome Sound is available, I’ll post the continuation and conclusion of the piece; the full newsletter is available at http://www.waskasoobluegrass.com/nl/waskasoo_sum10.pdf
I don’t expect anyone to necessarily agree with my opinion, nor do I claim that my list is definitive. We each have to find our way on the bluegrass track- I’m just hoping some readers will benefit from my advice and find some music they may not have otherwise discovered.
In our last issue, I provided suggestions for bluegrass fans who are just beginning to explore the music, CDs that were from the ‘classic’ era of bluegrass (more or less) that I believe provide an introduction to my favourite music. This time I provide additional suggestions– remember, this listing is not definitive and I certainly welcome the ideas of others; if you have opinions on bluegrass albums that are readily available, we’d love to publish your thoughts.
Continuing our bluegrass journey with:
Yesterday meets today:
David Grisman- Home is Where the Heart Is (Rounder, 2008- originally released in 1988) David Grisman went back in time to have the second- and third-generation pay tribute to the music that forged their careers. Probably the first place I heard Del McCoury, 23 of the 24 songs are darn near perfect; I refuse to give any credit to the second worst song in the bluegrass canon, “I’m My Own Grandpa.”
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder- Bluegrass Rules! (Rounder, 1997) Still my favourite Skaggs album since he came back to bluegrass from country music stardom. The album doesn’t let up even when it slows down; from the mando kick-off of “Get Up John” through to the closing notes of “Rawhide” we have a survey of bluegrass history served up by one of the most talented bluegrass groups ever assembled. Likely easiest to find at the Skaggs Family Records website.
Del McCoury Band- Del & the Boys (McCoury, 2007- originally released on Ceili, 2001) Any place is a good place to start with Del McCoury. I chose this recording because it served as a bit of a break-through for Del and his sons, giving them a signature song in Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”, and served as a pinnacle for the group. It’s Just the Night (McCoury, 2003) is as strong, and has more blues and folk influences while The Cold Hard Facts (Rounder, 1996) is a pure, stone classic.
Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band- The Mountain (2009, New West- originally issued E-Squared, 1999) Steve Earle isn’t a bluegrass singer, but he does know bluegrass. In what could have been a vanity project, Earle composed more than a dozen solid bluegrass songs to sing and pick with the finest bluegrass band working at the time. That the partnership was short-lived and dissolved in acrimony doesn’t take anything away from the recording with songs like “Carrie Brown,” “The Mountain,” and “Yours Forever Blue” entering the bluegrass repertoire. The place to start if you are a Steve Earle fan just encountering bluegrass.
David Davis & The Warrior River Boys- Two Dimes and a Nickel (Rebel Records, 2009) Really, any one of his three most recent albums is an excellent introduction to David Davis’ particular brand of bluegrass music. Seldom does one think of the literary aspects of bluegrass, but when encountering Davis one isn’t offered any other course. He doesn’t seem to have the populist appeal that others may, but he possesses an artistic vision as defined and assured as anyone. The album’s strongest track is Tommy Freeman’s “The Brambles, Briars and Me.” The song is positively spooky in its matter-of-factness, and the Warrior River Boys- especially Owen Saunders’ fiddle contributions- make it haunting. A classic album.
Alison Krauss & Union Station- Every Time You Say Goodbye (Rounder, 1992) The ‘coming of age’ album for both Alison and Union Station. Every song is a winner, from the sacred (“Shield of Faith,” sung by Ron Block) and the traditional (“Cluck Old Hen”) to the unexpected (“Lose Again” from the Karla Bonoff folio) and the familiar (“Another Night.”) A classic recording that spoke to future greatness. Can’t find this one? No problem. Give Two Highways (Rounder, 1988) or So Long, So Wrong (Rounder, 1997) a try. The 2002 album Live would also be a fine introduction to one of bluegrass music’s most successful, multi-dimensional, and loyal outfits.
Rhonda Vincent- One Step Ahead (Rounder, 2003) All of her albums have something to offer, and Vincent has been consistent over time. I favour this one because it didn’t feel as over-polished as some of her later work would, it has some fiery bluegrass picking throughout, and it came at a time when there were few bands as exciting as The Rage. That “Ridin’ the Red Line” mentions Alberta didn’t hurt.
Steep Canyon Rangers- Deep in the Shade (Rebel Records, 2009) Contemporary bluegrass doesn’t get much better than this. From a youthful band of veterans, Deep in the Shade is the group’s fifth release, but the band hasn’t significantly altered their approach or sound. And while on some bands this may appear stagnant or limited, with the Rangers the impression is of consistency and capability. As they did on Lovin’ Pretty Women, the Steep Canyon Rangers demonstrate that a band can be musically innovative while reaching into the past. Steep Canyon Rangers straddle the blurred edges of traditional and progressive bluegrass.
Dale Ann Bradley- Don’t Turn Your Back (Compass Records, 2009) A mountain soprano of rare talent, Dale Ann Bradley has been wearing a path from the hills of Eastern Kentucky to Music City for two decades. With Don’t Turn Your Back she has not only created an album featuring rare musicianship and vocal harmonies, she has continued her ascendancy to the highest reaches of the bluegrass vocal world. Don’t Turn Your Back is a masterful recording, one that falls solidly within the most stringent of bluegrass definitions, yet is country enough that all roots fans should embrace its rich, melodic tones. With albums like Don’t Turn Your Back and singers like Dale Ann Bradley, the bluegrass community continues to shake off back wood images. If you can’t find this one, any Dale Ann album is worthy of consideration.
Ernie Thacker- The Hangman (Pinecastle, 2009) If you listen to the satellite radio, you likely know the name and voice, Ernie Thacker. If he has escaped your notice, change that right away. Thacker has natural bluegrass country voice that is memorable and distinctive. Listen to the way he bends his voice when singing the single word ‘throttle’ in “This Drinkin’ Will Kill Me.” Thacker was severely injured in a car accident several years ago, but has found a way to continue to make wonderful bluegrass music. His is a rare talent. Order CDs, including the excellent and hard-to-find The Chill of Lonesome (Doobie Shea, 2002), directly from his family at http://www.erniethackerroute23.com/
Adam Steffey- One More for the Road (Sugar Hill, 2009) A satellite radio favourite, Steffey’s (formerly Mountain Heart, Union Station, Dan Tyminski Band) second solo project is powerful from start to finish. While his lead voice isn’t the strongest, when listening to the first vocal track on the album I remarked to myself- because who else is listening inside my head- “I’ve missed that.” Throughout the album, Steffey is accompanied by the finest players, including Union Station mates Barry Bales, Ron Block, and Dan Tyminski. Heck, there’s even a Union Station circa 1997 reunion on “Warm Kentucky Sunshine,” with Alison taking the lead; evidence of her generosity and the ties that bind the bluegrass community, that one is a keeper. The featured mandolin breaks are demonstration that Steffey isn’t ready to rest on his laurels. My musical vocabulary isn’t strong enough to give justice to “Let Me Fall,” “Durang’s Hornpipe,” or “Half Past Four,” but the boys know what they’re doing.
James Reams & The Barnstormers- Troubled Times (Mountain Redbird, 2005) and James Reams, Walter Hensley & the Barons of Bluegrass- Wild Card (Mountain Redbird, 2006) Finally, to wrap up this selection of bluegrass starting points, two exceptional albums from James Reams. The first features hard-scrabble bluegrass with Kentucky roots, songs of salvation, hollers, trains, storms, home places, and mountains that disappear. The second is punctuated by the banjo of bluegrass pioneer Walter Hensley and is perhaps an even more clearly articulated of what bluegrass can be in the right hands. Visit http://www.jamesreams.com/ to find these recordings- because the packaging of both is exceptional- or iTunes and eMusic for downloads.
There they are, the places I recommend you use as starting places as you being to delve into the wonderful world of bluegrass. Words of caution– avoid the ‘bargain bin’ collections found in some stores. Often what you find will be shoddily compiled sets that are less than satisfying. Enjoy your bluegrass journey!
While it didn’t change the course of network television, it may well change the course of Fred’s career. Looking like a secondary character from Carnivàle, Fred’s highly publicized appearance on Letterman Friday night, June 18 (recorded the previous Monday) went off without an apparent hitch. Performing “Careless” from Cha Cha Cha with the full assemblage of The Fred Eaglesmith Road Show, Fred was all Fred- calm, cool, and calculated. I’ve been listening to Cha Cha Cha for a couple weeks now and had identified “Careless” as among the most accessible tracks within a dense collection of odd (to be clear, that is not a negative) songs and performances. Within the ‘live’ context, the song worked very well and Fred was beaming by the time Dave ambled over. It was a strange but restrained performance on a huge stage, and I do hope it causes the sales of Fred’s new album to go through the roof; I enjoy mid-90s Fred much more, but I’m not going to knock anyone for changing their style over time. Count me among those who never thought they would see Fred on Letterman, but it is a logical placement- Dave has always taken chances with his musical guests, featuring many one would not anticipate.
Eaglesmith will be spending most of July in Alberta this year, beginning at Pembina River Nights July 9 (http://www.asmallshieldmusic.ca/) and wrapping up at the nearby Grandview Stage at Cow Lake August 5 (http://www.grandviewstage.com/specialevents.html) I can’t wait to see how Fred goes over at Blueberry Bluegrass! (www.blueberrybluegrass.com)
From New York’s Ed Sullivan Theatre to the Grandview Stage in less than six weeks- the life of a road musician!
Letterman clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdUAjwHWYSI
Two reviews this week (originally published in the Red Deer Advocate June 18, 2010)- The Farewell Drifter’s Yellow Tag Mondays and Oliver Schroer & The Stewed Tomatoes’ Freedom Row. I was fortunate to receive the first album some time ago, and was able to allow it to weave itself into my conciousness over a period of weeks. While it was appealing from first listen, after listening to it six or eight times, my appreciation for the album grew. The second arrived on a Thursday and I listened to it the following Saturday; my plans for this week’s column immediately changed and I listened to Freedom Row over and over again on Sunday while formulating my thoughts. The album has an immediacy I would never have expected from a Schroer disc. Anyhow, give them a read and then- if they sound up your alley- buy them. Both are well worth cash money. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.
Oliver Schroer & the Stewed Tomatoes Freedom Row Borealis
Since his death two years ago, Oliver Schroer’s impact on Canadian folk music has become increasingly apparent.
Like Tim O’Brien’s, Schroer’s albums cross genres- from Celtic to ambient, classical and world to folk- without warning. Always powerful, the Ontario fiddler and composer, who lived for many years in Smithers, B.C., never stayed in one place too long.
With Freedom Row- completed in the months before succumbing to leukemia- Schroer completes a band recording initiated the previous decade. Within minimal vocals, Schroer and his compatriots have breathed story into fiddle-centered tunes that cut a swath through the musical lands Schroer explores. It is an intimately appealing recording, and not only because of the circumstances of its final gestation; the instrumentalists play off each other in dramatic ways, and the songs often go places that the initial bars don’t hint toward.
Schroer’s song notes read like fiction, revealing tales and influences the captured sounds hint toward, and the packaging is- like most Borealis projects- as impressive as the recording it houses. I never expected to enjoy this album as much as I have.
The Farewell Drifters Yellow Tag Mondays Thirty Tigers
Like The Infamous Stringdusters, Cadillac Sky, and Nickel Creek before them, The Farewell Drifters are a string band that uses the structures and instrumentation of bluegrass as a springboard to acoustic pop reinvention.
With youthful enthusiasm and instrumental acumen, the second album from this Nashville band extends their explorations and acutely focuses their vision. Vocal diversity and harmonies that echo both The Beatles and Hot Rize provide the group with a dynamic that has wide appeal.
In-house songwriting provides a bit of narrative mixed with artistic wordplay, maintaining listeners’ attention. Similarly, the instrumentation is spirited and engaging with songs ebbing and flowing with clever, unexpected changes.
The cumulative result is a catchy album of which one is not likely soon to tire.
As my 6-month, free subscription to Sirius is soon expiring, I’ve been listening to it a little more this week than the previous few; need to get my fill while I can. I listened to only a couple CDs in the truck this week, but made up for it with pulling out the headphones on the home office-based stereo. Next to no radio listening. Quite a bit of variety this week; some for writing purposes, mostly just for enjoyment.
The Farewell Drifters- Yellow Tag Monday Finally get around to this one in the paper this coming week. Much like The Infamous Stringdusters, but- to my ears- with more of a pop foundation. An excellent album, in my opinion.
Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice- Heartache and Dreams Not as immediately impressive as their 2008 release, but more than enjoyable.
Various Artists- Have You Heard- Spring ’09 A Starbucks sampler loaned to me by a friend from work; I think she lent me this same disc last year. Earnest, coffeehouse folk-pop. M. Ward’s “Jailbird” grabbed me this time, as did Fink. Reminds me to pull that Bell X1 disc off the shelf, and Vetiver’s Tight Knit. Most of it is a little too polished for my tastes, but I made it through. Solid drumming throughout.
Perhapst- Perhapst With a name one has to be intrigued by, this one had been sitting on my desk at work for awhile and I finally brought it home for a listen. A good album for a warm Sunday afternoon. I hear Decemberists connections.
Miranda Lambert- Revolution From the library. I’ve been trying to listen to a bit more commercial country because I’ve totally drifted from the field. This one wasn’t as interesting to me as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but it does have a Fred song, so… For that reason only, of marginal interest; just not enough memorable material.
Will White- Rise Above It has been a great few months for Alberta roots music, with outstanding releases from Ruth Purves Smith and Donna Durand. Add Will White to the list. Formerly of (sometimes still with?) Widowmaker, White’s debut effort sparkles with Byron Myhre’s fiddling. White’s songs are strong and focused- he uses more words than some might, creating narratives that are fully developed. I’ll continue to spend time with this album.
Dailey & Vincent- Sing the Statler Brothers I enjoyed this one more this time through than last.
Various Artists- Deadicated I picked up this tribute album for $6 a couple weeks back. I fell into the Grateful Dead through cover versions of their songs, including the Dwight Yoakam track contained herein- things like bluegrass renditions of “Friend of the Devil” and “Dire Wolf,” and David Grisman’s collaborations with Garcia. Slowly I overcame my baseless prejudice against the band and bought Workingman’s Dead, but haven’t ventured too far into their catalogue. Some nice stuff on this one.
Woodbend- Hank’s Old Mandolin An Edmonton-based bluegrass band I’m considering for a show this winter.
Fred Eaglesmith- Cha Cha Cha Still enjoying it, but not sure if I understand all of it.
The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse Much like Cha Cha Cha; I’m not sure if I get it.
Kim Wilde- Kim Wilde The 80s were very, very good to me. Given a test last week, I would have been able to name three songs off of here- “Kids in American,” “Chequered Love,” and “26580.” Listening this week, I could sing-along to almost every song, including “Water of Glass,” which makes no sense as far as I can tell.
Kim Wilde- Select Even better than the first. “View From a Bridge” reminds me of a) Smash Hits, a glossy Brit-pop magazine; b) paying too much for import 12” singles; and c) how good Wilde was when she was at the top of her game. I’ll admit, some of her stuff is near unlistenable but her first three or four albums- for what they are- are stellar.
David Broza- Night Dawn: The Unpublished Poetry of Townes Van Zandt I purchased this one after reading about it in, I think, Paste. Only once through so far, but I’m liking it. It is nice to hear someone interpret unfamiliar Townes’ material. I don’t need to hear “If I Needed You” or “Pancho and Lefty” reinterpreted ever again- sorry, Steve. I do want to hear these pieces again.
Molly Hatchet- Flirtin’ with Disaster Sometimes, I can’t explain myself to myself.
Oliver Schroer & The Stewed Tomatoes- Freedom Road A beautiful package. Lovely music, pushing at the boundaries of roots music. I review it this Friday in the paper.
Mark Chesnutt- Outlaw Faded Nashville hitmakers don’t fade away, they just live in the past. In Chesnutt’s case, this is not a criticism. He might as well just done Waylon songs, as 67% of these cuts come from Jennings, either primarily or secondarily. At times, Chesnutt sounds so much like Waylon, you start to doubt your ears. Featured on one track is Amber Digby, whom I hadn’t noticed the first listens through, but her name popped at me this time as I heard a track from her collaboration with Justin Trevino this week on either Sirius 63 or the Willie channel. I downloaded that album last night.
Amber Digby & Justin Trevino- Keeping Up Appearances The way country was for a while in the late-sixties to mid-seventies. Somewhat overwrought ballads of couples in trouble- love, denial, accusation, and acceptance. I’ve never listened to Trevino before, and before this week I had never heard of Digby, so there was ‘risk’ in downloading this one from eMusic; no regrets. It is a wonderful album of what country once was and – in rare cases- still is.
Ian Gomm and Jeb Loy Nichols- Only Time Will Tell When I saw this one on eMusic, my heart pitter-pattered just a little. While I only have a passing listening acquaintance with Nichols, it was a favourable experience listening to Now Then a few years back. On the other hand, Ian Gomm is a favourite from way back; I’ve been listening to him for nearly thirty years. Only Time Will Tell, after only a single listen, is going to be a new fave. It is a Nick Lowe sounding album. I understand it has been out for a while, but it was just added to eMusic. I’ll spend more time with it. I’m not sure how anyone could ever complain about the selection on eMusic; I found three new albums to download within minutes of my downloads refreshing.
Tift Merritt- See You On the Moon Only two songs caught my attention, “Mixtape” and a cover of “Danny’s Song,” a song that wasn’t crying out to me for an update. Both are quite appealing and I’ll need to spend much more time with this album; first impression- I’m underwhelmed, but I was a bit distracted while listening. I didn’t notice the cover of “Live Till You Die” and will give that a spin tonight. Reminds me that I need to get her Austin City Limits DVD back from a friend; that one, I liked.
Jennie Arnau- Chasing Giants I wrote a review for Lonesome Road Review; not sure if Aaron will use it. It isn’t favourable. [Update: It is posted here: http://lonesomeroadreview.wordpress.com/]
Doug and the Slugs- Slugcology 101 One of the finest pop bands to get mixed up in the Canadian new wave; they never belonged there, but the songs hold up just fine.
Jack Williams- Live and In Good Company A favourite writer, singer, and songwriter. I don’t hear him often enough.
Jamey Johnson- That Lonesome Song I’m about two years late on this one. Read all the press, blah, blah, blah. Heard a song hear and there. Really listened to “Mowin’ Down the Roses” one day last week. I downloaded this the next day.
Madness- Total Madness: The Very Best of… In my 300-disc player, this album sits in position 260. Previous to this are five empty slots I use for ‘non-permanent’ jukebox listens. This week, after my review listening was done, this one popped on- I normally shut it off a song or two in, but this time- as I was lazing on the couch wearing headphones, I was much too comfortable to get up. A compact summation of the bands latter day (series one) hits, much more concise than the rambling, three-disc The Business which I’ve only listened to all the way through once. There is goes again…just finished playing the Starbucks album all the way through, and there’s “Our House” starting up. Once in a week is enough, I do believe.
Johnny Cash- Unearthed Disc 5 Which sits in slot 261.
No time for elaboration this week- just the facts; lots of CanCon this week as I narrowed my Polaris ballot:
The Blue Shadows- On The Floor of Heaven I could listen to this one all week- and maybe I did. The bonus disc adds to my appreciation of this 1993 release. Nicely paced. The liner notes- available via download- are excellent.
Blue Rodeo- The Things We Left Behind Surprising to me, considering the last song of BR’s that I thought was fresh was “Try.” A pretty pleasing disc.
Roland White- I Wasn’t Born to Rock ‘n Roll A great bluegrass reissue.
Susan Cowsill- Lighthouse I’m on a bit of a Cowsill kick; it happens a couple times a year.
The Wilderness of Manitoba- Hymns of Love and Spirits
One Horse Blue- One Horse Blue Who cares if they recycle licks and tricks from the Doobies and Eagles. A heck of an album.
Woodpigeon- Die Stadt Muzikanten
Miranda Lambert- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend One of a few commercial country albums for this week. Starts good, finishes strong…the middle is a snooze.
Alan Jackson- Frieght Train Never has an Eaglesmith song sounded so harmless. Jackson is like George Strait to me- always enjoyable but never lasting. I get bored easily by his albums.
Jeffery Hatcher and the Big Beat- Cross Our Hearts Still great.
The Earl Brothers- The Earl Brothers A masterful album; nothing else like it released in the last year.
Dan Mangan- Nice, Nice, Very Nice One day I’ll get through to track 8 without falling asleep. Just not today. Or yesterday.
Mark Chesnutt- Outlaw Covers of what you’d expect. Is a bad version of “Black Rose” possible?
Various Artists- Highway to Hell (Mojo- June 2010) Fitting soundtrack to my reading of Horns.
Jackson Browne & David Lindley- En Vivo Con Tino Spontaneous purchase this weekend while in the big city. Saw it in Hardly Much Variety and bought without knowing what it was. Only listened to Disc One so far; acoustic, live, in Europe. So far, I’m quite enjoying.
The Farewell Drifters- Wellow Tag Mondays Need to write about this one this week. It is worthy finding.
The Sadies- Darker Circles
Danny and the Champions of the World- Streets of Our Time
The New Pornographers- Together
Billie Joe Becoat- Reflections from a Cracked Mirror
Jill Hennessey- Ghost in my Head
Various Artists- Buena Vista Social Club at Carnegie Hall Every buy an album and immediately wonder a) What? and b) Dang? Okay, other than The Doors Greatest Hits, because we’ve all regretting buying that one. Not sure what I was thinking- I traded in the original Buena Vista Social Club album six or seven years ago after one or two listens. This one is lively and quite enjoyable at times, but the piano based numbers put me into an immediate fog. I suspect this one will get traded in on my next visit to the used store.
Along with 200+ writers, broadcasters, and bloggers, I’ve spent recent days and weeks narrowing my list of ‘best’ Canadian albums for this week’s deadline. For more information on the Polaris Music Prize, visit http://www.polarismusicprize.ca/.
Each of the members of the jury independently submit a list of our five favourite albums. The results are tabulated and the top 40 vote-getters become ‘the long list’ for final balloting. The long list will be released on June 17.
Brought to you by the letter W, my Polaris Ballot reads as follows:
1. John Wort Hannam- Queen’s Hotel
2. Jenny Whiteley- Forgive or Forget
3. The Wheat Pool- Hauntario
4. The Wooden Sky- If I Don’t Come Home, You’ll Know I’m Gone
5. Woodpigeon- Die Stadt Muzikanten
I am pleased by the balance I’ve found for my ballot. I didn’t limit myself to the roots world and was able to advocate for and support artists I truly believe produced outstanding albums during the eligibility period. Will any of my nominees make the long list? If my voting history holds true, maybe one. Within the jury there is usually considerable discussion of the Indier than Thou, Central Canada, skinny white boy in need of a shave-composition of the Polaris final nominees- okay, much of that discussion originates with me.
This is what I know. The Polaris Jury is passionate about Candian music. While we all come to the keyboard with biases of one type or another, I highly doubt you will find a jury for any award that is more engaged in the process than this one- and we’re all volunteers- no junkets, no goodie bags, and no lobbying (except from within the group). We care about the music and we care about this award. Period.
I look forward to reading (and continuing to hearing) what my fellow jury members place on their first ballots. I just hope the roots world gets some representation.