Archive for May 2011
I was quite excited earlier this month when I was assigned Laura Cantrell’s tribute to Kitty Wells to review. Cantrell is one of those singers who I love to listen to, but seldom am reminded to pull her albums off the shelf. This weekend, with a self-imposed deadline in sight, I spent time quickly refreshing my memory of Cantrell’s music; it is every bit as impressive as I remember. I love a good tribute album and find that almost all of them have something to offer; it is nice to hear music that is inspired by a deep respect for those who came before.
Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs of the Queen of Country Music is a wonderful albeit rather short salute to a singer whose music I haven’t truly delved into- even when I was in my twenties and beginning to explore country, Wells seemed to be too far removed to really appreciate- sort of like Jimmie Rodgers, I suppose.
Laura Cantrell”s own writing has frequently taken a back seat to her interpretations of other’s songs and this 10-song tribute to Kitty Wells shouldn’t come as a surprise. Songs such as her own “Broken Again,” “California Rose,” and “Early Years” contain the same balance of vulnerability and backbone that Wells’ finest songs captured.
Given the current state of commercial country music, a tribute to Kitty Wells may not seem to be the most viable idea; in fact, one wouldn’t be surprised if some reading her name will consider it presumptuous that Cantrell is paying tribute to Mrs. Bruce Robison.
The impact Kitty Wells had changing the course of country music is well-documented if frequently neglected: 75 charting songs, 50 consecutive charting singles, three number ones including “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4699 will get you there. Let me know what you think.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
From the presser:
Acony Records is proud to announce that on June 28, 2011 they will release The Harrow & The Harvest, the new album by Gillian Welch, featuring ten new songs recorded at her own Woodland Sound Studios in Nashville, Tennessee and produced by David Rawlings. Preorders will begin on gillianwelch.com on June 14th.
Great news for those of us who have been waiting for new music for a long, long time. For perspective, the interval between this new album and Soul Journey has been longer than that between Boston’s Don’t Look Back and Third Stage.
By invitation and request of the Country Standard Time site, I’ve recently launched Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, a sister blog to my own Fervor Coulee site. I’ve got a handful of postings up including a brand new one about the recent Rebel digital releases. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/fervorcouleebluegrass/ Will get you there if you’re interested.
Country Standard Time has a huge archive of reviews and articles, and I’m glad to be asked to be part of their blog team having written for the site for the past year and a bit. Hopefully I’ll find enough to write about.
I DON’T want the blog to be an archive of press releases as other sites and bloggers (and who are much more connected to the bluegrass world) do fine jobs in that area. I would like to share news of events and happenings, share information about upcoming releases and such without just reprinting the pressers, so if you hear of something I should know about that you want others to know about, please pass it on.
Last I heard, and as foggy as my memory is, Country Standard Time has some 100 000 plus
unique visitors monthly and that is no small number.
Best, and a bit red-faced for such blatant self-promotion…
And I thought I had a busy weekend. Apparently, Steve Forbert was even busier.
This just arrived in my mailbox: “Set the World Ablaze”, a brand new Steve Forbert studio recording, is now available as a free download!
The song, completed on May 20, 2011, is a protest piece about those who profited the most from the events leading up to the 2008 financial meltdown — and those who have profited “big time” from its taxpayer bailout aftermath.
I have no hesitation in spreading the word. http://steveforbert.bandcamp.com/track/set-the-world-ablaze will get you there. Enjoy- new Steve Forbert is almost always a good thing. I’m not sure if this one will have the longevity of Steve’s “The Oil Song,” but it sounds pretty good to me and I love the idea of the immediacy of getting it out to the public.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, Donald
Posted this evening, the only thing the following four albums have in common is that each has been produced by a remarkable female talent, two of whom are newer to me than the others. And I do try not to think in terms of gender when it comes to music although I invariably must on at least the most obvious levels.
They also have in common relatively similar release dates. Okay, that and that all four are substantial artistic creations. And darn good.
Superficially, I guess they do have quite a lot in common. But their sound, approach, and mood are as varied as they are impressive.
Give them a read, won’t you? Share your opinion by leaving a comment. And for goodness sake, buy some music! Donald
Sarah Jarosz Follow Me Down Sugar Hill
In many ways, I lead a sheltered life. I don’t listen to satellite radio and those few stations I do frequent don’t, as far as I’ve noticed, favour Sarah Jarosz with substantial airplay. So it was only yesterday morning that I heard someone outside my head pronounce her surname.
Suffice to say, what I heard on CKUA sounded much more seemly than my own butchering of the nimble-voiced lass’s name.
Having mostly missed her debut of a couple years back, I’ve been listening to this album for quite some time now and can’t get enough of it. The first two songs, “Run Away” and “Come Around- both self-written although the first shares credit with Alyssa Bonagura)- are as fine examples of the music I dubbed acoustiblue a decade ago as I’ve heard, this despite there being a bit of electric guitar (from Jacosz and John Leventhal) on the album’s lead track.
I was ready to give a nod to Gillian Welch for writing “Annabel Lee,” but it appears this new song owes no small amount to a new Nashville cat I had missed named Poe. Edgar Allan.
Much of the glorious magic of the album’s first ten minutes has to be credited to Chris Thile and his Nickel Creek partners, their participation absent as it is. Had that youthful band of upstarts not done what they did a decade and more ago, I’m not sure our ears- certainly my ears- would be ready to hear these spacious, layered sounds. Viktor Krauss’s bass provides a voluminous sound that provides additional substance throughout these initial songs.
And from this initial blast of loveliness, things only get better.
Of course, the greatest credit for the success of Follow Me Down must be directed toward the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist herself. On various mandolins and guitars- and on a single song, banjo- the New England Conservatory of Music student demonstrates that the promise I’ve read so much about has been realized. Yes, Jarosz is surrounded by some of the business’s finest talents- Stuart Duncan, Jerry Douglas, Béla Fleck, and Mark Schatz here and there, Dan Tyminski, Sarah Siskind, Vince Gill, and Darrell Scott lend harmony throughout and The Punch Brothers- with Chris Thile on harmony and mando- on a single track, a cover of Radiohead’s “The Tourist.”
Depending on who is reading this, you and I could lead such a group and it likely wouldn’t sound terrible. Well, maybe you could- I’m pretty sure I could ruin such a gathering. But Jarosz most obviously possesses a special talent that rarely develops to the level it has in her at such an early age; she is the exception to my rule of not getting excited about anyone’s musical output before they are twenty- and Wikipedia informs me that she beats that by only a day here at Fervor Coulee.
I could listen to this all day- heck, I’ve been listening to it for most of tonight and more times than I can count this month. As her voice flexes and climbs with Darrell Scott’s on “Here and There”- not delicate, thin, or fragile as one may mistakenly assume, but solid, strong, and formidable, one can’t help but be impressed. There is something substantial here, something that suggests that this is but the beginning of a wonderful journey.
There are more than a few singer and musicians I remember hearing for the first time: Nanci Griffith. Bruce Springsteen. Guy Clark. I can’t say I remember the first time I heard Jarosz sing. But I wish it was with this album, because I’m pretty sure I won’t forget what I felt the first time I heard Follow Me Down.
If roots music and chamber music ever came together, I think it might sound like this. It’s fresh, it sounds and feels spontaneous. And it is very, very good. But, don’t let my ineffectual writing dissuade you- if you are even the least bit adventurous in your roots music listening, track down Sarah Jarosz’s sophomore effort, Follow Me Down.
Once again, thanks for visiting here at Fervor Coulee. Donald
Tara Nevins Wood and Stone Sugar Hill
Although she has been performing with Donna the Buffalo for some two decades, outside a brief flirtation around their Jim Lauderdale collaboration of several years back, before Wood and Stone, I was pretty ignorant about Tara Nevins.
Sadly, I didn’t even recognize her name when the album arrived in its nondescript plain yellow-padded envelope last month; the disc sat ignored for more than a few weeks. Once again, my bad.
If you’ve read this far, you likely already know more about Tara Nevins than I could possibly tell you, so let me be brief. The Cajun-flavoured “All I Ever Needed” is my new favourite song this week and Wood and Stone contains half-a-dozen songs easily as appealing as that slice of enchanted sustenance. “You’re Still Driving that Truck” may not be a hit for Nevins- not that it couldn’t or shouldn’t be- but I can hear someone like Miranda Lambert taking hold of it, making it her own, and getting some airplay.
Not as up tempo but every bit as well constructed and engaging are songs such as “Snowbird” (which features the aforementioned Lauderdale on duet vocals, and who has his own Sugar Hill album coming out next month) and “Stars Fell on Alabama.” The latter song, a jazz standard popularized by Billie Holliday and others, is retooled by Nevins as a lonesome mountain ballad accompanied as she is by Crooked Jade-Rose Sinclair on banjo.
While the album largely consists of originals, three of the album’s final four songs are covers, be they very creative and unconventional covers, as in the case of “Stars Fell on Alabama.” Van Morrison’s full-throated “The Beauty of the Days Gone By” is softened but not weakened in Nevins’s treatment, serving as an appropriate foil to Nevins’s own preceding “Tennessee River.” The traditional “Down South Blues” is recast as a poppy, 60s country song, the kind of thing you may have heard on the flip of a Jeannie C. Riley hit.
I should likely write more about Nevins’s fiddling, but I’m so taken with her voice, there doesn’t seem to be much point in further fawning, however well-intentioned.
Nevins’s world is certainly not all lightness and flowers, but she never succumbs to wallowing in the murk for too long. The result is a challenging, multi-dimensional album that should appeal to folks who enjoy Rosanne Cash’s more playful side, although Diana Jones is perhaps a more representative comparison.
The more I listen to Wood and Stone, the more I find to appreciate; I suspect I’m going to be listening to this one well into the fall.
As always, thanks for visiting at Fervor Coulee. Donald
Eliza Gilkyson Roses at the End of Time Red House Records
I fell for Eliza Gilkyson’s voice, music, and outlook some years ago shortly after really hearing her for the first time. Land of Milk and Honey was an album I became absolutely enamoured with and I continue to consider “The Ballad of Yvonne Johnson” (while having little to no sympathy for the woman who participated in the murder of and committed indignities to another human) one of the great songs of the last decade. Hearing her perform and seeing her participate in a dance circle at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival some years later cemented my opinion. She’s magic.
She writes about the most wonderful stuff, some of which is distinctly unpleasant. “Death in Arkansas” is the album’s only non-original and comes from her brother Tony. (BTW, the previous sentence marks the first time Tony Gilkyson has been mentioned without reference to Lone Justice. Damn!) Without gruesomeness, the soul of the departed reflects on the changes that have occurred in the decades since his death; over acoustic backing of guitar, bass, fiddle, and banjo, Gilkyson sings the evocative lines, “And the lone dogs howled and the crows would caw, When there was a death in Arkansas.”
“Blue Moon Night” sets the tone for the album, establishing a mood that is both ethereal and substantial. The instrumentation haunts while Gilkyson’s voice sways and calls; on this single number, one is reminded of Jane Siberry at her focused best. The title track- either about the death of a partner or an enduring love, and perhaps those thoughts aren’t mutually exclusive- is beautifully sung and played; the song is plainly arranged and Gilkyson’s voice conveys the emotions of a life lived with love.
Gilkyson, as she does always, covers a lot of ground during Roses at the End of Time’s forty-seven minutes. She offers more than a nod to those appreciating her gifts in the light-sounding “Looking for a Place” and recognizes the struggles and hopes for those who illegally migrate in search of a better life in the beautiful-sounding “Vayan al Norte.” She pays more than passing notice to Townes Van Zandt in “Midnight on Raton,” capturing similar hopes and loneliness as he did on “Snow on Raton.” And as one doomsday passes as I write these words on May 21, 2011, Gilkyson imagines another coming in “2153” as the humans of the future “bought and they fought and they twittered.”
I’m sure Roses at the End of Time will be as valued to those who discover it as Land of Milk and Honey, Paradise Hotel, and Beautiful World are to me.
Thanks for spending time at Fervor Coulee. Donald
Kimmie Rhodes Dreams of Flying Sunbird
I’ve been listening to Kimmie Rhodes for many years more than I have Eliza Gilkyson. I first encountered her as the proverbial rose among thorns in a mid-90s Austin City Limits program where she appeared with Waylon, Willie, Billy Joe, and Kris; to hold her own in such considered company one rightly assumed she must have stones of substance. The deal was sealed listening to her (again)at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, and her catalogue is one I continually explore; West Texas Heaven is one of the most perfect albums I know.
Like Gilkyson, Rhodes has a consistent way with songs while at the same time inviting the listener to discover each subtlety of song and gem of inspiration interdependently with what she and her production team capture. If that makes any sense, which I don’t think it does.
With a tight five-piece band providing support, Rhodes has produced only the latest in a string of albums capturing the wistful majesty of one of North America’s most beautiful voices. With music this lovely, this heartfelt and sincere, one just knows that the soul is every bit as special as the talent it fosters.
Joe Ely slides in for a duet of Donovan’s “Catch the Wind.” Propelled by John Gardner’s shaker, the song’s arrangement is quite unusual (at least to these ears) as it starts with a distinctive guitar focus (I believe from producer/son Gabriel- didn’t he used to be Gabe?) and imperceptibly metamorphoses into a rich, piano showcase for Mike Thompson.
A distinct British influence is heard in a few places. “Turnin’ My World,” a song from other son Jeremie, induces a bit of Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset”-era influence into the proceedings while Kimmie’s own “Luh Luh Love” channels Kirsty MacColl via Muscle Shoals.
The preceding may be the strangest and least sensible paragraph I’ve ever written, but each word appears true to me!
Back-to-back, “Unholy Ghost” and “Not a Cloud” wouldn’t sound out-of-place on Emmylou Harris’ recent Hard Bargain, and each features impressive guitar sounds courtesy of Gabriel.
Dreams of Flying is likely not the best place to be introduced to Kimmie Rhodes, and I’m not exactly sure why I feel that way. Perhaps the album just doesn’t seem as accessible as some of her previous albums. Still, discovering an artist like Kimmie Rhodes- one who flies under the popular radar even within the fairly underground genre (if it can be even called such) that is Americana- is an intimately personal experience. If this is your first experience with Rhodes, maybe it’ll spark as intensive a survey as my first listen to her did 15 years ago.
I certainly hope it does.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
In today’s Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate I advance the local shows as usual and review the recent Gurf Morlix tribute to Blaze Foley. As previously mentioned on Fervor Coulee, Morlix is bringing his Foley tribute show to Red Deer’s The Hideout June 12.
To access the column, click on the link http://tinyurl.com/3b2gsbv and give it a gander.
Originally published in my Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate, May 20, 2011
Gurf Morlix Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream www.GoToAGig.com
If it were not for Gurf Morlix, most of us would not know of Blaze Foley and his incredible legacy of understated songs, many of which could be mistaken for less familiar offerings from the songbooks of Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt.
As much myth as legend, Foley has had songs written about him by Van Zandt and Lucinda Williams and he has been covered by Merle Haggard, John Prine, and others. Foley’s songs are sparse, matter-of-fact Texas poetry, alternating gentle romanticism with crude reality. Not long for this mortal coil, Foley checked out almost a decade before Van Zandt and left only a hodgepodge of recordings behind.
Over the past several years, Gurf Morlix has brought Blaze Foley’s name to prominence within Americana circles. Recently, Morlix released Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream, performing intense, low-key renditions handpicked from the Foley catalogue.
Morlix presents a balanced view of Foley’s music. The straightforward country request of “Baby Can I Crawl Back to You,” which opens the album, is offset by the realistic wistfulness of “Clay Pigeons” and the linguistic playfulness of “No Goodwill Stores in Waikiki.”
Having made his career as a sideman, Morlix is a more than capable front man; his voice isn’t pretty but is pure, imparting shades and textures where more flamboyant vocalists may falter communicating the melancholy and conflicted emotions of the songs. Late in the set, a trio of songs- “Small Town Hero,” “Rainbows and Ridges,” and “In the Misty Garden”/”I Shoulda Been Home with You”- fully expose the tortured intelligence and talents of Blaze Foley.
Obvious is the respect and loyalty Morlix holds for his friend Foley. He imparts enough personality to make the album his own, holding fast to the measure of the words and melodies as written by Foley.
When Morlix sings “Wherever I’m going is the same place I’ve been” in “Cold Cold World,” Morlix isn’t only singing the words as written, he is revealing the tortured soul that inhabits all of us.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.