When did box sets start costing over $100? And who is buying them?
When did box sets start costing over $100? And who is buying them?
(Review based on digital version of the project)
Satan is Real is one of those rare late 50s country albums that has seldom if ever been out of print over the past twenty years. In fact, it has been reissued so frequently- along with and separate from Tragic Songs of Life- that one would be forgiven for dismissing this latest reissue out of hand.
Based on the digital version provided for review, I believe this would be a mistake. While many who appreciate the golden years of country music and the natural but hardly effortless harmonies of Ira and Charlie Louvin specifically quite likely already have at least one version of Satan in Real in their collection, this reimagining of the classic 1959 release appears to be well-worth the investment.
Much has been written about Satan is Real, from its (depending on one’s perspective) frightening or cheesy album art- created by the brothers themselves utilizing a rock quarry, tires, coal oil, and a hand-crafted, 16 foot cut-out of Satan himself- to its selection of carefully chosen songs that spoke to the fire and brimstone version of Christianity the brothers themselves ascribed, to the masterful performances of the Louvins and their studio musicians including Hank Garland, Buddy Harmon, Jr., and Paul Yandell.
The song is chock o’ block with classic performances, songs that went on to influence an entire generation of performers including Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Emmylou Harris, and Lucinda Williams, to name but a few. “The Christian Life,” “There Is A Higher Power,” “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea,” and “Satan’s Crown Jewel”- some Louvin originals, others from Nashville writers- have become country music standards, much more than spiritual or gospel favourites but evidence of the Saturday night-Sunday morning dichotomy that has always existed within the world of commercial country music.
The sound of this issue is especially good; no hiss, no audio flaws are apparent.
The album comes with a companion disc of an additional 14 songs selected by artists of some renown, creating an alternate ‘best of’ that includes some of the duo’s familiar hits- “When I Stop Dreaming,” “Knoxville Girl,” and “Cash on the Barrelhead” to name but three- but which also delves deeper to album cuts such as “I See A Bridge” and “Low and Lonely.” With annotation from the artists who ‘handpicked’ the tracks- among them Kris Kristofferson, Will Oldman, Dolly Parton, and the previously mentioned Hillman, Harris, and Williams- one better comprehends the evidence that the two often troubled siblings had on their industry, both in their manner of singing and in the hits they produced.
The extensive liner notes that accompany the album, which includes late-in-life interviews with Charlie Louvin, who passed away almost a year ago, provide a context to the Satan is Real sessions as well as insight into the tension that existed between the brothers.
Without having the package in hand, I hesitate on commenting too much on what appears- from my research- to be a carefully assembled package including numerous photos and album covers, a comprehensive booklet of notes, and substantial tri-fold housing.
The inclusion of “Are You Afraid to Die” on both discs is puzzling. While one can appreciate the division of the cuts into the two distinctive albums, given the set’s running time of less than 70 minutes, a few dollars could have been saved by issuing the set as a single-disc release or- even better- having additional artists make a song selection to beef up the Handpicked Songs portion of the collection.
As Lucinda Williams writes in her notes, “Losing Charlie means that we have lost one of the last of the founding fathers of honest to god, country music.” Fitting then that Charlie and Ira are provided yet another quality issuance of their music. Who knows how the next generation will be influenced by these sounds.
Thanks, as always, for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
So, I’m the last blogger to discover the wonderfulness of these: Kasey Anderson led me to them. The Clash, Smiths, and especially the Dylan covers work better than Darkness, but it’s bleeding Darkness. http://thekittencovers.tumblr.com/
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Ox tUCo Cosmic Daves Record Factory
Remember the 70s? Okay, how about the 80s? Fine, how about the first time you realized that the way you were listening to music was never going to be the same?
Remember the first time you read a rock magazine and you felt the world shift? It doesn’t matter if you read about Fingerprintz or Molly Hatchet; what matters is the words of the writer twigged something in you that made you react, forced you to get to the nearest record store and buy whatever it was they were recommending.
For me this occurred in September 1979 when I purchased my first copy of Creem. Included in this issue with the cover headline “Is Heavy Metal Dead?” were articles about the previously unheard of Lene Lovich and Rachel Sweet, as well as The Knack and The Kinks, and I believe there were reviews of new albums from Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. Within several weeks, and using my first Dairy Queen paycheques, I owned my first albums from all of them and I was on a path that changed my life one issue at a time: everything was new, everything had to be considered.
None of which has anything to do with tUCo, the new album from Sudbury’s Ox. Mark Browning has followed up Burnout (and Silent Night and Other Cowboy Songs, his Christmas release of a year ago) with a deep, atmospheric set of music that stands independent of the film for which it was created. tUCo’s sound is sometimes sparse and lonely, at other times full of textures; seemingly an attempt to capture the musical oeuvre of the decade- the open road, rock and roll rebels, and freedom- tUCo is as intricate as anything I’m likely to listen to this autumn.
But the connection to that Creem magazine purchased during my first month of high school is clear to me- Ox’s tUCo is about the possibilities that exist when we break through to new ways of thinking, when we remove the constraint of instant gratification and actually work toward something we aren’t sure is right for us but we know we have to experience just to see. It is about the spirit of listening to that album by Fingerprintz over and over, trying to understand what that writer was hearing that you can’t grasp. Listening to tUCo, your world may shift just a little; you may find yourself listening to it in a way you hadn’t expected.
tUCo is the soundtrack for a film that has yet to see fruition. It sounds different. It is different. And it is very, very good.
tUCo opens with a gentle interpretation of Neil Young’s “Out On The Weekend.” This percussion-rich reading is faithful to the Harvest track’s original spirit and provides the initial backdrop to a musically complex tale that incorporates 70s hallmarks of originality and inventiveness. “What I Love About Cars” and “Indie Rock Radio Nation” are modern post-rock rock songs, songs that could still have been played on adventurous stations in 1979: we’re talking about the days when Talking Heads and Tom Petty could follow Foghat and The Velvet Underground on late-night radio. “Tuco” and “Tuco pt 69″ almost sound like Harvest-era outtakes, snippets excised from between “A Man Needs a Maid” and “Heart of Gold.”
Elsewhere, songs like “Trans Canada” and “Midnight on the Island” are fully realized constructions that speak to the isolation of a country connected by vast expanses of natural landscapes and ribbons of black asphalt. Without cinematic images to interfere, the listener is free to explore tUCo without landmarks guiding the journey. The result is remarkably mind-freeing as one lets go of preconceptions and floats along with the lyrical riddle that is “Nico,” the unassuming bombast of “Rock and Roller.”
The album’s closing song features Kate Maki and Brian Dunn singing with Browning. “Battlefields” may be the song that best captures the overall spirit of this project. Written by Daniel Lea, this complex composition solidifies the various meanderings undertaken throughout tUCo‘s 49-minutes, bringing to conclusion the love story of song.
tUCo is something special, and something very different. If we were still allowed to speak in such archaic terms, it is more alt. than country. It is an album whose spirit is as important as its sounds, and what sounds they are. Highly recommended.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Dammit. If you are not familiar with Wayne Scott, you should be. He was the father of Darrell and was possibly the biggest musical influence on Darrell Scott. He debut album, which was released when he was into his 70s, was and is a masterful production. I spoke to Darrell once about his father and he detailed how important his father’s love for music- how his environment was saturated with country music- was in fueling a passion for picking, singing and songwriting. Wayne Scott died this week in Kentucky following a car accident. News clip at http://www.wbir.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=1283901815001&odyssey=mod|tvideo|article
In the wake of the release of This Weary Way in 2005, I caught a great, understated set by Wayne Scott at IBMA. It was a pleasure to witness and if my failing memory serves, Guy Clark joined Wayne and Darrell on stage. My review of This Weary Way from 2005 is posted below- Gold In A Way:
Few artists are recording at age 71 with fewer making their recording debut at this age, but that is how the press bio of Wayne Scott, father of respected roots songwriter and musician Darrell (who appears throughout this delightful recording,) begins. Not a bluegrass album in any way, the disc is nonetheless of interest to the bluegrass community not only because of his son’s recent involvement with Tim O’Brien and others, but also because of the pedigree of those musicians charged with bringing to fruition Scott’s musical dream.
Names familiar to all fans of Darrell Scott and Tim O’Brien- including Dirk Powell, Kenny Malone, Dennis Crouch, and Casey Driesen- make multiple instrumental appearances, while O’Brien contributes both harmony vocals and a smattering of mandolin. Among the other musical guests is the legendary Guy Clark, dueting with Wayne Scott on the album’s lead track, “It’s The Whiskey That Eases The Pain;” frequent Clark collaborators Verlon Thompson and Suzi Ragsdale also drop in on the proceedings.
With such an impressive list of participants, one is assured of a quality production; what may be surprising to the uninitiated is the quality of the senior Scott’s lyrics, melodies, and voice.
Best known within bluegrass circles as co-writer (with Darrell) of Mountain Heart’s popular “With A Memory Like Mine,” Wayne Scott’s talents have frequently been cited by Darrell in live performance and print. Comprised of 11 powerfully written originals and a pair of familiar covers, This Weary Way fulfils the son’s dream of bringing his father’s talents to the wider music community. If John Stewart and Billy Joe Shaver albums are in your collection, This Weary Way will also likely become a favorite.
With half the performances living room takes of relaxed familiarity, the reflective and regret-filled “Sunday With My Son,” “It’s The Whiskey That Eases The Pain,” and “In The Mountains,” which does have a bit of a bluegrass vibe to it, serve as three highlights within a collection of inspired writing, musicianship, and singing. Well worth searching out.
Dale Watson & the Texas Two The Sun Sessions Red House
From folk (Greg & Pieta Brown, Eliza Gilkyson) and contemporary blues (Ray Bonneville, Paul Geremia) to Americana (The Pines, Robin & Linda Williams) and jamming rock (Hot Tuna), there may not be a stronger or more eclectic roots lineup than that presented by Red House Records. The latest to join the fold is country iconoclast Dale Watson.
A spontaneous recording inspired by a canceled Memphis club booking, Watson found himself writing and recording at the famed Sun Studios with little notice. The album opens with Watson singing over a backdrop of Tennessee Two-style rhythm: “I had my first taste of whiskey, I had my first taste of love; both got me high and twisted up inside, Only one way to go after up” on Down, Down, Down, Down, Down, the first of several Johnny Cash-inspired tunes.
With half a dozen tracks not even breaking the two minute mark, The Sun Sessions is firmly entrenched in the spirit of mid-50s country and western music. There is absolutely nothing complicated about this 14-song set. Rather than the depth of introspection- a hallmark of some other Watson projects- this time Watson and his crew of two are simply exploring the simplicity of rhythm and rhyme while telling a few tales that could have been recorded by the likes of Cash, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins, and Sonny Burgess.
The joys of cholesterol-busting home cooking, the aftermath of shooting up the living room, local heroes, the love of a good (and a bad) woman, and spirituality are all touched on within thirty minutes that absolutely fly by; heck, along with some fine tickety-tack guitar playing Watson includes a train song for good measure. (www.RedHouseRecords.com)
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
One of the greats, obviously. Raise a pint.
Looking at the web, I guess this and other versions of this have been around for a good while. But it is totally new to me and I more than enjoyed the clip. Bill Kirchen and crew…from one of my favourite website-
My thoughts on three terrific new bluegrass gospel albums have been posted over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass on the Country Standard Time site: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=829
In my Roots Music column of two weeks ago, I featured the recent album from Maritimes Bluesman Matt Andersen and the several months old release from southern alt-grass outfit Dehlia Low. The latter album has been in and out of my listening for months and I somehow missed writing about it in a more timely manner.
Matt Andersen, the larger than life blues singer and guitarist from New Brunswick, has released the album that we’ve known he’s had in him.
Featuring a strong, focused sound- without doubt influenced by producer Colin Linden- Coal Mining Blues is a more thoughtfully executed project than some of
Andersen’s earlier releases, albums that sometimes suffered from too much flash
and showmanship. As a result, the best songs- including originals “Fired Up,” “I Work Hard for the Luxury,” “Home Sweet Home” (featuring Garth Hudson), and the title track- are more complete in their execution, but are not dramatically superior to the songs that
‘fill-out’ the disc.
Start to finish, this is a very strong roots album. Charlie Rich’s “Feel Like
Going Home” brings the album to a powerful yet restrained close, revealing
Andersen’s growing maturity as a singer and artist. (www.StubbyFingers.ca)
In a year that has revealed an incredible wealth of bluegrass, acoustiblue, and jamgrass recordings from youthful performers- among them Bearfoot, 23 String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, April Verch, and Sierra Hull- the strongest of the bunch may belong to North
Carolina’s Dehlia Low.
Fronted by the beautifully-voiced Anya Hinkle, this five-piece’s sound has been described as Appalachiagrassicana and that about covers it.
With roots in bluegrass and mountain music, this smooth-sounding outfit doesn’t just sing about little cabins, faithlessness, and Glory; their approach blends acoustic country and bluegrass into a fresh-sounding, banjo-less amalgam that is bright and firm, revealing a mettle that is as impressive as it is non-traditional. (www.DehliaLow.com)