This has me excited. If I were to attend, which I likely won’t for several reasons, I would make sure that I tried to catch: Kim Beggs and T Nile, Blue Highway, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Johnny Clegg Band, Rose Cousins, Rodney Crowell, Steve Forbert, Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Reunion, Emmylou Harris, Hills to Hollars featuring Laurie Lewis, Linda Tillery, and Barbara Higbie, Martyn Joseph, Jimmy LaFave, Jim Lauderdale, David Lindley, Dougie MacLean, The Parachute Club, and J. R. Shore. Lots of country-based roots there, y’all.
Archive for May 2012
My review of the new Rebel album from Gaudreau and Klein has been posted to the Lonesome Road Review. Apologies to all for the delay- I’ve been distracted. As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, I’ve posted my 2003/2004 piece about the Doc Watson-David Holt album Legacy. I’m listening to it tonight and thinking of Doc. As I type, Doc is recollecting his early memories of his beloved Rosa Lee. It is a wonderful recording, and appropriate listening on this day. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=889 will get you there- I retyped the piece this evening, fixing only typos and a couple awkward phrases.
David Morris writes it better than I ever could: http://bluegrasstoday.com/42368/rip-doc-watson/
I’ll go listen to Legacy, his triple album of stories and songs with David Holt.
We all die. Some of us leave more than just what we created.
Doc Watson has been quite possibly the most important gateway to bluegrass and roots music I’ve had. From the first time I heard him, most likely on Marty Stuart’s Busy Bee Cafe album, I’ve been a fan.
I made my first American bluegrass trip in 2001 simply to catch him in concert Tacoma. Somehow, I scored a single first row centre seat. Never have I felt so blessed to have been in attendance at a concert of a legend as he and Jack Lawrence held court. A couple years ago, I saw him at Hardly Strictly. It was apparent that the previous decade had taken its toll, but the fingers still flew over the strings of his guitar.
Today comes the news that we’ve been dreading all week. Should this be the end for Doc Watson, the world will lose a legend. He bridged the bluegrass, folk, and old-time worlds like few, if any, ever have. http://bluegrasstoday.com/42372/watson-family-called-to-docs-side/
“Let me pick one, son.”
When listening to bluegrass, and music in general, I’m never exactly sure what will hit me and cause me to delve deeper and what will simply be heard and then discarded. “Bluefield,” a song off Ralph Stanley II’s recent Born to Be A Drifter album, is the latest to set out a crooked road for me to follow. My thoughts are captured over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass: tp://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=886
This morning I’ve spent a few hours reading and listening to music, quietly, so as not to wake the house. Found myself following a few links, one of which took me to Robert Ellis Orrall and a couple of videos and http://www.countrycalifornia.com/lets-shuffle-shall-we/ for a ‘what are the next 20 songs that come up on your device’ feature. My 20 are posted below, with added thoughts- none too deep: [somehow italics came on and I can't get it off; double sigh.]1.Niall Toner- William Smith Monre (also the most played song in my iTunes)
2.Blaze Foley- Livin in the Woods in a Tree
3.Diana Jones- Cold Grey Ground
4.Foster and Lloyd- Picasso’s Mandolin (a Guy Clark song from their latest)
5.Dave Alvin- Johnny Ace is Dead (a standout track from Eleven Eleven)
6.Merry Clayton- Country Road
7.Dale Ann Bradley, Alison Krauss, and Steve Gulley- I’ll Take Love
8.Laura Branigan- Gloria (proof I didn’t cheat)
9. Fred J Eaglesmith- Johnny Cash (You sure do like Johnny Cash now, now that they’ve put him in the ground)
10.Joe Cocker- Look What You’ve Done
11.The Jolly Boys- Ring of Fire
12. Rosie Flores- God May Forgive You (But I Won’t) (I believe the first song I heard from Rosie; still my favourite)
13. Stone the Crows- Penicillin Blues
14. Sylvia- As Soon As I Find My Voice (a Cheryl Wheeler song)
15.Bobby Blue Bland- Two Steps from the Blues
16.Darrell Scott- Every Road Leads Back to You
17.Jane Hawley- Why Do I Always Fall for You (Alberta content, finally)
18.Jeff Black- New Love Song (one of several Nashville-based connections)
19.John K Samson- www.ipetitions.com/petition/rivertonrifle (not a link; a song encouraging Reggie Leach’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame
20. John Paul Keith- Too Hip and
21. Katrina Leskanich- My Open Arms (of & the Waves)
For a few years during the early nineties, Marty Stuart was a prominent fixture of New Country. By then a veteran of 20-plus years in the business- first as a bluegrass sideman with Lester Flatt and Curly Seckler, then as part of Johnny Cash’s band, and finally out on his own- Stuart was never blessed with more than a passable voice: calling it ‘thin’ may be giving it more credit than it deserves. Rather, his career has been forged from flair, personality, and a deep-rooted understanding of and respect for the traditions of country music.
Despite his success during the country video heyday, Stuart never had a number one song or album and had only a single top 5 song of his own (1991’s “Tempted”) although he went to number 2 the same year with Travis Tritt and “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’.” Still, he hit the top 10 a half-dozen times, filled medium-sized venues, was (and is) a festival favourite, and had a few gold albums. Interestingly, Stuart consistently charted better in Canada than he did south of the border.
As his black pompadour faded with gray, so did the Marty Party. While his albums and songs performed increasingly poorly on the charts, Stuart’s critical acclaim didn’t suffer and his last few releases, notably 2010’2 Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions, have been among the most favourably reviewed of his thirty-year recording career.
Stuart celebrates forty years in Nashville with Tear the Woodpile Down, an album that goes a long way to prove his slightly exaggerated assertion that “Today, the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee is play country music.” While the industry may have lost its way, with no fewer than seventeen albums under his bedazzled belt, Stuart knows well what it takes to create country music- strong, sometimes sentimental, material, inventive musicianship, a bit of trouble in mind and just a dab o’ polish.
Along with his Fabulous Superlatives and a few guests, Stuart has created another outstanding album. Over a chugging rockabilly beat, honky tonk chords are punctuated by weeping steel guitar. Tear the Woodpile Down is less ambitious than some of his other albums, but with ‘classic country’ sounds serving as its unifying theme the disc soars.
On the title track, Stuart captures the mood of much of his country when he sings, “Taxpayer dollar ain’t worth a dime, governments got us in a bind.” While the album isn’t politically motivated, Stuart- who wrote the majority of its songs- touches on events and moods that should resonate with country music’s base.
“Truck Driver Blues” is essentially “Hillbilly Rock” reset in an 18-wheeler, and on “Going, Going, Gone” Stuart gets in touch with his inner Merle (and George, Stonewall and Buck).
“Sundown in Nashville” captures the loneliness and heartbreak of those trying to make it in “a country boy’s Hollywood.” The guitars of Kenny Vaughn and Paul Martin ring throughout most of the album’s ten songs. Both “A Matter of Time” and “The Lonely Kind” are more subtle, countrypolitan performances that find Stuart and his band at their best.
Connections to legends are apparent. Porter and Dolly’s 1968 hit “Holding on to Nothing” gets a stylish rendering. Lorrie Carter Bennett sings with Stuart on “A Song of Sadness” and Hank III drops by to close things out acoustically on his grandfather’s “Picture From Life’s Other Side.”
Too brief at just over 30 minutes, Tear the Woodpile Down brings with it promise that Marty Stuart is going to continue to make the music he wants to create no matter how far it takes him from the charts.
Originally published in the Red Deer Advocate, May 04, 2012
Calgary Folk Music Festival announces final marquee artist Gillian Welch
The Calgary Folk Music Festival announces the final addition to an already buzzed-about line up. Gillian Welch will perform Saturday July 28, in the timeslot left vacant by Sinead O’Connor’s sudden cancellation of her North American tour. Gillian Welch, performing with long-time collaborator David Rawlings, is the epitome of folk-country simplicity. She exudes pure harmony, with a sound that seems coaxed from the dusty floorboards of a clapboard recording studio high in the Tennessee mountains. A true voice of the American south, Welch is an inspiration to other songwriters, and has had her songs recorded by artists including Allison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Blind Pilot, and Jimmy Buffet. Gillian joins an already stellar line up of artists including Chris Isaak, Randy Newman, Dan Mangan, Charles Bradley, Serena Ryder, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel), Iron & Wine and Beirut. A list of all 68 artists performing at the 33rd annual festival is available here: http://www.calgaryfolkfest.com/artists <http://www.calgaryfolkfest.com/artists> Tickets for the Calgary Folk Music Festival are selling at an unprecedented rate! Early Bird 4-day passes sold out in under a week, and regular priced 4-day passes and single-day tickets are selling faster than ever before. The festival is now more than 60% sold, weeks ahead of previous years, and the festival anticipates all tickets will be snapped up before the end of June. Tickets are available online at http://www.calgaryfolkfest.com/tickets <http://www.calgaryfolkfest.com/tickets> or by phone at 403-233-0904.
Last night, Maria Dunn, accompanied by a pair of musical companions, delighted a small gathering in the basement of the Red Deer Public Library.
Dunn, well-regarded as a singer-songwriter, is always a delight to hear live. Searching back in the memory, I believe the last time I experienced a live Dunn performance may have been eight years ago when she was first showcasing her Troublemakers: Working Albertans feature although I would be surprised if there hasn’t been a festival set in the intervening years; eight years seems like a long time for me to have gone between Dunn performances.
Searching for ‘something’ to do this weekend, I stumbled across a mention of this performance on the CKUA events page. Being somewhat connected to the Red Deer roots music scene I was both delighted and disappointed to hear of this little concert: delighted because my wife and I were almost certain to enjoy an evening of song from one of Alberta’s most consistent folk performers, but also disappointed that such an event almost passed by without notice.
Dunn is currently touring the province as part of the Alberta Federation of Labour’s Project 2012, a celebration of the AFL’s 100th anniversary. She is performing the Troublemakers show and- in select locations- GWG: Piece by Piece. It was this latter multi-dimensional, multi-media show that was featured on Saturday in Red Deer.
I was a bit nervous suggesting to my wife that we take in a performance built around the experiences of female labours within Edmonton’s GWG factory from 1911 to 2004. Considering our collective knowledge of the Great Western Garment Company consisted of wearing GWG denim jackets throughout our childhood and a faint recollection of a GWG advertising campaign featuring Wayne Gretzky- and even that could be a mental creation- I wasn’t sure exactly what we were in for as we strolled into the Snell Gallery.
If nothing else, Maria Dunn has built a reputation I trust. Her 2004 album We Were Good People brought to life a history of western Canada of which I was mostly ignorant, and the images captured within Troublemakers added so much to her already fully-nuanced stories of Canadians creating everyday history. Given my many experiences with Dunn and her music, I was happily willing to take a chance.
We weren’t disappointed once the show (which started late due to a double-booking of the facility, not the fault of the performers- amplified by a rather extended introduction) began. Dunn was joined by long-time collaborator Shannon Johnson (fiddle and vocals) and Sharmila Mathur (sitar, percussion, and vocals). Dunn and Johnson served as their own opening act, performing three (too few) songs from Dunn’s considerable repertoire.
Staying true to the labour theme of the evening, Dunn opened with a fiery rendition of her telling of “The Lingan Strike,” giving voice to the Scottish miners who, having travelled from their homeland to Cape Breton only to find that they were to serve as scabs, refused to go underground. One of Dunn’s early numbers, “Shoes of a Man,” allowed her to share family history, while the tale of desperate train-bound job seekers “How Do You Do, 1935?” concluded the all to brief opening set.
As solid a little appetizer this trio of performances was- and it was a very nice introduction to Dunn and her craft- the real magic began when she introduced GWG: Piece by Piece. Running at about an hour, this collection of film, interviews, images, and song- all composed by Dunn- in collaboration with filmmaker Don Bouzek and Catherine Cole, a writer whose recent book GWG: Piece by Piece serves as an illustrated history of GWG- was simply breathtaking.
Dunn’s ability to connect the reminiscent memories and phrases of the interviewed women who worked in the factory into a cohesive narrative is nothing short of impressive. As she did within We Were Good People, Dunn has illuminated the continuing history of Alberta, informing us of a story we didn’t know to appreciate; doing so in such an incredible manner that only the hardest didn’t have tears of appreciation cresting by its conclusion is only one measure of the success of Dunn’s vision.
Dunn tied the hardships faced by the factory workers- often the family’s only breadwinner in hard times, as often an example of the sacrifice made by the newly arrived as they built a life in Canada- to the dignity they achieved for themselves in performing labour that many other Alberta workers would never have considered for themselves.
In sharing the stories and insights of these women- some of whom traveled from rural areas to find work in the city, others immigrants from Italy, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, and elsewhere- Dunn has created a memorable and dynamic collection of songs that will undoubtedly extend her renown as Alberta’s finest folk singer and writer. These songs are to be released on an album that is anticipated next month, Piece by Piece: The Songs.
I especially appreciated the contributions of Sharmila Mathur. The sounds of her sitar further informed the performance, bridging the international roots of many of the interviewed workers with their experiences in the Edmonton factory. She also contributed a brief vocal interlude that was more than a little moving. Shannon Johnson’s fiddle playing was of course stellar, and it was nice to hear some ‘old world’ sounds sneak into a song that had a definite Italian flavour. Together, they added texture to the immigrant experience of the GWG factory.
Maria Dunn and friends next bring the GWG: Piece by Piece production to Hinton and Grande Prairie May 25 and 26. Troublemakers has additional performances in June and August. www.MariaDunn.com should have the details. Additional information at http://www.gzpedmonton.org/projects/view/gwg-piece-by-piece
As an aside, as we left the theatre with a warm glow, we decided to extend our evening of music and went crosstown to catch a few songs from Dave McCann at The Hideout. With his Firehearts, Dave was in loud form performing his identifiable blend of Americana infused rock ‘n roll. Noisy, but still quite enjoyable. We had to leave before the band returned from an extended break (are breaks getting longer, or is it just me? This one seemed to have been 45 minutes before we finally left) because we’re old.