Archive for the ‘Compilations’ Tag
Over at the Lonesome Road Review, Aaron has posted my review of two new Rebel Records bluegrass compilations- one is focused on banjo tunes, the other fiddle. http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2012/11/14/true-bluegrass-banjo-and-true-bluegrass-fiddle-by-various-artists-on-rebel-records/ will get you there.
Thanks for visiting. Donald
Two new reviews have been posted to the Lonesome Road Review. Caroline Herring’s excellent Camilla is stunning. Within her voice, she possesses qualities that one considers when appreciating the likes of Laura Nyro, the McGarrigles, and Emmylou; she isn’t attempting vocal perfection, and by not doing so, achieves it. Lovely.
http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2012/08/26/camilla-by-caroline-herring/ will get you there.
As well, I recently purchased Country Funk: 1969-1975 from the Light in the Attic label; they may not service me, but they sure do put out fine albums. recommended if you like good music as practiced by the likes of Sam Lewis. Follow the link: http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2012/08/26/country-funk-1969-1975-by-various-artists/
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Various Artists Foggy Mountain Special: A Bluegrass Tribute to Earl Scruggs Rounder
Starting about six years ago, a handful of sessions were held in a pair of Tennessee studios. Gathering were several of the finest contemporary bluegrass musicians representing the most influential groups of the day, among them Union Station, Mountain Heart, the Del McCoury Band, and Kentucky Thunder.
Alongside these powerful sidemen (a list which includes Dan Tyminski, Clay Hess, Jason Carter, Randy Kohrs, Ron Stewart, Barry Bales, and Adam Steffey) some of bluegrass music’s most influential and revered banjo players were assembled. The five-string players cut a huge swath through the premier bluegrass pickers: from Jim Mills, Dave Talbot, and Charlie Cushman, to J.D. Crowe, Joe Mullins, Kenny Ingram, and more.
All came together to bring to life a tribute to bluegrass music’s most influential banjo player, Earl Scruggs. It has been successfully argued that bluegrass music didn’t exist until Scruggs brought his distinctive three-fingered style of playing to Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. The twelve tunes included on this very excellent collection signal confirmation that while Scruggs has passed, his influence and legacy remain secure.
While much is made of the speed and drive of bluegrass, as important is the ability to play within an established ensemble, to support other musicians as a tune is performed. It is this precision, this spark of creative camaraderie that is most apparent throughout this album.
Within a set featuring some of the greatest bluegrassers ever assembled playing the songs on which the music was built- including “Rueben,” “Earl’s Breakdown,” “Ground Speed,” and “Pike Country Breakdown”- there is no end to the highlights. Ron Block’s treatment of “Foggy Mountain Special” is spritely and Ron Stewart’s fiddle playing works beautifully within the arrangement. Larry Perkins brings the ‘down home’ to “Sally Goodin” and J.D. Crowe- himself a legend in bluegrass circles- shows no signs of slowing down while leading “Nashville Skyline Rag.”
Along with Tom Adams’ insightful notes and Tom Rozum’s beautiful cover art, the music contained within Foggy Mountain Special: A Bluegrass Tribute to Earl Scruggs is superior by any measure.
My review of the latest Putumayo project has been posted to Fervor Coulee Bluegrass. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=906 This review was a bit tough for me because I truly respect the Putumayo label and the legacy of excellence they have established. However, this latest compilation left me wanting. I realize it isn’t fair to review a project on what it isn’t, and I hope I avoided that trap. Rather, I hope I’ve been critical of the album for what it is, while identifying what I wish it had been.
Chris Jones & the Night Drivers Lost Souls & Free Spirits: The Rebel Collection Old & New Rebel Records
Beyond setting a new standard for the use of the ampersand, this set from Chris Jones and Co., is both a fabulous little introduction to one of bluegrass music’s most familiar personalities and a neat summation of where he has been.
With a daily six-hour block on SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction, Chris Jones has become a very well-known personality within bluegrass media; that he is actually a darn talented and insightful radio host is certainly a freakin’ bonus. This is the second compilation of Rebel recordings from Jones in a decade, and this will seem a bit mystifying to some readers especially as Jones has recorded only a single bluegrass album in the ten years since A Few Words.
Nitpicking aside, I’m sure there are very good reasons for the lack of output. If I were guessing- and I am- I would suggest that the daily grind of producing the radio show may hold back a bit the ‘full-time’ aspect of Jones’ bluegrass performing career. Then there was the ‘Americana’ excursion of Too Far Down the Road, Jones’ very strong album of the mid-aughts. The fact that Jones is a dedicated family man who has chosen to follow his wife Sally to her family’s northern Alberta home would also likely factor in to his small number of recordings since around 2000.
What I do know is that I wish Chris Jones & the Night Drivers were more prolific, because the 14 songs contained on Lost Souls & Free Spirits: The Rebel Collection Old & New simply sharpens the appetite for their solid bluegrass approach. Settling somewhere between tradition and innovation, Jones and his Night Drivers have created a country-pure approach to bluegrass music.
In addition to previously released tracks, Jones has elected to include three recent recordings with the current Night Drivers line-up. “Final Farewell” was released well ahead of the album and, after spending several weeks bouncing around on the Bluegrass Today chart, settled into the #1 spot for the March chart. “Waltz of Regret” originally appeared- with slightly fewer ‘grass touches than here- on Too Far Down the Road as did “A Hero in Harlan,” one of the strongest Tom T. and Dixie Hall songs.
The remaining songs are culled from Just a Drifter (two tunes), No One But You (also two), and the currently unavailable Follow Your Heart (four songs). Including three selections from the fairly recent Cloud of Dust album is a mite perplexing; I would have preferred additional songs from the past, perhaps “Fork in the Road,” a rarity such as “Diesel Smoke on Danger Road,” or another new track.
Still, many of Jones’ most enduring songs are included, some of which he wrote, more from outside sources, among them “Bridge to Portsmouth,” “Nashville Blues,” “Uphill Climb,” and “The Man on the Side of the Road.” As Jon Weisberger mentions in the notes, most of these songs remain in the Night Drivers’ live set, making the set ideal for the festival table.
Lost Souls & Free Spirits: The Rebel Collection Old & New is hardly essential. With most of the songs available on other Jones albums, it is most likely best purchased by those who do not already own Jones’ impressive back catalogue. Realizing I’m in the minority, I would have better enjoyed a reissue of Follow Your Heart (the one Jones album I can’t locate on my shelves) fattened by the three new recordings.
Still, there is nothing wrong with the set, and plenty right with it. In fact, these forty minutes of Chris Jones & the Night Drivers are mighty satisfying, much like their live performance.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Various Artists Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration: A Classic Bluegrass Tribute Rounder Records
There has seemingly been no end to the ‘tribute’ offerings to be produced in this the Year of Bill Monroe. While some of the recordings have been highly original- Laurie Lewis’s set Skippin’ & Flyin’ and Niall Toner’s ”William Smith Monroe,” as two examples- others have been less so, although still enjoyable.
Similar to Rebel Records’ companion albums With Body and Soul (secular) and Let the Light Shine Down (gospel), this two-disc Rounder set pulls 27-Monroe songs from the vaults. Performed by a variety of artists- everyone from the Bluegrass Album Band to Claire Lynch, Vern Williams, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band- the overall quality of the selections is high. Five tracks from the Bluegrass Album Band and three tracks from both the Nashville Bluegrass Band and Michael Cleveland may seem like overkill, but that would be nitpicking, especially considering the musicianship present on these cuts. While it times out at just over 80-minutes, one has a hard time cutting any of the tracks which would have allowed it to be a single-disc issue. Still, I bought my copy of $14.99 so I can hardly complain from an economic point of view.
While some folks may have all of these catalogue tracks in their collections, the package is still of interest for significant reasons, not the least of which is that it provides a darn enjoyable listen. The lengthy essay from Bill Nowlin is very readable and contains enough information to serve as a reminder of how much one still doesn’t fully understand about Monroe’s music and life. A lively new take of “Close By” from vocal darlings Dailey & Vincent has proven popular on bluegrass radio.
A fine collection that would be appreciated by almost all bluegrass fans.
With Canada officially 144 years and one day old, I thought I would share the following link. My Polaris cohorts over at Herohill have just posted a massive creation- 36 Gordon Lightfoot covers solicited from (mostly) Canadian independents. Man, can you imagine what would happen if I tried such a thing? Talk about dedication.
I’m only nine songs into my listening (going through alphabetically by artist) and while I’m not into every sound I’m hearing, I am largely very much enjoying these interpretations: favourites so far include Cam Penner’s reading of “Alberta Bound,” A.A. Wallace’s “Early Morning Rain,” and Chris Velan’s “Canadian Railway Trilogy.” Digits’ “Changes” isn’t terribly rootsy but sounds pretty groovy to my ears. Fervor Coulee ffaves including Woodland Telegraph, The Wheat Pool, and Mark Davis are also included on this set.
More about the project and download here: http://www.herohill.com/2011/07/herohill-vs-gordon-lightfoot-turning-back-the-pages-of-my-sweet-shattered-dreams.htm
Happy listening- now, go back to the television and watch the Royals plant a tree.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Garth Hudson & Various Artists A Canadian Celebration of The Band Curve Music
I bought this one at Chapters on impulse, having not seen very much- if any- press on it. I’m glad I trusted my gut.
One doesn’t need to describe the impact The Band had on roots and rock music. The influence is obvious with each listen to an album from The Sadies, Blue Rodeo, and even the Cowboy Junkies.
Those artists and more than a dozen others contribute renditions of (largely) less familiar songs from The Band’s vast catalogue: therefore, no “The Weight,” no “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” no “Rag Mama Rag,” or “Up On Cripple Creek” here.
Instead, Mary Margaret O’Hara and The Sadies deliver a devastating and beautiful “Out of the Blue” and Great Big Sea take on “Knockin’ Lost John.” Songs from Moondog Matinee, Cahoots, The Basement Tapes, and Jericho are alongside more familiar cuts such as “King Harvest” (Blue Rodeo) and “Acadian Driftwood” (Peter Katz & The Curious.) A raucous and bluesy take of “Forbidden Fruit” from Danny Brooks & the Rockin’ Revelators kicks off things off, setting the bar high for all that follow.
With the exception of select performances, this tribute album is successful. The Sadies’ performance of “The Shape I’m In” is beautifully balanced by Raine Maida’s “The Moon Struck One” and Chantal Kreviazuk’s “Tears of Rage.”
Everything hinges on Garth Hudson holding things together, and it is his distinctive approach to each song that is the thread that weaves the project into a solid creation. From his signature introduction to “Chest Fever” (done here by Ian Thornley with guitar accompaniment from Bruce Cockburn)- “Genetic Method”- to the waves of organ colouring Neil Young and The Sadies’ ragged but right take of “This Wheel’s on Fire,” Hudson’s sound remains true.
While personal taste will dictate if one enjoys the contributions of folks such as Suzi McNeil or The Roadhammers, those immersed in roots/Canadiana should find the album purchase worthy.
While nothing can compare to The Bands’ original recordings, this energetic and enjoyable 75-minute celebration of their songs has much to recommend it.
Each week I keep track of my listening. While I’m not an obsessive list maker, I do tend to ‘think’ in lists. This week I did my usual radio (CKUA in the morning), satellite (Sirius 65), and Internet (WDVX) listening, as well as albums. While I’m a roots fellow, I do enjoy my pop. Here is what I listened to last week:
The album I most enjoyed this week!
John Hiatt- The Long Road I was surprised to read in Paste that the reviewer thought Hiatt had released an album of little interest. Funny, because I think this is one of his better ones. True, I love Hiatt and have since I first heard him in the mid-80s. And sure, Hiatt has been down these same roads before. Who cares. The guy knows how to write and sing. I found the familiarity comforting.
Christina Maria- Straight Line I discovered this singer while preparing my column for this week. Christina Maria is appearing locally next week and after listening to her music on the MySpace, I downloaded this e.p. from eMusic. Quite nice and energetic.
The Tallest Man on Earth- Shallow Grave I come to this one late after only hearing about this Swede a month or so ago. What is it with all things Swedish? You have the Stieg Larsson novels, and a couple weeks ago we saw a movie about a Swedish kiddie vampire. Then their hockey team goes and lays a lickin’ on the Canadians this weekend. This album is terrific. He has a wonderful voice and his songs seem timeless. More to come, I think.
Kimberley Rew- The Safest Place My first complete week with this one and I listened to it three or four times. Great power pop. “Spling Splang Sploogie!”
Katrina and the Waves- Katrina and the Waves I do like my 80s pop and roll. While I hold great affinity for the Attic releases, the Capitol release is equally ideal.
Donna Durand- The Road Back A local singer-songwriter of some reknown. This album will get more spins as I prepare the review. I am enjoying it so far. Country-roots-folk with a voice just imperfect enough to be interesting.
Pieta Brown- Shimmer and I Never Told Relistened to these EPs in preparation of writing a review for Brown’s new (and fabulous) release.
Pieta Brown- One and All I’ll be posting a review soon. I listened to this four or five times this week. Really enjoyed it. Brown seems to know that ‘longer’ isn’t necessarily better. Brief but delightful.
Blue Rondo a la Turk- Chewing the Fat I love this one. Takes me back to the mid-80s (again) and taking chances on records at the Edmonton Public Library.
Tom T. Hall- That’s How I Got to Memphis A Mercury album from 1975. I went on a bit of a Hall bender this week as I also listened to Faster Horses from 1976. Hall is one of the best country writers ever. Period. And no one sings his songs better than he does.
Mary Gauthier- The Foundling I write about this one in the paper on Friday. As good of an album as she has created.
The Special Consensus- 35 I let out a little “Whoop” when I opened the envelope from Compass Records containing this one. The current lineup of The Special C is the strongest and most enjoyable I’ve experienced live and their six new songs on this album showcase the talents of Cape Breton’s Ryan Roberts. The vintage tracks are equally strong, highlighted by the rumble of Dallas Wayne from almost 20 years ago.
The Besnard Lakes- Are the Roaring Night Listening to this one for Polaris consideration. I’m not sure. It is either amazing or…
Various Artists- Putumayo Presents South Africa Just in time for the World Cup, every new Putumayo album I hear becomes my newest favourite. I’ll listen to this one more. I also had Music from the Coffee Lands on while sunning this weekend.
Various Artists & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band- Preservation A week wouldn’t be complete without giving this one a complete listen.
I did a lot of whole album listening this week; I believe all are listed below. You may notice more non-roots music this week as I have been feeling quite retro and dug old favourites. As always, shuffle and radio selections are not included.
The album I enjoyed most this week.
Jackie Leven- Gothic Road Leven cops from Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen making familiar phrases sound all his own. What I love about this album is that I can listen to it while working and still be drawn into its tales and images. Who is Cornelius Whalen? Google the answer. Tilda Swinton? Oh, her. Yes, Patsy Cline may have been a bit crazy. “Island” is a gem of a song. Beautiful , poetic stuff.
Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers- Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers I heard Zoe several weeks ago on Allison Brock’s Wide Cut Country CKUA program and followed up by searching out this album. If Zoe had the spirit of Appalachia coursing through her veins, one might compare her to Iris Dement. It would be generous to label most of these songs as mid-tempo and Muth sings of topics that wouldn’t be surprising coming from Dement. Tears in her beers, Muth confesses all while punctuations of sparse instruments provide depth. Perhaps Nanci Griffith is as good a reference point as any.
The Schramms- Road to Delphi This album was recorded 20 years ago. I found the East Side Digital reissue on Friday in a used shop for two dollars. I think I have another of their albums around here somewhere. I like this one. Makes me wish I hadn’t missed so much great music from 1987 to 1993. Still playing catch-up, it appears.
Stephen Simmons- Live at Blue Highways The first of four artists discovered on the East Nashville Vol 3 disc and followed up with on eMusic last weekend. A short set from overseas, I believe, and serves as further evidence that I’m onto something here. “Drink Ring Jesus” and “Shirley’s Stables” are terrific. I’m going to enjoy pursuing his catalogue.
Amelia White- Motorcycle Dream I’m going to have to spend more time with this one; I think I got distracted listening. Listening to it again- as I finish some editing and revising, I realize that the songs seem to run together a bit. An occasional line or hook will attract me, but it isn’t sustained.
Matt Urmy- New Season Comin’ My new favourite. Like a hillbilly Gil Scott-Heron, Urmy tells it like he sees it. I listened to it a few times this week and found much to enjoy.
Jon Byrd- Byrd’s Auto Parts Concluding our hike through East Nashville. A voice that holds history. Straight-up, David Ball country.
The Violet Femmes- Hallowed Ground “Country Death Song” is obviously the classic, but this often-overlooked album worked its way back this week. Truly original.
The Cooper Brothers- In From the Cold I’m not sure why I downloaded this. My brother had their first two albums and I knew the singles from radio. Reflecting, I owe a lot to my oldest brother- he unknowingly introduced me to bands like Rainbow and Wings, and in doing so taught me about what I liked and didn’t. Anyway, I had a hankering for “The Dream Never Dies” and “Rock and Roll Cowboys” and when I found this new one on eMusic, I thought I’d take a chance while I was at it. “Jukebox” with Delbert McClinton is brilliant, name-checking dozens of songs in 4:40 of swampy, backroom rocking blues. This one appears to have legs and I am quite enjoying the album.
Mogwai- The Hawk is Howling One of three artists I’ve learned about/been encouraged to explore through Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. I bought this one on a flier several months back and only got around to unsealing this week. The song structures are challenging but I found it quite accessible. I don’t think I need another Mogwai album, at least right now, but I’m going to enjoy spending time with this one.
The Rainmakers- Skin I don’t remember listening to this one before- must have uncovered it during a busy time. More of the same, and I don’t mean anything negative by that.
Mike Gouchie- Shattered Glass Arena country without the arena. Rather indistinct from all the other guys currently on the charts. The back-story is good and the songs hold some promise, but even the songs with the most hope (“Don’t Touch the Radio,” “Shattered Glass,” “Dust”) rely too much on easy rhymes and obvious sentiment. An unnecessary rendering of “Heart of Gold” serves as filler. Obviously, not intended for me. It’ll probably go Gold.
Scotty Campbell- Damned If I Recall Another $2 find. This ten-year old album is solid Canadian honky-tonk. Strong songs, great performance, and a killer voice. Glad I picked it up.
The Waves- Shock Horror I bought this album in university after listening to their first Attic album and interviewing Katrina Leskanich. I don’t know if these recordings were ever intended to be much more than demos, but the songs and performances of “Liverpool” and “Brown-Eyed Son”, while raw, hold up to the more familiar versions released elsewhere. All over the place, the remaining songs are pub- and glam-rock infused sketches that display Kimberley Rew’s (and the bands’) emerging talents.
Kimberley Rew- The Safest Place I didn’t realize this was out until, while listening to the previously mentioned Shock Horror album this weekend, I explored Rew’s site. I love his music and truly believe he should be held in esteem similar to that afforded Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. His last two albums are masterworks, and on first listen this one maintains the streak. I’ll spend more time with it. The title track could have been written by Lowe, and the intro to “Happy Anniversary” has a bit of “I Love the Sound of Broken Glass” to it. Deliberate, I hope. The third song, “Put A Little Sunshine,” could have been on the lost Partridge Family album. The hits (and the pop music allusions) just keep on coming! Pure pop for now people, says me.
Billy Joe Royal- Down in the Boondocks/Cherry Hill Park A two-fer. Atmospheric, southern sounding pop. Great songs. A timeless voice.
Carolina Chocolate Drops- Genuine Negro Jig Not bad, but not something I’m likely to pull of the shelf again.
Dead Men’s Hollow- Death Must Be a Woman I downloaded this one from eMusic based on a couple song samples. I quite enjoyed listening to it, but am not sure I am completely enamoured. DC area favourites according to their website, this stringband have a similar vocal sound to The Good Lovelies minus the Andrews Sister influences. “John Doe’s Bones”, the albums closer, is especially sharp.
The Go-Go’s- Vacation and Talk Show I likely haven’t put these two on the turntable in fifteen years. Everything I loved about the band came back in a flash- the spunk of Jane Wiedlin, Belinda’s voice, Gina’s drive. I remember reviewing Talk Show when it was released and being surprised to find so few positive words written about it elsewhere. I thought it was brilliant. Still do.
Blaze Foley & the Beaver Valley Boys- Cold, Cold World When Gurf Morlix was through town, he did a couple songs from this album. I couldn’t afford to buy the disc that evening but did purchase a download sometime later. The story of the album is at least as interesting as the music.
Ray Materick- Neon Rain “Linda, Put the Coffee On.” ‘Nuff said.
Various Artists- Best Loved Bluegrass I listened to this Rebel set on the mp3 player while doing housework on Friday afternoon. A terribly complete collection of standards (warhorses) performed in the class manner expected. I never realized how exceptionally well The Boys from Indiana arranged “Atlanta is Burning.” Great performance. What was it about willow trees? A must have collection.
Mary Gauthier- The Foundling The album holds together even more strongly the more I absorb. Listening, I feel I am about five seconds from tears.
Various Artists- WDVX: 10 Years Ray Benson explained, speaking of Townes Van Zandt in a recent edition of American Songwriter, that there is “something very honourable and necessary to really write the truth.” Those words came back to me listening to this incredible collection of cuts recorded in the camper and elsewhere from 1997 to 2007. James McMurtry starts things off with Irene Kelly, David Olney, Darrell Scott and others lending their songs and voices to a most inspired radio station. As many times as I’ve listened to this set, I find I am left with a new favourite each time; this time out, it is the closer from the Red Stick Ramblers- “Katrina.”
Frank Turner- First Three Years I’m missing something here. After reading some favourable reviews and comments, I downloaded this album months ago. I’m guessing Turner, who is a bit like Billy Bragg without the obvious substance, would appeal to some in brief, thirty minute folk fest sets. A whole album of him fights the listener and wins. Much caterwauling about nothing, as far as I’m concerned. It has taken me since December to listen to this one all-the-way-through, in one sitting. I’m thinking today will also be the only time.
Various Artists & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band- Preservation- My latest Sunday evening ritual; I’m enjoying it a bit more each time. Even the Del track is starting to work for me.