Archive for the ‘country music’ Tag
We’re into the homestretch.
Today’s Roots Song of Christmas doesn’t need any written accompaniment; “Old Toy Trains” is two minutes of pure Roger Miller perfection. Nostalgic, I’m sure, even when released in 1967. The song didn’t chart. While my childhood Christmases weren’t quite like this, I wish they had been. YouTube has it here.
I’ve avoided the novelty song thus far. My non-roots song of the day is Garfunkel and Oates’ “Present Face.” From the comedy team of Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome, this one never fails to bring a smile to my face, whether listening or watching. This is another version of the video, not as appealing IMO.
Thanks for spending some time at Fervor Coulee.Donald
My review of Radney Foster’s new album has been posted at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4928 I can’t actually find it on the website, so I was going to post it here…but then it came up when I did a Google search for the album cover art after reformating the review for inclusion at Fervor Coulee…oh, well.
Radney Foster Del Rio, TX Revisited: Unplugged and Lonesome Devil’s River
Radney Foster, who had his only two top ten hits as a performer with songs from his classic Del Rio, TX 1959, releases Del Rio, TX Revisited: Unplugged and Lonesome, significantly improving the 1992 Arista performances.
The sequencing has been minimally refigured- moving “Old Silver” up and “Went for A Ride” down in the lineup balances things nicely. “Louisiana Blue” benefits greatly from the sparse presentation- the lyrics possess greater resonance, and the new mood is tender. Listening to this new version of “Closing Time,” one realizes how over-produced the original sessions were: timely, but in hindsight a bit over-wrought.
“A Fine Line” is turned on its head, with the aggressive propulsion of drums and rock n roll arrogance replaced with awareness bred of maturity. The protagonist doesn’t come off any better than he did in the original, but that’s his own fault. With Jack Ingram singing backup, “Hammer and Nails” remains perfect.
Primary to the sessions are Martie Maguire (fiddle, vocals), Jon Randall Stewart (guitar, vocals), Glenn Fukunaga (doghouse bass), Michael Ramos (Wurlitzer, accordion), Matt Borer (percussion), and the original album’s producer, Steve Fishell (resonator guitars). While the choruses remain familiar, the tempos and textures are entirely new- and they work. Man, do they work! As anyone who enjoyed Foster & Lloyd’s It’s Already Tomorrow will attest, Foster’s voice remains identifiable and spot-on.
With the album re-imagined, I know I will return to this newly recorded set frequently. While nostalgia favors the Arista release, my ears prefer Del Rio, TX Revisited: Unplugged and Lonesome.
My review of the new Don Williams album has been posted to the Lonesome Road Review: http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2012/07/07/and-so-it-goes-by-don-williams/
Marty Stuart Nashville, Volume 1: Tear the Woodpile Down Sugar Hill
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
The Louvin Brothers Satan Is Real/Handpicked Songs 1955-1962 Light in the Attic
(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
In my Roots Music column two weeks ago I featured Dale Watson’s first Red House release, The Sun Sessions. It may not change the world, but it sure is a good way to spend a half-hour.
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
A few weeks ago- I don’t actually remember when- I received in the mail an album that made no impression on me when I opened the envelope. Oops.
Last week I finally got around to listening to Manitoba’s Kayla Luky’s fourth album The Time It Takes. O, my. What a refreshing surprise. In my ignorance, I had never heard of this wonderful vocalist and musician and all of a sudden she is a new favourite. I’ll write a full review in my first column of July, but I needed to share some of my enthusiasm. A gorgeous sound.
http://www.kaylaluky.blogspot.com/ has three songs streaming. Give her a listen- think Paula Frazer meeting Neko Case in a converted grain elevator recording studio.
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.
Welcome back to Fervor Coulee. In this week’s column in the Red Deer Advocate the usual slate of gigs are advanced and I feature the new album from David Baxter. Since receipt two weeks ago, seldom has more than a day gone by without me returning to this one. Another master release from Ontario’s David Baxter.
Originally published in my Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate, February 4, 2011
David Baxter Patina Proper Channels
When David Baxter released his first album Day & Age two years ago, it was a revelation. Across the board critical appreciation followed, as did a Canadian Folk Award nomination.
A Toronto mainstay, Baxter has played guitar on innumerable recordings while producing some of the finest young talent- most notably Catherine MacLellan- coming out of Ontario. As apparent as his abilities as a sideman and producer are, it is when Baxter steps out on his own that his true gifts are revealed.
As with his previous recording, on Patina Baxter straddles musical atmospheres with little concern for genre. True, the sound is largely country-roots, but other flavours are introduced in liberal quantities. Patina reminds one of the albums Ian Tyson used to make and that Tom Russell still does- ones rich in universal sentiment shaded with lyrical and instrumental details that reveal the truths of fiction.
Subtle instrumental nuance lurk within the depths of the recording, a pulse of accordion here, a flourish of fiddle or harmonica there. As I wrote about Day & Age, Baxter leaves space within his songs, nothing is over-crowded or wasted; the songs breathe as organic entities. The intensity of songs builds with delicate additions of emotional shadings.
John Anderson or Vince Gill could have recorded She’s Drinking Again in 1985, and heck- they might have; it is an instant honky tonk classic. Rockin’ in the Cradle of the South cruises with the breeziness of a light-hearted Levon Helm or Zachary Richard tune. River Moon and Bow River Blues tread into darker territory and are David Allan Coe-lonesome.
The album’s most intimate song, A Waltz of Our Own, also serves as its highlight. This closing duet with MacLellan is a magical performance, gentle and honest, capturing in simple rhymes and lines the hopes and intensity of a relationship.
With a musical maturity seldom encountered in modern, radio-friendly country music, David Baxter has reached new heights with Patina.
Many thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Now, go buy something good. Donald
My review of the new Charlie Louvin album was posted today at Country Standard Time (http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4508). I had expected to find little of interest on the album, and my initial listen made me wish I didn’t have to listen more. What little voice Charlie has had on recent recordings is pretty much gone- there is little left. But, I kept listening and with time Charlie’s ‘new’ voice wove itself into my favour. I’m not crazy about all the song choices and would really have liked to have seen some stretching on the material. Overall, however, I think it is a pretty good album, one I wouldn’t have minded purchasing. See what you think- Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald