Archive for the ‘Del McCoury’ Tag
No excuses for not posting since November. Sigh.
While driving home from work today, I realized we’re twelve days away from Christmas. And that brought to mind a way to get some posts written this month, since it isn’t happening any other way.
I haven’t thought this out- I know where I’m starting and I’m pretty sure where I will end up(and with which song)- but I haven’t created a master list. I’m just going to post 12 songs in 12 days, songs I consider to be masterful and favourite roots music songs. Not the best, necessarily.
Dick Staber, left; songwriter “Call Collect on Christmas”
I begin this evening with “Call Collect on Christmas,” a seasonal bluegrass classic. A Dick Staber song, first recorded (I think- I can’t actually find too much definitive information about the song) by Del McCoury in 1974. If I’m reading the liner notes to 35 Years of the Best of Rebel Bluegrass correctly, the song was unissued until that four-disc set appeared in 1997. Staber had been a member of The Dixie Pals, and I imagine that is how the song came Del’s way. His version is mighty tough to beat, and not many have tried.
Staber recorded the song on a 1984 album (according to iTunes), and that may be one I have to download one day. I didn’t think I could find a more enjoyable version of the song than McCoury’s, but then came James King within the O Christmas Tree compilation that Rounder released a decade ago.
This version- released as The James King Band- was even better, in my opinion. The fiddle carries the song; Adam Haynes should be proud of this one. “Carries” is likely the wrong word, because it is King’s voice that has the lasting impact- as is his wont, King sounds like he is about to burst into tears with each passing rhyme. I do believe he is the most expressive bluegrass singer around, giving George Jones a run for his money on each of their finest days. I don’t know what led to the falling out between King and mandolinist Adam Prater, but one of those men must be regretting it- Prater sounds mighty stout on this one.
A couple years later, The Bluegrass Brothers- another favourite outfit- put out a third version that found its way into my collection, again via a record label compilation. Christmas With Hay Holler had a real ‘down home’ spirit, and “Call Collect on Christmas,” sung by Jack Leonard and featuring some nice banjo picking on the break (courtesy Robert Dowdy) was a highlight.
Any of those three versions of “Call Collect on Christmas” is well worth a listen- and the Staber clip I heard on iTunes sounds interesting, too- the song has everything I look for in a Christmas song- a pitiful excuse of a son, well-placed guilt, a mother’s death…ah, Christmas with the family.
I searched without success for a video of the song online. The closest I came was The Bluegrass Brothers’ version on their MySpace site: http://www.myspace.com/bluegrassbrothers/music/songs/call-collect-on-christmas-78198227. All versions mentioned are available on iTunes and the McCoury and Staber versions are on eMusic.
[I also plan on posting a link to a favoured non-roots Christmas song daily- today, The Kinks' "Father Christmas": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-oVPVsCqs4 Quite possibly, the second best 'rock/pop' Christmas song I've ever heard.]
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, and thanks for your patience with me. Life tends to take precedence over writing these days; just the way it is. Donald
I’ve revised my piece from seven years ago about “The Mountain,” the album recorded by Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band and released in 1999. It is posted over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=927. Hopefully you find it worth the read.
A bit late but understandable being how busy editor Aaron Keith Harris is, today brings the release of the Lonesome Road Review’s top 10 bluegrass albums of the past year. I’m pleased to see that Aaron and my LRR colleague Larry Stephens agreed with me in several places, quite likely more than I expected, and I’ve written positively about each of the albums here or elsewhere with perhaps the exception of the #1 album, another that I really enjoyed and purchased both digitally and on vinyl. My only complaint about the Old Memories album is the rather spartan packaging- no gatefold, no liner notes, and the vinyl itself is not as hefty as other recently produced album offerings; still, a terrific album of music.
Each of my top 5 albums made the list and I hope that these placements help some of you make some purchasing decisions. None of the artists who made the list, with the exception of AKUS, is living the high life; most are folks with extensive experience in the bluegrass world, having spent years on the road and are well deserving of any recognition they receive. Of course, I’m absolutely thrilled to see three particular names on the Lonesome Road Review list: Dale Ann Bradley, John Reischman & the Jaybirds, and James Reams & the Barnstormers. See my Top 10 here http://tinyurl.com/873u42u and visit the LRR to see the complete 2011 Top 10: http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2012/01/21/the-lonesome-road-reviews-list-of-top-10-bluegrass-cds-of-2011/
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
9:28- Sam Bush did a fine job as host, I do believe. A final shout-out to William Smith Monroe.
9:29- I missed who was performing the instrumental- I heard George Shuffler’s name so I’m just going to sit back and listen a bit.
Real nice. Smooth. Okay, a dropped not there but they picked it up and took it home.
That was fine; not sure of the tune- my bluegrass depth is showing.
9:31- Del McCoury Band and Friends- Roland and Sam- now. I could listen to Del all day. A bit of rough there around the edges. There we go- now he’s in full voice. “The last letter she wrote was on a blue piece of paper…” Haven’t heard that in awhile. Going the medley route it looks like- swinging into “Loneliness and Desperation.”
A good show all around. Some fiddling going on as we hit 9:35. I can identify about 12 instrumental tunes- this isn’t one of them, but I know it. No guesses, just enjoying the sounds. “Roanoke,” perhaps? I’ll be glad to be corrected.
9:38- That’s all, folks.
I hope I have provided a service you appreciate tonight. I enjoyed listening and sharing.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
8:23- Bush reads the awards presented earlier today- see my post earlier if you like http://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/ibma-awards-2011-the-early-results/
8:24- Who would be better to induct Del McCoury into the Hall of Fame than his sons Ron and Rob.
Ron just mentioned Del’s patience which I find interesting because it is this quality that I have also noticed in Del the few times I’ve spent time in his company. (No, we’re not pals.) But I did spend an extended period of time backstage with Del at the Calgary Folk Music Festival one year where he talked about bluegrass, the business side of things especially, in an open and honest way. He really made me understand the value of re-recordings, not just artistically- as the performance of songs later in life can add to the original- but also financially for the artists. Getting those song rights, owning your music, is what counts- and not just for the current generation. I recall the way he stated that he was operating McCoury Music not only for himself, but for his family, his grandkids.
I also recall his manner with Jean, a lady who has been kind to me each time we’ve met. I felt like she remembered me from one meeting to the next although I can’t see how she could have.
As I listen to the men talk about their dad, I am pleased that Del is being inducted.
The first bluegrass festival I attended was headlined by the Del McCoury Band (minus Bub who was sick with, I think, the chicken pox); imagine a better introduction to the world of bluegrass fests. Not likely.
Ola Belle Reed was mentioned by the guys, in connection to “High on a Mountain.”
A real nice moment for the McCoury clan, I’m certain.
8:35- Del makes his way to the stage. What I would give for a video simulcast. I love his speaking voice. Del calls Jean to the stage, along with other family members.
8:38- It says a lot about Del that he has spent minutes gathering his family and introducing each person. A thank-you to Bill Monroe as Del recalls his first time working with Mr. Monroe in NYC.
8:40 Getting back on track with his Monroe story. Thanks to Ricky and Sharon Skaggs. Del won’t be making a commercial for York County, PA. The state of bluegrass: “It’s better than it has ever been!” “I listen to Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmy Martin…you can’t beat that stuff.”
Now, let’s get Hazel Dickens in the Hall of Fame.
8:43- Del isn’t done, having forgotten Jason and Alan. And thanks to the labels- Rounder, Rebel, Arhoolie, Skaggs, Grasstown, Revonah…
8:45- The Gibson Brothers hit the stage.
Previously announced, Del McCoury and George Shuffler have been invited in- I am looking forward to these two legends of the bluegrass biz having their moment. And it is hard to criticise their induction given I’ve advocated for the selection committee to look toward the Living while they’re Living. I’m a bit bitter that Hazel Dickens didn’t get the nod while she was with us, and I’m glad Del and George will get their flowers while they’re breathing- not that they are going anywhere soon.
Well deserved, gents.
In 2010, Preservation was released. A collection of songs to benefit New Orleans’ Preservation Hall made with a wide-range of artists, the compilation was an almost-universally undisputed success.
Amongst the treasures revealed by that set was a single track featuring Del McCoury; “After You’ve Gone” was a swinging performance that allowed McCoury to explore his voice in a manner not previously imagined. The fact that it worked so effectively led to the conceptualization of American Legacies.
My review of this outstanding album has been posted at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4671.
I wouldn’t want all my Del music to sound like this, but I sure enjoyed this album.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
I just received in the mail today the new album- released tomorrow, April 12- from the Del McCoury Band & the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and while I haven’t yet listened to it, I am more than hopeful that I am going to be impressed. I base that on the single cut Del McCoury sang on the Preservation Hall tribute album of last year; “After You’ve Gone” was darn fine, so I’m excited- different, of course, from what I’m used to from Del and the band, but still very good.
But what sent me over the top was the announcement contained within the various papers sent with the album that Del and ‘Em would be apprearing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at this summer’s Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Such an appearance hasn’t been posted at the EFMF.ab.ca website, but…Pollstar has it down as well.
This comes just a few days after I spoke aloud to my wife those words I should never say: “I don’t need to go to any of the festivals this summer.”
What was I thinking?
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
The Red Deer Advocate newspaper has a regular Saturday feature that has area residents responding to a question or topic- 5 favourite places to hear live music, 5 favourite places for a winter walk…
This week I was asked to contribute 5 albums I’ve recently added to my iPod. Being a Luddite, I don’t have an iPod, although I have a cheap mp3 player I use on plane trips a couple times annually. (BTW, if anyone can advise my of how to strip music off of my Coby, I would appreciate it- I can’t update the darn thing!)
I can’t locate the entire feature on the paper’s website, so I’ll simply paste my responses here. Some of the other participants chose to highlight music that isn’t entirely foreign to my tastes (Duane Steele, especially- Steve, Townes, Prine, Russell), as well- and one of them, the paper’s entertainment writer, mentioned an album I’m planning to review for this coming Friday’s paper.
So, here are 5 recent additions (all iTunes or eMusic purchases) to my computer- although I cheated with The Promise: I actually bought the hard copy of the double album:
Donald Teplyske- Five Things for Saturday November 27, 2010
The Wild Tchouptoulas- The Wild Tchouptoulas Released in 1976, an album bringing the vibrant colours of New Orleans’ Indians to life through the spirited music of Big Chief Jolly and The Neville Brothers. The Treme purrs!
Del McCoury- Del McCoury I’ve been devouring Del’s 1975 album, just reissued this week for download. Pure, unadulterated bluegrass- raw, powerful performances such as these will always stand.
Bruce Springsteen- The Promise 21 outtakes from the sessions that produced my favourite record, Darkness on the Edge of Town. While the archival tracks released this month don’t touch the cinematic breadth and focus of the original album, the sweeping sagas and rustic rockers provide glimpses at blueprints Springsteen would follow for the next decade.
Barbara Lynn- Voices of Americana A recent discovery through Robert Plant’s exceptional cover of You Can’t Buy My Love. Bluesy soul with just a smidgeon of country- think Clarence Carter meets Gladys Knight- good Gladys Knight.
Marshall Chapman- Big Lonesome Six-foot tall and bulletproof: 70s southern rock survivor Marshall Chapman comes back with a startling collection of country-tinged Americana. Until Lucinda Williams gets things back on track, this will suffice.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee,
Regular visitors may recall in March I shared some listening suggestions for those just beginning to explore the dusty backroads of the bluegrass world. Now that the Summer edition of That High Lonesome Sound is available, I’ll post the continuation and conclusion of the piece; the full newsletter is available at http://www.waskasoobluegrass.com/nl/waskasoo_sum10.pdf
I don’t expect anyone to necessarily agree with my opinion, nor do I claim that my list is definitive. We each have to find our way on the bluegrass track- I’m just hoping some readers will benefit from my advice and find some music they may not have otherwise discovered.
In our last issue, I provided suggestions for bluegrass fans who are just beginning to explore the music, CDs that were from the ‘classic’ era of bluegrass (more or less) that I believe provide an introduction to my favourite music. This time I provide additional suggestions– remember, this listing is not definitive and I certainly welcome the ideas of others; if you have opinions on bluegrass albums that are readily available, we’d love to publish your thoughts.
Continuing our bluegrass journey with:
Yesterday meets today:
David Grisman- Home is Where the Heart Is (Rounder, 2008- originally released in 1988) David Grisman went back in time to have the second- and third-generation pay tribute to the music that forged their careers. Probably the first place I heard Del McCoury, 23 of the 24 songs are darn near perfect; I refuse to give any credit to the second worst song in the bluegrass canon, “I’m My Own Grandpa.”
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder- Bluegrass Rules! (Rounder, 1997) Still my favourite Skaggs album since he came back to bluegrass from country music stardom. The album doesn’t let up even when it slows down; from the mando kick-off of “Get Up John” through to the closing notes of “Rawhide” we have a survey of bluegrass history served up by one of the most talented bluegrass groups ever assembled. Likely easiest to find at the Skaggs Family Records website.
Del McCoury Band- Del & the Boys (McCoury, 2007- originally released on Ceili, 2001) Any place is a good place to start with Del McCoury. I chose this recording because it served as a bit of a break-through for Del and his sons, giving them a signature song in Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”, and served as a pinnacle for the group. It’s Just the Night (McCoury, 2003) is as strong, and has more blues and folk influences while The Cold Hard Facts (Rounder, 1996) is a pure, stone classic.
Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band- The Mountain (2009, New West- originally issued E-Squared, 1999) Steve Earle isn’t a bluegrass singer, but he does know bluegrass. In what could have been a vanity project, Earle composed more than a dozen solid bluegrass songs to sing and pick with the finest bluegrass band working at the time. That the partnership was short-lived and dissolved in acrimony doesn’t take anything away from the recording with songs like “Carrie Brown,” “The Mountain,” and “Yours Forever Blue” entering the bluegrass repertoire. The place to start if you are a Steve Earle fan just encountering bluegrass.
David Davis & The Warrior River Boys- Two Dimes and a Nickel (Rebel Records, 2009) Really, any one of his three most recent albums is an excellent introduction to David Davis’ particular brand of bluegrass music. Seldom does one think of the literary aspects of bluegrass, but when encountering Davis one isn’t offered any other course. He doesn’t seem to have the populist appeal that others may, but he possesses an artistic vision as defined and assured as anyone. The album’s strongest track is Tommy Freeman’s “The Brambles, Briars and Me.” The song is positively spooky in its matter-of-factness, and the Warrior River Boys- especially Owen Saunders’ fiddle contributions- make it haunting. A classic album.
Alison Krauss & Union Station- Every Time You Say Goodbye (Rounder, 1992) The ‘coming of age’ album for both Alison and Union Station. Every song is a winner, from the sacred (“Shield of Faith,” sung by Ron Block) and the traditional (“Cluck Old Hen”) to the unexpected (“Lose Again” from the Karla Bonoff folio) and the familiar (“Another Night.”) A classic recording that spoke to future greatness. Can’t find this one? No problem. Give Two Highways (Rounder, 1988) or So Long, So Wrong (Rounder, 1997) a try. The 2002 album Live would also be a fine introduction to one of bluegrass music’s most successful, multi-dimensional, and loyal outfits.
Rhonda Vincent- One Step Ahead (Rounder, 2003) All of her albums have something to offer, and Vincent has been consistent over time. I favour this one because it didn’t feel as over-polished as some of her later work would, it has some fiery bluegrass picking throughout, and it came at a time when there were few bands as exciting as The Rage. That “Ridin’ the Red Line” mentions Alberta didn’t hurt.
Steep Canyon Rangers- Deep in the Shade (Rebel Records, 2009) Contemporary bluegrass doesn’t get much better than this. From a youthful band of veterans, Deep in the Shade is the group’s fifth release, but the band hasn’t significantly altered their approach or sound. And while on some bands this may appear stagnant or limited, with the Rangers the impression is of consistency and capability. As they did on Lovin’ Pretty Women, the Steep Canyon Rangers demonstrate that a band can be musically innovative while reaching into the past. Steep Canyon Rangers straddle the blurred edges of traditional and progressive bluegrass.
Dale Ann Bradley- Don’t Turn Your Back (Compass Records, 2009) A mountain soprano of rare talent, Dale Ann Bradley has been wearing a path from the hills of Eastern Kentucky to Music City for two decades. With Don’t Turn Your Back she has not only created an album featuring rare musicianship and vocal harmonies, she has continued her ascendancy to the highest reaches of the bluegrass vocal world. Don’t Turn Your Back is a masterful recording, one that falls solidly within the most stringent of bluegrass definitions, yet is country enough that all roots fans should embrace its rich, melodic tones. With albums like Don’t Turn Your Back and singers like Dale Ann Bradley, the bluegrass community continues to shake off back wood images. If you can’t find this one, any Dale Ann album is worthy of consideration.
Ernie Thacker- The Hangman (Pinecastle, 2009) If you listen to the satellite radio, you likely know the name and voice, Ernie Thacker. If he has escaped your notice, change that right away. Thacker has natural bluegrass country voice that is memorable and distinctive. Listen to the way he bends his voice when singing the single word ‘throttle’ in “This Drinkin’ Will Kill Me.” Thacker was severely injured in a car accident several years ago, but has found a way to continue to make wonderful bluegrass music. His is a rare talent. Order CDs, including the excellent and hard-to-find The Chill of Lonesome (Doobie Shea, 2002), directly from his family at http://www.erniethackerroute23.com/
Adam Steffey- One More for the Road (Sugar Hill, 2009) A satellite radio favourite, Steffey’s (formerly Mountain Heart, Union Station, Dan Tyminski Band) second solo project is powerful from start to finish. While his lead voice isn’t the strongest, when listening to the first vocal track on the album I remarked to myself- because who else is listening inside my head- “I’ve missed that.” Throughout the album, Steffey is accompanied by the finest players, including Union Station mates Barry Bales, Ron Block, and Dan Tyminski. Heck, there’s even a Union Station circa 1997 reunion on “Warm Kentucky Sunshine,” with Alison taking the lead; evidence of her generosity and the ties that bind the bluegrass community, that one is a keeper. The featured mandolin breaks are demonstration that Steffey isn’t ready to rest on his laurels. My musical vocabulary isn’t strong enough to give justice to “Let Me Fall,” “Durang’s Hornpipe,” or “Half Past Four,” but the boys know what they’re doing.
James Reams & The Barnstormers- Troubled Times (Mountain Redbird, 2005) and James Reams, Walter Hensley & the Barons of Bluegrass- Wild Card (Mountain Redbird, 2006) Finally, to wrap up this selection of bluegrass starting points, two exceptional albums from James Reams. The first features hard-scrabble bluegrass with Kentucky roots, songs of salvation, hollers, trains, storms, home places, and mountains that disappear. The second is punctuated by the banjo of bluegrass pioneer Walter Hensley and is perhaps an even more clearly articulated of what bluegrass can be in the right hands. Visit http://www.jamesreams.com/ to find these recordings- because the packaging of both is exceptional- or iTunes and eMusic for downloads.
There they are, the places I recommend you use as starting places as you being to delve into the wonderful world of bluegrass. Words of caution– avoid the ‘bargain bin’ collections found in some stores. Often what you find will be shoddily compiled sets that are less than satisfying. Enjoy your bluegrass journey!