Archive for the ‘The Special Consensus’ Tag
Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, I’ve posted the first in what I am hoping will be an ongoing series about the origins of bluegrass band names. First up, thanks to the skills of Greg Cahill, is the story behind The Special Consensus, one of bluegrass music’s longest running outfits. The link should get you there.
I’ve been so pleased to watch the accession of The Special C. While they have long been a personal favourite, until the last year they have been less well-known, from my perspective, than they should have been within the wider bluegrass world. Within the piece, I touch on what I believe has made the difference, but one has to admire Greg Cahill’s tenacity and ongoing focus in producing a body of work that should be the envy of later generations of bluegrass bandleaders. That you can hear the group daily on the bluegrass satellite channel is a rather recent and overdue development, especially when one considers the track record of the group.
I hope you enjoy reading about The Special Consensus. Pass the word- I’m looking for other bluegrass bands to feature.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
For the last three or four days, I’ve been giving (limited) thought to my next post here at Fervor Coulee as it would be my 600th. I wanted to come up with something of significance, if not depth.
Tonight, while doing some random Googlearch during a hockey game, I somehow had the Special C pop into my head and I found a version of “Hey Y’all,” recorded back in 2000 featuring one of my all-time country favourites, Dallas Wayne. I listen to DW every chance I get on the satellite radio and have been listening to his albums since 2001 or thereabouts. I love what he can do with a song, and I’ve enjoyed listening to him sing with the Special C on disc.
While “Hey Y’all” is stellar, this is even better- and as I spent about a half hour listening to various Special C clips, the finale from their 35th Anniversary show appeared in the side bar; it is certainly worth a listen- points if you can name all the participants in order: I have to be honest, the fiddle players stumped me, but I think I got the rest. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Chris Walz play.
Thanks for continuing to visit Fervor Coulee. Donald
A very sincere speech from Adam Steffey.
I am so glad The Special Consensus is performing “Monroe!” Now that is a song of the year. What a shame- a lousy vocal mix! Over 2400 viewers watching. Impressive.
Chris Jones is a class act. Great voice. What a song! Remember, I wrote about this song and its accompanying album early on: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/fervorcouleebluegrass/entry.asp?xid=863 A terrific album and a wonderful song.
Too bad the sound bit most of the way. Sigh.
My review of the latest from the venerable Special C has been posted to Fervor Coulee Bluegrass: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=863
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Chicago-Nashville bluegrass band The Special Consensus return to Red Deer March 26. Let’s hope their journey to western Canada goes better than their recent first day in Ireland: http://www.thebluegrassblog.com/special-c-back-in-the-emerald-isle/.
Now that I think about it, the band had a traveling misadventure on their way to Alberta last year. Hmmm…perhaps there is a pattern developing.
Greg- hope things get better- Donald
This review appeared in the recent issue of That High Lonesome Sound. It is a wonderful project celebrating the 35th anniversary of this band.
The Special Consensus 35 Compass Records www.specialc.com
When The Special Consensus visited Red Deer last spring, Greg Cahill brought news of his new relationship with Compass Records. The first product of this licensing agreement celebrates the 35th anniversary of this perennially entertaining bluegrass outfit.
Centered around Cahill’s considerable banjo skills, the material on this nicely packaged album is split evenly between recordings with the current lineup of the band- the one featured last March- and previously released selections from hard to find albums released in the 80s and 90s.
The new material and sound will be familiar to those who attended the concert earlier this year. Ryan Roberts, from Nova Scotia, sings lead on three of the tracks while David Thomas and Rick Faris each take a sole song. Robert’s talents as a writer and singer are obvious whether singing “That’s Tennessee” or “Working on a Railroad.” Thomas’s traditional-leaning voice is especially appealing tearing through his and Roberts’ composition “Used to These Old Blues.” “Land Up in the Air” is an a cappella gospel piece that is inspiring and enjoyable. The instrumental “Danny’s Dream,” like all the new songs, provides evidence of the strength of this current edition of The Special C.
The archival material provides a sampling of the sounds that the band has featured over the years. A phase that I wish I could hear more of features country singer Dallas Wayne on “Fourteen Carat Mind;” while his voice is most obviously ideally suited to his brand of honky tonk country, this track is a personal highlight of the disc. Chris Jones- who is bringing his own Night Drivers to Red Deer in late January- is featured on “I Cried Myself Awake,” from 1983. “Silver Dew on the Bluegrass Tonight” swings while “Have I Loved You Too Late” is mournful.
While the stylistic approach may change over the years, The Special Consensus has consistently presented high-quality bluegrass recordings. 35 is no exception and should become a treasured part of many collections. Don’t forget, The Special Consensus, by popular demand, return to The Elks Hall March 26, 2011.
Another busy week of listening. Less time with WDVX and CKUA than usual, and I didn’t even listen to much Sirius 65 this week. Full albums took priority, and I did a quite a bit of listening in anticipation of casting my Polaris ballot next week.
The album I most enjoyed this week!
J.D. Crowe & The New South- Flashback When I started drafting this piece, I wasn’t sure which album was my favourite of the week; after today, I’m certain. Flashback! What a strong bluegrass album. I wasn’t immersed in the bluegrass world when this one came out in 1994, so I can only imagine the impact the disc had.
I found this one at the library yesterday afternoon, and while I was sure I had it on the shelf at home, the liner notes didn’t look familiar. I wonder why? I don’t actually own this one, only thought I did. I’ve thought this thought a couple times after listening to a Crowe disc- That is a perfectly constructed album. Some country touches, some solid picking and creative vocal arrangements, a couple strong instrumentals (including “Sledd Ridin’,” a personal fave) and a few old gospel numbers. And it has Crowe. ‘Nuff said, I say.
Cowboy Junkies- Renmin Park: The Nomad Series Volume 1 Only gave this one a quick and distracted listen this week. It sounds like the Cowboy Junkies. I will listen to it more.
Danny and the Champions of the World- Streets of Our Time A wonderful album. Rock ‘n’ roll with a folk poet soul.
Fred Eaglesmith- Cha Cha Cha I am going to have to listen to Dusty again. This one reminds me a bit of that along with the vocal approach Fred took to Tinderbox. Again, more to hear here.
The Blue Shadows- On the Floor of Heaven One of my favourite albums, reissued with an additional disc of covers and outtakes. Considering Jeffery Hatcher’s Cross Our Hearts was one of the first three CDs I bought back in 1990 (yes, I made the transition to CDs slowly) it isn’t surprising that I feel a connection to this album. I’ll write more about this one.
Woodpigeon- Die Stadt Muzikanten Polaris listening. Woodpigeon is one of my enduring favourites whenever Polaris consideration is being given. It may sneak into my Top 5, which I will continue to whittle away at. Right now I’ve got John Wort Hannam, Canteen Knockout, SpoonRiver, Kent McAlister, The Wooden Sky, The Sadies, and Lee Harvey Osmond on my list. Only JWH is a lock.
The Wilderness of Manitoba- When You Left the Fire Never heard of them before this week when I received this one in the mail. Comes out in June; an amazing trip. I love listening to a disc with absolutely no expectations clouding my brain. This album has me gobsmacked. It is light, dreamy, and smooth without being sleepy. What most impressed me was the quality of the voices. Normally I am a lyric pig, but with this one- so far- I haven’t listened to the words at all. The yearnsome voices become an instrument within my listening, blending and complementing the instrumentation. It is a beautiful thing to hear late at night. I’m also listening to their Polaris-eligible Hymns of Spirit and Love album/e.p.; it is every bit as appealing.
Various Artists- Putumayo Presents South Africa I review this collection in the paper this coming Friday. A cohesive overview just in time for soccer madness to take over the world.
Donna Durand- The Road Back A quiet little album from a local singer-songwriter. Her lyrics are beautiful and the melodies are memorable. I review it this week, too.
Jaydee Bixby- Easy to Love Sometimes, I listen to things because I have to. This is one of those occasions, but the experience wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. This album is evidence of tremendous growth from the Canadian Idol finalist. Not my thing, but there is worse on the radio.
The Sadies- Darker Circles More Polaris listening. A very appealing album. I seldom seek out their music, but I almost always enjoy it. Perhaps I should listen to them more often.
Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt- Slide to Freedom 2: Make a Better World Listned to this one while driving this week; got through it a couple times. It is growing on me, and I appreciate John Boutté more and more. The bass playing on this one, from Dinah D., is special. My new favourite track off here is “The Moods of Madhuvanti.”
The Rolling Stones- Stripped Not nearly as bad as I remember the reviews to be; AllMusic didn’t like it one bit. I was going to buy the Exile on Main Street reissue this week, but saw this one even cheaper, so I bought it. How often would I listen to Exile, anyway? A friend once suggested I would like a re-recording of Led Zeppelin IV if they did it acoustic. My enjoyment of Stripped leads me to believe he may have been onto something.
Martin Sexton- Sugarcoating Either I forgot how funky he is, or if this is a fresh direction for Sexton. I’ll dig his other albums off the shelf. I didn’t fall for this one as I had hoped I would when I downloaded it, but I did groove to it a bit.
John Boutté- Good Neighbor Now that Treme is finished for the season, I need to continue to get my New Orleans fix. I do like this one. I downloaded another version of “The Treme Song” from his Jambalaya album that I like even more than the version here; it’s the Treme version, I believe.
Cadillac Sky- Gravity’s Our Enemy I’m not sure why I downloaded this one, other than I liked the song “Bible By The Bed” when I heard it one Sirius 65 a couple months back. I can’t say I’m a fan of the band. I can’t remember too much from this one, which says enough I suppose.
One Horse Blue- One Horse Blue I was link-jumping one night this week and found this album. I remember seeing it in the stores when I was younger, but didn’t recall the songs. Now I do, especially “Cry Out for the Sun.” An unheralded, western Canadian classic. Sort of like the Cooper Brothers for me- memories of my brother’s listening choices. When I find it on vinyl, I’ll buy it.
Teenage Head- Frantic City My buy of the month, found sans case but with booklet for fifty cents in a used store. Yes, it was likely stolen. I rocked to this one in the truck for a complete day last week. I think Frantic City would make my All-Time Top 100 albums.
Mark “Brink” Brinkman- On the Brink of a Dream My review is up at the Lonesome Road Review. A very fine bluegrass/Americana album.
The Special Consensus- A Hole in My Heart I’m cheating here, as I actually listened to this one the week before and missed it in my weekly write-up. I have been searching for this album for ten years, and a ten or so days ago, it showed up in my mailbox courtesy of Greg Cahill, Mr. Special C. I sure appreciate him remembering me when he uncovered this cassette, and what a treat. I’ve been wanting to hear Robbie Fulks sing bluegrass ever since I learned he had been a member of the Chicago-based, bluegrass institution. He sings a couple numbers here, and the wait was worth it.
The Feelies- Crazy Rhythms If I wasn’t sure which album was my favourite of the week, hands down I know which was my least favourite. For more than thirty years I’ve been reading about The Feelies, how influential they were and how it was too bad they were underappreciated in their time.
I have a sneaking suspicion that, since they were on Stiff, I may have even owned this at some point. For some reason I decided to give them another chance and purchased this album from iTunes in February; it was only yesterday I got around to listening to it. I’m not sure what the big deal is- the songs go nowhere and it sounds like it was recorded in a bathtub on a Sears cassette deck circa 1977. “Raised Eyebrows,” indeed. The only song I halfway enjoyed was the title track, a percussion-driven track that, well, goes nowhere!
Around the same time I downloaded this one, I bought the The Good Earth reissue package. I haven’t listened to it yet and can only hope things got better with time. Sometimes money just burns a hole in my pocket, and then I pay the price months later.
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.
The Special Consensus were a late addition to the 10th season of Waskasoo Bluegrass, but proved to be a highlight. The venerable Chicago-based band, augmented by members from Nashville and Kansas City (I think) demonstrated that they should be considered for any and all bluegrass stages.
Unlike some bands that are too pleased with themselves, The Special C- led by Greg Cahill since 1975- is a modest, self-confident group without a lick of arrogance. The current edition of the band, featuring David Thomas (bass and vocals), Ryan Roberts (guitar and vocals), and Rick Faris (mandolin and vocals), as well as Cahill (banjo and vocals), is one of the more vocally sound bands I’ve heard in recent times. Combine that with tasteful and expressive instrumental chops, and a winning lineup is on stage.
The band presented a polished, professional show without the trappings of overly rehearsed antics.
Roberts shone in his home country, playing with the Special C in Canada for only the second time. As the band’s token Canuck, he made family of all in the audience- quite a feat as Red Deer is some 5000 km from his Glace Bay hometown- heck, his Nashville home is closer to Red Deer than Cape Breton Island! His natural charm and talent made the remaining copies of his solo album disappear before the intermission was half over.
The band borrowed from a range of writers, delving into the Irving Berlin, Hank Snow, Louvin Brothers, Michael Martin Murphey, Ronnie Bowman, and Ron Spears songbooks. They also preformed several band written tunes, some of which will be featured on their upcoming 35 album on a label to be announced soon; I don’t think it is my place to break that news.
It was a wonderful performance, and the band receives the highest recommendation to all festival and concert promoters. (Self-involvement alert: I handle the bookings for the club, and therefore dealt with Greg in all aspects of the gig; the man has it together- a very low-maintainence band.)
Thanks for dropping by Fervor Coulee- Donald