Archive for the ‘YepRoc Records’ Tag
A few weeks ago I read that Dave Alvin was to appear in an episode of Justified, a television series I had never seen and had only heard of in passing. A bit more searching led me to believe that the series would be of interest- the setting was certainly an area of interest and the premise of the show was appealing. Without ever seeing an episode (as far as I can tell, it isn’t available in Canada) I bought series one on DVD this past week and my wife and I watched all 14 episodes this past weekend. The pilot episode was very promising, but after three more episodes we expressed mutual disappointment. I had expected more geography, more local flavour in the show and the vanilla generic locales were underwhelming. If you’re going to set a series in Kentucky, make me feel like I’m seeing Kentucky. (I realize the series isn’t even filmed there. California, anyone?) I had expected more darkness in the series, less obvious good vs bad. As it turns out, the series rapidly improved through the next ten episodes although it still wasn’t as powerful as I had expected. It reminded me a lot of The Closer, a series we both enjoy but which is hardly groundbreaking.
I told you that to tell you this…Dave Alvin’s new song- apparently performed in that series two episode of Justified is streaming at http://soundcloud.com/yep-roc-music-group/dave-alvin-harlan-county-line. The song is better than the series, in my opinion. At least, based on what I’ve seen.
I’ve never visited Harlan County- and after about the fifth episode of Justified, my wife assured me that we never will!- and listening to this song, I ‘m not sure I have a better feel for the place. But, I like the premise, the story the song tells. The song has a few expected Alvinisms…the slow, meandering burn is present in the first 25 seconds and doesn’t let up. The voice, of course. Pretty impressive. I’m looking forward to the album.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Several weeks ago, I was assigned to review the fifth album from Chatham County Line, Wildwood. Having previously purchased the album via download, I semi-forgot about the review. I listened to the album several times and somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I was supposed to write about it, but couldn’t determine if I had ‘really’ been assigned the album or had dreamed the job. A not-so-subtle hint from my editor got me back on track, and the review was published today at http://lonesomeroadreview.com/. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
This is an album I’ve been listening to for a couple months, but had no intentions of reviewing until Jeff at Country Standard Time asked me to take a run at it. It challenged me, without doubt. It is an album that is a bit overwhelming, but I managed to get my thoughts together after a couple abandoned attempts. The review is now up at CST: http://tinyurl.com/2erobf5. The album wasn’t on my initial Polaris ballot, but did make my second round ticket- it is one of ten finalists for the Polaris Music Prize to be awarded in late September.
This weekend I made the decision to revamp Fervor Coulee a bit, so you’ll notice a few tweaks. I also realized I hadn’t dug into the non-posted archive for a long time. I dug out this review of Carlene’s ‘comeback’ album originally published just before this blog was born. I’ll make an attempt to update a few older reviews as the weeks pass.
Originally appeared in The Red Deer Advocate, August 1, 2008
Fans can be forgiven for believing they were unlikely to hear new material from June Carter’s first-born.
On her first album in over than a decade, Carlene Carter displays the passion that has consistently been present in her country-rock hybrid while instilling depth that was frequently missing from her chart hits. Stronger has more than a little of the spirit of her Carter family ancestors woven within the tracks.
Having spent years out of the spotlight, Carter’s voice is huskier than it was on Little Acts of Treason, her major label swan song. But she displays control and sensitivity throughout, never over-extending her voice.
Her honest treatment of On To You signifies that at fifty-plus, Carter can give those half her age something to consider, and the mid-tempo, country shuffle To Change Your Heart would fit nicely on any of Carter’s mid-90s albums.
While Carter exposes herself emotionally throughout Stronger, the album’s mood isn’t dense or bleak. I’m So Cool is as lively as when she first recorded it almost thirty years ago. Attention to phrasing and delicate instrumentation allows the gentle love song Spider Lace to stand out as a highlight.
But Carter saves the best for last. The album’s intense title track doesn’t mince words, and Carter’s mature performance of what could be a clichéd lyric (“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”) elevates the song. When one considers from where Carter was for much of the last thirteen years- addiction, career bankruptcy, criminal charges, family losses- June, Johnny, sister Rosey, ex Howie Epstein- “this hell-raising angel” is entitled to look back with contented perspective. Stronger should become Carter’s signature song.
Without apologizing for her past, Carlene Carter has documented the challenges, celebrations, and lessons of a hard-lived life on Stronger. Not only Comeback of the Year, Stronger is a candidate for Comeback of the Decade.
2009 update- I just listened to Stronger again, and while it holds up quite well, it isn’t the remarkable ‘comeback’ I perhaps thought it was. In too many places lush overwhelms lust, and that can’t be a good thing for a singer with Carter’s vocal traits. Still, I’m glad the album got made, and I’m just as happy that it brought Carlene Carter some positive press after years of less than stellar news.
I know I’m luckier than many. Even as a writer of marginal talent, I’ve been able to find forums for my writing, and as a result of this am exposed to more fresh music than other folks. Since I also spend too much time in both used and new CD stores, I uncover CDs of interest- including many I didn’t even know I need.
For example, last weekend I stopped into one of the local stores and found a reissue of Mark Lindsay’s Arizona and Silverbird albums on one disc. I barely know Mark Lindsay from Lindsay Buckingham, and haven’t listened to Paul Revere & the Raiders except on oldies radio…although “Indian Reservation” has long been a favourite. I bought the album without even thinking about it, and it was only when Track 1 started once I got home that I realized “Arizona” was that Arizona song. I’ve listened to the disc twice through, and while it isn’t essential I’ve enjoyed discovering something I hadn’t before listened to.
If I work hard enough, I’ll usually find something of interest.
Like many, I spend too much of my free (and other) time listening to music. Here is the first installment of a piece I am assembling where I reflect upon some of the music I’ve either taken off the shelf, purchased, or have been sent since June. While not necessary stunning in all cases, all of these albums are ones I’m really glad I listened to this summer.
Presented in no particular order-
Cry Cry Cry Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky, and Richard Shindell (Razor & Tie, 1998) We probably all have albums that we love but seldom- if ever- pull off the shelf. This trio project isn’t one of those as I didn’t know I loved it, and in fact can’t remember listening to it prior to this summer although I must have. I rediscovered Cry Cry Cry while on Santorini and for some reason it really resonated with me as I walked the streets of Fira. The blending and interplay of the three voices is quite special as songs from some of the finest contemporary writers are interpreted. Highlights include “Cold Missouri Waters” by James Keelaghan, Buddy Mondlock’s “The Kid,” and “Down By the Water” written by Jim Armenti, whose version can be seen/heard here, live in a grocery store. Weird. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqSzNKPoRqo
Potato Hole Booker T (Anti- 2009) I wasn’t sure what to except from this one. I’ve always enjoyed the Booker T sound, but am by no means a learned listener. I’ve been hit and miss with the Drive-By Truckers- who serve as the band for this ten-track album- and Neil Young- who plays guitar. It is a rock album with lots of guitar, and I find it really groovy. Of course, the Hammond B3 comes through loud and clear. I’m glad I took a chance on it. There is also a nice set recorded July 4 posted at the Live Music Archive, if you can get past the annoying talking head.
Armageddon Prism (Capital, 1979) A western-Canadian FM-staple, every song on this disc is recognizable to guys of a certain age. Some of the effects sound dated, but dang- the songs have hooks. As a Trooper fan, I couldn’t publicly admit to liking these guys during grade 9 and 10; at least, that was the rule in my head. I’m glad I stopped over-thinking things.
UN, The Boy Bands Have Won, and English Rebel Songs 1381-1984 Chumbawamba (1998, 2004, 2008) Over the past two years, and really for no tangible reason, I’ve been collecting Chumbawamba discs whenever I run across them. Even though almost every album takes a different approach to pop and folk music, I’ve yet to be disappointed. I downloaded these ones from eMusic and iTunes after catching the Chumbawamba Acoustic quintet at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in early August. I love the blending of voices, the way the female vocals soar above the instruments. The songs are clever and, and times, insightful and thought-provoking.
Nothing Gold Can Stay The Duke & The King (Ramseur, 2009) I can’t write about this album yet because it makes me ache. I can’t stop listening to it. The most beautiful sounding album I listened to all summer. Sparse, mellow, dreamy. Love The Outsiders reference, which I noticed as soon as I saw the album…realizing it comes from a poem. Frost? Buy this one.
As Time Goes By The Bluegrass Brothers (Self-released, 2009) As time goes by, the Bluegrass Brothers just get better. Since I first heard the Virginia band five or so years ago, they have made huge strides- from an enthusiastic if non-descript area family band, to a crew of pros that can hold their own with the finest of the professional bands. They are not fancy but they are lively, pouring out straight-ahead hardcore bluegrass without a hint of progressive intent. I don’t want all my bluegrass to sound this rustic, but I’m glad The Bluegrass Brothers remain true to their vision. Check out “Stanley Tradition.”
A Quiet Evil Lee Harvey Osmond (Latent Recordings, 2009) Turn Tom Wilson loose, and odd things are bound to occur. Featuring Michael and Margo Timmins, Josh Finlayson and Andy Maize, and Brent Titcomb, the album mines deep, virgin musical ground. It isn’t what I would immediately label as roots music, but is has all the elements- original music, ties to country, rock, and folk, and textured vocals that shy away from pop gloss. The album seems dark, yet is soothing and enlightening. The presence of Aaron Goldstein’s pedal steel brings in shades of country, but the overall sound has as much in common with X and Los Straitjackets as it does Fred Eaglesmith.
Western Bell Kelly Joe Phelps (Black Hen Records, 2009) An excellent album to accompany coffee…I drank a lot of coffee during summer mornings last month listening to this one while preparing to write about it. Phelps sings not a word. Instead, in producing a nocturnal collection of eleven solo guitar instrumentals, the west coast native allows his 6- and 12- strings to reclaim their rightful place. Haunting and adventurous, the tunes never get bogged down. So balanced and spacious are the songs, it is difficult to accept that much of the album was improvised in the studio.
The Further Adventures of Los Straitjackets (YepRoc, 2009) Pure fun. Modern surf music created far from the ocean. Nearly every song seems to have been inspired by a previously recorded, familiar song. In “Minority Report” I hear repeated echoes of “This Diamond Ring” and Mashmakhan’s “As Years Go By.” In another, I swear I hear “Theme from A Summer Place.” Thoroughly engaging, if too brief, clocking in as it does at just a cough over thirty minutes. Inspired packaging, too.
Blue Lights on the Runway Bell X1 (Yep Roc, 2009) Sometimes albums surprise me. Duh! I didn’t know anything about this group despite seeing their name in the British mags (Uncut, MOJO) that I read. The rockiest and simultaneously poppiest album on this list, Ireland’s Bell X1’s fourth album was their first for me and brought to mind the wonder years of the 80s British Invasion- Modern English, Lloyd Cole, Nik Kershaw, The Icicle Works, et al. Perhaps most in common with the simple sophistication of East Side Story Squeeze, this one continues to impress. Musically, it is much deeper than most of the modern, non-roots music I encounter.
I’ll post more reflections in a few days. As always, thanks for dropping in at Fervor Coulee. Donald
In my July 17, 2009 column in the Red Deer Advocate, I was pleased to review two remarkable new albums: Vieux Farka Toure’s fonda and Todd Snider’s The Excitement Plan.
Vieux Farka Touré
Son of the late Ali Farka Touré, Vieux continues the rich tradition of guitar-based, West African music. Loose and freewheeling numbers enable the musician to seemingly improvise his way around sweeping melodies, providing a compelling listen.
Touches of the blues are apparent, especially on numbers such as Souba Souba and Paradise. Most assuredly, this is an African album. Recorded in Mali, the album has a consistent sound, one that is complementary to the western and African styles that meld into a fresh, coherent mixture of influences.
A remarkable collection of original music, the album features the traditional tune Walé, a song from Timbuktu. This track, and two others, feature vocals from Afel Bocoum. Elsewhere, Vieux takes the lead vocal spot and his words, while not understood by those not speaking his language, connect with the listener through inflection and intensity of phrasing.
For most of us, “world music”- that which includes lyrics we don’t understand- is about the groove, and Fondo succeeds in this area like few others. Song after song- Sarama, Diaraby Magni, and the aptly titled Slow Jam- pull listeners into complex but accessible rhythms.
Vieux Farka Touré knows that heartfelt music requires no translation, and Fondo speaks to all who are willing to listen.
The Excitement Plan
In which everyone’s favourite bar-stool philosopher goes uptown with Don Was producing. While a studio A-team is present- Jim Keltner on drums, Greg Leisz on steel and Dobro, and Was himself on the bass- Snider acerbic wit and cutting couplets prevail.
“The number one symptom of heart disease is sudden death” Snider sings on Greencastle Blues prior to asking “How do you know it is too late to learn?” Honed by countless performances in hundreds if not thousands of dives, Snider maintains interest through the use of a charming “Ah, shucks” persona while skewing the very hands that feed him.
Back to back- on Barefoot Champagne and Don’t Tempt Me- Snider captures the strain and dark humour of marital discord. On the latter, honky-tonkin’ song, Snider duets with Loretta Lynn; the legend drops lines like, “You’re stoned as a rock” with aplomb. Lighthearted as the tone may be in many places, Snider pulls no punches on Bring ’em Home, an anti-war protest song that could be forty years old, but unfortunately isn’t.
His tribute to Dock Ellis’s No-No (America’s Favourite Pastime) differs greatly from Chuck Brodsky’s previous, novelistic approach. Snider succeeds because of what he leaves out; cutting to the core of the accomplishment- pitching a no-hitter while on LSD- by capturing staccato images of the day.
Clocking in at just over forty minutes, Snider knows how to quit while ahead. The Excitement Plan, with its straight-ahead approach and uncluttered arrangements, contains nothing extraneous. It should appeal to all long-time fans and, for others, may serve as a gentle introduction to a singer who takes some getting used to.
I’ve been away on vacaction, but will be posting several reviews shortly as I was able to do a bit of listening while away. Thanks for checking in, Donald
Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women
Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women
Featuring a cavalcade of California and Texas- based female instrumentalists and singer Christy McWilson, Dave Alvin has again realigned his approach and songbook.
As always, emotion and experience drip off every syllable Alvin sings. A collaborative musician and producer if ever one existed, Alvin is the core of this project; but the ladies- all nine of them- take (excepting on the twin-fiddle numbers) second fiddle to no one.
Laurie Lewis, who is slated to again visit Red Deer this September with Kathy Kallick, is distinctly heard throughout the album, and Nina Gerber’s fiery electric guitar work bridges any gaps that may exist between the favoured styles of her bandmates.
Maria Marie is rejiggered as a swampy Cajun stomper, California’s Burning has all the hallmarks of an Alvin classic, and Potter’s Field is darn lonesome. Karen Carpenter, Big Joe Turner, and Jimi Hendrix populate the songs.
Quietly Please…The New Best of Nick Lowe
It is collections such as this recent two-disc set of Nick Lowe music that keep me going to music stores in the (usually) futile search for magic.
While the selection at most area CD stores has continued to dwindle as DVDs and game system cartridges have taken over the market, one is still occasionally rewarded for taking the time to place hard earned currency on the counter to purchase the soon-to-be antiquated compact disc.
Nick Lowe has had his formidable catalogue resurrected and repackaged a number of times, and being the fan that I am I have purchased most of the collections. Upon reflection, each of the albums have served a purpose during the particular time they were discovered.
I bought 16 All-Time Lowes while attending university and while the album wasn’t my introduction to the cutting wit and word play of John R. Cash’s former son-in-law, it allowed me exposure to a number of songs I hadn’t previously encountered. Labour of Love was a favourite high school album, but at the time I hadn’t delved far enough to discover Pure Pop For Now People.
Basher: The Best of Nick Lowe was purchased on cassette while living in the fairly remote Northern Saskatchewan community of La Loche, and served to brighten many an exhausting weekend day while preparing lessons and materials in my classroom. This extensive collection, while missing many personal album favourites- “We Want Action,” “Tanque-Rae”, “Man of a Fool,” and “My Heart Hurts” as examples- captured the essence of Lowe in a more comprehensive fashion than the previous set.
I have a vague recollection of purchasing The Wilderness Years on a trip to Edmonton’s Sound Connection store, but I can’t find it on my shelves, so perhaps I only dreamed of that acquisition. I missed out on The Doings box set, but recently uncovered a copy of it. More extensive than any other Lowe collection, it boasts the bonus of many live cuts and additional rarities. Only for the real Lowe fan, the set is well worth the search.
And I won’t even start in on my Brinsley Schwarz sets.
Which brings us to Quietly Please…The New Best of Nick Lowe. With 49 tracks, this compilation ranges from Brinsley Schwarz’s 1974 take of “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love, and Understanding” through to cuts from 2007’s At My Age. Many favourite songs are again missed, but the majority of the essentials are either here or readily available on Basher. While I knew (and continue to know) I really did not need another Lowe set, this one attracted me because I’ve come to trust YepRoc as a label. Their reissue of Jesus of Cool was very well done, both from music contents and packaging stand points.
But, I was still going to pass dropping another $20 or so into the Lowe and Co. coffers until I encountered the impossible to ignore ‘deluxe’ package featuring a bonus DVD.
I’ve written elsewhere about my disdain for the ‘deluxe’ package marketing ploy as the results have often left me wanting. Plus, too often such packages come out a few weeks or months after I have purchased the standard set, and appear to be just another way to encourage completist fans to spend even more money. But, because the ‘deluxe’ package of Quietly Please…came out at the same time as the standard 2-disc set, I put aside my typical bias and plunked down the $30. And I couldn’t be happier with that decision.
Songs from all the albums are included, and the package also touches on Bowi, Rockpile and Little Village. Set producer Gregg Geller limited himself to songs written or co-written by Lowe, so no “Switchboard Susan” this time. Any studio remastering or tweaking that may have occurred does not interfere with the memory of many of the songs from vinyl. The tunes are arranged chronologically, and provide more than a couple hours of Lowe glory.
Not only can I not argue with the compilers music choices- hell, “Wishing Well” from Pinker and Prouder than Previous is even included- the set is beautiful to look at. A wonder to hold, even.
The quad-panel digipak unfolds to show a collage of scattered Lowe leavings including photos, ticket stubs, and pins. Photos of Lowe- from shaggy-haired pub rocker to dignified elder statesman- grace the disc trays. A well-written essay and producer notes comprise the package booklet with colour reproductions of all the album covers included. The song notes are extensive and include musician credits and chart positions.
The bonus DVD is also a greater than expected treat. The nine song videos- including the familiar “Cruel to Be Kind” and “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll),” as well as several I had never before seen, such as “Ragin’ Eyes” and “Cracking Up”- and allows one – if so inclined- to participate in an individual drinking game: each time a member of Rockpile appears, take a drink. Bonus swallows for spotting other Lowe associates, including Carlene and Paul Carrack. Several of the videos are cheesy and all are dated.
The early pieces- “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass,” Little Hitler,” and “No Reason” appear to be culled from a television performance and are, for me, priceless.
The contained live show featuring Lowe’s studio band- from Brussels and October 2007- is a lovely addition, and highlights the sparse majesty of Lowe as he approaches 60! The voice is still there, but of course not quite as spry as in the late-70s. The show is nicely shot, using a variety of camera locations and the sound is excellent. Lowe performs alone and with the band, and some of the songs featured- including “Shting-Shtang,” “Heart of the City,” and “All Men Are Liars”- are pleasant surprises.
One can download Quietly Please…The New Best of Nick Lowe if so inclined, but that would be the wrong decision. This is that not-so-rare set that calls out to be enjoyed in a non-virtual manner; you can find packages that are worth buying, but you have to look for them.
Time has been taken to produce an outstanding collection of music, beautifully housed. I’m pleased that someone- be it the folks at Proper (UK) or YepRoc- is still willing to take the time to invest in music in this manner. I doubt the collection is expected to sell more than a few thousand copies, and yet here it is- a superbly crafted project.
We owe it to ourselves to pursue such efforts.
FYI: NICK LOWE
THE BRENTFORD TRILOGY
For the first time in one collection, Nick Lowe’s classic solo albums, The Impossible Bird, Dig My Mood and The Convincer have all been assembled into The Brentford Trilogy. The three CD set includes a new book with extra photos and a new interview with Nick by Paul Gorman. This is a limited edition release and will not be available after 6/23!
*Every customer that pre-orders The Brentford Trilogy box set will get all three albums delivered digitally to their Stash immediately to start enjoying right away!
Jim Lauderdale & the Dream Players
Winning Grammy Awards has allowed Jim Lauderdale to record what he wants, when he wants. Such is the case with his latest album-his fourth in less than eighteen months- Honey Songs.
With a backing band the sort of a liner note reader’s wildest fantasy (Burton, Tallent, Perkins, Hardin, and the like,) Lauderdale has crafted a full-bodied collection of songs that successfully straddle the conflicting forces of the country world- Nashville commercialism and retro-country hipness.
“Honey Suckle Honey Pie” establishes the parameters of the proceedings with classic-sounding, tic-tac country guitar and playful but heart-earning vocals. Elsewhere, pedal steel comes wailing to the fore.
“I Hope You’re Happy”,”Hittin’ It Hard”, and “It’s Finally Sinkin’ In” are a trio of love gone south tunes, but each has a distinctive approach to the conveyance of the proceedings. Emmylou Harris stops by to lend her voice to the album’s pining closer (“I’m Almost Back”) while Patty Loveless, Buddy Miller, and Kelly Hogan appear elsewhere.
Jim Lauderdale is one of the most criminally under-known country singers and songwriters enjoying critical acclaim. Honey Songs reveals a little more with every listen, and is further evidence that his creative well is in no danger of running dry.