Curly Seckler, Don Reno, & Bobby Smith- vintage digital reviews   Leave a comment

CMH Curly

Have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate Curly Seckler? How about Marty?

Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, I provide capsule reviews of three recent CMH digital bluegrass reissues- Curly Seckler & the Nashville Grass’ Take A Little Time, Don Reno & the Tennessee Cut-Ups’ 30th Anniversary Album, and Bobby Smith & the Boys From Shiloh’s Smokin’ Bluegrass. 

A good time was had.

CMH Smith

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Steve Dawson- Lucky Hand review   Leave a comment

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Steve Dawson Lucky Hand Black Hen Music

Immersing myself in Steve Dawson’s impressive catalogue these past weeks, I wasn’t surprised as much reinvigorated by the intensity and diversity of the music he has chosen to create over the past decade and a half. There are certainly commonalities linking his recordings—the quality of his playing, naturally, but also his obvious appreciation for the history of all roots-based music—but what becomes most apparent is Dawson’s incredible versatility. When one encounters music from a Steve Dawson album, one is never quite sure what will be heard: blues, folk, country, string-band, and jazz, it is all there. Equally evident is that there is no doubt that one is listening to a master.

Steve Dawson is one of Canada’s most significant roots musicians and producers. Now based in Nashville, Dawson continues to develop his own songwriting while honing his studio and instrumental chops.

I’ve admitted it before, and I am comfortable stating it again: most instrumental roots music albums—bluegrass, blues, folk, and the all-encompassing Americana—bore me. Wait, that is a little strong, and ‘bore’ is a lazy word. Still, instrumental albums certainly don’t engage me to the degree that music with verses and rhyme does. Still, I’ll listen to Doc Watson and Flatt & Scruggs’ Strictly Instrumental or the Tony Rice Bluegrass Guitar Collection anytime; I guess it just depends on the presentation—noodle incessantly or aimlessly and you lose me before the third cut.

No fear of that with Steve Dawson’s Lucky Hand. Mr. Black Hen Music has created, with a handful of guests, a compelling collection of—alternately—lively, moody, and progressive acoustic, instrumental roots tunes.

Across the 45-minute set are expansive and airy solo and duet pieces as well as a few full-blown string wizard combo collaborations. What is especially appealing (but not terribly surprising) is the multiplicity of sounds Dawson brings to his compositions. There is a subtle bluegrass groove to “Hollow Tree Gap,” while the atmospheric “Lucky Hand,” “Bentonia Blues,” and “Hale Road Revelation” have blues foundations, the latter featuring an impressive slide performance. Dawson lays out a fitting and inspired tribute to Doc Watson-styled phrasing and picking on “Lonesome Ace.”

Dawson also circles back to long-time partner Jesse Zubot on several string-rich pieces including the playful “Old Hickory Breakdown” and the musical imagery that is “Bone Cave.” Dawson is further complemented by Josh Zubot (violin), Peggy Lee (cello), and John Kastelic (viola).  John Reischman joins Dawson for the slide and mandolin duet “Little Harpeth,” a piece that (to these abused and untrained ears) weaves into near neoclassical territory.

The cinematic opening “The Circuit Rider of Pigeon Forge” is an expansive suite effectively incorporating ostensibly discordant essentials of western film scores of the 50s, chamber music, and intimate late-night guitar progressions with rock ‘n’ roll fervor. Somehow, it all works, and sets the tone for a musical journey that is consistently challenging, surprising, and unblemished.

Lucky Hand is Steve Dawson’s eighth ‘solo’ album. It stands comfortably beside his best albums including Solid States & Loose Ends and Nightshade.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.

 

 

 

 

Flashback- Denver Snow review   Leave a comment

flashback

My review of Flashback’s second album is published at Country Standard Time. Flashback is a ‘bluegrass supergroup’, three-quarters of whom played on J. D. Crowe’s Flashback album of almost 25 years ago. It is a strong outing. If you like bluegrass, you should find a lot to appreciate here.

Sylvia- Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined review   Leave a comment

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Sylvia Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined Red Pony Music http://www.sylviamusic.com/

For several months during the 1982/1983 winter, “Nobody” became one of my favourite songs. It had been a hit the year before, I knew, but I didn’t pay attention to the song until I had an early morning job driving truck for the distributor of the area daily, picking up a truckload of bundled newspapers shortly after midnight, and driving through the dark—barely awake—delivering to various drop points for carriers to distribute once dawn broke.

It was during these dark mornings of solitude, listening to AM radio, that I became enamoured with several songs I had over-looked when originally released, songs that seemingly played each time I made the trek from Edmonton through Beaumont and into and around Leduc. With no effort I can recall some of the songs: Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out,” “8675309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone, Karla Bonoff’s “Personally,” Juice Newton’s “Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard On Me,” Dexys Midnight Runners “Come On, Eileen,” and Sylvia’s crossover hit, “Nobody.”

Sylvia had other hits, but none came close to the widespread and universal success of “Nobody,” one of six (!) Kye Fleming/Dennis Morgan songs included on this 10-song distillation of the artist’s hit years, 1980-1985. Even hard-rockin’, FM-radio loving, 18-year old me knew that the song was ubiquitous for most of 1982. Excepting “Sweet Yesterday” (#12, 1981) and the fitting set closing “You Can’t Go Back Home” (last track, side A of Just Sylvia), the songs herein were all country top ten hits including her pair of #1’s, “Nobody” and “Drifter.”

What’s different from the compilations released over the years, including the definitive RCA-years set Anthology, is that Sylvia has elected to re-record these hits to better reflect the performer she is today. Nothing new in this as country artists have frequently done so, if for no other reason than to own masters of the songs with which they are most associated. Some have done so very successfully, including Newton, Lacy J. Dalton, and Kim Carnes all of whom have re-recorded their hits to a standard equalling if not exceeding the originals. Rather than being a rushed endeavour intended for digital or concert table sales, Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined is most obviously a venture undertaken with considerable consideration.

35-plus years on, Sylvia continues to have full control of her considerable vocal talents. Deeper vocally  than when Tom Collins (and later, Brent Maher) produced her, Sylvia circa 2018 appears to approach the songs with the wisdom earned with time. “Nobody” isn’t quite as buoyant as it once was, and the song is better for it: the repercussions of a husband’s cheating ways shouldn’t necessarily sound quite so much like the bouncy, synthesized anthem as, in retrospect, the 1982 rendition did.

The sound of the camera that kicks off “Snapshot” has been updated to that of a smartphone, and that isn’t the only change. As with all the songs here, “Snapshot” sounds brighter and less manufactured when compared to the RCA counterpart. The originals were of their time, of course, and they have held up over hundreds of radio listens. Compared to these new takes, they truly pale. Part of the reason is that the mature Sylvia’s voice is more powerful in every way—more forceful when necessary, more subtle, more vulnerable when suited. But it is the instrumentation that is most obviously improved, and that is a result of stripping away the gloss and dross of those (now) obviously over-produced sessions

I have spent much of the past month re-listening to Anthology and searching out online versions of Just Sylvia, Surprise, and One Step Closer and I was surprised how ‘un-country’ the songs and albums sound in retrospect. By comparison, Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined is positively down-home. “Fallin’ In Love” benefits from Andy Leftwich’s fiddle, while the earliest songs—“Tumbleweed” and “Drifter” have the versatile Harry Stinson and Jim Glaser singing harmony. Album co-producer John Mock—with whom Sylvia has worked for more than twenty years—understands her music, and does much of the instrumental work across the album, playing a variety of guitars and other stringed instruments including mandolin and banjo.

Sylvia was one of country music’s premier vocalists. She was once the Academy of Country Music’s Female Vocalist of the Year—tying her with Dolly Parton, Wynonna, and Mary Chapin Carpenter—and she had twenty charting songs, and possesses a ‘career song’ that will forever be played on commercial country radio. A new album from Sylvia—even one featuring re-recordings of decades-old hits—is a rare event, one worth celebrating.

Absorbing this album over several weeks, it becomes apparent that Sylvia has continued to evolve and grow as a singer and artist in the thirty years since the hits stopped coming. More in the line of Where In The World and The Real Story than the mainstream RCA discs, Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined  demonstrates that Sylvia has much to offer her fans, both those who are just discovering her and those who have been in for the long haul. That I might prefer refreshed versions of more songs—“Victims of Goodbye” or “Mill Song,” perhaps—have been included would be quibbling about an already enjoyable album.

Posted 2018 June 3 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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NewTown- Naomi Wise video   Leave a comment

Posted 2018 May 27 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar- Run To Me review   Leave a comment

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Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar Run to Me Gypsy Soul www.SamanthaMartin.ca

Some of the faces, voices, and instruments have changed since Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar’s debut album of three (really? three!) years ago, but the sound and outlook continues to rain joy and sorrow in equal measure: soulful, animated, and vigorous.

Samantha Martin’s slightly gravelly voice brings each of the ten included songs to life; she isn’t messing around here: nothing is wasted, no going through the motions. When she demands, “Tell me where you been,” in “All Night Long,” you know she already has the philanderer nailed.

Without doubt, Martin is the focus here, but Delta Sugar gets co-billing for a reason. Vocalists Sherie Marshall and Mwansa Mwansa provide Martin with support and depth that is more than impressive, while the nine-piece band create a substantial sound that is bright and resonant, simultaneously fresh and retro. This is a soul revue with few peers.

At their peak, Gladys Knight or Marilyn McCoo couldn’t sing these bittersweet anthems any better. “Will We Ever Learn,” indeed: “They say, ‘Love is blind;’ I tend to think it’s when lust is on your mind…” This honest distillation of what happens when one goes looking for love in the wrong places—”one of us had to get burned”—simmers over a bed of horns including Andrew Moljgun’s saxophone. “Over You” has a similar 70s sound, mature and bad ass, accepting no sass.

Lyrically, Martin and her various co-writers keep things rather ‘matter of fact.’ “You don’t have to put a ring on it—Baby, just put your back into it,” she sings on “Wanna Be Your Lover” before continuing, “Don’t worry about my heartstrings, You know I don’t feel those feelings—I just want to see what tomorrow brings.” Still, Martin has a sensitive side. “Gonna Find It” and “You’re The Love” find her seeking that which is missing. Echoes of Stax and long-forgotten southern soul sides abound.

With Suzie Vinnick as her writing partner, Martin goes looking for “Good Trouble,” perhaps the album’s most rock ‘n’ roll track. The sing-a-long chorus, “You’re never too young, you’re never too old, to find yourself good trouble; you must find a way, to get in the way, and find yourself good trouble,” is immediately appealing, and Steve Marriner’s organ break raise the stakes a bit higher. Equally engaging, “This Night Is Mine”—one of several songs co-written with guitarist Curtis Chaffey—is loaded with vocal and instrumental hooks, another complete band performance.

Run To Me is an incredible album. Expertly produced by bassist Darcy Yates, and with a running time is 35 minutes, Run To Me is a concise serving of electrifying soul, blues, and roots music.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Drop me a note.

David Davis & the Warrior River Boys- Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole review   Leave a comment

David Davis

David Davis & The Warrior River Boys Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole Rounder Records

Even with fewer than a dozen albums featuring his name, David Davis has become a near-legendary member of the bluegrass fraternity, a true follower of The Monroe Doctrine. Having fronted the Warrior River Boys for parts of four decades, Davis has refined and nurtured his vision of traditionally-based bluegrass while consistently presenting among the finest live showcases of the music’s vibrancy.                                                                                                                                            Bill monroe

For his first album in almost ten years, Davis returns to Rounder Records with a well-considered collection of music from the early years of the twentieth century. Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole is the first Warrior River Boys album since Davis completed his incredible Rebel Records aural triptych in 2009: Troubled Times, David Davis & the Warrior River Boys, and Two Dimes & A Nickel, three of the most impressive bluegrass albums released during the initial decade of this century. [Note to self: dig up and post original reviews of these albums.]

David Davis has the ability to provide insights into the genesis of bluegrass music as few others. He presents as simultaneously intense and affable, a man comfortable with the direction his career has taken him. He has studied the music that informed Bill Monroe’s music, has identified for himself the threads and tendrils that were woven to create bluegrass. These insights inform his music, whether creating impressive interpretations of previously unrecorded songs or crafting fresh understandings of familiar songs, conveying universal experience.

David Davis waskasoo

The music of Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers comes from the post-World War I, pre-Depression era of American history, string band music that influenced generations of professional and amateur pickers and singers. Many of the songs contained within Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole are well-known, but Davis and co-producer Robert Montgomery have also included less familiar numbers while eschewing proverbial standards such as “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” and “Take A Drink On Me,” songs already oft recorded in bluegrass.

Still, a spirited and instrumentally well-arranged take on “White House Blues” is included as is “Girl I Left In Sunny Tennessee,” songs every jam regular well knows. Late in the set, a smooth rendition of “If The River Was Whiskey” is offered, with Davis’s voice and light, southern drawl ideally suited to the meandering song.

An album of considerable variation, an acceptance of life’s departures is an apparent theme. Whether pining for a distant love (“Where The Whippoorwill Is Whispering Goodnight”) within a song replete with acute detail (“Around that door the same old ivy vine is clinging,” a vivid image of desolation), cutting off a proposal (“One Moonlight Night”), or acknowledging the ways of a family’s ‘black sheep’ (“He Rambled”), one senses that Davis and Montgomery were attracted to songs where everything wasn’t necessarily going to plan.

The ‘Frankie and Johnny’ lovers of “Leaving Home” reveal different strategies for moving on from their troubled relationship, and the protagonist of “May I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister?” should have anticipated the ‘fox and henhouse’ outcome of his hospitality.

Does sentimentality get better than the included renditions of “Old and Only In The Way” and “Goodbye Mary Dear,” an enduring war-time tale? I suspect not. The bluesy “Highwayman” fits alongside additional ‘blues’ numbers including “Ramblin’ Blues” and “Milwaukee Blues,” a song previously recorded with a different vocal arrangement on Troubled Times and which led Davis on his Charlie Poole exploration.

Long-time Warrior River Boys Marty Hayes (lead and harmony vocals, bass) and Robert Montgomery (banjo) remain within the fold, with Davis contributing his classic-styled mandolin playing and distinctive voice with Stan Wilemon on guitar. Guest fiddler Billy Hurt is featured across the album. The instrumentation is, as expected, top drawer. The closing “Sweet Sunny South” is extended a mite, allowing  all the players to be showcased to excellent effect. Wilemon’s guitar runs on “Ramblin’ Blues” are especially appealing, as are Hurt’s fiddle fills, while Montgomery gets great tone on the opening title track.

Whatever are the reasons, it has been much too long since David Davis & the Warrior River Boys released an album. Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole is more than a welcome return; this album allows the listener to travel back in time and witness bluegrass’ evolution from old-timey string band and blues foundations to the music we embrace today. More than academic exercise, Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole is an exemplary example of modern, traditional bluegrass.