Barbara Blue- Fish in Dirty H2O review   Leave a comment

FishInDirtyH20Barbara Blue Fish in Dirty H2O Big Blue Records www.BarbaraBlue.com

Barbara Blue’s music simmers: she isn’t flashing, and she sure as hell isn’t going to allow wailing guitars to overwhelm the mood she establishes with each song. Rather, Barbara Blue does a slow burn across this hour-long testament to the power of soulful Memphis blues.

A 21-year residence at Beale Street’s Silky O’Sullivan’s has provided Blue with an authenticity grounded in plain truth: folks ain’t comin’ back if you don’t give them something to keep them comin’ back. With Fish in Dirty H2O, the Reigning Queen of Beale Street grabs us by the ear and pulls us into her house.

Sultry and passionate, Blue doesn’t just growl and roar, although she does some of that on “Accidental Theft” and “My Heart Belongs to the Blues”. She may sing of “Wild Women,” but hers is a more nuanced, experienced approach. With the spiritual-sounding “Walk Away,” one of several songs co-written with Mark Narmore, she takes us to a place where there is no choice but to recognize truth: “there’s not enough money or time, to spend this life unhappy.” Al Green couldn’t express things with more clarity than Blue.

Not everything is heavy. She sings the praises of her “BBQ Man”—he’s “got the rotisserie rollin’,” she claims—with more than a little sauce drippin’ within her innuendo, and embraces life by “soppin’ up” the “Gravy Train.” Plenty of horns, keys, and B3 add flavour with a heap of the familiar Memphis feel. “Meet Me in Memphis,” indeed: with her voice alone, Blue could carry a song, but augmented as she is by a stellar band, including a rhythm section that never loses their groove—Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (drums) and Dave Smith (bass)—one is essentially forced to just hold on.

Songs like “That’s Working For Me” and “Johnny Lee” reveal a confident, powerful performer who isn’t about to allow herself to be limited: Barbara Blue presents herself with a commanding authority that will brook no argument to the contrary.

With recent releases from Rory Block, Trudy Lynn, Joyann Parker, and Suzie Vinnick, Barbara Blue further supports my assertion: the ladies are where one should look to find the most emotionally charged, exciting, and soulful blues being created today.

Her amazing rendition of “Drunken Angel,” not included on this album:

 

 

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Posted 2018 October 1 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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From the extensive if not valued Fervor Coulee Archive:

Hillman

The Coal PortersThe Chris Hillman Tribute Concerts (Prima SID 013) 52:03

Within a band of fascinating characters, Chris Hillman was, for me, always the most cool of the Flying Burrito Brothers.  I would like to think it was because I sensed the soulful spirit of bluegrass he brought to their albums.  Perhaps it was the solid sense of musicianship and stability he projected while surrounded by an occasionally raggle-taggle group of musicians.  Maybe it was simply because he co-wrote “Wheels.”  It could have been the hair.

Whatever his reasons, Sid Griffin was similarly taken by the California-born Hillman.

The Coal Porters, Griffin’s (ex-Long Ryders, current music journalist and performer) long running England-based group seemingly dedicated to promoting all things Gram Parsons, turn their collective heads in a respectful nod to Hillman- ex-Byrd, ex- Flying Burrito, ex- Desert Rose Band, and current member of Out Of The Woodwork.

Despite being recorded at various gigs in London, Nashville, Louisville, and New York City and with a variety of sidemen, this album is remarkably cohesive and provides a tremendous overview of the bluegrass tinged legacy and being that is Chris Hillman.

Completely acoustic, there is no arguing the instrumental chops and motivation of eighth generation (both sides) Kentuckian Griffin and his compatriots of Irish, Scottish, and English ancestry.   This is an entertaining, high-octane bluegrass homage to a country-rock pioneer.

The playing is loose- comfortably relaxed, never sloppy- without the gloss of a precision bluegrass band.  The heartfelt intent is to pay tribute to an idol and icon.

The banjo playing of Pat McGarvey is at the forefront of most numbers including a version of Leon Payne’s “The Lost Highway” (sung here by Neil Robert Herd) and “I Am A Pilgrim,” a cut Hillman sang on the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo album.  Griffin’s mandolin performance, while not stellar in the sense of a Thile or Bush, is enthusiastic and spot on.

For those who remember Hillman from the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers (or at least have heard the reissued disc) to those who thought the Desert Rose Band was the brightest spot in the late-eighties neo-traditional country landscape, The Chris Hillman Tribute Concerts is a must purchase.

In true bluegrass spirit the album closes with Griffin’s voice over the P.A.- “CDs in the lobby!”

Originally published 2001, Bluegrass Now; I am fairly certain the editor worked overtime to turn this into something publishable. One day, I will be brave enough to compare the printed copy (in a box somewhere) and what I submitted, this.

 

Auldridge, Bennett, & Gaudreau- Blue Lonesome Wind review   Leave a comment

From the extensive if not valued Fervor Coulee Archive:

ABGAuldridge, Bennett & Gaudreau- Blue Lonesome Wind (Rebel REB-CD-1768) 44:44

Auldridge, Bennett & Gaudreau inhabit that frequently uncomfortable place between retro- traditionalism and artistic experimentation; with Blue Lonesome Wind, their sophomore effort, ABG has achieved a melding of musical alchemy which should satisfy fans of all bluegrass genres.

No one can argue the pedigrees of these masters.  Mike Auldridge, long an upper echelon resophonic player, has consistently produced inspired and progressive accompaniment with the Seldom Scene and Chesapeake.  Mandolinist Jimmy Gaudreau, also formerly of Chesapeake, has lent his deft playing to the Tony Rice Unit and J. D. Crowe & the New South; Gaudreau was featured on Crowe’s classic Live in Japan.  Richard Bennett, has quietly establishing his presence in the bluegrass world with smooth flatpicking and a gentle voice ideally suited to the music we love.

Four of the numbers, including three instrumentals, were written by Bennett and Gaudreau, while ABG have selected others by talents such as Liz Meyer and Rodney Crowell.

While their instrumental mastery is inarguable, what raises ABG above some other performers is the rich authenticity of these distinct yet complementary vocalists.  The pearl glistening most true is Richard Bennett’s home spun vocals, at times vaguely reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot, harkening a generation without a splash of false showmanship; his self-penned “Satisfied To Stay” should have been written in the ‘50s.

The album’s showcase piece may be “Sweet Prairie Hay,” written by Bill Caswell.  The entire band demonstrates expressive musicality while giving credence to the adage ‘less is more’; each instrumentalist is allowed to shine without resorting to one-upmanship.  On this number, Gaudreau’s tenor is ideally suited to the forsaken reminiscences of a condemned prisoner.

The instrumental “Welcome to New York” was originally a banjo showpiece when recorded by the Country Gentleman.  Arranged to feature Mike Auldridge’s resophonic guitar, it provides stark juxtaposition to the “long and empty” days in the “City of Lost Souls,” the number it precedes; Richard Bennett, plunging to the depths of bluegrass soul, captures the sense of aimlessness felt by many existing within urban business environments.

Another instrumental, “Dog Pause,” could be retitled “Dawg Paws” as, to this listener’s ears, it pays tribute to the lasting effect David Grisman has had by extending the parameters of bluegrass.

Blue Lonesome Wind is a definite ‘A’ List recording- strong in spirit, sincere in execution.

Origninally published in 2001Bluegrass Now. My first piece for them, I believe.

 

O Brother, Ralph Stanley, & Dolly Parton reviews   Leave a comment

More roots review from the extensive if not valued Fervor Coulee Archive:

O_Brother,_Where_Art_Thou__(soundtrack)Various Artists O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack Mercury Universal (2000)

Musical luminaries diverse as John Hartford, Norman Blake, Dan Tyminski, and the Fairfield Four came together to record the music for the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, providing stellar performances of early bluegrass, traditional country, and Appalachian ballads.

Highlights include songs by strong female vocalists such as the Whites, the Cox Family, and Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, and Gillian Welch which are important as glorious performances of historical songs for a new generation. The inclusion of Ralph Stanley’s chilling a cappella rendition of “O Death” solidifies the album.

(originally published February 16, 2001 Red Deer Advocate)

RalhoRalph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys Man of Constant Sorrow Rebel Records (2001)

Long associated with the song “Man of Constant Sorrow,” featured prominently in O Brother, Where Art Thou? , Ralph Stanley lends legitimacy to the soundtrack. Stanley was a contemporary of Bill Monroe, and was elemental in establishing the sound of bluegrass.

Man of Constant Sorrow, Stanley’s latest, is a compilation of recordings from the last 25 years, and serves as a companion piece to the O Brother soundtrack.

Bluegrass gospel numbers such as “I Am Weary (Let Me Rest)” and “I Have Seen The Rock of Ages” find Stanley and his band in fine form. Alongside these are “Old Richmond Prison” and “Poor Rambler” which capture the pain and depth of bluegrass.

(originally published February 16, 2001 Red Deer Advocate) Side note: This was the first album I received for review from Rebel Records; I was completely chuffed that they took a chance on me in 2001. Still am each time a disc shows up in the mail!

DollyDolly Parton Little Sparrow Sugar Hill Records (2001)

Little Sparrow continues the path Dolly Parton has been on recently bringing spirited vocals to several traditional sounding numbers including “Seven Bridges Road” and “Marry Me.”

She has also assembled a crack selection of the bluegrass elite to give her self-penned numbers an authentic instrumental base. Parton continues to resurrect her career by harvesting the sounds of her childhood.

Superior releases such as Little Sparrow broaden and enrich the audience of traditional music forms while further establishing a commercial presences for roots music.

(originally published February 16, 2001 Red Deer Advocate)

Unleashed Live & Dallas Wayne reviews   Leave a comment

More roots review from the extensive if not valued Fervor Coulee Archive:GrueneCharlie Robison, Jack Ingram, and Bruce Robison Unleashed Live Lucky Dog (2000)

These singer-songwriters, here recorded live at Texas’s legendary Gruene Hall, are among the cream of today’s alt.country crowd. Each offers clever word play with compelling mini-dramas featuring revenge, regret, and good times.

Bruce Robison comes with a guitar case of uncommonly sharp songs. “Angry All The Time,” a duet with wife Kelly Willis, chronicles the frustrations felt by a guy caught on life’s treadmill, “gettin’ a whole lot older everyday.”

Charlie Robison, Bruce’s brother, performs four rocking numbers originally recorded for his Life of the Party album including “Barlight” and “Sunset Boulevard;” the versions included here are significantly different and benefit from the live setting.

Jack Ingram delivers a fine set of songs, but has stronger ones available in his repertoire. “Mustang Burn” is terrific, but “Barbie Doll” serves as unnecessary filler; songs from his Livin’ or Dyin’ album are more indicative of his considerable writing and performing talents.

Fans of these performers are sure to enjoy this recording which features fresh takes on favourite tracks.

(originally published January 19, 2001 Red Deer Advocate)

DallasDallas Wayne Big Thinkin’ HMG/Hightone Records (2000)

Missouri honky tonker Dallas Wayne is a man with an enormous voice; the uniqueness of his resonating baritone grabs the listener from the first lines of the title track and doesn’t let go until the final refrains.

Included on Big Thinkin’ are twelve songs which cover typical honky tonk ground—drinkin’, lyin’, lovin’—while launching numerous well-placed jabs at the state of commercial country music. “If That’s Country” features the sentiment, “you’re turning our music into some kind of strange elevator noise,” while rightly comparing modern country to “bad Phil Collins with a hick facelift.”

Dallas Wayne pulls no punches.

“Lie, Memory, Lie,” “Coldwater, Tennessee,” and “Old 45’s” would be radio hits if the ‘powers that be’ could beyond the lack of rock ‘n’ roll guitars and stylized vocals.

Dallas Wayne is country music for the masses; it is up to the masses to discover and embrace his music.

(originally published January 19, 2001 Red Deer Advocate)

The Start- Kieran Kane & Johnny Staats reviews   Leave a comment

Late in 2000, buoyed by a seemingly growing and increasingly vibrant local roots music ‘scene’, I approached the local daily about writing a column on roots music. Intended to promote upcoming events and to feature reviews of important roots music recordings—and to allow me a way to get ‘free’ music—the paper (for some bleeding reason I still don’t understand) bit, and Rural Roots (renamed Roots Music soon after) made its debut as a monthly feature. Three months in, they moved me to twice-monthly, where I remained—usually on the front page of the entertainment section—for the next twelve years. Like a lot of freelancers, I didn’t get a great deal of (or any) guidance or coaching so I had to learn my craft the hard way: in front of everyone! It wasn’t always pretty, but it was a great ride, and only ended when I moved from Red Deer.

Shortly after I started writing for the Advocate, I approached Bluegrass Now about writing for them. With the infinite patience of their editorial team, I wrote for them for seven years, until the Internet and the challenging economic forces it wrought on publishing claimed the publication.

I have dug through the archives and found digital files for those columns, and will post them at Fervor Coulee irregularly as I waste time in front of the television, watching the world fall to pieces: consider these my contribution. For the oldest reviews, I have re-typed them from the paper copies I retained. They may not reflect any editorial revisions made upon publication.

KieranKieran Kane The Blue Chair Dead Reckoning Records (2000)

New York-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Kieran Kane has quietly established himself as one of North America’s steadiest performers of folk-inspired country music.

Having recently played to a full house at Red Deer’s 49th Street Cafe, Kane’s latest album solidifies his status as a premier troubadour.

Kane’s fifth original release is a quiet affair containing fewer lighter songs and catchy hooks than his previous albums. The somber mood of the album, hinted at in both the title and cover art, is prevalent throughout.

The album’s standout track is “Four Questions.” Expressing the frustrations of love, Kane quietly evokes the tribulations and joys of fidelity and life.

The Blue Chair is, without exaggeration, masterful. Each track extends the theme of mature love—stretching and cracking with age but always renewing its strength.

“I’ll Go On Loving You,” recently recorded by Alan Jackson, concisely establishes this element. “I’m reminded that what I feel for you, will remain strong and true.” Simple phrases, lasting images.

(originally published December 15, 2000 Red Deer Advocate)

Johnny StaatsThe Johnny Staats Project Wires & Wood Giant Records (2000)

John Cowan writes, in the liner notes to this fine debut album, that “the mandolin is a mysterious, earthy, and beautiful instrument.”

Bluegrass music’s quintessential instrument sounds like no other, and the mandolin has seldom sounded stronger than in the hands of Johnny Staats.

Wires & Wood, released earlier this year, is a stellar collection of largely original material. Guests include such bluegrass and country torchbearers as Jerry Douglas, Scott Vestal, Tim O’Brien, and the aforementioned Cowan.

Alternately spirited and sensual, the instrumentals fully display the versatility of Staats’ mandolin playing while the vocals, complemented by those of Cowan, O’Brien, and Kathy Mattea, are strikingly strong.

Key songs include “Coal Tattoo,” on which Staats’ voices has its finest workout, and the un-rehearsed studio outtake “John Hardy/Fox On The Run.”

No better introduction to a newcomers talents could be envisioned. Wires & Wood deserves a place in every bluegrass music lover’s collection.

(originally published December 15, 2000 Red Deer Advocate)

Claire Lynch- Coming close to us in the west   Leave a comment

CLBNorth 3272a2 COLOR.jpgI don’t normally reprint press releases here at Fervor Coulee, but…I don’t mind promoting the (increasingly bleedin’) rare top-flight bluegrass act making their way to Alberta and western Canada. I don’t have time to do a real article, so here are the details:

September 27th through October 10th Western Canada Tour For Bluegrass Grammy Nominee Claire Lynch 
 – With Her Canadian Band!
 
Dolly Parton credits singer-songwriter Claire Lynch as having “one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today.” 
 
From Thursday September 27th through Wednesday October 10th, Nashville (soon to be Toronto-based) Bluegrass Grammy nominee Claire Lynch will be touring Western Canada with her “North” band, comprised of three of Canada’s finest bluegrass musicians! The band areJoe Phillips (upright bass, backing vocals), Shane Cook (fiddle), and, Darrin Schott (mandolin, acoustic guitars, backing vocals)
Tour Dates, Venues & Ticket Ordering Links Below:
 
Long-recognized and praised as a creative force in acoustic music, Claire Lynch is a pioneer who continually pushes the boundaries of the bluegrass genre. Her career has been decorated with many accolades including three GRAMMY nominations, six International Bluegrass Music Association awards and the prestigious United States Artists Walker Fellowship. Her harmonies have graced the recordings of many stellar musicians. Equally gifted as a writer, her songs have been recorded by The Seldom Scene, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Cherryholmes, The Whites and many more.
 
On her latest CD “North by South” (2016), Lynch has paid homage to her favourite Canadian songwriters on a set of bluegrass and new acoustic tracks. After her recent marriage to a Canadian (she becomes a permant resident here this November), she began to dig into the vast catalog of songs written by Canadian songwriters and found the inspiration for this project. Working with Alison Brown in the producer’s chair, she delivers standout versions of Ron Sexsmith’s “Cold Hearted Wind” with Jerry Douglas on Dobro, the catchy “Kingdom Come” written by Old Man Luedecke featuring Béla Fleck (banjo) and Stuart Duncan (fiddle) and the gorgeous maritime ballad “Molly May” written by Cape Breton’s JP Cormier.  Lynch also offers thoughtful reinterpretations of songs by Lynn Miles (“Black Flowers”), David Francey (“Empty Train”) and Gordon Lightfoot (“Worth Believing”) and contributes the lighthearted, self-penned “Milo” to the project.

Posted 2018 September 25 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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