Archive for the ‘2013 Releases’ Tag
My review of Mac Wiseman’s recent album, Songs From My Mother’s Hand, is linked through to the Lonesome Road Review right about HERE. Pretty special. As I grow older, the more I appreciate Wiseman’s understated approach to song interpretation; I still don’t enjoy the album he did with John Prine several years ago, but that’s just me.
There is an EPK video clip at YouTube; worth viewing.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
[June 20- Since posting this piece on Thursday, the Long List has been announced. While I have never seen more than three of my initial ballot choices make the Top 40 list, I don’t know if I’ve previously gone 0 for 5; likely, I have. I don’t get offended by this, but I do scratch my head. How can so many other jury members- 190 I believe this year- get it so wrong?
They haven’t, of course. The size of the jury provides for a wide range of opinions that collectively come to a consensus. I don’t agree with it- come on, no Kim Beggs or Leeroy Stagger? No BARK or Steve Dawson? I can only assume that my fellow jury members, in their efforts to listen to every pretentious and noisy skinny-boy band with ‘indie pop’ in their bio didn’t have time to listen to the amazing roots albums I include on my ballot. I suppose that since the artists I’ve chosen know how to use capitalization properly, use their real names, and are- in some cases- more than 40 years old- they don’t appeal to folks who are in the jury.
I don’t actually mean those last two sentences. What I do know is that there were a lot more folks who liked the Arcade Fire album than Doug Paisley’s. And that is okay, just sad. Numbers tell us there will always be more people on the look out for the ‘next’ big thing in electronic, pop, post-rock, and modern whatever than there will be listening to mature and, at least sometimes, meaningful roots music.
Now I need to listen to even more albums in the next week so that I can revise my choices, some of which- Timber Timbre, Rae Spoon, The Kennedy Sessions– received serious consideration for my first ballot.]
With less than a day to go before the 2014 Polaris Music Prize Long List is revealed, I thought I would catch up on my Roots Song of the Week by going for the quint- five roots songs of the week, Polaris edition.
My initial Polaris Ballot is traditionally roots centric. I was invited into the group several years ago to bring my roots- folk, country, bluegrass, blues- perspective to the jury, and I continue to take that responsibility seriously. Still, I’ve never knowingly ignored an album simply because it didn’t comfortably fall into the roots world.
Today, I thought I would share a link to a song from each of the five eligible albums I consider to be the ‘best’ released in the past year.
Ranked #1 on my Polaris Music Prize ballot is Kim Beggs’ independently released Beauty and Breaking. My full review of the album is available here , and I believe it captures my thoughts. I’ve listened to the album dozens of times, and it continues to positively impact me whether I’m driving, entertaining, reading, or simply puttering about the house.
My favourite song on the album- and there is considerable competition from songs like “Gold In The Ground,” “A Sailor’s Daughter,” “Le Chemin de Rondin/Corduroy Road,” and “Moonshiner”- is “Not Only Only From the Whiskey,” a live performance of which is here.
I am confident is fewer things daily, but I am certain that Kim Beggs is one of our country’s great singers and songwriters. She makes beautiful music.
Leeroy Stagger’sTruth Be Told was the first album I heard last summer that I knew was going to make my Polaris Top 5 ballot. It is an aggressive creation, and I wrote about it here
At Leeroy’s website, he has a few of his songs available for streaming, including “Goodnight Berlin” which is a loud ‘n proud slice that might do Nazareth proud: roots rock defined.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings has shown up on my Polaris ballot previously, and South is again well deserving of inclusion. I wish I had championed the album earlier, but I only purchased it rather recently. BARK has their formula down, and their songs remain fresh and lively. If you navigate around this link a little you’ll find “North” and other songs ready for streaming. It is an excellent album.
For me, the most surprising album to make my Polaris ballot is Steve Dawson’s recording of solo guitar explorations Rattlesnake Cage. I haven’t heard anything else like it this year. Long acknowledged as a master of acoustic and slide guitar, Dawson has repeatedly proven that he can do just about anything he sets his mind to. This time out, he has decided to simply play his guitar. Give a listen to the title track here, and prepare yourself to be mesmerized.
Doug Paisley’s “Strong Feelings” is an excellent example of mainstream country music, if by ‘mainstream’ one means accessible, catchy, and well-written as opposed to bro-country rap-a-longs about beer and trucks. At http://dougpaisley.com/ there is a promo video featuring an excerpt of “What’s Up Is Down” and audio of “Song My Love Can Sing” and a live performance of it via Q.
If you haven’t encountered these albums yet, you are well advised to do so at your earliest.
The Polaris Music Prize Long List will be announced early in the afternoon of June 19, 2014.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.
Galaxie is one of the great music services offered in Canada. It is a streaming ‘radio’ service offered with some cable providers, and it is something I don’t take advantage of often enough. There is a large range of channels on offer, with my favourite naturally being Folk Roots.
I’m not in the habit of promoting corporations, but I mention Galaxie because- while listening yesterday morning- I was reminded of the absolute brilliance of Stephen Fearing & Andy White’s second album, Tea and Confidences.
I listened to this album a lot in March and April, but it fell off my radar during May. When I heard “Emigrant Song” again yesterday, the power of this duo resurfaced and I knew I had found this week’s Roots Song of the Week.
Fearing sings the first half of the song, and White takes over for the rest with Fearing joining back in on harmony. It captures the conflict that I imagine people must experience, people who- for whatever reason- feel forced to turn their back on the land of their birth: you’ve loved this land ‘from the first’, even when it is at its worst, but because ‘my country doesn’t want me’ you’ll head elsewhere.
It is a gorgeous song. There is a video of the song captured on someone’s phone available at the Fearing & White website, so please sample it there- but trust me, the song is well worth a download; heck, splurge and get the album.
By the way, it looks like Andy White is returning to Red Deer for a show in July– if my memory of Red Deer addresses is still accurate after two years absence, it is a house show. Also on his site are shows for Edmonton and Calgary.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
This album has been out for more than three months, but I just got around to absorbing it during the past two weeks. Like their previous release, this one is pretty spectacular. It isn’t bluegrass certainly, but it should appeal to folks who enjoy bluegrass, old-time, folk, and acoustic Americana.
As always, I appreciate you visiting and reading Fervor Coulee. Donald
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West
I’ll Swing My Hammer with Both My Hands
4 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
Inspired equally by the spirit of the classic forebears of old-time music and later arriving artists who have continually refined the music as an important contemporary art, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West have now released three albums of modern minimalist musical lore, each exceeding that which came before it.
A taste of bluegrass, a dollop of folk, a sprinkling of modern stringband adventurousness, and a healthy measure of fresh approaches to old-timey songs, and you have the recipe to distinguish this duo within the multitudes creating modern folk-based, acoustic music.
Morrison and West are stalwarts of the Pacific Northwest music scene, and I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands finds them incorporating additional musicians within their fold. Most prominent perhaps are fiddlers Ryan Drickey and Brittany Haas who twin up and complement Morrison and West throughout. Working without liner notes, I’m unable to distinguish between who is playing bouzouki where—O’Brien, Morrison, and West each contribute on that instrument, while O’Brien and Morrison also play mandolin.
Morrison’s old-timey banjo playing is beautiful, especially on songs like “James is Out” and “Fiddlehead Fern,” while West’s guitar parts are equally impressive; “Ritzville”/”Steamboats On the Saskatchewan” is a veritable showcase for the ensemble, and West’s guitar on “Livin’ in America” is captivating.
Vocally, Morrison continues to take most of the leads—deep, gritty expressions of open spaces, challenged individuals, and sorrowful times. West’s vocal harmony is rich, an ideal foil to Morrison, who is vocally reminiscent of O’Brien. West also takes the lead on the exceptional “Pocket Full of Dust.”
The duo’s intrinsic vitality provides the album with a consistency in sound, firmly ingrained in their experiences. Grounded by the music of Norman Blake, Kelly Joe Phelps, and certainly producer Tim O’Brien as they are, one can also appreciate their wholly original approach to acoustic roots music. “The Natural Thing to Do” is a straight ahead ‘tear in my beer’ country shuffle, whereas the wordy “Anxious Rows” clips along at the pace of a fiddle contest burner, but with an emotional depth seldom encountered .
As with the previous Our Lady of the Tall Trees, the majority of the songs are Morrison originals but there are a few familiar songs included as well. The Louvin’s mournful “Lorene” is given a gorgeous treatment. Alice Gerrard’s melancholy “Voices of Evening” is appropriately aching, while “Green Pastures” raises the spirit.
With this stellar creation, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West are sure to continue to expand their listening base, and it shouldn’t be too long before they are widely appreciated by those who enjoy riveting, fresh expressions of old-time music.
My review of James King’s wonderful bluegrass album- like he could make any other kind!- Three Chords and the Truth– has been posted to the Fervor Coulee Bluegrass blog over at Country Standard Time.
It is a good ‘un, and I hope I’ve made a persuasive argument for it to receive more than passing consideration as the IBMA’s 2014 Album of the Year.
Three songs from the album, performed with his band, are linked below:
A nice live rendition of “Chiseled in Stone” here.
“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” courtesy of Ted Lehmann, here.
“The Devil’s Train,” here.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Flipping through the CDs on the shelves the other morning, I wasn’t surprised to find seventeen Jim Lauderdale albums. Labeling the North Carolina-born, South Carolina-raised singer, songwriter, musician, and producer as prolific is to understate the prevalence of his musical progeny. Since 1991, and including three recently released albums, Lauderdale has created no fewer than 25 complete albums.
Add to that output dozens of guest appearances, compilation album tracks, and songs cut by recording artists from (alphabetically) Gary Allen and Mandy Barnett through to George Strait, Kelly Willis, and LeeAnn Womack, and you have someone who makes Alejandro Escovedo seem a laggard.
Planet of Love, that debut recording, remains a favourite, as does his early masterwork, Persimmons. These were mainstream country records that contained a vibrant pulse heartened by smart writing, creative singing, and inventive musicianship. His albums with Ralph Stanley, and mid-aught recordings including Headed For the Hills and The Bluegrass Diaries were superior, and no matter what perspective of Americana he elected to explore- countrypolitan, bluegrass, jam-band, troubadour, straight-up and hard, or Appalachian roots- he pulled it off with skill and no little bit of magic.
There were stumbles. At times, Lauderdale and his songwriting collaborators- especially Robert Hunter- delivered songs that were (depending on outlook) apparently or obviously formula-driven and predictable, perhaps overtaxing material that needed time to lay fallow. However, these blemishes were the exception rather than the rule. Where contemporaries deliver an album every three or four years, Lauderdale consistently unleashes a recording annually at minimum, a dozen since 2006. He has released four in the past year, three in 2013 alone, including Blue Moon Junction and Black Roses simultaneously this past November.
If anyone matches Lauderdale’s level of prolific creation combined with consistent high quality, they’ve escaped my attention.
My reviews of these three exceptional albums from Jim Lauderdale have been posted to Country Standard Time:
Old Time Angels: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=5358
Blue Moon Junction: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=5359
Black Roses: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=5360
Are these three albums created for the same audience? They could be, if that audience is flexible and fluid enough to react to the musical curves Lauderdale extends. Alternately, each may appeal individually to different types of listeners- Old Time Angels (video of the title track here) for the ‘grassers, Blue Moon Junction for the folk club crowd, and Black Roses for those who are interested in more jam band-influenced sounds.
Jim Lauderdale isn’t afraid to get out of his comfort zone. We should be willing to meet him halfway.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. @FervorCoulee
Kim Beggs Beauty and Breaking http://www.kimbeggs.com/blog/whatsup.html
Like Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come On Come On and even more fittingly Lucinda Williams’ self-titled third album, there isn’t a single wrong turn taken on this marvelous album.
Each song on Beauty and Breaking sparkles with sincerity: each character sketched, each moment captured, reveals textures of existence. The more time one spends listening to this 15-song collection, the deeper one’s experience.
Beauty and Breaking is Beggs’ fourth album in a decade, and it has been a good three years since Blue Bones wove its way into this writer’s soul. Beggs doesn’t rush things and Beauty and Breaking is more accessible, more challenging that that deep offering.
Folk music- the real stuff, not the indie-pop flab that CBC Radio 2 lumps in with modern interpretations of storied music tied to our country, our roots and history- it’s about people, right?: their family, their work, their recreation, religion, loves and feuds- has seldom been healthier.
Seemingly, some people are clamoring for those connections, supporting touring artists through their attendance at concerts, finding their songs however they can. There is no mistaking that Kim Beggs’ songs are filtered through the past, with the results being as contemporary as they are timeless.
Ancient tones, indeed.
The song sequence of Beauty and Breaking is ideal. Brooding, atmospherically heavy songs are balanced with lighter sounding romps whose nimbleness belies depth: jazzy blues one cut, a sassy bossa nova rhythm in another, and pedal steel providing a country wash over a third.
Acadian tradition (“Le Chemin de Rondin/Corduroy Road”) is set alongside Dylan (“A Sailor’s Daughter,”) Emmylou (“When I Walked Out on You”) sidles with the McGarrigles (“Working on the Railroad,”) each providing an original path for Beggs’ influences.
Justin Rutledge’s banjo touches (“Not Only, Only From the Whiskey,” “Working on the Railroad”) remind us this month of Pete Seeger’s influence, while co-producer David Baxter’s guitar elevates the project above others recently heard. Others contributing to this incredibly satisfying album are folks like John Showman, Paul Reddick, Suzie Ungerleider, Bob Wiseman, Kim Barlow, and a dozen or so others.
Still, the vision is Beggs’, and her stability, her musical and lyrical integrity and intensity allows the album to remain tight and uncompromised. Focused. Universal. Canadian.
An ocean of pain comes to life in “Not a Mermaid Song,” a melancholy winter waltz (“Gold In the Ground, Gold Not Found”) gently reveals the minutia of a tired life. “Now I’m Running From the River” is quite blue, and throughout the album, Beggs’ uses water- dew, frozen, river, ocean, lake- those related to it- sailors, sunken ships, mermaids, a rocky shore, whiskey- and its absence (“No Water in Their Bones”) to create a complex, rich blanket of metaphor.
Beggs’ voice- robust with a touch of worldly flirtation- has never been more rounded. Having lived with these songs, her experiences have allowed her to find the vocal subtleties necessary for each.
“Le Chemin de Rondin/Corduroy Road” may be the album’s highlight, but one knows each listener will have their personal favourite. Having located a tear-smudged testament to love within her great me mere’s fiddle, here the lives of ancestors are imagined, as artfully constructed and universally impactful as Guy Clark’s “The Randall Knife.”
This is folk music. This is beautiful.
With water at its center, put a pot on and let Beauty and Breaking sweep you away.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
@FervorCoulee on the Twitter. And that is my 700th post here at Fervor Coulee!