Archive for the ‘Americana’ Tag
Mac Wiseman I Sang The Song Mountain Fever Records
With all due respect to the folks who have released excellent bluegrass and country albums this year, and those who will undoubtedly do so in the coming months, we have our 2017 Americana/Roots album of the year.
An incredible undertaking by Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz, the most important element of the thirteen songs comprising I Sang the Song: Life of The Voice With A Heart is the source material, Mac Wiseman himself. Nearing 92, Wiseman was born in 1925 and recalls a time few of us can picture outside history books and re-runs of The Waltons. Wiseman is a man who knew A. P. Carter and has now had Sierra Hull share a song with him. Think about that for a half-a-moment.
“It ain’t bragging if you’ve done it,” asserts John Prine gently within the title track, revealing for the unaware that Wiseman performed alongside the acknowledged masters of 20th century roots music. A member of both The Foggy Mountain Boys and The Blue Grass Boys, as well as a charting, featured performer in his own right, Wiseman is a founder of the Country Music Association, and inductee to both the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame and the Country Hall of Fame. A label executive and producer—and one of the finest bluegrass gentlemen I’ve had the pleasure of encountering, however briefly— Wiseman was always far more than “just another young hillbilly.”
The majority of these songs are obviously bluegrass, a few clearly country, and others find that sweet, magical spot between the two. Cooper and Jutz had the inspiration and wisdom to listen to and converse with Wiseman, finding in his stories threads to embroider the ten new songs created together to communicate a compelling narrative of anecdote.
Naturally, the singing is incredible throughout. Recent IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year Shawn Camp is given a pair of songs, as is Milan Miller who appears with Buddy Melton (another IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year) and Andrea Zonn. Junior Sisk, yet a third IBMA vocalist recipient, also has two lead appearances, “Crimora Church of the Brethren,” on which he is joined by Ronnie Bowman (yes, another IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year) and “The Wheat Crop”—with the ladies of The Isaacs—which laments the lot of the poor farmer. These performances are expectedly outstanding, and the history-rich lyrics and eternal melodies provide galvanizing framework for blessed voices.
Justin Moses (fiddle, banjo, and Dobro) and Hull (mandolin) work with Jutz (guitar) and Mark Fain (bass) to serve as the house band, uniting to create a consistent instrumental environment. Cooper and Jutz harmonize on several tracks, providing further uniformity.
Within a song, Wiseman (“The Guitar,” via Moses and Hull) takes us from receiving his first Sears Roebuck, ragtop box, to the eventual day he stopped “playing in G and singing in C” to nail “There’s An Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse Tonight” for an audience of one. As the album unfolds, his experiences through to the hardships of the depression (“Barefoot ‘Til After the Frost”, “Three Cows and Two Horses”) are revealed in a natural, homespun manner capturing the vernacular of his rural upbringing down to cold “feet just as red as a gobbler’s snout.” In the universal and frustrating balance poverty, even when things improve for Wiseman’s family (“Manganese Mine,”) another discovers only hardship and tragedy.
“Simple Math,” one of two sang by Americana icon Jim Lauderdale, details further experiences from Wiseman’s youth following him into early gigs as a professional musician including his big break playing Molly O’Day sessions. Lauderdale, one of the most prolific and versatile vocalists working today, adroitly relates the simple truths of Wiseman’s observations.
As compelling as the connections to Wiseman’s life are across the album, the fact that each song stands independent released from context is indicative of their significance. The bluegrass chart hit “Going Back to Bristol,” sung by Camp, radiates universal appeal, whether you’ve ever been near the border community, cut a side with Flatt & Scruggs, been near a Studebaker, or not.
Alison Krauss joins Wiseman on the closing benediction “‘Tis Sweet to Be Remembered,” one of his earliest successes, for a performance joining generations in hopeful love of music and life. Wiseman drops in on a few of these numbers, providing a foundation for the lyrics and music, but also allowing those with the greatest of admiration to communicate his story through the voices of generations influenced by “The Voice With A Heart.”
For thirty-eight minutes, timeless memories are communicated. Through time, these performances will be shared to become part of our collective memory.
Visit https://mountainfever.com/ to order.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. @FervorCoulee
Okay, take a moment an revel in the beauty of that album cover.
Rooted in classic music, the cover of Ned Luberecki’s Take Five recalls the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out giving it a bluegrass twist. Luberecki takes things further, interjecting a jazz ‘grass interlude mid-set including a fresh take on Paul Desmond’s “Take Five.” The album features several guests, both folks we associate with Luberecki-Chris Jones & the Night Drivers and Becky Buller-as well as those who don’t immediately come to mind when considering Nedski-Dale Ann Bradley, to name the most prominent.
It is a very strong album with lots to offer. My review was published at Lonesome Road Review, but got lost in the mix her at Fervor Coulee.
My review of Front Country’s second album has been posted at Lonesome Road Review.
I am surprised to find that I hadn’t reviewed their previous album Sake of the Sound, although I did write Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman’s album in a rather long-winded piece written during the fall of 2013. Just because of the nature of the albums, I prefer Sake of the Sound to Other Love Songs, but this second album is very strong.
Many years ago and as part of a side conversation during a bluegrass jam, an acquaintance and I traded thoughts about the possibilities of mixing elements of bluegrass, specifically the acoustic instrumentation built around five instruments, and rock and roll. This was post-O, Brother and around the time OCMS was starting to break. We decided that there had to be a market for acoustic rock ‘n’ roll, that is music that thematically and topically fit closer to rock and pop than it did bluegrass or country, but which was played on acoustic instruments while embracing elements of the folk and ‘grass traditions.
Front Country’s Other Love Songs might have been imagining.
The first song of Otis Gibbs’ was “Everyday People,” the song that starts, “Grandpa walked a picket line when he was nineteen, had a wife and kids back at home to feed. Daddy did the same it was his turn to, made things better for me and you.” With those four lines, he captured me. That’s how it goes sometimes. Guy Clark did it just as quickly for me. So did Joy Lynn White, Bruce Springsteen, Melody Walker, Marty Stuart, and-more recently-Danko Jones. As I have those artists-and a hundred and sixty seven others-I’ve slowly amassed all the available recordings, and have eagerly anticipated new music since that initial moment of illumination. Like them, Otis has a way about him-one that reveals itself quickly, but which depths take years to explore.
Otis Gibbs is damn good. If you haven’t heard him, change that. Now. Mount Renraw is as good an album as he’s released, and there are a bunch of them. My review was published over at Country Standard Time, and somehow I missed cross-linking it here. So, that’s one thing fixed around the house today. Can’t find my drill or bits, so the laundry room closet door is going to have to wait a bit longer.
Spend a bit of time at http://otisgibbs.com/ to watch videos of “Sputnik Monroe” and “Great American Roadside.”
Fred Eaglesmith has been around the Americana/roots/Canadiana music world for almost 40 years. His first album was released in 1980, and since then he has unleashed more than 20 albums (including live sets) to a devoted following, but hasn’t ‘quite’ broke through to the threshold of household name; for perspective, Lucinda Williams’ folk/blues cover set Ramblin’ was released the previous year, Guitar Town was six years away, and No Depression was part of a Carter Family title.
I don’t pretend I have been listening to Fred since 1980. I believe I first heard the Ontario renegade at a mid-90s edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival. I have no recollection who Eaglesmith was sharing Stage 4 that afternoon, but I recall my wonder at hearing his songs that weekend for the first time, “I Like Trains,” “White Trash,” “Wilder Than Her,” and “49 Tons,” I believe.
In the years since, across many albums and several live sets, my admiration has not waned despite his once cutting short an interview before I even finished my first question. His latest is called Standard, and while it doesn’t include a “White Rose” or “Spookin’ the Horses,” it does contain songs that-given a chance-may just become as fondly held.
My review of Standard is published at Country Standard Time. Best, Donald
Bill Scorzari Through These Waves
“One of the greatest songwriters I’ve never heard.” Jonah Tolchin, Through These Waves’ producer
“I enjoyed playing on Bill Scorzari’s record…Boy, did it turn out fine—thoughtful, soulful songs, with—by God—real music to back them up. Top notch.” Will Kimbrough, musician and current Fervor Coulee man-crush
“He looks like Steve Earle would if he hadn’t taken care of himself.” Albertan wit
In 2014, New York’s Bill Scorzari released his debut album, Just the Same.
Don’t feel bad—I didn’t hear it either. Upon receiving Through These Waves, his follow-up release, I’ve changed that, of course. Until you can purchase it, feel free to stream Just the Same at Scorzari’s website. It is a good listen, and reveals the promise that first albums often do.
But, go buy Through These Waves right now. Because while the sophomore album is supposed to be weaker than the one the artist had a lifetime to create, this one isn’t. It is February 19th as I write this review, and I am betting that when December 15th comes along and I am paring down my list of favourite roots albums of 2017 Through These Waves will be there. And it isn’t going to be whittled off the list.
Scorzari has been compared to everyone from Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, and Blind Willie McTell. Hey, don’t shoot me—I didn’t fall back on those clichés. [Not that I don’t fall back on clichés. Just not those particular ones. Today.] Here is where I am going: Bill Scorzari lives where the Blues meets Texas Sam Baker.
Alberta readers might understand that sentence. I hope others do as well, ’cause that is about as good as I get.
Whereas on Just the Same Scorzari did sound like he was trying to find his inner Waits, especially on songs such as “Baby’s Got a New Blue Dress,” and his Magic-era Springsteen on “It Is Hard to Know,” with Through These Waves Scorzari has found himself.
Scorzari sings, but his version of singing is more of the spoken poetry with a pulsating vibration timbre that Sam Baker has perfected over the course of four albums and innumerable gigs. He connects with listeners by creating soundscapes that reveal descriptions of mood and atmosphere more than character. You listen and think, Yes—I’ve felt that: why didn’t I understand?
Scorzari and producer Jonah Tolchin gathered some of the finest available talents to record to tape at the Bomb Shelter in East Nashville. Will Kimbrough plays mandolin and piano, while Jon Estes contributes both bass and acoustic guitar as well as organ and even a bit of percussion. Joachim Cooder is the featured drummer and Chris Scruggs handles the steel guitar. Additional familiar names including Brent Burke (Dobro,) Laur Joamets (guitars,) Matt Murphy (bass,) and Kyle Tuttle (banjo) appear.
Singing with Scorzari on particular tracks are Kim Richey (on “Holy Man”) and Annie Johnon (on “More of Your Love”) as well as Cindy Walker and Marie Lewey singing beautiful backing on “I Can Carry This” and “Hound Dog Diggin’,” lending some lightness to Scarzari’s dark places.
“I got no answers to my questions why,” he declares in “Holy Man.” As Joamets let loose with a string of slide guitar notes, Scorzari comes back to the realization that one doesn’t need answers, one just needs to question. Supported by Richey, this track features Scorzari’s most complete vocal performance (although, not my favourite which come next.)
Scorzari captures a moment in time to craft a portraits of life that can be aching. In “She Don’t Care About Auld Lang Syne” a woman “won’t slow down” as she leaves. Gentle, sparse guitar notes provide the meditative atmosphere, with just a taste of Eamon McLoughlin’s fiddle seasoning the desperate atmosphere. Scorzari mourns her loss—or perhaps, the idea of her being gone—using disjointed phrases to bring sense to the revealed lack of faith. A similar approach is taken on the album’s penultimate number, “It’s Time.”
“Shelter From the Wind,” “A Dream of You,” and “For When I Didn’t See” are songs that would fit into more challenging Americana playlists, and I’m talking to y’all at WDVX—if you aren’t giving Scorzari some love, I think you should be.
Through These Waves keeps the listener keen right though to its concluding songs—no filler apparent. A joker among aces laments his lot in “Loser At Heart,” while “I Can Carry This” hints that we can’t do it in isolation. In closing with “Riptide,” another meditative composition, Scorzari pulls it all together—through these waves, as we are searching for rescue and as we are tested, if we keep our wits about us and trust in others, we just might survive.
A complete album, one that is going to go on the shelf next to classics such as Lucinda Williams, Mercy, and Cannons in the Rain.
Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough
Let’s be straight: I don’t like Will Kimbrough.
Will Kimbrough is just too talented and inspiring. I know it is irrational jealousy as I have no musical talent, and I am sure I am better at a couple things that Kimbrough is—not much market for ability to recite random facts from the backs of 70s O-Pee-Chee hockey cards, though.
Equal parts Buddy Miller, Larry Jon Wilson, and Darrell Scott, Kimbrough churns out albums of excellence and depth like few I can think of in the broad Americana world. He is a guitarist of significance, coaxing notes and moods that are, depending on the context, soulful country or rapid-fire rock. It seems like he always has a new recording out whether with one of his bands—Daddy and Willie Sugarcapps— or as a solo artist. He has produced dozens (including Fervor Coulee favourites Doug Seegers, Kate Campbell, and Todd Snider) and collaborated with more (Amy Black, Tom Russell, Rodney Crowell, Greg Trooper, Billy Joe Shaver, and Gretchen Peters) always bringing impressive qualities to projects. His songs have been recorded by Jack Ingram, Jimmy Buffett, Little Feet, and the Hard Working Americans.
It seems that every time I turn around I am dropping dollars on a Kimbrough-associated recording, and that gets expensive. I know I’m not the only one who appreciates Kimbrough as I’ve purchased Kimbrough recordings that are no longer on my shelves: to my consternation, they’ve been lent out and not returned.
No, I don’t like Will Kimbrough. I kinda love him.
I’m starting to feel the same way about Brigitte DeMeyer. Unfortunately, I had never heard of her prior to finding out she was releasing Mockingbird Soul with Kimbrough, the album shortly to be under discussion. I`ve dropped dollars on three of her albums since receiving this album for review, and I still have a number to explore—like Kimbrough, she is costing me money. Additionally, DeMeyer can sing. Man, can she sing.
Having appeared on each others’ albums and performed together, the pair have released their debut recording, one that is certainly going to be considered on many year-end, ‘best of’ lists when the time comes.
Largely taking the lead on alternating songs, they have produced an ideally balanced duet recording, with DeMeyer’s Side One Melissa Etheridge passionate huskiness pairing with Kimbrough’s restrained, telling honesty.
Tracks three through five (“The Juke,” “Running Round,” and the title track) are about as spirited, swampy, and Southern-country soul as the album gets, while in other places the songs more closely resembles what country music once was and could be again given a shot of 3614 Jackson Highway swagger. Not as full-blown but every bit as funky as Bobbie Gentry’s best work, each track has more soul than 98% of what any of us have heard on modern country radio this decade. The arrangements are straight-forward rather than minimalistic, allowing the duet vocals prominence.
Mid-set, family relations courses through numbers including “Rainy Day” (inspired by a child’s struggle,) “Little Easy,” (an atmospheric expression of a wanderer, perhaps), “I Can Hear Your Voice” (vivid memories of a father approaching the end) and even “Honey Bee,” with a no-nonsense mama of a different stripe. It is this intimacy of subject matter that allows Kimbrough and DeMeyer to positively shine throughout the 43-minute set: their musical, artistic bonding complete.
“Broken Fences” allows Kimbrough more latitude vocally and instrumentally, and is among the finest of his recorded performances I’ve encountered. The Incredible String Band’s venerable “October Song” is the set’s sole cover, and this ode to time’s passing is a suitable and compelling closing to a remarkable album. Ah, those doors behind our mind, indeed.
Long before my tenth or twentieth listening of Mockingbird Soul was completed, I was reinvigorated, having found another album to get me through this horrid January of upset and turmoil. Will Kimbrough and Brigitte DeMeyer. Remember them, and buy their album—you won’t be disappointed.
Sincere thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.