Archive for the ‘Americana’ Tag

Three terrific roots albums that got away in 2018   1 comment

Ray Bonneville
At King Electric
Stonefly Records

Ray Bonneville can be counted upon to deliver albums of uncluttered, lyric-driven blues. He has been doing it since long before I started paying attention, and one hopes he will continue for years still to come. His latest, a set of eleven original, southern-influenced compositions, is every bit as strong as previous favourites including Roll It Down and Bad Man’s Blood. While the instrumentation—groove-laden and yet easy-going—reminds us a bit of Mark Knopfler at his least indulgent, it is Bonneville’s gentle vocal approach that has kept us coming back to this engaging disc. “Tender Heart,” “South of the Blues,” and “Until Such A Day”—featuring Gurf Morlix—are highlights. Highly recommended for those who appreciate their Americana with indigo overtones.

Taylor Martin
Song Dogs
Little King Records

One of my favourite discoveries of 2018, Taylor Martin sings from ‘way down there,’ a country blues rocker who most reminds me of Bill Hurley of The Inmates. With Fervor Coulee favourite Amanda Anne Platt producing, Song Dogs contains eight strong original compositions, as well as a choice selection of covers. As a fellow named for two guitars, Martin doesn’t over-emphasize lead guitar within his songs; while both acoustic and electric are apparent, most songs have a strong B3 and Wurlitzer (“Second Sight”) presence; Josh Shilling (Mountain Heart) provides these atmospheric touches. Vocally and in places lyrically, Martin reminds me of East Tennessee’s Jay Clark. Platt contributes some vocal harmony, including on Neil Young’s “Music Arcade,” a fine song made stronger in Martin’s presentation. Merle Haggard’s “Kern River,” as lonesome a song as has been written, is made that much more impressive given Martin’s straight-forward delivery along with Matthew Smith’s forlorn pedal steel. Some of these songs could be mistaken for classics written three decades ago by folks named Robertson, Kristofferson, and Newbury. Additional highlights include “Milk and Honey,” “Here Comes the Flood,” and “Little Pictures.” Recommended if your Americana leanings include mountain-influenced blues.

Ynana Rose
Tea Leaf Confessions
Self-Released

If “The Gift of A Song” was the only notable song on this album, I would recommend it. But, it isn’t: Tea Leaf Confessions is replete with memorable, deep songs that are simultaneously personal and universal. With a voice infused with colour and maturity, Ynana Rose is my latest favourite singer. She snuck up on me like Meg Hutchinson once did, pulling me into her world of truth and mystery one song at a time. “The Gift of A Song,” the love song of Charlotte and Henry Jackson, has to have roots in reality, and Rose brings forward their life journey in the most intimate of ways, in a style fondly reminiscent of Nanci Griffith’s.

“Henry Jackson was my man, we had 20 years together
I see him every day but he never grows old.
He sang ‘Amazing Grace’ in the sweetest tenor,
I swear it feels like yesterday, but it was 40 years ago.”

I’m not crying—you’re crying.

But there is so much more here. “The Hard Work of Love” lays it all out—“But when the going gets rough, are you tough enough for the hard work of love?” The country waltz—a bit Kathy Mattea, perhaps—“Leave Me Lonely” is further elevated by a bit of fiddle from Fervor Coulee hero Tammy Rogers, one of three songs on which our favourite Dead Reckoner and SteelDriver appears.

Rose admits her music is rooted in a previous time, and one can easily imagine the singers she must have heard on the country radio of her youth—Lacy J. Dalton, Sylvia Hutton, Karen Brooks, and Rosanne Cash, perhaps—singing some of these songs. However, it is Rose’s own unique—yes, I’m using that word deliberately—approach to singing that makes these songs vibrate with intensity and honesty. “Lillian” and “Thin White Line” are home hew compositions that sound desperately personal and still immediately universal. Stunning country-folk from another time.

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Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots and Singer-Songwriter Albums of the Year 2018   1 comment

*the ones that weren’t bluegrass, blues, or ‘old stuff’ like compilations, reissues, and archival releases

This is the second run at my list. The first is lost somewhere on my hard drive, obliterated by the Blue Screen of Death. Reassembling the list wasn’t terribly difficult (although I did decide to cut back from thirty to twenty titles), but I do know some of the placings changed, which is natural: once past the ‘top five,’ albums could flip-and-flop a position or three all down the list. What was more difficult was recalling all my brilliance of opinion- so, that is lacking. Still, this is how I’m feeling today, and I think I am comfortable with this being representative of my Roots Music Opinion for 2018.  As always, these are my favourite albums of the year; it is not a ‘best of’…although, really it is!

  1. Mike Plume Band Born By The Radio– It took twenty-five years, but Mike Plume has emerged as the next great Canadian songwriter, a man who comfortably stands shoulder-to-shoulder with those who influenced him. It has been a long ride, filled with songs memorable and albums impactful, but full realization is achieved with Born By The Radio. The songs are comprised of images universal and personal. “Waste a Kiss on Me,” on which he again squeezes in Kerouac, “Mama’s Rolling Stone,” “Monroe’s Mandolin,” and “Western Wind” are as strong songs as Plume has created, and the instrumentation and energy from the MPB is the stuff of legend. An album without waver. One of two Steve Coffey album covers on the list! (purchased download) 
  2. Pharis & Jason Romero Sweet Old Religion– A pair of Canadian Folk Music Awards last month further embellished the repute of this  focused British Columbia duo, and well-deserved they were of the recognition. Pharis’ voice is a wonder, Jason is no slouch, and together their old-timey harmonies and instrumentation are things of wonder, while their songs are contemporary slices of the world past and present. A beautiful album replete with memorable performances. (serviced CD) 

3. John Wort Hannam Acres of Elbow Room– Alberta’s venerable folk songwriter went even deeper on his seventh album, sharing with listeners his innermost tribulations. Recent years appear to have (almost) got the best of Hannam, and he has poured his darkness and challenges into an expertly-crafted collection of songs that are inspiring and impactful while being just plain enjoyable. “Key of D Minor,” “The Quiet Life,” and “Ain’t Enough” are among the finest songs he has written and recorded, and the title track is a wonder: “where the dotted-lines turn to gravel” may become Fervor Coulee’s new tagline. John has long been a Fervor Coulee favourite, and that his album comes in #3 is testament to the strength of the Plume and Romero albums. (purchased download)



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The new Word Press settings and features are turning what should be a twenty-minute copy and paste, insert the links, and publish activity into an hour of misery and wonky formats. Bear with me- I will try to fix upon publishing via editing. Sigh. 


4. Gretchen Peters Dancing With the Beast Reviewed here (serviced CD)

5. Ashleigh Flynn & the Riveters Ashleigh Flynn & the Riveters Reviewed here (serviced CD)

6. Hadley McCall Thackston Hadley McCall Thackston Reviewed here (serviced CD)

7. Rosanne Cash She Remembers Everything From first listen, and as she has since Seven Year Ache and Somewhere In The Stars hit the turntable at Climax Records 35 years ago, Cash drew me into her current state of mind. As she has long done, Cash is reflecting on current circumstances- politics, division, gender inequality, complexity of relationships- encouraging engagement at higher levels while ensuring her songs are listenable, intriguing, and nuanced. Beautiful, as ever. That she can address weighty topics without sounding didactic is a bonus. (purchased CD and vinyl) 

8. Craig Moreau- A Different Kind of Train Reviewed here (serviced CD)

9. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore Downey to Lubbock– Albums like this are the reason I continue to listen to music with a passion that has only increased over forty+ years. Two Americana masters come together to create an album standing with everything they’ve produced across lengthy careers. Hearing Alvin sing John Stewart’s “July, You’re A Woman” gets Downey to Lubbck a place in the top thirty: the two originals (including the autobiographical, mood-establishing title track- “I’m an old Flatlander,” Gilmore sings) and the expertly executed covers sneak it into top ten territory. (purchased download) 

10. Mary Gauthier Rifles and Rosary Beads– An early favourite this year, the album dropped in regard simply because I lost the disc in June: sometimes I really regret my propensity toward clutter. Had I had it all year, Rifles and Rosary Beads may well have rated higher on this list. Still, I bought the vinyl last week and I was immediately reminded of the recording’s intensity. Gauthier and her songwriting collaborators have delved as deep into the experiences of America’s military service men and women (and their families) as likely anyone has before done. The effect is lasting, with lyrical detail capturing the full-impact of service experiences shared in songs far-reaching and memorable. Mary Gauthier has been quietly building her career and artistic vision for twenty years- it is terrific to see her ‘break-through’ (again!) in 2018. (purchased download; purchased vinyl)

11. Florent Vollant Mishta Meshkenu Long one of Canada’s finest and most influential roots musician, Vollant has been making time-stopping music since Kashtin’s first album. As far as I have heard, he never falters; Mishta Meshkenu is as anticipated- rhythmic, energetic, and memorable. I don’t need to know what he is singing about to appreciate this album. (purchased download)

12. Roscoe & Etta Roscoe & Etta– Maia Sharp and Anna Schulze are about as rock ‘n’ roll as this list is going to get. I ignored this album when it arrived- to be fair, it came without cover art or notes, a simple advance disc housed in a clear plastic sleeve. Once I listened, I was won over. Rewriting “You Oughta Know” as “Stupid Pretty Face” was fair brilliant, but the strength of the album is found across the entirety of eleven songs. “Play On” and “Broken Headlights” are among the strongest songs heard this year. Roscoe & Etta is a terrific album. (serviced CD)

13. John Prine The Tree of Forgiveness– A master who refuses to compromise. The Tree of Forgiveness is a concise album, all the more powerful for its intensity. Little lightness here, Prine is on a mission to expose his human condition. (purchased CD)

14. Kaia Kater- Grenades– Where our favourite female, biracial, Canadian, old-timey clawhammer banjo player reaches way out to grasp the flowers at the end of the branches. Kaia explores her heritage and family throughout Grenades, creating an album singularly engaging and insightful. More mainstream, even pop-oriented, than previous Kater albums, Grenades is a natural progression. (serviced download)

15. Ashley McBryde Girl Going NowhereYeah, there is no room for music this good on country radio. (That clip brings this cynical and grizzled old man to tears. Seriously- the emotion!) No filler, these eleven songs alternately create moods and describe experiences that everyone can relate with, for good or bad. This is what country music needs to once again become. Fingers crossed; breath not held. (purchased download)

16. Eliza Gilkyson SeculariaReviewed here (serviced download)

17. The Gibson Brothers Mockingbird– A significant departure for the perennial bluegrass powerhouse, but not a jarring one. The lead and harmony vocal signatures remain, and that they’ve broadened their approach for this album isn’t something anyone within the paranoid, protectionist bluegrass collective should fear. As always, excellent songs. (purchased download)

18. Pistol Annies- Interstate Gospel– A little bit irreverent (The album kicks off with, “Jesus is the bread of life without him, you’re toast”) and a whole lot brilliant (“I Got My Name Changed Back,” “5 Acres of Turnips,” “When I Was His Wife,” and “Masterpiece,” being but four) their third album is somehow even better than those which came before. The trio of dixie chicks- Lambert, Monroe, and Presley- mine fifty-plus years of songwriting history to craft a set of original, self-written songs that is smart, sassy, and certainly superior to that clogging country music airwaves.  (purchased CD)

19. Leslie Satcher & the Electric Honey Badgers 2 Days in Muscle Shoals– While previous albums were enjoyable but uneven, everything comes together for Satcher on 2 Days in Muscle Shoals. A venerable rockin’ southern country masterpiece that dares you to not dance. (purchased download)

20. Joe Nolan Cry Baby A moody, soulful album of finely-tuned roots music. Last time I heard Nolan, he was busking at a farmers’ market. While good practice to test-run his songs, I hope Cry Baby takes him further down his hillbilly highway. (serviced download)

Honourable mentions: D. B. Rielly Live From Chester (#21, and bumped by the late arrival of the Pistol Annies) reviewed here, Vivian Leva Time Is Everything (reviewed here), Steve Forbert The Magic Tree, Mandy Barnett Strange Conversation, J. P. Harris Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing (reviewed here), Edward David Anderson Chasing Butterflies (reviewed here), Kevin Gordon Tilt and Shine, Amos Lee My New Moon, Tim Easton Paco & the Melodic Polaroids, Mark Erelli Mixtape, Mariel Buckley Driving in the Dark, The LYNNes Heartbreak Song For the Radio (reviewed here)and Thomas Stajcer Will I Learn to Love Again? (reviewed here)

There you have it, my favourite singer-songwriter (-ish) albums if 2018. Hopefully my choices lead you in a direction you find satisfying; my list is likely different from others’ you’ve encountered. Later this month we will finalize my Top Ten albums of the year. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. 

D. B. Rielly- Live From Chester review   2 comments

D. B. Rielly Live From Chester Shut Up & Play!

D. B. Rielly is like no one with whom I am familiar.

Rielly has released two full albums and now two live discs, with few songs repeated between them. The natural energy and personality of his performance is readily conveyed on Live From Chester, which like the earlier Live From Long Island City, is a brief—30 minutes this time out—snapshot of what he brings.

Vocally a bit Peter Cooper with Antsy McClain’s acerbic wit running through, Rielly is a more than capable vocalist. While songs sharp with barbs (“I’m Your Man,” “Your Stupid Face,”) and the John Prine-ish “Don’t Think Too Much” receive continued appreciation from his audience, Rielly is as strong on numbers that plumb emotional depth without self-deprecation. Disparate songs including the painfully romantic “The Sea” and the old-timey “Moving Mountains” reveal that the New York City-based artist continues to hone his songwriting chops, utilizing his guitar and banjo to give each song its unique mood. “Your Doggin’ Fool” is just beautiful.

The pairing of the spoken word “My Ma” and “I’ll Remind You Every Day” remains as powerful as when first heard on Live From Long Island City, and are the only pieces the discs have in common.

D. B. Rielly is damned fine. Someday the rest of the roots world is going to figure it out for themselves. Until then, trust me: seek out Live From Chester.

Posted 2018 December 2 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Jonathan Byrd & The Pickup Cowboys- Pickup Cowboy review   Leave a comment

JonathanByrd & the Pickup Cowboys PickupCowboy

With this concise slice of retro-modern country music, North Carolina folk/Americana veteran Jonathan Byrd turns the clock back about three years, before the vagrancies of reality impinged upon best laid plans.

Inspired by a ‘humble badass’ ethos, The Pickup Cowboys—Byrd (guitar, Rhodes, percussion), Johnny Waken (guitar, mandolin, organ, piano, harmonica, percussion, musical saw, vocals), and Paul Ford (cello and bass)—toured for years, and made a single recording which was shelved upon Ford receiving what would transpire to be a fatal brain tumor diagnosis. With the passage of time, Byrd and Waken fleshed out the recording with Joanna Miller (drums), and Alexa Dirks and Andrina Turenne (backing vocals) to produce this album.

Reminding us of favourite singers and songwriters including Peter Cooper and D. B. Rielly, Byrd possesses a naturally smooth voice, one that is, in turn, gentle (“We Used To Be Birds” and “It Don’t Make Sense”) or playful (“Tractor Pull” and “Temporary Tattoo,”) and which can be infused with challenge as the song demands, as on the epic “Lakota Sioux” (as with the album closing—”Do You Dream”—written by friend Matt Fockler) and “When the Well Runs Dry,” co-written with Steep Canyon Ranger Charles Humphrey III.

The original sessions transpired in Chapel Hill and were completed in Winnipeg, but there is no sense of incongruence despite the distance and time between sessions: mostly, I just like mentioning Winnipeg whenever I can.

As a poet and writer, Byrd is circumspect in lyrical development, but not so conservative that we can’t imagine his characters and spaces. The guy driving on two bald tires after fishing for his breakfast (“Pickup Cowboy”) materializes fully textured: we all know that guy, going from job to job, seldom settling down for too long, no mortgage, no payments, no footprints. The transient, boomtown community of trailers and guys sleeping in their trucks of “When The Well Runs Dry” could be in Kansas, Oklahoma, Alberta, or damn near anywhere else where the earth is squeezed of every bit of wealth it can produce.

Sometimes things just get away from you, as Byrd reveals in “Temporary Tattoo. “Who can’t understand the sentiment of “I showed my love for you with a temporary tattoo?” The “damn fool” protagonist isn’t mean-spirited: he just doesn’t want it to hurt, and besides—how was he to know she would elevate things to a more permanent impression? Hopefulness and vulnerability balance (with Townshendesque echoes) in “Taking It Back,” with faith and beauty prominent in “We Used To Be Birds,” previously recorded in tandem with Chris Kokesh.

Paul Ford’s subtle, susurrous cello effects—propulsive plucking (“When The Well Runs Dry,” “Tractor Pull,”) articulate bowing (“It Don’t Make Sense,” “Do You Dream,”) and momentarily ominous (“We Used To Be Birds”)—provides Pickup Cowboy an encompassing sound near-unique within country music. Jonathan Byrd has been making really good albums for a long time, The Law and the Lonesome, Cackalack, and The Barn Birds disc among them. Pickup Cowboy is another. Seek it out.

Craig Moreau- A Different Kind of Train review   1 comment

Craig Moreau

Craig Moreau A Different Kind of Train

Ever since Kitty Wells sang “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” there have been those who have chased that perfect “country song” balance between complexity of thought and lyrical clarity Jay Miller captured in 1952.

From Mariel Buckley to Leeroy Stagger, Alberta has no shortage of singing songwriters who flirt with country music. Then there is Craig Moreau, a Calgary artist who is straight-up, blatantly and unapologetically, Country. Songwriting, and country songwriting specifically, forms the thematic core of Craig Moreau’s masterful album, A Different Kind of Train.

Early in this forty-minute album, he sings:

And there never was a pot of gold,
At the rainbow’s end—
Just another empty hole to fill,
And another fence to mend.

That’s a country lyric, no argument, and it comes in one of Moreau’s gentler songs, a reflective and seemingly ‘lost-love’ song filled with self-recrimination directed—ultimately—toward the artist’s pursuit of inspiration. Like the greatest songwriters, Moreau presents inventive dichotomy in select songs, revealing different messages to listeners. “Thirsty Soul” is about songwriting, not drinking, “The Muse” is as much a woman as artistic stimulation.

Moreau’s grizzled voice—somewhere between Waylon, Billy Joe Shaver, and Darrell Scott—appears a living thing. It carries gravity on the challenging title track, a lament to a depressed, hotel room inhabitant facing (figurative? literal?) death, presents desperate acceptance within “Best Of Me,” a song equally downbeat in subject, but not in mood. “We all got our demons, failed ambitions, guilty feelings” Moreau sings in “Old Man and the Fiver”—a song that reveals shades of Guy Clark in its lyrical choices— recognizing we are all trying to get by today with decisions previously made.

It is with this vocal gravitas through which Moreau communicates—the melding of sage, artist, and Everyman—that is his strength. He sings with a profound understanding that happiness is fleeting, struggle a constant, forward momentum a dream. No accident one of A Different Kind of Train‘s charged realizations, found in “Shadows Left Behind,” is “I’ve had my illusions of control, holding fast to nothing for fear of losing all.”

There is no little bit of “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”‘s frustration of reality woven into within “Off The Rack”:

I can’t help to think about the ones who’ve gone before me,
As I rush to take my place among the line.
Hard work and sacrifice just to build ourselves a little life,
That fades and changes colours with the times.

Crafted in both Austin and Lethbridge (at Stagger’s studio, with Leeroy co-producing), Moreau’s third album of hardwood hewn, homespun Americana is as surprising as it is comforting. The drumming that opens the album’s sole cover—an otherwise faithful rendering of Jean Ritchie’s “The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore”—starts with several seconds of forceful drumming that had me asking, ‘Are you ready, Steve?’

Craig Moreau continues to hold faith that, one way or another, his country dream is bound to be realized, even if he “hasn’t seen the sunshine in a while.” With cover art courtesy a Steve Coffey painting (himself a terrific Alberta singer-songwriter) A Different Kind of Train allows Craig Moreau opportunity to continue his journey, “waiting on a rhyme.”

 

Jenny Whiteley (2000) review   Leave a comment

From the extensive Fervor Coulee archives

J WhiteleyJenny Whiteley Jenny Whiteley Self-released (2000)

Jenny Whiteley is a treasure for roots music fans.

Her debut solo album is a recording of rare qualities. She successfully blends elements of traditional, hurting country with folk boldness and bluegrass virtuosity.

Whiteley was recently honoured at the Juno Awards for best roots/traditional solo recording, and for once the industry got it right.

The album begins with the depressing image of an outsider who “lives alone in the old family home” with “a dog that’ll chase you back down the road.” The tasteful playing of a band featuring her brother Dan on mandolin perfectly captures the spirit of a person caught up in his own self-fulfilling image.

Whiteley displays remarkable abilities for creating characters in a few well-crafted lines. The protagonist of “Lived It Up” reflects on a past where a “cheating heart has brought me the trouble I’ve found; I lived it up and I can’t live it down.”

Equally comfortable assuming the roles of male and female characters, Whiteley, in both “Gloria” and “Train Goin’ West,” successfully captures the longing, bravado, and regret known to everyone.

Comprised largely of originals, these cuts stack up favourably with those written by Emmylou Harris for her recent Red Dirt Girl.

Whiteley has included three brilliant songs either written or co-written by Canadian alternative country legend Fred Eaglesmith. “Soda Machine,” from Eaglesmith’s Drive-In Movie album, has a stark, Cowboy Junkies sound emphasized by atmospheric acoustic bass. “’75” is simply a brilliant song waiting for a screenplay; Whiteley and her co-writers capture the exuberance and self assurance of teenagers while recognizing the inevitable folly of their confidence.

Jenny Whiteley is a major talent. Her Juno Award must help attract attention to the radio power brokers of this country. This is the most impressive collection of original material I’ve stumbled across in months.

(originally published March 16, 2001 Red Deer Advocate) Side note: This was the first album placed in my hand by an artist; I appreciated Jenny’s confidence in me at Wintergrass ’01, and continue to thank all artists who get music into my hands. Additional side note: Shortly after publishing this piece, I pitched a Jenny Whiteley mini-feature to No Depression. Check their website. Can’t find it? Yes, it was rejected.

 

J. P. Harris- Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing review   1 comment

JP Harris

J. P. Harris Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing Free Dirt Records

Quick: Name your three favourite country albums of the 70s. Go.

That was easy: Emmy’s Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town, Townes’ High, Low, and In Between, and Tom T. Hall’s Rhymer and Other Five and Dimers.

And Waylon’s Honky Tonk Heroes. And Guy’s Texas Cookin’. Okay, five favourite country albums of the 70s.

Now, just as quick: Name your three favourite Americana albums of the last decade. Go.

The second is tougher and I couldn’t narrow it if I tried. I suspect for many of us, names like Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, and Rosanne Cash would be mentioned, along with folks as disparate as Gurf Morlix, Rodney Crowell, Jim Lauderdale, and Lucinda, Emmylou, Marty and the like: Dave Alvin, Otis Gibbs, Carlene Carter, Robbie Fulks, Drive-By Truckers, Reckless Kelly…

Listening to J. P. Harris’s Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing, all those artist and their albums come to mind, and not necessarily because he sounds like any of them or even presents his music as they do (or did): what simmers in the back of this wee brain is that Harris has listened to and learned from master songwriters and song presenters. There are many ways to nurture yourself as a country music artist, and one of them is to fully immerse yourself in the artistry, in the craft, that has flourished within a fertile community, much as Florentine artists once studied under master practitioners of visual arts.

It appears J. P. Harris has taken this path. He seems to have asked himself, What have the best singer-songwriters done? How have they accomplished it? and What do I need to do to get myself there? The answer is, of course, Be Yourself. And blast, if he hasn’t done just that. Oh, and barley pops.

J. P. Harris sounds like an artist who has finally figured out his life. He has been making music for a lot longer than I’ve been paying attention, but this new album has forced me to focus on the Alabaman who was born around the same time I last walked out of high school. We are of completely different generations and experiences, but like Tom T. Hall, Rosanne Cash, Rodney, and Marty have and still do, he connects his experiences—real and imagined—with those who hear them, creating a natural relationship that cannot be co-opted through shortcuts, artifice, PR finery, or a rhyming dictionary.

Alcohol figures prominently in Harris’ songs, a product of a misspent youth I’ve been led to understand. His songs do not glorify excess; rather “I Only Drink Alone” and “When I Quit Drinking” (“I start thinking about starting up again…”) more than hint at the never-ending contest of wills and misery alcoholism entails.  “Why did I go out looking for answers a the all-night bars with pole dancers,” he asks within “Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing.” [My favourite line on the album may be, “Why does a pecker bang his head on your stovepipe, when he’s got himself a perfectly good pine log of his own?”]

And the cycle doesn’t stop here. “Runaway” captures the need for the fallen to find a new start, one with “no old memories hanging around” where he can tell “lies on an old guitar.” J. P. Harris is Waylon on a bad Tuesday night, singing into a “bottle filled with tears” (“When I Quit Drinking,” again) or perhaps Johnny sorting out “reds and blues, uppers, downers,” a no-good rounder trying to hold on to “what little bit of soul I’ve got” (“J. P.’s Florida Blues”).

Harris’ vocal and instrumental approach is classic, hardcore 70s country—Paycheck, Jennings, Bare, and Van Zandt: nothin’ fancy to hear here, but just try to stop listenin’.

Van Zandt and especially Guy Clark is most apparent within “Hard Road,” a tale of heartworn highways and failed decisions. Guy didn’t often cut loose as Harris does here, but Crowell learned his tricks at the same table Harris would have found welcome. Still, as appealing as the initial eight songs are, it is on the final two that Harris truly establishes himself as a well-inspired, original individual.

“Miss Jeanne-Marie” and “Jimmy’s Dead and Gone” are pure hardwood poetry, and mark the place where influence is eclipsed by talent, skill, and wood-shedding. In the former and over a base of piano and steel, Harris pines for the girl whose name he longs to change, while in the latter—and wasting no time on particular niceties—he tells a hobo tale told “a hundred times.”

While there are exceptions, many of the great country albums I admire are relatively short- 30 to 35 minutes of perfection. Harris appears to think similarly, bringing this one in at around 31 minutes with ten exquisitely executed songs.

J. P. Harris has It, whatever It is. He can sing a storm and provides hard-spun, dirty-collar scholarship like few others. No pretender, Harris just does it like he knows: that sort of authenticity can’t be bought with a pair of jeans or a beat-up flat top.

Hey, y’all- thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee: it would be real cool if my Georgia friend Sheri found this note one day!