Archive for the ‘Americana’ Tag

Bob Rea- Southbound review   1 comment

Bob Rae

Bob Rea Southbound Shiny Dime Records/ BobRaeMusic.com

Recently a friend mentioned that he continued to enjoy a mix CD I had made for him several years ago. He went on to mention that the folks whose music was featured on that burned disc—Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, Larry Jon Wilson, Billy Swan, and the like—were of a special ilk, the “kind they don’t make anymore.”

I guess I’ll next have to introduce him to Nashville’s Bob Rea. Turns out, they do still make heartworn troubadours of the type we have come to appreciate over the last forty-plus years of listening to roots music of all its various shades.

Like many of the albums produced by any of those mentioned, with Southbound the listener is three-songs deep before even thinking about moving: these songs captivate. When Rea sings, in “Say Goodnight,”

When you’re standing on the platform,
Waiting on that midnight train
You know if you hold your ear close to the track
You can almost smell the rain

you know you have heard a stanza you will never forget, whether or not you’ve ever driven through a Mississippi night, read a Faulkner novel, or even thought about letting go. Absolutely brilliant.

And don’t let me go on too much about his voice! Perhaps not since Darrell Scott convinced his father Wayne that it was time to make a recording have I been so pleasantly surprised by a singer’s gravel-lined voice, soulful and strong. Bob Rea is the real deal, the kind of singer I would be thrilled to have discovered when I was first searching out the influences and contemporaries of Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, and Lyle Lovett.

The deeper one delves into Southbound, the stronger the songs become. “Screw Cincinnati” is a humourous, biting tale of disappointing enchantment ending with the twist of a lipstick, while “The Law” is perhaps inspired by our current state of political and world affairs, and yet is more than twenty years old. “Vietnam” has a novel hidden within twenty-four lines, and I can well-imagine Guy Clark exclaiming, ‘Jesus Christ’ upon hearing “A Place In Your Heart.” The title track is an ode to a free-wheeling lover who has just hit the road, an alternative to John Hiatt’s “Drive South,” perhaps.

Beyond the voice, lyrics, and melodies—all of which are impressive to the nth degree—the musicianship is also stunning. There is some guitar work within “The Law” that is every bit as impressive as anything Mark Knopfler has laid out: beyond atmospheric, these measured chords colour Rea’s intention with vibrancy.

Call it country. Call it Americana. Call it folk. Southbound is roots music. And a damn fine example of it.

 

 

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Posted 2018 April 15 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Wylie & the Wild West- 2000 Miles From Nashville review   Leave a comment

Wylie

I am really pleased with this review. I enjoyed listening to the album, not a real surprise since I like my country actually to sound like country music. But I also enjoyed writing the review, something that doesn’t always happen. I was able to weave in a couple words and phrases that brought a smile to my increasingly gnarled face. I also received a real nice note of feedback about the review, one that included the words “You are an exceptional writer…” Yeah, that never happens, so some positive feedback love was most appreciated. Regarding my writing, your kilometreage may vary, of course, but 2000 Miles From Home is a darned fine album, filled with memorable songs and performances. Check it out at Country Standard Time.

Mare Wakefield & Nomad- Time To Fly review   Leave a comment

marewakefieldnomad_large

Mare Wakefield & Nomad Time To Fly MareWakefield.com

Not all songs need be short stories, narratives replete with finely crafted characters and motivations, secrets revealed, and veiled, within and between the lines. But listening to Mare Wakefield’s most recent compositions comprising Time to Fly, I am reminded that I am glad when they occasionally are.

I love me an Alice Munro story, and more than once—on the multi-dimensional “Time To Fly” and certainly during “Bernice & Bernadette”—Munro’s exquisite style came to mind, an economy of words magnifying precious rhythms of daily minutiae. So too did folks like Dar Williams (“With Your Heartbeat” and even more so on “The Day We Buried Mama (& Cousin Bobby Joe Got Wed”))  and Tracy Grammer (“Breathe.”)

The light-hearted opener “Real Big Love” and it’s more (it would seem) rural cousin “Henry” are appropriately boppy bits of wordplay, and appeal greatly to my 60s and 70s AM rock ‘n’ roll/country radio roots.  Nomad Ovunc drops in all matter of audio ancillaries including keys and accordion (and on “Closer to God,” melodica,) while Will Kimbrough supplies the electric guitar leads and Brian Allen (not that Brian Allen, Toronto fans) bass.  On the closing “Falling,” Wes Little’s drumming encourages images of long-ago shuffles, while it goes in an entirely different direction on the jazzy (and duplicitous) “The Boxer & the Beauty Queen.”

“Bernice & Bernadette” celebrates the love of a lifetime, bonds of childhood innocence coalescing into a unconsummated romance. It is a tale of not-so-much unrequited attraction and love as it is of one which remained unstated, and coming as it does from Wakefield’s grandmother’s letters, all the more authentic and candid.

“Bernice & Bernadette” communicates a poignant melancholy—although lovely—through sepia-toned images, and “The Day We Buried Mama (& Cousin Bobby Joe Got Wed)” paints a lighter but no less significant depiction of family ties. Jubilantly, Wakefield proclaims, “Raise a glass for those who pass and those who are on the way,” as fine an epitaph as one might hope to have ascribed to them.

Mare Wakefield has been making albums for twenty years, and this is the second on which Nomad has billing. However, it is my first exposure to these Nashville-residents, and as such, proves—once again—that there is way too much ‘good stuff’ out there for any one person to hear. Take the time, then, to check out Time To Fly: it will be worth it.

 

 

Raven and Red- We Rise Up review   Leave a comment

raven-and-red-we-rise-up-album

Raven and Red We Rise Up Line Crossing Records www.RavenandRed.com

Youthful, Raven and Red is a polished Nashville-based acoustic Americana trio. Featuring a pair of classically-trained, recent North Carolina university graduates, Brittany Lynn Jones (vocals, violin, and more) and Mitchell Lane (vocals and guitars), alongside a still-teenaged and high school attending mandolinist/vocalist in Cole King, the group shows great interest in the history and foundations of folk and country music while bridging the past with pop and rock influences and conventions: energetic, sensitive, andmost importantly—interesting.

Without doubt, Lane (the ‘Red’) can flat out sing. With a strong tenor, the Georgia native propels these songs (mostly) co-written with Lynn Jones (the ‘Raven.’) “It Could Have Been You,” “Living and Loving You” and “Lead Me Back to You” may not be lyrically groundbreaking, but they are not obviously formulistic, and their performances are impressive with Justin Collins’ percussion providing a touch of flamboyance to “Lead Me Back to You” not often revealed in similar settings. The affirming “We Rise Up” will provide inspiration, while the New Christy Minstrels’ “Today” is an appropriate throwback to the gentrification of mid-century folk music. Lynn Jones’ powerful, substantial harmonies give Raven and Red’s songs supplementary heft.

Jeffrey Shore and Jonathan Quintero’s “Grandpa’s Beer,” is a strong ‘generation-passing’ song given a fairly homey arrangement with lots of fiddle; Lane’s performance here reminds me of a one-song (“Guy Clark”) favourite of mine, Eric Burton (who, it appears, has disappeared from the Webiverse). “Moonshine and Makeup” and “Another Empty Bottle” (sensing a theme here) are additional superior tracks that work well within Raven and Red’s modern country/folk approach. “Wild Roses” is—arguably—a little wordy, but is works as a tribute to an early love lost to the lure of music. Later, “Wild Roses Reprise: Winter Raven World Traveler” provides Lynn Jones with a violin showcase augmented by her companions.

We Will Rise is a fine debut recording for the trio Raven and Red. It doesn’t have enough gravel to become a Fervor Coulee favourite, but I acknowledge the group’s talents and the quality of their performances. There is something here, and I’ll be keeping these gnarled ears open.

Posted 2018 February 3 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Caroline Cotter- Home On The River review   Leave a comment

Cotter

Caroline Cotter Home On The River CarolineCotter.com

Bridging the English folk music tradition with a contemporary Americana perspective, Caroline Cotter’s album, Home On the River, is a delightful surprise.

Blessed with a beautiful ‘honeyed soprano’ voice, Cotter is a world traveller finding inspiration for her songs close to home.  Backed by Danish band The Sentimentals (last heard backing Ana Egge) on half the numbers, Cotter has crafted an engaging, compact set of songs searching for truth and comfort.

Notably, the lead song “Peace of Mind” opens with a declaration of “I don’t want to keep up with fashion, I don’t want to pick a fight. I don’t want to say I love you, just to make this feel alright. I don’t want to make a buck, just to spend it to feel fine.” No, she isn’t one for the superficial and artificial. This country-folk song continues with a challenge to set aside our preoccupation with all that is negative in this world—and there is no shortage of that, certainly—and seek something closer to, perhaps, an inner peace.

Having recorded several albums while exploring the world, Cotter’s perspective is informed. She understands what is important to her, and is confident in her vision. There is an appealing assuredness in her writing and singing.

The title track, seemingly inspired by a foundation of love and acceptance, and “1 4 3” (‘I Love You’) are comfortable, warm, and inspiring visions of family legacy. Elsewhere, darkness creeps into “Hey Mama” and “Can’t Stop the Waves,” but they also contain comfort. Not so “My Washroom” which is troubling and stark. Reminiscent of Meg Hutchinson in mood and tone, Cotter’s songs are obviously personal with nothing contrived: she reveals herself throughout the album. “I don’t tell lies,” she sings within “Eternal Light,” and this honesty is apparent and appreciated.

Musically, the album is relatively unadorned. No one goes off with extended solos or breaks, and the collective of musicians provide Cotter with exactly the support her gentle songs require.

Listen to Caroline Cotter’s Home On the River and let its songs take you away to a better place.

 

Posted 2018 January 27 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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The LYNNes- Heartbreak Song for the Radio review   Leave a comment

lynnes

The LYNNes Heartbreak Song for the Radio www.TheLynnes.com

Lynne Hanson and Lynn Miles, the two well-established Ottawa singers and songwriters who meld their names as The LYNNes, need no introduction to those familiar with the Canadian folk scene. For the rest:

  • Lynn Miles has been a force within the Canadian music industry, recording more than a dozen albums
  • She received a Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album for Unravel, a recording that has stood the test of time to be regarded in some circles as essential listening, and has been recognized with Canadian Folk Music Awards
  • Nominated for additional Juno Awards, Miles has produced albums for Lynne Hanson, and has toured the country on numerous occasions including with Keith Glass
  • Her “Black Flowers” was a highlight of Claire Lynch’s North By South
  • Lynne Hanson has recorded six albums, including a pair produced by Miles
  • Recognized with nominations at both the Canadian Folk Music Awards and the Kerrville Folk Festival, she received the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award in 2010
  • Her albums Uneven Ground, River of Sand, and Once the Sun Goes Down are among the finest country-folk/Americana albums one can hope to encounter

Heartbreak Song for the Radio is stellar. The pairing of Miles and Hanson is natural, their harmonies clean and tight (but not staid) and as they take turns in the lead position, their songs have vibrant energy compelling the listener to lean in and absorb each note, word, and phrase.

The title track is an elegy for a broken, impossible relationship, and a better title for the album is hard to imagine: each of the ten tracks captures folks in places best left to the songwriter, as others would crumble under the intensity of the emotions explored.

While some of the experiences may explore emotional darkness, the album isn’t burdensome. Most of the songs maintain that which would be categorized as ‘mid-tempo,’ but there is nothing about Heartbreak Song for the Radio that drags. Like early albums from Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lucinda Williams, and even Guy Clark, the songs are sufficiently balanced to maintain buoyancy.

“It’s only walking through the fire, you learn just who you are,” they sing on “Blame It On the Devil,” just one of many songs that seem to have more than a little duo-ography within it. And Miles and Hanson are certainly self-aware. They play to their strengths—keenly revealed portraits of those gaining forbearance and wisdom from introspection and realization.

“I can’t make a door if you’re only building walls,” Hanson sings in “Blue Tattoo,” perhaps the album’s finest track, embracing the pain of the needle to counteract the numbness of absence. Individual credits aren’t provided, but one guesses it is Kevin Breit’s guitar providing the melancholy lead notes punctuating the number.

“Heavy Lifting,” “Halfway to Happy,” and “Cost So Much” bring additional energy, while “Recipe For Disaster” and “Cost So Much” are unadulterated country. The album is replete with intelligent but never too clever lines, ones that provide uncontrived insight. “Wouldn’t have gone and paid my dues, if I knew it was gonna cost so much” being just one example.

These songs are real, ones that if they haven’t been lived by Miles and Hanson have been experienced by others sitting at lonely tables, contemplating choices made.

Beautiful stuff, this. Seek it.

Rodney DeCroo- Old Tenement Man review   Leave a comment

rodney

Rodney DeCroo New Tenement Man www.RodneyDeCroo.com

Vancouver’s Rodney DeCroo is likely Canada’s most consistent neo-folk, rock ‘n’ roll singer. Over the course of six wide-ranging albums, the impressive wordsmith has never taken a significant ill-conceived turn.

The early Rodney DeCroo and the Killers and War Torn Man seethed with aggressive and poetic interpretations of his surroundings, while later releases including the imaginative Campfires on the Moon revealed songs of great intensity bound by the darkness of isolation, pain, and creativity.

I once wrote that DeCroo is a “product of his environment—for good and bad—a raven seeking salvation in the detritus of emotional upheaval, both his own and in those he has impacted,” and one listen to Old Tenement Man reveals that not a lot has changed in that regard. For example, the lead track, “Jack Taylor,” is a Crazy Horse-fueled first-person account of patricide and self-justification.

DeCroo no longer falls back on Dylaneque habits, charmingly apparent on early recordings. Having established some time ago an approach uniquely his own, DeCroo reveals that he can run with the big dogs, be they Jason Isbell, Chuck Prophet, or Neil friggin’ Young himself. On the radio-friendly (in an alternate universe) “Ten Thousand Feet Tall,” DeCroo’s ‘hero’ waits for his city to be burned down by “an acid dawn,” confident in his own invincibility. Surrounded by this impending cataclysm, recounting disparate memories and hallucinations, the tension magnifies with each disturbing image shared.

Produced by Lorrie Matheson, Old Tenement Man isn’t necessarily a ‘roots’ album, but it certainly fits into the rockier side of Americana. With DeCroo (guitar) and Matheson (guitar, bass, keyboards) providing the bulk of the instrumentation, along with drummer Chris Dadge, the album has a full-bodied sound. The arrangements are appealing, providing the contrast needed for a completely satisfying album experience. “Radio” is full of possibilities, “Little Hunger” aches, and “Lou Reed on the Radio” is much more than a convenient name-check, and full credit for the sly, vocal bridge allusion. “The Barrel Has A Dark Eye” is nothing short of brilliant, cleverly structured with a nod to the ubiquitous classic rock performances we grew up on.

DeCroo’s creations—his songs, his narratives, his arrangements, and his characters—are seldom one-dimensional, and I am sure more than a little slips past me as I nod to the groove. That’s what I appreciate about songwriters and performers like DeCroo: there is always something new to discover.

How many years ago did I first hear “Tudor House Hotel,” “Dead Man’s Town,” and “Ginger Goodwin?” A dozen? Yet, listening to them again this week, I was newly impressed by elements previously missed or under-appreciated. I am confident that I will be similarly reinvigorated when I hear “Like Jacob When He Felt the Angel’s Touch” and “In The Backrooms of Romance” in a decade.

Old Tenement Man slipped past me when it was released in early summer, 2017. My loss as it is a compelling, attractive rock album that pushes the boundaries of roots music while maintaining and enhancing its foundations: experiences and stories that communicate elemental truths in a literary manner.