Archive for the ‘Americana’ Tag

Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters- review   Leave a comment


Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters
Home Perm Records

When writing about a CD, I dislike comparing voices and arrangements to those of others—while it provides context, it seems lazy. (Not that I won’t make those comparisons…it just really dislike doing it.) After all, how many folks can have the airy ethereal qualities of Emmylou Harris, the gritty troubadour authenticity of Steve Earle, and the hardcore poetic elegance of Townes Van Zandt?

Fortunately, in the advance material for Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters debut album, their PR scribe drops references to The Rolling Stones, T. Rex, and T-Bone…Walker, I’m guessing. I’m taking that as permission to launch a few names of my own.

Ashleigh Flynn has been making music for quite awhile, although I’ve only previously encountered one of the Kentuckian’s albums, A Million Stars of 2013. That set was full-blown, swinging ‘radio show’ country, the kind of retro music that inhabits a fair-narrow path within the wider Americana fold. That album was further highlighted by “How The West Was Won,” a rockin’ Calamity Jane song I wrote about previously and which sounds like a precursor to what Flynn has elected to record with the up-tempo  Riveters.

Based in Oregon, Flynn has established a new outfit of musical partners. We should be far beyond comparing this roots rock extravaganza to the excitement felt upon hearing Beauty and the Beat almost forty (!!) years ago, but I am not. There aren’t too many exclusively female lineups within the roots world outside of bluegrass—Della Mae and Sister Sadie come to mind—and so by their very existence Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters are noteworthy. In an entirely different way, they are as musically thrilling as the Go-Go’s.

Off the top, it is apparent Ashleigh Flynn is a terrific singer, reminding one of Zoe Muth. Supercharged Americana roots rock, Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters pour fifty years of rock and roll nuggets into these ten easy to appreciate songs, placing wee aural Easter eggs—premeditated or not—of musical tribute throughout. “Shrouded Sun” could be an interpretation of a Bobbie Gentry b-side, and “Fly Away” a long-lost cut from Mother Earth.

Singing from a position of strength, but with a “cold black line running down the center of her heart,” Flynn isn’t necessarily giving up on love, but she may just be getting ready to swear off her current affection. No matter the subject matter, songs like “Cold Black Line” suggest that Flynn is in the driver’s seat.

Punctuated by hand claps and a soaring melody, Flynn and The Riveters explore Long Ryders jingle-jangle paisley-flavoured country-rock on “Too Close To The Sun,”  the album’s defining  song. In the time between Here and Then, Dale Ann Bradley reaching for her Bobby McGee comes to mind within “The Sound of Bells,” a strong yearnsome song.

And just to run all allusions to ground, I’m hearing Bad Company (think “Shooting Star” and “Burnin’ Sky”) during “One Moment,” featuring “shredderific” guitar licks from Nancy Duca, while there is more than a bit of “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” coursing through the assured declarative “You Will Remember.” “Big Hat, No Cattle” allows a fellow some deserved self-deprecation. The power battery of Julie Clausen (drums) and Carmen Paradise (bass) lay out assured grooves.

All of which accumulates into an amazingly creative and original juxtaposition of rock, country, vigour, and sass. Ashley Flynn & The Riveters make…wait for it…riveting roots rock!



Eliza Gilkyson- Secularia review   Leave a comment


Eliza Gilkyson
Red House Records

Eliza Gilkyson has been making incredible music since long before I bumped into her with the release of Lost and Found sixteen years ago. Like Mary Chapin Carpenter (without the long-ago popular acclaim), Shawn Colvin (without the hit, and who duets on the engaging “Conservation,” a song built upon a poem from Gilkyson’s grandmother), and John Gorka (without the beard), Gilkyson has woven in-and-out of what I believe is the keenly coined “spare urban folk approach,” or—less charitably, perhaps—coffeehouse folk.

Like her contemporaries, her name occasionally appears on Grammy nomination lists, but she remains unknown to all but those most engaged with folk and contemporary adult music. Secularia isn’t likely to make Gilkyson a household name, but it offers discriminating listeners fresh opportunity to appreciate her talents.

With songs like “Dreamtime” and “Lifeline” Gilkyson explores the spiritual—not religious— bonds that unite us as democratic, accepting inhabitants of a challenged society. Like most of her albums, excepting her most recent The Nocturne Diaries which was a bit more rambunctious, Secularia is an introspective and fairly quiet album, one which requires effort on the part of the listener to engage: the grooves aren’t necessarily gonna grab you and inspire shuffling around the kitchen. Rather, these 12 songs envelope and embrace the listener, sharing their secrets and charms with an intimate manner.

Within “Conservation,” Gilkyson and Colvin sing of the continuous cycles of Earth: “I have no god, no king or saviour; no world beyond the setting sun. I’ll give my thanks for one more day here, and go to ground when my time has come.” Utilizing close harmony, the pair create a nourishing song of faith and assurance. I trust that the Tosca String Quartet joins Gilkyson on the equally compelling “Reunion,” a song that soars with emotion. [My download copy did not have accompanying song notes.] The gloves come off on “In The Name Of The Lord”hypocrites, beware.

Fellow Texan-by-choice,  the late Jimmy LaFave joins Gilkyson on a fiddle-rich take of the gospel folk standard “Down By The Riverside,” and when his voice joins her on the refrain—man, I almost lost it. An addition to his significant legacy, certainly. “Instrument” is a challenging ode, a song of self-reflection, I believe.

Secularia is a musical postcard of joy, peace, and hope, one that embraces the positivity and community of Odetta, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

For lonely fools who sing their best alone in the dark.

Recent reviews at CST- Junior Sisk, Larry Cordle, & Jim Lauderdale, incl. w. Roland White   Leave a comment

Jim Lauderdale- Time Flies

Jim Lauderdale & Roland White- self-titled, from 1979

Larry Cordle- Tales From East Kentucky

Junior Sisk- Brand New Shade of Blue


Thomas Stajcer- Will I Learn To Love Again? review   Leave a comment


Thomas Stajcer
Will I Learn To Love Again?

This might be the Canadian country album of the year. Someone should tell the folks pushing  buttons at stations emphasizing forgettable Aaron Pritchett, Dean Brody, and Tim Hicks tracks.

Steeped in the tradition of 1973 classics like Waylon’s Honky Tonk Heroes and Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies, Thomas Stajcer has dropped an incredible recording on us this summer.

Name-checking a formidable influence on “Me and Willie,” a dusty liturgy suggesting “Willie’s my one and only true friend in this world,” Stajcer covers a great deal of ground within this rather concise 33-minute collection.

In true country tradition, there aren’t many good times here. The title track finds our troubadour searching for true north after being destroyed, while still passing on uncertainty within the earworm “Love Me Now (Or Never Again)”: “You may be right, I may be going nowhere.” “Wildfires,” “In The Long Run,” and “Any Old Road” cover the breadth of the country experience—a bit Corb Lund, a lot Jerry Jeff—producing an excitement not felt since High Top Mountain too many years ago.

Stajcer is the in-house engineer at Joel Plaskett’s New Scotland Yard studio, and as such the album sounds absolutely pristine. Recorded live, Stajcer’s cadre of east coast talents have created a set of new songs that appear from another time.

For those who appreciate country music of the Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, and Marty Stuart variety.


Mark Wayne Glasmire- Can’t Be Denied review   Leave a comment

albumart_7lalb01260839_200x200Mark Wayne Glasmire
Can’t Be Denied
Traceway Records/

With his seventh album—the second I’ve encountered—Texan Mark Wayne Glasmire has crafted a wide-ranging album embracing personal reflection, acceptance, and forbearance. A few songs, including “I’ve Got A Feeling” with banjo clicking along percussively, have such a power-pop undertone that one would be forgiven for mistaking them for deep cuts from Phil Seymour or even the Raspberries.

Can’t Be Denied actually slides between three suites (not perfectly)—the power-pop liveliness of the first, an introspective singer-songwriter middle, and an extended fresh, contemporary country coda, with sufficient elements of each across the recording providing cohesion.

Glasmire’s take on Americana isn’t easy to pigeonhole: take a blender full of breezy 70s sounds—Seals, England Dan, Loggins, Crofts, Messina, John Ford Coley, and the like— mix in Eagles influences and country two-steppers along with the poetic approach of Guy, Townes, Lyle, Gary P., and the rest, and then charge it with a dose of rock ‘n’ roll verve…and you are getting close to not having any idea of what MWG sounds like.

How’s this: Mark Wayne Glasmire can paint a lyrical scene (“Borderline”), expose his heart (“Gone To Soon”), make you feel the breeze on your face (“Those Nights”), and inspire you to dance your challenges away (“Out Of The Frying Pan”) all the while drawing you into his creative experience. “Feel Your Love,” “Alysia,” “Can’t Be Denied,” and “Thru My Eyes” are additional songs that have woven themselves into me, and they won’t be letting go anytime soon.

Wanda Vick keeps the roots alive with banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and Dobro contributions throughout the album.

Take some time to listen at his website. I think you will be intrigued enough to take a flyer on him. If you are already a fan, have no doubt: the quality of Glasmire’s efforts can’t be denied.



Three country albums I recommend   Leave a comment

The dearth of quality country music has been examined sixteen ways from Sunday over too many years. Yes, there is good stuff to be found and sometimes even on the charts—Chris Stapleton, Margo Price, Elizabeth Cook, to name three—but so much of what passes for country today…okay, you stopped me: thanks—you’ve heard this one before.

This weekend the annual ‘country music jamboree’ happens about a hundred kilometres from me, and that means the mainstream media will trip over themselves to profile the tens of thousands who travel, camp, and party for three or four days. All this for a lineup that I wouldn’t walk across the field to listen to, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band excepted. (I’ll be heading a hundred klicks down different highways for a bluegrass fest that will be largely ignored by the MSM. And that’s okay—who am I to judge? Although I will.)

Today, three country albums that I think you should consider. Country music isn’t any one thing, but dammit it has to be good. What’s the point otherwise?

YvetteLandry_LouisianaLovin_front-510x452Yvette Landry & the Jukes featuring Roddie Romero Louisiana Lovin’ Soko Music

Coming from Louisiana, Yvette Landry & the Jukes featuring Roddie Romero’s debut album is a platter that will appeal to anyone who craves a modern spin on ‘fifties and early ‘sixties rock ‘n’ roll filtered through a country foundation. Think Brenda Lee with the Everlys or Bobby Charles with Mandy Barnett. This isn’t hayseed country (much as I can love that) but Ameripolitan (is that how Dale Watson spells it?) with a heavy dose of the vibe I associate with Memphis soul, not to mention a bit of a Cajun kick.

Fronting a crackerjack band including Derek Huston (saxophones) and Josef Butts (deep bass), Landry (“Three Chords and the Truth,” the Sara Evans song from two decades ago) and Romero (“Homesick Blues,” the first of four Bobby Charles covers, and that ain’t too many) trade off on the leads while coming together on several sweet songs (“I Almost Lost My Mind” among them) in duets from which honey drips. The album notes label it ‘Louisiana swamp pop,’ but to my ears it nuzzles up to that warm and troubled place that only true country music reaches.

The guitar work from Romero is especially lively, whether on plaintive tracks including Charles’ “Grow To Old,” one which Huston again shines, and Jermaine Prejean is a tasteful drummer, ideal for this set. Eric Adcock adds various keys including Wurlitzer.

Louisiana Lovin’ is an exceptional album that is most obviously an endeavour of passion and heart. Yvette Landry & the Jukes featuring Roddie Romero love this type of music, delivering a set of music that is firmly rooted in traditions while sounding eminently appealing for contemporary audiences.

Blue YonderBlue Yonder Rough and Ready Heart New Song Recordings

Traditional-based (think Merle, Buck, George, and Johnny Darrell) country music isn’t frequently encountered unless you search it out, and it takes some effort to find the good stuff. Good thing folks like these populate the hither and yon. Trust me, here: Blue Yonder deserves a listen, or seven.

West Virginia-based Blue Yonder, a trio comprised of songwriter John Lilly (rhythm guitars and lead vocals), Robert Shafer (electric), and Will Carter (bass and harmony) augmented by Tony Creasman (drums), have released a strong, wide-ranging country album.

With the twang of Billy Cowsill and Marty Brown mixed with Rex Hobart’s honky tonk attitude, John Lilly is a force to be appreciated. Blue Yonder’s efforts are made more significant comprised as they are by original songs of quality including “Lonely Hour,” “Rough and Ready Heart,” and Memories and Moonlight.”

With the spirit of “Me and Bobby McGee” running through it, the lead track “Standing On the Side of the Road” highlights the freedom of specific moments in time. Elsewhere, emotional connection and responsibility are lost, as in “Windswept.” “Well-Acquainted with the Blues” has Lilly making considered word choices to advance his hardwood testimony, in shuffle time. “Tombstone Charlie” and “Green Light,” with a rockabilly beat, speed things up from the album’s mid-tempo majority.

Rough and Ready Heart is a magnificent little album of throwback country. Love it.

DuffDennis K. Duff Songs from Lyon County Gracey Holler Music

A connection to place is as essential to songwriting as it is to literature. That Dennis Duff relates to his home area is obvious listening to this songwriter’s showcase.

Anyone can hire a band, just make sure you have cash on hand. But, Duff has outdone himself here: Colby Kilby (co-producer, guitar, banjo, mandolin, Dobro) [and, as an aside, should be at Blueberry this weekend with the Travelin’ McCourys], Jason Carter (fiddle) [also, all things McCoury], Alan Bartram (bass, harmony) [ditto, McCourys] and Andy Leftwich (fiddle.) A finer bluegrass band possible? And more than being ‘slingers for hire,’ these musicians fully commit to Duff and his songs.

Now, all that talent can also be easily wasted. Not so here. Duff has the songs, and a home-hewn voice as natural as his subject matter. I quite like his singing style, unpolished as it may be. “Mr. TVA” looks at the effect of moving people off their land, and “Road to Dover” explores the land of memory. “When the river took the barn, the crib and all the corn, Daddy finally said, ‘It’s time to leave,'” shows the ties that bind people to their home in  “37 Flood.” Duff’s take on betrayal, revenge, and incarceration “Castle on the Cumberland” is outstanding.

Additionally, Duff calls on guests to give voice to a few of his songs, an unconventional approach to be certain as he doesn’t appear on five of the album’s nine songs.

 Far as I am concerned, Brooke and Darin Aldridge haven’t taken a wrong step in almost ten years. That continues with their taking charge of “TC and Pearl,” a telling of familial bonds and faith. Paul Brewster [who should also be at Blueberry this weekend with Kentucky Thunder] take a couple leads, the spirited lead track “Wilson Holler” and “Iron Hill.” Bradley Walker is joined by Holly Pitney on another song revealing a strong bond with the land, this one the gentle closing number “When I Leave Kentucky.”

One of the album’s strongest performances is delivered by Mountain Heart’s Josh Shilling. “Night Riders” is a historically-based tale of tobacco farmers working collectively against the force of ‘big tobacco’ to monopolize the industry, and Shilling nails the desperation of those protecting their own and facing down a foe with injustice on their side.

Also worthy of note is the strong artwork by Leeah Duff. Song samples available.

Bluegrass is country music, and on this concise album Dennis K. Duff delves into his family’s experiences to bring the past out of faded memories. At its best, bluegrass (and country music and literature) do this consistently, teaching listeners about events and lives that can be far outside our own. It isn’t ham-fisted at all, it’s taking a slice of someone’s life and making it relevant for others. Songs From Lyon County, featuring several world-class voices- including Duff’s- stellar bluegrass instrumentation, and high quality, original songs can’t be lost in the shuffle. Find it. Now. (Okay, you can be forgiven for waiting until it is available September 7.)

There you go, three country music albums that I suggest will be better than anything heard at Big Valley Jamboree this coming weekend. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.


Favourite Roots Albums of 2018, so far   1 comment

It’s July 1. The year is half over and during the past six months some terrific music has been released. While I have heard my share of the roots music that has come out, I haven’t heard it all. I do have my favourites and that is what I share today: Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots releases of 2018, so far. In no particular order…

GauthierMary Gauthier- Rifles & Rosary Beads An ambitious undertaking that has received its fair share of attention. Co-writing with American veterans and their families, Gauthier has created a piece of art greater than its parts. Of course, none of it would be as significant if the songs themselves were weak or if Gauthier faltered in their delivery. No worries. Gauthier’s indomitable performances bridge the gap between those of us who have never considered serving in the military, and those whose lives have inalterably changed because of their sacrifices. Key tracks: “Got Your Six” “The War After the War” “Brothers” (purchased download)

JohnnyCash-ForeverWordsVarious Artists- Johnny Cash Forever Words: The Music Excepting the typically overwrought Elvis Costello track (When he sang—prior to about 2000—there were few who had greater regard for him, but he lost me a long time ago—his voice is shot, he mistakes emoting for expression, and has completely lost the plot on what even sounds ‘good’) this collection provides an hour of entertainment and contemplation. Comprised of unrecorded Cash ‘songs’—lyrics, poems, or musings, depending—that were—for the most part—fleshed out by the various performers, one is transported into a series of ethereal collaborations that is very affecting. Again, like the Gauthier album, what matters is more than the process, it’s the music: this album enhances the Cash legacy, unlike some other more exploitive sets that have been released. Key tracks:    Alison Krauss & Union Station’s interpretation of Robert Lee Castleman’s “The Captain’s Daughter” Rosanne Cash’s “The Walking Wounded” Carlene Carter’s “June’s Sundown” Jamey Johnson “Spirit Rider” (purchased CD)

GebtryBobbie Gentry- Live At The BBC A Record Store Day release, this 12-track compilation of cuts from 1968 and 1969 are simply a fan’s greatest attainable wish. Performances—excepting “Ode to Billie Joe”—unheard since their original broadcast (so, brand new to most of us) that add to Gentry’s legacy. Her voice is huskier on these numbers, the arrangements sparser, the mood slightly playful: the effect is  even greater intimacy that that expressed through the album versions of the songs. Key tracks: “Papa Won’t You Let Me Go To Town With You” “Recollection” “Nikki Hokey” in a medley with Robert Parker’s “Barefootin'” name-checking Long John Baldry. (purchased vinyl)

Motel MirrorsMotel Mirrors- In The Meantime The second collaboration between Amy LaVere and John Paul Keith is every bit as satisfying as their first, with the added bonus of having folded Will Sexton and Shawn Zorn into the mix to become a genuine band. Americana with a heavy dose of Memphis heart, this is a country-rock album that owes much to the music that influenced it. Key tracks: “Things I Learned” “Do With Me What You Want” “The Man Who Comes Around” (purchased download)

MarielMariel Buckley- Driving In The Dark I would have felt bad had I not been able to include an Alberta artist on this list, and Mariel Buckley doesn’t place out of any obligation. I wasn’t familiar with her until late last year, but she has quickly become a Fervor Coulee favourite. Produced by Leeroy Stagger, these ten songs contain lyrical and instrumental nuances that make them individually appealing and collectively stout. There isn’t much polish herein, just as it should be. I avoid using the word ‘authentic,’ but that is what works here. Straight-forward, modern country (think Kelly Willis) for those of us who live in the past. Key tracks: “Rose Coloured Frames” “Heart Is On Fire” “Pride” (purchased download)

David DavisDavid Davis & the Warrior River Boys- Didn’t He Ramble: The Songs of Charlie Poole A welcome return for one of bluegrass music’s most consistently satisfying bands with a traditional bent (serviced with CD). My full review here. 

DuffeyVarious Artists- Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey A bluegrass legend and innovator gets his due, more than two decades after his passing (Serviced with download). My full review here.

JoyannJoyann Parker- Hard To Love Soulful and blue (serviced with CD). My full review here.

dancing500Gretchen Peters- Dancing With the Beast Americana/folk doesn’t get better than this, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member’s ninth album of original material (purchased CD). My full review here.

HMT-Cover-862x785Hadley McCall Thackston- Hadley McCall Thackston A beautiful, stunning debut: like Venus, she emerges fully realized (serviced with CD). My full review here.

marewakefieldnomad_largeMare Wakefield & Nomad- Time to Fly There is so much good music, we can only hope that the best of it finds its way to us. Sometimes it is up to us to do the work. Search out this Nashville-based duo: they are worth it (serviced with CD). My full review here.

smds-album-cover-768x767Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar- Run To Me Southern Ontario’s soul revue gift to the world- lively, bright, and brassy (serviced with CD). My full review here.

DocWatson_LiveAtClub47_COVER-494x494Doc Watson Live at Club 47 There is no end to the live Doc Watson albums available, and some (Doc Watson On Stage, for one) are definitely more well-rounded than this set. However, this 1963 set recorded in Massachusetts is a welcome and indispensable addition for those of us who just can’t get enough of the deft, affable roots legend. Several of the songs contained here would remain staples of his live and recorded repertoire for the next five decades (“Little Sadie,” “Deep River Blues,” “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”) while others are less frequently encountered (“Little Margaret,” “Hop High Ladies The Cake’s All Dough,” and “Blue Smoke, for example.”) Watson’s connection to his audience would not waver throughout his career, and this early archival recording- coming in at almost 80 minutes- is riveting. (Purchased download)

 I limited myself to a  baker’s dozen albums. Look around Fervor Coulee- I have reviewed a lot of great roots music since January, and many wonderful albums just wouldn’t fit on this list: the latest from Peter Rowan, Sylvia, John Prine, Bob Rea, Sue Foley, The Lynnes, John Paul Keith, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Travelin’ McCourys…

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald