Archive for the ‘Americana’ Tag

Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters- review   Leave a comment

Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters
Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters
Organic Records

By Donald Teplyske

AMANDA-ANNE-PLATT-HONEYCUTTERS-ON-WALLHaving recorded four impressive albums as The Honeycutters, including the masterpiece that was 2016’s On The Ropes, Asheville, NC’s outstanding roots outfit has re-branded themselves as Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters.

Featuring the consistent Honeycutters line-up of Matthew Smith (pedal steel and electric guitar), Rick Cooper (bass), Josh Milligan (drums and percussion), and Platt (lead and harmony vocals and acoustic guitar), with the addition of Evan Martin (keyboard including Hammond B3), the group’s approach to music has continued to evolve, becoming increasingly mainstream while retaining the appealing and authentic qualities that have made them one of the most satisfying Americana outfits recording.

Platt is a strong songwriter and an impressive and memorable vocalist. She has that important capability to write in a variety of voices, making each genuine and authentic to the experiences conveyed.

Again co-produced with roots and bluegrass veteran Tim Surrett, Platt gently establishes the group as a vehicle under her control launching into “Birthday Song” as the self-titled album’s lead track, a song that brings to the fore Platt’s command of writing, singing, and song arrangement. Deceptively languid in atmosphere, and sounding like no one as much as Natalie Maines, the introspective Appalachian honky tonk singer observes that with the passage of years and the compounding of commitments, “some days the answers just get farther.” Similarly, one observes initial forays toward adulthood with “Late Summer’s Child.” The group could do worse than to seek inspiration from the likes of the Dixie Chicks.

One of the most acutely realized examples of country-based Americana recently released, Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters comes in at a generous 54-minutes, and doesn’t waver in focus or intensity. Utilizing a focus on lyrical rhythm similarly to Zoe Muth’s modern classic “If I Can’t Trust You With A Quarter,” “The Guitar Case,” with an impressive guitar and keys instrumental foundation, finds our road warrior focusing on the positives of the chosen life. Platt doesn’t take the easy way and bask on the weary harshness of life, preferring to find positives when possible. A relationship has crumbled amicably within “The Road,” and “Diamonds in the Rough” looks at various observed circumstances through warmly colored lenses.

Consistently across the album, The Honeycutters demonstrate their ability to ideally frame songs to complement Platt. As she’s the group’s songwriter, this is obviously by design but that doesn’t detract from its effectiveness. Intriguing and timely progressions of notes highlight songs at just the right moment, as when Platt is contemplating the last five years of a relationship (“Brand New Start”) and with a bit of Don Rich-inspired flavor on “The Things We Call Home.”

Another welcome offering from Amanda Anne Platt and her group; as always true, country music is in fine hands.

Rescue Me! A Cause for Paws- feature review   Leave a comment

rescue me

Various Artists Rescue Me! A Cause for Paws Blue Night Records

We all love our pets, and we can feel a bit better about ourselves when we rescue an unwanted gem from shelter life, and worse.

We have raised seven cats, not counting Hazel Dickens—our first tortie who couldn’t transition to house life (she’s fine, having ruled the in-laws’ farm for seven years now)—and all but one has been in one way or another a rescue pet. Snow White was adopted from the Edmonton SPCA, Bailey and Misty from farms, T came from a couple who had grown unable to care for her, and our current delights—Bailey II and Mazey—are sisters from the in-laws farm, previously been rescued from town folks getting rid of an entire litter. Our cats, to a one, have been distinctive in their outlooks, behaviour, and personality, and we have enjoyed our many years with each of them.

Rescue Me! A Cause for Paws is a twelve-track set of roots songs for our pets, with all profits being donated to animal welfare organizations. Several of the songs are poignant, while others are considerably more light-hearted. All tracks are culled from previously released, largely independent projects. Songs are evenly split between odes to felines and canines.

Mary Ann Kennedy’s “Barn Cat” struts its way into our hearts from the start: “I’m a barn cat, not an alley cat, or a house cat—I don’t sit in laps: I got a real job- I catch mice; it’s a tough life.” Kennedy, known as a songwriter (“Dixie Road” and “Safe in the Arms of Love,” among others), as a member of Kennedy-Rose, and a frequent Emmylou Harris collaborator, develops a confident character study within her verses. Heidi Muller’s “My Old Cat,” sparked by dulcimer, is a comfortable tune about an appreciated companion, one whose habits may be familiar.

Jamie Anderson wins over this listener right off, lamenting the loss of a significant relationship: “I miss the dog more than I miss you; she’s glad to see me, for you that’s not true.” A country-folk tune drifting toward old-time, Anderson recounts the attributes and escapades of a mutt who will stay with her long after the image of He Who is Not Lamented has faded. Amy White’s gentle “The Best Dog” is a picture-perfect tale of a rescue dog and her companion.

Long-time Fervor Coulee favourite Kathy Chiavola cuts loose on a near-bluegrass romp entitled “Possum and Pearl,” while Joel Mabus’ “The Kitty Ditty” swings more than a little. Effron White’s “Cattitude” isn’t so much about the cat—although he is there on the couch—as it is about the fellow getting on with his life, with a new, fresh outlook. Mark Weems assumes the persona(!) a faithful companion within the piano piece, “My Best Friend.”

As a collection, the music is diverse. Beyond that already mentioned there is jazzy acappella (“Our Cats,” from Cindy Mangsen), funky guitar-based folk (Annie Lalley’s “Get A Dog”), ballsy barrelhouse (“Kitty Kitty,” by Ashely Jo Farmer), and straight-up country (Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay’s clever “Why, Why, Why.”)

Unified as it is by common purpose, Rescue Me! A Cause for Paws is worthy of your support. Available through Elderly Instruments, CD Baby, and other online and digital outlets. A benefit concert and CD release show is slated for Isis in Asheville, NC on June 16.

Lesley Kernochan- A Calm Sun review   Leave a comment

lk-a-calm-sun-cover-webI received this album from the publicist a month or so back, listening to it a couple times right off, and knew I needed to write about it. I have since listened to A Calm Sun seven or eight more times- driving, while resting, and as I was writing- and could not be more impressed. It is a bold, mature recording, free of gimmick and insincerity. Give it a listen. My review is at LRR http://lonesomeroadreview.com/calm-sun-lesley-kernochan/

You can listen to “Country in the City” here.

 

Brock Zeman- The Carnival Is Back In Town review   Leave a comment

brock zemanBrock Zeman is an artist I’ve reviewed a few times now, (I could only find one on-line; if I can locate the previous review, and it is readable, I may add it in down below) and he has always impressed me. Like the best roots artists, he has grown with time, and his latest is the most complete album I’ve yet encountered- realizing I haven’t heard all of his discs. The Carnival Is Back In Town may be groundbreaking, and there certainly won’t be another album like it this year. I wouldn’t want to live within Zeman’s carnival atmosphere, but I sure am enjoying listening to the music has allowed it to create. Here’s the thing: I’ve been listening to it regularly for a couple months, and after ten or twelve complete listens, I am more than ready to put most albums on the shelf and leave it for the next ten years…or until I have to review the latest release. I am still listening to The Carnival Is Back In Town, and I don’t believe I am going to be putting it away any time soon. My review has been published at Lonesome Road Review.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

 

Mac Wiseman & Various Artists- I Sang the Song review   Leave a comment

Mac Wiseman

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

 

Ned Luberecki- Take Five review   Leave a comment

Ned LOkay, 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.

Front Country- Other Love Songs review   Leave a comment

Other Love Songs 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.