Archive for the ‘CD reviews’ Tag
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.”
We don’t get too many releases from what was once the premier bluegrass music label these days. I don’t know the reasons, but I do wish it twernt true: maybe it isn’t, just my perception.
I was pleased to receive a review download of Rebel Records’ new Larry Sparks compilation, Lonesome & Blue: More Favorites. The review is posted over at Lonesome Road Review; I hope you will consider giving it a read.
My review of the new album from Big County Bluegrass, available from Rebel Records, has been posted to the Lonesome Road Review.
Let Them Know I’m From Virginia is a most enjoyable bluegrass album. As I state in the review, nothing fancy (and as I didn’t mention in the review, nothing groundbreaking that moves the music forward) just real strong ‘grass!
I’ve reviewed previous albums from the band HERE and THERE.
Danny Barnes Stove Up Wendell
As time takes the lauded masters of bluegrass banjo, another generation is allowed to come to the fore. I don’t mean the youngsters who have studied and practiced for a dozen or twenty years and are confidently taking the 5-string to amazing new places.
No, the time has come for the light to shine on those who have been refining and perfecting their skills for thirty, forty, and more years. Folks like Danny Barnes. My review of Stove Up is posted at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6349
Danny Barnes has been a personal favourite since somewhere in the late 90s when a friend introduced me to the Bad Livers. He is a terribly interesting banjo slinger, and has written some incredible songs (such as “Falling Down the Stairs,” “Get It While You Can,” and “Charlie,”) recorded timeless albums including Delusions of Benjer and Things I Done Wrong, while also covering folks as diverse as T. Rex, Beck, The Faces, and now-on Stove Up- Don Stover. It is an absolutely beautiful album of (mostly) straight-ahead bluegrass.
Richard Laviolette Taking the Long Way Home You’ve Changed Records
Earnest country records are few and far between. Ignoring the trappings of modern country recording, Ontario’s Richard Laviolette has created a natural-sounding album, balancing the beauty and fidelity of old-time country and folk music (think Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson recordings with the refinement of original songs and expanded instrumentation) with the gravity of personal exploration and experience. “The house that I grew up in, has long been forgotten,” he sings in the lead track “Grey Rain,” over a sprightly shuffle rhythm. “But these memories are calling me home.”
Featuring songs that bring to mind the Americana songbook and its most revered vocalists, Taking the Long Way Home bridges the chasm between the familiar and the obscure. Seldom does a song cause this writer to pull-over off the highway, but “Two Guitars”, a stark paean to songs and their performance did just that the other day. “Someone To Tell My Story When I’m Gone” brings to mind the artfulness of a Guy Clark composition sung by John Prine, while “The Rock and the Moss” is an obvious (at least, to these tired ears) nod to Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman.
The album’s strongest song is the title track, with a vibrant Willie Dunn—groove propelling this road song above its neighbours. Elsewhere, as on “Red-Winged Blackbird,” an easy-going Dave Edmunds beat disguises the intensity of an ode to a developing relationship; Julia Narveson’s fiddle and Aaron Goldstein’s pedal steel are key to this terrific song.
Less impressive is the admittedly great title “My Grandma’s More Punk (Than Most Punks I Know;)” unfortunately, the song goes on for almost five-minutes without making its case. The melody itself is very appealing, but a more robust premise and refrain would have improved it greatly; it is almost as if Laviolette had the title in one pile of unfinished ideas, and the song in a second and attempted to bring them together.
With additional songs revealing the family connections made through music (“Yesterday’s Gospel,” “Old Country Music”) and a coda for the ages (“You’ve Really Got Me On the Run”) Richard Lviolette and producer Andy Magoffin have crafted an album that is rich and deep. Like the floor and shoes gracing the cover, these songs have age to them— and they have a lot more to give; we’ll be listening to them twenty years from now.
Scott Ramminger Do What Your Heart Says To
Arbor Lane Music/www.ScottRamminger.com
It takes but a few measures of “Living Too Fast” for the listener to understand from where Alabama-DC-Nashville songwriter, musician, and singer Scott Ramminger is coming.
First there is the deep, propulsive drum beat established by Doug Belote. Then, in a wave of keys, horns, and guitar straight out of New Orleans comes the vibrancy of that city’s musical heritage courtesy of recognizable names including Dave Torkanowsky, Rick Trolsen, Greg Hicks, George Porter, Jr., and Shane Theriot.
Once the groove is established, coming in through the middle is Ramminger- swampy-voiced and hardcore, listing the ways his woman is working to improve his situation. The lyrics are archetypal blues, but the sound is essential Crescent City, that irresistible mix of blues, R&B, and funky rock ‘n roll, sweetened by a taste of jazz and roadhouse.
What follows is an hour of self-crafted, well-earned hard luck and self-immolation over a steady Louisiana backdrop. The title track, which features Francine Reed (heard on Lyle Lovett and His Large Band,) goes to church via the tavern to ensure we understand that we pass this way only once, so we might as well follow our hearts. In that spirit, the album’s most appealing track may well be “Someone New to Disappoint;” if you know you’re gonna lose, you may as well find someone you don’t mind losing with seems to be the essential testimony of this saxophone (by Ramminger) showcase. Featuring Bekka Bramlett, this one should attract airplay from discerning stations.
Janiva Magness joins Ramminger on the blazing, classic-sounding “It’s Hard to Be Me.” The instrumental break about a minute and a half in is pure magic. The fella is selling hard—what’s harder to tell is if she is buying.
The McCrary Sisters add essential soul to four numbers. “Get Back Up” provides extended inspiration in a very different manner than “Walk A Little Straighter.” Ramminger is all about encouraging ones better self to come to the fore, and he does it as only a bluesman can—by not giving a damn if his heart or nose get broke. “I Need a New One” is the album’s longest track, and perhaps the most jazz-based. Tornkanowsky lays out the foundation, enhanced by the killer rhythm section and the encouragement of the McCrary Sisters.
The album closes with additional testimony from Ramminger in the form of “Stubborn Man:” based on what came before I’m guessing is his self-composed elegy.
“You may not believe me,
but it is all going to work out fine
If I beat my head against the wall
just a few more times.”
Surrounding himself with the very best musicians and vocalists he could find was Ramminger’s finest decision. Coming to the studio with a series of songs—some whimsical, some proud, all honest and real (give “Winter Is Always Worse” a listen)—was also crucial to making Do What Your Heart Says To the complete success that it is.
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.