Archive for the ‘Compilations’ Tag

Skinny Dyck & Friends- Twenty One-Nighters review   Leave a comment

Akinny Dyck

Skinny Dyck & Friends Twenty One-Nighters skinnydyck.bandcamp.com

For as long as I can recall, the Alberta roots music environment has been healthy and exciting. From the big-ticket folk festivals in Edmonton and Calgary, and the more regional events held annually in Fort McLeod, Driftpile, East Coulee, and innumerable other sites, to a radio network that supports Alberta roots artists to an incredible level, a roots musician in Alberta seemingly has an entire province at the ready. Still, mainstream success remains rare, and while folks can make a living with their guitars, vans, and songs, breakouts are few—we can count the Corb Lunds and k. d. lang’s on one hand.

Not every artist contained on Ryan Dyck’s visionary Twenty One-Nighters collection is from Alberta, but all are western Canadian and the vast majority call the Wild Rose province home. Recorded adjacent to a Lethbridge pizza place over a series of evenings across nine months of 2016 and 2017, twenty folk and country troubadours answered Skinny Dyck’s call to share their songs, all original and most previously unreleased.

A core band is featured, primarily Skinny Dyck, Tyler Bird, Evan Uschenko, Jon Martin, and Paul Holden on a variety of stringed instruments and drums in various configurations. With twenty different focus acts, the approaches to the music and songs are as varied as the lineups, but each of the seventy minutes the music envelopes the listener with waves of familiarity that are most welcome.

Picking highlights is the chore of a fool. The godfather of southern Alberta roots scene, Lance Loree  kicks things off with “Watching Daddy Dance,” definitely a noteworthy performance, but so is that of Leeroy Stagger and Mariel Buckley (the gorgeous and devastating “New Pair of Shoes”) and Fervor Coulee-mainstay John Wort Hannam (“Acres of Elbow Room,” a preview of the album coming in early spring.)

Sentinels of the pubs, bars, stages, and community halls abound: Tom Phillips, Kent McAlister, Sean Burns, Scott MacLeod, and Dave McCann offer-up terrific numbers, with McAlisters’s “Hall of Shame” and McCann’s “Sticks and Stones” weaving their way into the audio-memory. The legion of Carolyn Mark fans will be interested in “My Love For You,” a two-minute ditty that pulls in ’bout every rural Alberta cliché you would dare drop into a country song.

Many a clever turn of phrase are included on this wide-cut country collection, as are a number of folks we had not previously encountered, although they are certainly known to others—we can’t hear everything! Folks from whom I will be looking for more include Shaela Miller (The Virginian era Neko Case-y sounding “Willow Tree”) Justin Smith (“Seedin’ Time”), and Taylor Ackerman (“Layin’ By Your Side.”) Terrific stuff. Carter Felker offers up an outstanding new song, “I Can’t Believe”—a gem among jewels—and Steven Foord’s “Sweet Alberta” is deserving of airplay.

If there is a single discovery to be found on this album (and there isn’t—unless you were part of the core group putting this set together, I doubt many have heard everyone on this wide-ranging set: there is a lot to discover!) I would suggest it may be George Arsene who delivers a stunning song, “‘Ol #6,” a diner tale that brings to mind the master of the dusty road song, Robert Earl Keen.

Rather than reading my ramblings about this important set capturing the contemporary southern-Alberta roots scene, head over to https://skinnydyck.bandcamp.com/, give a listen, and then pick up a copy there or at one of the upcoming shows Skinny Dyck has planned for November. Original roots music appears live and well in the home province: support it, dammit!

Advertisements

John Lee Hooker- King of the Boogie boxset review   Leave a comment

JLH_CVR_SQ_CMYK

John Lee Hooker King of the Boogie Craft Recordings

There is something ethereal and true about John Lee Hooker that even his contemporaries never quite achieved. Whether getting gritty or fatally romantic, searching for hope among the forlorn or finding joy in the minutiae of the daily struggle, John Lee Hooker brought the real blues, the deep blues, to an expansive listening audience, always sounding as if he were performing to an audience of one—you.

Long ago when I was but a young Fervor Coulee—eighteen and mostly clueless—John Lee Hooker’s Fantasy double compilation Black Snake was the first blues album I discovered. Working at the failing Climax Records in Leduc, Alberta for a few months in the spring and summer of 1983, I started this lifelong journey into roots music discovering most of the Carter-Cash clan—Rosanne, Johnny, Carlene, Rodney, and Nick Lowe—as well as Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, and The Stray Cats, not to mention George Jones, Deborah Allen, and—eventually—John Lee Hooker: “I’m Prison Bound,” “Good Mornin’ Lil School Girl,” “Come On and See About Me,” and “Tupelo Blues.” It wasn’t long before I found my way to “Boom Boom” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer” via cover versions and a lack of supervision—who knew you weren’t allowed to crack any album you wanted for in-store play?

Once I heard “Boogie Chillen’,” I was done: no other blues would ever top it. The archaic playing style and the repetitive notes appealed to something base within me, and then that voice reaching across and over it all—fueled by desperation—Hooker communicated with a suburban white boy through his music as few —Townshend, Springsteen, and the voices of Three Dog Night—had done to that point. No matter the song, John Lee Hooker was immediately identifiable. His growling vocal timbre reached to a time before measure, his deep talking blues making a journey across race, social strata, generations, and history.

This expansive five-disc set appears to be the ultimate encapsulation of John Lee Hooker’s recorded output. Produced in conjunction with a number of labels and Hooker’s family, the box set distills 40-plus years of recordings into a manageable distillation while retaining all the essentials and incorporating a few previously unreleased necessaries.

Starting with his 1948 recording of “Boogie Chillen’,” with the first three discs we are taken for a three-plus hour ride through Hooker’s recording career. Most of these tracks have been readily available on various collections over the years, but what is most appreciated herein is the care with which they have been collated. Recorded months apart, “Goin Down Highway #51” slides straight out of “Huckle Up Baby” like it was planned, with “John L’s House Rent Boogie” and “I’m In The Mood” waiting around the corner. The sound quality is pristine, and the accompanying notes informative.

JL_Hooker 001After this generous rendering of vintage and essential blues—”My First Wife Left Me,” “Tupelo Blues,” “Stuttering Blues,” “Boom Boom,” and the like—with only a handful of unreleased material—highlighted by the suggestive “Meat Shakes on Her Bones” from 1961—the majority of the rarities surface. Disc Four is comprised of various live takes augmented by a set of five recordings from Berlin, 1983 that have not previously been available commercially. Captured at a time when the older bluesmen were in danger of being forgotten with the advance of popular music that had little connection to roots of rock ‘n’ roll—we all remember new wave, the advance of goth, and the earliest days of hair metal—these live takes reveal the vitality Hooker never lost, no matter with whom he played. Extolling the audience to “Hear me out, here,” Hooker moans his way through “It Serves Me Right to Suffer” as a man who has lived an imperfect life while “Boom Boom” and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer” are delivered with the energy and playful verve of a man who has done the songs a couple thousand times and never lost the joy.

Disc Five features collaborations ranging from 1952 and “Little” Eddie Kirkland (“I Got Eyes For You”), the early 70s with Canned Heat (“Peavine”) and Van Morrison (“Never Get Out of These Blues Alive”) through to his days as an elder statesman and Grammy winner with Bonnie Raitt (“I’m In The Mood,”) B.B. King (“You Shook Me,”) and  Los Lobos (“Dimples.”) Nothing new is revealed on these (mostly) readily available cuts, but presented in this manner they are a reminder of Hooker’s versatility and range of influence.

100 songs, nine previously unreleased, over five discs with what appears to be exceptional packaging (unfortunately, I only have the downloads and scans to judge by) King of the Boogie celebrates the 100th Anniversary of John Lee Hooker’s birth, and marks the kick-off of events—including museum exhibits, radio specials, and a film documentary—celebrating this milestone. With a reasonable price point and a hearty dose of indispensable blues, King of the Boogie is not only a brilliant introduction to the blues master, but a suitable testament to his place in modern roots music history.

KING_OF_THE_BOOGIE_PACK_SHOT

Posted 2017 September 30 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

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.

A Year of Stax? Yes, please.   Leave a comment

I very deliberately don’t normally reprint press releases at Fervor Coulee. Those of you who come here are looking for my Roots Music Opinion, not reposting of news releases that you can see in other places. But, today and only today, I am making an exception. I am really excited about the plans made by Concord Music Group and Rhino Entertainment to celebrate the music of Stax Records, one of my favourite ‘historical’ labels, not to mention a label that is back with some force, having nabbed a Grammy this year for William Bell’s absolutely brilliant (and John Leventhal-produced) This Is Where I Live, one of Fervor Coulee’s Top Ten favourite roots albums of last year.

The folks at Concord and Rhino have significant plans for re-introducing the timeless music of Stax to the marketplace, and their presser-pasted below-goes into details that I would simply be repeating if I was to attempt to rewrite- so why bother? If and when I am able to review some of these releases, I will get my Roots Music Opinion up here and/or at Lonesome Road Review. Although classic soul isn’t really within the LRR wheelhouse, it is well within ‘my’ definition of roots music. I can’t wait to hear what Concord and Rhino have promised, especially the Isaac Hayes set (detailed below) and the Otis/Carla vinyl if they come my way; let’s hope the packaging is as beautiful as the music!

Here is the presser, and watch for updates here and on Twitter as I hear the music-

Los Angeles, CA – Concord Music Group and Rhino Entertainment, Warner Music Group’s catalog division, are proud to announce a joint campaign celebrating the 60th anniversary of iconic soul label, Stax Records. This unique partnership marks the first marketing collaboration of the Stax recordings which have been divided since Atlantic Records split with Stax Records in 1967.

StaxHonoring historic Soulsville, USA in Memphis, TN, curated collections of some of the greatest Stax music will be released on new hits compilations, vinyl LPs, digital hi-resolution remasters and deluxe boxed sets. These releases will showcase timeless Stax hits, plus rare tracks from many of the label’s legendary artists including Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Sam & Dave, Albert King, Mable John, The Mad Lads and many more.

The collaboration between Rhino and Concord will kick off with the May 19th launch of the Stax Classics series — announced exclusively on Rolling Stone (4/26) — which consists of ten wallet-friendly collections, each highlighting one of the label’s biggest stars with 12 choice tracks and insightful new liner notes. Available on CD and at all digital retailers and streaming services, these albums will celebrate the prolific Stax careers of Otis Redding, William Bell, Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, Booker T & The MGs, The Dramatics, Albert King, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes and The Staple Singers.

Throughout the year, both Concord and Rhino will reissue a variety of iconic Stax albums on vinyl, including a 50th anniversary pressing of Otis Redding and Carla ThomasKing & Queen (Rhino), Melvin Van Peebles’ soundtrack to the groundbreaking Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Concord), rarity John Gary Williams from The Mad Lads front man (Concord) and Otis Redding’s 1965 classic The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads (Rhino). Also, the forthcoming 4-CD anthology Isaac Hayes: The Spirit of Memphis (1962-1976) will be released in August, 2017 to coincide with the multitalented artist’s 75th birth anniversary. In addition, both labels will collaborate on a three-CD Stax 60th set, plus a new installment in the critically acclaimed Complete Stax Singles boxed set series. Volume Four will focus on the diverse nature of the label’s catalog, featuring singles released not only on Stax and Volt, but also Enterprise, Hip, Chalice, Gospel Truth and more. Both Rhino and Concord will also continue an overhaul of digital releases, re-delivering a handful of popular titles in high-resolution and Mastered for iTunes formats, as well as making many albums available to streaming and digital services for the first tim

This soulful partnership marks a special moment in history for the label, and both Rhino and Concord are proud to have the opportunity to collaborate after nearly 50 years. “The Stax catalog features some of the greatest and most culturally significant albums and singles of all time and continues to resonate with music fans 60 years later,” says Mark Pinkus, President of Rhino Entertainment. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Concord’s team on a wide array of new releases fitting of such an important moment in the Stax legacy.”

Sig Sigworth, Chief Catalog Officer of Concord Bicycle Music, Concord Music Group’s mother company, also notes that “Stax has a great history of bringing people together—songwriters, musicians, singers and fans from around the world.  It’s in this same tradition that we are very pleased to work with Mark and his team to bring together both sides of this incredible catalog while celebrating 60 years of Soulsville, US

Founded in 1957 by Memphis banker and fiddle player Jim Stewart, the Memphis label was a labor of love for Stewart, who oversaw operations initially with his sister Estelle Axton and then associate Al Bell. “On the anniversary of Stax Records’ 60th, this Concord/Rhino collaboration signals the beginning of the end of a bitter-sweet relationship between Stax and Atlantic,” says Stewart. “It’s long-overdue and a good omen for the unending popularity of the very best of Memphis Soul music.” “Stax Records,” Mr. Stewart continues, “was my baby.  Stax music was and always will be inspirational. I am so pleased that the music we created and recorded at Stax is still being discovered, and it continues to reside in the hearts of devotees everywhere that know the joy and power of ‘real’ music.”

Stewart and Axton, who changed the name of the label from Satellite Records to Stax in 1960, soon had a self-contained soul music powerhouse, complete with its own recording studio, a growing staff of A&R personnel, songwriters, producers, an inimitable house band, as well as Stax Publicist, Deanie Parker, who continues to fortify the legacy of Stax in Soulsville, USA. “Through the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the label’s rich musical and cultural history can be studied, felt and enjoyed,” Parker offers. “Stax’s iconic hits and artists come to life through students at the Stax Music Academy and live on thanks to The Soulsville Charter School. And now, partners Concord and Rhino are unleashing some of the first R&B songs from the womb of Stax Records—music that we’ve grown up loving for more than half a century. It’s free at last,” Parker adds.

During its 15-year run, Stax released more than 800 singles and nearly 300 LPs, winning eight GRAMMY® Awards, plus an Academy Award along the way. The label placed more than 167 hit songs in the Top 100 pop charts, and a staggering 243 hits in the Top 100 R&B charts. Today, the original site of Stax Records is home to The Soulsville Foundation, which operates the multi-million dollar campus that houses the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, as well as the Stax Music Academy and The Soulsville Charter School, both of which serve primarily at-risk, inner-city youth. The Soulsville Foundation aims to impart the spirit and soul upon which Stax Records was founded: using the power of music and opportunity to shape a young person’s life, rebuild a community and keep valuable history alive forever.

Larry Sparks- Lonesome & Blue: More Favorites review   Leave a comment

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.

Sparks B and L

Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots Albums of 2016   2 comments

At the end of each year, writers and broadcasters get to indulge themselves and—one hopes—their readers and listeners with their judgements on the year past.

I’ve spent substantial time reviewing the roots/Americana/whatever you want to call them, if they are on the No Depression list I might have considered them, and even if they aren’t I still may have albums I heard during the past year, and have come up with my definitive (at least for today) list of Favourite Roots Albums of 2016. Of course, your kilometreage will vary: I once received a cranky email from the father of a fairly prominent bluegrasser whose album I didn’t include on such a list several years ago. For those such inclined, I repeat—these are my favorite roots albums of the year. Not the best, ’cause that is silly. And all I can base it on is those albums I’ve heard, and maybe I somehow missed your son’s album…talk to his publicist.

I’ve already posted my Favourite Bluegrass Albums of 2016, and while bluegrass is an essential part of roots music, I’ve chosen not to intermingle the ‘grass into this list. Reason? This way I get to praise more albums. If you care about such stuff, my favourite bluegrass album of the year, Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands’ The Hazel and Alice Sessions would also top this list if I were to include bluegrass amongst the roots. Likely the top six bluegrass albums would have made my top 20 roots albums, and I likely would have found space for Sam Bush, too…

The number rankings, once past four or five, don’t mean much more than a way for me to stay organized: feel free to move your favourite up a spot or three. Full reviews are linked as artist/title.

My Favourite Roots Albums of 2016 are…

cds1882-20160322121902

1.Mark Erelli- For a Song Likely the album I listened to second most all year. Erelli has been at the top of his game over the past number of years, both with his bluegrass band Barnstar!, as an interpreter of others’ music (his Bill Morrissey album of a couple years back, Milltowns,) as a pissed off (alternately, disappointed) topical folkie of the Woody Guthrie vein (“By Degrees,”) and on his latest full length release, For A Song. For a Song is a quiet album, yearnsome and blue in turn, reflective, observant, and above all honest; the album wove its way into my soul, making me appreciate what I understand and consider that which I don’t. I just wish he would show up in Alberta some time.

2.Maria Dunn- Gathering One of Alberta’s foremost folk musicians returns with her sixth collection of lyrically-rich gems. An artist who places her convictions and heart on display in complementary proportions, Dunn has found balance between sharing the inspirational and compelling within songs that are insightful, artfully constructed, and just plain enjoyable. There will always be more than a bit of the Celtic lands in Dunn’s music, and throughout Gathering African, Asian, and Canadian First Nations influences can also be heard. Like the finest troubadours, Dunn communicates: she is the vessel through which others exist. She reveals the innermost, personal, and captivatingly universal perspectives and insights of devoted parents, the down-trodden challenged by circumstance, those connected to the land by more than choice, and the youthful who rise above.

Certainly one of the finest recordings to be released this year. Those who compare Maria Dunn to Woody Guthrie, Hazel Dickens, Jean Ritchie, and Buffy Sainte-Marie aren’t taking the easy way out: with the release of Gathering she demonstrates that she is an international folk artist of significance.

3.Jenny Whiteley- The Original Jenny Whiteley On this recording, Whiteley satisfies a desire to more fully explore the music that provided the foundation for her development—old-time folk sounds that have existed and thrived for generations. A recognition of her rich and diverse Americana/Canadiana upbringing within the venerable Whiteley clan, this fifth recording is a rootsy masterpiece. In a lesser artist’s hands such a multi-dimensional homage might sound disjointed; The Original Jenny Whiteley is united in its eccentric melding of the rich traditional and roots tapestry—folk, jugband, bluegrass, early jazz and ragtime, Francophone, Dylan, and the blues.

4.The Honeycutters- On The Ropes Fronted by Amanda Anne Platt, the Honeycutters offer up country sounds that have a bit of rock ‘n’ roll push, a combination that enhances rather than detracts from their honky-tonk foundation. Their instrumental interplay is excellent, and Platt has an incredible voice, as powerful as needed and as tender as desired. There exists an intimacy within these songs, all but one written by Platt, and that intensity allows the songs (and their performance) to make personal connections with listeners.

The Dixie Chicks seem a reasonable comparison. Playfully rambunctious and justly pointed, a song like “Let’s Get Drunk” resonates: “…and if the ship is really sinking what’s the use in waiting til it’s sunk? Baby, we’re already drinking, so we might as well get drunk.” Where was she 35 years ago?!

5.Western Centuries- Weight of the World I am sure it is no coincidence that the debut album from Western Centuries vaguely resembles the self-titled release from a late 60s band of considerable Americana-roots influence. Fronted by a trio of songwriters, each singing their own songs with distinctiveness, Western Centuries is a modern country band that encourages cerebral shifts as readily as it does two-stepping shuffles. Drawing inspiration from generations of country honky tonk singers and their bands, Western Centuries is something many of us are continually pursuing—a genuine country band that doesn’t take the easy way reinterpreting familiar songs, but rather pushes their talents toward creating modern classics. Weight of the World is pert darn special.

6.Robbie Fulks- Upland Stories Stone classic this one is. Nominated for a Grammy for “Alabama at Night”—wait a second, Robbie Fulks is nominated for a Grammy! Let that percolate for a minute. Maybe 2016 wasn’t an entirely awful year! There are a dozen memorable songs on Upland Stories, none indistinguishable from those surrounding it. Maybe not Fulks’ most exciting or dynamic album (tough to beat those early albums,) but maybe his best.

7.William Bell- This Is Where I Live I have to admit, when I saw a tweet from Rosanne Cash about a new William Bell album, my first thought was “Is that like the Pop Staples album of last year?” Because I truly thought William Bell was dead. Idiot, me. I first heard William Bell after Billy Idol covered “To Be A Lover,” playing the crap out of that pink Soul of a Bell album in the mid-to late-80s. I’ve now played This Is Where I Live as many times. A beautiful sounding, complete album. Another Grammy nominee. Tied with #8 for Comeback of the Year.

8.The Monkees- Good Times! Hands down, my most played album of the year. No Depression has it on their year-end list, so that makes it roots enough for me. “She Makes Me Laugh,” “You Bring the Summer,” and “Love to Love” are just great songs. Pure pop for old people.

9.Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms- Innocent Road Featuring the Caleb Klauder Country Band, Innocent Road is comprised of a half-dozen Kluader songs, a few obscure covers, and a healthy dollop of familiar country classics from the likes of Buck Owens and George Jones. The kicker is a track from Paul Burch’s stunning Fool For Love album, “C’est le Moment (If You’re Gonna Love Me,)” artfully sung by Willms.

As much as I enjoy Prine and DeMent and Robison and Willis, I think I might just prefer what this duo accomplishes. There is no artifice within these recordings, no hint of sly aside.

10.Northern Cree- It’s A Cree Thing North America’s original roots music perhaps? Northern Cree are a drum group from Alberta, and It’s A Cree Thing has also been nominated for a Grammy, the seventh time this group from Saddle Lake has been recognized in this manner. It’s A Cree Thing is a powerful collection of round dance songs full of energy, personality, and history. “Oh, That Smile” should be a hit single! Gorgeous.

11.Darrell Scott- Couchville Sessions With consistency his strong suit, and similar in most ways to his breakthrough album Family Tree, Couchville Sessions is a welcoming listening experience highlighted by Scott’s warmly distinctive voice and diverse presentation choices. Recorded around the same time Scott was starting to ‘break’ 15 years ago—working with Tim O’Brien and Guy Clark then—this is a set of well-aged performances captured in Scott’s living room, the gestation of which are disguised within the sultry “Come Into This Room.” It provides continuing evidence that Scott is one of Americana’s most vibrant visionaries.

12.Matt Patershuk- I Was So Fond of You Back in January or so of this year, I was listening to the radio and a four-song set was played-some combination of Corb Lund, Guy Clark, John Fulbright, and Patershuk, and I recall realizing that I couldn’t tell which of those guys was from La Glace, Alberta and making his living in construction. Put his songs on WDVX, and Patershuk would sound as comfortable alongside Darrell Scott, Fred Eaglesmith, and Chris Stapleton. Heck, add Sturgill Simpson, Hayes Carll, and the rest to the list. Patershuk is the real deal, folks. If you are missing the country, the kind of country music recorded in the days when there was more grease and a little less gloss, check out I Was So Fond of You.

13.Eric Brace & Peter Cooper- C & O Canal I suspect that I would enjoy passing time about a round table with a cool beverage in my hand in the company of either Eric Brace or Peter Cooper. Two of my favourite musicians, songwriters, and wordsmiths, Cooper and Brace have released a strong slate of albums over the past decade. C & O Canal, their latest, pays homage to the folk and bluegrass music the two encountered in Washington, DC in the 70s and 80s.

14.Rory Block- Keepin’ Outta Trouble A tribute to Bukka White, this set is so strong that it deserves a place in my Top 20 rather than as part of my tributes/collections list that is still being assembled. Block goes beyond White’s music, creating original music inspired by his life and his approach to the blues. With attention to detail, but an even greater sense of purpose, Block enlivens these performances with a balance of passion and precision that breathes life into oft-encountered numbers. Her voice is magic, and her approach to blues guitar is clean, restrained, and just damn fine beautiful.

15.Dori Freeman- Dori Freeman Freeman isn’t interested in presenting herself as some social archeology project, the mountain singer untouched by modern sway. She is a contemporary vocalist, one touched by the influences of her rural mountain upbringing as well as less-rustic contributions. She is a folk singer, a country singer, and a pop singer, all rolled into one appealing vocal package. Having written these ten songs, Freeman most obviously has her own viewpoint and voice, one that has been honed by producer Teddy Thompson; the focus of the arrangements, musicians, and production choices remain on Freeman and her songs.

16.Red Tail Ring- Far Away Blues How did this relatively unheralded set have such a significant impact on me that it took about two months to (barely) uncover the words to attempt a review? It is danged freakin’ good. This Michigan duo of Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp is incredible. They have the rare ability to inhabit songs, removing the barrier of time, place, and reality between their performance of ancient tunes “Yarrow” and “Come All Ye Fair & Tender Ladies,” their own timely compositions, the recorded medium, and the audience. You are transported into the recording, watching the pair lean into their songs as they maintain eye contact to communicate chords and progressions.

17.Chicago Farmer- Midwest Side Stories Cody Diekhoff—okay, Chicago Farmer—doesn’t set out to do anything fancy on Midwest Side Stories. He has insight into the experiences and internal dialogues of contemporary working class folks, and has the artistic ability to convert these into songs of substance and interest. “Skateboard Song” touches on a whole lot of stuff—youthful disenchantment, small-mindedness, finger-pointing, and police harassment, just to start—over a hard-beaten melody that would do both Weezer and Dan Bern proud. Chicago Farmer’s mid-western insights do not limit these songs: they appeal whether you are rural or urban, upstate or down, blue- or white- collar, Canadian or American. “Rocco N’ Susie” are our neighbours, the ones we don’t really know, but are more like us than we care to admit—a couple pay cheques away from foreclosure, a few months from desolation, several bad decisions from remand. The gradual journey from independence to dependence is identified in “Farms & Factories,” suspicion thrives in “Revolving Door,” and the night shift margins are explored on “9 pm to 5.”

18.Margo Price- Midwest Farmer’s Daughter I had several albums circling around these final spots, and I went with the ones I did because of their genuineness, their apparent authenticity. There is little to suggest Price considered market configurations or sales ramifications when compiling the songs for this release. Like Hazel Dickens did and Brandy Clark does, Price sings and writes of true life situations, and like Dickens (but not so much Clark) she doesn’t add a lot of spit and polish to the music. When I hear “Four Years of Chances,” “Hurtin’ On the Bottle,” “Desperate and Depressed,” and “This Town Gets Around,” I imagine I’m experiencing something similar to what folks felt listening to Loretta Lynn for the first time more than fifty years ago; still, I don’t think Loretta ever sang of blow jobs.

19.Corey Isenor- A Painted Portrait (Of the Classic Ruse) This is country music. Just not country music. There are times, as in “From Towers to Windmills,” that I am reminded of New Order (“Love Vigilantes.”) At other points Isenor’s approach reminds me of Matthew Lovegrove’s Woodland Telegraph: sparse, minimalist and achingly poignant (“Queen of Calgary” and “Diamonds on the Moon.”) “The Navy Blues” is catchy and complex, with Andrew Sneddon’s pedal steel providing additional melancholy. Rebecca Zolkower and Desiree Gordon’s vocals lend depth to several songs, as do Liam Frier’s guitar contributions. Alt-country continues with Corey Isenor.

20. Grant-Lee Phillips- The Narrows Sometimes you locate an album never realizing you were looking for it. The Narrows is one of those albums. I have a couple Grant-Lee Phillips albums, ones I listened to a few times upon purchase and then filed away in the drawers. I was looking around the internet one night a few months back and clicked on a video link for “Tennessee Rain.” Before the song was finished playing, I had gone into iTunes and hit Buy. Raucous in places (“Rolling Pin”) and atmospheric elsewhere, the deluxe edition of the album provides additional takes that extend the pleasure of the listen. While the Drive By Truckers delivered a more timely and angry disc, GLP produced the more enduring one.

I’m out of words, but also enjoyed these discs:

Brandy Clark- Big Day in a Small Town; Mary Chapin Carpenter- The Things That We Are Made Of; Parker Millsap- The Very Last Day; Lori McKenna- The Bird & the Rifle; Paul Gauthen- My Gospel; Loretta Lynn- Full Circle; Mandolin Orange- Blindfaller; Blackie & the Rodeo Kings- Kings & Kings; Chely Wright- I Am the Rain; Steve Forbert- Flying at Night; and Drive-By Truckers- American Band;

As an aside or addition, my favourite Roots Compilations/Tributes/Reissues of the year are, in no particular order:

VA- 40 Years of Stony Plain

J D Crowe & the New South- S/T vinyl 

Gillian Welch- Boots No. 1- The Official Revival Bootleg

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band- Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 Years

VA- Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music

VA- God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson

VA- Just Love: A Tribute to Audrey Auld Mezera

VA- The Life and Songs of Emmylou Harris

VA- Fast Folk: A Tribute to Jack Hardy

Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia- Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings vinyl box

(Not included in the above list are excellent tribute [or tribute-ish] albums from Del McCoury Band, Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, The Earls of Leicester, Rory Block, Jenny Whiteley [tribute to her family’s musical roots,] and Eric Brace/Peter Cooper, all of which made my top Bluegrass or Roots album lists.)

Finally, some 2015 albums didn’t get as much attention from me last year as they did in 2016, for a variety of reasons. But, man- did I play the heck out of them this year: Linda McRae- Shadow Trails; Chris Stapleton- Traveller; Josh Ritter- Sermon on the Rocks; Sam Baker- Say Grace; and Steve Forbert- Compromised.

BUY SOME MUSIC, DAMMIT! Roots musicians deserve our support.

Best for the New Year, Donald

 

 

 

 

 

Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots Music Albums of 2013   2 comments

These types of lists are fairly self-indulgent, but most things we do seem to be. What the heck, then?

I am fairly confident in my choices this year- I created lists as the months passed, and have considered well in excess of a hundred albums for placement.  Here then are my favourite roots music albums of the year, accompanied by links to longer pieces I’ve written or, alternately when I didn’t write about a particular album, video.

[Update: #25 has been revised. Someone asked why so little mainstream country. Answer, I don’t listen to most of what would be considered modern country. I didn’t listen to the Brandy Clark album enough yet to place it in my Top 25, but I am really enjoying it. Whether that is mainstream…]

Favourite Album Covers-

skaggs1. Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby- Live Cluck Ol’ Hen

2. Guy Clark- My Favorite Picture of You– Great story behind this one. Well executed.

3. Noam Pikelny- Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe– some concert posters in the background may have pushed it over the top

4. Sturgill Simpson- High Top Mountain

5. Jack Lawrence- Arthel’s Guitar

Favorite Covers and Tribute Albums-

1.Don Rigsby- Doctor’s Orders: A Tribute to Ralph Stanley http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MNcu_x6_xY

2. Let Us In Americana- The Music of Paul McCartney

3. Unsung Hero : A Tribute to the Music of Ron Davies

4. Joe Mullins & Junior Sisk- Bluegrass Hall of Fame https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/junior-sisk-joe-mullins-hall-of-fame-bluegrass-review/

5. Jack Lawrence- Arthel’s Guitar arthel

6. Martyn Joseph- Tires Rushing By in the Rain

7. Ben Sollee- The Hollow Sessions

8. You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold

9. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs- Under the Covers, Vol.3

Favourite Reissues and Archival Releases of the Year-

1. George Jones- The Complete United Artists Solo Singles george

2. Steve Forbert- Early On: The Best of the Mississippi Recordings and the Alive on Arrival/Jackrabbit Slim twofer, more concise and accessible than the previous Rolling Tide reissues

3. Townes Van Zandt- Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Sessions & Demos 1971-1972

4. Guy Clark- Dixie’s Bar & Bus Stop

5. The Bottle Rockets- The Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn SideThe Bottle Rockets was and is one of the greatest Americana/alt.country albums ever recorded. The bonus tracks provide further context for the days that I wasn’t aware of until they were over. So enthralled with that album, I’ve allowed The Brooklyn Side to sit on the shelf untouched since the first and only time I played it all those years ago. My mistake. One I won’t allow to be repeated.

6. Billy Bragg Life’s A Riot with Spy vs Spy, 30th Anniversary Edition A most concise vision of the power of words and music; comes with a recent live encore of the 7-track e.p.

7. James Keelaghan History: The First 25 Years

Favourite Various Artists and Compilation Albums-

1.  Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War imagesJ2S505VN

2. The Daughters of Bluegrass- Pickin’ Like A Girl https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/daughters-of-bluegrass-pickin-like-a-girl-review/

3. God Didn’t Choose Sides

4. Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways

5. Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

The following are my favourite stand-alone albums of 2013, often the albums I spent the most time with this past year (or, in the case of late year releases, the albums I feel I will end up spending the most time with):

1. Guy Clark- My Favorite Picture of You: The elder statesman does it again, producing another exceptional collection of songs, all but a cover of a Lyle Lovett song co-writes. Beautifully sung and played. Clark’s thirteenth album of new material, recorded at age 71, was head and shoulders this past year’s finest roots music album. If there is justice, and voters were actually listening, he’ll receive a Grammy in January. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIftiMZPVsE&list=RDntpyFfef-NA

2. John Reischman- Walk Along John https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/john-reischman-walk-along-john-review/

3. J. R. Shore- State Theatre https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/j-r-shore-state-theatre-review-the-polaris-music-prize/

4. Slaid Cleaves- Still Fighting the War: Gives ol’ Guy a run for his money. http://slaidcleaves.com/category/videos/

5. Mike Plume- Red and White Blues: Following up the very excellent 8:30 Newfoundland, Mike Plume returned not only with a most sincere Stompin’ Tom Connors tribute, but a set of songs- almost equal parts Maritime stomper and prairie balladry- that will soon stand with his best. http://mikeplume.com/steelbeltedwebsite/?page_id=19

6. Kimberley Rew- Healing Broadway: Pub roots. http://www.kimberleyrew.com/

7. Bruce Foxton- Back in the Room: If by roots you mean rock n roll. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syxMnWmrACM

8. The Gibson Brothers- They Call It Music https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/the-gibson-brothers-they-call-it-music-review/

9. Chris Jones & The Night Drivers- Lonely Comes Easy https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/chris-jones-the-night-drivers-lonely-comes-easy-review/

10. D. B. Rielly- Cross My Heart & Hope to Die https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/d-b-rielly-cross-my-heart-hope-to-die-review/

11. Darden Smith- Love Calling https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/darden-smith-love-calling-review/

12. Robbie Fulks- Gone Away Backward http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T00vjRCmf3g

13. The Del McCoury Band- The Streets of Baltimore: Experience counts for a whole lot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_K_7pcdvck

14. Leeroy Stagger- Truth Be Sold  https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/leeroy-stagger-truth-be-sold-review/ http://exclaim.ca/MusicVideo/ClickHear/leeroy_stagger-cities_on_fire_video

15. Alice Gerrard- Bittersweet https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/alice-gerrard-bittersweet-review/

16. Noam Pikelny- Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqys8Ez7Cno

17. Marshall Chapman- Blaze of Glory: Another great album of honest roots rock. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azPRk89nKaQ

18. Holly Williams- The Highway: Purchased after reading a couple reviews and having never heard her; glad I did. http://www.hollywilliams.com/portfolio-items/the-highway/

19. Sturgill Simpson- High Top Mountain: I’m glad all music isn’t this well-grounded in the country tradition. Makes it all the more special when you find it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNV16tz1NK0

20. John Paul Keith- Memphis 3 A.M.: A long-time favourite singer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWk5Yo9dIG0

21. James King- Three Chords and the Truth: Only bought this one before Christmas; need to listen more, but nothing to lead me to believe it isn’t going to stay with me for a long time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWnKoIXS1KU

22. Kim Beggs- Beauty and Breaking: an exceptional collection of song that are already familiar. With more listens, I’m confident  it will become even more appreciated. http://www.kimbeggs.com/videoplay.html?video=http://www.youtube.com/v/mL45VqBql00

23. Jeff Black- B-Sidea and Confessions, Volume Two https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/jeff-black-b-sides-and-confessions-volume-two-review/

24. Peter Rowan- The Old School https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/peter-rowan-the-old-school-review/

25. Blue Mafia- My Cold Heart https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/blue-mafia-my-cold-heart-review/ Was in consideration right up until I wrote the final draft. Another listen brought it forward, knocking Emmylou & Rodney out of the 25th spot. I’m sure they will recover.

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell- Old Yellow Moon: Once upon a time, an album this stunning would be much higher that #25; that is one indication of how great the last year has been. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MNcu_x6_xY

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee so often in 2013, and I hope you will continue to find roots music opinion of interest in 2014 and beyond.

As always, Donald @FervorCoulee on the Twittering thing.