Archive for the ‘country music’ Tag

Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters- review   1 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.


Blackie and the Rodeo Kings- Kings and Kings review   Leave a comment

barkA while back, Country Standard Time asked me to review Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ latest, Kings and Kings. I had previously bought the download of the album for my own enjoyment, so I was more familiar with it than I normally am with an album by the time came to write about it. It holds up. My review can be accessed here.

Richard Laviolette- Taking the Long Way Home review   1 comment


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.





Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show- Sho Nuff Country review   Leave a comment

It takes a lot of energy to review an album that severely disappoints. This one was exhausting.

As I state in the review, In Full Color was a great album, one of the finest of 2001. Worries on My Mind was almost as good. But damn it, Sho Nuff Country just doesn’t measure up. It is predictable and uninteresting. Unnecessary and unoriginal. Uninspired, even.

cd-karl-shiflettI more than gave the album a chance. Listened to it a half-dozen times before I finalized my opinion on it because it is frankly risky for a freelancer to lean heavy on a weak album. Safer to ignore it than risky incurring the wrath of a label or publicist.

Sho Nuff Country just doesn’t work. Want to know why? Read my review over at Country Standard Time. And please know, label/publicist aside, I don’t craft a negative review lightly. Obviously the group thought they were recording something special. Their label believed in what they put together. I know they invested heavily in the project. But there was no way I could find to put some gloss on this one.

Your opinion may be different. Feel free to write your own review.

Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms- Innocent Road review   1 comment


Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms

Innocent Road


Imagine that country music didn’t take a heavy countrypolitan swerve in the 60s. Pedal steel guitar remains prominent, but things didn’t go all schmaltzy. Emotion is paramount, loves challenged and lost, frustrations voiced. Syrup is for pancakes, not country songs. What else may have been avoided? No urban cowboys of the 70s? Sawyer Brown? No Garth and Shania pop-rock? Bro country and the current slate of misguided country would never have evolved.

Nope, had things gone just a little differently and things remained more Louisiana Hayride and less uptown, there is a fine chance that today’s country music might more frequently sound like that produced by Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms.

This is the real stuff.

Veterans of Washington state’s more authentic country music environs, Klauder (Foghorn Stringband) and Willms (also FHSB) joined forces a few years ago, and if Innocent Road is any indication of the magic they produce when performing together, I need to search out their debut Oh Do You Remember.

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.

Klauder and Willms sing together very well, and 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. They sound as if they are in the corner of a county hall, singing their hearts out for folk who have worked too damn hard all week and need a few hours to forget enough to do it all again come Monday morning.

Songs like “I’d Jump the Mississippi,” “Coming on Strong,” and “There Goes My Love” may be familiar to some listeners, and their performances are nothing short of splendid. The true jewels of Innocent Road are Klauder’s songs, whether the faithful title track or the mournful and slightly Roger Milleresque “New Shoes.” “Just A Little” is a weepy duet shuffle of missed opportunities.

Outside the Burch song, the album’s strongest five minutes might be the double shot of “Been On the Rocks” and “Last Time I Saw Her.” Great guitar work (maybe from Rusty Blake,) some sweet bass (Jesse Emerson), and Jason Norris’ fiddle, combined with great lyrics, close harmony, and a feeling of yearnsome one doesn’t usually find outside an Alison Krauss recording. Beautiful.

Mostly acoustic, this is the kind of country music for which we at Fervor Coulee plainly pine.

Some of these songs have appeared on previous recordings, but that should dissuade no one. Innocent Road is an excellent collection of country music. The packaging is nothing short of ingenious, too: kudos to Colleen M. Heine and Stumptown Printers.

A version of this review-tighter, stronger-has been picked up over at Country Standard Time.

The Cox Family- Gone Like the Cotton review   Leave a comment

81zD-OoMrTL__SY355_The Cox Family- Gone Like the Cotton Rounder Records/Warner Music Nashville/Elektra Nashville

Forgive us for thinking we might never again hear new music from The Cox Family. It has been almost twenty years since Just When We’re Thinking It’s Over, and excepting an appearance in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, not much has been heard from Alison Krauss’s favourite Louisianans. Given the quality of the music contained on Gone Like the Cotton, an album started in 1998 and completed within the last year, it is surprising that Krauss and Rounder Records didn’t consider buying the project from Asylum and the Warner’s group at some point in the ensuing years; perhaps the financial commitment wasn’t realistic given the changes that have occurred within the recording industry.

Having sat on the shelf of a storage facility for more than a decade, the back story of this recording is more than interesting. Scrapped in 1997 by Asylum amidst changing management structures, The Cox Family faded into fond memory. In frustration, the original vocals had been erased from the tracks when the masters were turned over to the label, with the ‘safeties’ retained by Krauss and engineer Gary Paczosa.

Years later, Kyle Lehning finally convinced current Warner Music Nashiville management that the recording merited completion, and so the recorded files were located and freshened with new vocals from the current lineup of the Cox Family siblings Evelyn, Sidney, and Suzanne complementing father Willard’s vocal takes from the late 90s.

The result is a type of country music that is seldom encountered in contemporary times. Beautifully executed with confidence that comes through on every song, Gone Like the Cotton is a masterful recording.

The album simmers in a way ‘family’ country albums seldom do—there is a desire within these tracks, a passion for life and music that is palatable. Harmonies have always been at the core of The Cox Family, and these have never sounded better. Go back to those dusty cassettes and give I Know Who Holds Tomorrow and Beyond the City a listen, and as great as those recordings are, this is better.

My copy didn’t come with specific notes, so I don’t know who is playing the opening guitar notes on “Let It Roll,” but it sounds terrific; Pat Bergeson, Krauss’ ex-, Rob Block, and Sonny Landreth receive credit for guitar on the album. Sidney Cox’s Dobro touches (“Let It Roll”) are brilliant while the mandolin on “Good News”—Dan Tyminski? Sam Bush?—is stellar.

As wonderful as the instrumentation is on this album, one comes to The Cox Family for the vocals and boy, do they deliver. Patrick Bryer’s oft-recorded “Good Imitation of the Blues” (Larry Cox, Alan Jackson, B.C.’s Tumbleweed) leads off the album and I don’t know if Suzanne Cox has ever sounded better; it has been said that life informs a great singer’s voice, and if such is true, the evidence can be found on Cox’s performance of this song. Man, she is strong.

Krauss’ love for 70s schmaltz rock is well-documented, and somehow her playing combines with the lead vocal performance (Suzanne? Evelyn?) bringing meaning to Bread’s “Lost Without Your Love,” a song most of us switch off when it comes on the radio. “Too Far Gone” is affecting with memories of lost opportunity, while “In My Eyes” is the most flamboyant, ‘modern’ country sounding song on the album; with big production values, this track isn’t as appealing as the more natural sounding songs are.

Family patriarch Willard is no longer able to sing following a road accident at the height of the O Brother days, but his voice was captured during the original recordings. We don’t really need another version of “Cash on the Barrelhead,” but one isn’t going to quibble. Willard Cox was and is an essential of the Cox Family sound, a connection to the oil patch towns and halls in which he and his family once played.

The newest song and title track, written by Sidney and Suzanne, is a nearly-unadorned family biography. With only the minimalist of guitar accompaniment, the siblings sing of their grandparents, their parents, and their community with devotion and love. It is a stunning and appropriate closing to a heartfelt recording, one that captures in four minutes a lifetime of experience.

Gone Like the Cotton more than completes an interrupted chapter of southern country music history. It again brings The Cox Family, one of the most significant and beloved of roots recording groups, to the fore of Americana culture. Someone may find the recording lacking; not me. A welcome and triumphant return some seventeen years in the waiting.

Thank you for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Recent roots reviews posted elsewhere   Leave a comment

Last month, a handful of reviews were posted over at Country Standard Time.

Angela Easterling released a really strong country album.

Old-timey folkster Old Man Luedecke dropped another exceptional album a few months ago.

Antique Persuasion is a(nother) tribute to the Carter Family, one that brings those old sounds into a modern setting while maintaining the honest essence of the classic recordings.

Others were written for the Lonesome Road Review.

The Slocan Ramblers are an ON bluegrass band with a BC name playing KY music. They are darned fine, in my opinion.

Laura Orshaw may not make a lot of headlines, but she is a fine bluegrass bandleader.

I have other reviews that have been tied up with editors…either they didn’t like them, the pieces needed a lot of polish, or (I’m hoping) things have been busy.