Archive for the ‘Country’ Tag

Sylvia- Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined review   Leave a comment

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Sylvia Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined Red Pony Music http://www.sylviamusic.com/

For several months during the 1982/1983 winter, “Nobody” became one of my favourite songs. It had been a hit the year before, I knew, but I didn’t pay attention to the song until I had an early morning job driving truck for the distributor of the area daily, picking up a truckload of bundled newspapers shortly after midnight, and driving through the dark—barely awake—delivering to various drop points for carriers to distribute once dawn broke.

It was during these dark mornings of solitude, listening to AM radio, that I became enamoured with several songs I had over-looked when originally released, songs that seemingly played each time I made the trek from Edmonton through Beaumont and into and around Leduc. With no effort I can recall some of the songs: Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out,” “8675309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone, Karla Bonoff’s “Personally,” Juice Newton’s “Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard On Me,” Dexys Midnight Runners “Come On, Eileen,” and Sylvia’s crossover hit, “Nobody.”

Sylvia had other hits, but none came close to the widespread and universal success of “Nobody,” one of six (!) Kye Fleming/Dennis Morgan songs included on this 10-song distillation of the artist’s hit years, 1980-1985. Even hard-rockin’, FM-radio loving, 18-year old me knew that the song was ubiquitous for most of 1982. Excepting “Sweet Yesterday” (#12, 1981) and the fitting set closing “You Can’t Go Back Home” (last track, side A of Just Sylvia), the songs herein were all country top ten hits including her pair of #1’s, “Nobody” and “Drifter.”

What’s different from the compilations released over the years, including the definitive RCA-years set Anthology, is that Sylvia has elected to re-record these hits to better reflect the performer she is today. Nothing new in this as country artists have frequently done so, if for no other reason than to own masters of the songs with which they are most associated. Some have done so very successfully, including Newton, Lacy J. Dalton, and Kim Carnes all of whom have re-recorded their hits to a standard equalling if not exceeding the originals. Rather than being a rushed endeavour intended for digital or concert table sales, Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined is most obviously a venture undertaken with considerable consideration.

35-plus years on, Sylvia continues to have full control of her considerable vocal talents. Deeper vocally  than when Tom Collins (and later, Brent Maher) produced her, Sylvia circa 2018 appears to approach the songs with the wisdom earned with time. “Nobody” isn’t quite as buoyant as it once was, and the song is better for it: the repercussions of a husband’s cheating ways shouldn’t necessarily sound quite so much like the bouncy, synthesized anthem as, in retrospect, the 1982 rendition did.

The sound of the camera that kicks off “Snapshot” has been updated to that of a smartphone, and that isn’t the only change. As with all the songs here, “Snapshot” sounds brighter and less manufactured when compared to the RCA counterpart. The originals were of their time, of course, and they have held up over hundreds of radio listens. Compared to these new takes, they truly pale. Part of the reason is that the mature Sylvia’s voice is more powerful in every way—more forceful when necessary, more subtle, more vulnerable when suited. But it is the instrumentation that is most obviously improved, and that is a result of stripping away the gloss and dross of those (now) obviously over-produced sessions

I have spent much of the past month re-listening to Anthology and searching out online versions of Just Sylvia, Surprise, and One Step Closer and I was surprised how ‘un-country’ the songs and albums sound in retrospect. By comparison, Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined is positively down-home. “Fallin’ In Love” benefits from Andy Leftwich’s fiddle, while the earliest songs—“Tumbleweed” and “Drifter” have the versatile Harry Stinson and Jim Glaser singing harmony. Album co-producer John Mock—with whom Sylvia has worked for more than twenty years—understands her music, and does much of the instrumental work across the album, playing a variety of guitars and other stringed instruments including mandolin and banjo.

Sylvia was one of country music’s premier vocalists. She was once the Academy of Country Music’s Female Vocalist of the Year—tying her with Dolly Parton, Wynonna, and Mary Chapin Carpenter—and she had twenty charting songs, and possesses a ‘career song’ that will forever be played on commercial country radio. A new album from Sylvia—even one featuring re-recordings of decades-old hits—is a rare event, one worth celebrating.

Absorbing this album over several weeks, it becomes apparent that Sylvia has continued to evolve and grow as a singer and artist in the thirty years since the hits stopped coming. More in the line of Where In The World and The Real Story than the mainstream RCA discs, Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imagined  demonstrates that Sylvia has much to offer her fans, both those who are just discovering her and those who have been in for the long haul. That I might prefer refreshed versions of more songs—“Victims of Goodbye” or “Mill Song,” perhaps—have been included would be quibbling about an already enjoyable album.

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Posted 2018 June 3 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Bob Rea- Southbound review   1 comment

Bob Rae

Bob Rea Southbound Shiny Dime Records/ BobRaeMusic.com

Recently a friend mentioned that he continued to enjoy a mix CD I had made for him several years ago. He went on to mention that the folks whose music was featured on that burned disc—Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, Larry Jon Wilson, Billy Swan, and the like—were of a special ilk, the “kind they don’t make anymore.”

I guess I’ll next have to introduce him to Nashville’s Bob Rea. Turns out, they do still make heartworn troubadours of the type we have come to appreciate over the last forty-plus years of listening to roots music of all its various shades.

Like many of the albums produced by any of those mentioned, with Southbound the listener is three-songs deep before even thinking about moving: these songs captivate. When Rea sings, in “Say Goodnight,”

When you’re standing on the platform,
Waiting on that midnight train
You know if you hold your ear close to the track
You can almost smell the rain

you know you have heard a stanza you will never forget, whether or not you’ve ever driven through a Mississippi night, read a Faulkner novel, or even thought about letting go. Absolutely brilliant.

And don’t let me go on too much about his voice! Perhaps not since Darrell Scott convinced his father Wayne that it was time to make a recording have I been so pleasantly surprised by a singer’s gravel-lined voice, soulful and strong. Bob Rea is the real deal, the kind of singer I would be thrilled to have discovered when I was first searching out the influences and contemporaries of Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, and Lyle Lovett.

The deeper one delves into Southbound, the stronger the songs become. “Screw Cincinnati” is a humourous, biting tale of disappointing enchantment ending with the twist of a lipstick, while “The Law” is perhaps inspired by our current state of political and world affairs, and yet is more than twenty years old. “Vietnam” has a novel hidden within twenty-four lines, and I can well-imagine Guy Clark exclaiming, ‘Jesus Christ’ upon hearing “A Place In Your Heart.” The title track is an ode to a free-wheeling lover who has just hit the road, an alternative to John Hiatt’s “Drive South,” perhaps.

Beyond the voice, lyrics, and melodies—all of which are impressive to the nth degree—the musicianship is also stunning. There is some guitar work within “The Law” that is every bit as impressive as anything Mark Knopfler has laid out: beyond atmospheric, these measured chords colour Rea’s intention with vibrancy.

Call it country. Call it Americana. Call it folk. Southbound is roots music. And a damn fine example of it.

 

 

Posted 2018 April 15 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Raven and Red- We Rise Up review   Leave a comment

raven-and-red-we-rise-up-album

Raven and Red We Rise Up Line Crossing Records www.RavenandRed.com

Youthful, Raven and Red is a polished Nashville-based acoustic Americana trio. Featuring a pair of classically-trained, recent North Carolina university graduates, Brittany Lynn Jones (vocals, violin, and more) and Mitchell Lane (vocals and guitars), alongside a still-teenaged and high school attending mandolinist/vocalist in Cole King, the group shows great interest in the history and foundations of folk and country music while bridging the past with pop and rock influences and conventions: energetic, sensitive, andmost importantly—interesting.

Without doubt, Lane (the ‘Red’) can flat out sing. With a strong tenor, the Georgia native propels these songs (mostly) co-written with Lynn Jones (the ‘Raven.’) “It Could Have Been You,” “Living and Loving You” and “Lead Me Back to You” may not be lyrically groundbreaking, but they are not obviously formulistic, and their performances are impressive with Justin Collins’ percussion providing a touch of flamboyance to “Lead Me Back to You” not often revealed in similar settings. The affirming “We Rise Up” will provide inspiration, while the New Christy Minstrels’ “Today” is an appropriate throwback to the gentrification of mid-century folk music. Lynn Jones’ powerful, substantial harmonies give Raven and Red’s songs supplementary heft.

Jeffrey Shore and Jonathan Quintero’s “Grandpa’s Beer,” is a strong ‘generation-passing’ song given a fairly homey arrangement with lots of fiddle; Lane’s performance here reminds me of a one-song (“Guy Clark”) favourite of mine, Eric Burton (who, it appears, has disappeared from the Webiverse). “Moonshine and Makeup” and “Another Empty Bottle” (sensing a theme here) are additional superior tracks that work well within Raven and Red’s modern country/folk approach. “Wild Roses” is—arguably—a little wordy, but is works as a tribute to an early love lost to the lure of music. Later, “Wild Roses Reprise: Winter Raven World Traveler” provides Lynn Jones with a violin showcase augmented by her companions.

We Will Rise is a fine debut recording for the trio Raven and Red. It doesn’t have enough gravel to become a Fervor Coulee favourite, but I acknowledge the group’s talents and the quality of their performances. There is something here, and I’ll be keeping these gnarled ears open.

Posted 2018 February 3 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Matt Patershuk- Same As I Ever Have Been review   1 comment

Matt Patershuk Same As I Ever Have Been Black Hen Music

PatershukDon’t accuse Alberta’s Matt Patershuk of resting on laurels well-deserved.

While his previous album I Was So Fond of You was one of the finest country albums of 2016—regardless country of origin—this time out La Glace’s great hope has injected a whole lot of blues’ grit into his songs, especially early in the set. The David Lindley-esque guitar opening of the lead track “Sometimes You’ve Got to Do Bad Things to Do Good” is only the first hint that there’s something different this time out.

One suspects this was a mutual decision by Patershuk and producer Steve Dawson, and while I might prefer a more ‘straight-forward’ country approach, one cannot criticize the execution of this change of direction.

“Memory and the First Law of Thermodynamics” (there is a country title I never expected to type) starts out reminding us a little of “I’m Not Lisa,” but soon shifts deep into metamodern, esoteric Sturgill Simpson territory. “Boreal” makes a turn toward the type of songs this listener most appreciates, ones which remind us that there is beauty all around us, and no little bit of troublesome drama available if we make an effort. It and “Hot Knuckle Blues” reveal, perhaps—and I’m guessing here—a Hoyt Axton influence. “Sparrows” is an elegant and beautiful slice of country, a sentimental piece that slowly reveals a composition rich in emotional detail.

“Cheap Guitar” finds Paterchuk somewhere between the blues and Dave Alvin rock’n’roll (never a bad place to be), as do “Good Luck” and “Gypsy.” “Blank Pages and Lost Wages” cuts a little too close to home for anyone who has sat staring at their fifth cup of coffee going cold. While this might have been presented as a unabashed country song, robust blues flourishes offer a darker finish.

Patershuk experiments with an even deeper register on the title cut, and while it takes a moment to become familiar, by the time he hits the one-minute mark one has adjusted and eases into the comfort provided. The spoken-word recitation “Atlas” is another risk taken, and like the others Patershuk  takes across Same As I Ever Have Been, it works. These decisions serve as reminder of the greatness possible within country music: seldom did Waylon Jennings, Marty Robbins, or Johnny Cash ever record an album where all ten or twelve songs sound like they came from a Music Row algorithm. Patershuk demonstrates he isn’t fearful of taking chances, and if something rubs the listener a bit raw, he is confident enough in his material and presentation that the next song will bring ’em back.

Billed as Songs for Regretful Brutes and Sentimental Drunkards, Matt Patershuk’s Same As I Ever Have Been takes the emerging artist in directions one hadn’t expected. Such is the artist’s journey, following his muse to places unexplored. With a one-hour running time, this is a rich passage with Patershuk guiding the way.

Skinny Dyck & Friends- Twenty One-Nighters review   1 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!

Between the Cracks, Summer 2017: what have we missed? reviews   1 comment

A selection of albums that have worked their way my direction these last few months. Americana of a variety of flavours.

RERailroad EarthCaptain Nowhere One recalls RRE as one of the first ‘big tent’ bands to be selectively-shunned by bluegrass festivals. Lost track of them somewhere around The Good Life (2004), but became reacquainted early this summer when this six-track EP was released. Groovy, acoustic-Dead inspired rock’n Americana, Captain Nowhere is a concise encapsulation of the group’s drum-propelled music. “Adding My Voice” is especially relevant given recent political/civil events, while one can easily imagine “The Berkeley Flash” inspiring an extended live jam. [Review based on download.]

MOMatthew O’NeillTrophic Cascade (Underwater Panther Coalition) More natural-sounding and perhaps a little less rambunctious than previous music sampled from this upper New York-state resident, Trophic Cascade is no gentle beach listen. Imagine, if you will bear the indulgence, Bon Iver and Shakey Graves coming together in the forests of the Catskills with Crosby, Stills, Nash, & mostly Young to create a modern southern soul album. Lots of wailing guitars, layered vocals, some horns, and trance-inducing rhythms and melodies that soar and twist. Tapping into topic s associated with his evolving beliefs of Earth and our relationships with its people, O’Neill kept this listener engaged through 50 minutes. [Provided CD version reviewed.]

JMJohn Mellencamp featuring Carlene Carter- Sad Clowns & Hillbillies The Lonesome Jubilee came out 30 years ago, and still battles it out with Scarecrow for top spot among my favourite Mellencamp albums; don’t read too much into that—don’t most of us have greatest appreciation for music we’ve lived with for several decades? Among his 23 (twenty-three!) albums (yeah, I’ve got them all going back to Chestnut Street Incident) there is no shortage of evidence of greatness, with even his more dire albums (1994-1999, maybe) revealing gems of considerable genius. [I long ago forgave his re-writing of Wreckless Eric’s “Broken Doll” as “Rodeo Clown.”] Teaming with touring partner Carlene Carter for several tracks, there is plenty of patented Mellencamp swagger and rhythm—that immediately recognizable groove—within these forty-seven minutes, and a number of songs (“Battle of Angels, “My Soul’s Got Wings,” “Damascus Road,” and a cover of “Early Bird Cafe”—don’t pretend you know the original) that stand with his finest.  Carter shines both as a featured vocalist and in a harmony role with “Indigo Sunset” and “Sugar Hill Mountain” ringing true. [Purchased CD version reviewed.]

bhBen Hunter & Joe Seamons, with Phil Wiggins A Black & Tan Ball An exquisite black & tan is a tough pour, I’ve found. Good thing this trio understands their art. Well-grounded in the various blues traditions, Seattle’s Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons along with touring partner Phil Wiggins don’t need me to tell them they know what they are doing. Pulling together all their influences—broad folk traditions, ragtime and jazz, even hints of country and mountain fiddle music, and always the blues—and both the good and bad of their (and previous) times, Hunter & Seamons hold a mirror to that which surrounds them, bask in that reflection, and give respect to the Black Americana tradition. Life may not get better than “Struttin’ With Some Barbeque,” “Longin’ For My Sugar,” or “How’m I Doing?” but it sure can get worse; the songs selected for this set keep things mostly breezy, and don’t delve on the most significant of matters, although “Bad Man Ballad” (recognizable as a derivation of “Little Sadie”) and “Hard Time Blues” acknowledge hardship. Loose/tight is a phrase I love for music making—allow for the joy and fun, but keep the quality—and A Black & Tan Ball captures it perfectly. [Provided CD reviewed.]

GGR SINGLE POCKET JACKET UPDATED 032112Amy BlackMemphis Featuring members of The Bo-Keys and those intimately familiar with the Stax and Hi Records Memphis traditions, Amy Black returns with an even stronger album than her most stout Muscle Shoals Sessions. Beautifully gritty and gloriously soulful, Black has written some terrific songs (“The Blackest Cloud,” “Without You,” and “Nineteen”) that fit ideally with her voice and approach, and selected tasteful and timely covers, notably Otis Clay’s “If I Could Reach Out (and Help Somebody).” With lots of guitar and B3, killer rhythm section support, plenty of horns, and a song for the ages in “It’s Hard to Love An Angry Man,” it is time to stop mentioning the likes of Dusty Springfield, Bonnie Raitt, and Shelby Lynne in reviews of Black’s albums, and realize she needs to be discussed on the same terms as these soulful singers. [Provided download only reviewed.]

zz andy hall roosevelt Andy Hall & Roosevelt Collier- Let the Steel Play Someone is playing a cruel joke on me. I will tolerate the resonator guitar in (very) select bluegrass situations, and I can appreciate it (in moderation) within a blues-setting, but it will never be an instrument I reflect upon and think, ‘Man—what this song needs is some hub-cap guitar.’ Imagine my surprise (chagrin?) to discover one of my favourite albums of this Summer of 2017 is the debut recording of Hall (The Infamous Stringdusters) and Collier, and it features NOTHING but reso. “Reuben’s Train” and “Power In the Blood” are trad. arr all should recognize, but I dare say we haven’t heard them like this. Coming from the Sacred Steel tradition, Collier approaches these tunes differently than I imagine Hall would on his own, and their collaboration is mind-blowing. Their originals (“The Darkest Hour” and “Rosebud” especially) mix well with the familiar pieces including The Grateful Dead’s seductive “Crazy Fingers.” [Provided CD reviewed.]

the_savage_radley_kudzu_DK_BrownThe Savage Radley- Kudzu Get ready: this one is going to club ya between the eyes and knock you on your arse. Kentucky’s The Savage Radley is an explosive slice of the modern south, not country, rock, or ‘grass, but a sweet distillation of all three, and a potent concoction it is. Shaina Goodman writes the songs and gives them voice while S Knox Montgomery keeps things moving from the drum kit. Also featured are multi-instrumentalist Eddy Dunlap (pedal steel, guitar, and bass), Ryan Cain (bass), and producer Skylar Wilson (piano). Rural tales of hardship and darkness abound, and while one might be reminded of the way Bobbie Gentry, Larry Jon Wilson, and even Rodney Crowell construct songs around ones’ experiences and ancestry, one hears flecks of The Alabama Shakes in the production choices: time-tested testimony, new approaches. “Blood Money” and “Little River Town” provided the narrative threads I appreciate. “Don’t call me honey, Honey,” Goodman sings in “Milk and Honey,” “It don’t mean nothing when you say it.” Harsh, but in keeping with the mood of the collection, where hope and dreams have been corroded with reality. [Provided CD reviewed.]

Some of what I’ve been listening to this summer. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Now, go BUY some music: keep the roots alive. Donald

 

Dwight, Buck, and Adcock vintage releases/reissues   Leave a comment

Three new reviews have been posted at Country Standard Time.

dwight-yoakam-buck-owens-live-from-austin-txA decade ago, New West issued several Austin City Limits episodes on both DVD and CD, and it appears they are in the midst of re-issuing some of these, this time in dual DVD/CD packs and on vinyl, which I didn’t receive; buyer beware, therefore: you may already have these on the shelves. My reviews of the Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens sessions, on which each guests with the other, from 1988 are up at CST.

AdcockIn 1963, bluegrass banjo (now) legend Eddie Adcock put together a combo to attempt to broaden the reaches of the 5-string banjo in popular music. The result was Vintage Bluegrass Jam, a recording that was only recalled in the last year and has now been released. My review. It is uneven, but it grew on me.