Archive for the ‘J. R. Shore’ Tag

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.

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J. R. Shore- State Theatre review & the Polaris Music Prize   1 comment

It is getting to that time of the year when I must finalize my Polaris Music Prize Top 5 albums of the year. For those who are unfamiliar with the Polaris Music Prize, its mission statement reads thusly:

“A not-for-profit organization that honours, celebrates and rewards creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music. Polaris recognizes and markets albums of the highest artistic integrity, without regard to musical genre, professional affiliation, or sales history. it is adjudicated by selected music journalists, broadcasters and bloggers.”

I am one of those fortunate to be entrusted with considering Canadian albums released between the beginning of June and the end of May. See previous winners here. It is a good to great experience, and I’ve been involved (I think) going on six years now. I was invited onto the jury as a roots music writer, and that is a position I continue to take seriously; at this point, it doesn’t quite matter to me if the Metric album is better than the Suuns or Metz albums (and who knew Belinda was still recording- “Subway Dances,” anyone?). I believe my mandate is to advocate for the roots albums, and try to bring them to the fore of consideration.

Regrettably, I haven’t been terribly successful. From where I sit, the popularity of indie-rock, arty-minimalists, dance and dirge, and just plain flighty shite (and don’t even get me started on eastern bias) is just too widespread for the (very) few of us who seem to listen to anything vaguely folky, country, rootsy, or (heavens) ‘grassy to ‘break through.’ And that is okay- when you have more than 200 writers considering and arguing over music, something has to be lost in the din. Usually, that is roots music. Again, from where I am sitting: I’m guessing the advocates of modern thrash metal and jazz are at least thinking similar thoughts this month.

I wasn’t terribly active on the Polaris jurors’ discussion forum this past year, largely due to pressures associated with life and work. I advocated for a few albums, but don’t really expect my words to influence anyone else on the jury. There was no shortage of quality roots albums released over the past year, and I am fighting with myself over which album to slide into the #1 slot.

My initial Polaris ballot is what I am considering today. I need to vote #1 to #5 (and the results are tabulated with positional weighting) early next month for my favourite albums of the past year. After everyone’s initial ballots are tabulated, a Long List of 40 make the cut for additional consideration, and that is when I’ll worry about the Metz, Metric, and Suuns albums. For now, I need to consider the roots, and nothing but the roots.

untitledI regret that I didn’t purchase J.R. Shore’s third album State Theatre until a couple weeks ago. I’ve spent considerable time with it since, and it is definitely going on my top 5 ballot. But, does it end up at #1? Do I ‘throw’ my support behind an album that I know has absolutely no chance of making the Long List, or do I consider an album that may actually have a fighting chance? That album would be Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s epic Psychedelic Pill, an absolutely monumental release- one that has mesmerized me since first listen. Their Americana album, a recording that I found pedestrian and inconsequential, is also up for consideration and seems to have received wider acclaim than Psychedelic Pill.

I would hate for vote splitting to cost Neil a placing with Psychedelic Pill, especially if my weighted vote could have made a difference, but am having some trouble placing it ahead of State Theatre, the album I came here today to write about.

I had heard a few songs from J. R. Shore’s State Theatre  on the radio, but those slivers didn’t prepare me for the intense experience of listening to the album as a whole. Shore is from Alberta, and there are three undeniable truths when it comes to this province: 1. highway lane change signals (and roadside urination) are completely discretionary; 2. if you’re under 60 years old and have never supported a Conservative, you’ve never voted for the ruling party; and 3. we know how to churn out singer-songwriters. We take credit for Ian Tyson, and have listened to, praised, and had life-altering moments wtih everyone from Leeroy Stagger, Maria Dunn, and Steve Coffey, through to Ruth Purves Smith, Ralph Boyd Johnson, and John Wort Hannam, not to mention his Corbness. And a couple of those artists will be in my  Top 5, not that they stand a chance of breaking through to the Long List.

State Theatre is a two-disc package, the second of which is an e.p. of covers, including requisite readings of Neil Young (“For the Turnstiles”) and The Band (“W.S. Walcott Medicine Show”), along with honourary Canadian Tom Russell (Shore messes with the rhythm of “Blue Wing” to make it his own, and I’m not yet sold on his interpretation but I’m getting used to it), Gram, The Dead, Prine, and such. Of the eight covers, the only one that I can’t recommend is an unnecessary stab at “Redneck Mother,” a song that went stale somewhere around 1977.

The original songs on disc one make State Theatre Polaris-worthy. Like ‘great’ artists, Shore isn’t satisfied being any one thing: a poet, a critic, a historian, a songwriter, a guitar player on a stool. He is backed by a full band, often playing history drenched rock n roll as if they were booked from 1968, and perhaps they were- I don’t know them. (The keyboard player is named Garth, but he isn’t Hudson). Some songs are piano-based, others guitar; some gentle and meandering, others raucous and concise.

The subject matter is as diverse, from a Negro Leagues ball player (“Charlie Grant”) and “Poundmaker” to more recent stories of an everyday woman who found herself a focus of attention (“Addie Polk”) to an indulged artist (“Dash Snow”), industrial deaths made all the more relevant given world events (“146”) and a trans-Atlantic journey of wandering (“MS St. Louis”).

Shore’s songs unfold like so many blankets of sound and lyric- you can roll in them, they comfort you, and when they get too heavy, you can toss them off and bask in their residual warmth. As with John Wort Hannam, Si Kahn, and John McCutcheon, there is greatness here, and if he slides into Randy Newman’s shoes a bit too easily, who am I to begrudge a man his influences?

For those reasons, and more, J. R. Shore is making it tough on me. I haven’t spent as much time with this album as I have other albums this year, but I think State Theatre transcends the country, and his genre, whatever it is.

Other albums that I want to be in my Top 5 are Maria Dunn’s magnificent if narrowly-focused Piece by Piece, John Wort Hannam’s Brambles and Thorns, John Reischman’s Walk Along John, and Corb Lund’s Cabin Fever. If you are keeping score, along with Psychedelic Pill, that makes six albums, and I haven’t even mentioned Cara Luft’s wonderful little album Darlingford, Daniel Romano’s polarizing Come Cry With Me and Linda McRae’s beautiful Rough Edges & Ragged Hearts. Or Ralph Boyd Johnson’s heartfelt 1723 9 Street SW. Of all of those albums only three- Young, Romano, and Lund- have a hope of making the Long List. However, I believe they are all worthy. If you haven’t heard them, do some exploring.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

J. R. Shore- Live in Red Deer Thursday, July 7   Leave a comment

As a result of a publishing hiccup, my Roots Music column wasn’t published last Friday and therefore I missed mentioning that Leeroy Stagger pulled into The Hideout for a show recently. While I was unable to attend, I do hope that some roots music fans went out to the Gasoline Alley tavern and eatery over the holiday weekend.

Calgarian J. R. Shore visits Red Deer’s The Hideout this week on Thursday evening, July 7. Both Stagger and Shore are esteemed songwriters who are beginning to make their mark internationally and they really deserve an ear.

J. R. Shore is that rare artist that I’ll turn off WDVX for, as I did just this morning to prepare this post. He has an easy way with rhythm and rhyme, producing lyrically rich songs made all the more buoyant by a seemingly never-ending variety of sounds and melodies. In the space of a couple of songs he’ll journey from New Orleans horns and songs of Virginia memories to Alberta and ragtime. “The Undertaker’s Horse” is a song that wouldn’t be out-of-place on the finest roots mixtapes.

His http://www.myspace.com/jrshore will provide an overview of what he does- comparisons to Tom Waits and Dr. John seem silly, but that’s who he brings to mind.

Shore also performs in Sherwood Park, Twin Butte, and Calgary’s Ironwood Stage & Grill this week before heading to British Columbia for a series of appearances including a stand in the beautiful community of Kaslo.

Check him out if you get the chance; I think you’ll be impressed.   

Hopefully my column appears this coming Friday, with a review of Kayla Luky’s album.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Alberta’s Best Roots Music, 2010   Leave a comment

Allow me to be the last to wish you a Happy New Year. In my first newspaper column of 2011, I reflect on the past by highlighting the 5 Alberta Roots Albums I most appreciated through 2010; maybe you’ll discover something you missed. Good stuff, all.

Roots music column, originally published January 7, 2011 in the Red Deer Advocate

This week, I look back on 2010 from an Alberta roots perspective; I hope you’ll be inspired to seek out music you may not have heard.

From Three Hills, Ruth Purves Smith and the 581’s Out in the Storm is that rare album revealing greater richness and depth with each listening. Every song is a little different from the next, and Purves Smith’s vocal dynamic is such that she inhabits each song. Ruth Purves Smith is not a new voice within the Alberta roots community, but many of us discovered her this year. Out in the Storm is a masterful album.

Ghostkeeper’s self-titled album took time to grow on me, but once it imbedded itself under my skin, it didn’t let go. Now Calgary-based, Shane Ghostkeeper and Sarah Houle experienced their adolescent music explorations within more the isolated confines of Northern Alberta, and their intense interest in folk and blues music melded with the discovery of noisier sounds. These influences come together on Ghostkeeper, a staggering half-hour of abstract sounds seemingly collected from the bottom of the basement stairs. Is it folk? Is it electronic? Is it rock? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Perhaps Alberta’s answer to The White Stripes, free-form music surges from Ghostkeeper.

J. R. Shore’s Talkin’ On A Bus is a more conventional singer-songwriter collection, but is no less challenging. From the album’s opening New Orleans-inspired horns and banjo, Shore and Jan McKittrick take listeners on intense musical journeys. Much of their imagery and references are American in origin, but the songs apply equally well to Alberta circumstances. Shore frames his songs as frequently with boogie-woogie vibes as he does with barroom blues and coffeehouse intensity. Talkin’ On A Bus is the kind of album we’ve come to expect from southern Alberta songwriters of the John Wort Hannam, Dave McCann, and Steve Coffey ilk.

Will White’s Rise Above is an excellent acoustiblue album from another Calgary songwriter. White has great original material with southern- Virginia and North Carolina- roots. His cinematic writing works because White doesn’t force things, and allows his words to flow toward a fully-realized conclusion. Similarly, his voice seems born to sing songs of the past. White’s debut album sparkles with Byron Myhre’s fiddling, and this balances White’s love of language. At turns light-hearted and intensely dark, Rise Above is thick with the very best elements of modern, acoustic roots music.

Donna Durand’s The Road Back may have been among the more surprising successes of the past year as it rivaled the best Canadian, acoustic music released this year. A quiet little album from a local singer-songwriter, Durand writes and sings rootsy country-folk with a voice just imperfect enough to be interesting. Whether Durand’s characters are brothers hauling coal in an “ice blue storm” during The Winter of 1943 or a prairie girl fretting inevitable heartbreak among the Wild Roses, Durand captures intimate relationships. Donna Durand’s music is steadfastly assured within this gleaming album, capturing both the geographic openness and the solid humanity of our province. 

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- Donald