Archive for the ‘Rodney Crowell’ Tag

The Old Stuff, 2018   Leave a comment

The Old Stuff: Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Reissue, Archival, Live, Tribute, Re-recording, and Compilation Releases of 2018:

1. Bobbie Gentry – The Girl from Chickasaw County : The Complete Capitol Masters The best box set I can recall purchasing, this 8-disc beauty features all the Capitol tracks one knew existed, and a whole bunch we didn’t. Seventy-five—count ’em—75 unreleased demos, alternate and live versions of songs, along with her complete seven album Capitol album run, even more from the BBC, and the elusive “Love Took My Heart and Mashed That Sucker Flat.”  Beautifully packaged with postcards that will never be mailed, a ton of photos, essays…and—most importantly—the music sounds wonderful. Only things missing—as far as I can tell, and it does lay outside the title of the set—is the soundtrack version of “Ode to Billy Joe” [sic] released in 1976 and a deeper dive into recording session dates and details for us liner note fools. It is a lot; I just let it play and play. (Purchased)

2. David Davis & the Warrior River Boys- Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole reviewed here (Serviced CD)

3. Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard- Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 reviewed here (Serviced download) 

4. Lone Justice- The Western Tapes, 1983 Lone Justice was a band that arrived when I needed it to, their debut engaging an interest in tradition-infused, countrified-rock that continues to this day. Not having had the benefit of experiencing the California-based band during their genesis, Lone Justice emerged as a stunning wonder, a slab of black vinyl equal parts (in my mind, at the time) Dolly Parton, Rachel Sweet, The Blasters, and Jason & the Scorchers. From the first listen, I knew I had found that for which I had been searching. While insiders and widely-read writers of the day ‘pooh-bahed’ the album as being too slick—and did worse to the brilliant Little Steven-produced follow-up Shelter—as a digression from their early and legendary live appearances, those of us who didn’t know better believed Maria McKee and her cohorts were damn close to the second coming of Emmylou, Gram, and all the rest.

The Western Tapes, 1983 is a six-song EP capturing the earliest demo renditions of two songs that appeared on that eponymous debut, one of which—”Don’t Toss Us Away”—sounds—begrudgingly, he admits—more incredible than ever: on first listen, by the time McKee got to the chorus a second time, I was a puddle of spent emotion. Also included is a stunning take of “The Train,” a track that eventually appeared—in a different form—on a compilation, as well as “I See It” and “How Lonesome Life Has Been,” numbers I don’t believe previously encountered and immediately loved.

A wonderful wee set, and one waits in anticipation of what Omnivore may still have planned for us. For a group with only two original albums to its name, Lone Justice’s vaults have been fair mined in the thirty-plus years since their dissolution. We can only hope what emerges next is as strong as this brief set. For newcomers, start with the Geffen albums (which, upon listening this week, remain incredible and faithful friends) and work your way to this splendid creation,the vinyl version of which looks beautiful, if unavailable at my favourite haunt; the download edition is quite satisfactory. (Serviced download)

5. Rodney Crowell- Acoustic Classics Not so much stripped down as reinvented, there are ten familiar songs included performed in the manner some of us prefer our music, seemingly intimate, relatively unvarnished, and certainly unplugged. “Shame On The Moon” is completely rewritten, surprisingly for the better although I never thought the original was as awkward as Crowell apparently did; it is now a reflective, spoken-word interlude amongst songs familiar. The very recognizable bulk of songs are refreshed, and a new song, “Tennessee Wedding” fits comfortably within the format. An excellent set. (Purchased CD)

6. Various Artists- Appleseed Records 21st Anniversary: Roots and Branches reviewed here (Serviced download) 

7. Various Artists- Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey reviewed here (Serviced download) 

8. Sylvia- Second Bloom: The Hits Re-Imaginedreviewed here (Serviced CD) 

9. Jr. GoneWild- Brave New Waves Session I could listen to this one all week. For those of us who taped radio shows and Austin City Limits episodes, waiting for moments of magic, volumes like this are manna. With apologies to The Models, Edmonton’s third greatest band to emerge from the 80s, and therefore forever—behind only facecrime and Idyl Tea—Jr. Gone Wild released essential albums in their day, and thanks to this archival series, a set recorded for the CBC in May of 1988 has been unleashed. Brave New Waves and Brent Bambury were institutions for some of us during the formative, music-hungry years of university. [An aside to this point: at least seven and perhaps eight of the artists listed here were first heard by me during those U of A days.] These performances, including a handful of songs that would eventually appear on Too Dumb To Quit, do not disappoint with a superlative balance of rock ‘n’ twang. Their latest song “Barricades (The Hockey Riot Song)” is pretty good, too. The legend continues…(Purchased CD) 

10. Gene Clark- Gene Clark Sings for You I only started the Gene Clark deep dive this year, and I suppose my timing couldn’t have been better. The majority of these tracks were found on acetates in the Liberty Records vaults, and require absolutely no effort to appreciate. (Serviced download) 

11. The Earls of Leiscester- Live at the CMA Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame reviewed here (Serviced CD) 

12. Doc Watson- Live at Club 47 Do we need more archival Doc Watson? No. Are we glad there continues to be a stream of itreleased? Yup. More of the good stuff. (Purchased download) 

13. Roland White & Friends- A Tribute to the Kentucky Colonels reviewed here (Serviced download) 

14. The Louvin Brothers- Love & Wealth: The Lost Recordings reviewed here (Serviced CD) 

15. Various Artists- Johnny Cash: Forever Words- The Music mentioned here (Purchased CD) 

Some wonderful stuff released this year. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.

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Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots & Bluegrass Albums of 2017   1 comment

Mac WisemanWhat is roots music?

I frequently have to remind myself that not everything I seek out is ‘roots.’ When I start considering Little Steven or Danko Jones (Wild Cat might have been my favourite album of 2017) albums as ‘roots’ music, I may be starting to lose the plot. So I pull myself back.

However, looking over the many lists of ‘the best of Americana, roots, folk, and bluegrass albums of 2017’ I wonder if many of us need to go back to the blackboard, and reconsider the definition of roots music. Right, there is no definition.

I started my ‘favourite roots albums of 2017’ with a list of 60 or so albums, and slowly started winnowing them to a manageable twenty. In the process most of the albums I’ve seen on other published lists fell aside (Willie Nelson’s God’s Problem Child and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s The Nashville Sound among them.)

It was an excellent year for roots music, in my opinion. I know that when I mull over who else didn’t make the cut: Steve Earle, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Scott Miller, Sharon Jones, Slaid Cleaves, Rhiannon Giddens, Matt Patershuk, Doc & Merle Watson (the truncated version of the live Bear’s Sonic Journals set), Chris bleeding Hillman and Northern Cree (my final cuts), David Rawlings, Mark Erelli, Josh Ritter, Jeb Loy Nichols, Kim Beggs, Radney Foster, Dustbowl Revival, Amy Black…each album removed from consideration was naturally more difficult than the one before.

I’ve been sitting on this final version of Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots Albums of 2017 for a few days now, and I know I will cry out with frustration about an hour after it is published: chances are I’ve missed something special, an album of significance that fell behind a cupboard. I only discovered the latest from Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, and Thomm Jutz this week, and while I am loving it, in no way could it be fairly placed ahead of albums I’ve been appreciating for months. (Also discovered this week: this.)

As always, I have not heard every roots album released in 2017 and that is why I always refer to the list as ‘favourites,’ not best. As well, since I refuse to stream (beyond WDVX and CKUA) I can only consider that which I’ve either purchased or been serviced with from labels, artists, and PR types. I’ve chosen to roll bluegrass into the roots albums this year, eschewing a separate lists this year: that may or may not be indicative of how I’m feeling about most bluegrass releases.

Here we go: as always, no wagering.

  1. Mac Wiseman- I Sang the Song (Mountain Fever Records) While #2 came close, it couldn’t overtake this early favourite. Produced and written with care and consideration, Mac Wiseman’s story is told through carefully crafted songs performed by some of Americana, roots, and bluegrass music’s finest performers. Kudos to Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz for fully involving ‘the voice with a heart’ in this production. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  2. OtisOtis Gibbs- Mount Renraw (Wanamaker) East Nashville sage Otis Gibbs is perhaps America’s coolest working folk musician. Mount Renraw has held up over countless listenings. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  3. K and CKacy & Clayton- The Siren’s Song (New West) Seldom have I been so wrong about an artist. These Saskatchewan cousins’ previous album didn’t impress me when it was released. Thankfully, I listened to both Strange Country and this most recent album with fresh ears this summer. The Siren’s Song is masterful. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  4. gibson_2The Gibson Brothers- In the Ground (Rounder) The group’s finest album yet, and that is saying a lot. That it contains an entirely original set of songs makes the feat even more impressive. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  5. DABDale Ann Bradley- Dale Ann Bradley (Pinecastle Records) When a Dale Ann Bradley album isn’t in my ‘top two’ of the year, you know either she has slipped or the year is particularly strong. No slip on the part of Bradley here: another masterful album of bluegrass music. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  6. CrowellRodney Crowell- Close Ties (New West) Somewhere along the line, Rodney Crowell went from a compelling Americana singer and damn terrific songwriter to a walking legend: it may have happened with Close Ties, an album that saw him dig even deeper to find the heart of ten masterfully crafted songs that are more than enough for him to assume Guy Clark’s abandoned mantle. It goes beyond “It Ain’t Over Yet” and “Life Without Susanna,” as masterful as those tracks are. Every moment resonates, especially live, and the anguish with which he sings is genuine. Purchased
  7. TyminskiDan Tyminski- Southern Gothic (UMG) Along with Buffy Ste. Marie’s album, this is the one that sounds best loud. “We have a church on every corner, so why does heaven feel so far away?” Union Station’s ‘other’ main singer asks on the title track, and it just keeps going. Certainly more “Hey Brother” than “O Brother,” with Southern Gothic the bluegrass stalwart steps away from the traditional sounds he has long favoured to head toward a full-bodied rock and roll country approach that is wholly effective. The album is deep, no filler—song after song of surprisingly strong vocal and instrumental performances. Other standout tracks include “Perfect Poison,” “Temporary Love” and “Breathing Fire.” Southern Gothic has spent a solid day in my CD player on repeat on more than one occasion. Purchased
  8. ronsexsmith_3Ron Sexsmith- The Last Rider Continuing a streak of excellence, Sexsmith’s 16th (!) album may just be his finest. Excellent songs, catchy melodies, accessible production…I’ve seldom been so proud to have shown support for a musician. A very strong album, just the latest in a series of memorable, standout recordings. The songs alternate between playful and introspective, catchy and maudlin. Layered, but not flamboyant. I am really glad that I bought the album, and even more glad that I took the time to make the trek to see Ron and the band in Edmonton. Surprised and disappointed that this one didn’t receive deserving Polaris Music Prize attention. “Radio” is my favourite song of the year. Purchased
  9. Murder MurderMurder Murder- Wicked Lines and Veins (self-released) Canadian bluegrass with a side of grievous bodily harm. One of my Polaris Music Prize suggestions for this year. Full review here. (Provided by band)
  10. JaybirdsJohn Reischman & the Jaybirds- On That Other Green Shore (Corvus) Long Canada’s finest and most entertaining bluegrass band, the west coast-based band has again delivered a superior recording. Full review here. (Provided by band)
  11. JMJohn Mellencamp with Carlene Carter- Sad Clowns and Hillbillies (Republic) Full review here. (Purchased)
  12. Chris-stapleton-from-a-room-volume-1Chris-stapleton-from-a-room-volume-2Chris Stapleton- From A Room, Volumes 1 and 2 Country music’s last hope? Maybe. Not sure how he is doing it without radio support, but glad he is. Like no one else, of course, Stapleton doesn’t limit himself, reaching out to Kevin Welch (“Millionaire”), the music’s past (“Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning,” “Friendship”) and his own (“Broken Halos,” “Drunkard’s Prayer,” “Midnight Train to Memphis”) to make his new albums even stronger. (Purchased)
  13. made_to_moveChris Jones & the Night Drivers- Made to Move (Mountain Home) Full review here. (Provided by artist/label)
  14. Ann VriendAnn Vriend- Anybody’s Different EP (Aporia Records) Building on the immense power of her Love and Other Messes and For the People in the Mean Time albums, this six-track treat is on all my devices, and continues to get played regularly. A lively combination of soul, rock, and roots from a voice all should hear. (Purchased)
  15. Stax_Country_COVER_RGBVarious Artists- Stax Country (Craft Recordings/Concord Music) A deep dive into Stax’s associated country labels. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  16. Akinny DyckSkinny Dyck & Friends- Twenty One-Night Stands Alberta country music is alive and well. Just not on the radio. Full review here. (Provided by Skinny Dyck)
  17. Lynn JacksonLynn Jackson- Follow That Fire (Busted Flat) My second 2018 Polaris Music Prize recommendation. Full review here. (Provided by label/PR)
  18. steve_forbert_flying_at_nightSteve Forbert- Flying at Night (Rolling Tide) I once wanted to be Steve Forbert. It didn’t happen. Forty years later, he continues to impress with each album. A bit brief for my liking, but better that than too long. Purchased
  19. buffy_3Buffy Sainte-Marie- Medicine Songs (High Romance) On which one of the most transformative Canadian artist re-imagines her catalogue, coming off her (perhaps) surprising Polaris Prize winning Power In The Blood. Collaborating with Tanya Tagaq on the powerful and catchy “You Got To Run (Spirit of the Wind,)” Sainte-Marie helps the uninitiated play catch up to 50 years of influential music. Play loud. Purchased
  20. becky warrenBecky Warren- War Surplus (Deluxe Edition) (self-released) War Surplus came out in 2016, but didn’t come to my attention until the Deluxe Edition was released this summer. A concept album (war veteran and the woman he loves), Warren has made a record to be remembered; the narrative is apparent, the instrumental and vocal changes keep us engaged, and it holds up over time. With an approach not dissimilar to Lucinda Williams although with better annunciation than we’ve experienced from LW this past decade, Warren allows listeners to become invested in her creations; the characters become real, without any of the bravado or self-satisfaction that sometimes hamstrings this type of recording. (Provided by label/PR)

That’s pretty much it for 2017 here at Fervor Coulee. I still have a couple projects sitting on my desk requiring my attention, and I will get to them next week…I hope.

It has been a great year- let’s see what the future brings.

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

 

Rodney Crowell Trio, Red Deer August 16, 2017   Leave a comment

rodney

Made the drive south to see Rodney Crowell Trio in Red Deer last night; a most unusual experience. I’ve written a review for CST, and you can get to it by clicking on this link. Good show, no doubt: very good. And as someone who has repeatedly criticized the sound quality at The Hideout, things were of a high quality last night, much better than last time five years back when our table walked out on Hayes Carll. So, kudos.

Set List:

Glasgow Girl
Earthbound
Stuff That Works
Come Back Baby
Frankie Please
Fever On The Bayou
It’s Hard to Kiss At Night…
That’s Alright, Mama (forty years since Elvis’ death)
‘Til I Gain Control Again
East Houston Blues
Reckless
It Ain’t Over
She’s Crazy For Leaving
After All This Time
Dancin’ Circles Around The Sun
Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight
The Flyboy & The Kid

All of which got me to thinking of the songs I wish he had done—not that I didn’t enjoy that which was performed: maybe like no one outside of Springsteen, I have so many favourite Crowell songs that I could think of an entire separate set list that I would have been just as pleased to hear…so, that’s what I’ve created. Not better, just different: what could the set list have looked like and I would have been just as happy? Kept it to seventeen songs, no duplicates, had to get a Guy Clark co-write (or more) in, find a way to tie-in Elvis, consider pacing, and do all that with songs Crowell has recorded (with the exception of “Eamon” a Clark co-write that appeared on Someday The Song Writes You) and which would be (almost) of as much interest to the audience as me.)

I Ain’t Living Long Like This
When The Blue Hour Comes
Eamon
Fate’s Right Hand
Voila, An American Dream
Shame On The Moon
Tell Me The Truth
I Don’t Care Anymore
Tobacco Road
Stay (Don’t Be Cruel)
Many A Long And Lonesome Highway
The Rock of My Soul
Say You Love Me
Lovin’ All Night
I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried
Heartbroke
Nashville 1972

How would that sound? And I have another 17 songs that would make a fine second alternate set…and I didn’t even get to “She Loves The Jerk” and “Jewel of the South,” another two favourites.

I amuse myself.

Favourite Roots Albums of 2017, so far   Leave a comment

School ended two weeks ago, and I have been able to take the last week to relax, read, and listen—a great start to this summer. It appears that almost every online outlet has released their ‘best of 2017 (so far) list,’ so I figure I might as well get in on the action. If nothing else, hopefully someone reading will find an album they haven’t previously heard, and will be inspired to purchase it.

Americana, bluegrass, and their associated roots music are what I love, and I’ve been fortunate this year to listen to some amazing albums. Here is a list of my favourite fifteen roots albums of 2017 (so far)—and I found it difficult to narrow it down: I have no idea what I will do if this pace continues through the end of the year.

Whose albums didn’t make the list? Jason Isbell, Willie Nelson, Angeleena Presley, Jim Lauderdale, Fred Eaglesmith, Chuck Prophet, Amy Black, Slaid Cleaves, Jesse Waldman, Ray Davies, Jeffrey Halford…

Links are to my review or, where I haven’t reviewed, to the artist site.

  1. Mac WisemanMac Wiseman & Various Artists- I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice With A Heart) Yes, it is that good. My review.
  2. ronsexsmith_3Ron Sexsmith- The Last Rider Continuing a streak of excellence, Sexsmith’s 16th (!) album may just be his finest. Excellent songs, catchy melodies, accessible production…I’ve seldom been so proud to have shown support for a musician. A very strong album, just the latest in a series of memorable, standout recordings. The songs alternate between playful and introspective, catchy and maudlin. Layered, but not flamboyant. I am really glad that I bought the album, and even more glad that I took the time to make the trek to see Ron and the band in Edmonton. Surprised and disappointed that this one didn’t receive deserving Polaris Music Prize attention. “Radio” is my favourite song of the year.
  3. OtisOtis Gibbs- Mount Renraw I have been listening to Gibbs for a close to a decade, but never have I attended to this degree; a singer who was always on the periphery for me has eased himself onto my ever-narrowing list of favourites. My review.
  4. made_to_moveChris Jones & the Night Drivers- Made to Move Another excellent album from Chris Stuart & the Night Rangers. My review.
  5. CrowellRodney CrowellClose Ties With the passing of Guy Clark, Crowell heads to the front of the line of Texas songwriters. A masterful creation.
  6. demeyer_and_will_kimbrough-mokingbirdBrigitte DeMeyer and Will Kimbrough- Mockingbird Soul Largely taking the lead on alternating songs, they have produced an ideally balanced duet recording, with DeMeyer’s Side One Melissa Etheridge passionate huskiness pairing with Kimbrough’s restrained, telling honesty. Spirited, swampy, and Southern-country soul at times, in other places the songs more closely resemble what country music once was and could be again given a shot of 3614 Jackson Highway swagger. The arrangements are straight-forward rather than minimalistic, allowing the duet vocals prominence. The rest of my review.
  7. billBill Scorzari- Through These Waves Bill Scorzari lives where the Blues meets Texas Sam Baker. My review.
  8. gibson_2The Gibson Brothers- In the Ground Bringing their release total to thirteen, I believe, Eric and Leigh Gibson are at the top of the bluegrass world, a pinnacle at which they’ve resided for a decade. In The Ground may be their finest yet. An album of self-written songs, it isn’t like anything they’ve before accomplished. Still bluegrass, of course, but taking things to yet another level. My review.
  9. AMANDA-ANNE-PLATT-HONEYCUTTERS-ON-WALLAmanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters- Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters 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. My review.
  10. richardRichard Laviolette- Taking the Long Way Home Earnest country records are few and far between. Ignoring the trappings of modern country recording, 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. My review.
  11. NellNell Robinson & Jim Nunally BandBaby, Let’s Take the Long Way Home One of my favourite guitarists and singers has teamed, over the course of four albums, with an impressive and natural vocalist, writing killer songs well-founded in the traditions of Americana.
  12. BIBB_MigrationBlues_livretEric Bibb- Migration Blues My review.
  13. brock zemanBrock Zeman- The Carnival Is Back in Town My review.
  14. lk-a-calm-sun-cover-webLesley Kernochan- A Calm Sun A bold, mature recording, free of gimmick and insincerity. My review.
  15. JebJeb Loy NicholsCountry Hustle Soulful country, as he has been doing for a very long time. Maybe my favourite album cover so far in 2017 (tho’ The Monkees Forever is giving it a run.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There you have them, my favourite roots albums of 2017, January to June.

 

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.

Roots Song of the Week: Emma-Lee, What Would Tom Petty Do?   Leave a comment

untitledI was in the shower this morning…

Now that that involuntary shudder has subsided, let me continue. I was in the shower this morning, and out of Radio 2 came this terrific little slice of fandom, power pop, and breezy lyrical play.

Emma-Lee, a Toronto-based singer with whom I’ve only very passing familiarity (I have her first album…somewhere, and promise to make an attempt to locate it tonight) has released a joyously-obvious song intended, it is apparent, to attract the attention of her musician crush, Tom Petty.

She is unabashed in her intent, with her Maple Music page proclaiming:

Together, she says, the single and video are her best shot at attaining her ultimate goal of writing a song with the artist who has inspired her most.

“When it comes to my musical heroes it’s hard to choose just one who kinda sums it all up for me,” Emma-Lee says. “Some musicians I like for their voice, some for the way they play guitar, or the way they make me feel when I go to a concert. But when I think of songwriters, there is one person in particular who tops the list. That person is Tom Petty.”

I have great admiration for a fan who has the talent to be so ballsy.

The fact that the song- comprised almost entirely of Tom Petty lyrics- holds together and holds up is essential. Anyone can pen a love note to a performer they admire, and some darn good ones have been done: Nick Lowe’s Bay City Rollers We Love You,” (two different links, the first with Nick reminiscing, and yes, I realize NL wasn’t being genuine in his tartan-love), The Steel Town Project’s “Leather and Bass (The Night Suzi Quatro Rocked Out ‘Can the Can’)”, and “Guy Clark” from Eric Burton, a clip of which can be found here ; the best that comes to mind might be Rodney Crowell’s “I Walk the Line (Revisited.)” (Two different links, a live performance (without Johnny Cash) and a lyric video).

As the previous four example prove, it takes some doing- while I personally love each of these songs, others may not find them as appealing. One needs to balance the ‘Aw, geez- ain’t they great’  with sufficient nuggets of insight to appeal to other fans, while creating something that bears repeated listening. It is a little sub-genre I quite appreciate, and one day I’ll find the list I started five or seven years back and will start assembling a couple mix CDs of them. (Which will include Tom Russell’s “The Death of Jimmy Martin”, Peter Rowan’s “A Doc Watson Morning,” and Niall Toner’s “Master’s Resting Place.”)

Emma-Lee, and her co-writers, have created a punchy little calling card. It isn’t terribly rootsy, but it is catchy and a lot of fun. You can tell she has gone ‘all-in’ on this project, having a ‘cover’ for the song that looks distinctly familiar, and a video that is chock o’ block with Petty touchstones.

Check it out here on Emma-Lee’s video page.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

@FervorCoulee