Archive for the ‘YepRoc Records’ Tag
I wasn’t sure what to think about this amalgamation, and after listening to the album once I still wasn’t sure. But, after three or four listens it started to work its way into me. I ended up quite liking the disc, but I don’t think most bluegrassers will feel the same. My review is up at Country Standard Time.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
A few weeks ago I read that Dave Alvin was to appear in an episode of Justified, a television series I had never seen and had only heard of in passing. A bit more searching led me to believe that the series would be of interest- the setting was certainly an area of interest and the premise of the show was appealing. Without ever seeing an episode (as far as I can tell, it isn’t available in Canada) I bought series one on DVD this past week and my wife and I watched all 14 episodes this past weekend. The pilot episode was very promising, but after three more episodes we expressed mutual disappointment. I had expected more geography, more local flavour in the show and the vanilla generic locales were underwhelming. If you’re going to set a series in Kentucky, make me feel like I’m seeing Kentucky. (I realize the series isn’t even filmed there. California, anyone?) I had expected more darkness in the series, less obvious good vs bad. As it turns out, the series rapidly improved through the next ten episodes although it still wasn’t as powerful as I had expected. It reminded me a lot of The Closer, a series we both enjoy but which is hardly groundbreaking.
I told you that to tell you this…Dave Alvin’s new song- apparently performed in that series two episode of Justified is streaming at http://soundcloud.com/yep-roc-music-group/dave-alvin-harlan-county-line. The song is better than the series, in my opinion. At least, based on what I’ve seen.
I’ve never visited Harlan County- and after about the fifth episode of Justified, my wife assured me that we never will!- and listening to this song, I ‘m not sure I have a better feel for the place. But, I like the premise, the story the song tells. The song has a few expected Alvinisms…the slow, meandering burn is present in the first 25 seconds and doesn’t let up. The voice, of course. Pretty impressive. I’m looking forward to the album.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Several weeks ago, I was assigned to review the fifth album from Chatham County Line, Wildwood. Having previously purchased the album via download, I semi-forgot about the review. I listened to the album several times and somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I was supposed to write about it, but couldn’t determine if I had ‘really’ been assigned the album or had dreamed the job. A not-so-subtle hint from my editor got me back on track, and the review was published today at Lonesome Road Review. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Chatham County Line
4.5 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
Having maintained a stable lineup for four albums and countless road miles, Chatham County Line has with similar consistently explored the limits of their brand of bluegrass. One expects the band to challenge the conventions while embracing sounds and influences that may not be immediately identified with 1950s bluegrass.
In many ways, Chatham County Line is the contemporary apparition of The Byrds, minus the frequent personnel overhauls and hit singles, of course. Like The Byrds, CCL has an immediately identifiable sound and approach to music making while having never stood in any one place for too long.
On their fifth Yep Roc release the band continues to progress while maintaining that which has garnered them attention and, in some circles, acclaim.
The appeal is multifaceted, beginning with the vocals of Dave Wilson. With a dreamy drawl that first brings The Byrds comparison to mind, Wilson’s approach to a song is never hurried or frantic. Instead, he calmly communicates hope, aspiration, and anguish in equal measure, all the while leaving room for some of the most impressive and seductive harmonies within the ‘new’ crop of bluegrass performers.
As dramatic as Wilson’s voice and his bandmates harmonies continue to be, the CCL would not be the force it is without the instrumental chops of the entire unit. Chandler Holt’s banjo contributions of always appreciated; he has the knack for finding just the right space to drop in a gentle roll or fill. John Teer’s mandolin is used in a similar manner, further defining the quartet’s sound, while Greg Readling’s bass work provides an unobtrusive presence.
Much has been made of the inclusion of Zeke Hutchins’ drums to the mix of Wildwood. Having listened to the album countless times over the past two months, I propose that anyone who finds the inclusion of percussion offensive is working hard to find fault; so subtle is the sound that one would be hard-pressed, I believe, to identify which tracks feature drumming.
To ensure that time hasn’t warped my vision, I re-listened to CCL’s 2003 debut album, as well as select tracks from their other impressive releases. Has the sound changed? Certainly. Is it as strong and appealing as ever? Definitely.
Chatham County Line may not get the airplay of The Infamous Stringdusters or Cadillac Sky or the critical accolades of The SteelDrivers, but they remain one of the brightest forces within the next bluegrass generation.
Wildwood confirms the promise of their previous releases.
This is an album I’ve been listening to for a couple months, but had no intentions of reviewing until Jeff at Country Standard Time asked me to take a run at it. It challenged me, without doubt. It is an album that is a bit overwhelming, but I managed to get my thoughts together after a couple abandoned attempts. The review is now up at CST: http://tinyurl.com/2erobf5. The album wasn’t on my initial Polaris ballot, but did make my second round ticket- it is one of ten finalists for the Polaris Music Prize to be awarded in late September.
This weekend I made the decision to revamp Fervor Coulee a bit, so you’ll notice a few tweaks. I also realized I hadn’t dug into the non-posted archive for a long time. I dug out this review of Carlene’s ‘comeback’ album originally published just before this blog was born. I’ll make an attempt to update a few older reviews as the weeks pass.
Originally appeared in The Red Deer Advocate, August 1, 2008
Fans can be forgiven for believing they were unlikely to hear new material from June Carter’s first-born.
On her first album in over than a decade, Carlene Carter displays the passion that has consistently been present in her country-rock hybrid while instilling depth that was frequently missing from her chart hits. Stronger has more than a little of the spirit of her Carter family ancestors woven within the tracks.
Having spent years out of the spotlight, Carter’s voice is huskier than it was on Little Acts of Treason, her major label swan song. But she displays control and sensitivity throughout, never over-extending her voice.
Her honest treatment of On To You signifies that at fifty-plus, Carter can give those half her age something to consider, and the mid-tempo, country shuffle To Change Your Heart would fit nicely on any of Carter’s mid-90s albums.
While Carter exposes herself emotionally throughout Stronger, the album’s mood isn’t dense or bleak. I’m So Cool is as lively as when she first recorded it almost thirty years ago. Attention to phrasing and delicate instrumentation allows the gentle love song Spider Lace to stand out as a highlight.
But Carter saves the best for last. The album’s intense title track doesn’t mince words, and Carter’s mature performance of what could be a clichéd lyric (“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”) elevates the song. When one considers from where Carter was for much of the last thirteen years- addiction, career bankruptcy, criminal charges, family losses- June, Johnny, sister Rosey, ex Howie Epstein- “this hell-raising angel” is entitled to look back with contented perspective. Stronger should become Carter’s signature song.
Without apologizing for her past, Carlene Carter has documented the challenges, celebrations, and lessons of a hard-lived life on Stronger. Not only Comeback of the Year, Stronger is a candidate for Comeback of the Decade.
2009 update- I just listened to Stronger again, and while it holds up quite well, it isn’t the remarkable ‘comeback’ I perhaps thought it was. In too many places lush overwhelms lust, and that can’t be a good thing for a singer with Carter’s vocal traits. Still, I’m glad the album got made, and I’m just as happy that it brought Carlene Carter some positive press after years of less than stellar news.
I know I’m luckier than many. Even as a writer of marginal talent, I’ve been able to find forums for my writing, and as a result of this am exposed to more fresh music than other folks. Since I also spend too much time in both used and new CD stores, I uncover CDs of interest- including many I didn’t even know I need.
For example, last weekend I stopped into one of the local stores and found a reissue of Mark Lindsay’s Arizona and Silverbird albums on one disc. I barely know Mark Lindsay from Lindsay Buckingham, and haven’t listened to Paul Revere & the Raiders except on oldies radio…although “Indian Reservation” has long been a favourite. I bought the album without even thinking about it, and it was only when Track 1 started once I got home that I realized “Arizona” was that Arizona song. I’ve listened to the disc twice through, and while it isn’t essential I’ve enjoyed discovering something I hadn’t before listened to.
If I work hard enough, I’ll usually find something of interest.
Like many, I spend too much of my free (and other) time listening to music. Here is the first installment of a piece I am assembling where I reflect upon some of the music I’ve either taken off the shelf, purchased, or have been sent since June. While not necessary stunning in all cases, all of these albums are ones I’m really glad I listened to this summer.
Presented in no particular order-
Cry Cry Cry Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky, and Richard Shindell (Razor & Tie, 1998) We probably all have albums that we love but seldom- if ever- pull off the shelf. This trio project isn’t one of those as I didn’t know I loved it, and in fact can’t remember listening to it prior to this summer although I must have. I rediscovered Cry Cry Cry while on Santorini and for some reason it really resonated with me as I walked the streets of Fira. The blending and interplay of the three voices is quite special as songs from some of the finest contemporary writers are interpreted. Highlights include “Cold Missouri Waters” by James Keelaghan, Buddy Mondlock’s “The Kid,” and “Down By the Water” written by Jim Armenti, whose version can be seen/heard here, live in a grocery store. Weird. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqSzNKPoRqo
Potato Hole Booker T (Anti- 2009) I wasn’t sure what to except from this one. I’ve always enjoyed the Booker T sound, but am by no means a learned listener. I’ve been hit and miss with the Drive-By Truckers- who serve as the band for this ten-track album- and Neil Young- who plays guitar. It is a rock album with lots of guitar, and I find it really groovy. Of course, the Hammond B3 comes through loud and clear. I’m glad I took a chance on it. There is also a nice set recorded July 4 posted at the Live Music Archive, if you can get past the annoying talking head.
Armageddon Prism (Capital, 1979) A western-Canadian FM-staple, every song on this disc is recognizable to guys of a certain age. Some of the effects sound dated, but dang- the songs have hooks. As a Trooper fan, I couldn’t publicly admit to liking these guys during grade 9 and 10; at least, that was the rule in my head. I’m glad I stopped over-thinking things.
UN, The Boy Bands Have Won, and English Rebel Songs 1381-1984 Chumbawamba (1998, 2004, 2008) Over the past two years, and really for no tangible reason, I’ve been collecting Chumbawamba discs whenever I run across them. Even though almost every album takes a different approach to pop and folk music, I’ve yet to be disappointed. I downloaded these ones from eMusic and iTunes after catching the Chumbawamba Acoustic quintet at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in early August. I love the blending of voices, the way the female vocals soar above the instruments. The songs are clever and, and times, insightful and thought-provoking.
Nothing Gold Can Stay The Duke & The King (Ramseur, 2009) I can’t write about this album yet because it makes me ache. I can’t stop listening to it. The most beautiful sounding album I listened to all summer. Sparse, mellow, dreamy. Love The Outsiders reference, which I noticed as soon as I saw the album…realizing it comes from a poem. Frost? Buy this one.
As Time Goes By The Bluegrass Brothers (Self-released, 2009) As time goes by, the Bluegrass Brothers just get better. Since I first heard the Virginia band five or so years ago, they have made huge strides- from an enthusiastic if non-descript area family band, to a crew of pros that can hold their own with the finest of the professional bands. They are not fancy but they are lively, pouring out straight-ahead hardcore bluegrass without a hint of progressive intent. I don’t want all my bluegrass to sound this rustic, but I’m glad The Bluegrass Brothers remain true to their vision. Check out “Stanley Tradition.”
A Quiet Evil Lee Harvey Osmond (Latent Recordings, 2009) Turn Tom Wilson loose, and odd things are bound to occur. Featuring Michael and Margo Timmins, Josh Finlayson and Andy Maize, and Brent Titcomb, the album mines deep, virgin musical ground. It isn’t what I would immediately label as roots music, but is has all the elements- original music, ties to country, rock, and folk, and textured vocals that shy away from pop gloss. The album seems dark, yet is soothing and enlightening. The presence of Aaron Goldstein’s pedal steel brings in shades of country, but the overall sound has as much in common with X and Los Straitjackets as it does Fred Eaglesmith.
Western Bell Kelly Joe Phelps (Black Hen Records, 2009) An excellent album to accompany coffee…I drank a lot of coffee during summer mornings last month listening to this one while preparing to write about it. Phelps sings not a word. Instead, in producing a nocturnal collection of eleven solo guitar instrumentals, the west coast native allows his 6- and 12- strings to reclaim their rightful place. Haunting and adventurous, the tunes never get bogged down. So balanced and spacious are the songs, it is difficult to accept that much of the album was improvised in the studio.
The Further Adventures of Los Straitjackets (YepRoc, 2009) Pure fun. Modern surf music created far from the ocean. Nearly every song seems to have been inspired by a previously recorded, familiar song. In “Minority Report” I hear repeated echoes of “This Diamond Ring” and Mashmakhan’s “As Years Go By.” In another, I swear I hear “Theme from A Summer Place.” Thoroughly engaging, if too brief, clocking in as it does at just a cough over thirty minutes. Inspired packaging, too.
Blue Lights on the Runway Bell X1 (Yep Roc, 2009) Sometimes albums surprise me. Duh! I didn’t know anything about this group despite seeing their name in the British mags (Uncut, MOJO) that I read. The rockiest and simultaneously poppiest album on this list, Ireland’s Bell X1’s fourth album was their first for me and brought to mind the wonder years of the 80s British Invasion- Modern English, Lloyd Cole, Nik Kershaw, The Icicle Works, et al. Perhaps most in common with the simple sophistication of East Side Story Squeeze, this one continues to impress. Musically, it is much deeper than most of the modern, non-roots music I encounter.
I’ll post more reflections in a few days. As always, thanks for dropping in at Fervor Coulee. Donald
In my July 17, 2009 column in the Red Deer Advocate, I was pleased to review two remarkable new albums: Vieux Farka Toure’s fonda and Todd Snider’s The Excitement Plan.
Vieux Farka Touré
Son of the late Ali Farka Touré, Vieux continues the rich tradition of guitar-based, West African music. Loose and freewheeling numbers enable the musician to seemingly improvise his way around sweeping melodies, providing a compelling listen.
Touches of the blues are apparent, especially on numbers such as Souba Souba and Paradise. Most assuredly, this is an African album. Recorded in Mali, the album has a consistent sound, one that is complementary to the western and African styles that meld into a fresh, coherent mixture of influences.
A remarkable collection of original music, the album features the traditional tune Walé, a song from Timbuktu. This track, and two others, feature vocals from Afel Bocoum. Elsewhere, Vieux takes the lead vocal spot and his words, while not understood by those not speaking his language, connect with the listener through inflection and intensity of phrasing.
For most of us, “world music”- that which includes lyrics we don’t understand- is about the groove, and Fondo succeeds in this area like few others. Song after song- Sarama, Diaraby Magni, and the aptly titled Slow Jam– pull listeners into complex but accessible rhythms.
Vieux Farka Touré knows that heartfelt music requires no translation, and Fondo speaks to all who are willing to listen.
The Excitement Plan
In which everyone’s favourite bar-stool philosopher goes uptown with Don Was producing. While a studio A-team is present- Jim Keltner on drums, Greg Leisz on steel and Dobro, and Was himself on the bass- Snider acerbic wit and cutting couplets prevail.
“The number one symptom of heart disease is sudden death” Snider sings on Greencastle Blues prior to asking “How do you know it is too late to learn?” Honed by countless performances in hundreds if not thousands of dives, Snider maintains interest through the use of a charming “Ah, shucks” persona while skewing the very hands that feed him.
Back to back- on Barefoot Champagne and Don’t Tempt Me– Snider captures the strain and dark humour of marital discord. On the latter, honky-tonkin’ song, Snider duets with Loretta Lynn; the legend drops lines like, “You’re stoned as a rock” with aplomb. Lighthearted as the tone may be in many places, Snider pulls no punches on Bring ’em Home, an anti-war protest song that could be forty years old, but unfortunately isn’t.
His tribute to Dock Ellis’s No-No (America’s Favourite Pastime) differs greatly from Chuck Brodsky’s previous, novelistic approach. Snider succeeds because of what he leaves out; cutting to the core of the accomplishment- pitching a no-hitter while on LSD- by capturing staccato images of the day.
Clocking in at just over forty minutes, Snider knows how to quit while ahead. The Excitement Plan, with its straight-ahead approach and uncluttered arrangements, contains nothing extraneous. It should appeal to all long-time fans and, for others, may serve as a gentle introduction to a singer who takes some getting used to.
I’ve been away on vacaction, but will be posting several reviews shortly as I was able to do a bit of listening while away. Thanks for checking in, Donald