News Archive 2007-03

2007 Insurgent Country Top 30
01 Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
02 Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
03 Emmylou Harris - Songbird Rare Track
04 Eilen Jewell - Letters from Sinners & Strangers
05 The Wrinkle Neck Mules - The Wicks have met
06 Iron & Wine - The Shepherds Dog
07 Eleni Mandell - Miracle Of Five
08 Mark Olson - The Salvation Blues
09 Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
10 Kelly Willis - Translated from love

11 Last Train Home - Last Good Kiss
12 Eliza Gilkyson - Your Town Tonight
13 Tom Gillam - Never look back
14 Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade
15 Ryan Bingham - Mescalito
16 Linda Thompson - Versatile Heart
17 Uncle Earl - Waterloo Tennessee
18 Richmond Fontaine - Thirteen
19 Jimmy Lafave - Cimarron Manifesto
20 Martha Scanlan - The West Was Burning

21 Pieta Brown - Remember the sun
22 Son Volt - The Search
23 Kasey Anderson - Reckoning
24 Rachel Harrington - Bootlegger's Daughter
25 Sam Baker - Pretty World
26 Mary Gauthier - Between Daylight & Dark
27 Neil Young - Chrome Dreams II
28 The Sadies - New Seasons
29 Subdudes - Street Symphony
30 Blue Rodeo - Small Miracles

Dave Gleason's Wasted Days
"Just Fall To Pieces"

by Johanna B. Bodde
Gordy Quist
"Here Comes The Flood"

by Johanna B. Bodde
Edo Donkers
"Warning Signs"

by Johanna B. Bodde
by Johanna B. Bodde
Karyn Oliver
talks about

by Johanna B. Bodde
Krista Detor
"Cover their eyes"

by Johanna B. Bodde

The Sadies
"New Seasons"
By Jennifer Kelly
Last year, the country psychedelicists of Toronto’s Sadies cranked out two unusually demanding recording projects, a double-disc, guest-studded live album and the all-instrumental Tales of the Rat Fink soundtrack. “Because we had completed two records in 2006, we didn’t feel like there was any kind of pressing agenda,” says Dallas Good, who along with brother Travis fronts the band. “We felt that we had nothing to prove.”

Two five-day sessions were enough to complete New Seasons (Yep Roc), one in Southern Spain, the other at Toronto’s Woodshed. A stripped down, back-to-basics effort, the album has only a few guests—Gary Louris from the Jayhawks, Howe Gelb, and the Goods’ mother, father and uncles.
As always, the Sadies criss-cross genres, putting rapid-fire bluegrass romps next to melancholy Byrds-ish laments and incendiary surf guitar adjacent to folksy picking. Yet over it all, an extra shimmer of harmony glistens, an addition that Dallas attributes to producer Louris. While Dallas sings most leads, and Travis harmonizes on every song, Louris frequently adds a high third part that lends a Jayhawks-ish tone.

Dallas met Louris through Neko Case, then cemented the relationship when the Sadies opened on one of the last Jayhawks tours in 2003. After appearing on the live album, Louris agreed to produce the next Sadies album. He took a dramatically different approach than the band’s previous engineer, Steve Albini.
Good explains that Albini saw his job as capturing the band’s live sound, not shaping it, “If you ask him what he thinks of your songs, he’ll respond, “It’s your record.” he says. Louris, by contrast, joined in singing, performing and songwriting. “Ultimately Gary was great at just doing exactly what Steve does, which is get the best out of us.”

With its airy harmonies, lonely Western swagger and wistful lyrics, New Seasons has a melancholy tone, something that Dallas Good shrugs off philosophically. “We’ve never really put out a happy album, with the possible exception of the soundtrack,” he says. “I guess you could say that New Seasons took shape in accordance with the collectively melancholic personalities of the Sadies.”

VA - People Take Warning!

"Murder Ballads & Murder Songs"
People also take warning that this set is not for everyone. This is a significant historical document culled from 1913 to 1930’s recordings of blues and country folk artists. Most are restored from rare 78’s. Thirty of them have never been available on disc before. Listeners should also be advised that bad things happen to good people in nearly all of the seventy selections over these three discs. All that said, this is a pretty cool set. You have to remember there was a time before television and the internet when news traveled in different ways than it does today. One of those was in song and it’s a tradition that still thrives today I’m happy to say. Tom Waits writes the introduction to the forty eight page booklet and after that the bodies start piling up faster than you can count.

Emmylou Harris

"Songbird - Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems"
I swear every time I think I’ve seen it all in this business along comes something like this.  This is quite simply the most impressive deluxe set we’ve seen in years.  Four discs, seventy eight remastered songs (all picked by Emmylou) one DVD, a two hundred page booklet all housed in a ten panel digi pak.  It’s all the more impressive when you consider that the artist is Emmylou.  She continues to enjoy one of the most distinguished careers in all of music.  All of her signature tunes are here as well as some never before released material.  Add to that various duets and selections from tributes and special projects and you’ll have quite a handle on this lady’s music.  The DVD contains nine video clips from over the years.  I could go on, but that would only delay you grabbing this one and getting it into your disc player.

Kasey Anderson

Without ever uttering the words “war,” “Iraq,” “president,” “Bush,” “Cheney,” “terrorism,” “Afghanistan,” “bomb,” or “impeach,” Kasey Anderson might have penned the most powerful anti-Dubya anthem yet in “The Reckoning.”
The title song from his most recent record, “The Reckoning” opens with a minimal drum beat and a few fuzzy, resonating power chords before Anderson’s crackled, weathered, despondent voice introduces the song’s main character: “A man rises in the morning and looks out on his kingdom/and he says ‘it’s good’/the walls are crumbled and the streets are flooded/everything’s right where he put it.” Later a delicately chilling piano hook kicks in as Anderson asks “Who will pay for all this?” before promising his adversary “You’re going to be judged someday.”

It’s a dusty, desolate, absolutely depressing song, much like the rest of The Reckoning. Death (”Red Shadows”), shitty luck (”Long Way Home”), and shitty jobs (”Last Thin Line”) rule this Washington-based musician’s mindframe, just like a certain other alt-country singer-songwriter Anderson usually gets compared to. That said, it isn’t surprising to learn both Anderson’s records were produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, former lead guitarist in Steve Earle’s backing band, The Dukes.
– Trevor Fisher
The album features sixteen songs, plus two score passages, all recorded exclusively for the film by some of the finest names in music today, all for the benefit of paying tribute to one of the brightest new songwriting talents in the last two decades: Jesse Harris. Grammy winning singer/songwriter Jesse Harris wrote all the music for the soundtrack and serves as the albums co-executive producer along with the films director/screenwriter/producer, Ethan Hawke. Together, they assembled a peerless group of artists to record Harris songs: Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Cat Power, Bright Eyes, Feist, The Black Keys, M. Ward, Brad Mehldau, Tony Scherr and Argentinean newcomer, Rocha. Jesse Harris recorded three songs for the soundtrack himself and also has a small role in the film.
(Hickory Records)

The Gram Parsons Archive Vol. 1
The Flying Burrito Brothers

"Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969"
Straight country grandeur, vintage even at the time
by Edd Hurt
On the version of "Undo the Right" that opens disc two of the Flying Burrito Brothers' Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969, Gram Parsons can't match the operatic intensity of Johnny Bush's 1968 hit recording: Where Bush soared, Parsons feints soulfully toward the note's general vicinity. It doesn't matter. The Burritos make the shuffle of "Undo" their own, and not even drummer Michael Clarke's indifference detracts from the performance. Avalon catches the Burritos in San Francisco just after the release of The Gilded Palace of Sin, usually regarded as a dope-era extension of Buck Owens's Bakersfield style. That's true enough, but these two nearly identical sets sound as much like Bush's late-'60s recordings for Nashville's Stop label as they do Owens's more well-known efforts. Bush played off Buddy Emmons's poised pedal-steel decorations, while Parsons depended on Sneaky Pete Kleinow's spectral single-note fills to color performances that could seem uninflected.

Parsons pauses, calculates, and stretches on a version of "Hot Burrito #2" that misses the original's piano flourishes. The Burritos sound confident delivering lines such as "We've got our recruits/And our green mohair suits" to a crowd waiting to see headliners the Grateful Dead, and the demo of "$1000 Wedding" demonstrates Gram's songwriting chops, but the covers make a case for Parsons as a traditional country artist. Gram digs into Autry Inman's disconsolate "She Once Lived Here": When he sings, "There must be a town without memories," he doesn't mean a place where anyone ever tried on a green mohair suit.
After one spin the musical marriage between Robert Plant, iconic Led Zeppelin wailer, and bluegrass songbird Alison Krauss isn't as unlikely as it may seem. Each artist has an extraordinary and distinctive voice, they share a love of the blues 'n' gospel and they have chemistry together. Add to that songs written by masters such as Gene Clark, Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt and the Everly Brothers and you have a lovely collection that sometimes rocks, is often acoustically gentle but is never slow. Download the slitheringly sexy "Rich Woman."
Artists as diverse as John Mellencamp, Blind Boys of Alabama, Martha Wainwright, The Black Crowes and Andrew Bird contribute tracks to Song Of America, a unique 50-song, three-CD set envisioned by former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and artist/producer Ed Pettersen, and co-produced by Pettersen, Bob Olhsson and Grammy-winning producer David Macias.

Track Listing Disc 1: Earl Bullhead - Lakota Dream Song/Julie Lee - Once More Our God Vouchsafe To Shine/The Blind Boys of Alabama - Let Us Break Bread Together/John Wesley Harding - God Save The King/Elizabeth Foster - Young Ladies In Town/Malcom Holcombe - The Old Woman Taught Wisdom/Ed Pettersen - The Liberty Song/Harper Simon - Yankee Doodle/The Wilders - Jefferson & Liberty/Steven Kowalczyk-Santoro - Hail Columbia/Take 6 - The Star Spangled Banner/Beth Nielsen Chapman - Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child /Freedy Johnston - Peg and Awl/BR549 - Sweet Betsy From Pike/Will & Jehnean - Trail of Tears/Minton Sparks/Pat Flynn - Declaration Of Sentiments/Fisk Jubilee Singers - Go Down Moses/The Mavericks featuring Thad Cockrell - Dixie`s Land.

Track Listing Disc 2: Marah - John Brown`s Body/Joanna Smith - Battle Hymn of the Republic/Janis Ian - Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye/Tim O`Brien - Thousands Are Sailing To Amerikay/Otis Gibbs - The Farmer Is The Man/Joni Harms - Home On The Range/Jake Shimabukuro - Stars & Stripes Forever/Judith Edelman & Neilson Hubbard - Sleep, My Child/Jen Chapin - Over There/Andrew Bird - How You Gonna Keep `Em Down On The Farm/Karen Parks - Lift Every Voice and Sing/Danielson - Happy Days Are Here Again/Andy Bey - Brother Can Spare A Dime?/Jim Lauderdale - Seven Cent Cotton and Forty Cent Meat/Old Crow Medicine Show - Deportee /Suzy Bogguss - Rosie The Riveter/Folk Family Robinson - Reuben James.

Track Listing Disc 3: Elizabeth Cook and The Grascals - The Great Atomic Power/Devendra Banhart - Little Boxes/The Del McCoury Band - The Times They Are A Changin/Scott Kempner - Apache Tears/Kim Richey - Get Together/The Dynamites with Charles Walker - Say It Loud, I`m Black and I`m Proud /Ben Taylor - Ohio/Anthony David - What`s Going On?/Martha Wainwright - I Am Woman/Matthew Ryan - Youngstown/Gary Heffern & Chris Eckman - Wave/Shortee - The Message/Bettye LaVette - Streets of Philadelphia/The Wrights - Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning /John Mellencamp - This Land Is Your Land.
(Thirty One Tigers)

Steve Earle

"Washington Square Serenade"
After an extremely rare three year break from recording, Steve Earle is back, with Washington Square Serenade, an album of new music his first for New West Records. The longtime Nashville (via Texas) resident, Earle has called New York City home for the past year and this will be his first release produced in the city. Recorded at New Yorks legendary Electric Lady Studios, the introspective album, inspired by NYC is Earles first produced by John King of The Dust Brothers (Beck, The Rolling Stones, Beastie Boys). The deluxe CD/DVD version includes bonus artwork, plus an exclusive documentary about the inspiration behind `Washington Square Serenade, including a walking tour of Greenwich Village with Steve and noted journalist Mark Jacobson
(New York Magazine).

Ryan Bingham

Texas singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham makes his label debut with these 14 songs. Bingham follows in the tradition of Townes Van Zant with music produced by former Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford. Bingham knows a thing or two about pain. He learned the emotional aspect early in life, when shuttling between small towns and family members in the hardscrabble ranching communities of West Texas and New Mexico – and became well acquainted with the physical facets during his years on the Southwestern rodeo circuit. That ache is palpable in the grooves of Mescalito, but what's even more plain is the steely strength needed to overcome it – a tenor that's evident in both the singer-songwriter's preternaturally wizened voice and his remarkably poignant songs, which resonate with roadhouse wisdom and rough-and-ready border-town piquancy.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

"Follow The Lights"
"The new songs arent really the draw on Follow the Lights, the seven-song Ryan Adams EP.... (Anyway there are only two of them: the title track and "My Love for You Is Real," both of which will soon be featured on the ABC series "October Road.") The draw for most fans will be a handful of Mr. Adamss near-classics performed live in the studio with his stalwart band, the Cardinals. The mood is reflective and sober, especially on a slowed-down acoustic version of "If I Am a Stranger... Finally theres a lone cover, the Alice in Chains song "Down in a Hole," which Mr. Adams has taken to playing in concert. The lyrics sound as stark and self-pitying as ever, but they fit: Mr. Adams knows this terrain all too well, and he seems happy to show it."
- NY Times (Lost Highways)

Pieta Brown

"Remember the sun"
by Steve Horowitz
... Brown’s Remember the Sun merits celebration. The disc succeeds on every level. The songwriting is tight (which was the downfall of Brown’s previous releases), the singing topnotch, the instrumentation solid, and the production crisp. Brown penned all the material. The lyrics reveal her Iowa heritage. There are no mountains or oceans referred to here. Instead the images come from the natural landscape of the Midwest: the sun, rivers, train tracks, and such—the stuff one sees everywhere, but notices more out in the prairie lands where there is nothing else to see. This gives the ordinary a sense of the transcendent. “You can find the sun wherever you go”, Brown notes on the title tune. That and the fact that the sun reappears every day are what makes the shining orb so special.

Brown sings in a dusty voice that sweetly rumbles and rolls like a babbling brook replenished by an underground spring. Her vocalizations have no sharp edges. She rounds out the measures and lets her phrases tumble into each other. She doesn’t reach for high or low notes, but just lets her voice slide into them. When she sings through an affected filter, as on her boasting litany of toughness “Not Scared”, Brown sounds like an unexplained phenomena of nature such as a hurricane on the plains. There is something real and powerful behind the weirdness of it all. ...
Oakley Hall
"I`ll Follow You"
Their fourth full-length and first for Merge Records is a crowning moment. The band has toured with M. Ward, The Constantines, Calexico, Bright Eyes, and Gillian Welch. "I`ll Follow You" fully captures the indelible sound that has inspired many to call Oakley Hall one of NY`s best live bands. "Americana they are not. The Hall is onto a whole new thing, and that thing is pure American rock music" - Seattle Weekly.
(Merge Records)
Neil Young
"Chrome Dreams II"
"Chrome Dreams II is a stunning collection of eight new and two classic Young songs. Recorded last summer in Northern California, musicians include Ben Keith (pedal steel guitar, dobro and other instruments), Ralph Molina (drums) and Rick Rosas (bass)" --

Mary Gauthier

"Between Daylight & Dark"
Mary Gauthier's Between Daylight and Dark is filled with insightful, exacting storytelling, from broken-but-unbowed tribute "Last of the Hobo Kings" to heart-ripping finale "Thanksgiving," which describes a poor family's prison visit. When the guards have the grandmother take off her coat and stand in the cold wind to frisk her, Gauthier makes it feel like she's talking about your grandmother; if that doesn't make you want to cry, you're hollow inside. Her flat singing style will never be compared to Linda Ronstadt's or k.d. lang's, but Gauthier's strength is her ability to wring every bit of emotion out of these intimate ruminations on love, conscience, decency and regret. With minimalist backing and laser-precise observations like "shadows dance across the sidewalks and ricochet off houses like pieces of art," every song is a poetic home run. The opening sentiment of "I Ain't Leavin'" — "Broken on the inside, that's what I used to say, I'd pack my bags, raise a white flag and drive away; I thought that's what made me strong, but I was young and I was wrong" — is enough by itself to assure the Louisianan's place at the head table of American songwriters.

Levon Helm

"Dirt Farmer"
The sole American in the Band, singer-drummer Levon Helm --the son of an Arkansas cotton farmer -- knew firsthand the hard labor, family ties and Dixie fireside tales that were the roots and soil of guitarist Robbie Robertson's songs. On Dirt Farmer, Helm goes home to the tunes and fables of his boyhood, including the traditional "Blind Child," the Stanley Brothers standard "False -Hearted Lover Blues" and A.P. Carter's cheeky "Single Girl, Married Girl," singing them next to rough modern diamonds by Steve Earle and Buddy and Julie Miller. The settings are vintage and natural, how the Band might have sounded in Big Pink during a blackout --fiddle and spindly acoustic guitar by ex-Bob Dylan sideman Larry Campbell, Helm's own mandolin and roadhouse-swing drumming, and porch-choir harmonies featuring Helm's daughter, Amy. Levon's vocals are a welcome miracle. His victory over throat cancer cost him some of his old soulful weight. But in "Poor Old Dirt Farmer," a Cajun waltz about a man left with only stones for harvest, Helm's drawling howl is heavy with the outrage and sorrow of someone with a deep connection to the land and those who live by it.
- David Fricke
Legendary Shackshakers - Swampblood
Th` Legendary Shack*Shakers southern gothic epic has its latest chapter. With Swampblood the Colonel JD Wilkes takes the muddled influence of his new home in western Kentucky, pours it through the funnel of eerie south Louisiana bayou culture, and shakes it up `til it explodes with the thick swamp blues of Slim Harpo. With this new offering the band plays with a heavy but accessible chug, like the sound of a pirogue`s plodding diesel outboard moving past the fire-breathing refineries of Port Sulfur.
(Yep Roc)

Deadstring Brothers

"Silver Mountain"
Recorded in the Deadstring Brothers own recording studio, Silver Mountain boasts the tunesmanship of The Faces and the barroom howl of The Band stewed together in homage to the blues of the American South and dancehalls of the urban factory North. Music like this formed the genesis of album-oriented FM rock - this record showcases high energy bluesy rave-ups and hymnal country ballads. Silver Mountain is a coming out party for sultry singer Masha Marjieh. Gritty and seductive, reminiscent of sixties-era Tina Turner, Masha steps into the spotlight on 8 of the 11 tracks, showcasing her hot-blooded and lustful voice, leaving no doubt that the biggest heart in the room now belongs to this soulful vocalist.

Colleen McFarland

"Beautiful Lie"
by Mare Wakefield
With 16 powerful songs on her third album—10 of which top or come close to the five-minute mark—Colleen McFarland has plenty to say. After one spin of Beautiful Lie, you’ll be a rapt listener.

Growing up the youngest of nine kids in a three-bedroom home, McFarland likely spent her formative years fighting for a chance to be heard over the din of seven sisters and a brother. Perhaps that’s where the origins of the yearning, aching melodies in songs such as “The Last Cloud,” “Shelter Me” and the epic, seven-minute “Rain” can be traced. With a voice reminiscent of Emmylou Harris, McFarland has the ability to alternately soothingly sing and growl a menacing blues number like “Ten Years” and offer lilting pop such as “Sordid Affair” (the phrasing of which brings to mind Genesis’ “In Too Deep”).
The title Beautiful Lie may imply a deception of sorts, but the truth of the matter is it harkens the arrival of a refreshingly original voice and talent.
 —Jesse Thompson

Cindy Lee Berryhill

"Beloved Stranger"
The first new release in 10 years from one of the early anti-folkies. Beloved Stranger could be called her most political album; its foot-stomping "When Did Jesus Become a Republican" certainly qualifies it as political, if not partisan CD. But there are aspects to the album which are also both personal and universal. "Forty Cent Raise"is about trying to support a family with a low paying job. Joining her on the song is John Doe, who makes several guest appearances on the album along with Lenny Kaye, Dave Alvin and Peter Case.
(Populuxe Records)

Blue Rodeo

"Small Miracles"
It's been more than a decade since one review said "the best American band is from Canada," but much has changed for Blue Rodeo since that proclamation. For better or worse, the Toronto group hasn't deviated from the roots-rock path it started down more than 20 years ago. That's the band's strength and weakness, as witnessed with "Small Miracles." Country-tinged songs like "Mystic River" and "Blue House" wear the Blue Rodeo trademark of twangy guitars and rootsy harmonies, and wouldn't be out of place on any of the group's 12 studio efforts. However, the band does mix it up on tracks like the jazzy "Together," the early-'70s vibing "Summer Girls" and "C'mon," which works out its inner Byrds. It's a breezy listen that won't likely convert many who haven't already drank Blue Rodeo's particular brand of Kool-Aid.
—Robert Thompson