Best of FTB
This sextet from Minnesota
trample that delightful trail where you find bands like BR5-49, Big Sandy and
Bad Livers. It's that Hillbilly/Honky Tonkin' Swingin' kinda thing complete
with washboard, doghouse bass and witty humor. They even stretch the boundries
some to rock 'n roll and other diverse genres. Nothing too serious here,
just good musicianship and fun songs.
Best songs: In Heaven There Is No Beer, H-E-L-L Bound, Do You Like The Hula?,
Train Song, Cannibal Man, Griddle-Cake Joey. The band has a wonderful website
which includes audio samples, other reviews, bio and tour info. You
can order the CD from Miles
of Music. Released April, '99 by Bill
Terra Firma... (Sugar Hill)
of jazz that Bela Fleck and the Flecktones did a cover album of Dave Matthews
material, then you’ll have some idea of where the Acoustic Syndicate fits in the
musical landscape. This is lively, energetic music that combines elements of bluegrass,
pop, rock, and world music. And I think the vocals are far superior to Dave Matthews,
but that's a personal taste thing. There may be bluegrass instruments here but
the song forms are like nothing you’d find at a bluegrass festival. And then there’s
the drums, like the banjo, present on every track. Neither bluegrass, nor jam
grass, nor jazz grass, nor re-cycled New Grass (Revival). Acoustic Syndicate is
an entity all it’s own; boundary pushing, engaging and fun. Worth checking out.
|Sugar Hill Records Buy
from Amazon.com. Released April, 2003. Reviewed by Kevin
| As a longtime Whiskeytown fan, I have come to appreciate on a very deep level Mr. Adams' incredible vocal talents. I have also come to feel that his great talent is for ballads. Somehow he captures what beauty there is in lying face down in a gutter of remorse and drunkenness. Somehow he can transform the loneliness and grittiness of the country sensibility into a hymn of celebration of the human soul. Only his choirboy voice can pause in the middle of a song like "To Be Young" to lift a rousing rockabilly ditty into something ethereal. Yes, all of those parts are the sentimental, the dejected, the lonely, but this is the kind of album that you have to sit down to, to take every song as it comes. He does Rockabilly as well as Dwight Yoakam, and brings to it a seriousness that bands like the Old 97s (and even Wilco, if you ask me) have never been able to conjure up. That is when I close my eyes, lift my face to heaven, and thank God for country music. That is medicine, not just music.
| Bloodshot Records Ryan Adams' site Buy from amazon Released Sept. 2000, reviewed by D. Klinghard
Gold... (Lost Highway)
| Well, here it is. The CD that seemingly the whole music business has been waiting for. Adams has been hailed as a genius songwriter and now that he's pretty much abandoned his band (he never seemed comfortable in a band format anyway and led the combo with a iron fist and often turned on a whim) he will succeed or fail on his own devices from now on. I must say the title is apt. This album is pure gold. Lush, often piano-based music that can only be compared to classic '70's rock, Adams' breaking away from Whiskeytown has opened him up to also break away from alt. country. With a vocal style that reminds one of David Gates (from the band Bread) or Neil Young (especially on the song Somehow, Someday) Adams' music is an amalgam of bands like Bread and CSNY that added a lot of folkier, softer touches to their rock. Sure, Adams rocks out on quite a few songs here, but it is not the modern rock we're used to hearing circa post-grunge. These songs could come off of Elton John's first few albums or Young's first tenure with Crazy Horse. Those expecting country will be disappointed while we those open to a classic style of pop will be overjoyed at Adams' new artistic freedoms and gambles. This would be all over the radio in 1973........too bad radio sucks right now. Buy this anyway.
| Ryan's site is up to date and well done. Lost Highway's site. Buy from amazon Released Sept. '01. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .
Demolition... (Lost Highway)
While most music fans may call me a heretic, I find a lot curious parallels in
the music and personalities of Neil Young and Adams. While both have passionate
and mercurial temperaments, both have made some astoundingly beautiful (Harvest
for Young, Heartbreaker for Adams) and amazingly horrible (Trans
for Young, Gold for Adams) music in their careers. Both have come from
much-loved, much-lamented bands (Young - Buffalo Springfield/CSN&Y, Adams
- Whiskeytown) to try to make a go of it as solo artists. While we already know
Young has pretty much eclipsed all of the bands and associations he has been a
part of, Adams is still taking his baby steps right now, searching for his muse
and his way, trying to connect his message, his format for communicating his message
and his audience. While Young has succeeded, Adams has, so far, fallen short.
Still searching, he's a chameleon, altering his music from country to pop to rough-edged
rock and back again, alienating more people than he has converted. Former fans
seem puzzled by his rock star posture, dress and friends, wishing he would just
go back to the twang sound done flawlessly when he was leading roots band Whiskeytown.
But, like Young, he is steadfastly independent, challenging his remaining listeners
to keep up with whatever musical flights of fancy he decides to follow. In this
case, Adams marks time by releasing a passel of demos from various stages of his
current post-Whiskeytown career. While the CD lacks cohesion in sound and focus,
the songs seem solid, although a few too many seem like ideas still waiting to
be fleshed out. Those keeping score take note these songs fall squarely in the
rockier post-Heartbreaker mode Adams tried on Gold. Country fans need not apply.
Like Young, Adams is indeed talented, despite whatever his last few CDs have shown.
Again, like Young (who also has committed a lot of half-baked, not-fully-formed
ideas to vinyl and shiny-disc) what Adams needs most is a good editor, someone
to tell him what works and what doesn't, without kowtowing to his whim. Like a
lot of auteurs (Young, Prince) Adams has the talent to take his message to any
audience, in any genre. He must first gain maturity and taste, though. That can
only come with time and honesty with one's self. Right now, Adams is lacking in
this element. |
Highway's site, Adam's site
done by Lost Highway. Buy
from amazon Released Sept, 2002. Reviewed by Scott
29... (Lost Highway)
| At his most compelling, Ryan Adams shows a gift. It appears to be accessed spontaneously, often leaving discipline in limbo. After a more integrated Jacksonville City Nights, 29 , his third release in a year, is a buffet breakfast at three in the afternoon, all you can eat, if you're really that hungry. There are some likeable songs here – Strawberry Wine and Nightbirds are two. The title cut takes Jerry Garcia on a late night, reverb-drenched ride “mixing liquor and mystery pills.” Adams sounds at times like he's still rehearsing a melody, noodling in the wee hours. Diehard fans may want to add 29 to the rack, but life is short and there are choices. “Cripes, only the mediocre are always at their best,” the man in the black coat said, switching stations to listen to Heartbreaker on the long drive back to Whiskeytown.
|Buy from amazon Released Dec. 2005. Reviewed by Doug Lang.
Hits and Exit Wounds... (One Little Indian)
|If you, like me, have never heard of this band, try looking under A3 in your local North American music store. It was a bit surprising to receive a greatest hits disc, or as they call it, a retrospective, from an unknown band that’s pretty damn entertaining, and the reason for this borders on the sublimely ridiculous. Apparently there’s another band called Alabama that feels that these guys are infringing upon their turf with the name similarity, thus the A3 handle. It should be the other way around, because these “usurpers” are everything, and more, that the ‘originals’ are not, and could never be. Alabama3 is an assemblage of nine artists from Britain that is clever, caustic, creative and a lot of fun to listen to, and listen closely, (or repeatedly), one must to catch the full message in each song. The styles range from contemporary rhythm and blues, “Monday Don’t Mean Anything”, flat out country, “Hello… I’m Johnny Cash”, satirical social commentary, “Mao Tse Tung Said”, and even a spot of gospel funk, “Too Sick To Pray”. This release has been a mainstay of summer entertainment in these parts for several weeks now as each listen reveals a previously hidden hook; ennui is not an option with this crew.
|The band's official UK site. Buy from amazon Released July, 2008, reviewed by Don Grant.
Turning Dorian Gray... (self released)
Since the soundtrack from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? continues
to roll on, racking up more and more sales and unreleasing it's death grip on
the charts, an increasing number of artists are seeking to hop on the folksy/bluegrass
music trend. Bands are breaking out their banjos and fiddles, trying to capitalize
on what may be the biggest thing to hit folk and old-timey music since Ralph Stanley.
While I don't know if Alkalay is simply hopping on the bandwagon or is deeply
committed to this style of music, his new CD is entering the marketplace at just
the right time to take advantage of all this roots music fervor going around.
I say this because Alkalay's CD is filled with the kind of music fans of old-timey
country are sure to love. It's not bluegrass by any means although Alkalay does
wield a mean banjo. It's more an amalgam of bluegrass and folk music with the
by-product being one of singer/songwriter style country with added depth. Modern,
electric instruments are featured (like keyboards) but these are balanced out
with some lap steel touches and other gee-gaws that separate this from the glossy
pablum that still comes out of the sad, sorry suckfest known as mainstream country
radio. What has turned people on to the music of our past is the simplicity, honesty
and soul. Alkalay's new CD has all of these and this is what makes it so good.
It is a down-home, organic creation that is real and heartfelt. That's why I like
it and why I am sure most roots music fans will like it as well. Simply said,
this is great. |
has the usual stuff. Released Nov. 2001. Buy
from amazon Reviewed by Scott
Straight Time is a nice departure
from the generic, predictable singer-songwriters I've been hearing of late.
Allen is not bound by one style but roams the Americana landscape like the troubadour
he is, as easy writing country as blues as folk. I immediately liked
his deep, resonant voice, his melodies and arrangements. There's a simplicity
of structure to it that keeps it basic yet interesting and I think that's not
as easy as it seems. It's a record that made me feel I was hearing something
new and just a little different and that makes it worth checking out.
Prime CD page. Released Sept
'99, reviewed by Kay Clements
I have to say I'm
pleasantly surprised by the good quality of these radio transcriptions.
When I see a record heralding "Never Before Released Recordings", I
usually hrrumph and think, "with good reason" but this batch of
upbeat tunes sung by the "Voice of the West" carry you pleasantly
along the sagebrush trail. Each tune was cut live-to-disc in a single
take with backing by the fine musicians of the WLS Barn Dance where Allen played
a prominent role from 1945 till he left for Hollywood in 1949. Allen and
his crew yodel, harmonize and give us great instrumental action in the 22 never
released recordings. As Rex himself says, "These western tunes never
do go out of style, and if I do say so myself, the singing holds up too!"
from amazon Fav Tunes: I Won't Need My Six Gun In Heaven, Dude Ranch Polka, Raggin'On, Gonna
Marry Me a Cowboy. Bloodshot has
a fun site, including CD ordering info. Released March,
'99, reviewed by Kay Clements
Low Country Blues... (Rounder)
Gregg Allman's last album was a mere 14 years ago so you could say he's overdue for a new album. He's of course been touring most every summer with the Allman Brothers Band. I would imagine it gets challenging to find the inspiration to sing "Whipping Post" one more night. Despite his vocal talents and the high caliber of musicians in the ABB, they're still living off the Fillmore East songs. What brings attention to this new release is the producer, Mr T Bone Burnett. T Bone has been a very busy boy in the last five years but his name is not a guarantee of success or a seat at the Grammy Awards. Witness last year's Ryan Bingham and Elton John/Leon Russell releases, both good albums but not great nor were they big sellers. On these LA sessions we've got a core band of Doyle Bramhall II (who's quite good), Dr. John on piano and Burnett's latest favorite rhythm section, Dennis Crouch on acoustic bass, and Jay Bellerose on drums. When Gregg digs deep and lets out his lion's roar, it's a powerful thing and you'd better listen up. He's recently recovered from a liver transplant and a cancer scare so my thinking is the experience has made him a more grateful and perhaps a bit humble. There's nothing like some humility to bring out that authenticity. Frankly, I have a hard time sitting through most contemporary blues albums unless it's live where you can feel the music and see the sweat and the stretching of the strings. Low Country Blues is not your usual blues set and I gotta give the producer a nod on this one. This is a fine collection of songs, and I find the variety of styles to be an asset, from a couple of rural acoustic songs to the Little Milton, B.B. King and Lightnin' Hopkins titles.
|Allman's web site. Buy
from amazon. Released Jan. 2010, reviewed
by Bill Frater.
Pearl Harbor... (Aquamarine)
Hard to make out if this is a band or a collective of like minded musicians as
about fifteen participants are listed and in alphabetical order making it hard
to distinguish who's more involved than the rest. One thing for sure - this
is not Americana or country in the least. This is sprightly new wave pop circa
the late '80's and is bouncy and clever as hell. While this might confuse more
country-oriented consumers those interested in quirky pop are recommended to give
this a listen. Those interested in fiddles and pedal steel are invited to look
elsewhere. Pretty good album though, with some great lyrical twists and very compelling
| The band's website,
has bios, t-shirts, and CD ordering. Buy
from amazon Released Oct. '01. Reviewed by Scott
Back when the original Blasters
were still together, Phil Alvin was the distinctive voice of the band while it
was brother Dave who silently wrote poignant songs about little lives in little
towns. Dave is still writing great observational lyrics that frequently reveal
the dark souls of people living on the underbelly of society. "Abilene",
from Dave's sixth CD is so true-to-life that you'd swear that Dave has been reading
this girl's mail. The song also has a great chorus and is one of the best songs
Alvin's ever written. Most of the songs here are acoustic, which suits his deep,
conversational voice. Many people cite King of California as his best album,
but I think this one stands even taller because of the strength and growth of
his songwriting. As a matter of fact, this CD should make many top 10 lists for
the year. I know it'll be on my list. If you know Alvin's work, you probably already
have this, if not, pick up on a brilliant artist at his best.
Public Domain... (HighTone)
Public Domain is about Dave Alvin's fascination with the traditional
folk and blues songs that so strongly influenced and inspired he and his brother
when they were teens. As far as Alvin is concerned, the only difference
between rockabilly, R & B, Cajun, urban blues and bluegrass is that they are
all just different styles of folk music... And as Dave says, there is loud
folk music and there is quiet folk music. In this record, he reworks some
of the traditional music seminal to his development as a musician. He takes
the old Carter Family song "East Virginia Blues" and turns it into an
early Elvis-style rockabilly tune, then he uses his exquisite guitar work to bring
out the Southern soul of the folk chestnut "Shenandoah". It's
a genuine pleasure to witness an American artist in his prime, humbly paying
homage to songs so timeless and classic.
HighTone Records, Dave
Alvin's website. Buy
from amazon. Released August, 2000, reviewed
by Bill Frater.|
Ashgrove… (Yep Roc)
|According to Yep
Roc, (his new label), this is Alvin’s definitive album. Dave says "if there’s
one that you’ve got to have, this is the one." That’s pretty tall talk from a
guy who has some brilliant collections to his name. There are some great tunes
here, mostly electric and blues based without a fiddle or mandolin to be found
anywhere but there are also those that cover the same ground. While Ashgrove rocks
almost as much as a good ol’ Blasters album, I'll be curious to see how many of
these songs Alvin is still doing in five years. Time will tell if Dave's prediction
is accurate. In my opinon, I don’t think it is.
Roc's site. Buy
from amazon. Released June, 2004, reviewed
by Bill Frater. |
The Amazing Rhythm
Aces came out of Memphis in the '70's with a few hits (most notably "Third
Rate Romance"), before radio tightened their formats and squeezed out these
eclectic kinds of bands. The Aces strong suit has always been the way they
effortlessly combine rock, blues, country and R&B. They split up for
awhile but they've been back together for a few years and they've still got it.
Led by the gifted songwriting and deep, soulful voice of Russell Smith and pianist
James Hooker, (at least when he's not leading Nanci Griffith's Blue Moon Orchestra).
The CD is dedicated to drummer Butch McDade who just died of cancer last year.
They lean a little closer towards Nashville then their native Memphis on this
one, and there's a few token novelty songs that I could do without. While I wish
they'd stick to what they're best at, Country-Soul, it's still great to have them
back. This band is a treasure and they deserve to be heard by more people.
from amazon. Best tracks: Yippe Yi Yo Yo, Dancin' With The Ones You Love,
Fake It 'Til I Make It, If I Could Call You Mine, A Heart To Come Home To. The
band's official site theaces.com
has a bio, discography, and tour info. Released Aug. '99, reviewed by Bill
Streets of NYC... (Hayden's Ferry)
It never ceases to fascinate me, the remarkable places in which one finds the practitioners of the varied forms of Americana music. Hailing from the hard-scrabble streets of Brooklyn, this quartet delivers an urban form of country-rock, with the accent heavily on the rock component. AmAm is essentially the brainchild of Pete Cenedella, singer/composer, and guitarist Scotty Aldrich, supported by Robb Gottstein on bass, and Joe Dessereau on drums, and this is their third release in as many years. Prolific? Undoubtedly. You wouldn't think that New York could provide the inspiration for good country-rock, but the evidence is right there at your ears. Their sound is predominantly reminiscent of Seventies Stones, heavy guitar, and raw and rasping vocals layered over a solid bass/drum foundation. Then, just to keep their country legitimacy, they'll throw in a standard swing tune like “First One Of A One-Too-Many Night”. I think it's time for another new word, so I going to call their sound concrete-country.
|Their web site. Buy from amazon Released June, 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.
Western Sides... (Gangplank)
| This is a dynamic and studied work from Detroit-based American Mars with first rate songs from the band and exceptional production from multi-instrumentalist David Feeny. Cinematic soundscapes such as Long Walk Home and "Better Angels" feature lush pedal steel and mix it up with an alt rock guitar style that reminds one of the Cure. Sort of alt.country shoe-gazers Cowboy Junkies meet alt.brit shoe-gazers my Bloody Valentine, with intriguing effect. "Democracity" rocks out in a David Bowie/Lou Reed fashion while "Marionette" is a classic folk rockish cautionary tale. The jacket with this CD offers sincere thanks for finding this “endangered species of recorded music” but besides the musician's gratitude the reward is in the listening.
|The band and the label's sites. Buy from amazon Released Jan. '08, reviewed by Michael Meehan.
Dogs In Heaven....(Little Dog)
is not only the producer and dynamic guitarist with Dwight Yoakam, but he's also
puts out his own CDs on his own record label. Yes, he does it all, and his vocal
seem more confidant on this 2nd release, which, surprisingly, he did not produce.
The added horns here and there give it a real "Stax" kinda sound, he
even covers Ain't That Peculiar, and doesn't do too bad on a song that has Marvin
Gaye's formidable original to compare to. He's got 3 instrumentals here, and why
not, he's a great and tasteful guitar player, and the usual "Little Dog"
suspects back him up excellently. This CD is worth the search, for both guitar
geeks, and "country-soul" fans.|
from amazon Best Tracks: Better Way, Feels Like Mississippi, Charlene, For
You. Little Dog
Records site. You can still get the CD at the Little
Dog General Store They also have some internet-only releases. Released
April, '97, reviewed by Bill Frater.
I'll Drink To That... (Not Lame)
Although most people may only recognize his name from a few songwriting credits
for '80's band Georgia Satellites (he wrote 'Battleship Chains' among others)
Anderson released two very fine solo CDs on now-defunct roots label ESD in the
mid '90's that were blueprints for drunken red-neck bar rock! Consider this release
a return to form! Like a cross between a drunk Ron Wood and a pissed-off (and
drunk) Hank Williams Jr., Anderson's music isn't deep or thought-provoking. It's
just loud, rowdy, "smash a-beer bottle over your buddy' head then hug him",
Stones-y, Chuck Berry-ish three or four chord smash-'em-ups! In fact, although
Anderson does write a catchy tune, it surprises me that a power-pop label was
the outlet for this. Seems a more rootsy label would have been a more logical
choice. Whatever. The liner notes say Anderson got the inspiration for these songs
after listening to an old Dave Edmunds CD and then deciding to write nothing but
fast songs! This, after leaving Nashville in disgust over the songwriting "system".
That's enough for me! I'm buying twenty of these jokers and I suggest you buy
at least one! |
has ordering info for many other CD's as well as their own releases. Buy
from Amazon.com Released Jan, 2001. Reviewed by Scott
Shoulda Lied About That … (Ringo)
Apple comes from Memphis and she also is a public radio DJ (WEVL). She has a Southern
girl voice not unlike Stacey Earle, but Apple applies a little more swagger to
her songs. The style is twangy/rootsy pop mostly with a hint of soul and country
here and there. She wrote most of the songs herself and that’s the only area that
needs a little more work. The CD was produced by Nancy and Keith Sykes, who wrote
some great witty songs in his day. Perhaps a little songwriting wood shedding
will help on her next one. Don’t get me wrong, I like the CD, but I look for even
better things on her next one.|
RingoRecords.net Buy from amazon
Released August, 2002. Reviewed by Bill
Tom Armstrong Sings Heart Songs... (Carswell)
Wow, who is this guy? He's channeling the classic country sounds of the early
60's with such ease and simplicity that it's hard to believe they're all his own
songs. This guy has spent time in the thrift stores buying all those old, frayed
albums with the ugly cover art. In fact, he has essentially replicated Ray
Price's first album cover. He's done his homework on the great singers from
the days before my time; people like Wynn Stewart, Lefty Frizzell and some of
the lesser known artists like Frankie Miller and Tibby Edwards. What's refreshing
with this recording is that although they used vintage microphones along with
steel guitar and fiddle, he doesn't sound like some hokey imitator. It's obvious
Armstrong has been listening with his heart as well as with his ears and he's
created something brand new and very special. |
Buy from amazon
Released April, 2000, reviewed by Bill
Frater and Kay Clements.|
Mt. Pleasant... (Spectra)
At first listen, this fourth release by New York-based former South Carolinian Arnau came off as appearing a bit on the over produced country pop-ish side, as if it was trying too hard to make those all important mainstream radio playlists. Well, ‘Blaaat, wrong answer', no cigar for that one, not even close. Further investigation reveals that she's not over produced, she actually does sound the same/that good live, without all of the studio tweaks and fiddling around that can make a mediocre performer sound impressive. This time it's all the real McCoy. She's got an impressive set of pipes that can adapt to a multitude of styles, from a soaring anthem to determination and grit, “You're Not Alone”, to the neat jazz/blues fusion of “Holidays”. Drawing inspiration from personal experience, her songs have that flavour that can only be described as “real”, and her backing band does exactly as a good backing band will: they provide the musical loom upon which Arnau weaves her lyrical tapestries, embellishing without overpowering. This one deserves a real-time live listen.
|Jennie's site, My Space. Order from CD Baby. Released June, '07, reviewed by Don Grant.
Benson and his ever changing band have almost single-handedly carried the torch
of the amazing and joyful music of Bob Wills. It's heartwarming to learn from
the excellent liner notes that Ray did meet Wills back in 1973 just before his
stroke. Bob would be happy to know that his music is still being enjoyed and danced
to today. Benson has become a contemporary Bob Wills by being the guy who introduces
the soloists and pushes and encourages the music with his whoops and hollers.
There have been other great Wills tributes, but they don't quite equal the spirit
of these faithful renderings. Benson enlisted guest vocalists for each song, including
Dwight Yoakam, Merle Haggard, Don Walser and the Dixie Chicks among others. All
of them turn in excellent readings, even the popular young country stars can't
mess up these classic tunes with The Wheel behind them. The only non-Wills number
is Waylon Jennings' "Bob Wills is Still The King" which is given a delightful
Western Swing arrangement that'll make you forget the original. And 25 years later,
the song is still as true as ever. Music doesn't get much more fun and danceable
then the music of Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys!
AT THE WHEEL |
The Very Best Of... (Madacy/ Relentless)
Finally, a real Best of Asleep At The Wheel! 30 years ago, when the Wheel
was formed, no band had ever covered both Bob Wills and Louis Jordan, and
there is still no other band doing it. Wheel boss Ray Benson has gone back and
re-recorded some of the band's best songs, many of them still live show favorites.
Some of these songs were associated with the original Wheel, (with Leroy Preston
and Chris O'Connell), and they are faithfully redone with Ray on lead vocals.
Liner notes include commentary on each song by Ray. This is an excellent collection
by the best Boogie Woogie, Western Swing band working today. A must have!
website with tour info and lots of merchandise. Buy from amazon.
Released June, '01, reviewed by Bill
Lohio... (Checkered Past)
| The Ass Ponys are old enough to know
who “Donald Sutherland” is, and appreciate that “Kung Fu Reference” as well.
Head Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver may be feeling “Dried Up”, “Only” about as
manly as a “Butterfly”. He might
pay you a “Dollar a Day” to hold your “Baby in a Jar”, or to say “(Baby) I Love
You (Baby)”. But, even though “Last
Night it Snowed”, well, Chuck knows that “Nothing Starts Today”.
In fact, you can mark your “Calendar Days” with a “Black Dot”; these guys
still have a “Fire in the Hole”…|
Checkered Past's Ass
Ponys bio. Buy
from Amazon.com Released June, 2001. Reviewed by Marty
Austin, Texas continues
to amaze me with the wealth of musical talent living and working there.
Twenty-five years ago, Atherton would be working on a major label, her soft, soulful
voice gaining fans by good-ol' word-of-mouth. Like Bonnie Raitt's best early albums
Atherton is comfortable singing country, blues, and well, country-blues.
Rich Brotherton, from Robert Earl Keen's band handles the production and the lead
guitar. A kid from San Antonio named Mike Stevenson wrote all the songs,
he's a killer songwriter who must either be awful humble or have a horrible voice. The
tempos and arrangements are varied and make for an very enjoyable and easy-going
CD. It's all here... search this one out.
Best tracks: Disappear,
Drift On (duet w/ Toni Price), Mean And Ugly, Real Life, Smilin' Devil, Homers.
She has her own homepage,
plus Steppin' Stone
has their own Leeann Atherton pages, with tour info. Order the CD from CD
Baby. Released late '98, by Bill
Broadsides... (self released)
|“How can a poor man stand such times and live?” asked Blind Alfred Reed back in 1929. Well into another economic slump, the Atomic Duo is answering the call for a new working man’s blues with a rough and ready blend that is one part bluegrass and another part Woody Guthrie. There isn’t much in the way of a coded message here; former Bad Livers guitarist Mark Rubin and mandolin whiz Silas Lowe feel that the collapse of the social contract is a genuine calamity, and they offer a fistful of hard scrabble laments as evidence. True to the Guthrie tradition, the songs are direct appeals to social justice, told with a Texas drawl and hard country snap. Songs like “Trickle Down” and “Company Man Is Not Our Friend” are anecdotes of blue-collar lives fraught with foreclosures, medical bills and layoffs, in which the 1% get no sympathy. The musicianship is sharp and tasty, the mandolin work particularily nice, especially on “Scott Joplin’s New Rag”. The overtly political tone is well aligned with the classics of folk protest, and Phil Ochs would probably be a fan. It isn’t a “feel good” album, but it’s one you might take to your next rally.
|The Duo's web site. Order from CD Baby. Released March, '12, reviewed by Brad Price.
The Fallen... (Reckless)
Following right on the heels of Kasey Chambers' excellent CD comes another young
Australian country singer, Audrey Auld. Turns out Kasey's father, Bill Chambers,
recorded a great album of country duets with Audrey. He also plays and sings harmony
on most of this CD so it's no surprise that there are some similarities. The
Fallen is actually more straight-ahead country then Kasey's album. Real Country,
some would say, including a duet of "Jackson" with Texas honky tonker,
Dale Watson. Audrey wrote almost every song and produced the whole dang thing.
Other then the very un-country cover photo, this is a great CD and she sounds
like she's having a lot of fun.
AUSTIN & CHRIS CASTINO
Songs from the Tin Shed... (Frog Pad)
Some artists can write and sing about the mundane things of life, and make them
fascinating, albeit familiar, experiences. Others attempt the same, and they produce,
well, mundane experiences. A well enough played CD instrumentally, Songs from
the Tin Shed just doesn't have that 'grab you by the ears and pay attention'
quality that separates the run-of-the-mill from the exceptional. Austin is from
Yonder Mountain Sting Ban andCastino is from The Big Wu, which I will assume is
another Colorado acoustic jam band. It's good background music that doesn't demand
much of the listener, and that's damning it with faint praise. There's no edge
here, just pleasant, nice tunes that won't ingratiate their way into your subconscious
and find you humming them in idle moments. I think that there's potential, and
I don't doubt their sincerity, but these boys need a hook. Mellow and wholesome
is OK, but even mellow and wholesome have to have something that proclaims loudly,
"This is us, this is what we're saying!", if it would hold the listener's attention.
Tina Turner once sang that she tries not to do anything too nice, guys, and I
think that you should, too. |
Pad's Tin Shed page. Buy from Amazon.
Released March, '04, reviewed by Don
Drive-By Romance... (Barking Topiary)
Austin's car references and beyond-gutsy attitude, her voice resembles a more
plaintive Kathy Mattea than any old blues mama down at the roadhouse. Still, Austin's
stance as a been-there-survived-that songwriter should ring true to anyone who's
been out in the world for more than a year. Longstanding jokes about country music's
clichéd lyrical subject matter (my wife left me, the truck broke down, my dog's
dead) aside, that stuff rings true because it is. All that crap has really happened
to people. Austin knows the power of singing about real life and she does so with
confidence and a certain amount of humor as well. While Austin's own songwriting
is good, she also shows good taste in outside material, choosing songs like "455
Rocket" by Gillian Welch and "105" by Fred Eaglesmith for covers. Other covers
on the CD include "Broke Down" by Slaid Cleaves and Rod Picott and "Love's A Word
I Never Throw Around" by Robert Earl Keen Jr. All are done well and sounding great.
While the vocals could maybe use some fire, the CD as a whole stands out as quality
work, and Austin definitely bears watching. Good stuff.|
website. Order from CD Baby.
Released June, 2003. Reviewed by Scott
Drive On Back... (Barking Topiary)
| Austin is a singer-songwriter from Santa Cruz who has a strong deep voice that unadorned, would fall into the folk music genre. Sherry writes sensitive and well thought-out compositions with fine melodies, and she has impeccable taste in selecting songs by other songwriters to cover. Tim O'Brien's “Less And Less” sounds made for her, as does Dylan's “Wagon Wheel”. The other strong point is the intelligent arrangements, adding fiddle, steel guitar and cello where it fits, and surrounding herself with great musicians and singers. Her original "I Wouldn't Lie To You " is a direct plea to our president with a taste of irony. It all comes together on the marvelous “Hallelujah”, written by Martha Scanlan, (due for her first solo CD next year), which opens with some tasty dobro and winds up with a rousing Dixieland-style ending. It's pretty close to perfection and is one of the best songs I've heard all year. A tip of the hat must also go to Jim Norris, who produced Drive On Back with Austin. This is a well-balanced album that just gets better with each listen.
|Sherry-Austin.com. Order from CD Baby. Released June, '06. Reviewed by Bill Frater.
Strange Noises in the Dark… (Blue Corn)
Country music has always had a few fringe comedy artists. Going back to Minnie
Pearl, Homer & Jethro, through the Geesinslaws and Kinky Freidman and who knows
who else. (Does anybody else remember Country Porn?) Anyway, the Austin Lounge
Lizards have (to my amazement) been around for over 20 years. Although I support
their politics and their valiant attempt at social commentary, I just don't find
them that funny. Most of the songs are like based on a single joke or parody subject.
Not only that, their bluegrass-influenced playing and vocal arrangements don't
do a lot for me either. I find it just to derivative, like I've heard it all before.
There is however one mock-country song that features the wonderful Kelly Willis
on duet vocals, "We Always Fight When We Drink Gin". That song alone is almost
worth the price of the CD. Even if it is produced by Lloyd Maines, it doesn't
do it for me, and I do have a pretty good sense of humor. |
Released: Oct, 2003. Reviewed by Bill
Mignonette ... (Ramseur)
who produces a recording should get a dispassionate and objective third party
to preview the work several times before it goes to pressing. If you're going
to do a live recording, do it live. Attempts to capture the essence and vitality
present onstage, in the studio, don't very often work. Unless one has experienced
the live version, including between-track chatter and banter inevitably result
in the initiate searching for the remote to skip the banalities; after a few playings,
it's just boring. Now that I've got that off my chest, this North Carolina bluegrass
trio does make some pretty darn good hill country/jug band music in their second
outing. Standouts amongst the 20 cuts are "Swept Away", both versions, "Signs",
"Please Pardon Yourself", and "A Gift For Melody Ann". The vocals harmonize nicely
within the traditional acoustic instrumentation; there's no electrification here
folks, it's pretty pure stuff. The boys can write, they can sing, and they can
play. Where they've fallen down is in the production of what could have been a
band's site. Buy from amazon. Released July, '04. reviewed
by Don Grant.