Best of FTB
The last Backsliders CD was excellent and
came out in '97, but since then most of the band is gone except one of the lead
singers, Chip Robinson. Losing their other lead singer and songwriter took
away some of the band's country "edge". Robinson aims the band
in a harder-rockin' direction, with the help of producer Eric "Roscoe"
Ambel, who has worked with the Bottle Rockets among many others. Robinson
writes some great tunes and I like his voice too. As soon as I listened
with my CD player in the shuffle mode, I liked the album better. You might
try it. Although a few of the tunes have that dated "southern rock anthem" sound,
there's still enough twang here to recommend this CD.
Blood & Mood... (Sugar Hill)
The Bad Livers have had an interesting career mixing the unique vocals and amazing
guitar and banjo of Danny Barnes with Mark Rubin on bass and tuba. They
are best known, for lack of a better term, for playing old-timey/bluegrass
with an punk rock edge. With Blood & Mood, Barnes and Rubin have
taken a highly adventurous leap. They've have added a loud and obnoxious
drum machine to the mix, at times oddly accompanied only by Barnes' banjo. It's
so different that their mostly-bluegrass record label didn't even send the CD
out to their usual radio stations. They even attempt some dialogue-sampling
that suggests they've been listening to My Live In the Bush of Ghosts or
possibly some recent Tom Waits albums. All in all, I value their effort but I'm
not knocked out by the results.|
Check out the band's site, BadLivers.com,
or Sugar Hill's site.
Good-humored bassist Mark
Rubin has his own site that's great too! Buy
from Amazon.com. Released Feb. 2000, reviewed by Bill
These guys, formed in Austin, play original
old-timey/jug band music. Think 1920's thru 1940's, and they do it with humor
and fine musicianship. Leader Danny Barnes is the man- writin', singin', and versatile
banjo pickin', while bassist Mark Rubin doubles on tuba. Do you remember the Red
Clay Ramblers? Well, the Bad Livers are in the same broad "bag", but
they're a little younger and they have a great fiddle player. Liberal bluegrass
and old-timey fans will love this stuff, and so will anyone else who has an open
Best tracks: Hogs on the Highway, Counting the Crossties, Corn Liquor Made a Fool
Out of Me, News not the Weather. The
bands own news and info. Skimpy but fun! Buy
from Amazon.com. Released Feb. '97, reviewed by Bill
BAD PENNY BOYS
Loose Change... (self released)
a CD is just absolutely insipid, I have to award some points for effort, and such
is the case here. Coming from locales as disparate as Chicago, San Antonio, Bogota,
and Philadelphia, the band now calls the 'Frisco Bay area home. I'd have thought
that with such diverse backgrounds to draw upon, these guys could have produced
more noteworthy music. Instead, they sound like the epitome of the laid-back,
carefree Northern California lifestyle that commonly comes to mind when people
envision that area. Technically adept at their instruments, they've only got one
song here that has any real bite, and that's "Tides of Life". They need a writer.
While I probably won't Frisbee this one out the car window, by the same token,
it isn't going to find its way into the preferred category, either.|
Penny Boys' site. Order from CD
Baby. Released early 2004, reviewed by Don
Here Comes The New Folk Underground... (Lost Highway)
| Former ‘80's alterna-pop hitmeister (he was one of the
Davids in David and David) Baerwald steps out from behind the scenes as a hitmaking
producer (he helped with Sheryl Crow's mega-selling debut) to create some new
music of his own in a new style. Baerwald has decided to eschew his penchant
for studio wizardry and re-immerge with some invigorating country and folk-tinged
songs making his previous lushly produced popwork sound like pure wankery. Musicians
often re-invent themselves by trying new styles and new ideas but in Baerwald's
case he has just managed to find the best parts of his songs and weed out the
superfluous nonsense that used to clog them up. While some of the arrangements
on the CD are inventive and feature more than he and his guitar, there is little
to hide behind and Baerwald obviously knew he had a strong set of songs here because
he sounds as natural as can be in this new environment. His work with Crow did
show a return to a rootsier style, but on this disc Baerwald embraces it and makes
it his own and has become a serious player as a result. This is sure to surprise
his previous fans as much as it pleases them but is well worth exploring. By adapting
to this new bare bones style Baerwald may once again find himself on the top of
the charts and in the forefront of musical conversation. He and his new album
deserve nothing less. |
Highway does a nice job on their site for Baerwald
which includes a bio, mailing list, and more. Buy
from amazon Released July, 2002.
Reviewed by Scott Homewood .|
Chords On A Big Guitar… (Koch)
sure how old Baez is these days, but she doesn’t appear to be resting on her considerable
legendary 60’s folk music laurels. Unlike many other artists of her generation,
she’s taking chances and striving to stay contemporary. Special credit must go
to Joan’s manager Mark Spector, who produced the CD. Since the producer is the
person who traditionally is responsible for song selection, Spector has done his
homework. A virtual all-star group of songwriters are represented here: Greg Brown,
Gillian Welch, Ryan Adams, Steve Earle, Joe Henry and a few others who you've
probably heard of. Spector also brings a nice gritty sound to the whole affair,
featuring the "big guitar" of one Duke McVinnie. Who ever this guy is, he carries
the whole CD himself and he’s a damn good and versatile guitarist. Ms. Baez still
has great command of her strong, deep voice with a hint of folkie sweetness that
doesn’t always suit the dark and sometimes rockin’ tunes. But for the most part,
the whole thing works rather nicely, thanks to some excellent choices in songs
to cover and imaginative production.
there's JoanBaez.com. Buy
from amazon. Released Sept, 2003. Reviewed by Bill
Just Say Moo... (Hairy Moon)
If you like your music delivered with a healthy dose of serious fun the Bagboys
are for you. I love this band. They are somewhat reminiscent of the
Austin Lounge Lizards, Riders in the Sky and/or the Red Clay Ramblers. But
don't let their over-the-top humor fool you, this is a band of serious, talented,
and historically knowledgeable musicians. This CD is mostly original material
with humable melodies and imaginative arrangements. The quality of the musicianship
is consistently high and though everyone sings, honestly, some are better than
others. While they are capable of some pretty convincing genre hopping -
moving easily from solid driving bluegrass to bouncy western swing to contemporary
folk - they're not content with merely aping these traditions but inhabit them
as living, contemporary forms. And they are clearly having a ball playing
music. That sense of toe-tapping, knee-slapping fun is infectious and most
listeners will find themselves, like me, mooing right along with the Bagboys.
| Check out The
Bagboys' website for CD ordering info, bios and such, they also have a couple
of songs on MP3 to sample. Released Feb. 2000, reviewed by Kevin
Austin singer-songwriter, Sam Baker, got his body blown apart in Peru when a bomb went off on a train. Senseless violence, but Baker chose to make blessings of his wounds. Eighteen surgeries later, Sam had to switch to playing guitar left-handed because of damages. His singing is about as honest as it gets. Mercy works as a suite, simple and complex, offering rich details which activate the imagination. This is a folk album, but don't be fooled by category; there's a genius at work here. Townes Van Zandt would've loved these songs, might've tried to win them in a card game. But Baker's no gambler. These songs are his art. It's been a while since a record sent such a short right hand to my heart, and that was before I read Baker's bio.
|Sam Baker Music. Buy from amazon. Or CD Baby has it cheaper. Released June, '04, reviewed by Doug Lang.
He wears a blue suede cowboy hat / Got a Juarez woman stretched out on his lap / He sings an old song, a song to himself / He sings waiting round to die…
So begins "Juarez", the opening song on Pretty World, Sam Baker's follow-up to his brilliant debut, Mercy. Received this two months before its release, been reading it slowly. Takes time to reveal itself. It's that way with artists like Sam Baker; his songs plant seeds instead of handing you a bouquet. Ghosts of Townes and Stephen Foster here, Cormac McCarthy in the background nodding. "Odessa" is a movie in itself. A box falls down, memory breaks open. Valentines? She kept every one he gave her. There's a war going on, always, and relics resemble people. Horizon line, sun and dust, a man on the porch examining broken fingers. Sam playing guitar, backwards, upside down. Baker's writing is landscape, a mood struck, a stroke or two of detail. Words of the heart throw shadows, spooking a horse your grandpa once fell off of. Bring your burnt tears to the table, soldier, Cormac says. There are women laughing inside. Dinner is ready. A sad hymn, candles. How beautiful.
| Buy from amazon. Released Aug., '07, reviewed by Doug Lang.
THE BAND OF HEATHENS
The Band Of Heathens... (BOH)
|There's gotta be a couple a thousand talented singer/songwriters looking for work around Austin. The story goes that 3 of them shared some open mike gigs and decided to combine forces to create something greater than the sums of their parts. Thus came The Band Of Heathens, and the town loves these guys. The principles are Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist and Colin Brooks and each brings something unique to the stew. All are fine songwriters, Brooks especially has a gritty. soulful valice and he knows his way around a lap steel and Dobro. They get a big Austin stamp of approval with production by Ray Wylie Hubbard and Patty Griffin all over the thing on vocals. What's special is that the band has a bluesy rollicking side that's just amazing. I hear strains of The Subdudes and even the Small Faces here and there. Check them out.
|Their site is quite nice. Buy from amazon. Released May, '08, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Conway's Corner.. (Loudhouse)
As the liner notes to this CD (Banks' fourth) readily admit, Texas musicians have
always been a strange breed. Think of Texas musicians such as Ponty Bone, Clarence
"Gatemouth" Brown and the late, great Doug Sahm and you will see that
the common denominator in their music was that it not only sounded like nothing
else, it also sounded like a little bit of everything, including blues, soul and
country. Knowing this, I am not surprised that each cut on this fantastic new
CD sounds like a totally different style of music. Ranging from blues to roadhouse
rock to cajun two-steps to swamp pop and everything in between, Banks has crafted
an album that shows his versatility in spades while also showing that music is
music dadgummit and as long as it's performed with heart, soul and fiery passion,
it's gonna sound great. No, this isn't country. It's more than country. It's everything
that Americana music and roots music is supposed to be: an enjoyable mix of styles
that makes you forget about genres and labels and just captivates the hell out
of you. I love this album. It's got a little of everything I like on it. I'm sure
you'll feel the same way. |
Loudhouse Record's site.
from amazon Reviewed by Scott
|JEFF BARBRA & SARAH PIRKLE
The Barb Hollow Sessions... (Barb Hollow Music)
|In its own quite understated way this CD is a masterpiece of modern folk music. And by “folk” music I mean some uncatagorizable blend of country, old-time, bluegrass and folk. First class evocative vocals, brilliant song writing, tasty expressive instrumental back-up; this one has it all. Given that the duo is features his guitar and her fiddle, comparisons to Dave carter and Tracy Grammar may be inevitable. And as much as I liked Dave & Tracy, I like these two even more. Though less lyrically mystical, Jeff & Sarah create memorable melodies & use simpler, more accessible language to capture the time honored themes in the best country music of home, God, love, family & friends. A simply gorgeous record.
|Their website. Order fron CD Baby. Released 2003, reviewed by Kevin Russell.
|BOBBY BARE JR.
Young Criminals Starvation League... (Bloodshot)
| Long renowned for the devil-may-care Southern rock swagger he showcased in his band Bare Jr., Bare has thrown his fans a curve ball with his latest release. Instead of his usual hard guitar attack, Bare focuses on quieter, more reflective and story-based songs for this one, showing a quality of song writing and vocal inflection few thought him capable. In effect, he has put out his best album ever and one that would make his father (a country hitmaker in his own right) very proud. This praise is not to denigrate his earlier, much rowdier releases. It's just that previously, he was following a path already trod by Hank Williams Jr. Loud country songs featuring Southern rock guitar and a rebel-like attitude. Some songs resonated but most seemed only skin deep. With this album, Bare goes straight to the heart, nailing yours and his own to the wall with his honest, masterful storytelling and his to-the-bone performances. After releasing an album this good and showing the world he can write songs that can stand through the ages, Bare Jr. has an unenviable task: following it up. Until then, I recommend this CD as the CD to by should you only have enough money for one.
| Bare's website. Bloodshot's Bare Jr. page. Buy from Amazon Released July, 2002. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.
Alibis... (Run Wild)
A decent bar band sportin' some red neck country rock that, while probably fun
in a place serving liquor and containing pretty women (maybe that's enough, who
knows) sounds pretty derivative on your stereo. The first song rips of The Stones
while the second takes licks note for note from Lynyrd Skynyrd. All bands gotta
show their influences a little but some of this is outright copy. That said, there
is nothing cringe inducing on this record, just not too much of an original statement.
Bar bands are a dime a dozen and unless you want a recording of a fairly decent
one, you can probably save your CD money and just go out on a Saturday night and
hear something as good as this. |
The Barn Burners website.
Order the CD from Miles
Of Music. Reviewed by Scott
Get your torch 'n twang-o-meters
out cuz we got something here. Spotlight Owen Bradley & Family on the
production end which gives the sound a certain smooth predictability, but I'm
also here to say Barnett can smoke a tune or two. I've always associated
her name with mainstream country but this record is, ok, I'm gonna say it, more
reminiscent of the Patsy Cline sound complete with an impeccable band. Some
of that I attribute to the production , some to stylistic influence but a big
part of it is just that wonderful smoky style of delivering great tunes with a
big voice that makes you want to sway, slow dance or just plain sit around and
dream to and that's all hers. I love the tone of this music, smooth, seductive
with just enough frisk to keep you awake. This record has me thinking frocks,
updos and low lights..... See you at the Cimarron.
Livin' Large In A Little Bitty Room… (Terminus)
| Banjo master Danny Barnes is presented here live, solo and acoustic, in the raw. Featuring a career overview with songs from his Bad Livers days up through his recent solo work (Things I Done Wrong, Dirt on the Angel ) Barnes is an engaging performer and monster instrumentalist, with outstanding, roosty songs. Always intense, Barnes alternates his banjo playing with fiery Merle Travis style guitar picking.
The spirits of John Hartford, Dock Boggs and Nathaniel Hawthorne are all present and accounted for in the work of this truly original and forward thinking artist.
This is a first-rate introduction for the un-initiated and a must have for fans of his past work.
This CD was recorded to be sold at Barnes live shows but is now available on his website.
|DannyBarnes.com Released in 2004, reviewed by Michael Meehan.
|PAUL BARRY AND THE DEL RAYS
Paul Barry and the Del Rays... (Lulu)
| I don't know anything about Paul Barry except he is a fine lead vocalist and has released a jumping little CD. Full of rockabilly, honky tonk, retro- pop and a little british invasion, this set of somewhat obscure covers (by Chris Hillman, Todd Snider and Don Reno, among others) is mostly well chosen and basically a hoot. An American pub rock spirit inhabits this offering with some well done Everly Brothers/Maverick type pop crooners thrown in. The Del Rays are tasteful players fortified with pedal steel and fiddle, but the M.V.P. award has got to go drummer Gary Koehler for his tight harmony vocals.
Highlights include the opener "Boo Hoo", the twangy "Heaven" and the retro crooner "Longing". I definitely recommend seeking out this self titled disc from this Cudahy, Wisconsin act.
|Barry's RockinRoots.com. Order from CD Baby. Released early 2005, reviewed by Michael Meehan.
World On A Wire... (self released)
|While EPs are not exactly a preferred medium for artistic exposure, carrying as they do some of the residual stigma attached to those ‘greatest hits’ re-issues of yore, which essentially said ‘please buy this because we can’t think of anything new to say’, as Bob said, “the times they are a changin’”. Not every new artist has the resources to finance a full-length premiere release and these days for many an EP fits the bill, (no pun intended). Bartholomew hails from Brooklyn with a four member alt/rock indieish band that brings to mind thoughts of a countrified Chris de Burgh. It’s a bit difficult to really get a feel for an artist from listening to only five songs, but what’s contained herein is not half bad, with the opening title cut and “American Anthem", the caboose track, being the best of the lot. For a measly ten bucks you could do a lot worse than World On A Wire.
|Bill's MySpace page. Order from CD
Baby Released April, '08, reviewed by Don
Fixin' To Break Down... (Lu Belle)
Bartlett has been around the vibrant musical scene of the Northwest for quite
some time now, having worked with, amongst others, the Supersuckers and Gerald
Collier, but this, Fixin' To Break Down, is his first solo effort, and it's a
pretty darn good one. The press blurbs compare him to the late Townes Van Zandt
and Bob Dylan, and I'd say I hear a bit of Leonard Cohen texture in there also;
similar, but with some important distinctions. Shades of Townes, yes, but without
the aura of self-destruction; lyrically, the writing is akin to that of Cohen's,
but not nearly half as morose, and musically, Bartlett is comparable to Dylan,
except that Clay can carry a tune without having to have it in his pocket. My
only complaint is with the length, eight songs totally just under thirty-one minutes
seems a bit brief, considering what one is asked to pay for a CD. I do prefer
quality over quantity, and there is quality here, but I'd have been happier waiting
a little longer for some additional material to be included.|
site. Order from CD
Baby. Released early 2004, reviewed by Don
SONS OF JOHNNY CASH
Distance Between... (Ultimatum Music)
The band with one of the coolest names in the music business comes back for another
round after their incredible debut a few years ago. This time, the sound has changed
a little. The rough and ready rumbling roots rock sound is still there but it
has definitely been polished a hair although not to the detriment of the music.
Where their first album got much of its' charm from its' slight sloppiness and
slurred, grungy guitars this album's charm comes from its' tightness and confident
swagger. These boys ain't messing around. This is serious! It's more a confidence
thing, the band hitting its' stride more than anything else, though, and one need
not worry about the music sounding safe or sterile. These guys ain't having none
of that. As great as that first record was, there is just a weight and a substance,
lyrically and musically, that wasn't there the first time. Another thing you will
notice right away is lead singer/songwriter Mark Stuart's vocal resemblance to
Bruce Springsteen. It starts to show up on the album's second song and stays there
pretty much through the whole thing. Maybe the aural specter of Springsteen is
making the songs sound weightier than they normally would. It's something Stuart
may want to change in the future. As great as this album sounds, as good as it
is lyrically and musically, other less enlightened critics may use the Springsteen
thing against them and it may eventually cloud the band's own identity. For now,
though, this CD remains a swaggering, rocking near-perfect musical creation bound
to send both twang-country stalwarts and modern roots rock fans swooning.
is a nice looking site. Buy
from amazon Released Aug, 2002.
Reviewed by Scott Homewood .|
Once We Were Trees... (Sub Pop)
Throughout the sophomore release from the Beachwood Sparks the SoCal indie
cowboys deliver an album displaying musical, songwriting, and repertory growth
beyond their critically acclaimed self-titled debut. Previously, they were labeled
a retro extension of the late 1960's country-rock icons Buffalo Springfield
and the Flying Burrito Brothers. On Once We Were Trees, the band proves
themselves to be one of the most exciting sub-genre leaders in the current indie
rock world. The mid-tempo groove of "The Sun Surrounds Me" illustrates
the songwriting growth the Sparks have achieved in the last three years, followed
by the somewhat campy yet cool "You Take The Gold" which reverts to
a simple carefree sing-a-long. One notable track is a revamped version of the
Adult Contemporary Sade hit "By Your Side" which stands as the albums
'must listen' track. The Beachwood Sparks bring a much needed good time
attitude to the nearly smothered indie market filled with quickly aging Generation
X-ers who have run out of bitchy social commentary. |
Sub Pop's Beachwood
Sparks page. Buy
from Amazon.com Released Oct 9th, 2001. Reviewed by Matt
|MIKE BECK & THE BOHEMIAN SAINTS
Mike Beck's a horse whisperer by trade, learned from the Dorrance brothers, horsemen they based the Redford movie on. Beck's a guitarist steeped in the
Bakersfield sound, and writes excellent and evocative songs. Earlier albums trace his cowboy life, Mariposa Wind being the best. Beck's new one, Rooted,
is a departure of sorts. "George Orwell's 113th Dream" is evidence, as is one of
the more subtle, moving anti-war songs around, "Amanda Come Home", a
mercy plea for a woman he knows who's stationed in Iraq. Rooted also boasts
a nakedly emotional "I Want You", one of the best Dylan covers you'll ever
hear. This is intelligent and genuine Americana music by a man who's tamed
wild horses the world over, spent many nights around the fire at cowboy
gatherings. When Mike Beck shakes the pucky off his boots and plugs in his
B-bender guitar to sing his song, he's got something to say… and his new album captures his evolving artistry very, very well.
|Mike's site (including horsemanship clinics) has CD ordering. Released Sept. '06, reviewed by Doug Lang.
BE GOOD TANYAS
|The Be Good
Tanya are a trio of young women from Vancouver, B.C. They have hip thrift store
look and their musical style carefully straddles the line between folk and old-timey
music. Featuring the whispery lead vocals of Frazey Ford and "plucked not picked"
banjo, many of their tunes percolate along at a gentle pace with some soft drums
in the background. Their production and songwriting have improved from their first
effort Blue Horse, yet it’s thankfully not over-produced with too many instruments.
They mix in some well-chosen cover songs with their own compositions, which occasionally
remind me of Gillian Welch’s style. They honor the past forefathers like The Carter
Family and Hazel & Alice, while not imitating them. I could see them breaking
out to the "big time", appealing to everyone from young acoustically aware Phish-heads
to boomer "O’ Brother" fans. Check it out, buy one for yourself and one for your
from amazon Released March, 2003. Reviewed by Bill
Row... (Baptism By Fire)
|A recent trend
in the world of alt.country is to have a group featuring dual lead singers, one
male one female. Obviously, these groups are seeking the same type of magic that
made Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris such a heart-rending, sweet-sounding team.
While I've never heard anyone equal the amazing sound Gram and Emmy got, I like
what The Believers do on this new CD. Some groups make the male/female pairings
seem like a gimmick, but something intangible about the Believers makes the pairing
sound natural, as if the male and female voices were sometimes two sides of the
same person and sometimes two different souls having a passionate dialogue. The
voices in question, Cynthia Frazzini and Craig Aspen, also are responsible for
writing all of the songs. The relationship between them is never really specified
in the liner notes but it is clear from the songs they have a special, tender
bond that allows them to write and perform some solidly heartfelt and honest country
Believers site. Order from Miles
Of Music or CD
Baby. Reviewed by Scott
| Cynthia Frazzini and Craig Aspen, joined by serendipity, come out of the Pacific Northwest by way of Denver and New York respectively. Their sound – what one writer called “American Gothic meets Amazing Grace” – draws on the Buddy & Julie Miller model most strongly. Danny Barnes, formerly of the Bad Livers, adds deftly to the mania with banjo and tuba fluorishes. Self-penned with a cover of Dylan's original rap number, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Crashyertown may not set itself apart from the crowd in originality, but it's in with a good crowd all the same. A consistently listenable set.
|The Believers site. Order
from amazon. Released April, 2005. Reviewed by Doug Lang.
| GLENNA BELL
Face This World... (self-released)
| This is one hard lady to track down; all that I can find out about her is that she's from Texas, and that came from a Google search that describes her as a “Texas/goth country artist”. I shit thee not, that's an exact quote, but I'll be go to hell if I can figure that one out. Goth? Oy vay!…, and who writes that stuff, anyhow? Fortunately, I listened before I read that off-turning label, because this is a nice piece of work by a young singer/songwriter that runs in the vein of a pensive Mary Chapin-Carpenter, with two duets, “Moving On”, and “Tumbling Down”, with John Evans, that are almost more Ian and Sylvia than the originals. There's a minimum of backing to Bell's acoustic guitar and vocals, which are more than capable of standing on their own, thank you. When the band kicks in, as on the bluegrass flavoured “Here In Texas”, and “Cosmos Café”, it's toe-tapping time. Self-effacement is an admirable trait, but Bell needs someone to toot her horn, fly her flag a bit more, as it were. She's worthy of the attention. Goth? Sheesh!
|We found Glenna's website. Order from CD Baby. Released Feb. 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.
Nobody You'd Know... (Hayden's Ferry)
Belle Starr come out of St. Louis, sounding confident, mature and great.
Fronted by two principal singers and songwriters, Kip Loui, who writes most of
the songs and has a knack for both memorable words and a good sense of melody, and
Lynne Reif, who handles most of the lead vocals with a commanding and expressive
alto voice. Together, their singing is frequently spectacular without being too
showy. Their songs go from twangy guitar-led rock to spare acoustic ballads with
no shortage of melodic hooks. Hayden's Ferry is a small Americana label
that believes in quality over quantity. They know how to pick 'em and this
band is a good example. Freight Train sez check 'em out! |
| The band has their own site,
with bio, tour and FAQ's... Hayden's
Ferry's site. Released March, 2000, reviewed by Bill
My Friends Are My Estate... (Del-Tona)
this CD off with an almost perfect slice of late-60's Byrdsian folk-pop (Light)
bodes well for Belleville (at least for me, your humble and country-rock loving
reviewer). If all bands would open their discs with powerful, grabbing songs such
as this my job would be so much easier. In Belleville's case, thank God, my job
IS easy because that wonderful first song is just the tip of the iceberg as this
CD is chock full of perfect rock/country amalgamations that will make fans of
Byrds/Gram Parsons and other artists of that ilk just swoon. Great harmonies,
wonderful arrangements and songwriting to die for are the lynchpins to this magnificent
CD. Vocals are shared just about equally between band members Robert Zapata and
Bruce Drake and all songwriting is credited to the band, underscoring the total
band effort on display here. For all the alt.country bands trying to hop on the
classic pop bandwagon, along comes Belleville out of relative nowhere to show
the rest how to do it properly. Jeff Tweedy dreams of making a record this good.
There is not a bad song on here and I say that in all seriousness and pure awe.
The best record of the year so far. Fans of Perniece Brothers, Gram, The Band,
Byrds, and even late ‘60's psyche-rock need to check this out. Immediately!|
Released Oct, 2002. Reviewed by Scott
Just Plain Lonesome... (ASP)
Johnny Cash's original back up band, The Tennessee Two, was just lead guitar and
stand up bass. Similarly, the Bellfuries led by the fine, Elvis-inspired vocals
of Joey Simeone, have guitar, slap bass, lead guitar and a fifties sounding
steel guitar by "guest" Billy Horton. Great stuff, no doubt about it.
Extra points for their choice three cover songs- written by Webb Pierce,
Dion DiMucci and Sam Cooke. The rest Simeone wrote, but they sound as if
they could have been written 50 years ago and that spells rockabilly to me. Get
your pomade out, hit the dance floor and take this record to your next party.
| The bands
site has tour date and ordering info, and their label's
site has MP3 song samples. Released March, '01, reviewed by
Bill Frater & Kay Clements.
Bottoms Up... (Gut)
This young quartet from San Francisco which features the plaintive lead vocals
and songs of Sandra Mello, has a sound which seems to alternate between the guitar
twang of Lone Justice and classic country torch ballads. Mello is aided by rhythm
guitarist Melody Baldwin-Baroz, whose harmonies are pleasant and subtle and Jon
Stern on lead guitar. David Phillips also adds some fine pedal steel. The band
looks punk-country cool and for a debut CD, it's quite promising. |
|Check out the band's website, Bellyachers.com.
Released Nov. 2000, reviewed by Bill
Frater. Order the CD from Miles
Heavy In My Hands... (Gut)
the presence of pedal steel player David Phillips and accordion master Rico Bell,
this album lands more in the realm of rockabilly-laden pop than country. It does
have plenty of roots/country influences, though, most notably in the folk-tinged
voices of singers/bandleaders/songwriters Sandra Mello and Melody Baldwin-Baroz.
Their sweet harmonies propel this album and give it an honest, rootsy feel much
like the Everly Brothers' voices gave to their own special brand of rock music.
And much like their thankfully unadorned voices, the Bellyachers' music eschews
effects and the usual heavy doses of reverb, instead relying on pure, sweet musicality
to bring their often pain-filled, passionate songs to life. A deliciously swaggering
cover of the Van Halen hit "Jamie's Cryin'" is not to be missed. Thankfully, in
a year filled with some other great albums from female roots artists, this is
not your standard Nashville cookie-cutter female country album. This CD is filled
with soul, life, wholesomeness and passion. Take that, Trisha - the country scene's
starting to pass you by, baby.|
Bellyachers site. Order from amazon
Released Aug, 2002. Reviewed by Scott
Buckles & Boots... (Open Road Music)
Thematically speaking, Canadian Bent's sophomore release doesn't chart any new waters for the genre. It's a country disc through and through. All of the usual suspects are present in force, the rodeo rider, the disappearing ex, (in guess who's truck?), there's a dog in there somewhere, and an ode to mama, all delivered in styles that change up through swing, straight ahead new country rock, and the closer's dialogue laden “Apache Hairlifter” about an aging cowboy of questionable character. While the content of Buckles & Boots may have been explored before, it's not that often that they have been so well presented. Producer John MacArthur Ellis, with a crew of skilled musicians, has done a stellar turn here. Stylistically it might not be everyone's preferred cup of tea, but it's nonetheless a pretty skookum brew.
|Ridley's site. Buy from amazon. Released Nov. '07, reviewed by Don Grant.
This is an impressive CD
put out by a lady mostly known for writing songs for more "established"
Nashville artists. Berg exhibits a maturity and a debth of style far beyond the
other "girls", and she has a great voice to boot. Producer Emory Gordy,
Jr. was Emmylou's original bassist, and his experience shows both in his arrangements
and his cautious use of the many guest stars. What I also like is the sense of
playfulness that Matraca has. She doesn't take herself too seriously. Fans of
Mary Chapin Carpenter or Shawn Colvin would probably enjoy this CD.
Best tracks: Along For The Ride, That Train Don't Run, Back In The Saddle, Back
When We Were Beautiful, Sun. Morning To Sat. Night. Buy
New American Language... (Messenger)
If this CD truly has the New American Language, then every rock and alt.country
band needs to pick this up and study it. From his opening burst Tom Petty-with-tons-of-twang
vocals on the song Sweetness and throughout this disc, Bern has crafted an incredible
blueprint for a near-flawless roots record. Besides the insightful, engaging,
witty stories he tells with deft and skill, he manages to surround them with a
perfect framework consisting of equal parts rock passion, country cool, and folk
defiance. Yeah, hard times are just around the corner, but so what? Pick up a
guitar, tell your story, and get over it. Bern's figured out a way to do it, why
do other artists have such a rough time? Congratulations, Bern...after four great
discs you've released a career-maker. To you roots fans - get this now and don't
be surprised if it turns out to be your favorite disc of 2001. |
| Check out DanBern.com
from Amazon Released Oct. 2001. Reviewed by Scott
Deeper In The Well ... (Stony Plain)
| Prolific bluesman and American ex-pat Eric Bibb's album - his third in a year - is a gentle and well crafted exploration of Southern Country Blues. Recorded in Louisiana with acoustic folk and blues stars Dirk Powell and Cedric Watson, Bibb turns in a set of traditional and original songs that are more soothing than they are troubled, with nary a reference to the struggles, vices and tension that mark traditional blues. It is a statement from a man who seems profoundly content with his lot. Performances are expert throughout, with some especially tasty fiddle work by both Powell and Watson, making Deeper In The Well a pleasant listening experience. Alas, it is not an experience that moves the listener to feel much more, there is no tension to resolve. Bibb's problems are solved.
|Eric's site. Buy from Amazon Released June, '11, reviewed by Brad Price.
At first I wasn't sure if these guys were a rock band or a country-roots band,
and I'm still not sure, which is fine. Like Del Amitri or maybe Dire Straits,
Big Back Forty do what works for each song and to hell with labels. They're from
Columbus, Ohio and they played and wrote the whole thing themselves. No gimmicks,
just great songs and arrangements. Has anyone else bought this CD besides me?
Best tracks: Blood, 8 Miles Down, Move It Over, Big Man. Big
Back 40 Home Page
Nice site w/tour info, song samples and lyrics. Released
July, '97, reviewed by Bill Frater
These young guys hail from San Francisco
and have a distinctive sound featuring the haunting tenor of songwriter David
Fisher. Add lots of reverb guitar and you can't stop thinking Chris Isaak must
have a new band. The songs are mostly mid-tempo to slow, the melodies will eventually
grow on you and you find yourself forgetting all about Isaak, and you realize
he got most of his sound from Roy Orbison. So who knows who they sound like, there's
definitely a 50's retro thing going, with enough pedal steel from guest Greg Leitz
to give it some country feel. The Mavericks, maybe that's who they sound like!
Oh well, they don't have the most original sound, but who does anyway. The CD
has a "hidden" last track that really rocks like "Sun Sessions"
Elvis, which I wish they did more of. I like these guys and if you like any of
the above artists, then you'll enjoy Big Blue Hearts too.
Best Tracks: Live
Without Your Love, Nobody Wants Her, Don't Mind Messin'. Official
with tour info, mailing lists, pix, etc. Released June, 97, reviewed
by Bill Frater
BIG GALOOTS |
One Thing Right... (GIP)
Their biography says that this New Jersey band embraces country music's greatest
period, the 1950's and 60's. That works pretty well for me too. They compare quite
favorably to the Derailers, original songs done in honky tonk, rockabilly and
pre-Beatles rock 'n' roll styles. Despite the band's name, they take their music
quite seriously. This debut CD is a fun ride. |
Order from amazon,
or from the band's website, BigGaloots.com
Release date: June, 2000. Reviewed by Bill
This California band has a real smooth blues-based
country sound. Lead singer Monty Byron has a good, smokey voice and has a hand
in most of the songwriting, which is solid throughout. They play it fairly safe,
but at least they haven't "sold their souls" to have a country hit.
I was prepared to say that this CD gives me hope that the Nashville establishment
is finding a place for young bands to develop. Then I just heard that MCA has
dumped them from their roster after only 2 releases. MCA also recently sent the
great George Jones out to pasture too. So much for good intentions. I like these
guys even more now, and I wish them luck.
Woodstock Nation... (Dead Reckoning)
Failing to hit the big time via MCA's major label machine, Big House comes back
with a new release on the well-respected Nashville songwriter label, Dead Reckoning.
This time through, they are short four of their original members, sacrificing
some of the Bakersfield Sound which characterized them. But led by the strong,
bluesy voice of Monty Byron, the band sounds relaxed and loose and even pretty
funky at times. It ain't very Country and it ain't very R & B either,
but I like 'em. My only question is ... why'd they name it Woodstock
Nation? The title has nothing to do with the band or their music.
Reckoning has a nice site. Buy
from Amazon.com. Released May, 2000, reviewed by Bill
IN IOWA |
Bangin' 'n' Knockin'... (self released)
I guess you'd call this heartland Roots Rock or possibly Boogie Blues. It
seemed like their first CD was more twangy sounding whereas this one is more derivative
and even sometimes mocking of the 70's Southern Rock excesses. Lead singer
Bob Burns has a classic rock voice that reminds me of the guy in Lynard Skynard
(or is it Marshall Tucker Band?). They're obviously a good band with good songs
and there's nothing wrong with Southern Rock, but it sounds somewhat dated to
me. However, I give 'em extra points for covering Pure Prairie League's
"Two Lane Highway". |
| Released March 2000, reviewed by Bill
SANDY & HIS FLY-RITE BOYS |
Night Tide... (HighTone)
This is an especially good collection of original tunes played by a band that
has remained true to the hillbilly swing thang since their first CD. With the
talented guitar and steel of Ashley Kingman and Lee Jeffries and up front, the
remarkable songs and vocals of Big Sandy, this is a band that is becoming smoother
and tighter as they age without losing any of the skirt swingin' fun that has
marked them as one of the premier goodtime dance bands on the touring circuit.
Check it out and check them out next time they come to your town. They not only
play good but they dress good too, and they have cool vintage equipment. |
Records Released August, 2000, reviewed by
Bill Frater and Kay Clements.|
|BIG SANDY & HIS FLY-RITE BOYS
Turntable Matinee… (Yep Roc)
You know what you're getting when you buy a Big Sandy album. A seamless and swingin' combination of early rock ‘n roll, vintage country and rockabilly, with Sandy's versatile wispy tenor above the mix. They've been together in one form or another for over 15 years now, outlasting the swing trends and numerous other similar bands. They still tour a lot with their vintage clothes, guitars and amps. The songs here are mostly originals, steeped in the tradition of the late 50's to early 60's. No Politics here, just tunes about playin' ‘45's, first kisses, heartaches and one about a pair of “Haunted Heels”. It's all about those sweet and innocent times some 50 years ago. And perhaps that's a nice place to be, like in the movie “Pleasantville”, it'd be nice to stay there.
|Big Sandy's Yep Roc page. Buy from Amazon. Released July, '06, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Big Silver... (self-released)
While I notice many other reviewers are calling this power-pop, I consider it
power pop only if the V-Roys were considered power pop. This is indeed heavy on
melody and punch, but the vocals still retain a huge helping of twang and the
band's rural roots are evident when listening to their songs. What I do like is
the lead singer's tendency to sound like Dave Edmunds. This is never a bad thing
and I can see a younger version of Edmunds doing songs like this. Think V-Roys
and the poppier sides of Wilco and Wallflowers. Oh yeah, Big Star creeps in too.
Definitely a keeper. |
band has a nice website. Reviewed by Scott Homewood
Love Note... (Spin South)
so you know I'm being honest, I'll say it right up front - I love power pop. There,
I've said it. You know what, though? I love me some well-played swinging country
music just as much. While the original slate of acts that helped form the original
No Depression movement back in the mid-90's are drifting away from their roots
and original focus to play more pop-oriented stuff, I can't begrudge them. For
the most part, they do a good job. For example Wilco and the Old ‘97's. Although
I loved their first few albums, I don't mind the direction they've taken away
from the kind of music they started out with. I also don't mind when an artist
like Robbie Fulks decides to make whole albums full of Bakersfield country songs.
I like both styles equally, and as long as it isn't done to just gather money
and press (hello Marah, you stinking sell-outs) I am fine with it. Perhaps the
best of both worlds is a band doing an album of songs of which half would be country
and half would be rock/pop with some catchy melodies. Well, damn if Big Silver
didn't read my mind and go ahead and do just that. The country songs swing, the
rock songs have some crunchy guitars and some highly catchy melodies and I am
one of the happiest men on the planet! It's a love note alright - a love note
to anyone who likes great country and bristling crunch-pop. Everyone will find
something to like here and this CD shouldn't be neglected. Pick this up as soon
as possible. You'll be glad you did.|
Silver website. Reviewed by Scott
BIGGER LOVERS |
How I Learned to Stop Worrying... (Black Dog)
The Lovers got the title perfect because I wouldn't worry either if I had a band
this good. Think equal parts Who/Jam power thrust, Wilco's country-pop experimentalism
and Brian Wilson's arranging genius mixed together and left to fester in a heart-rending
emotional battle zone and you just about got it. While seemingly lo-fi and a little
under produced there are a lot of beautiful orchestrations and filigrees that
are way beyond the scope of most roots rockers. Theremin, piano, plaintive pedal
steel - everything plus the kitchen sink but put together so the song shines brightest.
A very good album that makes me eager to hear what they can do next. |
| The Bigger Lovers website
has tour info and more. Release date: March, '01. Reviewed
by Scott Homewood |
THAN DALLAS |
Hard Floor and Thought of Sin and Grace... (self-released)
| While I love the band name and the quite
gothic-sounding title of this four-song EP release from the band, I like the music
even more. All acoustic and folky, the music rolls like the tundra and carries
the resonance of a thunderstorm. I'm talking great dynamics here, something most
bands forget about. Each song is life-and-death and there are no winners. No winners
except the listener, who gets to check out a relatively new band, one who I hope
comes out with a full-length CD very soon. A very good EP, let's hope the next
release continues this fine start. |
The band's euphonious website. Reviewed
by Scott Homewood |
Huevos Rancheros!... (BGR)
The Billygoats, a four-piece band out of Nashville, celebrate that timeless era
of Rock 'n' Roll, the '50's. They write their own tunes, most with a mid-tempo
Rockabilly feel with a sprinkle of vintage Country. The title track is a Spaghetti-Western
flavored instrumental. One song features violinist Andy Stein, who I haven't heard
of since his days with Commander Cody's Lost Planet Airmen. Great for bowling
shirt wearing fans of the Palladins or the Hollisters. |
Released July, '00. Song samples, bio and CD ordering from Groovetone.com.|
40-Watt Stars... (Pocket Knife)
A strange little album this. It's not really "country" music and the
Americana term doesn't fit either, although it's exactly that. I guess I would
call it "roadhouse" if I had to distill it down to one term. It's an
almost even mix of jazzy blues and country - a mix that only Gatemouth Brown and
Willie Nelson seem able to pull off. Until now, that is. Bisch does a fine job
of mixing the two, although I wonder what blurring the lines this much will do
to help him build an audience. No matter, country fans may find it too bluesy
and blues fans may find it too countryish but music fans, those interested in
true quality songs and performances, will like it just fine. |
Pocket Knife Music is his own
label. Order from CD Baby.
Reviewed by Scott Homewood .|
EYED DOG |
Distance Inbetween... (Hero)
Anyone who doubts that North Carolina is quickly becoming a hotbed of alt.country
musical bliss needs to listen to recent albums by Lou Ford, Jolene and this great
band to realize the state is starting to kick-ass in turns of quality country
music. To my ears, Black Eyed Dog sounds like the rockier side of the Bottle Rockets
mellowed slightly by the more introspective side of Counting Crows. In other words,
rural roots rock with catchy melodies and a decent studio sheen that is noticeable
but doesn't take away from the song. In what may be noted producer Mitch Easter's
first foray into country-rock music, he mixed this album and did a damn fine job
of it too! His involvement could definitely be the source of the albums' radio-ready
sound. Of course, Easter is a noted pop fan and this album does have a touch of
that as well. It's buried so the songs can come to the fore but it's there in
the melodies and a few of the bells and whistles that seem country but also seem
perfectly placed as well. Another ringer is singer Jeffrey Dean Foster, who does
background vocals on this album. While this might not appeal to the country purists
it sure would sound great on the radio and would definitely lead to some more
exploration of the country idiom. Crows, Slobberbone, and B-Rox fans will all
like this record. |
Black Eyed Dog's website.
Order the CD from Paste
Music. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.|
|THE BLACK LILLIES
Runaway Freeway Blues... (North Knox/Attack Monkey)
This is the 3rd album from the Knoxville based band, The Black Lillies. I have been following this band since their first release, Whiskey Angel. The band is headed by front man and songwriter, Cruz Contreras. This group is definitely not living on its laurels. To the contrary, they are building on the incredible foundation of their previous albums. Their first 2 albums, the aforementioned Whiskey Angel, and their sophomore release 100 Miles of Wreckage were truly outstanding efforts. I was hooked the first time that heard the single, "Whiskey Angel". This album continues in the vein of the previous albums, but shows that the band is continuing to grow. The arrangements are tighter and extremely well crafted. Trisha Gene Brady is the backup vocalist, but she is really stepping out to the front of stage on this release. Trisha's voice adds a key piece to the total sound of this band. I hate to pick out favorite songs to write about and this album makes it very difficult to single out a few songs as better than the rest. However, that being said, "Smokestack' is this incredible "truckin' song". You will be sure that you have heard it before, but let me assure you that this one is better than anything you've heard in the past. I can only imagine how great the live performance of "Smokestack" must be. The addition of the horn section on "Baby Doe" adds a completely new and brilliant layer to this album. The musicianship on this release is incredibly solid. Tom Pryor's electric guitar and pedal steel are spectacular. Cruz wrote all of the songs on this album except one, "Ramblin' Boy." This is a classic A.P. Carter tune and Cruz and the band plays it extremely well. Some bands have a tendency to falter after a couple of top notch albums. This is definitely not the case with the Black Lillies.
|The Lillies' website. Order from Amazon. Released March, '13, reviewed by Don Parsons.
|BLACKIE & THE RODEO KINGS
Let's Frolic... (True North)
As can be seen by the release date below, this one has been around for a while now. At this writing, their fifth has been available since last May. Oh well, better late than never. Let's Frolic is a pleasing meld of folk, country, and a dash of rock, as in the title track, from three talented Canadians, Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson, the Rodeo Kings' core. While the composition of the backbone section varies from disc to disc, the caliber of the musicianship never wavers. Writing credits are fairly equally shared but you'd never know it just from listening, as the lead vocals alternate, even within a single song. The tracks are so complimentary they could have all come from one pen, that's how finely attuned to each other they are. Nevertheless, minor detail; you get fourteen bangs here for your buck, no misfires. For a taste of country rock, check out “That's What I Like”, for a beautiful ballad, “Loving Cup”. Next order of business: check out Let's Frolic Again.
| Rodeo King's site. Buy from amazon Released Sept. '06, reviewed by Don Grant.
& THE RODEO KINGS
Kings & Queens ... (Dramatico)
|Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson, who each have their own solo careers. Think Canada's CSN, or maybe Souther, Hillman, Furay. In the liner notes they say that they love collaborating with other people and that why they love having the band. Three years in the making, Kings & Queens pairs them with some legendary female roots artists like Rosanne Cash, Exene Cervenka, Emmylou Harris, Amy Helm, Sam Phillips, Sara Watkins, Lucinda Williams and others. The unique aspect is the songs are mostly new Rodeo King originals, rather than covers or rehased tunes. Most of them are quite good too. Producer Linden fills most of the solos with slide guitar, which gets a little old. Recommended!
|Rodeo King's site. Buy from Amazon Released June, '11, reviewed by Bill
Going Home...( Shout)
|I love the Blasters.
This band says LA like the Beach Boys said Malibu. Maybe I'm not the most objective
person to write this review but I put this CD on after a bad day,( a bad week
really) and suddenly, I'm dancing around the room feeling proud to be an American,
proud to be from LA (no easy sell, believe me). How does this compare to the live
CD recorded in 2002 and released on Hightone? There is live and then there is
really live, excitingly live. The Blasters upped the ante when they invited some
of their heroes onstage and made this as much a tribute to them as a lesson in
what influenced the band from the gitgo. You can hear the energy that happened
that night at the Galaxy Theater when members of the Calvanes and the Medallions
as well as Sonny Burgess and Billy Boy Arnold stepped onstage to play together
with the Blasters, really laying out the blues, rock and r&b that was their inspiration.They
are still a kickass band, make no mistake and time has only enhanced their talent.
from amazon. Released Feb. '04. Reviewed by Kay
From the other band from East LA,
this new one doesn't really break any new ground, but that's okay, they're a solid
band with a consistent rootsy blues sound. Production is by Pete Anderson, which
is always good, and he adds some slide here and there too, also good. I can't
fault the vocals or the tunes, I just don't find myself going back to listen to
the CD much. That's just me, if you liked either of their earlier CDs then you're
sure to like this one.
THE BLIND ROBINS
Panorama Valley... (Rolling Blackout)
Based in Rockford, Illinois, the Blind Robins are a quartet, that, from the evidence here on their second release for Rolling Thunder, should really be a sextet. They've produced a pleasing collection of alt.country, bluegrass, and even a waltz from the pen of vocalist Michael Whyte, and, to these ears, much of the pleasantry comes from the contributions of Jessica Billey on violin and vocals, and the pedal steel and banjo of Bud Melvin. Those two should be press-ganged into permanent member status. Standout tunes include the chicken scratch bluegrass of “Cash and the Carters”, the title track “Panorama Valley”, and the afore-mentioned “Skelton Waltz”, which brings back memories of parts of Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Rumour has it that the Robins' first release had a Ramoneish punk flavour to it, and there is a definite vestige of angst in “Two Good Eyes”. This time around the country predominates, and that's a good thing. Now guys, just get your two wingers to quit their day jobs, and release number three should be a winner.
|The Robin's site. Order from CD Baby. Released June, '06, reviewed by Don Grant.
Tang The Hump... (Western Beat)
For those of you who recognize the last name, Jill Block is the wife of Nashville
alt.country music promoter and visionary Billy Block. For those of you who don't
recognize the slightly provocative title of her new album, it is a quote from
the genius of soul James Brown, who used to cajole his drummers to hit the bell
of the cymbal by asking them to ‘Tang The Hump'. One notable aspect about this
CD is that Block, who used to use the name Porkchop Kelly when performing, has
finally decided to drop all artifice and make her official ‘big time' debut under
her real name. If this heralds a new honesty in her songs and performance style,
then this is indeed a good thing, as her was always great before - and her new
album kicks ass. Not only does she call in a bunch of Nashville songwriting mavericks
like Kostas to help her co-write some cool tunes, but she also has some fine musicians
in her backing band, complete with Mr. Block himself on drums,.Most importantly,
however, the honey-voiced songstress uses all of these great musical allegiances
to augment what she already does so well: sing some wonderful country songs featuring
all the twangy guitar noise and great rowdy rootsy rock you'd ever want from a
country filly. All without shifting the focus away from her great voice. A swell
debut from a promising new artist. |
has a bio and CD ordering. Reviewed by Scott
This young band from San Francisco has
been together for three years and they have developed a great sound. Featuring
the fine vocals and songwriting of Michelle Muldrow. They move from slow,
waltz-style folk /rock songs to upbeat jumpers, all with a bit O' twang and some
tasty slide guitar. The album credits mention 2 lead guitarists, one "sloppy"
and the other "slick" and that pretty well describes their overall sound. Fans of Bloodshot artists should like this, though Bloodroses are more melodic
and polished then most of the Bloodshot bands. This CD is definitely worth
the band for CD info. Their website
has some live pix and bio stuff but no updates on this album. |
Moses... (Mud Dauber)
|Patrick Bloom is a member of the new generation of wandering minstrels, having pinballed himself between both American coasts and coming to rest, (permanently?), in the heart of the Midwest, Iowa. You can’t get much closer than that to the soil, which coincidentally makes a good reference point for describing his music. No rhinestone cowboy, Bloom captures the essence of everyday life with a poignancy that evades the pitfall of becoming maudlin. He can tap into a religious vein, as in the title track, and in “Jerusalem”, without that suffocating oppression that appears all too frequently in that particular subject. That same ability is evident in his homage to his new digs titled, what else, “Iowa”. Does the man have a sense of humour to boot? A nice little ditty about the mythical “Green Lantern” answers that one. With a CD like Bloom’s, there’s no surprise there.
| Bloom's homepage and MySpace. Order from CD
Baby. Released Feb. '08, reviewed by Don Grant.
DIAMOND SHINE |
That Godforsaken Road... (Entwine)
Besides taking their name from one of Blue Rodeo's best records, the band has
also seemingly stolen something else from that much-loved band: a gift for well-written
songs and a sparse, compressed country-rock sound that somehow allows the music
to breathe without making it seem something is lacking. This band favors an old-fashioned
(classic) sound resembling '50s country artists while incorporating some of that
era's rock riffs as well. This is an album for those that feel most at home with
the classic country sound that wouldn't mind a smidgen of rock added to it. A
very pleasant record. |
Check out BlueDiamondShine.com for
CD ordering. Reviewed by Scott Homewood
and Good Buys... (Black River)
CD's grow on you. You have to listen to them a few times to really grasp what
the artist is doing. At some point you find yourself humming the song as you're
driving to work. Halos and Good Buys, the new release from The Blue Dogs
out of South Carolina, is not one of those CD's. From the opening track, "What's
Wrong With Love Songs?" to the soon to be ubiquitous "Wrong Love At The Right
Time" and "Make Your Mama Proud" to the rest of the really well-crafted songs
on the CD, it hits you right between the eyes with a sledgehammer. Over and over.
By the third or fourth time listening through, the magic is gone, and this CD
starts to wear thin. Yes, the musicianship is truly outstanding from both the
vocals of Bobby Houck and the instrumentalists. Yes, the songs are clever, and
hooky. Yes, Don Gehman's production work is world-class. And that's the problem
with Halos and Good Buys. It's too slick, too polished, too formulaic.
This could be a really great CD by any really good band from "the new Nashville."
No one can doubt the quality of the work on this CD, but there isn't much to set
it apart from a lot of other CD's by a lot of other bands. It sounds like Pat
Green or The Wallflowers or Counting Crows or even heaven forbid, Hootie & The
Blowfish. You'll be able to judge for yourself, whether you buy the CD or not.
Soon enough The Blue Dogs will be all over US radio and CMT and there will be
little chance of avoiding them. |
Blue Dogs online. Buy
from amazon. Released March, '04. Reviewed by Clint
Sounds of Home... (Rounder)
These guys have been getting it right for seventeen years and their new CD, Sounds of Home, is no exception. A superficial listen might leave you with the impression that this is just another well honed hard core traditional bluegrass band but listen closer. Sure each player is a master of their instrument and the band personifies the best of the genre but their stellar songwriting tells another story. Like another great bluegrass band from days past, The Seldom Scene, these guys use the instruments & bluegrass context to deal with adult issues of love, loss, the working man's hard life, regret and redemption. All the songs are originals and the soulfull vocals convey the emotions of deeply lived life. This isn't pyrotechnic, lick-laden teeny bopper bluegrass. These guys have been around the block and have a life perspective to share in song and story. That said, the band can also roll out taut, muscular bluegrass with the best of them I can't think of a better bluegrass band on the scene today and this CD displays the band in it's prime.
|Blue Highway's web site. Rounder's BH site. Buy
from Amazon Released Aug. '11, reviewed by Kevin Russell.
This young trio from Mississippi have a delightful
sound. Sometimes upbeat-folky, other times loud Neil Young-ish guitar, then they'll
bring it way down and make your heart ache with a soft ballad. Cary Hudson writes,
sings, plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, etc. and his wife Laurie Stirratt plays
bass and sing great harmonies, and ya got Frank Coutch on drums. Great songs with
memorable melodies. If you like Whiskeytown, try Blue Mountain, a little more
rootsy-sounding, they prove that keeping it simple is the way to go if the songs
Midnight in Mississippi... (Broadmoor)
|One of the first Midwest Alt.Country bands form the mid-ninietes, Blue Mt. were right up there with Uncle Tupelo and The Jayhawks at one time. Let by Cary Hudson and Laurie Stirratt who were married when the first incarnation of the band existed. The band broke up for awhile and lead singer/songwriter Cary Hudson released a few solo CD's in the interim. Perhaps divorce brings out the best with these guys because this is a superb return to form with solid songs and many varied colors for just a three-piece band. Hudson does more melodically with a electric guitar then anyone I've heard since John Fogerty. Highly recommended.
|The official BM site. Buy from Amazon.com. Released Aug 2008, reviewed by Bill
This Canadian six-piece band has a signature
sound after 10 years together. The harmonies of the two singers/guitarists remind
me of The Jayhawks a few albums back, or even The Burritos at their best. All
original tunes, a few of the longer ones seem to drag on and on. No new ground
broken here but their solid Americana sound is consistant and tight. I wished
they let loose a little more like on the final song. I bet they're a great band
Are You Ready... (Rounder)
This one gives me some pain, and not because it's a dud, but, rather, because it doesn't meet the standard of some the band's earlier efforts. Make no mistake, I admire these guys for their ability to craft intelligent and melodic music that reaches far beyond the inanity of “ my truck ran off with my best friend, my girlfriend broke, and my dog got drunk” lyrics of a lot of mainstream country. After Outskirts and Diamond Mine , maybe I'm expecting too much? I dunno. In all honesty, this CD is pretty good stuff, but, and here's the rub, it skates dangerously close to being department store/elevator country muzak. It is too easily relegated to the background. Nothing stands out, unless you force yourself to sit down and really pay attention to what is happening on your audio system. That wasn't the case with the afore-mentioned predecessors; those albums burned with a passion that sizzled your ears. Is complacency setting in, the old nemesis of far too many talents? God forbid that the guys are going middle-class on us! I think that it's time to re-connect with those leaner, meaner, and hungrier times; c'mon Jim, Greg,… most of the Canadian ‘icons' that I know of are dead, or have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. You're not ready for the garden yet.
|The official band site. Buy from Amazon.com. Released Sept. 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.
Honey Slides... (Bayou Vista)
The opening cut on this very enjoyable disc is "Working Man's Zydeco", which perfectly describes one aspect of this veteran Lafayette, Louisiana band. But as you listen on, you'll find they're just as comfortable presenting a swampy blues groove (The Grave Digger, King Snake Crawl) or mandolin driven, haunting country ballads (Ghost of a Girl, Big Head.)
What ties this regional music together is rousing accordion and slide guitar licks (evoking local favorite Sonny Landreth). With rock and roll attitude and strong cultural roots, French Cajun tunes and rolling instrumentals, this release is just in time for Mardi Gras but will sound great year round.
|The Bluerunners website has CD ordering, or buy from Amazon.com. Released Jan. '05, reviewed by Michael Meehan.
The Stars... (Ridisculous)
|At a time when
most bands (not so much in the alt.country world but there are plenty of examples
there as well) are more concerned with adding as many production and instrumental
gee-gaws as possible than turning out good, quality songs, comes Kip Boardman
and his new CD filled with gentle country rocking gems. Recorded at Boardman's
house (at least according to the CD's liner notes) and featuring a core band made
up of only three players (Boardman (vocals, bass, piano and extras), Tony Gilkyson
(guitars), and Don Heffington (drums, percussion) this CD is a testament to the
power of good songwriting. Although some background vocals and instrumental enhancements
are added, they are kept very minimal and it is the songs which stand out, whether
they be on the country side (Upon The Stars) or 70's AM pop on a Paul McCartney
Ram-ish scale (Bottom Line). This should appeal to fans of both country and light
pop/rock and is a wonderful record for a summer day. Great stuff.
has CD ordering, or order from Miles
Of Music. Reviewed by Scott Homewood
AND WENDY |
Behind the Blue... (self-released)
An interesting concept in alt.country land. A male/female team (maybe husband
and wife, maybe sister and brother) that is not based on guitar and vocals, instead
based on guitar, vocals, and stringed instruments (cello, violin). What strikes
you at first is the fragile, crystalline beauty of Wendy's voice - a surprising
tone that, to me, could sound just as good accapella. Next up are the wonderful
harmonies produced by both of them, harmonies that rival Buddy and Julie Miller
and even the Everlys. Even more remarkable are the songs. Timeless and classic,
these songs have the feeling of being familiar yet new, like classics just written.
This is a winner to me in all respects and it's hard to pick a standout but I
would say the song Bed You Made is my personal fave. A delightful album that makes
me anticipate their next one. |
Their website. Order from CD
Baby Reviewed by Scott Homewood
While the phrase "Enjoying the Bone" can mean a lot of things (most
of them X-rated probably) to a lot of people, to Texans, well....let's just say
to music savvy Texans it means enjoying one of their treasures - master accordionist
Ponty Bone. Bone has played on so many albums as a sideman that it would no doubt
be nearly impossible to count them all but his masterful accordion work has graced
more of your favorite songs than you will ever know. Conversely, his solo turns
(at least on record) are fewer and farther between and are generally cause for
celebration among discerning music lovers. Bone mixes equal parts cajun, conjunto,
and country together to form a musical mélange that is best called "Texas
music" and left to stand on its' own. As usual, his music is fantastic, accordion
work superb, and his vocals unobtrusive enough to carry his tunes (and others')
but let the music shine through. A celebrated vocalist never but he will always
be a musical treasure whose music can bring a smile to your face in about half
a second. Great stuff. |
Loudhouse Record's site.
Released Aug. 2001 Reviewed by Scott
Traveler's Companion... (SuperDuper)
Bonepony are a strange band. They're a Southern trio who play only acoustic
instruments at a fervent pace aided by drums and "stomp boards".
Lead singer Scott Johnson has a good strong voice that he sometimes pushes up
to the level of screaming. Think Robert Plant singing with the New Grass
Revival. I wouldn't be writing anything about them except they have some
nice catchy tunes and they have a lot of energy for fiddle and banjo music.
I'm just not sure what kind of music they play... it's not Rock, it's not Bluegrass,
Bonepony calls it Powerfolk... I guess that works for me too. |
| Check out Bonepony.com
for tour, bio and other stuff. Buy
from Amazon.com. Released early '00, reviewed by Bill
|I've been a fan of this band
for a while now, if only for the wonderfully deviant imagery inherent in their
name and everything it may imply. In fact, considering the underlying menacing
aspects of their name and how it would probably offend many, the band creates
a wonderful blend of rock and country that is decidedly accessible to everyone.
While many so-called hipsters and those pretending to be "only about the music,
man" might consider that statement an insult, I don't. Music is made to be heard
and great music should be heard and enjoyed by as many people as possible. In
turn, Bonepony's new CD deserves as much exposure as it can get as it is some
of the best roots rock released this year, in my opinion. The talented three-man
group writes all of its' own songs and, though the band enlists the help of some
stellar musical help (Nanci Griffith and Jonell Mosser on vocals and Craig Krampf
on drums), this CD is all theirs, another feather in their cap and yet another
great CD more people should hear and hear about. If I were to make a real broad
comparison, I would say anyone liking rootsy rock with solid songwriting juxtaposed
with some Dave Matthews/jammy overtones will fall in love with CD in an instant.
|Check the band's site, Bonepony.com
for tour, bio and CD ordering. Buy
from Amazon.com. Released June, 2003. Reviewed by Scott
|T JARROD BONTA
White Lines... (Music Room)
|Country, boogie-woogie, and jazz piano player T. Jarrod Bonta has been mostly a behind the scenes fixture on the Austin music scene as a sideman going back to the late 1990s. It was at the end of that decade that he jumped into the spotlight, ever so briefly, via a now out-of-print 45 RPM featuring a couplet of solid honky tonk originals, trickling piano and all. Whereas there was a swing-leaning jazzy album in 2008 from he and his quartet, it took a dozen years for the country side of Bonta to surface again. White Lines breaks the drought and features a dozen songs in the classic country style (i.e., not likely to be heard on your favorite FM country channel anytime soon), 11 of which are from the pen of Bonta. Playing piano and singing in his own debonair style with backing from some of the best of the Austin honky tonk scene, White Lines is one of those under-the-radar gems that should wear well on the ears of those who like their country real and authentic.
|T's site. Order from the label. Released July, '11, Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
Americana Brand... (self released)
interested in some hot bluegrass/mountain music needs to check out this band,
pronto. Broder Radio first came to the attention of roots fans through an EP released
last year which whetted the appetites of fans into simple, back porch picking
with tons of talent and energy and fun to spare. This CD is even better, giving
their fans a bigger, even more exciting look at the interesting, authentic-sounding
blend of bluegrass and mountain music this talented foursome produces. Guesting
on banjo is Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member John McEuen, an inspired choice to liven
up the proceedings. Besides some wonderful originals, the band manages to liven
up songs by Iris DeMent and Paul Kennerly besides taking a decent stab at the
chestnut "Long Black Veil". I am slowly being converted into liking
bluegrass music and this album is doing a lot to help. I am sure if you are a
fan of that genre, you will like this CD a lot. |
website. Order the CD for CD
Baby. Reviewed by Scott
Family Reunion... (Porchwerk)
Gypsy country? You have to admit that there are some pretty wonderful hybrids popping up out there. Now here's an enigmatically named band, and the remarkable part is that it seems to make a good fit with the music. This one is Americana with a decidedly eastern European slant to a lot of the songs; hence the gypsy country categorization. The band's flavour is due in large measure to the employment of Bud Burrough's recorder, mandolin, bouzouki, accordion, and ukulele, and the harp stylings and whistles add to their effect. Coming from Philadelphia, one of the historical entry points for European immigration, it's only natural that the band members would show some evidence of cross-cultural exposure. Boris Garcia would be the sonic equivalent of the Great American Melting Pot, a little bit of everything in good and equal measure, sure to stimulate the taste buds. That name? Well, the Boris bit can be grasped, but, aside from the cover art, that Hispanic Garcia is a bit of a stumper.
The band's web site. Order from CD Baby. Released Oct. 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.
Mother's Finest... (Porchwerk)
ast time around, a writer of note, (sic), described Garcia's music as gypsy country. Dump that label real fast please. These Philadelphia boys have settled into, (for the time being?) a country/folk/rock vein that is evocative of the Byrds' later evolution. There's lots of bluegrass spice in the mix, and there's still some Eastern European influence, via bouzouki, button accordion, and recorder, for those who might favour their first release. Is this one better than the first? Yes, but with reservations, as they're two vastly different recordings, sort of an apples and oranges comparison; it depends upon what is currently turning your crank. The important bit is that the band has been consistently good. Oh, and by the way, the Garcia bit that confounded earlier is, if rumours are to be believed, referencing Jerry Garcia. Can't say that it's painfully obvious, nor necessary; this band can stand on its own two feet.
|The band's web site. Buy from amazon. Released Oct. 2006, reviewed by Don Grant.
Once More Into The Bliss... (Dig Music)
After a two year hiatus, the consistently entertaining Boris Garcia is back with their third release. It’s another venture into the more eclectic reaches of bluegrass, so eclectic in fact that the bluegrass label is debatable. On a few tracks, such as the melodic “Lover Tonight”, co-penned by Jeff Otto and Bob Stirner, the boys sound more like a gang of olde englishe troubadours than anything even remotely connected to bluegrass. The flute line in “River Man”, the seventh track, sounds like Ian Anderson has come out of retirement off his sheep farm. See what I mean when I say eclectic? There’s really not much use in trying to draw comparisons or find similarities, Boris Garcia is all alone in its self-created own class, and it is indeed a class act.
|The band's web site, and MySpace page. Dig Music's BG page. Buy from amazon. Released Oct. '08, Reviewed by Don Grant
Home Truths... (self-released)
Cyndi Boste (her last name rhymes with "post") is from Victoria, Australia.
She has has powerful deep alto voice that knocks me out. Her songs are beautiful
and melodic and she writes about love and loss straight from the heart. She can
deliver a sad and simple ballad and then hit ya hard with an upbeat rocker. This
is a very impressive debut CD, one great song after another. Rootsy arrangements
with tasty dobro and guitar work from producer Kerryn Tolhurst hold the sound
together. First Kasey Chambers and now Cyndi Boste, two of the better women singers
I've heard recently, both come from "down under"! |
Order from Miles Of Music.
Reviewed by Bill Frater.|
I've never visited Libbiville myself but, from this CD, it sure sounds like a
wild place to hang around. It's a place where men always cheat on their women,
love never lasts and heartbreak is just around the corner - sins all committed
to the uptempo beat of a country two-step. Like I say, cool place to me/cool place
to be! Bosworth tells her stories with tongue planted firmly in cheek and you
can sense a small hint of delight as she tells her steamy, slightly saucy stories.
Guests on this fine album include Bruce Robison, Gurf Morlix and Toni Price, but
the heart (and the cool songs) belong to Bosworth. A must-buy for country fans.
|Check out Libbi's great
from Amazon.com. Released Aug, 2001. Reviewed by Scott
(Bottleneck)... (Hard Rain)
For one thing, I love the name. Not only does it conjure up an image of someone
on their back porch playing a dobro as the time drifts away but it also lends
itself to a scene of a congested highway in Anycity where the traffic is stalled
and all you can do is try not to get too frustrated while you wait for time to
pass and the eventual freedom of movement to begin again. This inherent dichotomy
is present in the music as well. The two main songwriters and lead vocalists of
this Canadian band (Scott Smith, who plays a variety of instruments here, and
Robyn Carrigan, who plays stringed instruments and accordion) take turns singing
their own songs and lending backup when the other takes the lead, like a modern
day Gram and Emmylou if Emmylou had gotten equal billing. The songs are gorgeous,
especially "Hate To See You Cry", and the music is rustic and comfortable,
like that same old back porch. When I get time to have a lazy day, right next
to my long-neck will sit the new Bottleneck. |
Can't find a website for the band... try emailing
them for ordering info. Reviewed by Scott
For their third CD, these guys still
rock pretty hard and sloppy, and they're still proud and ugly too. Singer Brian
Henneman writes catchy and funny lyrics, you gotta love a guy who titles a song
"When I Was Dumb". Not as much country-sounding stuff on this one. Producer
Eric "Roscoe" Ambel sings or plays on almost all tracks and is developing
a solid production "sound". Probably not their best but a solid effort
from an important Alt.Country band.
Bands don't get much uglier or play much
louder than the Bottle Rockets. When I first put it on I cringed, it sounded like
outdated hard rock ala ZZ Top or Lynyrd Skynyrd! Then after I got used to it,
I was able to listen to the songs and these guys are just plain hilarious songwriters.
Social commentary songs, "picking on yuppie" songs, "I hate work"
songs and even a few, gulp, love songs are included here all rendered with the
usual simplistic three guitar chords. Call it a guilty pleasure, or whatever,
there's still room on my musical plate for hard bar-band boogie music like The
Bottle Rockets along with Dar Williams, Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello and everybody
else. It's all good!
| Best tunes: Nancy Sinatra, Sometimes Found, The
Bar's On Fire, White Boy Blues, Gotta Get Up. The Doolittle
site has band tour info and such. Buy from amazon Released Aug. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.
leader Brian Henneman has one of the most distinctive voices in Alt.Country He
also has a unique and twisted view of life that usually comes across in a few
of his songs. Their press release states that some consider the band as a cross
between John Prine and Crazy Horse. Not the worst comparison to be sure. They've
gone through some personnel changes and took an extended hiatus. . It's produced
by Warren Haynes, (from the Allman Bros. and Gov't Mule), who seems content to
let the band do their own thing. Their usual raucous Southern Rock sound is slightly
reined in on Blue Sky. Hennenman has some very strong songs, including "Men &
Women", Man of Constant Anxiety" and the confessional "Mom & Dad". All in all,
the Rockets are back and better than ever! |
Bottle Rockets site. Buy
from amazon. Released Oct. '03, Reviewed by Bill
|THE BOTTLE ROCKETS
Not So Loud... (Bloodshot)
|A quintessential rock and twang bar band out of Festus, MO going back to their beginnings in the early 1990s, it wasn't until a release of leftover tracks in 1998 appropriately titled "Leftovers" did the Bottle Rockets display their acoustic side on record. While there were flashes on prior albums, the song "Get Down River," inspired by the mighty Mississippi running so close to Festus, showed the band could deliver the goods as good in the stripped-down fashion as they could full-on electric. Those "flashes" continued in the ensuing years on subsequent albums. With the newly released Not So Loud, the Bottle Rockets offer up a satisfying, big gulp of wood and wire. Recorded before a live audience at a circa-1898 St. Louis schoolhouse over a couple of evenings in the spring of 2007, Not So Loud is the Bottle Rockets getting back to basics and unplugging for 13 tracks from their now lengthy catalogue. The playing is excellent and the stories behind the songs as recited by front man Brian Henneman prior to each track only enhances the listening experience.
|The Bottle Rockets new site. Buy
from amazon. Released Aug. '11, Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
Crossing... (Palace Flophouse)
Reminiscent of the band Bottle Rockets and artists like Eric Ambel and Terry Anderson,
this is growly guitar rock with a huge helping of southern/Midwest heartland soul
that gives it a rural rootsy quality and puts it squarely in the middle of the
nether regions that confound radio programmers and promo geeks. Too country for
rock (unless the station plays Molly Hatchet and the Allmans) and too rock for
country (unless the station plays Americana or has extremely good taste) this
album will puzzle all those who worry about labels and don't worry enough about
great music. This album rocks, has a burning country soul and gets better the
louder its played. Somewhere in heaven Ronnie Van Zant and Hank Williams are having
a beer and going crazy over this record. |
TheBoxcars.com will be up and running
soon. Order the CD from Miles
Of Music. Reviewed by Scott
This is only their second
full length release and I'm pretty blown away by the depth and maturity of this
band. They play "real" country music, in addition to Rockabilly and
swinging jump-blues stuff. BR5-49 simply do it all, with no frills, sarcasm or
studio tricks. The songwriting of singers Gary Bennett and Chuck Mead has matured
to the point where you can't tell the originals from the cover tunes. This is
happy, fun, upbeat music that makes me smile. This is the spirit that Johnny Horton,
George Jones, Wanda Jackson and a hundred other country music pioneers brought
to the world. This young band is carrying on the spirit and soul of "real"
Best tracks: There Goes My Love, Hurtin'
Song, Out Of Habit, 18 Wheels & A Crowbar, My Name Is Mudd. BR5-49.com
is put together by the record company, and is a very nice, complete site! Buy
. Released July, 98. Reviewed by Bill
This Is BR5-49... (Lucky Dog/Sony)
BR5-49 moved to the critically praised Lucky Dog/ Sony Nashville label for a "fresh
start". This Is BR549 is the result of this fresh start teaming Nashville's
lower Broadway hillbilly quintet with veteran producer Paul Worley (Dixie Chicks,
Martina McBride), and producer Mike Poole (Prairie Oyster, David Wilcox). The
album yields five original compositions, while the band sticks to their tried
and true formula on six cover songs which range from obscure honky-tonk classics
to underground Music Row favorites untouchable by most "modern country"
standards. Highlights of the album include vocalist/ guitarist, Gary Bennett,
unleashing two soon to be classics "The Game" and "While You Were
Gone". "The Game" is a step to the left for BR5-49 expressing passive
warnings to live life without ending up the "loser of the game". This
Is BR549 includes revamped versions of the 1965 Everly Brothers single "The
Price of Love", and Brinsley Schwartz' pub-classic "Play That Fast Thing
(One More Time)". BR5-49 has proven in 2001 that they can prevail amidst
label transition and backbreaking tour schedules, still delivering an album that
is essential for any serious fan of alternative country. |
from Amazon.com. Release date: June 26th, 2001. Reviewed by Matt Reasor.|
Tangled In The Pines... (Dualtone)
like Steve Earle, Robbie Fulks, Neko Case, and The Gourds have defined alternative
Country. These are the super-talents who refused to do anything less than follow
their vision of what country music was. They've been kicked in the teeth for it,
and still they refuse to say "Uncle." With Tangled In The Pines, BR5-49
joins that list. Making a grab for the brass ring on their last CD, BR5-49 slicked
up and many say they sold out. Their newest CD, Tangled In The Pines, sends a
loud and clear message that the brass ring doesn't mean jack if it comes at the
cost of not being true to themselves. Retooling the band with the additions of
Chris Scruggs (yes, of those Scruggs') on guitar and Geoff Firebaugh on bass after
losing co-founder Garry Bennett and bassist Jay McDowell, BR5-49 returns to their
musical roots. With all original songs that range from the roadhouse boogie of
"Ain't Got Time" to the Hank Sr. séance of "I'm All Right (For The Shape I'm In)"
to the truly haunting "Run A Mile," Tangled In The Pines is, as Chris Scruggs
said, "unashamed to be country." BR5-49 uses this CD to serve notice to everyone
in Nashville - all the way from the The House That Chet Built to the Exit/Inn-
that integrity does matter, that alternative doesn't mean unmarketable, and that
no matter how steep the high road nor shiny the brass ring, sometimes it really
is about the music.|
site is nice. Dualtone's site.
from amazon. Released March '04. Reviewed by Clint
|ERIC BRACE & PETER COOPER
The Master Sessions... (Red Beet)
| Brace and Cooper both come from the world of journalism; writing about other peoples' music. With that in mind they bring a certain ease and naivety to their songwriting and singing styles. They play like they don't know how great they are! This is their second excellent collaboration and they certainly do know quality songs and players. They chose to honor two geniuses on their respective instruments Lloyd Green on pedal steel and Mike Auldridge on dobro. On top of all that, that harmonize with each other as good as a couple of siblings, but with probably a lot more respect. The songs are mostly by Eric and Peter with covers of fine songs by Tom T. Hall, Jon Byrd & John Hartford. The lead track is an old Seldom Scene favorite written by Herb Pedersen ("Wait A Minute") about being on the road away from your loved one. Nothing but the highest level of tasteful music here. One of my favorites of the year. It's worth noting that Red Beet also released an equally great album by Peter Cooper with Lloyd Green called The Lloyd Green Album the same week.
|Red Beet's site. Order from CD Baby. Here's the You Tube link to a very nice video with Eric, Peter, Lloyd and Mike all talking about the making of The Master Sessions. Released Sept. '10, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Damon Bramblett... (Lone Star)
Texan Daman Bramblett has had his songs recorded by Kelly Willis (Heaven Bound),
Charlie Robison, (Waiting For The Mail), and Sara Hickman, (Nobody Wants To Go
To The Moon Anymore). All of his versions are included on this debut CD, produced
by Lloyd Maines. His voice is very deep, think Johnny Cash or James McMurtry deep,
and it confines his vocals to a certain range. The arrangements are basically
his acoustic guitar backed by bass and drums, I wouldn't mind a little electric
guitar in the mix. But really, its the songs that count, and Damon's vivid and
lonely ruminations are quite compelling. |
has CD ordering, up-to-date tour itinerary and more. Release date: Sept, '00.
Reviewed by Bill Frater. |
If you've missed the roots-rock sound of
Dave Edmonds, this CD by his fellow bandmate in Rockpile should please you
greatly. Bremner's voice is a little weaker then Dave's but otherwise it's the
same great stuff: rockabilly, twangy-blues, and good ol' rock 'n roll. Bremner's songs
are good and simple, nothing that's gonna change the world, but that's okay.
His guitar work is excellent, accompanied by just bass and drums.
Once again, think Dave Edmonds, or maybe Bill Kirchen. The title refers to
the fact that the whole album was recorded in only one week. A good week's
Best tracks: I Get Enough,Green With Envy, I Can Love You, A Fine Set Of
Wheels, Keep This House Rockin', Who Says, Who Cares. Gadfly
has a website. Released July,'98. Reviewed by Bill
From) The Pink Sofa ...(Trailer)
with a pop groove has been around since the days of Joni Mitchell, and Patrick
Brickel offers us a great example with his CD, (Songs From) The Pink Sofa.
Brickel is stepping to the front after years as a producer and member of The Letterpress
Opera. Hitting on all cylinders, this CD could spawn more than one radio hit if
it could get airplay. The songwriting is honest and authentic but not overly full
of pathos. Songs like "Brooklyn"and "Evangeline" remind us that the best folk
music is excellent poetry set to excellent music. His lyrics often run dark and
Gothic, wrapped in sparkling guitar work. It takes a special fortitude to be a
poet like Brickel, and it takes a special gift to be as good a musician as he.
His years behind the mixing boards show as well in the engineering and production.
The CD has a very contemporary sound to it, one that would play well on adult-pop
stations. The harmonies are balanced well, and every instrument is audible just
as if the listener were in the living room with Brickel and his band. I look forward
to hearing more from him and will be listening to this CD well into the autumn.|
web site has song samples and iTunes too. Order from Miles
of Music. Released June '04, reviewed by Clint
Real Special Feelin'... (Wild Oat)
You forget sometimes that most of our greatest singer-songwriters used to put
out albums just like Mark Brine, one guy strumming his own songs with subtle instrumental
backing. I hear early Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and even a little Bob
Dylan in Brines quavering voice. This is his third independent album and
his songs are superior studies of love, life and times past. You
may think he's just another New England folksinger, but there's some genuine
country roots music going on here. |
Check his website, markbrine.com
for ordering information. Miles
of Music has the CD too.|
BROM & HER BARNSHAKERS |
Snake Ranch.... (Goofin')
I heard this playing in a vintage clothing store in Austin and said, "I'll
take it". Brom sings countrypolitan with attitude, rockabilly with
sass and she can torch a lounge song, no problem. There is a nice combination
of tunes on Snake Ranch pretty much all of which I like. The Barnshakers
are a happening rockabilly band on their own but they play to Marti's voice and
style, complementing her without grandstanding. I've been playing it pretty regularly
and it is withstanding the test of time, always a good sign. |
from Amazon.com. Released Feb. 2000, reviewed by Kay
Sings Heartache Numbers.... (Goofin')
| Call out the Torch and Twang Patrol, Marti Brom has done it again.
Choosing from the long list of country tunes that had numbers in the
titles, Brom has released a concept country CD of 13 songs that had me
wishing 14, 15 and 16 weren't such awkward numbers to fit into a song.
Flying all too often below the radar, Brom reigns in my book as one of
the most interesting and true performers of rockabilly and country music
happening today. I can't think of another female artist who could take
classic material like this and bring it home so successfully. Marti has
a style and a feel for the life of this music that gives her absolute
authority to do it her way and she makes it good country..Favorites: 4
Walls, 5 Fingers, Whiskey 6 years Old, Apartment #9. The only song that
doesn't work for me is 12th of Never but 12 out of 13 is well worth the
price of a CD. For Marti Brom fans, it's a no brainer and for those of
you wondering who they passed the torch to, check out Heartache Numbers.
|Buy from Amazon.com. Released Aug. '05, reviewed by Kay Clements.
Use Me... (Appleseed)
| For those of us of a certain age, the name David Bromberg brings up memories of a wildly entertaining performer and an ace folk/country/blues guitarist who played on many classic albums by other artists including Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia, and Bob Dylan. After burning brightly in the 1970s and early 1980s, Bromberg retired from playing to open a violin shop in Delaware. He returned to performance in 2007 with an album of solo acoustic material, "Try Me One More Time", demonstrating that at 62 he'd lost none of his folk and blues chops despite an absence of 17 years.
On "Use Me", Bromberg straps on his old Telecaster and reminds us that he can rock just as well as ever. In a nod to his years as a sideman, Bromberg asks several well known old friends to contribute songs, production and accompaniment to him as he steps out front. Levon Helm contributes his trademark behind the beat grooves to the opening track and sole original, "Tongue", in which Bromberg's is firmly in cheek. John Hiatt wrote "Ride On Out a Ways", a great confessional ballad, while Linda Ronstadt lends great backup vocals and production to the old Brook Benton tune "It's Just A Matter Of Time". The low point on the album is a weak Keb' Mo' track, "Digging In The Deep Blue Sea", but this is more than compensated for with tunes like the titular swamp-infused cover of Bill Wither's "Use Me", produced by hitmakers the Butcher Brothers. Bromberg hasn't lost it, and we're glad to see him back.
|The "new" DB site. Buy
from amazon. Released July, 2011. Reviewed
by Brad Price.
|DAVID BROMBERG BAND
Only Slightly Mad... (Appleseed)
|Let's see, I first saw David Bromberg play a zillion years ago (well, it seems like that) when he was known as "the guy who played backup guitar for Jerry Jeff Walker" on the "Mr. Bojangles" LP. He made albums for Columbia and Fantasy and then "burned himself out" and moved to the Midwest, gave up his career, and learned to make violins. He moved to Wilmington with his family and now has the best of all worlds. He repairs and sells rare violins and takes either his "Big Band" or his Quintet out on the road for gigs, on his own schedule. And, thankfully, he still makes albums, this new CD, produced by Larry Campbell (Levon Helms' producer) at Helms' old studio, is like his old Fantasy albums, a little bit of everything. He gets the blues out of the way in the first two tracks, moves on to an "English ballad" that he wrote and gets his 70s Philly Folk friends, John Roberts and Tony Barrand, to join him. If you've seen David in concert recently you'll recognize the wonderful "Driving Wheel", which has a great saxophone solo by John Firmin half-way through this six-minute-plus track. By the way, Bromberg doesn't rush things. How many "folk albums" do you know which have many tracks exceeding six-minutes? "Sharon's" replacement as the "comedy" number in recent years is "I'll Take You Back" and it's here with all it's tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. Let's see, there is a bluegrass/jig medley, a wonderful vocal cover version of Floyd Cramer's country hit from the 60s "Last Date" (I never knew there were lyrics but Bromberg found them) and a tribute to the Staples Singers, before he closes with two more self-penned songs - the first, "World of Fools" is the closest I've heard to a "pop" song from him and ending with a love song for his wife, Nancy.
Bromberg plays both acoustic and electric guitars and mandolin. He left his fiddle back in the shop ("David Bromberg-Fine Violins") this time.
The CD includes three pages of song commentary penned by Bromberg. You can tell from reading them that he really felt comfortable in making this album. I, for one, think it's the best one he's done in years.
|The "new" DB site. Buy
from amazon. Released Sept. 2013. Reviewed
by Steve Ramm.
Dodging Bullets... (Leap Recordings)
The Cowboys (along with another great group called The Flatlanders) are the closest
thing to a "supergroup" the alt.country genre has and, thankfully, the
group's musical results live up to the sum of the members' individual parts. Though
you might not recognize many of their names, all of the band members (including
bandleader Walter Egan of 1970's AM-radio hit "Magnet and Steel" fame)
are accomplished artists and respected studio musicians in their own right. One
of the members, the young and extremely talented Brian Waldschlager, has the vocal
presence, rock-star swagger, and songwriting talent to be a star on his own one
day should he ever have the desire. A fine solo album released a year ago from
Waldschlager shows what fine music he can create on his own and is well worth
searching out. Egan also has a new solo record, Apocalypso Now on Gaff Music,
that is well worth the price of admission and keeps his career renaissance moving
along nicely with more fine songs and great guitar work. But, back to the Cowboys.
The original songs on Dodging Bullets are penned by Egan, Waldschlager and producer/drummer
Fredro Perry and all are fun, twang-filled roots rock party tunes with a few slower
ones thrown in but not enough to ruin the great vibe created here. This, like
the Flatlanders record and the famous Traveling Wilburys records of a decade ago,
is a bunch of like-minded musicians at the top of their game getting together
to have some fun and create some seriously wonderful music. If you like roots
rock ala Joe Ely and the Texas Tornadoes (but without the Mexi-Cali stuff) you'll
love this. |
web site. Buy
from amazon. Released Sept. 2002. Reviewed
by Scott Homewood.
BROOKLYN COWBOYS |
Doin' Time On Planet Earth... (Leap)
This new band features an assortment of music veterans led by Walter Egan, a friend
of the late Gram Parsons, the tasty pedal steel of Buddy Cage (New Riders of The
Purple Sage) and the harmony vocals of Joy Lynn White, a fine singer on her own.
The entire album has a late 70's Country Rock feel to it, it's almost as if they're
trying to recreate the sound of Gram Parson's two classic solo albums with White
playing the Emmylou's role. Egan, who handles all the lead vocals,
introduces a new song he co-wrote with the late Parsons. The album
is very well recorded by Al Perkins and the songs are decent, but what sounded
unique and fresh years ago doesn't really excite me as much these days. |
| The band has their own website
with bios, lyrics and tour info. Buy
from Amazon.com. Released April, 2000, reviewed by Bill
| This CD is further
proof of my contention that the Midwest knows how to rock better than anywhere
else. This Des Moines, Iowa band serves up a rustic blend of country and roots
Americana that hit right close to home. Nothing fancy or pretentious just honest,
heartfelt lyrics and simple instrumentation. Rhythm guitarist and primary songwriter
Andy Fleming handles all the vocals. Trailer Records label boss David Zollo produced
the thing. They sort of remind me of a combination of the Eagles, Blue Rodeo and
a dash of perhaps Richmond Fontaine. |
Records' site. Buy
from Amazon. Released March, 2004, reviewed by Keith
BROTHERS COSMOLINE |
Of Work And Freedom... (Slewfoot)
Canadian group The Brothers Cosmoline proves once again that Americana does not
have to come from America. Distributed by Slewfoot Records in the Missouri Ozarks,
this CD is wonderfully produced. You can tell everyone involved put a lot of work
and love into it. The musicianship is top-notch, and the songwriting is heart-felt
if not very catchy. They both give the distinct impression that this group is
mature, seasoned, and ready for great things. The cover of The Beatles' No Reply
is particularly good, as is the shuffling When Your Baby Leaves.|
site. Order from amazon.
Released Oct. '03. Reviewed by Clint
"GATEMOUTH" BROWN |
Back to Bogalusa... (BlueThumb)
Brown is often considered the father of Americana music due to his clever melding
of diverse musical styles such as blues, country, folk and western swing. While
he is most widely known as a blues man, Brown goes for a down-home country feel
on his latest CD. Shaving off a lot of his blues style, Brown instead brings on
a more introspective, homey feel on this CD, on which he graces us with a generous
helping of fiddle playing as well as his usual terse, powerful guitar work. This
is possibly one of Brown's best albums and a real testament to his abilities as
a musician to make a relevant statement in many different genres. A definite triumph.
| Check out Gatemouth.com. Buy
from Amazon.com Released July, 2001. Reviewed
by Scott Homewood .|
Good 'n' Broke... (Stomp)
First, let me say that anyone who titles a song "Shotguns, Cacti & Vengeance"
gets a couple points right off the bat. When that same person manages to gather
a band and a bunch of songs this good, well, let's just say this band won't be
lacking for stars at the end of the review. Brown hails from Canada which is also
the home of one of my favorite bands, Blue Rodeo, and has a rich country heritage
of which Brown is sure to play a part in the years to come. A songwriting mix
of Robert Earl Keen and Tom Petty, Brown's songs are always hopeful despite the
misfortune suffered and caused by his main characters all the while bolstered
by melodies as hummable and memorable as a nursery rhyme. A master storyteller
and surprisingly adept at jumping from bristling rock to Bakersfield breakdowns,
Brown has managed to release a record that should wind up on many best-of's at
the end of the year. A great disc!! |
His new website. Order the CD from
Miles Of Music. Reviewed
by Scott Homewood |
Stand Your Ground... (Stomp)
In the course of his life, Graham Brown has sojourned from Scotland to Vancouver, British Columbia, via Winnipeg, Toronto, and Edmonton. I'd have to venture that his prairie days were his most formative, because, along the way, he acquired a pretty good concept of what roots/country/alt/country music is all about. The opening track, “Be That Way”, with its soaring, almost majestic, guitar lines, would at first seem to belie the preceding statement, but, stay close, the next one, “Morning Light”, rolls along in true country-rock fashion, and sets the tone for the rest of the disc. There's only one odd dud marring an otherwise solid third solo release, “Pebble In My Shoe”, which comes off being just clichéd. It's very seldom that shortening the length of a CD is advocated here, but leaving that one out would have made for a more cohesive product.
|Web site. Order from CD Baby. Released April, 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.
Milk Of The Moon... (Red House)
For what seems like his 120-zillionith release, Greg Brown has dropped the acidic
bleakness which contributed to the critical success of his past two albums, Slant
6 Mind and Over And Under. The lyrical imagery on Milk Of The Moon
is short on murderers and whores and heavy on home, love, morning, rebirth, and
family. The music has retained the back-shed grit that Brown is so famous for.
and his voice- even on a radio-friendly track like "Steady Love"- is
as gravelly and stained as ever. But his optimism is omnipresent, recalling such
albums as The Poet Game or Further In, and really, who can blame
him? He just married Iris DeMent! |
web site Buy
from amazon. Released March, 2002. Reviewed
by Gabe Meline. |
This "folkie" is sounding
better each time he puts out a new CD. He has a certain confiden ce, or maybe even
cockiness to his style that I like. It's like, this is what I do, this is how
I dress, this is how I sing, either you like it or not, I don't care either
way. For some of his earlier albums Greg seemed to be leaning towards the mainstream.
What he does best is right here, great, personal songs with spare arrangements.
His deep, soulful voice is well suited to the mostly bluesy songs here. Greg has
a very devoted group of fans. He puts on a great live show, and he doesn't care
if you like this CD or not. But I think you will.
Long Walk Back....(Curb/Atlantic)
By now we're accustomed to Junior's stellar "guit-steel" talents, not to mention his deep voice and quirky sense of humor. He's smart not to mess with what works, and I sense that he's trying to expand beyond his fan base a little bit. Not to knock him too much, but when it comes to ballads, he's no Ray Price, and his Jimi Hendrix fascination has gone so far as to hire drummer Mitch Mitchell for a song or two. It's the amusing "hard country" shuffles that I love the best, along with the occasional Hawaiian or car tune. This CD has all that, but a few "clunkers" prevent it from being a great listening experience through the whole album. Junior Brown is an unique American institution, and I hope he sticks to what he does best.
| Best cuts: Long Walk Back To San Antone, The Better Half, Rock-A-Hula Baby, Keepin' Up With You, I'm All Fired Up. Curb has a "record company" website, and there's a pretty nice Junior Brown fan site. Buy from Amazon.com. Released Sept. '98, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Volume 10... (self released)
|When Junior Brown’s twangy “Hang Up and Drive” opens his new EP album,Volume Ten, you hear an element of Dave Dudley’s “Six Days on the Road.” However, if you think this six-song project is all retro truck-driving country music, think again. The next cut “Apathy Waltz” is a humorous and jazzy song about desensitization and detachment while “The Phantom of the Opry,” relates the secret life of a country musician living in the basement of an old opry house since 1975 . Like that phantom, Junior believes in keeping his music “sweet and clear, the way they played it here on Saturday nights.” But Junior is no ghost or relic from another life, and his music is both classic and contemporary..Brown has been at it for more than five decades, and he clearly knows what it takes to entertain and get people up dancing. He’s a legend, and I only wish he’d give us more than six songs on future volumes. But this is his first release in seven years, so we should be happy at that.
Junior's site. Buy from Amazon. Released Nov. '12, reviewed by Joe Ross.
Normal For Bridgewater... (Slow River/ Ryko)
Bruntnell is one of those guys who's so good you wonder why you haven't heard
of him before. Imagery inspired lyrics sung with a soft, easy-going voice,
not unlike Nick Drake. His songs have a haunting feeling and he writes the
kind of melodies that stick with you for days. Although he's English, he
recorded the CD in Boston with his own band and 2 members of Son Volt. Steel
guitarist Eric Heywood is especially effective on the slower tunes. There's
some melodic rock and some acoustic songs mixed in with the Americana arrangements.
Good stuff all around. This is bound to be a critic's favorite and for good
reason... it should be appreciated by others as well. |
from Amazon.com. Released July, 2000, reviewed by Bill
This is a reissue of Buckner's
excellent 1995 debut CD. His two albums since just won't have the same
raw passion and accessible melodies and arrangements as this one, which has been
out-of-print. In fact, I forgot just how good these deep, melancholy songs
are. Lloyd Maines originally produced it in Austin and he adds lots of
his own steel and Dobro playing. This re-issue has been re-mastered and
they added 5 unreleased solo acoustic songs at the end that complement an already
almost-classic album. If you've only heard about Richard Buckner, this is
the CD to buy first.
Best tracks: Blue & Wonder, Rainsquall,
Gauzy Dress in the Sun, Surprise AZ, Settled Down. Slow
has a web site, that includes bios, tour and ordering info. Buy
. Released June, '99, reviewed by Bill
Blue Ribbon Buzz...(Big Bender)
must say here at the outset that I really enjoyed this CD. Buckskin Stallion has
a nice roots rockin sound that grew on me with every listen. With some very obvious
influences such as Dylan, Guthrie and Uncle Tupelo they have a little something
for everyone. Just the same I can't help noticing a hint of the Burrito Brothers
as well, which is cool. Having said all that I must say that my favorite track
is "She Gone". This was a nice, spare track with just vocals and acoustic guitar.
The heartfelt lyrics made it all the better. This Boulder band have good ol' country
rock down cold and I hope to hear more from them soon. |
Buckskin Stallion info, CDs and
merchandise. Big Bender Records. Buy
from amazon. Released Feb. '04. Reviewed by Keith Robb.|
The Cajon Passages... (Silent John)
really want to hear these guys on my radio. This is great stuff! With their second
CD The Cajon Passages, Bucksworth gives us the kind of straight ahead country-rock
that gave us a reason to look west again after Buck Owens settled down. Mark Nemetz'
vocals are eerily reminiscent of early Mick Jagger and the guitar work and arrangements
bear the watermark of Randy Meisner-era Eagles. The songwriting is just as good
as the musicianship. Nemetz' songwriting is excellent, with lyrics that paint
a picture so clear that you can practically smell the desert, see the lights and
sprawl of Las Vegas, and feel the swamps of Louisiana. One thing that really stands
out on The Cajon Passages is the engineering and mixing. The harmonies are mixed
perfectly, and the engineering and production give the songs the space they need
to really shine. The only downside to this CD is that as good as they are, the
songs focus on a rather particular phase of Nemetz' life. They also all seem to
stay within a pretty narrow range of tempo, tone, and feel. Still, this one is
going on the iPod for my roadtrip music.
Order the CD from CD
Baby. Released April, '04. Reviewed by Clint
Haul Alone... (Silent John)
| You will definitely get your buck's worth (get it?) if you get this CD. Thanks to Mark Nemetz' gravelly voice, this CD will bring to mind a musical experiment on the par of Tom Waits singing sparse country numbers interspersed with some Brill Building pop complete with background vocals supplied by Nemetz' wife. The songs are original and very catchy and will hook you in a matter of minutes. This is a very fine CD and should lead to great things for this strikingly original band.
| Their site, dabucksworth.com, has bios, reviews, tour info and CD ordering. Or you can order the CD from CD Baby. Reviewed by Scott Homewood.
| If you're fortunate enough to still have a used CD store in your town, they probably have a “cheepie” section where everything is only a dollar or so. Well, the cover of Bucksworth's third CD looks like a CD that you'd see in the cheepie bin. And, as you can't judge a CD by it's cover, this is a great band that has a unique sound. Elements of twangy country mixed with rock lyrics, then add tasty steel and a tight drummer. Lead singer Mark Nemetz's raspy voice reminds me of how Lowell George used to sound on Little Feat's first few albums. Fans who love the Gourds or miss the old NRBQ oughta love these guys. Mighty fine, mighty fine! Check your local store, then order it online.
|Bucksworth's website. Order the CD from CD Baby. Released April, '04. Reviewed by Bill Frater.
On Blocks... (Plow Handle)
|The band Buffalo
Nickel shares a lot in common with their moniker, taken from a coin that was minted
in the early 190's but isn't made anymore. Like the coin, the band is traditional.
Their country songs sound as if they were ripped right from the ‘50's or 60's
with a strong Texas and Bakersfield, California influence and their rockers are
pretty basic Southern rock boogies with primitive licks and a lot of energy. Also
like the coin, bands like this simply aren't made anymore. Despite what you might
have heard about the so-called plethora of new country acts sprouting since the
rise of the No Depression movement and magazine, most of those bands are either
too mired in tradition to make music that breathes or have wandered in to the
power-pop arena. Buffalo Nickel, although true to country's past, gives their
music a certain edge that keeps them from mer5ely copying what has been done in
the past. Buffalo Nickel doesn't just ape that old style but embraces it and gives
listeners an energy that is purely their own, always a good sign for a group that
wants to have more than a fleeting stab at fame. As far as songwriting goes, three
members of the band share that pretty equally and all of the songs fit the group
so there is a cohesive sound, not three solo artists trying to cram the group
into their own personal visions like the pitfalls of bands like The Jayhawks and
the last Uncle Tupelo release fell into. All in all, a real strong release from
a band that has the goods to be around for a long time. Pick this up, you won't
|Their website, Honk
'N' Roll. com. Order from CD
Baby. Reviewed by Scott Homewood |
Noise and Conversation... (Plow Handle)
| This third release by Mississippi's Buffalo Nickel leaves me a little flat. It has some high points, in several different genres, and I believe that therein lays my problem. Noise and Conversation seems a little scattered, as if the band is trying to be all things to all people. It's a case of the whole being less than its individual parts. Anomalously, each song can stand alone quite easily, “Walkin'” and “Can't Say Anything” are but two good examples, but when they're all strung together, there's a disjointed feel. The way to listen to this one is to put it in the changer with a bunch of others, and hit shuffle, and let the tunes play where they will.
| The band's Honk 'n Roll site. Buy from Amazon. Released Oct. 2004, reviewed by Don Grant.
Man Outta Me... (self released)
First off I want to say I really liked this CD. I have no idea how to
categorize the music, but I like it. This is the first release by the
Irving TX enigma known as Bumpkin (aka William Dehaes). This is what I
call DIY at it's best. Recorded at Bumpkin home studio with just him on
guitar and vocals with David Dooley on viola. He seems to be most
strongly influenced by Neil Young or simularly unique artists who pave their own road despite the latest trends. As
rough as this music is, it would be right at home on AAA and alt-country
radio. Bumpkin!! Get in touch with me. I know some stations here in NE
Ohio where you'd fit right in! Well done.
|Order from CD Baby. Reviewed by Keith Robb.
Paul Burch and his partners gloriously celebrate
the bygone country music days when giants like Hank Williams, Bob Wills and Webb
Pierce roamed the earth. The harmonies and lap steel are especially dead-on 50's-style
country-sounding. What's even better, and also what separates Burch from say BR5-49,
is the strength of his songwriting. His voice has a pleasant easy-going style
with good range. This stuff swings, honky-tonks and rocks, all with a retro style,
but it still sounds fresh and new. They are not purposely trying to sound "old",
like Riders in the Sky, but they're more like Wayne Hancock, with better songs.
I get the idea that they just think this is how good music should sound. I have
to agree, this is great stuff!
Best tunes: Winner's Circle, I Am
Here, Borrowed and Broke, Some of These Days, This Time Next Year, Disciple, Walking
to McCourey. Buy
from Amazon.com. Released Oct. '98. Reviewed by Bill
|PAUL BURCH & THE WPA BALLCLUB
Blue Notes... (Merge)
| Like his first 2 CD's, Burch writes original songs with retro-country arrangements. His easy-going voice might take some getting used to for some, but he's truly a unique talent and there are times he reminds me of the warm vocals of Country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers. The recording has a very casual "in your living room" recording sound that works quite nicely with the songs. Between Paul Burch and Wayne Hancock, Hank Williams Sr's musical legacy lives on and is definitely thriving.
| Buy from Amazon.com. Released: Aug. '00, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Still Your Man... (Ramseur)
|On Still Your Man, Nashville-based country stylist Paul Burch both moves to a new suitor in Ramseur Records and diversifies his sound over the course of the album's 14 songs with colors of jazz, country swing, blues and rumba and all with a throwback tinge to it. With his WPA Club band providing stellar accompaniment, Burch's low key approach in the studio with a nod towards sparseness have always yielded albums with a high listenability quotient. Still Your Man is no exception.
|Paul's site. Buy from amazon. Released August, 09. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
Cold Hard Truth ...(Palo Duro)
a Texan that definitely has his roots in Country; his six generation heritage
includes a general who fought in the Mexican-American War, (I'd like to see some
of the ersatz CMT types top that!). Burleson's brand is Honky-Tonk/Western Swing,
and we can thank a cantankerous critter for its existence. Sometimes in rodeo,
the animal wins, and in this case, fans of the Texas Sound did too. Side-lined
by a knee injury, Ed picked up a guitar whilst con Fratervalescing, and subsequently
attracted the notice of the late, great, Doug Sahm. The resultant product has
an authentic feel that lots strive for, but few manage to achieve. It will have
you up two-steppin' by the second track, guaranteed.
The Sickle & The Sheaves... (self-released)
This is a bit embarrassing: somehow or other this one seems to have gotten lost in the flood. Sometimes the discs come in faster than one can keep up with, and the odd one hides itself in the mob; my apologies to all concerned. Now, for the nitty gritty. Doug Burr has been a fixture on the Dallas musical scene going on five years now, and he can write some pretty good stuff. You can't call this one gospel, but Burr's faith in a higher order is evident in almost every track. It's quiet and unassuming music that has a calming and reassuring effect upon the listener. “Dark as the Night” is a good example; it describes the emotional turmoil that life can effect, but, simultaneously it gives one hope. It's pretty hard to argue with optimism of this caliber, even for the ‘doom and gloom' crowd. Sometimes upbeat just plain feels good, and this is one of those times. Good old Americana rooted in spirituality: gotta like this one, kids.
|Doug's web site. Purchase from CD Baby. Released 2003, reviewed by Don Grant.
Sam Bush seems like such a nice guy, and
his mandolin and fiddle talents are so strong that he can just about do whatever
he wants now when he decides to do a solo album. After leading the New Grass Revival
for years and hundreds of sessions with everyone in Nashville, he doesn't really
need to produce a "hit" record. This gives him the freedom to really
stretch and do some bluegrass and newgrass instrumentals mixed in between the
"regular" songs. His voice has always been good enough to get by, but
on this CD, it perfectly suited to the positive outlook that all the songs share.
All in all, this is a fine and entertaining collection of music that should earn
him some new fans. Sam makes it look and sound so easy. Nice guys finish first,
and they get the freedom to release what they think is good music!
Ice Caps: Peaks of Telluride... (Sugar Hill)
Sam Bush has played at every one but the first of the prestigious Telluride Music
Festivals. They even call him the "Mayor of Telluride", so it
seemed appropriate that they release a knockout collection of live songs recorded
throughout the 90's, featuring Sam and various talented musical friends.
Of course, if you've ever seen Sam you know he's a incredible musician and a very
entertaining live performer. This CD is quite well recorded and the the
picking throughout is just blistering. He doesn't limit himself to Bluegrass,
there's a little bit of everything represented here. This is a must for
Sam devotees and a nice introduction for music fans who somehow don't know about
this dynamic artist. |
Sugar Hill has
a site. Buy
from Amazon.com. Released July, 2000, reviewed by
No One You Know... (No Bull Songs)
About 10 years ago I heard that J.J. Cale was living in the sticks somewhere in
the South with no telephone. His booking agent had to write him letters
asking him if he wanted to do gigs and by the time he heard back the dates were
already booked. Perhaps that's one reason why we haven't heard much from
that brilliant and unique singer. Well, I'm here to tell you that we have
the next best thing in Kenny Butterill. It's impossible for me not to compare
him to Cale, and that's a good thing. You got same deep gruff voice and
the much of the same rootsy, percolating, shuffling songs. Whether it's
coincidence or homage to J.J. doesn't really matter. Butterill's debut is
a refreshing reminder of Cale's legacy and the probably the beginning of another's.
Bull Songs Released March, 2000, reviewed by Bill
Just A Songwriter... (No Bull Songs)
|Let it be said up front: most music writer/reviewers such as myself are frustrated
musicians. We all wanted to be the ones onstage in front of the screaming fans,
backstage with the groupies, rich beyond our wildest dreams, etc. We would even
rather be the ones having our artistic endeavors reviewed (even our bad ones)
instead of writing reviews for others. Alas, most of us will never reach our dreams
- the better for you, because, quite frankly, the average music critic's music
sounds like Backstreet Boys rejects. It's much better that talented artists and
songwriters like Kenny Butterill get their space and due coverage. While Butterill
writes and sings in a more traditional country style than most of the young artists
populating the rejuvenated country scene, there's plenty here for the semi-newcomer
to country music to like. Songs are solid in a Townes and Mickey Newbury sort
of way and while Butterill's voice is on the plain side, it brings an everyman
quality to his songs making them much more easy to relate to. There is a lot of
emotional ground covered here and Butterill does a fine job of conveying deep
heart-rending emotions in his songs. An excellent album. Butterill may feel he's
just a songwriter, but in my world, there's no occupation more deserving of praise.|
Bull Songs (Kenny's site). Hayden's
Ferry Records. Buy
from Amazon.com. Released April, 2003. Reviewed by Scott
Darkness and Light... (Sideburn)
Never heard of this Bunzow character before but after this CD I'll be damned if
I forget him. Starting off with a loping, guitar-busy Dave Edmunds-sounding track
(Love Is The Only Rescue) turned on its' side by his Robbie Fulks-like vocals,
Bunzow begins his disc in fine stead. You might not believe me when I say it gets
better from there, shit, I'm not sure I believe it myself but it does. It doesn't
hurt that Bunzow has drafted such talents as Dan Dugmore (session vet and player
on Linda Ronstadt's best tracks from the ‘70's) on pedal steel and Allison Moorer
on harmony vocals. Despite Bunzow being a flash guitar player with plenty of tasty
licks, his vocals and fine songs are what carry the day and the guitar solos never
once take away from the fact that this is a country record. Sure, it's got a Southern
rock vibe happening but this is one country boy who's unashamed of his roots.
A damn fine, damn fine CD. |
site (it's actually an arm of BurnsideRecords) Buy
from amazon. Reviewed by Scott