Best of FTB
Fred is one of my favorite
"unknown" singer-songwriters, and if there's any justice in the world,
he'll be a much better known soon. The Canadian has always toured like crazy,
with his enchanting band, The Flying Squirrels, making new fans the old fashioned
way, one gig at a time. This CD has a lot of the harder-sounding "clang
and wheeze" arrangements that he started experimenting with on his last CD.
But there's still a few folk songs and rootsy tunes too. Eaglesmith has so
much passion that you just can't help but love the guy as he screams his way through
more brilliant songs about love and cars. He is a true original with plenty
of wonderful sardonic wit. This CD might be the one that puts him over to
the larger audience that he certainly deserves.
| Best tunes: Ten Ton Chain, Gettin' To Me, Mighty Big Car, Steel
Guitar, Carter, Alternator. Fred's
site, links to an up-to-date tour schedule. Razor
& Tie's site has bio, tour and ordering info. Released June, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater. |
|I’m a big fan of ol’ Fred Eaglesmith
and his hearty "living on the edge" songwriting attitude. Fred has almost a whole
new band, (the Flathead Noodlers), and they’re sounding less like a garage band
and more like a garage bluegrass band. The whole thing was recorded live to 3-track,
which means they didn’t use too many mics and it sounds like it, rough and full
of space. It’s just that all his songs don’t exactly grab me on Balin, a few sound
like they were thrown together pretty quick. Sometimes his writing sounds a little
too formulaic. I realize that to say "Fred" kinda tunes are formulaic is rather
ironic since he's not your everyday songwriter. His subject matter covers everything
from tractors to rooster fights to cars, trains, (of course), and perhaps a few
real love songs . " I Shot Your Dog" has to be one of the highlights. It's about
an uncomfortable conversation with a neighbor. All in all, if you're a Fred Head,
you'll either love it or will know that his next release will be better. Hats
off to him for putting out CD’s on his own label now, which may make it harder
to find at you local music store, but the artist get more of the money.|
FredEaglesmith.com has links for CD ordering. Released June, 2003. Reviewed by Bill
Frater with the help of Sherry Austin.
Dusty... (A Major Label)
Hot off the Canadian press, a new offering from the ever-prolific Mr. Eaglesmith. This is a departure from his last CD (love the Wurlitzer, Fred) but then, Mr. E likes to keep us guessing. You can't be in a hurry to listen to this CD. As with any artist whose work you appreciate, you have to let him take you where he's going, not where you expect to go. This is a slow moving CD with unusual arrangements glockenspiel, Wurlitzer Fun maker, reed organ and cellos. (That's right, cellos) along with the more predictable guitar and drums. This is a dreamy Fred. Not necessarily lighthearted but something about the cellos and the organ gives space to these compositions and the seduction is more subtle. Still much talk about love, lost, overlooked and/or on it's way out as well as the real-time feeling of being in a life at the ground level. Not every song is memorable but my favorites: "Hey Baby", "Ship", I75 and Crowds have the strongest melodies (to my ear) and some very cool organ.
| For Fredheads everywhere and available at fredeaglesmith.com Order from CD Baby. Released Nov. '04, reviewed
by Kay Clements
Tinderbox ... (A Major Label)
|If this isn’t the best record Fred Eaglesmith has ever made, it’s damn close. For his 17th release, Eaglesmith uses religion — the serpent handling, back-row wailing, hell and damnation variety — as the vehicle for a collection of songs that explore familiar Eaglesmith themes. It’s another slice of the dark underside of life, where Satan, snakes and guns inhabit the hollows and gravel roads of rural towns, and broken down war heroes, forlorn lovers and desperate souls seek redemption. Eaglesmith has teamed up with long-time collaborator Scott Merritt and produced a sparse, haunting group of 18 songs that are part old-timey, folk and rock, and part Gospel revival. The combination of a plunking banjo, synthesizer and Eaglesmith’s raspy voice create a tangible emotional atmosphere. There is an unhurried and slightly off-key quality to the songs reminiscent of a Tom Waits recording. This CD conjures up the spirit of a revival tent on the edge of a small town where the real God shows its face and the poor farmers don’t cling to their religion, they are swallowed up by it. Eaglesmith has a well-earned reputation among his dedicated followers (known as Fredheads) of constant experimentation, integrity, fierce independence and a mistrust of corporate influences in the music business. “Tinderbox” is the latest installment from an artist with an unflinching vision of life and the songwriting skills to match it.
|FredEaglesmith.com or add the "j" for CD ordering or.... Buy from amazon Released Apr. '08, reviewed by Barry Dugan.
|JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
The Good Life… (Bloodshot)
|This kid’s got some mighty big shoes to fill, named after Townes Van Zandt by his father Steve Earle. Wisely Justin doesn't try to match either of his namesakes. His songs are dead simple, nothing too fancy. There's a few acoustic numbers but the highlights are when he dives into pure retro honky-tonk. You'd think he was Ernest Tubb's son! If you love your vintage twang, this one'll tickle ya, but if you're looking for the next Steve Earle, well, give him a few years. Justin's only 26 years old and this is his first release. I'd say it's a great and refreshing start.
|Bloodshot's JTE page. Order from Amazon. Released March, '08, reviewed by Bill Frater
|JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
Midnight at the Movies… (Bloodshot)
|On his stellar 2008 debut The Good Life, the territory covered by Justin Townes Earle ran old-fashioned country shuffles to swing to folk. With Midnight at the Movies, Earle pushes the envelope a bit further broadening his Americana music palate to include country blues and acoustic pop at the same demonstrating a sophisticated eye for subject matter. A monster talent on the live side, from performance to songwriting to his vocal work, this latest presents an artist beyond his years who wears both the Earle surname and the Townes second given name extremely well.
| Visit My Space page. Buy from amazon. Released March, 2009. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson
|JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
Harlem River Blues… (Bloodshot)
| The new Harlem River Blues marks Justin Townes Earle's first recording since relocating to Brooklyn from Nashville. Ironically, Earle returned to Nashville to make the recording, though, draws heavily from the New York experience in his lyrics. His third album for Bloodshot Records, Earle continues to evolve, not to mention mature, in all ways positive with this album. His sound, while rooted in traditional music if anything, avoids any hints of staidness as he crafts a collection of ear-catching songs in a plethora of rootsy settings from country-up swing to ramblin' rock & rollers (the leadoff title track a true keeper) to the folksier sounds of the best of his prior two albums. Most noteworthy is his voice which sounds more confident and clearer than ever. With Harlem River Blues, JTE continues to be a talent on the rise. Recommended.
JTE's web site. Buy from amazon. Released September, 2010. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson
|JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
Nothing's Going to Change The Way You Feel About Me Now
| First off, I'm a huge JTE fan. I've seen him at least three times and had the pleasure of hanging out with him at a few music festivals. So I was real excited when I heard this new CD was out. He played one or two of these songs last summer at a festival and - live - they sounded great.
So I was still excited when I got the album, though I noted there are only 10 tracks. I looked at the timer on my CD player and it said there was only 30 minutes of music here. I was still okay, hoping this would be primo JTE material and 30 minutes of fine Justin songs can beat many other releases these days. I pressed "play" and track 1 came on. "am I that Lonely Tonight?" starts with a line about listening to "my father's song on the radio" and it sounded much like "My Momma's Eyes" a JTE concert staple. So far, so good. But then things started to get weak. There was a Memphis-tinged track that sounded a bit off and then came "Down on the Lower East Side" with muted horns and an organ.
I then read the press release and learned that this album was recorded over a four day period in a church in Asheville,NC with no overdubs. Maybe the later tracks were recorded when Justin was too tired. I don't know. But, I certainly agree the other JTE fans that this is not representative of JTE's prior work or his live performances.
So, I'll give JTE and his producer Skylar Wilson, a pass on this one and consider it a one-off. Hopefully he'll get back into the studio and spend a bit more time this time (and, hey, there is nothing wrong with overdubs). Till then, catch him live. He puts on a great show!
| JTE's web site Buy from amazon. Released March, '12, reviewed by Steve Ramm.
Dancin' With Them That Brung Me... (Gearle)
Stacey's first CD, (Simple Gearle), was recorded just to sell at concerts
and wasn't considered to be a formal release.This time around, the CD packaging
and recording are more professional, yet Stacey still maintains her "aw-shucks"
attitude and loose vocal style. She comes across as a regular Southern girl,
comfortable in a trailer park yet also confident enough to express her true honest
emotions in her insightful songs. Although everything is mostly acoustic-based,
I would hesitate to call it folk music. Stacey's rhythm guitar work is very
percussive and husband and harmony vocalist Mark Stuart's acoustic lead guitar
style is always inventive and frequently inspired by rock riffs. Stacey's an intelligent
yet simple songwriter who avoids the sophomore slump here and shows that she's
much more then Steve's little sister. |
She has a great website, StaceyEarle.com,
with up-to-date tour info, CD and T-shirt ordering and more. Released May 2000, reviewed by Bill Frater.|
First off, this is Steve
Earle's sister, and she shares his talent of creating wonderfully memorable
melodies. She also has the stubborn independence to release this CD on her
own label, although E-Squared is now distributing it. The arrangements are soft
and simple, featuring her husband Mark Stuart on tasteful lead acoustic guitar
and harmonies. The sound is similar to Gillian Welch or early Nanci Griffith,
especially the latter when it comes to her vocal range. Her songs are mostly
about happy contemporary subjects like weddings, childhood, married life and well...simple
things. This is the kind of album that grabs ya after the third or fourth
listening and then doesn't let go. If you think this sounds like something
you'd like, don't think about it, just go buy it.
Favorite songs: Wedding Night, Tears That She Cries, Simple Gearle, Losers
Weep, Cried My Heart Out, Show Me How, In My Way. She has her own site, StaceyEarle.com
with bio, tour info and 4 full length RA songs. Released Feb, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater
El Corazon.... (E-Squared/Warners)
Mr.Earle just may have put out the CD that
will put him on the same street with the major singer-songwriters of the
90's. The all-original songs are all over the place, as they should be stylistically-
hitting on some bluegrass, some hard stuff and even a great lo-fi Hank Williams
sounding thing that adds the "clicks and pops" of a good ol' vinyl 78.
Steve opens with a folk/blues that's ask for Woody Guthrie to come back to "help
us out", then the CD closes with a folk tribute to the late Townes Van Zandt,
one of Earle's biggest influences. The guy still sounds sober, thankfully, and
he's not so hung up on sounding tough, Earle is just making great-sounding music
here, strong melodies, and insightful lyrics. This is as good as it gets! Keep
putting 'em out like this one, Steve, there's a hungry audience out here that
will follow wherever you go.
Best tracks: Christmas In Washington, Telephone Road, N.Y.C.,
The Other Side of Town, Poison Lovers. Warners
very slick, inc. lyrics from El Corazon, tour info, message board, etc.
A great Steve Earle fan site
including bios, lyrics, guitar chords, and lots more! Released Oct. '97, reviewed by Bill Frater
Transcendental Blues... (E-Squared)
| Well, since Steve has been on such a hot streak since Train 'A Comin' in
'95 that I half expected and was ready to accept a new CD that would be a lesser
effort. Boy, was I wrong! This CD, reputed to be his return to Rock music,
really covers the entire spectrum of what Americana's most consistently creative
artist is all about. Definitely a few of the tunes rock out, Steve's even
reaching back for a little psychedelic inspiration and doing it better then Wilco
did on their last CD. Fact is, the guy writes great songs, be they deep acoustic
folk tunes, straight pop, or Irish-inspired ditties. And he seems to have
been struck again by Cupid as many of the tunes are love songs. What they all
have in common are superb melodies and honest, inspired lyrics. Earle is
writing a Haiku a day which has not only strengthened his mastery of prose but
seems to have taught him the value of brevity. He's a cultured rebel who
is at the top of his game right now, doing what he does best, his art.
|e2records.com has press stuff and his new tour schedule. Released June 2000, reviewed
by Bill Frater.
This album exemplifies what I love about
this music. The combination of Earle's gritty but heartbanger songwriting combined
with the blistering excellence of the Del McCoury Band (best bluegrass band
working today according to Mr. Earle). It's traditional, it's contemporary,
and it pays homage to it's roots without getting stuck there. Context not
concrete... and out of that emerges some of the best textured music to be heard
these days. Talk about a buzz, this is one crowd that's not phoning
it in. Fact is, they're almost predictably too fine... if there is such
a thing... (critics, can't please em', can't piss'em off). Anyway, it's
hot, as you would expect from a twangtrust production. This album has had enough
pre-release talk to titillate fans of both bluegrass and whatever label you wanna
slap on Steve, but it's all true and worth the newsflash... You gotch
yer duet with Iris Dement, yer twin mandolins on "Connemara Breakdown"
and the combination of Del and Steve on "Carrie Brown" is nothing short
of hair raising....that's bluegrass hair now, think about it. Jerry Douglas,
Stuart Duncan, Gene Wooten and Dan Gillis lend some great chops to this record
that I think Bill Monroe would've felt mighty good about, yes sir I do...
| Best tunes:
Carrie Brown, I'm Still In Love With You, The Graveyard Shift, The Mountain, Connemara
Breakdown, Outlaw's Honeymoon. E-Squared
has a nice site. Steveearle.net is a
fan site. Released Feb, '99, reviewed
by Kay Clements.|
| There's a lot of hoo-ha going on right now about this new CD from Earle. That many of the songs are a stylistic departure from Earle's usual sound is one of the reasons but the lion's share of the attention is going to Earle's lyrics. In some of the songs, Earle writes from the perspective of someone who hates America and everything it stands for. While I am sure most people don't actually believe Earle is actually agreeing with these sentiments, many are shocked he would choose so close after the horrible events of 9/11 to write a song from this point of view. I, for one, feel it's about time. America used to have a strong legacy of protesting through music, going back through the field hollers of slaves which evolved into modern blues and up to Woody Guthrie and others who fought for the acceptance of equal rights by using their chosen art to make people think about their world and what was considered honorable and fair. Caught up in a PC age, most musicians are afraid to confront any ideas or injustices which go against the public grain. This is the real dangerous thinking. We when become involved in group think, in pleasing the masses for money's or pride's sake, we run the risk of not only diluting our art but our spirit and souls as well. Do I personally believe the feelings expressed by the character in Earle's song? No. But I do know, from the recent tragedy, that there are people who do think and feel this way and it is in our best interest to understand why they feel the way they do and try our best to figure out a solution that works not only in our best interest, but to also look at the situation and make sure we are not actually at fault in any way. Earle has taken a brave step with this album and will no doubt lose many fans who don't understand he is using his art to provoke and make us consider all sides of the terrible carnage that took place just over a year ago. From a man who just a decade ago was written off as a has-been and a drug/alcohol casualty comes a thought-provoking genre-busting album which will be talked about for years. I would say the music and songs are pretty damn good but it's kind of anti-climatic isn't it? Keep away from this unless you have an open mind. Not even stalwart Earle fans are going to flock to this one.
|Order from Amazon. Released Sept. '02, reviewed by Scott Homewood
The Revolution Starts...Now... (Artemis)
After his previous two releases, I've decided that there is only one way to examine this recording, and that is in two ways: from a musical, Americana, perspective, and, as a work of social commentary. Written and recorded almost in its entirety in twenty-four hours, The Revolution Starts Now is a testament to the prodigious talents of both Steve and the Dukes. I don't know where he gets them from, but damn, this guy writes some really fine music. It's difficult to single out any one track, they're all that good, but I get off especially on the rocking “Home to Houston”, “The Gringo's Tale”,(lovely strings here), and “Comin' Around”, featuring the exquisite vocals of Emmylou Harris. There's something unique and rare that happens when Earle's voice is counter pointed by a feminine set of pipes, and this song is a stellar example. I've ragged about this before, so I guess I can't let Steve off the hook: at a few seconds shy of thirty-six minutes, the disc is over way too soon for me, hence the missing ½ star. In fairness, he did create it from scratch in a lot less time that this assessment has taken me to produce.When I first saw the CD's title, I thought, “Uh oh, the shit's gonna hit the fan all over again, shades of “John Walker's Blues””. That furor was egregious then, and, it will be now, if it should happen again. Earle has always argued the case for the little guys: the Jimmys, the Alis, the boys from West Colorado and Houston, who get suckered into fighting and dying for other peoples' personal agendas. Their stories are laid out herein so poignantly that it is almost too painful to listen to them. It is misguided authority, and the abuse of power and trust, that are the targets of Earle's wrath, not any particular party or person. Whomsoever constitutes the current incarnation of evil, Mars or Aries, will be his target, and, “F the CC”, he will say what he thinks, because he's American, and it's his right. Following the form of Jerusalem , this CD also ends on a note of hope, “The Seeker”, making me think that the man is a closet optimist. Don't sweat the length, folks, this is an excellent CD, and, an important one, too. Get it.
|Order from Amazon. Released Aug. '04, reviewed by Don Grant.
Washington Square Serenade… (New West)
After releasing an album a year since gaining sobriety in 1994, Americana's favorite son and most consistent artist took a few years off. He's been acting, he's in a happy marriage (seven's a charm, I guess) and he moved to New York City. Greenwich Village to be exact, which some may say was the birthplace of folk music in the early 60's. Coincidently, or not, Steve has shifted his sound to a kind of urban folk-blues, featuring mostly acoustic instruments, with beats added tastefully. And another change from his recents CD's, very little politics and not a single cuss word. He writes about his adopted home and his powerful love for his wife. He's as poetic and melodic as ever and he's even sounding a little grateful now. Getting older will do that to you. He even does a cover tune (Tom Wait's “Down In The Hole”). Change and taking risks is always good in the long run. This may not be my favorite Earle album but it's a confident shift towards a new style. Also for serious Steve fans, there is a limited edition release with a bonus DVD featuring a 35 minute documentary and 3 acoustic performances.
|SteveEarle.com, the Unofficial Site. Order from Amazon. Released Sept. '07, reviewed by Bill Frater
I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive… (New West)
|As any NBA ref knows, our stars have a certain latitude—Larry Bird’s shuffle step, Kobe’s ball-carrying—and get a free pass. And so in the Age of the Single Redux, whether or not Steve Earle’s latest hangs together as an “album” need not trouble us unduly. In the CD’s booklet, the artist invites us into his process and tells us that the theme is mortality, a record of three years of reflection amid loss, and who would argue?
Even if the project is a pastiche, with flavors of mountain music and New Orleans and Lord-knows-what thrown into the blender, many of the songs are brilliant. “Every Part of Me” is a great love song, Wordsworthian in its intensity and grace. “Molly-O” and “The Gulf of Mexico” are instantly perennial Anglo folk in style.
Overall, the writing is extravagant. Sometimes it connects and sails out of the park, sometimes it’s a blooper that leaves you scratching your head. Mixed metaphors can haunt, or can provoke a giggle…when Mr. Earle programs two songs in a row that begin “I’m rolling down a blacktop highway/Hole in my chest ‘cause my heart’s in your hand” and “I am a wanderer, feet on the ground/Heart on my sleeve and my head in the clouds” even a fan (count me in) might think, “Scottie Fitzgerald had Maxwell Perkins as his editor.”
Finally, first-call producer T-Bone Burnett, with his insistent low-end rumbles and gooses, all tom-toms and bass-baritone twang parts, is driving his distinguished record of achievement right up to the edge of Mannerism. Just saying.
We expect a lot from our luminaries. A minor and uneven masterpiece is still cause for celebration.
|Order from Amazon. Released April, '11, reviewed by Jeep Rosenberg.
Ammunition... (New West)
| Tim's been around for a while, putting out solid yet still "in the park" roots rock releases, this is his fifth CD. He got rid of the electric guitars for this one and I think it was a great move. The album sounds as open, mystical and arid as the Joshua Tree desert where he live now. Sticking to stripped-down, mostly solo acoustic arrangements, Easton lets the songs do the talking. He says songs are Ammunition and he's not shy about speaking his mind about what's going on in the world today. The song “J.P.M.F.Y.F.” which stands for 'Jesus protect me from your followers', lashes out at the hypocrisy of the religious right. "Before The Revolution" offers some hope of "having a dream" in the future. He does some nice love songs too, sometimes channeling early Dylan or J.J. Cale. This is one of those CD's that would sound equally good with your morning coffee or on a desert highway in the middle of the night.
|Tim's web site. Order from Amazon. Released May, '06. Reviewed by Bill Frater.
ELEVEN HUNDRED SPRINGS
Bandwagon... (Palo Duro)
| If you like your country music straight up, like a shot of Thunderbird, without a lot of overwrought production, then you can do a lot worse than check this CD out. This is the ‘livest' studio work I've heard in a while, and it comes from the pretty impressive roster that constitutes the stable of Palo Duro Records in Texas. The band's sound is rooted principally in traditional Texas Swing, with a lot of emphasis upon the fine steel work of Aaron Wynne, and they have a lot of fun with the genre. “The Only Thing She Left Me With Was The Blues” is an amusing take-off on the familiar ‘She done left me with nuthin' lament, and it's followed by another chuckler, “Long Haired Tatooed Hippie Freaks”, an autobiographical song with a self-explanatory title. On the serious side, there are some nice standouts, the mournful “Gina From San Jose” and “Swerving”, and a wonderful version of that great Mickey Newbury sing-along tune, “Why You Been Gone So Long”, featuring a seamless overdub of the late Ronnie Dawson's vocals. With a beautiful counterpoint between Wynne's steel, and Chris Claridy's guitar, it's a winner. (Even I can stay on key with this one) Last, but not least, is the classic finger dexterity song, “The Rock Island Line”, which demonstrates that the boys aren't unfamiliar with bluegrass, either.
|Order from Amazon. Released July, '04, reviewed by Don Grant.
Producer/guitarist Roy Rogers has given Ramblin'
Jack Elliott the same treatment he gave John Lee Hooker's recent releases:
superior production and a few well-chosen guests to keep things interesting. Like
Hooker, Elliott is almost the last connection to a by-gone era, a time of cowboy
poets and New York City folksingers. Despite Ramblin' Jack's slightly worn
and tattered voice, or maybe because of it, he's always been better known as a
storyteller and interpreter of other's songs. It's the eclectic song
selection on this collection that really makes it, covering songs from such
diverse sources as the Rolling Stones, Ernest Tubb and Tom Waits, all are winners. Guests
include old friend Dave Van Ronk, as well as Tom Russell, Dave Alvin, Maria Muldaur
and Norton Buffalo. Ramblin' Jack is probably the only folk singer we have left
who can claim to have been friends with Woody Guthrie, and that right there gives
him a right to still be making records, ...er, I mean CD's.
Best tracks: Connections, Pony, St. James Infirmary, Picture
From Life's Other Side, East Virginia Blues, Take Me Back And Try Me One More
Time, True Blue Jeans. HighTone
has a fine site. Released
Sept. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater
Elliott's fifth CD finds our wandering troubadour hero with another bunch of more-than-slightly
off-kilter songs. Elliott is the new heir apparent of the long lost art of the
story-song that Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Bob Dylan excel at, but he also
manages to throw in a bunch of curveballs and points of view from odd perspectives
that will surprise even the most jaded country fan. From the opener, "Loser's
Lullaby", that ties in the stories of Pablo Picasso, Sugar Ray Robinson and
Hank Williams (?) to the almost epic story of "Degas in New Orleans",
Elliott binds the most disparate and opposite elements and, surprisingly, blends
them into one cohesive story. Despite these lyrical eccentricities, Elliott is
a masterful enough songwriter to make you believe all of these exploits and stories
as if they were told to you firsthand. His imagination and storytelling powers
can create wonderful tales worthy of your attention. |
Reviewed by Scott Homewood |
ELLIOTT & LUCIE WALKER
Straight Up... (self-released)
The title of this new CD is amazingly apt. The music is all straight up roots
rock and country with none of the poppy frills found on a lot of other so-called
Americana artists' releases (hello Jolene and Wilco). What we have here is what
could be referred to as a poor man's version of Buddy and Julie Miller, although
that would be unfair to Elliott and Walker. Elliott does play guitar, but it's
pretty much acoustic strumming and while he does write more of the songs (and
sing the rockier ones). Lucie Walker usually sings the slower ones, both do a
little more switching of styles than do the Millers. This CD also feels more "open"
almost like an outdoorsy, music-in-a-field, organic style while Buddy and Julie's
stuff feels more produced and polished. Yes, fans of the Millers will like this,
as it covers a lot of the same musical terrain, but fans of pure country will
probably dig this a little more as the frills are gone and their marvelous songs
hold up well, without too much showing off of any type. A very good CD. |
| Their site, rockincountryblues.com,
has links to MP3's lyrics and more. Order the album from CD
Baby. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .
American Compost... (self-released)
Ellsworth not only goes by a single handle, excepting the contributions of Dean Bohana on bass, keyboards and drums, he handles all of the rest of the roles on the aptly named American Compost . His songs in a large measure are rooted in an earlier time when rock was a simpler and more fun medium. Being from Brooklyn, he doubtlessly had a front row seat for 9/11, and states in his press release that these songs were influenced by those “weird times”. Life was simpler and more fun before those times, and, beginning with the searing riffs of the opener, “Back to New York City”, that's where Ellsworth sets out to lead the listener. It is a somewhat nostalgic excursion, but it isn't sappy. They say you can never go home again, but you can return for a visit. Even though they're gone for good, American Compost takes you back briefly to those days.
Ellsworth web site, and MySpace. Order from CD Baby. Released June, '07, reviewed by Don Grant.
Compass & Compassion... (Signature Sounds)
| Signature Sounds is a New England record
label boasting mostly folk artists. Mark Erelli is a young and gifted singer-songwriter,
but to pigeon-hole him as just another folkie would shortchange his talents. In
fact, he brings many different styles (rock, blues, country, folk) to this album,
which is actually what makes Americana such a distinctive genre. Kelly Willis
lends her voice to one song and the band features Duke Levine on guitars and other
stringed instruments. Suffice to say he's a literate and mature songwriter with
a fine soulful voice. This CD displays a playful maturity and I could see Erelli
becoming as good and respected as someone like Lyle Lovett. |
| Mark's site. Check out Mark's label's
site, with CD ordering. Released Feb, 2001. Reviewed by
Hillbilly Pilgrim… (Signature Sounds)
Mark Erelli pegged is a young folkish singer songwriter from Boston, at least
that's what I thought until Hillbilly Pilgrim, his 3rd solo release. Although
he's teased us with some twangy retro songs in the past, this is a delightful
stretch for him. The CD is all killerstraight-ahead honky tonkin' western swingin'
country tunes. Backing him are The Spurs, I guess a local western swing band,
who make like the Fly-Rite Boys, meaning very tasty and very versatile. And all
the songs are Erelli's too, save for "Troubles", a Billy Jack Wills tune. And
although Mark's voice is a bit "thinner" than brother Bob Will's great singer
Tommy Duncan, it works fine for the setting. In fact, his voice, along with a
shared musical playfulness, calls to mind the late Steve Goodman. 'Nuff said,
this is a great ride from start to finish and I heartily recommend it.
Mark has a nice site, Signature
Sounds' site. Released Jan, 2004. Order
Reviewed by Bill Frater.
I have been rooting for Escovedo ever since
his excellent 13 Years, hoping that he would find wider acclaim and put
out the true masterpiece that I felt he was capable of. I've realized since
then that his voice is an "acquired taste" that some may have trouble
with. I also realized that he is on his own path, which may or may not include
what I expect of him. Anyway, he rocks out a little more then he has on
recent solo releases although his trademark cello and violin are still there on
the ballads. What really makes it for me is his liberal borrowing of cover
tunes, everything from Jimmie Rodgers to the Velvet Underground. Add great cover
art and superior production, even on the 4 live cuts, and you have a fine CD.
This may not be his masterpiece, but it's worth a owning.
| Released April, '99, reviewed by Bill
Frater. Best tracks: I Was Drunk, Irene Wilde, California Blues, Pale
Blue Eyes, Sacramento And Polk. You can order the CD direct from Bloodshot,
they also have tour info.|
A Man Under The Influence... (Bloodshot)
The insurgent wonderkids at Bloodshot have done it again: given us another steller
album by should-be-ahitmaker Alejandro Escovedo. once again, Escovedo cooks up
an enticing blend of country, punk, rock, folk, and Tejano and serve us with lyrical
emotion and power. While the influence that he's under is obviously love (mostly
lost) he doesn't have the Bourbinitis Blues (his last fine disc) any longer,
that's for sure. Cuts alternately slowly weep or rock with full abandon. Aiding
and abetting are musicians from Whiskeytown and The Backsliders, amomg others.
This is an album that Steve Earle fans would especially appreciate as their visions
seem are simular even though their music is frequently not. Country-rock fans
rejoice, the "True Believer" returns with his strongest yet. |
has tour info, bio, mailing list and more. Bloodshot
Records. Released April, 2001. Reviewed
by Scott Homewood .|
Escovedo has considerable Alt. Country and Rock 'n Roll credibility. A veteran
of Rank & File and The True Believers, two obscure yet very influential bands.
He has put out three solo CD's on Rykodisc in recent years where most of these
songs originally come from, along with a few well chosen cover songs. He sings
in a melancoly monotone which suits his sad introspective songs and his band has
that great unique sound featuring violin and viola. He is a gentle, soft-spoken
man who's songs really slow to a crawl all too frequently for my taste. This comes
across better live then listening at home, where after 2 or 3 real slow songs
you could find yourself drifting off a little. Unfortunately, this CD doesn't
grab me enough for me to anticipate many repeated listenings. Although I respect
his vision and music, I have a hard time recommending this CD to anyone but his
biggest fans. I still look forward to future studio releases from Alejandro.
Real Animal ... (Back Porch/Manhattan)
|Since the 1990s, he’s delivered some of the most artful music I’ve laid ears on such that there was no pegging Alejandro Escovedo. While the proclivity to rock his ass off came in flashes, Real Animal is Escovedo in large part in his glam glory. An autobiographical affair for which the album title is a nod to hero Iggy Pop, Real Animal features songs, all co-written with comrade Chuck Prophet, drawing from various stages of Escovedo’s lengthy journey from his defining Bay Area days with punk band The Nuns (“Nun’s Song”) to his next stop with cowpunkers Rank & File (“Chip n’ Tony”) to making a go of it in N.Y.C. (“Chelsea Hotel”). Musically, we get plenty of the “glam” to go with subtle doses of the elegant country and chamber pop sounds of the aforementioned ‘90s. Produced by Tony Visconti (T. Rex, David Bowie), Escovedo seemingly has all the bases covered on Real Animal. Recommended.
Order from Amazon. Released June, '08. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
The Owl Has Landed... (self released)
|Do you have friends who love to play music? Who enjoy sharing it with you in rowdy bars, having a ball even if some of the songs are only halfway-done sketches? Now you do. Esquela, a rowdy little band from upstate NY, sounds like the most fun you could have in a little local pub. "The Owl Has Landed" is 37 minutes of noisy songs that cover a truly odd range of subjects in various and incomplete ways. "Commies Stink" kicks off the album with a tongue-in-cheek schoolyard taunt from the Cold War before it moves to unrequited bar pick-ups (Hands In My Jammies), and ends with a nearly hallucinogenic 6 minute chant (Country Fella) that wouldn't seem out of place on a Yo La Tengo album. Georgia Satellites member Keith Christopher keeps the band anchored in a rough, sloppy sound reminiscent of early '70s Stones, while vocalist Rebecca Frame keeps our attention on her Joplin-esque chops. Many of the songs sound as though half the audience from the previous night's gig were still drinking in the studio, and we are all invited to join. A truly unique and charming album.
|Esquela's website. Order the album from the band. Released Oct. '10, reviewed by Brad Price.
I'll never forget seeing these guys at a
record label's barbecue earlier this year at South By Southwest. When the
scheduled band didn't show up, The Ex-Husbands just jumped onstage, plugged in,
and proceeded to tear the place up for the next 20 minutes. Hard drivin'
Honky Tonk is what they specialize in, not too hard and not too fast. They throw
in a few blues shuffles and ballads but it's mostly 2 minute songs: get in there,
take care of business and get out of there. These New Yorkers have more taste
and style when it comes to real country then half of Tennessee and I ain't kidding. Credit
must go to principle songwriter Anders Thomsen who plays some fine guitar and
has a great distinctive voice. What's even more remarkable is they're only a trio! No
guest stars, no fiddles or banjos, just original songs played well with verve
can order the CD from Tar Hut,
or there's always Miles
of Music. Released Nov , '99, by Bill