Best of FTB
Looks Can Be Deceiving
....(Hand Carved Music)
The cover of this CD pictures 2 comely
lasses, but the music is by 5 talented, yet less attractive Okalahoma men. Thus
the cute title, but the pleasant surprise is that this is a great, fun band! They
not only have a sense of humor but two fine songwriters who also have great voices.
They're rockin' mostly-acoustic sound features a good fiddle player, and a tight
professionals all around. These guys have spent many late nights in the "Okie"
bars. Their CD is self-recorded and released so you may have to call or write
them for copies. But it's worth the effort, if only to hear the uniquely-named
yet infectious song "Crazy Stupid Bitch"!
Released in '97. Reviewed
by Bill Frater
. Best songs:
Do You Feel It Too, Kill The Pain, Crazy Stupid Bitch, Stella & Dave. Order
direct from the band at 400 W. Edmond Rd, Suite 6E, Edmond, OK. 73003 or call
them at (405) 341-5449...or e-mail them for info: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Duct Tapes... (Parhelion)
Paquin is a definite throwback to the golden age of country. Sitting somewhere
in the middle of Robert Earl Keen, Willie Nelson, George Jones and Bob Wills sits
Paquin, happy to be there and yet talented and skittish enough to keep switching
his style song by song. His vocal style reminds one of another legend, Roger Miller,
with a little Wills mixed in for good measure. His songs are very jazzy, towards
Western Swing and should appeal to fans of that genre as well as to folks loving
classic country like Nelson, Cash and Jones. For those looking for redneck rock
masquerading as country, be warned - none of that here. This is well-mannered
stuff. And done real well, to boot. |
Check out Joe's website. Order the
CD from Miles Of Music.
Reviewed by Scott Homewood |
of Mud... (Trailer)
|From the first song,
the title track "House Of Mud", Pardekooper's swaggering drawl grabs you and holds
you, forcing you to listen for the duration of the CD much like John Fogerty's
singing with Creedence Clearwater did decades ago. The title cut also sets a kind
of swampy, low-key growly mood that seems to scream New Orleans bayou. While Pardekooper
is singer and songwriter on this set, the guitar playing and production work of
Teddy Morgan does a lot to set the mood of this CD, his trenchant and primal riffs
lending an air of immediacy and danger to the proceedings. At least in the beginning
of the CD. As the CD progresses, Pardekooper varies his sound a little by paring
down, losing some band members (including Morgan) and doing a few songs with very
little backing. The last two songs see Pardekooper returning to the band set-up
and ending the CD on a swaggering note. Pardekooper has definitely made a decent
CD here and from now on I'll be keeping an eye on his career. I can see him doing
something classic in the future.
Records. Order from amazon
Released Aug.'02. Reviewed by Scott Homewood
Haymaker Heart… (Leisure Time)
| This Iowa native lives in Nashville now and has paid enough dues to deserve a break. His sound is straight-ahead Roots Rock 101. His smokey vocal style recalls Peter Case or Ray Wylie Hubbard. His baseball hat and white T-shirt look on the front cover conveys an honest ”I don't take no shit” attitude. His “Folk This” is a straight slap in the face at John Mellencamp and others who try to jump on the folk-roots bandwagon. He has a tender side where his songwriting really comes out on songs like “Tell Me (You're the One)” and “Too Late”. Pretty great stuff here, John “Cougar” could use a few of these songs!
|Pardekooper's website. Order from CD Baby. Released Jan. 2005, reviewed by Bill Frater.
PARKER & THE MOTHERSCRATCHERS |
We Stand... (Wrecked Em)
Live fans may remember a skit on a show that aired in the beginning of the ‘90's.
I can't remember who was featured in the skit (I think it was one of the guest
hosts) but the gist was basically a "greatest hits" album of drinking songs sung
by a country singer who was obviously an alcoholic. At the time it seemed like
a takeoff on George Jones and other singers of his time who made livings off of
songs about drinking. After listening to Bill Parker and his band, it seems like
Parker saw the same skit and decided to take it to heart. This CD is filled with
the kinds of songs that skit had sued as parodies. Check out these titles: Drinkin'
Alone, Keep My Glass Filled, Precious Blood, Lay Down and Die. The list could
go on. To add icing to the cake, all of these songs feature Parker singing in
a seemingly alcoholic stupor or disheartened with the voice seemingly on the verge
of ending it all. While you might think the tons and tons of pathos might make
the CD humorous in a dark, barfly-sorta way, you'd be wrong. This is desolation
personified. I like it but I wouldn't play it around anyone taking any Prozac.
It just might seal the deal.|
has ordering info. Reviewed by Scott Homewood
My Country… (Bloodshot)
was one of the "angry young brits" (along with Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson)
in the late great 70's pop punk era. He and his old band (The Rumour) always had
a rootsy pub-rock kind of sound and Parker's songs were poignant and tuneful.
He moved to the States at some point and has continued to put out the occasional
CD. 1991's Struck by Lightning even pointed towards the acoustic sound
that this new one expands on. I'm guessing that fellow Welshman Jon Langford might
led him to "our own" always-vital Bloodshot Records. Parker actually doing a few
songs that sound pretty twangy, and Alt.Country "queen" Lucinda Williams even
joins him on "Cruel Lips". His cover of the Dead's "Sugeree" really works too.
Like most of us, Graham Parker has mellowed with age, although his familiar raspy
drawl of a voice is still intact. This may be the best example of an old "punker"
going country since Costello's King of America. |
nice GP fan
site includes postings by Parker himself and more. Bloodshot's
page. Order from amazon.
Released March, '04. Reviewed by Bill Frater.
|LEE ROY PARNELL
Back To The Well... (Universal South)
Lee Roy Parnell plays a whole lot of guitar(s) on his new one, conjuring
Duane Allman and Lowell George with his guitar lines, his slide. There's even a hint of Dan Penn in his vocal style, songwriting. The title cut is
southern fried, dripping with groove. Parnell uses his natural, melodic vocal style to advantage, sounding like an old friend. After the drive of the opener, things mellow down some, and Parnell personalizes the record. It's all easy to listen and tap a foot to. I could say, opener aside, that no
particular cut stands apart from the rest – or I could say that the sings
all dovetail nicely. Let's go with the latter.
|Lee Roy's site. Order from amazon. Released March, '06. Reviewed by Doug Lang.
The Complete Reprise Sessions… (Reprise/Rhino)
Gram Parsons has become quite a legend through the years, in part due to his too-early drug-influenced death. Would he be legend if he still lived today? Probably not, but there's still no denying he was a unique and passionate musician who did some great work in his short recording career. He fused country and rock in a unique fasion decades before Americana became a music genre. This collection includes the full versions of Gram's 2 solo albums, GP and Grievous Angel, which introduced the world to the voice and exquisitely intuitive harmonies of Emmylou Harris. According to one of the audio interviews included in this set, Chris Hillman heard Emmy first and recommended her to Gram. There has always been some mystery about Emmylou's place in the Gram Parsons story, her life is ripe for a great autobiography. She co-produced this collection and she shares more of her memories from this era than I've ever heard before. The 3rd disc is mostly unmixed alternate versions of songs from the 2 albums, in most cases either the versions were very similar to the originals or inferior takes. If you know the original arrangements by heart, like me, it's interesting, but not something you'll listen to very often. Rhino released the 2-disc Gram Parsons Anthology in 2001, which spanned his whole career, and many songs are shared with this set. Both are worth having for Gram fans but the booklet alone with Emmylou's stories is worth the price of this 3-CD set.
| Rhino's GP page. Order from amazon. Released June, '06, reviewed by Bill Frater.
The Grass is Blue.... (Sugar Hill)
| The only full album of Dolly Parton I've
ever listened to is duets with Porter Wagoner so I can't call myself any kind
of informed expert on the subject. I'd like to blame it on the water but
the truth is that while I've always appreciated her singing and her songwriting,
I somehow never enjoyed the two together. So when this new release on Sugar
Hill came straight to me, I decided to redeem myself... She's taken
some great bluegrass tunes and given them a comfortable Dolly-twist which has
rendered them a little more relaxed than the average bluegrass tune. The
best of musicians, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Bryan Sutton, Jim Mills
and Barry Bales, give Parton all the room in the world to bring these songs a
vitality that only her wonderful tremolo can inspire and yet, to hear them tell
it, she did them and everyone a favor. I agree with the boys, it's a fine
and easy-to-listen-to-collection of original Parton tunes in addition to songs
by Lester Flatt, Hazel Dickens, Louvin Bros, Johnny Cash and more. It's
a keeper. |
Sugar Hill has a nice site. Released Oct. '99, reviewed by Kay
Little Sparrow... (Sugar Hill)
Like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton is making some of her best music
late in her career. Who'd of thought that one of the best bluegrass records of
2000 would come from Dolly Parton? And after that very satisfying artistic
achievement, how could she top it? Well, she has. Little Sparrow is flat
out gorgeous. Seems like Dolly's been paling around with Alison Krauss and Clarie
Lynch (both of whom are in high profile on this CD) and has caught the bluegrass
bug. She is ably assisted by the cream of bluegrass session players, including
Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Bryan Sutton, and Chris Thiele. The songs are a
mix of strong cover tunes and some of Dolly's best original material in years.
If you liked last years The Grass is Blue, or if you like the newgrass/old-time/swing/pop
approach of the aforementioned Krauss & Lynch, you're gonna love Little
Sparrow. I do. |
Hill Records. Released Jan. 2001. Reviewed by Kevin
Dogsbody Factotum... (Madjack)
Like many of the newer alt.country bands (Charlotte's Lou Ford comes to mind)
the music of the Pawtuckets shows the effects of mixing the timelessness and nuance
of Hank Snow's pure country twang with the post-punk sensibilities of Nirvana
and the pure power of Rancid. This is country music for the apocalypse and straight
from my lips: I loves this shit! By both ignoring and embracing the roots of country
music (and punk as well, it seems) the young guns of Pawtuckets create raunchy
country punk-rawk music that would be just as at home at a biker rally beatdown
as it would at a back porch kegger. If that bunch of crazy little wild-kids
in Logan's Run listened to music, the Pawtuckets would be their favorite band.
They're already one of mine! |
Pawtuckets.com is fun
and well designed with audio, gigs and T-shirts! Order the CD from Miles
Of Music. Reviewed by Scott Homewood
PEACH TRUCK REPUBLIC |
This long-haired band out of Ft. Worth, TX has put out an extremely ambitious
2 CD concept piece called Fenceposts. Their sound is basic jam-band but
they use a lot of acoustic instruments. Lots of little instrumentals mixed in
amongst the 37 songs. I'm not quite sure what the whole thing's about, history
and growing up I guess. Although it's varied and pretty interesting, Tommy
it ain't. I would've been just as happy with a single CD. They do get extra
credit for having the largest press packet that I think I've ever seen, a binder
with over 30 pages about the project. |
Check out the band's website, PeachTruck.com. Order
the CD from CDstreet.com.
Released Nov. '00, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Okra and Ecclesiastes... (Gatorbone)
Peeples is a a self-described “LeftNeck” from the Florida Panhandle who has a unique outlook on the modern day Southern experience. He lived on an island off the Coast of Nicaragua for eleven years and upon returning home he had a new perspecitve of his native land. The South that includes Wal Marts and NASCAR, “Catfish and flatbeds, sweat stains and retreads, Okra & Ecclesiastes,” thus the title, from the lead-off track, "My People Come From The Dirt." When he writes about sneaking out late at night with a married woman... “we could not go to your place and we sure can’t go to mine, So we’re out here going at it, parked beneath these Powerlines.” You get the idea he just may have lived it, you can’t make this stuff up. Producer Gurf Morlix is the perfect match for Grant’s powerful lyrics. Gurf plays guitars, bass and keys, and with the help of drummer Rick Richards brews a smoldering mix. At times Peeples sounds like a cross between J.J. Cale and Greg Brown. Underneath it all he hides a deep intelligence that come across on “Down Here in the Country” where he name-drops Faulkner, Kafka, Fellini, Harper Lee and more. And then a deeply sensative side on "I'll Never Love Again." Trust me on this one... this album will get 'under your skin' on many levels.
|Grant's site. Order from CD Baby. Released March, '11, reviewed by Bill Frater.
PENNER & THE GRAVEL ROAD
Get Up... (Socan)
have to come from America, and Canadians Cam Penner & The Gravel Road prove it
beyond doubt. These are songs written from the experience of life. The opening
track grabs you right off with the Rhodes piano licks and brings you into Cam's
life, and you won't leave until you've suffered through bad relationships, bad
jobs, and shared in the joy of life. The songs are longer than the usual 3:02
radio fare, but well worth the extra minute or two each. Highlights include the
shuffling "Gravel Truck," "Met Her On A Monday," and the heart-wrenching "Drunken
Gravel Road is their site. Order the CD from Miles
Of Music. Released Sept. '03. Reviewed by Clint
JOE PHELPS |
Shine Eyed Mister Zen.... (Rykodisc)
Joe travels a bit farther down his unique path of spiritual blues and "twisted
folk music", as he calls it. Like the Blues masters whom he emulates,
Kelly Joe uses just his guitar, either finger-picking or with a slide, to weave
a mystical web of acoustic music that is almost haunting. Since his last
album his voice has developed beyond a growl to exhibit more confidence and grace
and there are more upbeat songs here too. There's a few more original songs,
but even the well known songs he covers sound new when Phelps gets done with them.
This is peerless music that one hears with one's soul as much as with one's ears.
| Best tracks: House Carpenter,
River Rat Jimmy, Hobo's Son, Dock Boggs Country Blues, Train Carried My Girl From
Town.There is a KJP
has a page on Kelly
Joe, including tour info and and ordering information on an instructional
video... Released July, '99, reviewed by Bill
Chickaloon... (Skip Tooth)
OK, check the release date; talk about being a day late and a dollar short! But, another old saying: good things are worth waiting for, and this one just came my way in the last couple of weeks. No mea culpa here. Evan Phillips is a mountaineer/musician from Alaska, and if he's as good at the former as he is at the latter, then he must be the Alaskan Sir Edmund. There's a temptation to compare this guy to Ryan Adams, but let's just say that he's perceptive, a damn good songsmith, melodic, and possessed of an ear for a good hook, in the vein of Adams, without the in-your-face attitude. He's also one of the mainstays of The Whipsaws, a couple of whom participated in this recording, a band that provides him with an avenue to give vent to his rockier, Alt.Country side, but that's a different review. His ability to weave a musical tapestry is remarkable considering his youthful appearance. That skill more often than not comes with a lot of age and experience, and, I can't help but admire the cojones and humility of a guy who can say about his songs: “if you borrow them, play ‘em better than I do”. Now that would be a pretty tall mountain for someone to climb...
Evan's web site. Order from CD Baby. Released Sept. 2004, reviewed by Don Grant.
Creeper ... (Zoe/Rounder)
led Grant Lee Buffalo, one of the better Alt.Rock band from the 90's. Since then,
he has been slowly and tactfully turning towards a country sound. No, not Nashville
country, but fine steel guitar laden intelligent country. His singing is too good,
the arrangements are too well thought out, and the songs are far too haunting.
I don't think there's any room in between the two. Grant-Lee Phillips truly knows
how to tell a story with his songwriting, and his stories draw you in deep. Phillips
is able to find little dark places in the human experience and write about them
in a way that doesn't leave you on the outside looking in with pity - you're right
there experiencing the cultural assimilation of a young Creek Indian girl, the
last minutes of a suicidal young debutante, and the blackest loneliness that can
only be found on I-70 at 3 AM. When people complain about the death of authentic
country music, hand them this CD and tell them to stop looking for it in Nashville.|
Released Feb. '04. Reviewed by Clint
Still Night... (self released)
to this CD several times, I just have to say: "Zach, whatever you do, don't jump!
Come down off that ledge, let's have a beer and talk. Life may be desperate at
times, but it's never serious". On this, his second self-released CD, Zach Phillips
displays a good command of the subtleties of the songwriting craft; intelligent
and thoughtful lyrics are woven around original melodies, and each song is a complimentary
package of that delicate balance between vocals and instruments that is the hallmark
of the gifted singer/songwriter. My only complaint with Still Night is
that the focus herein is too narrow. This album is just too somber and angst-ridden
for extended listening. It tends to concentrate excessively upon relationships
gone bad, and introspective reflection, which is fine, if that's what your Muse
dictates, but, out of twelve tracks, there is only one, "Brightest Star", that
exudes positive vibes? While some artists can build an entire career around minor
keys and melancholia, (quick now, name a totally upbeat Neil Young tune), that
niche isn't for everyone. I'm hoping that, with this release, Phillips' inner
demon has been sated, and, next time around, he can devote some of his considerable
talent to less pensive material. Songs such as "I Wanna Know Why", and "I've Lost
My Heart", prove that he's got the tunes, all he needs is the feeling. |
web site has lyrics and his own notes on each song. Available at CD
Baby. Released February, 2004, reviewed by Don
Summerbirds... (Welding Rod)
This guy has been compared to The Boss and Steve Earle, amongst others, and the reasons are obvious at first listen. His ability to give a voice to the unheard and ignored of society is uncannily precise, or perhaps, surgical; he cuts right to the heart of his subject matter. Summerbirds is his fourth release, but it's a first for this corner, and if its antecedents are half as good, it's a mystery how they could have been missed. For example, “Trouble Girl” is a simply gorgeous song, ditto for “Something In Spanish”. If there's any fault that could found, it's that the disc ends far too soon, but that's what the repeat function is for on your player. Or, better yet, just snag the rest of his library and make an evening out of it.
|Rod's site, and MySpace.Order from Amazon. Released Oct. '07, reviewed by Don Grant.
Welding Burns... (self released)
|From the first line of any given song on this collection, Rod Picott plunges us without warning into a world of desperately hard living—a worksite way more real than the generic Budweiser Time drivel of Music Row pseudo-anthems. It’s a world of acetylene spark burnt holes in a drawer full of pocket T’s, of collecting your shift money with a carpet knife, of a bottle under the seat, of dreams of a better life curdling into dreams of payback, of screw guns whining and jobs moving overseas, and through it all, love struggling like a flower pushing up through a crack in the blacktop. It’s so real it’s almost hallucinatory, Johnny Paycheck meets Baudelaire. The man hasn’t forgotten where he’s been, and he has the art to make it live. It’s hard truth, and as truth, it’s beautiful. The vocals leave nothing to chance, and with supple, sensitive support from the likes of indispensable Will Kimbrough on guitars and can’t-believe-how-good-this-girl-is Amanda Shires fiddling and singing, the job gets done. Ten songs that you can’t not listen to, endorsed by the likes Mary Gautier, Rod’s fellow Mainer paisan Slaid Cleaves, Fred Eaglesmith, Ray Wylie Hubbard…’nuff said. Rod Picott. This guy writes remarkable songs.
|Rod's website. Order from CD Baby. Released June '11, reviewed by Jeep Rosenberg.
Balladesque... (Moldy Floor)
Straight from the Great White North comes this interesting singer/songwriter who
seems to wear his influences on his sleeve, as all great artists do. The comparison
I am about to make has been the kiss of death for many artists in the past who
have been given this comparison, but Piggins reminds me of Dylan if he had discovered
his muse after the British invasion and had been a Beatles and Kinks fan. Yeah,
Piggins hits the harmonica hard and heavy, but that's not the only reason for
the comparison. He seems to be chasing it himself in the cover art and inner pictures,
and while his songwriting isn't as good as Dylan's (whose is?) you can see Zimmy's
influence all over these songs. The difference is the melodic lines Piggins is
able to coax from his voice, way more advanced than Dylan's and very poppy-sounding.
Another comparison would be a folkier Wallflowers, but that brings up Dylan again,
doesn't it? I like this, though. Very good songs and a very even mix of folk and
countryish rock that goes down real smooth. |
AlunPiggins.com has bio, CD ordering info
and more. Reviewed by Scott Homewood |
At War With the Elephants (Moldy Floor Records)
Toronto’s Alun Piggins took a roundabout path to arrive at this particular version of his alt/country vision. In a bit over twenty years he’s gone from punk, something called celtic punk, some solo acoustic jaunts interspersed between bands both fair and foul. He’s somewhere between Tom Petty and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse days here with eleven guitar driven tunes that make no reference whatsoever to either wars or elephants, but it sure is a damn catchy title. He has a list of enigmatically titled CDs in his library, but this one tops the list for me, and it serves as a good prelude to his vision.
|Alun's site. Buy from CD Baby. Released March, '08, reviewed by Don Grant.
Down Hard... (self-released)
As good as this CD seems to be - catchy melodies, decent production, good performances
- it just sort of leaves me flat. While this four-piece band shows they have plenty
to offer, I just don't find myself returning to this CD as often as I usually
do for CDs that I love. The singing is sort of lacking in personality, but that
doesn't totally explain it and I am completely puzzled myself. It may be the proliferation
of alt.country, roots rocking bands that have sprung up over the past few years
or it may be something simple like one killer, distinctive song that the album
lacks - but I cannot remember anything from this CD after ten minutes or so. You
may like this fine, it has plenty of acoustic guitar and gritty twang, but it
falls flat with me. It just doesn't have that unexplainable oomph I like in the
music that I listen to. Give it a shot for yourself and see if you feel the same.
| Order the CD from Miles
Of Music. Reviewed by Scott
PIKE & THE BLACK BOX REBELLION
Fencing Under Fire... (Zain Wayne)
If anyone still doubts that today's roots rock/alt.country artists look to more
than the old country artists like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Buck Owens for
inspiration, they need look no further than this CD to get confronted with the
cold hard facts. Today's artists are just as likely to draw from Buck as from
Brian Wilson, The Beatles, or even the latest hip-hop act, hoping to stoke their
creative juices or find that special something that makes their music unique.
This band is a case in point. The band manages to mix garagey Stones licks and
country twang with some drum samples and other modern touches to separate their
music from the pack and create something organic and rootsy in nature but still
modern and fresh. Most importantly, the songs are good and the sonic touches they've
made to expand their audience never overpowers their sound. Your average twang
banger may run for the hills but anyone with an open musical mind will enjoy the
blending of styles. |
site is very nicely designed with lyrics, gigs and "capitalism"
(merchandise). Their label's
site. Released April, 2002.
Reviewed by Scott Homewood
PINE VALLEY COSMONAUTS
Salute the Majesty of Bob Wills...(Bloodshot)
This is a very rousing
CD that features various young guest vocalists covering the songs of the 'King
of Western Swing', Bob Wills. I will assume that you already are familiar with
his marvelous work with the Texas Playboys. If, somehow you forgot or don't know
this music, this collection will help revive or else ignite your interest. Others
have done admirable tributes to Wills, most notably Merle Haggard and Asleep At
The Wheel. The vocals here are not on a par with those albums, or the great Tommy
Duncan for that matter, but the spirit of Will's music is most definitely
here. The band, led by Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers) is excellent and true
to the music. They are all young punk veterans who understand the attitude of
Wills' "insurgent" music. There is also a limited-edition double-LP
available to showcase Langford's own beautiful cover artwork. Even if you
know and love the originals like I do, you will respect and enjoy this album.
If some "country-punker" isn't hip to Bob Wills and becomes a new fan,
Best tracks, (and their vocalists): Home in San Antone (Chris Mills), Trouble
in Mind (Jimmie Dale Gilmore), Drunkard's Blues (Kelly Hogan), Across the Alley
From the Alamo, (Robbie Fulks), Stay a Little Longer (Neko Case & Bob Boyd),
San Antonio Rose (Alejandro Escovedo & Jon Langford). Bloodshot
's website has ordering and tour info. Released Oct. '98. Reviewed
by Bill Frater
Speak No Evil... (Drifter's Church)
Like the music on this CD, the title itself is dead-on. After listening, I cannot
find one evil thing to say about this album. The singing, both the lead vocals
and the harmonies, is simply beautiful. While I wish I could single out the lead
singer, I can't because the liner notes credit all vocals to "Pinmonkey"
meaning the whole band, I reckon. One thing I can say is the lead singer's voice
is so damn crystal clear with just the right amount of twang that it reminds me
of some of the Eagles' early hits. Take It Easy, indeed. The music itself is all
country a little mainstream, but let me tell you: if this is the mainstream then
hand me my bathing suit and get outta my way! It sounds great and can't be any
more country. It brings to mind how I would think Gram Parsons and his band would
sound if they came out with their first album today. While most of these songs
are covers, the band's songwriter/guitarist Michael Reynolds acquits himself well,
turning out four gems as catchy and heartfelt as anything I've heard recently.
I am real impressed with this release. They've managed to take the best of pure
country and turn it into something sweet enough that fan or foe would still love
it. This is a great album that wont be leaving my player for awhile. |
| Released Feb, 2002. Reviewed
by Scott Homewood .|
Expeditions... (Clairetunes Music)
|Expeditions, Pinnegar's debut CD, is dream long held and finally realized. After retiring from a successful career as an attorney, Pinnegar packed his bags and moved to Northern California to pursue his passion for playing music with friends and writing songs, both of which he is eminently skilled at. The sound is straight-ahead Americana (whatever that is), without a lot of twang. This collection of original songs is delivered in Pinnegar's easy, relaxed style backed by solid Bay Area musicians, Kevin Russell, (Modern Hicks, Lucky Dawgs), Dave Zirbel, (Waybacks), Paul Shelasky, (Lost Highway) and Kent Fosgreen, bass. Expeditions is the result of a talented and thoughtful songwriter and worth taking a chance on.
|Order from CD Baby. Released August, '04. Reviewed by Kay Clements.
Still Get Dressed On Sundays... (Memphis International)
Pistilli, one of the original members of Manhattan Transfer, shows a wonderful
command of a little-explored part of Americana. At the intersection of jazz, bluegrass,
and country music there is a place where artists like Django Reinhardt, Leon Redbone,
and Dan Hicks congregate. Highly literate music, with great chord changes and
wonderful playing make this a joy to listen to. The arrangements go from Dixieland
to the guitar-violin-bass-drums that defines the genre, a dose of Texas Swing,
and on to straight-up Nashville. Highlights include his rendition of "Too Gone
Too Long," which he wrote and was recorded by Randy Travis and also a version
of the Cahn/Van Heusen classic "All The Way." This CD goes on my "Best Of"
list for this year. |
Int'l has a nice bio. Order from amazon.
Released April '03. Reviewed by Clint
Plank... (Blue Corn Music)
|Jeff Plankenhorn knows his music, and after a few listens of his CD Plank, you will too. Plankenhorn moves with grace and style from conjunto-influenced Tex-Mex to B3-laced Memphis soul to straight up harp-driven Chicago blues and folky dobro country. The songs range from the sweet and sad "What You Need" to the Leon Redbone-ish country jazz of "Not Be Lonely" and "Mary Magdelen" that has a harmony and B3 combination that reminds me of Los Lonely Boys. The production done by Plankenorn and Gurf Morlix is really nice, letting the musicianship and Jeff's striking vocals really show through on each of the differing styles. Jeff Plankenhorn's guitar work is very natural, and never sounds forced or contrived. It'd be pretty easy to say his slide work wins the day, but listen again to his finger-picking. It's reminiscent of not only James Taylor's folk-rock but the acoustic jazz of Dan Hicks. If you like your Americana to come from all over America or you just like great picking, this CD should go on your list.
|Jeff's site and Blue Corn's. Order from amazon. Released Oct. '03. Reviewed by Clint Weathers.
Band of Joy... (Rounder)
|After racking up six Grammy Awards for the collaboration with Allison Kraus in 2007 (Raising Sand), it would be easy enough for Robert Plant to record a follow-up CD, considering the pair had plenty of material left over. But the former Led Zeppelin leader didn’t take the easy path with this effort, and it’s not an easy listen — at least the first few times through. Granted, my first listen was on the seven-hour drive after dropping my son off at college, so it wasn’t the mood-lifting music I had in mind when I picked up a copy at a Starbuck’s in Santa Maria. But give this one a chance. It is dense, moody and at times, yes, uplifting. Plant’s interpretations of the works of Los Lobos, Richard Thompson, Townes Van Zant and traditional American music are infused with the rock and roll, blues and folk influences that have shaped his musical id. The production and collaboration with Buddy Miller give the music a haunting quality, and listening to the two unlock their collective closet of sound is a trip.
|Plant's site. Order from Amazon.
Released Sept. '10. Reviewed by Barry Dugan.
PLUME BAND |
Song & Dance, Man... (Eminent)
Plume and band, quite popular in their native Canada, recently caught the ear
of Monty Hitchcock, Emmylou Harris' ex-manager. He's now their manager
and after Buddy Miller re-mastered it, has released their CD on his new label.
Music-wise, the CD is roots-rock with the occasional "big-guitar"
edginess. Plume is a good singer, although his voice has that rock 'n roll
roughness that reminds me of Bryan Adams. I know, that's a cold shot and
I don't want to sound like an old man here because the songs are really quite
excellent, especially when they slow down the pace a little. At first I
thought this was just garden variety rock, but the album has grown on me
so that now it feels quite comfortable like a flannel shirt. |
|Best tracks: Rattle The Cage, If There Ever Was A Fool, Alcohol, Take Me
With You, Rich Man, Silver Lining. The band has their own site, plumeband.com,
with tour info and a message board, Eminent
Records has a band bio. Released June, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Home To You... (Nettwerk)
Vancouver, B.C.'s Po' Girl has evolved into a quartet from its original duo configuration in 2002, and it has been quite an evolution. Home To You , the band's third release is an absorbing and enchanting assemblage of thirteen finely crafted and sparsely presented songs that run the gamut from blues through jazz, gospel, folk, and, well hell, there's hardly a musical stone left unturned here. They've got a farm kitchen sound and feel that oozes a multi-instrumental authenticity. Each member is more than qualified to take the lead mike or lead pen, although an absence of credits for the former make it difficult to ascertain who's singing when, but that's a minor derailment: when music sounds this good, it doesn't really matter. Catching them live is the best way to find out, and that shouldn't be too much of a problem as these ladies live on the road. They're in Europe till mid-May and then it's all over North America for the rest of the year, at this writing. If they're within a hundred miles, drive, hitch, or crawl, but do yourself a favour, don't miss them.
|Buy from amazon Released Feb. '07. Reviewed by Don Grant.
Unreleased ... (self released)
|First off folks, I’m not sure if Unreleased is a catchy title or a true statement. It doesn’t appear on pogirl.net so maybe it is only available at their shows, which isn’t a bad thing if you’re lucky enough to have them show up in your neck of the woods. This incarnation of the band is a pared down version of last year’s, (the road doth take its toll), consisting of Allison Russell, Awna Teixeira and Benny Sidelinger, and there’s been a bit of a musical shift. It naturally tilts a bit more to the country/folk/Americana side than Home To You. As in that one, the writing and lead roles are shared pretty much equally between Allison and Awna. (One can only assume that Benny’s too busy creating wonderful embellishments for their output and building guitars etc. to take up a pen of his own) Unreleased consists of fourteen originals that showcase a wisdom, perception and grace that is made all the more remarkable by the apparent age of the musicians. I’d bet there’s more than one good autobiography lurking in this band. On a final note, where’s the missing half star if I think so highly of this ensemble? As I said last year, “If they’re within a hundred miles, drive, hitch, or crawl, but do yourself a favour, don’t miss them”, you’ll find it there; their recordings don’t do justice to the real thing. A live album or, better yet, a DVD should be high on their To Do List.
|Po' Girls site, as Don said, makes no mintion of this CD... Reviewed by Don Grant.
| POLECAT CREEK
Leaving Eden… (Yodel-Ay-Hee)
| Well first off, the sexy cover: vintage skirts and cowboy boots against a 50's-style tile floor, caught my attention right off the bat. (I know, what's sexy for some people… ) One pair of legs belongs to Laurlalyn Dossett and the other to Kari Sickenberger. They hail from North Carolina but headed down to the Louisiana bayou with producer Dirk Powell. Both women are intelligent songwriters and gorgeous singers, and seamlessly support each other with tight harmonies. In fact, I can't tell Kari's songs from Lauralyn's unless I look at the credits, their voices and songs are that equally strong and complementary. The music is mostly old timey flavored, thanks largely to the amazing clawhammer banjo of Riley Baugus. But there's also a little Cajun and even a delightful dash of classic honky tonk on a few of the songs. The songwriting deals with contemporary relationship matters, aching hearts, unrealized dreams and stubborn men. This is wonderful stuff that goes beyond the usual old timey and singer- songwriter boundries. I remember the chills I had when I first heard Gillian Welch's music, I get that same feeling here, times two.
|Their web site has CD ordering, or CD Baby. Released June, '04, reviewed by Bill Frater
HALL TENNESSEE |
Welcome To Porter Hall Tennessee... (Slewfoot)
Just when you thought (I as well) all country was starting to go pop, out
comes a band with the same impact and dedication to the roots of country music
as Dwight Yoakam did when he first emerged in the mid 80's. The two singers of
this fine band, Molly Conley and Gary Roadarmel, each write their own songs in
a vein very reminiscent of traditional Nashville circa 1950 with a tinge of Telecaster-soaked
Bakersfield Buck Owens-feel to boot. The characters in their songs are everyday
people trapped in their small towns, their lives trapping them, never allowing
them to escape the confines of where they grew up. It is this misery, pain
and ultimately, grudging acceptance to their fate that fills these songs full
of resonance. Conley and Roadarmel have both tapped into what must have been their
own dreams and apprehensions to make these songs work but, boy, do they
work. These songs are as much the essence of small town life as anything I've
heard. If someone tells me no one writes them like Jones and Haggard anymore,
I can point them to Porter Hall Tennessee. They'll find the truth. |
| Check out Slewfoot's
site. Released March 2002. Reviewed by
PRAIRIE DOGS |
New Heart... (self released)
| On this
CD, the Prairie Dogs, out of Tacoma, demonstrate that electricity is not an essential
ingredient, particularly if one's band is blessed with two composers of the caliber
of Evan Purcell and Michael Shinn. These guys write thoughtful music primarily
for acoustic interpretation, with an occasional and judicious insertion of electric
licks, for just that right amount of spice. Of particular note is "Soon As You
Are Able", a poignant tale of another dancer, of which we all know too many, lost
in that losing waltz with the White Lady. A beautiful harp line imparts just the
right degree of melancholia here, and, for me, this song alone is worth the price
of admission. In a time when 'mainstream' country artists use the acoustic guitar
more as a symbol of their 'country' roots, much like their hats, it is a nice
treat to encounter a band that is confident enough in the range of the instrument
to build their entire show around it. |
Prairie Dogs site. Order
from CD Baby. Reviewed by Don Grant. |
Midnight Pumpkin... (Antone's/TMG)
Most of us will buy CD’s all year just in the hope that one or two of them will
sound like this one. Toni Price comes
across as the hirsute, tattooed, hippie chick, love child of Delbert McClinton
and Lucinda Williams on her new CD Midnight Pumpkin.
It doesn’t hurt that she’s backed by a veritable who’s who of Austin bluesicians
("Scrappy" Jud Newcomb, Champ Hood, Casper Rawls, Ian McLagen, and David
Grissom). Not a songwriter herself,
Toni has laid down totally contemporary (yet still rootsy), interpretations of
the songs of Joe Tex, Blaze Foley, and J.J. Cale, among others.
She adds some rock, rural blues, bluegrass and even a couple of splendid
Django-styled acoustic swing tunes. This CD reminds me of the type of albums that
Bonnie Raitt used to produce; smart with variety and just a little sass.
This is a winner all the way through. |
She has her own site... ToniPrice.com.
Songs samples and ordering info from CDNow
Released June , 2001. Reviewed by Marty
In Spite Of Ourselves... (Oh Boy)
begin with, long-time John Prine fans might be a little put off by this new release.
There is only one Prine-penned song in the bunch, In Spite of Ourselves, the title
track. Though that song alone is worth the price of the CD, most of the
other songs are great "twangy" country duets originally done by people
with names like George and Tammy, Porter and Dolly or Conway and Loretta.
Not only are these faithful renderings of classic meetin', cheatin'
and retreatin' songs, but they are all sung as duets with some of John's favorite
female country singers. The great Melba Montgomery is here, (who sang with
George Jones), Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Connie Smith and even John's
wife, Fiona Prine. The voice that sounds the best harmonizing with John,
(well she sounds good with everybody), is Iris DeMent, who is featured on four
of the 16 songs. I love this album, and I applaud Prine proclaiming his
love for these kinds of songs. |
Oh Boy Records. Buy from amazon
Best tracks: (We're Not) The Jet Set, So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad), Wedding
Bells/ Let's Turn Back The Years, Milwaukee Here I Come, I Know One, Back Street
Affair, Let's Invite Them Over, 'Til A Tear Becomes A Rose, In Spite Of Ourselves,
Dear John (I Sent Your Saddle Home). Released
Sept. '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Souvenirs... (Oh Boy)
The CD is subtitled "Fifteen new recordings of classic songs" and that
pretty well sums it up. Prine rerecorded some of his best-known songs with
his touring band for release on a German record label. He was so happy with the
results that he decided to also release it in the US, not to mention it probably
helps him to retain the rights to his songs. Ten of the songs come from his first
2 classic early-70's albums. Wisely, he didn't mess with the arrangements much,
simple backup mostly, and faithful to the originals. After 30 some-odd years and
throat cancer surgery, Prine's voice still sounds as good as ever, considering
it never was that good. His story-songs still sound touching and sentimental,
and comfortable as an old pea coat. If for some reason you don't know these classic
tunes, this is worth getting and if you do you'll appreciate getting reacquainted.
|Check out Oh Boy's website. Buy from amazon
Released Oct. '00. Reviewed by Bill
JOHN PRINE & MAC WISEMAN
Standard Songs for Average People... (Oh Boy)
This release by veterans Prine and Wiseman doesn't break any new ground. As the title suggests, what these two have chosen to do here is assemble fourteen songs that could be considered standards in the country/bluegrass genre. While everyone won't necessarily have them in their musical libraries, it's almost certain that everyone will recognize most, if not all, of them. Who hasn't heard at least one version of Ernie Tubbs' “Blue Eyed Elaine”, “Old Cape Cod” by Claire Rothrock et. al., or “Where the Blue of the Night”, penned by a collaboration that includes Bing Crosby? As would be expected from two performers of this caliber, the tunes are well executed and come off with nary a hitch. If you're a new listener to this game, by all means pick it up and expand your horizons. However, for most, it's probably a shade on the redundant side.
|Oh Boy's website. Buy from amazon Released April, '07. Reviewed by Don Grant.
The Problems... (self-released)
Don't know why they named themselves what they did. I see no problem with this
band at all! Where most bands lead with electric guitars blazing, this band makes
use of a prominent acoustic guitar strum that adds a different, folksy element
to their sound. Even when they play a balls-to-the-wall rocker, the acoustic leads
the charge with the electric playing a backup role. No matter, the band adds other
touches as well, most notably in the form of violin with a little mandolin thrown
in to make it even more heartland sounding. Think David Matthews with a Big Daddy-era
Mellencamp fixation or Rockpile if Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds had studied Ralph
Stanley instead of Chuck Berry. Either way, great stuff, original songs that showcase
some great heartland rock and killer melodies that add a pop edge. Rock on, country
| The band's website
has bio with links to ordering and song samples from CD
Baby. Reviewed by Scott Homewood .|
No Other Love... (New West)
Possibly one of the most anticipated releases this year, this solo album from
the former member of Green On Red does not disappoint. Steeped with backwoods
soul ala Hi Records-era Al Green and dusted with some great guitar playing, Prophet
brings together an album that very well could be the working definition of Americana
music for a long time to come. Prophet continues to grow as an artist, and even
though this album is too eclectic to excite the weak-minded mainstream, fans of
American music will find much to revel in. Possibly the album of the year. |
West's website. There's a nice Chuck
site too! Buy
from amazon Released June, 2002.
Reviewed by Scott Homewood .
PSYCHEDELIC COWBOYS |
Tragic Songs And Hop-A-Longs... (Stone Legal)
This southern California quintet is neither as psychedelic nor as country as their
name might imply. They have some nice twang to their sound embedded in some jangly
pop. Led by John Harlan who wrote some very witty tales and sings in a limited
Dylan-ish voice. They fool around quite a bit with social commentary songs such
as "Life's Great" and "California Country Scene". It's
fun for the short term, but doesn't make me want go back and listen again. |
| Check out their site, PsychedelicCowboys.com.
Order the CD from Miles
For The Meantime... (Hay Sale)
| stars Lightfoot, Danko, Puddington? Yes. Exceptional roots music (or is it canadianacana) is still finding it's way down from Canada and the long tradition continues with Adam Puddington Strong songs are his calling card, sung in a weathered voice with rootsy backup(including members of alt. country band the Guthries). Inspired by the rural , rainy east coast and recorded in Nova Scotia, Puddington's work belies that the song well hasn't run dry yet .Standout tracks include jangly opener” In My Bones”, the wistful “Standing Invitation” and a haunting “Deer in the Headlights”. Occasionally reminiscent of the roots pop of Blue Rodeo or rainy day sounds of Gordon Lightfoot, I find this evocative disc spending a lot of time in my cd player, well beyond the few “review listens” most cds warrant. It's the kind of music that gets in your bones, like a good story or a cold chill.
|Adam's site. Adam's MySpace page, and even Adam doing a live song on You Tube! Reviewed by Michael Meehan.
The Messenger ... (Lightning Rod)
|First impressions go a long way. Roots music cognoscenti out there who double as pals of mine can't speak highly enough about singer/songwriter Joe Pug. Hailing from the Windy City, The Messenger is Pug's debut full-length and it's geared to be his breakout release. Only in his mid-20s, Pug's a poet first and foremost and there's little chaff to be found in any of his songs. Set to a backdrop of folk and country, The Messenger sees Pug applies his beyond-his-years baritone to 10 keepers that deliver the goods in spades.
|Joe's site, Released Feb. '10, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
My Turn To Howl... (self released)
While Pullus is an excellent singer and songwriter, one look at the liner notes
will tell you why this CD couldn't fail to be excellent: she's got great taste
in backing musicians! Former Faces keyboard player Ian MacLagan is all over this
record, as is guitarist extraordinaire Scrappy Jud Newcomb and solo artist/great
songwriter in his own right Ron Flynt, who also produced and engineered this CD.
So, the real question is if all of these excellent musicians somehow take away
from Pullus' own efforts. The answer is a resounding no. Besides writing about
half of the songs here, Pullus acquits herself very well in the vocal department
and carries this whole album on her shoulders, despite all of the help she gets.
It is her effervescence, technique and pure emotion that gets the job done and
makes this album the success it is. It is ready for radio to these ears and if
this album doesn't make it while a total no-talent like Shania's does, then there
is no justice in the world of country radio. This will appeal to those who like
female-sung country and twang-pop on a line with Martina McBride and Jill Olsen.
Great stuff. |
website has CD ordering and the rest. Reviewed by Scott
PURE PRAIRIE LEAGUE
All In Good Time... (Emergent)
Sometimes in life you encounter an old friend that you haven't seen in decades, and, if it's a good friend, you can take up right where you left off, despite the intervening years. Well, that's what All In Good Time feels like. Way back in the early 70s this band made a new and solid impression with its amalgam of country and rock, with the former dominating. Today it's as if all of those years never happened. Pure Prairie League, despite some interesting personnel changes over the years, is still fronted by Craig Fuller, still has that great country-rock sound, and, neat-o!, still features Norman Rockwell's Luke character on the cover art, just like in the old days. No, this one isn't a nostalgia trip that rehashes the glory days of yesteryear; it's a solid collection of twelve new tracks, kicked off with “Getting' Over You”, right in the same groove that first attracted me to “Bustin' Out”, many moons ago in '72. This one has racked up a lot of miles in the vehicle audio system with the driver still attempting to sing harmony, only now with the windows firmly rolled up.
The band's official site. Buy from amazon Released June, '06, reviewed by Don Grant.