New release: Two Tracks’ “Post Card Town”

Americana Music News – Coming May 19 is Postcard Town , the new album from the Wyoming-based Two Tracks. It’s clearly a tightly-knit band with comfortable harmonies and a fun approach.

They reached out to Will Kimbrough to produce this set and that has paid dividends.

Here’s their mini-documentary on the making of “Postcard Town”:

Reissue: James Talley’s “Tryin’ Like the Devil”

By Ken Paulson

A lot of us who were fans of  Jerry Jeff Walker, Rusty Wier, Michael Martin Murphey and others in the mid-70s were pleasantly surprised by a newcomer named James Talley. He released four albums on Capitol Records in that decade, including the highly admired Tryin’ Like the Devil.

That album is now back in a 40th anniversary edition, released by Talley’s own Cimarron Records. This edition comes with extensive liner notes and full lyrics, and is available at Talley’s site.

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Review – Rodney Crowell’s “Close Ties”

by Paul T. Mueller – There’s a little looking forward, a lot of looking back, and more than a hint of unfinished business in Rodney Crowell’s latest collection, Close Ties. The last comes courtesy of a couple of songs that reference Susanna Clark, wife of Guy Clark, Crowell’s early mentor and later peer (and competitor). In “Life Without Susanna,” Crowell describes her as “the most near perfect woman I’d ever seen” and “the most worthy opponent that I’ve ever known.” But he also talks about the darker days that followed. “Life without Susanna started when Townes Van Zandt died,” he sings “She made the bed inside her head a shelter… Nothing pierced the fortress inside her mind.” In “Nashville 1972,” Crowell describes his arrival in Music City and the beginnings of his complicated relationship with the Clarks: “I found my way around this town with a friend I made named Guy/Who loved Susanna and so did I.”

Falling into the “looking back” category, in addition to the above, is “East Houston Blues,” which recounts Rodney Crowell’s hardscrabble childhood and adolescence. A glimpse of the future comes in “I Don’t Care Anymore,” in which the singer contemplates life with less concern with the trappings of success and more comfort with the man he’s become.

Crowell’s introspective bent manifests itself in “Reckless,” in which he describes a dream fueled by the tension between temptation and guilt. In “Forgive Me, Annabelle,” he sings of belatedly coming to terms with the end of a relationship, and with his responsibility for that event.

One of the album’s more interesting tracks, in terms of both subject matter and songcraft, is “It Ain’t Over Yet,” which seems to take the form of a three-way dialogue between Crowell, Guy Clark and Susanna Clark. The song features John Paul White and Rosanne Cash as stand-ins for the Clarks, imparting such wisdom as “Here’s what I know about the gifts God gave/You can’t take ’em with you when you go to the grave” (Guy/White) and “I’ve known you forever and it’s true/If you came by it easy, you wouldn’t be you” (Susanna/Cash).

Close Ties works pretty well as a summing-up of an illustrious career. But there’s also the sense that, at 66, Rodney Crowell has much more to offer.

Other notable guests include guitarists Steuart Smith, Tommy Emmanuel and Jedd Hughes, bassist Lex Price and Michael Rhodes, drummers Ian Fitchuk and Jerry Roe, and singer Sheryl Crow.

The Whiskey Gentry’s new album “Dead Ringer” released

The Whiskey Gentry have just released their first album since 2013 and it marks a vibrant step forward for this Atlanta-based band. The talented Lauren Staley remains at the forefront, singing songs that draw on the joys and travails of playing music for a living. “Dead Ringer” captures the hunger for affirmation – “Everybody tells me I’m a dead ringer for a more famous girl on the radio” and the English degree left behind – “If you want to talk Shakespeare, then now’s your chance.”

“Dead Ringer” highlights include the blistering “Paris,” “Rock & Roll Band,” “Following You” and a wonderful cover of Rosanne Cash’s “Seven Year Ache.”

The Whiskey Gentry are on tour this spring, with upcoming dates in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. – Ken Paulson

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Music legend B.J. Thomas at the Franklin Theater

B.J. Thomas described himself as “crabby” during his appearance Friday night at the Franklin theater just down the road from Nashville. It was an evening of awkward silences and some irritation with the lighting.

But it really didn’t matter. B.J. Thomas has always had a great pop voice and he ably performed songs from throughout his career, including his first hit – a 1966 cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – and his final number one record  “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” from 1975.

In that nine-year period, Thomas was rarely off the charts and on Friday he showcased all of the big hits, including “Hooking on a Feeling” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.”  This may have been an off night for B.J. Thomas, but you wouldn’t have known it from the music. – Ken Paulson

Prince conference planned for May

(Note: Full disclosure, I’ll be interviewing original Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson at this Prince conference presented by Salford University and Middle Tennessee State University – Ken Paulson)

Dez Dickerson

Salford University, Manchester, England  – An original member of The Revolution will talk about his time playing with Prince as part of the first ever conference devoted to the music legend.

Buildings across the city will be turned purple to mark the University of Salford’s Purple Reign:An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Life and Legacy of Prince held at The Lowry arts centre and the University’s Media City UK campus on May 24-26.

The event, hosted by the University and their US partners Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), will pay tribute to the star who died last April, and is thought to be the first ever Prince conference dedicated solely to the Minneapolis-born funk legend.

(more…)

25th Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival

By Ken Paulson

Tin Pan South, an extraordinary songwriters festival set in Nashville, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with a full slate events scheduled from March 28 through April 1.

The Tin Pan South festival features small groups of successful songwriters, typically playing in the the round (or in a row.) Some songwriters are more polished performers than others, but it’s a treat to hear the original versions of now-classic songs.

Among the Tin Pan South highlights:

  • Bruce “Hey Baby” Channel, Gary Nicholson, “Sonny “I Fought the Law” Curtis and Sonny Throckmorton at 6 p.m. on March 28 at the Bluebird Café.
  • Mac Davis, Neil Thrasher, Wendell Mobley and Lee Thomas Miller at 6 p.m. on March 29 at the Bluebird Café.
  • Jessi Alexander, Deric Ruttan, Jimmy Yeary and JT Harding at the Hard Rock Café at 9 p.m. on March 29.
  • Keb’ Mo’, Desmond Child and Victoria Shaw at the Listening Room at 6 p.m. on March 30.
  • Gary Burr, Georgia Middleman, Paul Overstreet and Scotty Emerick at the Hard Rock Café at 6 p.m. on March 30.
  • James Otto, Mark McGuinn, Myler Reeve, Treat Landon at The Country at 6 p.m on March 30.
  • Bob Morrison, Dickey Lee, Pat Alger and Wayland Holyfield at the Bluebird Café at 6:30 p.m. on March 31.
  • Emily West, Jamie O’Neal, KS Rhoads and Stephony Smith at the Listening Room at 9:30 p.m. on March 31.
  • Bobby Braddock, Marc D. Sanders, Matraca Berg, Roger Cook at 3rd and Lindsley at 6:30 p.m. on April 1.
  • Bekka Bramlett, Billy Burnette, Bruce Gaistch and Dennis Morgan at 9:30 p.m. at Douglas Corner on April 1.

That just scratches the surface. You’ll find a full schedule on the Tin Pan South site.

 

Re-issue: Lesley Gore’s “Love Me By Name”

By Ken Paulson

Real Gone Music remains a great friend to fans of ’60s pop music queens, with a fine catalog recognizing the legacies of Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Jackie DeShannon, and recently,  Lesley Gore. Following up their reissue of her Someplace Else Now, Real Gone Music has issued an expanded edition of the 1976 album Love Me By Name.

This adventurous album with a sci-fi cover reunited Lesley Gore with producer Quincy Jones, who recorded all of her early “It’s My Party”-era hits. Lesley hadn’t had much success in the ’70s, and this was a stab at giving her a contemporary sound.

It succeeded in doing that, though the album didn’t find an audience. Love Me By Name features an all-star group of players (Herbie Hancock, Harvey Mason, Jim Keltner and  Dave Grusin among them) , and includes “Sometimes,” a performance with the then-emerging Brothers Johnson.

Lesley co-wrote the songs with Ellen Weston, and they ‘re well-crafted. I’ve long admired “Immortality,” the single from the album. It’s about reincarnation or more precisely bouncing back from death. It is the peppiest song ever about the afterlife and features an 11 syllable hook: “Im-im-im-im-im-mo- mo – Imortality.”

Lesley Gore had a rich writing and recording career long after the “party” was over. This new collection captures some of her most ambitious later work.

Taking cover on Cayamo 2017

 

By Paul T. Mueller

Singer-songwriters usually, and understandably, focus on their own songs when performing. But many also perform songs they didn’t write, especially in a festival setting, where the audience tends to appreciate the different perspectives artists can bring to others’ work. The recently concluded Cayamo 2017 cruise, a singer-songwriter-focused festival at sea, featured many excellent cover performances.

Leaving aside shows that by definition were pretty much all covers (a tribute to the late Guy Clark, for instance), here’s a sampling (in no special order and by no means comprehensive) of artists’ takes on songs written by or usually associated with other artists.

  • Parker Millsap, “You Gotta Move” (Mississippi Fred McDowell)
  • Brandi Carlile, “Going to California” (Led Zeppelin)
  • Patty Griffin and Aaron Lee Tasjan, “Insider” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
  • Richard Thompson and Rufus Wainwright, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” (Sandy Denny)
  • Christian Lopez Band, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” (The Beatles)
  • Bonnie Bishop, “Whipping Post” (The Allman Brothers Band)
  • American Aquarium “Spanish Pipedream” (John Prine)
  • Aoife O’Donovan, “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith)
  • Steve Earle, “Rex’s Blues” (Townes Van Zandt)
  • Ruby Amanfu, “I Put a Spell on You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
  • Gretchen Peters, “Guadalupe” (Tom Russell)
  • Sarah Jarosz, “Come On Up to the House” (Tom Waits)
  • Gurf Morlix, “The Parting Glass” (Traditional)
  • Sarah Potenza, “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen)
  • Patty Griffin, “Where or When” (Rodgers and Hart)

For lack of a better title, the “Repeat Offender Award” (no offense) goes to the Christian Lopez Band, which, in addition to covering the Beatles, performed Blaze Foley’s “Clay Pigeons,” Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” Steve Fromholz’s “I’d Have to Be Crazy,” Stephen Bishop’s “On and On” and Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis.” Let it be noted that A) they did a fine job on all of these, and B) their original material was also excellent.

The “Reverse Cover Award” goes to Steve Earle, who introduced his own “Galway Girl” by predicting that 100 years from now, people in Ireland will still be singing the song, but will be insisting that it was written by an Irishman.

Quotable Cayamo 2017

By Paul T. Mueller

Things musicians say between songs are sometimes funny, sometimes profound, sometimes both. Here are some notable quotes from the stages of Cayamo 2017.

“I don’t have any songs about boats. I do have a lot of songs about death, so we’ll just do those.” – Gretchen Peters

“I’m here to do country music!” – Lee Ann Womack

“Are you often told you’re too young to be writing that well?” – Glen Phillips to 21-year-old Christian Lopez after the latter presented a new song in their songwriters-in-the-round show with Will Hoge

“Glen and I were 21 when Pearl Harbor happened.” – Will Hoge (who’s actually 44) to Lopez after Lopez described singing on an aircraft carrier

“Damn, I’m having a good time! Resistance is fun!” – Gretchen Peters, in the “Songs of Protest” show she hosted

“The dues-paying in Nashville is never-ending.” – Angaleena Presley

“There’s a responsibility to protect the repertoire.” – Luther Dickinson, on the North Mississippi Allstars’ approach to playing the blues.

Cayamo, I just found out, is an old Spanish word for ‘We printed the lineups too small.’ “ – Will Hoge, on the tiny type used on the show schedules provided to passengers

“Y’all just sit there and judge us? If we make you cry, do we get a prize?” – Aoife O’Donovan, a guest performer in the Secret Sisters’ “All the Girls Who Cry” show, to the Sisters, Lydia and Laura Rogers (who were in fact sitting, judge-like, at the side of the stage)

“How cliché are we, crying at our own show?” – Lydia Rogers, after a particularly sad song

“Oh, my god! Holy sh*t! I was worried! Thanks for voting for me! I never win anything!” – Sarah Potenza, who earned her spot in the lineup partly through passengers’ votes in the “Soundcheck” competition

“We’re songwriters. You can’t hurt our feelings.” – Lori McKenna, in a Love Junkies show

BJ Barham

“Thank you so much for cultivating this kind of community… It’s just as much fun as everyone told us. It’s a family reunion!” – BJ Barham of American Aquarium.

“We went from a latte president to an Orange Julius president.” – “stowaway” Chuck Cannon, on his new song “Tangerine Jesus,” sung to the tune of “Paperback Writer”

“It’s ‘Skunk’ time all over again!” – Loudon Wainwright III of “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” fame, on the expected success of “Meet the Wainwrights,” a musical introduction to his extended family

“If Elton John had had a baby with Tom Petty…” – Patty Griffin, introducing guest Aaron Lee Tasjan, before a lovely duet on Petty’s “Insider”

“You will always have my heart.” – Rodney Crowell to Emmylou Harris in their duet show

“Same back atcha!” – Harris to Crowell

“I’m going to keep singing this song until I die or it comes true, whichever happens first.” – Steve Earle on his optimistic “Jerusalem”

 

 

 

 

 

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