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”

 

 

 

 

 

Cayamo music cruise review: An astounding line-up

By Paul Mueller

The 10th edition of the Cayamo music cruise enjoyed sunny skies, smooth seas and a fairly astounding musical lineup. The festival at sea, aboard the Norwegian Jade, left Tampa on Feb. 19, and returned a week later, after stops at the islands of Cozumel, Mexico, and Roatan, Honduras. As always, it was billed as “A Journey Through Song,” and as always it lived up to that promise. The number of shows and their scheduling made it difficult to see every performer, but that’s a good problem to have.

Most of the more than 50 performers played individual shows, and many appeared in themed and collaboration shows as well. Themed shows included a tribute to the late Guy Clark; a “Songs of Protest” show hosted by Gretchen Peters; a “variety show” hosted by Shawn Mullins; “All the Girls Who Cry,” a sad-song fest hosted by Alabama country-folk crooners The Secret Sisters, and a guitar-focused show dubbed “Buddy Miller’s Guitar 101.” There were several “and friends” shows, mostly featuring several singer-songwriters in an in-the-round format, and singer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Bulla hosted “Last Man Standing” jams that capped off three evenings’ music. Many made guest appearances at other artists’ shows throughout the week, and passenger jams, sometimes including professionals, were easily found all over the boat.

A weeklong festival inevitably produces too many high points to list them all, but here are a few. Be assured that at the same time as pretty much any of these shows, there was at least one other equally memorable show going on somewhere else on the Jade.

Sunday, Feb. 19: The opening set on the pool deck can be a tough slot, with many passengers still boarding and those already aboard busy looking around or reuniting with old friends. But singer-songwriter Christian Lopez, a West Virginia native who’s all of 21 years old, made the most of his rookie appearance, demonstrating a veteran’s savvy in capturing the attention of the crowd. Alternating between well-written originals and covers, and between full-band and solo formats, Lopez rocked hard and showed that he’d earned his spot

North Mississippi All-Stars

on the roster. Well-done renditions of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” Blaze Foley’s “Clay Pigeons” and Bill Withers’ “Use Me” played to the sensibilities of the crowd, much of which was three times Lopez’s age, but in a respectful way.

Also: Brandi Carlile,  a veteran of the first Cayamo music cruise in 2008 and most since, had herself a great time at the sail away show later in the afternoon, proclaiming the cruise “the greatest Cayamo ever.” Assisted as always by the Hanseroth twins (Phil on bass and Tim on guitar), she tore through favorites such as “Wherever Is Your Heart” and “The Eye” and closed with a nice rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.”

Monday, Feb. 20: East Nashville-based singer-songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan made his much-anticipated Cayamo music cruise debut at an evening pool-deck show, and fully met his fans’ high expectations. Accompanied by fellow singer-songwriter Brian Wright, Tasjan played most of his most recent album, Silver Tears, as well as a few older tunes. His outgoing personality contrasted with Wright’s more stoic approach, but they were two of a kind when they started trading guitar licks. Late in the show, Wright took the spotlight to offer a fine rendition of his murder ballad “Maria Sugarcane.” Tasjan closed with a vigorous workout on his anthemic “Success” that had much of the crowd singing along.

Love Junkies on Cayamo music cruise

Also: The Love Junkies (singer-songwriters Lori McKenna, Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey) played an engaging show, performing songs made famous by bigger names in Nashville. These included McKenna’s “Humble and Kind” (Tim McGraw), Lindsey’s co-write “Blue Ain’t Your Color” (Keith Urban) and “Girl Crush” (written by all three and recorded by Little Big Town). The trio got support from Cary Barlowe and Ruston Kelly. It’s always fun to hear songs performed by the people who wrote them, without the usual studio trappings. Extra points to Rose for pushing through despite a case of laryngitis.

Tuesday, Feb. 21: The Songs of Protest show, hosted by Nashville singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters and featuring several Cayamo newcomers, was one of the emotional high points of the cruise. Performances included a powerful rendition of Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” by soul powerhouse Sarah Potenza; Allen Toussaint’s joyful “Yes We Can Can,” by Amy Helm; Randy Newman’s “Political Science,” sung by Peters’ husband, keyboardist Barry Walsh, from the viewpoint of the new U.S. president; and Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now,” sung with intensity by Gurf Morlix and Potenza. Peters’ selections included a beautiful rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee.”

Also: A pool-deck tribute to Guy Clark tribute featured contributions from longtime Clark associates (Rodney Crowell, “Stuff That Works”; Emmylou Harris, “Immigrant Eyes”) as well as more recent acolytes (Sarah Jarosz, “Boats to Build”; Brian Wright, “Coyote”). Oddly missing from the set was the iconic “L.A. Freeway,” but Crowell and Steve Earle teamed up to close with “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train.”

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Fans might have expected the basics in a show called Buddy Miller’s Guitar 101; what they got was far more advanced. Singer-songwriter and producer Miller alternated between describing his own journey to guitar mastery and using his laptop to play snippets of six-string artistry by predecessors such as James Burton, Link Wray and Jimi Hendrix. Things got even better when Miller brought out his guests. Tasjan ripped through a terrific acoustic rendition of “Streets of Galilee,” which incorporates his own musical autobiography. Nashville session player Tom Bukovac played a funky/jazzy bit of electric improvisation that had Miller and Tasjan grinning and shaking their heads. North Mississippi Allstars frontman Luther Dickinson talked about his band’s mission in the blues world (“There’s a responsibility to respect the repertoire”) and demonstrated his mastery of both the acoustic six-string and a two-string instrument made from a coffee can. Finally, the legendary Richard Thompson talked a little about having played with Hendrix and executed a beautiful acoustic take on “Turning of the Tide,” along with an instrumental piece he described as “an Irish tune with Scottish variations.”

Also: Nashville singer-songwriter Will Hoge’s show in a well-packed Spinnaker Lounge, in which he talked about burning out and leaving music a few years ago before rediscovering his craft and returning to the road. The set featured the kind of confessional songs you’d expect, plus some favorites such as the funny but pointed “Jesus Came to Tennessee.” Hoge is a very funny guy, but also an intense performer, and his powerful songs and playing often had the sometimes-rowdy Spinnaker crowd listening in dead silence.

Sarah Jarosz on Cayamo music cruise

Thursday, Feb. 23: Against the backdrop of a nice Caribbean sunset, Kacey Musgraves and her band serenaded the sail-away from Roatan on the pool deck. The set list included a well-chosen mix of originals (“This Town,” “Merry Go ’Round,” “It Is What It Is”) and interesting covers (Weezer’s “Island in the Sun,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk”). There was also a fun and witty reworking of the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo,” with lyrics tailored to the Cayamo experience and a laid-back vibe that suited the occasion perfectly. Musgraves closed with her anthemic “Arrow.”

Also: Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz, another Cayamo music cruise rookie, still looks about 17, but she sings and plays like she’s been onstage forever. Accompanied by bassist Jeff Picker and Australian-turned-Austinite guitar ace Jedd Hughes, Jarosz played a lovely set highlighted by the powerful (and Grammy-winning) “House of Mercy,” co-written with Hughes. Jarosz seems able to play anything with strings; her instruments in this show included acoustic and electric guitars, banjo and her unusual octave mandolin, an eight-stringed instrument the size of a small guitar.

Friday, Feb. 24: If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible to play rock ‘n’ roll at 10 a.m. on a cruise ship, the answer is, “It is if you’re the North Mississippi Allstars.” Playing to a nearly capacity crowd in the Jade’s largest indoor venue, the Stardust Theater, the Allstars (Luther and Cody Dickinson, plus bassist Dominic Davis, who played with several artists) featured a mix of acoustic blues and all-out boogie. Cody, usually the Allstars’ drummer, yielded the

skins to Brady Blade, also from Miller’s band, to step out front on guitar and vocals for the traditional “Deep Ellum Blues.” The set closed with a fine rendition of the classic “Sitting on Top of the World,” featuring Luther and his coffee-can guitar.

Also: Singer-songwriter and Cayamo music cruise first-timer Aoife O’Donovan played a mostly original set, by turns quiet and loud, in the Spinnaker. She was assisted by guitarist Anthony da Costa and drummer Steve Nistor, along with guests Stuart Duncan on fiddle and Sarah Jarosz (who has played in the folkie trio I’m With Her with O’Donovan and former Nickel Creeker Sara Watkins). O’Donovan closed with a lovely rendition of Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” that might have drawn a few tears from those old enough to remember Blind Faith’s version.

Saturday, Feb. 24: The gospel show has become a well-loved Cayamo tradition. This year it took the form of a songwriter round rather than a succession of artists as in the past. Featured were country singer turned soul belter Bonnie Bishop, Nashville songwriters and performers (and spouses) Lari White and Chuck Cannon, and Sarah Potenza. Lending support were guitarists Ian Crossman, who’s married to Potenza, and Ford Thurston, who plays with Bishop, and bassist Patrick Blanchard). The show featured some traditional gospel, or at least gospel-ish, songs such as “I Shall Be Released” and “Power in the Blood,” as well as spiritual offerings such as Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” and (perhaps inevitably in the wake of Leonard Cohen’s passing) a slow, intense rendition of “Hallelujah” by Potenza.

Bonnie Bishop

Also: The Wainwright Family, featuring patriarch Loudon Wainwright III and various descendants, exes and others, performed an excellent and eclectic set in the Stardust, kicking off with a team-effort “Meet the Wainwrights” to introduce the players. The cast included Wainwright’s son, Rufus Wainwright; his daughters, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche; Lucy’s mother, Suzzy Roche, and Wainwright’s sister, Sloan Wainwright. Guests included Emmylou Harris, who performed a song in honor of Wainwright’s former wife, the late folksinger Kate McGarrigle; Brandi Carlile, with the Hanseroth twins; fiddler-mandolinist David Mansfield, and guitarist Stephen Murphy. The show closed with an all-hands-on-deck sing-along on Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and a nice solo piano rendition of “Hallelujah” by Rufus Wainwright.

Honorable mentions on the Cayamo Music Cruise: Oklahoma folk-blues prodigy Parker Millsap, Mississippi rocker Paul Thorn, Nashville neo-diva Angaleena Presley, Colorado bluegrass outfit Trout Steak Revival, Nashville country-pop band Skyline Motel, North Carolina rockers American Aquarium, soulful Nashville singer-songwriter Sam Lewis, singer-songwriters Beth Wood and Patty Griffin, Nashville country traditionalist Lee Ann Womack, former Civil Wars member John Paul White, rising country artist Ryan Hurd, Nashville songstress Ruby Amanfu, former Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips, young singer-songwriter Brian Dunne, new country star Maren Morris, Cayamo t’ai-chi master and clotheshorse Jim Lauderdale, Alabama folkie-rockers The Mulligan Brothers, and former Sea Level keyboardist and saxophonist Randall Bramblett.

Doyle and Debbie interview: Behind the scenes

By Ken Paulson

Walk by the venerable Station Inn tomorrow night or on many evenings throughout the year and you’ll hear raucous laughter coming from inside the Nashville venue.

Strange. Bluegrass isn’t that funny.

But Doyle and Debbie are. They’re the lead characters in an irreverent musical that parodies traditional country songs in a non-traditional way. “When You’re Screwin’ Other Women (Think of Me)” pretty much says it all.

The show – in residency at the Station Inn – recreates Doyle’s “comeback” tour with his “third Debbie.” It satirizes old school country, but with an affectionate nod.

The show was created and written by Bruce Arnston, and features Arnston and Jenny Littleton in the title roles.  We had the chance to talk with both recently about this truly singular show:

New: Mavericks, Rodney Crowell, Drew Holcomb

Cayamo 2017: A music cruise preview

By Paul T. Mueller

The 2017 edition of the Cayamo music cruise sails southward today, with a few changes to mark the 10th edition of the singer-songwriter-focused festival at sea. For the first time, Cayamo will be leaving from Tampa, instead of Miami as in previous years. And the sold-out cruise will be aboard the Norwegian Jade instead of the Norwegian Pearl, its home for the past seven years.

But the biggest change, for better or worse, may be the schedule. Cayamo has never been exactly a relaxing experience, but Sixthman, the Atlanta-based Norwegian Cruise Lines subsidiary that produces the seven-night voyage, seems to have been determined to stuff this year’s schedule with an almost unbelievable number of performers and shows. To accommodate this wealth of talent, shows on non-port days will start at 10 a.m., instead of noon as in years past. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out, given that musicians – and many Cayamoans – tend to be the nocturnal type, and in many cases will have been up late the night before. The large roster of performers will also dictate a lot of overlap between shows, making for some tough choices when deciding what to see and what to (regretfully) let go.

Much of the lineup on Cayamo 2017 reads like a Who’s Who of previous Cayamos – Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Richard Thompson, Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Steve Earle, Paul Thorn, Glen Phillips and Jim Lauderdale, among others. The Wainwright family is almost a lineup unto itself, comprising Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Sloan Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche. And of course it wouldn’t be Cayamo without Shawn Mullins, the only musician who’s been along for every sailing.

Returning veterans in the not-quite-household-names category include rocker Will Hoge, The Secret Sisters, Angaleena Presley, Sam Lewis, Ruby Amanfu and Beth Wood, among others.

This year also marks the debut of some much-anticipated newcomers on Cayamo 2017, among them Oklahoma phenom Parker Millsap, genre-spanning singer-songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz, folk-rocker Amy Helm, veteran Americana performer and producer Gurf Morlix, country singer turned blues singer Bonnie Bishop and vocal powerhouse Sarah Potenza. Several bands will also make the voyage, including the bluegrass-oriented The Mulligan Brothers and Trout Steak Revival and the harder-rocking North Mississippi Allstars and American Aquarium.

For a little added intrigue, there will be at least one “stowaway,” an artist whose identity hasn’t yet been revealed. Who this might be has been the subject of considerable pre-cruise debate, fueled on social media by cryptic hints from Sixthman.

In addition to the usual straightforward sets, several special themed shows are scheduled, including a Songs of Protest set featuring singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters; Buddy Miller’s Guitar 101, with six-string aces Miller, Thompson and Tasjan, along with Luther Dickinson and Tom Bukovac; a tribute to the late Guy Clark, and a Shawn Mullins Variety Show, whatever that might entail. Several “and Friends” shows promise the interesting collaborations that Cayamo is known for. For those able to stay awake, three late-night “Last Man Standing” jams, hosted by fiddle wizard Luke Bulla, are slated for the Jade’s Atrium stage.

As if the music weren’t enough, there will also be a couple of port calls. The Jade will spend a day at Cozumel, off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and a day at Roatan, a Caribbean island that’s part of Honduras. Also available will be such shipboard activities as a songwriting class (Camp Copperhead at Sea) hosted by Steve Earle; three guitar workshops; a beer tasting hosted by Paul Thorn, and the popular Sand Art event with Kacey Musgraves. Passenger jams can be expected to continue far into the night, while early risers will have the option of joining Jim Lauderdale on the pool deck for morning T‘ai Chi.

Lari White’s “Old Friends, New Loves”

Americana Music News- Lari White, literally a star of stage, screen and recordings, has a new double-EP out called Old Friends, New Loves. We had the chance to talk with her about her new release on board Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise 2017.

Review: Kevin and Dustin Welch in concert

 By Paul T. Mueller

Dustin and Kevin Welch

Singer-songwriters Kevin and Dustin Welch (father and son, respectively) bring somewhat different approaches to the Americana table. Kevin’s songs and performing style tend toward the traditional, while Dustin’s are often edgier. Performing together February 4 at Houston’s Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, they complemented each other’s styles and reinforced each other’s energy, making for a highly enjoyable experience for the several dozen in attendance.

The Welches’ show, part of the church’s UniTunes Coffeehouse series, featured 17 songs, interspersed with commentary on how some of them came to be. Kevin Welch’s songs explored themes such as love, faith and doubt, usually in a straightforward way and accompanied by skillfully played acoustic guitar. Dustin’s songs were often less explicit; his father noted after one of his son’s songs that he had “no idea” what it was about. Mystery aside, Dustin sang with conviction, accompanying himself on acoustic and resonator guitars and banjo.

Some highlights:

  • Kevin’s “Millionaire,” an anthem to appreciating non-material blessings
  • “Marysville,” Kevin’s tribute to a small Australian town devastated by a wildfire in 2009
  • Dustin’s “Far Horizon,” an exploration of doubt and faith that featured a powerful, bluegrassy duet between Dustin’s banjo and Kevin’s guitar
  • Kevin’s “Heaven Now,” played by request but only after the singer had looked up his lyrics online
  • Dustin’s “Don’t Tell Em Nothin’,” a kind of post-crime tale that the singer dedicated to the criminal-defense attorneys in the audience
  • Kevin’s as-yet-unrecorded “The Flower,” told from the point of view of a teenage girl dealing with difficult circumstances and featuring some powerful slide guitar by Dustin on the resonator

Both Welches declared their gratitude for the audience’s attention (one fan drew laughs by mentioning that he’d skipped Taylor Swift’s pre-Super Bowl show in order to be there). They closed with Kevin’s “A Prayer Like Any Other,” a gentle request for divine oversight, co-written with Kieran Kane.

Band of Heathens tops Americana chart with “Duende”

Americana Music News – The Band of Heathens have just topped the Americana Music Chart with Duende, their fifth album. The album bumped Jamestown Revival out of the top spot.
We had the opportunity to visit with the band’s Ed Jurdi on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise two weeks ago:

Review: Sandy Beaches Cruise 2017

By Ken Paulson

The Sandy Beaches Cruise, the much-loved music festival at sea hosted by Delbert McClinton, rocked – in more ways than one – throughout its 23rd annual edition.

While the U.S. was shivering from a wide-ranging cold front, the temperatures on the Holland America Oosterdam were far more pleasant, but accompanied by high winds and waves. That left a number of artists struggling to keep their footing on stage and dancing audience members discovering moves they didn’t know they had.

But this is one cruise where the weather is almost irrelevant. People return to the Sandy Beaches Cruise every year because the musical talent is deep and the vibe is relaxed. When cruisers meet each other, the first question is almost always “How many of these have you been on?” There’s status in numbers.

week kicked off with Marcia Ball and Teresa James, strategic scheduling that got the audience up out of its seats on the very first night. That pattern held throughout the week with highly danceable music from McClinton, Marc Broussard, Jimmy Hall, Clay McClinton, Gary Nicholson, Lee Roy Parnell, Wayne Toups and Mike Zito.

The Mavericks performed three exuberant shows, though one was in the face of powerful winds and a cascade of sea spray. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more challenging performance environment, but the band – and the faithful – stayed the course.

The World Famous Headliners, a band comprised of NRBQ veteran Al Anderson, Shawn Camp, Pat McLaughlin, Michael Rhodes and Greg Morrow, were cruise favorites. There are a few songs on which their three lead vocals mesh and sound strikingly like the Band, but with a sense of humor. The Headliners have recorded two fine albums, but almost never perform, so those on board for the cruise the past two years have probably seen a majority of their shows.

The McCrary Sisters are the spiritual heart of the cruise, offering up a powerful mix of soul and gospel. Their medley of “I Can See Clearly Now/Let the Sun Shine In” was a musical weather forecast, with a bit of wishful thinking thrown in.

The surprise of the week was a salute to Eric Burdon and the Animals, led by Red Young, who played with Burdon for decades. It turns out that Teresa James and members of the Rhythm Tramps also served as latter-day Animals, and they joined Young on this impressive revue of Burdon’s best. James herself took the lead on “Don’t Bring Me Down.”

“Pianorama” is always a highlight of the Sandy Beaches Cruise. This impromptu annual jam session led by Marcia Ball brings together nearly a dozen great keyboard players. Adrenaline flows and the performances are inspired.

Lari White, Etta Britt and Kree Harrison offered up impressive solo showcases, while the Band of Heathens, the Howlin’ Brothers and Mingo Fishtrap delivered well-received sets, tapping into country, rock and traditional music. No one had a more traditional sound than the Quebe Sisters who channel brilliant harmonies (they say the Mills Brothers are their model) and a love of Bob Wills into a vibrant and contemporary take on Western Swing

The Sandy Beaches Cruise songwriters sessions are always entertaining and probably merit a larger venue. One show was dedicated to Lubbock, Texas (in a back-handed sort of way.) It featured a very funny monologue by Jaston Williams of “Greater Tuna” fame, who explored the city’s quirks. “Our homosexuals were not all that gay,” he noted. Gary Nicholson had a great story of his own, recalling a truly crazed friend who rescued him from a biker gang. Delbert shared his own account of seeing UFOs high over Lubbock. Kimmie Rhodes organized the session, which also included stories and music from Sharon Vaughn.

Other songwriting shows featured Bruce “Hey Baby” Channel, Bob DiPiero, Donnie Fritts, Danny Flowers, HalleyAnna, Terry McBride, Tom Hambridge, Spooner Oldham, Kevin Welch, Dustin Welch and Lari White, among others.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real was this year’s revelation. Fresh off backing Neil Young, Willie Nelson’s sixth child delivered a high energy show reminiscent of the power trios of the late ‘60s. His own material – highlights included “Four Letter Word” and “Can You Hear Me Love You” – was complemented by nods to the past, from Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” to Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.”

And then there are Doyle and Debbie, aka Bruce Arnston and Jenny Littleton. The duo, along with Matt Carlton, offer up the story of a washed-up country star who latches onto a talented and desperate young woman and launches a comeback tour. The show, which features songs like “When You’re Screwing Other Women (think of me)” and “Fat Women in Trailers,” has been touring – and on the cruise – for a decade, and for good reason. It’s one of the funniest and most irreverent shows you’ll ever see.

The final show of the Sandy Beaches Cruise  always features Delbert McClinton and a wide range of guest artists. Gary Nicholson assembled about a dozen friends from Nashville, who joined him in singing “More Days Like This,” a fitting sentiment after 7 days of soulful and satisfying performances.

Delbert McClinton’s “Prick of the Litter”

Americana Music NewsDelbert McClinton is about to release “Prick of the Litter,” his 19th album. We spoke with him on board his annual Sandy Beaches music cruise, a weeklong music festival at sea that features the Mavericks, Marcia Ball, Teresa James, World Famous Headliners and many more country, blues and Americana artists.

Townes Van Zandt remembered at 20th annual “wake”

By Paul T. Mueller

There were few tears but plenty of laughter and good fellowship at the 20th annual Townes Van Zandt wake, held Jan. 1 at the Old Quarter Acoustic Café in Galveston, Texas. The event takes place every year on the anniversary of the 1997 death of the revered singer-songwriter from Texas. Free to the public and open to anyone who wants to get onstage and play, it’s one of the signature events at the iconic dive bar in downtown Galveston. The club is the successor to the Houston venue where Townes Van Zandt recorded one of his best-known albums, 1973’s Live at the Old Quarter; it was founded and, until recently, owned by musician and former Van Zandt bandmate Rex Bell, who goes by “Wrecks.”

The Townes Van Zandt wake at the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe

The wake, which this year also honored Guy Clark and Leonard Cohen, started about 6:30 p.m. and ran until a little after 2 a.m. Scores of music fans packed the tiny club, at times almost certainly exceeding its legal capacity. Over the course of the evening, something like 25 performers, both professional and amateur, performed nearly 30 of Van Zandt’s songs (some were covered by more than one artist), sometimes assisted by the audience. The only rule (and it was broken once or twice) was that the songs had to be ones written by Van Zandt, Clark and Cohen. Fifteen different Clark songs were performed, along with four of Cohen’s.

The line between amateur and professional seemed a bit blurry at times, but those performing included Bell and his wife, Janet; singer-songwriters Joanna Gibson, Matt Harlan, Marina Rocks, Tommy Lewis, Robert Cline Jr., Chuck Hawthorne, Drew Landry, Charlie Harrison, Cody Austin, Lazarus Nichols, Smith & Turner, and Libby Koch. Most performers were from Texas, but some came from beyond the borders of the Lone Star State, including one from Virginia and Dutch musician Jacques Mees, touring Texas for the first time with vocalist Jolanda Haanskorf.

Gary Reagan, Joanna Gibson, Janet Bell and Wrecks Bell

Gary Reagan, an accomplished acoustic guitarist and longtime wake attendee, backed many performers with beautiful picking and slide work as well as harmony vocals. “Playing ‘Rex’s Blues’ with the Rex for almost 20 years is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” he noted.

During his time onstage, and in the course of introducing other performers, Bell offered stories about and memories of his old friend, describing him as “a beautiful, beautiful man” who, despite his demons, never took out his frustrations on anyone else. Bell, who recently sold the Old Quarter and plans to relocate to Arkansas, noted that he had suffered a stroke last July 4, but “I’m making a great comeback.” During one of his mini-sets he sang “Rex’s Blues,” which Townes Van Zandt wrote about him decades ago. “I hated that song,” Bell said, but eventually reconciled himself to it. Two other artists also performed the song, despite what one said was an “unwritten rule” that it not be played. Other songs that got multiple readings included the lovely “If I Needed You,” sweetly done by Bell and Gibson, and the dark and nihilistic “Nothin’.” Marina Rocks’ solo rendition of the latter was suffused with a scary intensity worthy of Townes himself; it was one of the standout performances of the evening.

The assembled cast celebrates Townes Van Zandt

Other notable performances included a heartfelt, if somewhat halting, version of “Tecumseh Valley” by a man who gave his name as Robert and said he’d traveled from Virginia; a suitably sad rendition of “Marie” by Bobby Hoskins, whose gruff delivery on that song and two by Clark left the sometimes chatty audience in churchlike silence, and a cheerful take on Clark’s “Stuff That Works” by a colorfully dressed lady who introduced herself as “Jackie Sue, the next big thing” and told the audience, “I believe the Old Quarter is stuff that works!”

Gracing a small table onstage, and available to anyone in need of a bit of liquid courage, were a party-size bottle of vodka and a two-liter bottle of Diet Orange Crush – reportedly the ingredients of Townes’ cocktail of choice. Several performers, amateur and professional alike, partook of these libations over the course of the evening.

Gibson, the evening’s first performer, said she had attended every Townes wake since the event’s founding. “What a great way to start the new year,” she noted. Gibson was one of the few to take on Cohen’s catalog, leading off with nice renditions of “If It Be Your Will” and “Suzanne.” Other Cohen interpreters included Nichols, with a hoarse but heartfelt “Dance Me to the End of Love,” and Galveston’s own Billy Marabella, whose rendition of “Suzanne” included a recounting of his personal history with the song.

The wake ended with a fine rendition of Van Zandt’s “Snowin’ on Raton,” with Matt Harlan, Libby Koch, Chuck Hawthorne, Tommy Lewis and Charlie Harrison taking turns on vocals. As the last few audience members dispersed into the foggy streets of Galveston, performers and club staff gathered onstage with Wrecks and Janet for a group photo.

New releases: Paul Thorn, Kimbrough & DeMeyer

Americana Music News – New and recent releases:

Review: John Egan’s “Magnolia City”

By Paul T. Mueller

egan_magnolia_150On his latest collection, Magnolia City, Houston-based singer-songwriter John Egan goes back to the basics – a stomp board, a couple of National steel guitars, and a voice well suited to a 10-song mix of classic blues and folk songs and well-crafted originals.

Although Egan seems comfortable fronting a band, he’s more often to be found playing on his own, and he has said that Magnolia City is an effort to reproduce the feel of those solo gigs. It succeeds, fueled by Egan’s skilled picking and slide work and his minimal but effective percussion. His singing is improving with age; here he demonstrates a range of styles, from the howling and growling of an old-time bluesman to more contemporary crooning as the material dictates.

The original songs include the soulful blues of “Harder Than a Stone,” the gentle lament of “Looking for a Place to Fall” and the more raucous blues-rock of “Where the Angels Fly.” The quiet tone of “It Ain’t the Gun” contrasts with its tough-minded message, denouncing the violence that’s become all too common in Houston and elsewhere. The introspective “Man I’ll Never Be,” also on the quieter side, deals with love and expectations.

John Egan pays tribute to a predecessor and fellow Houston bluesman with fine renditions of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Once a Gambler” and “Mojo Hand.” He also takes on Townes Van Zandt’s “Marie,” and if his matter-of-fact reading of that ballad’s sadder-than-sad lyrics doesn’t quite match the pathos Van Zandt brought to them – well, whose could? More successful is a lively reimagining of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” featuring a little less twang in the vocals and a little more in the strings.

Clean production by Egan and Steve Christiansen complements the music, as does the CD’s simple sleeve, featuring monochrome images by Houston photographer Ray “Texas Redd” Redding.

Tags

Related Posts

Share This

Mountain Tough concert to help Gatlinburg

Americana Music News – We’re proud that our friends and colleagues at WMOT and Music City Roots are playing major roles in this Saturday’s “Mountain Tough” fund-raising concert  in the wake of the devastating fires in Gatlinburg. The official announcement:

WMOT_rev2All week, artists and radio stations have been signing on to support Mountain Tough, an all-day, free musical celebration and fund-raiser in Gatlinburg on Saturday, Dec. 17 from 10:00 am until approximately 9 pm. The event is being produced by Yee-Haw Brewing Co., Ole Smoky Moonshine, Music City Roots and the Gatlinburg TN Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Donations are all going to the Sevier County Community Fund.

The full show will be carried all day by flagship broadcaster WMOT / Roots Radio, 89.5 FM serving Middle Tennessee from the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University. Other stations committed to broadcast or stream Mountain Tough include: Knoxville country powerhouse WIVK, Knoxville indie/Americana station WDVX, Nashville public radio station WPLN, University of Tennessee stations KUTK and WUOT and Chattanooga’s WUTC.

In addition, NPR Music affiliated World Café and the VuHaus digital music video service will host the video stream of the show produced and served by Music City Roots of Nashville.

Most importantly, the talent lineup continues to take shape. Nationally renowned duo The Secret Sisters signed on in the last 48 hours. Other artists committed include: Sam Bush, Jason D. Williams, Derek St. Holmes, Jim Lauderdale, Chuck Mead, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, Shannon Whitworth & Barrett Smith, Sarah Potenza, Firewater Junction, Greg Reish, Chelle Rose, Carl Anderson, R.B. Morris and Mo Pitney. Zac Brown Band will take the stage last at about 7:50 pm.

Delbert McCinton’s 2017 Sandy Beaches Cruise

By Ken Paulson

Delbert McClinton is the host and ringleader of the Sandy Beaches cruise, opening and closing the week, and playing all over the ship throughout the week.

Delbert McClinton is the host and ringleader of the Sandy Beaches cruise.

We’re looking forward to Delbert McClinton’s 2017 Sandy Beaches Cruise, which begins Jan. 6 in Tampa. There’s a relaxed vibe throughout the week, in contrast to other music cruises that include assigned seats and lines to get into shows.

It’s a great line-up, with Marcia Ball, the Mavericks, Marc Broussard, Fred Eaglesmith, Clay McClinton, the Quebe Sisters, Wayne Toups, Red Young, World Famous Headliners, Teresa James, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, Etta Britt, the McCrary Sisters, Big Joe Maher, Lari White, Bob DiPiero, Anson Funderburgh, Bluz House Rockers, Bruce Channel, Danny Flowers, Doyle and Debbie, Gary Nicholson, Jimmy Hall, Kimmie Rhodes, Kree Harrison, Lee Roy Parnell, Mike Zito, Mingo Fishtrap, Sharon Vaughn, Shelley King, the Band of Heathens, Spooner Oldham, the Howlin’ Brothers and Tom  Hambridge .

We’ll have full coverage of the 2017 Sandy Beaches cruise, but here’s our report from 2016.

As Marcia Ball wrapped up her first song to polite applause, she seemed a little nonplussed.

“I thought there was a dance floor here,” she said, as she kicked off Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016. The crowd took the hint, and the rest of the evening – and the week – was one non-stop dance floor.

That sets this music cruise apart from others, where headliners and reserved seats are the norm. The Sandy Beaches crowd listens respectfully, but they move to the music.

That’s probably the influence of McClinton himself, who is a low-key and welcoming presence thoughout the cruise. It’s as though you were invited to Delbert’s house – one with a very large pool – with his musical friends on a Saturday night.

And if this is your first visit to Delbert’s, you won’t feel like a newcomer for long.

“This is your cherry and we’re here to bust it, “ Ball declared, launching into a high-velocity set of rhythm and blues, including the week’s first performance of “Sea Cruise.’ “A lot of nerve, “ she laughed.

“All Night Long” with the Mavericks

Raul Malo of the Mavericks

Raul Malo of the Mavericks

The Mavericks headlined the pool deck stage three times and the energy never flagged. Since reuniting in 2012, the band has been on a roll, culminating in their Grammy nominations for the song “All Night Long” and their Mono album, and being named group of the year in the Americana Music Association awards. When a band with more than two decades of experience hits a new career high, it shows on stage. In their final set of the week, they even played a danceable “Okie from Muskogee.”

 

 The McCrary Sisters Let It Go

The McCrary Sisters delivered their first set on Sunday, appropriately so for this hard-rocking gospel quartet. Regina McCrary spoke of God’s capacity for healing and offered to pray for anyone in need. If you have a burden, you should “Let It Go,” they sang. No, not the song from “Frozen.”

Later in the day, Roger Blevins Jr. and Mingo Fishtrap announced they were going to echo the McCrarys’ advice to “let it go, “though their version would be “more profane.”

It wasn’t all church for the McCrarys . The sisters did the Family Stone proud with an inspired version of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin.)”

Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016 songwriters

The songwriter sessions were uniformly impressive, giving artists the chance to showcase their writing in an acoustic performance. Sharon Vaughn told the story of how she pitched her classic My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” to Waylon Jennings, who refused to believe she wrote it. Spooner Oldham played songs he co-wrote with Dan Penn, including James and Bobby Purify’s hit “I’m Your Puppet.”

Delbert McClinton joined the songwriters mid-week to showcase songs from a new album due this spring.

The World Famous Headliners

Former NRBQ member Al Anderson has been on the last 18 cruises, but this time he brought his bandmates from the World Famous Headliners . It’s a tongue-in-cheek name, but Anderson, Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin make up a potent front three, with stellar guitar work and tight harmonies. The band – deep in writing talent – showcased songs from their new album, including “Hitchike Home,” “The Whoa Whoa Song” and “Fried Chicken,” a song that mashes up Memphis music and the Bee Gees.

The Headliners know no barriers. “We’d like to apologize for these songs,’ McLaughlin told the audience, shortly before Anderson sang “Stick It Where the Sun Don’t Ever Shine.”

The band brings Little Village to mind. That was the storied band featuring Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner, an amazing line-up of players and songwriters that never seemed to gel as a group.

The Headliners gel. They even have their own theme song, which they played at both the beginning and close of their set. “We’re the World Famous Headliners…”

Keb’ Mo’ and the return of Lee Roy Parnell

Among other highlights of  Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016:

Keb’ Mo’ drew big and appreciative crowds poolside with impeccable sets of blues and soul, including his fresh take on the O’Jays’ “Love Train.”

Mingo Fishtrap rallied the audience on the final day, with Blevins Jr. saying that although everyone would have to disembark the next morning, now was the time to “self-lobotomize.” The band then launched into a blistering medley of classic James Brown songs.

Lee Roy Parnell, on the Sandy Beaches Cruise since its inception 22 years ago, was back after a year away. He saluted the late Allen Toussaint with a spirited take on his “Holy Cow.” Lari White joined him for a duet of a song she and Parnell had written, and Etta Britt delivered a powerful “People Get Ready.”

The annual “Pianorama,” with Marcia Ball as ringleader, convened virtually every keyboardist on the cruise for a piano jam. Five players at a time took the stage, trading off parts on songs like “Iko Iko,” “Nothing from Nothing” and Drinkin’ Wine Spo-de-o-dee.”

The Quobe Sisters Band

The Quobe Sisters Band

The Quebe Sisters were a revelation. Their harmonies were gorgeous – in 1940 they would have been the Andrews Sisters –and all three play fiddle beautifully. They draw on a big songbook, but Western Swing is a specialty.

Doyle and Debbie, the lampooning country music revue, doesn’t change and doesn’t need to. It remains fresh and funny.

Alyssa Bonagura was joined onstage by her parents Kathie Baillie and Michael Bonagura, aka “Baillie and the Boys ,” who revisited their musical past, including an impressive “Blue Bayou.” It’s that rare family where the daughter can plug her parents’ CDs at the merch table.

Bruce Channel joined Delbert to perform his big 1962 hit “Hey Baby,” a record on which McClinton played harmonica. I’m sure they’ve performed it together dozens of times, but it’s still a joyous performance.

The Howlin’ Brothers – Ian Craft, JT Huskey and Jared Green impressed audiences with both a reverence for folk, blues and bluegrass classics and their ability to craft new songs that continue the tradition.

Guy Clark’s Dualtone work collected

New: Molly and Me’s “Old Friend”


Tags

Related Posts

Share This

Americana Music Association’s Top 100 albums

avettThe Americana Music Association just released its list of its 100 top albums, the most-played on Americana music radio stations from Dec. 1, 2015 through Dec. 5, 2016. Each year we always find some overlooked gem. The Avett Brothers top the new list, followed by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Bonnie Raitt and the Lumineers. For full details and other Americana music news, you’ll want to visit their site.

 

Avett Brothers True Sadness
Tedeschi Trucks Band Let Me Get By
Bonnie Raitt Dig In Deep
Lumineers Cleopatra
Hayes Carll Lovers And Leavers
Parker Millsap The Very Last Day
Mudcrutch 2
Sturgill Simpson A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
Colvin & Earle Colvin & Earle
Jayhawks Paging Mr. Proust
Margo Price Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
Record Company Give It Back To You
Lucinda Williams The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats
Dylan LeBlanc Cautionary Tale
Cactus Blossoms You’re Dreaming
Darrell Scott Couchville Sessions
Elizabeth Cook Exodus Of Venus
Bonnie Bishop Ain’t Who I Was
Aubrie Sellers New City Blues
Sarah Jarosz Undercurrent
Loretta Lynn Full Circle
Sara Watkins Young In All The Wrong Ways
Shovels & Rope Little Seeds
Carrie Rodriguez Lola
Josh Ritter Sermon On The Rocks
Wynonna & The Big Noise Wynonna & The Big Noise
Infamous Stringdusters Ladies & Gentlemen
John Prine For Better, Or Worse
Hard Working Americans Rest In Chaos
Paul Simon Stranger To Stranger
James Hunter Six Hold On!
Aoife O’Donovan Magic Hour
Robert Ellis Robert Ellis
Honeycutters On The Ropes
Luther Dickinson Blues & Ballads
Peter Wolf A Cure For Loneliness
Sam Bush Storyman
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals Call It What It Is
Devil Makes Three Redemption & Ruin
Joe Ely Panhandle Rambler
Buddy Miller & Friends Cayamo Sessions At Sea
Dwight Yoakam Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
Lori McKenna The Bird & The Rifle
Jason Isbell Something More Than Free
Yarn This Is The Year
Wilco Schmilco
Various – The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson God Don’t Never Change
Anderson East Delilah
Randy Rogers Band Nothing Shines Like Neon
Corb Lund Things That Can’t Be Undone
Turnpike Troubadours Turnpike Troubadours
Willie Sugarcapps Paradise Right Here
Luke Bell Luke Bell
Jim Lauderdale Soul Searching
John Doe Westerner
Bottle Rockets South Broadway Athletic Club
Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones Little Windows
Miss Tess Baby, We All Know
Los Lobos Gates Of Gold
Bill Kirchen & Austin de Lone Transatlanticana
Southern Culture On The Skids The Electric Pinecones
Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Lost Time
Black Lillies Hard To Please
Green River Ordinance Fifteen
Jack Ingram Midnight Motel
Patty Griffin Servant Of Love
Amanda Shires My Piece Of Land
Chris Isaak First Comes The Night
Charles Bradley Changes
Sierra Hull Weighted Mind
Wood Brothers Paradise
Reckless Kelly Sunset Motel
Chris Stapleton Traveller
Shovels & Rope Busted Jukebox Volume 1
Hackensaw Boys Charismo
Grant Lee Phillips The Narrows
Todd Snider Eastside Bulldog
Seth Walker Gotta Get Back
Charlie Faye & The Fayettes Charlie Faye & The Fayettes
Drive-By Truckers American Band
William Bell This Is Where I Live
Derek Hoke Southern Moon
Tim O’Brien Pompadour
Sarah Borges Good And Dirty
Frankie Lee American Dreamer
Steve Martin & Edie Brickell So Familiar
Earls Of Leicester Rattle & Roar
Hiss Golden Messenger Heart Like A Levee
Whiskey Myers Mud
Billy Bragg & Joe Henry Shine A Light
Lydia Loveless Real
Sean McConnell Sean McConnell
Malcolm Holcombe Another Black Hole
Billy Gibbons Perfectamundo
Tim Easton American Fork
Mary Chapin Carpenter The Things We Are Made Of
Rob Baird Wrong Side Of The River
Brent Cobb Shine On Rainy Day
Janiva Magness Love Wins Again

 

 

Carolyn Sills Combo’s ‘Dime Stories Vol. 2″

Tags

Related Posts

Share This

Page 1 of 2612345...1020...Last »