Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016

By Ken Paulson

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 and Jerry Dale McFadden 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.”

Regina McCrary of the McCrary Sisters

Regina McCrary of the McCrary Sisters on Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016

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.”

LeeRoy Parnell

Lee Roy Parnell on Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016

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 Quebe 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 and Delbert McClinton perform "Hey Baby"

Bruce Channel and Delbert McClinton perform “Hey Baby” on Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016.

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.


(More Sandy Beaches coverage can be found here.)

New releases: BR5-49, Paul Kelly, Neil Finn

By Ken Paulson

New and recent releases:

BR5-49BR5-49 One Long Saturday Night – Bear Family Productions – Long before Nashville became the “It City,” BR5-49 was Nashville’s “It Band.” The young country band brought an energy to Music City’s Lower Broad that had been missing for a couple of decades. Suddenly, locals packed Robert’s Western Wear, foreshadowing today’s dynamic music scene. One Long Saturday Night is a recording of BR5-49 on German television in 1996, and the band’s Chuck Mead attests that it’s a classic setlist from the group’s earliest years. It’s Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Harlan Howard, Carl Perkins and a sampling of cool originals played with spirit. History to dance to.

Neil Finn and Paul Kelly Goin’ Your Way – Omnivore Recordings – Great songs and tight harmonies distinguish this double-CD collection capturing Neil Finn and Paul Kelly in concert in 2013 at the Sydney Opera House. Finn is the better known to American audiences, largely as a member of Split Enz. His “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is included here, but the album is deep in well-crafted compositions. They’re both talented solo artists, but work really well as a duo.

And three more from Nashville:

brandy zdanBrandy ZdanBrandy Zdan – Who would have guessed we’d find one of the freshest rock albums of the year in our own backyard? Brandy Zdan is a Canadian artist, now relocated to Nashville, and her self-titled album is bold and smart. “Back on You” and “Running for a Song” sound like classic singles you’ve never heard.

Dave ZoblSimplify – Warm and carefully crafted album produced by Will Kimbrough and recorded in Muscle Shoals. “Colorado Girl” and “John Prine Sunday Morning” are among the best tracks.

Kyle Frederick Eventide – Vandermont Music – This new album from Kyle Frederick is ambitious and engaging, with wide-ranging music that draws on pop/rock, folk and country. Highlights include “Be Kind to Yourself,” an affirming co-write with Kim Richey, and the hook-packed “The Wishing Tree” and “Karma Lola.” Emmylou Harris joins Frederick on the title track.

Delbert McClinton hosts Sandy Beaches benefit

Delbert McClinton’s annual Sandy Beaches cruise launches this Sunday at 7 p.m. in non-nautical Nashville with a benefit concert for Mark Allison, McClinton’s longtime monitor engineer.

The concert at 3rd and Lindsley will feature artists scheduled to join McClinton on the Jan. 8 cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, including LeeRoy Parnell, Etta Britt, the McCrary Sisters, Gary Nicholson, Alyssa Bonagura, the Howlin’ Brothers, Danny Flowers, Lari White,  and Rocky Block.




In concert: Welch Family Throwdown

By Paul T. Mueller

Three singer-songwriters named Welch playing the same show – what are the chances? Pretty good when it’s the Welch Family Throwdown, featuring Americana veteran Kevin Welch and his talented progeny, son Dustin and daughter Savannah (plus cellist Mark Williams). The inexplicably small audience notwithstanding, the evening at the Dosey Doe, just north of Houston, turned into a warm and intimate 90-minute set that included originals from all three Welches and a few well-chosen covers.

Welch Family Throwdown

Welch Family Throwdown

It was something of a holiday show – when putting together the set list, Kevin said, “We’re just looking for songs with the word ‘Christmas.’ ” Thus the opener, a sweet rendition of Joni Mitchell’s regret-laden “River,” featuring lead vocals by Savannah, a member of The Trishas. The theme continued later with Dustin’s take on Mark Germino’s “Lean on Jesus (Before He Leans on You),” set at a mission on Christmas Eve and featuring a nice solo by cellist Williams, whom Kevin had introduced as “the littlest Welch.” A few songs later came “Santa Had a Dream,” which began as an eighth-grade writing project of Savannah’s and reimagines the origin of the Santa Claus legend as a dream experienced by an exhausted, impoverished West Virginia coal miner, “way back before Christmas had been invented yet.”

Most songs featured fine harmonies along with strong lead vocals. The playing was excellent as well, with Dustin alternating between standard and resonator guitars and banjo, and Savannah playing guitar and mandolin as well as percussion. Kevin stuck with one well-worn acoustic guitar, picked and strummed, and Williams’ fine cello added atmosphere and texture to the arrangements.

Other highlights included Kevin’s gentle love song “Millionaire”; a lively rendition of “After the Music’s Gone,” with a capella harmonies to finish; “Gawd Above,” a song Dustin wrote with John Fullbright that’s become a staple of the latter’s sets; “Come a Rain,” Kevin’s whimsical reimagining of a long roster of historical figures, and “Dust Devil,” a new song by Kevin that he said was inspired in part by an atmospheric event that damaged his car.

The show closed with a beautiful rendition of William Bell’s soulful “Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday.” The song featured solos by Williams on cello and Dustin on resonator; its optimistic tone, underlain by melancholy, seemed perfectly suited to the season.

Most played 2015: Americana Music Association Top 100

The Americana Music Association today released  its year-end compilation of the Top 100 Albums of the Year, tracking the most-played Americana albums from  December 2, 2014 through November 30, 2015. Jason Isbell has the top album of the year, followed by JD McPherson, Brandi Carlile,  Alabama Shakes, Steve Earle and the Dukes, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kacey Musgraves, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Chris Stapleton and the Mavericks.
The full list:
Jason Isbell                                                           Something More Than Free
JD McPherson                                                       Let The Good Times Roll
Brandi Carlile                                                         The Firewatcher’s Daughter
Alabama Shakes                                                    Sound & Color
Steve Earle & The Dukes                                        Terraplane
Ray Wylie Hubbard                                                 The Ruffian’s Misfortune
Kacey Musgraves                                                   Pageant Material
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell                  The Traveling Kind
Chris Stapleton                                                       Traveller
Mavericks                                                                  Mono
Robert Earl Keen                                                     Happy Prisoner – The Bluegrass Sessions
Ryan Bingham                                                         Fear And Saturday Night
Dwight Yoakam                                                       Second Hand Heart
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard                                  Django and Jimmie
James McMurtry                                                     Complicated Game
Richard Thompson                                                   Still
Rhiannon Giddens                                                    Tomorrow Is My Turn
Asleep at the Wheel                                                 Still The King, Celebrating The Music of Bob Wills
Calexico                                                                  Edge Of The Sun
Eilen Jewell                                                             Sundown Over Ghost Town
Amy Helm                                                               Didn’t It Rain
Dale Watson                                                            Call Me Insane
Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin                                             Lost Time
Houndmouth                                                             Little Neon Limelight
Allison Moorer                                                           Down To Believing
Watkins Family Hour                                                  Watkins Family Hour
Rhett Miller                                                                The Traveler
Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes                Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes
Pokey LaFarge                                                           Something In The Water
Sonny Landreth                                                           Bound By The Blues
Patty Griffin                                                                Servant Of Love
Kasey Chambers                                                         Bittersweet
Uncle Lucius                                                                The Light
Ashley Monroe                                                             The Blade
Warren Haynes Featuring Railroad Earth             Ashes & Dust
Leon Bridges                                                                Coming Home
John Moreland                                                              High On Tulsa Heat
Punch Brothers                                                             The Phosphorescent Blues
Blackberry Smoke                                                         Holding All The Roses
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors                                      Medicine
Sam Outlaw                                                                   Angeleno
Don Henley                                                                    Cass County
Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams                          Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams
Joe Ely                                                                           Panhandle Rambler
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats                              Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats
Jimmy LaFave                                                                 The Night Tribe
Lucinda Williams                                                           Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone
Los Lobos                                                                         Gates Of Gold
Statesboro Revue                                                              Jukehouse Revival
Mark Knopfler                                                                    Tracker
The Bros. Landreth                                                             Let It Lie
Josh Ritter                                                                         Sermon On The Rocks
Bottle Rockets                                                                   South Broadway Athletic Club
The Mike & Ruthy Band                                                      Bright As You Can
Gretchen Peters                                                                 Blackbirds
Whitey Morgan & The 78s                                                   Sonic Ranch
Will Hoge                                                                           Small Town Dreams
Jorma Kaukonen                                                                 Ain’t In No Hurry
Whitehorse                                                                          Leave No Bridge Unburned
Langhorne Slim                                                                    The Spirit Moves
Justin Townes Earle                                                              Absent Fathers
Turnpike Troubadours                                                            Turnpike Troubadours
The Deslondes                                                                      The Deslondes
Milk Carton Kids                                                                    Monterey
Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line                                      Wake
Leftover Salmon                                                                     High Country
Shelby Lynne                                                                          I Can’t Imagine
J.J. Grey And Mofro                                                                Ol’ Glory
Laura Marling                                                                          Short Movie
American Aquarium                                                                 Wolves
Honeycutters                                                                           Me Oh My
Daniel Romano                                                                         If I’ve Only One Time Askin’
Jonathan Tyler                                                                         Holy Smokes
Black Lillies                                                                             Hard To Please
Shakey Graves                                                                        And The War Came
Jackie Greene                                                                          Back To Birth
Anne McCue                                                                             Blue Sky Thinkin’
Wood Brothers                                                                          Paradise
Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers                                                    Loved Wild Lost
The Grahams                                                                           Glory Bound
Sugarcane Jane                                                                        Dirt Road’s End
Glen Hansard                                                                            Didn’t He Ramble
Steeldrivers                                                                              The Muscle Shoals Recordings
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds                                                The Weather Below
Stoney LaRue                                                                             Aviator
Sam Lewis                                                                               Waiting On You
Honey Honey                                                                            3
Della Mae                                                                                 Della Mae
Darrell Scott                                                                             10 Songs of Ben Bullington
Dar Williams                                                                             Emerald
Yonder Mountain String Band                                                     Black Sheep
Ryan Adams                                                                             Ryan Adams
William Clark Green                                                                   Ringling Road
Whitney Rose                                                                            Heartbreaker Of The Year
Underhill Rose                                                                            The Great Tomorrow
Liz Longley                                                                                 Liz Longley
Shawn Colvin                                                                              Uncovered
Waifs                                                                                          Beautiful You
The Lone Bellow                                                                          Then Came The Morning
Kentucky HeadHunters                                                                 Meet Me In Blues Land

Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise set for Jan.9

By Ken Paulson

We’re less than a month away from the Jan. 9 launch of Delbert McClintonSandy Beaches Cruise, one of our favorite musical events of the year. It’s blues, roots music  and rock on the high seas, with a heavy infusion of talent from our hometown of Nashville.

This year’s artists include Keb’ Mo’, The Mavericks, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Hall, Mingo Fishtrap, Alyssa Bonagura, Seth Walker, The Quebe Sisters, Band of Heathens, Teresa James, Lee Roy Parnell, Fred Eaglesmith, Mike Zito and the Wheel, Big Joe Maher, Anson Funderburgh, Doyle and Debbie, The McCrary Sisters, Bruce Channel, Etta Britt, Clay McClinton, Lari White, Chuck Cannon, Red Young, Whitey Johnson, Bob Dipiero, Brian Dunne, Tom Hambridge, World Famous Headliners, The Damn Quails, Halley Anna Finlay and The Bluz House Rockers.

You’ll find more info on the cruise on Delbert McClinton’s site. You’ll find  our past coverage of Sandy Beaches here.

Americana Music Grammy award nominees announced

Basic CMYKThe Recording Academy has announced this year’s nominees for Grammy Awards and the roster of Americana artists is rich and familiar. The nominees for both Best Americana Album and Best American Roots song are almost identical, with Jason Isbell, the Mavericks, Punch Brothers and  Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell appearing in both categories.
Winners will be announced on Feb. 15 in Los Angeles.
Best Americana Album
Brandi Carlile, The Firewatcher’s Daughter
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, The Traveling Kind
Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free
The Mavericks, Mono
Punch Brothers, The Phosphorescent Blues
Best American Roots Song
The Mavericks, “All Night Long”
Don Henley & Merle Haggard, “The Cost of Living”
Punch Brothers, “Julep”
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, “The Traveling Kind”
Jason Isbell, “24 Frames”
Best American Roots Performance
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, “And Am I Born to Die”
Buddy Guy, “Born to Play Guitar”
The Milk Carton Kids, “City of Our Lady”
Punch Brothers, “Julep”
Mavis Staples, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”
Best Bluegrass Album
Dale Ann Bradley, Pocket Full of Keys
Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, Before the Sun Goes Down
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, In Session
Ralph Stanley & Friends, Man of Constant Sorrow
The Steeldrivers, The Muscle Shoals Recordings
 Best Folk Album
Norman Blake, Wood, Wire & Words
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn
Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow Is My Turn
Patty Griffin, Servant of Love

Review: Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets

By Ken Paulson

Nick Lowe and his Quality Holiday Revue rolled into Nashville tonight at the City Winery. It’s an entertaining hybrid of slightly warped Christmas songs and Lowe’s rich catalog, abetted by Los Straitjackets.

Nick Lowe in Nashville

Nick Lowe in Nashville

For a long-time Lowe fan, the show offers a chance to hear energetic (if slightly slower) takes on “Raging Eyes,” “Half A Boy and Half A Man” and “Without Love.” For those who just wandered in off the street, it’s a warm and often funny holiday show, fueled in large part by Los Straitjackets and unexpected and unconventional songs like a revved-up “Linus and Lucy.”

Highlights abounded, including Lowe’s plaintive rendition of (“What’s So Funny About) Peace Love and Understanding,” famously performed by Elvis Costello and included in the mega-selling Bodyguard soundtrack.

Los Straitjackets are given their own mini-set during the show, and oddly enough, play the first two songs of the encore.

The rich and rewarding evening closed with Lowe’s quiet acoustic performance of Costello’s “Alison,” a song he produced on the groundbreaking My Aim is True.

We’ve seen Lowe’s solo shows in recent years and have always come away impressed.  But this one was special — fast-paced, fun and vibrant.



New releases: Peter Cooper, Drive-By Truckers

New and recent releases: 

Peter CooperDepot Light: Songs of Eric Taylor – Red Beet Records – Peter Cooper insists this isn’t a tribute album to the under-recognized anddepot light brilliant songwriter Eric Taylor. Disclaimer aside, you’ll come away with a much better appreciation of Taylor after hearing Cooper’s impressive renditions of songs spanning Taylor’s career. We knew Taylor’s work primarily from recordings by Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett, but this collection is a revelation.

Drive-By Truckers – It’s Great to Be Alive – It’s a measure of the full-throttle new live album from the Drive-By Truckers that the review bore a sticker warning radio stations that 17 songs could get you in trouble with the FCC. The band didn’t hold anything back on “It’s Great to Be Alive,” a three-disc collection recorded in late November a year ago at the Fillmore in San Francisco. It’s a raucous retrospective that should please fans and convert others.

Butchers BlindA Place in America – Electric Giant – We admired Butcher Blind’s “Destination Blues” for the same reason we’re enjoying their new EP A Place in America: Thoughtful lyrics matched with hook-laden melodies, from the reflective “Ghosts” to the affirming “Only Love.” There’s some Wilco in their music, but Butchers Blind consistently delivers a fresh sound.

banquetMax StallingBanquet – Blind Nello Records – This new album produced by Lloyd Maines opens with the spirited “Night’s Pay in My Boot” and closes with a country cover of the Beatles’  “Two of Us.”

T.G SheppardLegendary Friends & Country Duets – Goldenlane Records – T.G. Sheppard’s new rlease is disnticntly old school ,but pleasingly so. Singing partners include Merle Haggard, George Jones, Delbert McClinton and Lori Morgan, with the album’s most memorable moments coming from Jerry Lee Lewis on “The Killer” and Willie Nelson on “In Texas.”


Seth Timbs sets “New Personal Record”


By Ken Paulson

Nashville singer-songwriter Seth Timbs has just released a fine new album called New Personal Record. Timbs, formerly the leader of Fluid Ounces, offers up a melody-laden collection of smart and engaging songs. That includes album opener “Give Up On Your Dreams,” the exact opposite of a pep talk. It sounds like Schmilsson-era Nilsson, no small feat. Another highlight is “Far Away From Here,” a thriller screenplay in song.
Here’s Timbs in performance at War Memorial Auditorium:



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