Bill Lloyd on NRBQ’s “honest joy”

Brass Tacks 150x150 Bill Lloyd on NRBQs honest joy By Bill Lloyd

I became a fan of NRBQ sometime around 1980.  I was completely smitten with their sound and vibe and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t “gotten it” earlier. I had previously never paid them much attention thinking they were simply a ’50s throwback band. Oh, how I was wrong!

They had already gone through several personnel changes in lineup since their late ’60s beginnings. I felt late to the party at the time, but it really didn’t matter as they were at their peak as an amazing live act and fearless recording artists. Their appeal was eccentric and scattershot and hard for record companies to market, but they deftly hit all the musical touchstones for me.

Their self-described “omni-pop” was a mix of classic rock-pop, country, rockabilly, Monk-inspired jazz and the kitchen sink. If they liked it, it was in the musical stew and they threw in some goofy humor for good measure.

For many, their records came with the caveat that you had to see them live where they would raise the roof with crazy-good energy. They rarely played to a set list and you never knew what was coming next. They played their own material but there was always a load of unexpected covers that seemed spur-of-the-moment, but were performed with jaw-dropping musicianship. The best part was that there was no fashion or show-biz or pretense about them. It was honest joy pouring off the stage and through the audience. I was hooked and would see them every chance I got.

During this era of the band’s career (1974-1994), NRBQ housed three strong songwriters in Big Al Anderson, Joey Spampinato and founder Terry Adams. The 4-man lineup, along with their great drummer, Tommy Ardolino, is still considered by many fans, as the “classic lineup”.

From this version of the group, Big Al broke rank first and came to Nashville to write songs, play guitar and make records and, without qualification, succeeded on every kind of level. Al’s first replacement for the ‘Q was Joey’s younger brother, Johnny, from The Incredible Casuals. He seemed a perfect fit with some really good songs and fine guitar playing. After a few more years and some wonderful studio and live albums, NRBQ went on hiatus in 2004 when Terry Adams received a cancer diagnoses.

The Spampinato Brothers went off to make their own fine records. As Terry’s health began to return, he made a wonderful record with original guitarist Steve Ferguson shortly before Ferguson passed on and then began playing with his own Terry Adams Quartet. Tom Ardolino would guest sometimes with Terry, but Tommy’s own failing health kept his appearances sporadic. He passed in 2012. Terry Adams decided to reclaim the name of NRBQ in 2011 with the members of his own quartet.

All this history is meant to be a glimpse into the backstory of Terry Adams’ amazing persistence and musical vision of what a band ought to be. I heard the “new Q” live in 2012 with Scott Ligon, Pete Donnelly, Conrad Choucroun and rejoiced that the renamed quartet totally captured the wonderful vibe that every version of the band had before them. At the show, I bought their cd, “Keep This Love Goin’”, and found the spirit of the band still in the grooves. My only disappointment with their recording was that I felt that the songwriting in the new band didn’t have the same depth that the “classic” lineup with Big Al and Joey had. I was, as a fan, a bit judgmental and holding on to old allegiances.

It’s 2014 and there’s a new NRBQ album scheduled for release June 17 called Brass Tacks. As I listened to it, I found my “happy meter” starting to peg. Couldn’t stop smiling as one track played after another. One of the first things I noticed as I let it wash over me is that it’s a great sounding record from a sonic point of view. Really well recorded and mixed with cool and thoughtful sonic touches throughout. The songwriting is spread out among Adams, Ligon and new bassist, Casey McDonough. Longtime sideman/sax-man, Jim Hoke is also represented with the charming Everlys-like “I’d Like To Know”.

All of the music feels and sounds great and, for longtime fans, covers beloved familiar stylistic ground. It’s not fair to compare a new batch of songs to the best of the Spampinato and Anderson songs from years past. Maybe it’s not fair to compare Adams songs to the best of his own work over the years.

As a fan, I’m happy he’s healthy, recording and touring. Throughout the NRBQ catalogue, those guys wrote songs that could compete with their heroes – McCartney, Bacharach, whoever.  The songs on “Brass Tacks” are also informed by their influences. I would guess that, for the newer members of the band, their influences would include Adams, Anderson and Spampinato. It’s not an easy thing to hold your creative ground and hold up a 40- plus-year legacy at the same time.

Scott Ligon must have absorbed every musical nuance the old “Q” had to offer. When you see them live, his voice and guitar covers ground that both Anderson and Spampinato held. He can powerhouse-telecaster his way through jump blues and rockabilly and then turn on a dime and sing some sweet Beatlesque-pop, one of Spampinato’s fortes. Ligon’s songs on “Brass Tacks”, in particular his acoustic “It’ll Be Alright”, transcend imitation and he’s proven to be Adams’ reliable partner in the “new Q”. Adams offers some wonderful new compositions. “Places Far Away” is an atmospheric and lyrical treasure. “Greetings From Delaware” echoes their classic “Green Light,” but is that a bad thing? Nope.

NRBQ has always been as much about taking cover material and making it their own and their take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s  “Getting To Know You” is such a perfect choice.

Despite whatever musical ghosts are along for the ride, this album holds its own. Excellent singing, playing and bottom line still the joyous feeling that you get when you hear NRBQ play. Thank you Terry Adams for keeping on keeping on.

Bill Lloyd is a Nashville-based songwriter whose songs and own recording career has swung between genres and formats. With country success as part of the Foster and Lloyd duo and power-pop critical acclaim from his many solo records, Lloyd’s appreciation of NRBQ comes honestly. He has also written songs with Al Anderson including “It Came From The South”.

 

Richie Furay’s talent, legacy go “Hand in Hand”

 

richie 350x262 Richie Furay’s talent, legacy go “Hand in Hand”

Richie Furay at the Bluebird Café in Nashville

By Terry Roland

The story is by-now a worn-out cliché. It even shows up on network television shows like Nashville. It goes like this: The influential elder statesmen who helped found a form of music popular today, is granted meetings with record label A&R executives ‘out of respect’ to hear their newest, vital work, only to be told ‘no’ to label support for release, promotion and distribution. Oh, they love the music, mind you. “It’s great,” they say. “The best of your career,’ they add. “But, we can’t help you.”

It’s hard to fathom. Especially when the work is as good as Richie Furay’s latest yet-to-be-released album, Hand in Hand. It is reason for pause in a genre known for its appreciation of timeless, age-defying and cross-generational music. That it is happening to the co-founding member of The Buffalo Springfield and Poco, a peer of Neil Young and Stephen Stills, is even more enigmatic and frustrating.

While ageism is all-too-common in the world of music today, the Americana scene has offered shelter from such clichéd responses to many veteran artists like Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Rosanne Cash and Dr. John. Richie Furay deserves better. His new album is as vital, fresh and passionate as any new releases from younger artists. It stands alongside the best work of his peers today.

Hand in Hand can also serve as an introduction to Richie Furay whose career spans over five decades. The album begins at the beginning of his story.

“We were the dreamers shooting’ high for the stars

Making rock & roll music, playing country guitars.

We blazed a trail for generations to come

We were the dreamers, pioneers pressing on.”

This first song, “We Were the Dreamers,” opens with a lead guitar intro that echoes Paul McCartney’s simple riff from “The Two of Us” on The Beatles’ Let it Be, but then crashes into a familiar electric major 7th chord change, which is unmistakable in its Springfield essence. He rocks us through lyrics reflecting the simple truth of Richie Furay’s legacy, best summed up in the term, visionary. His words are a testament to the sound he helped create and his influence reverberates today.

“We Were the Dreamers” is more than an exercise in nostalgia or a history lesson; it is a quicksilver lightning-lit journey through the past to present day Americana music. Furay starts us with his past glories referring to his earliest days with Poco when they were the hottest country-rock band out of L.A. on the threshold of phenomenal national success.

It’s been 40 some years, 1969

On that Troubadour stage, it just seemed like our time

Laurel Canyon and Sunset that’s where we called home

We made certain our music had a sound all its own.

Then he leads us present day to a country music scene, where acceptance of rock and cultural undertones is a given, that he helped create:

Today out in Nashville, it echoes the sound

But back then redneck and hippie would never be found

On the same stage together, a few got it for sure

Today it’s just music, nothing less, nothing more.”

For Furay, who is undeniably humble and grateful for his place in music history, these words are not a matter of pride or arrogance, but a statement of fact. “We Were the Dreamers” sets the pace as he sings about the redeeming and healing power of music, faith, love and unity in the face of troubled waters ahead.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, who recently turned 70, was an important balancing member of the Buffalo Springfield. He made the all-too-brief historic 2011 reunion possible and creatively plausible. As in times of old, he offered a counterpoint to the critical but often tense creative energy between Stephen Stills and Neil Young, rivaling guitarists and singer-songwriters. Back in 1967 it was Furay who sweetened the sound with high harmony vocals, a dynamic stage presence that usually found him dancing with guitar in hand to his own unique songs. He led the band into a full-fledged country-rock sound.

To many, during the 2011 tour, Furay was the element of surprise, the artist many Springfield fans had lost track of since the times when he first blazed the country-rock trail. As he sang lead vocal on familiar classics like “On the Way Home,” “A Child’s Claim to Fame” and “Kind Woman,” he stepped out from the shadows of the iconic Stills and Young to a spotlight of his own, less worn and tattered around the edges than his Springfield comrades. The reviews of the shows in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and at Bonnaroo in Tennessee, uniformly praised Furay’s presence, energy, vocal power and contributions to the band during the tour. In spite of a scheduled 30 city national tour, the band would return to their 40 year silence after their final appearance at Bonnaroo (a decision made by the ever changeable Young). But Furay was still restless with the creativity the tour had sparked.

Today, as Nashville producers casually bring in elements of rock music with popular young artists, as The Eagles forge ahead on established sold-out arena tours with constant radio and Internet airplay, and as new artists build on the country rock sound forged so long ago under California skies, Richie Furay’s influence is tangible.

Even so, the most common response when people hear Furay’s recent albums is, “Man, he sounds like The Eagles!”   To be more accurate, the opposite is true. The Eagles adapted the sound of Richie Furay long ago. As he tells it today, it was Glen Frey who once helped Poco draw up their set lists for their early appearances. He and Don Henley were present at the band’s early rehearsals.

Poco’s original engagements at Doug Weston’s Troubadour in Los Angeles was a high water point for much of the fledging Southern California country rock scene where artists like Rick Nelson and The Eagles would take their cue from Furay for their own musical direction. The Poco shows and the subsequent tours were dynamic, energetic, passionate and hard rocking performances that took no prisoners. Furay was the undisputed front man for this trailblazing band that saw two future members of The Eagles pass through its ranks (Timothy B. Schmidt and Randy Meisner). Poco never attained the level of stardom found by imitators like The Eagles, but their mark was felt and capitalized on.

Furay was so important to the country-rock sound that Eagles’ label owner, David Geffen, signed him to Asylum Records where he released a pair of albums with ‘supergroup’ Souther, Hillman and Furay (SHF) scoring a top 20 hit with his own song, “Falling in Love.” SHF never quite worked as a cohesive band and disbanded during the recording of their second album. This was followed by a series of critically acclaimed but commercially failed solo albums released between 1975 and 1981, most notably I’ve got A Reason and Dance A Little Light.

It was after 1981 that Furay quietly withdrew from mainstream popular music, raising his family and taking on a Calvary Chapel pastorate at his home in Broomfield, Colorado. During the intervening years he would release two devotional Christian based album, “In My Father’s House” and “I Am Sure” with the help of Poco members, Rusty Young Paul Cotton and Jim Messina.

When he remerged in 2003, the country-rock focused Heartbeat of Love was the fulfillment of his post-Poco career promise. His soulful energy drove the good-time surface of many of the songs. But it is that soul beneath the style that gives his work its timelessness. It was his prodigal return to country-rock. It also included Stills and Young on separate tracks.

Heartbeat was a reminder of Furay’s signature vocal sound. It is the natural, effortless style of his voice that others have built their own vocal styles on. But, while the sound may be similar, it’s the soul beneath that is impossible to recreate. He merges Buck Owens and Otis Redding. In his own unique way he is as much a soul singer as country.

It’s the authenticity of his voice that makes Hand in Hand is such a pleasure. His voice is in full force, driving the melody and the rhythm through familiar territory and into the rough terrain of life today. Not so young anymore, but quite a bit wiser, he is always ready to rock. On this new album, he sounds more like an impassioned artist in his ‘30s rather than a seasoned vocalist who just turned 70.

Hand in Hand adds nuance and dimension to what he started on Heartbeat of Love. It is an album of Furay signature country rock that calls up the best spirit of The Buffalo Springfield and Poco. While the album still carries the expected love songs and good time rockers(“Still Fine” “Love at First Sight”), much of the album reflects his latter day Poco and 70’s solo work. He moves into deeper waters with a global message to America as a country of people divided and disillusioned by economic woes and political controversy.

After “We Were the Dreamers” aptly opens the album, Furay turns back to his ‘kind woman,’ for inspiration on the title track, “Hand in Hand” and delivers another classic love song that stands alongside “Good Feeling’ to Know,” and “Just For You and Me,” from the peak of his Poco days. There is a gospel-soul feel to his interpretation of an obscure Dan Fogelberg song, “Don’t Lose Heart,” that is infectious, inspiring and goose-bump producing.

The album turns on three songs about the American journey in the second decade of the 21st century, a trilogy of sorts. These are the center piece of the album. Opening with “Don’t Tread on Me,” a call to patriotic unity over the politics of partisanship, it speaks to today’s polarization and divisiveness. This is Furay transcending his familiar love song themes. It’s the same artist who once reached out to his friend, Gram Parsons as he was fading into his own self-destructiveness with the impressionistic epic “Crazy Eyes.” On “Don’t Tread on Me,” Furay sings to the people of America. It is a call to unity as he cries, “My heart bleeds red, white and blue as I recall, united we stand, divided we fall,” and asks us to bypass political bias to remember our collective “heart of gold.” “Wind of Change,” with an underlying fiddle and banjo, speaks to the hope of a new day in the aftermath of today’s discouraged and burned-out America.

 When the sun shines in the morning

Bringing the dawn of brand new day

If we can just hold on until tomorrow

Maybe we can set things straight again

Before we lose it all to the wind…”

“Someday,” completes the trilogy with hope and an upbeat tempo that is danceable in the best Poco sense. It’s a celebration of the soul familiar to Furay’s best work pointing us to healing, hope and faith as we return to our better angels.

Hopefully, the release of this album will be soon. It will, of course, take something more than cliché’s and lip-service for this to happen. It will take A&R people who possess the same kind of heart, vision and energy that Furay exudes on this record to get it out in the light of day where it belongs. It belongs as a part of our national soundtrack as we walk into the dawn of a brand new day.

Hand in Hand is among Richie Furay’s strongest albums with a clear statement of both musical vision and personal growth through dark economic and spiritual times. Its soul rests on the hope found in what Furay has communicated throughout his career; that the heart of musical expression centered on faith and celebration is our greatest resource, be it for a night of good time music or a life built on the hope of things unseen, but known to be true. Its appeal is in the melodic energy and inspiration found in one of America’s founding fathers of country-rock.

 Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

Review: The art and craft of “Parker Millsap”

millsap.cover  150x150 Review: The art and craft of Parker Millsap By Paul T. Mueller

 Oklahoma singer-songwriter Parker Millsap put together a very good debut with 2012’s Palisade. His self-titled sophomore effort, released earlier this year, is even better, demonstrating the kind of growth and perspective good songwriters acquire as they mature. It’s a little scary to think about where Millsap might be in a few years, given that he is now all of 21 years old.

 For someone barely old enough to buy a legal drink, Millsap already possesses a phenomenal grasp of the art and craft of songwriting. Consider the album’s fourth track, “The Villain.” In its three verses (there’s no bridge), each constructed around a different theme, Millsap sings a gentle but profound apology and goodbye to a lover. “I don’t wanna be the missing piece of track anymore,” he sings in the final verse. “I don’t wanna be the guy/that straps you to a railroad tie/and listens for the rumble and the roar/I don’t wanna be/the villain in your dreams anymore.” The imagery is straight out of an old silent melodrama, but the emotional impact is immediate and intense.

Some of the album’s other songs – “Forgive Me,” “When I Leave,” “Yosemite” – work this quieter vein as well. But Millsap is equally good at letting it rip. His fuzzy electric guitar fuels “Truck Stop Gospel,” which seems to poke fun at evangelical Christianity – or does it? “I’m Paul the apostle preachin’ truck stop gospel/I’m not angry, no I’m not hostile,” Millsap sings, later adding, “Just wanna modify your behavior/I just want you to love my savior.” Sincerity or satire? You could argue it either way.

Some songs are better than others, but there isn’t a bad one in this collection. “Disappear” tells a sweet story of a young couple moving on to a fresh start (“Leave behind the things that never stood a chance/Like your mother’s good china and all our original plans”), while “Quite Contrary” and “At the Bar (Emerald City Blues)” relocate familiar characters (from nursery rhymes and Oz, respectively) to unexpected settings. The album’s closer, “Land of the Red Man,” is a joyous, resonator- and fiddle-soaked rave-up that takes some good-natured swipes at both Millsap’s native state and its rival to the south. “Maybe Oklahoma’s hotter than hell,” he wails, “but it’s better than Texas.”

Millsap’s performing style is compelling as well. His raspy voice, which makes him sound older than his years, is well suited to the stories and observations in his songs. For some listeners, the occasional yelps and yodels that punctuate his lyrics may take a little getting used to, but there’s no denying the absolute conviction with which he delivers everything from quiet ballads to all-out rockers.

Millsap is also a fine guitarist and harmonica player, and he has some excellent people helping him out here, starting with his touring band, fiddler Daniel Foulks and bassist Michael Rose (who also plays bowed saw). A couple of guys borrowed from fellow Oklahoman John Fullbright’s band make notable contributions – David Leach on trombone (he plays bass for Fullbright) and drummer Giovanni Carnuccio III on a few tracks (Millsap handles drums on the rest). Millsap and producer Wes Sharon also make effective use of a couple of other horn players, Eric Walschap on baritone sax and Marcus Spitz on trumpet.

Millsap was recently named one of five nominees for the Americana Music Association’s Emerging Act of the Year award. One listen to Parker Millsap will tell you why.

 

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

 

Tags

Related Posts

Share This

This just in: The 2014 Americana Music Award Nominees

links ama1 This just in: The 2014 Americana Music Award Nominees
Americana Music News - Robert Ellis, Rosanne Cash and Jason Isbell led nominees for the 2014 Americana Music Awards with three nominations each, including artist of the year,  the Americana Music Association announced today in Nashville.
Ellis’ The Lights From the Chemical Plant was nominated for album of the year, while his “Only Lies” was nominated for Best Song.
Cash’s album The River and the Thread and song “A Feather’s Not A Bird” were nominated, and Isbell was recognized for his album Southeastern and song “Cover Me Up.”
Rodney Crowell rounded out the list of best artist nominees.
The full list of nominees:
2014 AMERICANA AWARDS NOMINEES
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Build Me Up From Bones, Sarah Jarosz
The Lights From The Chemical Plant, Robert Ellis
The River And The Thread, Rosanne Cash
Southeastern, Jason Isbell
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Rosanne Cash
Robert Ellis
Jason Isbell
DUO/GROUP OF THE YEAR
Hard Working Americans
Lake Street Dive
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Cover Me Up”, Jason Isbell
“A Feather’s Not A Bird”, Rosanne Cash
“Ohio”, Patty Griffin
“Only Lies”, Robert Ellis
EMERGING ACT OF THE YEAR
Hurray For The Riff Raff
Parker Millsap
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Larry Campbell
Fats Kaplin
Bryan Sutton
Winners will be announced at the The Americana Honors and Awards on  September 17, 2014 in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium. The event is part of the Americana Music Festival.
 

“This is the Town” celebrates Harry Nilsson

nilsson 150x150 This is the Town celebrates Harry NilssonBy Ken Paulson

It takes some confidence to release a collection of songs associated with Harry Nilsson. Nilsson was a talented and often quirky songwriter, but the real magic of his recordings could be found in his incandescent voice – until he blew it out in notorious recordings with John Lennon on the Pussycats album.

So any attempt to cover Nilsson begins with a significant handicap – no one can sing like Harry.

The good news, though, is that This is the Town, A Tribute to Nilsson Vol. 1, is a charming collection of some of Nilsson’s most memorable songs, largely faithful, but not too faithful.

Two of Harry’s biggest hits were written by others- Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” and Pete Ham’s “Without You” are covered respectively by Tracy Bonham and Church of Betty – but the real treasures are drawn from Nilsson’s first three albums.

These just-before-stardom albums were fun and adventurous and Harry’s voice and compositions were sweet and often playful. Highlights include Jenny O’s “1941,” the Yellowbirds’ “Rainmaker” and the Wiyos’ “Nobody Cares About the Railroads Anymore.”

Nilsson’s daughter Annie contributed wonderful illustrations of her dad and a rendition of “Gotta Get Up” to boot.

This is the Town is both engaging and celebrative. We look forward to a second volume.

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

 

Tags

Related Posts

Share This

Review: Luther Dickinson’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Blues”

Luther Dickinson 150x150 Review: Luther Dickinsons Rock n Roll BluesBy Ken Paulson

Rock ‘n’ Roll Blues, the new album from Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars, is the best kind of autobiography.
Country blues and rock ‘n’ roll illuminate these slices of Dickinson’s life, from his first amped-up reaction to punk rock and Black Flag (“Vandalize”) to the ignonimy of dealing with yard work when you’re a big-deal touring musician (“Yard Man.”)
“Bar Band” rings true and could be the anthem for thousands of hopefuls who never were: “Ad in the flyer said local bands needed/ lost the battle of the bands because we got cheated.”
Amy Levere is on upright bass and vocals, and Sharde Thomas and Lightin’ Malcom contribute drums and vocals. The sound is spare, but powerful.
It’s one of those rare albums that you really like and just know that you would like the guy behind it.

Review: Leslie Krafka’s “on.ward.”

krafka cover 150 Review: Leslie Krafkas on.ward.by Paul T. Mueller     

For a testament to the respect Leslie Krafka has already earned in Texas music circles, check the credits on her second album, on•ward. The Houston-based singer-songwriter enlisted a cast of experienced, talented musicians for this project, and the album’s 11 tracks – 10 written by Krafka and one well-chosen cover – for the most part are worthy of the all-star team.

 Krafka has a way with narrative, and many of on•ward‘s songs are stories about love – looking for it (“I Want Love,” “Stay With Me”), finding it (“Magdalena”), saying goodbye to the bad kind (“Wine Women and Song”), saying goodbye to the good kind (“The Pain of Losing You”), and finding a substitute for it (“Whiskey High”). The writing is strong for the most part, and the playing is excellent.

The music has a pop feel, with country and folk overtones courtesy of accordions, fiddles and steel guitars. Co-producer Lloyd Maines’ pedal steel helps turn “South Texas Fall” into a serious country weeper. A couple of songs (“Beauty” and “Jewel”) take a more optimistic tone. For her one cover, Krafka turns “Drunken Poet’s Dream” (written by Hayes Carll and Ray Wylie Hubbard), into a first-person account, adopting the voice of the title character. The album closes with “Freedom Train,” the story of a slave’s journey west to a new life.

There’s  nice work on production by Maines and his musical partner, Terri Hendrix – the album has a clean, sharp sound that showcases Krafka’s fine voice. Maines and Hendrix also supplied vocal and instrumental parts; other contributors include such Texas notables as Riley Osbourne on B-3 organ, Bukka Allen on accordion, David Spencer on electric guitar, Richard Bowden on fiddles, Rick Richards and Pat Manske on drums, and Jack Saunders on several stringed instruments. It adds up to a successful sophomore effort that holds promise for the future.

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

Tags

Related Posts

Share This

Review: “Levi Lowrey” falls a bit short

lowrey cover 150x150 Review: Levi Lowrey falls a bit short By Paul T. Mueller

When a musician’s previous album is excellent, it makes it that much more frustrating when the follow-up doesn’t measure up. Such is the case with Levi Lowrey’s recent self-titled disc. Levi Lowrey isn’t exactly bad, give or take a song or two. A lot of what made Lowrey’s 2012 release I Confess I Was a Fool so good is also there this time. The playing and singing are still excellent and Lowrey still has a crowd of talented musicians helping out. But somehow the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

One problem is the writing. While Lowrey wrote 10 of the 12 songs on I Confess , he takes sole credit on only four of the current CD’s 15 tracks. The result is that Levi Lowrey comes across as less of a personal statement and more of a calculated attempt to appeal to a broader audience. The busier production and glossier sound suggest the same. Not that there’s anything wrong with an overdubbed guitar solo here and there, but the quiet honesty that marked I Confess is not so evident in its successor.

There are some high points. “December Thirty-One” makes the case for moving on from tough times – “Yeah, leave them all behind/Way back there in time/December thirty-one/Eleven fifty-nine.” “Trying Not to Die” is about taking chances instead of playing it safe, while “That Is All” offers a bracing response answer to those who claim to know all the answers when it comes to faith: “I don’t know, I don’t know/Feels so good to say it’s so/That God is God and man is man/That is all.”

There are a couple of songs that could easily have been left off. “High and Lonesome” advocates dealing with romantic disappointment with chemicals – not an original idea, but not really a good one either. And it’s hard to imagine why anyone thought it would be a good idea to close the album with an upbeat rendition of “War Pigs,” Black Sabbath’s hoary antiwar rant from 1970.

Content aside, it’s hard to find much fault with the singing and playing here. Lowrey’s voice and playing (on guitar and fiddle) are as excellent as always, and his core band – guitarist Danny McAdams, bassist Jon Daws and drummer Lawrence Nemenz – provides strong backing. There’s a long list of contributors, led by Mac McAnally on guitar and piano and including co-producers Matt Mangano (guitar and vocals) and Clay Cook (vocals and a long list of stringed and keyboard instruments).

John Hiatt, Patty Griffin headline Cross-County Lines

cross county 262x350 John Hiatt, Patty Griffin headline Cross County Lines

Americana Music News – John Hiatt and Patty Griffin are headlining  the Americana Music Association’s  2nd annual Cross-County Lines festival on May 31 in Franklin, TN.

Also in the line-up: Ashley Monroe, Brandy  Clark, Parker Millsap, Joe Pug and Luther Dickinson.

It’s a 7-hour showcase for roots and Americana music in The Park at Harlinsdale Farm, just outside the offices of the Americana Music Association.

We attended last year’s kick-off Cross-County Lines event, which featured Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas and Amos Lee. The 2014 event should be just as memorable.

The music starts at 3:30 p.m. and $35 tickets are available from Ticketmaster and at the Franklin Theatre box office.

 

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

A little Poco at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville

By Ken Paulson

It was a good week for Poco fans in the Nashville area.

richie 350x262 A little Poco at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville

Richie Furay

On Tuesday, Richie Furay joined Vince Gill and an emerging duo called Striking Matches as part of the new SoundExchange Influencer series at the club.  The premise is that musicians build on the influences of others, so Gill talked about how Furay influenced him and Striking Matches cited both men as musical heroes.  Furay did a lot of newer material,  but did perform a spirited “Pick Up the Pieces” and closed with “Kind Woman,” the song that essentially led to the birth of Poco.

Rusty Young was on that Buffalo Springfield session and ended up being the longest-standing member of Poco. On Saturday night. Young appeared at the Bluebird Cafe along with Bill Lloyd, Craig Fuller of Pure Prairie League and Little Feat and Robert Ellis Orrall.

 

 

rusty 150x150 A little Poco at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville

Rusty Young

Young opened the show with “Call It Love” and closed with “Crazy Love,” but may have received the biggest reaction for “Neil Young” off the recent All Fired Up Poco album, in which he entertainingly explains that Neil is not his brother.

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

 

Page 3 of 6812345...102030...Last »