New releases: Charlie Faye, Hartford and Forrester

New and upcoming releases:

FAYETTESCharlie Faye and the Fayettes –  Charlie Faye teams up with Betty Soo and Akina Adderley to form a girl group on her new album “Charlie Faye and the Fayettes.” It melds a ’60 sound with 2016 attitude, exemplifed by the sexual invitations on “Green Light.” The Chiffons would have been appalled. Classic influences abound, from the Ronettes intro to “Coming Around the Bend” to “Breakaway”-era Jackie DeShannon on “Delayed Reaction.” It’s all fresh and fun.

Cornflower BluesInvincible – Reflective third  album from Ontario band, due June 1.

homemadesugarJohn Hartford  and Howdy ForresterHome Made Sugar and a Puncheon Floor – Spring Fed Records( The Center for Popular Music at Middle Tenessee State University) – Historic home recordings from John Hartford and fiddler Howdy Forrester. The album offers an informal performance and conversation focusing on  songs Forrester learned as a boy from his Great Uncle Bob Cates.

Town MountainSouthern Crescent – Spirited  new bluegrass album, due April 1.

Bobcat-cover-for-webstore-280x251[1]Kyle TuttleBobcat – Debut album of Nashville-based banjo player Kyle Tuttle features his own compositions.

Steve DawsonSolid States and Loose Ends – Canadian artist Steve Dawson, now based in Nashville, releases his seventh solo album.

Mary Ann CasaleRestless Heart – Blues, folk and jazz from Northern New York artist.

speed of the plowMatt Brown and Greg ReishSpeed of the Plow –Fiddler Matt Brown and guitarist Greg Reish play old-time American instrumentals.

Lizanne Knott Excellent Day – Bluesy, intimate new album due April 8.

Tin Toy Cars – Debut album from Las Vegas-based Tin Toy Cars.

Celebration of songwriting at Tin Pan South

By Ken Paulson

Wayland Holyfield and Dickey Lee

Wayland Holyfield and Dickey Lee

The Tin Pan South songwriters festival in Nashville this week offered up five nights of remarkable performances by some of the country’s best songwriters, but an early show on Thursday at the Station Inn featuring three veteran performers and writers was among the most memorable.

I’ve just finished reading The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, a book by John Seabrook that documents how today’s songs are engineered rather than created. There’s a new hook every few seconds because the formula demands it. Every generation complains that “all these new songs sound the same.” This time they’re right.

That’s why the performance at the Station Inn was so special. Buzz Cason, Dickey Lee and Wayland Holyfield have had hits spanning five decades, fueled by inspiration, happenstance and creativity.

Buzz Cason

Buzz Cason

Cason’s “Soldier of love” was covered by the Beatles during the BBC sessions and his “Everlasting Love” has become a pop standard. But he explained that his professional breakthrough came just by mimicking the goofy doo-wop vocals of Jan and Dean, and then submitting the songs to the duo. The result: “Tennessee” and the Top 25 single “Popsicle.”

 Dickey Lee had a successful career as a recording artist and performed “I Saw Linda Yesterday,” his hit from 1963.  But the emotional stakes of that song were trumped by his biggest hit, “She Thinks I Still Care,” a classic in the hands of George Jones. Lee said the song was inspired by a girl who broke his heart.

Holyfield played “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer,” his first hit as a songwriter and a big record for Johnny Russell. But the highlight of  his performance was “You’re My Best Friend,” a Don Williams hit that Holyfield dedicated to his wife.

And so it goes. The hits of the past were inspired by lost love. Found love. And an impulse to get Jan and Dean to record your songs.

No algorithms. No product. Just art, creativity and fun.

CTM writers at Tin Pan South

Review: Parker Millsap’s “The Very Last Day”

 By Paul T. Mueller

MillsapIs April too early to start talking about contenders for best album of the year? Probably, but chances are Parker Millsap’s The Very Last Day is going to be on a lot of people’s Top 10 lists come December. It’s no stretch to call the Oklahoma singer-songwriter’s third album one of the best of the year so far. Millsap starts with conventional musical forms, including blues, folk, bluegrass and a bit of jazz, and puts an unconventional spin on them. He ends up with a sound that’s all his own, and a collection of slightly offbeat songs marked by excellent writing, exuberant singing and accomplished playing.

A lot of the buzz around The Very Last Day is going to center on “Heaven Sent,” in which a gay son seeks acceptance from his minister father. It is a brilliant piece of songwriting, heart-wrenching and affirming at the same time. “You say that it’s a sin/ but it’s how I’ve always been,” Millsap sings, his tormented voice dramatically underscored by guitar and violin. “Did you love me when/he was just my friend?” It’s a powerful message, combining anguish and defiance, and Millsap has the emotional range to get it across convincingly.

The title track deals with an unusual subject – nuclear apocalypse – in an unexpected way. Instead of dread, there’s a kind of gleeful resignation. “You know there ain’t no reason being so afraid/Yeah, you can try to hide, but it’s gonna get you anyway,” Millsap sings. “When I see that cloud, gonna sing out loud/Lift my head and say/Praise the Lord, it’s the very, very, very last day.”

There’s plenty more – “Pining,” a sweet love song; “Hades Pleads,” in which the lord of the underworld seeks companionship; “Morning Sun,” a gentle, bluesy song about love and loneliness; “Hands Up,” a rocking first-person narrative by a reluctant gas-station robber. The album closes with “Tribulation Hymn,” a beautiful and cryptic meditation on spirituality and sin.

Of the 11 tracks, all are Millsap compositions except for the classic blues-gospel song “You Gotta Move,” which here gets an excellent acoustic treatment. A staple of Millsap’s live shows, it’s fueled by his almost unearthly vocals and the powerful, yet somehow playful, violin of Daniel Foulks.

Other players include the third member of Millsap’s touring band, bassist Michael Rose, playing both acoustically and electrically; Patrick Ryan on drums and percussion, and Tim Laver on accordion and keyboards. Backing vocals are courtesy of Erika Attwater, Sara Jarosz, Aiofe O’Donovan, Caitlyn O’Doyle and Sara Watkins.


Song Suffragettes at Tin Pan South


Opening night at Tin Pan South

Tin Pan South 2016 preview

By Ken Paulson

Mac Davis and Bobby Braddock at Tin Pain South 2011

Mac Davis and Bobby Braddock at Tin Pan South 2011

Tin Pan South, one of Nashville’s best -and most economical – music festivals begins Tuesday, April 9, the first of  five nights of songwriter showcases.

This annual event brings together songwriting legends (Bobby Bare, Mac Davis, Bill Anderson) and songwriters dominating the charts today (Luke Laird, Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Lori McKenna, Jessi Alexander.) It features legacy artists (Dickie Lee, Buzz Cason) and current stars (Will Hoge, Kacey Musgraves.)

The songwriters rounds encompass a wide range of themes – “A Little Chick on Pick Action” anyone? – but the overall quality is always high. Some shows that we found particularly intriguing:

Tuesday, April 5, 6pm | $20 Bluebird Cafe
Bill Anderson, Bobby Bare, Buddy Cannon, special guests

Tuesday, April 5, 6pm | $20 The Country

Jessi Alexander, Cary Barlowe, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Thompson

Tuesday, April 5, 9pm | $15 Whiskey Rhythm Saloon
Keith Burns, Jim Peterik, Collin Raye, Joie Scott, special guest

Wednesday, April 6, 9pm | $15 Station Inn
Chuck CannonLari WhiteLee Roy Parnell

Wednesday, April 6, 9pm | $20 Bluebird Cafe
Mac Davis, Scotty Emerick, Leslie Satcher, Special Guest

Thursday, April 7, 6pm | $20 Listening Room
Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, Special Guest

Thursday, April 7, 6pm | $10 Station Inn
Buzz Cason, Wayland Holyfield, Dickey Lee

Thursday, April 7, 9pm | $15 Douglas Corner
Bekka Bramlett, Billy Burnette, Bruce Gaitsch, Dennis Morgan

Thursday, April 7, 6pm | $15 Bluebird Cafe

Pat Alger, Don Henry, Livingston Taylor, Jon Vezner

Friday, April 8, 6:30pm | $20 3rd and Lindsley
Granville Automatic (Elizabeth Elkins & Vanessa Olivarez),
Travis Meadows, Angaleena Presley

Friday, April 8, 6:30pm | $15 Listening Room
Jeff Cohen, James T. Slater, Kim Richey

Saturday, April 9, 6:30pm | $15 Station Inn
Marti Dodson, Will Hoge, Tony Lane, Jason Mizelle, Special Guest

Saturday, April 9, 6:30pm | $20 3rd and Lindsley
A Benefit for Bonaparte’s Retreat
Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Colin Linden, Brandon Young, special guest, hosted by Emmylou Harris

Saturday, April 9, 9:30pm | $25 3rd and Lindsley
Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves, Josh Osborne

The full schedule can be found on the Nashville Songwriters Association website.

Review: Jason Wilber’s “Echoes”

By Paul T. Mueller
wilberJason Wilber is best known to many as the nattily dressed guy who stands to the right of the great John Prine on stage, playing guitar and mandolin and singing harmony. Wilber also happens to be a singer-songwriter in his own right, with nine solo albums to his credit.

The newest, Echoes, finds him performing songs by other writers. He’s covering a lot of ground here – Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By,” Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” Joni Mitchell’s “Edith and the Kingpin,” David Bowie’s “Oh You Pretty Things” and Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” are among the 11 tracks. Of course Wilber’s boss gets his due, with a solemn reading of “Paradise,” Prine’s lament about the despoiled coal country of Kentucky.

Echoes follows several years’ serious effort by Wilber to improve his singing voice, and while he will probably always be more noted as a guitarist than as a singer, his vocals do justice to the essence of these songs. The album benefits from spare but clean production by Paul Mahern, who also handled percussion duties, with help on a couple of tracks from Devon Ashley. The rest of it – guitars, bass and vocals – is all Wilber.



New releases: Paul Burch on the life of Jimmie Rodgers

New and recent releases:

Paul BurchMeridian RisingPaul Burch – Plowboy Records  The new Paul Burch album is an extraordinarily ambitious project, the “imagined autobiography” of the legendary Jimmie Rodgers.  Often cited as the father of country music, Rodgers was a transformative figure whose tragically short career influenced all who followed. Burch, perhaps best known as a member of WPA BallClub, uses Rodgers’ life story as a foundation for his own musical explorations. He’s joined by some great players – from Nashville and elsewhere-  including  Fats Kaplin, Tim O’Brien, Garry Tallent, Jen Gunderman, Jon Langford and William Tyler. Nashville Scene Editor Jim Ridley captured the essence of the album (and Burch’s career) beautifully in a cover story for the Nashville Scene. You’ll find it here.

Dynamite!Tami Neilson – Outside – Raucous honky tonk from an award-winning New Zealand artist who will bring Wanda Jackson to mind.

Good and DirtySarah Borges – Hard-rocking EP from Sarah Borges, produced by Eric Ambel. She’s opening in March for Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin

Crow River RambleJason Paulson – Minneapolis-based songwriter releases his third album on March 25.



Review: George Winston at the Dosey Doe

By Paul T. Mueller

George Winston at the Dosey Doe

George Winston at the Dosey Doe 

When you go to a George Winston concert, you get not only a musical performance but a history lesson as well. So it went at the Dosey Doe in The Woodlands, Texas, on Feb. 21, as Winston sat down at the grand piano and introduced his opening tune, “In the Night” by renowned New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair.

His next piece, “Rain,” from Winston’s 1982 album Winter Into Spring, featured a section inspired by American minimalist composer Steve Reich. And that was followed by a short medley of tunes by jazz pianist and composer Vince Guaraldi, from his soundtrack to the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

George Winston may be best known as one of the leading figures of New Age music in the ‘80s, when albums such as Autumn, December and Winter into Spring graced many a turntable and CD player. These days he prefers to call his music “rural folk piano,” and his playing reflects influences beyond the precise and pretty tone poems that first brought him fame. Introducing a stride piano piece called “Elephant and Mouse,” Winston cited jazz pianists Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson; echoes of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” could be heard in the lovely ballad “Beverly,” while “Urban Lullabye,” “Blues Minuet” and “Harlem Nocturne” were infused with jazz and blues.

Winston played in his usual concert attire – blue jeans, button-up shirt and stocking feet – and with his characteristic intensity, occasionally reaching into the piano to pluck or dampen a string. He was equally at ease with muscular chords and delicate melodies, and if there was an occasional off note among the thousands, write that off to the passage of time. The audience was more than willing to overlook any imperfections; rapt silence ruled, with some listening with eyes closed, the better to appreciate the virtuoso at work.

In the years since his New Age heyday, Winston has become proficient on guitar and harmonica as well. He closed each of his two sets with a guitar performance – a piece called “Sassy” that he said he learned from Hawaiian slack-key guitar master Leonard Kwan, and a light, folky piece to close the evening. In between, the audience was treated to a sweet and sad harmonica tune called “Lament,” in honor of Cajun accordionist Amédé Ardoin.

Two of the show’s highlights came at the end. Winston drew applause when he announced one of his signature tunes, “Variations on the Kanon by Johann Pachelbel,” and played a fine rendition, faithful to the familiar recorded version but with enough subtle differences to keep things interesting. What he said would be his final piece (but wasn’t quite) turned out to be a dramatic rendition of The Doors’ classic “Riders on the Storm.” The cascade of descending notes at the beginning recalled Ray Manzarek’s electric piano in the original, but from there Winston took off on his own interpretation, pounding out dark chords with his left hand while overlaying them with brighter notes with his right. It would have made for a good ending to the show, but Winston finished with a lighter, happier guitar tune, making for a nice transition to an extended meet-and-greet with fans afterward.

In a sweet bit of post-show lagniappe, those who stayed around were treated to a couple of Scott Joplin ragtime tunes, beautifully played by an audience member who commandeered the piano almost as soon as Winston left the stage. The boy, who appeared to be in his early teens, earned an enthusiastic ovation and soon found himself on the receiving end of lavish praise from George Winston himself, among others.


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