Best of FTB
THE FABULOUS GINN SISTERS
You Can’t Take a Bad Girl Home... (Lonesome Day)
|If the Fabulous Ginn Sisters sound as if they have been influenced by the inimitable Fred Eaglesmith, they have. The sisters, Tiffani and Britt, spent the past year touring with Eaglesmith and his band, which became known as the Fred Eaglesmith Travelling Show. The Ginn Sisters opened the show earlier this year at The Palms, and were impressive in their own right. When they joined the band as backup singers for Fred’s set, they added a sound and texture that was phenomenal and unprecedented in recent Fred history. “You Can’t Take a Bad Girl Home” was produced by Eaglesmith at his recording studio and has Fred’s band backing the Ginn Sisters (sans Fred), and features longtime Eaglesmith collaborator and producer Scott Merritt. The Ginn Sisters harmonize in a way that only genetically linked singers can. They are equally sultry, sexy and rough around the edges. The songs are delicately crafted and provocative. The subject matter is the usual fare of heartbreak, love and unshared secrets, but with an unusual and dark twist. I can’t wait for them go back out on tour with the Travelling Show.
This band has a very sophisticated sound
that subtlety straddles the area between rock and country. Although they are quick
to tell you that they are not an Alt-Country band, the influences are definitely
there. They remind me of Dire Straits, Uncle Tupelo or even R.E.M. at times. They
can rock out tastefully and then bring it down to a soft whisper. Lead vocalist
Mack Linebaugh has a good voice, nothing special, but he knows how to use it within
his abilities. His songs are dense little stories that are not easy to understand
at first. This is the kind of CD who's brilliance kinda grows on you. After 4
of 5 listenings, I started wondering why more people don't know about these guys.
Farmer Not So John are not so bad, in fact they're a superb band, who have a deep
maturity for only a 2nd CD release.
cuts: Paperthin, Consigned To Oblivion, Rise Above The Wreckage, Undertow. Compass
site, has bios, tour info, etc. Released May, '98. Reviewed by Bill
Salvation In Lights... (INO)
Mike Farris, formerly of the Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies, delivers a full-blown revival record here, southern gospel and soul bursting out of him like holy water from the very cup of trembling. Mixing stellar originals ("The Lonely Road", "Selah Selah") with songs of struggle, praise and redemption ("Change Is Gonna Come", "Precious Lord Take My Hand", "Sit Down Servant", "Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down"), Farris lets loose the spirit he's gathered since overcoming substance addictions two years ago. Whatever god or guide you may have, or not, no matter! Salvation In Lights will lift your spirits and you'll emerge from its big tent smiling. Personal details aside, this recording draws from a deep well of American music, and is a reverberating delight from start to finish.
Mike's website and MySpace. Buy from amazon. Released June, '07. Reviewed by Doug Lang.
The Faults... (Lynn Point)
While worshipped by the alt.country faithful, as far as mainstream knowledge
goes, most people know groundbreaking band Uncle Tupelo more for the split that
resulted in Wilco and Son Volt than anything they did themselves. The
same may be said about the V-Roys when all is said and done. The band
managed to release two great studio discs and one posthumous live CD before
splintering into two bands, Scott Miller & The Commonwealth and this
band, featuring V-Roys co-leader Mic Harrison. Both bands, to me anyway, already
seem to be putting out better music than the V-Roys did, as much as I loved
that band. While Miller's CD is more grassroots country, this CD by The
Faults is about as power pop as a former country artist can probably get. Cool
melodies and poppy twists abound, all the while retaining the Stones-y grit
that occasionally recalls Harrison's former band. A cross between Matthew
Sweet and Terry Anderson is the closest comparison I can get. Besides, I'm too
busy listening to this to worry about it! Pick this up!! |
Check out TheFaults.com
for tour info and MP3 song samples, or LynnPoint.com
to order the CD. Released April. 2001. Reviewed by Scott
Early... (Red Beet)
|Not being your card-carrying traditionalist, it took a bit of time to get a handle on this debut release by former Emmylou Harris backup singer Fayssoux McLean, but it was time well spent. She’s got a voice that would charm a possum out of a tree and there’s a quiet dignity and grace to every song that she favours with her performance, be it gospel, traditional, or contemporary. She disappeared for a couple of decades a ways back there, but circumstances brought her to the attention of Peter Cooper and the denouement is most fortuitous indeed. The turn that she can give to a song such as “I Know How It Feels To Love” is a beautiful thing to behold, (behear?). Welcome back Fayssoux, don’t be a stranger anymore.
|Fayssoux Music. Red Beet Records. Order from CD Baby. Released April, '08, reviewed by Don Grant.
Razing A Nation ‘The Ballad of a New Lone Ranger'... (Y&T)
This is one interesting and intriguing bit of Americana, folks. It has taken over a month of listening to get a good handle on it. At first spin, the opening track, “The New Lone Ranger”, immediately brings to mind the Eagles' classic, “Desperado”, with its theme of the losing and lonesome anti-hero, and the Civil War-era impression continues into “Sign Up”, a sardonic call to arms. Further listening, however, brings one to the realization that this recording can not be defined and confined to any one particular historical epoch. Produced in Miami in 2004, Razing A Nation is one of those timeless works that defies any temporal categorization in its universality. Not too shabby for a ‘debut' album. Closely comparable to Springsteen's Nebraska, it is a sparse and haunting showcase for both the intelligence and perspicacity of Feiles' lyrics, and his musical versatility. He plays all of the instruments here, guitar, harmonica, and piano, with his only outside assistance being the wonderful voice of Shannon McNally, on “Drifted Town”, and “Change”. Any dud tracks herein? Nope, nary a one; they'll all move you.
Arlan's site. Buy from amazon Released Jan. '04, reviewed by Don Grant.
Come Sunday Morning... (Not-Pop Records)
|Arlan Feiles took a little while to follow up on his 2004 debut, Razing A Nation, but the wait has been well worth it. He has a wonderful ability to wed insightful lyrics, like a Dylan or Simon, with minimalist melodies that are damn near majestic in their simplicity; if he was a carpenter he’d never bend a nail. Feiles has once again turned in essentially a virtuoso performance, with only three guest musicians on a few tracks and backing vocals employed on only two of those. It’s difficult to determine an underlying theme in Come Sunday Morning, but there’s a connectivity between the tracks that could perhaps best be described as a forlorn melancholia for the negative changes that have taken place in the American social and political fabric. There’s a tinge of desperation to Feiles’ words, but it shouldn’t be confused with hopelessness. Perhaps he believes that when people finally get desperate enough, they will effect the positive, corrective change that he envisions. More power to him.
|Arlan's site. Buy from CD Baby Released '07, reviewed by Don Grant.
Yet another great Austin band that has
a amusing sound and aren't strangers to either Lefty Frizzell or the Minutemen.
The sound features the quirky country harmonies of Shelly Leuzinger and Eric Roach
and the occasional rockin' guitar and banjo of Tim Ziegler. They recorded
an earlier CD under the name of The Fence Sitters, but discovered another band
of the same name. What's I find refreshing is the fact that they don't sound
like they're trying to jump on the "Alt.Country bandwagon", (whatever
that is and wherever it's going). Like Southern Culture On The Skids or
the Bad Livers... they're just having fun!
Bring Back My Radio, Lonesome and Low, Cannon Ball, El Paso, Way Out West.
Released March '99, reviewed by Bill
like the term Americana for this record. It covers a lot of ground stylistically
yet manages to sound quite fresh and cohesive be it rockin, croonin' or
doing straight ahead country. Anna Fermin has a strong, friendly voice that
reaches out to the listener to enjoy the music she has written, which is very
good. Her band brings the same solid energy to the music with the resulting
sound carrying you from song to song right thru the CD. As if that weren't
enough to take to the bank, the golden touch of Lloyd Maines can be heard in the
quality production as well as the addition of his tasteful pedal steel.
Anna Fermin's Trigger Gospel is a true jewel in the American crown. Check
| The band
has their own site, TriggerGospel.com,
where you can order the CD, and get tour and bio info. You can also get
the CD from Miles of Music.
Released late 1999, reviewed by Kay
the interesting mix of Memphis soul grooves and solid country sounds on this album,
Somewhereville must be one hell of a place. Sign me up for a trip there
pronto. And when you hear this CD by Ferreira, you'll want to go there with me.
Although Ferreira only writes two of the CD's nine songs by himself (choosing
instead to have solid country songwriters like Angelo and Gwil Owen assisting)
he unequivocally supplies this CD's spirit and personality. The Memphis groove
thang seems to be popping up in country music related circles much more than in
the recent past and I wonder if it signals a moving on from the Bakersfield and
‘50's style country that used to be most prevalent. I've always felt a mix of
Al Green and George Jones would be great, and both are Americana as hell, so I
don't see anything wrong with Ferreira giving us his special mix of both styles.
This is cool, mature country with some solid soul. I love it. |
from Miles Of Music
or CD Baby.
Reviewed by Scott Homewood|
Peep Show... (Rock Is Dead)
| Firewood Revival is loose confederation of musicians based in the Iowa City area. Lots of players here, ten, if I'm not mistaken from the sleeve photo, and, that number has been higher by several over the years. Apparently, it's one of those bands whose members come and go: if someone's in town, they join in, sort of like the Ozark Mountain Daredevils holding a family reunion. One thing about a band with “a cast of thousands” is that, with that many instrumentalists, there aren't too many musical avenues they can't stroll down. This, their fourth release, is a ‘best of' compilation, a fan's choice selection from their original earlier work, and it runs all over the map, from country rock, “Freedom of Moving”, deep South hillbilly twang, “Great Divide”, to the urban country of “Elevator Man”. Unfortunately, the dearth of liner notes precludes giving any credit to the individual players, but I guess that a multi-celled organism like FWR is more the sum of its parts than the efforts of its individuals.
Firewood Revival website. Rock Is Dead Records. Order from CD Baby. Released June, '04, reviewed by Don Grant.
|FIRST AID KIT
The Lion's Roar... (Wichita)
| There is something inevitable about the perfection of sibling harmonies that makes most others seem forced in comparison; and thus Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg evoke a sound as if the Everlys had been born into family of woodland creatures. This is American music tossed back to us from across the sea, well worn and well loved by two very young women.
It doesn't get any less ambiguous than "Emmylou", an open love letter to their heroine, singing: "I'll be your Emmylou, I'll be your June". Their sense of history may not reach back to Kitty Wells or Lefty Frizzell, but they are yet another branch of that tree. The title track is a standout, an anthem to the fear of change, accusing; "I'm a goddamn coward, but then so are you".
Only 2 tracks are genuinely uptempo. "Blue" is perfect pop-ache about giving up on love, while "King of the World" finds the sisters joined by Coner Oberst in a rousing chorus. The remaining songs tilt to a dreamy, mid-tempo roll, and all enjoy a generous portion of Fleet Foxes inspired ambience.
The Lion's Roar is gorgeous, Americana-inspired pop.
|Their site. Buy
from Amazon. Released Jan. 2012, reviewed by Brad Price.
In The Cellar... (Flatfoot)
Down In The Cellar is the story of every band trying to make it to that
next level. Since they come from the working class city of East Lansing, MI, they
probably realize and accept that success take time and hard work. Bluesy roots
rock with a few twangy shadings is what they sound like. Actually, if they sound
like anyone, and this is going to sound weird, they sound like a really rough
version of the Black Keys. With nice songwriting, and good musicianship, this
rough-hewn CD definitely shows that they are off to a good start. Notable highlights
include the swampy, slide-guitar driven "Bottle For The Baby", and the
sad coal mining story of "Buffalo Creek". The last song on the CD, "Granddaddy",
with its end of life prayer makes the CD well worth ordering just by itself. |
band's site. Order from CD
Baby. Released June, '03. Reviewed by Clint
Not to be confused with Greg Trooper's old
band, this Flatirons comes from Portland, Oregon and for a first release,
they sound like they've been playing together for awhile. Lead singer Wendy
Pate has a strong voice that makes me think of Martha Davis from The Motels more
then Patsy Cline, not much "country" to her voice. Jason Okamota
is very talented guitar-slinger who tastefully weaves twang and slinky surf shadings
into each song. Just about everybody in the band writes a song or two, some
with greater success then others. My only complaint is the album tends to
drag a little, sometimes they even sound as slow as the Cowboy Junkies.
| Best songs: Heaven Help
You, Wildfire, So Lonesome, High Lonesome Moon, Hearts on Fire, Crazy Train. Check
out Checkered Past's
Flatirons pages. Released Feb, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Now Again... (New West)
Country's most-talked-about, coulda-been-the-greatest super group has finally
found time to reunite for their thirty year anniversary and release their first
(yeah, that's right, first) ever official album. Yes, you heard me right! Joe
Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock have set their solo careers on hold
for a little while to get back and clean up some unfinished business. Back in
the early '70's, the Flatlanders were on the verge of turning the country music
world on it's head but all three of these talented guys just went their separate
ways after some internal problems and always talked about reuniting but never
got around to it until now. Sure, fans of their unreleased music that made the
rounds due to bootleggers have begged for a reunion and there was even a very
posthumous live album released a few years ago. But, finally, the guys made a
point to do this thing right and even tour. Let me be the first to tell you that
it was worth the wait. All songs are written by various permutations of the three
except for the opener, "Going Away", which was written by Utah Phillips.
Just to listen to the excellent ebb and flow of this music makes one a little
bittersweet for the music these guys could have made if they would have stayed
together. No mater, each has made solo music that has transcended genre and style
and each will end up dying a legend in the world of music. Right now, enjoy this
wonderful new/old band live, because, wonder of wonders, they're actually gonna
tour this thing around the country this year. Miss it and miss an important part
of music history. But get this album first. You won't be sorry. |
West's website. Buy
from amazon. Released May, 2002. Reviewed by
of Fortune… (New West)
| Well, the story
goes that 30 some-odd years ago The Flatlanders recorded an album that was eventually
released under the title More A Legend Than A Band. So now they put the second
CD in 3 years and they seem to be having a good time and are committed to this
more than say Blind Faith or Little Village. They sound relaxed and at ease, no
egos, no trying to be the next big thing. These guys have been around too long
to fall for that. They almost seem to laid back here and there. I'd say there
are a few throwaway songs here and a few that have been recorded before on one
of their earlier solo albums. Then again there are also some truly great songs,
especially "See The Way" on which they each take a verse, beautiful song… great
imagery. Too bad it's somewhat buried at the end of the CD. In these busy times,
few of us have the patience to sit through 14 tracks. Sad but true. All the major
Ameriacana food groups are represented- country, blues, folk and rock. Although
songwise, I liked their last CD a little better, The Flatlanders are certainly
now more a band than a legend.
Flatlanders site has tour info and swag. Buy
from amazon. Released Jan, '04, reviewed by Bill
Hills And Valleys… (New West)
|By now, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely are in a comfortable place, both with each other and as a real "band". The trick is, I'm guessing, is how to stay out of complacency and the tendency to "phone it in"... After all, these guys have been around for a hell of a long time and this is their 3rd CD in less than 8 whole years. There are a few songs that might've come out of the oven a little early but this is by and large a fine album if perhaps not their best, worth adding to your collection. They bring some topical themes with "Homeland Refugee," a reverse "East Of Eden" tale about a family moving back to Oklahoma from California because of the current economy. "Borderless Love" is Hancock's witty take on the Mexican border and it's effect on love. Letting the singer/songwriter in each artist bloom is a powerful thing and their mutual respect is strongly evident. Amazingly, they still manage to find a place for the musical saw, a tradition that goes all the way back to their first album back in the 70's. Why, I don't know, but it's there.
New West's Flatlander's page. Buy
from amazon. Released May, '09, reviewed by Bill
Walk With Kings... (self released)
Unless the subject of discussion is cover bands, or, God forbid, karaoke, describing artists as rebels is a bit redundant. All artists are rebels in their own fashion, otherwise they'd be working for IBM or GM. A lot of the hyperbole that accompanied this CD was/is unnecessary, and the word crusade makes me gun-shy; let the music do the talking. A former punk-rocker, (that rebel thing), Flatt is finding her niche in this, her second outing, writing and performing songs that plumb the well of her own existence and experience, in a fashion that's both melodic, (this voice sang punk??!?), and insightful. This young Texan is at her best with introspective tunes like the title track, “Walk With Kings”, “Cold Day”, and “I Can't Love You”, and when she thrusts her pen at topics political, “Sign Up Here”, “Came Back Broken”, she as if she could be the little sister of another Tejano reviewed on this site a few weeks back. If I might offer a word of caution here, it's OK, and laudable, to try and change the world; just don't try to do it all at once. Hone your craft first, Chrissy; artistic credibility is a prerequisite for socio/political credibility; just ask Steve Earle.
Chrissy's website has some song samples and CD ordering . Released Sept. '04, reviewed by Don Grant.
Drive All Night... (BePop)
For a premiere release, this one impressed/impresses the hell out of me. Then I discovered that Flint is no neophyte to the recording biz, having done five earlier albums with something called Dave's True Story out of NYC; that explains a lot. Her lyrics and music exude the strength and confidence that can only come from experience in no small amounts. Aside from a eye-opening remake of the Moody Blues' “Story in Your Eyes”, (I never saw that potential in that particular ditty, but then I guess that's why she's the artist and I'm not), Flint presents thirteen self-penned originals that are captivating, to say the least. Try “The Letter, 1974”, followed by “Cartoon”, and see if you don't agree. A lot of favourable comparisons sprang to mind while attempting to categorize her, a couple of the Marys, Marissa, Lucinda, Rosanne, for example, but suffice it to say that this woman can hold her own with that crew…, effortlessly. From NYC lounge/avant garde/jazzish to damn near perfect alt/country Americana in a single bound? Who'd a thunk it possible? Hear it now and believe me later.
|Kelly's web site and MySpace. Buy from amazon. Released Feb. '07 , reviewed by Don Grant.
Cripplin' Crutch... (Diesel Only)
Let me say off the bat that I am a huge fan of whatever Eric 'Roscoe' Ambel does
musically. The fact that he produces and plays on this CD made me just about rip
the shrink wrap off of this thing as soon as it arrived. What can I say? Ambel
simply has the best taste in the business and picks the best artists to work with!
Flood's album is a triumph for both of them. Never having heard of Flood before,
I listened with anticipation and was rewarded with some of the best gritty country
music I have heard in quite a while. Flood's voice reminds me of the soulfulness
and casual-sounding confidence of Tony Joe White (of 'Polk Salad Annie' fame)
while his music reminds me of Robert Earl Keen if he were a trucker and a bit
more rougher around the edges. Flood wields a variety of stringed instruments
and experiments with his sound a little as half this album was recorded live to
2-track while the other half was done full-studio style. While I like the more
polished studio stuff better, this album as a whole just knocked my socks off.
For those new to Flood, I guarantee this CD is going to become a favorite! |
Only Records has a nice website with MP3's of 2 of Joe's songs. Released
June, 2001. Reviewed by Scott Homewood
Speed Of Sound... (Eminent)
Speed of Sound is Rosie Flores' seventh solo release and her first on the
Eminent label. This follow up to 1999's critically acclaimed Dance Hall Dreams,
pairs Flores with producer/writer/guitar virtuoso Rick Vito creating a guitar
heavy, somewhat neurotic collection of hillbilly and jazz standards laced with
a few modern rockabilly tracks. Producer Rick Vito is best known for his previous
guitar work with blues pioneer Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and post-Lindsey
Buckingham Fleetwood Mac. Speed of Sound opens with Vito breathing new
life into the Davis Sisters' "Rock-A-Bye Boogie", and the Buck Owens
classic "Hot Dog" with his James Burton-esque in-your-face guitar work.
The mood swings dramatically to a smooth jazz smoky lounge with Rosie taking center
stage on the lesser known Billie Holiday gem "I Don't Know If I'm Coming
Or Going". The title track with an airy southern gothic presence, refers
to Speed of Sound as a "resolution of my past and present". All in all,
with Speed of Sound delivers a deli platter of performances highlighting
Vito's well groomed solos, and Flores' softer jazz influences, while including
a few new songs to the roster for balance. |
Eminent Record's website.
Released May, 2001, reviewed by Matt Reasor. |
Girl of the Century... (Bloodshot)
|On Girl of the Century, the Rockabilly Filly Rosie Flores joins forces with the swaggering, Jon Langford-led Chicago-based collective The Pine Valley Cosmonauts for an album brimming with the twangy hot rompin' and stompin' sounds Flores has built her reputation on. Heavy on covers, albeit a host of good ‘n' moldy oldies, Jimmy Reed's "I Ain't Got You" and Paul Burch's "Little Bells" are standouts. Girl of the Century rocks, rolls, and swings with The PVCs lockstep all the way with the guitar totin' Flores.
|Visit www.rosieflores.com. Bloodshot's Rosie page. Buy
from amazon. Released Oct. '09. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
Forbidden Fruits And Vegetables... (Groovetone.com)
Danny Flowers is a Memphis-style lead guitarist who has been hiding in relative
obscurity on the credit pages of many other artist's albums. Eric Clapton is a
big fan and supporter and recorded Flower's "Tulsa Time" which is included
here. At times, when Flowers gets to shouting, his voice sounds so much like
Etta James, that it's scary. The arrangements are southern rock and R&B, along
the lines of Delbert McClinton or good ol' Delaney & Bonnie. Great soulful
| Release date Sept.
12th. Info, song samples and ordering info at Groovetone.com.
Gary Floyd was the lead
singer in the San Francisco alt.rock band Sister Double Happiness, but don't let
that scare you. He is a great soulful, emotive singer with a gritty voice.
This CD collects the best tracks from four previously released European CD's,
where he is much more popular than in his native US. This is a fine mix
of country and blues, both originals and some standards. What's impressive
is how easily he melds the two styles, backed mostly by acoustic instruments.
His original tunes have a sometimes spiritual bent to them. It all makes
for a long, but quite wonderful album.
Best tracks: Spirit On The Wind, Don't Send Me Away, Can't Be Satisfied,
Won't Be So Sad, Wayfaring Stranger, More Than A Lifetime, Can't Do That. Check
out Innerstate's site. Released Jan,
'99, reviewed by Bill Frater.|
Dragon... (self released)
|John Flynn has certainly bitten himself off a mouthful with this release. Addressing a wide range of social issues, including corporate corruption, the death penalty, the despair and desperation of inner-city life, and some really silly, yet fun, stuff, i.e. a dress code for statues, Flynn ends up literally overwhelming the listener. I'm not saying that the world couldn't do with a little changing, and I don't doubt his sincerity, but, geez John, all in one CD? Talk about sensory overload! There are some good relevant nuggets here, such as "Minnie Lou", the statue song, and, in today's geo-political environment, "Not with My Jesus", a song about how religions get hijacked for secular ulterior motives. (Someone once said that religion is like baseball: great game, lousy owners). Unfortunately, the overall air of apprehension inherent in this offering tends to negate its redeeming qualities. A well-intentioned message suffers from overkill, in this instance.
|John's website has PayPal CD ordering. Reviewed by Don Grant.
Blue Moon Swamp.... (Warner Bros)
Although I love John Fogerty,
and his contribution to American Roots music is unparalleled, I was not knocked
out by his new CD at first. Maybe I expected too much, considering his history,
and all the time he reportedly spent perfecting Blue Moon Swamp, it was too perfect
maybe. Fogerty's grasp of the simplicity of his songs threw me off. This album
brilliance is it's simplicity, not to mention his still-incredible voice and his
fine production. Yes, Fogerty still has it, and in fact, I think he finally understands
how important his contribution to music is, and it has given him the confidence
to do what he does best, and throws all the various "roots" together
for one fine CD. It was worth the wait!
The Blue Ridge Rangers Ride Again... (Verve/Forecast)
|As the title implies, there was a first Blue Ridge Rangers album that came out way back in 1973 that was a great album of classic country cover tunes. It was Fogerty's first release after the demise of Creedence and he actually played all the instruments on it himself. For me, this was an milestone LP that introduced me to a wealth of songs and vintage C&W artists like Hank Snow and Ray Price. So, here we are, some 45 years later, and at the suggestion of his wife, one of the greatest and most successful living songwriters puts out a second collection of country cover tunes. This time, he's got some of Nashville's best studio cats helping out, giving the disc a slick shiny sound, that is twangy but also pretty sterile sounding. It's sound just a little too perfect. My biggest complaint with this CD is some of the songs he selected to cover fail to excite me. Two tunes come to mind especailly, Rick Nelson's "Garden Party" and John Denver's "Back Home Again", both are so strongly associated with song's authors that to cover them seems unnecessary. I'll give him a pass on John Prine's "Paradise" because it has been covered often and I just think it's a superior song. "When Will I Be Loved," "Falllin' Fallin' Fallin'," and Buck Owens' "I Don't Care (Just As Long As You Love Me)" are all great. Next time, let's grab some more of those earlier country songs to redo.
Fogerty's official site. Buy from amazon Released Sept, 2009, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Live at the Austin Outhouse... (Lost Art)
| Blaze Foley, a drunken, homeless troubadour, was
legend to a small group of people around Austin before he was murdered at
the age of 39. He was the subject of Lucinda Williams' "Drunken Angel",
Townes Van Zandt's "Blaze's Blues" and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson
covered his beautiful "If I Could Only Fly". His songs are spare,
finger-picked and frequently brilliant in their simplicity. and he sings his his
blues-based songs with an easy-going confidence, reminding me the of the
Venice Beach street singer, Ted Hawkins. Made in 1989, just before his death
and recorded at the only place in Austin that would still book him. There
is a timeless feel to this record, as if Foley knew his time was short. |
| Check out BlazeFoley.com,
they have a link
for ordering the CD thru songs.com.
Released Nov, '99, reviewed by Bill
Oval Room ... (Lost Art)
| Blaze Foley was a legendary Austin songwriter, often covered but seldom heard.
Usually homeless, clothes held together by duct tape (apparently by choice), his life was cut short by gun violence in 1989.
This disc is a live recording with some studio over dubbing supervised by his good friend producer Gurf Morlix. It's an arresting set of songs, ranging from the personal/political to ironic novelty. With an appealing country blues style of guitar picking and straight ahead vocals, this offering is by turns heartfelt and humorous. When songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Lucinda Williams write songs about you, you know you've made a mark, and outstanding tunes such as Cold Cold World and My Reasons Why serve his legacy well.
Other highlights include the Ronald Reagan inspired title cut and the all too appropriate "WW III"
|Lost Art Records has CD ordering or get it from our friends at Miles of Music. Released Oct. '04, reviewed by Michael Meehan.
This Sacramento, CA band has done their
Alt.Country homework and and they pass with flying colors. Lead singer Damon Wyckoff
at times sounds like Eddie Vedder but his lyrics frequently refer to Old West
themes much like the songwriting of Robert Hunter. If you don't know either of
those references, you're probably better off. Suffice to say that this is good,
melodic and sometimes raucous music that grows on you if you give it a chance.
Jesus On A Greyhound... (Big Otis)
Mark Fosson is another easterner, (Kentucky), who went west in search of a record label, thirty some odd years ago. It has taken a bit of time, (understatement), but, as granny used to say, good things are worth waiting for. There are echoes of John Prine, and even Gordon Lightfoot, in “Wrap Me Up”, in the thirteen songs that comprise this, his debut CD. Fosson wrote all of the songs herein, and plays a variety of stringed instruments, along with harmonica and spoons. Long-time collaborator Edward Tree handles the other guitars, and a collection of lesser known, but well-traveled and not unskilled, L.A. musicians round out his band. The end product is a folksy country sort of blues that weathers repeated spins on the changer very well. He's a singer/songwriter who's work stands up there with the best of them, and it had better not take another thirty years for the follow-up, because some of us might not be around to catch it.
|Fosson's site.Order from CD Baby Released 2005, reviewed by Don Grant.
Another Way To Go... (Dualtone)
Radney Foster is country music’s Bruce Springsteen. He is, by turns, a romantic
balladeer, a storyteller and an all out rocker. While this new record tends toward
more of a rock feel than a strictly country sound, it still has more country soul
than 90% of what passes for country music on the radio. His last record (Are
you Ready for the Big Show?) was a high water mark and this new CD falls short
of that but is nevertheless a fine record. While there’s plenty on this record
that rocks at the center of it all is country music’s most enduring theme of human
relationships. Love, in it’s many forms and frustrations, gets Foster’s, and therefore
our, attention. He’s a passionate writer and one of the best working in country
music. As an aside, that a crap performer like Toby Keith can get his post 9/11
false bravado music played on country music radio and a song like "Everyday
Angel" from this new CD, that celebrates what’s good and decent in all of
us, can’t get played illustrates precisely what’s wrong with Nashville. |
from Amazon Released Sept. 2002.
Reviewed by Kevin Russell.
Are You Ready For The Big Show?... (DualTone)
Few contemporary country artists deliver a live performance distinctively unique
from the formulaic recordings processed by Music Row; one artist who does this
is Radney Foster. Are You Ready For The Big Show? takes various live performances
from September 2000 at the Continental Club in Austin, Texas, of Fosters' new
material as well as his standards. The album captures the basic artistry of Radney
Fosters' songwriting repertoire as well as a back porch jam session featuring
mandolin protégé, Chris Thiel (Nickel Creek), and Nashville's best kept secret,
guitarist Mike McAdam (Steve Earle, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jack Ingram). For fans
of Fosters' earlier solo work, this one includes a Cajun rearrangement of
"Just Call Me Lonesome", and a slimmed down acoustic version of "Nobody
Wins" ( both from Del Rio, Texas, 1959). The albums single is the unearthed
Foster and Lloyd classic, "Texas in 1880", (unlisted as hidden track
16). Radney has returned full circle to his neo-traditionalist roots, which separated
him from the droves of aspiring Nashville singer-songwriters early in his career.
| Check out DualTone
or Pure Spunk.
Released June, 2001, reviewed by Matt
Ghost Repeater... (Signature Sounds)
Third time pays for all, they say, and with Ghost Repeater it's a payback in spades. Having listened to Wisconsin native Foucault's music evolve over five years and two earlier CDs, I can say without reservation that this man consistently hits the nails of contemporary North American culture squarely on their deserving little heads. This time around, he employs a full band of very competent musicians, (bonus: Kris Delmhorst appears), and has tagged up with Bo Ramsey, who is not only a fine producer, but one hell of a good guitar player, to boot. The songs are stark and pensive against wonderfully melodic lines that fit Foucault's voice like a well-tailored glove. There's just the right amount of “stuff” on the tracks of this disc, nothing to excess, unless it is possible to have an excessive amount of excellent writing, such as:
“She whispered close, Can't you hear the ocean?
As she leaned her ear against a shotgun shell”;
“The wages of sin don't adjust for inflation
It's a buyer's market when you sell your soul”
Those little gems are only from the first and title cut, and there's ten more tracks, plus a five track bonus disc. How can you not love a guy who can come up with lines like that?
Jeffrey's website. Buy from amazon Released May, 2006, reviewed by Don Grant.
World Rattles 'Round... (Hollow Body)
Foundry is mostly a labor of love of lead singer Doug Kwartler. He not only wrote
and produced everything but he sings and plays a huge assortment of instruments,
and fortunately, he has a lot of talent. His voice reminds me a little of Son
Volt's Jay Farrar and his songs are full of rootsy hooks and ripe with social
commentary. Two songs, "Main Street's Shut Down" and America Uncovered"
are especially topical and really hit home. The five-piece band, (they're from
Long Island), has a cohesive and tight sound, they probably smoke in a live setting.
Their sound ranges from soft acoustic pieces to jaunty Tom Petty-ish rockers with
layers of chiming guitars. Mark Spencer, from Blood Oranges adds some stellar
lap steel guitar. The production is top notch and I have to say this is a very
impressive debut CD and the best independent release I've heard this so far year.
| Order the CD from CD
Baby The bands
site has tour info, song samples and even a music video. Released April,
'01, reviewed by Bill Frater|
dirt road joy ride ... (Junkyard Dog)
| There needs to be a new sub-category for the Americana genre, something like AmeriCanadiana, a nod to our northern neighbors like Fred Eaglesmith and Joe Fournier. These two embody the rural roots and country rock sensibilities of alt-country as well as anyone on this side of the border. There aren't many singer/songwriters I would mention in the same sentence as Eaglesmith, but Fournier is one of them. Originally from Ontario (like Eaglesmith), Fournier recorded this CD in the “Eight Track Shack” studio he built in Nova Scotia, and it was released on a Swedish label. He plays most of the instruments and mixed it himself. To borrow a phrase from the affable fiddler, Alasdair Fraser, in describing a centuries-old Scottish fiddle tune, Fournier makes music “without all o' the dirt knocked off it.” It's funky, country soul, folk, rock and blues, with stories that will make you laugh, cry and cringe, sometimes all in the same verse. Fournier's off-kilter world view is spelled out in songs about dirt road joyrides, fast cars, rough lives and drunken wedding brawls. There are too many great lyrics to mention more than a few, but a line in “Bad Record Collection” sums up his music. “Baby's got a bad record collection/what she needs is a double injection/of shit kickin', swamp rockin', gut bucket, Springsteen in a bath tub, rock n' roll.” It's not all like that, though. On “She's Still Everywhere,” he strings together a rock melody that would fit right in on a Tom Petty record. If you like great songwriting and music that's slightly cock-eyed with the rough edges intact, put this one on your list.
|Joe's official site. Joe's MySpace page. Order from CD Baby. Released early '08, reviewed by
|BOB FRANK & JOHN MURRY
World Without End... (Bowstring)
This is a record you listen to on a windy night when, mysteriously, the video
store closed early. You were thinking of renting Blood Simple. Bob Frank
and John Murry have created an eerie and powerful album of ten newly-written murder ballads. What is original about World Without End is that the songs are inspired by true stories from the shadowlands of America's past. “Lead me down, boys, I'm hangin' today. Drop the trap door, I got nothin' to say,” growls the chorus to Boss Weatherford 1933 . The recording is at once
spare-sounding and dense. So much is left out that you have to add some
of your own nightmares to the story, and just enough is left in that you're
aided and abetted in the process. A room grows awfully quiet when one man
says what's true. There have been five or six records out this year that have
struck me as true originals, and this is one of them. As for why the video store
closed early, after listening to Frank and Murry's record, I fear the worst.
|Their website, and My Space. Order from CD Baby. Reviewed by Doug Lang.
and My Old Guitar... (Nel Music)
was a fisherman from Burra Isle, Shetland with an unusually expressive voice and
a skill for playing guitar and fiddle. In 1953 he acquired the first reel-to reel
tape machine on the Isle and with his passions for country, blues, traditional
and jazz tunes, proceeded over the next 25 years to record thousands of songs.
Eschewing public performances, he recorded prodigiously and you can hear in these
recordings the love of the music, the passion for singing and the pleasure that
Fraser received from playing, clearly resonating with the music.. If you didn't
know better, you'd swear that Fraser hailed from the Dust Bowl instead of the
Shetland Islands. This is the second in the Thomas Fraser recordings and a treasure
trove of songs from a shy but talented man and his guitar. [Yodel alert!! This
CD features world class yodeling.] |
Fraser Webpages. Order from CD
Baby. Reviewed by Kay
believe it or not, Freakwater have come slightly uptown. They still have
the lazy, off-kilter (and sometimes off-key) female harmonies, but now they have
added drums and a string section on some of the songs. It took a few
listens to get into this one, but their unique country and folk songs eventually
were what won me over. Their earlier albums featured old cover tunes mixed
with Catherine Irwin's originals. This one, their 5th I think, is all original
and features more songs and lead vocals from the other vocalist, Janet Beverage
Bean. They're still pretty quirky and understated, and still have a fondness
for ballads. I think they're made a small step towards commercial viability
but there's still, thank God, a long way from Nashville.
| Check Thrill
Jockey's site. Released Sept, '99, reviewed by Bill Frater. |
Freakwater are a group of young, progressive
musicians who brilliantly "channel" the sound and style of early country
artists like The Carter Family or Hazel & Alice. Their old-timey-folk sound
is led by the haunting harmonies of Catherine Ann Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean,
who also probably write most of the songs. The songs have a timeless quality and
cover simple subjects. There's a live sound to the recording that is relaxed and
comfortable. On this, their fourth CD, I think, they've been fortunate to have
ex-Wilco member Max Johnston adding his multi-instrument talents to the band.
These guys are seriously about this music, this is not a tribute or a put-on.
They are not only preserving a special style, but they are also carrying it into
the next century. Highly recommended for folk and traditional country fans.
Best tracks: Picture in My Mind, Twisted Wire, One Big Union, Heaven. Released Jan, '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater
|ANDY FRIEDMAN & THE OTHER FAILURES
Weary Things... (City Salvage)
|Dubbed by one writer as the "Hillbilly Leonard Cohen," RISD grad and sometimes New Yorker cartoonist Andy Friedman plays country music, Brooklyn-style. Friedman himself labels his anti-commercial, but spot-hitting brand of citybilly Art Country. Whatever you want to call it, Weary Things is no frills twang tunes on which Friedman waxes nostalgic on odes to the likes of family, favorite locales, and of course, Brooklyn.
|Andy's music site. and his illustrations site. Buy the CD from amazon. Released Jan. '09. Reviewed by Dan Ferguson.
Couldn't Get Along....(ZoBird)
It used to be not many people were buying Bill Monroe, Muddy Waters, Norman Blake, The Replacements records and loving all of them equally. It seems like nowadays theres lots of young people who are not only musically open-minded, but they play guitars and banjos too. This is a good thing and I support any band that wears such diverse influences on their shoulders. These guys hail from rural Pennsylvania and play mostly acoustic instruments and cite the above artists and othrs as their heroes. Once and awhile they cut loose and rock out a little more, but most of the time they roll along at a gentle pace. Original tunes, nice melodies, and a sense of humor.
Miles of Music has the CD, e-mail or call them for info. The band has a nice website, frogholler.com Released in '98, reviewed by Bill Frater.
Railings... (Record Cellar)
| Frog Holler is to Americana as Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp are to rock n' roll. Their inspiration is found in the Northeastern Rustbelt, in the smaller towns and the countryside, far removed from the urban elite, and they do a fine job of evoking that experience. Hailing from Berks County, PA. they formed as a bluegrass trio originally. The band has now expanded its roster to six, and added electric instrumentation. These changes give the band a variety and depth that the original configuration lacked. This is music that tells stories, without moralizing the listener into a depression.
|Frog Holler's web site. Order from CD Baby. Released Oct. '03, reviewed by Don Grant.
The High, High's & The Low, Low's ... (ZoBird)
| I've got somewhat of a problem here, and it's not with the quality of the content, it's the quantity herein. These boys from PA write and perform some of the more authentic Americana music out there these days, and this outing is a combination of some new stuff, and some re-worked tunes from their debut CD. They've got a certain knack for producing music that is, paradoxically, loose and informal sounding, but, closer listening informs the listener that this isn't happenstance, it's the result of good, tight, musicianship. Every lick and nuance is there for a reason, and that produces their unique trademark brand of bluegrass/country/blues sound. Now for the ragging; OK, yes, it is only intended as an EP, 33+ minutes long, but, I have to ask, why? Why produce something so short, when we've seen ample evidence that Frog Holler can maintain consistent quality throughout a full-length CD? This one lasts barely long enough to make a trip to the beer store and back. I think that it would have been more fun if they had woven some more new songs in with the old; seen it done before, and these guys could make it fly.
|Frog Holler's web site. Order from CD Baby. Released Jan. '05, reviewed by Don Grant.
Okay, I was sorta shocked when I first heard the loud "wanker" guitar on this CD. I immediately wanted to blame the "wanker" record company for hiring a "wanker" producer who had worked with not only No Doubt but AC/DC! What had they done to alt.country's best angry young man? Then I listened to the album some more, and I read some of Robbie's comments on the CD, then after a few more listens I realized that I was starting to fall in love with this album, "wanker" guitar and all. It's the songs and his attitude that make me love this guy and that strange tenor voice that comes out on his ballads. What's most important is this CD is truly Fulk's vision, his muse, if you will. And yes, there is some country songs here, and some nice power pop too, thank to Bill Lloyd, and some pretty somber dark songs too. Robbie has the balls to write a song called "God Isn't Real" and yet still mention religious topics on other songs, and refer to god in the liner notes. I say, bring an open mind and some earplugs and listen to a real live artiste.
| Best tracks: Let's Kill Sat. Night, Pretty Little Poison (w/Lucinda Williams), Take Me To Paradise, You Shouldn't Have, Can't Win For Losing You, Night Accident. Someone who did a Cat Stevens site has put together a killer Robbie Fulks site with tons of stuff! Released Sept, '98. Reviewed by Bill Frater.
Couples in Trouble... (Boondoggle/ Bloodshot)
| With Couples in Trouble, Robbie Fulks leaps in a single bound from the alt-country ghetto. While his previous albums were largely rooted in the country and western tradition, Couples sketches a defining arc from British Isles balladry to sunshine-drenched pop to fully modern sounds. Some of the best work here even suggest what the dreaded singer/songwriter genre of the seventies might have become. Something of a concept album, each tune here focuses on a couple in, umm, trouble. Be it man/woman, stepdaughter/new dad/, men during wartime or woman/Satan -- you get the idea, not exactly typical settings. Lyrically, the situations are often dark, though while "Brenda's New Stepfather" aims at something even more sinister, "She Needs You Now" aches in its sensitivity. In a nutshell, it is all about how people chose to deal with the roadblocks at life's crossroads. Working again with Steve Albini, the sonic aspects of the record provide the vignettes with appropriate musical settings. Anyone who has seen Fulks perform live has witnessed his gift for sheer entertainment, the guy is a natural-born ham with real stage presence. Couples in Trouble puts his artistic vision on display, at times acknowledging tradition and other times forging music as vital and current as anything on display today.
| Released Aug 2001. Reviewed by Blaine Schultz.
Georgia Hard… (Yep Roc)
|With a Robbie Fulks CD's, you're never sure who you're gonna get… There's the “wise-ass and sarcastic yet straight-ahead country” Robbie of his first Bloodshot album Country Love Songs, (with a cover picture of a man taking an ax to his wife). Then there's the “let's try to be an alternative artist with a little less country sarcasm” of Let's Kill Saturday Night, (although still including an in-your-face song called “God Isn't Real”). Then there's the odd 13 Hillbilly Giants and the unexciting Couples In Trouble . But last year he produced an excellent Johnny Paycheck tribute CD called Touch My Heart and that is a great lead-in to the latest Georgia Hard. The cover looks like one of those old 70's Columbia albums produced by Billy Sherrill, who worked with Paycheck and George Jones and Tammy Wynette and frequently over-produced the artists with lots of strings. There's actually quite a bit of straight-sounding songs here with rather “normal” lyrics for Fulks while his melodies are always memorable. He still gets a little goofy here and there with mixed results. He always had a way with a witty song title and here “All You Can Cheat” and “Goodbye Cruel Girl” are also 2 of my favorite songs. The press kit cites Shel Silverstein and Roger Miller as key song writing influences here and I would agree. Fans of Robbie, and there are many hiding out, should be happy with this. Of the 15 tracks, I could dump five of ‘em and like the CD more and have a little extra time, but it's still a fine album.
|Robbie Fulks site. Yep Roc. Buy the CD from amazon. Released May, '05. Reviewed by Bill Frater.
Gone Way Backward... (Bloodshot)
|Robbie Fulks, one of the most under-appreciated country music artists of our time, is, without a doubt, the love child of Hank Williams and Bill Monroe. Seriously, there is not a better writer of heartfelt songs themed around home, relationships and -yes- God, than this former cow-punk, angry-young-man. Like Williams, he converts his very personal take on things into masterful expressions that convey the emotional depth and complexity of the human heart. Like Monroe, he borrows from, and extends, the high lonesome sound of the southern mountains with a muscular intensity that’s one part bluegrass, one part hard country and a dash of John Hurt-inspired folky-ness.
Triple threat that he is, Fulks easily delivers soaring, emotionally convincing vocals, stellar guitar chops (accompanied by a small band drawn from top shelf bluegrass players), and -as already noted- some of the best writing you will find in contemporary folk, bluegrass, country or that catch-all term, Americana.
Save one, he has forgone the aggressive electric bent of his youth for a nearly all-acoustic sound that showcases the subtlety and brilliance of his melodies, lyrics and gorgeous guitar work.
And with a band of side players, who have done their homework, the songs move easily from material that recalls the darkness of, say, Pretty Polly, to the directness and emotional conviction of the Stanley Brothers’ early work. I’d even say he’s a bit of an alchemist in that he manages to transform all these influences into something both inviting familiar and startlingly new.
This new CD is a high-water mark in a career that has delivered one excellent record after another. I predict this will be a classic.
Robbie Fulks site Buy
from amazon Released Aug. 2013.
Reviewed by Kevin Russell.
From the Ground Up... (Blue Dirt)
| His debut record From the Ground Up has been out for barely two months and he’s already being called one of America’s best new songwriters. There have been multiple features on him on NPR from Fresh Air to Weekend Edition to World Cafe, not to mention raves in periodicals from the L.A. Times to the Wall Street Journal. Comparisons of his songwriting style have been to cream-of-the-crop-types like the late Townes Van Zandt, Jimmy Webb, and James McMurtry. It’s all pretty heady stuff for 23-year-old John Fullbright. Hailing from the home of Woody Guthrie, that being Okemah, Oklahoma where he stills resides, Fullbright first picked up the piano as a 5-year-old and there has been no looking back. He has been plying his trade and honing his chops as a singer/songwriter since his high school days. There was a live recording released three years ago which found its way mostly into the hands of people who caught him on his regular Midwest touring circuit. With From the Ground Up, Fullbright moves to the next level. To find a single word to describe Fullbright is near impossible. Americana, folkie, rock, there are elements of each in his music. His songs read like those of someone who has lived a lot of life in his twentysomething years. The backdrops of his songs are not out of the ordinary; love, heartbreak, spirituality and religion. What sets him apart is his way with putting pen to paper and crafting lyrics into songs that are oft-times engrossing. Debut album of the year? Here’s my vote.
|Fullbright's site. Order from Amazon. Released May, '12, reviewed by Dan Ferguson.