Bluegrass has always had its share of stars, but until the advent of folks like Bela Fleck and Alison Krauss, it didn't have many innovators. For more than a quarter of a century, though, one name has dominated any discussion of the cutting edge of bluegrass and its various permutations: David Grisman.
Grisman's passionate pursuit of the fringe elements of bluegrass music has made strange and wonderful bedfellows since the debut of the David Grisman Quintet in the mid-1970's.
Prior to DGQ, Grisman apprenticed in the Even Dozen Jug Band and formed the Great American String Band in 1974 with Seatrain violinist Richard Greene. His collaborations with jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli blurred the lines between jazz and bluegrass, while his work with proteges like Mark O'Connor and Darol Anger established his reputation as not merely a talented musician, but a major influence.
In a genre that can sound very familiar very quickly, Grisman has expanded the concept of what can be... »»»
What do you get when you combine six of today's top acoustic musicians, each with resumes including landmark work with such acts as Alison Krauss, Hot Rize, David Grisman, Tony Rice, The Turtle Island String Quartet, Peter Gabriel, Elvin Bishop and J.D. Crowe?
In the case of the new band NewGrange, you get an acoustic music super-group that pays tribute to American roots music while giving it its own contemporary flair.
"We offer a unique interpretation of traditional American folk music," says banjo player Alison Brown, also an owner of Compass Records, the label that put out the NewGrange release.
"We all really like traditional music, everybody in the band has appreciation for traditional, American music...folk music."
Mandolin player/vocalist Tim O'Brien concurs. "We want to present the music in a way that respects what has come before and relates it to current concerns."
In addition to Brown and O'Brien, NewGrange consists of Mike Marshall, guitar/mandolin/violin; Darol Anger, violin/fiddle; Todd Phillips, bass; and Philip Aaberg, piano.... »»»
The title of this made-for-TV weeper is the answer to the question "Honey, how long is it going to take Reba McEntire to become a believable actress?"
No, that's not fair. Reba actually does a convincing job of portraying a catatonic woman, stiff, unfeeling and dead to the world - unfortunately that's after her character comes out of her coma.
Reba stars as Lizzie Brooks, a young wife and mother who has a stroke and is rushed to the hospital. Fortunately, it's one of those TV strokes where your hair always stays perfectly in place and your makeup never gets smudged.
While the handsome doctors work on her, we get gauzy flashbacks - to the day she met her husband Alex (played by Tim (Otter on "Animal House") Matheson). She challenges him to a basketball game. He invites her to a toga party. To the day they married outdoors on a hilltop, where it rained only on the bride and groom. (If they'd known anything about symbolism they'd have known they were in for some tough times.) To... »»»
"I consider myself to work outside of, and in spite of, the music industry," says Katy Moffatt.
Such a statement sounds mighty strange coming from somebody who has been recording since the mid-seventies, most recently this fall with "Loose Diamonds" on HighTone.
Nevertheless, it is a true description of Moffatt's relationship with an oftentimes fickle music industry.
Music industry standing aside, this spunky vocalist and songwriter is making some of the very best country music these days. In part, it's due to her intentional distance from the country music machine.
"I'm way outside of the country music industry, as anyone in Nashville will tell you."
Moffatt, 49, has always been a little more sophisticated than your average country singer, which has prevented her from fitting nicely into the neatly constructed marketing molds so popular in Music City.
"I've never in my life had a Nashville deal. My CBS deal in the seventies was a pop deal. It was signed on the West Coast, by the pop division."
Nonetheless, she wouldn't have ever gotten that deal without a little help from a true Nashville mover and shaker.... »»»
All told, 1999 has been a very good year for Deke Dickerson. And a busy one, too. Since releasing his first solo album, "Number One Hit Record," on HighTone toward the end of 1998, he's toured clubs around the country with his band the Ecco-Fonics, performed in larger venues as an opening act for Social Distortion leader Mike Ness, produced a fine (if underappreciated) album by guitarist Dave Biller and steel guitarist Jeremy Wake-field, had a song appear in the hilarious (and also underappreciated) Matthew Broderick movie "Election" and still managed to find the time to record his second solo album, "More Million Sellers," released by HighTone in October.
Whew. It's an ambitious pace for the 31-year-old Dickerson, though he's always kept himself busy.
Raised on a Missouri farm, Dickerson first gained attention about 10 years ago as the lead guitarist for a garage/surf band called the Untamed Youth, with whom he recorded several albums and continues to occasionally perform and record with to this day.... »»»
Doug Sahm is gone now. The man who epitomized Texas music left a legacy of more than 40 years worth of his own recordings. The last project he released during his lifetime was not his own record, but the debut of Ed Burleson, "My Perfect World.".
Sahm discovered Burleson, guided this project to fruition and saw it released on his own Tornado label. His last show was the album's release party.
Burleson doesn't cover the full spectrum of Texas music like Sahm did. He just covers the hard-core Texas dancehall country music known as honky tonk. But he sure does cover it well. He's a sixth-generation Texan and a former professional rodeo rider (he attended college on a rodeo scholarship.)
When asked how many songs he writes, Burleson replies, "Well, my wife ran off this year, so I've had more time to write. I've written twice as many as usual." That's practically a country song in itself.
The 30-year-old Burleson grew up around music. "Mama was a Baptist, so I sang in the choir every Sunday. Dad was a musician, so there were always people picking and singing around the house."... »»»
The once-thriving L.A. country music scene is just a shell of its former self. Many of the artists who performed on three "Town South Of Bakersfield" albums headed out to Nashville or Austin. The few hardy survivors band together, and every once in a while manage to put out an album to remind us of the scene's past glory.
Patty Booker has been there since before it became the next "next big thing." She had one great cut on "TSOB Vol. 3," but nothing else until 1999. Her new CD, "I Don't Need All That" is a glorious dose of hard-core country.
In her early 40's, Booker is maybe country music's youngest grandmother since her hero Loretta Lynn. With her kids all grown she's ready to pay some attention to a career that she's always kept on the back-burner.
Booker grew up in California and loved to sing, but "I never really thought about a career. I just liked to sing. You have fantasies about being a star."
Booker was in college when she met Gary Brandon. They formed a band and for most of the '80's Booker sang in Orange County clubs five nights a week.... »»»
At an age when most people are planning their rocking years, 65-year-old Don Walser is experiencing his greatest success. With the release of his new album "Here's To Country Music" on Sire, guest shots on other albums and even a movie appearance, Walser may be busier even now than in the days before his retirement from the Texas National Guard a few years ago.
Walser, labelled the "Pavarotti of the Plains" for his unique high-pitched singing voice and yodeling, has loved country music since his childhood days in Lamesa, Texas. "I don't remember ever not listening to country music," Walser recalls. He also loved to sing, but as a youngster Walser's shyness caused him to seek privacy.
"I'd get up in a tree or on top of the barn where I didn't think no one could see me because I had to sing every day," Walser says. "It's kind of part of my nature, and I was bashful."
What Walser didn't learn until later was that neighbors would gather around to listen to the singing boy in the tree.... »»»
Sally Timms has been up all night. "I'm still on that alcohol high," she says over the phone. You know the place - that balancing point between a pleasant buzz and a crushing hangover. The lesson here, perhaps, is that one shouldn't go to see Blue Rodeo at a local Chicago area hangout when one has a concert of her own coming up the very next night.
Ah, well. Sally Timms is not known for sticking to the straight path.
Take her new album, "Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments For Lost Buckaroos." It's downright, well, pretty. And that's just the effect this current member of The Mekons, the English pub rats known for their loose-limbed brawling sound, wanted.
"I just wanted to make a record that was very pretty," she says. "I wanted it to be light and playful."
That it is. Timms' folksy effort includes a Robbie Fulks tune, "In Bristol Town One Bright Day," that wouldn't sound out of place around a campfire, or on an English street corner as night begins to fall.... »»»
Though they have recorded only two albums together as a unit, the musical journey of Tony Rice, Larry Rice, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen has crossed paths many times during the years. With the release of their self-titled second album on Rounder, Rice, Rice, Hillman and Pedersen delivered a worthy follow-up to their excellent 1997 debut "Out Of the Woodwork."
The union began in 1962 when Hillman and Pedersen first met while playingin different bands on the folk and bluegrass circuit in Southern California. Pedersen recalls that after graduating from high school in '62, he joined his first band called the Pine Valley boys, while Hillman was with the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers.
About two years later, Pedersen first came across the Rice brothers. "In '64, when Chris was with the Blue Diamond Boys and I was with the Pine Valley Boys, the Rice brothers had a band called the Haphazards," recalls Pedersen. "They were just young kids - little kids, like 10, 11, 12 years old. Larry was the oldest, and he was the mandolin player. And Tony was just barely playing guitar or big enough to hold one."... »»»
Jon Randall is pictured on the cover of his new Eminent recording "Willin'" wearing a flashy gold suit. But this particular wardrobe selection is strictly borrowed property and not the kind thing you'll ever expect to see in Randall's closet.
When asked if he owned it, Randall's answer says a lot about his character.
"That suit probably cost $7,000," he marvels. "If I had $7,000, I'd rather buy a couple of guitars."
You see, Randall has a philosophy about the music business. In his mind, a musician is either a star or an artist, and rarely do these two extremes meet.
By listening to Randall's new album, which skates clear of the mainstream with its overt bluegrass elements and extremely honest songwriting, it doesn't take long to figure out just which camp this guitarist/songwriter belongs in.
After hitting the road with Emmylou Harris barely out of his teens, Randall, 30, has dedicated himself to playing the kind of tradition-soaked music he so dearly loves and hasn't looked back. Like the character in the Lowell George song that is his new album's title track, Randall is a road warrior, if ever there was one.... »»»
John Prine's reputation for his 30-year career has been built more on his songwriting than on anything else. How strange then that his new album should have only one of his own songs and yet still is getting perhaps even more attention than its immediate predecessors.
Covers albums are running rampant right now, and it's only fitting that when Prine tackled the concept, he did it with a clever twist that no one else had thought of.
"In Spite Of Ourselves," on Prine's own Oh Boy label, is an album of classic country songs done as duets with female singers (except for one he does solo).
The women run the gamut from current mainstream stars like Trisha Yearwood and Patty Loveless to classic '60's country stars like Melba Montgomery and Connie Smith to current alt.-country heroines to Prine's wife Fiona. The title song is the only new Prine tune, and it shows he hasn't lost his touch for a humorous lyric.
"I had the idea for about 15 years," says the 53-year-old former mailman. "I... »»»
Mountain Heart is on the fast track even though the bluegrass band has been together for only about a year. This Georgia-based group already has a self-titled debut CD on Doobie Shea doing well on the national bluegrass charts and a touring schedule that would be the envy of many more established bluegrass outfits.
To top it off, the band received the International Bluegrass Music Association's emerging band of the year award in October.
Steve Gulley, lead singer/guitarist and co-founder, says, "To get nominated for awards, to have a CD do so well, to have a bus is fun and amazing. All of us (have) been real fortunate."
Mountain Heart was formed last year by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver veterans Barry Abernathy on banjo and Gulley. The band also includes Jimmy VanCleve on fiddle (another Quicksilver alum, who also was in the very short lived Rambler's Choice), Alan Perdue on mandolin and Johnny Dowdle on bass. Adam Steffey (ex-of Alison Krauss and Union Station) was an original member, but bowed out early because of the band's heavy touring schedule.... »»»
The last couple of years have been a pretty wild ride for singer/songwriter Buddy Miller and his wife/writing partner Julie Miller, but this has been a particularly momentous year for the couple.
Not only did Buddy manage to place one of his co-writes with Jim Lauderdale on the hugely successful new Dixie Chicks album ("Hole in My Head"), but Buddy and Julie have each recently released albums that could be considered contenders for end of the year accolades. Julie's is the poignant pop-flavored "Broken Things," and Buddy's is the raw-nerved country sizzle of "Cruel Moon," his third album.
Although the dynamic duo has seen a lot of action in the songwriting department, as artists like Garth Brooks, Lee Ann Womack, and Brooks & Dunn have had immense hits with their compositions, Buddy confesses that it would be great to hit one out without the performance help of a marquee name.
"It would sure be nice," Buddy says from his Nashville home of the prospect of tagging his own song into the Top 10. "But I'm real happy with the way things are going. I'm just glad I can be doing this. All the things I get to do are really great."... »»»
Laurie Stirratt and Cary Hudson, the principal members of Blue Mountain, have always been involved in music. Now music is their entire focus.
The husband and wife team, one half of the Mississippi-based Southern roots-music collective, also run a record label. But their desire to get their songs and sound out to a larger crowd has overwhelmed their need to be involved in the music business, Stirratt says in a phone interview. The pair are also partners in the Black Dog label, but faced the challenge of gearing up for a new collection of songs.
That record, "Tales of a Traveler," hit stores in early October on Roadrunner, where they still are the only roots/country band on a label better known for metal acts.
The disc features the first songs that Stirratt, one of the band's vocalists and guitarists (and, coincidentally, sister of Wilco bassist John Stirratt), ever committed to disc. And the band will journey to Europe for the first time in hopes of enlarging their core group of listeners.... »»»
Gary Allan be third time lucky? Or will he once again only get one hit from his third album, "Smoke Rings in the Dark," a fate that befell the honky tonker's first two albums with his very first single "Her Man" and "It Would be You."
Allan, sounding hoarse in a phone interview from California, seems quite satisfied thank you with "Smoke Rings...," also the first single off his new album.
"It was me," says Allan of the new album, his first for MCA. "I just had a lot more freedom this time. They really let me do my own thing again. That was part of what I needed to hear to go to MCA. I had lot of meetings with (label President) Tony Brown where we talked about stuff. They just let me do what I wanted to do. The first one was a lot more like that too."
The first ("Used Heart for Sale") and third albums both maintain a sonic rawness to it, captivated by Allan's sturdy, emotive vocals. He can put the pain in the songs - a necessity given the subject matter of heartbreak - with little difficulty.
"It Would Be You," the second disc, maintains some of that sound, but also goes for a softer feel.... »»»
Like father, like son. Like grandfather, like grandson.
That seems to be the unfolding story of Hank Williams III. With a set of sad songs in his heart, a trail of troubles in his recent past, the grandson and son of country music legends Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. came with a will to talk about it all.
A recent feature in Rolling Stone told the world much about the young prodigy, who just released his debut, "Risin' Outlaw."
In the story, Williams spoke and cursed openly of his drug problems and recent stay in a Los Angeles drug rehabilitation center.
"I went into that interview thinking that I'm gonna put every bad thing about me out in the open, that there will be no more surprises," he says. "I've always told the truth."
Barely a month out of drug rehab, Williams says that while he recognizes his addiction problem, he doesn't feel that it any way compares to drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
"I'd go through an ounce (of marijuana) a week," he says. "One day I'd like to... »»»
What started as a group of friends sitting around an apartment strumming their instruments and guzzling beer has turned into something quite different quite quickly for Seattle's The Souvenirs.
The honky tonkers with an eye towards pop from yesteryear in a sound somewhat akin to The Derailers are gaining a following with their debut, "KIngs of Heartache," released in September on the small Will Records label in Washington. The group is high on the Americana charts, an increasing rarity for bands on tiny labels, and will soon venture out of their stomping grounds in places like Nashville and Atlanta.
The quintet - now including Lucky Lawrence, songwriter and lead vocalist, Buck Edwards on bass, Mo (a first name only suffices) on guitars, Boots Kutz on drums and Don Pawlak on pedal steel - graduated from apartments to playing clubs for free to quickly garnering a local following.
Lawrence says, "We do have a shuffley Buck Owens, Ray Price thing going on," says Lawrence. "The instrumentation - pedal steel - we don't have any fiddle on our records."... »»»
Kim Lenz and her band have just spent three more hours on the road between Flagstaff and Phoenix, a blues tape keeping them company, as they look for an antiques store to kill time before the evening's show. "We're going to go down a ways. I'll tell you when to get off. The road is going to curve," says Lenz to the driver. Reaching their destination, the band piles out of the van to search for bargains while Lenz stays behind to do another interview.
Just another moment in the lives of Kim Lenz and the Jaguars, touring on the heels of their second Hightone album, "The One and Only."
It wasn't that long ago (1995, to be precise) that Lenz headed down a different career path, studying psychology at the University of North Texas with plans to eventually go into private practice.
"I almost got finished before I met a bunch of people at the University of North Texas who were musicians, so they said, 'Hey, let's start a band at your house.' It was a funny little band, but it was fun.... »»»
In his many musical incarnations, Jim Lauderdale has been a maverick, a journeyman, an ace session player and an oft-desired songwriter. He just hasn't been a star, at least not in the traditional sense.
With two new albums in stores and a host of his songs being picked up by other country artists, that situation may be moot.
The Nashville denizen, who mixes straightahead country with clever songwriting tricks and a voice just this side of Roy Orbison, has not one but two musical projects on the record store racks these days, and their range and diversity point out the pros and cons of being Jim Lauderdale: He does so much in so many different venues that it's hard for the business-as-usual record companies to figure out how to market the guy.
His career "hasn't happened like I had envisioned it originally," Lauderdale says in a recent interview conducted via cell phone. "The music business, in general, it changes constantly." Luckily, he says, "I've been getting all these songs recorded by other people."... »»»
He's one of the all-time greatest country music performers and songwriters, but Merle Haggard has kept a pretty low profile the past few years. That's all changed in recent months.
The release of "For The Record," a double CD featuring new recordings of 43 of his biggest hits, called attention to itself by including duets with hot acts like Jewel and Alabama. A pay-per-view special from Las Vegas garnered more attention. And Hag's second autobiography is being released.
"It was all planned at a meeting in January to stimulate the buying base of Merle Haggard," says the Hag. "It's the cross-grid marketing of today."
HE's also been heard from via a live album and reissue of 1981's "Big City."
There's been a lot of money made off Haggard's music over the years, but a lot of it wasn't made by him, and much of what he did make he had trouble hanging on to.
While Buck Owens, his contemporary and longtime Capitol labelmate, owns his own classic recordings, Haggard does not. "Buck... »»»
Roger Wallace had little choice growing up in Knoxville, Tenn. what type of music heheard around the house. But that didn't mean he liked it.
"I was forced fed country music from birth to being old enough to make my parents change the station when I was 15,," says Wallace, now 28, based in Austin and the owner of a fine honky tonk-cum-traditional debut, "Hillbilly Heights" on the indy Texas Music Round Up label.
"Whether at the dinner table or in the car, it was always country music," says Wallace, "blaming" his parents. "They both had great good voices. My mom taught me harmony."
"It was all Willie Nelson, Conway," Wallace says, "but not so much like the other outlaw stuff, stuff like Waylon."
"it wasn't really an issue whether I liked it or not," he says, laughing. "I was listening to it. I was Willie Nelson for Halloween one year."
"It was still my parents' music, and I hated it for that reason," Wallace says.
Times have changed obviously.... »»»
Athens, Ga. is perhaps not the first place one thinks of when country music comes to mind. That might be about to change, with the release of "Why Do Lonely Men and Women Want to Break Each Others Hearts" by Athens' Star Room Boys. They echo the greats - Haggard, Nelson and Owens. The band started in 1995 and consists of Bob Fernandez on drums, Philip McArdle on electric guitar, John McMahon on bass, Johnny Neff on pedal steel and Dave Marr on vocals and guitar. The album will be rereleased by Checkered Past in November.
We spoke to Marr not long after the band played another in a series of wedding dates.
CST: Your style of heartbroken country music doesn't really strike me as wedding material.
DM: Me either. People keep asking us to play 'em, and they want to give us a lot of money. Sometimes they're a lot of fun, sometimes it's kind of a trial. All depends on who's getting married. Once we get the record paid for, we might actually make some money!
CST: What sort of response has the record been getting?... »»»
If you judge the CD by its jacket, then Sisters Wade probably would be pegged as some Nashville label's craving to cash in on the success of such flavors of the month like SHeDAISY or The Kinleys. In other words, femme-led sister groups sounding bright, cheery and very poppy.
Instead, Debbie and Julie Wade, who started making a name for themselves by playing weekly at Tootsie's in Nashville, go for a far smaller sound thanks to nary an electric guitar on their self-titled Blue Hat debut. The sister's harmonies certainly are there, but acoustic guitar reigns along with mandolin, slide and dobro.
This is a laid back affair having more to do with Emmylou Harris and Sweethearts of the Rodeo than SHeDAISY.
"A lot of people like to categorize," says Debbie. "It's easier to define things. 'Oh you're a trumpet player. Did you listen to Louis Armstrong?' We're definitely different from SHeDAISY and other sister acts. We have a different sound. We have different experiences that come through in our writing."... »»»
Thirty-five or forty years ago, Bakersfield, Cal. had more than a dozen nightclubs, and for a while, it seemed like stars were being shot out of every one of them. In addition to the obvious names - Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Wynn Stewart and Ferlin Husky - there was also a young songwriter named Joe Simpson who caught his first big break while he was still driving an ice cream truck and who, 10 years later, had graduated from that to singing about a much bigger kind of truck.
Nowadays, Bakersfield only has a few nightclubs, but Red Simpson still packs 'em in every Monday night at Trout's where locals and fans from around the world come to hear Simpson sing about big rigs and the big men who drive them.
Though his records have been out of print in the U.S. for years, the fans still bring time-worn copies of Simpson's classic - and very collectible - Capitol albums of the '60's and early '70's for him to autograph.
"A lot of 'em come down from L.A. and different places. They said... »»»
What started off as recording songs for a new album turned into a greatest hits plus package for Lee Roy Parnell. And that suited the Texan who pumps some blues and lots of slide in his country tank, just fine.
Well, that was the case until the reception at radio to one of the two new songs on "Hits and Highways Ahead" - "She Won't Be Lonely Long" - was less than stellar. The man who has had 7 songs reach the Top 10 from his first five albums only made it into the 40's on the singles charts.
And while Parnell may come across as having the case of sour grapes, he says what's on his mind more matter of factly than bitterly. "It didn't do much, which is really a shame because the record came off real well," he says. "You got to roll with the punches as hard as it is."
Parnell recorded six songs in LA under the production of Ed Cherney, who worked with the Stones and Bonnie Raitt. He cut the tracks at Jackson Browne's home studio and got the chance to work with drummer Jim Keltner and guitarist Fred Tackett.
Parnell says he did not expect the negative radio reception.... »»»
Julie Miller's latest album, "Broken Things," once again highlights the sad and serious songs of a woman who - in contrast to her art - comes off like a giggly schoolgirl in real life.
Over the phone, these distinctly differing personalities are striking. Can that tiny voice on the other end of the line be the same one that gives life to such somber reflections upon mortality as "I Still Cry" and "All My Tears"? Or what about her reading of "Two Soldiers," a traditional Civil War lament? Is this really that same person?
"It seems that my happiness is expressed in laughter from moment to moment," says Miller, just barely quelling her own laughter briefly. "But my deeper feelings...I guess I just don't know how to express them in conversation, so they find their way out through songs."
While Miller, who released "Blue Pony" on Hightone as well in 1997, spends a fair amount of time analyzing the dramas in others' lives through song, she's not beyond a little self-examination.... »»»
"My brain feels like it's turned to cottage cheese," Kris Kristofferson says with an apologetic laugh. It's been a full day of interviews, and this is his last one until 7 p.m. Though he's too chivalrous to name numbers, one need only figure a 7 a.m. car call for "Live With Regis & Kathie Lee," factor in the 20 late minutes for an interview and realize it's 3:30ish to know...
But Kris Kristofferson, 63, has always been a rugged individualist: a Rhodes Scholar and longshoreman who spent his creative apprenticeship emptying ashtrays at CBS Recording Studios in Nashville. He once landed a helicopter on Johnny Cash's lawn to pitch him a song - the picture perfect hangover overhang "Sunday Morning Coming Down" - that became a classic.
So, the poet laureate of smart country isn't afraid of the work.
Indeed, he's anything but complaining. He's got "The Austin Sessions" out, and he's in full promotional tilt, because as he puts it so plainly, "It's been 20 or 30 years since a label's been excited about a record of mine."... »»»
One listen to the Hot Club of Cowtown's recorded legacy and you just know there's a 78 collector in the trio. In this case, it happens to be guitarist Whit Smith, an avowed thrift store junkie who scours the racks for obscure tunes from a bygone era of American musical culture.
The difference between Smith and the garden variety collector is that one of Smith's great unknown B-side finds could easily wind up in the repertoire of the Hot Club of Cowtown, one of the hottest new retro outfits to burn up a dance floor. And like the best of the new crop of like minded history buffs, HCOC knows how to fashion an original to sound right at home in a set list that might average 60 years old on any given night.
"Tall Tales," HCOC's sophomore release for Hightone, documents the band's first attempts at writing original tunes. The trio's debut, last year's "Swingin' Stampede," was a straight covers album with no original music at all.
But as the band toured and became more comfortable as a... »»»
For the past few years, The Derailers have enjoyed life on the road and support from Americana radio. With their third album "Full Western Dress," The Derailers hope to achieve more mainstream acceptance.
The Derailers driving forces are co-founders Tony Villanueva and Brian Hofeldt, who met in Portland, Ore. about a decade ago. The two share a fondness for the music of the '60's, which is evident in much of their own music. Though country music was the main influence, there was a strong rock influence, particularly from The Beatles.
"Ever since I was a kid, I loved the older sounding music," Hofeldt recalls. "Early rock and roll was hugely influential, mostly harmony singers. Through The Beatles, I got into people I might not have known like Carl Perkins. And I came to Buck Owens through The Beatles - I didn't know where 'Act Naturally' came from."
Hofeldt also lists George Harrison and Buckaroo Don Rich as influences on his lead guitar style, but it was James Burton who was most inspirational.... »»»
While Kevin Welch is not one of Nashville's most prolific or best known or most successful songwriters, he is certainly one of its most gifted. As a writer, Welch placed a number of quality tracks on the albums of the great and near-great. As a performer, Welch recently released his fourth solo album, "Beneath My Wheels."
There is very little about Welch, either in his writing style or his career path or his biography, that could remotely be considered typical. He left his native Oklahoma at 17 and never looked back. He toured around the country on the roadhouse circuit with various bands for several years until his early 20's, when he married and chose to settle down.
Nashville was the logical choice for a place to raise a family and have a music career as well. Welch, 44 in August, quickly got a deal with a music publisher and began to churn out songs that he assumed were the daily vogue in Music City. Funny thing was none of them sold.... »»»
Nobody wants to be called "alternative country" anymore. Bruce Robison is no exception. The Austin-based artist has just released his third album (second on Lucky Dog) "Long Way Home From Anywhere." He considers himself a mainstream country artist whose style of country isn't in fashion these days.
His brother Charlie, also on Lucky Dog (and not too dissimilar musically), recently spent the maximum 20 weeks on Billboard's country singles chart with "Barlight." The highest it reached was 60, but the longevity proves that where it was played, it was popular.
"That was really encouraging," says Bruce. "You think that if you keep going out there, you can carve out a little career. There's no reason Charlie's single couldn't have happened on (other) stations. The more I get out there, the more encouraged I am."
Robison, 33, is on a small label geared to edgier country artists, but it's also a label that is part of Sony with plenty of marketplace clout.... »»»
Gram Parsons walked down 20,000 roads and has come straight back home to you. When the 26 year-old musical boy wonder died so many years ago, few could have predicted his efforts then would still have a bearing on rock n' roll and country music.
After all, this would-be cosmic cowboy and father of country rock achieved notoriety by bringing out a then-unknown Emmylou Harris to sing backup vocals, while trotting out songs like "Streets Of Baltimore" by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard or "I Can't Dance," by Tom T. Hall. The time was the mid-1960's and the early 1970's, when country music and things that twang took a back seat to druggy psychedelia and feel-good pop.
And yet, Parsons' influence - he died in 1973 in a hotel room in Joshua Tree, Cal. of alcohol and heroin - remains as strong today as it ever has. Take it from Paul Kremen, co-producer of the new 13-song tribute "Return of the Grievous Angel" disc, who waited earnestly between sets at a reunion of Emmylou Harris and her Hot Band in 1995 and was struck by how a tape of Wilco's first album played during the intermission reminded him of the Parsons sound.... »»»
Wayne Hancock, the man who may be the second coming of Hank Williams, further establishes himself as one of the premier performers of traditional country with "Wild, Reckless & Free." In today's climate that means he's "alternative."
Hancock has been steadily involved in music since his childhood days in Texas. While others his age listened to Kiss, Hancock says, "I sort of always liked everything. I was into Glenn Miller, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Hank Williams."
At 13, Hancock discovered Williams when his sister returned from a school trip to Nashville with a Williams record. "My life hasn't been the same since," he recalls. "I tried to do everything just like Hank did. Right down to the drinking." The latter has landed him in trouble on more than one occasion.
Based in Austin, Hancock has little use for Nashville these days, though he did give it a try there about 10 years ago, even cutting a couple of demos for Elektra Records.
"Some producers like to edit everything you do so it sounds perfectly normal. You try to get insanity to sound normal, and you take the life out of it."... »»»
Let's get it out of the way right off the bat: No, this isn't the Dave Foley from the sitcom "Newsradio" and the Canadian comedy show "Kids In the Hall." In fact, it could easily be said that country music is no laughing matter to the 36-year-old Foley.
Though Foley, who recently self-released his debut album, "Holey Moley, It's Dave Foley," has been playing music since he was a teenager, he never marked time with suburban punk or heavy metal bands like so many of those who came of age - musically speaking - in the Boston of the late '70's and early '80's.
Instead, Foley would occasionally sit in with his father (steel guitarist Art Foley, who also appears on Foley's album) and his country group and listened to his parents' Hank Thompson and Merle Haggard records.
"I like rock 'n' roll, but I love country," says Foley in a phone interview from his home in Nantasket Beach on Boston's South Shore. "When I was a teenager, I'd go to some of the things where my father would play, and... »»»
With the voice of a troubled angel and the jasmine-and-whiskey-scented prose of a hard-edged Southern belle, country/folk singer-songwriter Kate Campbell weaves deliciously intricate stories into a delicate, light tapestry of organ, piano, mandolin and guitar.
On the Mississippi native's fourth album, "Rosaryville," (Compass) the one-time college history professor mines the fertile stories of the Deep South to bring us the amazing and bizarre, beauty and mystery. Like the best Southern storytellers - Flannery O' Conner and Eudora Welty - Campbell crafts her work with elaborate detail and a sense of place.
Listening to such songs as "My Mother's House" and "Rosa's Coronas," one can almost feel papery thin, decades-old dress fabric between their fingers or smell the thick summer air of Havana.
On "Look Away," a sorrowful account of Southern culture on the skids is chronicled with fragile elegance: "I can still recall the night lightning burned the mansion down, we all stood in our... »»»
From the moment Tom Adams' sparkling banjo picking kicks off the first song on Blue Highway's new CD, it's clear that something is different for the bluegrass band. "We're real proud of this record," says guitarist Tim Stafford. "I think it's our best one by far. It's the first one with Tom Adams."
The addition of the top-notch banjo player, who logged considerable time with the Johnson Mountain Boys in the 1980's and the Lynn Morris Band earlier this decade, is only one of several changes for Blue Highway.
Their self-titled CD also marks their debut on Ceili Records, the label bluegrass superstar Ricky Skaggs set up last year as part of an ambitious plan to remake the business end of the music.
"I can't say enough good things about the whole organization," Stafford enthuses. "The way Ricky put it to us was that there's a door opening for bluegrass and acoustic music, and he didn't want to go through it by himself. He wanted to take some people with him. That's hard to turn down, when somebody of that stature says something like that."... »»»
David Ball's press material touts him as the honky-tonk savior. Although such praise can end up saddling a person with a "Life of Brian" complex, Ball brushes off such hyperbole with sincere modesty.
"That's what we call press hype," says Ball on the phone from his home in Nashville. "It's just b.s. and eye-catching stuff."
"I guess I am kind of a honky-tonk singer," continues Ball sheepishly.
Of course, such a statement just shouts understatement, since Ball is, indeed, a great honky-tonk singer. His first two albums ("Thinkin' Problem" and "Starlite Lounge") established Ball as a disciple of one of country's greatest stylistic traditions.
Nevertheless, the singer/songwriter's new album, with the playful title of "Play," will surely stretch his audience in the same way that he himself was stretched creatively while recording it.
And if traditionalists become a little dismayed at the pop punch jumping out of the speakers now and again, they have no one to blame but Ball himself, since he acted as his own producer.... »»»
The meeting was fleeting to say the least. Asleep at the Wheel's long-time leader Ray Benson recalls his introduction to his most obvious music hero, Bob Wills, as "a spooky thing."
That is quite understandable.
Wills was recording an album ("For the Last Time"), which would be his last, in 1973. "We were standing in a little hallway," recalls Benson in a telephone interview from his studio in Bismeaux, Texas. "Bob was in a wheelchair. They were wheeling him out. I said, "Hey Mr. Wills, I'm Ray Benson."
"He kind of grunted, and his head kind of fell down," says Benson.Wills was in failing health.
"He said he was very tired," says Benson, leading staff to take him back to his hotel.
"That night he had a stroke and never came out of a coma," Benson says. "Two years later, he was still in a coma. We were playing in his ballroom in Tulsa. It was built in 1949. I got there, and there was an AP reporter and a UPI reporter there."
Bob Wills had died.... »»»
Though the Cornell Hurd Band is often referred to as "Garth Brooks' Worst Nightmare," Hurd has no delusions of supplanting Garth and his contemporaries on the country charts.
Instead, Hurd, who just self-released a live disc, is content to live in Austin and play the honky tonk and swing music he loves for the fans who appreciate real country music.
Hurd grew up in the Bay Area of California listening primarily to rock music. It wasn't until his late teens that he discovered country. "I remember seeing Little Jimmie Dickens and Leroy Van Dyke on TV," he recalls. "Little Jimmie Dickens - I mean, this sawed off guy in this wild suit came running out screaming, and it hit on everything I kind of liked. The power of rock and roll with the cowboy image."
From that point Hurd learned about such greats as Ernest Tubb, Ray Price and Hank Williams. "Once you discover Hank Williams, those kind of songs are pretty hard to deny."
It was seeing Commander Cody during his college days in the... »»»
The late, great Townes Van Zandt still has a little life left in him.
Just when his fans thought the immortal, hard-living troubadour - who had his songs sung by Willie Nelson, Rosie Flores and Emmylou Harris, and his praises sung by no less a personage than Steve Earle - had shuffled off this mortal coil, his wife and a veteran producer are bringing him back for an album, maybe two.
Eric Paul, producer of "A Far Cry From Dead," a new Townes Van Zandt album due in late June, is preaching the gospel of the cult-figure troubadour, known as much for his hard-living and problems with alcoholism as he is for songs like "Pancho and Lefty."
"I believe he was prophetic. I believe he knew he was going to die," Paul says. "I believe he wanted to leave something behind that he never had a chance to do. These songs appeared on record earlier in his career. I don't think he ever got happy with anything he had ever done. I believe he put this stuff down with the ultimate motive of leaving something behind after he died."... »»»
Norman may have been your typical small town character. Not exactly Mr. Popular in the small town of Philadelphia, Miss.
Somehow he married the hometown beauty queen, Rita, much to the surprise of all.
But that, of course, didn't last. She became involved in a love triangle, leading to the suicide of Norman and the flight of The Pilgrim from being down and out drunk clear across America to returning to his love.
And this sordid, partially true tale evolved into Marty Stuart's new ode, "The Pilgrim."
A country concept album? That idea seems farfetched to say the least in this day and age when everything focuses getting three minutes of radio fame.
But don't tell that to Stuart, who put together the cohesively sturdy 20-song story about characters from his hometown through lyrics and instrumentals.
And while unheard of in country circles, Stuart says in an interview from Nashville, he was glad to take the chance, which he knows may be playing with fire career-wise.... »»»
The Raging Teens aren't exactly teens any more, but they do have a certain amount of musical rage in blasting out their lively brand of rockabilly.
Steeped in the Sun Studios sound of the '50's, Chuck Berry guitar riffs and country, the New England-based quartet has helped lead the charge in increasing the popularity of the decades-old musical style.
And after two years together, the band - lead singer Kevin Patey, bassist Matt Murphy, drummer Keith Schubert and rarity of rarities, a female lead guitarist, Amy Griffin - recently released a self-titled CD.
"People are bored," says Patey, from his Salem, Mass. home, explaining the resurgence of the Fifties musical form. "So much of the (modern) stuff is forced. They are getting force fed with this mediocre stuff."
While praising the recent grunge alternative music movement, "some of it became watered down after that. But even the good stuff wasn't exciting."
Patey, 28, thinks music fans "want to hear something that's honest and more real. They don't want to stare at their shoes any more. We kind of accommodate that in both ways. It's pure fun music."... »»»
It used to be that when a teenager decided he wanted a career in country music, he'd enroll in the school of hard knocks. After years of playing in honky-tonks and knocking on doors, maybe he'd get his big break. But one way or the other, he'd learn about the business.
The modern youngster can enroll in a real school to learn about the business. Brad Paisley is the latest graduate of the music business program at Nashville's Belmont University to make it as a country singer. (Trisha Yearwood was the first to rise to prominence.)
Paisley, whose debut "Who Needs Pictures" was just released by Arista, (the title track is already charting) had a foothold before he reached college. The West Virginia native was only 12 when he wrote a Christmas song good enough to get him on the Wheeling Jamboree. That show, broadcast over WWVA, is one of the few remaining of the mini-Oprys that were once all over the radio dial on Saturday nights.
Years of being a regular on The Jamboree didn't... »»»
Get on him or his band for sounding less country on their new album, "Fight Songs," if you want, but it will do no good, says Old 97's lead singer Rhett Miller.
"Anyone who applies a set of rules to what we're doing - who's not in the band - can, basically, lump it," he explains.
"Fight Songs" was recorded last October at Kingsway Studio in New Orleans with producer Andrew Williams.
Thirty songs were recorded, but only 12 made it on to the album. The New Orleans setting did not translate into a New Orleans sound on "Fight Songs," but Miller says there is a sort of lethargy to some of the songs, which can possibly be attributed to the sense of what he calls "New Orleans drunkenness and sleepiness."
He attributes the overall change in sound from past albums - less full-tilt, broken-hearted country-punk, more Beatlesesque, broken-hearted twangy pop - to the natural evolution of the band, not to commercial concerns or any deliberate effort to change the sound of the band.
"We've evolved into a quieter band," he says. "I'm sure it has something to do with age. You get tired of always going 90 miles per hour."... »»»
Mike Ness has long been making a shambles of conventional musical agendas as the songwriter, guitarist and voice of the Southern California punkabillycollective known as Social Distortion.
For over two decades, Ness and Social D have been at the center of an American punk scene that spawned such notables as The Germs, X, The Blasters, The Cramps, and Dead Kennedys.
Even as Social Distortion evolved from a pure thrash outfit to one incorporating more rootsy overtones, Ness still felt the void of ignoring the earliest influences in his art. His parents' love of Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Creedence Clearwater Revival made a lasting impression.
"I was into music at an exceptionally early age," says Ness of his introduction to music. "It was listening to everything from country to folk to rock and roll, long before I heard the Sex Pistols. The yardstick I was using for my record was similar to how Creedence or the Rolling Stones brought country or blues to their music and still made it rock and roll."... »»»
When Joe Diffie's debut album, "A Thousand Winding Roads," was released stone country fans rejoiced. Here was a singer with a voice the likes of which Nashville rarely seemed to turn up any more. He offered hope for those who'd lost hope in country music. Real country music.
He was no regular Joe. His first single, "Home," became the first debut ever to reach number One on Billboard, Radio & Records and Gavin charts.
But starting with 1993's "Honky Tonk Attitude," Diffie went for the funny bone ("Prop Me Be Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)," "John Deere Greene," "Third Rock From the Sun," " I"m in Love With a Capital 'U'" "Bigger Than the Beatles" and "Pickup Man"). While leaning toward novelty tunes, he leaned away from the more traditional sounds that first attracted him to the public.
Times have changed, and so has Diffie. Follow-up albums "Life's So Funny in 1995 and "Twice Upon a Time" in 1997, featuring more of the same fare, did not do so well.
With the June release of "A Night To Remember," the Oklahoman has gone back to what brought him to the show.... »»»
As tempting as it might have been at times to place Jack Smith in the "Whatever happened to...?" files in the 11 years since he released his last album (a 1988 release on Flying Fish), there have been just enough reports of Smith's live performances in and around Providence, R.I. during the years to dispel any notion he had hung up his rock 'n' roll shoes for good.
The fact is that Jack Smith never went anywhere, though he did scale back his commitment to touring in 1991. In spite of that, though, Smith, 54, always maintained a following that wanted to hear him return to the studio and release a new album.
"I kind of rolled it back a bit," says Smith during a phone interview from his Rhode Island home. "I decided that I didn't want to do it for a living at the rate that it was going. I never stopped doing it, but I started playing less frequently and doing other things to earn money."
"Through all of those years I met so many people who said, 'Jack, you ought to do a record...'... »»»
Charlie Daniels' story is as big as the man himself. In his 62 years, Daniels has worked with the most renowned names in the music business, created and sustained the longest running concert event and literally changed the face of musical history as an instrumental force in softening the ground for today's alt.-country sound.
From his groundbreaking successful country rock albums of the '70's right up to his latest "Tailgate Party" on his own Blue Hat label, Daniels is a singular chapter in the big book of musical accomplishment.
On his latest, Daniels gives tribute to some of the greatest Southern rock bands of the ages.
Covering artists as disparate as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hootie & the Blowfish, the Allmans, the Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie and Grinderswitch, Daniels has shown just how many rooms there are in country music's house.
Daniels mulled the possibilities of "Tailgate Party" for quite awhile, and with Blue Hat was finally able to bring it to life. "This is an... »»»
As a member of the most influential family in country music history and wife of one of the century's most admired singer-songwriters, June Carter Cash has been witness to or participated in some of country's finest moments.
With the release of her latest album and first in about 25 years, "Press On," Cash reclaims a part of her family's musical legacy and shows she has been more than just an observer.
Though the original Carter Family recordings, featuring Cash's Mother Maybelle, Uncle A.P. and Aunt Sara, continue to attract new listeners, Cash says her family was largely unaware of the impact they were having. "I don't think they realized it at all," Cash says. "I know they didn't."
"They were so into their families. They loved music. They loved to 'make music'- that's what they called it," Cash recalls. "It was just at a time when people were down and out from the Depression, and it was hard to have entertainment. So,if you couldn't get to town, you could order the Carter Family records from Montgomery Ward or Sears and Roebuck."... »»»
After going the major label route with critical, but not commercial success from two twangy, honky tonk albums on Sony, Stacy Dean Campbell pulled back.
The major label thing wasn't working. And that was not the only change for Campbell.
For starters, his new album, "Ashes of Old Love," marks his debut on Paladin Records.
Secondly, the disc is a far more laid back, spare, often acoustically-based affair, though still country. And the stories - often about freedom - are ever present.
A look at Campbell's co-songwriters - Chris Knight, Kevin Welch and Dean Miller - gives a strong indication of where the album is at musically.
"I think for me the difference between this album and the last album was not really such a conscious thing as it was becoming more focused as a songwriter," he says from his Nashville home. "That was really my main goal with this record - to make a focused project to define what I was going to be as a songwriter."... »»»
After five years with Kentucky's long-standing, all-female band, The New Coon Creek Girls, Dale Ann Bradley struck out on her own.
And following the success of 1997's "East Kentucky Morning," Bradley is out with "Old Southern Porches," on Pinecastle, a wonderful showcase of her writing talents and smooth lead vocals. It's finding favor with bluegrass and Americana DJs.
Bradley says the decision to do a solo album actually came from Pinecastle President Tom Riggs.
"I had performed at Renfro Valley (Kentucky's famous Renfro Valley Barn Dance) for a couple of year before joining the New Coon Creek Girls. I had done albums on their label that they sold there in their music store. It didn't have the distribution of some of the bigger independent labels."
"Mr. Riggs approached me to see if (an album) was something I'd be interested in," Bradley says.
"I had a well of songs that I'd written, along with Vicki Simmons (of the NCCG), stuff we co-wrote together...I thought it would be another opportunity to express music."... »»»
A funny thing happened to Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys on the way to recording a new release.
The sextet was supposed to record three new songs and pull three more already recorded songs for an EP.
But once Big Sandy, aka Robert Williams, and the boys (bassist Wally Hersom, drummer Bobby Trimble, pianist Carl Sonny Leyland, guitarist Ashley Kingman and steel player Lee Jeffriess) got into the studio, all hell broke loose.
The result is "Radio Favorites," six songs of all new material of their brand of country. western swing and jazz.
"We were trying to figure out with HighTone Records what our next move was going to be," says Big Sandy, on the phone from a diner in Pittsburgh. "We were trying to land some sort of deal on a bigger label, but we didn't want to wait around for that to happen until we put out something new. We thought we'd put out an EP."
(The band had been talking with Sire, but ultimately the talks did not lead to a deal.) "We were under pressure to get out... »»»
It's almost impossible to read a paragraph about Mandy Barnett without seeing Patsy Cline's name mentioned. Barnett's career has often intertwined with that of the legendary Cline, who died long before Barnett was born.
The Tennessee native's first big break came when she was chosen to portray Cline in the Nashville stage show "Always...Patsy Cline" at 19.
She was a child prodigy long before the stage show came along. At 10, Barnett had a summer job singing at Dollywood after winning a talent contest there. At 12, she sang on Ernest Tubb's post-Opry "Midnight Jamboree" show.
Shortly after that, Jimmy Bowen signed her to a deveopment deal, but after years of demos and meetings, she was dropped without ever having anything released.Winning the auditon to portray Cline put Barnett back on the fast track. She was signed to Asylum, but her one album failed to set the charts afire despite critical acclaim. Asylum was one of the labels then under the auspices of Seymour Stein. When Stein was put in charge of the reactivated Sire label, he quickly signed Barnett.... »»»
"I coulda been a saint and not a rank backslider," Chip Robinson sings on "Abe Lincoln," the blazing opening track on "Southern Lines," the new Backsliders album.
But backsliders have always been more interesting than saints, and Robinson and country rockers The Backsliders are no exception.
The process to get "Southern Lines," a record that is a wonderfully dark and rough trip through lives and places, released is no less interesting.
With the critically-acclaimed "Throwin' Rocks at the Moon" under their belt, Robinson, guitarists Steve Howell and Brad Rice, bassist Danny Kurtz and drummer Jeff Dennis, along with producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel (Blue Mountain, Bottle Rockets) left Raleigh and headed to The Dockside in Maurice, La. in January 1998 to record a new album.
They had no idea that it would take close to a year and a half before the album was released and that Robinson would be the only one of them to remain a full-time Backslider.... »»»
Is Kelly Willis this year's Lucinda Williams? Both seem to have reaped the benefits of the "absence makes the heart grow fonder" proverb.
Willis' new Rykodisc album, "What I Deserve" (like Williams' 1998 "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road") arrives after a seemingly endless array of frustrating delays that seem to have left most critics' in a worshipful state.
The adulation that has already greeted Willis' latest, in every major musical and general entertainment publication, belies the fact that her only three previous albums were not only commercial failures, but didn't get much attention from most of these publications.
"People seem to be excited that I have a record out," Willis saysfrom her Austin home. "I didn't know if anyone would even care."
There are differences between the two women, of course. For one, Williams is known primarily as a songwriter. Willis has developed her following mainly via her voice, though she has always written songs too. She's responsible in whole or in part for six songs on the new album, but Willis emphasizes that "I'm not a prolific writer. I write in spurts."... »»»
Monte Warden has packed a couple of lifetimes into his career and a couple of careers into his lifetime. If you're keeping score on your home abacus, that's about three more than most people ever get.
Warden, now releasing his first major label album, "A Stranger To Me Now," knows a lot about lifetimes, careers and luck. Especially luck. He knows how to make the most of it when it's plentiful, and he knows it can disappear in the time it takes to change a CD.
Luck first visited Monte Warden as a very young member of an Austin band called Whoa, Trigger that had garnered enough local buzz to earn the trio the Best New Band prize at the Austin Music Awards in 1988.
But soon enough, Whoa, Trigger was stuffed and mounted, and Warden found himself in the company of some friends from another recently dissolved Austin band.
Together they formed The Wagoneers, a group committed to keeping alive the old traditions of country music in a contemporary setting and equally driven to do it all with original music.... »»»
Ricky Skaggs has come full-circle these days. And it's something that suits him just fine. He's back playing bluegrass again full-time. As he proudly boasts, "we've come back to our (musical) roots."
His bookings are up. His last two records have met with tremendous response from fans and critics alike. His band is one of the best in the business, and with his new record company, Cieli, which has signed some of the nation's top bluegrass acts, he seems poised to make bluegrass music as strong as its ever been, heading into a new millennium.
Skaggs, who just released his own "Ancient Tomes," says the "move back to bluegrass is the right move....I have no desire to go electric again."
He says he "feels more creativity now," and the "passion that moves me is bluegrass and its acoustic drive."
"Always surprised at how well received it is," Skaggs says, "bluegrass is here to stay."
The Kentucky native says the "genre deserves recognition," and that he is "trying to change the attitude of what bluegrass is and what it can be."... »»»
There's country, traditional country, hot new country, alternative country, pop country and if Haak Kallweit has his way, there will also be "blue country."
At least that's what the songwriter for the Maine trio, The Piners, is pushing these days based on the band's debut album.
Kallweit, hitting 30 in April, says The Piners' music has a "kind of chugging sound, an early rock and roll backbeat sound. Buck Owens, Chubby Checker - everybody had that kind of sound. The 'blue' is basically from the fact that we have the harmony singing. We always have a thread to some sort of blues. There is no straight blues. It kind of has a blue feel."
Kallweit also could call it "train country," given his seeming fixation with the transportation mode in many songs on the musically diverse disc featuring country, a touch of blues, folk and bluegrass.
Kallweit says, "I don't know what the frigging deal is with the trains. You get into a vibe. Maybe it was a certain week or something I was... »»»
Jim McReynolds is so soft-spoken and modest that it's easy to forget that he and brother Jesse have been recognized by peers, fans and critics alike as two of the best and most influential musicians in country music for half a century.
Indeed, even though the duo is celebrating the 35th anniversary of their induction into the Grand Ole Opry and the release of an important new box set ("The Old Dominion Masters" on Pinecastle), the gentlemanly Virginian seemed content to reminisce about their early days and the growth of the bluegrass style to which they have contributed so much.
Though Jim and Jesse, now 71 and 69 respectively, were born and raised in southwest Virginia at the same time as and just one county over from Carter and Ralph Stanley, their tastes and music took a very different turn from the latter's raw "mountain music" sound.
"Carter and Ralph went after Bill Monroe's sound, especially with Pee Wee Lambert on the mandolin," Jim recalls. "We always loved Bill's... »»»
Critically acclaimed music writer Peter Guralnick, best known for his two-volume Elvis biography, can thank a birthday party celebration for jumpstarting his work on 1994's "Last Train to Memphis" and 1999's "Careless Love," he told a packed room at South by Southwest March 16.
Guralnick, whose most recent work is on a biography of Sam Cooke, had already established himself as a music writer before his work on Elvis, publishing "Feel Like Going Home" in 1971 and "Lost Highway" in 1976. In the course of the interview, with Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith,, he recounted the anecdote of what jumpstarted his 11 years of meticulous research on The King.
In January 1988, having already decided to write a book on Elvis, Guralnick attended Elvis' birthday celebration at Graceland with Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, where they heard Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis' famous (or infamous) manager speak. Phillips approached Parker afterward to say hello, so Guralnick "tagged along," he said, and was introduced to Parker.... »»»
Rosie Flores is a nearly non-stop talker and a performer with a yen to juggle the moods of the listener. Both traits serve her well on her new Rounder disc of rockabilly, country and swing, "Dance Hall Dreams."
Though "Dreams" is a new release, the material was recorded nearly a year ago. The basic tracks came from a pair of live dates at the Cibolo Creek Country Club in San Antonio, Tex.
But the disc isn't billed as a live outing because the material was then taken into the studio for additional work.
"We recorded it live for feel and energy," says Flores in a phone interview just prior to the disc's release. "Our mission in the studio was to enhance what we did live. We wanted to sparkle it up."
Whether it was re-recording a steel guitar solo or adding a background vocalist, the end result is a nearly perfect cross section of Flores' repertoire.
Ray Kennedy, one-half of twangtrust, the production duo that also includes Steve Earle, had a big hand in producing the disc.... »»»
t's a sad fact of life that the country and rockabilly stars of the 1950s aren't exactly spring chickens anymore. Carl Perkins, "Groovey" Joe Poovey and Jackie Lee Cochran all passed away in the past year or so.
All the more reason to enjoy the genre's younger performers, such as the Collins Kids and Ronnie Dawson, teenagers during rockabilly's golden era of the late '50's and a good 5 or 10 years younger than their peers. Though now in their 50's, they're still capable of whipping an audience into a lather and putting out new music, like Dawson's March release of "More Bad Habits."
Dawson's original career was based largely on the reputation of two locally-released singles, "Action Packed" and "Rockin' Bones," not to mention a distinctive platinum blond flattop haircut that earned him the nickname "the Blond Bomber."
Neither single was heard much outside the Dallas area at the time and as time passed, Dawson moved along with it, doing session work (that's him playing drums on... »»»
Del McCoury has long been acclaimed as a leading force in bluegrass. These days, with one album currently high up on the Americana chart and two more to follow in February, McCoury might also be viewed as the hardest working man in bluegrass.
McCoury, 59 on Feb. 1, was inspired early on by his mother, who played guitar, piano and banjo. His older brother taught him how to play guitar, but McCoury says it was "when I heard Earl Scruggs, that's what really turned me on to playing."
After playing in various regional bands in the Baltimore area, McCoury's first big break came in February 1963 when he joined the legendary Bill Monroe.
McCoury had played banjo with former Bluegrass Boy Jack Cook. Monroe came to Baltimore to ask Cook to join him for a show at New York University. Cook turned Monroe down, but Monroe offered McCoury a job playing banjo.
However, by the time McCoury got back to Monroe to accept the offer, Bill Keith had already been hired to play banjo. McCoury was then hired on as a lead singer and guitarist.... »»»
Jaames King isn't a tall man, but with the recent release of "Bed By The Window" and the forthcoming release of a second album by Longview, the "supergroup" with which he sings, he is a man with a high profile in bluegrass.
"It's unreal," the Virginia native says backstage at the Mountain Arts Center (MAC) in Prestonsburg, Ky. recently. "I don't mean to boast, but we really seem to have a hit. When the album came out, and I actually held it in my hands, I looked at (producer/Rounder Records partner) Ken Irwin, and said, 'well, what do you think?' He said, 'it's mighty strong; we'll know how it does in a few months.'"
"The more I listened to the album, the more I liked it," he says of his third album, "but you never know how people are going to take it. And it can take a long time for a new bluegrass CD to really get going. That's why I was so surprised when the song ("Bed By The Window") got on the Bluegrass Unlimited chart so quickly. I'm really thankful for how much the fans seem to like it."... »»»
Boston's never exactly been considered fertile ground for country.
But one Massachusetts resident by way of Canada is almost single-handedly trying to change that - at least when it comes to the twangy side of country.
Stacey Taylor, who works full-time for a record company more devoted to electronica, spends her free time pushing Hellcountry, a regular series of concerts featuring country, bluegrass, alt.-country bands at small, Boston area clubs.
Taylor's work for Nettwerk Records led her to the Kendall Cafe, the main home of Hellcountry, which holds free Sunday concerts weekly and a shindig the last Friday of each month.
Through Nettwerk, Taylor had dealings with the Kendall. She also started managing Wooden Leg, a local country outfit, on an informal basis.
"When I started trying to book shows, which is what I think most people found trying to book those shows, I ran into a lot of resistance. 'That stuff just doesn't draw,'" Taylor says she was told. "They have their moments when they're supportive, but each club had their own reasons why these clubs wouldn't work."... »»»
Kinky Friedman spends a lot of his time these days rescuing stray dogs from the pound. Now he's spending some time trying to rescue his musical oeuvre from a similar fate.
"Pearls In The Snow: The Songs of Kinky Friedman," released on his own Kinkajou label, is the vehicle by which "The Kinkster," as he often calls himself, hopes that 25 years worth of brilliantly acerbic and often poignant songwriting will finally find an audience.
The album features a number of talented, mostly cult figure, artists interpreting a wide range of Friedman's songs. He talks to us from his Texas home, often interrupted by various canines milling around.
"We're not going to be singing Garth Brooks' songs to our grandchildren," is Kinky's theory. "We'll be singing the songs of the guy who died in the Cadillac and the guy who died in the gutters of New York, Stephen Foster," Then he adds "If you're too successful in your lifetime, forget it," mentioning Van Gogh and others who were only really appreciated after they were gone.... »»»
First Steve Earle dished out country with some edge to it. Then, he veered more towards rock.
And then a folkie/Dylanesque side with musically spare sounding recordings.
The music chameleon justifies that title yet again on his new CD, "The Mountain," as he delves firmly into bluegrass in an album recorded with The Del McCoury Band, one of the best in the business today.
"I've always been a fan," says Earle in an interview from his E-Squared Record offices. "My whole first record is based on one big G run. Bluegrass has always influenced what I did. When I first moved here in 1974, the bluegrassers and the left of center country (musicians) hung out together. I know Vassar Clements for years. That's where I know Peter Rowan from."
This is not the first time Earle and the Del McCoury Band - Del on guitar and backing vocals, Rob McCoury on banjo, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and vocals, Mike Bub on bass and Jason Carter on fiddle - joined forces. On Earle's musically diverse "El Corazon" from 1997, they recorded "I Still Carry You Around" together.
In fact, Del McCoury wasn't familiar with Earle until then.... »»»
Tom Petty said it, and the Damnations TX believe it. The waiting is the hardest part. And this is a band that is particularly unaccustomed to waiting.
Not that everything has happened so quickly for the band, a combo of alt.- country and more traditional sounds. Half sisters Amy Kelly and Deborah Boone had played together for years before forming The Damnations in 1994.
After a number of personnel rotations, the longest surviving member has been multi-instrumentalist Rob Bernard, who also claims membership in alt.-country rockers Prescott Curlywolf.
They didn't have to wait long before their reputation around Austin, Texas earned them a spot on a local live radio performance show, resulting in their self-released debut, the recorded document of the radio gig.
And they didn't have to wait long for the labels to sniff around with contracts in hand (they ultimately settled on Sire/Watermelon when it was time to ink a deal).
The waiting that the band is experiencing now is of the "high-profile-legal-mumbo-jumbo" variety, a result of their signing which alerted the label to another band called Damnation.... »»»