The Freelance Mentalists.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
  Dun Cows, Gone Trains: Nashville Scene 2007 Country etc, ballot & comments pt.1

(2012update: re ancient links to reviews of James etc., Voice long since changed its template, Paper Thin Walls long gone)(2018 update: finally changed these links to MyVil, Paper Comet links to come when reviews are re-posted there
(with Comments Pt. 1)
(Just in the order they come to mind)
1. Elana James: Elana James (Snarf)
2. Jason Isbell: Sirens of the Ditch (New West)
3. Charlie Louvin: Charlie Louvin (Tompkins Square)
4. Amy LaVere: Anchors & Anvils (Archer)
5. Various Artists: Endless Highway: The Music of the Band (429/SLG)
6. Oakley Hall: I'll Follow You (Merge)
7. Bettye LaVette: Scene of the Crime (Anti-) (see comments below)
8. Drakkar Sauna: Jabraham Lincoln (Marriage)
9. Protest Hill: The City Echoes Our Hearts (Latest Flame)
10. Pam Tillis: Rhinestoned (Stellar Cat/Thirty Tigers)
1. Johnny Bush and Willie Nelson: "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On" (Icehouse) (comments below)
2. Speck Mountain: "Girl Out West" (Burnt Brown)
3. The Mendoza Line: "Tougher Than The Rest" (Glurp)
4. Gary Allan "Watching Airplanes" (MCA Nashville)
5. Bobbie Nelson: "Down Yonder" (Justice) (see comments below)
6. Carrie Underwood: "Flat on the Floor" (Arista)
7. Dwight Yoakam: "(I Don't Care) Just As Long As You Love Me" (New West)
8. Blue Cheer: "Young Lions in Paradise" (Rainman)
9. Life On Earth!: "After A Few Years We Settled Down, Got Kids and
Bought Our First Car" (Subliminal Sounds)
10. The Raincoats: "Monk Chant" (Play Loud!)

1. Various Artists: Schultze Gets the Blues: Original Soundtrack
(Normal/Filmkombinat import)
2. Arthur Alexander: Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter (HackTone)(comments below)
3. Ananda Shanka: Ananda Shankar And His Music (Fallout)(comments below)
4. The Staple Singers: The 25th of December (Riverside)(comments below)
5. Various Artists: The Art of Field Recording Volume 1 (Dust-To-Digital)
1. Willie Nelson
2. Arthur Alexander
3. Gary Allan
1 Mavis Staples
2. Gretchen Lambert
3. Carrie Underwood
1. Willie Nelson
2. Michelle Shocked
3. Gretchen Lambert
1. Jason Isbell
1. Drakkar Sauna
1. Oakley Hall
2. The Sadies
3. Charlie Daniels Band
1. Speck Mountain
2. Sunny Sweeney
3. Fire On Fire (comments below)
Honorable Mentions: Bobbie Nelson, AudioBiography (Justice); Johnny
Bush, Kashmere Gardens Mud (Icehouse); Charlie Daniels, Deuces (Koch);
Sadies, New Seasons (Yep Roc); Sunny Sweeney, Heartbreaker's Hall of
Fame (Big Machine); Various Artists, The Sandinista! Project
(Megaforce); Various Artists, Silver Monk Time: A Tribute to the Monks
(Play Loud!); Billie Holiday, Rare & Live Recordings: 1934-1959
(ESP-DISK) (comments on most of these follow)
Pisser: Ashley Monroe's Sony debut album, Satisfied, sent back for
fine-tuning, still unreleased, what, two years after the first or
perhaps last sessions? And somebody fumbled with her singles-- but
hopefully she's gotten some money from co-writing Carrie Underwood's
single, "Flat on the Floor," and Kellie Pickler's album track, "I'm
On My Way." Plus, she reports on her Myspace page that she's recently
written with or for Miranda Lambert, and indeed, "I have been writing
almost every day!" So maybe she'll be the next Matraca Berg or
Bobby/Bobbie Braddock, even if she doesn't get a chance to see how far
Satisfied's ghostown stalker-waif /diarist next door/grievous
hitchhiker-angel in the back of "Hank's Cadillac"might get, with an
officially issued ticket. ( Her good, if somewhat [appropriately]
subdued/abashed demo version of "I Can't Get Past You" is featured on
the Myspace page of her publisher, Wrensongs).
New Hope Partlow tracks, credited to the Love Willows, can be heard on
the Love Willows' MySpace page: unmastered excerpts, so far, and maybe
a little too buttery with the New Wave settings, but Hope's moody
pop-country lasso is sailing again (full-length songs from her '05
debut are on her own solo MySpace.) Thanks for Frank Kogan for the
Fire On Fire are added, with reservations, to this year's kiss-o-death
Best New. As with Oakley Hall, several members have disembarked from
heavier, freakier, rocker bands, and also like Oakley Hall, they have
a real and still sufficiently electric feel for deep hills of
ensemble, reverberant chamber psych-folk ballads. Unlike Oakly Hall,
they even have a sense of humor.A guy advises, "You've just got to
have someone, lay the right and pull the way…even the hangman has
friends. (female voice affirms, "oooo, lalala"-she might be interested
in being a friend). But several tracks on their self-titled EP have
really overloaded lyrics. Still, when Colleen Kinsella sings
lead,especially here and on their YouTube shots (oh man, wish I'd made
that wedding), all is groovy, as the sparks flie upward, and here's
hoping for their debut album, coming this spring, apparently.
A lot of no-show promos from Nashville this year, but it's all right,
I've just gone a little further afield than usual. For instance, The
Sandinista! Project: produced by Jimmy Guterman, covers of the
entire 3-LP set on 2 CDs, by Jon Langford & Sally Timms, Katrina of
Katrina And The Waves, Wreckless Eric, Camper Van Beethoven, Amy
Rigby, Jason Ringenberg & Kristi Rose, Steve Wynn, Willie Nile, Mikey
Dread, Sid Griffith's Coal Porters, Ruby On The Vine (feauturing
Myrna Marcarian of Human Switchboard), and a lot of people I never
heard of, many of whom also do some startlingly good stuff, so it's
not just Indie Big/Heard Of Name Placebo Effect, I don't think
(Although some of the no-name people are a little too reverent to the
wordiness of the texts or slowness of The Clash's own performances,
so it's not just lower case no name placebo effect either.) Feeling stuck in the spotlight and the perfectly sealed over image of rebellion,The
Clash tried to break on through to the para-punk world, much of it in living color, but they did so with the limited skill sets of themselves and their tiny coterie, for whole teeming subcontinents of soundmasses, dub etc. The Project's bands wisely delve into one song each. But such rich material, and it's not just,. maybe not mainly the writing, but the groove too, implied and/or realized, to whatever degree: The Clash's version of post-punk goes past the bounds of the recent trend,
yet loops through the experiments of Wilco and The Mekons, back
through the studio-as-instrument stuff to the country and punk phases,
back to Englishmen who were kids in the 60s, and their take on
skiffle, ska, various New Orleans (incl urban cajun), and rural parade
beats, and yeah nascent hip-hop, dub; but where The Clash's vocals and
production could blur into an atmosphere too thin and thick at the
same time, and too tenuous, technically(at least on the original vinyl
and cheap speakers), other artists have picked up where they left off,
without surpassing the basic strengths of these songs, which are
mostly rejuvenated here, and fairly often in a countryoid way. Not
just in terms of energy, or different drugs, but the Clashian
combination of stylistic elements, with transitions in and between
tracks, and the way the album loops back to pick up an earlier
approach, and develop it further (true in the original, but this trib
makes it clearer to me), and their characteristic combination of
seriousness and humor, linear development and dubwise ricochet,
kinetic mass and leaves of grass, as honored here in spirit and
appropriate adaptation, makes them sound at least as right and ripe
for the Double 0s as for the 80s. (Maybe not if this album had come
out in the 90s, which seemed like Austin Powers' preferred memory of
the 60s, at least for lucky millions; sucked to be other billions, but
there you go-go.) Example of how one track builds on another: was
thinking I'd like to hear more of that bluesy fiddle bouncing along
under Jon Langford and Sally Timms's "Junco Partner." Which is a much
better track, all the way through, than the perky-on-cue rhythm, I
mean "riddim" mocking Strummer's dry, take-it-or-leave-it emphasis got
to be (too conceptual, after more than a few minutes, it seems; we get
it already). But in a much quicker already, I'm wanting more from
Langford and Timms, cos this new version is so good, that they've
shown me could be even better.(After writing this, I realized that
the point is in the degree of restraint: the sly old partner knows
he'll never get out of his street beat alive). But then the very next
track does bring out the fiddle's blues and fun more, as Jason
Ringenberg and Kristi Rose get a lot more subtle than they usually do,
by winding with the fiddle, through the long lines of "When Ivan Meets
G.I. Joe," way after the pinball machines have been shut down, no
attempt to improveon 80s sound EFX here, just ease us through the
shadows, til we reach the international tough guy stuff , on passing
posters and screens, and start another turn. (This really seems like
the centerpiece of the whole Project, speaking of those time/style
loops, even though it's only Track 4.) Wreckless Eric's "Crooked
Beat" combines modern technology and 25 years of practice for inspired
woodshed electronics (which sound Orwellian in Bee Maidens' "Mensforth
Hill", like what's probing Winston and Julia's love nest, back in
1984, but also turns out to be the old man's story from "Something
About England," just recognizable as it [life and history] disappear
backwards over said hill, sucked in like spaghetti, or like gristle
between teeth, all of which is country enough for me.) The Lothars'
name might come from 60s' group Lothar And The Hand People, in which
Lothar was a theramin, because a whole patrol of are we not theramin
keep patrolling "The Call Up, " which is a bit like Devo's version of
"Workin' In A Coal Mine" and Neil Young's Trans, but eerier (and more
foregone, far-gone rural-industrial) than either. Speaking of
versions, Tim Krekel's "Version City" is the
mainstream-accessible triumph, pop train song with doppler shift
horns, like Mr. Krekel, a regular Kentucky-to-Music Row commuter,
probably is familiar with, and fans of Tim McGraw's rusty-vocodered
"Fly Away" really really should hear it too. Sally Timms & Jon
Langford return with "Version Pardner," which seems like mostly
acoustic dub, until tape Sallys sally back again, and one of her has
one hand waving free ("He-e-ey," even if she's still falling forward
and around with that ol' Partner man again).And that's just one more
upside down moment folded into a bouquet of dub, which is still just
trying to take country's ID crisis on a seismic cruise, oowee baby.
(Meanwhile, over on Silver Monk Time: A Tribute To The Monks, certain
mid-60s, ex-G.I., U.S. Midwest-to-Germania boneyard sparks get lured
and railroad-guitarneck-jerked through "Monk Chant" and 'round the
mountain by the Raincoats, as spins "Cuckoo" into the peak
and on its beak.)
Neither of those albums sustains (or tries for) a country-related feel
(remember, can't get too conceptual) all the way through, that's why
they're Honorable Mentions. (Pt. 2 follows)(scroll down this page:
Yes Ruby on the Vine is good. Also the band is good. check out the site to see what happened to them! Yikes :(
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