The Freelance Mentalists.
Friday, February 07, 2020
  Old Sole, Gold Love, Emily D. Freak-In Weekends: NScene ballot, comments re '19

(just in the order they come to mind)
1.Tyler Childers: Country Squire
2. Rodney Crowell: Texas
3. Caroline Spence: Mint Condition
4. Willie Nelson: Ride Me Back Home
5. Kalie Shorr: Open Book
6. Sturgill Simpson: Sound & Fury
7. Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines
8. Justin Townes Earle: The Saint of Lost Causes
9. Allison Moorer: Blood
10. Patty Griffin: s/t
*(imaginary categories)
*Hon. Mention: Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis: Beautiful Lie

*About Half Good (60-45%), in descending order of  Goodness or goodness:

Maren Morris: Girl, Highwomen: s/t, Hayes Carll: What It Is, Tanya Tucker: While I'm Livin'

*Trivial Pursuit: Miranda Lambert: Wildcard

*Milk Dud: Amanda Ann Platt & The Honeycutters: Live at the Grey Eagle


(in descending order of relevance)
1.Bob Dylan (Featuring Johnny Cash): Travelin Thru, 1967-1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 15
(Cash incl. In credit on listing)
2. Reggie Young: Guitar Session Star
3. Sir Douglas Quintet: The Complete Mercury Masters
(digital-only re-reissue (digital-only re-reissue
(scroll waaay down for re-reissue date)
4. Link Wray: Rocks (Bear Family beast).

1.Sheryl Crow: Threads
2.Hot Club of Cowtown: Wild Kingdom
3.Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Dance Chapter Four: Memphis
4.Lillie Mae: Other Girls
5.Arthur Russell: Iowa Dream
6.Lost Bayou Ramblers: Asteur
7. Peter Stampfel & Atomic Mega-Pagans: The Ordivician Era
8. Meat Puppets: Dusty Notes
*Related Reissue:
1. Lone Justice: Live at the Palomino 1983  

Top Ten Country Albums
I had the blurry, ancient impression of Tyler Childers as sounding like an (alternate-universe) Sturgis Mini-Me, humble and homespun in the way SS never was, not on this side of the line---unless you count the way he gave up on them voices in his head,"ain't got nothin' to say," but he soon lit for the territory. On Country Squire, Childers is never that resigned, or that bold, just insecure, without whinin'---full-throated even when high lonesome---and he seizes on the good times like he does the bad, knowing it could all blow up, will turn again---oh well, "Honey don't cry, you're married to a Gemini"---and even the fella who "guards the rusty missiles" tonight like he does every night, daydreaming of rustic weekend adventures, sounds like he's 'bout to fiddle-waltz over the mountain, even though he must be down below the holler, also way out West of it, unless there's something our Government never told us.
Keep trying to keep up with the words, and catching more bits every time I listen---he's playing down at the bar every night, "turnin' songs into 2 by 4s": first I thought he meant he was making them very functional, down to the essentials, but come to think of it a 2-by-4 is a humble thang: is this bar gig reductive? But he's always resourceful, and diligent: The Country Squire is an ancient camper, the basis of "a temple" for his loved one---putting up "rafters" in a camper?? I know about making trailers into ex-mobile homes, building all around those tin walls, but---anyway the music is very solid and mobile, with enough variety and continuity to pull me along, in a plausible, not-quite-"universal" way, like the words "House on Fire" has an organ burning through, around and with string band instrumentation, "All Your'n" is the most Sturgill-esque in terms of early 70s R&B crossover appeal, yet country as its title, and overall there's a good balance of acoustic and electric, incl. choice and placement of microphones.
9 songs, 35 minutes, and I've listened four times in the last couple of days--could prob listen that many times a row.

Rodney Crowell, Texas: frequently rockin', mostly country, never far from the pavement, with guests incl. Willie Nelson,lee Ann Womack, Ronnie Dunn, Billy F. Gibbons, John Jorgenson, Vince Gill, Steve Earle,Lyle Lovett Ringo Starr: even more carefully detailed than usual, yet one of his tightest ever. Theme might well be "Too much is not enough," but still too much, but he'll take it---"You're Only Happy When You're Miserable" (with a "doomsday fantasy") does not sound like a note to self; that would be "I'll Show Me," flipping succinct fantasies and probabilities like Benjamins to the waiter world, oh thank you suh. Might be the same jaded guy, finally getting excited, anticipating getting schooled by a New York girl who's very strict about "sticking to those playground rules" (this one gets toward primo Steely Dan).Most of these stay closer to home, though "56 Fury"'s butch vintage driver might a Droog, fan with his rockabilly haircut "like a French beehive lady"---yeah but look out for that ZZ guitar, farmers back there (it'll chop your cotton). Getting loaded on the lakeside with Willie & co. doesn't glaze the restless Texas urges--still gotta float down the river, wander in the woods, while even a couple of crows, Heckle and Jeckle, build a barb-wire nest, move onto a high-rise, but keep the nest filled with magpie chicks (scarecrows are around).
The guy who works "The Border" is quieter, slower, than most of the others: he's gotta be.
"Brown & Root, Brown & Root," is a lowland 'billy waltz about working for that old construction conglomerate (eventually uploaded by the even bigger Halliburton, as Earle mentions in his intro), "climbin' in the dirt": it's all sepia, with some moisture, at wet cement and Paw's booze---quite a contrast with the bright clipped clarity of "Texas Drought Pt. 1" (although the dry folk drink too, while sending up prayers and helicopters). 11 tracks, 40 minutes, beep-beep.
Young RC saga, incl. TX-to-Trashville, trans-sharecropper biz rat bridgework(less-cut version of Charlotte Creative Loafing profile):

Caroline Spence, Mint Condition: A country folkie who has no prob with (better) rockin' beats (contrast somewhut w Hayes Carll, later on on here), kind of a modern day Mary McCaslin, is Caroline Spence, whose 2019 Mint Condition judiciously updates her 70s Neil-Emmylou buckskin diaries, with recurring bits of nocturnal Beach House keyboard harmonies, for inst. More on her later maybe. RIYL Lee Ann Womack. This one is maybe better for listening to than writing about, opposite of so many theoretical commendables.
What I said on here about her 2017 alb:
"Softball" is a good example of how Caroline Spence's little x wiry voice can put one over the plate with no excess effort: she says that when she invades the boys' team, it ain't gonna be softball no more, and she's right. Not seeing personnel credits for Spades and Roses, except for a mention of the drummer(-arranger of the occasional, never-overdone strings) also being the producer. He discreetly keeps thing moving right along, even when there are no drums, plus she's got the supple tunes and words ("Southern Accident"!), although "You Don't Look So Good (Cocaine") seems too naggy. wouldn't change my way of life for sure. Overall, reminds me a bit of early 70s Emmylou and Neil (incl. mix of acoustic and electric, although no big solos), but it's all life lived, incl. some straight thought-talk to self and other, also bits of wistful thinking, incl. looking ahead & back ("There might have been some eloquence/In the very last words I said...")  Also gets a bit folkie-solemn with the hopefulness sometimes, but goes with the lost evenings w wine and guys(for instance)--she's concisely candid enough about impulsive and compulsive elements. Philosophy as drug: speaking of yonder 70s West Coast associations.
Edd Hurt responds on, ILX's Rolling Country 2017 thread:
Talking about Caroline Spence: she's doing a residency in January here at the Basement. Wrote this about her recently:
Virginia-born singer-songwriter Caroline Spence released a remarkable track about the limits of Nashville songwriting on her 2013 EP You Know the Feeling. "Whiskey Watered Down" takes down a shallow tunesmith who, Spence declares, will never be "Parsons, Earle or Van Zandt." What makes "Whiskey Watered Down" a definitive song about a particular strain of Music City songwriting is her choice of role models, but the tune also equates bad songwriting with bad relationships. A Nashville resident since 2011, Spence continued to work in classic singer-songwriter mode on her 2015 full-length Somehow, which includes a full-band rendition of "Whiskey Watered Down" that I find less effective than the acoustic reading she performed on the 2013 EP. I admire Spence's writing on this year's album Spades & Roses, which contains the excellent track "You Don't Look So Good (Cocaine)" and the equally fine "Softball," about sexism and what it takes to become a big-league songwriter. Spence, who recently released a five-song EP called Secret Garden, has potential — she bears watching. EDD HURT

Listening again to Willie Nelson's Ride Me Back Home, struck again by its nobody-but-him best tracks, no matter who wrote 'em, though there are several worthy new Willies, mostly collaborations with now long-time producer Buddy Cannon--but now also with some misgivings, Title opener seems a tad too sentimental by the middle, which is where I tend to find myself starting to Web surf, 'til he snaps back into another foreground, then starts to recede again---as so often in the past, he has this way, of repeating, seeking to effortlessly, seamlessly display shading: "Still Is Still Moving To Me," amen: great when it works, but not so much on this set, where he can seem like a singing statue of himself (not the worst thing to hear), as the faithful musos swirl around him, adeptly sustaining most of the actual listening interest, as on several albums by much lesser artists this year.
Several lovely keepers, many lovely moments, even in the background, but there are many fine Willie albums, incl. in recent years, so I'm judging this again those--kinda thinking it might be more Hon. Mention than Top Ten (gotta finish that Scene ballot)--but looking again at the track list, maybe I'm too picky? Will listen some more
They're pretty much all keepers, one way or another, esp. since I bought 'em---but may never play his take on "Just the Way You Are" again: it's done well, but why?.
"I don't want clever conversation, I never want to work that hard. I just want someone that I can talk to," or not, and it's okay, most likely. Maybe this selection is his song for family friend Woody Harrelson, who plays dominos with Willie all night long at the Nelson domicile in Hawaii, as reported by Rolling Stone.
I'll prob keep this in the Top Ten, not so much out of deference (I hope), but because if you want a fresh fix of Willie, you'll just have to wait for the man himself (not for long, certainly not in this decade, although having only one new album this year has been a tad worrisome). Promise of the Real know to avoid or minimize direct comparison, literalist similarity; Phosphorescent has managed some effective quasi-channeling, but doesn't have the WN range, in any sense.
A lot of Willie mentions on this ol' blog over the years, but here's more of a smoke ring overview (with a then-new, still underknown album in review), written for Kandia Crazy Horse at Charlotte Creative Loafing:
OMG Yall, if you, like me and some parallel seekers are so far hearing Maren Morris's Girl as pretty good but kind of disappointing as a follow-up to Hero, or not, better check Kalie Shorr's Open Book---comparison junkies of Rolling Stone are wrong to cite Shania, but yes ok Taylor and Alanis(at their best) do pertain at times. But it is country enough re neurosis and trainwrecks and bedrooms and coming into and out of the patterns and honed lines and twang pangs x (pop country) big boot beats at the right moments and li'l wave rows of programming at others and droney concise electric chords and I'm not gonna talk about more 'til I've listened more, hardly daring to believe it's really this good but pretty sure.
i'm a sucker for gleaming pop-country, sez a fellow Marenite. Wal now, have you heard Sturgill's Sound and Fury yet? I just did, and right off, seems like this ZZ Rex electro-pop-boogie, sometimes also reminding me of Neil and the Trans Band (more the show tapes than studio album), might suit you too. It's much less windbaggy than I feared---and the non-pedantic retro detailing, commercial inclusiveness x righteous fencepost grievances x deserty-hot-cold broodiness, also that voice, keep it all country or countryoid. Also 'ppreciate how he keeps twisting the dial into another track at just the right moment, or close enough. It's another hard candy Christmas alright.
Another pulsating combo, sonically suggesting proximity to a two-lane blacktop through the mountains: Kelsey Waldon's moderate-budgeteers, especially the unusually prowly but not too nosey pedal steeler Brent Resnick (who performs live "Powderfinger" with her on YouTube) bass guitarist Alex Newnam (sic), and drummer-percussionist Nate Felty, who plays, as does everybody here, with the unobtrusive precision of get-on-with-it confidence, just like their fearless leader, on her latest album, White Noise, White Lines. 2016's I've Got A Way was enthusiastically discussed on Rolling Country, but wasn't quite as together as this, seemed like. (They're both on her bandcamp, with an earlier one I haven't heard yet.) She sounds young, but she's been around---not too much of either: born in "Kentucky 1988," and Daddy don't always do right, she's on record about that, but so is he, and they love each other*. As for the rest, here she jumps right into it: When the sun sinks down and dreams start to drown/And you still don't know who you are/Workin' the ground, pace like a dog in a pound And you still only get so far/And I'd do it again, even if I didn't know how.! Kind of her theme song, because she thinks trying to know it all is a big mistake. Which goes in several directions, like "Sunday Children" ("are bein' lied to"), which sounds like Gil Scott-Heron, although the guest Wurlitzer piano helps .Fave so far is "Very Old Barton": My life is a song; my mind's a picture show/You are the real thing, when you are alone/Drinkin' Very Old Barton with the country radio/Always lonesome, and won't let it go. And if I knew any better, I'd know it's a sin/ But some things are just better, without you knowin' them...How can I be happy, how can I Iove today? Take hold of my own life, and not wish it away? Keep your loved ones close, don't stay far behind...Drinkin' Very Old Barton with the country radio/Always lonesome, and too prideful to show/Have another go-round, don't mind if I do/It's just one of those things we all go through
*daddy's on the/this record, yes---not agreeing/disagreeing with her that he don't always do right, but telling somebody that he heard her on the radio, and sounding moved by that.. The only cover is the closer, "My Epitaph," by the late great Ola Belle Reed (with eerie, hospitable guitar reverb making me think of Pop Staples): When I go from this life, let me go in peace/I Don't want your marble at my head and feet/Don't gather around me oh just to weep and moan/Where that I'm going I won't be alone/The flowers you give, please give them today/Don't waste their beauty on cold lifeless clay/One rose with love could do so much good. Oh and Ola Wave, Ola's songs performed by her nephew, Zane Campbell, yet another mavericky mountain citizen:
From this blog's 2016 round-up:
Kelsey Waldon, I've Got A Way: amen to that. Although don't agree w Powers' First Listen intro: "deadpan"? She's right that it be a pan full o' feeling, but Waldon sounds pretty upfront emotional, without ever emoting---she's still indignant when she thinks about people who have fucked with her, or tried to, but mainly impatient, cos she's on her way, so get out of it---unless you've got some endearing young or old charms; she can take a detour while looping back to where "Life Moves Slow", although she's only passing through and doesn't slow down that much herself, and what she really likes about it is it's where "folks still speak their minds": her true roots, or the ones she wants to claim. Also see freewheeling discussion on ILX thread Rolling Country 2016
Sturgill-like in terms of immediately engaging ***sound*** and song-structures that fill it out, is none other than Justin Townes Earle's The Saint of Lost Causes, despite the title, which had me expecting not so much, although I didn't anyway----really enjoyed The Good Life, Midnight At the Movies (a favorite], and the sometimes startling Harlem River Blues, all of which are on his bandcamp---but albums of this decade seemed to lose or drain his precarious stance in slo-mo: "weary" was a word I used earlier in that process, and then "shoebox in the middle of the road," and couple of years ago, re Kids in the Street, "JT is but a bug on the windshield of life," so self-reduced did he seem. But he was working on this sound then, getting it sometimes, and now there's a whole set, co-produced with Adam Bednarik, who also engineers, and plays acoustic and electric bass. It's an acoustic and electric, fluid and shiny and shaded, blue and brown sound I associate with Memphis and Mobile (although bandcamp still lists his address as Nashville, and that's in here too, why not): pedal steel and slide, some fingerpicking and strumming, bits of celeste, Wurlitzer piano, organ, stalwart drums & bass, no big solos, but an alert team. This groove, and the tunes, sometimes remind me little of Jesse Winchester, but JT doesn't have that little trill, he's more down-to-earth, without going too far into the semi-coherent referential murmur of some other 2010s offerings: he's---post-wasted, you might call it, without much of a hangover or rehab speak.Even got some outside-world topics, like he wants somebody to give him some money, "I don't need no honey, I can make it all myself," and one about dealing with bad water, and one about Flint by name, in which Deetroit shouldn't get all the publicity, good and bad--he's right: blue-collar crossover stadium heroes Grand Funk Railroad were from there, and Akron's David Allan Coe was right to tour with them early on.
Anyway, dang, check it out:
Alison Moorer's Blood seems not as stark as I expected, nor even as somber---overcast, yeah, but the cloud cover isn't oppressively low, doesn't fog things up. It's a clear-enough dark space, mostly voice, acoustic guitar, flexing tunes, with lines, phrases, single words finding their way as needed, other sonic incidents along the way.Producer Kenny Greenberg drops in just the right bits of his and other instruments (incl. Moorer's) it's not just the same set-ups, same crew waiting for us on each track, as is so often the case. Then again, there are some ensemble turns, like "The Rock and the Hill" is kind of spare country funk, with Moorer's recurring "Immigrant Song" wail, and a fairly universal theme, "Tired of this rock, tired of that hill."  "NIghtlight" could be love ballad of varied applications, equally radio-ready""All I Wanted (THanks Anyway)" could be note, with some push of backbeat, to ex Steve Earle (uh maybe not:  see notes on her w Hayes Carll later on in here), and even "I'm The One To Blame," mainly written by her murder-suicide father, finished by sister Shelby, is disarmingly lissome---yet the context, the throughline of everything here is apparent enough: it's about living all around the central incident, described succinctly in "Cold Cold Earth," the only one that sounds just like an old, old country ballad, in a veil you can see right through, for what that's worth; lots of detailed print narrative in Blood the memoir, but meanwhile she's got more to sing about.The title track seems addressed to her sister, or maybe her son, who is also musical: they got the same blood, and though "We ain't got plenty of money, we travel along, singin' this song, side by side." Closer is co-written with Mary Gauthier, and could be one of MG's collabs with war veterans on Rifles and Rosary Beads: "Yeah, I'm tough, but I wasn't born this way...Help me lay my weapons down..."

Also, re xpost Sturgill's approach: even more, or more surprisingly, personalized retro---"bespoke," right?--is to be found on most of Patty Griffin's current s/t--it's surprising to me because she's usually got a very distinctive style of composition, and these spare tracks---usually just her and a guitar and sometimes a bass, a couple voice-piano pieces, acoustic probably, although there is "The Wheel, " a grinding combo blues shuffle---at first seem a little too familiar, received, aside from the unfamiliar lack of sonic density and burnished imagery. But after a couple of opening duds--despite the striking Spanish-style guitar, she keeps repeating the verse of "Mama's Worried" in a way that does not build momentum, and "River" is the woman-as-river bit that Howe Gelb did better---soon enough, her newly mumblecore-tending urgency has me leaning into my headphones, and for instance rushes the cool beat of "Hourglass," and rises through the Braziloid sunrise of "What I Remember," and hovers in the the canyon (piano pedals) twilight of "Luminous Places" and there's a couple near the end that are trademark PG-style after all, and really just about all of this is, mostly in a way I've near heard before (not that I've checked all of her albums). Certainly preoccupied and restlessly-rooted (lncl. while sitting down) enough for some forms of country (also I'd like to hear the Dixie Chicks/Courtyard Hounds/solo Maines cover some of these).
Hon. Mention
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis solo albums can be uneven, especially his, since he only sings as well as he or his cover sources write, while she's more the powerful balladeer (although most people are, and her 2018 Back Being Blueseemed a little too cryptically cool, or at least reserved in a way that didn't make me want to lean in, but maybe I was just lazy, should listen again?) But their collaborative sets, incl. true duets, and one singing back-up for the other, maybe in between going away altogether for a while; it's a marriage) are pretty solid, and exciting at times. They both step up to the title track of Beautiful Lie, for a moonlight drive through transcendent irony or just keepin' it real; whatever it is, they'll take it.
And that is the theme of these seamless covers and originals. She testifies that "Nobody's Perfect" ("Nobody won't let you down"), so she'll stick with Nobody 'til the right body comes along (and if it don't, okay maybe). He invites himself to the table of a stranger, announcing he's just stuffed the jukebox, so they can take it "One Dime At A Time." Chortling away, the friendly type. An old man goes to sit in the "Astrodome" and sees stuff along the way, pleased at the sight of it, pleased that he can still see and (and know or think he knows what he's seeing, sounds like, although he does tend to generalize.)There are several that suck for the singer, are good for us: every time Huck friend thinks he's got it all figured out, here comes another head scratcher, music rouser. Oh well, he's always ready (or not, but here it comes) for another round in the Circle K Game. While she takes her stand.Also a couple more ballads rec. to Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Prob won't make many Top Tens--- tends to sound even drier than required---but a truly Hon. Mention.
More about Willis, with and without Robison, on several albums, rounded up at the end of this:

About Half Good (60-45%) can be about half Good! (so Good that it could turn into an Hon. Mention, although I don't know if that's ever happened.) This year's star exemplar: Maren Morris's Girl, which sometimes skijumps the sonic canyons, especially via the exhilarating "Gold Love," and Brandi Carlile materializes, to ditto effect, though that reminds me that mebbe MM stretched this set's potential resources a bit thin by putting for instance and especially "Old Soul" on The Highwomen, though that would not have been such a high Half Good (if not otherwise as exciting as this set at its best). Put the best Morris tracks from that one and Girl and last year's duet with Thomas Rhett---as for the other half or so of this, she says she went soundchasing all over, "to Brazil and shit," but pop goes the country R&B aspirations could have used---input from/in Atlanta, for instance.
As for her mostly very fabulous debut, Hero:
Or with less scrolling, here 'tis as a stand-alone:

Maren Morris and the equally vocal-as-visual-projection-tending Brandi and the other Highwomen perform pretty effectively on most of their album---some of the first-quarter tracks so far seem overdone (you want a "Crowded Table" for family fun? You got it), but then they settle into one-voice close to the mic for verses, others swooping in from (or in) the background on choruses and/or brief interjections--then it gets and stays fluid and dynamic. Fave so far is "Old Soul," who keeps the homefires low, not like those young folks who get out on "the edge"--but she keeps going in here 'til she works herself up, has an Emily Dickinson freak-in, with other voices, other rooms, bouncing off the back of her limits (which she seems to have taken it all to, maybe one more time). Not sure who this is, but think it's---Maren Morris. (Update: yes, and she wrote it with Luke Dick and Laura Veltz.)
Back to life: I really enjoyed, even Top Tenned Thomas Rhett's Tangled Up---hadn't realized that he was designated/lumped in bro country, but even more impressive when thought of that way, because I'd never heard any of those other guys who were good for a whole album (sure, some singles, "Beer in The Headlights" etc.).Follow-up Life Changes just seemed twerpy, except for the duet with---yes---Maren Morris. Center Point Road's title track feat. Kelsea Ballerini, but they're reinforcing each other's worst musical tendencies, solemnly pledging allegiance to filtered images of their high school selves, sounding like they may not too terribly far from taking off to or toward Young Springsteen Road, but they don't. (They may as well be Chesney miserabilists, full of prematurely Buffet tabled motions.) Nor does it happen even on "Drive Too Fast," where the girl---only quoted by him, no duet---sweetly assures him, I don't care where we go, as long as we're flying. Not "flyyyyyyyyyying"---this is a Thomas Rhett album. But it's a nice thought, more agreeable to me than all the twentysomething nostalgia for teentime, also nostalgia for the present: "VHS"-quality retro road trip, just like we did back etc (not even DVD? Maybe they're channeling the magic of childhood roadtrips, Disney Limited Edition tapes in the family camper, but seems that format is meant to explain that this song is about retro), and 'nother one about how good you look this second and it will be preserved for a long long time, in whatever format. But there's at least keeper, "Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time," because he's committed to partying, which in his case is reckless endangerment. Nothing lurid is emphasized, but for instance he urges Little Big Town to get up on the counter and dance and make room for him---not followed by a crash, but for it's Rhett it's rowdy, and a good subject I've never heard a song about before. Also unusual, and I'll prob keep it too if I owned it, rather than streaming: the candid, succinctly grateful "Dream You Never Had," in which he thanks someone for living with it, while he's super-living it, following and farming it on the road and in the media etc.
Haven't done any comparative listening to the Highwomen's and Tanya Tucker's "Wheels of Laredo," but that's a highlight of both albums. Most of hers seems disappointing so far: I prefer ain't sorry to weepy regrets, though straight-up regrets are okay too, because anybody who claims no regrets atall is bullshittin' or worse. Several strong ballads, though my fave rocks like Mellenncamp at his best: "Aw my story's so sad."
Moorer's set on a recent Mountain Stage (prob archived on that public radio show's site by now) was pretty close to the album, incl. instrumental and other poise, with good comments between and on and sometimes a little past the songs (quotes collaborator Mary Gauthier to the effect that AM's just like Blanche Dubois--now that's what calls for another songwriting session)(also, "All I Wanted [Thanks Anyway] is about and to her father, not Steve Earle like I thought, oops).
She also contributed some vocal support to husband Hayes Carll, whose performance was otherwise mostly solo---which, with and without her, was more effective overall (though also shorter) his current album, What It Is, which I've listened to on bandcamp. In the studio, his voice tends to go tepid, and certainly can't compete with those stiffly rockin' beats, which seem a little rusty somehow--but in the second half, or maybe starting a little before (gets to be a little hard to pay attention), he slows it down, and then not, but either way grows some sensuous hooks, doing his more vivid observations and speculations more justice than previously on this album.
Travellin' Thru: Just listened again to the whole thing, which is totally worth it (I paid full, reasonable price). True, nothing is revealed by the JWH alts, other than that the takes that made the cut were better, finding their own taut groove (these are mostly slower, simpler, except "Immigrant," which is too fast, kinda smarty-pants, works better as obsessive dirge of nosy semi-sympathetic neighbor). But even those sound good, as recorded and performed. Wotta trio! We knew that, but still.
They and added colleagues (carefully selected for affinity with the artist, not just the auto-A List cats, according to Colin Escott's ever-incisive notes)roll right through the Skyline sessions---been so many years since I listened to the finished product, but seem to recall being attracted to most of the songs right away, while finding the execution, at least in the mix, a bit too on-the-nose and sanitized (also Dylan's new-found per se country poise seemed self-conscious, and not much like the yowly country sounds he'd become known for in the beginning, incl among the suits; Escott deals with all that too)
Haven't done any comparative listening, but these takes work on their own, all earthy and fluid and good-humored, yet no screwing around, incl. with the point of the lyric. Just not too much formalism.
Ditto the even more freewheeling sessions with Cash, but they're finding grooves, establishing an in-person, in-the-moment rapport after years of listening to each other's records over and over (Escott says that Cash's early advocacy may have kept the not-terribly-well-selling Bobby on Columbia)
They get several tracks pretty much nailed down vocally (Carl Perkins and Cash's other instrumental regulars of that era are always on point); further evidence that they were thinking in terms of an album, exploring the possibilities. (But I never could see Mr. D. co-billing himself for long with anyone of that huge stature[ for one example, JC's voice is almost you-are-there overwhelming at times, incl. In genial talk]: the Hawks/Band were hirelings as much as collaborators, and the thing with the Dead might well be most notable, on the positive side, for an insight he claimed re how to realign his own performing style, according to Chronicles.)
Good BD x Skyline sessioneers performances from The Johnny Cash show, especially the finale, "Girl From The North Country, with their host strong as ever on here (and I like the way his and Dylan's voices are always attentively co-existent, never blending).
Would not have guessed that "To Be Alone With You" (which sounds more Charlie Rich shufflin'-with-some-barbecue than Jerry Lee, among the other Skyline alts) would also show up in a visit with Earl Scruggs and sons but it works fine, as does "Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance" and "Nashville Skyline Rag." And there are a couple of Cash covers from the Self-Portrait  sessions, way sassy and way too good for the original release.

Most of Reggie Young's Guitar Session Star  goes with the "country soul" tag. A couple of tracks are country-related in phrasing and overall autumnal feel & vibe, looking back and toward rock: remastered Dobie Gray sounds more involving on headphones now than he ever did on 70s AM radio (never heard through audiophile speakers by me), and the players are acutely responsive to the mixed emotions of the middle-aged seeker's chorus: "Gimme the beat boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock 'n' roll/And drift away..."
Reggie's guitar lick occasionally rears its head amidst the mists of Sonny Curtis's "Rock & Roll I Gave You The Best Years of My Life," like the elusive challenge from his youth, though many details incl. "the wildest we ever played," so he maybe did reach his ideal then, he just couldn't keep riding it over the finish line to Success (eventually does find the love of a woman, who helps him understand he'll noever be a star).
Also, we get the equally atmospheric "HIghwayman" (four verses, one for each well-planted tombstone testimonial, no chorus and none needed) and Reggie gets a long leash from Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. I gotta get that Waylon audio-autobio album.
Otherwise---not-particularly-countrywise---as I said in the beginning of this listening experience (on ILM's Sweet Soul Music - Dan Penn, Donnie Fritts, Eddie Hinton, Muscle Shoals sound in general, etc - C or C?):
First listen to Reggie Young's Guitar Session Man has my headphones spinning: so much to take in, so much goodness coming at me from all directions, and would be so even if there weren't 24 tracks on one CD. Most thread-relevant elements noticed so far:
The only Muscle Shoals-recorded track is Little Milton's '02 version of Vince Gill's '90s country hit "Whenever You Come Around," here with a questing soul orchestra, layered and strong as the ones released like hounds in '60s Memphis, on the Box Tops' cover of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On" and Elvis's run with Percy Mayfield's "Stranger In My Own Hometown."
Most of this is from Memphis, incl. duh Dusty Springfield's performance of Gerry Goffin & Carole King's "Don't Forget About Me," which was on a single w the Fritts-written "Breakfast in Bed."
Fritts' KK bandmate Billy Swan rolls out of Nashville with a fast version of his own "Lover Please," a big late-doo wop hit for Clyde McPhatter :this take is more like what Ringo was doing at his 70s solo peak.
We also get the prime of James Carr, Solomom Burke, Bobby Blue Bland, and many others---my absolute fave rave at the moment is Jackie DeShannon's departure with "I Wanna Roo You," here a fast crashy waltz, mostly (slowing down for the bridge, but it's a set-up, like the mellow verses on "I'm Movin' On), and she's often, though not always, wailing the chorus as "I want to ruin ruin ruin you. Ruin you tonight."
And Ace Records annotator Bob Dunham mentions Young's hot solos on the Swan track as prob not the sort of thing released on Nashville product since Mac Gayden's previous work with Area Code 615, which reminds me that this selection is immediately followed by the Gayden-written "Morning Glory," vigorously presented by James & Bobby Purify---they and the Box Tops also did versions of "I'm Your Puppet," right?
Thanks discogs:
1 –Eddie Bond & His Stompers* Slip, Slip, Slippin' In
2 –Bill Black's Combo Carol
3 –Bobby Bland A Touch Of The Blues
4 –Jerry & Reggie* Dream Baby
5 –The Box Tops* I'm Movin' On
6 –Willie Mitchell The Champion - Part 1
7 –Solomon Burke Meet Me In Church
8 –Joe Tex Chicken Crazy
9 –King Curtis & The King Pins* In The Pocket
10 –James Carr More Love
11 –Dusty Springfield Don't Forget About Me
12 –Elvis Presley Stranger In My Own Home Town
13 –Jackie DeShannon I Wanna Roo You
14 –Dobie Gray Drift Away
15 –Sonny Curtis Rock'N Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life)
16 –Delbert McClinton Victim Of Life's Circumstances
17 –Billy Swan Lover Please
18 –James & Bobby Purify Morning Glory
19 –J.J. Cale Cocaine
20 –Merle Haggard I Think I'll Just Stay Here And Drink
21 –Waylon Jennings / Willie Nelson / Johnny Cash / Kris Kristofferson Highwayman
22 –Natalie Merchant Griselda
23 –Little Milton Whenever You Come Around
24 –Waylon Jennings Where Do We Go From Here
The Joe Tex track is not up to several of his hits mentioned in the notes, where Dunham says they would have picked "Skinny Legs and All," but it's already on another Young-inclusive Ace comp,Memphis Boys. Dammit whiine
Sir Douglas Quintet, The Complete Mercury Masters: see
Link Wray's contribution to Bear Family's Rocks train is not very Country atall, except in terms of hongry rangy resourcefullness,  but wanted to smuggle a vote in, rather than consign to Imaginary Category of Related Reissues.
From ILX thread Rockabilly Essentials:
[Robert Gordon also covered "The Way I Walk," with Link Wray on guitar. It's very different from the Cramps' version, but it's good.---unperson
Me: Yeah, what I've heard of Gordon & Wray (mostly remember "Mah gal is redd hot/Yore gal ain't Doodley squat," so popular around here on South AL that the local Top 40 giant presented them in free concert)does not sound much like the Cramps---but several on Wray's volume of the xpost Rocks series do make me think of the Cramps--and these are from the late 50s, early 60s (1960 chop and channel of Ray Charles hit "Mary Ann" struts and minces and cuts around corners in a way that the Beatles and Kinks might have learned from, even covered).
Trenchant posts---gotta be thin alright, and on  Rocks, Link does pull thin wild mercury sounds even out of dated, clunky intros, then brothers Doug and Vernon and accomplices often (not always) shift into cannier combo support---it's always about the total effect, not just Hee-yum. But stylistic shifts still fit: the marachi horns on "El Toro" play crisp, metallic (well they are metal instruments) notes, just  like the basic guitar lines, and when they fanfare, so does he, in his Wray way, without hogging the mic (sounds like there might have been one mic). Annotator Bill Dahl says this is the same song as "Pancho Villa," minus the horns, but if so it's been transformed into a rippling circular saw, heading toward the Caribbean (easy there Pancho), in a way that might impress the dungarees off the Clash, as it certainly does me. Closer to rockabilly per se incl. emented bird sounds of guitar and sometimes vocals (Dahl says the TB came back,  Link's left lung had to go, but remaining voice used effectively here, and certainly full and soulful by 70s comeback).
Link Wray Rocks is 34 tracks, just over 77 minutes, like it oughta be--b-but wait, come back, "Deuces Wild"! Whirls through the fade---oh well, always leave 'em wanting more. Will have to play this mentholated sandwich "Ace of Spades" (1965, credited to F.L. Wray Sr, like so many here, among other Dahl-noted copyright capers) next to Mötörhead's.
(The Rocks series ranges pretty far afield, seems like (Connie Francis maybe, but is it true that Pat Boone Rocks?). Would like to check the Wanda Jackson for sure, and btw Omnivore's 2013 The Best of The Classic Capitol Singles does bring back a bunch of her best, though also some country weepers that sound like they may have been recorded at gunpoint, mandated apologies for being a nasty gal (who just can't hep it, there she goes again). Also a volume of Louis Prima, pron w San Butera and the Witnesses, bumrushing rock & roll when it was still new (for parents and others, in Vegas, LA, and New Orleans especially, when the non-cat-clothes audiences didn't feel like settling for Sinatra's Adult Pop, nossir).

I keep meaning to post YouTubes from Sheryl Crow's Threads, but can't decide which: just about all stand on their own, radio-ready (for the 80s or 90s), but also it's about the total effect. 3 years, 17 tracks (says it's her last full-length), many of which she sings with Willie, Emmylou, Stevie, Joe Walsh, James Taylor, Kristofferson, and even some relatively young people. Also good solo tracks. It's actually not over-produced; more a kind of moment-to-moment pacing that draws me in, even when she's working w somebody I usually don't care about (like James Taylor). And she does her own good guesting on that self-titled album by country-Americana supergroup the Highwomen.(Which is at times overproduced, overproducing Great Expectations, and then leaving us hanging a bit.)
As I said on here re 2013 releases:
Still wanna party with Sheryl Crow? Sure, and Feels Like Home does, but can't help it if her mind's more on serious stuff, like her kids. Which aren't a bring-down in themselves: maybe she should try a whole album of serious, or vitamize the lighter side with tasty covers and heavy Chevy levee friends. I say this as a  "friend," Sheryl, albeit one who's never actually spent money on any of your music---wait, I did buy Sheryl Crow & Friends' Live From Central Park, with for instance the Dixie Chicks and Keith Richards (among those pitching into "Tombstone Blues"). Also I mentioned "Far Away Places With Strange Sounding Names," her "beguiling duet" with Willie Nelson on his To All The Girls…(And their CMT Crossroads set is worth looking for: he said he didn't know any of her music before they got together, but he learned fast, especially while coming up with a sterling, winding guitar solo-as-accompaniment for "Every Day Is a Winding Road.")
Hot Club of Cowtown, Wild Kingdom: An unexpected bounty of originals---from the Lloyd Maines-produced 2017 session, here are  "My Candy," "Last Call," "Caveman," "Near Mrs.,""Billy The Kid," "Tall Tall Ship," "Rodeo Blues," "Ways of Escape," "Easy Money, " and "Before The Time of Men," which mostly sound like I hoped, given their titles---and, from 2019, only three to shuffle in from the signature Hot Club chestnuts hand, "Three Little Words," "Loch Lomand, " "How High The Moon," and one more original, "High Upon The Mountain, " by Elana James. I've always been vulnerable to her sly, sidewise, sometimes sweet, sometimes steamy, never too sentimental voice, layered writing, and the glancing, deep-enough-drinking bow of her violin---here I almost recognize her as---is it Ariel? Think so, but who's Caliban? Not Whit Smith---his guitar/vocals/several songs are a mite too subtle, although a lot of things would be, I mean Caliban?? I think they know who, what, where, when (just about anytime, could be): there is a directional sense, and they're never quite relaxing or unwinding on the axis, but like the old TV series Wild Kingdom, they know how to put a frame around the wild cards, and keep it moving. (Thinking in those terms is limited, but what isn't).
See also
 Matana Roberts' bandcamp page for Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis provides an overview within the overview of her series design, which does seem grand, but right off I'm digging the prismatic inside voices of all players,singers, and Roberts' own vividly succinct talker, walker, runner, leapfrogger, eyewitness, refugee, sender, occupant, for whom Willie Nelson's "still is still moving to me" also seems to apply. bandcamp mentions "historical" and "diaristic" sources sep, but in effect they merge here (incl. music and other history of the Bluff City and elsewhere, as that Old Man River just goes muddin' along. The album is firmly grounded in layers, currents, even breezes of association----jazz precedents, sonically central, in ways the hip will recognize, also sprout fresh details from moment to moment (a Buddhist sawmill drone might be bow of bass x keys of accordion; no gamelan is listed, so might be bells and ?, theres's also a harmolodic hoedown and sort of washboard fiddle and oh yeah that must be sax x clarinet)(also 'ppreciate how the drummer shifts terrain when nec.) Funny secular ending, no slacking,
Speaking of Public Radio, early this week I heard a presentation of ghost etc. stories, apparently sincere first-person testimonials---but with a plethora of sound effects, sometimes drowning out the words.
I thought of that tonight when listening to Other Girls, by Lillie Mae: you could call it Southern Gothic-Goth-Americana, but the sound is shadowed just enough to be eerie---a little echo, a few instruments, like a string band with missing members, in what seems like a small, cool room), and the imagery is just enough to deliver what is always news to this simple male mind: title comes from the chilled opener, "You've Got Other Girls For That," where she lets someone know, as they're strolling along, how far she has strayed from delusion, while staying by his side---and the reason she does that is----she's telling herseff these things too, and I think of this as Melania's tune, though it could be a lot of people's, male and female, in different kinds of situations.
The loudest one here (won't ID it, no spoilers) has a "Paint It Black"-like beat, pounding on the door while she's pondering colors, but doesn't disturb the vibe. "Whole Blue Heart" is just an old country waltz about a flesh and blood lover who is a living dream, while the one in her head is the real thing--- angle-wise, same as the Texas Tornadoes' "Yew got more out of it, than Ah put into it, last night/Who were yew thinkin' of, when we were makin' love," although she didn't once let me think of that during her song: it sounds like a revelation to young Lillie Mae, not to the gnarly old TTs or their had-to-be-tough old ladies, who probably fired back answers. (She's addressing the flesh-and-blood dude---"it's like you said!"---and the whole blue heart, which they may all be inside of, but waltzing.)
Dave Cobb produced, so I guess it's not on low-budget Bloodshot (wonder if she and Lydia Loveless listen to each other), but anyway it's on bandcamp
So is her 2017 solo debut, Forever and Then Some (also on her bandcamp)---my notes from that year's Scene ballot:
Lillie Mae's Forever and Then Some: startling degree of fairly intimate, vivid focus and shading right away, especially considering it's her debut--but then, as the frequent Jack White accompanist says in an interview linked below, "I've been working since I was three," starting in the family bluegrass band, and later, after Dad split, in Jypsi, a combo with some of her sibs, who (along with still more not in the Jypsi teen line-up) play on this set, very cohesively, and non-showboating, sometimes hooky mandolinist sister Scarlett also does some writing and arranging: the style is their own sort of folk-country, though bass & drums have some pop-rock (especially pop) appeal, with occasionally noticeable electric guitar---but def. don't hear what's sometimes been described as "indie rock attack" behind the mando, fiddle and other strings (the closer goes into more of an exploratory electric folk modal thing, briefly, guess that could be considered indie-pop-rock). Slender but effective voice, rec to fans of Victoria Williams, Whitney Rose, Natalie Maines and Sunny Sweeney (Louisiana-Texas-suggestive flexings and inflections at times, though don't think she's from that neck of the woods geographically), listened to subsets of tracks on Spotify during fairly hectic Monday, but no prob getting back into it; faves so far are "Loaner" and the title song. Is and sounds young, but has been around the block as well as the mountain. Speaking of Sunny Sweeney, the amazing, ain't-sorry "Trophy," one of her best co-writes with Lori McKenna, could lead right into the even deeper "You've Got Other Girls For That." Maybe not *even* deeper, but pretty striking.
Arthur Russell, Iowa Dream: see
Lost Bayou Ramblers, Asteur: cerulean blue folktronica, never gets the wrong lost or too rambley. Vocals can get weak during a track, but it's live, and long, keeping me listening even through vaporous passages. Picked up the spark right away from another live set on American Routes.
Peter Stampfel & Atomic Mega-Pagans, The Ordivician Era:
From an email to a friend: Thanks man, I kneeded another hit of "Yew-for-ee-UH!"  Peter Stampfel still puts out albums, often with daughter Zoe and other younguns, playing lots of cosmic folkie stringed instruments. This year's The Ordivician Era was something of a vocal revival for him, after sounding kinda wheezy on 2017's The Cambrian Explosion, but 2014's Holiday For Strings (not much relation to the corny 50s hit, except in spirit) was quite a hoot, and there were some before that I haven't heard yet----all the above are here: :   Also did a couple goodies w Jeffrey Lewis: Come On Board  and Hey Hey It's The Jeffrey Lewis-Peter Stampfel Band!
Jeffrey and Friends used to record a Tuli song every year on his birthday---this is too long (Tuli lived a long time, and unswerving self-pity was his specialty---like somebody else said, "Nobody loves you like yourself"---but lots of good stuff, comic and lyrical, incl. a bunch I hadn't heard  Thanks for getting me back into this neck of thee urban woods!
Later: yeah, and as usual, one or more of Peter and his daughter Zoe Stampfel's crew get plectra twisted around and rising through a new-to-me tuning, as the voice of the turtle and the peoples porkchop are heard once again in the land. 
Meat Puppets: Yes, brothers and sisters, those Dusty Notes come flying, and the dust doesn't come off, but they're still somehow plenty shiny, in this heavy jangle drone rock with country crosscurrents at the right times--incl. Floyd Crameresque sparkling piano waters, never abusing their spotlight comp time---the possibly Buddhist truck-driving man seemingly tells everything he sees, while, like the song says, "Lookin' at the world through a windshield," and vice-versa: for instance,"The Great Awakening" did even more to this land than for it, making for a real nice theme song in my mind, as he sings through it and all else, not scurred of those In Through The Out Door-reinforced juxtapositions, or that yowling tom cat guitar tail under---has he got a rocking chair in there? Rock the nation, big 'un, rolling through suggestions of Grateful Dead karma ballads too, in a poise I can only envy----Serenity Now! As it was, though then not as finely tuned and honed, in this my '07 review/interview:

Related Reissue:
Take it away, Conqueroo press sheet: Live at the Palomino, 1983 features 12 tracks from the early Lone Justice lineup consisting of Maria McKee, Ryan Hedgecock, Marvin Etzioni, and Don Willens. Songs from their yet-to-be-issued debut are here along with classic country covers and tracks that have appeared on various collections throughout the years — but never with the live power the band showed at this L.A. landmark. Well maybe, anyway this latest batch of Omnivore Records' authorized and tasty excavations goes good with 
This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes 1983----blasting their club set in a nice tight little studio. No stereo-typical Big 80s sonics: like the booklet says, "quick and dirty," never blurry, though a few of the originals could use more well-thought-out trad lifts/folk process, a la "Soap Soup And Salvation," which makes well-timed use of "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder" without getting mawkish; good speedy, confident cover of "Jackson" too. "This Is World Is Not My Home" goes from Carter Family/Woody G. rumination to poignant-with-a-beat "Soap"-style convocation to whooo, ready to meet them angels with sum white line fever (this would be the punkabilly or cowpunk, I take it).
The Western Tapes 1983: Still coming out of a bronchial wet blanket, got braced by this li'l palette cleanser, all 17 minutes and 57 seconds of it, available on CD and vinyl EP. Marvin E., who also worked with the Ramones, sure knows how to load that milk wagon sound----double Maria here, her and Ryan there, him up front, Rolling Thunderite David Mansfield's fiddle and steel over yonder, shotgun of Dave H.'s bass, Don W.'s drums, co-writes, solo, and their greatest cover making its debut---the only track that needs turning up, but so worth it. Etzioni provides succinct, pertinent notes on all songs.
Press sheet says:
First-ever collection of the earliest, original Lone Justice's demos.
"Maria & I woodshedded for almost a year before we were ready to take the music we had uncovered out into the clubs. This is the original line-up of Lone Justice."
—Ryan Hedgecock
Re Maria McKee before, during and after Lone Justice:
(The description herein of "Panic Beach" reminds me that, when Lloyd Maines played Natalie's cover of it for Emily and Martie, of many married names and the Dixie Chicks, she got a live audition.)

Other country etc. albums
Mark Cline Bates, King of Crows: he's got a scarecrow where the birds like to sit, as well they might: although Don Dixon carefully produces and plays on this, it usually seems static, maybe because most of the songwriting is more about the words, which only go so far into situations, more than stories. But "Mississippi" builds fresh air anticipation (here the too-faithful piano even catches a little Bruce Hornsby glint), as the narrator looks fwd to seeing someone whom he more-than-fondly remembers, even though he knows she might not remember him. Also enjoys the warm weather, Vicksburg, Biloxi, and b Civil War cemeteries: "a hero's grave" is a fine thing after all---the end, but not bad.Then "Self Control" goes to New Orleans, which might not remember him, but he remembers it. Then he's there (at least in memory), observing musicians on the corner, men of faith "seeking light in the darkness," witch doctors: imagery's starting to swarm, and he throws them some change, to entertain him some more. The End, I think (this is one of the least static, with impressions, thoughts finally running past my far-from-perfect attention span---but it's down to the words, he stands or falls by them, while the music is just okay).Followed by "Baby Don't Like" the tantrums and other stuff he throws, and he don't like 'em either, but sounds brooding, not remorseful, then quotes her telling him nobody knows how special he is--might be placating him, trying to soothe him out of tendencies, but he makes her sound like a believer, and/or a temptress--he's going to get the gasoline, and seems like it's not the first time. Later on is "Ginger," song about an old lady who's broke, which even has a good chorus, jumping from details to "reaching for Paradise has left her short of breath." Amen, Sister (only song written in the third person, and not about a guy's plight (most of the guys' plights are more about self-obsession).
Brooks & Dunn's Reboot is 12 of their hits rerecorded with popular young 'uns, mostly one at a time, except for LANCO (sic, sorry), a man band. Wiki sez their greatest hit was featured on ABC's The Bachelor, and I believe it: this version of "Mama Don't Get Dressed Up For Nothin'" sounds like Hall & Oates wannebees (incl. B&D) making thrift store yacht country with Casio cowbells, but not as well as that could be. (Midland's a band too, right? Adding nothing much to "Boot Scoot Boogie," but once again, and as usual on this set, neither do B&D). Programmed beats do signify on "Neon Moon," which is now mostly Kacey Musgraves keenly keening for certainties or at least passing solace---her most and only compelling performance ever, far as I've heard. B&D seem to be living the dying of "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone" all over again, or still, and Ashley MacBryde keeps the ballad momentum building, ditto Kane Brown on "Believe." Damn that could have been so blustery, but it's not. Reminds me of my favorite line in "Red Dirt Road, " where they learned that "happiness on Earth was not just for high achievers." Such a relief! Cody Johnson does no harm to that one.Oh, and good, if slightly too long, re-reboot of BW Stevenson's 70s hit, "My Maria," with Thomas Rhett.
As I dimly recall, Susan Gibson's "Wide Open Spaces" seemed even better in the context of Wayside, her band The Groobees' late-90s song cycle CD, than it did when covered by the Dixie Chicks (who I guess heard it via Nat's Dad/Groobees' producer, Lloyd Maines). Gibson's new The Hard Stuff certainly gets reliable support from producer-arranger Andre Moran, of the Belle Sounds, but so far she often seems too talky and wordy, before and after a midway trilogy: "The Big Game" prowls around her simple-minded (thus probably male) prey, who can't get a clue or two or more---"Why do you make it so harrd/For me to be easy?" Immediately followed by the cooler "Clinical Heart," which turns out not to be so different after all (it's time to pull that plug). Winner of this year's Pistol Annies Memorial Why Has Nobody Ever Written A Song About This That I've Heard Before Award: "2 Fake IDs," checking into that old Memory Motel---"you could babysit me again"---but when the coplights came on, wasn't for them after all: " All the men scattered like roaches, all the whores got busted." Meanwhile, "It wasn't the first time, and it wasn't the last" that she and Babysitter practiced the art of deception, incl. on themselves and each other---"Ooo-ooo, Growin' Up," as Springsteen sang of. (Oh yeah, anybody heard all of Western Stars? He said he'd been listening to a lot of Jimmy Webb, and the bits I've heard seemed like might be credible retro country crossover musing.) She does work her extended metaphors, so I'll try the other tracks again, maybe get used to the delivery and mundane lines (She sings better when she writes better, for sure).
re eerie minimal echo of Lillie Mae, East Nashville witness Meghan Hayes's Seen Enough Leavers starts strong w that, as stubborn "Georgette" is trailed, tracked by bleak voice of caution: she can light one bulb in the darkness, but two or three are death debt (it's really the appliances,of course). More such BS is rebutted by Audrey Freed's guitar, but it don't stop, none of 'em do. "You'd like to say we're dying but we ain't dead yet."
Cold clear air for perspective of next song, the title track, in which seemingly fatalistic voice of experience in verses presses the willful chorus--"Crush me crush me/Blow me away/I would die more often if I could end this way"---into seeming like a call for freedom, for herself or a piece of her heart etc. to be blown free--rather than just another relapse into gothic valentine verse of habit---but it can be that too.
Later, "Potholes" could be from the POV of just another bag lady, or Mother Mary feeling used, one line makes the turn of possibilty, while she trundles along to that shopping cart beat--followed by "Cora,""I wore the pants once, tried them on for size/There were bats in my belfry/And the drums on the risers/Kept the beat for me/Set My Cora free," yay! However "Cora I don't want to leave you behind...It's sick to make a woman look away." Rec to fans of Scott Walker, at least when he was writing songs like "Big Louise," okay kind of between him and Alex Chilton---but really just a new vintage-mirage notch-niche carved by Meghan Hayes. But otherwise--why put so much effort into the words if you're just gonna float-plod along the surface of tunes that sometimes get lost in the mist, despite the best efforts of the musos? Oh well, I'll listen some more, as should any transformative vocal stylist looking for potential, for instance. (Excellent lyrics, whatever the tune might be, for "Second to Last Stand," but I wouldn't know without the booklet, which also reveals a number of flaws that the vocals vague out on).
I really enjoyed, even Top Tenned, Thomas Rhett's Tangled Up---hadn't realized that he was designated/lumped in bro country, but even more impressive when thought of that way, because I'd never heard any of those other guys who were good for a whole album (sure, some singles, "Beer in The Headlights" etc.). Life Changes just seemed twerpy, except for the duet with---yes---Maren Morris. Center Point Road's title track feat. Kelsea Ballerini, but they're reinforcing each other's worst musical tendencies, solemnly pledging allegiance to filtered images of their high school selves, sounding like they may not too terribly far from taking off to or toward Young Springsteen Road, but they don't. Nor does it happen even on "Drive Too Fast," where the girl---only quoted by him, no duet---sweetly assures him, I don't care where we go, as long as we're flying. Not "flyyyyyyyyyying"---this is a Thomas Rhett album. But it's a nice thought, more agreeable to me than all the twentysomething nostalgia for teentime, also nostalgia for the present: "VHS"-quality retro road trip, just like we did back etc (not even DVD? Maybe they're channeling the magic of childhood roadtrips, Disney Limited Edition tapes in the family camper, but seems that format is meant to explain that this song is about retro), and 'nother one about how good you look this second and it will be preserved for a long long time, in whatever format. But there's at least keeper , "Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time," because he's committed to partying, which in his case is reckless endangerment. Nothing too lurid is emphasized, but for instance he urges Little Big Town to get up on the counter and dance and make room for him---not followed by a crash, but for him it's rowdy, and a good subject I've never heard a song about before. Also unusual, and I'll prob keep it too if I owned it, rather than streaming: the candid, succinctly grateful "Dream You Never Had," in which he thanks someone for living it, while he's super-living it, following and farming it on the road and in the media etc.
Despite the sharp profiles of ornery individualists, favorite parts of Michael Streissguth's Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville are the aerial views, especially the intriguing 60s mix of Vanderbilt's periphery dwellers with increasingly restive Music Rowers, especially after Mr. D. kicks off his Nashville visits with Blonde On Blonde. The saga of Exit Inn, a musical convergence point for various mainstream and counter-cultural and other factions (somewhut like Austin's Armadillo World Headquarters) is illuminating---I've got tapes from there, incl. one-night-stands of knowns and unknowns, but here we also get bands I'd never heard of, appealingly described as they live out most if not all of their line-ups' lifespans together at this joint.
He briefly mentions star studio rats/Nashville Cats-as-Outcats who got to make their own albums, mainly Barefoot Jerry and the sometimes audacious Area Code 615. But I want a lot more of this, like we get re Memphis, in's Insect Trust archives and Robert Gordon's books.
Anyway, he makes good use of Kristofferson as tracking device through this era, and further inspiration to it, as Willie already is, going from suits-persecuted studio hopeful to the Entity sometimes descending from his Bus in a cloud of green smoke and adoring songwriters.
Kristofferson is presented as the late-blooming prodigy, the L. Cohen of Nashville, with an even/much more limited voice, as he knew, and colors himself astonished, if not appalled, when Fred Foster insists on signing him to a performing contact and a writing contract. Foster evidently knew that instant cornball classic "Help Me Make It Through the Night" was an anomaly, and that the growly epics Foster favored were unlikely to be covered (this was before K came up with "Sunday Morning Coming Down," I think and def. before "Me and Bobbie McGee," which would be inspired by La Strada and the name of one of Foster's other employees, it says here.)
We also get the influence of fuckin'-finally affordable and widely available cocaine (esp. after the War on Drugs made it more practical than bulky etc. ol' maryjane). Influence incl. on Waylon, who was already hectic, with much more of the earlier zig-zag career than I'd realized (had the big country version of "MacArthur Park"!) Also quite the appetite for pinball and good cover material, which he could find even on the shittiest-sounding demo tapes. Thought, as the author makes clear enough, that the Outlaw hype was a crock, and of course he did sound more like a big ol' teddy bear, even then.
(Inside Waylon by his buddy Dave Hickey:
A bunch more characters I'd heard much less or nothing about; it's pretty good overall. (Although, come to think of it, MS completely leaves out the alkyhaul slant re KK's showbiz pilgrimage, despite the star's own candor elsewhere, starting way back.)
(Willie's written books (or at least they have the grain and aroma of his words and music and oh yeah voice), and materializes memorably in Southwest Shuffle: Pioneers of Honky-Tonk, Western Swing, and Country Jazz (handsome trade pb w good pix, Routledge, 2003), by Rick Kienzle, as well as Outlaw..., but you might start with daughter Susie Nelson's Heart Worn Memories, which, despite its title, has a lot of spark and rueful humor, often at her own expense (in the church where she's about to marry Mr. Wrong, Willie observes that there's probably a back door to the joint). No scandal-mongering, but she lifts the lid of the Nelson Tennessee family complex, and cogently contextualizes, distinguishes the path of her short-lived brother Billy. Also good stuff about music (Dad climbs into the tent on her teen bedroom floor, smokes a joint with her while they listen to Hendrix).
More on Kienzle's excellent, wide-ranging chronicle here:
Even more than a rehash:
I mentioned Dreaming Out Loud: Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Wade Hayes, and the Changing Face of Nashville (William Morrow,1998), by Bruce Feiler. In a couple of previous posts, most notably  this bit:
Asked why he still tortures himself thusly after selling nine jillion albums, GB says he wants to be an American Archetype, like John Wayne. Well okay---but Wayne wasn't nearly always the biggest box office draw, far from it at times...Being an archetype means getting in under people's hats and staying there, deeper than "Hey, he likes what I like" etc.---could see maybe say Madonna or Taylor Swift with that kind of staying, resurfacing power (gotta move from power to authority though, to be an archetype). We'll see.
Oh yeah, speaking of Wayne, I liked Gary Wills' attentive, appreciative, shrewd, informative as hell, Big Picture with a zoom lens (book), John Wayne's America: The Politics of Celebrity, good crisp take here:
And there  are other points made, and cogent comparisons to Chris LeDoux and Toby Keith---all that and more in
But srsly not sure the contrast w TKO is all that now, after encountering GB's Triple Live (as recounted in, and finally (my fault, not his) finishing Feiler's revolving stratas of sagas (Dreaming Out Loud: Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Wade Hayes, and the Changing Face of Nashville, remember?)
Anchored by the churn-and-burn of Garth's inexorable rise, and all the friction that continues through the Purple Reign, when his self-hype drama and matching success makes some in 90s Nashvile haaate him (though we now know that he went away and gave everybody, incl.himself, presumably, some breathing room between reappearances---word to Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton, especially the former). The author is drawn in during interview soliloquies, or that seems to be the Plan; the artist is thereby drawn in even more than he was, if possible (seems so).  Alternating chapters w the more typical striving of young Wade Hays, and w the one-of-a-kind young Wynonna---well Naomi would crowd that singularity, but daughter W.'s efforts to free herself, professionally and personally, make for the kind of Growing Up In Public, Especially Tabloids, that I've never beheld before. (Spoiler: I rated 2016's Wynonna and The Big Noise as About Half Good (60-45%), but I'm surely looking fwd to their next.)
And here is late 90s Waylon, cool w the wane: still does some shows, and every now and then an album, got the health issues, so everything in moderation, finally maybe---a view somewhat antipodal to that of teen LeAn Rimes, whom the author refers to as "Miss Piggy": wrongly re tempermant, given his depiction of her riding the waves of early success with Ol' Waylonesque good humor (later sued Dad  for bad management, but maybe she was right)
Otherwise, Feiler becomes disgusted with the constraints of 90s mainstream country---is he right? I didn't start keeping up 'til the end of the decade, and got spoiled by  forward spill of millennial largess, creative and commercial peaks of Keith, Chicks, etc---thought it was always gonna be that way.



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