Mysteriously Late Shine of re: '09 Scene Ballot, Comments:
(rudimentary compared to most of my Scene posts, but this is all I did, apparently I know: I've intro'd w some of these country beat elements before, but never quite the same, and Ballotmaster Himes keeps calling for definitions):
intro: whatever other genres it may pass through and vice versa, country has to have a certain feel, but the main thing is a certain obsessiveness (no matter how cheerfully, how brightly presented) "Beat" as in "Man I'm beat" and "feel the beat" and "beatitude" too: blues and blue sky. Paul Goodman observed, "William Faulkner is Beat too, in a complicated way." (dig the purple prolix flight dynamics of Pylon, for inst. Nik Cohn's mid-60s mention of country's "elaborate sentimentality" also still applies, despite the no-b.s. inspections and reports delivered tolerably often these days. (X: "Woody Guthrie sang about "B-e-e-ts' not 'B--e-a-ts'," did he really? He's still more of the latter, in with being country; also, he makes me feel the beat)
Top Ten Albums
(just in the order they come to mind)
1. David Hidalgo & Los Cenzontles: Songs of Wood & Steel
2. Carrie Rodriguez: Live in Louisville
3. Hot Club of Cowtown: Wishful Thinking
4. The Flatlanders: Hills and Valleys
5. Patterson Hood: Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs)
6. Willem Maker: New Moon Hand
7. Tim Easton: Porcupine
8. John Doe and the Sadies: Country Club
9. Ha Ha Tonka: Nouveau Sounds of the New South
10. Deer Tick: Born on Flag Day
1. Gary Allan "Today"
2. Toby Keith "Cryin' For Me (Wayman's Song)"
3. Jamey Johnson "High Cost of Livin'"
1. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys: The Tiffany Transcriptions
Best Male Vocalists:
1. Willie Nelson
2. John C. McCauley (Deer Tick)
Best Female Vocalists
1. Emmylou Harris
2. Dolly Parton
3. Elana James (Hot Club of Cowtown)
Top Live Acts
1. Willie Nelson with Asleep At The Wheel (Austin City Limits concert)
2. Taylor Swift (CMT Crossroads with Def Leppard and other TV performances)
Best New Acts:
1. Sarah Jarosz
Most Pathetic (song and video):
1. Toby Keith: "American Ride"
2. John Rich: "Shutting Detroit Down"
Justin Townes Earle: Midnight At The Movies, Phosphorescent:
To Willie, Tim Easton: Porcupine, Willem Maker: New Moon Hand, Jason Isbell and the 400: S/T, Deer Tick:Born On Flag Day, Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers: A Bucketful of Ghosts, Ha Ha Tonka: Novel Sounds Of The Nouveau South, The Devil Makes Three: Do Wrong Right, Otis Taylor, Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs, Pat Dailey: Langrum Road
Ballot comments (and some on albums not listed)
mostly thumbnail sketches for show previews
Justin Townes Earle
So far, singer-songwriter JTE's post-rehab albums
don't have the range (or ranginess) of his father Steve's own prodigal
peaks. No problem: the reflective alertness and hopeful smoothness of
Midnight At The Movies strongly suggest that the younger Earle is his
own kind of escape artist, thankful for the breathing room he's
earned, and the floor plans he's committed to memory. He's learned not
to get too crazy, and thus distract himself from the female spirit who
always shows up to hold his hand, then "leaves before the credits
roll," on Midnight...'s title track. More expansively, on 2008's The
Good Life, young Earle is striding through honky-tonk neon shadows,
thoughtfully singing to passing lovers and friends, while exercising
his still-young lungs with that bracing night-life air. (This sums up, for now, my take on his albums: https://thefreelancementalists.blogspot.com/2020/02/old-sole-gold-love-emily-d-freak-in.html)
Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck loves his rolling psych-country
imagery, while he and the band also know their way to and through the
end of a line, adding beats and syllables, even to a monosyllable, as
needed. Such sure footing on a cloudy staircase helps Phosphorescent's
album of Willie Nelson songs, To Willie, find another mellow mental
ghost town, in the dusty sunshine of lost love. And why not? As with
Houck's more complicated compositions, Nelson's songs hum like old
houses, still ready to be slipped into, as Phosphorescent investigate
both sources on tour.
"Woke up this mornin' with a stranger in your bed/Those boots were haunted/The sheets were burgundy red." For Porcupine, current Joshua Tree CA chronicleer Tim Easton re-enlisted early Columbus OH cohorts like New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown, who does extreme housecleaning on "Burgundy Red", Porcupine's opener. Meanwhile, Marty Stuart/Lucinda Williams' touring guitarist Kenny Vaughn's deepening twang keeps echoing through discreet conversation with "The Young Girls."
Tim Easton can get pretty denin-jacket folkie on some sets, but here be pacemakers and jumper cables for his compulsively mobile characters, who mostly fear getting "too cold to sweat the dark out", as Easton says of himself. Mainly, you don't need to catch all the sly-to-wise-to-blunt words to get the points of Porcupine (cute little critter)
Willem Maker's not much for burying meanings. They might poison him, like the dioxin dump did in Georgia, before he reached his Alabama mountainside trailer. He's got one song specifically about that, but it's as short as the others. Bare facts have to be quickly re-gathered, re-twisted up the neck of his guitar, peeled by his slide into images flying by, all around the rising gravity of Maker's New Moon Hand. He's also gnarling sonic sense through charred impressions, somewhere between Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison, backcountry Kevin Coyne and young Gregg Allman (albeit with more lockjawed eloquence than moan) Chewing the juice loose again, cryptically vs,the crypt, "Saints drink wine" and other info. He's singing his truth through bad and good dreams: learning to "leave the fever in the past," starting at the end of the line.
Jason Isbell and the 400
The Drive-By Truckers' Jason Isbell went solo with Sirens of the
Ditch, where poignant, sometimes tragicomic situations rolled their(oown corrugated( (often Truckers-backed) grooves. On Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Isbell's road-tested triple-digit band (wiki sez The band's name comes from the 400 Unit, a colloquial name for the psychiatric ward of Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence, Alabama) drives further into the cloudy electric horizons of Sirens, still piloting by the lights of homely detail. Isbell's restless people are even more souled on stoneful memories ("She's down deep in me still/Rolled up like a 20 dollar bill"), but the music knows the way. "Maybe I'll flag down a car/I'm not going too far/And I've got cash." Good plan!
Deer Tick (this is before Born On Flag Day came out)(see followup
for that) Deer Tick is the tag applied by John McCauley to himself and hisband—appropriately so, judging by the tenacious midnight bite of hisrecently reissued 2007 debut, War Elephant Points of disorder spark the leather-lunged lyricism that can harsh his mellow campfire strumming into toasted constellations. Buckskin-fringed flurries of fury keep the dust flying, no matter how persistent it it is (damn persistent) Mr. Tick also knows how and when to propose that you "Spend The Night": "I know you've heard it all before/But not from me" rings and rasps gently true. Ditto the Vegas anthem, "What Kind Of Fool Am I?" It's no longer a rhetorical question. (archived review of War Elephant/meet Mr. Tick: https://papercomet.blogspot.com/2018/06/deer-tick.html)
Found it, here we go:
Deer Tick, Born On Flag Day----Great title, because Mr. Tick does havesome of that ravaged bravura of book and movie of Born On The Fourth of July, but his testimony and attitude and cadence and imagery are closer to young Bobby D.'s "Ma Rainey and Beethoven once unwrapped a bedroll/Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole, " the combination of youth and what Virginia's Tom Wolfe ID'd as D.'s use of "those old jack-legged chants" from the mountains---but Deer Tick (John C. McCauley III x his band) are already way into Dylan's later and recurrent romantic obsessions, in a Southwestern Gothic way, also reminding me of Townes Van Zandt, who (as with Dylan and) McC's only namecheck, Hank Williams (McC studied the singles) had the tunes and catchiness as spry, watchful little beasts of burden for his words; plus, Tick's got this voice that's always waiting to squeeze through and erupt from his old man shit: it's the musical equivalent of the incandescent mcguffin found when the funky old trunk gets prised open in Repo Man and Pulp Fiction--we just see/feel the effects, as even Tarentino's scuzzers are awestruck by its beauty, and Repo Man's rats are beamed up through the smog (also thinking of that nukey payoff in one of the Mike Hammer flicks) into sweet nothin', by its mighty light. It's articulate,and when it does devour the form always belches the spirit of his words, but as a force of nature as much or more than poetic justice (which is why maybe it isn't catharsis for him, except maybe for the moment, but his shadows come creeping back, either way).So if I let myself get much into comparisons as high-concept formula in print, I'd say something like "Roky meets Townes," and indeed, Tick might've also studied that two-disc Roky comp that from a few years back (think I'm thinking of Never Say Goodbye, but the tuneful round-up of All That May Do My Rhyme also fits) with so much of Roky's folk-rock side. But Flag Day, his second album, departs from Roky re less grotesque and otherwise reflexive/refracted imagery, and his tendencies in that direction never did seem as compulsive as Roky's. (See a mention about keepers from his Black Dirt Sessions on the posted-when-they-shoulda-been ballot and comments re 2010. Also several albs on later ballots, incl.by McC.-inclusive Middle Brother,with leaders of Dawes and Delta Spirit---remember?!)
Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers
Stumpjumpers are what some residents of far northwestern Pennsylvania call each other. On A Bucketful of Ghosts, David Washousky takes his pensive Pennsy roots and their distance along, while sharing his name in art (and "wandering faith") with an archetypal folk figure. He sometimes gets a little too fascinated with old people, but his voice and guitar, times the Stumpjumpers' fiddle and bass, slip tunefullyand thoughtfully through all weather, as "The right slips by, in the moving light/Of paintings and suppertimes." Is that political? Eitherway, "A black 'n' white/Violet summer sky" gently/boldly follows,
bonding differences sensuously. (Stumpjumping indeed, by cracky!)
Ha Ha Tonka
Ha Ha Tonka takes its name, and some of its duties, from a Missouri State Park in the Ozarks. Listeners get strange tours. "Buckle In The Bible Belt" bounces taut and twangy, through twists of fate and choice. The drawl of "Up Nights" shadows a tired parent beating his kid; the "Falling In" falsetto traces a lovelorn, low-gravity mood swing (at least). Their new Novel Sounds Of The Nouveau South ups the ante and the amperage, wiring the weather vane into a lighting rod: "Violence in the crowd/We bled it out!"
are young Chicanos, male and female, whose name means "The Mockingbirds," as in "listen to!'" and see what you learn, also The Clash's reference, "but after they died it was Mockingbird Hill," and of course To Kill A Mockingbird, and their songs fleetingly recall all that while reflecting love and life and death in a drughty-to-monsoony Mexi-Cali passage as a given (at least as glimpsed by foggy TKAM-land WASP me). Los Lobos' David Hidalgo also plays the supportive hell out of his guitar, and sometimes sings too. Incl. with Ronstadt on "El Chubasco." Juan Gonzales and the Estrada Brothers show up, and Songs of Wood and Steel, as well as being country enough because it's got so much of the country and land mass and juice in it, is of those things where rock, still rocking. is part of the folk music, as it long has been (R.E/M.'s Pete Buck reported that his UGA professor played a field recording in which "Blue Suede Shoes" was among the one-woman songs from a long time ago). Some blues in here too. Like they say on their site, Recorded with candor, humor and fits of inspiration, Songs of Wood & Steel is a Mexican American family album featuring musicians of different generations, languages and musical backgrounds. The material includes popular songs, original tunes, little-known Mexican traditions and spur-of-the-moment jams. The breadth of Mexican American music is deep and wide and expresses the poetry and chaos of our culture.
(LC have done a lot since, and see another pick in https://thefreelancementalists.blogspot.com/2019/07/mohair-sam-is-always-greener-nash-scene_30.html)
John Doe & The Sadies
John Doe (still with the road-reunited X) and The Sadies (colleagues of Neko Case) take a well-timed ride on Country Club 's honky tonk marriage-go-round of old school classics as roasted chestnuts. They play 'em straight enough, though these testimonies are more affecting for passing by a little faster (and funnier, as The Sadies punctuate git-through-it wit). The Sadies also carefully steer Doe across neon shadows, to truly see: "This ain't no life. But it's my life!" Another soul saved by (or at least for) the jukebox!
05/10 @ The Rumba, 2507 Summit St.
10 p.m. The show was deep-fried, with feedback and such, sincerely, as seen soon after on YouTube, where it may be yet, or again someday, and as mentioned on here, in Doe, A Dear, when he came back with his own album, the best solo JD I've heard.
The Devil Makes Three
The Devil Makes Three make the kind of pre-bluegrass, mountain-bred
music that traveled through vaudeville halls, carnivals, radios,
alleys and less hygienic vantage points. On DM3's Do Wrong
Right, ragtime bounce and contemporary commentary ride boxcars with the
eerie likes of "Working Man's Blues." The workingman's steadfast, even
militant, though subterranean musical undercurrents may be undermining
(and/or guiding) this miner. Even on less inspired tracks, preachiness
always arrives with some generation of devilishness, often ramblin'
'round leader Pete Bernhard's sense of moral and verbal limits.
On young singer-songwriter Carrie Rodriguez's new Live in
Louisville, atmospherically detailed stories are told boldly, as
variations of key phrases veer through the resolutely shivery delivery
of her violin and other instruments, including the evocative electric
guitar of current accompanist Hans Holzen. Rodriguez also steps up to
the Loretta Lynn-worthy "I Don't Wanna Play House," and briskly
uncovers sexy subtext in Bill Monroe's magisterial "You Won't Be
Satisfied That Way." Micro-epic outbursts and mercurial ballads never
chase the nice clouds away, or the slow male she's usually addressing. (Also on TFM: her Give Me All You Got and Lola)
"With a backpack full of yesterdays/On a freeway full of smoke and
haze/Where the power lines and fault lines double cross." From country
cliché, to California evening news, to righteous wordplay that
eventually slips deeper, the dustbowl soul of the Flatlanders' Hills
and Valleys rolls on, through all zones. Alternative country icons
Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock, mostly writing
together, are philosophical scavengers, poised and antsy. Years and
miles definitely (sometimes densely) add up, but meanwhile, "If time
is money/Space is credit/They're talkin' 'bout it all over town!" (On the 2018 ballot, see Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore: From Downey to Lubbock https://davealvin.bandcamp.com/album/downey-to-lubbock)
Otis Taylor, Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs: Otis Taylor is one of
the most (one of the few) creatively distinctive blues singer-songwriters
today. He adapts country blues, with a more regular beat than Delta blues, but it's
an adjustment of that, more than a John Lee Hooker boogie drive. His phrases
are repeated, seeming fragments of memory that gradually meet up and accrue, sometimes skewed or elliptical narrative, but the ear has to spot the spaces as well as the connections, just has to do that, when it works out right, as words and his shifting tone and volume move around his driving (sometimes shifting) picked and strummed rhythm guitar. This is the basis of the new album, his first collection of love songs (with some wars back in there, like the title also says), which, like P.Hood's new set, develop through implication of
detail and atmosphere, and both sets can come to seem like developed
photographs, more than movies. But the figure is the ground, at times, as Otis further develops deep focus via his own voice being joined by his daughter Cassie's younger and even more flexible, looping through the jazz of Jason Moran, whose piano knows how hip-hop accents blues and jazz, here, as on his own great Same Mothers set) and cornet player Jason Miles; while the drum kit of Nasheet Waits is ground for African percussion figures, or sometimes vice versa (plus, occasional passing cello, violin, whatever fits the view). Even without Jason's
surname and horn, I'd be thinking "Miles," not that Jason imitates him, but just this whole approach (which is also a less wordy version of Dylan's and Deer Tick's deep coordination of elements and functions: ensembles, yo, not entourage.) Can travel way into those musical snapshots, way into the travelling itself, but it's a train, not a showboat. (More about Otis Taylor on the 2008 ballot and Steve Kiviat's piece here: https://thefreelancementalists.blogspot.com/2004/03/otis-taylor-truth-is-not-fiction.html)
On Patterson Hood's Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs), the narrator of the first and title song celebrates his victory over Oscar and those who proffered/remonstrated re salvation, "I saved me, and life forgave me." He may be on Death Row or wherever, but he still
insists, a little too insistently somehow. Ah yes, the well worn Unreliable Narrator device, but it works here. Notes stretch and trail and hold.
He can't let it go, can't let cruel Oscar go, and vice versa. It's an
Oscar-winning performance. Clear enough, but more subtle/subject to interp than expected, and the dramatic stasis that Hood evidently tends (so often) to go for on Truckers albums works here, the sense of somebody rattling his chains and shivering his freezeframe, as we're kept watching the figure's deep focus/fixation.
Which is overtly the point of the next track, "Pollyanna", and Hood (with
another surprise move, making seemingly unprecedented use of his voice's high end,
by simply chirping) goes from rolling Neil Truckers doom of "Oscar" to Who Sell Out pop scenario over expansive, open-G-sounding Stonesiness, as Pollyanna rolls on(or has rolled on, since all of these songs are aftermath, ho get it Stones/Aftermath), having gathered his mossy heart. "It's a little sticky,she's
a little sticky, I'm a little sticky too, I was just something stuck to her
shoe, now I'll have to find something else to stick to." His characters are
always doing or getting themselves ready or not to do the aftermath, and "Pride of The Yankees" in a third stylistic change, starts as a ballad raising a mug to Lou Gehrig, then without a blink to King Kong falling off the building, to passing mention of 9/11, and wishes he could go hide in the mall, and indeed he sounds like he's swaying along in an echoing mall with a hole (and a nice breeze) in it, talking to his little daughter about carrying, clutching "packages so shiny, and you're so tiny," and it's all the tenderness and fuckedness of and in the world, in him as he's somehow unsurprised(it fits with the fuckedness previously experienced, after all or a while) if in a bit of aftershock, afterglow, afterlife, half-life; the next sudden transition being the next song o course."I Understand Now" is shorts-deep in the midst of domestic battlegrounds, old and moldy and comfortable for the moment anyway, as the narrator gets some kind of 40 watt insight, and really the cumulative thing in just these
first four songs also has me thinking of foo like "9/11 changed everything"
and "All is fair in love and war" and how they're part of the wadding of
changes and transitions, not that all his situations x moments shown don't have their own internal detail and framing distinctions/lifespans, as characters try to get creative in doing the aftermath on the train or frame or sidewalk crack, or playing in bedhead traffic etc It's all about their and their creator's wise use of familiar and strange elements, reshuffling or ripping or lurching or padding or jangling along.(Those last two just listed: "She's a Little Randy" is the stealthy passage of a cougar and the male person studying her, getting her number sympathetically and then some, as Hood makes good use of the high voice again, not chirping this time but like a little tight, mostly dry smoker's voice, with some rheum around the corners, emph by guitar, as he squints over his cig, and maybe drops it to approach her after that last line (steps out of his frame, as can be tricky/lacking in Hood songs) "Foolish Young Bastard" ruefully/hopefully jangles along with a banjo almost hitting him in the nuts, empty canteen percussion def tapping his butt (a bit envied perhaps, by the somewhat exasperated but unsurprised, family-type person watching him go) then "Heavy and Hanging" and "Walking Around Sense" are expressive but stuck inside
a way too familiar Neil Truckers doom (which the title song redeemed and
"Range War"("with you") took to maybe non-doom,[as expressed in playing]more about rich shifting currrents of tenderness/fuckedness and war again) Like "Heavy and Hanging" and "Walking Around Sense" heavy up because he thought he needed something between "Foolish Young Bastard" and the young heart who sings about writing you
a love song in the "Back of a Bible" (not to be eveel, but cos "there were
some blank pages") A shuffle mainly suggesting white boys of 50s til builds
seamlessly to a solo that obliterates the pro forma of the past two tracks, and in
call and response with other instruments. This final passage is brief but
deep, like the best bits of most of the other songs ("Screwtopia" trails the
afterglow through basically obvious faster/softer recurrences, and makes it work;
makes me think of the traces of "Grandaddy" 's innocently plotted future and "Belvedere" 's twisted past, and the other character's traces, notions, smoke) Didn't think he'd carry a whole album without other writers, but he does, given that it's also got a couple of duds like Truckers albums, and most of the Truckers are here, and that certainly helps, and he's seamlessly joining a set of songs from 1994 to much more recent ones (each set or subset benefitting from proximity to the others, for the most part) with accumulated experience as writer, player etc as well as other aspects of life, and that comes across in the adjustments, inclu disruptive moves, within the plot lines and performances of songs (Oh yeah, this album also features really apt and startling use of piano which he says startled him too)
(The Truckers and Isbell have been on here too often to list (also of course, the Southern Rock Opera thing, "Gimme Three Stepsisters," is here, a tad longer, not too: https://myvil.blogspot.com/2005/12/gimme-three-stepsisters.html)
Hot Club of Cowtown's Wishful Thinking is a reunion album, which might relate to the title, but now that they've got that out of the way, what the heck: poised recklessness--is that what's meant by derring-do---subsume and feed on the high-energy gentility of swing as an 'istorical thing and all, while catching me up. and they've picked up a drummer, and once again the choosey chantoozy's voice tempts me to rhyme "steamy" with "dreamy. And she and the rest of Hot Club show up in several more Scene posts here.. And don't sleep on ny https://www.nodepression.com/eloquence-in-rhythm-the-solo-ventures-of-hot-club-of-cowtowns-elana-james/
Co-produced by longtime friend Tim Mathews and Grammy-nominated composer/producer Tim Story, Langram Road is a richly varied, atmospheric album that effortlessly spans, and defies, the genres of rock, folk, pop and jazz. Four years in the making, but no sweat, and I'll the rest of Amazon's very detailed description preempt mine; look it up and see what you think (also the astute take of Verified Purchaser jamf) The main thing for me, at this point, is how good a follow-up/merch table takeway it is for his previous studio work, incl. with Shel Silverstein, and his live performances poured into the YouTube. Like I said in these previews:
Ex-Marine, ex-cop, but mainly a songbird migrating between Key West and Ohio's Put-In-Bay, Pat Dailey has a wide, wild range of musical perspectives on human behavior. Perspectives on perspectives, really, because he knows all the sweet, salty and stinky fish stories we tell ourselves and each other, while bumping and sailing along. Dailey's mother wit was sharpened by the late, great songwriter-cartoonist Shel Silverstein, from the "R"-rated banquet (and implied Jimmy Buffett parodies) of "Raw Bars," to their kiddie-songs classic, Underwater Land, where life in the food chain tastes better than ever.
When was that? This one's stamped:
If ever a man was born to sing for his supper, that man is Pat Dailey, the bard of Lake Erie's Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Generations of tourist town contemplation still inspire this salty and soulful singer-songwriter, whose performances sail around the bend, as Dailey relishes the simple and sometimes crazy pleasures that get us through life (or somewhere).
01/16 @ A&R Music Bar, 391 Neil Ave.
He goes into Gordon Lightfoot/Waylon Jennings vibrato grooves sometimes, but with some articulate, stalwart sentiment, like Stan Rodgers covers----"articulate, stalwart" yadda yadda---okay, he does this one Rodgers song about a sailor who's frustrated because "If I told that kid once, I did a hundred times" not to trust fickle Great Lakes, especially at night; now he can't stop picturing the kid's bereft girl friend, staring into her pillow most likely. And another about a guy watching a cosmic sunset and listening to himself yak, but really he just wants to see his old lady NOW not this picturesque.