The Freelance Mentalists.
Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Changed The Lox

country etc lists, comments re: 2021 music

By Don Allred

(There was no Nashville Scene poll for 2021)

Thanxx In Front To Edd Hurt For Turning Me On To Jon Byrd, Paul Niehaus, and Loney Hutchins

Also To's Rolling Country 2021 Riders Who Issued American Aquarium etc. etc. etc. ect. Advisories

(Most of these are on Bandcamp and/or YouTube)

My Strictly Personal Subjective As Hell But Whut Isn't Top Ten Country Albums Of 2021

American Aquarium, Slappers, Bangers & Certified Twangers, Volume One

Eric Church, Soul

Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall, The Marfa Tapes

Jon Byrd (feat. Paul Niehaus), Me and Paul EP

Joshua Ray Walker, See You Next Time

Kalie Shorr, Open Book Unabridged (Dec. 4,  2020)

Lainey Wilson, Sayin' What I'm Thinkin'

Mickey Guyton, Remember Her Name

Melissa Carper, Daddy's Country Gold

Morgan Wade, Reckless Deluxe Edition (Jan. 28, 2022)

Vincent Neil Emerson, s/t

More Good 'Uns

Alan Jackson, Where Have You Gone

Connie Smith, The Cry of the Heart

Flatlanders, Treasure of Love

Loretta Lynn, Still Woman Enough

Lucinda Williams,  Lu's Jukebox Vol. 4: Funny How Time Slips Away: A Night of 60's Country Classics

Natalie Hemby, Pins and Needles

Rhonda Vincent, Music is What I See 

Sierra Ferrell, Long Time Coming

Willie Nelson,  The Willie Nelson Family

For Further Study (everything here, but especially this):

Pony Bradshaw, Calico Jim

New (To Me) Country Faces of 2021

Charlie Marie, Ramble On

Emily Scott Robinson, American Siren

Sam Williams, Glasshouse Children

Fave Country *Reissues/**Prev. Unreleased

**Billy Joe Shaver & Kinky Friedman, Live From Down Under

*Johnny Cash—Forever Words (Expanded Edition) (Various Artists)

*Jon Byrd, Byrd's Auto Parts

**Loney Hutchins, Buried Loot: Demos From the House of Cash & "Outlaw" Era '73-'78 

 Fave Country/Related Seasonal

Lori McKenna, Christmas Is Right Here EP

Lucinda Williams, Lu's Jukebox Vol 5: Have Yourself A Rockin' Little Christmas With Lucinda Williams

Pistol Annies, Hell of a Holiday

Country Seasonal Semi-Honorable Mention

Alan Jackson, Happy Valentine's Day EP

Country Semi-Honorable Probationary Mention

Morgan Wallen, Dangerous

Country About Half Good (60-45%)

Carly Pearce, 29—Written in Stone

Country Headscratcher

Steve Earle & the Dukes, JT

Fave Countryoid, Americana, Roots, Related

Allison Russell, Outside Child

Ashley Monroe, Rosegold

Brandi Carlile, In These Silent Days

Chrissie Hynde, Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan

James McMurtry, The Horses and The Hounds

Jason Isbell & 400 Unit: Georgia Blue

Lucinda Williams, Lu's Jukebox Vol. 2: Southern Soul: From Memphis To Muscle Shoals

Lucinda Williams, Lu's Jukebox Vol. 3: Bob's Back Pages: A Night of Bob Dylan Songs

Peter Stampfel, Peter Stampfel's 20th Century

Robert Plant & Allison Krauss, Raise the Roof

Rosali, No Medium

Tom Jones, Surrounded By Time (Hourglass Edition)

Valerie June, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers

Willie Nelson, That's Life

Related Hon. Mention

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Barn

Rodney Crowell, Triage

More Keepers From Lu's Jukebox

Lucinda Williams, Lu's Jukebox Vol 1: Runnin' Down a Dream: A Tribute to Tom Petty,  Lu's Jukebox Vol. 6: You Are Cordially Invited…A Tribute To The Rolling Stones

Related Less Than Half Good

Barry Gibb & Friends, Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers' Songbook Vol. 1  (Keepers: BG with: Brandi Carlile, "Run To Me," Sheryl Crow, "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart," Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, "Butterfly," maybe more)

Related Blast From The Future Is Here

Contact Group, Varnished Suffrages (March 5 2022)

Fave Related Top *Reissues/**Previously Unreleased

**Alex Chilton & Hi Rhythm Section, Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street

*Country Funk Volume 3  1975-1982 (Various Artists)

*Dusty Springfield, The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971

**Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band, Both Ways (The Great Lost 2017 Double-Album)

**Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Way Down In The Rust Bucket 


My Strictly Etc.:

American Aquarium are said to have gotten their name and maybe general direction from Wilco, though only alb of originals I've heard, on Bandcamp, seems from halfway house POV of spooked, abashed males, ready to learn to learn more about Relationships, maybe—but Slappers, Bangers & Certified Twangers Vol. 1 is a fabulously rhinestoned, acid-washed & curly set of straight- & Strait-faced covers from "the pre-Shania" (but ready 4 her, sounds like) "90s," no more and no less rodeo-radio extroverted that the songs demand: v. infotaining to one who somehow didn't get the surround-sound memo even while working in a 90s CD store—reminds me of how spoiled I got by early 00s mainstream pop country, when I finally got paid to listen and write about it, just assumed it would stay that good, should have peddled back towards the beginning of the popcorn harvest–fave here so far: farm-fresh memory salute to "John Deere Greeen!"

Maybe I'm overrating it in comparison w the listless Heart (which does have a few maybe-keepers), but am initially relieved and refreshed by E. Church's also-recent Soul, which is not the bourgie nostalgia I feared, but his own brand of poignant, well-focussed musicality (coulda done w/o last line of Lynyrd Skynyrd Jones," but can't kill the overall good impression).(Later: first thought best thought, in this case).

The Marfa Tapes do indeed sound like tapes—made in Marfa, air still charged w afterglow of Giant, also made there in early 50s: historical family saga gateway from the mainstream stars, Elizabeth Taylor & Rock Hudson, to the mutants, James Dean & Dennis Hopper–music is the power of association, and can't unhear some of that in this, I swear, nor voices of Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert (indeed central), Jon Randall finding their way, every time, through scrim and distancing of slight tape diffusion and (single, built-in?) mic placement): campfire and twilight, w landscape and other prospects evident enough. (Ditto thoughts of early Fairport, Fotheringay, on their country sides.)

Jon Byrd,'s Me and Paul features good originals (co-writes and solo), well-chosen covers, good singing, self-accompaniment on that little nylon-string guitar Edd Hurt praises, but what really makes it outstanding is all of the above times the pedal steel guitar of Paul Niehaus, def. a subject for further study----same name as a Swiss surgeon, appropriately enough---this gleaming, unstoppable, sometimes uncanny, always canny sound keeps coming around Byrd, a big breath-like cycle--and that's it, just two instruments, one voice in between. The damndest thing. "Cash on the Barrelhead" doesn't quite fit, but doesn't disturb the overall vibe mometum

More conventional, as most country albums would be, is Byrd's Auto Parts. Full combos, maybe from different sessions, and I like it best when the steel player gets plenty of room---is he Niehaus? Who is the effective female duet partner on one track? Who wrote the two songs that sound perfect for Willie Nelson, the one that would be ditto for Gram Parsons? Who else did what? No notes on this one's bandcamp page, or on Byrd's Web site. "Reputation" sounds like one he might have done in his jangle days w Tim Lee and The Windbreakers, but is also a good, neurotic subject for country--and a good little jolt when the narrator suddenly turns and says. "She wants me to tell you---"

Sahm's "Be Real" is another excellent cover, with an arrangement close to the original, but how often do you hear that, and as Dave Van Ronk said, sometimes you can do it the way it was done first, or you can do it the wrong way.The cover of Lennon McCartney's "Don't Let Me Down" starts well, gets a little boring. But I do like most tracks quite a bit.

The perfect capper, nightcapper, to Joshua Ray Walker's  See You Next Time is its hello-goodbye title, before and after another loop, another spin, in his beeyoutiful music machine—celebrating, while light and bright enough to leave excess me-discover-beer yeeeha self-congratulation in the dust—as for instance "I Feel Sexy After Dark" exchanges and slides through highest frequencies' goosebump skins of voice x instruments, among many other close encounters, well-timed, even or especially when making close skid mark calls on and in the honky tonk, also closed circuit eeevents on screen, which will dissolve for a while when it should, the better to savor more nocturnal air and midnight electric suns, also sons and daughters, waving—but it's not all fun and games, though perspective on and refreshed enjoyment of such seems to have something to do with "Flash Paper," which came from a cigar box left to him by his late father, with items of personal significance to them both, mostly paper, also a flash drive: Walker has since said that he's still coming to understand the song and its contents, so that's part of the spin and loop as well, the after-dark brightness that already seemed almost mystical? Like we're going by the Liminal Lounge a few times—was the impression before I read his bio w comments on all this, which turns about to be last installment of a trilogy, following Wish You Were Here and Glad You Made It: all three titles addressed in part to his Dad, maybe? As well as the rest of us, seems like. (His comments here:

10 songs, 33 minutes, and that's all he needs:

Joshua Ray Walker---See You Next Time

Kalie Shorr, Open Book Unabridged: What I said about the 2019 Reader's Digest edition: 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. Since Speedy Me never did flash back through that year's round-up to specify, I'm grateful for the opp to rectify: 

She sings better than Taylor Swift, more dogged than earnest in lights, also more flexible (as is her imaginative, elegant reworking of the currently pop-country-common Pettyplate, with discreet but unwimpy steel and other geetar, for instance, and a more youthful-seeming alt.rock percentage as given; dynamic, yet well beyond the ancient a.r mumble-YELL rusty gearswitch). Otherwise, she never would have kept me listening through the dense winding of "Escape," in which she touches on the decline of each member of her immediate family, where she seems to have been the youngest (hard to catch all the words in several of these songs very quickly, but she keeps me moving with her, on flashlight tours).

Also unSwiftly, she implicates herself in a natural way,  telling the tales and looking back from a still-changing POV, growing up or just as time passes. So we go, from not Swift or Morrissette breaking news, but kinda bratty: "You bought me a random ring with your tax refund" to, soon enough, playing the backstory/previous songs card, , "Looks like my abandonment issues got the best of me, or we would have never been together—I wear your stupid ring on my pretty little middle finger, so I–-won't have to fuck you forever," suddenly running up to total desperation on the end of that line, as it falls in the fo but kinda bratty: "You bought me a random ring with your tax refund" to, soon enough, playing the backstory/previous songs card, "Looks like my abandonment issues got the best of me, or we would have never been together—I wear your stupid ring on my pretty little middle finger, so I–-won't have to fuck you forever," suddenly running up to total desperation on the end of that line, as it falls in the forest. Who will hear it? She's still not that loud. But loud enough, and not too self-absorbed, to call out a rallying, warning cry to "Alice In Wonderland," going down the rabbit hole that Shorr knows: "He makes you feel small."

Then again, this edition uncovers one about somebody close who keeps calling for another rescue, which has become part of their bond, maybe the basis: she sounds warm, but drained, into "Next time you're out of it, leave me out of it."

So there are always limits, but speaking of being made to feel small, and continuing to fall, Unabridged adds another disclosure (no Alanis bray or Taylor monotone on this one either): she also recalls, still asks, "Which of us did you fuck harder, me or my best friend, when we were eighteen." Not quite a question mark though, she has to go on: "You were too old to take me to the prom, you bought me beer," she puked, but retains the memory, "You were drunk, you said, 'Only someone as dumb as me could love you' ", or may not be a direct quote: she may be saying that he said that only someone as dumb as her could love him, but either way, you know. "I guess that I loved you, and you loved that I was eighteen…will we both go on searching forever, for eighteen?" That one does sound like it's  a real question, like the answer, for her part, might possibly be "no," or I like to think so,

Seems like she might be growing out of it, but meanwhile even finds some twisted humor in such arrested equivalency, maybe: "I'm not trying to be an asshole, but–" uh-oh, never a good sign when somebody starts like that, but okay: why should she stay home and take care of it, what a bringdown (true), "I'm the life of the party–-people like me when I'm happeee!" Indeed so--is this "Gatsby" or Daisy that I'm speaking to, please? Both? Why not.

Sometimes she can even light up in a good clean fun way, even when she's being bothered by a song she's writing about some guy, not the one who calls and interrupts, doesn't ring a head-clearing bell, some other stuff happens, "but the sky won't cry, and that damn sun" keeps coming back or some shit, but the music keeps marching, and "I think it's kinda cool, that the world keeps spinning. " Refreshed, she remembers going looking at "Big Houses" with Mom, the kind it's fun to daydream about having some day. Later, she's back in the game, with a couple of hair-raising love potion ballads (well, "Angry Butterfly" is like that and more, still the killer finale.) Several added tracks (outtakes and new songs), for a final total of 17, make a better album of what was in my 2019 Top Ten, after all, so okay, okay! Top Ten (now Eleven) it is. for this list as well (impact year is 2021, since it was released in December of 2020. (For a few comments on I Got Here By Accident, her good 2021 punk pop EP, see  You've Got To Pick Up Every Witch! )  

I'm digging the fuck outta the Lainey Wilson album several months later.

― So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, October 29, 2021

I fully expect the same to be true for me, now that I've finally checked out Sayin' What I'm Thinkin'. In the wake of that, Spotify is floating "Two Story House," which isn't on the album, but goes w many of its sufficiently poignant tunes, though not as much their usually rock-inclined guitars: the album's a primo example of how to do that in service of accessibly expressive pop mainstream country, with that voice, them tropes, and "Small Town, Girl" even goes toward psychedelic crossroads while making its point, "Straight Up Sideways" is truthfully titled, like all the rest, like romantic ballad "Dirty Looks"("good on you boy, good on you boy, good om you.") "WWDD" is Stonesy if not AC/DC-y intro with rueful musical question, "What Would Dolly Do?"---followed by vibe-y, Dolly-worthy "Rolling Stone." Rec to fellow fanz of Maren and Miranda.

How the hell did I miss her previous? Also good? (Alfred agrees that opener "Neon Diamonds" is  sole clunker.)

Now I'm circling her duet w Cole Swindell, "Never Say Never": uneasy sex drama ballad w guitar shadow imperative, "I told my mama when it comes to you, 'Never agaiiin"--"Should say that none of this is inflationary;the album is 12 songs in 38 minutes and change.

Her music always conveys a sense of people singing while getting undressed and dressed, or at least getting ready to thinking about it (in "Sunday Best," by the sound of it), never dropping whatever tempo, can't afford that.


So far, and right off, Mickey Guyton's Remember Her Name is bracing pop country, entering the mainstream with no lack of blackness in accessibility, musical or thematic: "What Are You Gonna Tell Her?" in part re preparing for The Talk about how to conduct oneself so as not to, for instance, not get shot, also rape culture tendencies of society, and basically, getting past the insularity of necessary protectiveness, tending to become a fear-baked facade, getting through that to reality principle, w/o mainly conveying the anxiety via your effort. Parenting central, and work to do on yourself.

Rich-to-florid music can be Romantic, straight-up fun, wry, scary, always lucid, even while stressed. It's life.

Also, in "WAYGTH," there is even something, though I haven't caught the exact lines yet, to the effect of comparing the man's possible grooming of your daughter for victimhood---to your own grooming her for victimhood, via inadequate preparation, telling her how to be on the look out, also just helping her to get her brain wrapped around the possibility, also yours (think the guy is referred to as family member, by marriage, maybe). It's concise.

Alfred: Mickey Guyton's album is my my most disliked album of 2021. I hear overstatement, generalization, MSNBC special interest stories….She's got a good album in her, though, and I suspect she's in this for life.

To each his own, but sounds to me like a lot of it comes from personal experience, personalized experience too: what she's seen, heard and heard of, and not just via media---impression of overstatement might come from the fact that she's venting, incl fucking finally gets to make the album she always meant to make, or---given pop country proclivities---had to make, putting it all in there while she's got this opportunity, incl. whatever backing, along with what I called the "rich-to-florid" musical approach she's always seemed into, or that seems to suit her, I think, though some of the EP tracks were uneven: in part a result, perhaps of the direction and advice she's said she tried to follow, confusing and confused though it turned out to be: oh whut shall we do with a black woman who wants to be pop-country star, gettin too funky, while hickhop boyz bump along to the top again:that's one thing she's brought up.

I suppose she may eventually say screw it, just put tracks on bandcamp and go to the Americana circuit.

Which she could have done from the beginning, as other black female artists have, of course, but why should she have to, especially when it doesn't really suit her, is her point, I take it. Not so say Americana is nec. pop-exclusive, or at least: I knew from interviews that Allison Russell's Outside Child would at least reference in part some bad early experiences---but wasn't prepared for all the hooks, gen. catchiness too, w/o distracting from serious themes.

PS: "Personal...personalized" comes through in way Guyton sings, as well as what she sings (incl. detail that fits the musical approach).

 Melissa Carper's Daddy's Country Gold: title in part re her sonic sense of humor about her retrophilia,I take (update: tiny asides in here finally lead me to: oh yeah, she's Daddy, maybe)---music folds and flexes bits of western swing, freight train boogie, bluesy inflections, in what is, yes, still trad country gold: tight, but didn't know there were drums 'til saw credits--steel and pedal steel are most prominent, answered by fiddle---no banjo, no uke, no horns (though accordion and guitar can fill in for those, passing through), occasional piano and/or organ, moving right along, following the boss's cute, slightly worn little voice---some Texas dust in the pipes, Appalachian hardness at ends of lines, sometimes: it's a tad more simple-subtle than Sierra Ferrell, but always one for Ferrell fans (even when sh she's not contributing harmonies).

"Back Then" reads kinda bleak, but the person who recalls workin' and wishin' and hopin for one who accepted her marriage proposals "now and then" ain't sorry.

The exploiter and appreciator of "My Old Fashioned Gal" has no regerts either: "I do as I please" while MOFG writes a letter, and on paper, puts it in an envelope, puts a stamp on that. takes it to the mail---also makes violet jam, lots of other things: the song has so much calm fun with the prismatic detail of the classic early 20 Century styles--slightly undersold, just slipping in there, as always.

Morgan Wade, Reckless: Yes, that is the album title, above blonde hair floating in the light a little, suggestion of a halo, face playing peek-a-boo with fingers not unlike jail bars, if those had tattoos and tiny marks that might add up to coded sentences--and there is a song of that title, obligingly enough, but if this is a country Lolita, as might be, she's far down the path, maybe the self-supporting-by-dishwashing phase (of the novel), while watching and waiting and listening and speaking to all the options, relationship-wise.

Getting "Reckless" again, is one of the things she considers, wishes for sometimes, as the music moves around her---alt rock as the younger sort of potentially tops-of-the-pops country, young enough to take the 90s and early 00s over older artists' fascination with Petty and F.Mac: it's an extension and reinforcement of Wade's own electrical tuning systems, under all those tats*, flexing, always ready to go, as far as she and the guy she's talking to or around will take things--yes, and frequently it's to the limit, one more time, as stimulating prospect, because usually they have a history, and she certainly does, with and without him, alluded to with a sense of wonder, like can she beleeeve she did and was all whut---at one point recalls, maybe from the night they met, "Ah spoke mah truth, and yew got so upset"(oh the voice keeps it country alright, like the weight of personal relationship history does: one tight-jawed syllable measuring itself out at a time).

Welp--he's gotta get over it if they do try again---may be the guy she's out on an actual date with, as the music sounds atypically sedate, dinner-y, in the opening track: she's on her best behavior, sweetly murmuring, while observing, describing, thinking, "Ah wish Ah'd known you in your wilder days." Probably, undertones of voice and lyrics and accompaniment soon suggest, she'd feel like they had more in common back then---but, having heard all the songs and coming back to this one, seems like nostalgia for what might have been, the yen for a safe yet hot fantasy, which is so Morgan now, ditto the way she leans into wondering what his secret is---gotta have one; he's so Normal he must be nuts too, maybe in a program like her---maybe she'll peel back a few layers---

Soon it's "Matches and Metaphors," down the line with this guy or another, a booty call: "It's raining at my house, is it raining at yores?" But then "To hell with metaphors," she requests the comfort of his body, wonders if it will help, thinks it might, mentions a letter he wrote her, starts writing out loud her response, her script for how it might all work out for them after all---then back to the body ask, that's what it all comes back to, 'til she finally starts over, like a recording replayed, low-key intense, not gonna stop (digital not tape won't brake or break, fade in, radiate).

Of the very solid and vibrant original ten set, number 9, "Northern Air," is just okay, in this context--could be a high point elsewhere---about somebody who's stuck down here, in sordid Southern boredom, while he's up there---but the closer, "Met You"--not "Meet You," o hail naw, gotta be a history---is that comparatively rare kind of sequel that improves: it's her GodFather 2

The Jan. 2022 Deluxe Edition does more of that, takes it all deeper and darker, on a longer, more exciting chain-chain-chain, getting wrapped around and stretched. It's not all together doomie, or not in a depresso sense---also, even visions of flight are never too florid, because she is wised up, she has been down this lane before, in her head and elsewhere. But context shades details and tone of even the mellowest, "Through Your Eyes," which is where she wishes she could see: a child, age three, has said, "I want to be like you," which doesn't spook her a bit (as it does me, knowing her now as I kinda do), but touches her and even makes her  wonder "if I should pray to you," (or is it "like you"? That would normally seem more likely, for sure, but---) as she moves from physical grace of the child to possible spiritual grace, also conflating "innocence" with "wild thoughts."

Another one has has her on the road from Tombstone, "holdin' hands with the band, six feet under," and something about "like Johnny and June": dead and loving it? Anyway rolling along, at least until "When The Dirt All Settles"---meanwhile, there's  also "The Night," when she's hoping "the pills will work better this time," like the doctor says he thinks they might---I usually draw back from this kind of song, but she draws me in---eventually, there's the sole cover, providing a second of relief--something from the outside world!--but it's "We're caught in a trap/I can't walk out"---yet, as in EP's original, still kind of a sense, in the verses, of feeling around, talking lower, see it feels like this, don't it, is it possible they could, like, work it or something out after all, one more shot---all surging along towards something, of course--so Morgan.

*under all those tats: can't unsee the videos, where she looks concerned, careful, with vines snakes skank jailhouse roadmaps crawling out of the fabrics, arms sometimes seeming to pulse with power and infection. But that's her truth, and I may just have been not around young people in too long (covid alibi in a not very vaxxed red state). 

Frank Kogan initially wonders if these are recovery songs—could be, but also, I reply: I haven't caught any psychobabble, or therapyspeak per se---"The Night" is disarming because she's watchful of options and the present the past the future (re title of classic girl group song) as ever, also of self, but there's no sense, for once, of her also talking to a particular guy (as I assume she otherwise does, although of course means to be overheard, though in another song it's "the woman in me" that needs "the lover in you." not "the man," so maybe not always a guy, though always is in videos I've seen; maybe she just doesn't want him to get all, "Yes! The MAN in me!"), nor is it big boo-hoo save me x confessional: the words are just finding their way out, as she's shivering, trying to get  enough out that she can sleep, "without going too deep." Overall, even with some plot lines re what we gon do, the past is mainly felt through weight and implications, not coy, but left to interpretations, and relatable to anybody of any age who is feeling it times wondering about futures. Not that she isn't a disturbing presence, but relating is one part of the Morgan Experience, fer shure. (later) She's always approaching, calling, watching. Amazing how much of the same process stays musically fresh, arresting, involving. I usually think, "Should I be paid to take notes on this?" kind of songwriting, which does seem to imply search for therapy in some cases, but here, I forget to complain.


Vincent Neil Emerson, s/t: Yeah--"I'm like a bird caught in a store, lookin' for the door"--but it's not just catchy little phrases, he uses them to tell stories, convey a sense of sometimes complex situations and what he thinks and feels about them, in as few words as possible, for the sake of clarity and realness, with no added drama; he's lived, is living, through enough of that already. The music has just enough variety to keep the songs distinctive, and suit whatever he's singing about--even a little bit of fluid modern jazz balladry at the beginning and end of "Learnin' To Drown," about his father and himself. A little bit of piano on that one, organ on another, mostly it's fingerpicking guitar, fiddle, bass, no need for drums. Maybe tin whistle and Irish-y fiddle on "White Horse Saloon," and why not, plenty of Irish people went West. (Like the ones in a lot of Mollys songs: A Clockwork Pinãta.) A song about Indians getting screwed, also from his family's (on his mother's side) experience. Western swing on the closer, but not a vintage cover; it's another of his lived-in-sounding originals. Some people online think the debut was better, for the most part, or entirely, so it must be pretty damn good. Will check it out too. (His parents named him for Vince Neil, according to the Internet. From what he's said and written about his father, seems plausible--but I'm gonna stick to "Vincent" if I ever address him d'rectly.)

More Good 'Uns

Alan Jackson's low-volume, measured vocals are especially appealing in contrast-combo with the up-front precision required by novelty songs, as I consider the masterfully melancholy, meta-appeal to trad country (please come home, darlin') title opener of Where Have You Gone and the boot-scootin', equally historical, rallying cry, "Andy on the TeeVee, lovin' on Aint Bee"---"Back" also has prayer, prom queens, ice cream, and, I think, blue jeans in there, but also, though, as a listener, I don't believe he's ever imbibed anything stronger than a wine cooler, his prime-of-Music-Row-worthy meta-drinking tropes understand well enough, so the silver plattered "I can be your whiskey" ( but one of several discreetly confident suggestions in "I Can Be The That Something") is startling as well---he can be your blond-mustached rehab or at least maintenance love guru: transfer to him, darl, not that ol' cocaine or mary jane---dang, he's usually got the cred. Ditto chiaroscuro x firm beat of econo-delivered "Ah don't wanta know/What's in your head," before she goes, just apply lipstick to mirror, leave it "Written in Red." He got The Bluegrass Album out of his system, except not quite: still (sparingly now) applies just the right tropes, a held note here, rope bridge of plot turn there, a touch of darkness, to his idea of well-preserved mainstream country, as does Rhonda Vincent on Music Is What I See (though she also ends w with a couple of big bg per se tracks). Even one of the wedding songs to his daughter is arresting in a good way, with fresh, non-soppy, concise phrases and sentiments (The opener of his Happy Valentine Day EP I thought at first was yet another wedding song to one of his several daughters, yeesh—but no, it's just presumptuous "gallantry" as come on—another one opens with mention of a young-sounding gal, among others included in his self-congratulatory, broad-minded attractions to otherwise utterly standard-sounding, video-suitable, country broads. But some other tracks are cool/acceptable). Where Have You Been is long, with a few duds, like self-sentimental "The Man Who Couldn't Cry," aggh puke, so with not quite the tighter appeal of Angels and Alcohol, which I Top Tenned in my 2015 country round-up, and may well be best place to start with him, though I'm still no AJ expert:

Alan Jackson, Angels and Alcohol: Starts with less than half-hearted best wishes/empathy for one leaving the nest---"Everybody's gotta live a little, before they die," and he can barely get the words out---then wheels around into a hearty chorus of reassurance, 'bout how you can always come home to big ol' generic slabs of bacon and gravy or whutever.

However, the overall theme of this set, convincingly expressed (tastefully, incl. with tasty details) is a healthy hats-off-and-on to the Uncertainty Principle and our need for same. Incl. in the title track, when it comes to "sooner or later you got to face what's hidin' in your mind", and the randy honky tonk encounters of "You Never Know," fender bender cum two daiquiri hookups and all. He and hitchhiking Jack Kerouac salute each other (along the alternative-lifestyles interstate of dreams, but still). They aren't too far apart in some ways: stay-at-home AJ finally gets a bellyful of his wife with the flattening iron and the curlers and that little dog and "that damn perfume"--she's sick of his shit too, so good riddance, he'll just keep partying with "Jim and Jack and Hank"--which rhymes with "So take your black Mercedes, full of stuff for ladies, to me you're just a total blank"---damn, that's pretty hardcore, especially for Mr. Mellow Melancholy Blond Mustache. Spoiler: he doesn't cave! Thought surely he would, what with the cartoon-country-Stones tone of the thing, and he does eventually have misgivings, by the end is invoking more and more of his male musical inspirations, "cleanin' out my closet."

And this right after a pensive sensitive cocktail reverie, but he's not just flipping scripts, because he's still competing with, while trying to imagine, "The One You're Waiting On": must be an awesome guy, considering this awesome woman, who keeps drinking and waving guys away, checking her, darlin…(quietly, intensely focused, so considerate a bit creepy)

He also celebrates "Flaws": "Everybody's got 'em/The ones you came with and you caused/Scars and tattoos gone rotten...all the little things that make her unique...the pieces of the puzzle that is me."

I'm hardly an Alan Jackson expert, but, while this set doesn't have any tracks with the downer power of "Monday Morning Church" or "The Little Man," it sort of doesn't need them: they've been done, and this hasn't, not by him, not this consistently (as far as I know).

Connie Smith's The Cry of The Heart is named for her definition of and specialty in country music, the kind of relentlessly cyclical treks- on-gilded-splinters-of-the-heart trad, sometimes funereal, that I tend to resist, as seen below in comments on Lucinda's urn ov same (wine-and-lipstick-stained butts incl., OK). Nevertheless, she picks songs about being knowing, struggling with being stuck inside a mobile, turning like a vane of dislocation in layers of strangely familiar, the stranger for it, weather: apologizes to her heart for being about to take another chance on prospect they both know better than; later, "I just don't believe me any more—I wouldn't trust my own eyes, if I saw him walking through the door," and gets to overview, "There are three s-i-i-i-des, to ev-ery sto-ry: his side, her side, and the truth": tricky, could get to truthie, jesting Pilate, sense of futility, reckless, even: interesting cusp—also, that chorus reminds me of "Love Is Strange," including a possible cross-influence with proto-reggae, and my other favorites here also have that out of the box, 60s crossover appeal that her accompanists, mainly Mary Stuart & his Superlatives, are so good at—-another starts with an acoustic country suggestion of "Pinball Wizard"—also "A-l-l-l, The Time" could be Orbison singing Jimmy Webb or himself, likewise omg yall fave is "Here Comes My Baby Back Again," with a kettledrum hook, even, also her voice, now reputedly shy of a few top notes of her 60s-70s commercial heyday, especially mighty and booming from the gut here, w/o overdoing it. This song rec also to Everly Bros., and eerie observational "Jesus Take A Hold" for Mavis (who will be doing some shows w Bonnie Raitt this summer btw). But some of the other, more generically constrained trad country ballads, are ballast, for sure, keeping whole thing bubbling just under my Top Ten. 

I didn't quite get if the trail of prev. unreleased titles, from several sessions over the years, were re-recorded, as-is, or some of both, on the Flatlanders' 2021 Treasure of Love round-up. Some of it sounded pretty geezer-y at first, like maybe recent re-dos. But well-chosen material, and just about all the tracks locked into enjoyable listening after a couple of spins.

Loretta Lynn's Still Woman Enough effectively advises/demonstrates: get it while you can! Yes'm. 

Lucinda Williams, Lu's Jukebox Volume 4: Funny How Time Slips Away: A Night of 60s Country Classics: more like Classicks. Rips the thrift store brand substitute for a Band-Aid off, opening  with a dingy little dirge, "Apartment #9"("where the sun never shines"), a dump for the dumped to sit waiting and not waiting, hoping against hope, perversely enough, for you to come back. So don't suggest subletting, or bloodletting: the austere pleasures of this track, complete with Lu's generic not-Kleenex tones and her equally familer quaver, which here is somehow as solid as her fire escape, if she has one, which I doubt, also the futile commisteration of the steel guitar and discreet timekeeping of the stick and struck thing–brave, dented little tin soldiers of the heart, as Lu and crew are on so many of these tracks, somehow make this one better than it deserves to be: that's art! So is the immediate follow-up with another dirge, pretty much: this version of "Together Again" is the saddest reunion song…ever—"and nothing else matters" sounds like too much does, it really does. Ah, but then, "Make The World Go Away" slips into a dreamy dirge, a shuffle really, like so much else here, like Fats Domino might be playing, swaying not too far away—Jukebox Lu's from Louisiana, come to think of it, like her other personae—sweeping up and around on the title phrase, a handful of stardust, wistful come-hither is her breadcrumb trail. I will try to make the world go away, yes Ma'am.  "Night Life" bounces the shuffle and stroll a little, with its well-aimed,  its switchy tail,  but then "Long Black Limousine, " bringing you back to her, only dead, from some old wreck out on the highway,  is the first dirge too far—whiplash back to "Fist City," finally an uptempo bullseye yowl, could be on her Stones volume (which zig-zag cuts the roadmap, and a lovely "Moonlight Mile" of it too). "I Want To Go With You" is a turgid dirge travesty rip of "Make The World Go Away"'s pattern, at least; c'mon! "Don't Let Me Cross Over" just as boring, but "Gentle On My Mind" perks her up, even has her rushing the beat, while sounding worn—it's a road song testimonial, soldier of love now bumping her comandeered bike wheels off road. "The End of the World" back on foot, shuffling, now almost majestically, and I'd never liked this song at all. "I'm Movin' On" back on board, "Funny How Time Slips Away" the poignant, perfectly balanced unexpected encounter riposte, of mixed emotions and free-enough associations, but not too much of either, or of time. "Take Time For The Tears" ("Let them fall where they may") could be good closing advice, but slogs way on here. So, although she's one of my all-time favorites, this set isn't quite top tier (I don't always have much of a reason or motivation enough to work such a long non-Top-Ten report up, but with her I do [compliment]

Vol. 6: Have A Rockin' Little Christmas With can be annoyingly perky if you're pouting, deflating, reacting against $easonal Cheer, but parties all around, get up or don't.

 Vol. 1: Runnin' Down A Dream convinces me there is something worth running down to this Petty fella after all, as long as she's performing his songs, and his cover of her "Changed The Locks" did show their affinity a long time ago, after all, OK OK.

And her Dylan set! As I said on's excellent Essential Bob Dylan Covers:

Yeah, Chrissie Hynde's rainy day country-folk conversations keep me listening, nursing a drink and memories and not bogarting that joint because it's all sides of the online, passing tracks back and forth with her Pretenders guitarist and their listeners, good for strumming and keys---seems like a little more variety might be good, but maybe would mess with the intimacy. But also---I just first listened to Lucinda Williams' Bob's Back Pages: A Night of Bob Dylan Songs, which is a lot to take in, quality and quantity and range and depth (of dug-in heels, writing and choice-wise), but clearly she's wide awake all night, no slurs, lots of teeth, with her hot crusty railroad combo from Good Souls Better Angels, I think (it's a download, so no fancy info). The theme, one of the recurring themes, is restless frustration---"I look like I'm movin', but I'm standin' still," but never shut up. The dread "To Make You Feel My Love" is the ringer, and closer, but works (and follows "Idiot Wind"), by far the best version I've heard, of which there have of course been a shitload. "Everything's Broken," "Political World," and "Man of Peace" make one ornery triptych early on. "Queen Jane Approximately"is drinking wedding band folk punk change of pace, nice. Was going to pick some from YouTube, but can't decide.

Also Vol 2: Southern Soul—From Memphis To Muscle Shoals (somewhere saw the added —And More). From a group email conversation: She relishes "The Games People Play," dishin' the condition. I expected some melodrama being dragged over the gravel in "A Rainy Night In Georgia," but no, it's rueful, wide awake in the middle of the night, and what else is new--she's ready to get aboard "I Can't Stand The Rain," "Take Me To The River," and some I didn't know, like "Main Street Mission." Ode To Billy Joe" is the only dud. unwisely begging comparison. Otherwise, if you like her at all, I think you'll like this.

Sierra Ferrell, Long Time Coming: first of hers I've heard, is so good! Commen 'tater here immediately invokes Patsy Cline, otm to too on the nose a couple times maybe, as arrangements push the cuetness, but in a flirtatious way, and could happen w production of Cline. Singing and songs always right, and she's also mountain or post-mountain, incl. the closer, where yet another female country artist bids a bittersweet farewell-for-now to the old hometown-mindset etc.---never heard a guy singer do this----good of its kind, strong closer.

Willie Nelson, The Willie Nelson Family: Speaking of wakes, I was wondering if I should audition Willie Nelson Family right after Lainey, and thinking I might just be relieved if it wasn't too marginal, but enjoyed it pretty much, in a calm December way. Religion-associated themes overall, but 7 out of 12 are very Willie originals, and the rest fit. Also wondering of offspring vocals might be too diffuse, but no they mostly lend good enough, unobtrusive support (ditto bass, drums, occasional harmonica) to Dad's vox & guitar, Bobbie's keys. Lukas sounds okay lead-singing "All Things Must Pass" (couldn't tell you how compares to orig. track, sorry George), also "Keep On The Sunny Side," and, although not seeing his credit,think also "I Thought About You, Lord," which seems like Willie might be reworking the presumably secular shuffle of almost the same name (good Willie picking here and all over). Dad sounds just as hale on penultimate "Too Sick To Pray" as he does on the rest. although it's about no longer being like it says in the title, so now checking in (while he can, is the inevitable read-in at this late date, of course) Upfront, no tarrying (12 tracks, 31:55)

But I can't listen to the closer, "Why Me; Lord"; it really is too much of a tearjerker for me. and I was scarred at a tender age by KK's original vocal. Sorry, son Micah.

For Further Study (everything here, but especially this)

Pony Bradshaw, Calico Jim: "I'm a time-traveling bush in a barrel of poo"? He could be singing that, in this context, but he doesn't sound worried about it, maybe because he's still traveling; he does mention "wrecked in a tireless life" a couple of times soon after, but doesn't say who's wrecked, though maybe he means it in a vehicular, not narcotic sense; one is likely as the other here, but he always sounds lucid, in a usually murmury way, but also like a more dynamic Jackson Browne, usually with toe-tapping, fingerpicking melodies (while insisting that the counterpoint under those "has to breathe": not hearing any in the usual sense, think he's thinking about a stubborn way of life, counterclockwise even to itself at times, it seems). Voice and arrangements can rise, grow drums, hard chords; steel and/or slide answers the call for a "Sawtooth Jerico." The people in these songs of shamelessly flamboyant  Southern Gothic environments, seeing and raising expected themes and terms, try not to fall off of or slide down "Dope Mountain" 'til they want to, and it's a real place, with stolen copper wire stashed in the old mine, finally good for something again, and lots of vines and lines and lives to get tangled.

 Spirituality is another common interest. A hillbilly preacher sucks poison from the ankle of the young widow, as their faces turn different colors—he's a snakehandler, and apparently prepared to do that in certain cases, although seems like it defeats the point in church? But they're on a date, and I guess she just stepped where she shouldn't have been stepping (further study needed; all this precarious detail makes me want to be careful too).

Things get ecumenical in "Guru," where we start out bonded "in the bowels of a coma." Must be good stuff, also leaving room for (true-to-life)'billy self-awareness: "Stretch out your vowels, son, and show your pedigree." But soon enough, maybe by the next course, "We got high as Heaven, tweaked on God and crystal meth," oh yeth. Also mellow moments of romance, out under the North Georgia stars; "I ain't no shaman, " but bring it on babe. Hmm. So many lines, images rippling by, it seems impossible to bring up a satisfyingly representative dipper, so far.

Fave New (To Me) Country Faces of 2021

Charlie Marie, Ramble On: Anyone heard Charlie Marie's Ramble On? Classic honky tonk sound with modern stories. Really strong front to back listen.

Indexed, Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Indexed, thanks so much! I listened to the whole Ramble On and a bit more---she's the Queen of Subway Station Honky Tonk:

Charlie Marie - Shot In The Dark

Should've issued a volume warning first, but dig the acoustics.

So she doesn't really need a studio, except commercially===here's one of my faves from there:

Charlie Marie---Kiss My Boots (Official Audio)

Mebbe not one of her best songs, but good vid:

Charlie Marie---"Ramble On Man" (Official Video)

Might be a break-up album, or just that she's into that trad country as cri di coeur locus a la Connie Smith (see below). Either or both way(s), wailin' piercin' broodin' sippin' works.

Emily Scott Robinson, American Siren: Yes this is the call of liberation, in a cordially candid, between you, me, and the well-known/used gatepost way of wisdom, mostly.

Several strikers-to-stunners right off (opener "Old Gods" my new theme song). I did have the impression that she keeps the lid on the musos a bit too often, like early Brandy Clark, and when/if she's really singing for "The Cheap Seats," better do it louder.

Also a couple of melodies seemed trite, though can't cite titles yet.

The only song that REALLY BOTHERED ME was "Hometown Hero": here, in the midst of all this focus on taking chances, breaking goo-goo rules (for boys as well as girls!), cos you gotta get real at some point---"Things You Learn The Hard Way"- owning up to and owning indeterminacy----this is way too predetermined, too on the nose. If he really did "have everybody fooled" (did he?), how do you know he lost "the war inside his head?" Which you could say about any suicide, yeah, but here he's the veteran etc. There's a certain mystery about suicide, even more than homicide, and who knows why one person commits either, at a certain time etc., and another, similar person in similar circumstances does not?

People want to wrap it up, put a bow on it, very understandably so---but, especially given Robinson's characteristic themes, it's frustrating that she doesn't, however gently, put a little distance between herself as writer and narrator---I hope she did, and I just missed it.

(Only song I've heard that comes close is Isbell's "Dress Blues," not about a suicide, but someone else who also served his country in battle---a shit or at lease baffling war, judging by the sound of the narrator, who's swaying, maybe drunk, maybe about to hurl, while surrounded by ceremonial palliatives.)

But other than these quibbles, helluva debut:


Sam Williams, Glasshouse Children: Another child of Hank Jr., early 20s, something about a conservancy battle,  song of reflections on  rehab and life  thus far, sung to someone, includes mother in video, I think. Trying to stick to music: all about life thus far into forward he sounds, fragile, surefooted, resourceful, album fully realized, seems like. The new—Justin Townes Earle? If so, maybe that means he'll. have another 20 years, at least. At the moment, seems like he's had some insights, and maybe they'll take root, or stick.

Fave Country Reissues*/Prev. Unreleased**

**Billy Joe Shaver & Kinky Friedman's Live From Down Under is plain & vivid: very clear sound, with a couple of steel-string acoustics, lead & rhythm, some pienner; that's all they need. Shaver's songs & singin' do their sincere, slick, hooky thing, as expected, but also Friedman is surprisingly affecting---I'd previously mostly rated him for "Ride 'Em. Jewboy," which is here, and low-key but pointed and poignant, and "My Shit's Fucked Up," which is not here----maybe Zevon hadn't yet sent this, one of his last dispatches, and one of his strongest, funniest and scariest ever. Uh-oh: a degree of sincerity seems, as it always has, to extend to KF's own "Get Your Biscuits In The Oven and Your Buns in the Bed" ("Wimmen's LIberation has done gone to your head").

Shaver finishes with a song he says he's written after the recent deaths of his wife and son (press sheet adds his mother, also his recent heart attack and surger, incl. refused follow-up).


"Ladies and gentlemen, two Texas legends, Billy Joe Shaver and Kinky Friedman!" announced Jeff "Little Jewford" Shelby before the nightly coin toss to decide who in this dynamic double-bill, quadruple heart bypass contender Billy Joe or singing crime novelist Kinky would go first. The spotlight then passed back and forth between the duo, supported in Vaudevillian fashion by guitarist Jesse Taylor, Washington Ratso and of course Little Jewford.

Depending on how you look at it or who's talking, the Live Down Under tour probably shouldn't have happened or it was the best thing that could've happened. Either way, it was a minor miracle most would say and now a thing of myth and legend.

It started when Shaver, still recovering from the loss of his mother, wife and son was lured out of mourning in 2001 by the Kinkster to do their "Two For Texas" tour that ended with Billy Joe unexpectedly suffering a heart attack at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas that August. Angioplasty was performed but Shaver, fearing the risks, was resisting medical advice to have quadruple heart by-pass surgery taking karmic instruction from Willie (Nelson) to get out and stay active. Soon commitments to bring the tour to Australia were made.

Kinky Friedman: "The doctors wanted him to have the surgery but he said no. And they didn't want him going to Australia with Kinky. That it was the wrong thing to do. But Billy Joe was in a dark place; the recent family tragedies, the health concerns. Staying home with the curtains drawn and all its temptations seemed as risky as going. Willie and I both agreed, the best therapy he could have was to get out and have a good time."

And it was.

Billy Joe performed every night like his life depended on it. And it did. And it pushed everyone to the same level of intensity. Featuring hits like "Honky Tonk Heroes," "You Asked Me To," "Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed," "Sold American" and more, showcasing some of the best material from both writers' storied careers, and delivered in a way that only these best friends and odd couple could. So put on Live Down Under, sit back, listen and perhaps come to appreciate these two unique artists in a way you hadn't before. A one-of-a-kind experience. Seems like there was another one, but maybe not.

(Johnny Cash's MySpace had this series, of the original EPs, I think, that might have been overall titled Cash On Sun, just this whole parallel, para-Elvis, world of Jawn hitting his 50s boom-chick stride, catchy and country and rock and not, deep as the voice (well, pert near), at times.)

*Johnny Cash Forever Words(Various Artists)  reached its final peak, mebbe, with tracks added for April 2021 reincarnation. It's new music, via many hands, for his previously unset lyrics and poems, built from characteristic, yet venturesome imagery, moods, turns, twists, with that JC cadence, wherever he may roam. The resulting tracks are plausible vibe-wise, even when briefly brushed by Elvis Costello's chamber strings, and in Robert Glasper's jazz-hiphop-alt.r&b setting, where The Man Hisself comments on what he was trying to convey in these words, about drugs. A double album that zips right by. The Watkins Family offering, feat. Sara Watkins's vocal, is a bit bland, duh, and maybe one or two likewise, but overall, pretty amazing standard.

**Loney Hutchins, Buried Loot: Demos From the House of Cash & "Outlaw" Era '73-'78: I don't care about "Pinball King," or some of the other first segment tracks, but soon enough, he's got this self-deprecating realness/fatalism times limberness, vivid succintness---making me think of pre-bearded, 60s Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line-era Waylon---I wouldn't be surprised if Hutchins, or Waylon, wrote the Jennings vinyl track "Nashville Bum," about consuming ketchup soup in conference at coffee shop---"You can change a word or two and I'll give half of it to you"--then he goes to a mix of modesty and flair, passing through some very dark places, like Gary Stewart in his hellish heyday---would Stewart dare to record "Whiskey Lady," the forensic romance. an barstool cowboy's inner infant rock-a-bye serenade of his deadly muse? I think he would, and maybe he did.

(Hutchins' voice seems ideal for demos(these tracks are so well-played and recorded I would have assumed they were finished product): it's transparent,light but never lite. never imitating anybody I can think of, so never overselling, a little distanced, like these might be character studies, and/or just stuff he's lived through along the way, or in some cases still hopes to live through, not being above wistful love songs, maybe another pipe dream or two--

building to the matter-of-fact masterpiece here, "Committed To Parkview," (covered by Cash in the 80s. could have fit The Man Comes Around and other 2000s sets): quite a levelling playfield-rest-academy, another Nashville institution, along with Tootsie's and the Ryman, though you don't have to actually be in the biz to land here, and none of these songs are too biz-referential, incl familiar tropes that aren't belabored very often.

This is on Spotify; he's got a 2009 release on Bandcamp.

(Update: Edd sez, Soundcloud link to Loney Hutchins' reissued '70s album Appalachia, in case you missed it. Not bad--he sounds wide-eyed in these somewhat romanticized song structures and lyrics.

(Several tracks locked, but whole alb available Mar. 4, via usual $u$pect$)

More Seasonal, having already mentioned the  Alan and Lucinda offerings

Lori McKenna, Christmas Is Right Here: Affirmative, and roger that: shortest days of the year, but just enough light that McKenna's usual kitchen-sink realizm gets more shine than I expected, even like she's been using so much Glade that there's glide—not too much light helps, ditto the darting pop chorus of "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney, one of his best Wings ventures, here a recycled gift more than making up for his recent reappearances in stupid quotes, relating to whatever his latest product is. Palate cleanser before expected bittersweet, some depths bridged, rolling on for a while, with turns maybe not always totally unstoned (whole EP does leave me with a little buzz, thanks Miz McK, see you in the new year)

was not in a hurry to check Pistol Annies' Hell of a Holiday, having heard every kind Christmas album, good and bad, while working in a CD store for far too long. But now I think it would have improved my holidays, for the most part. They mean to bring the Pistol Annies real talk and fun along with mellower, often bittersweet moments, though the unaccustomed piety (think it's all from Presley, but maybe not). though dignified and not too preachy, drags a little on its reserved (three) tracks. But opening and closing subsets of three work fine, also several others (and those three solemn ones aren't bunched together). Even "Come on Christmas Time," about having a crush on Santa, which seemed like would be too cute, is a discreetly yet seriously prowly shuffle--she means the guy who is playing Santa, like husband is to their kids---maybe---filling up just enough to weigh in between "Harlan County Coal" (better be good for goodness sake mf) and "If We Make It Through December." "Joy" is a PA and this-album microcosm: many shades of blue, incl. luminescent, though going back around a few times cos that's life and Christmas). Even if I don't want to keep listening to this as an album, can see adding faves to playlist of their other albums; they're not seasonal only.

Country Semi-Honorable Probationary Mention

Morgan Wallen, Dangerous: now most of the way through Disc 2(finished while writing this), which Spotify has actually not interrupted with ads, not out of deference to somebody Dangerous in tight jeans---no, that song is like all the rest in recalling wild times with a girl and a bottle, but also, for the first time on this album, being in the back of a cop car downtown oops b-b-better not go down thar again while messed up thinging of yew---but never on here has he (yet) blamed the girl for his being hung-up on her and the bottle, nor is he doing music as therapy like some others, just brief views, scenes from a life in passing---there's a reliable continuity of musicality too, although on Disc 1, especially, it can be just okay, as brief highlights sink back into the steady background flow--don't buy the drank as much as rent it, eh podner--happens even to the Isbell cover here, so can be more about habits of delivery than writing, although some of that's pretty pro forma too. Some keepers though, making it all the way through their brief runs, often with a few more distinctive turns than expected--those stand out here among the humdrum for sure, as the mind is trained to be grateful for small favors. Not too small! The feel for fingerpicking as part of his reflective-to-rueful compulsiveness, and antsy squeezing of booze-damp tropes, looking back to last night or year---yeah, that's good, and he can seem like Kenny Chesney with an added sense of moments, drops adding up, tilting that nostalgia, suck it dry one more time, 'til it grows back tomorrow (on both discs. Already, on this Disc, he knows this shit can't go on, that he ain't ever satisfied, not long enough to call it that--just the little bittersweet afterglow coming back as regular as his rituals with new girls x drinks.

Disc 2 is much more often actual fun! At least for a while, getting to capital Country as a shirttail flag, sometimes also with a rolling-to-wavery cadence, like his hat-head is about to hit its face on the barroom floor, but then pops back up for another quip---more wavey than wavery after all, or pert near, like one of those balloon dudes in front of used car lots. Getting to hickhop as a given, or almost subsumed, but you can feel the feels. The yeehaw reaffirmation is always on the way to yet another funtime, and becomes explicitly presented, in at least one song (lotta words always going by in these tracks, people) as alkie pretext or shall we say personal solutionism to class struggle--- while him and his baby may getting sideways and sideeyed, "other people at the bar may have their own opinions, but Beer Don't."

After that, there's one where he finally does blame the girl, though more in fear than anger, sounds like. as he sings, "You like wine, and---me on whiskey." But he doesn't run away from the pile-on.

Album just goes on and on and on, 'til repetitiousness obtrudes even through the attractions of it as background music---although that does add the sense of his finding no way out, just going round and round and round through his behavior---and I *think* I would get that even if I didn't know about his personal history (a lot more than I want to, beyond the headlines, and I'm sure Edd has heard still more in Nville). So---it's expressive, and meaningful enough, even when it's not. Country as hell then, incl. tiresome at times, and I'm inclined to give it (for reasons of being a tad more conceptual, also bro-subgeneric, than consistently-enough enjoyable, also for keeping the sorry backstory so close at hand) a Semi-honorable Mention/B+ on my imaginary Scene ballot.

So, judging by all this, he seems like he never was Dangerous in the sense that some would like him to be, as a redneck Free Speech Jesus or cautionary A Face In The Crowd view of populist fascist media tool---he's a minor artist, strengths and weaknesses closely related, in this bro-unprecedented (far as I've heard) pile-up of tracks, taking scenes and themes to an extreme that I hope his many fans will come to hear as more self-revealing, even confessional in the take-it-or-leave it, warts-and-all testimonial sense, than servicing, as more than media insulation, but dang this longass winding road does tend to blend like that, pulling at the penny-drop insights.

Mind you. speaking of hickhop (to rapneck) feels, I can almost hear "Country A$$ Shit," gettin down "with my country-ass friends, and my country ass band...and if you don't like that, kiss my county ass" blaring from a truck with a rifle rack and rows of MAGA and Rebel flag stickers, front and back, parading past pedestrian me on Main Street---b-b-but listen in context, kids!

Country About Half Good (60-45%)

Carly Pearce, Written In Stone–29 : If you're going to do a break-up album, maybe especially a country one, you've got to dive right into it, holding your nose if necessary, and not giving the tabloids more than you care to, but still working with the gory details in some fashion, even subliminally—yes, like the impression that I get from some of Natalie Hemby's Pins and Needles, where she can sound pretty glum, but creatively devising musical pushback vs. despair and dead weight–not rolling away the stone, ain't no stone, no mettyphor that will bring on that kind of magical thinking solution, but she does what she can, though it's no Puxico (sorry Hemby, good thing you're not reading this). Pearce, still much earlier in her career, does what she can about half the time, while still mostly low key, and clean cut, with some songs bound by TV Guide plot points, inert stock images, also  a bit sonically reserved,  even when lines open up, though "Dear Miss Loretta," with L&C's fellow Kentucky Woman, Patty Loveless, squeezes musical misery on out the nostrils, in bluegrass usage, hopefully cathartic, anyway getting it out, acknowledging, and moving on past this marker. But the duet with Ashley MacBryde, which does sound okay, might also be a mistake: at least, I for one can't unthink of how McBryde, who doesn't showboat here, is so much the bolder and more resourceful artist, that she can't help but upstage Pearce.

Country Headscratcher

Steve Earle & The Dukes, JT: I don't know how to rate this. Dukes are good as ever, production too, material is excellent, singing unwisely begs comparison with original tracks. Buy those if you want to contribute to Justin's child, well buy this too maybe, for that and sake of the closing Steve-written "Last Words," where  signature scroungy singing is expressive and moving.

As I wrote on this site re 2019 country etc:

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:

More of what I had to say about Midnight at the Movies and The Good Life, two of his best: 2009 ballot and comments  Here's Harlem River Blues: 2010 ballot and comments 


Stumblin' in after breaking limbs in the hot sun (unexpected bonus session with a tornado tree), I'm especially appreciative of the restorative powers of xpost Ashley Monroe's Rosegold (not, as I'd thought, Rose Gold, which coulda been her emerging alternate identity, going w this new sound and the Prince association, which I'll mention again). It's not, as I impulsively said upthread, cosmic country electropop lit yall in the get-this-party-started sense: here, the candles are lit, all around the tub,, in the love spa, for relationship maintenance, or---if he's a no-show so far, at least, at most (this is crucial!) keeping yourself tuned up, no matter what else is down the road, in the "Groove," of the "Drive," and it's a total sonic experience, not just about the songs per se, which some reviewers are disappointed by---it's the risk of seductive philosophizing in which notes as sung and played) fill in what the words leave out---but again, risk: she never goes for the big extended bedazzlement between the lines, it's all careful dosage (like I said, 10 songs in about 30 minutes), brushing or swooping by, already gone, as the Eagles say. Yes, this is a kind of country, bits of Beatles (little maybe-mellotron here, little cello there) and Prince (Beatles student too, and the different ways conversational phrases go with the beats, which aren't big, but big enough)aside, she sounds like somebody who might have been swirling around behind or beside any number of male country singers from the mid-60s to early-80s, discreetly still, but now assertive enough (also some acoustic guitar picking)(also the breadcrumb brevity is classic country, from when records didn't cost much, and now streams don't have to cost anything, so shuddup and listen).

Anyway, so far, I find it refreshing, also the way she keeps changing it up, to suit where she's at, from The Blade to the somewhut mysterious Sparrow to this (although could do without "Gold" and the mumblecore finale).. And of course the guarded hopefulness of it seems country.

Frank Kogan responds: Ashley Monroe's Rosegold: On very first impression, as (Don's words) "modern art-pop country," it's at its best when sounding "art" and evading "pop" and "country," so stronger downplaying or avoiding hooks and refusing to resolve into pretty melody. Might've been better more austere though I don't know that (perhaps without prettiness gooping the thing up, the art'd be  get to be monotonous). I like "Siren" best, "Gold" was great when guttural but lost force rising to the upper register. "Til It Breaks," "I Mean It," and "See" are probably keepers, maybe "Drive" too. "Til It Breaks" works as a conventional song, the others'd probably be better uglier. Anyway, the thing's touching me most when I'm perceiving or imagining a low-pitch rumble and an unwillingness to get on with the tune. (He ended up picking this album for his own ballots.)


Brandi Carlilie advised us that These Silent Days would be "dramatic," as if her outdoor theater visions weren't always that–this time, yes, there's a flash of Bowie, even Zep, and not just the pastorales of LZ's III, but her urgent-to-obesso quest for philosophical balancing act, between rigors of insight and hope, for instance, sure keeps it country-related enough, also compelling, pretty often.

James McMurtry, The Horses and The Hounds: His first studio album in quite a while sounds refreshed, refreshing, even the singing, not that he's about to go all Easter Bunny on us:  still James, with themes of older gents, mixed histories, sometimes ditto emotions and motives too, right? You are the decider. All narrators are unreliable at some point, but these are thoughty without getting tiresome, winding up for some new pitches to ladies who have been here before, for instance.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Georgia Blue: Having broken on through to majority and electoral votes for the Democratic President and Senators, while Mr T tried to shake down his fellow Reds on the state level, where future counts will have to be approved by partisan review, Georgia is now precariously Blue in more ways than one. So, good choice of R.E.M. covers at the shadowy borderlines, and plenty of rugged individuals running in the blue moonlight between. Amanda Shires  cross-blows my mind with prog flight of Cat Power's "Cross Bones Style," ditto Jason & 400's  blast of "Reverse" (must look up Now It's Overhead), Steve Gorman-led "Sometimes Salvation" is fearless pushback query (forgot the Black Crowes had it in 'em), Julien Baker and Brandi Carlile ares strongly sympathetic to the Indigo Girls' "Kid Fears," while JI does right by "I've Been Loving You Too Long"(following Otis Redding!? That's tough). He and the Unit and Pete Levin pay their respects to "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," although I'd have rather heard him on a Gregg ballad, but then, vocal of his life on Vic Chesnutt's gauntlet-and-chains-off "I'm THROUGH." A few others may take some warming up to, but this is musically and otherwise worth my bucks (as Xgau sez, "proceeds [are] divided among Black Voters Matter, Stacey Abrams's Fair Fight outfit, and Georgia's STAND-UP [Strategic Alliance for New Directions and Unified Policies])."

For comments on Jeffrey Lewis-Peter Stampfel Band and Peter Stampfel's 20th Century, also Tom Jones's Surrounded By Time (Hourglass Editon), please see:

More Zep folk-rock etc, as expecting amidst the cinematic T-Bone Burnett Americana atmospheres of Plant & Krauss's Raise The Roof, where we even get another Anne Briggs cover, though my favorites are the relatively down-to-Earth duet "Searching For My Love" (kept thinking Box Tops, but no: it was a hit for Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces; Moore wrote it, too), and Krauss getting vibe-y as hell on solo cruise w "Going Where The Lonely Go": "Goin/ with the flow"--Merle such a hippie yeah.

Email to Frank Kogan:

Subject: Karen Carpenter and Crazy Horse

The bandcamp page for this album mentions "Chrissie Hynde and Crazy Horse, " but no Pretenders' signature vibrato--I suppose that the singing *is* somewhat more like Hynde's on her good 2021 rainy day quarantine  Dylan covers set, Standing In The Doorway--but the more I listen, seems like Rosali plays it so cool (at least on the surface) that I've gone on to thinking Hope Sandoval, and now, yes, Karen Carpenter---in fine balancing act w "Crazy Horse," actually the David Nance Group, with War On Drugs' Robbie Bennett providing good piano and organ as well--not like the arena cave stomp of live CH, but the relatively refined,  still intense, psych-country aspects of their heyday w Neil Young---but mainly I'm struck by how she can indeed produce some striking Young Neil-worthy vocal melodicism (without warbling like Neil), esp. on opener and closer: can even be--exquisite, yeah I said it. Maybe too much of the same thing at medium tempo etc., but more to choose from for keepersbut see what you think, I just feel compelled to not Bogart it :

Frank replied: I'd say she sounds like a " '70s singer-songwriter flowering in the '90s" without any particular example in mind. So not sure I'm hearing any of your comparisons except Crazy Horse; and they're not as crucial to the effect as the real Crazies were when they appeared w/ Neil - that is, I don't think it makes that much difference if she recorded with 'em or without, and I think my favorite songs tend to be the without, though that's not their fault.

But anyway, I am liking it, her sense of gravity. I've no more insights at the moment, though.

Later, from an enthusiastic discussion of this album:

…it's a fine balance, and I no longer wonder it's too much of the same thing: there are fine differences, as they continue to get their groove on, across the prairie, street, and Great Divide---yeah, some The Band slipping by toward the end, or at least, "Tender Heart" has a Young Neil-Richard Manuel touch, while getting psychedelicized--

dow, Tuesday, December 14, 2021 7:15 PM (two months ago) bookmarkflaglink

Karen Carpenter and Crazy Horse--Where was that Christmas Special?

Precious, Grace, Hill & Beard LTD. (C. Grisso/McCain)




Willie Nelson, That's Life: Vol. 2 of his Sinantry Songbook is Related because them ol orkystraws on a bunch of tracks: real good & tho they have me picturing him in tophat, spats, white gloves, and tails, he's still nimble. My favorites are the bluesiest: title track of course, and "Look Down That Lonesome Road, " oh yes.

Related Hon Mention

Neil Young & The Crazy Horse, Barn: If I'm catching his mumble right, the uncertainty of this delay seems to have spread to "the jury's still out," and he can't remember what he forgot or something like that---now he's got me doing it----which is a good idea for a song: the book that's been sitting on the shelf since '85--right here between this one and this other one, the book I was probably gonna read over Christmas---is gone. Looking and looking for it and I QUESTION MY LIFE man---But this song is just standing around and mumbling, not freaking out, not nothin much---maybe it's very very special weed, dusted with powdered elixir--maybe he paid very much up front and now it's gone solid gone---so, put out another deluxe from the vaults, recoup and reinvest, try again, so what.

Several others just seem like run=throughs, low-impact stylistic exercises, despite the evident, also predictable, sincerity---but cherrypickin' tyme is no surprise, and I do find freshness, of little turns and sufficient definition, even some flair, as written and played, in "Change Ain't Never Gonna Come," "Shape of You," "Tumblin' Through The Years, "Welcome Back,"---that's my fave---and "Don't Forget Love." "Camerican" is pretty good stylistic exercise. but ends soon and abruptly, like several others.  

(later) Xgau's making it his 2021 No. 1 for topical backstory and references in mostly mumblecore lyrics, not the mostly okay music: pretty typical of his grading for the past few years. Does give Rust Bucket an A minus, but the rambling, kinda meh-ish review doesn't indicate why (except he found out about clitoral vibrators because "Bite The Bullet") , while not indicating anything about how he hears the music, of that one or Barn, which still seems like some nice ones for the playlist, and that's about it.(later still) Still growing me, still B plus.  I do like some of it real much, most of it to some extent.

 But (Related Prev. Unreleased) Way Down In The Rust Bucket is what really gets me going: A minus, cos I could live w/o a few tracks as songs "Bite The Bullet"no; he should leave being crass to the Stones) and a few more are more predictable than compelling---but there are at least 95 minutes of keepers--faves incl. "Danger Bird" (its live debut, says his Warners site), "Cinnamon Girl," "Roll Another Number For The Road," and my number one is "My Country Home," 15 minutes ov rural psych--continuing thee countryoid theme, here is "Homegrown," with 1970-1990 scarecrow fashion (reminding me of Thurston Moore on Nirvana's "Children of the Corn" looks) Rustic Rock On!

 Home Grown official video

"My Country Home" got me out there here right away, quat thee opener: My Country Home

And when it's farm-to-market day:

Roll Another Number For The Road




Rodney Crowell's Triage begins with characteristic grace and honor, up front about the damage that he considers he can't repair, but is determined to make it up somehow—undermining credibility by suddenly pushing the music into uncharacteristic melodrama, though some grace(fullness) reappears. Things go along pretty well for a while after that, but he's thinking more than he's singing, so throws up his hands, what the hell, trusting in you, and/or You: "Nothing Left To Lose." Not the most flattering proposal, or maybe it Is, but he gets into a good groove and humor, says he loves everybody now, even Putin, even Trump, would love the Devil if there was one, loves money, and if had some, would give some to you (yeah and/or you). Gets "The Global Amnesia Blues," helping Jesus while "streaming Dylan's Love and Theft" (which seems like a well-digested influence on his recent albums: on this one, seems like Mr. D. would approve deep dark trombone solos, ones w a plunger head mute). 

All of his aspirations fold up high together, when he meets "A Girl On The Street." Lost beauty challenges him, and he's left lamenting that he was scared to help one who's "dopesick," though bragging she's "three days clean," but maybe he knows better, because of his own experience, which is also why, he says, he's scared to try to help her, more than giving her his loose change, with which she is not impressed. He says something  wishing he'd helped her find shelter, but a shelter can be dangerous, unless he knows his way around wherever they are—anyway, it's a lot to take on, but he's left with certain hopeful illusions of self-image knocked away, and only the music left, rising like a city wind.

There's also a bird outside his Triage door, that sings on cue, asking him why and what he gonna do, when it's almost over for him—pretty bird, though; is it the Devil? Na, just the sense of mortality getting in the way, being too helpful sometimes (mention of "birdshit" on another track.

Unfortunately, "Nothing Left To Lose" wasn't quite true, if we can blame the commitment to spiritual interests and navelgazing (at its finest sometimes), and no more girls, streets, birds, knocking at his interiors: he loses some self-aware, critical facility, and the last couple of tracks get boring—and since the opener got melo, that's 21/2 duds, maybe more eventually, on a specialized-interest set that overall can't rise so far above them (and there sure are a lot of other RC albums to compare), so Hon. Mention, though more of one than the worn Barn

Related Less Than Half Good

Barry Gibb and Friends, Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook (Vol. 1): Talk about begging comparison with originals. It's one of those tribute albums that works in an unintended way: no matter how good most of the contributors are with their usual fare, they can't find a way into the Bee Gees castle, where even bad music could be awesome, a magic that's gone out of pop since their heyday, though I hope I'm wrong about that. Also about this being LTHG, but so far, yeah, sounds like the only keepers are Barry with Brandi, Sheryl, and, out of left field, Gillian and Dave, possibly benefitting from my never having heard or heard of the original "Butterfly." Looking forward to gleanings from Vol. 2. Maybe "Islands In The Stream" and "New York Mining Disaster 1941" and "Charade" and "Stayin' Alive" will show up (Gotta get Garth and The Chicks in there---who else?)

Related Blast From The Future is Now Here

In late 2020, after figuring out that the only thing I wanted to do musically was a kind of cabaret-style retrospect of some great songs I thought other people ought to know about, I assembled a group of Nashville musicians at Sundog Recording Studio with engineer and producer Michael Esser. We recorded six songs drawn from the mists of the 1970s, and added one instrumental I wrote myself. We cut with almost no rehearsal, and trusted to the unguarded moment to guide us in our reconstructions of these timeless tunes....Fayetteville, Paris, Nashville, Memphis, man, it's all the same on this record. Thus did none other than Edd Hurt become one of the lobes (along with M.Esser) ov production mastermynd---Dickinson-Chilton-inspired---thee spirit and letter, incl. ripping sideways yarnsabillies: covers ov AC's "Bangkok" and "Take Me Home and Make Me Like It,"  in this contrapolitan songdog caravan via Sundog cabaret life, but never lite, old chum, no matter how off cuff and road. I keep reading The Contact Group's Varnished Suffrages as Vanished Suffragettes, which is appropriate at least concerning their aftervision of Cloud 9 oasis, "No Stone Unturned" ("No bridge unburned"), by singer--multi-instrumentalist Randall Bramblett (of Cowboy's strongest line-up, judging by my previous round-ups' mentions of expanded reissues of their albums and of The Gregg Allman Tour—also his 2020 Pine Needle Fire, which had me thinking of a Southern Steely Dan treatment before The Mountain Goats' Dark In Here)(re latter, see You've Got To Pick Up Every Witch!). Me-wise,  several others are complete unknowns, thus eddjrcational as intended.

 Chelsea Peebles, of Hungry Mother, calls out for and/or about more "Burlesque," over the heads of the rest of the combo, leading Edd's keys, for instance, through a tick-tock with a little flex, sometimes, in its hyphen: sounds like a nursery school lounge parade boogie through a Spanish tinge or tincture, off to see the Wizard again: '72 trace of weirdo UK band Family; Wiki sez it originally wuz a straight rocker about a bar of that name in Chapman and Whitney's hometown of Leicester, England.  Chapman (Roger, who could rip sideways vocals that made Pat Boone of Chilton and even more varnished vanished nothing of Pat Boone) and (John "Charlie") Whitney lined up their own also-worth-hearing Streetwalkers later (start with Red Card), and before the Family album that this song is from, Bandstand, they had a baby-faced and quite capable bass player, Ric Grech, who went on to the also oddly capable, prematurely aged, well-named Blind Faith, but that's all I know, except Xgau described Bandstand intriguingly (check his site), and if it sounds anything like The Contract Group's take, now I wanna get off my cuff and hear it! 

Another groove parade trek, with a cool-droning, no-nonsense vocal by Chelsea Lovitt (not Peebles, gotta keep your Chelseas straight in TCG), is "Turn On To Jesus" (by James Marvell and Buddy Good---oh-ok, of Mercy and The Country Cavaleers: Edd sent me some TCC one time, but I don't remember this engaging song atall).

Edd's solo piano instrumental comes on like he's the Southern slut Satie, and ends perfectly for that–-slutt listen, I can't tell you all about every track, just go check for yourself, sheesh :

Update: Edd sez, Don, here's the original of "Turn On to Jesus" by the Country Cavaleers. I visited Jack Clement Studios in Nashville a couple years ago (now called Sound Emporium) and sure enough, there were sessions logged there in 1974 and '75 for the Cavaleers. Undoubtedly when this track was cut. I also found out that D.J. Fontana played drums on the original.

More Related Reissues*/Prev. Unreleased**

**Alex Chiton and Hi Rhythm Section, Boogie Shoes: Live On Beale Street— (re advance track): Judging by "Boogie Shoes" on YouTube, most of the appeal of the Alex Chilton/Hi Rhythm live album might be instrumental, which reminds me: here they are with Terry Manning, better known as a producer and engineer at Ardent etc. but his rough-and-ready vocal approach works better with HRS live than Chilton's (comparing just one track to another): Terry Manning /Hi Rhythm---I Can't Stand the Rain

(Chilton seems a bit cautious by comparison---their set was a one-off, but so was Manning's w HRS---filling in at the last minute for a no-show, and just taking the plunge, what the hell---this is the only live track on his album, and really seemed like the only keeper---according to the press sheet, he did a Box Tops Chilton parody for kicks, and was ordered to create an album around it, which mostly seemed like filler, but I didn't listen much)

However, by July 1:

So Chilton does okay after all, though yeah of course Hi Rhythm Gang is the main interest, esp. horns and bass, though everybody steps up--most songs go on a little over four minutes and a half minutes; the studio originals were at least a minute shorter, but but we get more solo turns and full Section flexing, comfortably. Fave is the penultimate performance, "Hello Josephine," where a Hi man starts the vocal, Chilton coming in later: a very robust 7:12 work-out, calm as ever. Also: Motown gets the Memphis treatment on "Where Did Our Love Go," with Chilton as okay stand-in for Diana Ross, though this is one of he shorter ones, as it probably should be).Does not sing as high, loud and fast there as on "Lucille" or "Maybelline." Sounds like Pat Boone looking to go rong on "Kansas City." Anyway, very good music for a holiday weekend, has me looking for b-b-q chicken.

Any of yall heard this one? xgau sez:Hi Rhythm---On The Loose

Country Funk 3  1975-1982: Judging by  round-ups on this site, I seem not to have heard 2012's Country Funk 1969-1975, but did peg 2014's Country Funk 2 1967-1974: (often very stoned, mainly too consistently happy (& sometimes self-congratz 4 bing funkee) to be more country than countryoid---Isn't Western Swing often damn happy? Yes, but it's Western) Well picky picky. So they're countryoid, so what. Self-congratz was more of a problem, but here the funkiness per se is more relaxed, more of a given, with suggestion of NOLA (and Memphis, thinking of early 70s Hi Rhythm): such as  Dr. John discretion of the strut, chick-chick-chicken butt and peck of the clavinet and organ, even a savoir d' Allan Toussaint to the horns sometimes; somebody's been studying all that. Disco is a given too, but meant to sound eager–-so LIght In The Attic's catalog page puts it: As the 1970s began to wane and the 1980s approached, the Country Funk pallet expanded to include disco beats, heavy Moog synth bass lines and more clavinet than you could shake a stick at. Volume III shows artists continuing to buck traditional country tropes and production while embracing modern soul, disco, and coked-up 80s synth-pop. This is the true soundtrack of the Urban Cowboy. Saddle up, partners.

Welp, we might need a little help with that, hoss, cause the more disco this sounds, sometimes the more generic, the kind of disco that waned with the aforementioned 70s, 'til the whole per se genre hit a wall in early 80s, at the latest—sure, country tends to run a little behind with mainstream crossovers from the urban clubs etc., and deliberately so, after Saturday Night Fever was re-edited and spread through fly-over suburbs, and my friend's country-to-metro parents snuck downtown to take disco lessons at an Arthur Murray studio (busted by their kids, who suspected them of having joined a cult or somethin)---then and only then, with Revolta trading the white suit and chains of SAF for Urban Cowboy duds (though the actual soundtrack of that was not country funk-disco, cause aimed at the now post-disco mainstream, more like the New Traditionalism of 70s-80s cusp country, only softer-edged), could the country artists' embracing really begin, as they run to catch up with the disco train, now leaving the station. So they can sound excited, still happy, not too stoned now, professional, and certainly sem-romantically horny to  a newly overt degree(a little anxious about that sometimes, but part of the excitement).  

LITA mentions country tropes: Cousin Conway Twitty reports back, maybe sends us a postcard, about how if you go to the city, up high and look down, you can see folks setting "NIght Fires" on the ground, and those rhyme with "sweet desires," making the moon shine all night long, and he sounds like he loves to see people getting together,  in the city and back home, people everywhere need it,  just come on in, hallelujah!

Larry Jon Wilson's country trope trophy doesn't mention dancing or fire or desire or any fresh excitement, though he is guardedly hopeful, despite working down in Deatsville, which I know people from, and how it's got him down, and a preacher notices, says, "Come on along to my big church, and bring some money." Larry Jon, remembering his father taking him to a little country church, declines the invitation, says he's still looking for "Heaven on a dirt road." Music pulses under there like distant cousins of sandworms. A fairly dark atmosphere, but maybe just because he's tired with no streetlights; that's my  hope.

Another country trope, though it was certainly and prob mainly a movie one too, for quite a while, had , still, in the years these tracks were made, to do with singles running around and around, while their friends and neighbors get married, or already are: the former  become something of a vicarious thrill and/or point of concerned speculation for the latter —thus Brian Hyland's "Hale The Man"---maybe sic, or maybe ironic salute–-Hail Hale, you the man and the gang's all here, but you live alone, so why you try to hard to get into that party, while runnin' runnin', and livin' to regret it (spoiler). So maybe there's a tension, a nervous energy to some of the eagerness here. But Travis Wammack doesn't feel it, he's grinning in the shadows, prob best he lets the music do most of the talking, walking up with a rhythm guitar that sounds like a rusty farm implement well-repurposed—then it gets psychedelisized, as the Chambers Brothers would say, and then the whole track does, maybe with synths for horns and the LITA-mentioned Moog bass line, some more voices.

Dolly Parton doesn't seem to feel the tension either, or if she does, she successfully pushes back, with a regal step, ready to chose the man "who will dance me home,"(home is another country trope) if and only if such a one proves qualified: no last call desperation here. For she is a lady who has it all together, a modern one too, and now it can be told, even in a country-aimed song (quite a few country years after Loretta Lynn's "The Pill," but that was not a trendsetter). So too with, sounds like, whichever of Gary & Sandy is singing,"Come on and take it like a man," with a reassurance, or at least warmth, in the smiler's message, "I won't bite, too hard anyway, but ready." Take me home and make me like it! Ronnie Milsap sounds truly ready to "Get it up, get down, giveitallyagot, and get out": that's the chorus, with his lover's even more specific instructions  quoted in verse:, lessons learned, says he could go on all night—gets faded out while he's saying it, ha ha, but he's already done 5:21, by far the longest here!

Which can be frustrating—"always leave them wanting more," sure, but how about some club mixes, LITA? If you can't find any for these, find some others, or make some. As written, some of these don't get very far: premise verse, chorus clincher, placeholder verse, gimme that chorus again, the end. Or just verse, chorus, chorus, the end. The usual country approach is to make the stasis more appealing, at least. But sometimes it works here as a statement, not quite standing pat (Dolly and Gary & Sandi and Ronnie make their positions clear, while still in motion, like holograms flying sideways). Terri Gibbs spells it out a little at the end, for us, but maybe also for herself, note to self, in case you're wavering: remembers looking nice in a new dress, while Mama's warning her not to get stuck, like Mama did, with  "a no-good gambler for 27 years, get yourself a rich man." Later, she also recalls Mama "in a raggedy old dress, down on her knees scrubbin' the floor—ain't gonna let no destitute fool put a ring on me, gonna get myself a rich man." Cut, print, that's all we need, the way she does it.

In a way it's a story song, and so is Billy Swan's "Oliver Swan," who was laughed at, country and homeless, but with something stashed somewhere, his little hoard–-drunk and shambling, "Oliver Swan had no one." But one night, he stumbles across a flying saucerful of women, "looking for a guy." (Close as this song gets to dance club tropes, verbally, though got a nice beat.) He asks them to excuse him, he'll be back in just a minute.

(Also there's one previously unreleased, amazingly so: "Alone at Last," by Tony Joe White, steady as ever, more poignant than sometimes, even before he suddenly climbs a staircase line, like I didn't know he could do: whole thing is spare and intimate and mobile as a Silk Degrees demo might be.)(Come to think of it, why isn't Boz Scaggs on here? Too expensive? Not available?)

17 tracks, I'd say 11, 12, anyway an LP's worth of keepers, so far.

Country Funk 3  1975 1982

Edd Hurt replies:

The only track here I knew is Dennis Linde's "Down to the Station." Linde is a curious figure, cut his stuff as a one-man band. Christgau reviewed one of his albums, pointing out his lack of vocal character. That's fair enough, I think. Linde's "Trapped in the Suburbs" got airplay in Nashville in the '70s, and none of his albums are on CD. I have the albums, including what some think is his best, Linde Manor, which Jerry Kennedy (a guitarist and producer who worked with Faron Young and many others in the '70s) produced with Billy Swan in 1970. DJ Shadow sampled one of the tracks on Endtroducing. 
Looks like the Rob Galbraith single is a lead-up to his 1976 album Throw Me a Bone, which is sort of yacht-rockin', hipster-jazz-R&B stuff akin to what Donnie Fritts was doing around the same time. Better sung than Fritts. I know Rob pretty well, used to see him play with his R&B band--including Genesis-Zappa drummer Chester Thompson--at a now-defunct club in Nashville. Always a good show. Rob has produced Ronnie Milsap since the '80s. I recommend his 1970 Nashville Dirt, which is sparer than Throw Me a Bone and even class-conscious; Numero Group released a bunch of his demos in 2016.
I have a bunch of Travis Wammack records, including two he did in the early '80s, A Man...and a Guitar and Follow Me. But his 1972 self-titled album on Fame may be his best (he's still playing in Muscle Shoals and probably still doing his big instrumental hit "Scratchy"). This is the most psychodynamic of its tracks, "I Don't Really Want You," which has the most interesting structure of anything I've heard him do:

Talking about rednecks, I recommend Joe South's "Redneck," which Swamp Dogg covered.

I love "Oliver Swan," because it's great to hear how Billy Swan condenses prog rock into three minutes. I don't think Nick Lowe could have done much better.

Looking back at the 1969-1975 comp, I notice they picked the best non-hit song off Johnny Adams' Shelby Singleton-produced album Heart & Soul, which was the result of Adams working with New Orleans producer Wardell Quezergue on a remake of "Release Me" that attracted Singleton's attention. Heart & Soul also features "Reconsider Me," Adams' biggest hit. 

Also, Dale Hawkins's L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas is an OK album that often just seems obvious. But there's one great track he cut with help from Dan Penn at Ardent Studios in Memphis, "Little Rain Cloud" (you can hear Penn singing in the background). Notable for a great guitar sound Big Star fans might recognize, it's a one-chord boogie that's about as psychedelic as soul-country stuff gets:

My reply to his: I like Linde's joeky, quirky, processed vocals on the Country Funk 3 track; whether he "has" enough vocal character or not, he is one. Edd sent me Rob Galbraith's Nashville Dirt, which is real good, before he settled into the yacht rock mode Edd mentions: pretty much the CF3 track, which is okay in its way. Great to know Travis Wammack is still at it!

Getting the Memo:

Just came across ilxor Alfred Soto's most enticing review of latest Dusty re-collection: 

"Dusty Springfield's *The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971 collects most of the magisterial Dusty in Memphis (1969), its lesser follow-up A Brand New Me (1970), and a bevy of tracks orbiting the albums like lonely satellites." 

Yeah, it's all been scooped up before, but the way he describes so much of it, incl. what's highlit in "sparkling new mix," makes me want to get it: Also liked "Old Soul, revisiting the sounds of Dusty Springfield, " in Feb. 8 New Yorker, much more than I usually do the writing of Amanda Pretrusich.  (In threadversation with Alfred: And speaking of (Bowie's) love for R&B, thanks again for getting me to try the Rhino/Parlophone YA: I'm fascinated by his adventures in The Philly Sound---also Dusty's, so thanks also for writing about her Complete Atlantic Singles, the only 2021 CD album I bought. Too bad they never recorded together, though maybe not temperamentally compatible–(later)Yeah, "Let Me Get In Your Way" is my fave Dusty Philly, and coming through the tall grass somewhere, she leads the barefoot choir, herself sounding the most amazed, with one quick little "yes"--amid Goffin-King's "Hi Di Ho" "Go-nna get me, a piece of the sky": not too brash,  no need, more like thankful and thoughtful but mainly deeelighted). Also this one, which made into my Lifetime Top 50 on 17."Willie and Laura Mae Jones"(1969) Living, working so far out in the country back then that interraciality was a necessity, and fine, 'til The years rolled past our land, They took back what they'd given, and Dusty's silver voice keeps the eerie temporality of beauty rolling on, for a while. This is the mono single, now on her all-mono The Complete Atlantic Singles ( sounding more jumped-up than it does in my mind; imagine it less so) Willie and Laura Mae Jones (Mono Single Version)

Misc. Other


Friend sent me a Kendells track from YouTube, which reminded me of this Jeannie K. solo set (with two tracks featuring her Dad, who died backstage soon after---the album was supposed to be comeback or at least return of the Kendalls)---David Cantwell does a characteristically thoughtful profile of where things stood then with her, and backstory of the Kendalls, their lives in music--goes on for about four pages, credibly enough: Another friend responded with memory of a little club they had for a while in Gulf Shores, incl. "a country music museum of sorts", none of which lasted long--she said Dad Royce was already pretty depleted, but his demise apparently came as a shock to Jeannie (and he did insist on going back out on stage that one last time).

Nanci Griffith RIP. This goes over the top at first---comparing her to Elvis?---but then makes a lot of good points, like about her early international following, and emerging thusly for many:

As a teenager in Philadelphia and a college student in Chicago in the eighties, I did not yet know from Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, or the Flatlanders (except for Joe Ely's connection to the Clash). I had no idea what Houston's Anderson Fair was, nor that I'd eventually be spending hundreds of nights of my life at a place called Hole in the Wall in Austin—venues where Griffith played. But long before the terms "alt-country" or "Americana" came along, eighties artists like Griffith, Lyle Lovett, and Steve Earle (as well non-Texans Dwight Yoakam, k.d. lang, and Rosanne Cash) weren't that far from the post-punk I was listening to on college radio, starting with R.E.M. The same record store clerks who sold me jangly pop-inflected albums by Robyn Hitchcock, the Windbreakers*, and Austin's Zeitgeist (later the Reivers), also put a copy of Griffith's 1987 MCA debut, Lone Star State of Mind, into my hands,

*Mention of Windbreakers reminds me that one of the tracks on the aforementioned Byrd's Auto Parts reminds me of the now-trad-as-hell (thus commonly tagged as Americana) Byrd was in The Windbreakers: more proof that us record store clerks knew what we were doing (I was a CD clerk in a different town, but still).

Also  RIP: psych-folk-country pioneer Powell St. John! Very early TX colleague of Janis Joplin, later Boz Scaggs (both of whom later covered him), also wrote for 13th Floor Elevators. but I mostly know him in Mother Earth, with Tracy Nelson---this article incl link to one of their more thread-relevant tracks, "Then I'll Be Moving On" (& young JJ vid too)

Hype of the day:

Imagine three blond, three-chord rocker fellers backing a hot brunette neo-Linda Ronstadt/Rosanne Cash lead singer, to tunes out of The Cars meet The Chicks. It's been eight years since they began, yet odds are you've never heard them, nor of them, even close to their Nashville roots. But this is a band you should know about.

Listening to the RNB for the first time feels like they're already inside your head, drawing on rockabilly, British rock, thrash, and outlaw country priors, with hard-driving, toe-tapping, smile-inducing originals. A good place to start is the Raelyn Nelson Band's website, featuring the low-budget video for "Friend," a kickass action-comedy accompanying her classic breakup song, punctuated with Raelyn's refrain "I may be small, but I am pretty strong" summing up her infectious persona.

After a first addictive taste, the band's album-length 2019 release, Don't—with its cover art homage to the classic Clash London Calling album—is the way to go, either streaming or on CD. The collection includes wasted, brash, and woo-manly anthems like "Weed and Whiskey," "Nothing On," and "Rebel Girl." Order a small-batch CD online and Raelyn mails it out personally, scrawling her autograph in red Pentel. She may add a free black and white sticker proclaiming, "I SMOKED WEED WITH WILLIE NELSON'S GRANDDAUGHTER."


Their music is self-released, with several videos online. He saus they're hot live, but so many dayjobs etc. only ten gigs a year---not bad for 2020, and maybe since.

 Quoted on Twitter: John Cale: "When we formed Thc Dream Syndicate, l needed to

have a strong sound. I decided to try using guitar strings on
my viola, and l got a drone that sounded like a jet-engine!
Playling the viola in lhe just intonation system was so
exciting. The thing that really amazed me about it was that
we played similarly to the way The Everly Brothers used to
sing. There was this one song which they sang, in which they
started with two voices holding one chord. They sang it so
perfectly in tune that you could actually hear each voice.
They probably didn't know they were singing just intonation,
but they sang the right intervals. And when those intervals
were in tune, as they were in The Everly Brothers and our
group, it is extremely forceful.

Cool, but whether or not the Bros had the term "just intonation," in some sense they knew what to do, or they couldn't have been as consistent in their EB Sound as they were. Nevertheless, a striking connection!
And I'm told that Todd Haynes's VU doc incl. mention of this one as some kinda seed of "Sweet Jane":
Everly Brothers--Love Hurts (was this rocking guitar recorded during the calypso craze? It all works, def. Related)


From S.G. Goodman:

My Townes Van Zandt cover of "Lungs" is now available to stream everywhere!

I'm not normally one to do covers, they often scare me. I feel it's easier to do a cover poorly than to add to something that was already probably perfect. So when the good folks at Amazon Music offered for me to take part in their Amazon Music Origial series, I was honored, but at a loss for what to do, I chose Townes Van Zandt's "Lungs" because of the odd connection he has to where I live.

Like all small towns, we have our legendary stories, and one story from Murray, KY could be found in a little lemonade stand in the middle of town. You'd drive up to Mr. Jimmy Gingles, ask for a Ginger (Fresh squeezed Lemonade, Orange Juice, and Lime) and you would see a picture of Townes hanging over Jimmy's head while he made your drink. Mr. Jimmy and Townes were friends and running buddies. He's often tell you about all the times Townes vistied him in Murray and how he'd passed out on that very floor in the lemonade stand. Townes also play a few times in a bar where I cut my teeth as performer. It was a thrill to record this with my band and Matt Ross-Spang at the legendary Fame Studios. Hopefully I added to the story of Townes and my home with this cover, but like I said, it's hard to put your spin on something you've always felt was perfect.





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