Ryan Bingham Readies Roadhouse Sun

Fans of gritty, sun drenched tales from the road rejoice! Texas/New Mexico neo-trad troubadour Ryan Bingham and his band The Dead Horses (Corby Schaub – guitar, Matt Smith – drums, Elijah Ford – bass) are readying Roadhouse Sun his sophomore release from Lost Highway records to be released on May 5.  Roadhouse Sun is a follow up to Bingham’s 2007 much lauded debut Lost Highway Mescalito.

Mescalito producer and former Black Crowes guitarist, Marc Ford returns as producer on Road House Sun. And the PR material states that” Bingham covers some new subject matter on Roadhouse Sun as he challenges political accountability in Endless Ways and notes eye-opening similarities to our dark past in Dylan’s Hard Rain. Bingham has established himself as a deeply personal songwriter with a knack for painting vivid pictures in his songs. These images come to life in everything from his bluesy roadhouse romps such as Hey Hey and Day Is Done, to the epic Change Is to the dustbowl hymns Rollin Highway Blues, Country Roads and Snake Eyes.”

I was a fan of Mescalito when it came out, it made my top 10 that year, and after seeing him and his great band several times in New York and once in Nashville I am even more of a fan.

Ryan Bingham-Snake Eyes

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yhT3lPpbxY[/youtube]

Todd Snider and Sara Watkins Ready New Releases

  • Paste Magazine used to trend more toward No Depression Americana coverage than Spin-style indy-pop coverage that they’ve moved toward over the last couple of years. This may explain what they’re still in print and No Depression isn’t. But Paste has not forsaken the twang altogether.  Paste’s  Andy Whitman does a round-up of three alt.country releases to check out – The Believers — Lucky You, Dallas’ The Von Ehrics — Loaded and Jason Heath and the Greedy Souls – The Vain Hope of Horse.
  • REM made a surprise appearance at a Carnegie Hall tribute show last night featuring Calexico, Bob Mould, Rhett Miller, Vic Chesnutt And Elf Power, Dar Williams, olie Holland, Patti Smith and Darius Rucker (!)
  • New-Grass supergroup Nickel Creek’s singer-songwriter and fiddler Sara Watkins is preparing self-titled debut of  songs penned during her time spent in L.A. Watkins’ self-titled solo debut features a wide range of collaborators for its 14 tracks, among them Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas, Tom Petty keyboardist Benmont Tench, Gillian Welch and Davod Rawlings, as well as her old NC bandmates Thile and Watkins. Led Zep’s John Paul Jones (who beat his bandmate Plant down the Americana path when he produced Uncle Earl’s 2007 Waterloo, TN) produced the album in studio sessions in L.A. and Nashville. Sara Watkins hits stores April 7 on Nonesuch, with a national tour to follow. Nickel Creek went on “indefinite hiatus” in 2007.
  • More Tod Snider news: Snider’s new release The Excitement Plan (out June 9th on Yep Roc) and will feature Grammy-winning producer Don Was (Bob Dyan, Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt) and  a guest appearance by Loretta Lynn. ‘The Excitement Plan’ is “an old gypsy term” Snider adopted from his father. He explains, “I know right now that times are hard for all of us and that new songs from a folk singer are not at the top of so many grocery lists but these twelve songs are different. These twelve songs can be part of your solution. Just give them a chance. Take them in. Use ’em to help you appreciate your girl if you still got one, and/or your job if you still got one. Trust them, trust me and I promise you as god is my witness sometime here in the next sixty to ninety days we will be layin ’em in the sweet peas.”

THE EXCITEMENT PLAN TRACK LIST
1. SLIM CHANCE
2. GREENCASTLE BLUES
3. AMERICA’S FAVORITE PASTIME
4. DOLL FACE
5. BRING ‘EM HOME
6. CORPUS CHRISTI BAY [by Robert Earl Keen]
7. THE LAST LAUGH
8. UNORGANIZED CRIME
9. BAREFOOT CHAMPAGNE
10. DON’T TEMPT ME featuring Loretta Lynn
11. MONEY, COMPLIMENTS, PUBLICITY (SONG NUMBER TEN)
12. GOOD FORTUNE

Snider will tour throughout the spring with highlights including June 11th at NYC’s The Bowery Ballroom (tickets on sale now), and his first performance at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival June 14th.

Neko Case and the Desertion of Twang

This post is a riff off a conversation started by a review of “Middle Cyclone” by Juli Thanki over at my friends at the 9513.com

Neko Case’s new release “Middle Cyclone” dropped last Tuesday and I have been listening to it for over two weeks now. In that time I decided not to review it on this site. Though I consider Case’s “Blacklisted” and “Furnace Room Lullaby” to be two of the finest releases in the history of alt.country, I feel that “Middle Cyclone” follows Cases’ last release “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” in her movement away from alt.country (or country noir) and toward the type of indie-pop Case has pursued in her other band The New Pornographers.

“Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” was the biggest selling release from Case’s career and it looks like “Middle Cyclone” is poised to be even bigger. But when I listen to these releases all I can think about is how much I loved her earlier, twangier work and his that beutiful voice has jumped the fence and perusing a muse more in line with Tori Amos and . It’s not that “Middle Cyclone” is bad, on the contrary it’s quite good, it’s just not the kind of music that I started this blog to celebrate.

I felt the same way when REM shed their early Southern-Gothic-art-school weirdness and relased thier mega-selling big label debut “Green.” I feel this way any time I lesten to Wilco now and remember this was the guy that used to be in Uncle Tupelo. Jeff Tweedy is making more money now and getting more recognition then he ever did in his former band and his bandmate, Jay Farrar persues a sound closer to UTs with Son Volt and labors in near obscurity to anyone outside the alt.country fathful.

I’ll end this rambeling post by putting it out to the readers, do you want bands to stay true to a genre distinction and do you feel betrayed when they move away and pursue new sounds and, sometimes, greater success. Do we prefer them to stay “pure” and yet poorer? Do the genre’s brightest stars have to move away from country music to flex their muscles due to the rigidity of what constitutes the country genre?

need to pursue a larger market to be heard since Nashville has such a strong lock on the country music

Paste Magazine Reviews The Flatlanders Newest

  • Remember when Paste Magazine was more Americana and roots music focused, in other words, good? They harken back to those  halcion days by reviewing the Lloyd Maines produced release by Americana super group The Flatlanders (Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.)
  • Over at the 9513 Juli Thaki reviews what sounds like a spectacular show by country music legend Kris Kristofferson in Washington, DC.
  • CMT. COM is holding a Dolly Parton contest that offers a grand prize is which is a trip for two to NYC, air and hotel included, with tickets to Dolly’s 9 to 5: The Musical.
  • Comedy Central will be roasting Larry the Cable Guy  (aka Daniel Whitney) on Sunday March 15th. I hope they feature this early version of this douche on the program.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIWO5LgUZ28[/youtube]

A Twangy Valentines Day

Ah, love is in the air –  But if you’re a fan of country music then you know dysfunction litters the alleyways in the heart of classic narratives. Cheating, lying , drinking, throwing heavy objects, crying, more drinking – some of the best country songs contain some, if not all, of these elements. Alt.country/roots rock…whatever takes things in more interesting places but many of the same themes remain from the source. In celebration, and protest, to Valentines day here is the official Twang Nation list of best Alt.Country love songs.

In no particular order:

Gram Parsons – A Song For You
Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell – Please Break My Heart
Lucinda Williams – Still I Long For Your Kiss
Steve Earle – Valentine’s Day
Steve Earle – Goodbye
Townes Van Zandt – I’ll Be Here in the Morning
Neko Case – Favorite
Son Volt – Tear Stained Eye
Ryan Adams – Come Pick Me Up
Drive By Truckers- Marry Me
Old 97s – Big Brown Eyes
Bottle Rockets – I’ll Be Coming Around

Disagree? Add your own!

Caitlin Cary Thad Cockrell –  “Please Break My Heart”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMv6WuvULm4[/youtube]

Plant and Krauss Back In The Studio

  • Country Standard Time and Rolling Stone posts that Robert Plant and Alison Krauss are back in the studio with T Bone Burnett working on the follow-up to their platinum-selling, five Grammy winning album Raising Sand.
  • Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) is readying Around the Well (due May 19 from Sub Pop) a compilation 23 rare and previously unreleased tracks. The double-disc set will be supported by a short May tour. For this tour, the group is asking fans to help shape the set lists through voting on IronandWine.com. Live recordings will be available shortly after each gig at PlayedLastNight.com. Meanwhile, Iron & Wine is hard at work on its next studio album, due in early 2010. (Billboard)
  • The Americana Music Association announces more artists have been added to the line-up for its “Live at The Bluebird Cafe” concert series.  On February 19, beautifully rich voice of Stephanie Chapman will join Jim Lauderdale.  The Sam Bush Band will take the stage on February 26. Nanci Griffith will perform in-the-round on March 5 with critically acclaimed artists Mary Gauthier and Elizabeth Cook. Award-winning, multi-talented songwriter Darrell Scott will headline on March 12. Foster & Lloyd close the series on March 26.


John Doe and The Sadies Collaborate for Country Club

From JamBase – John Doe (X, The Knitters) and The Sadies join forces for Country Club, an album of classic country covers and originals due out April 14, 2009 on Yep Roc Records.

“Country Club is the result of a drunken promise or threat I made to Travis and Dallas [Good, of The Sadies] the first night we played together in Toronto. These happen all the time but it’s rare that anyone remembers them the morning after, let alone follows through and makes it a reality. I’m really glad we did,” says Doe.

By including varying yet equally beloved movements within the country music pantheon, Doe and The Sadies were able to cover their heroes while filtering the pop sensibilities of ’60s Nashville through the electric honky tonk of Bakersfield, CA.

“We’re not sure why it sounds like it’s from the sixties. Maybe that’s our favorite era of country music or maybe that’s what we listened to when we first learned how to play it,” remarks Doe. “But what was called ‘Countrypolitan’ always seemed one of the coolest hybrids of country music. But we agreed quickly and completely that there were going to be no string sections, horns or choirs. Bakersfield vs. Nashville was never a dispute . . . Bakersfield!” Dallas Good of The Sadies continues, “The songs chosen were very ambitious, and while we haven’t re-invented the wheel we have created a cohesiveness between several hit country & western singles and our own styles.”

Country Club also features guest turns from D.J. Bonebrake, Kathleen Edwards, Eric Heywood and more.

Tracklist & Credits:

1. Stop the World and Let Me Off
Songwriter: Carl Belew
Made famous by: Waylon Jennings

2. Husbands and Wives
Songwriter: Roger Miller

3. ‘Til I Get It Right
Songwriters: Red Lane, Larry Henley
Made famous by: Tammy Wynette

4. It Just Dawned on Me
Songwriters: Exene Cervenka, John Doe

5. (Now and Then) There’s a Fool Such as I
Songwriter: William Marvin Trader
Made famous by: Hank Snow

6. The Night Life
Songwriters: Paul F. Buskirk, Walter M. Breeland, Willie Nelson
Made famous by: Ray Price

7. The Sudbury Nickel
Songwriters: The Sadies

8. Before I Wake
Songwriters: The Sadies

9. I Still Miss Someone
Songwriters: Johnny Cash, Roy Cash Jr.

10. The Cold Hard Facts of Life
Songwriter: Bill Anderson
Made famous by: Porter Wagoner

11. Take These Chains from My Heart
Songwriter: Fred Rose, Hy Heath
Made famous by: Hank Williams

12. Help Me Make It Through the Night
Songwriter: Kris Kristofferson

13. Are the Good Times Really Over for Good
Songwriter: Merle Haggard

14. Detroit City
Songwriters: Danny Dill, Mel Tillis
Made famous by: Bobby Bare

15. Pink Mountain Rag
Songwriters: The Sadies

The Sadies – Flash

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcfd1kFmsqE[/youtube]

Roy Clark, Barbara Mandrell and Charlie McCoy Headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame

  • Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt will appear on the Late Show with David Letterman tonight (2/4.)
  • This morning the Country Music Association announced that Roy Clark, Barbara Mandrell and Charlie McCoy will become the 105th, 106th and 107th Country Music Hall of Fame members. The official induction will take place this spring, during the Hall’s Medallion Ceremony.
  • No Depression has posted a track (Death Don’t Have No Mercy) from the upcoming release by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott A Stranger Here. The album will drop on April 7 via Anti- Records and was produced by Joe Henry

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott & Marty Stuart – Engine 143 – SXSW 2006 Hootenanny

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kbmvl7ITaI[/youtube]

The Best of 2008 (For Reals)

Propaganda has been honed to a fine art in the last half century. Americans have been convinced to fight wars, hand over civil and employee rights and consume ever crappier beer, food and, alas, music.

Mainstream Country Music is one of the few genres in the 21st century that tolerates no real deviation from certified Music Row and mainstream radio product. Sure there are exceptions, the Outlaw Movement cooped a largely ignored youth movement, Garth tweaked the business model and stage production and Big and Rich and their “MuzikMafia” was a painfully lame attempt to emulate Hip Hop’s concept of crews. But when it comes to altering the DNA of the music the image driven slickness and paint-by-numers narritives seem as tightly mandated as the McDonald’s Big Mac cooking process. If you don’t fit the hat act mold you are cast into the slums of Americana, folk, roots, alt.country or, if the sins were severe enough, rock!

Into this unyielding environment stepped artists that discovered that Cash, Willie and Hank were speaking to them in ways larger then the flavor of the week bands being crammed down their throats. That’s where the wild hillbilly muse dances. That way real beauty and art lay waiting.

Americana/roots/alt.country is attracting new talent that bravely straddles the cultural divide between trad sepia-toned country circa Jimmie Rogers and Carter Family and the current attitudes, sounds and stories of our times. New artists like O’Death, The Felice Bothers, Justin Townes Earle and Star Anna and road-tested warriors like Dale Watson, Eleven Hundred Springs and Tom Russell have Inject new blood, whiskey and adrenaline into a largely lifeless form of music that refuses to be embalmed.

And then there are the genre-crossing big-wigs like  Elvis Costello, Ray Davies, Chrissie Hynde and Robert Plant (who is currently nominated for 6 grammys and forgoing a Led Zeppelin reunion to continue Raising Sand with Bluegrass chanteuse Alison Krauss) that are moving toward a the wildser lands attracted by its proclivity for authenticity and celebration of  experimentation. The only sin is mediocrity, the only transgression is bovine conformity.

There’s no reward for compiling a “best of” list. People will quibble with the selections, the order of said selections will displease many and whether the writer is at all qualified to compile such as list will be questioned. Ridicule and contempt is sure to follow.

I do this to celebrate those that are willing to look past the wanna-be-celebrity choked road paved with pyrite. The Great Ones bent Nashville to their ways or took refuge in other regions far from the industry, Bakersfield California,  Austin Texas, to ply their wares. The Music Row road is not an easy one, it’s just crowded with sheep and the destination is less interesting.

Here’s to the on’ry, ragged, dusty dreamers.

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10) Hank Williams III – “Damn Right, Rebel Proud” (Sidewalk Records) -The man with a country music royalty pedigree, and an arguable entitlement to the moniker “Man In Blacker,” burns the middle-of-the-road with another custom hot-rod release. Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

9) Jamey Johnson – “That Lonesome Song” (Mercury Nashville) –  Jamey Johnson does more than redeem himself for helping to pen Trace Adkins maga-seller Honky Tonk Badonkadonk with this brilliant release born of hard living and a love of Waylon Jennings and George Jones.  Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

8)  Sara Cahoone – “Only As The Day Is Long” (Sub-Pop) – Former rock drummer Cahoone has created a melancholy-shoegaze-Americana masterpiece with her rainy-day ready debut release.  Amazon | MySpace | Sub-Pop

7)  Star Anna – “Crooked Path” (Malamute Records) –  On this smoldering debut of Americana-noir Ellensburg, Washington’s Star Anna Krogstie proves she can hold her own with Lucinda Williams and Neko Case. Her voice seems to be the shear definition of longing and heartache.  AmazonMySpace | Official Site

6) Hang Jones – “The Ballad of Carlsbad County” (Self Released) – Hang Jones is the alias for Stephen Grillos and his concept album, set in 1887 New Mexico, takes the typical elements – lust, jealousy, whiskey, gunpowder and blood – and works his gritty magic to deliver a great album.  AmazonMySpace | Official Site

5) Luke Powers – “Texasee” (Phoebe Claire) – Powers stated in an interview that Texasee is a study of a mythical place that lies between Nashville and Austin and is done in a style reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah. Sign me up! Writers in the Western genre celebrate a few that are seen as more “literary.”  Powers like Tom Russell, James McMurty, John Prine and Joe Ely, occupies the mirror space in music.  CD Baby | MySpace | Pheobe Claire Site

4) Felice Brothers (Team Love) -From from the Catskill Mountains to the subways of New York city these actual brothers (and a bass player named Christmas) channel the Basement Tapes and spin  magnificently dark tales of desperation and violence. Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

3) O’Death –  “Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin” (Kemado) – New York’s O’Death is a concoction of parts that if mixed any other way would result into a noxious mess.  Appalachian Mountain music,  Gypsy music, Gothic punk, funk and metal, it all just shouldn’t play nice together. On Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skin the sounds meld magnificently in a dark and volatile masterpiece.  Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

2) Justin Townes Earle – “The Good Life”  (Bloodshot) -Before technology allowed us to cheat, musicians were the source of musical synthesis, or what is referred to by the hipsters today as mash-ups. Justin Townes Earle harkens back to these aural alchemists and has created a potent blend of 19th century folk, country swing and hillbilly boogie. Overcoming his Daddy’s long musical shadow (and his inclination towards illicit substances) Justin Townes Earle’s first full length release rejoices in heritage while transcending its creators youth.  Amazon | MySpace | Bloodshot Records

1) Eleven Hundred Springs – “Country Jam” (Palo Duro Records) – If you want a crash course in the best Texas country music over the last half-century the 2008 release from Dallas’ ESL would be a great place to start. From the hillbilly poetry of Mickey Newbury and Joe Ely to the Western Swing of Bob Wills to the pop and rock of  Doug Sahm and Buddy Holly all the influences are there.  And though the sounds are reflective of the Texas greats  ESL makes it distinctly their own on this superior homage to the Lone Star State. Amazon | MySpace | Official Site

Honorable Mention:

Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creations Dark
The Whipsaws – 60 Watt Avenue
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Cipher
Caitlin Rose –  Dead Flowers
The Power of County  – See You In Rock and Roll Heaven
Lucinda Williams – Little Honey
Kathy Mattea – Coal
The Wildes – Ballad of a Young Married Man
Hayes Carll – Trouble In Mind
Joey + Rory – The Life Of A Song
Kasey Chambers and Shane – Rattlin’ Bones
Ashton Shepherd – Sounds So Good
The Steeldrivers – Self-Titled
Whitey Morgan and the 78’s – Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels

Kid Rock Y’all!

When did Kid Rock, the wanna-be rapper, cowboy and on-again-off-again Mr Pamela Anderson, become the new face of the National Guard and NASCAR? For crissakes the man is a YANKEE! Didn’t he do enough damage by ruining Sweet Home Alabama? Birthright aside this song blows.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2j6j-vf6Ks[/youtube]

For sheer ass-kicking patriotism I’ll take Hag’s “The Fightin’ Side Of Me.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHAFmFsb9XM[/youtube]