I love the Transatlantic Sessions, a BBC produced series that follows part of the Americana music lineage back to Europe and showcases breathtaking performances. The Cross County Lines is off to a great start to meet that lofty goal with a premier featuring Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Shawn Colvin, Amos Lee, Sarah Jarosz, Angel Snow and Teddy Thompson.
(NASHVILLE, Tenn) April 22, 2013 – The Americana Music Association announced today plans to produce “Cross County Lines,” a one day festival/celebration of Roots inspired music to take place in Middle Tennessee during the early summer of 2014. A kickoff event has been planned, hosted by Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas, to raise awareness and funds to support the not for profit music association’s mission and will take place Saturday June 1, 2013 at Liberty Hall at The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee.
Legendary artists Krauss and Douglas will host and perform at the premiere event and have invited special guests Shawn Colvin, Amos Lee, Sarah Jarosz, Angel Snow and Teddy Thompson to join in what will be a memorable night of music.
The format of the performance is inspired by the Transatlantic Sessions, a series based in Scotland, co-conceived and musical directed by Jerry Douglas The event brings together enormously talented musicians who collaborate under the direction of Douglas and promises to be a once in a lifetime evening. In addition to the aforementioned artists, a triple scale house band of Gabe Dixon, Shannon Forrest, Viktor Krauss, Andy Leftwich and Bryan Sutton will perform throughout the evening with all of the artists.
The event will take place in Franklin, Tennessee’s landmark Factory in Franklin building, which originally was built as a wood burning stove factory in 1929. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
All proceeds will go to the benefit the Americana Music Association. Tickets will go on sale Friday April 26 at www.americanamusic.org with seating at $65 per ticket and General Admission at $45. Guests also have a premier seating option to purchase Patron tables
This year’s National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) 55th Annual Grammy Awards nominees reflect the rich and diverse community of talent that celebrates some of the genres finest old and new. From a CBS prime-time nominations concert LL Cool J and co-host Taylor Swift.
Some history – Nashville hosted the Official Grammy awards in 1973, but this marks only the fist time The Grammys have held the nomination event outside of L.A. This fortuitous event for Music City resulted from a scheduling conflict with the event usual home at the Staples Center but the city rose to the occasion and showed the performers and attendees a great time. Of course I would have preferred to have people from the lists below perform of national televised show but I’m biased by design.
As in recent years social media was a major conduit for the event. Music City was abuzz on mobile phones, computers ad tablets during the hour-long broadcast from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena (Go Predators!) . Nearly 12,000 posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites mentioned the word “Nashville” in connection with the Grammy nominations
Aside from the usual categories of Americana, Folk and Bluegrass roots music made an impressive showing for the coveted Album Of The Year , which includes a nomination for Mumford & Sons’ sophomore outing Babel, and Best New Artist with Alabama Shakes and the Lumineers.
I got 2 out of 7 of my predictions right for the Best Americana Album category with The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. The pleasant surprise in this category is John Fullbright who I’m willing to say here I’m pulling for. The legendary Bonnie Raitt is nominated in this category and I’ll also go on record as saying Bonnie has secured her legendary status in Blues and Rock. When there are performers from the community like Justin Townes Earle and Corb Lund have new albums out why poach legends from other genres.
Classic country was also celebrated with Nashville Western swing ensemble the Time Jumpers being nominated for two GRAMMYs for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “On The Outskirts Of Town” and Best Country Album for their latest self-titled release. Best Country Album also has another surprise with Jamey Johnson being nominated for his tribute covers album “Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran.” The “Gentle Giant” Don Williams is nominated for his duet with the woman that hold the record for the most Grammys by a female artists (27!), Alison Krauss for Best Country Duo/Group Performance with “I Just Come Here for the Music”
Here’s the full list of Americana and associated categories for the 55th Grammy Awards. The Awards will be presented on Feb. 10, 2013. Most of these will be presented in the pre-telecast ceremony before the televised portion that evening on CBS. To find ot the winners follow me on Twitter and watch live streaming at Grammy.com.
Best Americana Album
The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
John Fullbright – From the Ground Up
The Lumineers – The Lumineers
Mumford & Sons – Babel
Bonnie Raitt – Slipstream
Best Bluegrass Album
Dailey & Vincent – The Gospel Side Of
The Grascals – Life Finds a Way
Noam Pikelny – Beat the Devil & Carry a Rail
Special Consensus – Scratch Gravel Road
Steep Canyon Rangers – Nobody Knows You
Best Country Album
Zac Brown Band – Uncaged
Hunter Hayes – Self-titled
Jamey Johnson – Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran
Miranda Lambert – Four the Record
The Time Jumpers – Self-titled
Best Folk Album
Carolina Chocolate Drops – Leaving Eden
Ry Cooder – Election Special
Luther Dickinson – Hambone’s Meditations
Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile – The Goat Rodeo Sessions
Various – This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark
Americana and Roots artists on other categories:
- Mumford & Sons – Album of the Year for Babel, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for “I Will Wait”, Best Long-form Music Video for “Big Easy Express” from the Railroad Revival Tour with Old Crow Medicine Show , Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “Markus Dravs nominated for Producer of the Year for Babel.”
- Alabama Shakes – Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance for “Hold On”, Best Recording Package for Boys and Girls
- The Lumineers – Best New Artist-
- Bruce Springsteen – Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Album for Wrecking Ball & Best Rock Song for “We Take Care of Our Own”
- The Goat Rodeo Sessions featuring Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile – for Best Folk Album, Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
- Don Williams (feat. Alison Krauss) – Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “I Just Come Here for the Music”
- Taylor Swift/The Civil Wars – Best Country Duo/Group Performance & Best Song Written for Visual Media for “Safe and Sound”
- Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection – Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, Best Historical Album
- Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music: 34 Historic Songs, Ballads, And Instrumentals Recorded In The Great Smoky Mountains By “Song Catcher” Joseph S. Hall – Best Historical Album
- Ryan Adams – Ashes and Fire – Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
David Letterman continues to champion great Country and Americana music by inviting Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss to appear on the Late Show. The duo perform a breathtaking rendition of the classic “Make the World Go Away,” from Johnson’s tribute to his friend, the just-released “Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran.”
Don Imus also showed his love for great Country music by featuring Johnson earlier in the week. He did “Love Makes A Fool Of Us All” and “I Fall To Pieces” from “Living for a Song…”
I’m intrigued by the ABC’s new dramatic series “Nashville,” not because a soap opera set in Music City is in any way compelling to be (it ain’t) but because said dramatic series has tapped one of the Godfathers of Americana, Grammy winner and Oscar nominee T-Bone Burnett , to be executive music producer for the show.
Isn’t this like the chicken being put in charge of the fox’s den?
Burnett’s stewardship is made even more perplexing when you consider the show also has ties to the Nashville big label system. Big Machine records (Taylor Swift, The Band Perry) will be releasing music featured on the program. First up is the single “If I Didn’t Know Better” co-written by the Civil Wars’ John Paul White (video below)
I imagined Burnett to be the ultimate Nashville outsider. Musician, producer and guiding hand of the neo-rusticity movement stemming from movies (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Cold Mountain, Walk the Line, Crazy Heart) rock crossovers (Elvis Costello, Robert Plant, Jakob Dylan ) to full on champion of Americana ( Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, etc., etc. etc.)
Apparently Burnett has ties to the show that begins at home. He’s married to “Nashville” executive producer Callie Khouri ( who won an Oscar for penning the “Thelma & Louise” script. There is also the link from Taylor Swift to the Civil Wars (who she championed early on) to Burnett, who produced the recent Hunger Games soundtrack, which featured both Swift and the Wars. What the hell is gong on here?
Burnett says of music being chosen for the show: “I hope that we become the platform for the people who are writing from their whole hearts.”
Isn’t this exactly what’s wrong with current commercial pop radio? it’s not written from the heart, it’s written from the wallet.
So we have a story about Music City that is given musical dimension by the the more dynamic and emotional genre of Americana. Part of me thinks that the show should be stuffed to the gills with whatever stupid truck song is currently cluttering the airwaves and dare the audience the endure it. Aren’t there any compelling stories of talented musicians struggling to make great music without cutting each others throats to fill arenas that can better fit the greatness of this music?
In the end it’s about artists getting expose and building a fan base to make enough money to focus in their craft. No one has done more for exposing Americana to the broader public AND commercial interests that Burnett, (except perhaps NPR) so there’s no doubt he’s the man for the job. Hell he’s even got Lucinda Williams to contribute songs to the show
And , truth be told, I deeply enjoy the irony of a Music City soap opera being a powerful format for discovering great Americana and roots music. I look forward to hearing Jason Isbell during a love scene and Hellbound Glory during a road race or bar fight.
No current performer has straddled the music Row and Americana divide as deftly as Jamey Johnson.
His throwback sound, Alabama growl and biker looks appeals to those (like myself) that pine for the days of Waylon and Willie and the boys while his ear for a melody was able to grab the attention of the mainstream country radio and fans with his top 10 hit “In Color.”
Johnson is an unapologetic neo-traditional disciple of country music’s greats. He’s opened for Willie and done George Jones songs in the presence of the man himself. His next effort is to a man that influnced those giants.
On October 16th Johnson will be joined by Willie and many others on his new album, Buddy Cannon-produced Livin’ For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran. (vinyl beginning Sept. 25.)
Cochran, who died at age 74 in 2010, is considered one of the greatest songwriters in the history of country music. He helped evolve the perfect country template established by Hank Williams a generation earlier.
“If I had to dream up somebody like Hank to influence songwriters, I couldn’t have done a better job,” Johnson says. ”That’s what he was– not just for me, but for Willie and for a lot of people–just a helpful friend. If he knew you needed help with something, he could help you. He was there. And that’s what I want to be for the people in my life, same as Hank. He influenced me, not only as an artist and songwriter, but also as a person.”
Cochran’s songs transcended the country genre to become American standards (a practice closely studied by Willie) his catalog includes “I Fall to Pieces,” “She’s Got You,” ”Make the World Go Away,” “The Chair,’ “Set ‘Em Up Joe” which Johnson covered on 1010′s The Guitar Song. His songs have been recorded by artists including Eddy Arnold, Patsy Cline, George Jones, George Strait, Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, Ray Price, Ronnie Milsap, Jim Reeves and many others.
Recording a collection of Hank Cochran tunes in a pop-country saturated industry takes guts, and truly reflects the original Outlaw spirit the hat acts on the radio brag having. When it came time to take the next step in his recording career, he listened to his heart and decided to embark on a labor of love. In a daring career move that is consistent with Johnson’s penchant for bucking conventional industry wisdom to create a unique path, he decided to devote his time and creative efforts to honoring his late friend and celebrate traditional country music.
Besides having a professional affinity to Cochran he also has a personal one. ”Shortly after he first met Jamey, Hank was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” says his widow, Suzi Cochran. “So for the two years he lived after that, Jamey would get off the road and pull his bus right up to the hospital, run up and see Hank and raise Hank’s spirits. The last time Jamey saw Hank was the night before Hank died.” Johnson joined Buddy Cannon and Billy Ray Cyrus at Cochran’s bedside as they handed the guitar back and forth while singing Cochran’s songs. Cochran died about six hours later.
“Hank adored Jamey,” Suzi Cochran says. “Hank loved Jamey. Jamey was a constant in the last chapter of Hank’s life.
“This is incredible,” she says of the tribute album. “I wish Hank had been here to see it. He wouldn’t believe it. He would have cried. He’d be happy. It’s exactly like Hank would have done it.”
I am really looking forward to hearing this release and look forward to hearing classic from it live when Johnson joins Willie Nelson and The Band of Horses on the Railroad Revival Tour 2012.
1. “Make the World Go Away” – Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss
2. “I Fall to Pieces” – Jamey Johnson and Merle Haggard
3. “A Way to Survive” – Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill and Leon Russell
4. “Don’t Touch Me” – Jamey Johnson and Emmylou Harris
5. “You Wouldn’t Know Love” – Jamey Johnson and Ray Price
6. “I Don’t Do Windows” – Jamey Johnson and Asleep at the Wheel
7. “She’ll Be Back” – Jamey Johnson and Elvis Costello
8. “Would These Arms Be in Your Way” – Jamey Johnson
9. “The Eagle” – Jamey Johnson and George Strait
10. “A-11″ – Jamey Johnson and Ronnie Dunn
11. “I’d Fight the World” – Jamey Johnson and Bobby Bare
12. “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me” – Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson
13. “This Ain’t My First Rodeo” – Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack
14. “Love Makes a Fool of Us All” – Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristofferson
15. “Everything But You” – Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson and Leon Russell
16. “Livin’ for a Song” – Jamey Johnson, Hank Cochran, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson
Singer/songwriter/producer and Americana stalwart T Bone Burnett seems to be practicing a sort of genre alchemy with the upcoming Hunger Games soundtrack (March 20.)
Mr. Burnett seems to be taking poetic license with Suzanne Collins’ trilogy which follows the heroine, whose home in District 12 that encompasses current-day Appalachia, an region Burnett knows something about. The setting of the books is a sort of future version of the old frontier which also plays to Burnett’s wheelhouse.
Burnett excels in making neo-rustic music that would appeal more to Hunger Game readers parents. The young women that are the primary demographic for the books are more likely to be fans of indy rock, pop or country pop.
Burnett displays his craft to fuse his world to the new audience adeptly on the Taylor Swift and Civil Wars track “Safe and Sound.” Now he’s done the same for the same for the Pistol Annies’ cut Run Daddy Run. The song is sung by the group, which consists of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, and sounds more akin to O Brother’s Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby sung by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch. This is a different sound than the sassy country found on the recent Pistol Annies debut.
Check out the track below and let me know what you think.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) announced its nominees for the 54rd Annual Grammy Awards. I was pleased to see Americana and roots performers being nominated for some of the more prestigious awards like Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Below are nominees that fall into the Americana and roots category and other artists in other categories that might be of interest to readers of Twang Nation.
Best Americana Album
Emotional Jukebox – Linda Chorney
Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down – Ry Cooder
Hard Bargain – Emmylou Harris
Ramble At The Ryman – Levon Helm
Blessed – Lucinda Williams
Best Folk Album
Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars
I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive – Steve Earle
Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
Ukulele Songs- Eddie Vedder
The Harrow & The Harvest – Gillian Welch
Best Bluegrass Album
Paper Airplane – Alison Krauss & Union Station
Reason And Rhyme – Jim Lauderdale
Rare Bird Alert – Steve Martin And The Steep Canyon Rangers
Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe – The Del McCoury Band
A Mother’s Prayer- Ralph Stanley
Sleep With One Eye Open- Chris Thile & Michael Daves
Best Country Album
“Here For A Good Time” — George Strait
Best Children’s Album
I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow (various artists collection)
Best Historical Album and Best Album Notes
The Bristol Sessions, 1927-1928: The Big Bang of Country Music (various artists collection)
Record Of The Year
Rolling In The Deep – Adele
Holocene – Bon Iver
The Cave – Mumford & Sons
Album Of The Year
21 – Adele
Song Of The Year
The Cave – Mumford & Sons
Holocene – Bon Iver
Rolling In The Deep – Adele
Best New Artist
Best Pop Solo Performance
Someone Like You – Adele
Best Pop Instrumental Album
The Road From Memphis – Booker T. Jones
Setzer Goes Instru-Mental! – Brian Setzer
Best Pop Vocal Album
21 – Adele
Best Rock Performance
Down By The Water – The Decemberists
The Cave – Mumford & Sons
Best Rock Song
The Cave – Mumford & Sons
Down By The Water- The Decemberists
Best Rock Album
Wilco – The Whole Love
Best Alternative Music Album
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
My Morning Jacket – Circuital
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars
Best Country Song
Threaten Me With Heaven – Vince Gill
Best Instrumental Composition
Life In Eleven – Béla Fleck & Howard Levy, composers (Béla Fleck & The Flecktones)
Best Engineered Album (Non Classical)
Follow Me Down- Brandon Bell & Gary Paczosa, engineers; Sangwook “Sunny” Nam & Doug Sax, mastering engineers (Sarah Jarosz)
The Harrow & The Harvest – Matt Andrews, engineer; Stephen Marcussen, mastering engineer (Gillian Welch)
Paper Airplane – Mike Shipley, engineer; Brad Blackwood, mastering engineer (Alison Krauss & Union Station)
Here’s a little something to stuff your sock, warm your chestnuts and spike your nog. There’s some traditional (Gene Autry – Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer) and the less-so (Drive-By Truckers – Mrs. Claus’ Kimono.) But, I’m sure there’s something here for everyone, except your Uncle Jack, that ass hates everything. Enjoy and Happy Holidays, y’all!
Gene Autry – Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper
John Prine – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Emmylou Harris – O Little Town of Bethlehem
Drive-By Truckers – Mrs. Claus’ Kimono
Steve Earle – Nothing But A Child
Johnny Cash – Silent Night
Commander Cody – Daddy’s Drinking Up Our Christmas
George Jones – Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus
Dolly Parton – Hard Candy Christmas
Michael Martin Murphey – Two-Step ‘Round The Christmas Tree/Two-Step Medley
Waylon Jennings – Away In A Manger
Dwight Yoakam – Run Run Rudolph
Merle Haggard – If We Make It Through December
The Mavericks – Santa Claus Is Back In Town
Alan Jackson with Alison Krauss – The Angels Cried
Clay Walker – Blue Christmas
Chris LeDoux – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Suzy Bogguss – Two-Step ‘Round The Christmas Tree
Deana Carter – Carol Of The Bells
George Strait – White Christmas
Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys – Christmas Time’s A-Coming
Dwight Yoakam – Here Comes Santa Claus
Neko Case – Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis
Asylum Street Spankers – Zat You, Santa Claus?
Jim Lauderdale – Holly & Her Mistletoe
Otis Gibbs – Jesus On The Couch
Robert Earl Keen – Merry Christmas From The Family
Lyle Lovett – Christmas Morning
James McMurtry – Holiday
Bill Kirchen & The Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods – Bill Kirchen – Ann Arbor native and “The Titan of The Telecaster” Kirchen was a guitarist with the original Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen from 1967 to the mid 1970s. Come see Kirchen bring the twang and show why he’s toured or recorded with Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Doug Sahm and Emmylou Harris. (Banjo Stage – 11:00am)
Blame Sally – Bay Area Americana is represented on Friday is the all female quartet Blame Sally. Known for their rollicking show and instrumental expertise the genre is great hands. (12:55 – Arrow Stage)
South Memphis String Band - ON EDIT- After I posted my Friday picks I was contacted about the South Memphis String Band and asked to reconsider. I did and I have. Go see ‘em, they’re great! (Star Stage – 1:20)
The Mekons – This veteran punk band is headed by sometime Chicago-based Brit-expat cowpunk Jon Langford (The Waco Brothers.) They are currently supporting their new release Ancient and Modern. (2:10 pm – Arrow Stage)
Jolie Holland – Like Gillan Welch Texan Jolie Holland has a vocal quality, and reflects subject matter, from another time. A distant, dusty and dark past. Her soulful roots and dreamy Ragtime sound is the reason she can count Tom Waits as a fan. (Star Stage – 2:50)
Del McCoury & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Legendary New Orleans Jazz and Bluegrass together? Like jambalaya and moonshine baby. (2:35 – Banjo Stage)
Southern Culture on the Skids – Formed in 1983 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina SCOTS shows what happens when you mix top-notch musical chops and white trash aesthetic. Namely a hootin’ hollerin’ time. ( Arrow Stage – 3:30)
The Felice Brothers – I have likened them to being the anti- Avett Brothers. From the Catskill Mountains to the New York City subways The Felice Brothers offer a brand of gritty junkyard Americana that is as engaging and sinister as a classic Scorsese movie. Their new release Celebration, Florida might be the first (or at least the best) example of techo-Americana. (Rooster Stage – 3:30 pm)
John Prine – A veteran on the country/folk scene since the early 70s when he was burdened with the “the next Dylan.” Dylan once even appeared at one of Prine’s first New York City club appearances unannounced and backed him on harmonica. Kris Kristofferson once remarked that Prine wrote songs so good that “we’ll have to break his thumbs” (Banjo Stage – 4:05pm)
Robert Plant & The Band of Joy – Years ago when I got wind that Plant was sniffing around Nashvile I expectedthe worse. Rock singers in Music City typically results in mediocrity. Then I heard he was in the studio with T. Bone Burnett and Alison Krauss and was intrigued that at least he was keeping good company. A zillion sales and awards with the resulting Raising Sand led Plant back to the promised land with band conductor and guitarist Buddy Miller and came back with more premium Americana performers Patty Griffin and Darrell Scott. (Banjo Stage – 5:45pm)
If you have kids or just want to set up a stationary spot your best best bang for your buck (for FREE!) would be the Banjo Stage. The recommendations for Saturday and Sunday are larger so there will be only a list and no description. You’ll just have to trust me, I’m a (semi) professional.
If there is such a thing as a superstar in the Americana genre then Gillian Welch is one. Her debut album, Revival, came out in the height of Nashville stylized indulgence – hitherto known as the Garth years – and reached so far back in style and subject matter that it couldn’t be called old school, it predated the school itself. This New York City born and Berklee College of Music educated woman became a gabardine-clad personification mountain holler laments and sepia drenched Dust Bowl yarns. Like Duluth, Minnesota’s Bob Zimmerman she embodied the ancestral ghosts of mythology and willed herself into a contemporary symbol of a bygone era by exhibiting a respect for the cultural legacy and ingenuity to work within the confines to create music that sounds not only timeless but new.
To further distinguish herself , at the time of her debut many of Welch’s contemporaries were approaching their work from a folky, more Lilith-like, direction. Welch was rougher, darker, and delivered her talws with grit. Like Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson, she appeared to be a woman that could drink you under the table and hold herself in a fight.
After an 8-year stretch, where Welch battled writer’s block and provided a supporting role for performing partner David Rawlings solo undertaking, By plan or happenstance The Harrow & the Harvest has been released to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Coen Brothers O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a move that in many ways reflects to neo-rustic forms crafted by Welch. The movie’s multi-platinum soundtrack was a watershed moment for the Americana music genre and featured Welch performing alongside better-known contemporaries Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris. Welch also has a cameo in the film requesting a copy of the best-selling single from the movies fictitious group Soggy Bottom Boys.
On The Harrow & the Harvest Welch heeds timeless advice and doesn’t try and fix what’s not broken by offering up 10 songs of want and worry in many varieties. Scarlet Town opens with the protagonist visiting a town calamity and deception that would make Dr. Ralph Stanley bow his head in woe. The darkness of the songs subject is countered dazzlingly by David Rawlings deft guitar picking.
The murder ballad Dark Turn Of Mind carries a sinister undercurrent that belies it’s lulling cadence with a come-on / threat “take me and love me if you want me, but don’t ever treat me unkind. ‘cause I had bad trouble already, and he left me with a dark turn of mind”
The Way It Will Be is a smooth-folk Crosby, Stills and Nash-like that takes the associated SoCal groove to darker regions and The Way It Goes is a jaunty ode to weary fatalism that comes from a worn soul.
Tennessee is a character study in temptation and willful sin in the best Puritan tradition of the Southern Gothic form. The arch leads us from Sunday School to carousing, dancing and gambling all leading to the sweet bye and bye. The Way The Whole Thing Ends fittingly as it saunters and offers up hillbilly existential nuggets like “That’s the way the cornbread crumbles. That’s the way the whole thing ends.”
All in all The Harrow & the Harvest is a, paraphrasing from the song Scarlet Town , a deep well and a dark grave of an album brimming with hard truths as plainly told stiff as a pull of mash. It’s a fine return to form from an crafts-person that has been sorely missed. It’s the feel bad album of the summer