Album Review: Amy Francis – Balladacious [Independent Release]

Bodacious is a Southern/Southwestern portmanteau of bold and audacious. It’s meaning is remarkable, courageous, audacious, spirited and unmistakable.
Corpus Christi TX native Amy Francis uses this linguistic fusion and forms the title of her new release , Balladacious. Just as she reinterprets words Francis also uses this skill to give her own take on some of  country music’s best-known classics.
The album opens with Francis beautiful voice powerfully breaking the silence with a vulnerable delivery of the Hank Cochran barroom lament Don’t Touch Me. Francis brings the longing and apprehension contained in the song to a palatable level and disarms you of all cynicism. A staple of country music is it’s unabashed sentiment and Francis’ heart is emblazoned boldly on this first song.

The spirits of Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette and Brenda Lee are conjured with all their romantic weariness giving testament. Not just because Francis covers Sweet Dreams, Apartment #9 and Fool Number One respectively, but because she is a believer. She brings authenticity to these songs because she embodies them wholly not simply mimicking them like many Music City talen dipping a toe in traditionalism.
Her take on Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billy Joe reworks this dark song of small-town gossip and makes it swing with an acoustic guitar and strings accompaniment. Her covers of George Jone’s “Picture of Me Without You” and “I’ll Share My World With You” elevates them to the honky-tonk majesty they deserve and Vince Gill’s hit “When I Call Your Name” is covered with barrel-house piano and pedal steel accompaniment and achieves a forlornness that LeAnn Rimes’s cover never came close to.  Ronnie Milsap’s “Stranger Things Have Happened” is given an equal turn with Francis’ voice soaring at heights while singing about the depths. The hope against hope and lessons contained in these testimonials of  despair makes country music some of the greatest forms of contemporary tragedy. Francis approaches each with dignity and grace they deserve and strikingly nimble vocals that breath life into every barroom confession.

I have an ambivalent relationship with Nashville Sound era country music. When Owen Bradley, with Chet Atkins and Bob Ferguson moved hillbilly music from the hollers and honky tonks to the supper clubs, by adding strings, backing vocals and other adornment better suited for crooners of the day, they laid the path toward the enormously lucrative but culturally superficial pop-country industry we’ve inherited. Like the great performers of the Nashville Sound era Francis charms me into putting aside bias by keeping the soul enact while stripping back just enough veneer to let you hear the heart break.

Official Site | Buy

Robert Plant Meets Brenda Lee

Alison Bonaguro over at the blog attended a party for Nashville-based Grammy nominees and was taken by the site of genres being erased for the love of music, country music legend Brenda Lee hobnobbing with Rock Legend Robert Plant. Lee is receiving a Grammy for lifetime achievement and Plant, along with Alison Krauss, has been nominated multiple categories, all deserved.

The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash are slated to release a new album, Bend In the Road, this sometime year. The album will be comprised of 10 originals and  covers of Billy Joe Shaver and Steve Earle. (via The 9513)

Let’s all do John Rich a favor and ignore him.

Gene Autry and Brenda Lee to be Awarded the Grammy for Lifetime Achievement

The 9513 posts that Gene Autry and Brenda Lee will be presented with the Grammy for the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony on Feb. 7 and will be acknowledged during the Grammy telecast the next evening. Other honorees for the award this year are the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Four Tops, Hank Jones, Dean Martin and Tom Paxton.

The Dallas Observer’s  Noah W. Bailey, has done this native Dallasite (well, Irvingite) proud by publishing what I consider to be one of the best, and most innovative, best of 2008 Americana lists I’ve seen.

Chris Parton  at the CMT blog posts that the excellent SteelDrivers‘ self titled debut was the most downloaded Americana/Bluegrass album of the year on iTunes. has posted a nice complitation of some of the covers the Drive By Truckers have recorded on tour over the years (including my personal favorite Alice Cooper’s Eighteen.)

Drive By Trucker Drummer Brad and Wife Kimberly Morgan Have Baby

Congratulations to Drive By Truckers drummer Brad Morgan and his wife and musician Kimberly  (from the band Kimberly Morgan and the Everlovin’ Band) for the arrival of the newest member of the Trucker family, Ruby Morgan!

The Dexateens have posted a new blog on MySpace about recording their new release “Lost and Found.” There’s also a cool blog about the making of the multi-media artwork that they used for the cover.

The Jack Grace Band starts their every Sunday night run at the Rodeo Bar (27th and 3rd Ave, New York, NY )

Sean Kershaw & the New Jack Ramblers plays Hanks Saloon ( 46 3rd Ave at Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, New York) tonight, and it’s FREE!

Country Stars Central has a fine interview with Brenda Lee. Branda talks about her life growing up poor in Atlanta, Georgia and her 1957 Grand Ole Opry Ryman Auditorium which also featured with Elvis Presley.

Vince Gill, Mel Tillis and Ralph Emery to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame – October

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) – Country music star Vince Gill, singer-songwriter Mel Tillis and TV personality  Ralph Emery will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October, an industry group said on Tuesday.

The three were introduced at a Country Music Association ceremony by stars Brenda Lee, Barbara Mandrell and others, who celebrated Tillis’ upcoming 75th birthday with a giant cake.

The trio will be inducted during the annual CMA Awards Show in October.

Gill, 50, has sold more than 22 million albums, earned 18 CMA awards and won 18 Grammy awards. Last year he released a four-disc set featuring guest performances by Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow and others.

Tillis, who struggled with a stuttering problem, wrote numerous hits for himself and others, including “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.”

Tillis’ acting gigs included appearances in the “Cannonball Run” movies and a few episodes of “The Love Boat.”

Emery, 74, launched his career in 1957 as a late-night disc jockey on WSM Nashville radio. He became an announcer on the Grand Ole Opry and starred on The Nashville Network on a show that drew guests like former President George H.W. Bush and actor Mickey Rooney.