Gurf Morlix – Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream [Rootball Records]

“He’s only gone crazy once. Decided to stay.” – Townes Van Zandt about Blaze Foley

For Gurf Morlix to create a tribute album for his Austin running buddy and fellow singer-songwriter, the late, great Blaze Foley, was a tricky endevour. Foley wrote songs with such singular originality edging toward cloying sentimentality and corny humor and instead delivering songs of heart-wrenching honesty and dry wit. Once hear Foley do a Foley song you can’t really imagine anyone else doing it.

Not that it hasn’t been tried before. Foley’s songs have been covered by John Prine (Clay Pigeons) and Merle Haggard (If I Could Only Fly.) And Foley has inspired others as as the subject of Austin contemporaries Townes Van Zandt’s “Blaze’s Blues” and Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel.”

Foley’s legacy is ready-made for mythology. He used to jokingly claim to be the illegitimate son of Red Foley and Blaze Starr, to be a news broadcaster from Cincinnati and to have once tried to break into Caspar Weinberger’s house to “see what was on his VCR.” These whoppers are like a seeping breach between a rich source of song-craft inspiration and a need to recreate himself.

In truth Blaze Foley. Born in Marfa Texas (setting for the films Giant and There Will Be Blood and currently a thriving creative community) in l949. He performed in a family gospel act called the Fuller Family with his mother and sisters. He eventually landed in Austin, a city that prides itself on non-conformity, and with his duct-taped boots and clothing, sense of humor and stark, brutally honest songs, stood out.

Gurf Morlix is an Americana music pioneer. A New york native in1981 he moved to Los Angeles where he met a kindred spirit Lucinda Williams. He went on to lead her band for 11 years (1985 to 1996) singing, and playing guitar, and eventually producing her albums. His latter role as producer of Williams’ pinnacle Car Wheels On A Gravel Road led to their acrimonious split. Morlix then went on to play either guitar, bass, mandolin, dobro, pedal steel guitar, lap steel, banjo, piano, harmonica, and a variety of other instruments for and/or produce a literal who’s-who in the the Americana/rock field – Warren Zevon, Mary Gauthier, Robert Earl Keen, Slaid Cleaves, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Buddy and Julie Miller, Tom Russell, Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris, Michelle Shocked, Jimmy LaFave, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Mojo Nixon, Jim Lauderdale, Jerry Lee Lewis, Peter Case, Bob Neuwirth, Don Walser, Jon Langford, Steve Earle, Harry Dean Stanton, Charlie Sexton, The Plimsouls, Victoria Williams, James McMurtry, Flaco Jimenez, Rosanne Cash, David Byrne, Kevin Welch, John Prine, Dave Alvin and many more. Impressed yet?

Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream is 15 Foley originals that display the dark-to-light shadings of the man’s talent. Displaying a sense of humor and song-craft Roger Miller would envy on the cuts Baby Can I Crawl Back To You, Big Cheeseburgers and Good French Fries and No Goodwill Stores in Waikiki and the unvarnished melancholy and longing of If I Could Only Fly (featuring renowned Texas singer/songwriter Kimmie Rhodes on backing vocals) and Cold, Cold World that would make his buddy Townes Van Zandt weep. Some of the songs – Oh Darlin’ and Rainbows and Ridges combine elements of both.

Morlix ‘s arrangements and delivery are straightforward and top notch playing adds just the right amount of adornment. Aside from the excellent musicianship Morlix, unlike Steve Earle’s 2009 tribute to his mentor Townes Van Zandt, appears to have no urge to put his personal stamp on the songs.

Morlix was there on that cold February day in Austin when they put Blaze Foley in the ground as a result of being on the business end of a 22-caliber rifle. He was not content to let his songs be buried with him.

This CD is released in conjunction with the documentary film, Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah, which has been 12 years in the making.

official site | buy

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFuOh2TXnHM&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KwR7fk1PGQ[/youtube]

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – Saturday Picks

this is a quick one; Sun Oct 3 (11am – 7pm)

Banjo Stage
•    12:35pm Hazel Dickens
•    1:45pm Earl Scruggs
•    3:00pm Doc Watson & David Holt
•    4:20pm The Del McCoury Band
•    5:45pm Emmylou Harris
Rooster Stage
•    11:00am Kevin Welch & Kieran Kane & Fats Kaplin
•    2:10pm Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women
•    3:25pm Rosanne Cash
•    5:55pm Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Star Stage
•    11:40am Martin Sexton
•    3:05pm Elvis Costello and The Sugarcanes
Towers of Gold Stage
•    11:00am Lucero
•    12:25pm James McMurtry
•    2:05pm Randy Newman
Arrow Stage
•    11:00am The Felice Brothers
•    1:30pm Railroad Earth
•    4:20pm Yonder Mountain String Band
•    5:45pm The Avett Brothers
Porch Stage
•    11:50am Citigrass
•    12:40pm Heidi Clare & AtaGallop
•    1:40pm Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer
•    4:35pm Kate Gaffney
•    5:35pm Wendy Bird
•    6:25pm Anderson Family Bluegrass

News Round Up: Kris Kristofferson Presented With BMI Icon Award

  • Rosanne Cash talks to the Wall Street Journal about her new release, The List, and joins George Jones by stating her views on the homogenization of mainstream country radio.
  • The Who’s Roger Daltrey says Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium is the “That’s the best bloody place for a musician to play in the whole —— world.” You get one guess what goes where the lines are but this is a quite as it appears over at Country Standard Time.
  • Kris Kristofferson was presented with the BMI Icon award Tuesday evening and watched while Vince Gill, Patty Griffin and Willie Nelson performed some of his best-loved compositions.  “Why Me,” “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” and “Me and Bobby McGee.”
  • Geoff Muldaur recently sat down with the New York Times’ Ben Sisario to discuss the extraordinary group of musicians who came together to form the Texas Sheiks. The Texas Sheiks includes the late Stephen Bruton (Kris
    Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, and T-Bone Burnett) who did not live
    to see the album released, blues singer Johnny Nicholas (Big Walter Horton and Robert Jr. Lockwood, Asleep at the Wheel), Cindy Cashdollar ( Levon Helm, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Paul Butterfield), Suzy Thompson ( Dave Alvin and Alice Gerrard).  Bruce Hughes (Jason Mraz, Bob Schneider)

Willie Nelson Twitter Interview

  • Willie Nelson will join TheBoot.com for a live “Twitterview” next Tuesday, Aug. 25, the same day as the release of his newest album American Classic. You can watch the live chat with Willie, starting at 7:00 PM ET on Tuesday, if you follow Willie Nelson and theBoot.com  on Twitter.
  • Joe Pug will be joining Steve Earle on his upcoming European tour. Pug’s  debut LP “Messenger” will be released in early 2010.
  • Austin’s jazz and western swing band Hot Club of Cowtown has released their new, Wishful Thinking.
  • The New York Time reviews a show at Joe’s Pub by Works Progress Administration (WPA). the expandable collective, featuring core members Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett), Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) and Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) and on this night featuring Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) pedal steel guitarist and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Greg Leisz (Bill Frisell, Dave Alvin, Lucinda Williams,  Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Whiskeytown, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss and many more)
  • Chet Flippo sees compelling storytelling in videos by Toby Keith and Brad Paisley in his newest Nashville Skyline post. I see trite, if mildly clever,  symbolism  mirroring the trite song they represent. For shear technical and style excellence I still have to go with this one.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDtaJmrVfx8[/youtube]

Todd Snider in the New York Times

  • The New York Times features a great feature on Todd Snider. Snider discusses his long career of writing smart roots-folk songs, speaks to some of his fans (like Kris Kristofferson) years of struggling with addiction, and his new Don Was produced release  “The Excitement Plan” on Yep Roc records.
  • Tom Russell’s new upcoming , Blood and Candle Smoke (Sept. 25), was recorded in Tucson’s Wave Lab with features members of Calexico. Head over to his MySpace page to hear Santa Ana Wind and Mississippi River Runnin’ Backwards.
  • Also in  Tom Russell news, the man will be among many contributors to a new Jimmie Rodgers book, Waiting For a Train: Jimmie Rodger’s America, planned to be released in July.
  • Dave Alvin Remembers his friend and Hacienda Brothers founder Chris Gaffney.
  • The fine folks over at HearYa.com review The Builders and The Butchers album  Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well.
  • Jay N. Miller at the The Patriot Ledger talks to Brooklyn based band Americana band Yarn.

Album Review – Gretchen Peters With Tom Russell – One to the Heart, One to the Head (Scarlet Letter Records)/Buddy and Julie Miller – Written In Chalk (New West)

These days duets are more like joint corporate sponsorships than a simpatico union of the heart and mind through song. Great male and female collaborations transcend their individual craft and emerge with something altogether new and remarkable. Kitty Wells and Red Foley, Ferlin Husky and Jean Shepard, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Johnny and June – they made music that was more than the sum of their already amazing parts.

The Americana world seems to be coming into its own in the duet field. What arguably began with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris got a real boost with 2005’s Begonias featuring Whiskeytown and Tres Chicas’ Caitlin Cary and her friend singer/songwriter Thad Cockrell. 2007 saw Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and T. Bone Burnett’s  Raising Sand set a standard for craft as well as sales. Now 2009 has already endowed us with two dazzling releases that build handily on this legacy.

Gretchen Peters is no stranger to the world of Nashville songwriting. Her songs have been recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, George Strait, Martina McBride, and Patty Loveless who was nominated for a 1996 song of the year Grammy for Peters’ “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am.” for such a prolific songwriter it’s surprising that her seventh solo album, One To The Heart, One To The Head is a covers album. On it she partners with L.A. native, El Paso resident and Renaissance man Tom Russell who penned one song, Guadalupe, co-produced and painted the album cover image of what looks like a stylized dead horse. Russell knows his way around songwriting, his songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Nanci Griffith, Dave Alvin and Suzy Bogguss as well as 16 solo releases. These are two heavyweights and they bring their considerable collective talents to bare on a great release.

OTTH,OTTH is referred to as a “western album” which Peters tapped into her earlier life in Boulder, Colorado to draw inspiration. The instrumental opener North Platte does set a western landscape with a Elmer Bernstein or Jerome Moross sense of expanse as well as gravity. The landscape contracts just a bit for the stark and beautiful Prairie In The Sky which beautifully highlights Peter’s shimmering trill as she floats over cello and piano accompaniment. Bob Dylan’s Billy 4, from the soundtrack to Sam Peckinpah’s film Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, gets a serious borderlands infusion with Joel Guzman’s extraordinary Conjunto-style accordion and Russell bringing his silky-graveled voice counter to Peters’.

Tom Dundee’s tale of cultural isolation shines as the classic country sound of These Cowboys Born Out Of Their Time and with Russell’s end of the road lament Guadalupe woe never sounded so good. The accordion and barrel house piano that kicks off Bonnie Raitt’s tequila fueled barroom sing-along Sweet & Shiny Eyes sets just the right cantina vibe. It takes guts to cover a Townes Van Zandt song and Snowin’ on Raton is done with delicate beauty and  a proper sense of deference. If I Had a Gun furnishes this album with its title. “If I had a gun you’d be dead. One to the heart, one to the head. If I had a gun I’d wipe it clean, my fingerprints off on these sheets. They’d bury you in the cold hard ground, fist full of dirt would hold you down. They’d bury you in the cold hard ground, it’d be the first night I sleep sound.” Peckinpah would be proud.

Gretchen Peters Site | Tom Russell Site | Buy

Buddy Miller was featured on the cover of the No Depression’s final issue last year. The bible of alt.country/Roots/Americana declared Miller the Americana journeyman the Artist of the Decade and it’s hard to argue he’s not. On top of his great solo work Miller played lead guitar and provided backing vocals for Emmylou Harris’s Spyboy band, performed with Steve Earle on his El Corazon tour, performed on Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s 2000 album Endless Night and appeared on several albums by songwriter/singer Lucinda Williams. Most recently Miller has been busy performing lead guitar and backing vocal duties for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand touring band. Julie, his wife of over 20 years, is no slouch either with six solo albums, and three collaborating with Buddy, under her belt. Her songs have been covered by Dixie Chicks, Linda Ronstadt, Lee Ann Womack, Emmylou Harris, Julie Roberts and others.

But as prolific as they are Written In Chalk is their only their third collaboration in their first over six years, and though both Buddy and Julie share vocal duties the real magic comes when Julie’s lyrics are swathed in her world-weary angel vocals and complemented by Buddy’s chameleon-like guitar picking that’s been hewed by years of studio sessions.

Buddy and Julie collaborated on Wide River which was later recorded by Levon Helm and the superb album opener Ellis County, a song aching for the good old/hard days, is cut from the same Steinbeckian gingham. Robert Plant described Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) from Raising Sand as “shimmy music” and Gasoline And Matches has the same vibe, swamp mud guitars and bad ass drums. Julie winsomely sings Don’t Say Goodbye which features Patty Griffin who has the good sense to lend only a supporting role to Julie’s already elegant voice.

Robert Plant lends restrained support for Buddy in a backwoods rendition of Mel Tillis’ What You Gonna Do Leroy which is reported to have been recorded in a dressing room at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre during the Raising Sand tour. The song sounds like the source material for a thousand rock songs not least of all Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues. A Long, Long Time exquisitely shows off Julie’s  smoky jazz side and Patty Griffen makes an appearance on the excellent cut Chalk. As good as she is Griffen is she seems superfluous when you have Julie Miller at your disposal. Hush, Sorrow is a pensive beauty with Buddy accomapnied by Regina McCrary. Agian I say, when you have Julie Miller….

Smooth is another “shimmy” style swampy rocker with Buddy and Julie sharing vocals. Julie show up on another delicate beauty with June which was written and recorded as a tribute the day June Carter Cash died. The song is justly somber and celebratory. The Selfishness Of Man is a slow motion testament on hope featuring Emmylou Harris. I love Emmylou but my earlier comments on Patty Griffin’s appearances still apply. Julie would have been a better choice.

Buddy & Julie Miller Site | Buy

SXSW To Do

It’s been a long time since I was able to attend the coveted, and now convoluted, South-By-Southwest music festival and conference amnd this year is no exception. But in the nature of bloggy goodwill I will try and list all the Americana-Roots events I have come across. Please feel free to add any I might have missed.

Joe Pug is pretty damn cool. His schedule is:

3/18   SXSW–Stimulus Package Day Party @ Paradise – 3:00pm  (401 E. 6th at Trinity upstairs Free/Public)
3/18   SXSW Official Showcase – 10:30pm Victorian Room at the Driskell Hotel
3/19   SXSW–Schubas Roundup @ Yard Dog Gallery – 12:40pm (1501 S. Congress Free/Public)
3/19   SXSW–Thru Windows Party @ Fado –  11:00pm (214 W. 4th Free/Public)
3/20   SXSW–Bring Down the House Show  – 5:45pm  (Free–email day of  show for address don@nodooragency.com)
3/21   SXSW–Reggie’s/Unscene Party @ The Jackalope – 3:45pm and 4:40pm (Free/Public 404 E. 6th at Trinity)

3/18  – Joe Ely’s playing Momo’s

3/19 Aquarium Drunkard and My Old Kentucky Blog’s “Vaya Con Tacos” party featuring Roadside Graves, Those Darlins, The Rosebuds and many more.

Also 3/19  the Yep Roc at the Continental Club is offering one of the best showcases with Dave Alvin, The Iguanas, The Gourds, Giant Sand and BeauSoleil.

3/20 The always lovely Bloodshot Records day party at Yard Dog art gallery (1510 S Congress) – starts at the crack of noon
No invite or badge required!
12:15 Walter Salas-Humara / I’m Not Jim
12:45 Andre Williams
1:15 Charlie Pickett
1:45 Dex Romweber Duo
2:15 Ha Ha Tonka
2:45 Exene Cervenka
3:30 Deadstring Brothers
4:15 The Meat Purveyors
4:45 Justin Townes Earle
5:15 Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
5:45 Waco Brothers w/ Rosie Flores

and

Bloodshot Records SXSW showcase
Red Eyed Fly (715 Red River by 7th Street)
Saturday, March 21
8p Exene Cervenka
9p Deadstring Brothers
10p Ha Ha Tonka
11p Dex Romweber Duo
Mid Justin Townes Earle
1am Waco Brothers

Hoist a shiner and some BBQ or a taco and enjoy the fine music and hospitality Austin offers.

Americana at SXSW

  • JamBase contributor Martin Halo  sat down with Drive By Truckers‘ front man Patterson Hood on December 29th. Aat the meeting Hood confirmed that the band would be re-entering the studio, on January 5, to begin work on the next DBT release.

Drive By Truckers – Perfect Timing

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

JD Wilkes Side Project – The Dirt Daubers

Jessica Cassyle Carr at Alibi.com holds a Q&A with Denver based former 16 Horsepower frontman and current Gothic Americana singer/songwriter David Eugene (aka Wovenhand.)

The Arizona Daily Star gives us a peak at the A-list alt.country artist packed tribute album for the Hacienda Brothers leader Chris Gaffney. Joe Ely, Los Lobos, Dave Alvin, Tom Russell, James McMurtry, Robbie Fulks, John Doe, Dave Gonzales and members Calexico and more  appear. The Hacienda Brothers‘ final album, “Arizona Motel,” came out last June, two months after Gaffney’s death.

I’m a huge fan of the Psychobilly/Gothic sideshow that is Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers so I was pleased that LeighAbsinthia over at the Hank III cussin’ board brought to my attention JD Wilkes roots music side project, along with his wife Layne Hendrickson. Ladies and gentleman I bring you The Dirt Daubers.

The Dirt Daubers – “Sugar Baby”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFVy9R3UsCA[/youtube]