Few people embody the genuine soul of Americana and roots music than Tulsa, Oklahoma’s John Moreland. A new album from this unassuming poet of the human landscape is always a cause for celebration. On May 5th Moreland will release his fourth album, entitled ‘Big Bad Luv’ on England’s 4Ad label- an em print better known for alert rock like the Cocteau Twins and the Wolfgang Press, or post-rock noisemakers like The Throwing Muses and The Pixies. Though the label does have some folk and alt.country Cree signing band’s like The Red House Painters, The Mountain Goats and Tarnation. The one thing 4AD is consistent with is the quality their artists display in their craft.
This is just what they get with John Moreland, an artist that sits solitary on stage and pulls a silenced audience along his stories of unflinching emotion. The album is being described as ‘…an honest, bruising experience. A record about love, faith and the human condition..” Sounds like a John Moreland album to me.
Big Bad Luv, was recorded in Little Rock, AK, and mostly with a crew of Moreland’s Tulsa friends: John Calvin Abney (piano and guitar), Aaron Boehler (bass), Paddy Ryan (drums), Jared Tyler (dobro) and Lucero’s Rick Steff (piano). Coming together in three sessions over ten months, which were sandwiched between touring dates and life, the final album was then mixed by GRAMMY winning Tchad Blake, who has worked with iconic acts from Al Green to Tom Waits.
If the track from the album below, ‘It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)’, is any indication of the tone of the album there seems to be a stylistic and thematic move away from the shadows. This walk on the sunny side might be due in large part to his marriage last Summer.
1. Sallisaw Blue
2. Old Wounds
3. Every Kind of Wrong
4. Love Is Not an Answer
5. Lies I Chose to Believe
6. Amen, So Be It
7. No Glory in Regret
8. Ain’t We Gold
9. Slow Down Easy
10. It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)
11. Latchkey KidBig
June 1 – St. Louis, MO – Off Broadway*
June 3 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Tavern*
June 4 – Washington, D.C. – Rock & Roll Hotel*
June 7 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom*
June 8 – Boston, MA – The Sinclair*
June 9 – Montreal, QC – Le Ritz*
June 10 – Toronto, ON – Velvet Underground*
June 13 – Ann Arbor, MI – The Ark*
June 14 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall*
June 16 – Minneapolis, MN – Turf Club*
June 17 – Maquoketa, IA – Barnstormers at Codfish Hollow*
July 11 – Fayetteville, AR – George’s Majestic Lounge
July 12 – Memphis, TN – 1884 Lounge at Minglewood
July 18 – Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle
July 19 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
July 22 – Oxford, MS – Proud Larry’s
* = Will Johnson (Centro-matic) opening
May 6 – Glasgow – Oran Mor (UK)
May 8 – London – Union Chapel (UK)
May 9 – London – Union Chapel (UK)
May 11 – Paris – Les Etoiles (FR)
May 13 – Hamburg – Kampnagel (DE)
May 14 – Berlin – Passionkirche (DE)
May 16 – Amsterdam – Paradiso (NL)
John Moreland made his television debut last night on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and if you thought he’d change things up for the event you’d be mistaken. No full bands or Nudie suits, just Moreland perched on a chair in trucker cap, work pants and t-shirt, picking his Martin acoustic and plumbing his psyche in glorious woe.
The crew at Late Show with Stephen Colbert looks like they’re continuing support for showcasing great Americana and roots music established by it’s predecessor David Letterman with a visit from Aubrie Sellers last week and this spellbinding performance by Moreland.
Another year has passed and the amount of quality music being created continues seemingly unabated in spite of the economic conditions surrounding those creators. More great Americana and roots music is being cerated than possibly any time in history. And along with the awards and resulting sales for artists like Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton the music is becoming more prominent in popular culture which assures its ongoing economic viability and influence in the future for more creative endeavors.
And as a fan it’s just plain badass.
But the picture is not all rosy. The golden goose rule applies in few areas more than it does in the music industry. Without the creators output the delivery channels offer nothing. No creator no business. The blame for the pitiful state of revenue sharing gets murky in the finger pointing. Pirating is the most obvious offender (stealing is stealing) But obtuse and outdated licensing laws and artists with little or no sense of their business worth plays into the overwhelming problems that plague the music industry. Some would like to blame technology for the current sorry state of the music economic environment, but the history of delivery – sheet music, radio, TV, movies or streaming, pays the fees they are legally bound to pay. It’s that legally mandated equitable distribution that needs to be seriously addressed if fans, and musicians, values the fruits of that labor.
And speaking of streaming, the digital access to music has blurred the concept of genres in the perception of an entire generation. Without the absolute geographic boundary of the record store bluegrass and thrash metal are served effortlessly from the same pipe allowing music in the mind of a young fans to be evaluated into good or bad. Will genres disappear altogether? I don’t think so. Human decision processes rely too much of distinctions and connections for it to melt into a mass of mono-genre . But these distinctions will matter less as a badge of personal culture separation and division. Music is becoming a format that brings us together in live events and online conversation.
But for every rules there are exceptions. I love the craft beer boom that is growing here in Texas and all over the nation. The creativity and ingenuity displayed by creates that love their craft is a treat to anyone with consideration to what they imbibe. But in that culture grows a geekdom that can verge on snobbery. A subgroup that use their love of quality as a self-appoineted status used as a license to condemn those that don’t align with their gospel. Music fandom falls into these same human patterns. I’ve done it myself. Nothing is more tedious then someone droning on ad nauseum about the inferiority of Budweiser or Florida Georgia Line. But I’ve never been a fan of barrel fish.
But when the industry, beer or music, systematically excludes selection (http://www.twangnation.com/2015/05/31/an-americana-response-to-saladgate/) based on some demographic studies to keep them rich and us without choices that needs to be addressed.
I resolve in the new year to try and refrain from wasting time on obviously contrived product, focus on the beauty and care taken on the rare, good stuff and the ways we can get more of the latter to our speakers.
No radio station, label, industry group or hell, blogger for that matter, has a monopoly on great music. It can come from anywhere at anytime. Let’s find it together.
Criteria – Calendar year 2015. No EPs, live, covers or re-release albums no matter how awesome.
Don’t see your favorite represented? Leave it in the comments, and here’s to a new year of twang!
14. Matthew McNeal – ‘Compadre’
McNeal creates music well beyond his 22-years on this planet. The rollicking road tale opener of loneliness and doubt “Alonely” sits comfortably with lonely introspective ballads like ‘A Losing Hand’ – ‘It’s a shame, my dear, the way the cards were dealt Not a diamond on the table to make it alright Two hearts laid down, Two spades to bury them I’ll be playing at a club out of town tonight’ – build into an impressive if rough around the edges offering of Texas roots rock and soul.
13. Aaron Lee Tasjan – ‘‘In The Blazes’
Country and folk can often feel weighted down by earnestness. It takes a deft hand of someone like Roger Miller or Bobby Bare Jr. to bring levity to the style without trading in attention and respect to the craft. Wry just short of snark lyrics in the“E.N.S.A.A.T.” (East Nashville Song about a Train) is a Heartbreakers-esque send up of the Ohio natives current residence and it’s movement toward bohemian homogenization. “Judee is a Punk,” a bittersweet ballad that namechecks Jesus and the Ramones and ‘Bitch Can Sing’ is a buzzed-out number that sound like what might have happened if the Stooges had cut a track in Muscle Shoals studios.
12. Sam Outlaw – ‘Angeleno’
Between the “Outlaw” surname (from his mom’s side), his past life as an ad-sales director to his SoCal zip code there’s much to warn you off Sam Outlaw’s Ry Cooder-produced second full-length ‘Angeleno.’ Like many on this list Outlaw well reflects a golden era of country and roots music without being weighed down by copping a nostalgic novelty routine. The opener “Who Do You Think You Are” is a smooth danzón-mambo number punctuated with mariachi-style horns that brings the tropical heat. ‘I’m Not Jealous’ is a smart honky-tonk send up of the ‘Walking the Floor Over You’ that turns the tables on the lady painting the town. Ignore all the surface and dive in and you too will be a believer.
11. Daniel Romano – ‘If I’ve Only One Time Askin’
Canada’s contribution to roots music is significant. From Hank Snow to all but one member of The Band it’s safe to say without or northern neighbor our favorite music wouldn’t be where it is today. Enter Daniel Romano , an ex-punker turned neo-traditionalist is taking classic forms and tropes na turning them on their ear. The string soaked opener ‘I’m Gonna Teach You” and the honky-tonk weeper “All The Way Under The Hill’ shows he can play it straight but the funk outro of ‘The One That GoT aWAY (Came Back Today)” and biting lyrics show there more there under the countrypoliton sheen.
10. Sarah Gayle Meech – ‘Tennessee Love Song’
If you think the outlaw spirit resides only in the YX chromosome Sarah Gayle Meech’s sophomore release,’Tennessee Love Song’ will set you straight. Meech takes us on a grand tour of country music’s genres and themes over the years. From the title cuts 70’s era Countrypolitan to the slinky, greasy groove of ‘No Mess,’ Tennessee Love Song,’is a amalgamation of styles forged into an extraordinary body of work.
9. Mike and the Moonpies – ‘Mockingbird’
So often we are sold a product with a ‘country music’ pasted on it’s exhilarating to hear a release that needs no outward claim. From the moseying pace of the barstool confessional of ‘One Is The Whiskey’ or the boot-scooting twin-fiddle driven shuffle of ‘Say It Simply’ there’s no denying Mike and the Moonpies’ third studio album bona fides. This is a shot of pure, great country music with no crossover dilution. God bless country music and god bless Texas.
8. Chris Stapleton – ‘Traveller’
Anointed the new savior of country music Stapleton is no overnight story. He cut his teeth on Music Row for over a decade penning hits for the likes of Kenny Chesney and Darius Rucker. He took a turn in the spotlight being the original power house lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of the The SteelDrivers. He was so good at that gig he inspired Adele to cover one of their songs. On his solo debut ‘Traveller’ Stapleton lends his soulful rasp to sparkling originals and breathing life into the George Jones and David Allan Coe chestnut”Tennessee Whiskey.” Stapleton wife, singer/songwriter Morgane Stapleton provides a welcoming warm countering harmony on many of the songs. Will ‘Traveller’ change the ways of Music Row? No and who cares?
7. Andrew Combs – ‘All These Dreams’
“Pop” music get’s a bad rap these days. But Andrew Combs sophomore release shows that the Texas-bred, Nashville-based singer/songwriter is an astute disciple of ’70s countrypolitan/folk rock in the vein of Glen Campbell, Mickey Newbury, Gordon Lightfoot, and Harry Nilsson that reminds us that pop can be inspired instead of just insipid. The album’s first single, “Foolin’” features a Jeff Lynne-style driving beat sliding up against Tejano-inspired break reminiscent of Doug Sahm era Texas Tornados.
6. Gretchen Peters – ‘Blackbirds’
Gretchen Peters knows a thing and more about song craft. A member of the esteemed Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame she enlisted a roster of contemporary American roots music luminaries like Jerry Douglas, Jason Isbell, Jimmy LaFave, Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey, Suzy Bogguss to help create her latest dark jewel. Pretty Things rides a “Only Women Bleed” melody and builds an atmospheric ode to to life’s ashes and rust. “Black Ribbons” is a moral tale on that BP disaster that isn’t cheapened by tin-ear moralizing.
5. Ryan Culwell – ‘Flatlands’
Though this is his third album I am a newcomer to Ryan Culwell. But I’m a believe now. His sound and hardscrabble tales bare the mark of country and rock found in much of the Texas troubadours like as early Steve Earle, Ryan Bingham and Rodney Crowell, whose voice he sometimes eerily suggests. The title ‘Flatlands’ refers to the Texas panhandle where he grew up and he and his family worked the oil fields. “Red River” is a chillingly sparse stroll through a muddled morality and quiet strength of the everyday.
4. Jamie Lin Wilson – “Holidays & Wedding Rings”
A familiar face on the Texas music scene, Jamie Lin Wilson’s wonderful full length debut, Holidays and Wedding Rings, is a collection of songs that pulse with authenticity. Her voice is comforting familiar and so uncompromisingly real. It’s the perfect vehicle to deliver these tales of hope, love, heartache and mortality. These are roadhouse confessionals and bar and small town testaments wrenched from the personal and identifiable roads we all travel. The pain and regret is palpable on “Just Some Things” Wilson’s duet with Wade Bowen follow both down an intersection of regret and quiet desperation. “It’s like running for the edge and thinking you’ll fly/Knowing damn well that it’s suicide.” Cheating is a staple of country music an the ballad “Roses by The Dozen” brings a contemporary sound and slant to this murder ballad featuring Texas singer/songwriter, Courtney Patton on harmonies and the sparse arrangement and placid vocals on “Whisper On My Skin” will deliver a chill to the skin and bring a tear to your eye.
3. John Moreland – “High on Tulsa Heat”
Texas born / Tulsa, Oklahoma-based singer-songwriter has only three records chalked in his discography but he’s already drawing comparisons to John Prine and Guy Clark. These are not names to evoke in a trifle, but this is more than hot air. Moreland digs deep beneath the surface and drags up the hope, pain and heartbreak that binds us in our shared humanity. In “Heart’s Too Heavy” his own humanity is on display “Well these angels in my eardrums / They can’t tell bad from good / I lived inside these melodies / Just to make sure I still could.” In a field where sincerity and songcraft are the stock-in-trade John Moreland has the goods to earn a place with the greats.
2. James McMurtry – “Complicated Game”
“Honey don’t you be yelling at me while I’m cleaning my gun. I’ll wash the blood off the tailgate when deer season’s done.” In the hands of a lesser songwriter hands this exchange between a shop owner looking down at his retirement and his wife might come off hackneyed. But Texas songwriter James McMurtry trained eye , honed over twelve records , the trailer park scenarios and lonesome road characters ring full and true. “Complicated Game” finds McMurtry uncharacteristically hopeful and romantic. It suits him, but these textures are kept short of cloying by his usual sardonic humor. One thing stands true, his stories crackle with his usual empathetic intelligence with a literary eye.
1. Jason Isbell – “Something More Than Free’
It’s satisfying to see someone with a dedication and passion for music evolve and gain confidence in their craft to become truly exceptional. “Something More Than Free,’ Isbell’s follow-up to 2013’s ‘Southeastern,’ has all the markings of that growth, maturity and focus. Songs like “If It Takes a Lifetime,” with it’s shuffling ragtime-tinged rearview (I thought the highway loved me but she beat me like a drum) whole also looking ahead with hopeful determination to a better future (I keep my spirits high / find happiness by and by) and the title cut, with it’s soulful ode to pride in purpose and the study on the folly of planning that is “24 Frames” are all perfect examples of Isbell’s instinct for storytelling. With one boot in coffee shop folk and the other in the roadside honky-tonk he was just the man to straddle the Americana music divide and bust to the top of the Billboard Country, Folk and Rock charts. Isbell has become an artisan of life sketches that feel genuine in their detail and reverence. That’s what makes these songs exceptional.
2014 was another bumper crop year for Americana and roots music. We shared our favorites and you weighed in with more. 2015 shows no signs of easing up as stalwarts like Steve Earle and James McMurtry and young guns like The Lone Bellow and American Aquarium are planning releases.
The list below is not a definitive 2015 Americana release list, it’s all early months. But it’s as close as I can get with the information available at year’s close. The list is in chronological order based on release date, which mostly occurs on an planned Tuesday target which for some reason (none good) persists.
See one missing? Leave it in the comments.
Look for new things coming in the New Year at Twang Nation. It’s going to be a great year.
Have a happy, and safe, New Years. See you on the other side.
Justin Townes Earle – ‘Absent Fathers’
Cody Jinks – ‘The Adobe sessions’
Cody Canada & the Departed “Hippie Love Punk”
The Waterboys – ‘Modern Blues’
Ryan Bingham – ‘Fear and Saturday Night’
Haley Cole – ‘Illusions’
Caitlin Canty – ‘Reckless Skyline’
The Lone Bellow – ‘Then Came The Morning’
Paul Kelly – ‘The Merry Soul Session’
Punch Brothers – ‘The Phosphorescent Blues’
Bob Dylan – ‘Shadows in the Night’
Murder by Death – ‘Big Dark Love’
Hiss Golden Messenger – ‘Southern Grammar EP’
Gurf Morlix – ‘Eatin’ At Me’
Father John Misty – ‘I Love You, Honeybear’
Robert Earl Keen – ‘Happy Prisoner’
Gretchen Peters – ‘Blackbirds’
Rhiannon Giddens – ‘Tomorrow Is My Turn’
Blackberry Smoke – ‘Holding All the Roses’
Owl Country – ‘Owl Country’
6 String Drag – ‘Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll’
Phosphorescent – ‘Live at the Music Hall’
Steve Earle & The Dukes- ‘Terraplane’
Whitehorse – ‘Leave No Bridge Unburned’
Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band – ‘So Delicious’
Wrinkle Neck Mules – ‘I Never Thought It Would Go This Far’
The Mavericks – ‘Mono’
Elvis Perkins- ‘I Aubade’
James McMurtry – ‘Complicated Game’
Steve Gunn & Black Twig Pickers – ‘Seasonal Hire’
Nora Jane Struthers – ‘Wake’
The Lowest Pair – ‘The Sacred Heart Sessions’
Elana James – ‘Black Beauty’
Ryan Culwell – ‘Flatlands’
Brandi Carlile – ‘Firewatcher’s Daughter’
Gill Landry – ‘Gill Landry’
Andrew Combs – ‘All These Dreams’
Caroline Spence – ‘Somehow’
Dorthia Cottrell – ‘Dorthia Cottrell’
Joe Pug’s – ‘Windfall’
Tom Paxton – ‘Redemption Road’
Porter – ‘This Red Mountain’
The Coal Creek Boys – ‘Out West’
Liz Longley – ‘Liz Longley’
Stone Jack Jones – ‘Love & Torture’
Humming House – ‘Revelries’
Gabrielle Papillon – ‘The Tempest of Old’
Doc Watson, Bill Monroe + – Classic American Ballads from Smithsonian Folkways
Allison Moorer – ‘Down To Believing’
William Elliott Whitmore – ‘Radium Death’
Sarah Gayle Meech – ‘Tennessee Love Song’
Simon Joyner – ‘Grass, Branch & Bone’
The Devil’s Cut – ‘Antium’
Delta Rae – ‘After It All’
Folk Family Revival – ‘Water Walker’
Carl Anderson – ‘Risk of Loss’
Pokey LaFarge – ‘Something in The Water’
Ray Wylie Hubbard – ‘The Ruffian’s Misfortune’
Dwight Yoakam – ‘Second Hand Heart’
Lowland Hum – ‘Lowland Hum’
Shinyribs – “Okra Candy”
Lucia Comnes – “Love, Hope & Tyranny”
The Damnwells – ‘The Damnwells’
John Moreland – ‘High On Tulsa Heat’
Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers – ‘ Loved Wild Lost’
Jimbo Mathus – ‘Blue Healer’
Ryan Adams – “Live at Carnegie Hall’
Lewis & Leigh – ‘Missing Year EP’
Charlie Parr -‘Stumpjumper’
Odessa – ‘Odessa’
Shelby Lynne – ‘I Can’t Imagine’
Mandolin Orange – ‘Such Jubilee’
Hannah Miller – ‘Hannah Miller’
Jimmy LaFave – ‘The Night Tribe’
Eilen Jewell – ‘Sundown over Ghost Town’
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell – ‘The Traveling Kind’
Della Mae – ‘Della Mae’
Darrell Scott – “10 – Songs of Ben Bullington”
Jamie Lin Wilson – ‘Holidays & Wedding Rings’
The Mike + Ruthy Band – “Bright As You Can”
Dawes – “All Your Favorite Bands”
Sam Outlaw – “Angeleno”
The Deslondes – “The Deslondes”
Dale Watson – “Call Me Insane”
Courtney Patton – “So This Is Life”
Uncle Lucius – “The Light”
Chris Hennessee – “Greeting from Hennessee”
Sammy Kershaw – “I Won’t Back Down”
Beth Bombara – ‘Beth Bombara’
Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams – ‘Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams’
Richard Thompson – “Still”
Kacey Musgraves – “Pageant Material’
Jason Isbell – ‘Something More Than Free’
Daniel Romano – ‘If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ ‘
Lindi Ortega – “Faded Gloryville”
Angela Easterling – “Common Law Wife”
Rod Picott – “Fortune’
The Waifs – ‘Beautiful You’
The White Buffalo – ‘Love and the Death of Damnation’
Turnpike Troubadours – “Turnpike Troubadours”
Patty Griffin – ‘Servant Of Love’
The Yawpers – ‘American Man’
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell – “So Familiar”
If you’re a fan of roots music there is only one place to be in the fall, and that’s Americanafest. The Americana Music Association will be presiding over this 15th Festival – along with its Conference and Awards Ceremony – in Nashville, September 16-21.
This is the premier industry event celebrating the music we love. Thousands of artists, fans and industry folks from all over the world will gather to talk biz, eat BBQ, drink local beer and, yes, hear the best music on the planet.
then get up the next morning and do it all over again (pace yourself, drink water!)
This year the increased the number of acts has grown to 160 (!) performing across 11 venues (!!) This might have given me more awesome choices, but I’ve yet to figure oy t that whole cloning myself thing. This makes seeing many performances, many happening at the same time, an impossibility.
But the upside is no matter where you find yourself you’re in for some of the best music going.
Over the years of attending this extraordinary event I’ve tried to dig deep in the bill and look for hidden gems that might I might miss on my initial scan. Some newer or more obscure performers are the ones that can often leave an impression and have fans talking for days after.
Though I like to see the big names as much as anybody, There are a few names that fly a little lower under the radar but will be well worth making time for.
Caroline Rose – The Basement – Tuesday September 16, 2014 7:00pm – 7:45pm
Caroline Rose just came across my ADD addled mind and I’m better for it. Pop folk never sounded so fresh and vibrant.
John Moreland – High Watt – Wednesday, September 17, 2014 11:00pm – 11:45pm
There’s nothing fancy about a John Moreland performance. He sits alone, mostly with an acoustic guitar spinning rich tales of the human landscape. His sparse, concise yet elegant style has him counting Lucero and Jason Isbell as fans and having his songs showcased on the biker drama, Sons of Anarchy
Hannah Aldridge – Fanny’s House of Music “Americana Ladies Night Line-Up” – Thursday September 18, 2014 5:30pm – 8:30pm
A voice of the ages that can be heard from two blocks over (unmiced) Aldridge beings the goods and more on her sterling debut “Razorwire.”
Banditos – The Rutledge – Thursday September 18, 2014 9:00pm – 9:45pm
This Nashville-by-way-of Birmingham band is a potent blend of rock, country and soul that draws on many influences and squeezes greatness from every drop. Some of the tunes might seem “jammy” but they always right themselves and head straight for solid framework.
Zoe Muth’s sweetly plantive voice sings songs of hardscrabble love and life that can tear out your heart or rock your soul, often at the same time.
Shinyribs – High Watt – Wednesday September 17, 2014 10:00pm – 10:45pm
Shinyribs is the pseudonym of The Gourds mastermind of madness Kevin Russell. Tightly arranged tunes, spiked with a heavy dose of whimsy, shows Russell reflecting a stew of influences from Bob Wills to the Texas Tornadoes.
Jonny Two Bags – The Basement – Wednesday, September 17, 2014 11:00pm – 11:45pm
Sometimes punk rockers age and cross over to Americana. Sometimes their original band has always had a foot in the dusty road. The latter is the case for Jonny Two Bags. As the guitarist for the SoCal institution Social Distortion, Jonny Two Bags didn’t have to travel far to pull out his
Whiskey Shivers – Station Inn – Thursday September 18, 2014 9:00pm – 9:45pm
Newgrass? Naw, how bout thrashgrass. Whiskey Shivers heats up the already hot genre by pulling in an audience and making a performance a communal celebration that will have you to leaving your troubles at the door. They’ve even caught the ear of fellow Texas genre-hopper Robert Ellis who has produced their upcoming self-titled album.
Otis Gibbs – Station Inn – Thursday, September 18, 2014 10:00pm – 10:45pm
Otis Gibbs is what a musician looks like that refuses to compromise. His songs are instantly relatable and yet poetic.The man effortlessly exudes that ever elusive quality of authenticity.
Hello Strangers – Two Old Hippies – Friday, September 19 6:00 PM – 7:00pm
Sisters Larissa Chace Smith and Brechyn Chace hail from the foot of the Appalachian mountains, due north of the Mason-Dixon Line , in Mercersburg, PA. They ended up in Austin where they worked their craft in the rich music scene helped hone their harmony-rich folk and roots rock spirit.
Jonah Tolchin – Third Man – Friday, September 19, 2014 9:00pm – 9:45pm
Jonah Tolchin’s voice belies his years on earth. His neo-soul roots style transports you and breathes life into the past.
Marah – The Basement – Friday, September 19, 2014 9:00pm – 9:45pm
Marah are one of my favorite rocks bands, all ramshackle and passion fueled recklessness. Thier newest roots music production, ‘Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania’ takes all that’s great with the band and runs it through a copper wire od dark mountain folk.
Cale Tyson – Listening Room Café – Friday, September 19 – 10:00pm – 10:45pm
Nashville by way of Texas classic country and Townes Van Zandt influenced Cale Tyson’s musical path. Tyson’s latest EP, “High On Lonesome” reflects that legacy with hints of Gram Parsons, Guy Clark and Willie Nelson.
After seeing Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, Jamestown Revival, at an LA Americana event honoring the Everly Brothers I was hooked. They arguably stole the show that night. This was a show that included Rodney Crowell and Bonnie Raitt get there early. JR might be somewhat off the radar but their popularity is growing.
Cory Branan – High Watt – Friday, September 19, 2014 10:00pm – 10:45pm
Sharp songwriting and an aversion of the lazy trope has made Chuck Ragan and Lucero into fans of Cory Branan. Come see what all the fuss is about.
Grace and Tony – Station Inn – Saturday September 20, 2014 8:00pm – 8:45pm
Grace and Tony come from a bluegrass and punk rock background respectively. Not just joining in matrimony they fused a hybrid style they describe as Punkgrass. Colliding the worlds of Charlie Poole and The Clash might have been a disaster for some, but they make it work thanks to a love of craft many of live performances in front of adoring fans.
Lera Lynn – High Watt – Saturday September 20, 2014 9:00pm – 9:45pm
Texas-born Lera Lynn has a hard one to characterize. A little Dusty , a dash of Loretta, leads to a quality to her that make her rock-roots/soul style irresistible.
Jason Eady – Mercy Lounge – Saturday, September 20, 2014 10:00pm – 10:45pm
Jason Eady’s is the odd man out here. He’s not Americana, he’s country..or at least he’s what country used to be , before it became Americana. Damn it just go see him!
David Ramirez – The Rutledge – Saturday September 20, 2014 10:00pm – 10:45pm
Austin’s David Ramirez is the textbook definition of a troubadour. A songwriter hammering out hard tales with a guitar and a song. His extensive touring has gained him fans from coast to coast.
Carolina Story – Listening Room Café – Saturday September 20, 2014 12:00am – 12:45am
With the official demise of the Civil Wars I invite you to turn your wistfully romantic ears toward husband and wife dup Carolina Story (Ben and Emily Roberts.) Though they can get a little more country (read twang) than TCW the Arkansas couple can also plumb the depths of a forlorn soul.
Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons – The Basement – Sunday September 21, 2014 12:00am – 12:45am
Joe Fletcher’s solo debut ‘You’ve Got the Wrong Man,’ populated with soldiers, scammers, hangers-on, hellraisers, boozers and the woe-begone. Comparisons to Tom Waits would not be far off.
The Americana Music Association continues its tradition of showcasing some of the best in Americana and roots music by it’s partial roster of Americanfest performers released today.
Though the lineup doesn’t show any groundbreaking direction, I’m fine with that. There are lots of folks on the list that have been busting their hump for years and deserve this recognition rather then inserting acts to placate outsider accusations of one thing or another. Personally I’m happy to see Casa Twang favorites Howlin’ Brothers, Jamestown Revival, John Moreland, Lera Lynn, Marah and Ben Miller Band on the bill. And Texas is well-represented by Billy Joe Shaver, Sarah Jarosz, Jason Eady and Hayes Carll
The event is celebrating its 15th as the premier Americana event by welcoming 160 performers taking the stage at 11 venues including 3rd & Lindsley, The Basement, City Winery, High Watt, Cannery, Mercy Lounge, The Rutledge, Station Inn, Music City Roots, Downtown Presbyterian Church and Musicians Corner.
Three-time Americana Group of the Year, The Avett Brothers, will headline the event at Riverfront Parl on Saturday Sept. 20. Americana’s Music Festival & Conference registrations will have access. Tickets for the general public will go on sale Friday, June 27 at 10AMat www.ticketfly.com.
The first half of Americanafest’s performing artist list includes:
The Avett Brothers
The Barefoot Movement
Ben Miller Band
Billy Joe Shaver
Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay
The Cactus Blossoms
Chatham County Line
Danny & The Champions of the World
The Deadly Gentleman
The Dustbowl Revival
Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo
The Fairfield Four
Green River Ordinance
Gregory Alan Isakov
The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer
JD Wilkes & the Dirt Daubers
Jonny Two Bags
Lake Street Dive
Lee Ann Womack
Marah Presents: Mountain Minstrelsy
New Country Rehab
Quebe Sisters Band
Todd Snider & Friends
Tony Joe White
Trigger Hippy (feat. Jackie Greene, Joan Osbourne, Steve Gorman, Tom Bukovac & Nick Govrik)
The 15th annual Americana Music Festival & Conference occurs September 17-21, 2014 in Nashville, Tenn. The 13th annual Americana Honors & Awards Show on Sept. 17 at the historic Ryman Auditorium.
As the last days of 2013 drop away the business-as-usual music industry remains bogged in a largely self-inflicted quagmire, but don’t tell musicians this. Industry gatekeepers and financial barriers are being overrun by people with a passion for the craft, and the talent and drive of a refusal to be denied. And we, dear reader, are richer because of it.
If there’s a theme to this year’s choices it’s that women are blazing a trail between Americana and mainstream country music. Lindi Ortega, Brandy Clark, Julie Roberts, Kelly Willis, Aoife O’Donovan and Valerie June might honing their craft from different angles, but a more than cursory listening shows they are making great contemporary music drawing from a common roots music well.
2013 was also a great year for what might be called “real country music.” However you define this vague term (Jimmie Rodgers? Willie? Garth?) you’ll find much of Country Music’s Golden Eras reflected in Brandy Clark, Dale Watson, Sturgill Simpson, Robbie Fulks as well as the mighty Son Volt, who released one of the best albums of their career with “Honky Tonk.”
Also the craft of songwriting and rich, engaging narrative is alive on Jason isbell’s best solo outing yet, Southeastern. Also on the veteran Guy Clark’s “My Favorite Picture of You” and relative newcomers John Moreland and John Murry.
2013 brought us some of the most creative and daring music in the Country, Americana and Roots fields and all indicators point to 2014 being even better with releases upcoming from Roseanne Cash , The Drive-By Truckers, Jason Eady, The Ben Miller Band and many more.
And in spite of T Bone Burnett’s advice to keep their art pure and unscathed by dirty, dirty self-promotion, these folks are out there hustling to breach popular consciousness.
I hope this list helps in some small way.
it was a challenge to keep the list to just 10, so again this year I surrendered to representing excellence over some arbitrary number.
Don’t see your favorite represented? Leave it in the comments and let’s spread the twang.
20. Austin Lucas – Stay Reckless – Nobody does pedal-to-metal roots-rock like Lucas. “Stay Reckless” elevates his song to a new level.
19. Aoife O’Donovan – Fossils [Yep Roc Records] – Alison Krauss covered O’Donovan’s song “Lay My Burden Down,” O’Donovan’s album is so good you might forget that.
18. John Murry – The Graceless Age [Evangeline Recording] Dark and engaging without veraing into bleak and self-pitying. John Murry makes feeling bad sound good.
17. Dale Watson – El Rancho Azul [Red House] Watson finds his hony-tonk sweet spot and does the Lone Star State proud.
16. Julie Roberts – Good Wine & Bad Decisions [Red River Entertaintment] – Music Row’s golden girl confronts set-backs and tragedy by creating the best album of her career.
15. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In – [ATO Records] Rose deftly proves that “pop” doesn’t have to be bad.
14.5 – Will Hoge – Never Give In – Roots rock with a hook done right. [Cumberland Recordings]
14. Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis – Cheater’s Game [Preminum Records] – Austin’s Americana power couple delivers an engaging charmer.
13. Sarah Jarosz – Build Me Up from Bones [Sugar Hill Records] Jarosz songwriting, playing and vocals hit a new level and shw her to be already beyond her young years.
12.5. Daniel Romano – Come Cry With Me – had to slip in this neo-trad gem in response to the comment reminding me of it’s badassery. Yes, I do read the comments when I agree with them.
12. Robbie Fulks – Gone Away Backward [Bloodshot] Fulks creates an excellent, heartfelt bluegrass album sans his signature wink and smirk.
11. Valerie June – Pushin’ Against A Stone [Concord] Newcomer June fuses roots and soul and shows why she’s an Americana rising star.
10. Holly Williams – The Highway [Georgiana Records] – The songwriting on “The Highway” moves Williams out of anyones shadow.
9. Son Volt – Honky Tonk [Rounder Records] – Jay Farrar takes up the pedal steel and re-discovers Son Volt’s soul.
8. Lindi Ortega – Tin Star [Last Gang Records] Ortega’s exceptional “Tin Star” moves her into the realm of Queen of Americana music.
7. Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw [Paradise of Bachelors] M.C. Taylor continues to explore life and faith and stake new roots music territories.
6. Gurf Morlix – Gurf Morlix Finds the Present Tense [Rootball] A legendary songwriter/musician gets existential and rewards us with a fantastic body of work.
5,5. Shonna Tucker and Eye Candy: A Tell All [Sweet Nector] – I foolishly omitted this pop-roots-soul gem on first pass. I now remedy that grievous oversight.
5. Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You [Dualtone] A master still makes it look easy. It ain’t.
4.John Moreland – In The Throes [Last Chance Records] Moreland is an accomplished student of song craft and “In The Throes” moves him into the master class.
3. Sturgill Simpson – High Top Mountain [High Top Mountain] Reluctant savior of outlaw soul creates a masterpiece in spite of expectations.
2. Jason Isbell – Southeastern [Southeastern Records] – With an already accomplished body of work Isbell surpasses himself and creates a classic.
1. Brandy Clark – 12 Stories [Slate Creek Records] – It takes guts to refuse to be a cog in the Music Row machine and create an debut this daringly country.
This may be the best Twang Nation podcast yet (yeah, I know I always say that. But this time it’s true!)
We have fantasticly spirited bluegrass of newcomers Della Mae. Heartfelt folk with singer/ songwriters David Ramirez, Ashleigh Flynn,Andrew Duhon and John Moreland.
Hurray for the Riff Raff offers a beautiful rendition of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and Mother Merey and the Black Dirt and Defibulators bring new meaning to hillbilly bliss
We conclude with Bill Monroe and Steve Earl doing Monroe and Peter Rowan’s “Walls of Time” from his upcoming Warner Brothers box set.
ON EDIT: One correction to the podcast, I say that Mother Merey and the Black Dirt’s album is titled “A Million Stars.” That’s the title of the Ashleigh Flynn release. The correct title for Mother Merey and the Black Dirt’s album is “Down to the River.”
Also, I mistakenly refer to the new Donna the Buffalo as “My Dearest Darkest Neighbor.” The name of the album is actually “Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday/” “My Dearest Darkest Neighbor.” is thr name of the upcoming Hurray for the Riff Raff album.
Sorry for the mix up folks.
As always support local music and thanks for listening.