David Browne on the Future of Country Music in Politics

David Browne writes an interesting article on the New Republic site about country music’s seeming total allegiance to the GOP, and how the lost election may cause the industry to do some back-room hashing out of the future of country music. I like how the article ends up, but doesn’t Brown know that Ralph Stanley, in many ways the living embodiment of traditional country music, endorsed Obama?


A few dates are upcoming for country music legend Dwight Yoakam, since he’s not officially “on tour” they are scarce as hen’s teeth:

  • Terrible’s Casino – Star of the Desert Arena in Primm, NV on November, 22nd 2008
  • The Crystal Palace (Buck Owens Joint) New Year’s Eve December 31, 2008
  • Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel – Morton, MN January, 23rd, 2009


If you’re in my old neck of the woods, New York City, get your holidays started right and head to The Rockwood Music Hall on November 25th to catch Mr. Joe Whyte live, in concert. Whyte will be debuting so new tunes and the show is free so get on out, you’ll be glade you did.

Joe Whyte
Tuesday, November 25
Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen St., NYC
*take the F or V to the LES/2nd Ave stop and its right across the street

New York Times on Record Store Day

The New York Tines has a nice piece on Record Store Day in New York City and the shape of the independent music stores in the world of digital distribution. From the article:

“Record stores as we know them are dying,” said Josh Madell of Other Music. “On the other hand, there is still a space in the culture for what a record store does, being a hub of the music community and a place to find out about new music.”

Thanks fpr supporting local music.

New York Gets Country Music Radio… For A Weekend

The Daily News reports that Columbia University’s WKCR (89.9 FM)  will kick off their annual Country Music Festival today and it will last over the weekend for 50 hours total. The festival features vintage country as well as live tunes from city bands.  Maybe this is the first step for getting Gothem a full time country radio station. Of course commercial radio doesn’t come close to being this good!

The schedule:

Noon-3 p.m.: Great country songwriters, like Billy Joe Shaver
3-6 p.m.: Modern country storytellers, like Robert Earl Keen and Guy Clark
6-7:30 p.m.: Live music, with New York bands in the studio
7:30-10:30 p.m.: Gram Parsons
10:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.: 40 Years in Folsom Prison. The anniversary of Johnny Cash’s famous live album

1:30 -4:30 a.m.: Uncle Tupelo and its family tree
4:30-7 a.m.: Murder ballads and disaster songs, 1913-1938. Based on recent box set of the same name
7-10 a.m: Zydeco
10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Norman Blake and Tony Rice
1-7 p.m.: Tribute to the late Porter Wagoner
7 p.m.-midnight: Tribute to the late Hank Thompson

Midnight-3 a.m.: Johnny Cash and June Carter. Their duets
3-8 a.m.: Country rock
8-10 a.m.: Country gospel
10 a.m.-noon: Black string bands
Noon-2 p.m.: Hank Williams

Quick Shots Reviews – Ashton Shepherd, Dawn Landes

Quick Shots - MusicReviews Graphic

Ashton Shepherd – Sounds So Good (MCA Nashville) – Like her Texas counterpart Miranda Lambert, Alabama native Ashton Shepherd serves up a gritty remedy for the sugary pop-confection emanating most recently from Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Like Gretchen Wilson (without the goofy Muzik Mafia taint) Shepherd is a hell raising gal that calibrates good loving and a good time. Sure the release has producer Buddy Cannon’s Nashville sheen ladled over it like he does Kenny Chesney’s slop, but Shepherd shines through it with bad-ass glory. “Takin’ Off This Pain” puts all the cards on the table as a testament to women’s love woes. “I Ain’t Dead Yet” is a lovely Texas waltz about yearnings for good times in spite of domestic and maternal obligations. “Old Memory” is a slow burner that dwells on lost love that makes you forget the lady is only 21 years old. This is unabashed country music gold!

Dawn Landes – Fireproof (Cooking Vinyl) – Brooklyn by way of Louisville, Kentucky native singer/songwriter/producer Dawn Landes travels the same quirk-folk roads as her contemporaries Feist, Joanna Newsom and Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and like them she makes music that is both bold and subtle. On her second album, Fireproof, Landes hit a spot between the traditional and the contemporary. Like T. Bone Burnett producing The Breeders.

Singing with a voice that reflects a whispery-fragile grace reminiscent of Hem’s Sally Ellyson (some of the members of Hem appear on the release as well as members of The Earlies) and Suzanne Vega. Landes also plays everything from guitars, Optigans to bells and uses her experience as a producer to blend and fade between styles while preserving an overall mood of beauty veined with menace.

“Bodyguard” opens kicks things off like some kind of Appalachian beatnik mutation with it’s circular phrasings of “Where’s my bodyguard..” and “I saw a man, I saw a man, I saw a man..” it sublimely creepy. “Picture Show” has a Tom Waits scratchy junkyard carnival vibe that wobbles and skews under beat poetry. My preference for music with an open smile instead of a smirk and songs like “Tired Of This Life” and and the pedal steel tinged “Twilight” exhibit a simple, honest beauty that is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell.

Joe Whyte at Rockwood Music Hall – Tuesday, March 11

If your in the 5 boroughs next Tuesday head on over to the Rockwood Music Hall to catch singer/songwriter Joe Whyte and his band. Whyte won’t be playing these parts until May so ya’ll head on over!

Tuesday, March 11
Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen St., NYC


New York Times on the City’s Growing Roots Music Scene

The New York Times has a nice piece on something I’ve seen first hand. the rising popularity of Roots Music here in New York. The city that gave you the smoky Greenwich Village folk clubs from the 60’s seems posed to offer the same proving ground for roots and Americana music.

From the article: “There’s another generation of people who want to hear music that’s accessible, that’s not a prefab product, that’s lyric based but not preachy,” said Adam Levy, a guitarist and singer-songwriter who has played on all of Ms. (Norah) Jones’s albums. “If there’s a roots movement in New York now, I think of it in those terms.”

Honky Tonk Radio Girl on WNYU

Mostly I think terrestrial radio is a unholy wasteland of rotting play-list crap, but sometimes you pass across some smaller stations that are doing it the way it started. Keeping the focus on the music by people who love music instead of just a focus on some delusional concept of mass-market appeal (crazy, huh?)

This evening I was “friended” on MySpace by a DJ here in New York calling herself Honky Tonk Radio Girl. HTRG says on her page that she “tells tall tales of these (old country) troubadours and keeps things rolling with a sense of humor about the music she adores. Honky Tonk Radio Girl will also add a fresh edge by featuring new and local artists who keep the spirit of classic country alive.” Sounds good to me!

Becky, HTRG ‘s real name, does the Thursday 7:30pm – 9:00pm slot on New York University’s WNYU. Folks in the New York area can tune in to her old-timey-style” country radio show on 89.1 FM. For the rest of the world you can tune in to the show on-line by clicking “Listen Live” on wnyu.org or navigate to iTunes radio then to “Eclectic,” then WNYU. Past shows can be found in the archives.

You can also send requests, thoughts and comments to becky@wnyu.org. Requests during the show can be made to (212) 998-1818 or WNYURadio on AIM.

And people think there’s no hillbillies in the Big City…Twang says check her out!

Lucinda Williams – Town Hall, New York – 10/02/07

It’s rare to walk out of a concert and think, “Damn I was just a witness to a piece of musical history.” On a warm, humid night last Tuesday I thought just that.

I came late to Lucinda Williams. I was introduced to Lu (as her adoringly rabid fans refer to her) in 2003 with the release World Without Tears, a mixed bag of the sublime (Righteously, Over Time) and the awkward (Sweet Side, American Dream.) This was five years after her masterpiece “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” hit the shelves. The latter was the album being covered in it’s entirety this evening.

“Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” was the the 1998 Nashville and Canoga Park CA. recorded album, with guest appearances by Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris, that moved Lucinda to the level of being taken seriously as a singer-songwriter heavyweight. The six year labor that produced lucid stories of Southern climes, love discovered and easily lost and the forlorn and wayward put her on the map as a sort of musical Flannery O’Connor.

Williams seems to be a living contradiction. She seems to mirror the very same schizophrenic and contradictory nature of the alt.country/folk/cow-punk etc. genre she is arguably the reining queen of, even she wasn’t sure which musical plane she currently occupies. “They say I’m country but more folk nowadays. Who knows?” She remarked later in the show.

Stopping in New York City to do a five-night retrospective, which seems to be in vogue as late with Sonic Youth on tour playing “Daydream Nation,” and Slint doing “Spiderland.” Each night featured a selection from her discography in reverse chronological order (omitting her recent release West,)

The crowd was ready be behold something special. Restless and rustling and smelling of booze and cologne this was the closest Times Square gets to a roadhouse.

As far as a country music analog, Lucinda is defiantly more Dolly than Loretta. Vulnerably childlike rather than grittily resilient.

Flanked by a top shelf band – Doug Pettibone rhythm/lead guitar, mandolin and pedal steel, David Sutton was on bass, Chet Lyster playing rhythm/lead guitar, pedal steel and keyboards, and Butch Norton There was also a guest appearance by Americana trailblazer Jim Lauderdale on guitar and backup vocals, Steve Earle (strolling over from his Greenwich Village home) was on guitar, harmonica, lead and backup vocals.

“I thought I’d talk a little bit more about the songs than I usually do, a little bonus.” Williams offered from the stage this night. As a treat for hard-core fans that know all the background on each song these were additional gems.

The first background story was when she recounted playing the song “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” at the legendary Bluebird Cafe with her dad, the poet Miller Williams, in the audience. The song of growing up poor in the South caused her father to approach her after the show and apologize. “I’m sorry.” “Why,” she said. “Because that’s you as the little girl in that song.” She admitted that until that moment she never realized it on a conscious level before.

The song “I Lost It” was inspired by an “I Found It” bumper sticker she saw everywhere while traveling in Houston in the 70’s. And like many of her songs “Lake Charles” was based on an ex-love.

Her gravel-in-velvet voice was in perfect for the event. Each syllable was nuanced and word was elevated to heady levels for all to witness.

The song “Joy” was a ferocious rocker that moved into Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” terrain when guitartists Doug Pettibone and Chet Lyster faced each other in a flurrying duel of solos. “Still I Long for Your Kiss” was said to be inspired by William’s love for 70’s R&B and “2 Kool 2 B 4-gotten”, a song written in a New Years Day hangover haze and inspired by two books of photography– Juke Joint: Photographs by Birney Imes and Appalachian Portraits by Shelby Lee Adams, floated and ached along at a beautiful pace.

My favorite song from the album “Concrete and Barbed Wire” was a nice, dusty twanged-out duet between Williams and Earle that they appeared to have a lot of fun doing.

At one moment Williams took the time to pint out Steve Earle’s contribution to the album’s production and how if he hadn’t grabbed the reins it might not have been made. In testament to his role in birthing this masterpiece Earle replied “It’s hard to fuck up great songs”. “Oh, I could find a way to fuck them up.” Williams answered.

After the album was covered there was a brief intermission and then the show was back on. A highlight was a duet with Steve Earle titled “Jail House Tears”. Steve Earle performed an a rousing version of “Ellis Unit One” a song from the Dead Man Walking soundtrack.

I’ve seen Lucinda in concert before and she readily reveals a thin-skin diva’s-temperament for critical feedback. She mentioned picking up the local entertainment rag Time Out New York that seemed to give her a less then favorable feature review. She confessed to the adoring crowd “listen I’m an artist not a performer” which then elicited the predictable “We Love you Lucinda!!!” A younger Lorretta would have ignored the ignorant Yankee that wrote the damning review, or would have told them to kiss her ass. Lucinda is more delicate then that, despite her gritty literary exterior.

 Lucinda Williams – Honey Bee – Town Hall NYC, 10-3-07 


Lucinda Williams – Town Hall, New York – New York Times

The New York Times has a nice write up on the Lucinda Williams “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” show played Tuesday night at Town Hall in New York City. This was the third of a five concert retrospective of William’s discography on in reverse chronological order. She did the same performances in Los Angeles last month. I especially like this bit from the Times:

Ms. Williams was a strong singer on Tuesday. She can radically delay a word’s delivery with her thick voice; she used that effect sparingly and beautifully. And by the middle of the show, through her phrasing she was pressing down hard on the words, drawing them out and giving them an edge of uncomfortable persistence; she enlarges them so she can live in them.

I attended the opening “World Without Tears” and the “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” shows and will post on them soon. I wish I had the Times staff but it’s just me out here!