Cream of the Crop – Twang Nation Top Americana and Roots Music Picks of 2012

TNtoppicks2012It seems like I say it every year – so here goes, another bumper year for Americana releases blah blah. but it’s true!
I’ve been sitting on a list of about 50 releases all of which could easily be included in a top 10 list of the best of 2012
until the last final minute of the deadline i set for myself to keep from crapping up my holidays. i had to make a stand.
Here it is.

I finally threw the arbitrary “Top 10” structure out the window and doubled down and made it a top 20 21. The selections are lasted in arbitrary order and are not most best to least best. They all stand on their own as some of this year’s. or any year’s, finest examples of songwriting and performance excellence.

A quick word on the exclusion of mainstream heavyweights like Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers and their upstart competitors the Lumineers didn’t make the cut. Cards on the table, for all my rooting for mainstream acceptance of the genre I’m still a music snob. Like most other genres, I genuinely think that once a person mines the Americana field below the mainstream examples that is where they will discover the real riches lie. This is my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Here’s a a happy, healthy and twangny 2013! thanks to all of you for reading, following,commenting. And to all the great musicians that reward us every day with riches that I personally am unworthy of.

Chris Knight – Little Victories
Malcolm Holcombe – Down the River
Darrell Scott – Long Ride Home
Corb Lund – Cabin Fever
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale – Buddy and Jim
Iris Dement – Sing The Delta
Dwight Yoakam – 3 Pears
Turnpike Troubadours – Goodbye Normal Street
John Fullbright – From the Ground Up
Shovels & Rope – O’ Be Joyful
The White Buffalo – Once Upon a Time in the West
Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Going to Change The Way You Feel About Me Now
The Trishas – High Wide & Handsome
Gretchen peters – Hello Cruel World
Lindi Ortega – Cigarettes & Truckstops
Patterson Hood – Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
Chelle Rose – Ghost of Browder Holler
Derek Hoke – Waiting All Night
Shooter Jennings – Family Man
BlackBerry Smoke – The Whippoorwill
Nick Cave / The Bootleggers / Warren Ellis – Lawless (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Ralph Stanley Covers The Velvet Underground for Nick Cave’s “Lawless”

Nick Cave is one of those performers, like Tom Waits and Neil Young, that occupy a music landscape outside of genre.

I always thought Cave would make a create a great Americana roots album if he wanted to.

His love for the genre is evident. Cave covered Johnny Cash, one of his heroes. Cash’s “The Singer” (originally “The Folk Singer”) appeared on Cave an his band the Bad Seeds third album Kicking Against the Pricks album. Cave also cut Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” a duet with Cash himself for Cash’s American IV: The Man Comes Around album (2002). Johnny Cash returned the favor by covered Cave’s “The Mercy Seat” on the album American III: Solitary Man.

Cave also penned the script for the western The Proposition, which was set in his native Australia. Cave also created the film’s soundtrack with violinist Warren Ellis. Cave is back at it again. He has written the screenplay for the upcoming Lawless, based on a novel by Matthew Bondurant about a family of bootleggers living in Virginia during the Depression. Cave and Ellis have again collaborated on the movies soundtrack.

the two christened themselves the Bootleggers and recorded punk-bluegrass versions of songs, including Link Wray’s “Fire and Brimstone,” Townes Van Zandt’s “Fire in the Blood,” Captain Beefheart’s “Sure ‘Nuff Yes I Do” and the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat.”

Because Cave wasn’t interested in singing the whole soundtrack they recruited vocalists to accompany them. Emmylou Harris and the Duke Spirit’s Liela Moss signed on without reservation. Stanley wasn’t such an easy sell.

According to the conversation between Cave and Stanley just about as well as the one between DJ Pretty Lights for the RE:GENERATION film.

In the end Cave prevailed and Ralph Stanley’s cover of VU’s “White Light/White Heat” is pretty damn excellent. I can’t wait for the rest of the soundtrack.

What do you think?

Music Review: Wagons – Rumble Shake & Tumble

When I first saw The Proposition, the 2005 Australia-based Western about an outlaw (Guy Pearce) forced to kill his older brother, I was taken by what Vincent Vega (to mix movie metaphors) is the “little differences.” The narrative was familiar and there were cultural parallels (at least cinematic)  between late nineteenth century Australia and the American West and Southwest.

This is the feeling I get when listening to the Australian roots-rock band Wagons recent fourth release Rumble, Shake & Tumble. There are elements of the familiar that are then twisted and elevated to strange and inspired places. the album kicks off with Downlow,a tale of clandestine romance done in as a jangly Tom Petty-style number complete with scorching lead and 80’s-era humming synths. I Blew It is thumping rockabilly tune that has Henry Wagons careening his baritone growling a lost-love lament. Moon Into The Sun is a front-porch ditty that shimmers with pedal-steel and hillbilly Buddhist pronouncements like  “Everybody’s as happy as they want to be.”

Willie Nelson is a slinky-stomp ode to the Texas Yoda, well to the idea of him anyway since there’s really no details in the song relating the the legendary icon. It’s more testament to great music and a reason to jam. Love Is Burning channels fellow Aussie (and script writer for the aforementioned movie, The Proposition.) Nick Cave and is smoldering with lust and menace like a ,well, a Nick Cave song.  My Daydream is a spacey country-tinged number that sound like a collaboration of Gram Parsons and David Bowie ( Singer Henry Wagons’ voice even sound eerily like the Thin White Duke at times.) Save Me is a Civil War-style and honky-tonk mash-up telling a tale of dispare and redemption

Henry Wagons  drummers/bassists Mark Dawson and Si Francis, guitarists Chad Mason and Richard Blaze, and keyboardist Matthew Hassett made a big noise at the 2011 SXSW a nd it’s easy to hear why. Rumble, Shake and Tumble  is a study in American music from an Australian bands perspective. the album will have you coming back again and again to peel back layer after layer of influence and nuance served with an edgy modern twist.

Official Site | Buy


Hank Williams – 15 Covers in Tribute [VIDEO]

“I ain’t gonna worry wrinkles in my brow, cuz nothin’s never gonna be alright nohow. No matter how I struggle and strive, I’ll never get out of this world alive.”
— Hank Williams

Sometime in the early morning hours of January 1st 1953, somewhere on the roads of Kentucky on-route to a News Years Eve show in Canton, Ohio, The King of Country Music,  Hank Williams succumbed to a life of drugs, booze and sorrow in the back seat of his powder blue Cadillac. He was 29.

In his brief professional life Williams forged a sound and lasting legacy that runs throughout country and rock music , and really most all American music, to this day. On this New Years Eve I want to celebrate his life and demonstrate the broadness of his influence with some of the best covers of Hank Williams that I could uncover. Leave your own in the comments and at the stroke of midnight take a moment to remember the greatness of Hank Williams.

Tom Waits – Ramblin’ Man

Wayne Hancock – Lost Highway

Hunter Hayes / Hank Williams Jr. – Jambalaya

Townes Van Zandt – Alone & Forsaken

Jerry Lee Lewis – Cold Cold Heart

Patsy Cline – Lovesick Blues

Chris Scruggs – I’m A Long Gone Daddy

Ray Charles – Your Cheatin’ Heart

The The – I Saw The Light

Neko Case – Alone and Forsaken

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant  -  My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Ramblin Man

Johnny Cash and Nick Cave – I Am So Lonesome I Could Cry

Hank Williams III – I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

Hank Williams Jr and Tammy Wynette – Hank Sr Medley

Album Review – The Wildes – Ballad of a Young Married Man (Release Date 3/09)

Ever since seeing the darkly striking Australian western The Proposition I’ve been fascinated with the similarities between the Land Down Under and the American South and West of the nineteenth century, both good (confronting a wild frontier to achieve independence and establish a society) and bad  (attacking and displacing an indigenous people.) Now due to The Wildes, an Americana/ band from Victoria, Australia, I am now just as fascinated with roots music as interpreted in the land of Oz.

Some of the cuts on Ballad of a Young Married Man take an old-testament page from fellow countryman Nick Cave (and script writer for the aforementioned movie The Proposition). The title song, “Jack the Blacksmith,” “Nothing” and the tribal drum-beat brooder “Slap-Back Mary” could have all come from Cave if was inclined to pen country-hued songs.

The chugging “Streets of My Hometown” carries the DNA of Steve Earle’s Hometown Blues and the sweetly melancholic Sue-Ellen” sounds like a lost Waterboys cut. “If I’ve Done You Wrong” is a organ backed barroom weeper that basks in its unrepentant spirit and the wonderfully reflective “Loverman” is a rustic beauty. The bonus track Broken Blossoms is a piano and banjo bawler that I imagine could have been penned by that trash can troubadour Tom Waits. The Wildes cover a wide expanse of Americana dirt roads and wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, but their interpretation on these styles are uniquely their own.

Official Site |  MySpace

Sweet Teresa.mp3