– “At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight” – Various artists (Bear Family) $250.
Germany’s Bear Family label has reputation for giving loving (obsessive) detail in creating their box sets and “At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight” continues that osession. The Saturday night music radio show was broadcast by Shreveport, Louisiana’s KWKH-AM from 1948-1960 and rivaled only by the more straight-laced Grand Ole Opry for live radio entertainment.
Country and roots music greats abound – Hank Williams, George Jones, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, Ernest Tubb, Louvin Brothers and many more in their prime.
A 20-CD set gives us a view back to live radio before studio wizardry and music was still wonderfully raw and brazon and done without a net.
Presley’s first TV appearance on the television version of the Hayride in March 1955 features and electrifying performance of his breakthrough single “That’s All Right,” as well as 14 songs includes “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “Don’t Be Cruel” and are just a fraction of the more than 500 tunes stocking At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight. The box set also contains long-buried treasury of like a previously unknown recording of “I’m a Long Gone Daddy” by Hank Williams.
The accompanying 226-page book not only identifies all the performance dates and musicians, but also provides plenty of historical context.
Yeas this sweet collectable clocks in at over $200, but it breaks down to about $.40 a song for these treasured performances. That’s quite a deal.
‘Why Bob Dylan Matters’ by Richard Thomas – Richard Thomas $16.50
Harvard Professor of Classical Literature Richard F. Thomas explores Dylan’s music with a lense on his music influence on society as well as style. Dylan is dealt with in a serious tone usually reserved for classical literary and poetic luminaries. ‘Why Bob Dylan Matters’ set his work in it’s proper place and argues that it’s a work deserving of the ages.
‘Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives’ – Holly Gleason, in Woman Walk the Line ( University of Texas Press) $19.65
Music industry vet Holly Gleason presents twenty-seven extraordinary women scribes writing about twenty seven country music greats that just happen o be women. These personal and uplifting stories dig to the heart of what it means to connect to Music. Yes I still believe that #WomennInMusic is not a genre and that self-segregation is nearly as harmful as outside variety, but damn, this is a great read.
Johnny Cash, “Unearthed” (American) – $228.
THere was a real chance that Johnny Cash might have died in popular obscurity in 2003 had Rick Rubin not had the great instinct to spearhead the Country music legend’s breathtaking late-career albums. This 2003 collection of outtakes
serves a bounty with seven LPs featuring alternate takes and unreleased songs. Cash lends his historic baritone to distinctive renditions of gospel, rock,folk blues, and, of course golden-age country as well as covers by
Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle and others so good you might forget their were sung by anyone before The Man in Black.
It looks like Jack White;s adopted home of Nashville is starting to reflect in the music being released by his Third Man Records label.
The latest is from Charleston indie-folk duo Shovels and Rope. The 7-inch will be released on April 2nd and features a jaunty cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Johnny 99” (off the extraordinary Nebraska, hear it below) on the A side, with a version of Tom Waits’ “Bad As Me” on the B.
The release is on on Third Man’s Blue Series, where singers and bands traveling through Nashville are invited to stop by to record one or two songs at Third Man Studio produced by White. The songs are then, as soon as possible, made available on 7” vinyl and digitally on itunes. The series also includes releases by Brittany Howard and Ruby Amanfu, Seasick Steve, Chris Thile with Micheal Daves , The Secret Sisters, Wanda Jackson and others.
The release will be available on iTunes and vinyl. It;s a measly $6 and you can pre-order here.
With her newly released single, Bulletproof, Amanda Shires continues to explore a variety of musical influences – folk, blues and jazz -she began in her last release “Carrying Lightening.”
The song sets Shires warm-honey vibrato and fine fiddling against a Tom Waits-like junkyard orchestral accompaniment. The song details potential supernatural impenetrability against a litany of physical and emotional armaments. Like a whimsical protective talisman set to a cha-cha beat
No word on an upcoming album title or release date came with the press release. but when I know , you’ll know
Bulletproof was released to coincide with Shires showcases at South-By-Southwest. Catch her at one of the performances below:
THURS MARCH 14 @ 11 PM
St. David’s Episcopal Church
hosted by Utne and Thirty Tigers
official SXSW showcase!
FRI MARCH 15 @ 7 PM
Wyndam Garden Hotel
on the patio @ the bar area!
3401 IH 35 Austin, TX 78741
free! open to the public!!
SAT MARCH 16th 6 PM
Omni Austin Hotel Downtown
700 San Jacinto & 8th Street
lobby lounge located @ the atrium!
free! open to the public!!
I received an email invitation from the local GRAMMY Foundation representatives to cover the Civil Wars as they participated in a GRAMMY Camp event to have college and high school students sit in on a sound check and a Q&A afterward. I waited on the rest of “the press” and hoped that I would get an opportunity to squeeze in my one or two questions when the band too time to meet with us, I was then told by Christen , the GRAMMY rep, that I was the press. As I stab at my Droid smart phone to pad out my questions and topics they were brought in by their road manager and, in contrast the Southern-Gothic image conjured by their music, they immediately start ribbing me about my name and dashing all pretense. We then spent the next 15 minutes (I was promised 5) in a fun and engaging conversation that I hope is reflected below.
People, like myself, who obsess about music often too reflexively shun anything stained with mainstream success. Like Jack Black’s character, Barry, from the film adaptation Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity berating a father entering Championship Vinyl looking to buy Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You” for his daughter’s birthday, we often miss the joy that music brings people and degrade it into our own personal cultural caste system.
Perhaps it was the inclusion of The Civil Wars’ song Poison & Wine in an episode of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy in 2009. Perhaps it was the Taylor Swift tweeting to her legion of followers that she she was a fan of the band (and then included them in her iTunes playlist). Perhaps it was being hand-selected by Adele to open her United States shows which led her to rave on her blog – “If you’re coming to any of the shows on this trip make sure you get there early to see them. I’ve never been so blown away.” Whatever it is, it seemed that for some the Civil Wars, Joy Williams and John Paul White, were destined to wear the dreaded scarlet M (mainstream.)
It’s interesting to me that one of the shining lights of Americana refuses to be corralled by the label and part of their success may be a result of this refusal to be pigeonholed. It was a unique opportunity for me to meet with Joy and John Paul, and hear their beautiful harmonies soar within a nearly empty Fillmore hall. The hall where legendary promoter, Bill Graham, made his mark by following his love of music. Boundaries be damned. I hope you like the interview.
Twang Nation: I read that you’ve recently spent some time in the company of Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett.
Joy Williams: Ah, word on the street.
John Paul White: It feels really weird to have that conversation. We were hanging out with Rick Rubin….
TN: Does your popularity help you get an audience with star producers like these where many others would be sent packing if they were to ask?
JPW: I think that everything we’ve done up until now has been done to this point with the music in mind. We don’t pitch ourselves or push ourselves on producers, labels or even listeners. Everything we’ve done has been let’s just make the best music we can and perform it as well as we possibly can, and let the chips fall where they may. The beauty of technology is that word of mouth can spread so easily and so much faster that this entire year we’ve had many great opportunities come to us just from making music we dearly love and performing it as well as we possibly can. When that happened it was just another thing we never expected. If we had reaching out to them and said “We’re the Civil Wars. Like us.” that would have changed things. We like to find things and i’m sure they like to find things. We were extremely flattered when they bring us up.
TN: You guys are great at what you do, but there’s a lot of great music out there. Americana isn’t known for having superstars but you’re the closest it’s come. How did you rise above the fray to get the profile your enjoying? Was it the team around you I saw at the Artist Development panel at the Americana Music Association conference? was it the inclusion of your song (Poison & Wine) onGrey’s Anatomy? You had a high-profile fan (Taylor Swift) that tweeted her affection for your music.
JW: I feel like there have been a lot of small hinge moments on a really big door. I don’t think you can go back and attribute it to just two or three things. We’re very fortunate that the music has connected with people the way that it has. We’ve also worked really hard to do things in a different way. We’ve hand-selected every single person that is now a part of our team and they give a damn because they aren’t forced to work on this. I think people coming to our shows and tweeting, whether they are a celebrity or not, that word of mouth, is one of the biggest gifts you can give an independent artist. it’s exciting to come back to cities where we played to maybe a quarter of the people that we get to play to the next time we’re there. We’re excited that sales are growing , but more than that we we get to play music. We genuinely love what we do and hopefully that connects with people as well. No one is more surprised than we are that this is working out. (laughs)
JPW: I think people tend to gloss over how hard we work. This is the third time we’ve played San francisco this year. There are a lot of cities around this nation that are the same way. at the beginning of the year we were playing to maybe an hundred people and now we get to play this place tonight (the capacity I found on google for the Fillmore that is 1199) , it’s like the old sports adage the more we practice the luckier we get.
TN: I was surprised to see your name as a nominee for the Country Music Awards Vocal Duo of the Year. You were beat out by Sugarland, but the CMAs aren’t known for being unpredictable.
JPW: I would assume a lot of that has to do with CMT (Country Music Television) because we got no country radio play. CMT played the hell out of the Barton Hollow video, and now the poison & Wine video. That got us in front of a lot of people.
JW: It’s interesting to see us played on CMT and the VH1. We don’t know where we fit within a genre, but that doesn’t bother us.
TN: So you don’t think you fit within a genre?
JPW: No, but that was never the idea. We didn’t set out to be this and not that. we just wrote music some things were natural – we liked this, and we liked that. We never set out like this is what we want to be and this is what we don’t want to be. When we went out to play it would be she and I went and a guitar. So things starting tailoring themselves to that set-up. By the time we got into the studio we has an idea of what we do, and don’t do. What we like and what we don’t. The record (Barton Hollow) ended up stripped-down and simple because we had spent so much time on the road with the songs, that when we would add instruments they just got in the way. It ended up being a minimalist record but it was never set out to be that way. we never said at any point “If we turn t this way just enough country radio will play this.” or “If we put a banjo on there we’re screwing ourselves.” We just wanted to make the album exactly the way we wanted to and be completely selfish about it.
JW: We just followed our noses.
JPW: And by doing that way we really don’t fit anywhere.
JW: But no complaints about that. We don’t feel ostracized by any group. We’ve had everything from pop to folk to Americana, country..we’re happy with all those titles.
JPW: If you’re not playing the radio game it’s probably in your best interest. because then the Americana fans, the country fans, the folk fans, the bluegrass fans…we even have rock fans, which kind of makes sense since I am such a huge rock and metal fan and maybe hints of that show up in our work. We appeal to all types because we are doing what we love and people pick up on that.
TN: With the Country Music Awards nomination,and the Americana Conference Awards nomination for New/Emerging Artist and Duo/Group of the Year and all the other awards you’ve won, you figure you’ll be up for a GRAMMY?
JW: Well, who knows?
JPW: I have plenty of doubt abut that.
TN: Do you?
JPW: I do.
TN: I’ll place a wager that you’re going to get a GRAMMY.
JPW: You’re asking us to bet against ourselves? I’ll do it, what do we bet?
TN: What do you drink?
JPW: Oh yes, let’s do that. bourbon…whiskey…the older the better.
TN: How about bottle of Bulleit?
JPW: A bottle of Bulleit it is. I hope I lose.
TN: I’ll be covering the GRAMMYS and will be in L.A. to claim my prize. just a couple more questions. you don’t want to be associated by a genre but you can be defined by your influences, who are some of yours?
JW: We couldn’t have more different backgrounds when it comes to this. I grew up listening to a lot of crooners – Ella, Etta, Frank and then it went on to Joni Mitchell, Joan Biaz, Janis Joplin, The Beach Boys and the Carpenters we always playing in my house. Then I got my license and started to drive and had total control of the radio which then turned completely to pop.
JPW: We listened to a lot of top 40 on my mom’s car radio and a lot of country music. Then i was listening to my friend’s Ozzy records, Black Sabbath and Queen and all of that. Then i came back around to listening to the stuff I grew up with and cut my teeth on. The Beatles, E.L.O., Jeff Buckley later…Elliot Smith. Elliot is my guy.He probably sums up everything I love about music.
JW: Mine would be Billie Holiday. Yours would be Elliot and mine would be Billie.
JPW: They’re not that far apart. And they;re not that far apart in temperament if you believe their biographies. We’re not that different.
TN: Who would you like to share that stage with?
JW: Anybody alive?
TN: Alive or dead.
JPW: I got one. For alive I’d say Tom Waits.
JW: Yes! Alive Tom Waits!
JPW: But I’d be terrified. We could just stand next to him and sing harmony and let him be the mad man.
JW: I’d be the happiest person in the world!
JPW: Dead would be Elliot Smith.
JW: Townes Van Zandt for me, or Billie Holiday.
TN: I would love to hear you guys cover a Townes song.
JPW: We talked about “Waiting Around to Die.” i don’t feel like we can go anywhere near “Pancho and Lefty.”
TN: I saw a video on YouTube of you covering Michael Jackson’s Billie jean (see below)
JPW: There’s certain songs, like a Townes song, that makes perfect sense for us to cover. So for whatever reason they sometimes fall flat. We do them as you would expect us to do them. So sometimes it makes more sense for us to take Billie jean or (Jackson 5’s) I Want you Back, that we feel like are great songs but you might be distracted by the production and a lot of people don’t realize how great the songs are. Plus it’s a lot of fun for us.
JW: We’re really not into navel-gazing in terms of what we perform. We take what we do seriously but we don’t take ourselves seriously. I think if you make it like a living room experience, to me, that’s more enjoyable than watching someone sing only their own songs. We always like to keep people on their toes a little bit.
JPW: It can get heavy so we like to lighten things up a bit.
On August 16thlegendary singer/songwriter Guy Clark will release Songs And Stories, a live album recorded at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville. Clark runs through his extensive collection of classics – L.A. Freeway, The Randall Knife, The Cape, Homegrown Tomatoes, and Stuff That Works – complete with stories and casual asides that should make this a must-have.
In other Clark news – In time to coincide with his 70th birthday This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, is set to drop November 1 on Icehouse Music. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee and Austin, Texas with a rotating cast of other musicians including multi-instrumentalist Lloyd Maines, bass players Glenn Fukunaga, Mike Bub and Glenn Worf, and drummers Kenny Malone and Larry Atamanuik. The release will feature Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Steve Earle, Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Lyle Lovett and many other singer-songwriters that have performed with and been influenced by Clark over his extensive career.
Bringing prolificacy to a new level Hank Williams III will celebrate his freedom from his well-documented contract disputes with Curb Records and his own new label , Hank3 Records, in a grand fashion – by releasing four records on September 6th. That’s right — four. Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown,’ a double-album set,will be a country collection fusing Hank’s trademark hellbilly sound with Cajun influences and will feature special guests including Tom Waits. The other two releases are ‘Attention Deficit Domination’ and ‘3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin,’ are metal-driven records on which Hank 3 plays all instruments. ‘Cattle Callin’ will explore a proposed genre entitled “cattle core” sound, featuring Hank 3’s speed metal woven around actual cattle auctioneering. Hmm, something about that makes me very happy. All three projects were recorded at The Haunted Ranch, Hank 3’s home and studio on the outskirts of Nashville.
“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
“Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” – H. L. Mencken
Despite the atmosphere of hope in the wake of a new President these are troubled time in America. War, torture, unemployment, jihad (foreign and domestic,) global warming and/or cooling, a society obsessed with bullshit and celebrates mediocrity….the only thing missing seems to be is locusts and floods, but hey the year is still young.
Throughout history hard and turbulent times have beget great music. The 1920s and 30s widespread poverty due to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl resulted inAunt Molly Jackson’s Hungry Ragged Blues to Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Landl. The 60’s gave us Crosby, Stills Nash & Young’s (well, mostly Young’s) “Ohio”, Bob Dylan singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” and John Fogerty wailed Fortunate Son. Sure the pop factories still pumped out confections of distraction, but the real stuff, the stuff that sticks and level-sets a society led astray by self-obsessed cynicism and thrusts us toward a greater sense of responsibility, civility and justice. That’s the stuff we remember.
William Elliott Whitmore has found a new home of kindred spirits with L.A.’s Anti- records, the more diverse sister label of the punk focused Epitaph records, and home for Bob Mould, Jolie Holland, Merle Haggard, Neko Case, the artist Whitmore is often (Erroneously IMHO) compared to Tom Waits, and the label where Marty Stuart had to shop the late, great Porter Wagoner’s last album (Wagonmaster) when Nashville refused to support the legend. He’s done his time on the road with bands like The Pogues, Murder By Death, Clutch and Lucero and cuts a lanky, tattooed profile of a punk front man or carnival barker. With punk cred and a hard core troubadour’s (sorry Steve Earle) ethic, Williams is the the most interesting kind of artist, a walking cultural mash-up with music and a voice that transcends fashion and speaks from the ages.
Some have referred to Animals in the Dark as a political work. I don’t see at as much as political but as a work. like his earlier Southern Records stuff, about perseverance of the human spirit against natural and man made woe and worry. The troubles here are just given a different face.
The trouble, and record, starts with Mutany, a military drumbeat driven call and response tale of a ship headed into bad weather and a crew taking responsibility for their ship and dispatching the drunken, incompetent captain.Whitmore shows his wry humor in this song by inserting the oft-heard (and sampled, right Nelly?) old school call and reponse from rapper Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three “The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn.” Love it.
Who Stole the Soul is a ragged lament of lost beauty and justice with a cello accompaniment brings a sense of loneliness and adds depth to Whitmore’s usual solo acoustic guitar. Johnny Law is Whitmore’s version of I fought the Law…with just as simple a structure and refrain, but he pulls short of claiming that the law won since he has the last word for the corrupt law man.
Old devils is where the album gets it’s name and it’s a song where Whitmore really starts to name names and harken back to a time when folk music was the Rage Against the Machine of its day. Corrupt politicians, draconian laws and unjust wars are all called out and the universal shit that comes down on the heads of those at the bottom is named. Hell or High Water is a wonderful barroom ballad of hope and faith in camaraderie in spite of all that came before of that will follow and faith again is the theme within There’s Hope For You with it’s Band-style organ and bashing swell of an ending.
Hard times traces an immigrant’s travels from Germany to the New World all the while struggling and bravely facing the adversity that chiseled and galvanized past generations and puts a spotlight on our own condition – what Clint Eastwood calls the “Pussy Generation.” There’s no appeal to higher authority of the deistic or terrestrial variety. It’s all bootstraps and grit.
Lifetime Underground brings Whitemore’s usual weapon of choice into the picture – the clawhammer-style banjo. Another tale of facing adversity, this time his own, as an ever traveling minstrel working the beer halls and Elk’s lodges of America in relative obscurity. Let the Rain Come In is a woozy pedal steel blues number that furthers the theme and facing off on the world and all comers. A Good Day to Die is a sentiment that nicely wraps up this fine release. Beauty and adversity are all faced in equal (existential? theological?) regard.
William Elliott Whitmore takes his music and themes into more primitive and universal territory than his more precious contemporaries like Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Iron & Wine that come off as dorm room folkies in comparisons. Whitmore’s work comes from a harder, darker place…wherever people are struggling and gives them unity in commiseration, hope and, yes, beauty.
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/alt.country 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.
Dial up WNCW next Tuesday, Oct. 28, the station will be airing an hour-long special to announce the 2009 MerleFest lineup. The hour will be filled with the reading of the lineup, music from those artists and talk about the festival. The 22nd annual MerleFest will take place in Wilkesboro, NC, April 23-26, 2009. Tickets go on sale Nov. 11 at MerleFest.org.
(No Depression) After wrapping up his debut for Anti Records (Merle Haggard, Tom Waits, Porter Wagoner) Animals in the Dark (drops Feb. 17, 2009) singer-songwriter and dark-folk, claw-hammer banjo player extrodinairre William Elliott Whitmore will join roots rock band Murder By Death for a month-long sprint across the U.S. The joint tour is a follow up to the limited edition split 7″ Whitmore and Death by Murder released yesterday, which is available at Murder by Death’s website. It’s the first in a series of seven 7″ recordings that MBD will be doing in collaboration with their friends in other bands. A full list of tour dates are available from Anti Records.