- The Guardian's 10 Best Albums incl. Sturgill, Tami Neilson, Jason Eady
- Hear Unreleased Joe Ely and Linda Ronstadt duet "Where Is My Love"
- If You Missed It: Willie Nelson and Billy Joe Shaver on Letterman
- NPR Tiny Desk Concert with Lucinda Williams
- Titles from Willie, Hank Williams, Bob Wills Headed to Grammy Hall of Fame
- Hear New Joe Pug Song "If Still It Can Be Found"
- Houston Press: Is Country Music Ready For Sturgill Simpson?
- Blitzen Trapper Releases Free Live Album
- Chip Young, Legendary Nashville Session Guitarist and Producer, Dies at 76
- Fatal South by Southwest Crash Brings First Wave of Lawsuits
- New Song from Cody Canada and the Departed "Easy"
- Flaco Jimenez to receive Lifetime Grammy Award
- Original Grateful Dead Manager Rock Scully Dead at 73
- Nashville Scene Rips Into American Country Countdown Awards
- Ardent Studios Founder John Fry Dies at 69
- Windowing New Music May Not Goose Sales, Study Shows
- Engineer and Producer John Hampton Dies
- Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie Talk "December Day"
- Proof How Much The Music Industry Has Changed In The Last Ten Years
- NY Times' Jon Caramanica's Top 10 Albums Includes Sturgill Simpson
- Galleywinter's Favorites of 2014
Mandolin maestro Jayke Orvis is hitting the road once again as his own man, with help from some familiar faces. The former .357 Sting Band member, and occasional member of The Goddamn Gallows has roped in the greatness of James Hunnicutt, along with Joe Perreze on banjo and Fishgutz (The Goddamn Gallows) on bass, aka ‘The Broken Band’ for a tour through the South and Midwest starting mid January.
“I’ve taken a bit of a break these last few months and now I’m itchin’ to get back in the van.” Jayke iterated to me through the miracle of electronic mail. “There may be some rotations down the line here and there but this lineup is pretty solid. Right now it just makes sense to run a stretch together and have James do a set too. I’m really lookin’ forward to bein’ on the road with my family.”
And people should not take Jayke’s time off from touring with The Gallows or this solo tour as a sign he’s done with the fire-breathing outfit. “I plan on being with the Goddamn Gallows more next year but will definitely be doing another solo tour. I’m thrilled beyond words that Baby Genius is back behind the drums, where he needs to be. This tour, the gallows have the full original lineup and it’s gonna be legendary.”
You can find the dates below, and of course, on the SCM Calendar. There’s nothing better that you can do to support music than to go out and see it live.
1-11-11 – Stella Blue – Asheville, NC
1-12-11 – The Hideaway – Johnson City, TN
1-14-11 – Ole Tavern on George Street – Jackson, MS
1-15-11 – Check Point Charlie – New Orleans, LA
1-20-11 – Beerland – Austin, TX
1-21-11 – Lizard Lounge – Wichita, KS
1-22-11 – Blue Note – Oklahoma City, OK
1-24-11 – Crystal Pistol Saloon – Tulsa, OK
1-25-11 – Blackthorn Pizza & Pub (21+) – Joplin, MO
1-26-11 – The Handle Bar – Decatur, IL
1-27-11 – Sideshow – Columbia, MO
1-28-11 – Kix Club – Quincy, IL
1-29-11 – Reggie’s Rock Club – Chicago, IL
1-31-11 – Melody Inn – Indianapolis, IN
2-2-11 – Mac’s Bar – Lansing, MI
2-3-11 – Small’s ALL AGES – Hamtramck, MI
2-4-11 – Old Dog Tavern – Kalamazoo, MI
Following is my list for the essential albums for 2010, broken down into a few of categories.This is meant to compliment the Album of the Year candidates in this super-packed year for stellar music.
Some have criticized that I do not give enough coverage to mainstream traditional country acts. I don’t talk about Miranda Lambert or Jamey Johnson, or even someone like Robert Earl Keen because so many other outlets already do. My charter is to find the more obscure bands that are being forgotten by the mainstream, and shine a light on them. Even then, this year I wrote album reviews for Jamey Johnson and Taylor Swift, and I have more mainstream reviews coming, when I have time. Hopefully next year, Saving Country Music can branch out a bit and cover the more traditional mainstream acts, but it will always be on top of the smaller acts trying to get their music out there, not instead of them.
Oh and since Joe Buck’s new album may not be available to the masses for weeks, we will include it as a 2011 album.
So here is this year’s excellent list of essential albums, most of which you won’t see mentioned anywhere else.
Outlaw Radio – Outlaw Radio Compilation Vol. 1 – (review) – Don’t think of this as your regular ho-hum comp. With original music and some Song of the Year candidates, this album’s guts are as good as any’s this year.
Jayke Orvis – It’s All Been Said – (review) – Perfect example of an album that on any other year might claim the top spot, but got crowded this year by so many great albums. Farmageddon’s maiden voyage is an excellent one, and may contain a Song of the Year candidate itself.
Hank III – The Rebel Within – (review) – Alright, I mentioned Hank III’s name. So half of you tell me how everything he touches turns to gold and I don’t give him enough credit, while the other half tell me he is a washed up hack. T minus 30 days till he is free of Curb and we can actually get a fair assessement of where Hank III stands.
Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours - Hillbilly Fever – (review) – Lucky Tubb continues to emerge as a top-shelf talent, and with two duets with Wayne “The Train” Hancock, you can’t go wrong with this one.
.357 String Band – Lightning From The North – (review) – Solid album with excellent songs. Don’t believe all the talk that the talent left with Jayke Orvis. You can like Jayke and .357 at the same time. I promise. It’s OK.
Trampled by Turtles – Palomino – (review) – An easy one to look over, but another excellent one that may have battled for the year’s best in other calendar cycles. Super fast bluegrass is like a sugar rush though, and can lack staying power.
Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers – Agridustrial – (review) – Absolutely brutal music from the dirty South by the best frontman in music and an All-Star backing band. The Shakers haven’t lost anything over the years.
Marty Stuart – Ghost Train – Still don’t have a review for this (need someone to get me a full copy), but without question this is a must have. Marty is really beginning to emerge as an elder statesman of country that still has the chops and taste to be relevant. And leads by example, instead of miring himself in bitching about Nashville or country’s direction.
Dale Watson – Carryin’ On – (review) – Surprised I don’t see more talk about this one. Dale’s voice is sublime. The straighforward Nashville production held it back a little bit, but it’s still pure country gold.
Reverend Deadeye – Trials & Tribulations – (review) – If you like the dirty stompy blues and people preaching fire and brimstone, accept no substitutes. Deadeye is gonna make Jesus hip again, or he’s gonna pass out trying.
Whitey Morgan & The 78′s -Whitey Morgan & The 78′s – (review) – Solid album, just lacked a grand vision in my opinion. Still essential though, and you won’t get any argument out of me if you name it one of your favorites of the year.
Other Real Gooduns:
Brigitte London - Bare Bones – (review) – Another that might be easily overlooked but with excellent singing and songwriting. I think of this album alongside Roger Alan Wade’s Deguello Motel, only acoustic guitar and singing, but songs that really speak to you with deep meaning.
Peewee Moore & The Awful Dreadful Snakes – The Leaving Side of Gone – (review) – I put this album in the same category as Whitey Morgan, a real solid country album that I can’t argue against, but one that lacks a grand vision. There’s some excellent songs here.
Quentin & Uriah Benefit Compilation – Y’all Motherfuckers Need Justice – For reasons that are too complicated to go into here, I never wrote a review for this, but this is a great compilation and a great way to sample some of the excellent bands in and around the Farmageddon Records family while helping out a worthy cause. Folks were wronged, and this is a small way you can help make it right while exposing yourself to some great music.
Albums Worth Mentioning, but have not had time to review or listen to yet:
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Buried Behind The Barn
Tom VandenAvond – You Oughta Know Me By Now
And Pete Berwick & The Shivering Denizens have new ones I need to listen to. I’m sure I’m missing some others. This has been an amazing year for music, I’ve done my best to keep up. My hand hurts from typing and link making so I have to draw the line somewhere, and that is right here.
2010 has been a bumper crop year for outstanding REAL/Outlaw/roots/underground/insurgent country to say the least. And no, I’m not just being a cheerleader for our team. I’ll be the first to admit that 2009 was a down year, except for some good ones from the Bloodshot Records gang (Justin Townes Earle, Scott H. Biram, Wayne Hancock) and a few other select projects. The result is some projects that may have been serious candidates for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year in another calendar cycle will not appear, and the requirements must become even more rigorous.
For an album to be considered this year, it must be a top-caliber project not just for this year, but for all-time. It must be groundbreaking, earth-shatteringly good, as well as accessible, innovative, and must be measured against the artist’s other projects as well. Is it the best the individual artist has put out during the span of their career? For example, some will grumble that Hank III’s Rebel Within is not here, but it cannot compete with 2005′s Straight To Hell, and even Hank III has said he’s holding something back until his post-Curb Records era begins. The Album of the Year will likely be the best album put out since Hank III’s 2005 offering, making it really more like the album of the last decade.
And this album must be a good ambassador for independent roots music. When someone chides us for only liking things because they are obscure, or when we say our music is better in quality, will this project reflect the best music we have to offer, and be listenable to a mainstream ear?
There will be an “Essential Albums for 2010″ list coming soon that will be much more broad, so don’t worry, people like Jayke Orvis, Lucky Tubb, and .357 String Band will get their due. There will be a “Song of the Year” list coming too, and please, leave your votes, thoughts, complaints, write-in campaigns etc. below. Feedback by readers WILL be considered in the final decision.
After laying out a harsh gauntlet of provisions, here are my Album of the Year candidates:
Ray Wylie Hubbard – A. Enlightenment
Back in the day, Ray Wylie Hubbard had the handle of “The Forgotten Outlaw.” I’m afraid that this album too will be “forgotten” but it deserves as bright of a spotlight as any in 2010. He was the artist that other Austin artists listened to in the early Austin days. His style has dramatically changed since then, but not his level of influence, and innovation in sound. This album is as fresh and relevant as any put out by artists half his age, and defines a new chapter in country blues. (read review)
Hellbound Glory – Old Highs & New Lows
This album came out of the gate as an Album of the Year candidate early in the year. It has been sitting in the clubhouse while many other projects take their best shots, and here it still sits atop the leaderboard. The quality of this album is undeniable, from the songwriting, to the musicianship, and the accessibility. This is not some obscure project that you must have an ear for underground country to appreciate. Save for the racy-drug-infused lyrics, it is an album for the masses that is nealy impossible to wear out. (read review)
Possessed By Paul James – Feed The Family
The first thing you will hear from fans of Possessed by Paul James is how amazing he is live. Well I’ve seen him live twice in the last few months, and as amazing as the live version is, I like the album better. Yes, a man whose name is always proceeded by “You HAVE to see him live,” has topped himself by the sheer quality of this project. This was the only album this year I could not find anything to pick on. If you’re looking for heavy twang, there’s not much of that here, Possessed works more in the mold of the Texas songwriters, the Townes and Guy Clarks. But he’s also evolved from that to his own style that can’t be pigeon holed, including deep ties to the roots in the instrumentation and themes. (read review)
Roger Alan Wade – Deguello Motel
Who says music is dominated by youth? This is the second album by an older artist who might have put out the best work of their career, or the best work this year, period. Dequello Motel might lack the instrumentation of the other candidates, but it doesn’t lack the scope, or the transcendent songwriting and staying power that an Album of the Year must have. And yes, Dequello Motel is a ‘must have’ to say the least. Great album cover too. (read review)
Also a special mention goes out to the Outlaw Radio Compilation, certainly an essential album for 2010, and may have as many great original songs as any of the other candidates above. But in such a banner year for music, it seems wrong to give a compilation this distinction, though certainly if a fifth candidate would be added, the Outlaw Radio Vol.1 would be it.
Wow. What a shot out of the dark this album is. I know Joe’s intention might have been to create a simple side project, but he created another “must have” album in a year that has been packed with them.
It might be easy to gloss over just how good of a songwriter Joseph Huber is from his work with the .357 String Band. The break neck nature of their music tends to make your brain focus on the energy instead of the enigmatic lyricism and above average song structuring. But slow the songs down and you can see it, and that is exactly what Joe has done with Bury Me When I Fall.
The blurb for this album describes it better than I ever could…
The 1st solo album from .357 String Band’s Joseph Huber reveals a new side; a brooding, & introspective side in the spirit of Townes Van Zandt or Leonard Cohen. Weary & burdened, yet also joyfully defiant. Each song offers a new sound & way of seeing.
The blurb however sets some lofty challenges. There may be no hotter, and more revered songwriter in all of music right now than the deceased-for-over-a-decade Townes Van Zandt. What some of the bandwagoner Townes fans don’t understand is that in his short life, Townes was a rather obscure, and commercially unsuccessful artist, and when they put him in the studio and tried to produce him, they came away with very mixed reviews, including from Townes himself. Now Townes studio sound has taken on a life of its own.
Huber does a superb job learning from those Townes albums without aping them; using the stripped down style to not distract from the soul of a song, adding a lonesome tambourine for rhythm, and shading everything in a sepia, solemn shade that doesn’t make you hear the song, but feel it.
As slow and sad as these songs are, this album isn’t a downer to listen to, and doesn’t solely rely on its artistic nature for appeal. It may take a few listens for your music brain to settle into the right gear, but after that, there are some songs that are highly addictive.
“Bury Me Where I Fall” let’s you know right off the bat what you’re dealing with here: slow, soul-stirring almost dirge-like compositions that rip at your chest. “Bell On A Rope” might be the best song on the album. All this Townes talk aside, this song reminds me of old school Neil Young with the harmonica, or even Old Crow Medicine Show before their more “mature” approach. At first I was worried this song was too long. After a few listens, you can’t get enough of the turn from bright to dark chords and the heart wrenching theme delivered in a hard-to-define song structure, compelling you to re-rack the song over an over.
“Slow Death March” takes the solemnness to another level, slowing and stripping down the music even more, as does “Death Cruel Shadow, Be My Shade.” The way the rhythm leaves the room when Joe begins to sing really tugs at your emotions as much as music can. The song also reveals Huber’s excellent hand with the guitar, while his love for fiddle bleeds gently in the background.
And if you’re going to throw around names like Townes and Leonard Cohen, you better bring some serious lyricism. Most of these songs rely more on mood than words, but “Can’t You See A Flood’s A-Comin’” is as good of a song lyrically as any, by anyone.
In an interview on Outlaw Radio Chicago Episode 120, Joe talked about how he’s wanted to put this album out for a few years, but never got it to sound right until he bought some recording equipment himself and set up a studio in a closet. He played every note on this album. Refined ears will appreciate the homespun sound that was the result, and overlook a few production flubs, or even find them endearing.
I wasn’t able to get into the song “Better Than Before,” and “Downtime” is good, but seemed slightly out of place. Maybe it would be a better fit as a change of pace with .357. But I really like the fact there’s only 9 songs here. Not really any fat to trim on this record, and part of its appeal is it draws such contrast to what Joe does with .357 String Band. Usually I’m for more music than less, but drawing it out to 12 songs or so would make it lose it’s biting edge caused by the change in pace and style. And despite it’s dark nature, it is fairly accessible. Singer/songwriter lovers will find appeal in the approach and instrumentation, but it’s dark enough to appeal to the punk/metal people, and even the Gothic crowd.
Bury Me Where I Fall challenges the ear, it’s smart without being pretentious, and sets Joe up as so much more than just a superpicking banjo player. It was Joe’s blazing banjo first. The it was Joe’s songwriting on Saving Country Music’s 2008 Album of the Year, Fire & Hail. Then it was his unexpected fiddlework on .357′s last album Lightning From The North. And now this. With each new project, Joseph Huber continues to reveal himself as a multi-tool talent, a studious worker, and worthy of top tier recognition as a musician AND a songwriter within the underground roots movement.
Two guns up!
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
You can purchase and preview tracks for Bury Me Where I Fall on Amazon.
Physical copies are also available by paypal-ing $12.00 to josephhubermusic at gmail. com. You can also purchase on CD Baby.
A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with Bob Wayne before his gig at Austin’s Hole in the Wall to discuss a few things, including the slight delay in the release of his new album Outlaw Carnie and his relationship with the traditionally heavy metal label Century Media, as well as the new band lineup, and how he lets Andy Gibson beat him at video games.
I’ve transcribed the meat of the interview, but you can also listen to the full audio below, recorded in the back of his 80′s era Cadillac limo with steer horns on the front, parked on a busy Austin street the day before Halloween while Bob single handedly consumed a large cheese pizza. You can also listen to an interview I did with his new fiddle player Liz Sloan.
Bob Wayne: This is what’s happening right now with me and the label. They have two different plans with me. In Europe it’s here’s this songwriter guy who lives in his limousine driving down the highway, selling the shit out of the back of his car for five years, you know, serious musician. Whereas American its like woo hoo! Party, chicks, limos, drinks, drugs! I write songs for a show. In a show I can’t just nail them with songs like “Blood to Dust” the whole time because you’ll lose … people are getting drunk. I’m there to put on a show so I want to make you laugh, I want to make you think about some shit for a minute, I’m gonna take your mind off everything, then I’m gonna break it down for you. If you lure them in with that stuff then you can put a serious song in there that’s like “Whoa.”
Triggerman: Tell me about the new album. It was supposed to be out in January, then it was October 25th, and now all of a sudden it’s January again.
Bob Wayne: At first they told me it was coming out in October, before I ever announced anything. Then they told me “Look Bob we have three other bands coming out in October that are really big. We don’t want to have your album … they want to do a good job on my record because this is new for them. The didn’t want my CD to be back burner. They want it to be a focus and really have a chance. So then they decided to move it to February. Also there was some problems with the bar code. When you rang up my record it came up as some old metal band from the 80′s.
Triggerman: Country is sort of the new metal, and bluegrass is kind of the new punk in a lot of ways, and I think it’s really proactive and smart for Century to be trying to pursue this avenue.
Bob Wayne: They’re going to see how my record goes I think, and if it does real good, they’ll be doing more.
Triggerman: So the new band. Or I guess you’ve always got a new band.
Bob Wayne: Not by choice, for the record. Though sometimes I do like to do what I did with the .357 String Band, or with Zeke backing me up or people from Hank III’s band. That stuff’s fun to do. I’d like to have a core group and I did for a while: Pat, Dan (Infecto), Uncle Buck. We rode that for a good couple years. Thing is I have an unhealthy obsession, I can’t stop touring. And people have their lives, you know. People have their own passions and dreams and I totally understand that, and I totally knew that going into this, and that’s why when I was thinking about band names I just went with Bob Wayne, because I knew how hard I wanted to hit it, and I didn’t want to have to be in a position where I was explaining to people why this person wasn’t in the band anymore.
Triggerman: So you can have a superstar band, because you don’t have to commit, and they don’t have to commit.
Bob Wayne: Yeah. Billy Cook is leaving and I’m gonna have Andy Gibson whose like the most amazing musician I know, so.
Triggerman: Liz Sloan is the new fiddle girl that you’re playing with. How did that come about?
Bob Wayne: She emailed me on Facebook. At the time I still had Buck, and I’m actually pretty loyal to people. It’s not me making the decisions, like you’re in you’re out this game. Buck decided he wasn’t going to show up for a few shows, so Liz stepped up and took that slot for those gigs and now she’s there. And she likes it, and she’s really good and she’s meshing really well. And she’s a total road dog, which means a lot.
Triggerman: So you mentioned Andy Gibson. He recorded your new album.
Bob Wayne: He recorded all of my albums, and played half the instruments.
Triggerman: How is it working with him?
Bob Wayne: We play a lot of Medal of Honor, on our breaks. And I’ll let him beat me. And then he feels good about himself. And then he’s like “It’s OK Bob, you can’t win them all. Let’s do that banjo track again.” You know I build up his self-esteem by making him think he’s really good at that game, but really I can slay him in like 5 seconds.
Joseph Huber, one of the primary songwriters and banjo/fiddle player for the high-octane bluegrass outfit The .357 String Band has released a solo album called Bury Me Where I Fall. This album marks a completely different direction from the punk-inspired string music Joe & .357 are known for, but not in the emphasis on top-notch songwriting. Joe takes a more poetic, Townes Van Zandt approach to the lyrics, and a more artistic approach to the music.
The 1st solo album from .357 String Band’s Joseph Huber reveals a new side; a brooding, & introspective side in the spirit of Townes Van Zandt or Leonard Cohen. Weary & burdened, yet also joyfully defiant. Each song offers a new sound & way of seeing.
The album is available by paypal-ing $12.00 to josephhubermusic at gmail. com. You can also purchase or preview tracks on CD Baby.
1. Bury Me Where I Fall
2. Riddler’s Song
3. Bell on a Rope
4. Death, Cruel Shadow, Be My Shade
5. Better Than Before
7. Slow Death March
8. Can’t You See A Flood’s A-Comin’
9. The Ancient Lake
Today was going to be the release date for Bob Wayne’s new album Outlaw Carnie, but despite a big press push the last few days, it will not come out until January 25, 2011. Wayne had originally been warning folks the new album wasn’t going to be out until early 2011, but then Oct. 26 had been thrown out there as the date. The new album also at one point was going to be called “From The Camper to the Cadillac.” It includes a few new Bob Wayne songs, and new recordings of some of his more well-known songs from three previous independent releases.
Meanwhile Bob has been driving around the country in a limo with steer horns tied on the front, renting troupes of midgets to help him record videos for songs like “Driven By Demons,” and most recently touring with Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers. Now he’s doing his own tour with the ever-revolving Outlaw Carnie lineup that at the moment includes Billy Cook from the .357 String Band on lead guitar, and the very intriguing (and very dishy) Liz Sloan on fiddle.
To see a female fiddle player in Bob’s band was unique enough, but when I started cyberstalking, the only other reference I could find was her playing with Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory. Yes, this girl is a part of the overall underground country movement, whether we (or her) knew it or not.
Bob Wayne will be in my neck of the woods later this week, and I hope to get the skinny on the new album, the new fiddle girl, etc., as soon as MIT gets back with me on my request to have my molecular structure split so I can be in two places at once. See, the same night Bob Wayne is playing, so is Whitey Morgan & The 78′s in Luckenbach.
|1. Road Bound|
|4. Ghost town|
|6. Love songs suck|
|7. Everything’s Legal in Alabama|
|9. Blood to Dust|
|10. Driven by Demons|
|11. Work of the Devil|
As I attempt to bend the laws of physics to my will, please enjoy the following videos featuring Bob Wayne and the current Outlaw Carnie lineup:
In a recent interview posted on the White Trash Revival Episode #62, Jayke Orvis, formerly of the .357 String Band, and now with The Goddamn Gallows, opens up more than ever about how it was partly his own attitude that led to him being fired from .357, and that his biggest beef was not that he was let go, but how.
“Everything was fantastic, I started really not enjoying things the last year, and then they finally just kicked me out.”
“There was no closure really. It was one of those things, like I explained to Joe (Huber – banjo for .357) later on, it would have been great if we’d all just sat down and said “we need to talk about things.” We would have hugged it out, because I would have left anyway because I was not happy with a lot of things. It could have been so easy. Just the way it happened, the way it went down is what made me so hurt by it. Just tossed out like a bugger, or like a groupie.”
“I know it happened for a good reason. I’m happier now anyway. You know, if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be playing with The Gallows. I’m just thrilled to be with these guys.”
You can listen to the rest of the nearly hour long Jayke Orvis interview, where he also talks about his upbringing, his new album It’s All Been Said among other things.
Jayke, Rachel Brooke, and James Hunnicutt are on tour right now, and this is a can’t miss if it’s coming anywhere near to you. Below you can see a duet with Rachel and Jayke, originally released on the .357 album Fire & Hail, but seen here as the FIRST time it has ever been performed live:
Last week an article was posted on No Depression lamenting the glossification of bluegrass. Of course my first thought was to point out bands like Trampled By Turtles, The .357 String Band, Split Lip Rayfield, The Hackensaw Boys, Larry & His Flask, and many others. But aside from that, I think you can make a case that all mass produced music IS going through glossification. Certainly mainstream and pop country is, as nobody is willing to take big risks or have the music sound too dirty. The formula works, so they stick with it.
But specifically why are mainstream bluegrass bands and other alt-country/Americana/roots-based bands and legacy country acts whose music would never be played on mainstream corporate-owned radio anyway sounding so clean? I think National Public Radio is to blame, at least partly, and here’s why:
First you must appreciate just how big NPR’s audience is, and how much it is growing while most radio is experiencing dramatic contraction from digital technology and the economy. In 2000 NPR had 14.1 million listeners. In 2008 that number jumped to 20.9 million during a period when most of radio’s listernship was shrinking. NPR’s numbers increased 9% from 2007 to 2008. And with NPR’s national syndication, public funding, and saturation of markets with sometimes multiple affiliates, NPR has a dramatic strategic advantage over local-based radio. (Read more about NPR’s rapid growth HERE.)
NPR also has a huge web presence, with NPR Music receiving a whopping 1.7 million unique visitors each month, and growing. NPR also has one of the largest and most listened to podcast networks and podcast subscription bases ever assembled. And NPR is increasingly focusing more on music comparatively to other interests throughout its platform.
One of the reasons NPR’s music coverage is growing is because the music covered on mainstream radio is shrinking. In this regard, NPR’s music coverage is a good thing. However when you command such a large audience–an audience much bigger than any one local radio station–homogenization can set in. And then you can have artists and labels creating music not oriented in trying to mine the heart of a song, but to what they think a specific target audience wants to hear; no different than the same criticisms that haunt mainstream country radio and radio in general.
My first beef with NPR music had to do with The Dixie Chicks. In the early 2000′s, The Dixie Chicks enjoyed unlimited support from country radio…until Natalie Maines said she was ashamed that George Bush was a Texan. And as their corporate-owned radio support dwindled to virtually nothing, NPR affiliates began to pick up the slack, playing The Dixie Chicks not only in locally-produced radio shows, but as the “bumper” or “return” music to their huge nationally-syndicated news shows like “Fresh Air” and “Morning Edition”–return music being the songs they play in and out of commercial/sponsor/news breaks.
This was good for the Dixie Chicks, but I wondered why had NPR ignored this band for years as hayseed Texans, and then all of a sudden they were part of the Dixie Chick fan club. One word: politics.
NPR has one of the least diverse, most narrowly-oriented demographic makeups ever assembled in media, especially when considering the dramatic size of their audience. For example NPR’s listenership is 86% white. They are described as “extraordinarily well educated,” with 65% owning bachelor’s degrees, while only 25% of the US population can say the same. The NPR listener is older, with their median age at 50, and they are more affluent, with an average annual income of $86,000/yr compared to the national average of $55,000. They live in cities, especially on the West Coast. And the NPR listener is decisively liberal. (See all the demographics HERE.)
Songs and artists with a left-leaning agenda tend to get preferential treatment on NPR. But this isn’t about politics, this is about music. With such a focused, attentive, affluent, and large audience all in one place, it is only natural that artists and record labels would start manufacturing music to attempt to court NPR and the massive audience that they command. What makes the courtship sinister is that NPR prides itself in promoting music regardless of commercial value. And as a news organization first, their opinions hold more credence with listeners as publicist Lois Najarian O’Neill explained in the New York Times:
“it feels like a pure, unadulterated and credible endorsement from a press outlet.”
In fairness to NPR, there are many locally-produced radio shows on affiliates that choose their own music, some of which pride themselves in giving local bands and smaller artists the same exposure as national acts. But these slots are not nearly as sought after as the ones on the nationally syndicated shows or on the NPR music website.
Could NPR’s demographics be one of the primary reasons for the “glossification” of country and roots music not slated for mainstream traditional radio airplay? Affluent, white, educated, urban-based older people want to hear clean, refined, mature music. They want a resemblance of the roots, but they don’t want harsh tones or messy recordings. They don’t want to touch the roots, just get close to them, like hovering over a public toilet seat.
And so artists and labels looking for an outlet for their music, being turned down by “mainstream” radio (but with their huge listenership, NPR could easily be considered in the mainstream), they happily cater, or pander, to the wishes of NPR’s extremely strict demographics.
What are some examples? Take Old Crow Medicine Show’s last album Tennessee Pusher. I’m a fan of the producer Don Was, but why did we need Don Was to produce an album that is supposed to be old timey string music? Some fans complained the album was missing something, that edginess, that dirtyness. It was glossy.
Another is Justin Townes Earle’s upcoming Harlem River Blues. I predict this album will be huge, even though there’s a good chance it will get a neutral, or even a negative review from me. There’s just no direct connection with the roots in his music any more. It has been cleansed for top NPR compatibility. As his press release reads, it’s “more mature” than his previous albums. Well I guess that makes me immature.
There are many other examples that can be found throughout the alt-country catalog, and as No Depression pointed out, through the bluegrass catalog. And I’m sure this effect is not limited just to music under the country music umbrella. And I don’t mean to criticize people just because they listen to NPR. I happen to be a fan of many NPR programs. But I’m also a fan of keeping music as pure as possible to the vision of what artists have for songs and albums. NPR holds its nose high for not just pandering to what’s popular, but to what is good. But as NPR grows, the roots, the dirt, the devil that ignites something in fans is being bled out of the music, and this is a bad trend that is no different than the trends that have infected corporate-owned, mainstream radio.
Last October, I stepped onto Joe Buck’s legendary motorhome for an interview, and during our conversation he dropped the bomb that he’d signed to Century Media and was going to be working on a record with legendary producer Jack Endino.
This was big news, because Joe Buck was about the last person I envisioned signing to a record label. The only person more unlikely was Bob Wayne. In the first song on his first album, Bob says “As far as selling out goes I ain’t even looking for a deal.”
Weather he was looking for it or not, a deal found him, and as announced first on Outlaw Radio Chicago Episode 100, it was with Century Media as well. Since that news it looks like Joe Buck will NOT be moving forward with Century, though he is still going forward with the Jack Endino project. But Bob Wayne rolls on.
Last week Century sent out a press release and released a couple of videos of Bob being backed by the .357 String Band (see below). And it doesn’t end there. He’s also announced a tour with Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, and he’s now working with Coffin Case. There’s rumors of movie projects and video shorts, and word is Wayne Hancock makes an appearance on the new album Outlaw Carnie due out October 26th. Our little Bob Wayne is all growns up, and things are clicking for him finally.
If there’s a hitch, it’s that some Century Media faithful are crying foul. Century is a pure heavy metal label, and has been for years. One reason I’m hearing that the Joe Buck deal didn’t go down is that Century was planning to open a new division or imprint, and Joe Buck was part of that plan until Century decided not to go in that direction. Joe Buck and Bob Wayne together maybe on a sub-label would have seemed more plausible. But to the casual Century fan, I can see how this signing and media push could come out of left field. Think of how insurgent country fans would feel if Bloodshot started signing metal bands.
As I’ve been saying for years, Bob Wayne is one of the best pure songwriters in country today. He’s spent years paying his dues touring tirelessly for little money. If people want to hate his music simply because it’s not metal, that’s their loss. And for the record, Bob Wayne was playing metal in the metal band Stickman when some of these whiners were still shitting their Pampers.
Century has decided to go in this direction because the fandom of punk and metal music is shifting to roots based music. Century doesn’t want to be left in the cold. Having said that, there’s two sides to Bob Wayne, and the promotion videos only show one, leaving out the Cash-esque superlative songwriter. Doesn’t help that the audio quality is sub-par as well. Still, if you’ve been a Bob Wayne fan like me, head over to YouTube and let Bob, Century, and the close-minded metal nerds know what YOU think about the Devil’s Son.
BOB WAYNE VIDEO #1
BOB WAYNE VIDEO #2
When maestro mandolin player and songwriter Jayke Orvis left the .357 String Band, some heavy metal transplants were screeching that he took all of their grittiness, guts, and anger with him. Taking that theory to its natural conclusion, I guess a few were expecting his solo project to be some sort of bloodletting ritual that would summon the mandolin Mephistopheles to harvest our souls in a moment of death metal ecstasy. Unfortunately they will have to settle for great songwriting, and superb arrangement fleshed out by a mouth-watering assemblage of country superpickers.
If I got a bug to make an album and could put together a dream list of people to help me, James Hunnicutt (Wayne Hancock, The Revolvers, to many others to list) would be at the top for lead guitar. “Banjer” Dan Mazer would be there as well. Then take the other traveling members of JB Beverley & The Wayward Drifters and Old-Timey Avery from Jayke’s current band The Goddamn Gallows, and you’ve got a comic book-style supergroup assembled ready to fight crime. Well, more like supervillans ready to make it.
First and foremost, It’s All Been Said is a country album. There’s some bluegrass and some of the gothic feel at times, but this is a singer/songwriter album straddling the mid-tempo and exploring traditional country themes. This doesn’t mean there’s no energy and attitude; on the contrary. If years down the road underground country dries up and we all move on to become heroin addicts listening to fusion jazz or something, this album will be almost a textbook example of the post-punk country era when kids growing up listening to punk and metal infused a new energy into traditional country in a brilliant way.
The album starts out with a dark montage, then launches right into one of the standout tracks, the bluegrass instrumental “Yankee Taste.” Every good album has what I like to call a ‘sweet spot’ or a series of songs that you can listen through without fast forwarding, and that work together as a group. The whole second half of this album is a sweet spot, starting with the rapid fire lyrics and blazing Hunnicutt guitar on “Thunderbolts and Lightning.” The song “Streets” might be the best on the album, and it certainly is the best arranged, with infectious harmonies, JB Beverly singing a verse, and a pseudo-live audio bed that gives it a very Viva Terlingua feel.
There’s not a ton of blazing mandolin on this album as some might expect, but the songs “Dreadful Sinner” and “Shady Grove Gypsy Moon” illustrate what the Jayke Orvis mando style is all about. He has an uncanny ability to orchestrate notes, chords, and runs that present the theme and mood of a song perfectly, and then he executes with a dizzying preciseness. His playing is super clean; very wise and thought out, almost like he’s playing off of sheet music. And the way he utilizes dark chords and minor movements makes his mandolin songs hauntingly epic.
I didn’t feel a ton of direction or continuity in this album, especially in the first half. But I think that is what Jake is hinting at with the album title. He not trying to be cute or conceptual. This is a collection of songs he’s written over a period of time assembled on an album, instead of concocting some grand idea to work from, and letting the concept get in the way of the content as is so often the case. Jayke is not a dedicated frontman, nor a crooner. He’s a sideman who can write a song, and has the confidence and the skills to be the frontman when called upon. This unselfish, wise approach has resulted in some superb music with numerous projects.
When Jayke was let go from the .357 String Band, fans took sides and debated the move. Regardless of the outcome or opinions, what it illustrated was that people cared, and that people were paying attention. This is good. It was a sign of vitality. Jayke could have gone back to Michigan and worked in a machine shop after that. But he emerged as much more than just the former .357 mandolin player. He emerged as Jake “Goddamn” Orvis, a name that has meaning without being prefaced by a band. He took a punch, got right back up, and now stands as a top-tier musician in underground roots in talent, accomplishment, and legacy.
It’s All Been Said is the maiden voyage for Farmageddon Records, and can be purchased at newrootsorder.com.
Have to say I was impressed with the artwork as well.
When I first heard Old Crow’s self-titled album, I ate it right up. With instant classics like “Tell It To Me” and “Wagon Wheel,” OCMS became a popular band for such a rootsy, raw sound, and a major influence in alt-country/roots music. But as I listened to that album and their subsequent releases, my mood on them began to grow sour. Their songwriting skills cannot be denied, and their arrangement and harmonies are superb. But the instrumentation can be sloppy, which at first is endearing, but slowly becomes revealing.
Then there is them “effecting” their voices, trying to sound like Southern bumpkin fallover drunks, when in reality their stone sober in an air conditioned studio. Take their song CC Rider as an example. I’ll eat a bug if this is how these guys sound in real life. The part where Ketch or Willie (not sure which one) says “Play a little while let me get my harmonica,” in such a ridiculously overacted voice makes me want to take the CD and smash it against the wall and never speak of it again. This is what Leroy Virgil was talking about, that lack of genuineness.
They also love to get political on your ass. And not in a cool, ambiguous “the government’s gone nuts” kind of way, but in a way that makes them come across as pushy, pointy nosed intellectual liberals living in very tight reality tunnels, clashing with their bumpkin uneducated style of music. For example in their song “Humdinger” off of Tennessee Pusher the line is, “If you’re not a right winger, then we’ll all have a humdinger.”
My guess is there’s many more “Humdingers” involving “Wine, whiskey, women, AND GUNS” going on in red states than blue, and in my life experience, whether you have a “D” or an “R” in front of your name makes no difference how much you partake in the previously-quoted vices.
Recently their music has become more mainstream. I love the producer Don Was, but why do you need a big name producer to make what is supposed to be simple old time string music?
Without question, Old Crow Medicine Show has been a great ambassador for dirty roots music. I also know that Doc Watson, Emmylou Harris and other high profile people have put their name behind them. But to me they’ve always felt like they are on the outside looking in at what’s really going on in the roots movement, that they’re missing that “soul.” Sure they’re good, but there’s so much better. That’s why a few years back OCMS had to open for the .357 String Band instead of vice versa in Europe, because for whatever reason, the Europeans have a better nose for authenticity than the American public.
I’m not saying I hate the music. On the contrary. But the OCMS approach has given me a love/hate relationship with this band.
What do YOU think?
Yes, I know you are all probably tired of hearing me yap about the Muddy Roots Festival coming up this weekend, but now there is a way for ALL of us to participate, whether we make it out there or not.
The Festival, in conjunction with thealternateroot.com has released a FREE compilation of music from performing artists. Now nothing is probably ever going to live up to the Outlaw Radio Chicago Compilation, but this is a good way to wet your whistle for the Festival, or live vicariously through your stereo if your one of the poor bastards like me that can’t make it out there.
The compilation includes previously released music from headliners Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Billy Joe Shaver, as well as The Sawyer Family, Ten Foot Polecats, Pearls Mahone, Husky Burnette, and many others.
It can be downloaded by CLICKING HERE and navigating to the bottom of the page. There’s also a player there where you can listen to all the music.
Also been enjoying listening to the Our Name’s On This One Compilation from ninebullets.net. Joe Pug, .357 String Band, Ray Wylie Hubbard, good stuff.
Jayke “Goddamn” Orivs, (a name I coined, thank you very much) formerly of the .357 String Band and now of The Goddamn Gallows, has finally set a hard and fast release date of June 29th for his solo project called It’s All Been Said. Originally there had been some chatter about it being released in late April.
The record is being released through the newly-formed Farmageddon Records which is the new baby of Darren, a long time roots music promoter from Montana. The album is also going to be released on a 500 run of limited edition vinyl, with the first 100 albums being gold vinyl. The album will be able to be purchased at the currently under construction (pardon the dust) “newrootsorder.com.”
Also on June 29th, Farmageddon Records will be releasing a 7″ 45 of the Goddamn Gallows LIVE including the songs “Ya’ll Motherfuckers Need Jesus” and “Waitin’ Around To Die.” This will be a limited 1000 vinyl run. Then in August they are releasing a 7 song EP split with The Goddamn Gallows, and Gary Lindsey’s band Black Eyed Vermillion.
Darren of Farmageddon will be appearing on the next show of the White Trash Revival Podcast, so make sure to check that out as well.
Here’s the Jayke Orvis “It’s All Been Said” cover, and you can hear some songs from the album on Jayke’s MySpace.
I picture a post-Apolcolyptic scene: ghost towns full of crumbling buildings and rubble, smoke filling the sky and blocking out the sun, the result of a society that gave no value to art, heritage, and truth; a vast wasteland of grayness. Then all of a sudden in the midst of all the death and decay, there’s movement: a lone being protected by the elements by a big black, robotic-like suit. Maybe it is one of the few survivors, or an alien sent to investigate the fate of this once beautiful place.
He goes sifting through the rubble of a bombed out structure, looking for evidence of what went wrong. He finds a shelf whose contents of CD’s and DVD’s have been belched out onto the dusty, rubbage filled floor in a pile. A big black glove pushes aside CD’s by Brittaney Spears and Taylor Swift, DVD’s with pretty movie stars adorning their covers. Then he sees something curious: a black disc with crossed guns on the front. What is this? He pops it into a media player attached to the side of his helmet, and all of a sudden a new world is presented to him: The picture of a collection of artists fighting against society’s homogenization and creative vapidness unfolds through music. A resistance. Outlaws, fighting a rebel war against the mainstream, and carrying forth a long line of traditions from the past.
I normally hate compilations. This one is different. No, this does not have all the “hits” from our insurgent country scene that you’ve already heard compiled in some way to try to squeeze more money out of worn out songs. And it’s not the odds and sods and leftovers for other projects either. It is a collection on good, fresh, original, previously-unreleased material that is fun to listen to, and also acts as a primer for artists you may have heard of, but never heard their stuff.
But in another way this is so much more than that. This compilation DEFINES our movement. It gives it clear edges, and at the same time illustrates and celebrates our diversity. Our diversity is what makes us strong: men and women, gothic country w/ Those Poor Bastards, New Outlaw country with Roger Alan Wade, REAL bluegrass with the .357 String Band. Sure there’s maybe a few signed artists missing like Hank III, and the Bloodshot Record’s gang like Wayne “The Train” Hancock and Scott Biram. But you already know those guys. This is a jump start for the fresh blood, the up and comers.
I’ve got comments on specific songs below, but in closing let me just say that if you do not buy this compilation, you deserve to have your genitals dry up a whither.
Outlaw Radio can be heard every Wednesday night at 8PM Central at scrubradio.com. Show are archived, and you can purchase this compilation at savingcountrymusic.com/outlaw-radio
1. The Dad Horse Experience–Gates of Heaven (Vinyl Version): How ironic is it that there’s more appreciation for American roots in EUROPE than in the US? Dad Horse might be one of many European bands we see crop up in the coming years. Love the German accent here, glad he didn’t try to hide it.
2. Old Red Shed–Another Round: Great song from a band whose about to put out their first album Country Fury on Arjuna Records. Get in on the ground floor with these guys and watch them rise, they’re great!!!
3. Black Eyed Vermillion & Andy Gibson–Death Don’t Have No Mercy: Not my favorite BEV track ever, but a great example for those who think Gary Lindsey is all blood and guts, just how soulful he can be. And Andy Gibson, well, he is the master. Our generation’s Tompall Glasser. Hats off!
4. Bob Wayne–Ain’t No Diesel Trucks in Heaven: INSTANT CLASSIC! Bob Wayne proves once again that he is the best lyric writer in underground country, and maybe in current country period with this Cash-eque song tastefully arranged and witty. Great song!
5. Rachel Brooke–Closer Still: BEST TRACK OF THE ALBUM! Amazing. Rachel’s voice is somewhere between sublime and perfection. I said in my review of A Bitter Harvest:“Rachel has a big bag of tricks, and though this album highlights some that have never been seen before, there are more that my ear yearns for that I know are lurking within her. She can tear into bluegrass.” Well this is Rachel tearing into bluegrass. A++
6. Ted Russell Kamp–My Heart Has a Mind Of Its Own: Shooter Jennings’s bass player is more than just Shooter Jennings’s bass player. This song highlights his tight songwriting skills and a strong, soulful, smoky voice.
7. Ronnie Hymes–Sea of Sin: Good song from the best artist on the Pint of Happiness Record Label.
8. Joey Allcorn–Gone, But Not Forgotten Blues: An excellent neo-traditionalist artists that seems so easily “forgotten,” and I am to blame as much as any. A solid track.
9. Those Poor Bastards–The Minister’s Doom: The Kings of Gothic country never cease to amaze me with how deep their bag of tricks is. This track isn’t for everybody, just like Those Poor Bastards isn’t. But it nonetheless exemplified Lonesome Wyatt’s adeptness at arrangement, and his expertise at setting a mood to tell a story in.
10. Dave Smith and the Country Rebels–Price to Pay: This song may come across as “too mainstream” for some, but I personally think we need more accessible artists in this scene, and Dave & The Rebels prove why. Fun, tight song.
11. Last False Hope–$2 Pints: Gothic punkgrass from the mastermind of the Outlaw Compilation himself: Jashie P and a few close friends. When I first heard this track, I was amazed at the complexity and depth of songwriting, and how clean and pro it sounded. I guess I had just always envisioned Jashie as more of a hack ;). Seriously, good song, and keep your eyes out for a full length release from them coming soon.
12. Izzy and the Kesstronics–Gotta Do What I Wanna Do: Nothing replaces seeing Izzy and the boys live. Their energy level and astuteness are mindblowing. But this track comes very close at bottling that live energy. It’s a goofy song, but it’s what they do. You may hate Izzy Zaidman, but the simple fact is he’s a better musician than you are, and probably gets laid more often too.
13. The Fisticuffs–The Ballad of Bill Blizzard: We can’t forget that we owe the roots of our roots to the folks in the British Isles over the pond. This is a band worth checking out if you like an Irish attitude with a punk approach.
14. The Boomswagglers–Run You Down: LOVE THIS SONG! Only reason this isn’t my favorite song on the album is because Rachel Brooke is hotter, but The Boomswagglers are one of the best kept secrets in this scene. Crude, dirty, lo-fi, but their songwriting prowess is undeniable, and this might be the best song they’ve ever cut. Hopefully these boys can keep their asses out of the pokey and we’ll hear much more from them in the future. This is one of those songs that you love the first time you hear, and you play it over and over. A++!!
15. Roger Alan Wade–Breakfast At Audrey’s: Just the name Roger Alan Wade adds legitimacy to this album, and this song adds a solid singer/songwriter track with endless soul. What I really like about this song is it is clearly just Roger and a mic. You can even hear him flip the paper the verses are on while he sings. Some artists spend thousands of dollars trying to bottle that raw sound, and Roger did it just by being himself. Good track!
16. Little Lisa Dixie–Cheating Games: If I was going to cheat on my music love Rachel Brooke, it would be with Little Lisa. This song has a good slow grooving rockabilly feel to it. Little Lisa has enough talent that she should take her music to the next level, and proves that WOMEN are a big and beautiful part of this music revolution.
17. .357 String Band–Restless Man Blues: Known for bluegrass, this is a pretty straight country-feeling tune. Not their greatest track ever, but a solid offering.
18. Six Gun Britt–Hard Habit To Break: Damn. Six Gun could melt a rock. She is just amazing, and this is a beautiful, sad song. Every time I hear Six Gun sing, it makes me angry. That’s right. Because in a perfect world she would be a superstar. Her talent is that worthy. And if her music wallows in obscurity for the rest of time, what an atrocity that would be. If you’re reading this right now, consider yourself deeply blessed, because you’re one of the few who knows who Six Gun Britt is.
19. Hellbound Glory–Livin’ On Pabst Blue Ribbon: Leroy Virgil is the fastest rising star in Insurgent country, and that is the fault of his unbelievably adept songwriting, built on a solid foundation of REAL country appreciation and study. All one hell of a backing band, and Hellbound Glory might be the best apostles for REAL country we have right now. Not Hellbound Glory’s best, but a good, fun song.
20. The Goddamn Gallows–Waitin’ Around to Die (live): Great cover of the Townes Van Zant classic spiced with the Gallow’s gotic circus freak sow punk billy grass that is all their own. SEE THESE GUYS LIVE BEFORE YOU DIE!
21. Joe Buck Yourself–Big River (live): This song comes from a recording Jashie P did of an entire Joe Buck concert in Chicago a while back. He played the whole show at the end of one of his podcasts, and I listened to it probably a dozen times, and it remains my favorite recorded Joe Buck experience, more than his albums. Joe Buck is just such a unique experience live, I think that is what his next release should be, a live CD.
22. Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours–Thanks A Lot (live): Lucky has a spellbinding singing cadence that is all his own. It’s there in his recorded material, but even more present live. He’s dripping with talent, and puts the “traditionalism” back in neo-traditional. Good track. Love the steel guitar.
#5 Roger Alan Wade–Breakfast At Audrey’s
#4 Six Gun Britt–Hard Habit To Break
#3 Bob Wayne–Ain’t No Diesel Trucks in Heaven
#2 The Boomswagglers–Run You Down
#1 Rachel Brooke–Closer Still
Well ladies and gentlemen, we were a week late, but we got the REAL Country Roundtable Volume 2 done. Topics discussed include: Why so many REAL country bands are coming out of the Midwest and Upper Midwest (and not the South). Has the .357 String Band “lost something” since mandolin player Jayke Orvis left. And we revisit Shooter Jenning’s new album “Black Ribbons.”
We also discuss my Anti-Country idea, which at this point is dead in the water, mostly from gross misunderstanding of the term. But I’m still glad I raised the topic, and just because my solution may not work, doesn’t mean there still isn’t a problem. In fact I think the problems are even more evident now, just over a week later, than when I proposed the idea. Music Row is castrating the underground, and if we cannot find some common ground or leadership, it is only going to get worse.
You can listen to or download the Roundtable below. We had fun doing it, and we hope you have fun listening. You can always find the episodes and more info about the Roundtable at savingcountrymusic.com/the-roundtable.
Roundtable Volume 2:
In other podcasting news:
–The White Trash Revival has had a lot of great guests on recent episodes, including Lucky Tubb, Junk, Kyle Turley, and Dog Bite Harris, so swing on over there and check it out.
–Blue Ribbon Radio is back after a stint away due to technical difficulties.
On the latest episode of the It Burns When I Pee podcast, Joe Huber of the .357 String Band let it be known that the high octane bluegrass band plans to continue touring and backing up Bob Wayne once the platoon gets back from a stint in Europe this month.
“Bob is one hilarious dude man. He’s probably one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever met. He definitely keeps you entertained all the time, and one of the most noble people I could possibly meet. . . . Within two weeks into this first tour with Bob we already decided to extend it to the West Coast, so in May and June, we’re already planning another month of West Coast tours and shows with Bob.”
Huber also talked about other tour plans for the rest of the year.
“We’re trying to hit up some festivals this year, either within Wisconsin or throughout the area, just kinda like bigger shows where we can get out, instead of playing rock clubs you can try to hit a festival, you know, get more people seeing you within one day, playing a show to more people than you would in a rock club.”
You can get the whole interview with Joe Huber, as well as an earful of IBWIP’s, um, “adult” humor as well as quite the anatomy lesson on It Burns When I Pee Episode 38.
I really didn’t know what to expect from The .357 String Band’s new album Lightning from the North. I mean, were they going to introduce some new sound? Of course not, they ARE the new sound. Were they going to throw down the best album I’d heard in years? They already did that with their last offering, Fire & Hail.
But this album held a few surprises and distinctions from Fire & Hail, and keeps them on their track of making exceptional albums, which is possibly the hardest task when you’re trying to follow up a marquee release.
The instrumentation on this album is more diverse than their previous two. At first listen I was surprised how much fiddle there was and went looking through the liner notes to see if maybe Donnie Herron was involved in the session, but none other than banjo man Joe Huber was responsible. Huber is putting himself up there with Herron and Chris Scruggs as a premier multi-instrumentalists in the movement. Add Billy Cook’s dobro work on top of his mandolin skills, and you have many tricks to flesh a song out with.
The “hit” of the album is Derek Dunn’s “Oh, Adeline,” which is one of those songs that sticks on your bones the first time you hear it and makes you paw for the replay button. It’s been said that there are not enough love songs in the current insurgent country scene, but .357 is an exception to that rule, and “Oh, Adeline” is an exceptional song in the .357 arsenal. The other standout in the Dunn offerings was “The Harvest Is Past” which has a very 20′s-esque swingy, shuffly punch that is a good shakeup in the middle of the album.
The two aforementioned songs are also standouts for the bass work done by Rick Ness, who drives the shape of “The Harvest Is Past” and has a knack for matching walking bass lines with Dunn’s slower tunes.
For me the standout track of the album is Joe Huber’s “The Day’s Engrave.” He’s responsible for some of the more rowdy songs on the album, including the title track, but this song for me highlights Joe’s unusually thematic and thick approach to some songs; a trait that is almost vacant in bluegrass or string music, esp. in music more noted for its high octane.
This one line struck me: “Your word against mine/Your God against my everything/My fist in your eye/And I don’t care if it don’t solve a goddamn thing”. . . “All my pages are fingerstained/And though my heart is still pumpin’/Across my face . . . how the days engrave.”
Speaking of themes, the album starts off with a very Milwaukee feel, but the Southerners don’t need to grumble. After the well-done cover of Lee Fikes’ “Milwaukee, Here I come,” this thread ends, and if there was one theme throughout this album, I would say it is the weariness of road life. These guys write what they live, and live what they write. There is no effecting of voices or worn out, irrelevant old-timey terms or themes like in so much modern day “string” music. This is genuine music from genuine people.
If I were venture to guess, this album will not be named “Album of the Year” like I named their last album in 2008, though it might settle near the top. There’s not much to criticize, it’s just that the .357 String Band has settled into their sound now, and the experience of hearing them recorded is not as fresh. I have no doubt that if they keep beating the pavement like they have been, their following and fortune will only continue to grow.
Some other notes from the album: the recording engineer was Hank III’s steel player Andy Gibson, and the album was recorded in Andy’s house in Nashville. Bob Wayne also makes an appearance on Track 8 “producing.”
**UPDATE**UPDATE: Now available on CD Baby, where you can also preview all tracks: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/357stringband3.
Here’s a video of the title track from Mr. Bandana on YouTube:
In the last year or two, many new artists and bands have sprung up in the Outlaw/ Underground country movement, many new fans, podcasts, etc. But this all would not be possible if it wasn’t for the hard work of a few musicians, the trunk of the tree from which these new branches have sprung so to speak.
One of these artists is Joe Buck. From sharing a stage and sleeping quarters with BR549 at the beginning of the neo-traditionalist movement, to becoming a venue owner on lower Broadway in Nashville, to being a sideman for JD WIlkes and Hank III, to now being the essence of the crossroads between punk and country, it is not hard to say that this whole movement would have a different flavor if not for Joe Buck.
This is just as much an interview as it is my attempt to document and preserve the few artists that are the very heart of insurgent country. If Music Row had it’s way, these people would disappear from the public consciousness, and the music they have devoted their lives to would be forgotten. It is our job to make sure their legacies are carried on to the next generation.
And Joe Buck is far from just being another musician, he has superlative wisdom and insight, and a unique perspective on life that deserves as much attention and preservation as the music he creates.
Just like my interview with Andy Gibson was, it is long, and is not for the faint of heart, but the hardcore fan. I mixed in some music as well when possible. The interview was conducted on Oct. 22nd, 2009, in Joe Buck’s motorhome, in the parking lot of a venue called Johnny B’s in Medford, OR, before a show also featuring The .357 String Band and The Slow Poisoner.
It’s about an hour long, so come back and give it a listen when you have the time.
First the bad news.
One of the best festivals for independent roots music, the Deep Blues Festival, is no more. Simply put, this is a tragedy. If the independent roots movement had one premier festival, this was it, and this is coming from someone focused on country more than blues. Still, bands like .357 String Band, Hillstomp, Cuzn Wildweed, Left Lane Cruiser, Los Duggans, Scott H. Biram, and Those Poor Bastards made appearances there, just to name a few. The organizer Chris Johnson deserves a lot of thanks for putting this show on over the last few years. A commenter “M.A. Littler” over on ninebullets.net said it best:
“It’s mostly drivel that sells, and the good stuff gets filed under “obscure”. The little man inside my head tells me that Chris Johnson knew this from the get go and did it all anyway. To me that is more heroic than doing something based on the belief that it will prosper. Like Dylan Thomas, Chris raged against the dying of the light…but Chris, folks get what they deserve…and they did not deserve Deep Blues.”
But there’s good news. Where Deep Blues left off, hopefully the Muddy Roots Festival will continue on. In fact a lot of previous Deep Blues acts, like The Dex Romweber Duo, Cashman, and Reverend Deadeye, are in the Muddy Roots lineup this year. And hopefully the location (right between Nashville and Knoxville) will not be the same hindrance that it was to Deep Roots.
I really believe that these festivals are important in the support structure of independent music, and that is why I have decided to put the savingcountrymusic.com name behind Muddy Roots and become a sponsor. Between now and the festival, I will be doing what I can to get as many butts out there as possible, and also to keep those already drinking the Muddy Roots Kool-Aid informed.
You can buy pre-sale tickets for only $30 by CLICKING HERE. For all the music you’ll get, plus FREE camping and showers, that is a steal of a deal. If you don’t have anything planned the last weekend of May, or hell, even if you do, blow if off and get your ass out there.
Here’s the latest updated lineup:
- Billy Joe Shaver
- Wayne “The Train” Hancock
- Kyle Turley (former football player)
- The Goddamn Gallows
- Dex Romweber
- Husky Burnette
- Cletus Got Shot
- Smokestack and the Foothill Fury
- The Calamity Cubes
- Lane Kristian and the Jakehead Mob
- Reverend Dead Eye
- Hillbilly Harlots
- Dave Smith and the Country Rebels
- Jason and the Punknecks
- Dash Rip Rock
- The Delta Saints
- Matt King
- Tom VandenAvond
- Larry and his Flask
- Travis Mann Band
- Ten Foot Pole Cats
- Joshua Black Wilkins
- The Scissormen
- Hellfire Revival
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