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Possessed by Paul James’s music has been described by many as more of a life-changing event than a musical experience. He channels the spirit of music through himself like none other on stage, and leaves crowds staggered. A titan of the deep blues scene, a well-respected songwriter, a musician known equally for his prowess as a singer, fiddler, banjo and guitar player, and a leader of independent roots music, Possessed by Paul James draws from blues, country, folk, and punk rock, in a wild and raucous show that touches the very soul.
There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely was recorded at Burns Audio in Austin, TX by Grammy Awarded engineer Cris Burns, and features contributions by world-renown producer and steel-guitar player Lloyd Maines, legendary harmonica player Walter Daniels, Cary Ozanian and Darren Sluyter from The Weary Boys, and members of Austin-based band East Cameron Folkcore. Mastered by Jim Diamond (The White Stripes, The Fleshtones & more) and recorded in the spring and summer of 2013, There Will Be Night’s When I’m Lonely showcases Possessed by Paul James’s creative brilliance with more attention and effort than ever before, while taking great care to not suffocate, but enhance the magic that has made him one of the most coveted live solo performers throughout The United States and Europe.
By day Possessed by Paul James, aka Konrad Wert is an elementary school teacher working with developmentally disadvantaged children, and was awarded Teacher of the Year honors at his school last year, illustrating how music is just one way this gifted musician can touch lives.
There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely can be streamed in its entirety below, but folks touched by the music are encouraged to per-order the album or pick it up once it is released October 29th through Hillgrass Bluebilly Records. He can also be found on American Songwriter’s November Sampler.
Flint, Michigan’s Whitey Morgan & The 78′s eponymous album recorded at Levon Helm’s recording studio will be out on October 12th via Bloodshot Records. From Bloodshot:
“Outlaw’s always been the rough-around-the-edges, tough guy uncle at the country music family picnic. Denim and leather, not Stetson and Nudie. Hair by Pennzoil, not Pomade. But in the right hands–Haggard, Paycheck, Junior, Willie and Waylon and now Whitey Morgan–Outlaw is more than beards and bandanas, ink and attitude, its goddamn folk music.”
“With several songs based around the classic half-time drumbeat creating a tension between the languid and the hardheaded, others like Paycheck’s “Meanest Jukebox In Town” (with the killer Bob Wills infected fiddle) and “I Ain’t Drunk” kicking out the hard swing, and the badass boogie of “Buick City” and “Where Do You Want It?” (a song gifted to Whitey by Dale Watson, about an infamous shooting involving Outlaw legend Billy Joe Shaver), the album’s got an edge that Nashville’s forgotten or misplaced entirely.”
Also from Bloodshot, you can now download the title track from Justin Townes Earle’s upcoming album Harlem River Blues by CLICKING HERE. Plus the album is now available for pre-order. (Due out Sep. 14th)
Wow. Well if you head isn’t already spinning from the caliber of recent REAL country music releases, it will be now. Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours team up with the legendary Wayne “The Train” Hancock for an old school comic book style dynamic duo one two punch to the gut of mainstream pop country frappety crap! This is country music for the rest of us. This is music for the folks that “get it.” Hillbilly Fever is sick. It’s the disease you need, so catch it, and then spread it like a bad rash!
With Hillbilly Fever Lucky keeps his tradition alive of making very traditional-sounding albums, and that’s why inviting Wayne Hancock on for a couple of tracks makes perfect sense. Yeah the spoon fed will spit this out as being “too hokey” but who needs them and their GAP reproduction pearl snaps made in China? Feed ‘em fish heads, this is country music the way we like it.
Lucky starts off with an original called “Ramblin,” which despite the “Rambin’ Man” wishing well being tapped so many times in music Steve Martin parodied it no less than 35 years ago, this song still works on me.
“Well I’ve been a rambin’, I’ve been a gamblin’
Walking the blade of a double edged knife
8 stale Cheetos, half dead burritos
Drinkin’ beer for breakfast just to stay alive.”
“Ramblin” sets the table for what is an album with very smart and tasteful arrangement, and hits the bulls-eye when it comes to setting the tempo. Subtle organ makes a soft bed for the song and drives home the rhythm at the end of phrases, while Casey “The Barber” Gill’s thumping standup is like a pacemaker for the easy-living country heart.
Just like Lucky’s last one, this album features songs from the Tubb bloodline. Glenn Tubb, maybe one of the most prolific and underrated songwriters of all time, contributes “You Sure Look Lonesome,” and “Tired of What You Don’t Do,” and Talmage chimes in with “Blue Monday Blues.” Listening to these songs I am reminded that Lucky is not just a fresh character in the underground country scene, he is also the latest, if not last in the Tubb country music lineage to carry a banner that honestly is not ballyhooed near enough.
There’s also plenty of reminders that this isn’t just Lucky, but a fully stocked tank of talent behind him in the Troubadours. Natalie Page writes and sings “Honky Tonkin’ Is All We Got,” which despite its retro setting, carries an all too modern theme about being in a fun relationship with no soul, but sung by Natalie with soul aplenty. I also can’t say enough about Casey Gill on bass, who is true soul of the band.
The Wayne Hancock duet’s of the old George Vaughn tune “Hillbilly Fever” and the Lucky/Hancock co-written “West” make this album worth ponying up for if nothing else does. Sure there’s the oddity of the two artists collaborating, but the collaboration just works. Some may think since both artist work in traditional ways, what’s the difference? “West” really points that out the differences as it bridges the two styles, with the bass line and lyrics more like a Hancock song than one by Lucky.
Sure, the average consumer couldn’t tell the difference. But like a seasoned bird watcher who appreciates the subtleties between the male and female of a species, watching the two artists bridge styles, Hancock’s being more Hank Williams blended with Texas swing, and Lucky’s being more Tubby/Lefty/Hank Snow mix, is exciting for all of us old school fogey fools born in the wrong era. Hancock is solid as always, and after touring with Hank III last year and now this album, Lucky has officially courted two of the three names that in the early oughts made the triumvirate of REAL country, Dale Watson being the last to tackle.
My favorite songs on the album, just like on his last album Damn The Luck, are the tunes that Lucky wrote himself. “Ramblin” and “Not At All,” are the standouts for me. Lucky has a unique cadence and delivery of his lyrics that is most present when you see him live, and when he sings his own songs. That vocal delivery is really what sets him apart, and is his unique talent.
The production by James Stevens is excellent, but there were a few times I thought it was a little heavy handed, with some of the backing vocals and with the weird chorus-like moaning on “You Sure Look Lonesome.”
Also as I was nearing the end of this album, I was thirsting for some more variety. Well right on cue Lucky delivers a shot right out of left field with the ghost track that I’m told by my insiders is called “Rain.” This is a super cool Tom Waits-esque shift in gears that adds a whole new dynamic to Lucky, and this album. Alone the song maybe apes Waits more that being Lucky’s take on his style, but as a hidden track, I give it more latitude. Put this song in the middle of the album and it goes over like a poop in a punch bowl. Bury it at the end, and it completes it.
His last album Damn The Luck I thought had a few better songs, but I think this is a better album.
GET THE HILLBILLY FEVER !!
Hillbilly Fever is exclusively available through lonestarmusic.com. You can purchase it and preview tracks by CLICKING HERE.
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.
Well, at least REM guitarist Peter Buck, and Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody. And hell, throw in movie starlet Zooey Deschanel as well, why not, and you have the supergroup Tired Pony. I already have tired head thinking about this.
On July 12th the band will be putting out an album called The Place We Ran From which they are calling a “country concept album.” This doesn’t smell like the regular, almost weekly occurrence of some actress or pop personality announcing their intentions to “go country” in an attempt to sully up to that sweet, sweet pop country teat to siphon off some dough and save a sinking career. This seems more about that bastardization of the word “country.”
At least Gary Lightbody, who is from Ireland, is being honest. He told the BBC: “I can’t get away with writing pure country music because I haven’t lived that life…”. He’s calling the album a “twisted love letter to the States.”
Gary lists his influences for the album as Wilco, Calexico, Lambchop, Palace, Smog. “…these bands that look at the darkness in America.”
The superband also includes Tom Smith from rock’s “The Editors,” as well as Richard Colburn, Iain Archer, Jacknife Lee, and Scott McCaughey. The album was recorded in Portland, OR, and the group hopes to put on a concert in London shortly. I keep listing details about this project waiting to find just what is “country” about it. So far, no dice.
Maybe the EPK will help. . . Err, not so much.
Really I don’t have a problem with Wilco or Will Oldham or REM or even this supergroup making this album. I wouldn’t kick Zooey Deschanel out of bed for eating crackers either. But let’s call a spade a spade. This is a rock album with maybe “alt influences” at the most.
More info on this can be found at BBC News, and thanks to nlindsay on the Saving Country Music Message Board for sniffing this out.
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
I’m going to have a lot to say about this record, but the upshot is that its damn good. It is an improvement from Hank III’s last offering Damn Right, Rebel Proud. It may not be his best album, or the album of the year, but considering all the different factors Hank had to juggle when making it, he hit just about as close to the bulls-eye as anyone could expect.
Hank has been in a 14-year battle with his label Curb Records, and while making this album he had to ask himself, “Do I make it with his best material available, and hand the rights of those top-notch songs over to my mortal enemy so they can continue to fill their filthy coffers even after I leave?” He’s publicly said that once he’s done with Curb (which happens after this album release), he wants to be independent, mainly because he wants to reserve all his music rights.
But if he puts out a dud, he jeopardizes the loyalty of his famously loyal fan base. Hank has to keep his fan’s attention to proceed without label support. And that’s another issue: the fans.
EVERYBODY seems to have an opinion about what Hank III should be doing with his music. He cut his teeth as a neo-traditionalist, but his album Straight to Hell, considered his masterpiece, created an influx of punk and metal fans into the Hank III fan base, and into country music in general. Now the traditionalists and metalheads are going 9 rounds over what direction they think Hank III’s music should go, and Hank III has gone from being the most revered man in underground country to being one of the most polarizing.
And EVERYONE wants to compare any new Hank III album to his previous ones. Hank III might have started this trend, famously saying “Damn Right, Rebel Proud ain’t shit compared to Straight to Hell,” a message still on his MySpace page. But is every Willie album compared to Red Headed Stranger? Can’t we judge subsequent albums, good or bad, on their own merit?
Somehow, someway, with all these balls in the air, Hank III has figured out how to strike a balance between warring forces, and not forget that the way for him to make the best album possible is to listen to his heart.
The Rebel Within has those traditional country elements that his country fans crave, and a little of the metal edge to keep red meat in the bellies of the folks in black. And it does so fairly seamlessly. It doesn’t feel like “oh here’s another metal country song,” the album just flows. There’s some new sounds here too, new for Hank III, and new, period.
This album is Hank III settling into a sort of early Hank Jr., late Waylon, Johnny Paycheck-esque “hard” country style. He’s not reinventing the wheel; he already did that once, and if he does it again it might as well be when the Curb leech is off his ass. He doesn’t wow you with his songwriting, though it does have it moments. This is more of a party album, even more than his previous two.
The standout tracks for me were “Lookin’ for a Mountain,” “Karmageddon,” and “Tore Up & Loud.” Many people are calling the first the “Waylon Song,” and yes it has that identifiable two note bass line. But it also opens up a new theme for Hank. He’s always said he prefers the simple life, cutting the grass and running the dogs, and this song delves into the yearning for simplicity we all have.
“Karmageddon” is one of the “new sounds.” It comes across as plain weird at first, but multiple listens reveal its genius. Down the road we might look back at this song as a hint of the direction Hank III goes post-Curb. “Tore Up & Loud,” is just Hank III doing what made Hank III famous, but unlike some of the “hellraising” songs of Damn Right, Rebel Proud, this one works. The production isn’t overdone, and the heavy metal elements blend with the country elements smoothly. This is Hank III. This blend is his contribution to country music.
In some ways, this album made me judge Damn Right, Rebel Proud even more harshly. I’ve always said it was an album of good songs buried with poor production, a sentiment Hank III has asserted himself. But again, let’s look at this album on its own merit. The production of Rebel Within is clean and balanced. It’s more country, but not in a way that usurps Hank III’s country/metal blend. Simply put, the album works.
Some will complain that the drinking songs are too much. I agree that Hank should open up some new song themes in the future, though he starts down this path in this album. But Hank III reinvigorated the ‘hellraising” attitude in country. One of the reasons it seems overused is because Hank inspired an army of copycats who can’t craft an original idea, throwing out “whiskey,devil, cocaine” references with no direction or purpose.
My least favorite song is the title track, with the “screams” feeling out of place and dragging down an otherwise good song.
If handed this album and told to grade it, I would give it a B+. But knowing the challenges facing Hank III in making it, I give him an A.
It seems everyone wants to criticize Hank III, second guess him, pontificate of how he should live his life and what direction his music should go. I’d like to see those people try to fill the biggest boots ever handed down in country music while fighting off a malevolent music label. I say just enjoy the music, that is what it is there for. And if you can’t, leave it.
But don’t forget who brought you back into country music after years of disappointment from the mainstream. Don’t forget who introduced you to country music when you were listening to who knows what kind of filth. Don’t forget who introduced you to Wayne Hancock and Dale Watson, and a slew of other musicians who have changed the very complexion of your life, brought you countless joy, helped you through endless sorrow. Don’t forget who made you feel hope that maybe everything in country music isn’t lost. Don’t forget who introduced you to countless other fans who now feel like family. Don’t forget who made the music that was there for you when nobody and nothing else was.
If it wasn’t for Hank III, I wouldn’t be here. If it wasn’t for Hank III, YOU wouldn’t be here. Hank III created all of this: this genre, this scene, this website, your interest, everything. We may not even be able to agree what to call this music, but we can all agree to call Hank III the king of it, and always will be, whether he puts out another country album or not.
You can listen to all the tracks of Rebel Within in their entirety by CLICKING HERE.
The best place to purchase or pre-order ANY album is through your local record store. But if you can’t, you can pre-order the album through Amazon by CLICKING HERE.
Note: Long time artist for Hank III Keith Neltner, who did his last two album covers did NOT do the cover art for this project.
Also for everyone hoping that now Hank III is free we might see a double disc dump of some of the best country music we’ve ever heard, don’t hold your breath. Sure, Hank III probably put some songs in the can until Curb was in the rear view, but we might not see another pure country project for years. Hank has a lot to sort out, and anyone who thinks they know what is coming up is high.
Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers are proof positive that even bands on the fringes of punk and psychobilly are more country than mainstream country these days. Frontman Col. JD Wilkes has the heart of Hasil Adkins, the body of Lux Interior, and more knowledge and wisdom of the ways of country music than all of the songwriters in ASCAP’s cubicle farm on Music Row.
The band’s new album Agridustrial picks up right where their impressive, energy packed discography left off, though I’ll tell you, the verbage leaking out ahead of this release had me a little worried at first, stuff like:
“Picture it: the rustic grind of rural America. The cacophonous crunch and wheeze of motor-driven rock songs accompany the sound of corroded farm implements awakened to service once again. The soundtrack of a time when strip malls will choke with ivy and the vestiges of overdevelopment will be razed and plowed up for acreage.”
Yeah, I like the mood and the message, but I like my Shack Shakers the way they’ve been for years thank you very much. This talk got visions dancing in my head of Stomp. Remember the Stomp craze? Where every knucklehead thought they could beat on barrels in the name of “art” until you wanted to blow a brain vessel? Fortunately that element was present, but not pervasive. With so many “concept” albums around these days, it’s good to see a theme used to bookend project but not bury the music with artsy fartsy manusha.
I want to know what the hell the Shack Shakers think they’re doing. They’ve been around for what, 15 years now? Isn’t it time for them to start slowing down, getting soft? Or the other common scenario for some psychobilly bands, which is try to replace true energy and enthusiasm with eardrum blistering distortion and speed for speed’s sake? They’re having too much fun and still putting our relevant music. What’s a critic like me supposed to bitch about?
I know some will use the acquisition of Duane Dennison at guitar (previously of The Jesus Lizard & Hank III) as an excuse that the band has “lost it’s edge.” He may not have tattoo sleeves and drool down the front of his shirt, but I’m not hearing any letup in the music at all. In fact tracks like “Sin Eater” and “Dixie Iron Fist” are as high energy and hard as anything the Shack Shakers have ever put out. “Dixie Iron Fist” is downright rapturous. It makes you want to bang your head like it is 1983 and punch walls.
But the Shack Shakers never stray too far from their roots. With the Doc Boggs traditional “Sugar Baby,” and a standout in “Dump Road Yodel,” Wilkes reminds us that dirt roads and front porches is where all this music springs from, no matter what spin it takes afterwards.
I have really enjoyed watching the subtle, puseudo Southern intellectual manifesting in JD in the last few years. In this album Wilkes proves that he’s not just all shirt-off, nipple-tweaking stage antics. He has a message. He’s not going to shove it down your throat; he wants you to enjoy the music first and foremost. But the country is disappearing, the Apocalypse is here for the rural lifestyle, and he wants you to know about it. He may be trying to stop it, or like a poet watching it all from atop the levee, romanticizing it’s demise. As energetic and accessible as this album is, there is a deep theme here to take from it.
I give it two iron fists in the air!
Preview the whole Agridustrial album by CLICKING HERE. ***UPDATE**** Stream has been taken down. You can still preview the tracks on Amazon through the link below.
Buy the album from Amazon by CLICKING HERE.
The Shack Shakers have previously been signed to Bloodshot Records and Yep Rock, but this album is release under JD Wilke’s new label “Colonel Knowledge Records.”
Hank III’s latest record Rebel Within to be released May 25th is now available for preview through Amazon.com, where you can listen to ALL the songs, IN THEIR ENTIRETY! Just CLICK HERE, and navigate over to the player on the right.
You’ll want to get over there and get your listen on ASAP, because the entire songs are likely only to be up there for a limited time, then you’ll only get samples. Many artists are beginning to offer entire album previews ahead of release dates to increase interest. For example you can stream Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers new album Agridustrial as well by CLICKING HERE.
Just listened to it one time through and it is still sinking in, but I REALLY like what I’m hearing. For those that thought his last album Damn Right, Rebel Proud was a departure, you’ll at least think this is a step up. Really like the songs “Lookin’ For A Mountain” and “Tore Up and Loud.” The song “Karmageddon” shows a lot of Those Poor Bastards influence, like Kaw-Liga meets Lonesome Wyatt.
Full review coming soon.
In some ways, I should hate Hellbound Glory and their new album, Old Highs and New Lows. I’ve been on the warpath lately against artists and bands who think being REAL country means shoehorning as many drug and whiskey references as possible into your songs. And though there’s not a track on this album that doesn’t mention drugs or drinking, this album is pure gold. It rises way above the fray with the sheer quality of the music and songwriting.
Leroy Virgil, frontman, singer, and songwriter for the band must be a tireless student of country music. His use of lyric is superb. He turns a phrase as good or better than any songwriter in the underground, or mainstream today. The way he constructs his songs is purely in the tradition of country music, but as fresh and relevant as anything else you will hear. With his use of key changes at the end of songs and modulation in others, you can tell Leroy has done his homework of how to engage the human spirit in song, and then drive it home at the end. He doesn’t ape the styles of Johnny Cash and Johnny Paycheck, he learns from them and builds on their legacies.
This is not neo-traditional country. There’s no Cookie Monster lyrics or other “Hellbilly” antics. It is high energy, but not crunchy enough to call it cowpunk. This is pure 100% Cooder Graw Dusty Bumpkins country; the way country would be if it’s evolution hadn’t been stymied by pop.
The songs are about drinking, and drugs (pills especially), and the heartache that stimulates such self destructive behaviors. I never knew you could rhyme so many words with Oxycontin.
Every great album has a run of songs somewhere in the track list that keeps you engaged throughout and keeps you creeping that volume knob to the right. This album starts off with that run. “Another Bender Might Break Me,” is the mid tempo ball buster ballad, “Gettin’ High and Hittin’ New Lows” is the fast, superpicker song, and “Be My Crutch,” is the slow tearjerker. “Be My Crutch” might end up as my Song of the Year for 2010. It is so pure, so well written and spot on it’s sick. Every great album also has that one song you can’t wear out no matter how many times you punch it up, and that is “Be My Crutch.”
The next song “One Way Tack Marks” is a Johnny Cash-esque song about a heroin addict, that modulates the cords as it progresses. The album is so well arranged, so patient and thought out. If a pedal steel is called for, or maybe a banjo, it is added to the track, in the right place, and not overused.
The songs “Either Way We’re Fucked” and “Why Take The Pain” highlight Leroy Virgil’s skill at turning phrases back on themselves, an old country trick. Again, this is a trick some country artists have employed in such a repetitive way it drives me crazy, but Leroy does it with such tact and taste that it works well. When it doesn’t work, it just seems like a clever trick. But the way Leroy does it, it helps convey the inherent dichotomies of the human condition that make country music such a strong sedative for the pains in life.
As I started to get deeper in the track list with songs like “Slow Suicide,” “In the Gutter Again,” and “Too Broke To Overdose,” I was starting to get a little jaded with the onslaught of drinking and drug references, but I’ll be damned that as each song progressed, something about the song structure or the way Leroy Virgil turned a phrase would suck me right back in. I do think that Hellbound Glory would benefit from trying to work in some songs about different themes, at least to clear the pallet, but the singular focus of their lyrics in this album does not hold any individual song back.
“Too Broke To Overdose” is a bona fide hit, though it does use a pretty common walk up technique to bridge the song together. The problem with some of these songs is that because of the subject matter, Hellbound Glory is limiting the audience. I wouldn’t go telling them to get away from what they do best, I know that their whole thing is being the “scumbags of country,” but Leroy Virgil is such a great songwriter, I would like to see him try his hand with some songs that a wider audience could get behind. Though I’m sure Leroy cares little about what anybody thinks, and that fearlessness is why he’s such a great songwriter.
The album ends with a great, up-tempo cover of Hiram Hank’s “I’m Leaving Now (Long Gone Daddy).” This is the second Williams-related song on the album, with “Hank Williams Records,” probably being my least favorite track on the album.
I know I’ve gone long here, but I really can’t say enough about this album. They say that you have your whole life to write your first album, and that is why I think sophomore performances are the most important for a band. Their first release Scumbag Country showed promise, but Old Highs & New Lows shows that they are an elite country band that deserves the highest amount of attention and recognition. Hopefully Hellbound Glory is bound for more than just hell, because they deserve to be.
Hellbound Glory is on Gearhead Records.
Download the album and/or preview tracks from Gearhead by clicking here.
Buy the CD from Amazon by clicking here.
I’ve had a working theory for a while that 75% of what you hear on mainstream country radio today can be traced back to a small handfull of songs by Bob Seger and The Black Crowes. Darn near 1/3 of them can be traced back to Seger’s “Night Moves” alone. Well it might be time to graduate my theory to an axiom.
On Tuesday (3/30), pop country’s Gretchen Wilson will release her fourth album, I Got Your Country Right Here. The name of the album intrigued me, because lately I’ve been on the look out for Nashville’s major country labels trying to take advantage of how the backlash against pop country is going mainstream. Labels like Sony BMG and Columbia Nashville may be dumb, but they’re not stupid. They know that the rise of pop acts in the country genre, acts like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, is causing some country fans to question just how country their country music is.
The Nashville oligarchy doesn’t want their “demographics” looking to smaller labels or independent artists to find their country fix, so they are trying to manufacture their own “Outlaws” and “REAL” country artists. An example would be Columbia Nashville’s Josh Thompson, who I took to task a few weeks ago. Gretchen’s new album made me wonder if the same handiwork was in play, so I started hunting around for info on the new material, which led me to her song, “Work Hard, Play Harder.”
As soon as I started watching the video for the song what IMMEDIATELY struck me was how it was almost EXACTLY the same song as Josh Thompson’s Beer on the Table. The notes sung at the beginning of the verses are nearly spot on. The lyrics are on the same exact subject matter, not only in the song overall, but how they play out in the specific verses. Even the way the chorus comes in is almost exactly the same in the two songs. It IS the same song, just with different singers and a few re-arranged lyrics.
So I was going to have a little fun breaking down these two songs, using them as an example of the lack of creativity in pop Nashville and how cubicle farms of songwriters use simple formulas to manufacture “hits.” But as I was hunting down lyrics for both songs I found something even more sinister: Right now The Black Crowes are suing Gretchen Wilson, because they say her song “Work Hard, Play Harder” is a rip off of their 1990 song “Jealous Again.” In other words, Josh Thompson’s song is a mirror of Gretchen Wilson’s song, and Gretchen’s song WAS RIPPED OFF FROM THE BLACK CROWES !!!
From The Black Crowes manager Pete Angelus:
“We find the musical verses of Wilson’s song to be such an obvious example of copyright infringement that I expect all parties to reach a relatively quick resolution to avoid litigation.”
The lawsuit also names Sony BMG and TNT who was using the song in a TV promo. John Rich, another guy who likes to ballyhoo his “REAL” country music, was a co-writer on the Wilson song as well. So far no word on an outcome of the lawsuit; it was filed in July, 2008.
I can’t think of a better example of the incestuous, creatively stagnant environment that pop country music has become. It’s pretty telling that before Gretchen’s new album even hits stores, one of the top singles is being pursued directly for copyright infringement. Maybe she should stop taking whiskey shots and perpetually whipping shitties in the mud around her doublewide like her marketeers like to make us think she does, and start crunching out some new ideas. Even if any lawsuit, past or future, fails to find pay dirt, it’s hard to listen to these two songs and any others on pop country radio and say that any variety or creativity is being offered up.
The other thing I can’t stop thinking when I hear these songs is that I’m not only hearing crap music, I’m hearing rap music.
But don’t take my jaded opinion, watch and judge for yourself:
According to this article in the Nashville Scene, Gretchen conceded the battle with The Black Crowes, meaning the song was indeed found to be copyright infringement. Chris and Rich Robinson will now be credited as songwriters on Gretchen’s “Work Hard, Play Harder,” and will receive royalties from the song.
Gretchen’s “Work Hard, Play Harder”
I’ll be honest with you: Even though some of my favorite country artists right now are offspring of other famous country artists, whenever I see a new one coming up, I always roll my eyes. I’m not sure why, but in my head I think, “How good could they really be?” But time and time again, my instincts are proven wrong. There truly must be a country music pedigree that runs deeper than just a marketable name, and Shelli Coe, daughter of David Allan, is yet another example of this.
With her first full length album, A Girl Like Me, Shelli debunks any thoughts of talent skipping a generation. She’s puts out a good, solid, classic country album with some neo-traditionalist elements as well as a little rock n’ roll. It’s 12 songs that cover a wide variety of emotions and true life country topics.
The title track “A Girl Like Me,” and songs like “Truly,” and “No More Me and You,” pulled me right in with heavy handed pedal-steel guitar. Pedal steel always gets my ears perked, and usually gets the pop country crowd punching out. Many of the songs on this album have that classic sound that when you hear you immediately say to yourself, “Yes, that is what I mean when I say REAL country.”
The slower traditional country songs are in my opinion the best tracks of the album, songs like “Truly,” “May Your Heart Rest in Pieces,” and possibly the best track of the album, “Face to Face.” They are classic, without being corny like so many songs that use old-timey verbage in the lyrics or that have their masters through some filter to make them sound vintage. They just work in a traditional country sense.
In “Truly,” Shelli pays tribute to her father in a special way (you’ll have to listen for yourself to find out how), and in “May Your Heart Rest in Pieces,” Shelli articulates the eternal theme of lost love, while again that pedal steel guitar helps tug your heart strings even more. “Face to Face” is a cheating song, and it isn’t classic sounding, it is a classic, period. An instant classic. Shelli Coe doesn’t have the strongest of voices, but I thought these slower, hard country songs really brought out the strengths her voice does have. She used some vibrato and was able to really flood her lyrics with emotion.
Her voice is most evident in “Falling at the Speed of Sound,” which starts of with just Shelli and a guitar. In the space, Shelli’s voices outright shines.
The album does have a few low points. I wasn’t particularly impressed with her “Please Come to Boston” cover, though I’m rarely impressed with well-known, and sometimes worn out cover songs. Her cover of her dad’s “If This Is Just a Game,” was a little more my speed, but I’ll rarely favor a cover over an original. I’d also second guess the song “That Memory of Mine,” which had a little too much rock guitar for me. Maybe by itself this track would have worked, but taken within the album, it felt like a reach for a radio hit.
The more straightforward, rockish songs also tended to expose Shelli’s voice, which whether it came across as weak by nature or by arrangement, it always seemed stronger the more countrified the tune was.
But the few missteps aside, I really like this album. There may be some better albums than A Girl Like Me that will come out this year, but there will also be many many more worse. With this album Shelli Coe really makes her mark as more than just a famous name. I’m sure the mainstream will mostly ignore it, and some of the more hardcore elements will not get enough “whiskey and devil” references for their taste. But for me, it was right in my wheelhouse, and I see lots here to make daddy proud.
You can preview all the tracks and purchase the album on Amazon by CLICKING HERE.
Shelli Coe’s label is Big Beard Records.
I’m gonna start this off with a prediction: Either this album will be some groundbreaking marquee release in rock n’ roll history, or it will be the most curious find in the bargain bin in short order. It is pure genius, or an unforgivable stroking of ego. Either way, Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon, is swinging for the fences with his new release, Black Ribbons, and he takes you on the most unusual and hard to understand musical experience you might ever go on.
I’m not even sure where to start trying to explain this thing. Actually I do. First let’s put to bed any notions that this album, or Shooter by proxy, has anything left to do with country music. Of course, I’ve been saying this since May 9th of 2009 and was the first to say it. And even when Shooter’s management was sending out press releases with the words: “Shooter has left his country roots behind,” some die hard country Shooter fans would not believe it, some even going as far as calling me an “asshole” for asserting such a thing.
But having listened cover to cover, there is no country here. Even the track “California via Tennessee” which had been held up as a new country song is undeniably industrial rock, full of electronic sounds and not even a hint of twang. This is not a criticism. If Shooter doesn’t want to play country anymore, neither do I.
Speaking of cover to cover, this is the next thing to get into. I could write a whole article on the packaging itself, no kidding. In short, this is the most elaborate and thought out CD package I have ever seen in my life, and it may never be topped.
It starts with a thin cardboard sleeve with the album cover on the front. On the back is the list of the 20 tracks, and under this where the normal copyright info would be it says: “This material is property of the United Nations Bureau of Investigation.” and goes on in similar cryptic jargon that hints of the sheer unusualness to come.
Inside of that is another cardboard cover that folds out to reveal a man in a sheep mask whose shooting lasers into the eyes of a little girl that read out the lyrics to “Row Your Boat.” ??? Confused yet? Well it gets even more weird from there, and as not to spoil all the fun, I won’t go into detail, but lets just say there more unfolding, and more unfolding, and more weirdness. Trying to get to the CD itself was a similar experience to the first time I ever opened one of those nesting Russian dolls, where smaller and smaller dolls just keep coming.
Finally you do come to the CD, as well as a Tarot-like playing card. Mine has a similar image to the image on the front cover, but maybe they are different in different CD’s. The CD itself boldly asserts: “Killing for peace is like fucking for chastity.” Yeah.
That phrase is actually uttered at one point on the album by none other than bestselling novelist Stephen King. That’s right, Stephen King can be found on this, let’s say “concept” album, as a sort of a narrator. The premise of the album is that King’s character “Will O The Wisp” is a pre-Apocalyptic radio DJ performing his last night on the air before the government shuts him down. The album has five segments of Stephen talking, while he intermixes songs from Hierophant, the name of Shooter’s new band.
Before I get into the music, let’s talk about the message. In the first song “Wake Up,” Shooter talks about how people have been dumbed down into robots by TV and the government has been filling our heads full of propaganda. He is a little harsh with the delivery, but in principle I can get behind the message he is peddling.
But as the album goes on, talk of government intrusion and media bias turns into a fictional post-apocalyptic scene as “Will O The Wisp” narrates: “No cars, no kids. Nothing but transport trucks and men with guns standing on street corners.” It makes you wonder if the themes of this album are made to drive home a point, or to paint a fictional picture. Is Shooter is really making accusations, asserting conspiracy theories and warning us of our doom, or just stringing together the threads of a narrative? To hear the message, it is serious and grave, but you can’t imagine someone taking themselves so seriously, and then making a video game to accompany this album. Yes, Black Ribbons The Game exists, making the whole mood and situation surrounding this album that much more unusual and hard to gauge. You can also check out the Shooter Jennings “De-Programmer” by clicking here.
At times this project feels outright adolescent, like a cry from a maladjusted young man. It is angry, but not necessarily in an inspiring or interesting way, just sort of an embarrassing way, like a teenager having a temper tantrum. It boldly asserts many ideas, like the “Killing for peace is like fucking for chastity,” but is that really a bulletproof saying? I don’t want to get into philosophy here, but what if you kill someone who is killing others? Yes, you can go back and forth and that is my point.
But maybe Shooter doesn’t even believe this saying, it is just part of the charade, or a hint for the scavenger hunt-like video game that accompanies this release?
I also didn’t buy Stephen King’s part. Honestly he wasn’t given much to work with, but his delivery was dry, his timing was bad, and you could not stop visualizing him in his Coke bottle glasses speaking in an antiseptic studio during the recording of this CD, as opposed to the dingy resistance radio outpost you’re supposed to imagine him broadcasting from.
As for the music itself, which is hard to focus on with everything else going on surrounding this album, I would say it is decent. The music does not always fit the theme progression of “Will O The Wisp’s” narration, but it is always very heavily electronic. I am a country music writer, so my skill at judging rock is limited, but I know my Radiohead, of which Shooter has asserted he is inspired by. But Radiohead is an originator of music, creating sounds and styles that are unique. Shooter and Hierophant is mostly straightforward rock music, run through electronic filters and then overdubbed with other electronic treatments. Songs like “Triskadektaphobia” and “When the Radio Goes Dead” are good songs and have their unique stamps, but there is nothing groundbreaking here.
Shooter has talent, and despite making a project that tends to distract and confuse you at many turns, at times this talent shines through. One of the standout songs for me was the title track. I thought it was very honest and deep, being mostly just Shooter and his guitar, but an over-driven electronic echo on his vocals distracted me from an otherwise superb song. Shooter can sing with a tremendous amount of soul when he wants to, and soul that is all his own, unique, impressive, and biting. Hearing “Black Ribbons” the song made me want to pick up Shooter’s old material, and made me wonder why he wants to put it down. This album plays less to his stregnths, and more to his desires.
And as many times as Shooter’s talent and character shined through, his anger and arrogance did too, like in the song “Fuck You (I’m Famous). I’m not saying that I couldn’t be convinced that this song is complete sarcasm, but if it is, Shooter sure didn’t do a very good job conveying that. In the song he tells critics (present company likely included), schoolyard bullies, label executives, women that wouldn’t screw him, ex-girlfriends, just about anybody, to in no uncertain terms, fuck off . . . because he’s famous. The songs of concept albums are usually not as strong as the sum of their parts, but in my opinion, this track could have been left on the cutting house floor, along with a few other songs and some of the blatant electronic overproduction that felt very 80′s and unimaginative.
In interviews and even previous Shooter songs, it is apparent that Shooter lets people who in any way don’t agree with him or his music get in his kitchen. Instead of putting his head down with hard work or figuring out how to work with the cards he’s been dealt, he seems to have a jealous-like rage against his “enemies” that gets the better of him. Of course the music industry is a mess, but are you going to bitch about it, or try to do something about it? I guess in this album, Shooter tries to do both.
Whether this album is a masterpiece, a flop, a good album with bad moments, or a bad album with some good, this is Shooter’s opus. We all have that one thing we want to get out before we die, and this is Shooter’s. Without question he has sunk his heart and soul into the project, and that in itself deserves high praise. He published it through what is kind of a vanity press for music, Rocket Science, and probably used at least some of his own money, or Waylon’s money, to make it all happen.
In closing I’m not sure what to say about this album. I’ll leave it at that, and add that it is usually the future which is best at judging a project like this.
Some notes from the album: Jessi Coulter and Jenni Jennings sing backup vocals on “Black Ribbons.” “When the Radio Goes Dead” was solely written by Ted Russel Kamp. It was produced by Dave Cobb.
Shooter Jennings and his new album will also be the first topic on the new Real Country Roundtable to be released 2-24-10.
In the last few years, many new bands have sprung up in the new school Outlaw country scene. Some good, and some . . . well . . . not so good.
Some of these new bands seem to understand that addiction and the fight with inner devils and outer devils has been a theme of country music since its inception. And others just want to ape Hank III songs by shoehorning “The Devil! Whiskey! The Devil! Whiskey! Cocaine!” into as many titles and worn out choruses and chord progressions as they possibly can, missing the whole point.
Whether Reno, Nevada’s Hellbound Glory actually get this inherent addiction theme, or if they’re just so damn good at pulling the music off it doesn’t matter, they have risen to near the top of the hard Outlaw country sect as far as quality.
It also helps when bands just don’t sit around in their basement bitching about the state of country music keeping them down, but actually get out there are try to do something about it. You have to pay some attention to the business side, you have to get out there and tour, and you have to let the media know what you’re doing. With Hellbound Glory its check, check, and check! Here’s some verbage from the official press release about their new album Old Highs and New Lows, available On CD or for download:
“This is the second release for the band with punk n’ roll label Gearhead Records, but is actually the third record they’ve recorded. “The songs on this record are a mixture of brand new tracks, and re-recorded tracks from their first self-released out of print record,” says label owner Michelle Haunold. “The band was never happy with the recording on that first album, so we took some of the best tracks from that out of print CD and updated them while they were in the studio recording the new material. They added banjo, pedal steel, and fiddle to all the tracks to give it that feel of classic old country, and it turned out great.”
” “We’re really excited about the new record and the additional musicians the helped flesh the sound out,” says lead singer and songwriter Leroy Virgil. “I’m really happy with the recording and can’t wait to get out there and play these songs for our fans.”
Hellbound Glory formed in 2004, playing original rebel country songs in the style of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams. The band has played over 300 shows since their first official record Scumbag Country, opening for such legends as David Allen Coe, Junior Brown, and Jesse Dayton as well as Wayne Hancock and Hank III.”
I might have some of my own verbage to add one I get a hard copy of the album in my hands, but until then you should check this band out, they’re worth your time. You can start with the videos below:
On this weeks edition of Outlaw Radio the guest is going to be Jayke Orvis, former member of the .357 String Band and current member of the Goddamn Gallows. The timing is fortuitous, because it has just been announced that Jayke is in the middle of recording a solo album, and the list of pickers helping on the project is a tantalizing cross section of the who’s who in the insurgent country movement.
Players involved include JB Beverley, Banjer Dan, Johnny Lawless (in other words, The Wayward Drifters), and the continuously most underrated talent in the underground country world, James Hunnicutt. It is being recorded in Richmond, Virginia by JB Beverley, and it will be released on “Farmageddon Records,” a brain child of Montana Section 08 Productions who has a heavy hand in this whole project. It is slated to be released hopefully by February, and might include a 7″ vinyl single release as well.
There’s some great pictures of the recording process with all the aforementioned fellas that you can see by clicking here.
2010 is shaping up to be a massive year for new music, and this is right at the top of my most anticipated projects.
I get lots of CD’s sent to me to review, and unfortunately I can’t review them all. And of course, a few are not worth reviewing, and I only write bad reviews in extreme cases. So I’m going to start going through my stack of CD’s regularly and at least mentioning the ones I think are good, and giving full blown reviews for the ones that really stand out.
First I want to mention a couple of folks who sent me demos. Dog Bite Harris sent me a bunch of songs with just him and a beat up guitar, and a guy who will occasionally leave comments around here, the Suicide Driver Robert Perez, now known as Junction 10 sent me some live tracks. Both of these projects had great songs, showed a lot of potential, and I hope they both take the time in the future to make full blown albums of their stuff because it’s worth it. Make sure to check out the song “Walking Sideways” on the Junction 10 MySpce, it’s good stuff.
But the CD that stood out from the crowd this time was eponymous release from The Shivering Denizens from Washington State. Man are these guys good.
The Shivering Denizens belong in Austin, TX circa 1973. They have that high energy, up-tempo feel that is full tilt honky tonk with a pinch of western-inspired swing. Think of Commander Cody with a modern day hellbilly upgrade. Sure there’s a lot of new bands popping up who want to be “real” country, but not all of them have a unique sound, and then can back it up with solid lyrics and top-notch musicianship. When you listen to the Denizens, it makes you want to say out loud, “See THIS is what I mean when I say REAL country.”
As the Denizens say, they have songs about women, songs about prison, and songs about women in prison. That pretty much sums it up. With songs like “Cell Block 69″ and “Good Times at the Gates of Hell,” if at least one of the Denizens hasn’t spent time in the pokey, I’ll eat my hat. The even have a song call “Twister,” which is about a twister . . . hitting a prison. But the repetitive theme is endearing, not annoying, though one of my favorite tracks is incarceration-free “Candidate 4 Change:”
“I’m a candidate for change brother give me a dime. Help me legitimize this cardboard sign.
I’m a Vietnam Vet, I’d surely work for food. But my body’s broke I got the homeless blues.
The bank came over just to change the locks. They gave me zero down on a cardboard box.
Fed at the mission, I ain’t gonna lie. I’m gonna take the money and I’m gonna get high.”
The Denizens have played with people David Allan Coe, James Hunnicutt, and Bob Wayne. They list their influences as people like Hank Williams and George Jones, but I hear a lot of Bob Wills and Jerry Reed in there as well, with tempo and guitar tone. There is a tear squeezer on the album though, “Humptulips,” which is a great example of the maturity they approach the music with, and their Hank/George/Johnny influence.
Simply put, The Shivering Denizens are fun to listen to, and you’d be doing yourself a favor and work them into your rotation.
Oh, and an interesting side note, lead singer Ron E. Banner is also a member of the punk/metal group Zero Down.
You can preview all the tracks, and buy or download the album on CD Baby HERE.
Just a couple of quick things:
Tonight (11-24) Outlaw Radio Chicago will have the greatness of the .357 String Band on the show. You can listen LIVE at 9 PM Central at punkandbeansradio.com, and as always if you miss it you can listen or download it the next day at savingcountrymusic.com/outlaw-radio.
There are so many new podcasts popping up and doing cool things that I can’t keep up, so I’m working on putting together sort of a podcast TV Guide so to speak, so that people can easily see when podcasts are being aired or released, and what the content is. Once done it will probably live on the savingcountrymusic.com/podcasts page. You can also check out the Radio & Podcasting forum on the Saving Country Music message board for more podcast information.
And while you’re getting your listen on, Joecephus &The George Jonestown Massacre, who describe themselves as the link between Merle Haggard and Motorhead, are offering their self-titled album for FREE DOWNLOAD. You can download it by CLICKING HERE and choosing your price as $0.00. They’re only offering it free THIS WEEK, so get that done.
On March 3rd, Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon Jennings will be releasing his fourth album, and it will be about as country as concrete fields. It is entitled Black Ribbons, and the first single “Wake Up” will premier on Dec. 22nd.
““Black Ribbons” features the debut of Shooter’s new band Hierophant, who inspired him to leave his country roots behind and embrace a ‘60s/’70s psychadelic Rock vibe”.
Here’s what Shooter has to say about the album:
“I made an album for the truth-seekers of the world. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I’m sick of the lies and the processed bubblegum bullshit churned out by the overlords of double-speak. You could say this album is a soundtrack for all of us. I feel like a different human being these days. . . and shining what my buddy Will O’ The Wisp calls ‘the last beacon of truth and defiance.’ The light still shines, folks.”
Some cover art from the upcoming project:
With his first official solo album, Junk, along with his good friend and talented musician in her own right Rachel Brooke, have put together a brilliant, quality, and surprisingly accessible long runner with an eponymous title.
This is one of those albums you can put on in the background of any gathering of any people, rednecks, hipsters, whatever, and somebody is bound to say, “Wow, what is this we’re listening to?” This was my first impression of this album, and when I tried it out a couple of times, my hypothesis was confirmed. It is not an album to bang your head to or have on as you go ripping down a muddy road. It is mood music . . . and I mean that in a good way.
The best part about Junk’s music is his unique voice, and the lo-fi, straight forward production that displays the heart of the song with no frills. It’s easy to compare Junk’s voice to Tom Waits, but I don’t think this is fair to either artist. One of its primary elements is a rasp, but Junk’s voice is way more consistent and calculated that Waits, and the way it contrasts with Rachel’s soft yet pained voice is sublime.
If this was a straight collaboration with Rachel Brooke, there would be room to complain that her harmonies are mixed too low. But since this is Junk’s project, the mix is perfect, which ironically is all Rachel Brooke’s fault, because she was the one tweaking the knobs during the recording. It is not as easy as one might think to capture a raw signal and have it sound like you want it to, and that is just what Rachel has done, and then she included some tasteful work with guitar, upright bass, banjo, and slide guitar.
This project is also destined to be compared with another Rachel Brooke collaboration, A Bitter Harvest, but I think the two albums are quite different. Junk is much more accessible, and focuses more on the essence of the song with minimal production. As such, I could see these songs being fleshed out further by other artists in the future, and this would be a venture worth pursuing, because these songs are that good.
The hit of the album (so to speak) is the second track, “SOS.” The first track “Whirlwind” is really good too. Actually screw that, they’re all good songs, without one questionable judgment in any of the 11 tracks.
Junk is one of those albums you listen to and shake your head, because it is living proof that most good, original music lives these days in the underground. 99% of people will never corss paths with this album, but us 1%’ers will cherish it.
You can purchase the album by clicking here.
Some criticize that there’s not enough talk around here about the Texas music scene, and I couldn’t agree more. There’s some great music going on down there, and unfortunately I just don’t have the time to sink my teeth into it all.
That was one reason I set up the Saving Country Music message board, so that if there was a band or artist or a cause for that matter that you felt was not getting enough love, you could do something about that yourself. I also encourage people not to be shy about suggesting artists to me to check out, or even writing articles themselves on their favorite artists.
But in the meantime, one of Texas’s biggest independent labels, Lost Highway Records has given us all to opportunity to catch up on the Texas scene by partnering with Amazon to release a FREE Texas Country Music sampler called T For Texas T From Tennessee. The price is right, and it includes music from Ryan Bingham, Robert Earl Keen,Hayes Carll,Black Joe Lewis, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett.
Lost Highway Records is to REAL Texas country what Bloodshot Records is to Insurgent Country. Their barn also boasts Lucinda Williams, and previously has included Whiskeytown and Ryan Adams. Lost Highway is also responsible for putting out Johnny Cash’s American V: A Hundred Highways and a compilation of Hank Williams music called Turn Back the Years.
And if that sound isn’t underground enough for you there’s another FREE Amazon download called Discover Texas Music: Volume 1 that has a bunch of great lesser-known artists.
Will Austin ever officially take over as the home of country music? I kind of feel like if it was ever going to happen, it already would have. And I don’t know that I want the industry setting up shop in Texas anyway.
But like Waylon Jennings once said, “You can hear the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s the home of country music, on that we all agree. But when you cross that ol’ Red River hoss, that just don’t mean a thing.”
Pipe up if there’s some Texas artists you think we should all know about.
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