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New West recording artist Austin Lucas has just announced a string of new tour dates across the United States and a few stops in Canada, but this won’t be your garden variety Austin Lucas tour. Joining him on stage in acoustic collaborations will be mandolin extraordinaire Jayke Orvis, Jon Snodgrass (aka the “guy with the glasses’ from Drag The River), Canadian singer/songwriter Northcote, and Caleb Caudle for select dates.
“It’s just a play on worlds because most of us are kind of rocker dudes but we play obviously different degrees of roots music,” Austin Lucas says of the tour’s “Minimum Overdrive” name.Â “So I just thought it’s a funny name with all acoustic guitars because there’s no amps or drums, but I feel like we can still bring the rock atmosphere.”
Austin says Minimum Overdrive patrons can expect maximum collaboration.
“It’s definitely going to be the kind of tour where everybody is collaborating with each other, and playing on each other’s songs. Especially Jayke and I are going to be doing a lot of stuff as a duo, playing each other’s songs. Basically the tour started because Jayke and I had been talking about doing a tour together for about the last six months. And we decided if we were going to do dates together, we wanted to do as much stuff where we were playing together, doing sort of a Bill Monroe and Doc Watson type of duo. I mean obviously we are not as good as those guys, but those Smithsonian Folkways albums have always been dear to my heart and Jayke’s heart as well, and we just wanted to do a two-man duo thing. So we’re going to split it up to where we both do duo stuff together, play each other’s songs, and then we’ll both be collaborating with Jon Snodgrass, with Northcote, and with Caleb Caudle when Caleb’s on the tour.”
Austin Lucas has already toured extensively with Jon Snodgrass from Jon’s years in Drag The River. “Bringing John on was a really good idea because I knew that John and I have a lot of songs in our pocket that we can play together. I wanted to bring people on that I really respected, and knew I would have a good time collaborating with.”
“To be honest with you, I didn’t really think about if other people would have a good time with anybody else on the tour,” Austin says. “Very selfishly, I just wanted to bring people out that I really like and respect and want to play with. We are going to do all sorts of different things. We’re just going to play it by ear. I think all of use are ‘fly by the seat of our pants’ performers anyway, so I think what we’re really focusing on is just making sure all of us get an ample amount of time on stage, and we’re just doing what’s comfortable.”
Minimum Overdrive Tour Dates:
Wed/Oct-01Â Â Â Detroit, MIÂ Â Â Â Small’s
Tues/Oct-2Â Â Â Â Toronto, ONÂ Â Â Â The Cave at Lees Place
Wed/Oct-3Â Â Â Â Montreal, QCÂ Â Â Â Divan Orange
Sat/Oct-04Â Â Â Â Philly PA Â Â Milkboy
Sun/Oct-05Â Â Â Â Asbury Park, NJÂ Â Â Â Asbury Lanes
Mon/Oct-06Â Â Â Â Boston MAÂ Â Â Â Great Scott
Tue/Oct-07Â Â Â Â Brooklyn NYÂ Â Â Â St. Vitus
Wed/Oct-08Â Â Â Â Richmond, VAÂ Â Â Â Strange Matter
Thu/Oct-09Â Â Â Â Durham, NCÂ Â Â Â Motorco
Fri/Oct-10Â Â Â Â Atlanta, GAÂ Â Â Â Eddie’s Attic
Sun/Oct-12Â Â Â Â OrlandoÂ Â Â Â Will’s Pub
Tue/Oct-14Â Â Â Â Dallas, TXÂ Â Â Â Gas Monkey
Wed/Oct-15Â Â Â Â Austin, TXÂ Â Â Â Mohawk
Fri/Oct-17Â Â Â Â Albuquerque, NMÂ Â Â Â Low Spirits
Sat/Oct-18Â Â Â Â Phoenix, AZÂ Â Â Â Last Exit
Sun/Oct-19Â Â Â Â Santa Ana, CAÂ Â Â Â Constellation Room
Tue/Oct-21Â Â Â Â San Fransisco, CAÂ Â Â Â Thee Parkside
Thu/Oct-23Â Â Â Â Portland, ORÂ Â Â Â Dante’s
Fri/Oct-24Â Â Â Â Seattle, WAÂ Â Â Â El Corazon Lounge
Sat/Oct-25Â Â Â Â Missoula, MTÂ Â Â Â The Palace
Sun/Oct-26Â Â Â Â Boise, IDÂ Â Â Â The Shredder
Tue/Oct-28Â Â Â Â Denver, COÂ Â Â Â Hi-Dive
Wed/Oct-29Â Â Â Â Wichita, KSÂ Â Â Â Lizard Lounge
Thu/Oct-30Â Â Â Â St. Louis, MO Â Â Demo
Fri/Oct-31Â Â Â Â Minneapolis, MNÂ Â Â Â Nether Bar
Sat/Nov-01Â Â Â Â Chicago, ILÂ Â Â Â Township
Sun/Nov-02Â Â Â Â Milwaukee, WIÂ Â Â Â Linnemans
Old Crow Medicine Show’s new album Remedy is the first album the string band has released since officially minting a #1 song in the form of Darius Rucker’s take on “Wagon Wheel”, and the first as the freshest members of the prestigious Grand Ole Opry. 2013 was a big year for the buskers, and the band has gone from riding praise from Doc Watson and the kind mentoring from David Rawlings, to entering some of the highest, and most regarded circles in the alternative country world. As a band that has achieved top industry recognition without compromising who they are, they have enough mustard to rub elbows with artists like Lucinda Williams and Rodney Crowell now, yet the vitality to feel like even better years could still be ahead.
As much as some independent music fans might want to shake their fists at Hootie, or cup their hands over their ears when “Wagon Wheel” comes on, or correct you when you attribute the song to Old Crow without mention that Bob Dylan had a hand in the track too, the simple fact is Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” has now become an American music standard in an era when music standards no longer exist. And along with this accolade, they’ve become one of the first traditional-oriented outfits to join the Opry in recent memory. No matter the unpleasantness in the mainstream overall, Old Crow Medicine Show has been responsible for a few promising chutes of life springing from the creatively-barren landscape, while still maintaining their underdog charm and independent spirit.
Are there string bands out there that are better than Old Crow Medicine Show? Sure, whether from a technical standpoint with a band like Nickel Creek, or an energetic standpoint with an artist like Jayke Orvis. And the more string bands you listen to (and there’s one on every corner these days), the more this becomes evident. But Old Crow Medicine Show is the band that showed up in Nashville and were able to maintain their true and original form of expression, and have it stick. The trendy string band craze of 2012 topped by Mumford & Sons came and went, and Old Crow Medicine Show is still here.
The one price Old Crow pays for the loyalty to themselves is that the range of expression as a busking band is limited. Maybe they can take a few stabs at some deeper material that shows off their songwriting side, but veer too far away from the history of the band and it could result in sneers. Since this is the case, most every Old Crow album lays out in a similar manner. You have your wild-eyed elbow swinging hoedown songs, your few moments of sedated songwriting material, and Medicine Show always seems to work in a song or two about the troops and other social issues, antiquated just right to fit their old-school style. This has made any new Old Crow project somewhat predictable from an approach standpoint. At least, this is what the critic inside me says. But the music fan inside me after a few rounds through this album can’t help but to feel the infectious joy embedded in these tracks, the humorous turns of language, and the fiddle burns that instinctively get you off your feet. It’s a tried and true formula for Old Crow Medicine Show because it works, and sends the spirit reeling.
The big press release story surrounding Remedy has been that Old Crow and Bob Dylan have collaborated once again. “Sweet Amarillo” constitutes the album’s first single and video, and as much as it seems like a gimmick to go back to the same well “Wagon Wheel” was drawn from, “Sweet Amarillo” is quite fetching, and may end up being the album’s most memorable track. Another tune called “Mean Enough World” works very much in the style of an old Dylan song, and combined with the speed and offbeat approach of Old Crow, it results in a track that shows off all the band’s best attributes.
Another cool track is “Doc’s Day”, referring back to the band’s earliest incarnation when Doc Watson discovered them and helped set the string band on the successful path they’re enjoying today.
Overall if this album has a theme or a muse, then the Volunteer State would be it. The Tennessee flag on the front cover was no happenstance. Many string bands like Old Crow who show up in Music City end up with Nashville in their rear view, a middle finger out the window, and their Tennessee flags burning. But as discussed above, the biz has been quite favorable to Old Crow, especially for the last little while. Almost as if to pay homage, they canonize many of the features of Tennessee and Nashville in the songs “O Cumberland River” and “Tennessee Bound”. Other songs not necessarily about Tennessee on the surface—like the somber “Dearly Departed Friend” about a fallen soldier that references Tennessee beating Georgia in a college football game—still hold Tennessee as an underlying setting.
Though I’m not sure how much the world is helped by some of their silly songs like “8 Dogs, 8 Banjos”, you can’t help but get swept up in the enjoyment of “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Visit” or “Shit Creek.” The album concludes in a “Seven Bridges Road” moment for the seven piece when they perform the sorrow-filled “The Warden” in stacked harmony. It may not be any “Wagon Wheel” in moneymaking muscle, but “The Warden” performance rivals any other of Old Crow’s recorded tracks.
Somewhat predictable, but very enjoyable, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Remedy continues their reign as America’s preeminent string band, while ushering in a new era of success and recognition that will see the band go down in history as an important influence.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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Produced by T Bone Burnett, the new Secret Sisters album called Put Your Needle Down—the sister duo’s first record in nearly four years—was produced by T Bone Burnett. T Bone Burnett produced this sophomore effort, and lending his efforts in a production role was T Bone Burnett. T Bone Burnett, T Bone Burnett, T Bone Burnett.
Did I mention that T Bone Burnett produced this album? Okay good. Because apparently that’s a more important point than who this album is by and what it’s titled, and T Bone’s name must precede this information in any copy or conversation.
It’s not that T Bone Burnett isn’t an accomplished and successful producer. I mean hell, you can’t stick your nose anywhere in the Americana realm without finding apostles of T Bone telling you how brilliant he is. The problem though is the hype around his work has become so pervasive, I’m afraid he’s begun to believe it himself, and uses it as justification to employ an extremely heavy hand in his producer capacity, relegating the artists he works with as secondary, if not arbitrary to furthering the weight behind his own name. Or at least, that’s the way it sounds.
No doubt T Bone Burnett is a towering man of music. There’s no denying his record. But that doesn’t give him the right, or make it right to overhaul, supplant, or bury the God-given sound, style, and talent the artists he works for are born with. People can come to T-Bone’s defense and say that this is the fate these artists chose when they signed up to work with him, but it still doesn’t erase the fact that the role of a producer is supposed to be one of a subordinate. Yes, the producer should guide and mentor, but the best producers in the business do not reshape artists into their own appointed image, they coax the best attributes already alive in artists out into the open to be captured in the recorded context. Inexplicably, with The Secret Sisters and Put Your Needle Down, T Bone Burnett does both.
This album shouldn’t be characterized as The Secret Sisters with T Bone Burnett. It should be couched as The Secret Sisters versus T Bone Burnett. Such an over-produced wall of serrated sounds punishes the ear throughout this album, it’s like trying to view the Eiffel Tower through a plague of locusts: You know there’s something very pretty and breathtaking there, but you have to fight with flailing arms to see, and you’re rarely allowed to relax and bask in its beauty.
T Bone Burnett’s production doesn’t seem to have any sense or respect for the time and place The Secret Sisters’ music naturally evokes; their music seems only the canvas for T Bone to do his worst. After the very first song, I was already tired of the ever-present tambourine on this album, which permeates this record deeper than a sheepdog’s flea dip. The tambourine rattles inside your skull like a ricocheting bullet; steadfast and unrelenting. I couldn’t get the iconic image of Will Ferrell banging on a cowbell from that famous Saturday Night Live skit out of my head, but replaced by a round, jingle-filled adult-sized death rattle. Mucky, incongruent moans of excessively chorus-inflected guitar tones burden this work like the apparitions that keep you in slow motion as you’re being pursued in a nightmare by an apex predator.
Am I being a teeny bit harsh here maybe? Is some deep-seated, unnecessary hatred for all things T Bone shining through and compromising my integrity? Perhaps, but I’ll tell you, despite the monstrosity T Bone constructed though his work on this album, I love Put Your Needle Down. I think this album is great—one captivating song after another. Why? Because no different than how the primitive artists of country had to fight through poor production situations when they were making the very first country albums, or in the 60′s when Music Row producers couldn’t resist adding strings and choruses to every damn song, or in the 80′s when everyone decided the best thing to do was get into the keyboard business and over-modulate the hell out of the drum signals, good songs, and good artists will always shine through. And that’s what The Secret Sisters are, and that’s what The Secret Sisters did on Put Your Needle Down.
And if we’re going to smear T Bone with such colorful language, we also have to give him credit. Whether it was by accident, on purpose, or despite his best efforts, on Put Your Needle Down, the sheer, untouched genius of The Secret Sisters was unearthed in all of its dazzling beauty, and captured so splendidly despite the production woes, that you could fall under it’s spell even if you had to listen through an A-bomb blast.
Sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers were born and raised in one of the holy lands of American music: Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Fertilized with music from George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Doc Watson, and singing in a church that had no instruments, their Southern harmonies were born with such a purity that can only be found in sister siblings. When The Secret Sisters harmonize, it is the sound a pining heart makes, or the sound emitted when a crack cleaves the soul. Or it’s the salve that mends the heart and soul, depending on the theme of the story their soaring voices carry.
Their first, self-titled album from 2010 was a selection of classic country-style songs and was produced by Dave Cobb–famous for working recently with both Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson on their critically-acclaimed albums—with T Bone Burnett breathing down Cobb’s neck as an “executive producer.” The Secret Sisters debut captured them in their most native environment, and in a sincere, country offering. No, my defacing of T Bone’s effort has nothing to do with him taking this album in a non-country direction; it’s that he didn’t respect the natural sound of The Secret Sisters. He could have added some rock or progressive sounds here and there, but the production effort of Put Your Needle Down was a complete whitewashing. And get this: I’m so dug in on this stance, I don’t even care if The Secret Sisters disagree.
But damn if I don’t love virtually everything The Secret Sisters themselves do on this album. Put Your Needle Down differs, and his enhanced from their first album by featuring mostly original songs. The pain and desperation captured in their performances on tracks like “Iuka” and “The Pocket Knife” evoke the plight inherent in the female condition when it’s torn and tested by the villainous priorities of men. The heights reached in the chorus of the 50′s-ish do woppy “Black And Blue” with the sisters harmonies dancing and twirling in such synchronicity, like smoke-trailed acrobats rising eloquently and unresponsive to gravity until it is impossible to discern them apart in formation, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
One respite from T Bone the Terrible’s reign is on the subdued and simple “Lonely Island”, which if recorded 50 years ago, would be a standard of the country music song book today. It is simply a masterpiece.
And as jarring and inappropriate as the production of this album is, you even get to a point where you’re okay with it, if for no other reasons than refusing to let it ruin what was going on here beneath the layers and layers of over-production, and the fogginess that besets this album—sometimes a symptom of when a project’s mixes have been reworked too many times, especially when they are recorded on 2-inch tape to capture the “warmth” that Audiophiles love to preach about. And yes, I understand what T Bone was trying to do here: he was trying to take something classic and pure, and make it hip and progressive to appeal to a wider audience. On paper, there’s nothing wrong with that. But from a production standpoint, it didn’t work. T Bone was not the right one to try this feat with this particular project.
And why did it take nearly 1 1/2 years for this album to get to our ears? It was recorded in December of 2012, and January of 2013. I think there’s a story there in itself, if only to answer why two young women with the wind behind their backs from their first album had to wait so long for a second release.
But I’ll be damned, I really, really enjoy this album overall. Simply put, The Secret Sisters are the best female duo out there right now, and Put Your Needle Down comes highly recommended….with the obvious production caveat.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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For the first time in the last half decade, the Grand Ole Opry is poised to induct a traditionally-leaning country music act into its distinct and coveted roster of permanent members. Opry member Marty Stuart surprised Old Crow Medicine Show at their show at the Ohio Theater in Cleveland tonight (8-16) with an invitation to join the storied institution during Old Crow’s scheduled performance. Their induction will take place September 17th.
Formed in 1998, Old Crow Medicine Show’s history is strongly tied to the Grand Ole Opry and some of its most important members. The band was discovered by Doc Watson’s daughter when busking on the same street Doc Watson used to play in Boone, NC. That led to them participating in the annual MerleFest music festival in the spring of 2000. At MerleFest, a woman from the Opry named Sally Wilson saw the band perform and invited them to participate in outdoor events in the Opry plaza throughout the summer. The band then found favor with Marty Stuart, who took them under his wing as a mentor. Old Crow Medicine Show made their Grand Ole Opry debut in January of 2001 at a Ryman Auditorium show.
In 2004 the band released their breakout album O.C.M.S produced by David Rawlings, and became one of the premiere string band acts in independent country music. With big songs like “Tell It To Me,” and the now gold-certified “Wagon Wheel,” Old Crow Medicine Show was one of the first string band acts to find fans outside of traditional country circles. “Wagon Wheel” has gone on to become a #1 hit for Darius Rucker, and Old Crow Medicine Show is often named as a precursor and major influence to bands like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers that have brought massive commercial success to the string band concept.
The Opry’s Old Crow invitation ends a string of invitations and inductions of present-day country pop stars that have angered some traditionalist fans. Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, and Darius Rucker were the Opry’s last three inductees. The last traditional country star to be inducted was Charlie Daniels in 2008. With this move, the Opry appears to be recognizing Old Crow’s influence, their recent success, and their ability to bridge differences in taste with their enthusiastic and creatively deft show.
In Red Dirt music, there is a place called “The Farm.” It was a 5-bedroom house outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma owned by Bob Childers where the Red Dirt movement started in earnest. No matter what happens in Red Dirt henceforth, whether it continues to grow or it fades away, the few Red Dirt members who called “The Farm” home in those formative years will always have their place in history cemented as forefathers of the music.
If underground country had a version of “The Farm,” Lonesome Wyatt would be one of its inhabitants. Lonesome Wyatt is a pioneer of Gothic country with his band Those Poor Bastards, and one of the originators of underground country whose song “Pills I Took” was covered by Hank Williams III on his landmark album Straight to Hell, he is one of the few artists who will never be forgotten regardless of the long-term fortune of the underground country sub-genre.
Gothic country is not for everyone. Similar to how punk and reggae may not have many similarities on the surface, but whose structures are steeped in similar modes when you explore the music deep at its core, Gothic country may come across initially as counter-intuitive, or even corrosive to someone who calls themselves a country fan. But within Gothic country, you find the stark distinctions of good and evil indicative of The Louvin Brothers and gospel, you find the the murder balladry of Doc Watson and Johnny Cash, you find the Gothic identity and presence of death of The Carter Family, and the empowerment of the poor of Woody Guthrie.
Lonesome Wyatt and his “Holy Spooks” side project may even be less accessible that other Gothic country because the sound is fairly stripped back and the approach quite fey. This is music to be listened to, not heard; music that you sit back and appreciate its textures as opposed to banging your head or tapping your foot to. But for those brave souls not scared off by the spooky dressing, they will discover some striking artistic expression interwoven with timeless storytelling in an album that reveals itself to be more entertaining and even prone to losing yourself in than you would initially expect.
If Lonesome Wyatt was an actor, he’d prefer the method approach to the craft. And if his music were a movie, it would be a graphic novel. Where Lonesome’s Those Poor Bastards material usually carries more anger, and angular, abrupt themes, Ghost Ballads is like a lost collection of Edgar Allan Poe poems written as if they were for children, but that were truly meant for adults. Then he sets it all to music. This is where Lonesome Wyatt’s singular artistic contribution to the world is evidenced, which is his ability to cull the perfect sounds from the universe to conjure a desired mood. A master craftsman of audio textures who is not afraid to pull from both the analog and electronic worlds, his ear is wickedly adept at picking up the most delicious subtleties in sounds that universally trigger dark responses in the human palette.
And just when he has you in the darkest of all moods, the creepy bastard springs into the saccharine, 50′s-ish do-woppy “Dream of You” making the whole experience feel even that much more sinister.
Reportedly recorded surreptitiously at the haunted Maribel Caves Hotel in Maribel, WI, Ghost Ballads may not be the best starting point to get into Lonesome Wyatt’s uniquely dark and creative approach to music, but is a good selection if you’re looking for music to create camaraderie with a dark mood, or are looking to evoke one.
Lonesome Wyatt is a timeless artist, and I’m sure Ghost Ballads along with his entire discography will be haunting Gothic fans long after he’s in the grave.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up.
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The case can be made that Mumford & Sons is the biggest thing in all of music right now, with Babel winning the Grammy for Album of the Year and their worldwide sales rivaling all other artists. This is a weird reality for many roots fans who fell into favor with acoustic music many years ago.
Roots music has always been a quiet, shy sphere of the music world, not really craving popularity or hype. Meanwhile Mumford’s wild success has some talking about a roots backlash, and has opened up the possibility of an impending crash in the popularity arch that could leave elements of the roots world feeling like a fad, like 60′s folk or late 90′s swing.It all makes you wonder if Mumford’s music wouldn’t be better received in some circles if it just wasn’t so damn popular.
Many of the bold changes in the direction of popular music begin with artists that are too fey, too polarizing to become popular themselves. So it takes others who understand how to soften music with sensibilities to make it accessible to the masses, and hopefully, if time is on their side, transect the popularity timeline, resulting in superstardom.
With Mumford & Sons, there were many other bands, artists, and events that set the table for their wild success, buttering up crowds, building an appreciation for acoustic roots music throughout varying demographics and origination points. Here are a few of them.
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O Brother Where Art Thou created its own roots music tempest and bluegrass revival when it was released in 2000, and since it originated in the cinematic world instead of the music world, its impact on popular culture was far reaching, finding its way down avenues that otherwise would not be exposed to roots music. From that big bloom, the seeds were planted that would later sprout and blossom into the Mumford & Sons’ ubiquitous, widespread appeal, making acoustic roots into full-blown popular music.
Old Crow Medicine Show was one of the main ingredients in both influencing the sound of Mumford & Sons, and setting the table for their mass appeal. Marcus Mumford says of Old Crow, “I first heard Old Crowâ€™s music when I was, like, 16, 17, and that really got me into, like, folk music, bluegrass. I mean, Iâ€™d listened to a lot of Dylan, but I hadnâ€™t really ventured into the country world so much. So Old Crow were the band that made me fall in love with country music.” Ketch Secor of Old Crow concurs, saying, “Those boys took the message and ran with it.”
Meanwhile Old Crow Medicine Show, and specifically their gold-certified song “Wagon Wheel” created the fervor for roots music that Mumford & Sons are currently feeding off of.
Old Crow Medicine Show might be the band named as Mumford’s primary influence, but when looking at the band from the standpoint of lineup, instrumentation, energy, and the emotional context of their lyricism, The Avett Brothers’ fingerprints can be found all over Mumford & Sons.
The easiest similarity to distinguish is how the two bands line up on stage. Scott Avett was one of the first acoustic roots frontmen to play a bass drum with his foot while standing at center stage, while his brother Scott played a hi-hat cymbal the same way. The brothers also had the propensity to move around stage behind different instruments, specifically the drums, just like Marcus Mumford does. The high, punk-esque energy The Avett Brothers bring to their show alongside a softening of the edges of roots music is something else Mumford emulates, as are their songs that seem to drip with emotionalism. This emotional approach to roots music is what separated The Avett Brothers from their bluegrass forebears when The Avetts started out in 2000; a full 7 years before Mumford & Sons’ first release.
Whereas Mumford & Sons’ rise has been meteoric, The Avett Brothers enacted a very slow build, van touring incessantly on a small club circuit until their infectious approach to roots music saw them graduate to small theaters, large theaters, and then signing with Rick Rubin in 2008, nearly a decade after they started out. The Avett Brothers approach, and the sweat equity they built from tireless touring over many years is at the very fabric of Mumford & Sons’ sound and success. Mumford is not an Avett Brothers rubber stamp, but it’s hard not to give The Avetts props for blazing a wide, clear path for them.
Bob Dylan is given great credit as a Mumford & Sons’ influence, and this is primarily evidenced in the poetic, and sometimes veiled nature of Mumford’s lyrical writing. In that same respect, Shakespeare and Plato are Mumford influences. Both characters and others from classical literature are originators of language that has appeared in Mumford & Sons songs. Marcus Mumford once said, “You can rip off Shakespeare all you like; no lawyer’s going to call you up on that one.” They also draw from American novelist John Steinbeck in their songs “Dust Bowl Dance” and “Timshel.”
The Devil Makes Three is never given enough credit for impacting the roots music revolution. It’s probably a stretch to say they had any direct influence on Mumford & Sons, but when The Devil Makes Three started in 2002, they were one of the very first bands, and virtually the only band on the West Coast that brought a high-energy, punk-inspired approach to acoustic roots music. Rarely spoken about east of the Mississippi or away from their native Vermont, The Devil Makes Three draws massive crowds in California and have inspired many spawns across the country. They are responsible for countless new acoustic roots fans, and helped allow the cross-continent permeation of Mumford mania.
Along with the obvious bluegrass greats like Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Flatt & Scruggs, Doc Watson, and Ralph Stanley, newer artists like Wayne “The Train” Hancock, The Civil Wars, Trampled by Turtles, The Hacksensaw Boys, Split Lip Rayfiled, Larry & His Flask, The .357 String Band, The Foghorn Stringband, The Wiyos, The Goddamn Gallows, Reverend Peyton, and many more laid a foundation for alternative roots music appreciation in America that Mumford & Sons now enjoys.
Wednesday night (9-12-2012) country music’s mother church The Ryman Auditorium was alive with the sounds of The 2012 Americana Music Awards that saw an always talented, eclectic (and sometimes confusing) flock of musicians, songwriters, and performers amass to give credit to the best and brightest of the year. Part of the greater Americana Music Conference happening in Nashville this week, the awards featured excellent performances from legends such as studio great Booker T. Jones and songwriter Richard Thompson, as well as Emerging Artist nominees The Alabama Shakes and Deep Dark Woods.
Some highlights of the night were Booker T sitting in with The Alabama Shakes, Cary Ann Hearst of Shovels & Rope doing the “Another Like You” duet with Hayes Carll, and my favorite part of the night, when Song of the Year winner Jason Isbell thanked his manager Traci Thomas of Thirty Tigers, and then took a shot at The Country Music Anti-Christ saying he wanted an empty chair onstage “…so I could yell at an invisible Scott Borchetta.” Generations were bridged when Patterson Hood of the Drive By Truckers, the son of a famous studio musician David Hood of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section gave an excellent speech inducting Booker T Jones as an Americana Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for instrumentation.Â
Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance inductee Bonnie Raitt closed out the festivities with two songs, including her signature “Thing Called Love” before the stage filled with Americana dignitaries including Bonnie and John Hiatt to do a stirring rendition of The Band‘s “The Weight” in tribute to the late Levon Helm, who was remembered along with Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs.
Jim Lauderdale hosted the event, and Buddy Miller, Don Was and others worked all night as the Americana house band.
How to define the term “Americana” was the running joke all night (and is somewhat of a tradition of the awards), but whether you were listening in through NPR’s live stream or lucky enough to subscribe to the right service get it on the TV, it was hard to argue with the talent and accolades the Americana Music Association used to define the 2012 awards.
2012 Americana Music Award Winners
Instrumentalist of The Year
Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch’s guitar accompanist.
Album of the Year
“This Ones For Him” A Tribute to Guy Clark
Song of the Year
Jason Isbell’s “Alabama Pines” off the album Here We Rest
Emerging Artist of the Year
The Alabama Shakes
Artist of the Year
Duo/Group of the Year
The Civil Wars
Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting
Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist
Booker T. Jones
Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive
Legendary guitar player Doc Watson has died according to his representatives at Folklore Productions.
The 89-year-old folk and bluegrass guitar legend’s heath issues started on Monday (5-21) Bluegrass Today reported, after a fall at his home. No bones were broken, but the incident exposed other health problems. He was airlifted to the hospital on Wednesday, and late Thursday Watson had surgery to resolve an impacted colon where his entire colon ended up being removed. The procedure was declared successful and Watson was said to be “resting and responsive” afterwards, with Doc’s representative Mitch Greenhill saying, “He has regained some strength.Â The family appreciates everyone’s prayers and good wishes.” But after a follow-up procedure on Saturday, Watson’s condition never improved from “critical” and he remained in Wake Forest Baptist’s Intensive Care Unit. Doc Watson’s family was called to his bedside at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NCÂ on Sunday (5-27).
Monday morning (5-28) it was reported that Watson’s vital signs had improved slightly overnight after a “very rough Sunday,” though he continued to remain in critical condition in the hospital’s ICU.
Doc Watson has won 7 Grammy Awards over his career, and also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. The blind guitar player is best known for his influential flatpicking and fingerpicking techniques with the guitar, and his oral history of folk, bluegrass, and mountain music. He was born Arthel Lane Watson in 1923 in Deep Gap, North Carolina, going blind before his first birthday. He got the name “Doc” when a radio announced suggest the name Arthel was too unusual and someone yelled “Doc” out from the crowd.
Thoughts and prayers go out to Doc Watson and his family.
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?
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