Fans of Flint, Michigan’s rambunctious throwback wild-eyed honky tonker Whitey Morgan and his backing band The 78’s have been waiting half a decade for a new studio album, and their country music prayers are about to be answered, or at least they will be in May when Whitey Morgan releases his latest record ‘Sonic Ranch.’
The past 24 hours has seen some big signings by some worthy artists to record labels. The old-school throwback St. Louis singing and strumming song man Pokey LaFarge has signed to the prestigious Rounder Records. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has signed with Yazoo Records, and the Alabama-bred gritty and greasy Banditos have signed to insurgent country label Bloodshot.
Trust me when I say if you go ambling through American college towns, you won’t find anything resembling a dearth of string bands with a bunch of young men and their banjos and fiddles stomping and shouting on stage. What you will find a dearth of are these bands that are actually worth listening to, at least outside of the context of a drunken college town barroom.
2014 promises to be another great year for music, and the first part of the year might just be one of the busiest seasons for anticipated releases we have seen in quite a while. From a lost Johnny Cash album, to a new one from his daughter Rosanne, to Jason Eady, a big re-issue from Lucina Williams, and releases from Scott H. Biram and Robert Ellis, there’s enough here to get your music taste buds salivating.
In the 12 years since Hillstomp’s inception, John Johnson, and guitar player Henry Christian have become one of the Pacific Northwest’s most well-known underground roots duos, garnering a loyal following and making fast fans from their avant-garde approach to blues that combines elements of punk, trance, and most notably, a beat that is delivered by a drum set centered around a bucket instead of a snare drum.
Good music is entertaining. Great music changes lives. And on the front lines of life altering music experiences are the one man bands. Courageous, pioneering, persevering through obscurity and misunderstanding, one man bands might make up a majority of the music world’s boldness and creativity per capita. Here’s 16 of them from a wide swath of the roots world.
Legendary North Mississippi Blues great “T Model Ford” has passed away, according to his booking agent the Bucket City Agency. One of the original Mississippi blues greats that made up the Fat Possum Records roster, T-Model passed away after a long illness at home in Greenville, Mississippi, this morning surrounding by his loving wife and family.
The White Trash Song” reveals that it wants to be considered one of these up-tempo, extended country jams. The problem is there’s positively no space on this track for any individual performance to breathe. Meanwhile the rhythm sways to and fro and never finds the groove from the delay on Shooter’s voice and the phasing of the rhythm guitar, combining to make a wonky, muddy audio blob.
Interstate 35 runs like a zipper down the gut of Texas, and acts like an unofficial border where the American South meets the West. The highway is also a musical corridor, being the main conduit in and out of Austin, TX, aka the “Live Music Capitol of the World.” Up and down that ribbon of I-35 are places that have been regaled in song by the musicians who’ve passed by them or had memorable experiences there.
Mississippi blues legend T Model Ford, who became a roots icon along with R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and many other older blues artists from Mississippi through Fat Possum Records, has suffered a stroke and remains in the hospital. This is not the first stroke T Model has suffered, but the people around him are describing the always-jovial, 90+ years-old blues player’s spirits as “uncharacteristically low.”
The current landscape of hip American music is like a lyric out of a classic Bob Dylan song about the changing times. Old is new, and nerdy is cool. It is in this environment that the Alabama Shakes have flourished like the imperceptible germs on the tips of your fingers when rubbed into a Petri dish and left to fester. The Alabama Shakes are not for everyone, but I struggle to find a wart to point at.
Katy bar the door and baton down the hatches folks because Lone Wolf, the Italian, trilingual, pizza spinning, gator wrestling, globe trotting, banjo plucking, banjo building, wild-assed Floridian from up North via Costa Rica has a new album headed your way. Warn the neighbors downstairs, cause it’s about to get loud and feet will be stomping!
From the outside looking in, one may look at the lineup of The Muddy Roots Festival for example, and wonder how all these bands could all be booked right beside each other and it work seamlessly. This illustrates the dramatic sonic and geographical diversity that goes into creating what we know now as the underground country roots, or “Muddy Roots” world.
So here it is, the list of albums Saving Country Music deems essential for 2011 listening. Please note this list only includes albums that have been reviewed so far. And as always, your feedback is encouraged. What are your essential albums? What did we miss? What was released in 2011 that deserves a review?
There is nothing I take more seriously than naming what I think is the best album of any calendar year. The Album of the Year offers a guidepost for future generations to find the best music that was forgotten by the mainstream, while at the same time being a current ambassador to the mainstream to illustrate what great music they are overlooking.
Following this success and attention to video, many independent artists are making video a bigger priority. And not just one video, but multiple videos, “serial” video releases if you will, of both viral and more conceptualized varieties, to keep their music in the forefront of fan’s minds over a longer period than just an album’s initial release.
When it comes to one man bands, Scott H. Biram is the franchise. He is the top of the heap, the one that inspired so many others. He’s tussled with semi trucks and spilled his guts out on the highway just like he’s spilled his guts out on countless stages all across the Western world until he earned that glorious ‘H’ in the middle of his name.
On August 17th, Shooter Jennings fired a shot across the bow of Music Row and the “new Outlaw” country movement by releasing the song “Outlaw You” on CMT. Now with the help of JuddFilms, Shooter has released a more fleshed out, viral-style video for the song. It was released today, once again with the help of CMT.
Over the last couple of years, the “Jekyll” to JD’s Wilkes “Hyde” from the madhouse Shack Shakers performances, has been a side project called The Dirt Daubers. They released a homespun self-titled album in 2009 but are now planning their first proper release Wake Up, Sinners! for September 13th via Colonel Knowledge Records.
Well, we’ve just about reached the half way point of 2011, and let me level with you folks, so far this has been a down year for music. Yes, there’s been a few good projects and some surprises as well, but generally speaking it’s been pretty bleak compared to 2010, which was such a bumper year for music.
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