Browsing articles tagged with " Scott H. Biram"
Sep
24

The Whiskey Shivers Shine in New Self-Titled LP

September 24, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  3 Comments

whiskey-shivers

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. It is in that spirit that I present to you the Whiskey Shivers and their brand new self-titled album that enlists the speed we haven’t heard since .357 String Band, The Dinosaur Truckers, and early Trampled By Turtles, yet entails a completely different vibe from the dark or emotional mood of those efforts.

The best way to describe The Whiskey Shivers is as a bluegrass party band. Oh but don’t worry you Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe bluegrass Bible thumpers, they’re not going out of their way to call themselves pure bluegrass, and there’s a lot more to their show than just a party. What makes the Whiskey Shivers special though is it just seems like five guys on stage having tons of fun while you get to listen in. It’s this vibe they bring to the building that leaves cadres of rabid fans behind at every stop.

The Whiskey Shivers have been around for a few years now, and the Austin-based band has some national tours with bigger names such as Scott H. Biram, Larry & His Flask, and Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers under their belt. They played at Stagecoach this year right beside artists like Jason Isbell, to as high as Eric Church and Jason Aldean. They appeared at ACL Fest last autumn. And the whole time they’ve been building up a grassroots fan base from their infectious and fun live shows.

the-whiskey-shiversWhat the band was lacking heretofore was a really good record to represent the energy they ignite on stage for the folks who wanted to take the Whiskey Shivers home with them. The few homespun offerings available at the merch table over the years had a lot of spirit, but did not do their live show justice. So for this effort they solicited the services of rising Americana star Robert Ellis as a producer, and set out to make what they hoped to be their definitive studio album that would set them apart from the string band hordes. I’m happy to report this album does just that.

In fact this album doesn’t just capture what the Whiskey Shivers do live, it elevates it. The wild-eyed and dirty sound of the band is what makes them so lovable, but that also leaves room for improvement in composition and arrangement that could elevate their game that much more. That was the trick for producer Robert Ellis—get these boys to behave just a tad, clean up and arrange those five-part harmonies properly, cinch up those licks a little tighter, etc., but do this all while not polishing away the magic at the Whiskey Shivers’ core. And in turn this could also improve the live show from the band by being that much more mindful of arrangements and boundaries.

Just a look at the Whiskey Shivers’ multi-cultural lineup and you see this isn’t you’re typical string band. Some consider fiddle player Bobby Fitzgerald as the frontman, but really each player brings something unique to the table that is important to the Whiskey Shivers’ magic. Where the band had originally leaned on covers, all but one of the songs on this self-titled album are originals, allowing each member to have their voice be heard.

Though some of the songs on the album still feel like they’re trying with some degree of difficulty to capture the live feel in the recorded context like “Been Looking For” and “Hot Party Dads,” many of the songs came to life in a way the live show could never afford. Their droning spiritual “Graves” is one of those songs that feels immediately timeless, and you could see this being embedded in some big Hollywood movie, or even have one built around it. The trapping of a band that relies on speed is they tend to be known for speed and speed only, but in songs like “Friends” and especially “Pray For Me” they show they can thrive in the mid-tempo, and adding the steel guitar texture to the latter turned out to be a really savvy call. And though you wouldn’t traditionally consider the Whiskey Shivers as super pickers or compositional masters (this is no Punch Brothers, but that’s the point), the last song “Swarm” illustrates a lot more depth than some may expect from this project.

Taming the beast without destroying its wild wonder is what this self-titled LP accomplishes, and it should frame the Whiskey Shivers as one of the string bands worthy of more wide, national recognition as young band on the rise.

1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Whiskey Shivers

Jan
8

Albums To Look Forward To In 2014

January 8, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  105 Comments

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.


Johnny-Cash--Out-Among-the-StarsJohnny Cash – Out Among The Stars (March 25th)

Saving Country Music’s most anticipated album for 2014, Out Among The Stars is a complete album that was recorded between 1981 and 1984 by Cash, with songs that were meant to be together, but never saw the light of day. A true “lost album” if there ever was one. It was produced by Country Music Hall of Famer Billy Sherrill. READ MORE.

Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread (January 14th)

NPR says: “Each song is rooted in the Southern soil connecting the old Cash homestead in Arkansas to the family’s ancestral Virginia homeland, expanding to survey the family’s artistic roots in Alabama and Tennessee. Some narratives are fictional, while others mine family lore.”

lucinda-williams-lucinda-williamsLucinda Williams – Lucinda Williams (January 21st)

You’re not seeing double, this is Lucinda Williams’ critically-acclaimed 3rd album from 1988 that many give credit for launching her career. The album went out-of-print and is finally being re-issued by Thirty Tigers. It also comes with an album of live tracks. Just like Johnny Cash, this is not just another re-release, and stands as one of the most anticipated releases of 2014.

Doug PaisleyStrong Feelings (January 21st)

As we found out in 2013, Canada can do country, and do country right. And this Canadian has recruited an impressive list of his Canadian musician buddies including Garth Hudson from The Band to make one of the most-anticipated Canadian country releases of 2014. Did I say Canada enough? Canada Canada. That should do it!

Ray Benson – A Little Piece (January 21st)

Our generation’s King of Western Swing takes some time away from his full time duties as the front man for Asleep At The Wheel to release this solo project through his record label, Bismeaux.

daylight-dark-jason-eadyJason EadyDaylight & Dark (January 21st)

If you love real country, you will love Jason Eady and Daylight & Dark. Following up his critically-acclaimed AM Country Heaven, Eady proves you can serve up country straight, and still have it sound fresh. This album was written with a linear story that runs through all the songs.

Hard Working Americans (Todd Snider) – Hard Working Americans (January 21st)

Yes, this is a band emanating from the unsettled mind of songwriter Todd Snider, and coaxing Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), keyboardist Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi) and Duane Trucks (King Lincoln) on drums to join him.This is a cover album of many songs from Snider’s alt-country/Americana friends.

charlie-parr-hollendaleCharlie Parr – Hollandale (January 28th)

This spellbinding, solo songwriter and performer from Minnesota is one of these criminally-underappreciated guys because he would never be a part of self-promotion or flashy presentation. Being released on Chaperone Records.

Dolly Parton – Blue Smoke (New Zealand, Australia – January. United States & Europe – May)

Yes, strange prioritizing on the release date, but it’s Dolly, so hush up! The release parallels her Blue Smoke World Tour and will be released on “Dolly Records” in conjunction with Sony Masterworks.

scott-biram-nothin-but-bloodScott H. Biram – Nothin’ But Blood (February 4th)

Hide the women and children, the “Dirty Ol’ One Man Band” is back out on the loose with a brand new one from Bloodshot Records that promises to be a bloody good time. Country punk stomp blues at its best!

Suzy Bogguss – Lucky (February 4th)

Suzy doing a Merle Haggard tribute record? This could be cool. “Merle is one of the most masculine songwriters I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been watching boys cover his music for years. I just thought, ‘Why couldn’t a girl do this?’”

Whiskey Myers – Early Morning Shakes (February 4th)

Texas Monthly says: “Early Morning Shakes” may not be destined to make a big impression on a country music audience that’s currently obsessed with pickups, blue jeans, and moonlight, but there are some thrills within for fans of dirty rock and roll.”

Robert-Ellis-The-Lights-From-The-Chemical-Plant-001Robert Ellis – Lights From The Chemical Plant (February 11th)

This could be Robert Ellis’s year. The young songwriter has a much-anticipated album, and also produced another much-anticipated album that may come later in 2014 from The Whiskey Shivers.

Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes (February 11th)

Alynda Lee Segarra was making waves all throughout 2013, and this album from ATO Records featuring her unique, stripped-down Appalachia sound should be a big one.

Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits (February 18th)

2014 could be a big one for Lake Street Dive, and they deserve every bit of it from the talent this throwback band packs. Rachel Price, originally from Hendersonville, TN and a product of the New England Conservatory as a jazz singer is a bona-fide superstar waiting to happen. Feb. 18th can’t get here fast enough.

lydia-loveless-somewhere-elseLydia Loveless – Somewhere Else (February 18th)

On the heels of her fun EP Boy Crazy, Loveless releases her much-anticipated sophomore LP from Bloodshot Records. Part country, part punk, and all attitude, this Ohioan evokes the best of the original punk-gone-country movement. This one should be fun.

Beck – Morning Phase (February)

Okay, you see Beck and you don’t immediately think country, but he has dabbled in the format in the past (go feast your ears on “Rowboat” and thank me later), and with this one he’s talking about it having a very heavy Gram Parson’s influence, so it may be worth a sniff from country fans.

jimbo-mathus_dark-night-of-the-soulJimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition – Dark Night of the Soul (February 18th)

The former (and current, really) front man for the Squirrel Nut Zippers never seems to receive proper acclaim even though he continually delivers one excellent album after another. Don’t sleep on this one.

Even More:

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter – Songs from the Movie (Jan 14th)
  • Blue Highway – The Game (Jan 21st)
  • Reverend Horton Heat – Rev (Jan 21st)
  • Ronnie Milsap – Summer Number 17 (Jan 28th)
  • Rhonda Vincent – Only Me (Jan 28th)
  • Laura Cantrell – No Way There from Here (Jan 28th)
  • Eric Church – The Outsiders (Feb. 11th) as if you already didn’t know
  • Dierks Bentley – Riser (Feb 25th)
  • Eli Young Band10,000 Towns (March 4th)
  • Kevin Fowler – How Country Are Ya (March 4th)
  • Martina McBride – Everlasting (March 4th)
  • Drive By Truckers – English Oceans (March 12th)

 

The Rumor Mill

Bob Wayne – Back To The Camper

Bob Wayne is no longer with label Century Media, but word is he just finished up recording an album with Andy Gibson (Hank3) in Nashville and it will be released sometime in 2014. Included on the album will be a song with Elizabeth Cook called “20 Miles To Juarez” and a song with country legend Red Simpson. Stay tuned.

The Goddamn Gallows – The Maker

No info on a release as of yet. Was initially said to be released in late 2013.

The Whiskey Shivers

Currently being record or just finished up, this Robert Ellis-produced album could be The Whiskey Shivers’ breakout moment. They’ve been making tons of noise around Austin, playing ACL fest last October, and scheduled to play the Stagecoach Festival in California this year. They are definitely a band to watch.

Hank3

His disposition is to record during the winter, and he dropped a hint of working on a new album on Facebook recently. For all we know from the last few release cycles from Hank3, he might drop 7 albums on our asses all at once, including one built from the sound of Black Cats blowing up found items from around his farm.

Justin Townes Earle

He is amid a contract dispute with a new label, but says, “ I will find a way to get new music out very soon. Will write and record a solo EP. Then Find some grown ups to work with.

The Boomswagglers

Rumor has it a new album is currently being recorded, and will take this underground country cult favorite to the next level. More deets coming.

Slackeye Slim is also working on a new album.

Matt Woods hopes to have a new album out in March.

Who else? Share your intel below!

Sep
29

Hillstomp: Still Going Strong After 12 Years

September 29, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  4 Comments

hillstomp

“Honestly it was just the result of screwing around,” says John Johnson, aka Lord Johnny Buckets, one half of the now 12-year-old Deep Blues project from Portland, OR known as Hillstomp. “I was not a drummer, and I was not playing in bands anymore at the time, and Henry and I worked together in a restaurant. He said he wanted to try a duo thing with drums, and I always wanted to play the drums but didn’t have any. Really it was just an excuse to drink beer.”

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, accompanied by other orphaned percussion instruments and found objects. “I literally grabbed like a soup pot, a cardboard box, and a bucket out of the kitchen at work, and there was a barbecue lid under my basement stairs, and we just went in the basement and started banging on stuff. And it quickly became apparent it was fitting for the music, and of course as soon as we played a live show, it was cemented. Even if I wanted to change, there’s really no option for that now.”

hillstomp-deep-bluesFor 10 solid years, Hillstomp terrorized the Pacific Northwest and parts beyond, including playing in Europe a few times. Blame the buckets, blame the duo’s songwriting, blame their energy or Henry Christian’s slide guitar work, but the band has become an inspiration to many others, specially in the bucket department where now it is not uncommon to see a band employ alternatives to traditional drums. Smash, boom, bang. But in September of 2011, the band went on what they dubbed their “Final Tour (for now),” filling fans with the fear of what a world without Hillstomp would sound like.

“We were just kind of worn out on it,” John explains. “Worn out with each other, didn’t really know what we wanted to do and if it was still going to have legs or not. Fortunately we took a break at just the right time. And within six months, we were like, ‘Dude this sucks. I want to play again.’ We missed each other and we missed playing. So we were off for about a year exactly, and then we started writing and playing again.”

In between John Johnson formed a side project with fellow Northwest blues wanderer and songwriter Scott McDougall called Brothers of the Last Watch, releasing an album and playing runs of shows when possible.

“Scott had been doing quite a bit of touring with Hillstomp, so we just had a lot of time hanging out and scheming, and we have a love and respect for each other and wanted to do something. So we got together, made that record, and yeah, it’s been great. We don’t do a lot because Scott is so busy with his solo stuff. I also have another band called Hong Kong Banana. It is as much of a late 60′s, early 70′s Rolling Stones ripoff as we can muster. I play bass.”

The key to Hillstomp’s longevity and to cultivating a strong following has been centered around focusing on their home region instead of trying to hit it big by taking on the world.

“We were never cut out for being in the van for long periods,” John explains. “We realized early on that 2 1/2 weeks or three weekends was pretty much it before we really couldn’t do it anymore. For a long time that was a source of frustration for me. I wanted to tour out to try and make a bigger splash outside of the region. But truthfully we’ve seen a lot of bands do that, burn themselves out, and disappear. Looking at it now, we’ve got a really good thing going on right now in Oregon, Washington, Northern California, and Montana. And I think the way we’ve done it has a lot to do with the fact that 12 years later, we’re still able to do it. We do well enough in those parts to make it worthwhile.”

2013 will go down as the year that the final living piece to the North Mississippi Hill Country’s blues legacy was lost when the legendary T Model Ford passed away—the last of the blues greats first memorialized by Fat Possum Records in the early 90′s that also included greats like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. A new generation of blues players who favor the groove-laden, sweaty, stomp style of blues the North Mississippi region is known for continue on. Scott Biram who started playing out in the late 90′s is seen as one of the forefathers of this style of what would become known as Deep Blues by many. Right on his toes was Hillstomp—the Northwest’s Deep Blues chapter, along with Seattle’s Gravelroad that regularly backed T Model Ford up. The term Deep Blues is still used by a small annual festival formed by blues fanatic and barbecue entrepreneur Chris Johnson in Bayport, MN.

“It’s kind of like a big family reunion,” says John Johnson. “I remember one of the years we did it with the Black Diamond Heavies and Van said it felt like an island of misfit toys. Because we play regular blues festivals too, and we’re always the weird one. And then we get to go to that thing, and everybody’s a weirdo. Great people, love all the music. Chris Johnson is probably, he’s a legend, he’s so awesome.”

Recently Hillstomp announced they they had launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their new album. But after only a week, the duo decided to bail on it.

“We originally wanted to do it because we wanted to make a record in a way that we’ve never been able to make a record before, which is go in to a bigger studio and work with someone who has a track record of making great records. The thing about making records these days is technology change in a way that now anyone with $3000 can make a shitty record. But it still takes knowledge, skill, and experience to make a truly great record.

“I don’t know, it just felt weird. I love the crowd funding thing. Fans like to do it, they obviously choose to do it. It just wasn’t right for us. I think if we had made the record already and we were raising funds to release the record, which a lot of bands do, that would be one thing. But at this point, the entire thing is totally intangible. But the truth is, no matter how hard you try, no matter what your intentions are, you can go in the studio and make a turd. Once it went up there, we both saw ourselves in the studio with the record button on, realizing we were spending other people’s money, who were then going to be waiting for the result, and it just didn’t feel right. We’ll find a way to make the record.”

Hillstomp plans to record their new album this winter, and have it on sale for fans in the spring or early summer. They also are planning a few West Coast tours, to travel to Ontario, and possibly do their first ever East Coast tour in 2014.

Aug
27

16 Essential One Man Bands of the Roots World

August 27, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  71 Comments

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.

scott-biramScott H. Biram

The “Dirty Ol’ One Man Band” signed to Bloodshot Records is one of the best-known longest-touring one man bands out there on circuit. His mixture of old blues with a little bit of country and punk influence is an infectious combination when he gets sliding on strings and stomping on the stage. He once had his guts spilled out on the highway after tangling head on with a semi, and lived to tell the tale.

bloodshot-billBloodshot Bill

Canada’s primary offering of a one man band is more Elvis than Elvis. With machismo dripping from him like the gobs of Dapper Dan fighting to keep the cold black hair out of his face, Bloodshot Bill is a one man wrecking crew who was also one of the first to revitalize the discipline in the modern era. He was once banned from touring in the USA. Feel free to make up your own reasons why.

 

molly-gene-one-whoman-bandMolly Gene One Whoman Band

That’s right, why can’t a woman be a one man….er, on person band too? Molly Gene gives the boys a run for their money when she gets behind her pedal kit and starts sliding on the strings and singing the deep blues.

william-elliot-whitmoreWilliam Elliot Whitmore

The premier storyteller and poet of the one man bands, the ANTI-signed William Elliot Whitmore, made a name for himself opening for punk bands, and has gone on to be considered one of the top entertainers in the discipline. Whitmore’s songwriting is sublime, and his voice has the wisdom of 1,000 old men. No wonder he doesn’t need a band.

possessed-by-paul-jamesPossessed by Paul James

Possessed by Paul James isn’t just a one man band, he is a religious experience. This is no novelty act, this is a man who channels an unworldly passion through his music that emanates through him like some sort of sonic séance. Simply put, seeing Possessed by Paul James will change your life.

Reverend-DeadeyeReverend Deadeye

Drink up sinners! If one man band’s were like vintage television shows, Reverend Deadeye would be Sanford & Son mixed with MacGyver. You’ll never see another ragtag assemblage of clanging bangers then when Deadeve takes the stage, but this isn’t all Vaudeville. The Rev can really sing a song, and does Gospel as good as anyone. Probably not the rev you want at your wedding ceremony, but he sure does sound good.

 

lincoln-durhamLincoln Durham

I’m blown away why there’s not more chatter about this guy in the Deep Blues world. A one man band with a dirty, soulful approach, switching from old Gibson arch tops to resonator guitars, to a banjo, to one-stringed diddley bow, it doesn’t get much better than Lincoln Durham when it comes the dirty, low down approach to music. His last album was produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard.

lone-wolf-ombLone Wolf

The pizza twirling, gator wrestling, Florida via NYC with a short stint in South America Italian Stallion of one man bands is the fastest damn banjo player you’ll ever hear, and seems to add a new percussion instrument he’s playing with a foot, knee, shoulder, whatever every time you see him. Lone Wolf works at the world renown Gold Tone banjo works in FLA, but his latest album Mine Up 13 features mostly guitar.

 

shakey-gravesShakey Graves

One of the few one man bands who may be fit for mass consumption, but giving up nothing to his counterparts in artistry or songwriting, Shakey Graves is a quirky, but handsome old school entertainer you can’t help but engage with.

 

Joseph+HuberJoseph Huber

The former .357 String Band banjo player and songwriter was forced to go solo when the band broke up, but featuring some of the best songwriting you can find and tight multi-instrument skills, Joseph Huber is no worse for the wear. Huber is not a conventional one man band—the approach comes more from the mother of necessity, and he will still take other players when he can get them.

charlie-parrCharlie Parr

From the tales of dying and dismembered men, to the disenfranchised, homeless, lost souls and forgotten, they are all canonized through Charlie’s honesty and amazing clarity into perspective. Charlie doesn’t sing about subjects in third person, he becomes the subject of his songs in an uncanny channeling of character, and makes the story flesh and bone right before your eyes.

joe-buck-yourselfJoe Buck Yourself

An animal. A force of nature. Joe Buck Yourself is like a caged animal, unleashed on a crowd to inflict the wildest possibly damage on idiot thoughts and ego. The former Hank3 bass player and original lower Broadway revitalizer that used to pal around with BR549 and partly owned Layla’s Bluegrass Inn is now mostly know for spit wielding snarls, heart pounding songs, and rivers of feedback. Not for the faint of heart.

otis-gibbsOtis Gibbs

This wily old songwriting veteran who now resides quite prominently in east Nashville is not as much a proper one man band as a guy who doesn’t need much more than a guitar and a song, and some stories in between to keep an audience entertained. As time goes on, he may be becoming just as popular for his podcasts that capture some of the coolest music cats in their natural east Nashville habitat.

scott-mcdougallMcDougall

The troubadour of the one man bands and one of the best storytellers and purveyors of wisdom, Scott McDougall has an Old World charm to his music, like a wandering sage who walks into the local tavern to regale a crowd before slipping out again, not to be seen for many more months. A lover of friends, campfires, and conversations, McDougall is the best friend you’ve never met.

bob-long-iiiBob Log III

Bob Log III is like a one man Marine expeditionary demolition crew, cutting, burning, pillaging and plundering with a thunderous, ominous blues sound. Best known for playing while veiled behind a full face helmet (is Daft Punk ripping him off? Anyone? Anyone?), he’s one of the most entertaining one man bands out there.

the-slow-poisonerThe Slow Poisoner

The creepiest, and one of the most creative of the one man bands, this comic book writer and substitute teacher from San Francisco puts on one of the most entertaining live shows you can see, complete with big creepy cue cards and other props while he peddles his Egyptian oils and other wares through his music.

 

 

Other one man bands: Brownbird Rudy Relic, T Model Ford (RIP), Hasil Adkins (RIP), Mark “Porkchop” Holder, Reverend Beatman, Right On John, Dead Elvis & His One Man Grave, Ben Prestage, Smokestack and the Foothill Fury, Phillip Roebuck, Bloody Ol’ Mule, Seasick Steve, Tales From A Ghost Town, Ghostwriter, Crankshaft, Patson, Dad Horse Experience, Eagle Eye Williamson, Malcome Holcombe, and …

Jul
16

Mississippi Blues Legend T Model Ford Dies

July 16, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  9 Comments

t-model-ford

Legendary North Mississippi Blues great James Lewis Carter Ford, known affectionately as “T Model Ford” or “Tale Dragger,” 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 his home in Greenville, Mississippi this morning surrounding by his loving wife Stella and family.

T Model somewhat famously had no idea exactly how old he was, but friends, family, and fellow musicians estimated he was born around 1920 in Forrest, a small community in Scott County, Mississippi, making him 93-years-old. He didn’t start performing professionally until 1997, after his 5th wife left him and gave him a guitar as a “leaving present.”  The blues legend was self taught, and he could not read music or guitar tabs. Music writer Will Hodgkinson once said T Model’s one-of-a-kind guitar technique could not be explained.

T Model suffered a stroke in late May of 2012, and though the guitar player and singer had suffered minor strokes before, friends and family said his spirits were “uncharacteristically low” after the episode. T Model never performed professionally again.

“T-Model’s credentials are impeccable; if anything he’s over qualified,” says Fat Possum records of their former recording artist. T Model recorded five albums for Fat Possum, and was their last surviving blues artist from their original roster. T Model would later record for Alive/Naturalsound Records, and regularly toured with the Seattle-based blues band GravelRoad.

T Model Ford’s father had 26 children. He was plowing the family’s field behind a mule by age 11 before getting a job at a sawmill and eventually being promoted to truck driver based out of Delta, MS, near Greenville. He was once sentenced to 10 years on a chain gang for murder, but only served two of them before being released.

“T-Model held a special place for his many friends, fans and family. He was a one-of-a-kind blues character, and anyone who ever met him has some amazing and/or ridiculous tale to tell,” says Bucket City.

T Model’s sound, along with the other North Mississippi blues legends, has been given credit for inspiring the sounds from artists like The Black Keys and Scott H. Biram.

Funeral arrangements are currently being made. Fans and friends wishing to donate to T Model’s family are being asked to give directly to the bank.

James Ford
Routing# 084205708
Account# 4700445890
Planters Bank
424 Washington Ave
Greenville, MS 38701
PH: 662-335-5258; FX: 662-378-4429
OR MAIL CARDS, CHECKS, ETC. TO HOME:
James Ford, 216 North Delta Street Greenville MS 38703

Feb
28

Song Review – Shooter Jennings’ “The White Trash Song”

February 28, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  60 Comments

shooter-jenningsWow, what a muddy mess.

Shooter Jennings’ “The White Trash Song” begins like Merry Poppins meets Justin Moore: lists of country artifacts bellowed out while silly little background sounds evoke memories of the Lily Tomlin scene in the movie 9 To 5 when she’s mixing up poison in the bosses drink and little animated birds come to perch on her shoulder. Vacuous, cliche lyrics are shoehorned into verses that at times are three sizes too short for the cadence Shooter wants to use, so they push at the sides of the song structure like the flesh of an elephantine Wal-Mart shopper testing the burst strength of her spandex.

After the ridiculous introduction, “The White Trash Song” reveals that it wants to be considered one of these up-tempo, extended country jams in the vein of Ricky Skaggs’ “Country Boy” or Alan Jackson’s “I Don’t Even Know Your Name.” The problem is the pickers employed for the session are just average, and 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.

The worst transgression of “The White Trash Song” is that once again Shooter calls upon this ridiculous concoction of some cryptic chorus, delay, and reverb combination to attempt to bolster his vocal limitations; one of the most glaring and recurring miscues throughout his career. But this time it is taken way past the “10″ on the dial to the point where his words become so saturated and incoherent they make Florida-Georgia Line’s blatant use of Auto-Tune sound rootsy. Shooter’s voice sounds good at the beginning, so why go with all this overproduced nonsense? The lyric track comes across as all breath, adding a polluted, filmy layer on the entire song that keeps you at arm’s length from the words and story and performances of the musicians. Little breathy vocal reverberations contaminate the track for seconds before and after Shooter sings.

This is possibly the worst-sounding song from Shooter Jennings we’ve ever heard from a simple production and engineering standpoint, which begs the question of why so many artists are lining up to have him act as a producer on their albums. Shooter has talent. Where he fails is in the decision making that is traditionally handled by a producer, letting bad songs and bad elements get in the way of what are otherwise solid offerings. “The White Trash Song” is a shining example of this.

shooter-jennings-the-white-trash-songWhat is one of the recurring themes in country music criticism? That’s right, is it authentic or not? By doing a song called “The White Trash Song,” this shows that Shooter is on the outside looking in. We all know who Shooter is, and he’s nowhere akin to white trash. He was born with a silver spoon up his nose, and has since worn a hard path between New York and LA in tow of his Hollywood girlfriend.

Does that preclude Shooter from playing country music? Absolutely not, and as soon as we start deciding who can and can’t play country, we’ve lost sight of the most important thing, which is if the music is good or not. But “The White Trash Song” is neither good, nor authentic. It’s Shooter’s attempt to identify culturally with a demographic in his never-ending quest to build a consensus around his music that doesn’t exist except for in an extremely tight and myopic scene of fans who have displaced all their sense of taste to follow the false notion that Shooter Jennings can in any way deliver any inkling of commercial viability to music that lost its relevancy years ago.

What is “The White Trash Song” about? I really can’t tell you because I can barely understand the words. If you want a laugh, check out the fail on this person trying to translate this mess here, but the song seems to be built around creating a “white trash” character that is either in jail or trying to avoid it. But for the purpose of what? Country music is about a story, something that touches your humanness. Sure, the music of this song is more “country” than most of Music Row’s “new Outlaw” songs, but just because something is country doesn’t mean it is good. This seems to be the most fundamental misunderstanding with “The White Trash Song.” It can’t even be a simple, fun song because the sound is so messy.

Scott H. Biram is the one positive in this song, giving a rousing vocal performance in the limited capacity he was given to work with. He displays both sides of himself positively–the souful Texas blues singer and the raspy punk-edged grit–in a very limited space and medium. But lyrics about drinking liquor AND booze, and he’s got nothing to loose? Come on man, we’re better than this. I do appreciate the general idea behind this song. It could have worked, but it failed in the production.

The idea that this song will have any sort of impact on anything when Shooter Jennings plays it on Leno tonight (2-28-13) is laughable, unless you’re aiming to have Brantley Gilbert fans invade you’re little Facebook music scene. Shooter’s plan to mitigate his critics by kissing their ass and incorporating himself into their music scene has been effective, but if I had $5 for every time an artist, fan, journalist, or music entity told me off record that they hated Shooter Jennings’ music but appreciate what he’s doing for the “scene,” I may be able to afford houses on both coasts as well. Of course they can’t let their true feelings be known because they’d be ostracized by Shooter and his toadies who allow absolutely no room for dissent or opinion. Once upon a time underground roots was about the music. I guess folks expect me to lie like them.

Go ahead, laugh me off as a die hard Hank3 fan with a grudge, but in the end I will look like Shooter Jennings’ best friend, because I’m the only motherfucker with the balls to stand up and give my honest opinion about his music, both negative and positive. And in my opinion, “The White Trash Song” is garbage.

1 3/4 of 2 guns down.

(This song is an augmented version of a song by Steve Young)

Feb
15

Papa Joe’s, Dorsett 221 Truck Stop, & The Snake Farm

February 15, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  10 Comments

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.” Willie Nelson’s hometown of Abbott resides right beside I-35, and so did his massive truck stop/music venue/and museum called Willie’s Place near the town of Carl’s Corner, that has since been retrofitted into a much less impressive and generic Petro station.

Carl’s Corner also was the home to a few of Willie’s famous 4th of July picnics, and a place many musicians made a habit of stopping at over the years. Same can be said for the Czech Stop bakery in West, TX a few miles down I-35 from Carl’s Corners, with many autographed photos of famous musicians lining its walls.

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. Some of these places take on the lore of those songs until they become living monuments of the songs themselves. Here are a few.

Papa Joe’s from Dale Watson / Whitey Morgan & The 78′s “Where Do You Want It?”

papa-joes

1505 Interstate 35, Waco, TX, 76705

The best country songs write themselves, and that’s what happened when Billy Joe Shaver shot a man behind Papa Joe’s Texas Saloon, just south of Waco on the Interstate 35 access road. On March 31st, 2007, Billy Joe was in Papa Joe’s drinking when a man by the name of Billy Bryant Coker came up to Shaver and stirred Shaver’s drink with a knife. After some words were exchanged, Shaver decided it was time to leave, and Billy Coker followed. Out in the parking lot, Billy Joe Shaver was overheard asking Coker, “Where do you want it?” while brandishing a handgun. Shaver later testified in court he actually said, “Why do you want to do this?” to Coker, but eventually Shaver shot Billy Coker in the face and the news made it down to Austin where Dale Watson decided to write a song about it.

“We were making jokes about what kind of song he’d write about this ’cause he writes songs about everything,” says Gloria Tambling, the owner of Papa Joe’s that’s been an I-35 landmark for around for 19 years.

Billy Coker’s wound was not life-threatening, and Shaver was arrested on April 2nd, 2007 for aggravated assault, later to be found not guilty for acting in self-defense in a trial that saw Willie Nelson called as a character witness. Dale Watson wrote the song, but Whitey Morgan & The 78′s were the first to cut it on their self-titled album with Dale’s blessing. Dale’s latest album El Rancho Azul includes his version.


Dorsett 221 Truck Stop from Scott H. Biram’s “Truck Driver”

dorestt-221-truck-stop

15201 I H 35 Buda, TX 78610

Off of Scott H. Biram’s 2005 record Dirty Old One Man Band is one of his signature songs called “Truck Driver.” Whenever Hiram Biram plays the song live, he dedicates it to “all of the truck drivers down there at the Dorsett 221 Truck Stop in Buda, TX.” Yes, the Dorsett 221 Truck Stop actually exists, or at least it did until 2005 when it was closed down. Opened in 1979 just south of Austin and right on I-35, Dorsett 221 was a trucker’s favorite and was famous for its chicken fried steak, breakfast tacos, and because it was built to look like a castle with parapets and corner towers.

Started by Tim and Lenora Dorsett, it was operated by their four sons who each were in charge of a specific part of the truck stop. The restaurant was a nice place for families to come and eat, but as time went on Dorsett 221 became somewhat famous for its crop of lot lizards that could be found lounging around. The existence of “glory holes” that Scott Biram refers to in “Truck Driver” could not be independently verified, but over time Dorsett 221 became one of central Texas’s most famous truck stops for its endearing character, and the characters it attracted.

It all went downhill for Dorsett 221 when a fire was started in one of the restrooms. During the restoration process, the four sons quarreled on how to proceed. Eventually one son took sole possession of the embattled truck stop and decided to close it. But the memory of Dorsett 221 still lives in Scott H. Biram’s song, and can still be seen on the side of the east side of the interstate as you’re passing through Buda, TX.


The Snake Farm from Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Snake Farm”

ray-wylie-hubbard-snake-farm

5640 Ih 35 S New Braunfels, TX 78132 – Photo courtesy mysanantonio.com

Did you hear what Scott H. Biram also referenced in the song above, and what shirt he was wearing? Yes there actually is a Snake Farm, and it went by the simple name “Snake Farm” for many of its 40 years in operation until settling on the much more docile, “Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo.” Located right off the Interstate 35 access road, the strange attraction and Texas landmark opened in 1967 (when I-35 was still Route 81) and currently sees around 400,000 annual visitors perusing its more than 200 species of snakes. The Snake Farm now features other exotic animals in its petting zoo and outdoor area, including monkeys, lemurs, hyenas, parrots, and a pond filled with alligators and crocodiles.

dee-dee-ramon-snake-farmRay Wylie Hubbbard’s album from 2006 is named Snake Farm, and includes the song “Snake Farm,” but Hubbard wasn’t the first musical homage to the reptile house. The Ramones discovered the Snake Farm when on tour in Texas in the late 70′s, and regularly wore Snake Farm T-shirts as part of their garb on and off stage. Oh, and did you notice the name of the female character in Hubbard’s “Snake Farm”? Yes, the Snake Farm has truly come full circle, and coils its way down the spine of good American music as an indelible artifact.

May
22

Mississippi Blues Legend T Model Ford Suffers Stroke

May 22, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  10 Comments

(This story has been updated)

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. This is not the first stroke T Model has suffered, but the people around him were describing the always-jovial, 90+ years-old blues player’s spirits as “uncharacteristically low.” Since then his health and spirits have improved some.

T Model was admitted to Greenwood Leflore Hospital in Greenwood, MS over the weekend after suffering a stroke, or possibly a series of strokes. According to T Model’s wife Miss Stella, initial tests indicated some serious blockages, and T Model was to undergo angioplasty and start physical therapy. However, because of his age and general health, angioplasty was taken off the table. Since then his health “…has improved a bit and has regained partial use of his right hand and can walk a bit using a walker,” according to family friend Randy Magee. Today, (Wednesday 5-23) family friend Roger Stolle reports that T Model was scheduled to be discharged from the hospital and sent to a physical therapy facility closer to his home.

****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****

Family friend Randy Magee visited T Model Ford at King’s Daughter’s Hospital in Greenville, MS yesterday, 5/25 and reports:

T says he’s doing fine folks. He had just come from physical therapy and his lunch came shortly afterwards… let’s just say loss of appetite IS NOT among T’s problems. He showed me that he could move his right arm, hand and fingers, but confided that he couldn’t remember how to play his guitar. He was telling me that he’d forgotten how to sing and a speech therapist came in to start working with him. I gave Stella some cash that some friends from the Netherlands sent for T and left him with the therapist as he already had a room full of family there.

****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****

T Model Ford, born James Lewis Carter Ford is the last surviving blues man from the original crop of artists the label Fat Possum Records sought out to make records of and preserve their sound beginning in 1992 from the North Mississippi region. He regularly tours with the Seattle blues band GravelRoad, and is scheduled to play this year’s Muddy Roots Festival. T Model’s actual age is unknown, though it is thought he was born sometime between 1921 and 1925. He recorded 5 albums for Fat Possum from 1997-2008, until moving to Alive NaturalSound Records. T Model’s sound along with the other North Mississippi blues legends has been given credit for inspiring the sounds from artists like The Black Keys and Scott H. Biram.

The Ford family is seeking donations to help with expenses. Information on where to donate can be found below. The Saving Country Music donate button has also been activated in the top right column of the site, so folks wishing to donate through paypal can do so there.

SEND DONATIONS DIRECTLY TO BANK:
James Ford
Routing# 084205708
Account# 4700445890
Planters Bank
424 Washington Ave
Greenville, MS 38701
PH: 662-335-5258
FX: 662-378-4429

OR MAIL CARDS, CHECKS, ETC. TO HOME:
James Ford
443 South 7th Street
Greenville, MS 38703

 

May
4

The Timing Is Good For Alabama Shakes’ “Boys & Girls”

May 4, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  15 Comments

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. A style that notched a bullseye smack dab in the middle of the wave of current popular appeal without sacrificing artistic purpose is the reason The Alabama Shakes are becoming an American music success story we can actually be proud of for once.

This rootsy, soulful rock band is bound together by the force known as Brittany Howard, part Janis Joplin, part Kimya Dawson, both poetic, and fanatically possessed. Whenever I think of the true embodiment of the word “soul” I think of an old black woman. Whether it’s an old black female singer, or young white male guitar player, if they truly want to have soul, they must have an old black woman trapped inside of them somewhere, with 1,000 injustices fighting back tears in world-torn eyes, and infinite wisdom bred from bad choices by the self and others. Soul is anger only semi-controlled, and that is what Brittany Howard has. (“I’ll fight the planet!” she proclaims in the song “Heartbreaker”. )

This is backed up by the rest of The Shakes, a solid group of musicians who know how to flesh out the vintage vibe Brittany’s original compositions are written to convey. This is a very youthful, energetic-sounding album, which is refreshing to hear coming from roots circles that generally are dominated by post-punk or indie rock-converted 30-somethings studying under gray-haired alt-country elders. The Alabama Shakes sound only a few steps outside of the garage, and that’s a great approach to hear with music that is textured to feel aged.

This their first full length album Boys & Girls has some fun moments and some rocking moments that really touch on a groove, and then some very deep, tearful moments. It is exquisitely arranged where Brittney is never buried by anything else going on, though even if the mix was imbalanced, it would still be impossible not to be drawn to her presence in the music. I guess you would call that magnetic. In such a shallow, simple-minded world, she would command a room full of magazine models. Brittney is bold; a power generator of a human earth being.

The best part about Boys & Girls is the promise you can hear in this music. Man, I love when you can hear promise, when you can enjoy how good the music is here and now, but also spy the branches where something even better will spring from.

There’s nothing really country about The Alabama Shakes, though some country foundations are there if you listen deep. And with their soul and roots sound, you could slip them between a Wayne “The Train” Hancock and Scott H. Biram on a bill and nary an eyelash would be batted. Maybe a guilty pleasure for some country fans, certainly a better music choice for the masses, we shall see what fate awaits The Alabama Shakes as the fickle winds of style and appeal blow back and forth in the American conscious. We will also see if any band or scene or style is big enough to contain Brittany Howard, or if she will burn too bright to sustain.

The Alabama Shakes are not for everyone, but I struggle to find a wart to point at.

Two guns up!

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Purchase Boys & Girls from the Alabama Shakes

Preview & Purchase Tracks from Amazon (only $5 right now)

Apr
19

Album Review – Lone Wolf OMB “A Walk in My Pause”

April 19, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  12 Comments

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!

At this mature stage in the evolution of American music, it is extremely rare to hear something with a wholly unique approach. And to have that approach come from just one man and a very traditional, primitive instrument makes it even more exceptional. The combination of tempo and original technique derived from the clawhammer banjo style swirl for the most dizzying, disarming music experience imaginable when Lone Wolf is cued.

In some respects, it will be impossible for Lone Wolf to ever top his first album, because with music this visceral and this original, you can never go back to that initial virgin experience of the first listen. This presented a challenge. After the euphoria subsides from the abandon that Lone Wolf’s music evokes in the human conscious, growth and maturity must must continue to keep you locked in, and that is exactly what you find with A Walk In My Pause.

Working within the very limited confines of what one man can can make his fingers, feet, and pie hole do all at once, Lone Wolf opened up some new sounds and new modes to keep his music alive and engaging. The song “Bored” features Bruno using a slide on the banjo strings. “Lost Love” shows that he can play slow songs too, and the track has very gypsy caravan feel. When you get to “The Storm of ’92″ about Hurricane Andrew, Lone Wolf is just flat showing off that he’s got more banjo tricks than an elevator full of Steve Martins.

The more accessible work from Lone Wolf still may be his first album, because this one necessitated such a maturing to stay relevant, but I wouldn’t recommend you get one or the other, I would recommend you get both. My one beef is that on some of the slow songs, there’s timing issues. It seems every “one man band” has timing issues, even the big name of Scott H. Biram. But these songs are just too good to not get the timing right.

As a builder of world famous Gold Tone banjos, Bruno must have a unique insight into how to pull the magic out of these messes of wood and strings. It’s not banjo playing, it’s banjo communion. No, Lone Wolf is not one of those artists we can listen to and then shake our fists at country radio for not giving a shot, he’s likely too fey, too good for mass consumption or appeal.

However it’s artists like this, that while sitting on their back porch any given afternoon may break new ground, forge new discoveries, push the banjo envelope to new heights. Like the Starship Enterprise, going where no banjo has gone before, motivating and inspiring other banjo players to push themselves as well, and at the same time creating a body of work that exposes techniques and riffs others can borrow from.

Lone Wolf and A Walk In My Pause is like an alchemist’s journal into the depths of the banjo craft that we all get to peer into and be awed by the mastery.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Purchase A Walk In My Pause on Bandcamp

Note: The song in this video talks about making a video in it, and then the video is a video about making a video. I told you this is Starship Enterprise type stuff.

 

Apr
3

The Origins & Epicenters of Underground “Muddy” Roots

April 3, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  57 Comments

From the outside looking in, one may look at the lineup of The Muddy Roots Festival for example, and wonder how a throwback legend from Texas like Wayne “The Train” Hancock, a hillbilly punk freak from Tennessee like Joe Buck, a golden-throated singer from Michigan like Rachel Brooke, a crazy hellbilly songwriter from the Pacific Northwest like Bob Wayne, and a blues legend from Mississippi like T-Model Ford 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. Below is a list of the disparate origins of Muddy Roots music that came together from a mutual understanding and appreciation of the roots of American music, and the epicenters where this music originated from and/or is thriving today.

ORIGINS:

The revitalization of Lower Broadway in Nashville.

In the early 90′s, lower Broadway street in downtown Nashville comprised the last bastion of old buildings that symbolized what Music City used to be. Overrun with dirty bookstores and titty bars, and The Grand Ole Opry’s original home The Ryman shuttered, young cowpunk and neo-traditionalist musicians like BR549, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, Hillbilly Casino, Greg Garing, and Joe Buck and Layla, commandeered lower Broadway and revitalized the strip into the tourist destination it is today. Emmylou Harris‘s legendary concert with the “Nash Ramblers” in 1994 also breathed new life into The Ryman, and later Hank Williams III would cut his teeth in lower Broadway venues like Layla’s Bluegrass Inn.

The fierce appreciation for country’s roots combined with an independent, punk mentality is what revitalized the most historic portion of downtown Nashville, and created the foundation for the blending of country, blues, and punk that Muddy Roots music would spring from.

Read more about lower Broadways revitalization: PART 1PART 2PART 3PART 4

 Outlaw Country

Not just Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, but Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, and especially Tompall Glaser’s “Hillbilly Central” renegade studio in Nashville is the origin of the Outlaw spirit behind underground country roots, the “Do It Yourself” attitude to not allow labels to arrest creative control from the artists and to always respect the elders and traditions of the country genre while also allowing the music to innovate.

Punk

Underground country and Muddy Roots is very much a construct of the “post punk” music landscape. As punk music and scenes began to become stale or gentrify, punk artists and fans looking for the raw approach to music, and many times raised on traditional country and bluegrass, began to turn back to their own roots and put down their Flying V guitars for fiddles and banjos. This is where some of the fast, aggressive approach to roots music comes from, on both the country and the blues side, as well as the DIY spirit, and the grassroots approach to scene building and album production.

After Hank Williams III’s stint with the punk metal band Superjoint Ritual is when many punk and metal heads found themselves listening to country music again. In 2006, when Hank3 recorded his album Straight to Hell at home on a consumer-grade machine and put out an album with a Parental Advisory sticker on the front through one of Nashville’s major labels, many barriers were broke down and parameters set for how Muddy Roots music would evolve.

North Mississippi Hill Country Blues & Deep Blues

One of the reasons both country and blues music can work right beside each other in Muddy Roots is because in many cases they are both being infused with punk, just like artists Scott Biram and The Black Diamond Heavies do. Many times the infusion is with a very specific type of blues from the North Mississippi Hill Country, brought to the attention of the rest of the world by Fat Possum Records in the early 90′s, just about the same time lower Broadway in Nashville was being revitalized by young country punks.

One of the first events that put these like-minded blues and punk blues musicians all in one place, and included a few country-based artists as well was the Deep Blues Festival put on by Chris Johnson in Minnesota starting in the mid 2000′s. Deep Blues fest was where the relationship between blues, punk, and a deep appreciation for the roots of blues by young white musicians was codified.

Rockabilly

In a similar way to infusing both country and blues music with a punk edge and mentality, rockabilly artists in the early 90′s like The Reverend Horton Heat pioneered “pyschobilly”, a punk version of rockabilly. Just like their blues and country counterparts, they were neo-traditionalists, staunchly educated in and preservers of the roots of the music.

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EPICENTERS:

Part and parcel with the sonic diversity of underground country roots is the geographic diversity. Unlike many other past music movements that sprang up in specific geographical areas (or maybe in a few general areas, like East Coast vs. West Coast), Muddy Roots has epicenters all across the country as illustrated in the map below.

1. Tennessee (Nashville)

As explained above, Nashville has played the most vital role in the formation of underground country roots, from the Outlaw country music movement in the mid-70′s, to the revitalization of lower Broadway beginning in the mid-90′s, and today with the Muddy Roots Festival just an hour east in Cookeville, Nashville and Tennessee remain the major Muddy Roots epicenter, including the up-and-coming east Nashville, home to many venues supporting underground musicians, and the home of Hank Williams III, arguably the most important musician to the formation of a country music underground.

2. Austin, TX

As the”Live Music Capitol of the World” and a huge music town, Austin follows only Nashville in it’s importance to Muddy Roots music. Home to Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Scott Biram, Dale Watson, and many other underground roots musicians, as well as one of the epicenters of the original country music Outlaw movement and a lot of independent music infrastructure, Austin is a vital epicenter in underground roots.

3. The North Mississippi Hill Country

It’s not just any old blues that builds the nexus between blues and country into that unique underground roots concoction, it is a specific type of blues from the north Mississippi Hill Country. Fat Possum championed the sound of artists like RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, T Model Ford, and many others beginning in the early and mid 90′s. That sound has since been picked up and combined with punk by artists like Scott Biram, The Ten Foot Polecats, Restavrant, and The Black Keys to form what is more commonly referred to today as “Deep Blues”.

4. Michigan – (Detroit, Flint)

On the surface maybe one of the most unlikely epicenters for country and roots music is also possibly one of the most vibrant. The home base for artists like Whitey Morgan & The 78′s, Rachel Brooke, The Goddamn Gallows (Lansing), as well as a vibrant local scene with bands like Some Velvet Evening, Michigan has grown just about as many underground roots acts as anywhere else. To grow good roots bands you need support, and events like the legendary “Honky Tonk Tuesdays” at Club Bart in Ferndale created the community and collaboration that have allowed Michigan roots music to thrive.

5. The Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin)

The Upper Midwest is the proving ground for many early and influential Muddy Roots bands, including the Gothic country stalwarts Those Poor Bastards from Madison, WI, the premier punk/bluegrass .357 String Band from Milwaukee, and Trampled by Turtles from Duluth, MN. When you throw in Michigan as an Upper Midwest state as well, the region becomes one of the strongest in the country for roots music.

Minnesota was also the scene of the crime for the original Deep Blues Festivals, and is the home of Chris Johnson, the founder of Deep Blues, and the owner of Bayport BBQ, a blues-based venue near St. Paul. Along with Weber’s Deck in French Lake, MN, they make Minnesota an Upper Midwest roots haven.

6. Arizona (Phoenix)

It only seems appropriate that one of the places where Waylon Jennings began his legacy from would years later become an underground country epicenter. The original home of Hillgrass Bluebilly Records, and a must-stop for touring bands going to or coming from The West Coast, Phoenix feels like home for many, and is home to artists like Ray Lawrence Jr. , Junction 10, and “Valley Fever” every Sunday night at the Yucca Tap Room. Hillgrass Bluebilly events are where many underground roots artists would meet for the first time, sparking collaborations on albums and tours that created a coagulating effect in an otherwise spread-out movement.

7. The Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest is like a factory for underground roots talent. Bob Wayne, Larry & His Flask, McDougall, James Hunnicutt, Hillstomp, and Brent Amaker are all from there, and the list goes on and on. And then when you start digging deeper, many artists who are now based out of other places originated from there, like some of the original members of BR549. Both Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson did time in the Pacific Northwest early in their careers. And we can’t forget the punk world’s Eddie Spaghetti and the Supersuckers started doing country side-projects in the late 90′s and collaborated with Steve Earle.

Bluegrass is big in the area, and there seems to be a kindred spirit between the rainy west and the deep South because of the rural life and landscape, and because many of the original settlers of the Northwest were originally from the South. With a population that tends to support the arts and music, and many specific neighborhoods and venues and festivals like Pickathon that cater to the roots scene, the Pacific Northwest is one of underground roots’ biggest power players.

8. Montana

Montana may look like a lowly outpost on the map, but it played a vital roll in the formation of underground roots in the mid to late oughts, specifically with a promotion company called Section 08 Productions putting together the “Murder in the Mountains” tours. By bringing together artists from all around the upper part of the country like Rachel Brooke, JB Beverley, .357 String Band, Bob Wayne, Slackeye Slim and others, they were one of the first to take the theoretical underground roots scene, and give it some substance. Section 08 Productions has since morphed into Farmageddon Records, and is still based in Montana.

 9 – California

California has always been the force in country music just behind Nashville and Texas, and that counts for underground country and roots as well. Where California played a key role in the formation of underground country was the interjection of punk influences and the transition of punk fans. Mike Ness of Social Distortion, Jon Doe and Exene Cervenka from the band X doing country side projects in the 80′s and 90′s is what led to the punk/country nexus. The Devil Makes Three from Northern California were one of the very first bands to bring a punk attitude to string music, The Pine Box Boys from San Francisco were one of the pioneers of Gothic bluegrass, and Los Duggans from LA were an important Deep Blues band.

10. North Carolina

Boasting some great music towns and big time roots music labels like Rusty Knuckles, Ramseur Records, and Yep Rock, North Carolina can make the case for itself as having the best music music scene and the most infrastructure right behind the big boys of Nashville and Austin. It also doesn’t hurt that one of the most successful roots acts in recent history, The Avett Bros., call North Carolina home.

11. Chicago, IL (Bloodshot Records)

Chicago will always be a big important part of underground roots as the home of Bloodshot Records. Bloodshot was one of the first labels to put their money where there mouth was in 1994, being “drawn to the good stuff nestled in the dark, nebulous cracks where punk, country, soul, pop, bluegrass, blues and rock mix and mingle and mutate.” As home to artists as important and wide ranging as Justin Townes Earle, Scott Biram, and Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Bloodshot Records’ impact and influence will always make Chicago a roots epicenter.

12. Central Florida

The scene in Central Florida is young, but burgeoning. Being the home of artists like the legendary Ben Prestage, Lone Wolf OMB, The Everymen, and many more, Florida is primed to become one of the underground country and roots hot spots.

13. Lawrence, Kansas

As a college town with a music school, Lawrence, KS is one of the best mid-sized music towns out there. Lawrence brings the support for live music, and not just for the usual college-town indie rock fare. It is home to bands like the long-running Split Lip Rayfield, and the high energy Calamity Cubes, and some of the coolest music venues you can find, like the Jackpot Music Hall, 8th St. Tap Room, and The Bottleneck.

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Other important epicenters: Little Rock, Arkansas, and specifically the legendary Whitewater Tavern. Bloomington, Indiana, a big music and roots town, and home to Austin Lucas, Davy Jay Sparrow, and many more. And Denver, CO, home to Slim Cessna’s Auto Club amongst many others.

Dec
8

Saving Country Music’s Essential Albums for 2011

December 8, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  46 Comments

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. There are a few more good and important albums in 2011 that have yet to be reviewed, and there is a list of some of them at the bottom. Aside from the first few albums mentioned, which should be considered close runners up to the SCM Album of the Year (which includes albums not on this list), the albums are in no special order.

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? Please leave your feedback below.

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Rachel BrookeDown In The Barnyard

Every year, there is going to be one album that gets screwed out of being a nominee for Album of the Year. Even if I double the amount of nominees, still the line is drawn somewhere, and that next album on the list is the odd one out. Last year it was Jayke Orvis’s It’s All Been Said. This year it is this amazing offering from Rachel Brooke. Call it 2011′s “Most Essential” album.

You can tell Rachel has studied many modes of classic country, not just some. I hear Charlie Louvin, not just Hank Williams. I hear The Carter Family, not just Johnny Cash. And the themes are not just from the 1950′s, but the 1850′s as well. There’s no big branches for you to grab on to and say, “Hell yeah, this is the kind of country I like!” but the originality embellishes the album to such a more magnanimous degree. (read full review)

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The Boomswagglers- Bootleg Beginnings

Another album I wouldn’t argue with you over if you wanted to call it the best of the year. One of the most authentic albums of 2011 for sure.

The music is wildly entertaining and deceptively deep. If you’re going to be a Boomswagglers song, someone’s got to die, and likely a woman. Some may find this silly, monotonous, or even offensive, but you have to listen beyond the lyrics, and unlock the carnal wisdom that is hidden in these songs. They were Boomswagglers, and that low form of living is ever present in every note on this album.(Read full review)

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Lone WolfLone Wolf OMB

Probably the album with the most original approach in all of 2011; something nobody else has done before. And at the same time, it is the most viscerally engaging. Excellent album you’d be foolish to overlook.

The first time I turned this album on, I was out of my chair, stomping my foot on the floor, banging my head, making a complete ass out of myself for the entertainment of the four walls of the Saving Country Music headquarters. It made a music virgin out of me again. (read full review)

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Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day TroubadoursDel Gaucho

One of the best of the year, and one of the best from Lucky Tubb. In Del Gaucho, you really feel like he has found his voice and sound.

So many other artists and bands, to take this same selection of covers and originals and record them, it would just come across as cheesball retro country with it’s anachronistic language and outmoded style. But Lucky Tubb has a swagger that makes him immune to such concerns. To him, this isn’t playing country like it used to be done, this is playing country like it is supposed to be done. (Read full review)

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Husky BurnetteFacedown in the Dirt

The best album of 2011 from the Deep Blues side of things in my opinion.

This is music to get you moving. I can’t listen to this album at home. I’ll get flying around and break things. I can only listen while driving, with a foot pumping on the gas pedal to the groove. If somebody was listening to this album and wasn’t at least bobbing their head or tapping their foot, the next thing I’d do is put a mirror in front if their mouth. (read full review)

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Nick 13Nick 13

This solo country project from psychobilly’s Tiger Army is certainly essential, and one of those albums that was not on your radar at the beginning of the year, but you’re still listening to at the end of it, especially the essential songs of “101,” “Gambler’s Life,” and an updated version of “In The Orchard”.

With Nick 13′s first self-titled release, he hasn’t just stuck his foot in the door of country music, he’s kicked the door down. This is a good one folks! The California native’s brand of country is hard, with a lot of Western influences mixed in to the instrumentation and lyrics, contrasted with his soft and delicate, but deliberate voice. (read full review)

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Ugly Valley BoysDouble Down

Another surprise album out of left field that has become one of the year’s best.

So many bands try to imbibe their music with a vintage feel and Western space by using copious amounts of chorus or reverb. Guitar player, singer, and songwriter Ryan Eastlyn takes the road less traveled with the use of moaning, melodic chorus lines that are so excellent, they vault this band from a relative unknown to one responsible for one of the better albums put out so far in 2011. (read full review)

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Cody Canada & The DepartedThis Is Indian Land

I was surprised to find out a few months after reviewing this album that not many Cross Canadian Ragweed fans, or critics for that matter have much use for this album. I have to respectfully disagree. Quit wanting what you’re used to expecting from Cody Canada, and start listening to what he is offering. There is a little fat here, but This Is Indian Land also has some of the best songs put out all year.

This is one of the funnest, freshest, well-written, well-produced albums to come out this year. There’s good songs, good performances, and it’s bold. While still sounding relevant and un-obscure, Cody and The Departed were able to stay out of the well-worn grooves that run like tired veins through so much of mainstream music. (read full review)

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The Dirt DaubersWake Up, Sinners!

Along with Larry & His Flask’s All That We Know, I’m afraid these are the two albums being grossly overlooked this year.

I love this album. You may look at the track listing and ask yourself why we need yet another version of “Wayfaring Stranger”. The answer is because the great Col. JD Wilkes has never done one before. A perfect mix of classics and originals, don’t just pigeon hole this project as just another rag tag bluegrass bit, there a lot of hot jazz, rockabilly and blues mixed in with the old time string band approach. (Read full review)

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Larry & His FlaskAll That We Know

Larry & His Flask from the ultra hippie nouveau town of Bend, OR have been making the rounds on the live circuit for years now, leaving legions of disciples and gallons of sweat behind at every stop. Putting out as much energy as any band has in the history of ever, and a lineup that necessitates shoving multiple tables together at every restaurant the tour van stops at, LAHF’s live show is impressionable to say the least.

Along with all the other elements, LAHF build their music using dark cords and unusual, unintuitive changes and progressions that give them a unique sound beyond any traditional string or punk music. (Read full review)

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Willy Tea Taylor- 4 Strings

If you’re a tragic, tragic audiophile like myself, then you understand just what a blessing it is when out of the blue you discover an artist that really speaks to you, and it opens a brand new vein of music for you to enjoy for years to come. This is the experience most people come away with when hearing Willy Tea Taylor for the first time.

Like so many albums that take the stripped down approach, there is just less to criticize, allowing the pureness of the music to flow. I cannot give you one reason not to like Willy Tea Taylor or 4 Strings, only reasons you’d be a fool for not loving it. (Read full review)

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Slim Cessna’s Auto ClubUnentitled

When this album came out early in the year, it was the frontrunner for Album of the Year. At the end of the year, it still holds up. Slim Cessna is not for everyone, and his take on pop music may make this album even more obscure, but it is nonetheless genius and engaging.

At first I didn’t know what to make of this album. In places, this is the most accessible, most non-dark music they have ever done. There are many bands that if they had put out an album like this, grumbles of “going mainstream” or “selling out” would be heard. But The Auto Club is so weird, so fey to begin with, being more normal actually makes them even more weird than they were before, adding to the mystique and mythos behind the band. (read full review)

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Hank3Guttertown

Still can’t get into Ghost To A Ghost, the first album of this double album set, but the second album is solid from beginning to end.

The first record in the 4 record salvo from Hank3 Ghost to a Ghost felt very much like business as usual in the post-Straight to Hell era. But Guttertown is where Hank3 gets it right by doing the same thing he did in the early and mid oughts, following his heart, defying any expectations for sound and genre, and letting his creative passion flow. Simply put, this is the best album Hank3′s put out since his 2006 opus. (Read full review)

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Jason Boland & The StragglersRancho Alto

One of the standouts in both Red Dirt and real country for 2011.

The heavy thematic focus on Texas and Oklahoma in Red Dirt music is what has made the movement strong throughout that region. It’s also what keeps it from progressing beyond. I’ve always believed that good songwriting allows you to look past proper names, and delve into the meaning of what a songwriter is attempting to convey. Jason Boland does this in Rancho Alto. (Read full review)

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Scott H. BiramBad Ingredients

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.

Biram may deliver his best album yet, and possibly one of the best albums in this calendar year, buoyed by one of the year’s best songs in the aforementioned “Victory Song”. With Bad Ingredients, Scott H. Biram simply delivers. (read full review)

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Tom WaitsBad As Me

One of the most pressing questions I’ve seen about his music in the context of his new album Bad As Me is if it should be considered “roots” or “Americana.” 7 years ago, when Waits put out his last real original album, I would have probably said no, but loaded with qualifiers. Today my answer would be “absolutely.”

What can I say, it’s Tom Waits, and he’s better than everyone else. It’s pretty much unfair and bullshit, but that’s just the way it is. All other artists, back to the drawing board with you. There has never been another artist worthy of the title of “transcendent” than Tom Waits. (Read full review)

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Olds Sleeper – I Will Follow You To Jail

Olds has a few other albums out in 2011 including Plainspoken which SCM has yet to review, but I Will Follow You To Jail may be the best primer to get you in touch with this genuine and prolific songwriter.

Unless you frequent a few small music circles in the underground world, you may have never heard of the artist Olds Sleeper, but that doesn’t diminish the argument one can make for him being one of the best songwriters of our generation. Of course, saying anyone is the “best” of anything is always disputable, but numbers are not, and by the numbers, Olds is indisputably one of the most prolific songwriters out there. (Read full review)

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Gillian WelchThe Harrow & The Harvest

I firmly believe that one of the problems with modern music is that there’s too much of it. So to see Gillian Welch wait 7 years to put out an album, is refreshing, and wise. But time and patience don’t guarantee a good album. What does is excellent songwriting, and that is exactly what Gillian delivers in The Harrow & The Harvest.

This album is one of those that needs multiple listens before you can fully appreciate it, but once it sticks to your bones, not listening to it enough will not be an issue, because you might need a pry bar to get it out of your player. (Read full review)

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Little Lisa DixieLittle Lisa Dixie

One of the few that made the Essential List that was not rated “Two guns up,” but belongs here from the strength of the songs.

With her first self-titled album, Little Lisa Dixie is helping make the case that in independent/underground country, 2011 might be the year of the woman. With surprisingly good, classic songwriting, excellent use of texture, and solid instrumentation, she has made the album that her fans have waited years for be one that is well worth the wait. (read full review)

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Bob WayneOutlaw Carnie

The first thing you need to appreciate about Outlaw Carnie is that it is country. Forget that it’s on a metal label, and that Hank III’s name is being put out there for context. There’s no fusing of metal and country here. There’s no sludgy BC Rich or Flying V guitars, no screamo, cookie monster lyrics. There’s banjo, fiddle, dobro, upright bass, brushes on snare, if there’s any drums at all.

I would assert that Outlaw Carnie is better than good. It is great, and worthy of affording Bob Wayne the much wider audience that his music deserves. (Read full review)

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Jimbo MathusConfederate Buddha

There’s no pretentiousness in Confederate Buddha, no premeditated attempt to appeal to demographics. Just like Gram once explained to Emmylou about country music, the beauty of Jimbo’s songwriting is in the simplicity.

Confederate Buddha is yet another exercise in what Jimbo Mathus does best: Delving auspiciously into various styles of classic American music, while blurring the lines between them and injecting his deep-rooted Mississippi blood. It continues and perpetuates the music mythos of Mathus as a genuine student and steward of American roots music, and a Mississippi and National treasure. (Read full review)

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Sunday ValleyTo The Wind And On To Heaven

First and foremost Sunday Valley is a live band, and that is how they approached this recording. The guitar is unapologetically loud and heavy–kind of the Stevie Ray approach of simply not worrying about what people say, just continue to do it until that is what you’re known for. This is about the loudest and heaviest you will hear guitar that still has the identifiable country “twang.”

Sunday Valley is definitely worth your consideration and raising a blip on your radar, because mark my words, I have a feeling that this will not be the last time you will hear about this band, from me or others. (Read full review)

Other albums yet to be reviewed:

The Goddamn Gallows7 Devils

Lonesome Wyatt & The Holy SpooksHeartsick

The Damn QuailsDown The Hatch

Other albums many folks recommend & received positive SCM reviews:

Dale Watson – The Sun Sessions

Lydia LovelessIndestructible Machine

William Elliot WhitmoreField Songs

Eilen JewellQueen of the Minor Key

Nov
28

Nominees for 2011 SCM Album of the Year

November 28, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  115 Comments

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. An Album of the Year can’t just be the best album to listen to, it has to be impactful, influential, and/or groundbreaking.

The decision of who to nominate is always difficult, but this year it seemed especially difficult because of the additional albums I could have included beyond these three. Both Rachel Brooke’s Down in the Barnyard and Lone Wolf’s self-titled album were excellent, breakthrough releases. Cody Canada & The Departed’s This Is Indian Land I thought was especially strong, though I may be alone in that thought. And there were a couple of landmark blues albums this year, Husky Burnette’s Facedown in the Dirt, and Scott Biram’s Bad Ingredients, and make no mistake, though it would have to fight an uphill battle, a blues album could win.

But in the end, if I had included one of those albums, I’d have to include them all to be fair to the requirements of all the nominees, and that would have diluted attention from the three albums that truly have a chance to win. And certainly those albums and many more will be included on the “2011 Essential Albums List” forthcoming.

Saving Country Music is a benevolent dictatorship, and I will make the end decision of the winner, but feedback will be taken into strong consideration, so please, leave your votes, comments, your own candidates, or write-in votes below. Just don’t make fun of the cheesball “2011 Album of the Year” logo I slapped together, or you comment will be disqualified.

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Austin LucasA New Home in the Old World

Of all the albums in 2011, this was the one I listened to the most. It is one of those albums where a few of the songs hit you the first time through, then after you’ve worn out those songs, the ones you didn’t like at first grow on you, and by the time those wear out, you’re favorites in the first place are renewed once again until 6 months have gone by and you never stopped listening. In this day of so much parody in music, this is such a rare feat.

A New Home in the Old World scores two guns up on every element of this album: the songwriting, the singing, the instrumentation, the production and accessibility. You can put this album on for one of your pop country friends, and they will like it, and you will too, and Lucas proved his wide appeal by appearing on Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown Tour this summer. And it is solidly country, pure country, with steal guitars and fiddles and down home, but not apish harmony vocals, even though he comes to us from a punk music background, and through the Suburban Home Records scene.

Simply based on appeal, and our ability to hold up an album to Music Row and say, “See, there is music out there that is better, but still widely appealing, that could save your business model,” there is no better album in 2011 than A New Home in the Old World. (read review)

Slackeye SlimEl Santo Grial, La Pistola Piadosa

El Santo Grial is a masterpiece, a magnum opus, of the highest proportions. And it’s not just that this is the greatest masterpiece of 2011, it very well may be the best masterpiece that has been put out in the independent/underground country world, ever. And I’d go even another step to say there’s a good chance it will never be rivaled in that regard. The artistry, the vision, and the patience and uncompromising approach to see it through makes El Santo Grial one for the ages.

However artistry and vision is one thing, and appeal is another. Is this an album you can play for your pop country friends? Uh yeah, probably not. They’re not ready for it, and even many people who are not pop country fans are probably not ready for it. Ulysses may be the greatest novel of all time, but damn if most of us can’t make it past the first chapter. But even though El Santo Grial may not have mass appeal, I do think it could appeal to a mass variety of people by transcending genre and traditional ideas of taste, like what Tom Waits does, until it does command a big audience. And I do think there are songs here that can be picked out of the work and stand alone.  (read review)

Hellbound GloryDamaged Goods

Originally I was not going to include Damaged Goods on this list; the 2011 Album of the Year was going to be a two horse race. Don’t get me wrong, I think the album is excellent, but I just don’t know if it is their best effort. I’m not saying it “isn’t” their best effort, I’m saying “I don’t know” if it’s their best effort, like I can say about A New Home and El Santo Grial. And I have to balance that against the fact that Leroy Virgil wanted to make an album that was an approximation of their live show, which these days is fairly stripped down because of budgetary restraints.

But when you take into consideration influence and appeal, it would be an injustice to leave Damaged Goods off. Austin Lucas could blow up, but Hellbound Glory would blow up if the right buttons were pushed by someone who has the power, and understands their aesthetic. Leroy Virgil could be the next Justin Townes Earle, a solid underground success story, or he could be the next Alan Jackson. I just wish he knew that the possibilities were in arms length of him, and I wish I knew how to get him that last step–not to afford him arbitrary measures of success like money and fame, but because the world needs Hellbound Glory’s music. (read review)

Nov
6

Viral & Serial Videos Important Tool to Independent Artists

November 6, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  20 Comments

When Toby Keith went to make a video for his song “Red Solo Cup”, he decided to give it a “viral” feel, trying to take advantage of a trend in video production that many independent artists use out of necessity. “Viral” videos started as a phenomenon in the amateur ranks, and then became a stylistic approach by independent artists who could not afford big video productions.

Though the “Red Solo Cup” video starts with a fuzzy screen and a “record” light blinking in the corner, make no mistake, the video was painstakingly planned out and produced. But the “viral” feel of the video, and of the song itself, (Toby calls it “the stupidest song he’s ever recorded), is probably a big reason the video has been #1 on CMT for going on 2 weeks. However you won’t find the song “Red Solo Cup” anywhere in the Billboard charts, at least for the moment. And if you do in the future, it will likely be from the strength of the video.

In late August, Shooter Jennings released a video for his song “Outlaw You”, shot in a true, one-take “viral” format that rocketed to the top 5 of CMT’s video chart with no attention paid to radio at all. The postulate that YouTube is the new radio may be more true than ever. It was thought “video killed the radio star” went out of vogue when MTV pulled most of its music programming for reality TV and began to focus myopically on the teenage demographic. Sometime in the late 90′s, videos became an elective in music. But since the death of MySpace, and since Facebook pays little attention to the social networking aspect of music in a direct manner, YouTube might be music’s most dominant social networking tool.

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. Dale Watson released an original video for each song from his recent The Sun Sessions album. Through Paste, Scott H. Biram has been releasing a video a week from his latest Bad Ingredients project. And Hellbound Glory has just released two videos from their upcoming Damaged Goods record, with more on the way. Both Hellbound videos are directed by Blake Judd of Judd Films, and edited by Cody Meek.

As the filmmaker for some of Scott Biram’s new videos, all the new Hellbound Glory videos, and Shooter’s viral “Outlaw You” video, Blake Judd has a good perspective on the resurgence of videos in music.

From my point of view,  the game is changing. Venues can’t promote like they used to, fans don’t go to show as much, and bands aren’t getting the exposure on the road that they once did. It’s all moving online.  You can reach far more people through online content now than you can on the road.  You still have to get on the road, even though most bands lose money or just break even, to build that fan base and get to that great but small group of people that still go to shows, to help spread the word and make personal connections. But the point is, sometimes less is more with online content, and at the same time, more is better.

And I don’t know exactly what the term “viral” means. They’re just single-take or two-take videos that give you a feel of a band and their music.  Like I keep saying to some of these bands who need content, less production and more videos that just represent their music in a solid manner will benefit them greatly.

Judd Films will be filming videos this week for Shooter Jennings’ upcoming album Family Man due in early 2012.

Oct
11

Album Review – Scott H. Biram’s “Bad Ingredients”

October 11, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  29 Comments

When it comes to one man bands, Scott H. Biram is the franchise. There may be artists with more soul and songwriting skills like Possessed by Paul James, or that are more brutal like Joe Buck, but Biram is the one with the big Bloodshot Records deal, the one that is the complete package, with soul, grit, and brutality, in blues, punk and country. 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. Like the initial on a superhero’s chest, one letter says it all. Hiram Biram: A genuine Southern-fried, Texas-bred little ball of badassedry, and nobody has ever rocked no nonsense gray velcro tennies harder.

Photo from ninebullets.net

He’s also one I would consider a live performer first, which always presents challenges in the album making process. Live performers must be able to capture their energy in recordings. That’s exactly what Biram does in the Bad Ingredients tracks “Dontcha Lie To Me Baby” and “Killed A Chicken Last Night”. You must be able to connect with people without being able to look them in the eye, and that is what he does in “Broke Ass”, “Open Road”, and “Wind Up Blind”. And you must be able to innovate, and offer something to your audience above a simple recorded version of what they see in person, and that is what Scott does in the epic “Victory Song”.

Other problems present themselves when you’ve been making music for over a decade, and have 8 albums under your belt. Expectations from your fan base kick in. That big ‘H’ on Biram’s chest could start to become a burden. You have to keep tapping deeper wells, venturing further into the depths of the soul to find new themes, to discover what needs to be said that has never been said before. Again, Biram does all of this, and in the process, may deliver his best album yet, and possibly one of the best albums in this calendar year, buoyed by one of the year’s best songs in the aforementioned “Victory Song”. With Bad Ingredients, Scott H. Biram simply delivers.

What struck me most about Bad Ingredients was the variety of styles found here, and that each is done with such masterful proficiency. It’s not just tone and style, it’s the inflections in his voice, and the different ways each song is recorded according to its style. A side effect of that is that there’s something here for everyone. There’s sweet little country blues numbers like “Memories Of You Sweetheart”. There’s chest beating punk/country rockers, there’s old time blues standards, and everything is grounded in the roots with authentic blues progressions and language, even the progressive and multi-layered “Victory Song”.  At the risk of sounding like a master of the obvious, he’s just one man, but he’s able to do so much and create such a contrast that it keeps you engaged from track 1 to 13.

And it is delightfully sloppy. Just like I doubt Scott has ever taken a spin on a bidet, I doubt he’s ever used a click track or a metrodome. The lyrics to “Open Road” don’t even rhyme, yet it is one of the standouts.

Already there’s talk from some that Bad Ingredients is is a candidate for the best album of the year. For an album to get that distinction eventually, it must endure months of scrutiny and heavy listening. But from what I’ve heard so far, it at least deserves to be considered for that type of top tier recognition.

Two guns up!

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Purchase Bad Ingredients Directly from Scott H. Biram

Preview & Purchase MP3 Tracks from Amazon

Aug
29

Shooter Jennings Releases New Video for “Outlaw You”

August 29, 2011 - By Trigger  //  News  //  77 Comments

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 long-time independent country music filmmaker Blake Judd 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.

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“Shooter called me about using a photo I took in New York while shooting the EPK for is upcoming album ‘Family Man’”, filmmaker Blake Judd explains. “Of course I was all for it, and soon after he sent me the first ‘Outlaw You’ video and wanted to see if I was interested in doing another video in Nashville last minute. So Jacob Ennis and I loaded up, drove to Nashville, and picked him up from the airport. We set up camp at Bob’s Idle Hour on Music Row, did a couple run throughs in the heat, shot a one-take viral-feeling video, and then hung out back at Bob’s until his plane went out that afternoon. Some friends came out like Joshua Black Wilkins, Joey Allcorn, Young Struggle, and Justin Wells of Fifth on the Floor.”

Judd Films has produced videos and EPK’s for names such as Hank3, Scott H. Biram, Joe BuckLucky Tubb, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, as well as work with JD Wilkes of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers on his film Seven Signs, and is currently in the final stages of a film on Charlie Louvin called Still Rattling The Devil’s Cage co-directed by Keith Neltner, featuring George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Emmylou Harris, and Marty Stuart among others.

“I like ‘Outlaw You’ a lot. It’s relevant right now from all aspects. This video, done in one take, on music row, all accomplish what Shooter was trying to do and say with this campaign. Think about it, this is a one-take, low budget video that’s going to be in heavy rotation on CMT. That is an accomplishment right there. Shooter’s album ‘Family Man’ is a dark, beautifully written, personal, pure country record that I truly believe is going to blow people away.”

A concern some had when “Outlaw You” was first released was that the song sounded similar to the music Shooter was criticizing. This was Shooter’s response to Saving Country Music:

“My intention was to put a little irony into it. I was hearing a lot of what happens on the radio and how it sounds. Radio mostly is very far from anything I would ever listen to, but for this song, I felt it was important to put it in a language that Nashville could understand. Sometimes to get a message across to another culture, you gotta speak in the culture’s native tongue. Without taking myself or my music too seriously, or crossing into cheeseball overproduced territory, it was meant to be a reply to what they’re doing there and I didn’t think a “retro” or “old school” type sound would even make it 5 feet here. It needed to have that upbeat and catchy element I think for it to have any impact.”

Jul
8

The Dirt Daubers to Release “Wake Up, Sinners!”

July 8, 2011 - By Trigger  //  News  //  9 Comments

In the still relatively young underground roots scene, there’s only a few folks you could really call a “legend”, but one would certainly be Col. JD Wilkes of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers. 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. Recently The Daubers have picked up steam, including a recent tour with Scott H. Biram. 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, distributed by Thirty Tigers.

The Dirt Daubers include JD’s wife Jessica on mandolin, and Shack Shaker’s bassist Mark Robertson. A recent press release gave some good insight into what songs and style we can expect on the album:

Mixing acoustic rockabilly, blues, jazz and country into a thrilling Frankenstein hybrid, Wake Up, Sinners is a collection of raw originals and covers, recorded together in real time in a big, live, open room…From the crooked, Gothic hymn of “Wayfaring Stranger” to the Coney Island dream of “She and Us Pets,” the band knits together a patchwork of vivid American imagery… topping it off with a none-too-subtle, acoustic-sonic sucker punch.

On their rollicking homage to working-class heroes, “Trucks, Tractors and Trains,” the sounds of J.D.’s harmonica buzz in the breaks between his old school clawhammer banjo.  But Jessica holds her ground, belting out fiery lyrics over the Hot Jazz jangle of “Get Outta My Way.”  And the wooden thump of Mark’s “bull fiddle” takes a wild turn in the Gospel rave-up “The Devil Gets His Due.”

Other songs, such as “Can’t Go to Heaven” recount real stories of real people.  From the opening sound of distant thunder, you are instantly swept into the dramatic, TRUE tale of the mysterious John Akin, a misunderstood bogeyman from the deep woods of Kentucky. And the ghostly polka of Jessica’s original “Be Not Afraid” is a tribute to her grandmother, whose memories of a bygone time are hauntingly recounted to bittersweet effect.

When I interviewed JD Wilkes about a year ago, he mentioned he would probably always do the Shack Shakers “just to get the devil out of me”, but explained how he found the simple approach of The Dirt Daubers appealing.

I’ve always appreciated the roots of what we do. Sometimes I think the roots of it get lost in the rock n’ roll aspect. It’s just a way of breaking it down and making it a little more obvious. I also just indulging my appreciation for mountain music, string band music, jug band music, hot jazz. I just love that stuff and want to be a part of it. I feel sometimes the sheer volume of the Shack Shakers diminishes it at times. I want to be able to purely touch base with that.

You can catch both Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and The Dirt Daubers at this year’s Muddy Roots Festival Sept. 3-4.

Jun
11

Top Albums of 2011 So Far

June 11, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  63 Comments

(Saving Country Music Radio will be playing songs from the Top 2011 Albums so far tonight (6-11-11) on The Real Deal.)

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. Last year I thought my head was about to explode from all the great music. Well, we’re paying for it this year.

There are some interesting projects coming up, a new Hellbound Glory album, new William Elliot Whitmore, Scott H Biram, Gillian Welch, and Pokey LaFarge, and a new country album from the always polarizing Shooter Jennings that will be fun to see how it is is received, but below is a list of my top 2011 albums so far. Please note, there are a few albums already out that I have not reviewed yet. This will only include previously-reviewed albums.


Austin LucasA New Home, in the Old World (read review)

If you’re looking for a top-dog, and one with twang, then this album might be the winner. Excellent songwriting, beautiful singing and harmonies, a well-produced album with top-notch instrumentation and performances, and a good variety in the songs. Something about this album I’ve noticed is that while I gravitated away for the more rock-style songs on the album, many single these out as the best tracks. That means this album has a little something for everyone. Austin Lucas will be on Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown tour this summer, and he deserves this honor after putting out such a superb album.


Slim Cessna’s Auto ClubUnentitled (read review)

This album is not for everyone. Being more in the Gothic country/Americana mold, it contains some natural barriers from being a true country album of the year. But as far as the project that so far has spent the most time in the listening rotation and shows the greatest amount of creativity and originality, this is the one. Being their dark, twisted take on pop music, the album has a strange addictive and accessible quality to it as well.


Lone WolfLone Wolf OMB (read review)

If you’re looking for the album that strips it all down and is simply an earth quaking, booty shaking primal experience, this is it. You may not think that one man and a banjo could be that engaging, but by the end of Lone Wolf OMB, you will be a believer.


Rachel BrookeDown in the Barnyard (read review)

The best album so far with a conceptualized approach and a cohesive theme that makes the collection of songs better than the sum of their parts. Well-crafted songs and lyrics are custom-fit with Rachel’s magnanimous voice in a very wise approach. And this is also the premier neo-traditionalist offering so far, going all the way back to modes of The Carter Family. If you’re looking for an album to get rowdy to, keep moving. If you’re looking for an album to be listened to and not just heard, then listen to this one.


Little Lisa DixieLittle Lisa Dixie (read review)

An excellent combination of smart and fun, Little Lisa Dixie’s premier, self-titled release is cast in the mold of the classic underground country album: a homage to the traditional approach to country music with a “devil, gun, and whiskey” edge. Little Lisa also throws a rockabilly vibe in on a few songs to keep things spicy.


Jimbo MathusConfederate Buddha (read review)

I have a sense that I’m going to have to drag people kicking and screaming to this album, but that’s OK, I like a challenge. Jimbo Mathus was keeping the roots alive and combining country, blues, and rock when many of the other folks in this list were still in Jr. High. Jimbo “keeps it real” in the truest sense of the phrase, is an American original, and this is a very solid, enjoyable album.


Caitlin RoseOwn Side Now (read review)

Another dark horse that may have the best songwriting from a lyrical standpoint in the whole lot and performed with a gorgeous voice. This album may be a little more placid than what folks are used to me recommending, but it is worth giving more than one chance.


Other albums to check out would be Ted Russell Kamp’s Get Back To The Land and Wanda Jackson’s The Party Ain’t Over and Left Lane Cruiser’s Junkyard Speedball.

Two albums that I feel weird trying to judge because they contain mostly previously-released material, but are worth checking out are Bob Wayne’s Outlaw Carnie, and Joe Buck’s Piss & Vinegar.

What are your top albums so far? What good albums have I’ve missed? Which albums are you most looking forward to for the rest of 2011?

Jun
8

Scott H. Biram New Album ‘Bad Ingredients’ Due October

June 8, 2011 - By Trigger  //  News  //  9 Comments

The “Dirty Old One Man Band” from Austin, TX Scott H. Biram has a new album entitled “Bad Ingredients” slated to come out in October. Biram, who is currently on tour through the Midwest (see dates), relayed the new album info in a recent interview with Awaiting the Flood:

“Bad Ingredients” is the name of the next album. I finished it a few weeks ago and it will be released sometime around the first week of October, 2011.”

Biram talked about many things, including his mix of country, blues, and rock influences, and how his legendary tussle with an 18-wheeler helped his career.

“(Laughs) Well you know it shook me up there for awhile, and every day I am thankful for being alive. You know, it crosses my mind pretty often. It definitely helped my career a little bit by giving me some kind of back-story, but, at the same time, I’m always having to tell people, “Look I play music. I didn’t just get hit by an 18 wheeler.”

Recently Biram released never-seen before video footage of the wreck (not for the faint of heart):

Apr
13

RSD Preview – Bloodshot Records 15th Anniversary Live

April 13, 2011 - By Trigger  //  News  //  12 Comments

Country music might ignore Record Store Day (RSD) this Saturday (April 16th), the worldwide event that has become an international holiday for audiofiles, but Saving Country Music won’t. Neither will Bloodshot Records, who has a number of releases and events planned for the day meant to prop up the ailing mom and pop record store.

Justin Townes Earle will be releasing a 7″ called Move Over Mama, which will include that track from his most recent album Harlem River Blues, with the B Side being “Racing in the Streets”, a heretofore unreleased sparse, haunting Bruce Springsteen song that JTE’s been slaying ‘em with live.”

I’m also salivating over the release of No One Got Hurt: Bloodshot’s 15th Anniversary @ The Hideout Block Party. It is a live bootleg from their September 12, 2009 Anniversary Party, that includes some amazing tracks from Scott H. Biram, The Waco Brother, Bobby Bare Jr., The Deadstring Brothers, and many more. 19 tracks in all.

This is a CD, not an LP, but is being released in conjunction with Record Store Day. It will eventually be released digitally to the masses, but the only way you will be able to get it in the near term is finding a local record store that carries Bloodshot stuff. However, I will be spinning tracks from the bootleg on this Saturday’s edition of Saving Country Music Radio, which broadcasts at 9 PM on Record Store Day via The Real Deal KOOK, and which I will include the most BRUTAL version of Scott Biram’s “Truck Drivin’ Man” I’ve ever heard. It’s so out of control it had to be edited for the public airwaves!

Find Local Record Stores Participating in Record Store Day

Bloodshot artists like Whitey Morgan & The 78′s, The Deadstring Brothers, and Dex Romweber Duo will be conducting in-store performances, and many record stores like the infamous Shake-It Records in Cincinnati will have Bloodshot specials going on. See a full list of Bloodshot’s Record Store Day events.

Track List for No One Got Hurt: Bloodshot’s 15th Anniversary @ The Hideout Block Party:

  1. SANCTIFIED GRUMBLERS – EZ Riden’ Grumblers
  2. SALLY TIMMS – Sad Milkman
  3. JON LANGFORD – Pill Sailor
  4. THE BLACKS - Theresa Leaves Lonesome Town
  5. THE BLACKS – Horrorshow
  6. BOBBY BARE JR – Monk at the Disco
  7. BOBBY BARE JR - Valentine
  8. MOONSHINE WILLY - Turn The Lights Down Low
  9. THE SCOTLAND YARD GOSPEL CHOIR – Aspidistra
  10. THE SCOTLAND YARD GOSPEL CHOIR – Tear Down the Opera House
  11. SCOTT H BIRAM – Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue
  12. SCOTT H BIRAM - Truck Driver
  13. DEADSTRING BROTHERS – If You Want Me To
  14. DEADSTRING BROTHERS – Smile
  15. ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO – Castanets
  16. ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO - I Was Drunk
  17. WACO BROTHERS - Red Brick Wall
  18. RICO BELL & the Waco Brothers - Merseysong
  19. WACO BROTHERS – See Willy Fly By

Read an interview with Bloodshot owner Rob Miller about Record Store Day

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