Browsing articles tagged with " The Rolling Stones"
Dec
4

The Country Ties of Ian McLagan & Bobby Keys

December 4, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  9 Comments

In the fall of 2012 when Ronnie Dunn (of Brooks & Dunn) was looking to write and record material for his upcoming album, he reached out to Texas music songwriting guru Ray Wylie Hubbard after falling in love with the gritty sound Hubbard imbibes on all his records. Dunn flew into Austin as Ray Wylie wrangled up an A-list of Austin musicians to to participate in a recording session that would give Dunn the authentic sound he was looking for, including reaching out to one cat named Ian McLagan—a 67-year-old keyboard player who was born in England but had permanently relocated to Austin in 1993, and spent many nights entertaining small crowds in bars around town, especially at the Lucky Lounge on 5th Street with his “Bump Band.” He was known to the greater world however as the keyboardist of the highly influential rock band Small Faces, and later Faces.

ian-mclagan“Started recording in Austin yesterday,” Ronnie Dunn boasted to his social network followers at the time. “TEXAS boys ripped it up !! Brad Rice, George Reiff, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ian McLagan (Faces)….this is where the Rolling Stones ride with the Cowboys !!!! If you like your country raw and with a razor edged jangle….I found the ‘honey hole.’”

Along with being the go-to auxiliary keyboard player for the cream of the classic rock world, including numerous occasions with The Rolling Stones over the years, Ian McLagan played keys on Robert Earl Keen’s 1998 album Walking Distance, on John Hiatt’s Best Of album from the same year, on Slaid Cleaves’ Broke Down from 2000, Ray Wylie Hubbard’s Eternal and Lowdown, and entering into the 2000′s, albums from Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis, James McMurtry, Lucinda Williams, Chelle Rose, Mary Gauthier, Gurf Morlix, Jennifer Nettles’ (of Sugarland) 2014 solo album, and just about any recent album from Ray Wylie or Robert Earl Keen you can find. When you needed a keyboard player on a definitive Texas record, Ian McLagan was the first man you called.

Ian was also a solo artist and released ten studio albums, including United States with his Bump Band on June 17th, 2014 through Yep Rock. McLagan was excited about a long-rumored reunion tour of Faces coming together with iconic frontman Rod Stewart.

“We will be touring next year, and I’m very excited,” McLagan told Kevin Curtain of the Austin Chronicle in June. “The fact is we always wanted Rod to do it. Every single time we asked him, it didn’t work. This time, he wants to do it. So I hope and pray nothing happens between now and then, because it would be great.”

Ian McLagan died on Wednesday, December 3rd of a stroke at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin. He was 69-years-old.

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bobby-keysRock music lost another titan of the legendary auxiliary surrounding The Rolling Stones, Faces, and other similar projects in saxophone player Bobby Keys who passed away on Monday, December 2nd, of cirrhosis at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. Like Ian McLagan, though he was known mostly for his work with British-based rock bands, especially as The Rolling Stones’ studio and touring saxophone player on pretty much any song or tour the band ever played, he was born in the small town of Slaton, TX, just south and east of Lubbock, and one of his first gigs as a saxophonist was playing with Buddy Holly where he rubbed elbows with Holly understudy and friend Waylon Jennings.

When Waylon Jennings made his very first two studio recordings with Buddy Holly, “Jole Blon” and “When Sin Stops,” keys was present in the Clovis, New Mexico studio. Keys later joked the experience “threw my whole life down the toilet!”, meaning it sent him down the path of pursuing music as a living, and he never looked back.

Later in life Bobby Keys’ studio credits would include Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Second Helpings, John Hiatt’s Beneath This Gruff Exterior, and Joe Ely’s Lord of the Highway.

The Small Faces, and later Faces and The Rolling Stones defined the loose, gritty, sweaty sound of late 60′s, early 70′s classic rock that every artist wanted, but few could master. That sound found on Small Faces records, and Rolling Stones projects like Exile on Main St. and Sticky Fingers most certainly went on to influence the rugged, sweaty, and stripped down sound of the Outlaw movement in country of the same era, with similar sounding albums recorded by the touring bands of defiant frontman instead of the slick session players of Music Row—albums like Waylon’s Honky Tonk Heroes, and Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie.

When you wanted to evoke that timeless, gritty sound of the 70′s in your music, you reached out to sidemen like Ian McLagan and Bobby Keys to bring it back to life. Now that era will be that much harder to reach back to, but that much more treasured in the hearts of listeners.

RIP Ian McLagan (1945-2014) & Bobby Keys (1943-2014)

Nov
10

Jason Isbell to Release “Live at Austin City Limits” DVD

November 10, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  35 Comments

jason-isbell-live-at-austin-city-limitsNear the end of 2013, Saving Country Music rewarded Jason Isbell’s live streaming set on August 13th from the Austin City Limit’s stage as the #2 live event in all of 2013. “I admit, it seems strange to put a streaming event such as this on this list, and so high up no less,” was said at the time. “But if you witnessed it, you would know why…It was Jason Isbell’s songs and his songwriting that made so many online watchers walk away with one of those feelings you get after watching a stellar movie—where your mind gets so immersed in the experience it is hard to return to the real world.

Now Jason Isbell’s entire Austin City Limits set will be released to DVD on November 25th via Isbell’s Southeastern Records, and will include his entire 15-song performance, not just the abbreviated 6-song version that aired with Neko Case during the ACL episode on PBS. The new DVD includes two of the most important moments from the performance left off the broadcast—the 9-minute version of “Danko/Manuel” and the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”

The DVD also includes many songs from Jason Isbell’s award-winning Southeastern album that was recently crowed Album of the Year by the Americana Music Association, including the Americana Song of the Year “Cover Me Up.” Songs from earlier in Isbell’s career, like the Drive By Truckers staple “Outfit” and “Decoration Day” are also included.  Isbell’s had one stellar run lately, including selling out three consecutive shows at Nashville’s acclaimed Ryman Auditorium in October with his backing band The 400 Unit.

Jason Isbell: Live at Austin City Limits is available for pre-order, and has to be considered an essential for most any roots fan.

Purchase Jason Isbell: Live at Austin City Limits

jason-isbellTRACK LIST:

Flying Over Water
Go It Alone

Alabama Pines

Decoration Day

Outfit

Cover Me Up

Different Days

Live Oak

Codeine

Traveling Alone

Elephant

Stockholm

Super 8

Danko Manuel

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

Jul
17

Tom Petty Is Critical of “Game Show” Stars, & “Plastic Computer” Music

July 17, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  28 Comments

tompetty

Tom Petty has been known to speak his mind from time to time, including in August of 2013 when he criticized modern country as “Bad rock with a fiddle.” Now in a new interview with Canada’s CBC news organization, Petty has relayed some pointed opinions about what he characterizes as stars that have “won a game show” and that make  “plastic computer music.”

Speaking to reporter Jian Ghomeshi of CBC about his past, Petty said that discos and DJ’s presented a problem for Petty’s first band Mudcrutch when they first came onto the music scene.

“Now if you’re a band it’s really tough to find places to work, places to play,” Petty says. “This changed so much. I remember when we were a working band, when Mudcrutch was just a working band, we had to work all the time in order to eat, you know? And disco suddenly changed over to cats who just played records, and the bands were out of work. And we were so insulted. Like, ‘What? You mean, we’ve been fired for a guy that plays records?’ But that was the first wake up call that wow, there’s a lot of gigs being taken away. And if you want to keep working, you’re going to have to get better and better.”

When talking about his influences, and how Petty saw Elvis, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones, and eventually onto what rock music would become, Petty said, “Nothing was any worse than corporate rock. Nothing worse has come along, though there is a lot of popular kind of plastic computer music that’s not that interesting. I don’t feel like somebody … like the artist did that, you know? You put your name on it, but you didn’t do that. But nevertheless, how a record’s made isn’t important to the audience. What’s important to them is what they’re hearing.”

When the idea of fame was brought up to Petty, he replied, “As far as getting famous, I don’t know nothing about getting famous … A lot of people get famous now very quickly, and then they seem to have a turnover where they weren’t famous for that long, but someone else steps in to fill the slot. They’re sort of disposably famous I suppose. But I can’t keep up with who’s famous anymore … I know in my time, in my generation, if you had come, if they tried to offer my generation music by someone that had won a game show, it would have been hysterical. You would have been laughed out of the room. I mean we were suspicious of people that had hit records. I mean it was that different of a time.”

The interview happened at Tom Petty’s Woodshed Recording studio in Malibu, where Petty is getting ready for the release of his latest album Hypnotic Eye on July 29th; his first album with The Heartbreakers since 2010′s Mojo. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also have a massive tour planned to begin on August 3rd.

Petty is given credit by some for sparking off the Season of Discontent last summer and fall that saw artists from both the country and rock worlds coming out in record numbers to criticize the direction of country music. “Well, yeah I mean, I hate to generalize on a whole genre of music, but it does seem to be missing that magic element that it used to have,” Petty said at the time. “I’m sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but they’re just not getting the attention that the shittier stuff gets. But that’s the way it always is, isn’t it?”

Later Florida Georgia Line responded to the Petty quotes with a petty “U think we care?” Country songwriter Chris Stapleton also took Petty to task for his comments.

The 63-year-old Gainsville, FL native has shown his appreciation for country over the years, including covering the Conway Twitty / George Jones song “Image of Me”.

READ: Season of Discontent: A Timeline of Country’s Recent Artist Criticism

Apr
2

The Grit ‘N Groove of Ray Wylie Hubbard (Interview)

April 2, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  12 Comments

ray-wylie-hubbardThis Saturday (4-6-13) Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard will be hosting his 4th Annual Grit ‘n Groove Fest at the Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, TX. Over the years, Hubbard has made a name for himself as someone who’s famous for not being famous. You won’t find a true country or blues fan who hasn’t heard the name, but it is other musicians that make up the core of the Ray Wylie fandom, allowing the influence of his “grit ‘n groove” approach to spread far and wide throughout music.

Where most musicians might peak in their 20′s, Ray Wylie Hubbard seems to be hitting his stride in his 60′s. Since the release of his latest album The Grifter’s Hymal, he’s been asked to play David Letterman, and write and record with Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn fame. Ray Wylie spoke to Saving Country Music about the inspiration behind Grit ‘n Groove Fest, and about the surge in interest in his music since the release of The Grifter’s Hymnal.

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You played David Letterman a couple of months back, and they let you play an extra song for the web, which they don’t do for everybody.

Yeah, how cool was that? The story is about 4 months ago my booking agent receives a phone call and this girl said she was Jennifer from Worldwide Pants, and Dave would like to know if Ray would do his show. She didn’t know what Worldwide Pants was so she goes, “Dave who?” And Jennifer goes, “Dave Letterman, January 9th.” And the booking agent goes, “Well let me make sure he’s not playing a happy hour gig in Waco, those things are hard to re-schedule.” So Dave said he wanted us to play the song “Mother Blues” but we only had 3 minutes and 35 seconds. So we take out a couple of verses and then we get up there and after we finish and he says, “Thank you, goodnight,” he asks if we’ll do “Screw You, We’re From Texas.” And I said, “Man, you’re from Indiana.” And he said, “Yeah, but I like the attitude.” So we did the extra song for the website which was really really cool of him.

Wow, so Letterman called you?

Well he didn’t personally, but yeah Jennifer who works at the production office did. Yeah, we didn’t have our publicist working it at all. Somehow he’d heard the song and had his people call us.

You’ve been doing a lot of touring lately. Do you get the sense that this is a time to push in your career? That’s there’s a renewed hunger out there for what you do, and now is a time to strike?

Well The Grifter’s Hymnal came out and I was really proud of that record, and it seemed to strike a chord with people. So we’ve really kind of worked that record through the web and all of that, and people have found us because as you know we’re not mainstream country and all of that. If you haven’t heard of Jerry Jeff Walker, you haven’t heard of me. So to answer your question, yeah we’ve really been pushing it and are really enjoying it.

grit-n-groove-fest-4You’ve got so many things going on. You’re touring, you’re always writing, you’re writing with other people, you’re doing songwriting workshops. So why bite off another chunk and decide to do a festival of your own?

I play a lot of festivals and I really enjoy them. When I started off I wanted to do a festival of the musicians and songwriters that I really like. We did the first one in Luckenback with Gurf Morlix, Sam Baker, The Trishas, and Hayes Carll. So it’s really kind of a festival of friends. I know these people. It seems like most of the musicians I listen to, I’m very fortunate to know. So we decided to make it a festival of people that I like and I respect their writing and what they’re doing. This year I’m really proud of the lineup.

For the folks out there that don’t know, what does your term “Grit ‘n Groove” embody?

Well the grit is you’ve got to have some dirt and soul to your music. You have to write some songs that have some depth and weight to them. That have some grit to it, that’s not just homogenized pap, run-of-the-mill, top 40 country songs. They have to have a little bite to them. And then the groove is that it’s got to feel right. And the whole festival, it’s just the vibe of it, you know what I mean? It’s a bunch of cats that give across a really good vibe. There’s no divas. These musicians have chops and their heart is in the right place. That’s kind of the basic of Grit n’ Groove.

So you have some established names playing the Grit ‘n Groove Fest that everyone will recognize like Hayes Carll. And then you have some up-and-coming names like the Dirty River Boys from El Paso. How important is it to you to put out a lineup with established names, but one that also helps establish up-and-coming names?

Well, it is important. Maybe you’ve heard of Hayes Carll, but you haven’t heard of the Dirty River Boys. But because of the roster, if you haven’t heard of them you’ll say, “Well I think I’m gonna like them because Ray Wylie likes them.” (laughing). You know what I mean? I just kind of shows my taste in music. With The Trishas, I think that was only their second gig when we did Grit ‘n Groove for the first time, and they’ve just shot off. And of course Dustin Welch has a great new record out. All these bands, Uncle Lucius, The Wheeler Brothers, Sons of Fathers, those guys are just exploding down here, and are about to get big nationwide.

You said earlier that if you don’t know Jerry Jeff Walker, you may not know Ray Wylie Hubbard. It’s funny because in certain circles, the name ‘Ray Wylie Hubbard’ holds so much weight. We’ve been getting these little bits and pieces of information about you writing and recording with Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn. Without giving too many of the secrets away, how do you know Ronnie Dunn? Does it go back to your Oklahoma days?

No, I had never met him before. I get this phone call, and he says, “This is Ronnie Dunn.” And I’m like, “Who?” And he says, “Ronnie Dunn.” And I said, “You’re kidding.” And he said, “No, Tony Joe White gave me your phone number.” Ronnie told me he was talking to Tony Joe White and told him how much he liked The Grifter’s Hymnal album. And Tony said to Ronnie, “Well you ought to write with him.” So we went up there, met with him, and wrote 4 songs. They’re really cool songs, I really like them. Ronnie actually came to Austin. He said, “I want to get that Grit ‘n Groove. I want to get The Grifter’s Hymal sound.” So we went to George Reiff’s house where I recorded Enlightenment, I got Rick Richards and George Reiff who’d just been out on the road with Joe Walsh. And then I got Brad Rice of Son Volt on guitar, and of course Mack, Ian McLagan who once played with The Stones and Faces. So lo and behold, I had him a hellacious band, and he came here and we cut these four songs, and they’re just really roots cool. So we’re talking about maybe trying to write some more, and see what happens with them. And I’ll tell you what, that son of a gun can sing, and his heart’s in the right place as a songwriter, it really is. I really enjoyed it. You know I’ve written songs with other people, but songs that I wouldn’t do. But these with Ronnie I’d do them in a heartbeat.

So once again it’s the strength of The Grifter’s Hymnal. You just put it out there, and stuff is coming back to you.

I guess it is. I’m really proud of the record. You know we cut it in an old Methodist church built in 1888. We went in there and set the whole record with divine reverb. I wanted to do a record like the first Buffalo Springfield, the first Beatles, the first Stones, the first Black Crowes. The first records they did, those were real guys playing their music. So we just plugged the guitars directly into the amps, no pedals. When we mixed it we left in all the coughs, string noises, pedal squeak, and 60 cycle hum. You may not like the singer or the songs, but you cannot deny that it sounds really good (laughing).

ray-wylie-hubbard-ringo-starrThat’s also kind of what happened with the Ringo (Starr) song. I met Ringo out in California. He said, “I really like your songwriting.” and I said, “I really like yours too.” and he said, “People don’t think of me as a songwriter, they think of me as a drummer and a Beatle.” I said, “On Beaucoups of Blues there was a song on there called ‘Coochy Coochy.’ It was kind of a bonus track. I love that song because it’s just one chord.” So we were at a studio, and we just turned on the tape and just did it, you know? Just one time through. We sent it to Ringo, and he said the drums were too good, so he just played shakers and sang. I was really fortunate and grateful to have Ringo on it.

Ringo Starr’s another name. You’re the artist that the artists are listening to. It speaks to your influence, and if people really want to find the heart of the music, that’s where to go.

Well, I’m an old cat. I’ve had more cool stuff happen to me since I turned 60 than the 60 years before. I’ve had some incredible stuff happen to me. I’m kind of like The Forrest Gump of Americana.

Your son Lucas plays guitar with you upon occasion when he’s not bowling. In your opinion, do you think he’s a better bowler or guitar player? And are his varying passions in some way a validation that you raised him right, to teach him to follow his heart?

That’s a great question. He earned the gig when he first said he wanted to play full time and not just come out and play a couple of songs. He didn’t just want to come out and show off. So we played a full 90-minute set with him and afterwards I talked to George (Reiff) and Rick (Richards) and they said, “Yeah, he’s in the band.” Because he doesn’t show off, he just plays the lick. Then again he’s been working at this bowling alley for 2 1/2 years. We did Letterman on a Wednesday and the next night he bowled a 300–the youngest kid to bowl a 300 at the Sunset Lanes. This summer I think he’s gonna start getting into a little engineering. He’s gonna kind of do an intern with George Reiff. I’ve never forced him to do anything. I always give him a choice. But I am very proud of him.

 

Dec
18

Album Review – American Aquarium’s “Burn.Flicker.Die.”

December 18, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  17 Comments

american-aquariumRight now there’s a gaggle of Southern rock bands that are tapping into some serious, serious songwriting manna, and that includes this offering from North Carolina’s American Aquarium combining cutting poeticism with primal rock sounds. With such a cerebral void in mainstream country today, with country’s next generation of male performers spewing laundry list pap similar to how the water buffalo marks its territory by spinning its tail and shooting scat out of its hind quarters, it has fallen to Southern rock bands among others to release songs with country sensibilities that still include songwriting substance.

Burn. Flicker. Die accosts this very cultural divide in the song “St. Mary’s”, sporting the line, “Where American girls drink Mexican beer, and city boys sing small town hymns.” There’s a slew of those stellar lines on Burn.Flicker.Die that can be culled out of context and still be cutting; more of them than possibly on any album I’ve heard this year. American Aquarium bull rushes you with substance from the very beginning.

It was produced by former Drive By Trucker turned solo artist Jason Isbell, and deserves high praise for capturing the sweat and frustration of a band on their 6th album still stuck in a van, even though they seem to be surrounded by tremendous loyalty and critical praise. These songs are tributes to American decay, depravity, excess, and unfairness, with starkly honest lyrics not dulled one bit by subtly, or sullied by the need for explanation or imagination. Burn. Flicker. Die is not an artistic interpretation of American Aquarium’s struggles, it is a Polaroid.

american-aquarium-burn-flicker-dieYou’re supposed to listen to songs, and feel music. With American Aquarium, you do both. It’s balls out head banging, and depth-driven balladry all in one. It’s classic, Southern rock at its core, but the country elements come out strong in spots, like the fiddle intro to “Lonely Ain’t Easy”; a song that at its heart is country in its lyrical structure. The album is set in the South, from the “Cape Fear River” opener, to “Jacksonville”, to the themes of breaking out of the small town rut only to fall in to the shallowness of cities and substance abuse. “Burn. Flicker. Die” is an analogy to neon–a staple of rural America–and how the life of those signs that set the ambiance for bar rooms in multitudes of forgotten locales mimic the life of a traveling band as they’re touching 30 and getting tired of the grind.

These songs are the brain child of Bradley Barham who sports a Southern accent as rich as a sundae. Instrumentation isn’t stellar, but it fits the dirty vibe of the songs, and they will surprise you at times with their attention to composition, like the jam on the end of the otherwise average “Jacksonville” that ends abruptly. They have that mid 70′s Rolling Stones “Hear the music through the sweat” thing going on strong.

Burn.Flicker.Die does deteriorate somewhat as you go along. The chorus payoff on the song “Casualties” is a little corny. “I’m just a casualty of rock and roll,” seems more appropriate for a spandexed singer to serenade a stadium full of girls with perms and scrunchies with who are trying not to burn their finger’s as the wave their boyfriend’s Bic back and forth. There’s no payoff, moral, or resolution to the Burn.Flicker.Die concept at the end. No steadfast statement about continuing on, getting clean, doing things different. Just more songs about the drug and booze-infused rock and roll road life.

American Aquarium is one of these bands that you sit back and listen to and shake you head about why they aren’t bigger. At the same time an excellent album like this is a product of that dilemma. There’s nothing keeping them from gaining wider appeal than more attention, and more attention is what they deserve.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Purchase Burn. Flicker. Die from American Aquarium

You can listen to the complete album on their website or on MySpace.

Burn. Flicker. Die. from Mikey Livingston on Vimeo.

Nov
17

Justin Townes Earle Let’s Wanda Be Wanda in “Unfinished Business”

November 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  11 Comments

Wanda Jackson w/ Producer Justin Townes Earle

Let’s be honest. The chances of Wanda Jackson putting out some groundbreaking, landmark album these days are slim. Her immeasurable influence spanning country, rockabilly, and rock and roll is undeniable. But at age 75, you’re not looking for something sensational, you’re just looking for something solid, something that rekindles the memories of her past magic and imparts some new memories along the way.

Same thing goes for these celebrity producerships that seem to be all the rage in music these days. You just want them to work. Hey, I’m one of the first to fall for them hook, line, and sinker. I see a high-caliber producer name attached to some upcoming project and my music pants start going crazy, and certainly that was the case when I heard Justin Townes Earle was producing Wanda’s Unfinished Business. But really, what is the success rate of these celebrity producer collaborations? Are big name musicians really qualified to be producers, or is this all marketing?

There’s been some hits with this formula, like Jack White’s work with Loretta Lynn on the album Van Lear Rose. And there’s been some, well, not hits, like when Jack White hooked up with Wanda on her last album The Party Ain’t Over. The result was decent, but a little too much Jack and not enough Wanda.

A good producer’s job is not to be noticed, but to get you to notice the talents of whoever they’re producing. And that’s what Justin Townes Earle does in Unfinished Business. He gets the hell out of the way and let’s Wanda Jackson do her thing, while still lending a creative and influential hand.

Wanda Jackson’s greatest asset is her voice. Like a brand new switchblade polished with Windex, it cuts with class. At 75, her voice is probably going to show some age and we can accept that, if not even enjoy its character in patches. Possibly the reason Jack White felt inclined to bring in bellowing horn sections on the last album was possibly to bolster, or bury Wanda’s voice from fear of it showing its age. But what Jack’s approach did was suffocate what makes Wanda special.

With Unfinished Business, instead of setting up a one band, one formula approach for most of the album, Justin Townes Earle approached each song individually, and this is where this album shines: the customized treatment for each track that creates a brilliant contrast of moods. Where Jack White seemed wanting to make a statement through Wanda, Justin Townes Earle just wanted to have fun.

If Wanda Jackson’s greatest asset is her voice, her second is her coolness and style. Earle was wise to pick up on that and utilize that in composition, like in the first track “Tore Down”. Bringing in backup singers for Wanda’s version of the Etta James number “Pushover” was a brilliant call that also called on Wanda Jackson’s cool factor.

Great, great song selection on this album. “It’s All Over Now”, a song first cut by the Valentino’s that then went on to be The Rolling Stone’s first #1 hit in 1964 was an excellent selection for the track list. Lower Broadway revivalist Greg Garing’s “Down Past The Bottom” may be the best track on the album.

Justin Townes Earle may have made an effort to make sure this album wasn’t all about him, but he’s far from sitting in the background. Wanda’s hard country version of Justin’s “What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome” is another standout track. And Earle shares the mic with Wanda in the somber duet, “Am I Even A Memory?”, where once again he does a great job playing the part instead of trying to stamp his signature on the song.

I’m not sure of the epicness yearned for in the ending track “California Stars” is captured, but the song is solid nonetheless. And I seem to always want to hear more of the Wanda rockabilly growl than what I get on her albums. But Unfinished Business touches on a tremendous amount of textures, styles, and moods, including lots of country and steel guitar, which is only appropriate because of Wanda’s wild, varying influence on American music. And most importantly, Unfinished Business let’s Wanda be Wanda.

As far as I’m concerned, Wanda Jackson has no “unfinished business” to attend to. She’s given her heart and soul to the music, and the music is better off because of it. She’s got nothing to prove, but she proves it anyway in Unfinished Business. And so does Justin Townes Earle.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Buy Unfinished Business from Wanda Jackson / Sugar Hill Records

Preview & Purchase Tracks from Amazon

Jul
17

Review – Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires “There’s A Bomb in Gilead”

July 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  10 Comments

If you’re looking for what is hip, what is hot right now in the confluence of American roots and rock music, you could make a strong case for the young, energetic roots rock bands emerging from the deep South as the epicenter of enthusiasm and influence. With the Alabama Shakes blowing up, the freedom to boldly mix blues, rock, country, and a large measure of soul has been endowed to bands with ample amounts of hunger, talent, and skill.

After years of nerdcore shoegazers being the most hip part of the scene, with their ukes and theremins and some pink haired girl in Sally Jessy Raphael glasses banging away at a Fisher-Price xylophone toy with a spatula, balls and back beat have re-emerged, including in the Birmingham, Alabama-based Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires whose debut album There’s a Bomb in Gilead was released on Alive-Naturalsound Records in May.

This is an explosively-energetic album with influences and styles pulling from a wide range of American music. Lee Bains is well-versed in Southern modes from both sides of the tracks, and shows tremendous versatility in being able to conjure up the smoky mood of a blues singer, and the sweaty twang of a Southern rocker in the space of a breath, with The Glory Fires right on his heels with their authentic, spot-on sonic interpretations.

There’s A Bomb in Gilead has some great tracks, anchored by the rocking “Centreville” which boasts some sick and stirring lyrical lines. Then Lee Bains and the boys show off how quick they can switch gears with the slow, country-feeling “Reba”. “Righteous, Ragged Songs” and “Red, Red Dirt of Home” hearken back to the golden-era of Allman-style Southern rock, while “Opelika” takes it over to the poor, dark side of town on a front porch, with good distance captured in the recording.

Overall the album conveys that “sweaty” sound The Rolling Stones perfected back in their Exile-Sticky Finger needle & spoon days that so many bands yearn for but few realize. There’s a Bomb also has some some very deep soulful moments that I hear in a lot of these Southern roots rock bands; Motown stuff that they call upon with the same frequency and confidence as the country and blues vibes.

Not to carry out The Alabama Shakes comparisons too far, but a similar concern I had with them I hear with Lee Bains too. With the wild variety in styles between songs, there is no one universal or unique style that defines the band, and it necessitates the listener shifting listening gears between songs. This also happens to keep the album spicy and your ears alert, but I would like to see Lee Bains & The Glory Fires do more to define their own sound, not just master the sounds of others.

Still this album passes the listening test, meaning you find yourself coming back and listening to it over and over. If you come to this album as a die hard country fan, you will come to it from the outside looking in, but with the song “Reba” and a strong Southern rock influence, there will be enough familiarity with it to allow you to warm up to the rest of the material.

This is a good first album with some great songs and great energy, and I look forward to hearing what Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires offer up in the future.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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

(10-20-12) After much thought and listening to this album, I have decided to do the unprecedented and boost the rating of this album to a full “Two Guns Up!”. Though my concern remains that Lee Bains needs to further develop what is own unique sound is going to be, the listenability and appeal of the songs is just too great to deny it the best rating I have to give.

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Purchase There’s A Bomb In Gilead from Alive Records

Preview & Purchase Tracks on Amazon

Jun
11

Left Lane Cruiser & James Leg to Release “Painkillers”

June 11, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  11 Comments

Take the insane punk blues of the two-piece Left Lane Cruiser, add the shirtless, sweat-drenched James Leg from the Black Diamond Heavies, and then put them in charge of reviving some of the most legendary songs in blues music, and you’ve got an album dangerous enough to require a prescription. Jim Diamond on bass and the 66-year-old Harmonica Shah on harp round out the lineup assembled for Painkillers, the new cover album due out 6/26/12 on Alive Natural Sound Records.

I normally don’t get this hot and bothered by cover albums, but when you include pound for pound my favorite Taj Mahal song, the funky “Chevrolet,” my favorite Rolling Stones tune, the rolling molasses of “Sway,” and other such high caliber songs from John Lee Hooker, Jr. Kimbrough, Led Zepplin and Jimi Hendrix, it’s enough to get you pitching a tent in your music pants even if you come to the blues from the outside looking in.

This album has some monster songs on it. Just wait until you hear it!

Painkillers can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

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  1. Sad Days Lonely Nights (Jr. Kimbrough)
  2. She’s Gone (Hound Dog Taylor)
  3. Come to Poppa (Bob Seger {W. Mitchel/E. Randle})
  4. Red Rooster (Willie Dixon)
  5. If 6 Was 9 (Jimi Hendrix)
  6. Shake It (John Lee Hooker)
  7. Ramblin’ On My Mind (Robert Johnson)
  8. Chevrolet (Taj Mahal {E. Young/L. Young})
  9. When The Levee Breaks (Led Zepplin, M. Minnie)
  10. Sway (The Rolling Stones {Jagger/Richards})

Feb
6

SCM’s Predictions & Picks for 2012 Hall of Fame Inductions

February 6, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  55 Comments

One of the reasons the the Country Music Hall of Fame is one of the most revered and respected Halls in all the land and specifically in music is because it is so hard to get into. It is always better that you look at a list of Hall inductees and wonder why certain names are not in, instead of looking and wondering why certain names are. Sure, just like everyone, I could look at the Hall inductees or a year’s specific class and opine how it should be different, but I have 100% faith in the the Country Hall’s process, and their dedication to always looking big picture when it comes to the preservation of the roots and history of country music.

The 2012 inductees will likely be announced in the next month or so. I anticipate this year’s list to be heavily laden with big names, and light on names from the legends era and behind-the-scenes types. Garth Brooks, Kenny Rodgers, and Hank Williams Jr. could all get in this year. The Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs, and Ronnie Milsap are also strong contenders. June Carter Cash seems to be the only serious name for a legend on people’s lists, and Don Rich, Ralph Mooney, Hank Garland, and Johnny Gimble would be strong candidates for musicians who might make consideration.

Garth Brooks will be in the Hall of Fame. Though a few years ago, this might have driven many purists crazy seeing how he is the poster boy for commercial country, the modern day country landscape is shining a much more favorable light on one of the best selling artists ever, only rivaled by The Beatles and Michael Jackson. The question with Garth is not if, but when. We can wait on Garth’s induction because it’s inevitable, and give someone else a chance this year. However the rekindling of his career in Las Vegas and Reba McEntire’s induction last year I think does move Garth closer to induction.

Hank Williams Jr. is another shoe-in for the Hall eventually, but with his 2011 political side show, voters may side step him this year and hope for calmer publicity waters before making it official.

Ricky Skaggs is a good bet for a 2012 inductee

In many ways, Ricky Skaggs is the best of both worlds. The has the purist and roots vote for his unquestionable support and background in bluegrass, but he also played country music superstar for Music Row in the mid 80′s when there was a massive talent shortage. It is hard to make a case of why Ricky shouldn’t be in, and be in this year.

Kenny Rodgers may have started in rock and may carry mainstream baggage for purist voters, but his role in movies and television along with his huge mainstream country hits made him one the 80′s biggest country ambassadors. Weird face and chicken franchises be damned, I think Kenny makes it in, and this year.

2012 Hall of Fame Inductees Predictions

  • Ricky Skaggs
  • Kenny Rodgers
  • On The Bubble – Garth Brooks, Hank Jr. , Jerry Reed, Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Don Rich

If I had a vote

I do think that both Johnny Paycheck and David Allan Coe deserve to be in, and that it would be nice to see Coe be inducted before he passes. However, both men’s criminal pasts are going to be the long-standing road block against them. Though Coe may be the more recognizable name, I think Paycheck has the better chance as an “Outlaw” based out of Nashville instead of Texas, and how he carried the blue collar banner in country for years.

Another person I think that should be considered seriously is Ralph Mooney. From Buck Owens to Wynn Stewart, from forging the early Merle Haggard sound to touring with Waylon Jennings for 20 years, Ralph Mooney and his lonesome pedal steel guitar sound defined what people think of when they think of country music. He was wildly influential in his discipline. Those first few notes of Merle’s “Mama Tried?” Yeah, that was Ralph Mooney. I know he will not get in this year and maybe not anytime soon. But when the discussion is broached of who should be in The Hall, I believe it is the responsibility of all real country fans to help inject Ralph Mooney into the mix.

Since I believe to keep the Hall pure, no more than 3 inductees should be added in a given year, I’m only allotting myself 3 votes.

Here are my 3 votes:

Gram Parsons – The student in Emmylou Harris was inducted in 2008, now it’s time to induct the master. Simply put, there was never another artist that introduced more people outside the genre to country music than Gram Parsons. He turned The Rolling Stones into country fans. He discovered one of the most important women in country music history. Since Gram died young in 1973, he never got a chance to be prolific, or to settle into his proper place in country music history. But Gram Parsons was way much more than “that guy who played in the Byrds.” His impact is still being felt today. And for all he has done, country music owes him a debt of gratitude.

John Hartford – I understand this is a long shot pick, but as a songwriter, musician, and father of his own sub-genre in newgrass, it is difficult to make the case against him. Let me explain it like this: The Country Music Hall of Fame works like a timeline as you walk through the displays that weave around the massive archive in the center of the building. As you start from the beginning, each artist and their impact is displayed on a plaque that includes their Hall of Fame induction date. When I came to the John Hartford display on my last visit to The Hall this summer he was the first to have a display, but no Hall of Fame induction date. And then you had to go past many other artist’s displays, into the late 70′s-eartly 80′s before you found other artists given recognition on the great country music timeline without an induction date. John Harford is an indelible piece of country music history, and deserves to be a Hall of Fame inductee.

Jerry Reed – There is and was only one Jerry Reed. With an unmatched energy, style, groove and taste, he took honest to God country music and infused it with a groovy, relevant, and funky style that stole the human heart and sent it racing. An ultimate performer and character, his work from Scooby Doo to Smokey & The Bandit made him one of the 70′s best country ambassadors. But if Jerry goes in, he should go in as a guitar player first. With a wholly unique style matched by impeccable technique, he is as close as country music comes to a guitar god.

Dec
17

The Undeniable Influence of Charlie Louvin

December 17, 2010 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  28 Comments

On February 22, 1956, Elvis Presley played a concert at the City Auditorium in Waycross, GA. Opening for Elvis that night were two brothers, Charlie and Ira, a gospel duo called The Louvin Brothers. In the crowd was a 9-year-old boy, a native of Georgia, born and raised in Waycross. How that boy felt about Elvis that night is uncertain, but The Louvin Brothers left an indelible mark on him that he would carry for the rest of his life.

That 9-year-old boy had a somewhat troubled youth and ended up in a boarding school, but eventually he got straightened out enough to attend Harvard University. Years later on the back of a hotel message pad dated March 8, 1969, he wrote to an old boarding school buddy who had requested of him an essential list of music, “Any Louvin Brothers record will do.”

After Harvard that same boy ended up on the West Coast, eventually hooking up with a traditionally psychedelic band as a salaried keyboard player. Once in the band, he began asserting his Southern influence and taste, eventually compelling them to completely change their direction and sound to a country feel, to record their next album in Nashville instead of LA, include a Louvin Brothers song on that album, and even play the Grand Ole Opry.

Even though that kid from Waycross, GA never became a huge superstar, his influence on music could still be felt on a national level, and it crossed genres. He became good friends with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, and heavily influenced the sound on albums like Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers. Now with a little money in his pocket, its said he paid people to scour the record stores of LA, looking for rare, out-of-print Louvin records. He also discovered a Country Music Hall of Famer by the name of Emmylou Harris.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, that boy from Waycross, GA was Gram Parsons, possibly the greatest ambassador for country music that has ever lived.

With The Byrds, Gram recorded The Louvin Brothers composition “The Christian Life.” He also recorded the Louvin song “Cash on the Barrelhead” on his solo project Grievous Angel.  Louvin music was essential to selling Emmylou Harris on the “simple beauty” of country.

“I want to play you something,” said Gram to Emmylou. Emmylou sits down and listens. “Who is that girl singing the high part?” Emmylou asks. Gram replies, “that’s not a girl, that’s Ira Louvin.”

Emmylou’s first #1 hit was “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” written by The Louvin Brothers.

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It might be easier to list the country music legends who have NOT covered Louvin songs than the ones who have. I’ve always tried in my musical journey to find the source of good music. For example when you hear those great 70′s Rolling Stones records, you can trace them back to Gram, and then back to Charlie: like mining the true generation of the song to get at the heart of it. And when you do this, you find so much music originated from so few people, and one of those people is Charlie Louvin.

As part of the grass roots support for the mounting medical bills from Charlie Louvin’s cancer treatment, Judd Films is making a DVD of his recent show at Foobar Too in Nashville. In conjunction, Keith Neltner has released a limited edition of prints, with all the proceeds going back toward the DVD project. The prints can be purchased at Neltner Creative, 14 of which are singed and hand embellished by Keith himself.

And if you want to explore the relationship between Gram Parson and Charlie Louvin more, look into the album Hickory Wind: Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, Waycross, GA.

Jun
12

Carmelita, Hold Me Tighter

June 12, 2010 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  16 Comments

Warren Zevon SmallWarren Zevon at first glance would not strike you as one to have a lot of “influence” in the realm of country music. I always knew him through his bit songs like “Werewolves of London,” which became an immediate punch out after years of being tirelessly run into the ground through Clear Channel’s shallow song rotation. The exception is his 1972 composition about a heroin addict called “Carmelita.”

With unexpected country soul and tackling subject matter that was almost unheard of at the time, “Carmelita” has spoken now to generations of of country artists who’ve added their own takes to the song. Just like The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” which has its own heroin references and seems to be making the rounds in a country resurgence, the song seems to speak to some universal truth that even the needle-less listener can get behind. Here’s a couple of my favorite takes on the classic:

GG Allin took time away from defecating on stage and throwing all manner of bodily fluids at crowds to record “Carmelita” on probably his most professional and well done album Carnival of Excess. Known more as a punk performer, GG idolized Hank Williams and saw him as a kindred spirit, and was inspired to put out a strictly-country album. “Carmalita” might be the best song on the record, and the most-played GG Allin song ever. Here’s the official video from Ponk Media:

The textbook definition of a regional celebrity, Danny Balis and his band The King Bucks have been performing soulful, true country around Dallas for a while now, and making enough noise that its starting to permeate outside of the north Texas scene. Fast forward through the first minute of banter, and you will witness one of the most soulful singing performances of this song I have ever seen:

How about from someone who needs no introduction, Mr. Dwight Yoakam:

You can also check out performances from Cross Canadian Ragweed, Linda Ronstadt, and an up and comer who says he’s making country ugly again, Gabe Zander.

May
30

Fans Want Gram Parsons in Hall of Fame

May 30, 2009 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  2 Comments

Gram ParsonsSay what you want about the man, or even his music, but it is hard to make the case that anybody has been a bigger ambassador for country music than Gram Parsons. Gram Parsons showed millions of non-country fans that country music could be cool. He turned The Rolling Stones into country fans. He discovered one of the most important women in country music history. He stood up to the flower pop scene of California, and showed them why country was something to be embraced, not defaced.

Since Gram died young in 1973, he never got a chance to be prolific, or to settle into his proper place in country music history. But Gram Parsons was way much more than “that guy who played in the Byrds.” And for all he has done, country music owes him a debt of gratitude.

I wrote a big article on him that you can read by clicking here, where I talk more about Gram’s influences and debunk some misconceptions about him (i.e. him being “country rock”). But the reason I’m bringing him up now is because there is a movement to put him into the Country Music Hall of Fame, complete with an online petition.

My long time readers know that the one last Nashville institution that I respect and admire is the Country Music Hall of Fame. I appreciate that the Hall is very careful about who it decides to add to its ranks, and the wise approach it takes to preserving the history of country music. Emmylou Harris, who was discovered by Gram, was inducted last year. Honestly I can understand why Gram would not be the most intuitive pick for the Hall, mainly because of the misconceptions behind his name and career. But that is why it is important for us fans and the grass roots of the REAL country movement to spread the word about Gram’s importance.

I signed the petition, #2616.

And while you’re at it, if you haven’t signed the petition to Reinstate Hank Williams to the Grand Ole Opry, we’ll roll over there and get that done as well (38,102 online signatures and counting). I’m not into peer pressure, so if you ain’t into it, so be it. We all do what we can, and what we’re willing to do.

Also on Sept. 19th 2009 there will be the Second Annual Gram Parsons Petition Party in Nashville at The 5 Spot. For more info, check them out on MySpace HERE.

Nov
18

Gram Parsons

November 18, 2008 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History, Reviews  //  2 Comments




This is a dude I probably would not write about under normal circumstances. I think he did have a huge influence on the Outlaw Country movement, but it would be a stretch to call him an Outlaw. But I’ve had numerous requests for a Gram Parsons blog, so here we go.

This isn’t gonna be a biography, so if you want to totally geek out you can click here. What I’m concerned about is setting the record straight about this dude, explaining his impact on country music, and hopefully introducing people to one of the greats out there.

A lot of people typecast Gram Parsons as the one responsible for ‘California Country’ or ‘Country Rock’ acts like the Eagles, which some of you might like, but others will see as the popifying of country. It is probably a true statement that without Gram there would be no Eagles, but there would also be no Emmylou Harris, or the Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers.

Gram misconceptions:

—-Gram is not a Californian, which even though I hate Cali’s influence on our culture in some ways, Dwight Yoakum, Buck Owens, and Merle Haggard are all Cali’s. But Gram was born in FLA, raised in Georgia, and buried in Louisiana. He did rise to fame in Cali, but was a southern boy by birth.

–Gram never was an official member of ‘The Byrds.’ He was hired on as a salaried concert keyboardist.

–Gram might have inspired ‘The Eagles’ but he publicly disdained their music. In fact as the 60′s turned to the 70′s, Gram was chided in the ‘California Country’ scene for being “too authentic and traditional.” Sounds like my kinda guy.

Gram Bands:

–His first major band was not the Byrds, but the ‘International Submarine Band’ that was formed in Boston around 1966. This in my opinion was when Gram did some of his best stuff. Luxury Liner is one of my favorite Gram songs:



–Though he was never an official member of The Byrds, he asserted great influence on their Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, really trying to push them in the country direction, and insisting the album be recorded in Nashville instead of LA.

–The ‘Flying Burrito Brothers’ with Chris Hillman came next. This is probably my least favorite Gram project because it was a little too hippie dippy for me, but what Gram was doing was steering all of these psychedelic 60′s musicians into the direction of country music, showing them that it could be ‘cool and hip’ and that there was a lot of soul and truth to the music. ‘The Burritos’ are also referenced in David Allan Coe’s ‘Willie, Waylon, & Me’ song. Check out the nudie suits on these dudes:



–Gram might’ve thought The Burritos were too hippy dippy too because the project was short lived. Gram moved on after that to do two solo albums which were some of his best work: G.P./Grievous Angel. On GP Gram covered Outlaw Tompall Glaser’s ‘Streets of Baltimore’ song and introduced the world to Emmylou Harris.

Gram’s Influence:

Gram Parsons may have not been the most amazing or prolific songwriter, or a superb musician, but his influence on rock and country cannot be overstated. He literally introduced country music directly and indirectly to millions of people, and I’m not kidding. He set the table for The Outlaws of country music, by showing many people who were not traditional country music fans how great country music could be. He was the Outlaw of the California Country scene. It would be tough to list all of the people Gram influenced, but here are two big ones:

Emmylou Harris:

She is being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this year, and if it wasn’t for Gram Parsons, we likely would’ve never heard of her. And if you haven’t heard of her, well then you need to get that situation corrected. She demands a whole blog herself. Gram and Emmylou singing Tompall:



The Rolling Stones:

Gram’s influence on the Rolling Stones is massive. He was friends with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards especially, and is said to have influenced songs on Let It Bleed [DSD],Exile on Main St., and one of my favorite albums of all time, Sticky Fingers. There is a version of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ on Let It Bleed called Country Honk that is more than rumored to have been written at least partially by Gram. (That in my opinion is the BEST version of that song BTW) And Gram actually covered ‘Wild Horses’ from Sticky Fingers before the album was even released.

That era of the Rolling Stones produced some of the best music of the day, and it had to do in large part with Gram’s influence.

Death:

Gram Parsons liked his drugs and booze, and died from overdose on a mix of alcohol and morphine in Joshua Tree, CA in 1973. There is a crazy story behind his death, and there a lot of branches that come off the Gram Parson’s tree. I could write forever about this guy.

Even if you do not like the man Gram Parsons, or his music, it is hard to think of a bigger ambassador for country music. He was someone who really went out and tried to show people all that country music could be. And he didn’t do it by mistake. He really believed in country music, and wanted everyone to see its simple beauty, honesty, and that it could rock. There might not be someone who was not a prolific songwriter or a superb musician, but had such a wide impact on REAL country music.

And for that, Gram parsons will always be tits in my book.

George Miguel
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