Archive for July, 2008

John Hiatt @ The Shed: Maryville, TN 7/12/08

Posted in Doug Lancio, John Hiatt on July 14, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

John Hiatt reminisces about days gone by on his new CD Same Old Man

“Old Days are coming back to me.
I don’t know what was so great about ’em.
I played practically free,
But I had nothing to live up to
And everywhere to be.
Old Days are coming back to me.”

These days, Hiatt has plenty to live up to. Hiatt is one of the most successful and respected songwriters of his generation. “Angel Eyes” from the Jeff Healey Band, “Drive South” from Suzy Bogguss, “The Way We Make a Broken Heart” from Rosanne Cash, “Sure as I’m Sittin’ Here” from Three Dog Night, and “Thing Called Love” from Bonnie Raitt, to name a few, all came from Hiatt’s pen. This September, he will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting from the Americana Music Association at their annual awards show in Nashville. This very week, Same Old Man sits in the top spot on the Americana Album Airplay Chart.

Saturday night, John Hiatt played The Shed in Maryville, TN with his current touring band The Ageless Beauties. Hiatt was on his game as he mixed in several old favorites with a good sampling of tunes from the new album.

The setlist:
The Tiki Bar is Open
Master of Disaster
Drive South
Let’s Give This Love a Try
Cherry Red
Cry Love (slow version)
Walk On
Old Days
On with You
Love You Again
Lift up Every Stone
Crossing Muddy Waters
Paper Thin
Slow Turning
Hurt My Baby
Riding with the King
~set break~
Tennessee Plates
Memphis in the Meantime

The highlight of the show for me was a slowed down version of “Cry Love” featuring beautiful atmospheric guitar work from Doug Lancio. The studio version of “Cry Love” has been my favorite Hiatt song for a while due mostly to a great arrangement built around a crisp chiming guitar riff, a sharp snare backbeat, and flourishes of mandolin. This new version, however, was hardly recognizable to me through most of its extended intro. My wife and I went through a few rounds of, “Is this ‘Cry Love?'” “No it can’t be.” “Wait… is it?” Just before the vocals came in, it became clear. It also became clear that Hiatt was taking a bit of chance by playing around with one of his fan favorite songs, but it paid off. Lancio (more on him later) was a big part of the success, replacing the crisp acoustic strums of the original with layers of swirling electric rhythms. I’d love to find a copy of this version.

In the encore, Hiatt played to the Tennessee crowd by dusting off two more of his classics that deal with the Volunteer State; “Tennessee Plates” and “Memphis in the Meantime.” The latter song included a sing along and some more fancy guitar work from Hiatt and Lancio. A solid end to a great show.

After the show my wife and I got to go backstage for a brief “Meet & Greet” with Hiatt. We got a handshake, an autograph, and a brief conversation. Hiatt was very gracious as he listened to my ramblings about how much I like the new album, the old albums, etc… We thought it was a great way to end the night…

Then, on the way out, we bumped into Doug Lancio. Lancio is a producer/musician who is probably best known for producing Patty Griffin’s 1,000 Kisses album and serving as her lead guitarist for the last several years. He’s also producing Scott Miller’s new project that’s scheduled to be released later this year. We caught Patty Griffin twice on her last tour and became especially impressed with Lancio’s live chops. It was a pleasant surprise to see him with Hiatt’s band Saturday night.

These days, John Hiatt may feel pressured to live up the reputation he has earned through his thirty-plus years in the music business. However, he continues to build on that reputation with each new release and each show he plays. Here are a couple tracks from the new album, Same Old Man and a couple of classics.

John Hiatt: Old Days (Buy the Album)
John Hiatt: On with You (Buy the Album)
John Hiatt: Cry Love (Buy the Album)
John Hiatt: Memphis in the Meantime (Buy the Album)

John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives

Posted in John Paul Keith on July 11, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

John Paul Keith was a founding member of Knoxville Roots Rock Heroes, The V-Roys. He recorded with Ryan Adams as part of the infamous and oft-bootlegged “Pink Heart Sessions.” Keith and his guitar even appear on a few tracks from Ryan’s 2002 CD Demolition. He currently plays guitar in a garage rock band with legendary producer Jim Dickenson.

Why then, have I not heard more about this singer/songwriter/axe man who is currently based in Memphis? I don’t know. I DO know that Keith was one of the first visitors to “AFCLAAWB” and, sensing a Knoxville connection, sent me a link to some music he’s been working on recently with his new project, John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives.

Musically, the One Four Fives put forth a rollicking rockabilly sound that is sure to have the good people of Memphis putting in their time on the dance floor. Keith’s lyrics touch on the classic topics of Rock & Roll excess and Honky Tonk heartache. “Looking for a Thrill” is a muscular guitar powered romp that warns of the bad things that can be found while looking for a good time. On “Otherwise” the protagonist puts on a brave face over top of some country twang while suffering through another broken heart.

“I got a great big hole in my chest where my heart was.
Otherwise I’m doing fine.
Every night I go to sleep to keep from crying.
Otherwise I’m doing fine.”

The One Four Fives don’t have a CD available just yet… but the 7″ vinyl single for “Looking for a Thrill” is available from Goner Records.

John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives: Looking for a Thrill (Buy the vinyl)
John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives: Otherwise (Buy the vinyl)

Alejandro Escovedo: Real Animal

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo on July 10, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Alejandro Escovedo released his latest album, Real Animal, in June on Back Porch Records. It is another stunning addition to a catalogue of music that led No Depression magazine to name him as the “Artist of the Decade” for the 90’s long before that decade actually came to a close. It has been said that Escovedo invented a genre that is unique to himself by blending elements of punk, country, pop, and… with his string quintet… at times orchestral flares.

A quick listen to the lead track here… “Always a Friend”… reveals many of Escovedo’s influences. There are definate pop arrangements in the “oohs” and “ahhs” in the backing vocals and the bouncyness of the “Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh” chorus. An electric violin kicks in near the end to add a progressive/alt-country flavor. The entire track is built around a punkish riff that kicks the album into high gear from the start. Peter Blackstock from No Depression has called this the strongest single of Escovedo’s career. It’s hard to disagree. We’ve been playing it quite heavily at WDVX.

Those who are familiar with Escovedo’s story know that, in recent years, he has been battling Hepititis C. The disease nearly claimed his life a few years ago, and it has certainly changed his life today. Gone are the booze filled nights and the Rock & Roll lifestyle. Those things have been replaced by an introspective clarity that was heavily showcased in his previous album The Boxing Mirror. That introspection shows up again here in the track “Golden Bear”

“There’s a creature in my body.
There’s a creature in my blood.
Don’t know how long he’s been there,
Or why he’s after us.”

Most of the songs on the album deal with events from Escovedo’s past in some way. “Nun’s Song” recounts the early days of his career with his first band, San Francisco punksters The Nuns. “Chip and Tony” refers to brothers Chip and Tony Kinman, leaders of another of Escovedo’s early groups Rank and File. This is an album by a musician at the top of his game who has seen his life pass before his eyes and wants to make sure those precious moments are captured and preserved.

Alejandro Escovedo: Always a Friend (Buy Album)
Alejandro Escovedo: Golden Bear (Buy Album)
Alejandro Escovedo: Smoke (Buy Album)

Essential Albums: Trace by Son Volt

Posted in Essential Albums, Jay Farrar, Son Volt on July 10, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

When I was first kicking around the idea of starting a blog I always thought my first post would be about this album. Post #3 still ain’t too shabby.

Trace was the first album released by Son Volt… the band Jay Farrar formed after the split of his previous band, Uncle Tupelo. While in Uncle Tupelo, Farrar and his band mates Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn blended the heartfelt lyrics of Leadbelly and The Carter Family with the punk rock fury of Iggy Pop and The Minutemen. The group recorded four albums together before infighting between Farrar and Tweedy led to a split following the release of the band’s 1992 album Anodyne. Tweedy formed the band Wilco while Farrar, Heidorn, and brothers Jim and Dave Boquist rose from Uncle Tupelo’s ashes with a project called Son Volt in 1994.

In 1995, the band released Trace… a strong effort that perfectly blurred the lines between country and rock and still stands as the Masterpiece of the 90’s Alt-country movement.

The album begins with “Windfall.” An acoustic country number that transports the listener to a deserted stretch of road on a “trail spent with fear.” The narrator is alone on the highway with nothing but his troubles and his prayers for the wind to take them away. Somewhere in the night, he finds a radio station with a heavenly sound to keep him going to the next stop.

The last verse and chorus:

Switching it over to AM
Searching for a truer sound
Can’t recall the call letters
Steel guitar and settle down
Catching an all-night station somewhere in Louisiana
It sounds like 1963, but for now it sounds like heaven

May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel,
May the wind take your troubles away

Incidentally, the name of this blog would have been “Searching for a Truer Sound,” but it was already taken. I also heavily considered “Steel Guitar and Settle Down.”

After “Windfall,” the album alternates between fiery country rock and more sombre acoustic numbers before closing with “Mystifies Me”… a bluesy country cover that originally appeared on Ron Wood’s (Rolling Stones) 1974 solo album. The rockers all feature catchy guitar riffs and driving beats. Jim Boquist is usually ready with a nice harmony vocal as well.

I didn’t really discover Son Volt or Jay Farrar until sometime around 2003 when I downloaded the following two songs from a file-sharing network that I used at the time. Within a couple of weeks, I had bought almost everything Farrar had recorded to that point. These songs, and this album, had that much of an impact on me. Jay Farrar has the Real Ultimate Power.

Son Volt: Windfall (Buy Album)
Son Volt: Drown (Buy Album)

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Conversation with the Devil

Posted in Ray Wylie Hubbard on July 9, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

In the bloglist to the right, you’ll find a link to something called The Star Maker Machine. It’s a sort of community blog with many different contributors. Each week, the moderator determines a theme, and readers submit blog posts about songs that fit the theme (Past themes included days of the week, 1984, and city songs). The result is a ton of posts on each weekly topic from varying artists and genres. It’s a great place to go to find old favorites and artists you may have missed in the past.

This week’s theme is Hell Week. I was finally inspired to learn how to create a post and offer up my first submission to The Machine. I chose R.E.M.’s “Burning Hell” from Dead Letter Office. That post should be up soon.

#Edit# It’s up now… you can find it here. Looks like Payton from This Mornin’ I am Born Again had me covered on the Ray Wylie #End Edit#

After thinking some more on the theme, however, I realized I had forgotten a song by Ray Wylie Hubbard that fit the theme perfectly.

“Conversation with the Devil” is included on Hubbard’s 1999 album Crusades of the Restless Knights. “Conversation” is a song in the talking blues style that tells of a dream Hubbard had where he was cast into Hell and asked the Devil to explain what he had done to deserve his punishment. Through the course of the song, the conversation turns to drug abuse, hypocrisy, reincarnation, and a certain fiddle duel famously described by Charlie Daniels. We learn that all abusive parents, rapists, politicians, and Nashville record executives go to Hell, while saints and mystics are awarded passage to Heaven.

In the end, Hubbard wakes from his dream, kisses his son, and decides to change his ways. Whether or not Hubbard actually had this dream, I do not know. I do know that Hubbard lived a good deal of his life in what he called “a honky-tonk fog” fueled by drugs and alcohol before going clean and sober in the late 80’s. It seems the Devil scared Ray Wylie Hubbard straight.

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Conversation with the Devil (Buy Album)

Intro: A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz

Posted in Knoxville Music, Scott Miller on July 9, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Well… I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and… after a little coaxing from my wife… I’ve finally decided to give it a shot. I have no idea what I’m doing but I guess we’ll all learn together.

This is a place for me to blog about the music I love. New or old. Rock or Country. Popular or obscure. This will be the place for me to share those songs with you.

I am a part-time dj at WDVX radio in Knoxville. You can find out more about me here. At WDVX, I play a format of music called Americana… a mix of many different styles of American Roots Music. The term “Americana” encompasses classic country, bluegrass, folk, alt-country, blues, western swing, country-rock, and a few other styles of distinctly American music that seem to stray a bit outside the lines of what is currently considered “popular” music. Americana comprises a large part of what I listen to, but I am still relatively new (I only discovered a lot of this music six or seven years ago) to the genre as a whole. As such, my tastes have been influenced by many artists who hail from outside that world, and I continue to try to drink from as many different musical wells as I can.

In this blog, you will hear from a wide range of artists. From R.E.M., to Steve Earle, to Death Cab for Cutie, to Uncle Tupelo, to who knows what else.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start this off with the song that I stole the name of this blog from. It’s a little tune from Scott Miller & The Commonwealth called “I Made a Mess of this Town” from the album Thus Always to Tyrants.

Scott Miller is a native Virginian, who now resides in Knoxville. He is a very polished songwriter who can break your heart with songs about love gone wrong, educate with historical ballads about Sam Houston or Civil War soldiers, or make you laugh out loud with songs about cold beer and hot women. Scott is one of my favorite artists working today, and this is one of the songs that got me hooked.

Scott Miller & The Commonwealth: I Made a Mess of This Town (Buy Album)