Archive for February, 2009

Buddy & Julie Miller: Written in Chalk

Posted in Buddy and Julie Miller on February 11, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I’ve been listening to Buddy and Julie Miller’s new album Written in Chalk for a few weeks now, but I tried to hold off on writing about it until we got a little closer to the March 3rd release date. That is until I saw on the Ramblings… blog that New West Records has made the first track from the album, “Ellis County,” available as a free download from their website.

For the album itself… it is a bit different from the self-titled effort they released in 2001. That album was a full collaboration featuring eleven duets between Buddy and Julie with each contributing vocals to every track. When Buddy and Julie sing together, they create a heavenly sound that is uniquely theirs… a sound that can only be created by a couple that has been married and making music together for over twenty years. That’s why you’ll find Buddy on nearly all of Julie’s solo material and vice versa.

That’s also why it’s a bit odd to only find the two singing together on less than half of Written in Chalk’s twelve tracks. The album reads as one part Buddy and Julie Miller, one part Buddy and friends, and one part Julie and friends. That’s not a complaint mind you. When the “and friends” include Robert Plant, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Regina and Ann McCrary… you can excuse Buddy and Julie for wanting to branch out a bit.

In fact, the collaborations with the outsiders comprise some of the absolute high points of the album. Patty Griffin’s vocals are the perfect compliment to Buddy on “Chalk,” a song that still stops me square in my tracks every time I hear it. Griffin also helps out Julie on the piano/guitar ballad “Don’t Say Goodbye” with understated harmonies that add an extra level of depth to the track. Robert Plant provides another highlight by singing a duet with Buddy on Mel Tillis’ “What You Gonna Do, Leroy.”

When Buddy and Julie do get together… watch out. “Gasoline and Matches,” a song about an explosive love affair, is as incendiary as the name might suggest. Buddy provides a slow burning electric groove for “Smooth” that transports you straight to the streets of Memphis. A more tender moment is found on the acoustic “June.”

The song I’m featuring here (and the song featured by New West) is the album opening “Ellis County.” This one was written by Julie (she wrote nine of the album’s twelve songs) and features Larry Campbell on the fiddle. The lyrics focus on nostalgia and a yearning to be taken back to a simpler time. The words are accompanied by a loping country groove that seems lifted from that same bygone era.

Written in Chalk is available March 3rd from New West Records.

Buddy & Julie Miller: Chalk (Buy Album)

Brigitte DeMeyer: Red River Flower

Posted in Brigitte DeMeyer on February 10, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

My mailbox has been flooded with new music over the last week or so. And since I took most of last week off (house hunting is not easy)… I figure it’s time to start trying to share some of that music with you. Today, it’s Red River Flower the upcoming release (Feb. 17) from songwriter Brigitte DeMeyer.

On her fourth studio album, DeMeyer delivers a strong collection of songs under the guidance of percussionist/producer Brady Blade (Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Dave Matthews). DeMeyer and Blade convened in Nashville for their sessions that produced the thirteen tracks contained here. Red River Flower is the first album DeMeyer has recorded in Music City, and she credits the city itself with providing her a “spiritual home” and helping her create a fully realized album that showcases her many influences.

The album carries you from the sparse finger-snapper “Looking for Moses” to the roadhouse swagger of “Wicked to Win” to the dobro fueled country of “Shepherd” and back to the rock and gospel flavored “Justice” with ease. All the songs were tracked live in the studio with a band consisting of Blade, Mike Henderson (Steeldrivers), Al Perkins (Gram Parsons), Phil Madeira (Buddy Miller), Chris Donohue (Allison Moorer), and Buddy Miller (umm… Buddy Miller). The live setting is conveyed in the warmth that emanates from each one of these songs. Tracks such as the mandolin and dobro driven “Sweet Lady Rosa” sound more like a back porch picking party than a slick studio production. The fact that Miller also contributes vocals to “Without You” and “Meant for Mine” is just icing on the cake.

Red River Flower is available February 17th from BDM Music.

Brigitte DeMeyer: Shepherd (Buy Album)
Brigitte DeMeyer: Justice (Buy Album)

Mid-Week Notes

Posted in Brendon James Wright, Knoxville Music, Scott Miller, V-Roys on February 4, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Just a few quick-hitters to get you through to the weekend…

*Knoxville’s local free weekly newspaper, The Metro Pulse, printed something really cool last week. Late last year, they conducted a poll of stalwarts of the local music scene from the last twenty years (club owners, musicians, writers, etc…) in an attempt to determine the “Best Knoxville Band Ever.” It turns out that Knoxville has produced some tremendous music in its time (Artists who fell outside of the Top 10 include The Everly Brothers and Roy Acuff).

Checking in at number one on the list was a little group composed of Jeff Bills, Paxton Sellers, Mic Harrison, and Scott Miller called The V-Roys. The patron saint of this blog, Scott Miller, also made the list at #5 as a solo artist. You can read about the full Top 10 here.

*Speaking of lists… No Depression has announced the results of their 2008 Readers Poll. Once again, Alejandro Escovedo comes out on top with Real Animal being named Album of the Year. I voted… so I’m at least partly responsible. Anyone who hasn’t heard Alejandro’s latest album should take this as one final sign and go get a copy.

*There were two posts over at Pretty Goes with Pretty this past week that really spoke to me. I’ve been struggling lately with a bit of a music overload coupled with a lack of solid listening time. I have new releases I want to review, new stuff in my email every day, discs I’m supposed to be previewing for WDVX, and old favorites that I want to revisit. I just don’t have time for it all. I’ve had the new Olson and Louris album for about two weeks, and I still haven’t been able to listen to the whole thing in one sitting. I recently lost my early morning listening time at my full time job because they banned iPods in the workplace. I’ve yet to rediscover that time.

Anyway… Scott started with a nice post about finding that uninterrupted listening time and followed it with one about acquiring music in moderation. I don’t know if I can ever do the latter, but I desperately want to do the former.

*Finally… I got an e-mail this week informing me that Knoxville’s own Brendon James Wright & the Wrongs will be opening for Robert Earl Keen at The Bijou later this month (Feb. 11). I mentioned Wright a while back in my “Best of Knoxville” post, and I think he should go over well with a Robert Earl Keen audience. I wish I could go to the show. I do have a few friends who are going, and I’m going to encourage them to get there early for Wright’s set.

Here’s a taste of his debut album…

Brendon James Wright & The Wrongs: Best That I Can (Buy Album)

Brett Ratliff

Posted in Brett Ratliff on February 2, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

A few months ago, I told you about Brett Ratliff, a traditional banjo player from Eastern Kentucky. Ratliff released a solo album of old-time mountain music last summer, and I shared my thoughts on the album back in September.

On Friday, Ratliff came to Knoxville with a square dance outfit called The Travelin’ Snakes. They played the WDVX Blue Plate Special Friday at noon and held a square dance Friday night at the Square Room (Yes… a real square dance with a dance caller and a live band… the gig was a sell out). In between gigs, Ratliff stopped by the WDVX studio for a chat.

Here is my interview with Brett Ratliff featuring live performances from the studio. I’m also including a couple of tracks from the album, Cold Icy Mountain, that I played before and after the visit.

If you are interested in real traditional mountain music and its origins… take a listen to the songs and the interview. Ratliff is a musical historian as much as he is a musician, and he tells some of the stories behind the songs.

Brett Ratliff: Cold Icy Mountain (Buy Album)
Intreview with Brett Ratliff
Brett Ratliff: Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow (Buy Album)