Archive for August, 2009

Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson: Concert Review

Posted in Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson on August 17, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

As I mentioned last week, we had quite the musical smorgasbord in Knoxville over the weekend. Brendan James Wright, Chris Knight, The Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, Old Crow Medicine Show, Van Eaton & Friends, and The Steeldrivers all played somewhere in or around town this weekend. The biggest “event,” of course, took place Friday night at World’s Fair Park when the Old Crow Medicine Show and a few thousand of their closest friends gathered for The Big Surprise Tour.

By all accounts, OCMS and friends put on a great show, but I doubt it held any more surprises than the show I saw on Saturday night at the Bijou Theatre. Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson played for nearly two hours with a mix of songs from their 2008 collaboration Rattlin’ Bones, tunes from each of their solo careers, and a few carefully chosen covers as well.
As for the surprises on Saturday night… I’ll try to go through them one by one.
The biggest surprise for me was how much I enjoyed the songs from Shane’s solo catalogue. Rattlin’ Bones served as my introduction to Shane’s music, but I had never heard his voice independent of Kasey’s. Shane played two songs from his latest solo effort Familiar Ghosts, and I was blown away by both. I don’t want to say too much about it here, because I would like to give the album a proper review of its own later on. For now, just know that the album is not yet commercially available in the United States, but you can find it on iTunes.
There were also a few surprise guests on hand for the show. The concert was billed as just Kasey and Shane, and they played a good deal of the show together with no one else on stage. Even so, I probably should not have been surprised when Kasey’s dad, Bill Chambers, sat in on several songs. He’s appeared on most of her albums, including Rattlin’ Bones, and has always been involved in her career. It was nice to see him on stage.
The bigger surprise was the presence of Kym Warner of The Greencards. It turns out that Kym and Kasey are both from the same small town in Australia and have known each other since childhood. Kym now lives in Nashville, and made the drive to Knoxville to see his friends. Of course… he “just happened” to bring his mandolin along with him and found himself on stage for four or five songs at the end of the night. At one point, Kym played a riff that seemed to amaze even the people on stage with him. I saw Kasey turn to Shane and mouth the words, “That was awesome.”
A few songs also got a bit of a face lift for the show. It seems Shane found an old upright piano somewhere in the bowels of the Bijou and brought it out on stage. We were consequently treated to a version of Kasey’s standard “The Captain” with piano accompaniment instead of guitar. Shane also gave us a solo version of “Once in a While” from Rattlin’ Bones on the keys. It made for a nice addition to the show, and really showcased another element of Shane’s talents.
The surprises didn’t stop there either. It seems Kasey has written a children’s book called Little Kasey and the Lost Music. To coincide with the book, Kasey and her dad will release a children’s album called Kasey, Poppa Bill, and the Little Hillbillies. She says the idea behind the album is to have plenty of songs for the little ones to enjoy while also tossing in a few tracks for their parents as well. We were treated to two songs from the album. The first was a duet between “Little Kasey” and “Poppa Bill” that was based on all the questions she would ask him as a child. The second was full-tilt romp about what might happen if all the animals in the Australian Outback started a band. Have you ever seen a dingo, playing a bongo, riding on a kangaroo? Me neither, but it sounds like fun.
All of that is just to say how enjoyable the concert was overall. It was never predictable and kept me entertained throughout. Kasey and Shane engaged in easy banter throughout the show and kept the audience laughing with them all night. I always enjoy a show more when I know that the artists are really having fun on stage. It always comes through in their performance, and it’s easy to see that Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson enjoy making music together.
As great as the show was, however, the biggest thrill for me came afterwards. Because WDVX was the presenting station, I was asked to do the stage announcements before the show. Because of that… I had a couple of backstage passes and my wife and I were able to go backstage for a private meet and greet after the show.
I expected to just have the standard exchange where we would gush over how much we enjoyed the show, and then we’d have a minute or two of uncomfortable small talk before leaving and letting them get on with their lives.
In one final surprise, however, we found ourselves chatting with Kasey and Shane for nearly 15 minutes about the show, jet lag, Old Crow (they went to the Big Surprise Tour), WDVX, their kids, and the music industry in general. They were as nice and genuine as any artists I have ever met, and that makes me enjoy their music just that much more. All things considered, it was one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had. Go see them if you get the chance.
I’ll leave you with a video I found of “The Captain” set to piano. It isn’t from this weekend, but it should give you an idea of what we saw. I’m also putting up a from Rattlin’ Bones for you to sample. I know it’s one I’ve shared before, but I’ve talked about this album a few times here, and I’ll be talking about it again when I get into my Americana Music Awards Nominees posts… so I don’t want to give away the whole thing. Just make sure you click the “Buy Album” link after you listen to the song. You won’t be disappointed.
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson: The Devil’s Inside My Head (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson

Posted in Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson on August 15, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Tonight’s the night… I’ll be seeing Kasey and Shane at the Bijou. If anybody has seen them lately, let me know what I’m in for.

Notes: One Wild Weekend Ahead

Posted in Allison Moorer, Brendon James Wright, Chris Knight, Gillian Welch, Justin Townes Earle, Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson, Steve Earle, The Felice Brothers, The Steeldrivers, Van Eaton and Friends on August 13, 2009 by AmericanaPulse
This is a HUGE musical weekend in Knoxville, and I’ll tell you all about it… but first…

***I want to start off this post by wishing a Happy Anniversary to Steve Earle and Allison Moorer. The Americana power couple celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary on Tuesday.

I still remember when I first heard the rumours that the two were becoming involved with each other. In fact, I think I probably had the info a little sooner than most outside observers. I got the scoop from my music director at the time, who had heard it directly from an “industry insider,” who probably got it from Allison’s hairdresser’s cousin’s friend. That’s the way these things typically get started… right?

Anyway, I quickly dismissed the rumours as false. He was too old for her, and she was too pretty for him. It couldn’t be true.

Only, it was. And it is. And they still seem to be going strong. So here’s to four years together for Steve and Allison. May there be many more happy years and great music in their future. Here’s a tune Steve Earle wrote about his bride. It comes from 2008’s Washington Square Serenade.

Steve Earle: Sparkle & Shine (Buy Album)

***Now… on to this weekend’s festivities. It’s one of those weekends where you get really excited once you hear of all the shows, and all of the artists, that are coming to town, and then immediately get upset once you realize that there is no way to see them all. It almost breaks my heart to list all the acts I won’t be seeing this weekend.

It starts Thursday night when Brendan James Wright and the Wrongs play a free show as part of the new “Old City Live” concert series. I’m working late at my day job Thursday night… so no show for me.

Friday night is even worse. Chris Knight just added a date at The Shed in Maryville, and there’s also this thing at the World’s Fair Park called The Big Surprise Tour… maybe you’ve heard of it. The Old Crow Medicine Show, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Justin Townes Earle, and The Felice Brothers. Apparently, it’s one of those shows where everybody plays with everybody else and no two shows are the same. It’s a once in a lifetime show with a once in a lifetime collection of talent… and I’ll on the air at WDVX and completely unable to attend.
Never fear though… Payton from This Mornin’ I am Born Again is making the trip from Texas to Tennessee for the Big Surprise show. I’m sure he’ll share his impressions of the show with us once he makes it back to Texas. In the meantime, you can go to his site to hear some live tracks from the Big Surprise participants.

***Saturday night, I finally get to see a show for myself when Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson come to the Bijou Theatre. I’m choosing not to think about the fact that I have to miss out on seeing my friends Van Eaton of Van Eaton and Friends and Chris Stapleton of The Steeldrivers play as part of Stringtime in the Smokies to do it.

Instead, I’m looking forward to finally meeting the artist who probably did more than any other in terms of pulling me into the world of Americana Music. She introduced me to so many great artists, and literally changed my musical world. I’m fairly certain that I would not be writing this blog or working at WDVX if not for my first chance encounter with her music. I’ll be able to thank her for that on Saturday. What’s more… I’ll get to introduce her to the crowd at the Bijou as well. I’ll be emceeing the show.
It almost makes up for missing everything else this weekend.
Here’s one from Kasey and Shane’s 2008 release Rattlin’ Bones (one of my favorites of ’08), and a live track of Kasey covering Lucinda Williams’ “Changed the Locks.”
Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Once in a While (Buy Album)
Kasey Chambers: Changed the Locks (Buy Music)

Used: Bombadil & R.E.M.

Posted in Bombadil, R.E.M. on August 10, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

There is no better way to kill some time on a lazy afternoon than browsing through your local used record store. I used to spend hours (and hundreds of dollars) going through stacks of used discs when I was in college. My time (and budget) are a little more limited these days, but I still love to check out the local shop when I get a chance.

Luckily, Knoxville has several great places to find new old music. My first stop is always The Disc Exchange, the store that always lands on the top of any local “best of” polls. If I don’t find anything there, I can always move on to McKay’s. This place is essentially a giant warehouse filled with used junk, and a few gems. Books, CD’s, video games, movies, iPods… you name it, they sell it. I’ve also told you before about the $1 bin at the local Cat’s Music. There are more than a few places to find some pre-loved music in this town.
Now that I have a record player set up in the house, I’ve also been discovering some of the local shops that actually sell “records.” Lost & Found Records and Basement Records are the two I’ve stumbled upon so far, but if anyone knows of any others please let me know.
The purpose of all of that is to say that I had some time to kill this past Thursday and was able to unearth a couple of worthy additions to my collection.
First was A Buzz, A Buzz, the first full-length effort from the North Carolina collective known as Bombadil. Like their new album, Tarpits and Canyonlands (reviewed here), this record is full of musically whimsical and often lyrically dark compositions. This band is stylistically unique and instantly captivating. Both of their albums come with high recommendations.
Here’s one from A Buzz, A Buzz that showcases the light/dark dynamic that they pull off so well. It’s a lighthearted tune about self-mutilation called “Johnny.”
Bombadil: Johnny (Buy Album)

I also came one step closer to completing my R.E.M. vinyl collection when I found a copy of their debut album Murmur. R.E.M. is my all time favorite band, but I was still just a child when they started releasing albums. I didn’t discover them until much later. Consequently, my entire R.E.M. library has always been on CD.

Now that I have the means to play them, I have made it my personal mission to own the band’s entire catalogue (especially the early, IRS recordings) on vinyl. That’s how most fans first experienced their music, and that’s how I want to experience it now. Of course, Murmur is an all time classic and a record that I’m glad to hear again for the first time.
R.E.M.: Radio Free Europe (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Earthly Treasures

Posted in Scott Miller, youtube on August 8, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

No Commentary needed for this one… I give you Scott Miller.

Childsplayers: Aoife O’Donovan & Lissa Schneckenburger

Posted in Aoife O'Donovan, Crooked Still, Lissa Schneckenberger on August 6, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

On Tuesday, I told you about Childsplay, a group primarily composed of musicians united by the fact that they all play violins crafted by the same man… Bob Childs. I also promised to share with you some music from a couple of the musicians involved in the project. That’s why we’re here today.

We’ll start today with Aoife O’Donovan. O’Donovan (in the center of the picture above, wearing glasses) is the voice of Childsplay, but is most widely known as the vocalist for the contemporary bluegrass band Crooked Still. She actually founded the band in 2001 when she was asked to assemble a group for a concert at the New England Conservatory of Music.

The band has made quite a name for itself over the last decade by bringing their own unique sound to traditional stringband music. Their sound is defined by unique instrumentation that, in the early days of the band, often consisted of only banjo, cello, and double bass. A recent line-up change added Brittany Haas on fiddle and Tristan Clarridge on cello to go along with original members O’Donovan, bassist Corey DiMario, and banjo virtuoso Greg Liszt.

Here are two tracks from Cooked Still. The first is Bill Monroe’s “Can’t You Hear Me Calling,” the lead track from their 2006 album Shaken By a Low Sound. It showcases the band in its original configuration of bass, banjo, cello, and vocals to stunning effect. I’m also sharing the traditional “Tell Her to Come Back Home” from 2008’s Still Crooked. This showcases the band in it’s current incarnation and lets the fiddles run a bit. Tim O’Brien provides guest vocals.
Crooked Still: Can’t You Hear Me Calling (Buy Album)
Crooked Still: Tell Her to Come Back Home (Buy Album)

The second artist I’d like to share today is fiddle player Lissa Schneckenburger. Like O’Donovan, Schneckenburger is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and a member of Childsplay.

Schneckenburger hails from Maine and has been playing the fiddle since she was six years old and is now an accomplished singer/songwriter and a true student of the instrument she wields. Her primary influences come from the traditional music of New England and the Canadian coast. She recently spent time digging through the music archives of the University of Maine to try to rediscover some forgotten tunes of the region. In 2008 Schneckenberger released a collection of those forgotten ballads called Song. She is currently working on a follow-up collection of old time fiddle tunes called Dance.
I was first introduced to Schneckenburger’s music in 2005 when I received a copy of her self-titled release. I immediately fell in love with an instrumental track from the album called “Melissa without the Me/Eric’s Birthday.” I played it constantly on Americana Crossroads at the time, and I’d like to share it with you here. I’m also sharing one called “Like the Snow” from her 2001 album Different Game (with thanks to Cover Lay Down for introducing me to the tune).
Lissa Schneckenburger: Melissa without the Me/Eric’s Birthday (Buy Album)
Lissa Schneckenburger: Like the Snow (Buy Album)
Just for fun… here’s some YouTube goodness from both artists…

Prine the Plumber

Posted in John Prine on August 5, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Had a plumber come to my house yesterday to fix a couple of leaks in the kitchen. His assistant bore an uncanny resemblance to John Prine.

That’s really my only reason for posting this today.
John Prine: Grandpa was a Carpenter (Buy Album)