Archive for January, 2010

Random Weekend Post: Brandi Carlile & Stephen Bruton

Posted in Brandi Carlile, Stephen Bruton on January 30, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Two videos today… with a related theme.

First is Brandi Carlile covering Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” from something called The Interface. Brandi will play the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville February 10.

Next is one from the late singer/songwriter/producer Stephen Bruton. Stephen has received a lot of attention lately for his work on the Crazy Heart Soundtrack, and I’ve dedicated a couple of sets to him at WDVX lately. His good friend Alejandro Escovedo dedicated a song to him during a recent visit to the station, and that has left Stephen Bruton on my mind.

A listener sent me this video last night after I played a song from Crazy Heart. It’s a song Stephen wrote that became a hit for The Highwaymen… a group featuring Willie Nelson. This is Stephen’s version.

Thanks Bruce.

News and Notes: New Truckers, Lucinda’s Birthday

Posted in Drive-By Truckers, Lucinda Williams, The Salty Dogs on January 26, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s been a while since I’ve banged out a full-fledged news and notes column… so here we go.

***The Drive-By Truckers have a new album set for release this March, and the first song has been released on Stereogum’s website. Patterson Hood says The Big To-Do is “very much a rock album,” and this new track seems to confirm that.
Thanks to The Gobbler’s Knob for the tip. You can listen to “This Fucking Job” from the Drive-By Truckers at Stereogum. I can’t say I haven’t felt this way about my day job sometimes. The new album drops March 16. The Truckers are in Knoxville to play the Bijou Theatre February 14.
***My first ever CD review for the Country Standard Time online magazine has been published. I reviewed the new release from The Salty Dogs… a four piece Americana outfit from Little Rock, Arkansas. The album sounds at times like Reckless Kelly and at times like BR-549. The track I’m sharing here sounds like neither, but is still a great little song. You can read my full review here.
The Salty Dogs: Rock & Roll Will Never Stay (Buy Album)
***It’s another fine week for live music at WDVX this week. Tennessee Shines takes place again Wednesday night with some great bluegrass from Blue Highway and Adam Steffey & The Boxcars. We’ll also be joined by the phenomenal guitar duo Frank Vignola & Tommy Emmanuel as well as local songwriter Robinella. Jim Lauderdale will host as always.
As for the rest of the week… Justin Townes Earle will stop by the studio Thursday at 5:00 for a live interview and performance with Tony Lawson. Justin will play later that night at Barley’s Taproom in Knoxville with Dawn Landes. Finally, R.B Morris will rock the WDVX Blue Plate Special Friday at Noon along with The Black Lillies. These are two of the finest acts Knoxville has to offer, and you can hear them both in one place on Friday.
All of these performances will stream live on WDVX.
***Finally, today is the birthday of Lucinda Williams. Lucinda is one of the most beloved and respected artists working in Americana music today, and she was born on this day in 1953 in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
We’ll close things out today with my favorite Lucinda Williams song. This is “Pineola” from the 1988 release Sweet Old World.
Lucinda Williams: Pineola (Buy Album)

Alejandro Escovedo at WDVX: Recap

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo on January 25, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

This is a picture of me with Alejandro Escovedo and his guitarist David Pulkingham taken last Tuesday when they visited the WDVX studios.
Alejandro was in town for a performance at the Bijou Theatre, but took the time to drop by the studio for an on-air interview and performance session with WDVX Program Director Tony Lawson. During his visit, Alejandro offered acoustic versions of two brand new songs from his upcoming CD and a slew of newsworthy tidbits.
First… the music. Alejandro began the set with a tune called “Anchor,” a bouncy love song that was immediately catchy and full of hooks. The second number, “Down in the Bowery,” was a much more personal tune that he wrote for his 17-year-old son to encourage him to follow his dreams. Alejandro says his son is a graffiti artist and the lead singer of a “very noisy” punk band. He says he couldn’t be more proud. He closed the brief intimate set with a beautiful rendition of “Sister Lost Soul” from Real Animal. He now dedicates the song to the memory of the late Stephen Bruton.
During the on-air portion of the interview, Alejandro revealed that he will be in the studio soon (possibly this week) to begin work on his new album. He will reunite with Real Animal producer Tony Visconti and return to the same Lexington, KY studio where he recorded my favorite album of 2008. Look for that project sometime this summer. He says he’s already been working out seven or eight new songs (more on those later) in his recent live sets and expects the new record to have a similar sound to Real Animal.
Off the air, I chatted with Alejandro a bit about the new album and his current touring line-up. He told me he wants to continue playing with his current four piece rock outfit for another couple of years. After that, he wants to “try everything musically I’ve ever wanted to do.” It’s very hard for me to imagine anything that he hasn’t done… but I can’t wait to see what those things are.
He also let me in on a special treat for any of you who are lucky enough to attend SXSW this year. The Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra will be reuniting for a show at the festival. I really wish I could be there.
As for his performance that night at the Bijou, it was every bit the the blistering Rock & Roll show that his previous visit was last January for Tennessee Shines. At that show, Alejandro fielded a few complaints from the bluegrass fans in the audience for being too loud and generally playing the Devil’s music. There were no such complaints last week, but Alejandro was able to work in a few good natured jabs at the grassers by promising to keep things nice and quiet.
It was a promise he didn’t bother trying to keep.
After walking on stage to the strains of George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” Alejandro, decked out in a grey suit with a red scarf and red cowboy boots, cranked up the volume and energy with raucous renditions of “Always a Friend” and “Everybody Loves Me.” He also peppered the set with other familiar favorites such as “Sister Lost Soul,” “I Was Drunk,” and “Real Animal.” In the middle of the show, Alejandro and David unplugged their guitars, stepped in front of the microphones, and treated the audience to an acoustic version of the long distance love letter “Rosalie.” He dropped everyone to their knees with that one… and then brought them back to their feet with a fire breathing version of “Castanets” (my favorite AE tune) to close the main set.
Those songs were all great, of course, but the real story from the night was the presence of so many new songs in Alejandro’s setlist… seven in all. I’ve mentioned two already, and “Anchor” and “Down in the Bowery” only sounded better with the full force of The Sensitive Boys (Alejandro’s band) behind them. The rest of the new batch included the rocking “Faith,” “Tender Heart,” and “This Bed is Getting Crowded.” These three songs make me believe Alejandro wasn’t kidding when he said the new album will be full of just as much fire as Real Animal.
Two of the songs were slightly less bombastic, but full of their own character nonetheless. “Tula” was inspired by the works of author Larry Brown, and had a bit of a beat poetry/speakeasy feel to it with a deliberate beat and hand played percussion. “After the Meteor Shower” has its roots in the music of The Velvet Underground (the Underground’s John Cale produced Alejandro’s 2006 release The Boxing Mirror). Alejandro says the was basically trying to rewrite the Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes.”
The night ended with Alejandro leading the audience in a sing along of The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden” that was followed by me walking the streets of downtown Knoxville listening to 40 Licks on my iPod. It was a very satisfying evening overall and one that left me very hungry to hear Alejandro’s new album this summer. I’ll tell you all about it when I do.
In the meantime, here are two tracks recorded live in the studios of WDVX. As per Alejandro’s request, these tracks are available for streaming only. Hope you enjoy.

Random Weekend Post: Reckless Kelly’s New Album

Posted in Reckless Kelly on January 23, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I got my hands on a copy of Reckless Kelly’s new album Somewhere in Time last night. The album is a tribute to the music of a songwriter by the name of Pinto Bennett from a band called The Famous Motel Cowboys. I haven’t had time to listen to the full album yet, but I like what I’m hearing so far.

Here’s the EPK for the album where the guys tell us all about Pinto Bennett and the tribute project.

Alejandro Escovedo at WDVX Today

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo on January 19, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Today (Tuesday) is going to be a big day at WDVX. Alejandro Escovedo is in town for a concert at the Bijou Theatre, and he’ll be dropping by the WDVX studio to chat with Program Director Tony Lawson before the show. Alejandro will likely share a few songs with us on the air as well. He’s scheduled to stop by around 4:00 (Eastern). You can listen to a stream of his appearance at the WDVX website.

Alejandro was in town around this same time last year… he played Tennessee Shines in January. For that show, he shared the stage with four other artists and played roughly only 35 minutes due to the nature of the Tennessee Shines program. Tonight, He’ll have the stage entirely to himself (minus opening sets from Johnny Quaid and Roman Candle), and I can’t wait.
As an added bonus, Alejandro has been working out some new songs on this tour and is preparing to return to the studio with producer Tony Visconti to record the followup to 2008’s Real Animal. I imagine he’ll play some of those songs tonight. I’ll try to check back in with a post-show report later this week. Until then… here’s a classic Alejandro track.
Alejandro Escovedo: Paradise (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Dawn Landes

Posted in Dawn Landes on January 16, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Earlier this week, I was sent a copy of the new album from Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Dawn Landes. Sweetheart Rodeo (Buy Album) is a charming mix of folk, pop, and country with just a few electronic flourishes sprinkled in. Dawn hits fine country notes on tunes like the title track and the harmonica laden “Wandering Eye.” She wanders into Feist-like indie-pop territory on tunes like “Romeo.” It’s a fun listen overall.

Here’s the video of the lead track from the album, “Young Girl.” It has more of a rock flavor than the rest of the album.

[Update] I forgot to mention that Dawn will be in Knoxville January 28th with Justin Townes Earle at Barley’s Taproom.

NPR First Listen: Patty Griffin’s Downtown Church

Posted in Patty Griffin on January 15, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

On Tuesday, I mentioned that Patty Griffin’s new CD Downtown Church is set for release January 26th. I also mentioned that you could hear a track from the album at Patty’s MySpace page.

You can still do that… You can also now listen to the album in its entirety courtesy of NPR’s First Listen series. The album features two original gospel tunes from Patty alongside a slew of standard numbers. Buddy Miller produced the project which features vocals from Buddy, Emmylou Harris, Jim Lauderdale, Raul Malo, and the McCrary Sisters.

I haven’t had the chance to listen to the whole thing yet, but I plan to real soon. You can too if you follow this link.

A Little Knox Music: Spies, Lies, & Burning Eyes by R.B. Morris

Posted in Knoxville Music, R.B. Morris on January 14, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

R.B. Morris is a singer/songwriter who has shared a stage with Lucinda Williams and had his songs recorded by John Prine.

R.B. Morris is a poet and author who has published multiple books and once served as the editor of the highly respected Hard Knoxville Review.
R.B. Morris is a playwright who once wrote and starred in his own one man show based on the life of Pulitzer Prize winning author (and Knoxville native) James Agee.
I once referred to Morris as a one man literary wrecking ball, and his skills with the written word in all of its myriad forms are showcased brilliantly on his new CD Spies, Lies, & Burning Eyes. On this album, Morris moves from Dylan style folk, to abstract spoken word pieces, to straightforward rock and roll bombast with ease… sometimes within the same song.
The album kicks off with the subdued travelogue “Amsterdam.” R.B. croons softly over faint accordions and guitar before transitioning into the funk fueled word art of “Big Wheel/Vowels” on the album’s second track. Here Morris references the works of french poet Arthur Rambaud as he muses on the colors represented by different vowels. Morris speaks rather than sings as his studio band, including longtime compatriot Hector Quirko and guitar maestro Kenny Vaughn provide a perfect canvas for his words.
It’s a formula he repeats on a few other tracks as well. The whole thing can be a bit jarring if you aren’t expecting it, but those who are familiar with Morris’ previous works and live shows have come to expect such departures. These Beat inspired pieces provide a backdrop for his poetry that a standard song structure simply can’t provide.
That’s not to say, however, that Morris can’t turn out a straight forward song when he tries. “Spy in My Brain” is a guitar rocker of the highest calibre that brings to mind some of Alejandro Escovedo’s heavier work. The fire is balanced nicely with the more restrained “That’s How Every Empire Falls” and “Then There is a City.” All three tracks (along with “Big Wheel/Vowels” and “Buddha in European Clothes”) also appeared on Morris’ 2007 EP Empire but have been re-recorded and given new life here. The album is wrapped up nicely with the Dylan-esque “Plato’s Perfect World” in which he wishes for a world where there was no need for poets to point out societal ills.
R.B. Morris is already a legendary figure in Knoxville and an artist Lucinda Williams once called the “greatest unknown songwriter in the country.” Maybe his new effort will help to remove the “unknown” tag from that title.
Here are two tracks from the new album… one song and one “other.”
R.B. Morris: Spy in My Brain (Buy Album)
R.B. Morris: Big Wheel/Vowels (Buy Album)

Catching Up and Looking Ahead

Posted in Allison Moorer, Nolan McKelvey on January 12, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

The gentleman pictured above is Andrew Bird, the author of my favorite album of 2009. And that’s almost the last time you’ll hear me reference 2009 on this site. It’s time to move on to 2010.

The end of last year and the early part of this year have been extremely busy for me. I put in some extra hours at both of my jobs, and spent a great deal of time re-listening to music from the past year and the past decade. In fact, I spent so much time working on my year end list, my decade list, and the year end mix CD that my wife and I make every year (complete with six pages of liner notes) that I haven’t taken much time to catch up on any new music that’s come my way or look ahead to anything that’s on the horizon.

I’d like to do some of that today.

My biggest sin lately has been neglecting my inbox over at ReviewShine. ReviewShine is a tremendous resource for bloggers where (mostly unknown) artists can post their music for bloggers to sample and download. I’ve discovered some great artists there including Boca Chica, Madison Violet, Kelly Mannix, and several others.

Recently though, I went roughly two months without listening to anything from the site. When I logged back on last week, I had 40 or 50 albums waiting for me. I’m slowly trying to work my way through them to pick out the best stuff to share. I’ve already found a few that show some promise, and one such artist is singer-songwriter Nolan McKelvey.

I don’t know much about Nolan other than to say he is a singer/songwriter from the Boston area who now resides in Arizona. During his time in the Northeast, Nolan developed a solid reputation in the region, and his bands were nominated for seven Boston Music Awards. He may also have once accidentally stolen songwriter Kris Delmhorst’s accordion.

His new album Matter of Time came out late last year, and is full of catchy folk/pop tunes that immediately grabbed my attention. The song I’m sharing with you here is the lead track on the album, “All We Ever Needed.”

Nolan McKelvey: All We Ever Needed (Buy Album)

The second thing I want to do with this post is take a small look ahead at some of the new releases I’m looking forward to in the early part of 2010.

Several of my favorite artists seem to have plans for the year including the incomparable Patty Griffin. Patty has two releases planned for 2010 with the first being a gospel album produced by Buddy Miller called Downtown Church. The album will be available January 26th, but one track, “Move Up,” is already streaming on Patty’s Myspace page.
Over the weekend, I also alluded to news of a new Tift Merritt album that is in the works. It seems the album has been recorded and is just awaiting a final mix and mastering. Even though it’s not quite in the can, the album does have a title and a tentative release date. Look for See You On the Moon some time in May.
Much closer to a physical release date is the new offering from Austin alt-rockers Spoon. Transference won’t be released until January 19th, but you can listen to the album in its entirety right now at NPR’s website as part of their “First Listen” series. I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, but I have full confidence the record will be another finely crafted album full of insanely catchy indie pop tunes.
Finally, Allison Moorer’s new release Crows is set to hit the streets February 9th. I’ve been listening to this for a couple of weeks now, and it’s beginning to grow on me. Crows is a quiet record overall that features a bit of a departure for Allison as a good deal of the songs were composed on piano instead of guitar. Guitars are still present in places, including the up tempo single “Broken Girl.” Here’s an acoustic version of the album’s lead track.
Allison Moorer: Broken Girl (Acoustic) (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Happy Birthday Tift Merritt

Posted in Tift Merritt on January 9, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Lost in all of the hub-bub over Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday yesterday was the fact that Friday was also the birthday of Tift Merritt. Here’s a video of Tift performing at the Mercy Lounge as part of the 2007 Americana Music Conference. I attended this show with my wife. It wasn’t until the end of the night that we realized we were sitting next to Lee Ann Womack for a good part of the show.

Bonus Tift Merritt News: Tift’s upcoming album has a title and a tentative release date.