Archive for February, 2010

Random Weekend Post: Happy Belated Birthday Johnny Cash

Posted in Johnny Cash on February 27, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Friday would have been Johnny Cash’s 78th birthday. We celebrate here with a YouTube birthday feast.

We’ll start with a classic clip of Johnny performing “Big River” from 1962…

An even older clip here from 1959 of Johnny singing “Guess Things Happen That Way.” Earlier this week, this song became the 10-billionth song ever downloaded from iTunes.

Happy birthday, Johnny.

Interview With Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets

Posted in The Bottle Rockets on February 23, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

The Bottle Rockets played an acoustic set on WDVX’s Blue Plate Special today that was highlighted by several tracks from the new record, Lean Forward. After the performance, front man Brian Henneman talked with me about the history of the band, his involvement in the glory days of the alt-country movement, and the band’s new record.

Listen to My interview with Brian Henneman
If you missed The Bottle Rockets today, you can hear them again Wednesday night at 7:00 (Eastern) on Tennessee Shines. They’ll be performing along with The Carpetbag Theatre, R.B. Morris, Sarah Siskind, and Ruthie Foster. WDVX will carry the entire show live. I’ll be in the studio making sure you can hear the whole thing on the station’s webstream.
I’ll also leave you today with a track from Lean Forward. This is one Brian and I discussed in the interview.
The Bottle Rockets: Give Me Room (Buy Album)

Canadiana Week: Neil Young

Posted in Canadiana Week, Neil Young on February 20, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

We close Canadiana Week with a tribute to one of the masters… Neil Young.

Here’s an older recording of one of my favorite Neil Young tunes…

…and something more recent. Remember when MTV was relevant?

Canadiana Week: Round Up

Posted in Canadiana Week, Kathleen Edwards, Luke Doucet, The Duhks on February 19, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Canadiana Week draws to a close now, and I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about some of our friends from the North. During the week, I tried to focus on new music from some newer and less well known artists. Of course, I don’t want to neglect anyone… so I thought I’d close the week by highlighting a few of my old favorites.

Since the week was mostly female dominated, we’ll start today with Luke Doucet. Luke is a singer/songwriter from Halifax who is also phenomenally talented on the guitar. He spent many years as a touring guitarist for Sarah McLachlan while also building his name as a solo artist. Luke is also a sought after producer who has helmed albums by NQ Arbuckle and his wife Melissa McClelland. His 2008 release Blood’s Too Rich was one of my favorite albums of that year… full of blazing guitars and up tempo rockers. This is a down tempo track from the album, the slow building “Bombs Away.”
Luke Doucet: Bombs Away (Buy Album)
The Duhks are another act that has made a lot of noise over the past decade. Originally forming in Winnipeg, The Duhks have performed all over the world with their unique amalgam of modern Celtic, Latin, String Band, and Bluegrass music. The original lineup featured Jordan McConnell on guitar, Leonard Podolak on banjo, Tania Elizabeth on fiddle, Scott Senior on percussion, and Jessee Havey on vocals. Senior and Havey were replaced a few years back by the brother and sister combo of Christian and Sarah Dugas. Earlier this week, Elizabeth announced her departure from the group. No matter the lineup, The Duhks bring a freshness and energy to their sound that always keeps me hooked. This is an instrumental featuring the orginal quintet.
The Duhks: The Magnolia Set (Buy Album)

What else can I say about Kathleen Edwards that I haven’t already said before? She’s one of my favorite artists from any country, and this week would be incomplete without hearing from the Ottowa native. I won’t bore you by going on about her again. Instead, here’s a track from her debut album Failer. You can hear a track from her super-rare debut EP Building 55 over at Star Maker Machine.

Kathleen Edwards: The Lone Wolf (Buy Album)
Note: This post could (and should) include many more artists. Sarah Harmer, The Cowboy Junkies, The Clumsy Lovers, Fred Eaglesmith, and many others come to mind. Unfortunately, I feel like warmed over death right now and just don’t have the energy for it. You can find info on some of these artists, and others, at Star Maker Machine… we’re doing a Canada themed week there as well.

North Americana Week: My Interview with Madison Violet

Posted in Canadiana Week, Madison Violet on February 18, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

As mentioned yesterday, Madison Violet made their way through Knoxville Wednesday on their way to the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis. They appeared on the Blue Plate Special in the afternoon and were nice enough to stick around town and join me in the studio last night.

What you’ll find here is my full interview with Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIssac from Madison Violet along with live performances of “Laura Lee,” “The Woodshop,” “Crying,” and “No Fool For Trying.” The girls discuss the origins of the band, their desire to play more shows in The States, and Brenley’s general dislike of the term “Canadiana.” She suggested the term “North Americana” instead since we’re all one big continent anyway. As you can see by the title of today’s post… I have taken her suggestion to heart. For today at least…
Madison Violet: Interview and Performance Live at WDVX (Buy No Fool For Trying)

Canadiana Week: Madison Violet in the Studio Today at 6:00

Posted in Canadiana Week, Madison Violet on February 17, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Forgot to mention this earlier today… but you can catch me interviewing Madison Violet live on WDVX today (Wednesday) at 6:00 PM Eastern Time. The reigning Vocal Group of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards is passing through Knoxville on their way to the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis.

You can listen in to the interview/performance live at the WDVX website. If you miss it, don’t worry… I’ll try to post the whole thing here later.

Canadiana Week: Karla Anderson

Posted in Canadiana Week, Karla Anderson on February 17, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Last week, I posted a video featuring Karla Anderson, a singer/songwriter from near Edmonton. At that time, I promised to tell you more about Karla and her new album. Now is that time.

I was first introduced to Karla Anderson on the opening night of the 2005 Americana Music Conference in Nashville while waiting in line for one of the many live concerts/free buffets (Burrito Deluxe at the Mercy Lounge… if I remember correctly) the conference had to offer. It was there that I first met Karla’s manager, Neil MacGonigill. We started talking, and by the time our conversation was over, I had in my hands a copy of Karla’s 2005 debut album, The Embassy Sessions.
At this point, Karla’s music had already been featured in the CBS television series Joan of Arcadia, but her album was brand new and had not yet been released in The States. As far as I know, I was the first DJ in America to be given a copy of the CD*. I played it in my hotel room that night (I always traveled with a portable CD player to music conferences), and found it to be quite the enjoyable late night listen. A few weeks later, I became the first American DJ to play Karla’s music on the air*.
*(Note that I cannot actually verify either of these claims other than to say that I really believe them to be true. Either way… if I wasn’t THE first, I was certainly in near the ground floor.)
The Embassy Sessions was recorded over the course of a few short days at the Red Motel Embassy in Calgary in early 2005. The resulting album was a warm and quiet affair that helped Karla earn recognition as the Best New/Emerging Artist at the 2005 Canadian Folk Music Awards. Her career looked to be off to a promising start.
That was five years ago though, and Karla’s been relatively quiet since then… choosing to focus more on her family than her career. She played some shows and recorded sparsely, but did not record the follow up to The Embassy Sessions until now. It seems to have been worth the wait.
Like her previous record, Brand New Day was banged out in a brief, two day recording session. That’s where most of the similarities end, however. Unlike Embassy, which was essentially a solo acoustic record with little additional accompaniment, Brand New Day has more of a full band sound in places. Karla expands her sound by adding various electric and steel guitars along with keys and increased percussive elements.
The biggest evidence of this comes on the album’s second song, “With Tenderness.” The track is kicked off with a shuffling drumbeat and a rolling bass line topped with electric guitar flourishes. The result is an ominous sounding track that contrasts nicely with Karla’s lyrics about lethal levels of kindness and love. Similarly, “Glory Bound” branches out a bit as well. This time, however, it’s a wash of acoustic guitars that build the tempo and elevate the song.
Fans of Karla’s previous work will be happy with the record as well, as this disc also holds its share of quieter moments. It’s bookended by two short tracks (“Prelude” & “Reprise”) that essentially serve as the album’s title tracks and revisit that haunting Embassy Sessions sound. Then, sitting right there in the middle of the album, are two heart stopping covers in “Bye Bye Love” (Felice & Boudleaux Bryant) and “I Dream an Old Lover” (Jeffery Foucoult). She boils both songs down to their most essential elements by slowing the tempo and finding the emotion in each word.
In all, Brand New Day is a solid sophomore effort from Karla Anderson and one that should please her old fans while also reaching out to new ones. I just hope we don’t have to wait five more years for her next release.
Karla Anderson: Glory Bound (Buy Album)
Karla Anderson: Bye Bye Love (Buy Album)

Canadiana Week: Carolyn Mark & NQ Arbuckle

Posted in Canadiana Week, Carolyn Mark, NQ Arbuckle on February 16, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

One of the problems you can run into sometimes when you write a music blog and work at a radio station is that there is often just too much music to listen to. E-mails, direct mails, download sites, promoters, other blogs… there’s a lot to keep up with. I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for me… it’s a nice problem to have… I’m just trying to explain why it can take something like six months for me to finally get around to writing about an album like Let’s Just Stay Here from Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle.

I’ve had my hands on this one for a while now (and I’ve always liked it), but I just haven’t had the time to sit down and give it it’s due. This week’s theme gives me the perfect opportunity to do just that.
This record is a collaboration between Vancouver singer/songwriter Carolyn Mark and the Toronto based alt-country outfit NQ Arbuckle. Since I didn’t know anything about either of these artists before I heard this record, I think it best to begin with a brief bio of each artist.
Carolyn Mark grew up on a dairy farm in British Columbia where her father taught her to play piano as a child. By the early 1990’s she was playing as a member of an all-girl rock group called the Vinaigrettes. She briefly paired with Neko Case toward the end of the decade to tour and release one live album billed as The Corn Sisters. For the last ten years, however, Carolyn has made her Mark (sorry… had to) as a solo artist.
NQ Arbuckle is fronted by Neville Quinlan, and their bass player John Dinsmore used to be a bull fighter. Other than that… I still don’t know too much about this band other than they have released three albums of their own before this one, and their previous effort was produced by blog favorite Luke Doucet and was nominated for best roots album at the 2009 Juno Awards.
For this release, the goal was to make an album that consisted of equal parts Mark originals, Arbuckle originals, and covers. For the most part that’s what happened… even if Mark seems to take more of the spotlight at times. She can’t help it really, her moody vocals are the perfect fit for most of the album’s dark subject matter. Even on the tracks where Arbuckle’s Quinlan carries the lead, Mark’s gentle harmonies perfectly frame his road weary deliveries.
At the end of the day, the album features six tunes from Mark, three from NQ Arbuckle, and three covers. Sonically, the album moves from the down tempo twang of songs like “All Time Low” and “Saskatoon Tonight” to the loping folk of “Itchy Feet” and the full on rock of “Toronto/Canada Day” with ease. It’s a well rounded album, and one I’m glad I was pushed back into listening to (thanks Sally). I only wish I’d taken the time to delve into it sooner.
I’d like to share two tracks from the album here… one each from Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle. First is Arbuckle’s “Officer Down,” a moody piece that features tremendous harmonies from Mark and one of my favorite lyrics of recent memory… “It’s hard to be a good man listening to the Drive-By Truckers.” Second is Mark’s “Itchy Feet,” and its gentle banjo pluckings.
Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle: Officer Down (Buy Album)
Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle: Itchy Feet (Buy Album)

Canadiana Week: Catherine MacLellan

Posted in Canadiana Week, Catherine MacLellan on February 15, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

As I promised on Saturday… Today begins a week of posts dedicated to the growing number of talented Americana artists coming to us from north of the border. As these are Canadian artists playing what we in the States call Americana Music… I’m dubbing this “Canadiana Week.”

We start the week with an artist who has been quite active on the awards circuit lately… Catherine MacLellan. The Prince Edward Island native recently took home four trophies at the Music P.E.I. Awards (Songwriter, Female Vocalist, Folk Recording, and Album of the Year). Those regional awards came on the heels of Catherine being named Solo Artist of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards that recognize artists from all over the country.

I wrote about Catherine here once before, but the powers that be saw fit to have that post deleted due to a track from another artist I had featured in that post (I had full permission of the record label to post it… but that’s another tale). It’s high time then that I reinstate the music of Catherine MacLellan to this site.

We’ll start with her debut effort, the 2004 release Dark Dream Midnight. For the most part, this album is simply performed and produced with most songs being built around acoustic guitar strums and sparing accompaniment. This serves as the perfect backdrop to let Catherine’s vocals and songwriting shine through. As the album’s title may suggest, most of these songs revel in the melancholy… even the one I’m featuring here… the deceptively titled “Jubilee.”

When this album was first issued, it was only available through mail order directly from the artist. Due to the scarcity of the recording, Catherine has included it as a bonus disc along with physical copies of her latest release, Water in the Ground. The “Buy Album” link here goes to the new release.

Catherine MacLellan: Jubilee (Buy Album)

Catherine’s second album, Church Bell Blues was originally released in 2006 and was the album that really began to garner some attention. She won her first Music P.E.I. Awards (four, in fact) and was named “Critic’s Favorite New Discovery” by the Canadian music publication, Penguin Eggs Magazine. This is another gently produced album that focuses on Catherine’s voice, playing, and songwriting without letting anything get lost under busy production. It that respect, this album is a close cousin to Patty Griffn’s Living With Ghosts, in that a lot of these arrangements consist of little more than guitar and vocal.

Here’s Catherine sounding especially Patty-like on one called “Emily’s Song.”

Catherine MacLellan: Emily’s Song (Buy Album)

Finally, we come to Catherine’s newest effort, 2009’s Water in the Ground. Here we begin to see Catherine’s sound fleshed out a bit more on tracks like the jazz-folk of “Take a Break” and the bouncing melody of the title track. There’s a lightness present in places here that didn’t appear in her earlier works… although the dark dreams can creep in at times as well as evidenced in the album closing “Flowers On Your Grave.” This is Catherine’s most fully realized album to date, and I’m excited to see where she’ll go next.

Catherine MacLellan: Water in the Ground (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Barenaked Ladies

Posted in Barenaked Ladies, Canadiana Week on February 13, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

This is the start of a special “Theme Week” here at the site.

Canadian folk artists Madison Violet will visit the WDVX studios on Wednesday to perform on the Blue Plate Special and join me in the studio for an additional performance and interview. Couple that with the fact that the Olympics are kicking off this week in Vancouver, and I felt it was time to honors our neighbors to the north with a special week of posts here at the site.

To celebrate… next week will be “Canadiana” week where I’ll feature some of my favorite Canadian Americana acts.

To prepare you for that, here are a few videos from Canada’s own The Barenaked Ladies. Not really Americana… and not really a band I listen to much anymore… but these goofy idiots (I mean that in the best way possible) were one of my favorite bands in college. They just made music fun.

Here’s a live version of the fan favorite “If I Had $1,000,000”

…a public service announcement called “Ballad of Gordon”

…and a slightly bluegrassy version of their biggest hit, “One Week.”