Archive for May, 2010

Random Weekend Post: Josh Ritter, Mummies, and Puppets…

Posted in Josh Ritter on May 29, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

This is absolutely amazing…

It turns out that Josh Ritter’s drummer, Liam Hurley, is also a puppeteer. Hurley has performed and directed this mesmerizing video for Ritter’s song of doomed romance, “The Curse.”

The Rumors Are True…

Posted in Willie Nelson on May 28, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

…Willie got a haircut.

ReviewShine Wednesday: Quickies…

Posted in Dana Cooper, Julie Gribble, The Double Downbeats on May 26, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Every Wednesday, I feature a quick review of at least one album that has been submitted to me through the ReviewShine website. I have cleverly titled this recurring segment “ReviewShine Wednesday.”

Things have been a little hectic this week, however, so I’m not going to give a full album review this time around. Instead, here are a few songs that have caught my ear. If you like the songs, check out the rest of what each artist has to offer.

Up first is one called “Dolly’s Words & Tammy’s Tears” by Julie Gribble. Gribble is a songwriter from Georgia who also spends some time working as an actress in L.A. You might think that spending time on the West Coast would weed out some of those southern roots. Listen to the closing track on Gribble’s new CD Letting Go, and you’ll realize those roots are holding fine.

Julie Gribble: Dolly’s Words & Tammy’s Tears (Buy Album)

Next up is “Enough” from Dana Cooper. Cooper is a veteran songwriter from Nashville who has been making music since the 1970’s. On his new CD The Conjurer, Cooper says he focused on crafting uplifting songs of hope to help people through these uncertain times. With this track, Cooper reminds us that a little effort can help us get where we’re trying to go.

Dana Cooper: Enough (Buy Album)

Finally, I give you “Heart & Mind Half Gone” from The Double Downbeats. The Double Downbeats are Lloyd and Summer Evans, a husband and wife songwriting team from Illinois who specialize in bringing a 60’s rock vibe into contemporary roots music. They earn bonus points for claiming Over the Rhine (a band I featured extensively last week) as a major influence.

The Double Downbeats: Heart & Mind Half Gone (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Over the Rhine

Posted in Over the Rhine on May 22, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Earlier this week, I mentioned that Over the Rhine has ventured into the studio to make their next record with producer Joe Henry… and they need our help.

Today, I thought I’d share a few videos of the band in a live setting.
First, something upbeat to get things cooking… This is “Show Me” from 2003’s Ohio.

Next, something a little darker to even things out… This is “Changes Come.” It’s also from the loaded Ohio discs.

Over the Rhine: Let’s Make a Record

Posted in Over the Rhine on May 20, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Want to help a great band make their next record?

One of the growing trends in the music industry over the past few years has been artists reaching out to their fans for help in making their music. As more and more artists are going the indie route and making music without record label interference (and funding), it is becoming a more common practice for fans to take an active role in financing recording projects. Bands solicit donations from their fan base in exchange for special perks and privileges when the album is released.
It’s a model that makes sense. The artist has the money to make their record on their terms. The fan gets a feeling of ownership of the music, and usually gets a one of a kind collector’s item from the band itself. Win — Win.
That brings us to the newest project from Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine. The husband and wife songwriting team of Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have been favorites of mine since I first saw them perform at The Dame in Lexington shortly after the release of their amazing 2003, two-disc album Ohio. They deftly mix elements of folk, jazz, and pop with literate songwriting and Bergquist’s angelic voice to form a sound that completely knocks me out with each new release.
Earlier this week, Over the Rhine went into a Pasadena, CA recording studio with Joe Henry to begin work on their new album… and you can help. Simply go to the band’s website and pre-order a copy of the album to help them out.
There are several different levels of support available. Fifteen dollars gets you an early copy of the record with bonus tracks and an unnamed “surprise” from the band (this is the one I chose). Ten-thousand dollars gets you a private concert and a whole bunch of other stuff. There are, of course, several levels in between as well. I think my favorite is the one-hundred dollar level. It includes tickets to a special (limited seating) concert where the band will perform their classic 1996 album Good Dog, Bad Dog in its entirety.
Over the Rhine is a great band, and Joe Henry is a tremendous producer. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with together, and I’m glad to play a small part in making it happen.
Since the new stuff isn’t here yet… here’s one from Good Dog, Bad Dog to give you a taste of what Over the Rhine is about.
Over the Rhine: All I Need is Everything (Buy Album)

ReviewShine Wednesday: Sad Iron Music

Posted in Sad Iron Music on May 19, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Every Wednesday, I feature at least one album that has been submitted to me through the ReviewShine website. I have cleverly titled this recurring segment “ReviewShine Wednesday.”
Today we look at a band out of Iowa City, IA called Sad Iron Music. This self-titled effort is the first release for Sad Iron Music, but the key player here is hardly a newcomer. Jason T. Lewis is the primary creative force behind the band and may be a familiar face to some. Prior to Sad Iron Music, Lewis fronted the New York based group Star City… a group No Depression once called, “the best alt-country band you’ve never heard of.” That project ended in 2002. Lewis made a record with Jay Bennett in 2003 but has been mostly away from music since.

During that time, Lewis became a writer of fiction instead of songs (he’s penned a novel & a short story collection), but music stayed in the back of his head. After spending some time back in hometown in West Virginia, he moved to Iowa to become a student at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. After completing his classes there, Lewis began to record projects for some of his friends in his basement studio. It was only a matter of time before Lewis recorded something new himself.
The results of that inevitability are on display in the ten-tracks on this album. The opening track, “Ice Blue Eyes” gives a pretty solid indication of what the album is. It’s a slower, country tinged number with a simple arrangement and subtle touches of keys and harmonies. The formula works through much of the rest of the album as well on tunes like “El Senor” and “Shakespeare’s Daughter.” At their best, Sad Iron Music may remind you of The Mavericks quieter moments. It’s a nice, mellow sound worth checking out.
Sad Iron Music: Ice Blue Eyes (Buy Album)

Concert Review: Joe Pug & Josh Ritter

Posted in Joe Pug, Josh Ritter on May 18, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

This picture of Josh Ritter was not taken Friday night in Knoxville… but it just as easily could have been. You see that expression on Ritter’s face? The one full of energy, emotion, and sheer exuberance? It’s a look he wore through most of his set Friday night at the Bijou Theatre.

I’ll get to Ritter’s set in a bit, but I first need to tell you about the captivating opening set turned in by Chicago singer/songwriter Joe Pug. Pug is an artist I’ve seen getting lots of recognition around the blogosphere for some time now, but I never really took the time to explore his music until I found out he was coming to town. Once I did, I started listening to… and immediately fell in love with… his new album Messenger. His literate songwriting and sparse arrangements combined to make the kind of record that demands your full attention. Joe Pug does not make background music.
For his set Friday night, Pug did his entire performance in a solo acoustic fashion… just vocals, guitar, and harmonica. In this setting, Pug comes off as a pre-plugged-in Bob Dylan, relying on the power of his words rather than the complexity of his performance to enthrall the crowd. It seemed to work as the crowd met each of his tunes with ample applause and remained deathly silent during his actual performances. Hearing Pug’s songs in the wonderful space that is the Bijou Theatre only solidified my respect for him as an artist and served as a perfect lead in for what was to come.
After his set, I met Pug at his merch table and picked up a copy of his debut EP Nation of Heat. Like his live set, Heat is a fully acoustic experience, and I’d like to share one of the tracks from it with you here.
Joe Pug: Hymn 35 (Buy Album)
Now… Josh Ritter. I’ve had opportunities to see him perform in the past, but horrific weather and other events have always conspired to keep me from catching his show. That’s one reason I was so excited for Friday night’s show. The other reason is that Ritter is simply one of the most phenomenally talented songwriters working today in any genre.
He made that immediately apparent by kicking off the show with the the travelogue “Southern Pacifica” from his new album So Runs the World Away. Ritter and his band created beautiful soundscapes as each song led the audience on some new adventure. Whether visiting the Western frontier in “Southern Pacifica,” the Arctic Circle in “Another New World,” or Ritter’s own personal dreamscape in “Change of Time,” the audience was transported along for the ride.
The amazing thing about the night, though, was that Ritter seemed to be enjoying the voyage as much as, if not more than, any of the 700 or so patrons who had bought tickets for the journey. Ritter could hardly contain his energies and enthusiasm on the more upbeat numbers. Fan favorites such as “Rumours,” “To the Dogs or Whoever,” and “Wolves” all found him bouncing around the stage and almost laughing as he delivered some of the lyrics. You could even pick up a smile here and there as Ritter gave readings of two of his darker songs… the tragic love story of “The Curse” and the multiple-murder ballad “Folk Bloodbath.” In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an artist smile as much during a show as I did Friday night.
Ritter’s joy filled every aspect of his set and led to one memorable evening. I don’t think I stopped smiling myself until well after the show was over.
This is a live track from Ritter’s Live at the Record Exchange EP that came out a few years ago. It’s a solo track without the band, but I think it still gives a good feel of the energy he can bring to a performance.
Josh Ritter: Wolves (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Lissie

Posted in Lissie on May 15, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I ran across these videos a few days ago in a thread on the Knoxblab forums. I had never heard of Lissie before reading the thread in question, but the comparisons to Stevie Nicks (you’ll hear the resemblance in the first video) were enough to pique my curiosity.

The first video is an original tune from Lissie… the second is just for fun.

From My Past: Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival

Posted in Poppy Mountain on May 14, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Haven’t had a whole lot of writing time this week, but I still wanted to share something with you today.

My wife and I have been going through the process of turning our office into a nursery. It’s been a lot of work, but it has also forced me to go through some old CDs that have been taking up space upstairs. In one stack of discs, I found a collection of some news and sports features I produced when I was a graduate assistant at Morehead State Public Radio in Morehead, KY.
Most of them are just extended news reports on local issues in the community and preview stories for various Morehead State University athletic teams. But there’s also one that I thought would be neat to share here. It was produced in 2002.
The Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival takes place the third week of September every year at a giant outdoor campground just outside of Morehead. One year, I spent some time on top of the mountain in the days leading up to the festival and interviewed some early arriving campers and musicians. Some people spend as long as two to three weeks living on the mountain in preparation for the event. If you ever find yourself in East/Central Kentucky at the end of September… Poppy Mountain is a pretty neat place to be.
Let’s take a trip to the top of the mountain…
Up on Poppy Mountain
And just for kicks… Here’s a couple of promos from the Americana program I used to host at MSPR called Americana Crossroads.
Crossroads Promo 1
Crossroads Promo 2

ReviewShine Wednesday: Whispering Pines

Posted in Whispering Pines on May 12, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Every Wednesday, I feature at least one album that has been submitted to me through the ReviewShine website. I have cleverly titled this recurring segment “ReviewShine Wednesday.”

Today’s artist is relatively new on the scene, but you’d never know it by listening to their record. Whispering Pines is a five-piece country-rock outfit from Los Angeles that sounds as though it was lifted straight out of the Laurel Canyon music scene that overtook the City of Angels in the late 1960’s… with a little Allman-style southern soul tossed in for good measure. If the musical homage to the sounds of the past isn’t clue enough to where this band is coming from, their name is lifted straight from a classic track by The Band.

On their debut album, Family Tree, Whispering Pines plow through nine groove-filled tunes. All the while, they create a fresh sound by paying solid homage to the past. The lazy slide guitar of the album opening title track gives way to the swampy CCR shuffle of “Brand New Beat” and continues to impress all the way through to the album closing “Songbird,” with its CSNY style harmonies. If the whole thing sounds well-aged and worn, that’s because it was recorded with vintage 1970’s equipment in Elliott Smith’s Van Nuys, CA studio.
This is the kind of album that should be heard on vinyl. For now though… here’s a digital sample.
Whispering Pines: Family Tree (Buy Album)