Archive for May, 2010

Random Weekend Post: Jason & The Scorchers

Posted in Jason and the Scorchers on May 8, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I spoke so much yesterday about Jason & The Scorchers and their halcyon days of yesteryear that I thought I should probably share some of those times with you here.

First is their classic Dylan cover…

…one more rocker…

…and possibly my favorite Scorchers tune…

Jason & The Scorchers: Halcyon Times

Posted in Jason and the Scorchers on May 7, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

The last time I mentioned Jason and The Scorchers on this site was the fall of 2008. The band had just been named the recipients of a Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance from the Americana Music Association. It was a well deserved honor… but the usual implication when a group receives such an award is that their best creative output is behind them. It’s time to celebrate what they’ve done in the past with not much effort spent looking to the future.

In 2008, there was no reason to believe that wasn’t what was happening to The Scorchers. The band was 12 years removed from their last studio album, and front man Jason Ringenberg had been almost as focused on his children’s music alter-ego, Farmer Jason, as he had the fiery mix of punk and country that made up The Scorchers’ primary sound. It seemed as though the reuniting of the original band line-up at the 2008 Americana Awards & Honors show would merely be a curtain call at the end of a hugely influential, if slightly under appreciated, career.
Jason and The Scorchers have just released Halcyon Times, their first album of new material in 14 years, and they sound just as vital and vibrant as ever. From the opening bombast of “Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners,” Ringenberg and guitarist Warner Hodges (the two original members involved in this release) let the listener know they aren’t ready to rest on their reputation… they have more to give.
Overall, the record has a slightly more subdued feel than some of the albums the band put out in their younger days. When they do turn it loose, however, it’s not hard to imagine yourself back at one of The Scorchers’ legendary Nashville shows when the band was at the height of it’s Hank-meets-The Clash prowess. On the opening track, Hodges fires lick after lick as Ringenberg sings of a protagonist who, “Loves the Stones. Hates the Doors.” Similarly, tracks like “Better Than This” and “We’ve Got it Goin’ On” give Hodges, along with new members Pontus Snibb (drums) and Al Collins (bass) a chance to really get a work out.
It’s the quieter moments, though, that really make this record stand out. Although they can sound like it at times, this isn’t the same band that made its reputation through sheer fire and intensity. The band has matured, and the songs on this record prove it. “Beat on the Mountain” is a modern coal mining anthem made even more poignant in the wake of the disaster in West Virginia. “Mother of Greed” deals with the plight of the working man over three generations… and across an ocean. “Twang Town Blues” deals more with the greed inherent within the music industry and the pitfalls of chasing fame. There’s a wonderful turn of a phrase in “Twang Town Blues” where the narrator references Johnny Cash then watches the subject of the song, “kill a six-pack just to watch it die.”
In the past couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets and Chip Robinson of The Backsliders. Both were big players in the halcyon days of the alt-country movement, both have recently released new albums, and both referred to their new songs as songs they couldn’t have written during the early days of their careers. They referred to a maturity in themselves and their songwriting that just wasn’t present before. For Jason & The Scorchers, these songs have that same feel.
The centerpiece of the album, “Golden Times,” encompasses that feeling perfectly. The song finds Ringenberg looking back on younger days and halcyon times (this is the song that gave the album its title). Girls, cars, music… all the trappings of youth are fondly remembered. Through all the reminiscing, however, Ringenberg reminds us that those times from the past have brought him to the “golden days” of the present.
That song also sums up the album quite nicely as well. Halcyon Times is built on musical nods to Jason & The Scorchers’ past… but it refuses to let you ignore their present.
Jason & The Scorchers: Golden Days (Buy Album)

ReviewShine Wednesday: Screen Door Porch

Posted in Screen Door Porch on May 5, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

We head out west for today’s artist… Screen Door Porch.

Screen Door Porch is a duo composed of singer/songwriters Seadar Rose and Aaron Davis. As a duo, they are currently based out of Jackson, WY, but both Rose and Davis have roots in the American South (Rose from North Carolina & Davis from Kentucky). It’s no surprise then, that their music grows out of the Southern soil as well.
For their self-titled debut, Rose and Davis traveled to Austin, TX to record twelve songs that are rooted in easy folk grooves that are fleshed out with various other elements. Like The Cassandras from a few weeks ago, Rose and Davis share lead vocals from track to track. Both also play various acoustic and electric guitars as well with Davis also adding banjo, mandolin, and harmonica to the mix. In the song I’m sharing here, Davis’ electric dobro and harmony vocals are the perfect compliment to Rose’s rasped delivery. The song asks if this is “death or thrill.” I’ll let you decide.

A Little Knox Music: Sam Quinn’s The Fake that Sunk a Thousand Ships

Posted in Knoxville Music, Sam Quinn on May 3, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

According to Sam’s website, he’s living in North Carolina these days, but he spent the last several years here in Knoxville. That’s enough for me to devote the latest segment of “A Little Knox Music” to his upcoming release, The Fake that Sunk a Thousand Ships.

Quinn is probably best known to most of you as one half (along with Jill Andrews) of the songwriting team behind indie-folksters the everybodyfields. Of course, the everybodyfields called it quits last June, and Andrews released her first solo EP in October. Now, it’s Quinn’s turn.
On Fake, Quinn visits many of the same places he used to frequent when he was a member of the everybodyfields. Their music was always known for a strong sense of melancholy weaved into music that sounded so heavenly. They often made you wonder how something that sounded so sweet could be so sad. The same question could be asked here.
Case in point… The song “So Strong” builds slowly after an opening electric lick and reads mostly as a dirge with strings and steels swirling around Quinn’s sombre reading of the lyrics. You get a hint of the sadness contained within, but by the time the chorus soars along, you’re swept away by it and too wrapped up in the music to care. Take a closer listen, however, and you’ll hear Quinn sing of a restlessness, a feeling of weakness, and a pain that’s “hurt for so long.”
That hurt is a central theme of the record, and it permeates nearly every one of the ten tracks. Quinn sings lines like “I’m only crying cause the tears weigh so much,” (“Suite Motown”) “I kill myself a little every night,” (“Gun”) and “I never needed anyone except myself” (“Fanboy”). His continued use of first person pronouns such as “I” and “me” let you know that these are his words and his pain. Quinn says the last year of his life has been a particularly trying one with personal and professional break ups. He is just trying to share some of his sadness… and maybe bring a few people along with him. Mission accomplished.
I played the song “Mardi Gras” on the air at WDVX a couple of weeks ago on a Friday afternoon. Before the song was even over, someone called the station to tell me that the music I was spinning was just too depressing for such a beautiful day and the end of the work week. That may be true. This might be more of a late night/rainy day record (perfect night for it in East Tennessee tonight as I write this). Listen to this record when you’re in a good enough mood, and you might even get a little mad at Quinn for trying so hard to bring you down with him.
Listen again, however, and you’ll realize that there is a method to his madness and a beauty to his sadness. If only all of our sorrows sounded so good…
The Fake that Sunk a Thousand Ships will be released May 11th on Ramseur Records. On May 12th Quinn will play the first ever outdoor Blue Plate Special live from The Market Square Stage in downtown Knoxville.
Sam Quinn: So Strong (Buy Album)

One more note…

In case you didn’t notice the new text in the sidebar, you can now follow this blog on facebook. You’ll get updates on what’s being posted here, heads up on special events at WDVX, random thoughts, and whatever else I can come up with. You can also leave comments there as well.

Random Weekend Post: Raise a Toast to St. Joe Strummer

Posted in Joe Strummer, The Clash, The Hold Steady on May 1, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

The song, “Constructive Summer” from The Hold Steady came up on my iPod earlier this week. Ever since I heard it, I’ve had one lyric from the tune stuck in my head…

“Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer.
Think he might have been our only decent teacher.”

This is me raising a toast…

And the song that inspired this…