Archive for the Dave Rawlings Machine Category

2010 Americana Music Award Nominees: Song of the Year, and the Rest

Posted in Americana Music Awards 2010, Dave Rawlings Machine, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ryan Bingham, The Avett Brothers on September 9, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

If you’ve been reading lately, then you know that the Americana Music Honors and Awards Show is taking place tonight at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, TN. I’ve covered the nominees in a few of the major awards so far. This post is just to wrap up every other category and give you an overview of the rest of the awards.

The award show will be broadcast live on Sirius/XM Radio’s Outlaw Country Channel and webcast live by NPR Music and Folk Alley beginning at 6:30 Central Time.

We’ll start with Song of the Year.

The nominated songs are “Drunken Poet’s Dream” by Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Ruby” by The Dave Rawlings Machine, “I and Love and You” by The Avett Brothers, and “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham. I’m not going to go into detail about each nominee here since I’ve mentioned each artist in other posts already, but I do have a few general comments to go along with my prediction.

First of all, this is Bingham’s category to lose… just like every other award he’s nominated for. No song in recent memory has made as much noise outside of the Americana realm as “The Weary Kind.” That’s why he’ll win Artist and New/Emerging Artist as well… Golden Globes and Oscars bring a different level of recognition that this genre has been searching for some time now.

“Ruby” is a pleasant enough song, but not my favorite from that album by a far shot. “I and Love and You” does a good job of showcasing the Avett’s expanded melancholy, but I still prefer the rowdy version of that band. The song that intrigues me the most in this set is “Drunken Poet’s Dream” by Ray Wylie Hubbard.

This is the same song that appeared on Hayes Carll’s 2008 CD Trouble in Mind… except that it isn’t. Carll and Hubbard both have co-write credits for the song on each album, but Hubbard’s version is drastically different from Carll’s original. Aside from changing the song from a somewhat sunny piece into a fuzzy electric dirge, Hubbard added verses, left out others, re-arranged a few others, and omitted the bridge. He even changed the lyrics to the chorus. In the end, almost the only thing the two songs share is a title. Still, I’m not sure which one I like better… both hold up well.

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Drunken Poet’s Dream (Buy Album)
Dave Rawlings Machine: Ruby (Buy Album)
Avett Brothers: I and Love and You (Buy Album)
Ryan Bingham: Weary Kind (Buy Album)

My Prediction: Ryan Bingham
My Vote (If I had one): Ryan Bingham
The other two major categories are Artist of the Year and Instrumentalist of the Year.

Once again… we’ve already covered most of the nominees for Artist of the Year. Ryan Bingham, Patty Griffin, and Ray Wylie Hubbard are nominees in other categories. Only Steve Earle and Levon Helm are singularly nominated. For his part, Helm was the winner of the first ever Grammy for Best Americana Album. Earle, meanwhile, won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Both artists also continue to tour and serve as ambassadors for the genre. Still… they can’t trump Bingham.
My Prediction: Bingham
My Vote (If I had one): Bingham
The Instrumentalist of the Year category is loaded with perennial nominees like Buddy Miller, Will Kimbrough, and Sam Bush along with this year’s most nominated artist Dave Rawlings. It’s hard to imagine a year without Buddy Miller winning an award, but he’s done more producing than playing lately. This may be the year he’s shut out.
I don’t really have a prediction or vote here. This is the one category that stumps me every year.

2010 Americana Music Award Nominees: Album of the Year

Posted in Americana Music Awards 2010, Dave Rawlings Machine, Patty Griffin, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rosanne Cash on September 6, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

For me, this is the biggest award of the night. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that the album is the highest form of artistic expression for an artist. Even as it seems many artists and record labels are focusing more and more on singles these days, I’ll always take a great album over a great single. I also find it very telling about the Americana Music Association as a whole that their radio airplay charts are based on album spins rather than airplay for specific singles. How many other charts do that?

You probably know the story of Rosanne Cash’s The List by now. When Rosanne was younger, her father (Johnny Cash) gave her a list of 100 songs that he considered to be the best that country music had to offer. Rosanne studied that list for over thirty years… becoming intimately familiar with each song. This album is comprised of twelve of those songs, lovingly selected and performed by Rosanne to honor the memory of her father and an entire generation of country music legends. Friends such as Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Tweedy, Elvis Costello, and Rufus Wainright help her give The List life.

Rosanne Cash: Sea of Heartbreak (Buy Album)

This is the second of four nominations for Dave Rawlings and his Machine. He’s also tabbed in the Artist, Song, and Duo/Group categories. As I mentioned in the Duo/Group post, A Friend of a Friend showcases Dave Rawlings the songwriter, the vocalist, and the musician as he finally gets the chance to step out in front of the show instead of merely playing in the background. Rawlings wrote or co-wrote seven of the nine songs on the album and brings them to life brilliantly alongside his friends Gillian Welch, Benmont Tench, and several members of the Old Crow Medicine Show.

Dave Rawlings Machine: I Hear Them All (Buy Album)

Like Rosanne’s album, Patty Griffin’s Downtown Church plays as a bit of a concept record. Griffin and producer Buddy Miller (the most decorated artist in AMA history) recorded this gospel record entirely in Nashville’s 160-year-old Downtown Presbyterian Church in January of 2009. The mix of traditional gospel songs and hymns, contemporary numbers by the likes of Hank Williams Sr. and Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, and Griffin originals play as one long spiritual journey through song. It’s a mix that sounds just as good in the middle of the week as it does on a Sunday morning.

Patty Griffin: House of Gold (Buy Album)

The final nominee is Ray Wylie Hubbard’s A. Enlightenment, B. Endarkenment, (Hint: There is No C.). If the title seems confusing, the record itself is not. It is simply Ray Wylie Hubbard being Ray Wylie Hubbard with a mix of gravel smooth vocals over over gritty and dirty country/blues riffs that could only come from Texas. Hubbard has made a fine career out of this sound, and this album is simply a continuation of that. He sings wasps, women, tornados, music, and religion and tackles each with the same grit and fire. Pop in this CD and prepare to be Enlightened.

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Loose (Buy Album)
This is another tough category to pick. I have a hard time thinking of cover albums as Album of the Year material, yet that is essentially what we have with Rosanne Cash and Patty Griffin. The problem is that Griffn’s album is also my favorite of these four. I guess I just can’t shake that Southern Baptist upbringing of mine. As for who I think will win… I’m actually kind of stumped. I’ll go with Rawlings based on the strength of his four total nominations.
My prediction: Dave Rawlings Machine
My vote (If I had one): Patty Griffin

2010 Americana Music Awards Nominees: Duo/Group of the Year

Posted in Americana Music Awards 2010, Band of Heathens, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dave Rawlings Machine, The Avett Brothers on August 30, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s almost that time again. The annual Americana Music Honors & Awards are set to take place September 9th at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville as part of the 2010 Americana Music Association Conference. As I do every year, I plan on spending the next couple of weeks reviewing the nominees for each award and attempting to handicap the competition.

We’ll start with the nominees for Duo/Group of the Year.

I was largely unfamiliar with the Avett Brothers when I saw them perform for the first time at the 2004 AMA Conference. I was completely entranced by their energetic spirit and punk/folk aesthetic. I became a fan on the spot. Since then, The Avetts have continued to tour relentlessly while seemingly picking up fans at every stop along the way.

In fact, for their latest album, 2009’s I and Love and You, The Avetts graduated from indie label Ramseur Records to record for major label Columbia under producer Rick Rubin. With the move, the band also expanded its sound to include piano and more lush arrangements. Being part of the Columbia stable also allowed them to take their music to a much larger audience. By gaining exposure for themselves… they have brought exposure to Americana music as a whole.
Avett Brothers: January Wedding (Buy Album)

Like The Avett Brothers, our second nominee also has roots in acoustic music. Unlike The Avetts, however, The Carolina Chocolate Drops seem much more content to stay closer to the traditional side of things. The Chocolate Drops pride themselves on keeping alive the traditions of the African American string bands that were prevalent in the 19th century, but are mostly extinct today. Their standard repertoire of instruments includes fiddle, banjo, jug, kazoo, and a wide variety of percussive elements.

Their calling card is the fact that they do traditional very, very well. Go to one of their shows and you’ll see what I mean. The trio look and sound the part of the true revivalist act complete with an energy and aura from another era. It’s odd then that the song from their 2010 album Genuine Negro Jig that has brought them the most attention/controversy is a cover of Blu Cantrell’s 2001 R&B anthem “Hit ‘Em Up Style.” For every request I received for the song at WDVX (and there were many), I would also get an angry email asking why the station was now starting to play hip-hop music.
Carolina Chocolate Drops: Hit ‘Em Up Style (Buy Album)

This year marks the second AMA nomination for Austin’s Band of Heathens. They were tabbed last year in the Best New Artist category that was ultimately won by Justin Townes Earle. This year, they’ve graduated to the Duo/Group category on the strength of their stellar sophomore effort One Foot in the Ether. You may remember it as my #2 album of 2009. It also hit number one on the Americana Airplay Chart… making them the first independent band to earn that distinction with each of their first two albums.

The Heathens strength is their songwriting. They boast three top flight Texas song scribes in Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi, and Gordy Quist, and each share songwriting and vocal duties equally. Even though the three started out as solo artists who just happened to play the same songwriter’s showcase, they have forged themselves into a fine band that seems to have a solid future.
Band of Heathens: What’s This World (Buy Album)
Bonus: The band has new free download available on their website.

The final nominee is a familiar face, even if The Dave Rawlings Machine has only really existed for a year or so. Rawlings is the long-time side man and musical partner of Gillian Welch and is one of the most respected musicians in all of Americana music. He was always been happy to stand in the shadows in the past, but stepped into the limelight with the 2009 release A Friend of a Friend… the first album to bear his name.

Of course, Rawlings isn’t alone in the Machine. Some of his friends who came along for the ride include Welch, Benmont Tench, and several members of The Old Crow Medicine Show. It’s really more of a super-group than anything else. Despite the star power he surrounds himself with, it’s Rawlings that shines through. His vocals and virtuoso guitar playing are front and center throughout, and he reminds us of his songwriting chops on the covers-that-really-aren’t-covers “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” and “I Hear Them All.” Both songs are Rawlings co-writes even though they originally appeared on albums by Ryan Adams and The Old Crow Medicine Show respectively. The album was good enough to almost make people forget that Gillian Welch hasn’t released an album of her own since 2003.
It also bears mentioning that The Dave Rawlings Machine headlined last year’s biggest Americana concert event… The Big Surprise Tour.
Dave Rawlings Machine: Sweet Tooth (Buy Album)
Four great acts… four worthy champions. The Avetts and the Chocolate Drops both helped expand the Americana fanbase, The Heathens did things no indie artist has ever done, and The Machine was… well… a well-oiled machine.
My Vote (If I Had One): Dave Rawlings Machine
My Prediction: Dave Rawlings Machine

Top 20 of 2009: 12-10

Posted in Brandi Carlile, Camera Obscura, Dave Rawlings Machine, Top 20 of 2009 on December 24, 2009 by AmericanaPulse
#12 – Give Up the Ghost by Brandi Carlile

My wife and I always look forward to a new Brandi Carlile album, and we were right there at the record store on day one waiting for this one. Brandi is one of those artists that I’ve followed since her debut album. I feel like I’ve been along for the ride with her since the start and have watched (and listened to) her grow as an artist with each new release. She takes another leap forward here with Give Up the Ghost, an album I reviewed (along with her entire catalogue) back in November.

As I wrote back then, Brandi covers considerable ground over the course of this album as she easily shifts gears from pop fueled arena rockers to delicate down tempo numbers. Guests Elton John, Amy Ray, Benmont Tench, and Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers all star in various spots on the album. John ‘s appearance especially stands as a highlight on the album as he duets with Brandi on the rollicking piano number “Caroline.” I don’t have permission to share that one, but here’s another of the many standout tracks.

Brandi Carlile: Dying Day (Buy Album)

#11 – Friend of a Friend by The Dave Rawlings Machine

I had a hard time figuring out where exactly to place this one on the list. It probably should be a little higher than it is, but it’s so new (Nov. 17 release date) that I still haven’t fully digested it. My unfamiliarity with the album probably dropped it a few spots. I did, however, see Dave’s Machine in action a couple of weeks ago with Gillian Welch and the OCMS boys. It was one of the finest performances I’ve seen in quite a while and certainly pushed it up the charts a bit. It’s certainly one of the best albums of 2009, but it might become one of my favorite albums of 2010. I stuck it right here in the middle.

Here, Rawlings takes over the spotlight from his long time musical collaborator Welch and seizes the opportunity to shine on his own. It’s about time. Rawlings is one of the most talented musicians working in any genre today, and it’s great to see him step out of the shadows so everyone else can see what a few of us have known for a long time. I think my wife’s jaw is still somewhere on the floor after seeing his rendition of Old Crow’s “I Hear Them All” (a song he co-wrote). She left the show comparing him to Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. That’s about the highest praise she can give.

Dave Rawlings Machine: I Hear Them All (Buy Album)

#10 – My Maudlin Career by Camera Obscura

The story of how my wife and I came to discover this album is somewhat interesting. I heard the song “French Navy” on NPR’s All Songs Considered Podcast and left my wife a voice mail telling her about this amazing new song I had to heard. I just didn’t tell her the name of the artist or the song. Later that same day, she left me a voice mail to tell me about an amazing new song she and just heard on her XM Radio. When we both got home from work that day, we discovered we had both been talking about the same song.

Of course, we went out and bought the CD almost immediately after that and were immediately enthralled by the “Wall of Sound” meets lo-fi production and the enchanting voice of lead singer Tracyanne Campbell. The album is bursting with infectious hooks and several nods to that classic 60’s girl group sound. Despite the nods to the past, the whole thing is also infused with a modern indie vibe that grounds the album in the present. I know I’ve shared the video with you once before, but I’m going to give you a taste of “French Navy” one more time. It may be my favorite track of the year.

Camera Obscura: French Navy (Buy Album)