Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Settin' the Woods on Fire: This Week's Charts

This is a weekly feature in which I post on AWT the top albums and debuts in the airplay charts from Americana Music Assoc., XM Cross Country and FMQB Non-Commercial Adult Alternative chart. Links to all of these charts are found to the right in the AWT favorite links list.

Americana Music Association - Airplay Week of June 25th
1) Jimmy Lafave - Cimmaron Manifesto
2) Gurf Morlix - Diamonds to Dust
3) Marty Stuart - Anthology of Duets
4) Son Volt - The Search
5) Adrienne Young - Room to Grow
6) Amy Lavere - Anchors and Anvils
7) Wilco - "Sky Blue Sky"
8) Ryan Adams - "Easy Tiger"
9) Elizabeth Cook - "Balls"
10) Kelly Willis - "Translated from Love"
36) Pam Tillis - Rhinestoned
37) Marc Olson - Salvation Blues

XM Ch.12 Cross Country - Cross Checking week of June 25th
1) Todd Snider - Peace, Love and Anarchy
2) Elizabeth Cook - Balls
3) Renegade Rail - Ragged
4) Dale Watson - From The Cradle To The Grave
5) Olav Larsen/Alabama Rodeo Stars - Love’s Come to Town
6) Jimmy Lafave - Cimmaron Manifesto
7) Kendel Carson - Rear View Mirror Tears
8) Wrinkle Neck Mules - Wicks Have Met
9) Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
10) Gurf Morlix - Diamond to Dust
49) Jeff Finlin - Angel in Disguise
50) Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - Let's Frolic

FMQB AAA Non-Commercial - Airplay Week of June 25th
1) WILCO - Sky Blue Sky
2) PAUL MCCARTNEY - Memory Almost Full
3) FEIST - The Reminder
4) R.THOMPSON - Sweet Warrior
5) RYAN ADAMS - Easy Tiger
6) SUZANNE VEGA - Beauty and Crime
7) TORI AMOS - American Doll Posse
8) SPOON - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
9) GRACE POTTER - This is Somewhere
10) BRIGHT EYES - Casadaga
14) WHITE STRIPES - Icky Thump
26) STEVE FORBERT - Strange Names and New Sensations
29) MARC BROUSSARD - SOS: Save Our Souls

Best of 2007

This is My updated Best of 2007. Wilco is still #1 The artists with the highest debuts are White Stripes and Wrinkle Neck Mules at 3 and 4 respectively. The Hackensaw Boys and JohnDoe also debuted in the top 10. While Paul McCartney and Sarah Borges entered just outside the top 10. This list does not inlcude any albums released on June 26th. So Ryan Adams and Kelly Willis will have to wait until next month. Also, as usual, I did some rearranging based on further reflection. Enjoy the list and feel free to tell me how you agree or disagree. Also, make no hesitation to trash me or my intelligence in any way you see fit. I'm used to it.

1) Wilco - "Sky Blue Sky"
2) Patty Griffin - "Children Running Through"
3) White Stripes - "Icky Thump"
4) Wrinkle Neck Mules - "Wicks Have Met"
5) Assembly of Dust - "Recollection"
6) Hackensaw Boys - "Look Out"
7) The Broken West - "I Can't Go on I'll Go on"
8) )The Shins - "Wincing the Night Away"
9) Son Volt - "The Search"
10) John Doe - "A year in the Wilderness"
11) Paul McCartney - " Memory Almost Full"
12) Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles - "Diamonds in the Dark"
13) Willy Mason - "If the Ocean Gets Rough"
14) Dale Watson - "From the Cradle to the Grave"
15) Modest Mouse - "We Were Dead Before he Ship Ever Sank"
16) Feist - "The Reminder"
17) Charlie Louvin - "Charlie Louvin"
18) Infamous Stringdusters - "Fork in the Road"
19) Nathan - "Key Principles"
20) Olav Larsen and the Alabama Rodeo Stars - "Loves' Com to Town"
21) Adam Hood - "Different Groove"
22) Elizabeth Cook - "Balls"
23) Rocky Votolato - "The Brag and Cuss"
24) The Basement - "Illicit Hugs and Playground Thugs"
25) The Greencards - "Viridian"
26) Pela - "Anytown Graffiti"
27) Joe Ely - "Happy Song from Rattlesnake Gulch"
28) Cadillac Sky - "Blind Man Walking"
29) Martin Sexton - "Seeds"
30) Two Cow Garage - "Three"
31) Hoots & Hellmouth- "Hoots & Hellmouth
32) Norah Jones - "Not Too Late"
33) Bill Kirchen - "Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods"
34) Adrienne Young - "Room to Gow"
35) The Dexateens - "Hardwire Healing"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Olav Larsen and the Alabama Rodeo Stars

I must admit I heard the song before I heard they were from Norway. My first reaction was "Norway, what part of Alabama is that town located." I couldn't find it on any map. Then I realized that despite a band name referencing Alabama they really are from Norway. It is hard enough for a Southern boy like me to conceive of country music created above the Mason-Dixon line, but Norway. No way! They don't play country music in Norway. In fact, they do. Europe actually has a fairly healthy Americana scene.

Love Comes to Town is a very compelling Americana album. In large part because Olav Larsen learned about country music the best way. He bought records and listened to them. He was not influenced by glitz and cheese of mainstream Nashville. The influences he credits are Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, The Band and Uncle Tupelo. All of these influences are apparent on this album. They use a mix of instrumentation that sounds both traditional and current. Traditional like on "You Can Call Me Baby" and "Ain't Got Time"; but more edgy on songs like "Give Me Your Love" and "Your the Only One" In the end it is one very satisfyng album.

Check out the link to this video which has been released in Europe:

Traveling Wilburys

Spontaneity is often the key to success. Plan a big party and it will usually disappoint. The best parties start with a few guys buying a keg and calling their friends at the last minute. The same is true for the Traveling Wilburys, formed by accident by George Harrison who needed to cut a B-side for a single. If this had been the brainchild of a major label marketing executive, the total would probably never have equaled the sum of it’s’ parts. But instead we get five friends jamming. OK, five friends who happen to be rock royalty jamming, but friends none the less. Fortunately, these friends put together something special that Rhino records has now reissued.

Critically, Volume 1 received the better reception. However, Volume 3 (there was no Volume 2) is very good as well. It falls short of the original mostly because of the death of Roy Orbison, whose vocals were so vital in creating the sound of the band on Volume 1. The reissue includes four new tracks, two on each Volume. On Volume 1, “Maxine” has a Tejano feel reminiscent Los Lobos “Saint Behind the Glass” off their Kiko album. “Like a Ship” is a sad love ballad led by Bob Dylan. On Volume 3 “Nobody’s Child” is a heartbreaking country song about orphans worthy of any classic album to come out of Nashville. The cover of “Runaway” is very well done but would have been much better with Orbison’s vocals if recorded during the first album. There is also a DVD, which I have not seen, but has videos and unreleased footage of the making of the albums.
Link to this video trailer:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Settin' the Woods on Fire- This Weeks Charts

This is a new weekly feature in which I will post on AWT the top albums and debuts in the airplay charts from Americana Music Assoc., XM Cross Country

Americana Music Association - Airplay Week of June 18th
1) Jimmy Lafave - Cimmaron Manifesto
2) Son Volt - The Search
3) Gurf Morlix - Diamonds to Dust
4) Marty Stuart - Anthology of Duets
5) Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
6) Elizabeth Cook - Balls
15) Kelly Willis - Translated from Love
29) David Olney - One Tough Town
31) Bruse Robison - It Came from San Antonio
39) Porter Wagoner - Wagonmaster

XM Ch.12 Cross Country - Cross Checking week of June 18th
1) Chris Knight - The Trailer Tapes
2) Son Volt - The Search
3) Renegade Rail - Ragged
4 Dale Watson - From The Cradle To The Grave
5 Olav Larsen/Alabama Rodeo Stars - Love’s Come to Town
48) King Wilkie - Low Country Sweet
49) Antsy McLain/Trailer Park Troubadours - Trailercana
50) David Olney - One Tough Town
51) Jeffrey Halford/ Healers - Broken Chord
52) Various Artists - Anchored In Love
53) Kelly Willis - Translated From Love
54) Bruce Robison - It Came From San Antonio

FMQB AAA Non-Commercial - Airplay Week of June 18
1) WILCO - Sky Blue Sky
2) R.THOMPSON - Sweet Warrior
3) FEIST - The Reminder
4) PAUL MCCARTNEY - Memory Almost Full
5) TORI AMOS - American Doll Posse
6) RYAN ADAMS - Easy Tiger
25) Avett Bros. - Emotionalism
26) John Doe - A year in the Wilderness

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full

Forty years ago in 1967, on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album, Paul McCartney asked this question, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” Paul McCartney is now 64. Actually, he turned 65 yesterday (6-18-2007). So I would like to answer this for him. Yes, we need anyone who is releasing music this relevant at any age. As for feeding him, the album is already number one on the internet download charts, so I don’t foresee him bouncing any checks at the grocery store. The easiest way to describe the songs by any artist is to refer to their influences, which is very perplexing when it comes to a Paul McCartney. For example, how many album reviews refer to songs as Beatle influenced or use some term like “Beatlesque?” That might apply to certain songs on this album. But can you call a song by an artist Beatlesque if the artist “is’ Beatlesque. Much of the music is very progressive, but Wings was at the very foundation of 70s prog rock. So that term falls short as well.

In a nutshell, Memory Almost Full is completely influenced by the genius living in Paul McCartney’s mind. But not in some tacky attempt to capture old glory, like you see with many older rock stars. McCartney clearly does not believe in going backwards or even standing still. He refers to this in the song “Vintage Clothes” as he says, “Don’t live in the past. Don’t hold on to something that is changing fast. What we are is what we are. And what we wear is vintage clothes.” As for me, I’m looking forward to when he’s 74. Happy birthday Paul.

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"Dance Tonight" Video

Monday, June 18, 2007

John Doe - A Year in the Wilderness

John Doe’s Year in the Wilderness was a worthwhile journey for him and his fans. This album is literally haunted (listen to “Hotel Ghost”) with stories and reflections that offer exceptional depth. For example, on “Unforgiven” Doe says,”You say I'm good for nothing. So nothing's good enough for me. We all get what we deserve . . . unfortunately.” Doe is joined on this project by vocalists Kathleen Edwards, Aimee Mann and Jill Sobule and multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz among others. The album showcases equal parts of his singer-songwriter brilliance and X era angst, even featuring one song co-written with Exene Cervenka. This is his best work in years.

Listen to "The Golden State"

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hackensaw Boys - Look Out!

After the first listen to The Hackensaw Boys Look Out!, which is to be released on June 19th by Nettwerk Records, I felt the album could be summed up in one word, Wow!! This is their best album to date. After years of relentless touring with such diverse acts as Modest Mouse, Camper Van Beethoven, The Flaming Lips, The Detroit Cobras, Cake, Charlie Louvin and De La Soul, The Boys show a few new directions on this album. The current Lineup features Jesse Fiske on bass, accordion, harmonica and guitar; Jimmy Stelling on banjo and fiddle; Robert Bullington on mandolin and guitar; Ferd Moyse on fiddle and bass; Ward Harrison on guitar and Justin Neuhardt on charismo, spoon and Saw. (You have to love a musician that plays instruments you can buy at Home Depot.) Also, former Hackensaw Boy and current Modest Mouse Tom Peloso contributed two songs and plays bass on “Hobo.”

The first song “Look Out Dog, Slow Down Train” is front porch stomp reminiscent of previous releases. Also, in keeping with old time tradition the album includes a revenge song, “Oh Girl.” There is also a great rendition of the traditional gospel tune “Gospel Plow” that musically doesn’t sound very gospel at all. A lot of the songs on Look Out! go in new directions but the album doesn’t lose its edge or become too polished as it explores other influences. In fact, the album has a very live feel. In the end the Hackensaw Boys are what they always have been and hopefully always will be. A group of great musicians that have party will travel.

Oh Girl MP3
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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reluctant City Stages Preview

For readers in Birmingham I am reluctantly doing a City Stages preview. The lineup admittedly is a disappointment this year for City Stages but there are enough notables to mention:

Bruce Cockburn- He hasn't been to Birmingham in years. The last time he was at City Stages was absolutely a spiritual experience. Don't miss this if it is the only thing you see at the festival this year.
Willy Mason - See my previous post on him. It is one of my favorite CDs so far this year and one of the few acts that is not a Stages retread or recently performed in Birmingham.
Adam Hood- An Alabama native that is not new to Birmingham but "Different Groove" is a great album. (See my recent review)
Will Kimbrough/Tommy Womack- These two have been around a while. Having them play together was one of the few original ideas the festival organizers had this year.
Matthew Perryman Jones- Heard he stole the show at the Reg's Coffeehouse celebration at the Alabama Theater. I missed the event so I am lookin forward to his set.
Stoll Vaughn- I also missed him at Reg's show but I absolutely love this CD.
Robinella- Probably her third appearance in the city in the last year but she is still fantastic.
Sam Bush- I am glad they signed him this year. His live shows are legendary and he is a virtuoso unrivalled. This is one not to miss. I've seen him many times and never been disappointed.
Ricky Skaggs- Credit to the organizers for the Sunday bluegrass lineup. Sam Bush followed by Ricky Skaggs is hard to beat.

A Sign of the Apocolypse for City Stages:
What no mention of Poison or Ratt headlining the Miller Stage you ask? Of course I am excited about it like an 80's schoolgirl in heat! But I can't bring myself to go. You see my parachute pants are too tight these days and they quit making my favorite hair gel years ago. Goodbye City Stages it has been a nice ride!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Brett Dennen

I’ve reached a significant conclusion in my life. I need to quit my day job. What made me realize that was that even though Bret Dennen’s album So Much More was released in late 2006, I am just now getting around to listening to it as he is releasing his follow up EP More So Much More. So my creditors are just going to have to understand I have to spend more time listening to music. The album is lyrically poetic and spiritually reflective. Musically, Dennen is soulful in way very similar to Martin Sexton. The mood of the album balances his personal and political pessimism with a refreshing hopefulness. Sometimes it is almost as if Dennen sees opportunity in his struggles as he muses in the title cut, “I’d rather be stuck up in a tree than tied to it.”

The album also has a couple of unusual songs, “Darlin’ Do Not Fear” and “When You Feel It,” which have backbeats with a Caribbean Island music influence to them. In particular, “When You Feel It” has a resophonic guitar in the background as Dennen sings about his “Creole girl.” The hopefulness of the album is shown best as it exits with “Someday.” The keyboards on the song have a gospel feel as Dennen affirms “Someday in a cloud of gray I will make my great escape. My salvation is ahead of me. I can feel it calling me. I know that I will be redeemed.” Let’s hope we can all exit that way. Also feel free to send any donations you would like to make to the “Let Chip Quit His Day Job Fund.”
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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter

The amazing atmospherics of “Like Love Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul” are apparent from the outset of the album. The ambience of the album is due as much to the subdued jazzy vocals of Jesse Sykes as it is to the instrumentation. At times, Sykes sounds like a more throaty Billie Holiday. At other times, her voice has a Grace Slick tone. The album's first three songs set the tone. It starts with the slow acoustic melody and eerie harmonica of “Eisenhower Moon.” “LLL” is a more upbeat tune that has Sykes smoky Blues vocals layered with psychedelic overdubs. “You Might Walk Away” has catchy hooks and is great pop tune with Jazzy keyboards in the backgrounds.

Sykes aforementioned Grace Slick on a mellow trip sound is most apparent on a couple of songs that take on the feel of Jefferson Airplane. The Sixties era Haight-Ashbury scene is explored most notably on “How Will We Know” and “I Like the Sound.” These are not banal tributes. The band never loses its originality as it crosses genres. To be sure, the atmospherics are overdone at times. For example, on “Spectral Beings” a droning melody is trying too hard to create the ambiance. However, the best songs on this album are truly memorable. The production team of Tucker Martine (The Decemberists and Long Winters) and Martin Feveyear (Mark Lanegan and Kings of Leon) also deserve kudos for the way they created the album’s rich textures without masking the music at its core.
Link to this free MP3
*Posted with Permission from Barsuk Records
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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Read This! I Am Still Laughing

The9513 a great blog that covers country music both mainstream and Americana. You will find on my blogroll. They did a priceless review of the new Big & Rich album. It is a must read. Maybe the funniest album review ever.

Through The Sparks

There is a lot of buzz around the local Birmingham indie band Through The Sparks. Paste magazine put them on their most recent sampler and has featured the band online. Pitchfork gave them a good review also. I am certainly going to buy it. My initial streaming on the band’s website found it to be extremely well crafted. I'vs also seen their name crop up on several blogs.

Stream the album on the band's website.

Download it on emusic

Or think Indie and get it at your local record store:

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Elizabeth Cook Live - Workplay Birmingham, AL June 1st

Three songs into her set at the Workplay Theatre in Birmingham Elizabeth Cook broke into the Merle Haggard tune “Today I Started Loving You Again.” Somehow she took this Haggard composition and channeled Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn simultaneously. There is no doubt in seeing her live that she is every bit as authentic as Tammy or Loretta. Along with her husband Tim Carroll, the crowd at Workplay was entertained by someone that the Nashville music industry brass is not going to be able to ignore much longer.

The show moved seamlessly between honky tonk twang and rock. Tim Carroll also got in on the act rocking the crowd with his on music and covers like his hard driving cover of Randy Travis’ “Diggin Up Bones,” which Cook referred to as an “ironic cover” as he took a slow song and turned it up to “11.” Cook also got the crowd going when she sang Carroll’s “If I could.” “If I could pay all these bills with my guitar then I would pay these bills with some rock and roll,” is a line she sang from that song. Paying bills might not be much of a struggle in the future based the crowd’s reaction. Cook was great with the crowd joking around with good one liners. She got a big laugh when she thanked the folks at Workplay for the “Cheese Log and Carr’s crackers” before the show saying that most places they played didn’t treat her so well.

Cook is also one heck of a clogger. She exchanged her boots for tap shoes and put on a demonstration for the crowd as Carroll accompanied her with his lively guitar work. After the clogging demonstration she launched into the live favorite “Punk Rock Honky Tonk Girl.” Toward the end when she played “Sometimes it Takes Balls to be a woman” she introduced it by saying, “Here is the song that started it all. Let’s hope it doesn’t end it too.” If the crowd at Workplay gets their way, I see no end in sight.

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