Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Music for the Naughty and Nice

It may sound a bit like Bah Humbug but I have never been a big fan of Holiday music. It is all the same and predictable and a lot of it is just downright cheesy. I also cannot stand when stores start playing holiday music before Thanksgiving. However, I confess that a good Christmas CD will get you in the mood for the Advent season like nothing else. My favorite Christmas CD ever is and will always be the Bruce Cockburn Christmas album; but this year I have received a few CDs that are new classics:

Rosie Thomas - A Very Rosie Christmas This one is at the top of my list this year. It is a nice mix of originality and tradition. Best of all her original composition "Why Can't it be Christmastime All Year?" is a new classic Christmas song. She also has some great new arrangements of classic Christmas songs. Especially good is her version of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" Thomas is a Seattle area favorite and now she will always be a holiday favorite of mine.

Alison Brown - Evergreen Brown's banjo virtuosity and creativity make for a great Holiday album. This NewGrass artist is definitely leaning more to her Jazz side on this album. On several songs she seamlessly combines two classic tunes into one song but not as a typical medley. It is more of an inter-mingling of songs. Listen to "Carol and the Kings," "Two Santas" and "Skating/Feliz Navidad."

George Strait - Classic Christmas Simply put this album is what it says it is. So why isn't it just another traditional predictable Christmas recording? Because it is George Strait. The perfect Country voice makes the perfect Country Christmas album.

Compassion not Consumption The Advent Conspiracy

This review also appears on Twangville

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit to Release New Album

Press Release from lightning Rod Records:

Muscle Shoals, AL - Lightning Rod Records will release Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit's eponymous album on February 17, 2009. Isbell is a former member of the Drive-By Truckers and this is his second solo release (his first release with his band The 400 Unit). The 400 Unit is Derry deBorja (keyboards), Jimbo Hart (bass) and Browan Lollar (guitar). Matt Pence (Centro-matic/South San Gabriel) lends his talents as co-producer, drummer and engineer.

The album was co-produced by Isbell and The 400 Unit with Matt Pence. "I want it to be known that it's a band record," says Isbell. "I want it to be known that it's something we all did together. Even though I wrote the songs, it was a very inclusive project." Isbell has posted the new track, "Seven-Mile Island," on the band's MySpace site.

The album was recorded at the renowned FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sirius Gives Twamg the Finger

When they merged it was all going to be better. They said the merger would not hurt the diversity of programming, it would enhance it. Then, like a politician after an election, we realize they lied. It is the only explanation for killing the X-Country channel in favor of Outlaw Country. Their are other disappointing changes, but the end of X-Country is the most devastating to me. I have been to the XM website and complained. I also called and was told, "outlaw Country is the same thing" by the representative. "Really," I replied, "What is your favorite Robert Earl Keen song?" "Who," the representative replied in an accent that let's just say was probably nor Texan.

To be fair Outlaw Country isn't bad but the mix and the depth of their playlist is inferior. Then again that sums up why XM had better overall music channels than Sirius. Outlaw country is about half classic Honky-Tonk. I love Classic Country and X-Country mixed in some Classic Country but not at the expense of the Red Dirt Music Scene and Americana influenced Troubadours. Since there are two other classic country channels, Outlaw Country needs to focus more on contemporary Americana so they can give a voice to the wide mix of artist that X-Country did. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the mission of Sirius. Their programmers target a more superficial audience that appreciates the conventional more than true artistry.

Hey all is not lost I can now get the Playboy channel. That's right, they give us porn for the ears. Is there anything more American than that? Think about it the next time you are behind an 18-Wheeler on the interstate. Are you sure that is a gearshift his hand is on?

Video: DBT & Hold Steady Live in Chicago

November 14th the "Rock & Roll Means Well Tour"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Random News

New Boss Album in the Works
Bruce Springsteen's new album Working on a Dream has been set for a January 27th release on Columbia Records. Working on a Dream was recorded with the E Street Band and features twelve new Springsteen compositions plus two bonus tracks. It is the fourth collaboration between Springsteen and Brendan O'Brien, who produced and mixed the album.

Pettis' New Album 4 years in the works
Pierce Pettis will release his new album, That Kind of Love, on Nashville's
Compass Records January 27, 2009. The album includes 9 originals and 2 covers including Mark Heard's "Nothing But the Wind."
Sample the Songs

The Mating Habits of Guinea pigs
A song about guinea Pigs is always worth a listen
Listen to the MP3 by Desmond Reed, from his album 10 Acoustic Demos on Series Two Records

Paste Magazine Best of 2008
It seems to be a bit premature, but Paste will begin unveiling it's best of 2008 lists this week. Check it out. I plan to do the same in early December.
Link to the Schedule

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Blue Line Highway - Perfect Curve

Richmond based NewGrassers Blue Line Highway are a recent discovery that released an impressive album A Perfect Curve. It is a nice mixture of traditional and modern styling, along with acoustic and electric instrumentation. The band mixes Americana, Rock and a laid back blues vibe in a way that puts them in the NewGrass camp but they certainly have their on distinctive sound. Also, as is often the case in this sub-genre, there is a definite Grateful Dead influence. The songwriting is superb with catchy tunes and vocal harmonies. These guys certainly deserve more props than they are receiving.

The album has compelling folk tales like “Billy” and danceable rockers like “3 Ways to Go” Also they like to Jam and have the chops to pull it off. The mixing of Americana, Blues and Jam Band style gives them a style that is unique. By the way, it does not hurt that they are talented musicians. Blue Line Highway is: John Leedes (guitar and vocals), Julia Dooley (vocals, percussion, harmonica), Melissa McKenna (vocals, guitar), Ray Alfano (bass). Right now they are touring primarily in Virginia. However, I hope more folks will check them out so they can spread out geographically.

Check out the EPK

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Johnny Cash Live at Folson Prison

There are two retrospectives released recently about the man in black. One is a DVD documentary and CD Johnny Cash's America the other is the remastered release of Live at Folsom Prison, which also includes a DVD and an album of unreleased material. For the former Kelly gives the best review anywhere over on Twangville and Gobblers Knob so I won't even attempt to take on that one. But Folsom Prison was important for so many reasons I would like to reflect on that recording. It was a seminal release for Cash because it launched a second stage of his career when he was at a a crossroads. It is at crossroads like these where most artists' careers die. Cash's took off even though he did what everyone told him not to do. Instead of getting rid of his traditional sound and going more mainstream, he went to a prison and recorded an album. Why, because he knew how to connect to people. He knew fans could see and appreciate the sincerity of what he was doing. Cash was close friends with a California pastor who had a ministry at Folsom Prison. This pastor thought his appearance could make a difference. So he went there because he cared. As Kelly Dearmore pointed out in his aforementioned review, Cash's true fans consider him family. This sincerity and Cash's concern for the forgotten and downtrodden meant a lot to many people. Recording an album at a prison made little sense to the contemporary Nashville records execs who were obsessed with taking country mainstream.

Cash knew his fan base and bet that others would be compelled by the recording. Cash sensed that his fans weren't as shallow as the recording executives thought. He knew what he wanted and did it his way, as usual. He may have cleaned up his act at that point in his life but he was still a rebel. The irony of it all is that Cash ended up doing exactly what music row wanted. He extended his fan base. The album rose to number 1 on country and number 13 on the pop charts. The evening started with some of the most powerful words in music History, "Hi I'm Johnny Cash." Throughout the album it is obvious Cash empathized with the prisoners. He himself had been prisoner to his own depression, insecurity and the memory of his deceased brother. One special moment was when he sang "Greystone Chapel" a song written by Folsom inmate Glenn Sherley. In the end Cash did it his way with phenomenal results. However, no member of the Cash family of fans finds it surprising that he succeeded by foregoing making an album targeted to mainstream middle America and instead recorded an album to society's outcasts.