Archives for category: T Bone Burnett

Cast of Nashville looking at Bridgestone Arena across the street from Legend’s Corner and The Ryman in the background.

ABC has pulled out all the stops for Nashville, which airs this Wednesday, in believing that a Dallas style soap, with none of the quirky comedy of Desperate Housewives and with the basic plot of Country Strong that starred Gwyneth Paltrow, is ready for prime time.

Nashville’s writer and creative executive producer Callie Kouri says that beyond the familiar landmarks, she wants to capture with absolute authenticity, Music City’s modern identity.

T-Bone Burnett, modern heavyweight of

T-Bone Burnett, Music Director

Americana Music production, with credits that range from the movie Crazy Heart to the Robert Plant / Allison Krauss collaboration is the music director of the show. This leads to possibilities like appearances by Elizabeth Cook, Jim Lauderdale or maybe a Todd Snider scene.

Where television fantasy and reality meet will be an interesting thought.

The 5 Spot – East Nashville, photo – Brad Hardisty

In the second episode, indie – rocker, Avery Barkley, played by General Hospital’s Jonathan Jackson, is playing on the small stage of beer soaked, The 5 Spot in East Nashville, known for hosting East Nashville local rockers as well as annual Jonathan Richman three night stands.

This is a TV drama about the Country music machine, so there probably won’t be an invite to a secret show at Third Man Records or the latest Belmont crowd band playing a gig at John Danzig’s House.

It would be safe to say that the show is not after my demographic, but, I will probably watch it to see what venue or artist pops up in the show.

Each episode brings a $4 million budget to the city. A successful series could mean a lot of business for Nashville. I guess that could be good and bad if a hit TV show starts to become the tastemaker of what outsiders believe about Nashville and what we do with our time.

One thing is for sure, Hayden Panettiere needs to get fitted for a pair of jeans at Imogene + Willie and stop in for some Hot Chicken at Prince’s while she is in town.

-          Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmal.com

 

Jimi Hendrix in Nashville

Word hit the street over the last two weeks like a brush fire in New Mexico: Rolling Stone wrote in print and on the net, Nashville has the best music scene in the country. I haven’t even read it yet because it is in the subscriber content on the web, but, I believe it to be true.

What was the turning point? The Kings of Leon? I don’t really think so.  The Kings of Leon had to go over to England to become big  in the U.S., kind of like Jimi Hendrix, in fact Jimi was gigging up on Jefferson Street with Billy Cox  and The King Kasuals for just a little scratch and room and board just a couple of years before he went to the U.K.

Paramore? Well, giving a little credit to a younger scene was a good thing when they were signed to Fueled by Ramen (sort of) yet there is no scene of bands trying to sound like Paramore around Nashville so it is its own thing.

Just a couple of years ago, Nashville was licking its wounds when Be Your Own Pet and The Pink Spiders, especially The Pink Spiders who went in with guns loaded and a Ric Okasek Produced album and an Artist Relations war chest were unable to break big.

Was it when Jack White moved Third Man Records down to Nashville, that is definitely a key piece to being Rolling Stone cool, with new 45’s by regionals being released almost on a Sam Phillip’s Sun Records schedule along with concert events that are showstoppers like the Record Store Day plus one Jerry Lee Lewis concert featuring Steve Cropper and Jim Keltner.

Okay, Jack White has given it the one two punch by introducing past icons to new generations  like Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose Grammy award winning album with Loretta standing in front of the East Nashville house where it was recorded.  How about when Porter Wagoner opened for The White Stripes at Madison Square Garden?  Who would have known that Porter’s final call would be an outstanding album, The Wagonmaster and a gig opening for The White Stripes?

Maybe, that was key in making sure that real icons are represented like Wanda Jackson’s great new album on Third Man Records. Jack is definitely not just looking behind but is really tuned into the ether. I was excited to see Dan Sartain, a part of the same Birmingham scene I was in for a number of years cut some vinyl on Third Man Records. Dan opened up for The White Stripes on several dates a few years ago and my friend Emanuel Elinas who made some guitar pedals for me down at Highland Music in Birmingham talked about playing Bass with Dan Sartain and going bowling with Jack and his Mom. How cool is that?

In fact, when I saw the band on the flip side of the Dan Sartain 45 and Matt Patton was there, I was really happy about what was happening. Matt and a few others had put out some of the best Indie music in Birmingham that I have ever heard. Matt had this band called Model Citizen and their CD, The Inner Fool, produced by Tim Boykin (The Lolas, The Shame Idols, Carnival Season) on Bent Rail Foundation is one of my all time favorites. Matt is getting recognition with Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s The Dexateens now.

I tell you what; let’s get down to ground zero. When we talk about Todd Snider and the East Nashville scene we are getting close, but, let’s get down to one album and one artist.  Okay, I am going to say the transition came when Nashville got behind one of its own in 2008. When Justin Townes Earle got signed to Bloodshot Records and released The Good Life both weekly music papers got behind with big in depth articles about how Justin got to that point. The Good Life is a classic album out of left field but it really represented what Nashville was known for, good songwriting, a little rock and roll, a little country with a nod to the past and to the future of Americana.

At that time, you could hang with Justin over at The Basement, but with extensive touring and a prolific three years, Justin is well established and still with indie cred enough where I can still turn people onto his music as something new.

Justin was recognized at The Americana Music Awards in Nashville in 2009 the year before Rolling Stone called the Americana Music Festival the coolest festival in the U.S. In fact 2010 would be the no holds barred year when Warner Brothers would finally release American Bang’s CD. Robert Plant would record Band of Joy in East Nashville with an Americana  A-List including Buddy Miller and Darrell Scott and be the surprise guest at The Americana Music Awards.

The 2010 Americana Music Festival was a real eye opener when you had The Long Players, Bobby Keyes, Dan Baird and a laundry list doing Exile on Main Street at The Cannery Ballroom, Hayes Carll at The Basement, with people coming from Australia just to see him play and a festival closer with Todd Snider and an all-star band featuring Don Was on Bass, with a grin and looking somewhat like Slash’s older brother.

Don Was got in the game this year when he produced Lucinda Williams (a Nashville alumnus) new Cd, Blessed. Did it start at The Americana Music Festival with an exchange of phone numbers backstage at The Rhyman? Only they know for sure, but Nashville is becoming a ground zero magnet for much more than Popular Country Music Radio songs and Christian Music.

There had to be a change. The music business had changed and Nashville has changed along with that. Instead of twenty major labels in town, there are now five. The rest are Indie Country, Rock, whatever.

Coming to Nashville to be a hit songwriter may be a goal for a lot of people, but, getting a staff writing gig is becoming really difficult and less lucrative. Back in 2007-2008, we talked about how a songwriter with good songs getting signed to a publisher with maybe a 25-35k draw now going for 18-24k and the need for a day job for many.  Also, one of the larger publishers had in the past as many as 135 staff writers and was then down to Thirty five.

I know for a fact things are much worse for that dream with less staff writers, less money and less records being sold. The dream is still there, but, now you need to get lucky and find a new face with a great voice and the potential to get signed and start co-writing before some money starts flowing.

In early 2008, I could go to The Commodore Grill and see an endless supply of new songwriting talent for the Country Music Industry, but, with less staff gigs and the economy in the tank, less people are rolling into Nashville with an acoustic guitar and lyrics in the guitar case. In fact, it really is a trickle compared to just three years ago. Also, many of the writers that are coming into town have Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson chops and are not really what the Country Music Industry is looking for.

On the other hand, the Indie Rock and Americana scenes are ripe for development.  Vinyl is making a comeback with this crowd and United Record Pressing is right here where it always was. Colored vinyl, short runs, whatever you need with local labels like Third Man Records and Nashville’s Dead Records, United Pressing is back to increasing production and essentially back in the game.

The song publishing and royalty distribution infrastructure is realigning in Nashville with changes in staff announced publicly last year at ASCAP and I am sure accommodations are coming with a paradigm shift to handle multiple styles now in the pipeline.

Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music is probably the most famous record store in the country now, maybe second to Amoeba’s out on the West Coast. It’s not enough that Indie bands make in-store appearances. Metallica made a little short announced gig for fans at The Basement below Grimey’s in 2008 before their Bonnaroo appearance and released the whole experience as Live at Grimey’s worldwide in 2010. Now all the gloves are off.

If you are a music lover, archivist, etc. in a world with disappearing Record stores, Nashville not only has Grimey’s, but  also, Phonoluxe Records, The Great Escape, The Groove and plenty of other outlets for local as well as rare Cd’s and vinyl.

Look what is going on at Thirty Tigers Indie Distribution and their great success over the last couple of years.

Belmont University is turning out Music and Music Business degrees every year and a lot of students want to stay here and not necessarily go into the Country Music Machine. They have their own ideas from the scenes they came from whether it was in California or New York.

Bands like The Black Keys and The Deadstring Brothers are migrating here.  Even though Music Row still has a big chunk of the day to day business great records are being made in East Nashville, Blackbird Studio and Buddy Miller’s living room.

With the advent of a studio in a gig bag, Indie artists can make records anywhere and with cheap housing and a plethora of like minded musicians gathering in what really is now becoming truly Music City it only makes sense to live and work here, especially when gas is going for near $5 a gallon. Why not be close to all the blessings that come with a great music talent smorgasbord.

Speaking of food, you don’t want to leave Austin because of Texas Barbecue? Okay at least try Jack’s and Rooster’s Texas Style BBQ and Steak House on 12th. I promise you won’t be disappointed. You want California style Mexican Food? Go to Oscar’s Taco Shop on Nolensville and in Franklin. Thai? Thai Star. Vietnamese? Far East Nashville. Indian? Tamarind. New York Style Italian? Are you kidding? Maffiozas or the place at the Arcade. Okay, so you can’t get Hawaiian Plate BBQ here yet, but, there is plenty to explore. We could still use an In and Out Burger.

Okay, back to music.  Country is going through a lot of changes. The ripple of the Taylor Swift explosion that Big Machine Records put into motion are still being felt, being one of the only Platinum Recording Artists in the new digital era, as well as outside pressures from Texas Charts, the Red Dirt scene and T-Bone Burnett Produced masterpieces that can’t be denied.

Country even has its own street cred in Nashville with bands like Kort who are local but signed over in England as well as Indie Singer / Songwriter Caitlin Rose and Country spun  Those Darlins. Even Charlie Louvin, who as part of The Louvin Brothers can take some credit for inspiring The Everly Brothers and therefore The Beatles harmonies, got his Indie cred with The Battle Rages On that was released on Austin’s Chicken Ranch Records. I can say I got to see two Midnight Jamboree tapings and get his autograph on an early Louvin Brothers recording before he passed into immortality.

So what about Nashville’s own Indie scene? Heypenny, Jeff The Brotherhood, Cheer Up Charlie Daniels,  Uncle Skeleton, Pujol, Heavy Cream (kind of Karen-O fronting a better looking MC5), Todd Snider, John Carter Cash, The Coolin System, The Deep Fried 5 and a laundry list playing at places like The Basement, The End, Danzig’s House, Exit/In, The Rutledge, Mercy Lounge and a house party near you.

How could Rolling Stone not call Nashville the best Music Scene in the country? It is a multi pronged Country, Alt-Country, Americana, Bluegrass, Newgrass, Folk, roots, rock, funkified attack on your senses.

It’s one of those places you could actually plan a week of your life to check out bands as well as pick up a new Nudie or Katy K suit. A place where you might find Joe Maphis’ old Mosrite double neck or the Bass player from Cinderella’s vintage Precision Bass on sale on Craigslist.

You may never win over Nashville, but, it’s a good place to write, do your business and go to the Third Sunday at Third pot luck at Doak Turner’s house in Nashville. Maybe it doesn’t have a burgeoning Death Metal scene but it does have The Billy Block Show. When the sun is out you can’t deny how beautiful Nashville is. Where else can “Bless Your Little Heart” actually mean, I don’t give a ****.

Nashville is a great place to throw your guitar case in the corner and call home.

There are several trackbacks links for your viewing pleasure.

- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN    thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Throwing the CD in brought back my encounter with Gregg Allman in 2007 at the Alabama Theater in Birmingham, listening and watching Bonnie Bramlett sing from the back wall in the black out of view from the audience, “You know I played on her stuff”, Gregg said as he was leaning on my arm to get a little view from the back curtain, I told him, “Hey, Gregg, we can switch places”, “No, I’m fine” and like clockwork, “Well, I gotta get ready” and he disappeared down into the dressing room as if he had her set memorized because ten minutes later she was done and Gregg was on.

Hanging with Bonnie Bramlett, Alabama Theater 2007

That was the one and only time I hung with him and it felt like hanging with an old friend because history precedes the man.  This was the voice of The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East and “Midnight Rider.” Well, what does this all have to do with this new T-Bone “The hardest working producer in show business” Burnett Produced disc have to do with that show?  Mainly because of the off the cuff, off the set list piece that Gregg asked the horn section if they knew, Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose”, which he sang as if he was ready to be Otis.

Gregg at Alabama Theater 2007

Gregg is one of the most soulful voices there is. He doesn’t have to talk to the audience his voice live is mesmerizing with a mix of Southern Blues and Soul that only a few like him can say they are there, namely Joe Cocker, lesser known Eddie Hinton and maybe you haven’t heard of Topper Price but you should.

Low Country Blues is full of covers that feature horn sections, Hammond B3 and some acoustic instruments and shaky handmade sounding percussion things that would be associated with the Americana thing nowadays. The best parts if dissected remind me of that night in Birmingham with the full horn section, organ and a full band turning out Sixties era Memphis Soul on cuts like “Blind Man” by Texan Record label exec, Don D. Robey who managed Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown back in 1949 and had his biggest success with Big Mama Thornton’s #1 hit “Hound Dog” on his Peacock Records.

Indeed from the roster of songs and the depth of history of blues and soul in the tracks I wonder if it was Gregg saying I always wanted to do this or T-Bone digging into his vast treasure chest. They both had a lot of musicology to bring to the table.

Gregg brings a strong self co-penned with Warren Haynes track “Just Another Rider” which is almost an extension of something Otis might have done after “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay”, with its mix of soul and Lennon/McCartney beat. It was clear Otis was ready to mix it up after Monterey Pop.

Muddy Waters, “I Can’t Be Satisfied” really gets the Americana Acoustic blues treatment that feels more like Hill Country Blues down in the fields of Mississippi then uptown Chicago. This cut should have had Pinetop Perkins on that Piano but you can’t ask for everything. This was only a stone’s throw from 1920’s Memphis Jug Band material.

He really get’s Fifties style B.B. King down on “Please Accept My Love’ with that straight eight Ride and long Sax lines. It really feels like Memphis in the fifties with B.B. King and Fats Domino on the radio and cruising around late at night looking for where the girls are hanging out.

Amos Milburn

Another Texan, Amos Milburn shares the distinction of having a couple of his songs recorded on Rounder Records, many years have passed since George Thorogood recorded “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” until Gregg took on “Tears, Tears, Tears” which continues a lot of threads that connect the late forties and fifties music on this disc with the theme of many a Blues tune “Tears in my eye, Blue as I can be, Just had another woman to walk out on me.” This is where you are going to hear the distinct Hammond B3 of Gregg, in a nice jazzy post-war blues number.

If that wasn’t enough there is Otis Rush represented “Checking on My Baby” with Doyle Bramhall II featured prominently.  It’s amazing that this album came out of Village Recorders when it sounds like it should have come out of Houston, Memphis or maybe a little Chess Records recording out of Chicago.

One of the best ways to get to the root of the blues is the finisher, “Rolling Stone”, treated with a branch between The Allman Brothers band type rhythm and delivery with some Dobro and other spices such as a great walking bass note on the piano that brings things full circle.

It really captures the roots of Soulful blues which represents what Gregg is made of as he was finding his path early on. There is a great story in the liner notes about Gregg and Duane going to a B.B. King Concert in Nashville when they were young and that was their defining or divine moment when you think of what came after.

Did T-Bone do it right? He has done so many records in the last few years, that obviously not everyone is going to be right, but, he does the legend Gregg Allman in a good way that opens the doors for more stuff. He obviously can lead this into the Americana arena but, the best parts are really the Hammond B3, horn section late Sixties Soul feel. Gregg could do that all day and I would never bet bored. I think this is the CD that will make Eric Clapton search out T-Bone for some Production work. I think Eric will be jealous of this one.

This is a slow simmer, best heard late on a moonlight drive maybe through the southlands of Northern Florida or Southern Georgia; if you can’t be there you can sure feel it. Well done T-Bone! You done Gregg right. I always have in mind what will be my top ten for the end of the year. It is only January and this is one Allman flavored contender.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

A year in Exile

If there was any kind of recurrent theme this year, The Rolling Stones kept popping up on the radar. It started when I bought the Deadstring Brothers album Sao Paulo an obvious well done Stones influenced work of art. It would be in my Top Ten if it had come out in 2010 but it actually was released in 2009. It is a great album and when I saw them live at The Basement it came across really well.

It didn’t stop there; Exile on Main Street had been remastered with bonus tracks where The Stones actually brought in Mick Taylor to play his parts on some unfinished tracks. The Rolling Stones released a new single “Plundered My Soul” from the found tracks and released several versions of the album.

Grimey’s did a midnight screening of the Documentary Stones in Exile that took photographs, film, new interviews with the band as well as Bobby Keyes and others about recording Exile on Main Street in the south of France way back when at The Belcourt Theatre. “Exile” is now considered a pivotal record but at the time “Tumbling Dice” was considered a difficult single on a rather un-commercial record.

During the Americana Conference the Long Players augmented with Stones Sax Player Bobby Keyes, Dan Baird and several singers like Mike Farris, Grace Potter and others did the entire album live at The Cannery Ballroom. 

The Theatre release Ladies and Gentlemen The Rolling Stones which was filmed during the Exile promotional tour in the States was remastered and released on DVD in the fall. The set featured many of the songs from Exile that are not played much by latter day Stones such as “Sweet Virginia”. The sound and film looked phenomenal and it was good to see Mick Taylor at his best, an integral part of The Stones during that period and in truth is really missed nowadays.

Finally, to finish off the year of The Stones, Keith Richard’s Autobiography Life was released in November along with a compilation of his X-Pensive Winos recordings from the late Eighties.  The Rolling Stones managed to keep in the music news almost as much as Taylor Swift.

Original cover for Straight Up

It also seemed to be the year for catalog re-releases as Apple Records remastered most of the Apple back catalog of non-Beatles recordings by Badfinger, Mary Hopkins, James Taylor and released all of them at the same time.

FnA Records continued to not only re-release 80’s metal catalog but also unearthed several recordings that were set to release but never were by labels such as A&M and Geffen when the Seattle scene took over.  There were several recordings by different artists from The Thirteenth Floor Elevators 45’s to Carnival Season vinyl that saw their material released on CD for the first time.

Janie Hendrix continues exquisite releases of all things Jimi Hendrix with the release of West Coast Seattle Boy that not only has yet another Bob Dylan song done by Hendrix but goes back to the background of what he was doing before going to England with expanded packages that include a disc full of Isley Brothers and other nuggets, pre-Experience as well as a DVD Voodoo Child that even talks about his Nashville days.

Country continues to sell big, but real, traditional or Texas Country has been swallowed up by the Americana scene. At least it has found a home. As far as innovation in current pop country the last leap forward was Miranda Lambert’s Revolution and that was released last year.

Here are few honorable no less worthy than the list:

Ratt – Infestation

Merle Haggard – I Am What I Am

Kort – Invariable Heartache

Charlie Louvin – The Battles Rage On

Marty Stuart – Ghost Train

Jim Lauderdale – Patchwork River

Crazy Heart – (Soundtrack) Various Artists

Okay, now for my Top Ten. In making my choices, I not only looked at material, but innovation and game changers, records that made things interesting.

10- Carnival Season / Misguided Promises / ARRCO

This represents not only a re-issue on CD for the first time of regional Birmingham band Carnival Season that features local legend Tim Boykin, but, painstakingly includes every recording the band made during their short time together as well as extensive liner notes that tell the whole story of the late 80’s rockers. It sits well on the shelf with bands like Redd Kross as well as The Replacements. The band has been doing occasional reunion gigs playing not only this set but some new stuff as well over the last couple of years. This was one of the first alternative rock bands out of Birmingham, Alabama.

Featured tracks: “Misguided Promises”, “Please Don’t Send me to Heaven”

9- Robert Plant / Band of Joy / Rounder –Esparanza

Robert was in the middle of recording the follow up to Raising Sand with Allison Krauss when he pulled the plug when he felt the magic wasn’t there. He retreated to Nashville and entrusted Buddy Miller to put together a band that features Darrell Scott, Byron House, Marco Giovino and Patty Griffin and secluded into Woodland Studio to see what they would come up with. The result is obscure covers as well as a Plant-Page piece from Walking into Clarksdale that shows some Zeppelin flavor with uncharted Americana territory which sonically could have only happened with Nashville session players in such a short time. The band gelled in the studio and continues to roll across Europe and Stateside. This is probably Buddy Miller’s best Production effort yet.

Featured tracks:  “Angel Dance”, “You Can’t Buy My Love”, “House of Cards”

8 – Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses / Junky Star / Lost Highway

Ryan tends to write like a modern day Dylan but his voice is more like John Kay from Steppenwolf. Ryan who comes from the red dirt scene of West Texas and now lives in so-L.A. got national notice with the Grammy winning “The Weary Kind” from the Crazy Heart soundtrack defiantly writes about a drifter leaving behind a dead end life to go to California only to end up sleeping on the Santa Monica pier.

Featured tracks: “The Wandering”, “Junky Star”

7- Sweet Apple / Love & Desperation / Tee Pee

Put together by members of Dinosaur Jr. and Witch, this little known defiantly Hard Rock and other worldly idea collection of songs with its Roxy Music rip off style album cover is actually closer to something between an early Alice Cooper (when they were a band) and Ziggy Stardust era Bowie. The album kicks off like a Raspberries send off with Guidedbyvoices production and then the desperation begins with some morbid love lost desperation with a chugging Alice Cooper band style with lyrics like ”Looking out the window, watching people fall, how I wish I could fall to death”. It’s a rock and roll gem this year.

Featured tracks: “Do You Remember”, “I’ve Got a Feeling (That Won’t Change)”

6 – Preservation Hall Jazz Band / Preservation / Preservation Hall Recordings

What a fantastic album. A collection of well-known New Orleans Ragtime with this important Horn based band where the tuba still carries much of the bass part, mashes PHJB with an all-star cast of vocalists such as Andrew Bird, Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco, Ritchie Havens, Steve Earle as well as the sultry vocals of Memphis’ Amy LaVere.  The band ended up on tour with Maroon 5 this year.

Featured tracks: “Blue Skies”, “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home”

5- John Mellencamp / No Better Than This / Rounder

Recorded for the most part at Sun Studios with one RCA 44 ribbon mic into vintage Ampex Analog gear, John not only sounds like the old Sun recordings, this sounds like old tape that had to be baked in a microwave to finally put it on digital media. It was not only a great idea with equal parts Cash country, Rockabilly and blues but probably his best album since Scarecrow. The T Bone Burnett produced masterpiece even got airtime on WSM.

Featured tracks: “No Better Than This”, “Coming Down the Road”

4- Justin Townes Earle / Harlem River Blues / Bloodshot

If you missed it, Justin just rolled a third strike in three years. Every album has been decidedly Justin with marked differences and excellent songwriting. This would be his “Ode to New York City” where he now calls his second home.  Jason Isbell (Drive by Truckers, The 400 Unit) puts in guitar duties and gives this more of an edgy guitar feel as well as some straight up Rockabilly. It really would be cool to see a pure Rockabilly album in the future.

Featured tracks: “Move Over Mama”, “Workin’ for the MTA”, “Christchurch Woman”

3- Black Mountain / Wilderness Heart / Jagjaguwar

This album sometimes feels like Led Zep III and Deep Purple Fireball at the same time. The duality vocals of Stephen and Amber still remind me of a haunting Jefferson Airplane with the production sounding very early 70’s analog, sometimes acoustic but when they rock it’s got Jon Lord style Hammond B3 all over the place. Although the first album by this Vancouver band may have been a defining moment this is the one that makes me wants to crank the stereo full blast on road trips.

Featured tracks:  “The Hair Song”, “Old Fangs”, “Let Spirits Ride”

2- Mike Farris and The Cumberland Saints / The Night The Cumberland Came Alive / Entertainment One

Recorded in just six hours just two weeks after the Nashville Flood in a downtown Nashville church just blocks from the flooding, Mike shows that his bluesy/gospel voice can sound fantastic over anywhere he wants to go. Mike has been everywhere from Indie Rock, Blues, Gospel, working with Double Trouble to now this pre-war Gospel Blues style gem working with The McCrary Sisters, Sam Bush, Byron House and members of The Old Crow Medicine Show, his originals mesh well with the rare covers. He showcased the album at Cannery Ballroom during the Americana Music Festival and it was electrifying.

Featured tracks: “Wrapped Up, Tangled Up”, “Down on Me”

1-She & Him /Volume Two / Merge

Zooey Deschannel & M. Ward are some kind of modern Indie Captain and Tennille and somehow it works. Zooey has a sunny California breeze running through her muse that translates into a digital era take on The Beach Boys versus Phil Spector. Even though the material is fresh it makes me daydream of being back on the beach in Santa Cruz when I was six with my Mom and little sister.

Featured tracks: “In The Sun”, “Don’t Look Back”,”Lingering Still”

- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Welcome to the Depression, an honest portrait of the “Junky Star” by Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses, a down and outer that could be any of us or somebody we know.  In fact, if I start counting all of the friends I have who are lost to drug addiction, prescription or otherwise or lost a job because their skill set is no longer needed, I could have wrote this story. 

While “The Weary Kind” won Ryan Bingham an Academy Award, recognition and new friends, he was preparing to release a bleak and beautiful effort of a wanderer leaving behind the hopeless junkies and lost jobs for the possibilities of California.

During the Great Depression and Dust Bowl days many who lost their land or livelihood left for California’s oil fields and Agriculture. It was a different place then. Merle Haggard’s parents were some of those souls who found happiness and work in the Central Valley in Oildale. If it was not the best paying work, it was steady and provided a way for the next generation to improve upon their simple means.

Oildale CA during theBoom

This time California itself is feeling the pressure of a busted housing boom, tech boom and any other kind of boom they had in the past.  As we set out “The Poet” writes “Sweethearts kiss in the dark, Homeless sleep in the park, I myself just move on through town…oh how I love the highway sun, the poet in the dark writes down his song in blood”.

As he travels the lonely road, the character in Ryan’s songs scribbles lyrics on found paper with a guitar on his back. In “The Wandering” he sings in a broken voice that is as distinctive as Bob Dylan “Disregard the time, find your peace of mind, among the wandering”.

The Doors

We are into track number three and he hasn’t yet sung about his goal to make it to California, “Strange Feelin’ in the Air” just shows an uncomfortable drifter “I’m feelin’ strange, in this town, I feel deranged, as I look around” with an echo to Jim Morrison and The Doors’ “People are strange when you’re a stranger, Faces look ugly when you’re alone”.

I’m beginning to realize I haven’t heard any band this empty since The Cowboy Junkies “Femme Fatale”; in fact this is almost like a Country Album made in Berlin (think “Walk on the Wildside, Lou Reed) by the love child of Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain. The hooks are only implied but understood.

Finally in “Junky Star” lies the thesis of somebody taking away his farm so “I shot him dead and hung my head, and drove off in his car, so on the run with a smoking gun, I’m headin’ for the coast” only to find himself “sleepin on the Santa Monica Pier, with the junkies and the stars” and finds himself telling God “that the whole damn world was waiting around to die, but not me this time, I left trouble far behind”.

But the truth is you can’t leave trouble behind and this is the total opposite of Bob Dylan’s “Modern Times” where Bob was asked “why something so hopeful in such troubled times?”, he just shared that when you went back to films and music during the Depression and World War II things were always so bright and sunny as an opposite to what was going on and now Ryan no longer calls it just a Recession.

“Depression” makes it very clear “Would I wake up for a lifetime, lose my job in this Depression, well I don’t care, cause I got your love, in this Depression”. As long as he has the love of his life he can make it and let his strung out friends know “…we’ve gone out to California”.

“Junky Star” lets you know there is a Depression going on. The Depression has been getting deeper every year for musicians where the only hope is to make enough to stay out on the road and have enough to keep your apartment when you get back home. The music business started shrinking long before 2008. Whereas a classic album or a piece of Cotton Candy like NSync could sell six million or more, now we talk about a few mega stars going Platinum in a year.

Jobs have been taken from us by a “monkey puzzle” called a Computer and by companies finding cheaper labor overseas. We don’t even know how we can replace what has been taken away. We are only told to spend our way out of these bad times. There are records of people who spent themselves into comfort only to realize they played the fool and became slaves to their ease.

“Junky Star” gives way to another character mindlessly shot by a stranger, “I said you must be down on your luck, I’m out of money and I’m all out of time, he pulled the trigger and I fell to my knees, my spirit left and then my body went cold” the biggest thing the talking dead man worries about is his honey and let’s her know “I’m everything in between the harmonies singin loud, Hallelujah”.

These are the tough luck stories that happen maybe not to you or me but they happen to somebody. Ryan has decided to be the voice of the most difficult California stories one could imagine.

He shares his own thoughts about what we are becoming and in his own “John Lennon-Imagine” style, “there’s just no time for traditions, tying people down to class when everyone’s a shade of green that suffers in the grass of greed”. Maybe the problem is too many can be bought.

Dust Bowl Days

Dead Horses in the middle of the road

California seems to be the last hope even if only a change of location. In “Lay my Head on the Rail”, he sings”The head lights are blinding and the diesels are on fire, hauling ass down a mountain pass to the California state line”.

If you wonder what it feels like after a lifetime of wandering only to find yourself looking back, it is there in “Self-Righteous Wall” in the lyrics “I guess you just couldn’t keep up with the wild horse that you stole, you set yourself on the back steps and you feel yourself growin old, you feel your gray hairs runnin back to a place you left so cold”.

I guess the path is over when you find yourself only looking back.

“Junky Star” is a thematic piece told in first person that never strays from the concept from start to finish. The Who almost did that with “Tommy” except they threw a curve ball in with “Pinball Wizard” for Rock Music Journalist Nik Cohn  in hopes of a great review. The 1960’s were a different time, back then that little difference might be enough to get a radio hit.

Nowadays, recordings might as well be something that means a lot to the writer, in hopes that the listener can find something he can relate to.  If there was a “Tommy” written about the down and out “in this Depression”, Ryan has done it.

Village Recorder mural

It’s quite the paradox that this was recorded at The Village Recorder just one block off Santa Monica Boulevard with its mural of California falling into the ocean.  There are so many huge albums that were done there such as Steely Dan “Aja” and Joe’s Garage by Frank Zappa. This album will at the very least be the Big Star #1 Record of modern Americana.  While this may be a gut wrenching piece of work, I don’t remember anything but great times at The Village Recorder back in late 1989-1990 listening to a mix with Producer Howard Benson or talking about the problems of getting tape for those crazy Akai recorders with Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. In fact I can see myself walking a couple of blocks over to pick up some new guitar strings at West LA Music.  While I am at it, let’s go up another block and get one of those real Carne Asada Burritos.

The Liner notes and the accompanying booklet discards anything unimportant such as who wrote the song, who the publisher is or what performing rights organization is involved. The focus is on the music; even T Bone Burnett lists more credits than the band.  Instead of letting you know what brand of strings Corby Schaub uses or thanking some local music store or fan club the special thanks goes out to “Our Family of Friends who have helped make this all possible”. I was not even familiar with Mastering Engineer Gavin Lurssen, but I am now. There is no annoying distortion by trying to make the CD “louder”. I perceive undebatable warm clean Mastering.

Last stop California!

T Bone Burnett has yet again produced a project that will no doubt be in my top ten for the year. This isn’t an album you would want to listen to when you are in the middle of the tech boom but the American Dream is on the verge of disappearing in these stories of the down trodden that hope to turn a  corner by going to California. If you get to California and find out that the struggle is even harder than the one you left behind, then all there is left to do is go back and face problems head on.

- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN      thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Ray LaMontagne

Four of the top ten records this week in Billboard are a reflection of  Tennessee on the national charts and music in general these days.  A showcase of different styles that all have one common source.

Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs’  “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise” with the prominent pedal steel of  Greg Leisz,  may be considered “Contemporary Folk” and could be cross genred with “Americana Music” has its roots in the original Bob Dylan sessions for “Nashville Skyline”  and the phenomenal pedal steel player, Pete Drake. Pete was a first call session player on Nashville Country sessions that became known for his work on “Lay Lady Lay” as well the George Harrison’ “All Things Must Pass” album as well as Producing Ringo Starr’s “Beaucoups of “Blues” .  Greg Leisz work is prominently featured on “New York City’s Killing Me” and the title cut. The record debuts this week at number three on Billboard.

Trace Adkins’ new disc, “Cowboy’s Back in Town” debuts at number five on the national Billboard charts showing his strong audience pull beyond “The Apprentice”.  In a way Trace Adkins, although part of this generations Country Music, represents traditionally Country with his every man and ”what you see is what you get” type persona. He is one of the crop of newer artists that is defining himself much in the way the original icons such as Johnny Cash were able to do.

Lady Antebellum

Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” has gone beyond the country charts with the right pick of material and masterful production and presentation.  “Need You Now”, co-written by Lady Antebellum and Josh Kear spent five weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs, before going #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 is now certified triple platinum  and can be heard on just about every radio format. The single has been in the top five on International Charts in Canada, Ireland and Norway as well as a top ten hit in the Netherlands and Norway.  I don’t know of anybody that doesn’t know that song. Again, the pedal steel lick on the chorus is as important as the vocal delivery. I can hear it in my head right now. The follow up singles “American Honey”, “I Run to You” and “Our Kind of Love” have continued the chart topping success.

John at Sun, Memphis

John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett were right on with “No Better Than This”.  The first week on Billboard that album enters at Number 10 in all its ragged glory. “No Better Than This” was recorded in much the same way as Sam Phillips recorded early tracks at Sun Studios by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. A vintage mono Ampex Reel to Reel fed by a vintage solo RCA ribbon mic figure in a big way in the Sonics of this album. This features great songs by John Mellencamp being heard on rock, pop and country radio.  The single “Coming Down the Road” being played locally as part of their “Americana Files” on WSM 650, “The Home of Country Music”. If you didn’t know it was a new cut by John Mellencamp you would swear it was an obscure but great track recorded at Sun back in 1956 that is now just coming to light. John will be a part of the Americana Music Awards being held in Nashville being held on September 9th at The Ryman Auditorium.

Americana Music, in general, is the new underground. It doesn’t even have its own chart on Billboard yet. WSM 650 in Nashville is paying attention and participating big time with hosting the “Music City Roots” show at The Loveless Barn every Wednesday night. In times like these, with people searching for jobs and worrying about the future, sometimes the familiarity of Country songs themes and the roots of Americana and Folk that go back to the days of The Carter Family are a way of easing and soothing our troubled minds.

- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Robert Plant and Buddy Miller pre "Band of Joy"

The Led Zeppelin world might find it strange as Robert Plant’s world revolves more and more around life in Tennessee whether it be Memphis or Nashville.

It has been going on for quite a while. You will find Robert’s picture at The Loveless Cafe, maybe some local Guitar shop in Mississippi or a Blues Cd store on Beale Street.

As for us residents, we are enjoying the music. The work he did with T Bone Burnette and the subsequent tour with Allison Krauss that featured Buddy Miller on guitar was a great success.

Robert has already cut one song with Buddy Miller on”Written in Chalk” which was number two as one of the best CD’s of 2009 as voted by local critics at Nashville Scene. Buddy Miller recorded the touring band with he and Robert trading vocal duties on “What You  Gonna Do Leroy” somewhere backstage during that tour. It could be a preview of what the “Band of Joy” project may be about.

Track 4, Robert and Buddy, pre Band of Joy

Led Zeppelin did so much to preserve the work of so many blues greats such as Memphis Minnie. It is great that Robert is still exploring the music of the south.

Although a Led Zeppelin reunion would be on my bucket list. It’s fine with me that he is hanging out at Buddy’s house coming up with some new harmonies and new takes on regional music.

Besides, who can beat the biscuits at Loveless Cafe?  Robert, if you haven’t bought a house here yet, I think it is about time.

- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

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