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Darrell Scott at Grimey's, Jan. 31, 2012

Darrell Scott celebrated the release of Long Ride Home, what he describes as his most Country album to date with an in-store appearance at Grimey’s on January 31st. Darrell Scott  who has been nominated for a Grammy three times as well as collaborating with writers such as Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Guy Clark, was enjoying a rocking duet in the rear of the store.

Darrell reminisced about working with his father in his teens back in California saying that two of the songs on the CD were written on a retreat to Big Bear in The San Bernardino Mountains with his Dad when he was sixteen. The two tracks, “The Country Boy” and “You’re Everything I Wanted Love to Be,” have that pure California Country swagger having been written before mechanical bulls and Urban Cowboy.

On a personal note, this work could not have come at a more important time. After the completion of the project, Wayne Scott was the victim of a car accident in Corbin, Kentucky on November 25th, 2011. The project became a loving tribute to his father and the musical heritage that has been passed on from father to son.

Having been able to hear the new songs with a full band at Station Inn a few months back, it was exciting to hear the final work, probable his most collaborative yet, working with his long time percussionist Kenny Malone as well as Patty Griffin and Guy Clark to name a few.

In the midst of The Band of Joy tour, I had the opportunity to interview Darrell, not wanting to go after the obvious, “How is it working with Robert Plant?” question, I decided to look at where Darrell was at working as a “utility” player, a man with all kinds of string instruments, a gun slinger.  It reminded him of how it was playing in his Dad, Wayne Scott’s band back in the Inland Empire of California.

That interview turned out to be a harbinger of his next album, returning to his roots, turning full circle. The article was set to publish in a national publication but was cut before publication at the end of 2010.  In a way, the article fits more what Darrell did with this project even more than what he did with Robert Plant.

I now present the never before published work.

Darrell Scott: From California Honky Tonks to Band of Joy

            Darrell Scott was back in Nashville for some down time from touring with the Robert Plant project Band of Joy named after the band Robert and John Bonham were a part of before starting Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page.

Brad Hardisty: Are you working on some song demos since you’re back at home?

Darrell Scott: I should be but with the tour and everything, I just can’t think about it right now.

BH: You don’t get much of a chance to be the sideman?

DS: I am so busy with my own songs that I’ll play for friends but that is about it.

Darrell had been touring solo in support of his recent release A Crooked Road, a collection of personal post cards about family, his children, and relationships. It was a personal effort by a well known Nashville songwriter that has written songs that have been recorded by a diverse roster of performers.

BH: Your songwriting has that real depth to it, reminds me of Jimmy Webb (“Galveston”, “Wichita Lineman”)

DS: Oh definitely, my two favorite writers are Jimmy Webb and Guy Clark, but I like all kinds of well written Country, Pop, whatever.

Darrell has had dozens of songs recorded by Major Artists. In fact the song “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” a tribute to songwriter, Harlan Howard was recorded by several different artists including Brad Paisley, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Red Molly and even former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist, Zakk Wylde.

Darrell was born on a Tobacco Farm in London, Kentucky, the son of Wayne Scott who passed down a love of Country Music. After a few economic based moves Darrell’s family settled down in an area known as “The Inland Empire”, San Bernardino County just 60 miles east of Los Angeles but a world away from the Sunset Strip and glitz of Hollywood where back in the day there were still remnants of Nashville West.

DS: I played Honky Tonks, Bowling Alleys whatever in my teens. A lot of times we were the backing band for Country Artists that were traveling the circuit like Ernest Tubb (The Texas Troubador) or we were the headlining band.

BH: A lot of people don’t realize all the Country Music that came out of California.

DS: Yeah, I mean all those people that came out from Oklahoma and the south for work brought the music with them.

BH: So you were gigging a lot?

DS: I would end up sitting at the Pedal Steel with a Telecaster in my lap.

BH: A lot of music gear in Country music came out of California.

DS: Leo Fender, the Telecaster and his Electric Steel Guitars. Then there was Paul Bigsby (The Bigsby Vibrato), Mosrite (guitar builder for Joe Maphis) and even the Dobro Company was out in California, Guy Clark worked for Dobro.

Darrell was a “Nashville Triple Threat” before he moved to Tennessee, developing his skills as a Performer, Musician and Songwriter. He had an unreleased New York Singer/Songwriter album done that his label never released before deciding to move to Nashville

BH: So how did you end up in Nashville?

DS: My wife was as a school teacher, I figured I could keep the music going and housing was cheap. I really didn’t want to move here at the time, but, it was the logical decision.

Darrell brought a lot to the table when he moved to Nashville in 1991, becoming a go to session musician and stellar songwriting. Eventually he was able to re-record the never released New York album thirteen years later. Theater of the Unheard garnered Album of the Year at the 2005 Independent Music Awards.

B H: I know Robert Plant spends a lot of time in Nashville. Did you know him before joining the Band of Joy project?

D S: No I didn’t. In fact he had never heard of me. Buddy Miller made the recommendation and Robert wanted to hear me play before making a decision. They flew out to San Francisco to see my set at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (Oct 4, 2009 at 11AM on the Banjo Stage).

BH: On Band of Joy you’re kind of like Dave Lindsey “the utility guy” that can play anything with strings.

DS: I didn’t know what to bring, so I brought everything including my fretless Banjo and Accordion. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. We just had a short time booked over at Woodland Studios (in East Nashville) to see what would happen.

BH: A couple of the tracks especially “House of Cards” and “Central Two-O-Nine” remind me of Led Zeppelin III.

DS: I wouldn’t know. I don’t know much about Led Zeppelin. When I play it’s my own interpretation. It is what I would do.

BH: That reminds me of when Jerry Lee Lewis was recording “Rock and Roll” for Last Man Standing, Jimmy Page tried to tell Jerry Lee he was playing the rhythm wrong and he said this is the way I play it. He had never heard the Lep Zeppelin song before.  The band is playing some Led Zeppelin on this tour; I always loved “Tangerine”

DS: Yes, we’re playing “Tangerine” and “Misty Mountain Hop”. But, we are playing a lot of different things live. We really are becoming a band out on the road. I mean the album experience was phenomenal, but, we are really becoming a great band.

BH: It reminds me of how Led Zeppelin really gelled on the road and you can tell the difference between the first two Led Zeppelin albums. Are there any plans for another album?

DS: No, no plans. It could happen but who knows. Robert is a moving target; he doesn’t like to look back. He is always thinking forward.

Darrell seemed excited to get back out on the road with Robert Plant/Band of Joy, having gone full circle he is back at the pedal steel with a Telecaster cradled in his lap just like playing with his Dad and his brothers back in California. The only difference is that he is touring the world with Robert Plant and the cream of the crop of current Songwriter/Musicians from Nashville, Tennessee.

BH: So when you’re done what’s next?

DS: I have been working on a couple of projects and it could go either way. I have wanted to do a classic country album pre-70’s style, but, I also have a songwriter album done.

BH: If you had to describe Band of Joy what would that be?

DS: Two words, Buddy Miller and organic. The thing was totally organic. If it had not come together it would not have happened. There was no strategy. We had such a short window and it was incredible.

Buddy Miller put together a band to support Robert Plant in his current musical path. Darrell is leaving this weekend for another six weeks of touring with a planned stateside return of Band of Joy next year. Darrell enjoys being a part of such an original sounding band, a master musician, songwriter and performer in his own right, the future is wide open and full of promise.

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

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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

Okay, after reading about the 180 degree turn taken by Robert Plant from the anticipated follow up of “Raising Sand”, I was a little anxious to listen and look at what was wrought in East Nashville these last few months by Mr. Plant at the venerable Woodland Studios.  The studio where Bob Dylan recorded “Nashville Skyline” is now privately owned by musical artists David Rawlings (The Dave Rawlings Machine) and Gillian Welch.

As I opened up the CD, it reminded me of Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Written in Chalk” that turned a CD booklet into a little hard back book with a good 30 minutes worth of reading and photos to help guide you into the world created in Miller’s living room.

The design in this case was by Robert Plant with a look of crinkled muted blue pages and an illustrated clown that looked like something out of Ringling Brother’s Circus circa 1900.  The booklet features easy to read lyrics of songs by Los Lobos, Richard Thompson, and Townes Van Zandt with a little Uncle Dave Macon to go.

Robert Plant & Buddy Miller

Buddy Miller brought the house band together from some of the finest in Nashville featuring vocalist Patty Griffin and multi instrumentalist Darrell Scott who played the role of David Lindley on this sublime outing. If anyone were looking for a mirror reflection to the past, it would be found in guest vocalist, Bekka Bramlett who is featured on tracks one and two. If pinged back almost 30 years, you would find her mother

Backstage with Bonnie, Alabama Theater, 2007

 Bonnie Bramlett recording as Delaney and Bonnie in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with guitarist Eric Clapton in the early Seventies. Eric Clapton, as you probably know, shared the same slot Jimmy Page eventually did in The Yardbirds.

So if you look at it this way, “Band of Joy” which was named in honor of the band Robert and future Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham played in before the storm is in a way a Hebraic chiasm. The CD encompasses in the end what was in the beginning.  A Hebraic Chiasm reinforces the truth of a doctrine by repeating the doctrine at the end of the verse in reverse much like a mirror reflection. It can be found all over the Old Testament and it can be found in the song choices of this CD.

Darrell Scott

Robert starts the CD with the song “Angel Dance” written by Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and Louis Perez which lovingly refers to children as angels among the daily chaos, “Tomorrow will bring us a brand new day, We can run and play”, while at the end of the CD comes “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” a traditional black hymn where Robert sings with banjo to the front and Patty Griffin on Backing vocals “I’m gonna shout ‘til they tear your kingdom down, Shout ‘til they tear your kingdom down, I heard the voice of Jesus Christ say, Satan your kingdom must come down”, finally ending the album with a plaintive start of Robert’s voice and a John Bonham type groove snare drum on Theodore Tilton’s “Even This Shall Pass Away” with the final lines comes a hint of the eternal truth, “Life is done so what is death?, Then in answer to the king, Fell a sunbeam on his ring, Blinding light through fading grey: Even this shall pass away.”

Patty Griffin

As a setup to Act 3, Robert obviously brings out a little Tom Petty with a beautiful duet featuring Patty Griffin on Townes Van Zandt’s “Harm’s Swift Way” in the reflecting lines “Time will go it never stays, Memory locked in her passing, Try, oh try to cling to her, Until she becomes everlasting.”

In the middle of all this Robert spoke about wanting to not only bring about the jam sound of the original Band of Joy but also the mood of Led Zeppelin III that featured “Tangerine”.  You don’t have to go any further than tracks two and three. The Zeppelin groove is there on “House of Cards” and the Robert Plant and Buddy Miller penned obvious ode to Led Zep III, “Central Two-O-Nine”.

Don’t get too comfortable, the next song may be a compass that leads Bono and U2 to Nashville for the next release after the disconnect of their previous outing. “Silver Rider” while reminding me of Englishman Terry Reid starts out sonically something akin to The Edge playing through one of T Bone Burnett’s old amps with worn out tubes and capacitors and rust smoothing out the long delay follow. Robert’s hushed duet style with Patty Griffin is the closest track vocally to “Raising Sand” on the disc but sung over a “U2-American scenic highway” stretch. Robert has found more sweet spots in his vocal range and style the last couple of years.

Okay, next up is definitely a tribute to The Beatles with a fairly unknown song by Billy and Bobby Babineaux titled “You Can’t Buy My Love” written as a response to “Can’t Buy Me Love”. That type of response song was common in Blues and Country up till about the mid 60’s.

Rather than move forward time wise, Robert stays in the mid 60’s and brings it back to Tennessee with the absolutely crossed Memphis Soul and Nashville Pedal Steel with a Gospel Quartet on “Falling in Love Again” that would make Elvis and The Stamps proud. I don’t really know if there ever was a song quite done this way with such a perfect half way point on I-40 between Nashville and Memphis. I know that if Elvis could hear it, he would be proud. I would say this is the most unique blend since Otis Redding and Duane Allman’s all-nighter at Muscle Shoals Sound that ended up with a complete retake on “Hey Jude” that beget Southern Rock.

If Randy Travis sang “The Only Sound That Matters” it would be on Country radio coast to coast but Plant makes it his own realizing that “Americana Music” means be yourself and it doesn’t hurt to be different in a genre that is what San Francisco was in the Sixties with its mix of Folk, Blues and just throw in some Graham Parsons for Cosmic Cowboy sake.

Robert pulls back towards the trance rock he was doing before Allison Krauss with the”  Tomorrow Never Knows” bloom of “Monkey”. It can be said that Robert was doing an album in Nashville without trying to be controlled by Americana’s boundaries or worrying if every track would fit in a corporately controlled radio structure. This is a low decibel duet with Patty Griffin over the non machine groove of real musicians sharing a communal vibe.

Uncle Dave Macon

Before ending the song cycle, Robert digs way back to the origins of Americana and dusts off Uncle Dave Macon’s “Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday”. There is an added twist with the line “Come all the way from England, to steal your pretty hand”, somehow Robert is now in the traditional Appalachian tune with its roots in Scottish pub music, an Englishman would definitely be an outsider. This is a sparser offering instead of the drive and clogging codas from those early 78’s.

There is enough Led Zeppelin, Trance, Cosmic Cowboy and Americana for anybody to dig in and find something tasty. Just like the restaurants in Nashville that range from good Southern Fried Chicken and corn bread, to regional “Hot Chicken” and the Indian and Egyptian Buffets that form the melting pot of not only Nashville in 2010 but also this fine album that will be a shot heard around the world. You can do anything in Nashville. If you have lost your Mojo, try the capital of not only Country Music but songwriting and publishing, Music City.  Nashville is a vast mine of gems and Robert Plant has brought forth a well worn diamond with his co-pilot Buddy Miller and the rest of the crew in East Nashville.

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