Archives for category: Rounder Records

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

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Carolina Chocolate Drops

Americana Music Festival update. There will be an awards show on Thursday September 9th which will feature Buddy Miller and an all-star band, along with other diverse guests such as Carolina Chocolate Drops, Emmylou HarrisThe Avett Brothers, Wanda Jackson and on and on. That will be at The Mother Church – The Ryman Auditorium starting at 6:30. The party will be all over town from September 8th through September 11th.

Elizabeth Cook at Grand Ole Opry

Elizabeth Cook will be at Station Inn on Wed. night at 9PM. Her song, “It Takes Balls To Be a Woman” should have been number one on country radio. No doubt her husband Tim Carroll, a phenomenal writer in his own right will be playing with her band.

There will even be an Exile on Main Street tribute going on at The Cannery Ballroom at 10:30 on the first day of the festival. It looks like I am going to have to tank up because I am going to be skipping from place to place.  It  is really cool how Americana is really taking on a wider view as time goes on.

Wanda and The King

Speaking of the Punk Scene, Exene Cervanka will be live at The Basement at 11PM which I want to really see, but this slot seems to be the big one all over town, competing with Australian guitarist  Tommy Emmanuel, not just any guitarist; being given the title C.G.P. by none other than Chet Atkins playing at The Rutledge and Wanda Jackson at Mercy Lounge all at the same time. This is like Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors. How can I decide?  If I had to judge by line up on Thursday it would be the one-two-three punch of Dale Watson, Wanda Jackson and The Dex Romweber Duo at Mercy Lounge

Talk about a line up. If I had to bet where Nashvillian Jack White will be if he is home, it will be at that show. He did do a single this past year on his Third Man Records of Dex Romweber Duo. There Cd on Bloodshot Records is fantastic.

Peter Case

I have not even got to Friday. I’ll just mention a couple, go to the schedule for the rest. Peter Case at 11pm at The Basement, Charlie Louvin of The Louvin Brothers (you can’t get more old school than that. You are almost going to back to The Carter Family) at The Rutledge at 10PM, Jim Lauderdale, the True King of Country Music today. In 2008 he did an album featuring Ronnie Tutt and James Burton from Elvis’ Band much like Graham Parsons did back in the 70’s. Everything he does is quality stuff at The Mercy Lounge at 10PM followed by the new trend in country music, new country indie artist, Shelby Lynne.

Saturday will cap off the weeks festivities with a few major stand outs, John Carter Cash, who has chosen to go the traditional route in the vein of his ancestors The Carter Family, playing at The Rutledge at 10PM. One of the greatest writers, Tony Joe White at Mercy Lounge at 11Pm.

Todd Snider

I only touched on a few of the artists performing during the four-day period, but, if you haven’t booked a flight yet, you should. It is going to be one heck of a party next week. I hope to get a few interviews, reviews and pics for The Nashville Bridge. Hope to see  you there.

– 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

Sun Studio: 3 Musicians and a Microphone

I read about this postcard from Memphis created by John Mellencamp almost a year ago. I waited patiently for many long months for the release of this T Bone Burnett – Produced, Sun Studio bequeathed gem with none other than  Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Dwight Yoakum) on Bass.  

It could have gone either way. His previous efforts with T Bone Burnett left me kind of underwhelmed. I got my email newsletter from Grimey’s this week with a new CD from John Mellencamp. It was there in the store and now it is pay day. I couldn’t find the dang thing. Oh, with a little help from the staff we found it, i n big letters NO BETTER THAN THIS, then in small caps, Thirteen New Songs by John Mellencamp.

The liner notes tell the whole story of this masterful idea, recorded at Sun with nothing but an Ampex 601 1/4 inch reel to reel fed by a RCA 44 ribbon microphone. One Microphone like the old Elvis and Johnny Cash recordings. There were a few others recorded at some other historic locations added to this southern stew. I always know when it is T Bone at the helm. He seems to have studied an Old 56 tube Seeburg Jukebox tone with its slowly expanded bass response feeling the room and decided that was his line in the sand. Sometimes it is brilliant such as the Robert Plant – Allison Krauss, “Raising Sand” or the “Crazy Heart” Soundtrack other times it doesn’t seem to work right like the last Robert Randolph and Jakob Dylan discs.

This disc is in the Premier Group. It sounds great. There are going to be plenty of Classic country and Rockabilly artists, I think, that will clamor to try this. As the CD slid out of a cover that looks like an old 78 rpm book that would hold 4 or 5 records well-worn and hid away, the disc started out a little guarded, “Save Some Time To Dream” sounds like the next track on the “Crazy Heart” soundtrack but with an easily recognizable John Mellencamp penned song.

Things start to get more interesting on track 3, “Right Behind Me” recorded at The Gunter Hotel, Room 414, San Antonio, Texas where Robert Johnson recorded his first 2 sides “Terraplane Blues” and “Dust My Broom”. It has a haunting feel to it with a violin that sounds like it just got dusted off from 1929 walking around the room in a couple of positions.  This is getting good.

It only gets better. Lyrically, it is introspective and reminiscing,  “For my whole life, I’ve lived down on West End, But it sure has changed here, Since I was a kid, It’s worse now, Look what progress did, Someone lined their pockets, I don’t know who that is”- The West End, John Mellencamp.  In “Thinking About You” the first lines, “It’s not my nature to be nostalgic at all, I sat by the phone last night, Waiting for you to call, It’s been decades since I spoke to you.” Set a mood that is not just nostalgic in sound but looking back into the dust of those who came before.

It had to be life changing to not only record in those spots but to try to use the same methods and sonics. Dave Roe was the perfect pick. He was recently interviewed by Rolling Stone after the Nashville Flood where he disclosed he lost 300 Basses at the Soundcheck Facility to the surging water. This was recorded well before that . For all I know the Bass he used on this recording may have been lost at that time.

go to Daveroe.net to see some shots from the session

Dave has a couple of stand out tracks with the Johnny Cash style arrangement of “Thinking About You” and the boogie woogie of “Each Day of Sorrow”. Two of my favorites. When it really gets into the trio with a little drum sound that was Johnny and the Tennessee Two or, Elvis, Scotty and Bill, it totally works. Where was DJ Fontana? T Bone you should have called him up.  T Bone you did well, easily John’s best album in years. It’s not perfect. It drags in a couple of spots when it sounds like a late 60’s guitar and vocal demo in search of some Artist or Producer.

If you like this one, check out “Kitty, Daisy and Lewis”. This was recorded by an English family with Lewis overseeing vintage gear and cutting it to a 78 lathe.   

Job well done, 8 out of 10.  Let’s hope this inspires some more of cutting everything analog before it goes to digital so it has some sound waves that are pleasant to the ear.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN