Gone fishing

If you are feeling up to it, feel free to write a country song about me:  Living in the swampy, hot south, plagued by severe storms and tornadoes.  Lost a tooth (trust me it’s a story you don’t want to hear).  Lost my man.  Am all bruised up (related more to the tooth and not at all to the man).  I’m hanging it up for a while.  Sitting on the porch, sippin’ whiskey and watching the lightning and the fireflies until I’m calm and life doesn’t feel like a utter disaster.  Hiatus.  Summer vacation.  Mental health break.

In the meantime there’s some new albums you should be listening too: Continue reading

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Not exactly an interview or a review, but full of love

A night that ends with Jon Snodgrass (of Drag the River) singing for you is a very good night indeed. Even better if he is actually singing live for you and not just playing on the old Ipod.

Jon had a quick layover on his way to Memphis to play with Cory Branan (a show that I could not attend, no I don’t want to talk about it, I might cry). [Seriously, we need to find a way to supplement our income so that we can pursue our rock star lifestyle because the day job thing is getting old. What gives, universe?—Daisy] We met up for drinks with a couple other friends. [Which I could not attend. No, I’m not at all bitter, why do you ask?—Daisy] There wasn’t time for a podcast or really even a formal interview but I did learn a few things about Jon, about myself and about the world. Here they are in no particular order: Continue reading

Gleeful Willie love!

On every blog like this one, my fellow twang geeks are all a-chatter about Naked Willie. I’ve been beating myself up all week, worrying about reviewing it, about what clever things I might say that would make you go buy the album. I mean who am I to judge these songs and review their quality? It’s Willie Nelson for Pete’s sake!

And then I realized… Continue reading

There was some holy shaking indeed

Two Irishmen walk into my bar – wait, this is not a joke! Or maybe it is in some surrealist way. So, two Irishmen walk into my bar and I end up in barn at 3 am, drinking grape soda and triple sec from a coffee cup. Yes, yes, my life is actually more like a circus than the average American dream. I know. But, the upshot is the fantastic music I get to hear, and let’s just ignore the painful downside of a grape soda and triple sec hangover.

Sipping fuzzy grape liquor in that barn, I heard some songs that made my knees weak. Songs that soared far above the barn, the crap drink, and the late night, to shower back down in a sound that was ramshackle good. Songs so new they will not be heard for a while yet. But do not drown in your envy just yet! All hope is not lost!! Because there was an album before which has been melting my heart and cleansing my soul and soothing my hideous grape soda induced headache (surely it was the soda and not the liquor). Gavin Glass and the Holy Shakers.

Here at HCT I am mostly just a giddy and gleeful spaz about music I like. I have considered filling my posts with endless anecdotes of how music matches and shapes the endless saga of my doomed relationships. Or I could tie everything back to the glory and wonder that is East Nashville, the pumping, bleeding, broken heart of Music City. But I generally try to restrain myself from filling your head with these unnecessary poetics, but sometimes it seems impossible. Gavin Glass is making it impossible today. Don’t blame this on the hideous grape soda concoction, oh, no this is all inspired by Gavin Glass’s words and music.

East Nashville is a magnificent and mysterious place. A place where anything that can happen. Sure Glass is from Dublin, and was only in town for 7 days to lay down some tracks, but it is the strange magic of East Nashville that led me to be sitting there in that barn with him. It is through that peculiar alchemy of East Nashville, and the places it takes me and the things it brings, that I am now listening to the Holy Shakers on repeat.

There’s got to be a special name for this sound. What do you call Americana, roots rock that is Irish? Since traditional Irish music is the bones of old time music, which is arguably the nervous system of modern country (sorry, that metaphor does suck), if you take those bones, those nerves and return them to the land of their birth and remake the influences of the influences, do you then have something Frankensteinian and yet cleanly reborn? Yes indeed. And even if it isn’t exactly new, it’s fresh, crisp, smart and very fulfilling. Or at least it’s all those things if it’s Gavin Glass and the Holy Shakers.

It could be, and probably has been, said that there is something vaguely Ryan Adamsesque about this album. Though I think it is more Whiskeytown, Wilco, and Elvis (both Presley and Costello). It is an album that is lyrically pretty spectacular and I think because of that you can’t resist the Ryan Adams comparison (even from me who would smite Mr. Adams if she could).

The album opens with “Underneath the Stars” which is a very smooth Alt.country song, ready for radio with its slidey opening guitar and the crescendo of horns at the end and yet there’s a Springsteen undercurrent here that saves it from sounding to clean. “Some days pull on your heart strings/drag you into the fire of burned out desire/messy situations, undone obligations, you are crying like a child who did no wrong” sings Glass, and immediately he has me. This is a song about losing your way when you didn’t know where you were going to begin with. It’s about having forgotten who you are and finding yourself again when you realize love is gone. Or maybe it isn’t about that at all. But every second of this song feels to me like that day you wake up and realize you’ve been with the wrong person, in the wrong time and place, and now you are fucked, but somehow much, much freer for having finally realized it. And now you set out to start all over again.

There’s a definite old time jazziness to “Sweet Ophelia”, both in the instrumentation and the incredible backing vocals. “Ragdoll” is faintly twangy, sweet and strangely sentimental kiss-off song. It has a gorgeous duet with Cathy Davey. It’s a beautifully done tale of the guy walking away, and yet the girl gets her sweet and sassy word in, too. I’m not even exactly sure what “Red Dress” is about but I know it makes me swoon in a girly way, secretly wishing that I had a red dress and some boy would sing this song about me. It contains some nifty guitar riffs that might knock that red dress right off, too. “Jukebox Rag” is filled with bright, hilly, twangily cheerful banjos, mandolins and thumpy, toe-tappin’ on the porch rhythms. “Older Than My Years” is swelled and filled with delicious keyboard sounds and the rest of the band echoing the guitar line that so neatly reiterates the sense of loss and pain in this song. “This constellation spells your name” runs through “Intention” and I feel ripped open like I’m reminded of why I got every tattoo on my body and how I felt at exactly the moment I realized that some new love wasn’t love at all. The beginning of “Silently Mine” has a slow, steady, mellow rock start which slides into some grandly Hawaiian steel guitar just as Glass sings about “the queen of broken-hearted fools” (do I even need to explain why I like that line?).

The harmonica that opens “Southern Comfort” sets the song in the sweaty, deep South, until Glass’s vocals delightfully rock you back to Dublin. This song could be cheesy, with it’s drinking metaphors and yet something holds it back, perhaps the instrumentation here, or the fact that by track 6 I am so completely smitten with Glass’s lyrics and singing that I may no longer be thinking clearly. Much like when I drink too much whiskey. Not surprisingly the combination of the two words ‘smitten’ and ‘whiskey’ is how I ended up with most of my worst boyfriends. Luckily for me Gavin Glass is here to write songs to remind me of the good and the bad of those relationships, and make me feel like I’ve risen from the ashes. “Southern Comfort” ends with a round of “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” which sneaks the Soul sound into the song and somehow completely validates my love for Glass.

The hellfire sermon at the end of “Wrecking Ball” is itself damn spectacular, though the song could stand on its own without it. This is a swinging rock song and the drums drive your heart up as they rise, the backing vocals here have driven in from the 60s to remind us of rock ‘n roll when the gloss wasn’t yet worn off yet, and you could fall forever into the sound of a song. The horns make me want to hit the Stax CD collections as soon as I am done listening to these fine, fine Holy Shakers. The horns slow down, the choir comes up and we spin into that hellfire sermon, sounding like it’s coming across radio waves from 70 years in the past.

Wow, that was one of the more self indulgent reviews I’ve ever written, and you know that’s saying something, since self indulgent is all I do when it comes to music. I feel like I need a smoke after that. And some whiskey. And maybe another listen to Gavin Glass and the Holy Shakers. I’m sure I wasn’t convincing here, but that’s okay, you check out Glass on his Myspace page and give some of the songs a listen yourself, then head to iTunes and buy ’em. And forthcoming is Gavin Glass and the Sacred Thorns (the tracks I heard in the barn studio), when it arrives I will surely let you know with as much spastic excitement as I can muster. And y’all know I can muster quite a lot.

It includes porn, but not what you are expecting

Wrinkle Neck MulesThe Wicks Have Met

Now this is how I like my country music. Despite the questionable band name, Wrinkle Neck Mules are a talented 5 piece from Richmond that, like most country bands I enjoy, dabble in folk, bluegrass, and rock. The entire album is littered with mandolin, pedal steel and banjo played amazingly well. The instrumentation here is full and detailed but never takes away from the whole of the songs themselves (even if “Black Skies for the High & Mighty” is the band’s self described ‘mando porn’).

It might simply be the genres that lend themselves so well to this type of rich arrangement but it’s one of the band’s strongest talents. On the easy going “Cadillac Limousine” the pedal steel and mandolin help turn an otherwise laid back, pretty song into something of a masterpiece that makes me want to take a long ass drive to I-don’t-give-a-fuck, USA.
With Andy Stepanian and Chase Heard writing the majority of material you also get two singers who I appreciate equally (though I prefer the whiskey growl of what I believe to be Stepanian). Both singers suit the material and other than the vocals I probably couldn’t-or wouldn’t want to-differentiate between the two as writers. These songs are dark in their lyrics but get yanked back from the gloom by the dichotomy of the intensely bright arrangements. The music seems to represent some kind of hopefulness punching through the nature of the words.

The band’s opening track, “Bells & Whistles” immediately brought to mind Steve Earle’s, “Copperhead Road” with what I first assumed was a jumpy piano and only later realized was mandolin. My favorite pick, “Cumberland Sound”, could have come straight out of the songbook of Drive By Trucker’s Mike Cooley. The entire album varies in tempo and pace and all the while maintains a sense of unity among the songs, perhaps because of that duality of bright and dark used throughout. The raucous opener and equally uptempo closer,”Broken Rider”, bookend the album fairly well considering the wealth of variety within. While there are just one or two clunkers, this is a country album made for those of you who can’t stand a Nashville shit sandwich.

The more I listen to this the more I love it. I want to get in my truck right now and just go.

Gravelly. Politics and/or drinking. You can choose.

Ryan PurcellKick The Dirt

This might sound stupid but when I go to a bar I want to hear songs about a bar. I want to hear whiskey and beer and screwin’ around with dangerous women. I want a soundtrack, really. On Kick The Dirt Ryan Purcell manages to give me some of that wrapped up in a lengthy nine tracks. Like I said, Purcell only gives me some of that. Half of these songs are about drinkin’ and women, the other half about politics.

The first song, “Guantanamo”, nearly put me off because of the sarcastic nature of the lyrics but I stuck around for the rest because of Purcell’s gravelly voice (nearly every singer I like sounds like emphysema amplified) and I’m glad I did. The second and third song here are sweaty, drunk, country blues bar band music. I swear I thought Faces were playing when I first heard “Palmer’s Pickup Blues”. Purcell himself even sounds like Rod Stewart momentarily. Another one I really enjoy, “Enough”, continues in the same vein with a little Neil Young influence. If I knew dick about chords and notes I could probably figure out if he was ripping off “Alabama” or not.

I prefer Purcell’s drinkin songs to the political stuff although the final track, “The Decider”, is a politically charged punk song straight out of left field about the goings on right now in our government. Normally I avoid music and politics but the final lines sum up exactly how I feel about the hypocritical dissent going on in America right now. People seem to forget who they voted for. [Interestingly, I think you wrote this before the recent election, and yet, the above is no less true.-Cric][It was written during Bush’s tenure, yes.–Mick]

The gruff voice is the charm for me but musically these songs are solid numbers with this sort of melancholic-but-functionally-drunk thought process. After looking at his MySpace, Purcell is a parallel to John Eddie in a way. A proficiently capable rock’n’roller in his forties, singin’ about things dissatisfied guys sing about. From Purcell’s own site, “here’s a collection of songs that make you wonder why it is you’re drinking and if you are then why the hell aren’t you at the very least drinking with friends.”

Yep.

[I fucking love the political songs here. Purcell is from my neck of the woods, so maybe we are all just really folk singing hippies on the West Coast, who knows. Also, speaking for the ladies, Purcell’s voice is kind of honky tonk sex. Makes you think of waking up in strange room, hearing the shower, noticing cowboy boots that aren’t yours tumbled on the floor and instantly regretting what you don’t remember about the night before.–Cricket]