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November 2007 Newsletter
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Yesterday & Today Records
The year ends and there are so many great releases herein that I’d almost declare it the best newsletter I’ve had. It may very well be the last as well, but as I used to say in my previous career “nothing is certain on the waterfront” and nothing is certain here as well. It has been just shy of 19 years and it doesn’t get easier. It is like the old adage “between a rock and a hard place” in that there have never been a better lot of artists than there are now: Dale Watson, Justin Trevino, Amber Digby, Ron Williams etc yet the major label music scene is, for a lack of a better word stuffed. Yet some people are impossible to convince. Some people refuse to take anything but the CMT route. It wouldn’t matter if I said Ron Williams’ is the best cd I have had this year and is right up there with the best ever of Mark Chesnutt, Keith Whitley and co. If you watch CMT and enjoy it then I will sell you a share in the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you watch it and question its merit we have the answers for you. Please read on.
Ron Williams – “Texas Style” $32 If anything beats this as album of the year I will be very surprised. This is Ron’s second cd and whilst the first was superb on the ballads it suffered on the up-tempo songs as they sounded contrived and “radio friendly” (in other words paper thin throwaways). This, on the other hand is a rare album where there is not one weak moment. For the uninitiated, Ron is the son of Leona Williams and has had the advantage of being positively influenced by two step fathers in Merle Haggard and the great songwriter, Dave Kirby. Indeed the latter’s influence is such that Ron has contributed 3 top songs. There are only 2 songs bound to fall into the overly familiar category in “Playboy” and “Somewhere Between”. The latter is performed as a duet with mother Leona and may be the best version yet. That is also in part due to the input of Justin Trevino, who gets my award as the single most talented person in country music today. Justin keeps things as tight as they can be with the great Bobby Flores on fiddle and Johnny Cox on steel providing great interplay with the lead guitar of Dave Biller and Ron Huckaby on piano. The rhythm section of Justin on bass and Jim Loessberg on drums should be taken as a template for every country music album to be recorded in the future. None of the repulsive Lonnie Wilson style bashings that murder Nashville recordings. The album opens with “I Would Have Loved You All Night Long”, which was previously recorded by Doug Supernaw and as good as that was, Ron manages to do a better job. Even a Whitey Shafer song “Where Are All the Girls I Used to Cheat With”, which is a classic on the Keith Whitley “Sad Songs & Waltzes album loses nothing in comparison. Ron’s voice is a little like Whitley’s but with its own subtle nuances. “There’s One on Every Jukebox” in town is a great new Brian Burns songs whilst “This Time We’re Gonna Make It” is by Justin Trevino and Darrell McCall’s daughter, Guyanne, which is performed as duet with Ron’s sister Cathy Lee. Ron’s own “The Best Man” stands up with anything on the album. He is the best man at a wedding with the bride being the love of his life. Conversational in style, it just doesn’t get any better. Superb phrasing, great chorus, perfect accompaniment. Amazing album. An amazing voice and a superb collection of songs.
Justin Trevino – “Take One as Needed for Pain” $30 Great man himself! Just when you commit yourself something else comes along and almost makes you wish you’d been a bit more reserved. Justin has given us so many benchmark albums both as a producer and a performer that there should be a place for him in the Hall of Fame. Only trouble is it used to be possible to give him a call. Yes, he even talks to me. But now it is just about impossible to get him; he is in so much demand. Yet he remains totally unassuming, down to earth, funny (self deprecating humour and all), a great human being even if he never played or sang another note. This time he has a couple of special guests. “Whispering” Bill Anderson joins Justin for a top version of his “I’ll Go Down Swinging” but the other guest will excite those in the loop even more. It is none other than the great Heather Myles who joins Justin on “This Time We’re Going to Make It” (which as you can see from the above is also a song on Ron Williams’ album). Both are superb. If there had ever been an area in which we could have criticised Justin in the past it may have been that he did a few covers too many at the expense of his own material. It seems he has found a great partner in Guyanne McCall and has also used a number of fine songs by Chuck Cusimano who is a long time associate of the other fine indie artist, Billy Keeble. The title track is a great honky tonker…a hip flask remedy for pain! “Where Do You Take a Broken Heart” with spoken intro and all was covered by Moe Bandy. Two classics in a row with the Trevino name being on them both.
“Josh Turner – Live at the Ryman” $32 Like Haggard’s “working Man’s Journey” this was only released in the CrackerBarrel stores in the USA and is not sold elsewhere…well we know one place!! Josh and his band recorded this at the traditional home of country music in April, 2007 and he does a fine selection of songs from his first two albums highlighted by “Way Down South” and “Long Black Train” in which his almost too deep to be true voice is well to the fore. An amazing instrument!! In addition he chooses to tackle a selection of standards. “Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy” was one of the early big ones for Don Williams whilst “Silver Wings” and (yes!) “He Stopped Loving Her Today” need no explanation. Mind you he is simply not playing the country jukebox; he adds his own nuances and very successfully so. 14 tracks in all concluding with an extended version of his big hit “Long Black Train”. His new one will be in when you get this.
Jerry Kilgore – “Loaded & Empty” $32 Another case of a long time between drinks but this is an amazing second album, infinitely better than his not bad debut “Love Trip”. It is the pure honky tonk stylings that make this so darn good. Amazingly Lonnie Wilson is on drums and I still like it. No expense has been saved in making this album Production is first class but avoids the excesses of a major label release. “Hag” is a tribute to the great man and Jerry sounds remarkably like him in parts, or at least gets the subtlety of his vocal nuances down pat. “Let’s Talk About Us” was previously recorded by its author, the talented Shawn Camp. The opener, “What’s it Take to Get a Drink in Here” is sublime, and reinforces the themes followed by proponents of true country music. “Shore Thing” and “Longest Stretch of Highway” are all about getting away from it. The latter would be admirably suited to Merle Haggard. Bound to be in the top ten for all who hear it.12 songs and not even one resembling anything but a keeper.
Tom T Hall – “We All Got Together And….”/ “The Storytller” $32 The second album basically made Tom T’s name in Australia with the Top 10 hit “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” bringing him to the attention of many who may not have previously noticed him. You’d have to say he probably was at his peak around this time. The former album features gems such as “Turn It On, Turn it One, Turn it On” and the pitifully sad “She Gave Her Heart to Jethro”. He marries tradition with his own writing on “More About John Henry” and does a wonderful interpretation of the Billy Joe Shaver song, “Willy the Wandering Gypsy & Me”. Other highlights include “Pamela Brown” (I guess you could say he owed it all to her!). Not to be missed.
Tom T Hall – “Sings Miss Dixie & Tom T” $32 A welcome album and emphasising the storyteller aspect with series of particularly effective songs, none more so than the poignant “A Hero in Harlan” all about a man returning from the war…the Gulf war. I’d defy anyone not to be touched by this matter of fact tale. Brilliant. Life in Kentucky is featured in most songs; seems Tom T doesn’t travel much anymore. “One of Those Days (When I Miss Lester Flatt)” and “Jimmy Martin’s Life Story” (with vocal contribution from the late legend) are pretty self explanatory. Sonya Isaacs appears throughout on backing vocals and you can’t help but wonder when she is going to have another album release. Just read the back of the booklet where Miss Dixie states “Hero in Harlan” is the best song they had ever written. I for one will not disagree but the entire 12 stand up well. Tom’s vocals wobble a bit here and there but it adds to the charm.
Randy Howard – “The Best of Randy Howard” $32
Jack Clement – “Shakespeare Was a Big George Jones Fan:Cowboy Jack Clement’s Home Movies” dvd $35 This is a semi-documentary about the greatest behind the scenes man in country music. This falls in the must see category. Apart from the movie which clocks in around an hour we also get the documentary with Jack offering his personal commentary. The movie features many previously unseen glimpses of the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Pride, all of whom were produced by Jack who had the effect of lifting their careers to new heights. There are rare performances by Jack and the whole thing is held together by his quirky commentary. The role of the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Studio in the history of country music can not be understated. There are extras as well. If you have any interest in any of the artists mentioned above this is tremendous. Great stories and performances! Bet you didn’t know Jack was once married to Jessi Colter’s sister! A great man. A great dvd.
Lyle Lovett – It’s Not Big It’s Large cd + dvd $35 Brand new album from Lyle Lovett’ big band featuring 12 new songs plus an hour or more dvd, which comes packaged in an attractive triple fold cover. The core band features regular Lovett alumni Dean Parks on guitar, Matt Rollings on keyboards and Paul Franklin on steel. The breakneck “South Texas Girl” features Guy Clark on vocal and guitar.
Doug Sahm – “Live from Austin” $30 dvd This is the 3rd dvd in this great series to feature Doug, but in chronological order is first dating from November 1975 when he was branching out on his own. Latter dvds in this series include a 1980s reunion with the Sir Douglas Quintet (which includes an unplugged section)and a 1990s concert with the Texas Tornados which everyone knows gets my pick as one of the greatest music dvds of all time. This features some selections from the Doug Sahm and Band album which was his first big solo breakthrough and as such the performance encompasses a mix of country and blues. One of our very very favourite artists.
Billy Joe Shaver – “Storyteller:Live at the Bluebird Café 1992” $30
Dvd Nelson/Haggard/Ray Price – “Last of the Breed” $38.
Alan Jackson – “Precious Memories – Live at the Ryman” $42 dvd The only Alan Jackson concert performance and released only in Canada. In includes additional tracks to that featured on his “Precious Memories” album, as well as live performances of all the tracks on his gospel album. Also includes many interviews. Also superbly recorded. You will not find it elsewhere.
Emmylou Harris – “Songbird: Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems” 4cd+dvd $110
The 78 cd tracks have never sounded better. They start with an outtake from the “Gliding Bird” album, “Clocks”, and what a gem it is. Nashville journalist, Peter Cooper, gives a page run down of each track. Even though the Emmylou catalogue was remastered the versions here sound better than anything I have heard. The albums “Thirteen” and “Evangeline” have never been on cd and the selections here, especially Springsteen’s “My Father’s House” just ring with brilliant goose bump quality. There are in all 13 previously unissued tracks including several from the Trio sessions. The dvd offers 10 selections including “Together Again” which features James Burton and “Making Believe” which features Albert Lee on guitar and harmony. It concludes with her recording a message for her pet cause, Animal Rescue, something myself and Fergus the Wonder Cat fully support.
Personally I find it very interesting that this collection by and large steers clear of the “Wrecking Ball” style which I believe is for the gullible who think a few misguided reviewers are actually informed and know what they are talking about. The Cosmic Cowboy and myself know it is a case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.
Rhino Records have been setting standards of excellence in the USA since the seventies and they have even set themselves something to try and emulate with this sublime box set.
Buck Owens – “The Warner Brothers Recordings” 2cd limited edition Rhino Handmade $65 It was a long time coming but is now here and there will be no more as it is practically sold out and several places in US have it listed for more than this but in US dollars!! Buck’s transition to Warner co-incided with the tragic death of his right hand man, Don Rich and also gave him a new direction with him recording several pop covers, but of course Buck Owens’ style. The album title said it all…”Buck ‘Em” and was recorded with Nashville session players including Pig Robbins, Fred Carter, Pete Drake and Johnny Gimble. He followed up with the album “Our Old Mansion” but a third album never eventuated even though there were some excellent singles, most notably “Play Together Again Again”, a wonderful duet with Emmylou Harris which paid homage to the earlier Buckaroos sound. Some of the tracks highlighted Buck’s return as a songwriter, most notably “I Don’t Want to Live in San Francisco”. This is well presented in a hard bound book style cover which is very attractive. It is a case of blink and its gone. 40 tracks.
Moot Davis – “Already Moved On” $30 Pete Anderson was the long time producer of Dwight Yoakam and was responsible for much of that Dwight sound. Into the picture comes Moot Davis and he is able to step into some big shoes so to speak with Pete reviving that great twangy Dwight sound. Most of the songs are Davis/ Anderson co-writes and have carried on the neo-Bakersfield sound to perfection. It may not be that original but it is good. “Talkin’ “bout Lonely” would have been a chart hit for Dwight in the late 80s. “I’m the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised” a hit for Johnny Paycheck, is the only song which Moot had no part in writing. “It Ain’t Right” has a nice Tex-Mex flavour with some tasty accordion from Michael Murphy…the new Skip Edwards so to speak. “Foreclosures and Repossessions” makes some great word plays. I love the Pete Anderson scowl on the back of the album cover! Any guess who that is reserved for?????????
Sam Baker – “Pretty World” $30 As far as we know the only one in this newsletter to survive a terrorist attack and consequently we get a few songs dealing in one way on another with his life and death experiences. A lot of songs have a Dylanish feel to them. Backing is mostly acoustic, a tad reminiscent of that in Kimmie Rhodes “West Texas Heaven”. His story songs are all fresh. “Odessa” features an uncredited intro of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” assumably by Britt Savage who sounds a little like Carrie Rodriguez. A great story about a man who made his money out of oil and always had enough to pay off lawyers of everyone he crossed along the way. There is also a touch of Prine on tracks such as “Boxes”. If you like any one the artists mentioned herein you’d like this.
Sara Evans – “The Early Years” $32 First things first. This is subject to a number of disputes and its long term availability is definitely shaky. Our good friend Dale Watson can be a pedantic as you know what and when the Cosmic Cowboy casually mentioned how much he liked Sara Evans’ “first” album, “Three Chords and the Truth” Dale was quick as a flash to say it wasn’t her first. Well, it was the first released anyway. Dale was no doubt referring to this album. Interesting that all songs were written by Sara with her brother Matt Evans co-writing “Saying Goodbye”. Some of the tracks have a bluegrass feel and some show a Patsy Cline influence, most on “Her Comes That Old Heartache”. There may not be quite the polish of her RCA output but there certainly is the spirit and you’d choose this a thousand times over her recent releases with their pop excesses and overdone-in-the-solarium-style covers. 12 tracks which measure up well to her best work, and an added plus is her songwriting skills.
Jake Hooker – “The Outsider” $32 Okay, we’ve nominated an indie Hall of Fame for the old yappers…if we had one for the younger brigade then Jake Hooker, along with Justin Trevino would be the first inductees. Jake is prolific, as is Justin, and both have been highly influenced by Ray Price and have taken those influences on board without ever appearing to copy the originator. Similarly they have surrounded themselves with musicians who are every bit as good as anyone in the past and who have also absorbed many influences without every becoming clichéd. Jake and Justin also employ similar band members. Dicky Overbey is as good as anyone anytime anywhere on steel guitar and Bobby Flores can play fiddle and sing in any number of styles. And then Jake himself is wonderful on both string and electric bass. The songs are a mix of originals and covers. As his career has progressed Jake has taken on less predictable covers and his albums are all the better for it. His Lefty cover, “Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboy” is still that far removed from the inherent predictability that has ruined many albums over the years. There is some lovely Spanish style guitar on “I Lie”, presumably courtesy of Bobby Flores. “How Can I Get You Out of My Heart” is an A.L. Owens shuffle previously recorded by Moe Bandy. “Bury the Bottle With Me” is a classic boozing song written by Dick Curless as the singer requests the bottle be buried with him as that was what put him there. 12 songs in all and a nouveau classic album cover to match the great music.
Japan ExclusivesChet Atkins & Merle Travis – “The Atkins Travis Travelling Show” $30 Released on lp in 1974 and only ever on cd in Japan which means the quality is better than you would get on any similar US or Australian release (wouldn’t be hard in the case of the latter). It includes some wonderful interplay between the two protagonists notably on “Is Anything Better Than This” and “Mutual Admiration Society”. Chet plays in the left speaker and Merle in the right. It was the only time the two greatest guitarists in country music history recorded together. It is more than just an historical document though and sounds as fresh as ever!
James Burton – “The Guitar Sounds of James Burton” $34 Originally on A&M records this is one of only two albums James made in his own right; the other being a duet album with steel guitarist Ralph Mooney. This was released on A & M label and the cover featured James standing on a freeway overpass nearby the A & M studios. Produced by Felton Jarvis, the 12 tracks have never sounded better and have been remastered in using Japan 24 bit technology.
Chet Atkins – Discover Japan $32 “During 1965 I toured the major cities of Japan with Skeeter Davis, The Browns and Hank Locklin. It was a memorable visit and I enjoyed meeting and visiting with the people. My only regret was that I had not the time to learn any of the traditional Japanese melodies. With the help of the fine people at RCA I have now fulfilled that goal by learning and recording the songs in this album. I sincerely hope you will enjoy and appreciate my rendition of them”. …from the liner notes…a rare album only available in Japan!!
Jerry Byrd – “The Shores of Waikiki” $34 Glorious presentation of ultra rare 1960 album in the Hawaiian steel style. Presented in mini lp style cover which replicates exactly the original lp package on Mercury Records.
Jimmy Bryant – “Country Cabin Jazz” $34
Speedy West – “Guitar Spectacular” $34 Two more great mini lp style packages which replicate the original Capitol lps. Interesting that Jimmy is backed by Speedy but Speedy’s backing is listed as Billy Strange/ Billy Liebert/ Roy Lanham/ Red Wootten & earl Palmer.
Bill Haley – “From Western Swing to Rock” 4cd $55 Excellent 94 track collection that features Haley’s transition from a member of the Four Aces of Swing (which included some of Haley’s yodelling) through to his best known rock & roll. It includes a selection from offshoots such as the Jodimars, The Jaguars and Reno Browne and Her Buckaroos. The set includes the pre rock and roll “rock & roll” of “Rock This Joint”. Naturally all the big ones are there such as “Rock Around the Clock”, “Razzle dazzle”, “Rock-A-Beatin’ Boogie”, “See You Later Alligator” etc. Bill was so much more than “Rock Around the Clock”
Carter Family – “Country Folk” 4cds $55 There could not be a better starting point for a Carter Family Collection than here, with 103 tracks plus 44 page book all in a groovy little box. You will find the classics “Wabash Cannonball”, “Jimmie Brown the Newsboy”, “Wildwood Flower”, “Keep on the Sunnyside”, “Single Girl Married Girl” etc. Truly, if you don’t have a Carter Family cd and the Bear Family magnum opus is a little too much this is the way to go.
Rock N Skiffle box 4cds $55 Includes a 40 page book. 100 tracks concentrating on the skiffle sounds of the late 50s. Lots of obscurities as well as a few Lonnie Donegan and co. The set also focuses on artists who evolved from the skiffle movement but played rock & roll such as Don Lang and Tommy Steele.
Waylon Jennings & the Waymore Blues Band – “Never Say Die: The Final Concert” 2cd + dvd $50 Waylon passed on in February 2002 and this concert at the Ryman Auditorium recorded 2 years earlier was his final hurrah as far as major concerts went anyway. A few offhand remarks which most probably thought were throwaways have a sad ring true quality about them given the hindsight this albums’ release provides. Waylon remains seated, something he began in his time with the Highwaymen, but is as powerful as ever as far as his presence and performance is concerned. His charisma is mind-boggling. Guests include Jessi Colter, who performs both solo and in duet with Waylon. Other guests include John Anderson, Montgomery and Travis Tritt, who obviously enjoys a close relationship with Waylon. A shortened version of this concert appeared on cd for a while but this is the whole deal. 2 hours of classic Waylon. Also includes interviews with the likes of Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins, Kris Kristofferson etc. “Goin’ Down Rockin’” has a kind of ominous message, again in hindsight. The big band works wonders and Waylon’s voice positively soars on classics such as “Amanda” and “Waymore’s Blues”. Not to be missed!! The Ryman Auditorium is the perfect backdrop.
Ed Sanders – “Sanders Truckstop” $20
T Jae Christian – “The Vanishing Breed” $32
Billy Keeble – “Sings Wynn Stewart” $32 On the cusp of indie immortality is producer Curt Ryle who is skilled as the finest surgeon when it comes to getting the best out of an artist. He is also adept on any number of instruments and although the great Ralph Mooney plays steel on some tracks, Curt more than holds his own. Billy is a fine vocalist and doesn’t just do straight covers of the most well known Stewart songs, sticking more with songs that Stewart has performed but not necessarily written. “After the Storm” is performed as a duet with Wren Stewart Tidwell, Wynn’s daughter.
Levon Helm – “Dirt Farmer” $30 Levon was the “American” in the Band and was responsible for a lot of their songs about the frontier times of America. The first two Band albums, “Music from Big Pink” and even more so “The Band” are considered classics. Once the Band disbanded (unintentional pun!) Levon mainly recorded R & B material and briefly touched on the more country styled material of the Band. He also played in a number most notably as a strange little preacher in “Fire Down Below”. So this new album is going to be a delight to fans of the Band and Americana as it is themed accordingly. A mix of traditional and a few originals only by the likes of Emmylou’s ex Paul Kennerley, Steve Earle & Buddy Miller (the male Neko Case??...n.c.) Nice stuff. Tracks: False Hearted Lover Blues/ Poor Old Dirt Farmer/ The Mountain/ Little Birds/ The Girl Left Behind/ Calvary/ Anna Lee/ Got Me a Woman/ A Train Robbery/ Single Girl Married Girl/ Blind Child/ Wide River to Cross/ Feelin’ Good.
Travis Tritt – The Storm $32 New album…new label. A mix of rocking outlaw Hank Jnr style country coupled with his famous big ballads. Think you’d have to put a bit of a “worry” note against “I Wanna Feel Too much”, by Diane Warren, who I reckon should be given a post in Outer Mongolia with a never to return label, but rest is pretty usual fare and the songs by Travis himself are among the highlights, notably “Doesn’t the Good Outweigh the Bad”. Nothing really new, but he does old as consistently well as anyone.
Mona McCall – “Memories Love a Melody” $30 Mona is the wife of Darrell McCall, the great Texan and one of Yesterday & Today Records favourite sons. The old adage of “There but for the grace of God” go I could certainly apply to Mona. She gave up a promising career to raise her family. Previously she had been an integral part of the Carol Lee Singers who were the mainstay of the Grand Ol Opry. Her friend, Connie Smith, to whom we could most compare Mona offers a heartfelt and fitting tribute to Mona in the notes. Production is by Justin Trevino and the A Team provide the backing. That is the “new A team” but one of the “original A team” in Bob Moore comes along to lend a hand. Bob is certainly in illustrious company with Bobby Flores, Jake Hooker, Dicky Overby and Levi Mullen. Justin Tubb’s “Five Minutes of the Latest Blues” is performed as a duet with Justin Trevino. Mona and Darrell’s daughter, Guyanne is rapidly gaining a reputation as a songwriter and her collaboration with Justin Trevino has contributed some of the album’s best moments in “At Least I Get to Hold Your Memory Near” and “The Girl Behind the Frown” whilst her selection of covers is to be applauded, notably “Memory Number One” and a great version of “The Deepening Snow”. It is interesting and maybe a little disappointing that the great Darrell McCall doesn’t appear on this album and having had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman I would suggest he just wanted to give Mona her rightful dues.
Dvd Flatt & Scruggs Show Volume 3 $35
Dvd Buck Owens – “Live at Austin City Limits” $30 First dvd from the great man recorded during his early 90s comeback tour, October 1988. Includes a very special appearance from Dwight Yoakam on “Under Your Spell Again”.
Roger Wallace – “It’s About Time” $30 13 new songs 4th album from Roger. He looks a tad wasted on the cover, maybe he is living in “My Little Corner of Honky Tonk Hell”, the wonderful opener. He is full of self-deprecating humour on tracks such as “If It Wasn’t for Me”. “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em” is about Texas dance clubs and it does refer to their anti-smoking laws, again tongue in cheek humour. “I Want That Water” is Roger’s take on an Oak Ridge Boys’ style gospel song. “Alone at Last” is a great showcase for Roger’s vocals with minimal backing from pianist T Jarrod Bonta with an occasional strum from Roger’s acoustic. “Frantic” features appropriate frantic fiddle from Erik Hokkanen and probably is a comment on Roger’s own lifestyle. “All by My Lonesome”, a D B Harris/Roger Wallace features a great vocal and some stylish steel guitar from Jim Stringer. “Prodigal Daughter Favorite Son” is written with the great Dallas Wayne. Unadorned backing is a feature of the production and as with our favourite Wayne the Train Hancock doesn’t use drums….well Wayne may occasionally. The albums’ concluding track, “The Confession”, is the only track not written by Roger and is unusual due its spoken nature and religious overtones; certainly not what you’d expect…”if you want to help me Jesus turn this water into wine”. Brilliant album and I reckon it may be his best yet.
Merle Haggard – The Bluegrass Sessions $30 A reunion of sorts with Ronnie Reno, son of the legendary Don Reno, and a member of Merle Haggard’s Strangers for a good many years, before reverting back to the bluegrass arena. This session features vocal arrangements by Carl Jackson and an excellent lineup of bluegrass all stars including the incomparable Rob Ickes on dobro, Aubrey Haynie on fiddle and Carl Jackson on acoustic guitar and vocals. 12 songs in all with favourites such as “Mama’s Hungry Eyes” (which features a vocal assist from Alison Krauss) and “”Holding Things Together” taking on new dimensions when given the bluegrass treatment.
Jackson Taylor – “Dark Days” $30 Productive Texan country rocker who appears to have been paying even a couple more visits to the tattooist and defines all that is good about country rock with a Creedence meets Kentucky Headhunters style that is both appealing and continually interesting. He wrote all the songs bar Billy Joe Shaver’s “Honky Tonk Heroes” and if ever a song defined Jackson it is that one. Whilst he rocks out he has maintained good melodies and as I always say “have a musical day”…no that’s not what I say..I say, if it doesn’t have melody it has nothing. Bound to be liked by Hank III fans.
Donna Ulisse – “When I Look Back” $30 Donna’s first album on Atlantic was an early nineties classic and it has been a long time between drinks for her. This album is easy gospel bluegrass based and fairly reminiscent and every bit as good as Rhonda Vincent. Donna also wrote all the songs on the cd and is backed by some of the finest musicians around including the great Randy Kohrs on dobro and Andy Leftwich on fiddle and mandolin. Her true voice is well to the fore and she still looks as cute as ever. Some of the songs have a stronger religious feel than others. 14 in all. Let’s hope the next one will be here sooner.
Lucille Starr – “The French Song” expanded edition $30 Very very popular album, now at a lower price. It is only released in Canada and is sometimes in short supply. We import it direct from Canada. You will not get it elsewhere. Apart from the huge hit “French Song” and a couple of Edith Piaf covers there are fine versions of songs in both English and French. Of the latter a version of “Sukiyaki” in French is both unusual and haunting. 17 tracks in all and none are replicated on the Collectors Choice cd “Lonely Street”.
Mike Rodgers the Honky Tonk Hitman – “Shake That Twang” $30 His previous was fine all the way on the ballads and uptempo numbers and this is a tad disappointing in that the uptempo numbers have somewhat of a throwaway quality; in that sense a little like Ron William’s first. Nonetheless songs such as “Your Lonely Ends With Me” are as good as you are going to get.
Tim Nichols – “Where the Good Life Is” $30 One of the most successful writers in Nashville with a line of top tens to his credit. He offers his own version of some of these hits on this cd. “Brotherly Love” has been recorded many times, probably the most memorable version being by Keith Whitley and Earl Thomas Conley. “Live Like You Were Dying” was a hit for Tim McGraw. “See Jane Run” has a clever lyric based on the old reading primer adapted to a failing relationship. “Heads Carolina, Tails California” was a hit for the Rugby League Ray Price double Jodee Messina. “Vidalia” was a hit for Sammy Kershaw. So you can see he has written for a real cross-section. This is a fresh album given the versions by Nichols are often a little different to the charting versions. He has a fine voice and you get fine interpretations all the way.
Aaron Barker – “Lifelines” $30 Another writer offering interpretations of songs he has written and were hits for (mainly) George Strait, though “Not Enough Hours in the Night” was a hit for the now (sadly) crazed Doug Supernaw.
Starline Rhythm Boys “Red’s Place” $32 Third album from the rockabilly/hillbilly styled group from Vermont with a hefty 16 tracks that actually sound as though they could be off the first BR549 album (to give a point of comparison). Of course the title track and others such as “Drunk Tank” enforce the honky tonk themes of traditional country music. “The Old Filling Station” and “A Memory of Fred” offer a couple of fine nostalgic offerings that fit in well. Very nicely packaged for an independent release.
Billy Mize – Make it Rain $28 A long time California based artist who as a teenager appeared on Town Hall Party and over the years developed a strong allegiance with Merle Haggard as well as being a successful songwriter with “Who Will Buy the Wine” by Charlie Walker perhaps being his most successful. 5 songs of the 22 (yes 22!) find him backed by the Strangers. His recordings are well entrenched in the Bakersfield sound of which he had an intricate part in establishing. This retrospective finds a fine vocalist with there certainly being a little more than a touch of Merle Haggard influence.
Red Meat – “We Never Close” $30 First in a while for the San Francisco based group with a great vocalist in Smelley Kelley. You have to admire their humour. Jill Olson and Scott Young also contribute vocals, even though Smelley is the pick....no pun intended. Guests include producer Dave Alvin and brilliant southern Californian artist Rick Shea.
Patty Booker – “Fire & Brimstone” $32 Patty is a real firecracker who fits nicely along with Heather Myles, Danni Leigh and co. She certainly isn’t politically correct and the double barrel shotgun she is holding over her bountiful bosom is heard to effect on the opening track, “The Hell I’ve Been Through” and is the means she escapes from that hell. She collaborates with Rick Shea on that track and has co-written 3 others with the other great Californian Jann Browne (for anyone who missed it we still have copies of her top Buck Owens Tribute album). “Please Don’t Lie to Me” finds her forgiving her spouse for any sin bar the unpardonable lie. Interesting to note the disclaimer: “Neither Patty Booker nor Tres Pescadores Records advocate the use of weapons or violence to settle disputes of any nature.” Another graduate from the “Town South of Bakersfield” series…she was on Volume Three along with Dale Watson and Wylie (of Wild West) fame.
Bill Hearne’s Roadhouse Review “Heartaches & Honky Tonks” $32 Sadly Bonnie Hearne is now in poor health but Bill is till recording. This latest offering is good, but covers. Bill has the voice to do them some new justice but it is perhaps a shame there isn’t more original recordings. Still only 3-4 of the 14 songs would fall into the overly familiar category and that is a plus. Songs such as “Mel Tillis’ “Old Faithful”, and relatively new songs such as Slaid Cleaves’ “Road Too Long” and Peter Rowan’s “Come Back to Old Santa Fe” are the pick.
Thom Shepherd – “Could Be Worse” $30 Thom wrote the big hit for David Ball “Riding With Private Malone”, a wonderful song with a complicated story beautifully presented. This cd presents 14 of his songs including the duet with Stephanie Bentley, “Choose Me or Lose Me”. He reminds of Paul Overstreet and Mike Dekle with his whimsical good time tales such as “Little Hope Baptist Church” and “A Few Words About Mobile Homes”. “Bye George” is more traditionally styled. Like Overstreet and Dekle he is the possessor a tuneful voice. Will have more of his albums in soon.
Ryan Bingham – Mescalito $30 Intense Steve Earle styled country folk tales of the working man and his blues. Similar to the first Chris Knight album in style.
Nate Gibson and the Gashouse Gang – “All the Way Home” $30 The cover faithfully replicates a Starday label cover of the 50s and features a mix of original (8) and covers (also 8), which were mainly original Starday releases. Nate has a distinct humour and works within a rockabilly/hillbilly framework which is in keeping with the style of the cover. Of the covers the Wayne Raney track “We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus (And a Lot less Rock & Roll) is a wonderful piece of hillbilly nostalgia. “Who Shot Willie” was by Arthur Guitar Boogie Smith. “Wal-mart Wino” is typical of his own writing. Those who have previously listened to Eugene Chrysler would get a kick out of this.
Slick Andrews & the Wild Hare Millionaires – “Let’s Beer it Up” $30
These will be in when you get this:
**Gary Allan – Living Hard
**Brian Burns – Highways,Heartaches & Honkytonks $30 (just reissued; his glorious first album which still sounds as good as it did the day it came out. As fine as any Chris Wall, Jerry Jeff etc.
**Karen Dalton – “Cotton Eyed Joe” $55 2cds + dvd. The cds are from live performances circa 1962 and the dvd is from live performances circa 1970.
**Shooter Jennings – Wolf $25
**Alison Krauss & Robert Plant – Raising Sand $30 ….the angel and the Led Zeppelin man.
**Josh Turner – Everything is Fine $30. What a voice!!!
**Hank Williams – Collected 3cds $38 75 themed tracks with great cover, a rather surreal painting of Hank.
**dvd Patty Griffin – “Live from the Artists’s Den” $30 Backed by Stones/Faces keyboard wiz, Ian McLagan and a small string session Patty performs favourites from past albums as well as selections from her latest “Children Running Through”.
**Gene Watson – “In a Perfect World” $30 Gene has been on one or two labels over the years and this new one on Shanachie features some wonderful duets notably “This Side of the Door” with the equally wonderful Mark Chesnutt, “Today I Started Loving You Again” (with Lee Ann Womack” and what may be the best, “A Good Place to Turn Around” with the fabulous Connie Smith. Other partners include Vince Gill and Rhonda Vincent. He may be a little more grizzled but the voice is as potent as ever.
DVD Steve Goodman Tribute. Larger Than Life: A Musical Celebration. Historic evening in 1997 featuring a fabulous line up including Iris Dement, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, Todd Snider etc.
Bear Family Update
Here is an unsolicited comment from a very good customer: “Actually, you're very good with getting these Bear sets - in many cases you beat US distributors/sellers, judging by comments I've received via internet lists”.
Fact is we deal directly with Bear Family and receive prime service from them. I have had people try and do things their way and fall on their face. I had one bloke tell me he could beat my price by $30 for a box set and proceeded to order from the other source. He received a nasty shock when he found the $5 standard postage fee offered did not apply to box sets and ended up paying around $50 more than what I was charging. In addition he had to wait 3 weeks to receive the box and it had suffered some damage during transit. The fact is Bear Family boxes are heavy and sometimes weigh more than 2-3 kgs. They are expensive but they are literally the Rolls Royce of cds as far as quality goes. You will find we are more than competitive as far as price goes.
George Jones – She Thinks I Still Care – The Complete United Artists Records 1962-64 5 cd + book $210
Unquestionably the most enduring artist in country music, this box compiles every surviving United Artist recording and also includes 6 previously unreleased tracks. It also includes his sensational duets with the wonderful Melba Montgomery….all 22 of them. Despite his latter association with Tammy Wynette, George goes on record to declare these his best work with a female singer. Includes original albums: “New Favorites” / “Sings Hits of His Country Cousins”/ “Homecoming in Heaven”/ “Sings Hank Williams”/ “Sings Bob Wills”/ “I Wish Tonight Would Never End” / “Bluegrass Hootenanny” (with Melba)/ “What’s in Our Hearts”/ “Race Is On” etc etc!! 150 tracks in all and of course it goes without saying that it is in superior Bear quality sound. It doesn’t matter what you may already have; this will be better. Not to be missed by anyone who even remotely considers himself a George Jones fan!!. These will be released 1st week November.
Charlie Monroe – I’m Old Kentucky Bound – His Recordings 1938-1956 4 cd + large hard cover book $180
This is the story of Charlie Monroe after his split from younger brother Bill Monroe, obviously not wishing to tow the line for Bill’s lifelong “do it my way or no way” attitude. Features 110 tracks including all recorded for RCA and Decca. A fourth disc includes live performances from 1955-56 recorded by Mike Seeger at the New River Ranch, all of which are previously unissued. Also includes 7 previously unissued studio sides.
Benny Barnes – “Poor Man’s Riches: The Complete 1950s Recordings” $32 A massive 33 tracks, accompanied by a 48 page booklet. It includes singles for Starday/Mercury/Dixie/ Faith and D labels. He was a boy hood Beaumont Texas friend of George Jones and gained recognition on the Louisiana Hayride. His style ranged from rockabilly to honky tonk and his rockabilly tracks are highly sought by collectors. Hs mentor, H W “Pappy” Daily said of him “I Thought Benny was a fine singer. He was a great artists with a fine stage act. I could never understand why he didn’t make it big”.
Tibby Edwards – “Play it Cool Man, Play it Cool; Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight” $32 Includes all his Mercury rockabilly sides along with singles for the D/ Jin and Todd labels. Has a massive 34 tracks and greatly expands an lp released by Bear Family in 1985. The “Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight” series sits nicely alongside Bear’s “That’ll Flat Git It” rockabilly series. The “Gonna Shake” concentrates on artists who did a lot of uptempo material which often was close to rockabilly. They don’t get much closer than the music contained herein.
Hank Snow – “Tales of the Yukon” $32 Robert W Service born 1876 died 1959 and known as the bard of the Yukon was responsible for some of the most moving and rivetting poetry ever written. Hank Snow’s album of Service’s poetry is one of his most requested and previously you could only obtain it on the $390 “Singing Ranger Volume 3” box set. This includes an expansive 36 page book. “The Cremation of Sam McGee” is the classic interpretation of all of Service’s poems. If anyone has a cd of the Country Joe McDonald interpretation of Service’s poems (“War, War, War”) and wish to dispose of it at a good price, I’m your man.
Hank Snow – “Snow on Christmas” $35 Deluxe digipak version of Hank’s complete Christmas recordings (21 in total) with a 32 page booklet. His “Reindeer Boogie” must rank in everyone’s top 10 Christmas favourites.
Leroy Pullins – “I’m a Nut” $32 27 tracks over an hour…all his Kapp recordings and more. Fact is that nobody has ever possibly made a recording to so closely resemble another artist as his “I’m a Nut” which is as close to Roger Miller as you could get. The reality is that despite the excellence of most of his recordings Leroy was just a tad too much of an imitator to succeed. He does have an excellent output though with Tom T Hall style story songs often tinged with a darkness and quirkiness that gives them a lasting quality. Mind you, if a Roger Miller fan you would be well advised not to miss this.
Howard Crockett – “Out of Bounds: The Johnny Horton Connection” $32 A massive 36 tracks clocking in at an impossible (almost) 81 minutes. The title refers to the fact he wrote some of Johnny Horton’s most enduring hits including “Honky Tonk Man” / “Johnny Reb”, “Sugar Coated Baby” etc. He also owed a vocal debt to the likes of Johnny Cash and this includes his output for Dot/Hamilton, Manco and Smash labels.
Buddy Knox & Jimmy Bowen “Rock” $35 Continuing series of uniform excellence packaged in distinctive digipak with expanded notes (here 52 page booklet). Whilst Bowen was the mainstay it was Bowen who achieved long-lasting success as producers as diverse as Frank Sinatra and George Strait. The Roulette recordings are some of the best examples of rock and roll ever recorded and “Party Doll” is an all time classic. Also includes “Rockhouse”, “Hula Love” and the Jimmy Bowen classic “I’m Stickin ‘With You”. 31 tracks altogether and another top series from Bear Family.
American Folk and Country Music Festival 2 cds + 76 page hard cover book $120 The notes from Bear Family compare this event to the likes of “O!Brother Where Art Thou” and “Down from the Mountain” and includes folk archivists such as the New Lost City Ramblers and Roscoe Holcomb through Cajun music of Cyp Landrenau’s Cajun Band and the country music of Cousin Emmy and the Stanley Brothers. 41 tracks all up.
DVDS “Country Style USA”
Artists featured on each dvd is as follows:
“Country Style USA” Season 1 Jim Reeves/ June Webb/ Little Jimmy Dickens/ Anita Carter/ Faron Young/ Ernest Tubb/ Wilburn Brothers/ Webb Pierce/ Jean Shepard/ Hawkshaw Hawkins/ Ray Price/ Marty Robbins/ George Morgan/ Carl Smith/ Mimi Roman/ Goldie Hill/ Red Sovine/ Roy Acuff/ Ferlin Husky etc etc etc also includes the ubiquitous Jimmie Riddle who has entered folklore as the universal euphemism for going to take a bathroom break.
“Country Style USA Season 2” Ray Price/ Lonzo & Oscar/ Hank Snow/ Flatt & Scruggs/ Skeeter Davis/ Hawkshaw Hawkins/ Benny Martin/ Pee Wee King/ Bobby Lord/ Justin Tubb etc etc
“Country Style USA Season 3” Eddy Arnold/ Chet Atkins/ Wilburn Brothers/ Ray Price/ Mac Wiseman/ Skeeter Davis/ Mimi Roman/ George Morgan/ Don Gibson/ Carl Butler/ Jordanaires/ Faron Young/ The Browns/ Floyd Tillman/ Carter Family/ Del Wood/ Hank Snow etc etc
“Country Style USA Season 4” Faron Young/Billy Walker/ Billy Grammer/ Patsy Cline/ Roy Drusky/ Jimmy C Newman/ Buck Owens/ etc but overwhelmingly Faron Young
Over 3 hours each dvd for $35 each!!!!!!!!
Merle Haggard – “The Studio Recordings 1968-1976” 6 cd + large hardcover book $240 166 tracks and a shade under 8 hours music. Follows Bear’s previous “Untamed Hawk” box set and has over 20 unissued recordings among its number. An outtake photograph from the “Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today” album is the perfect adornment for this great box. What hits home about this album is how uniformly great it was and still is. Apart from the well known tracks the classics such as “I Die Ten Thousand Times A Day”, “Shelleys’ Winter Love”, “Honky Tonk Nightime Man” etc are seemingly endless. He has thoroughly deserved status as one of the greats of country music and this box may even show him to be the best of all time.
Bonnie Owens – “Queen of the Coast” 4 cds + large hardcover book $180 103 tracks and over 4 hours and the first ever collection of Bonnie’s works. She co-wrote the wonderful “Today I Started Loving You Again”. Contains the entire “Just Between the Two of Us” album (with Merle Haggard) as well as her solo albums which all command a pretty penny in the collector’s market. Includes early duets with Fuzzy Owen and latter gospel recordings which were issued on the Capitol label. The book does not hold back in talking about the rather unusual relationship she had with Merle Haggard. Despite the musical virtue Haggard comes across as a somewhat less than desirable life partner…the ultimate bastard in many respects, but by the same token no one has ever shown such untold loyalty to a person as that Bonnie showed to Merle.
Fats Domino – “Rocks” $35 Another deluxe entry into this great series. There is a lot of Fats out there but none better. 33 tracks.
Dale Hawkins – “Rocks” $35 35 tracks and 79 minutes. Of course it contains the classic “Susie Q” but also includes pre-Ricky Nelson James Burton on guitar followed by the equally legendary Roy Buchanan. Also includes the great rockabilly of “Boogie Woogie Country Girl”.
Eddie Hill – “The Hot Guitar:Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight” $32 34 songs which feature one hot guitarist after another with Chet Atkins and Hank Garland doping their thing with Eddie. His guitar playing fits in well with the likes of Jimmy Bryant & Speedy West.
Cousin Emmy – And Her Kinfolks 1939-1947 $35 Deluxe digipak just under 80 minutes by a lady who may possibly be defined as Minnie Pearl with musical talent. Not afraid to send herself up and at the same time dexterous on any number of instruments. Top stuff. Old timey flavoured country music at its best.
ALL $18 unless noted.
Adams, Jay Boy The Shoe Box
Blake, Norman & Nancy The Morning Glory Ramblers $20
One for the Road
All the best!!