Blessing and a Curse


I haven’t been out to see many bands this year but one I couldn’t miss were my dear friends from Athens, GA/Alabama – The Drive-By Truckers. I think I’ve only seen the DBT’s four or five  times since I left Athens, GA and the time before this show was longer ago than I’d like to admit. I was living in Columbia, MO in a tiny student apartment and I was back in graduate school when the band hit town to play Mojo’s.

For several days they made my apartment their base as they played a show in Belleville, IL then a show heading west of Columbia on I-70 – maybe Kansas City, maybe Lawrence, KS.   That show at Mojo’s in the fall of 2001 seems like yesterday/ The band was touring behind The Southern Rock Opera, what many consider their break-through album and still playing small clubs in some parts of the country.

Now three CDs and five years later, I went to see them at Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom capacity 1000 people. It was a sold out show with a small crowd milling about outside hoping to snag a ticket at any price. Patterson was kind enough to put me on the guest list as Deb + 1, so since I was just Deb,  I gave my extra ticket to a girl who’s friends had tickets but hated to leave her outside. She offered to buy my beer, give me money but all I asked was that she return that kindness to someone else some day. I think that’s what the band would have said then followed that with “Come see us at the rock show!”

If you haven’t caught the Drive-By Trucker’s fever yet, start working your way through their albums. Next time they’re playing a show in your town or your country, get out and go!

5th Annual Americana Honors & Awards


Rosanne Cash – pregnant or fashion victim? You be the judge.

I haven’t been out as much lately as I would like. Work and being sick keep me pretty busy. (No being sick isn’t a hobby – it’s just something I am a lot).

My neighbor, Cheryl, the wonderful owner of BlueshoeNashville.com called me up the day before and said “Let’s see if we can get tickets to the Americana Music Association’s Awards show.” O.K. I went to Ticketbastard and saw there weren’t many good seats available while she called the Ryman directly. She landed us excellent seats in the balcony in the section we wanted and they were back row folding chairs. Now some might scoff at that but we had the only cushioned seats in the house. As much as I love the Ryman – the Mother Church – the seats are church pews!

There were too many highlights to note here but my highlight was my friends The Drive-By Truckers from Athens, GA by way of Northern Alabama won the Best Duo/Group of the Year Award. I was so excited but they weren’t there – they were on tour. David Hood (famed musician himself) Patterson’s dad accepted the award for the band. In his acceptance he quietly said “When my son first told me he was going into the music business I just shook my head – I always wanted him to be a druggist.” Hood went on to say “But they’ve done alright – they learned to tune their instruments . . . “

Other highlights of the evening included my favorite Rodney Crowell accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting (with a hilarious introduction by Vince Gill); Alejandro Escovedo performing after accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award for Perfroming;and James McMurtry performing and winning Album of the Year and Song of the Year with Childish Things and the song “We Can’t Make it Here.” (can I pick them or what? – Crowell, the DBT’s and McMurtry!).

We capped off the evening at Sambuca’s a relatively new restaurant in Nashville’s new trendy “gulch” area. We sampled martinis (me spilling mine) and ordered a number of appetizers and small dishes to share. Their clam chowder made me think I was in Bawstan!

Childish Things

James McMurtry – Childish Things

(Compadre Records)

I think this is one of the best James McMurtry albums since 1989’s Too Long in the Wasteland.That could have more to do with me because in both of these years I find myself in the right place to accept the music.In 1989 – I could relate to the loneliness, the desolation and small town life.Now, I’m in a better place, I’ve grown up a bit and my tastes are still eclectic but they’re changing.I love a good story and James McMurtry is one of the finest story telling singer-songwriters around.In this outing ten of the twelve cuts are written by McMurtry, with covers of Peter Case’s “Old Part of Town” and a nice duet with Joe Ely on “Slew foot.”

The songs on Childish Things are songs that many can relate to from “Holidays” and its family quirks and dysfunctions to two cuts delivering social commentary “Can’t Make it Around Here” a criticism of modern society, getting laid off, or trying to live on minimum wage; and “Memorial Day” to “See the Elephant,” the delightful tale of a teenaged boy begging to go down to the traveling show.

My favorite song is the dead-pan dry delivered “Can’t Make it Around Here.”Every verse rings true with lyrics like:

“Minimum wage won’t pay for a roof, won’t pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can’t make it here anymore

Now I’m stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store (*)
Just like the ones we made before
‘Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can’t make it here anymore”

That’s just a small slice of the song and a snippet from the album – I don’t think there’s a stinker on the disc.As I said, I love story telling and McMurtry is a master.

* Note: I did check and Walmart is carrying McMurtry’s CD.

Listening to The Outsider

Rodney Crowell – The Outsider

(Sony)

I’ve been a Rodney Crowell fan since I was in high school and first saw him playing in Emmylou’s Hot Band.And it wasn’t ‘cause he was cute.Well, he was cute – have you ever seen his 1978 press kit?He’s got prettier hair and a sweeter smile than Bobby Ewing from Southfork.Maybe his looks were what first caught my eye but his guitar playing; songwriting and vocals sealed the deal.Rodney has followed up, in my opinion, two of the best albums of his career (Houston Kid and Fate’s Right Hand) with his latest The Outsider.It’s no slacker either.The more I listen to it the more I like it.It’s closing in on Fate’s Right Hand as one of the CDs I have to have in the car on road trips.

In The Outsider, mostly written while on tour, is partly a response to the reactions he received and observations he made on his encounters with non-Americans while on tour in Europe.Slightly political but more anti-corporate and greed, he takes a jab at the callous selfish greedy hypocrites (you know who you are) in the second cut “The Obscenity Prayer.”The lyrics are priceless: “Give to me my Aspen winter sorry ’bout the World Trade Center / I can’t help the ones in need I’ve got my own mouth to feed / Give to me my playboy channel killer weed and sheets of flannel” and later “The Dixie Chicks can kiss my ass but I still need that backstage pass.”

Two other songs hit me straight in the heart and conscience. “Ignorance Is the Enemy” brings together many friends with its part choir-like harmonies and part spoken word.The choir is made up of Rodney, Emmylou, Brodie Jenkins, Kacie Jenkins, Kim Fleming, Buddy & Julie Miller, Chris Rodriguez, Nancy Jenkins and Vince Santoro.The spoken word parts are delivered by Emmylou and John Prine.The other song that I think is too wonderful for words is a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” – a duet with Emmylou Harris.This is the only song on the album not written by Crowell but it fits so well with the topics addressed in the other songs that it doesn’t seem out of place.In this duet, Crowell and Emmylou alternate singing solo on verses and then harmonize on the segues.They deviate from Dylan’s original, but the tenderness of the vocals shed new light on this classic.

I can’t begin to do this album justice with my words.You will have to listen to The Outsider yourself.Rodney Crowell has completed a trilogy of fine recordings since 2001 – I hope his introspective and observational journeys continue.

Nick Lowe Rules!

The Lowe Profile: A Tribute to Nick Lowe
Various Artists
Brewery Records

Walter Clevenger has put together a masterpiece. But then I personally think Walter, himself, is a genius. What a brilliant idea to do a Nick Lowe tribute. With all the musicians who a big Nick fans – I’m surprised the tribute didn’t turn out to be 4 discs instead of 2. I am a long-time Nick Lowe fan. I laughed when I read the last line in the nice booklet that accompanies the CD said “It’s OK to like Nick Lowe!” OK!? I thought everyone dug Nick Lowe? I think back in the old days of the AOL No Depression folder, several of us would be IMing and other music friends would log. We’d eventually set up a “private room” so we could all chat together (no online sex stuff – don’t get excited that you weren’t invited Jeff). The room was called Nick Lowe Rules.

Is it just me or have tribute albums gotten a lot better over the last 5
years or so? I think tribute albums today are doing a better job of introducing people to new artists than they used to. Like the samplers some record labels used to (and some still put out), the really good tribute CDs today give you songs that you are familiar with to make it easier to initially digest, then a taste of artists you may or may not be familiar with. I know I’ve got a real firm grasp of the obvious here but I love tribute CDs. I enjoy hearing different twists to even my favorite songs, and I can’t think of even the worst tribute or compilation CD that hasn’t sent me in search of a previously overlooked artist’s work.

I love this CD! On sunny days this is the first CD I put on when I’m going to be doing some driving. I open my sun roof open and let it blare. I got some smiles at stop lights as I sang and played air drums to “What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love & understanding.” I was leaning strongly toward the Disc known as the Left Side as my favorite. I thought why would they pack all the really good cuts on the one CD? Then like an idiot, I realized that I wasn’t listening to really crappy people singing Nick Lowe songs that I’d never heard before. Instead, it was a really crappy band singing really bad songs they wrote. (Yep – I had a disc between them in the changer). Whew! What a relief that I finally got straightened and listened to both discs on repeat because only torture could make me choose now.

“Cruel to be Kind” has always been one of my favorite songs but Ian Gomm (Nick’s co-writer on this song) puts a new spin on this song with Clevenger’s band lending a new arrangement. The song truly makes me smile. And though it didn’t initially come out in the right time period in my life for some reason, it reminds me of the smell of chlorine and banana boat suntan oil. It reminds me of how wicked and perhaps cruel we junior high girls were sunbathing and flirting/taunting the boys at the public swimming pool.

I could go song by song and tell you what makes each wonderful but then you’d have about 20 pages to read. So I’ll try not to run on and give you the songs that are highlights for me – songs alone that would be worth buying The Lowe Profile.

I’ve already mentioned “Cruel to be Kind” and “(What’s so funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” I’ll admit though that I’m not familiar with Michael Carpenter an Australian musician (who covered the latter). His version has a great arrangement that begins woefully and slowly then takes it up a notch both in volume and tempo and ends with more optimism than the original – could be why it makes me smile and sing like crazy. I will definitely be backtracking to discover more about Carpenter.

Steve Allen’s “ Love the Sound of Breaking Glass” has a real Bo Diddley sound vibe while Eric “Roscoe” Ambel hits with a straight-on rock version of “12 Step Program (To Quit You Babe).” Foster and Lloyd for their first recording in years do a great rendition of “Without Love.” Dave Alvin’s “Failed Christian” is also one of my favorites. Yes, there are a couple songs on here that Nick didn’t write but they are so connected in my mind to Nick that I think I would have missed them if they hadn’t been included. This is one of them. Another of those is Don Dixon’s soulful rendition of “True Love Travels on Gravel Road.”

“Cupid Must Be Angry” by Duane Jarvis has a dreamy floating but fairly quiet stripped down sound. Duane sings the lyrics in a mournfully pleading and weary way. Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass-Kickin’ Team take “You Got the Look I Like” and kick it up a notch so that like everything they do it definitely kicks ass.

One of the best Nick Lowe cover bands, The Lowe Beats, one of the many Scott McCaughey projects (Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, part-time R.E.M. hired gun) do a great job with all of Nick’s songs and here they don’t disappoint lending their Seattle sound to “I Don’t Want the Night to End.” Another fave is the power pop rendition of “When I Write the Book” by sparkle*jets u.k.

My ears pricked up when I heard “Marie Provost” – I quickly looked to see who was singing it and didn’t recognize the band Tipsy Jack (I was also driving and didn’t want to have a wreck digging for my reading glasses to try to read the details). Despite the fact that this song is a bit on the morbid/dark humor side – it’s catchy. Later when I got a chance to read the liner notes carefully, I discovered that Tipsy was Tracy Huffman and Wyman Reese who used to be in $1000 Wedding. I wondered what happened to those guys. I may be their biggest fan from Georgia/Missouri/Tennessee. HINT: Walter you will send me Tipsy Jack’s new CD when it comes out won’t you?

In addition to keeping Lowe Profile in one of CD players, I’ve now got my stack of Nick’s CDs and vinyl close by the stereo. I guess you could just say that I’ve been living in a Nick Lowe world. A world where Nick Lowe Rules and is the Jesus of Cool.

Amelia White

Amelia White – Black Doves
Funzalo Records

With an angel voice and gritty lyrics, Amelia White brings us her 4th release following the EP Candy Heart her first release after her move to Nashville. Amelia isn’t exactly a new-comer to any music scene, having lived, played, and recorded in both Seattle and Boston. Black Doves is a lush recording with a similar introspective ambience as Emmylou’s Wrecking Ball crossed with the Lucinda Williams style of story-telling.

By day, Amelia co-writes songs on Music Row, joining numerous other prolific song-writers – by night she’s secured her place in Nashville’s more underground music scene. For this recording, Amelia has assembled some of Nashville’s best players – Doug Lancio and Adam Schoenfeld on guitars; John Deaderick on keyboards; Paul Griffith on drums, and her long-time collaborator guitarist Russell Chudnofsky. Black Doves was co-produced by Nielson Hubbard and Brian Brown.

Each of the songs on Black Doves are well-crafted without losing their sense of personal or uniqueness – some with subtle and not-so-subtle political themes. The songs range from the haunting “Tupelo Train” with the lyrics “mama’s in the kitchen praying Jesus let it be/daddy’s waiting for his to come/scratch your nails into a stone/no way is logic the first to go/and know you can’t explain/about the Tupelo train.” “Dig Me Out” is a more up-tempo twang rocker; while “What U Wish” is a more ethereal slow number. Be sure and hang on after this 10th track and catch the beautiful hymn-like song “Lucky” expressing Amelia’s and others feelings following 9/11.

A Blessing and a Curse


I haven’t been out to see many bands this year but one I couldn’t miss were my dear friends from Athens, GA/Alabama – The Drive-By Truckers. I think I’ve only seen the DBT’s 4 or 5 times since I left Athens, GA and the time before this show was longer than I’d like to admit. I was living in Columbia, MO in a tiny student apartment back in graduate school when the band hit town to play Mojo’s. For several days they made my apartment their base as they played a show in Belleville, IL then perhaps another heading west of Columbia on I-70 – maybe Kansas City, maybe Lawrence, KS. That show at Mojo’s in the fall of 2001 seems like yesterday – the band was touring behind The Southern Rock Opera and still playing small clubs in some parts of the country. Now three CDs and 5 years later, I go to see them at Nashville’s Cannery Ballroom capacity 1000 people. It was a sold out show with a small crowd milling about outside hoping to snag a ticket at any price. Patterson was kind enough to put me on the guest list as Deb + 1 so since I was just Deb – I gave my extra ticket to a girl who’s friends had tickets but hated to leave her outside. She offered to buy my beer, give me money but all I asked was that she return that kindness to someone else some day. I think that’s what the band would have said then followed that with “Come see us at the rock show!”

If you haven’t caught the Drive-By Trucker’s fever yet, start working your way through their albums. Next time they’re playing a show in your town or your country, get out and go!

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