The Steeldrivers « Reckless » Rounder 0624-2 (2010)
Steeldrivers’ singer (Chris Stapleton) left the group and his replacement, Gary Nichols, will be in Craponne. Stapleton, beside being a good vocalist, is first a Nashville songwriter. One can surely see this new group on YouTube. I prefer personnally the fiddle player Tammy Rogers (already seen in Nashville, and 2 times in Paris) and Mike Henderson, mandolin and, most of all,dobro.
Better sides of this hybrid bluegrass band : the powerful fast « The Reckless Side Of Me », the bluesy (great dobro) « Peacemaker », the lively classic bluegrass sound of « Guitars, Whiskey, Guns and Knives » and the haunting (fine vocal by Stapleton) « Ghosts Of Mississipi ». Buy it in confidence !
Tim Hus « Hockeytown » Stony plain (2010)
Tim is a Canadian honky-tonk singer, whose compositions are very promising and interesting. The instrumentation is of classic origin, even comprising accordion (« North Atlantic Trawler ») and the inspiration includes references to trucker’s culture (« Canadian Pacific »). Also noticed were « Picture Butte Charlie », classic honky-tonk sound, and the « Talkin’ Saskatoon Blues ». An artist to look for in the future !
Nadine Landry & Stephen « Sammy » Lind « Granddad’s Favorite» (2010)
A duet (Nadine on vocal and guitar, Stephen on banjo and fiddle) who offer a cajun pot-pourri of old, traditional songs as well as personal compositions. I like Nadine’s high-pitched vocal in « Parlez-nous A Boire » (Invite us to drink), or the good « Les Oiseaux Vont Chanter » (The birds are going to sing). I picked up « Un Ange Pour Toute La Louisiane» (An angel for all Louisiana) too, and the fine instrumental fiddle-led « Brown’s Dream ». Really don’t know if they are used musicians on CD, but felt it a bit monotonous in term of paces and rhythm guitar styling. Maybe a duet to look for in the future.
Eileen Jewell presents Butcher Holler « A Tribute To Loretta Lynn » Signature Sounds (2010)
This is a difficult task of paying tribute to an icon of Country music of the ’70s to the ’90s, but Eileen Jewell (vocal) does it fairly well. Actually her versions of Lynn’s songs may even sound better than the originals, according to Jack Dumery ! I believe him, me being not familiar with Loretta Lynn’s music. Anyway, I particularly liked « Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind »), with Eileen’s assured vocal over a crisp lead-guitar. Other goodies do include « I’m A Honky Tonk Girl », with love gone wrong lyrics which seem suited to Loretta’s image. Let’s also take a listen to the nice shuffler « A Man I Hardly Know » or the good « Deep As Your Pocket », and I’m ending with « You’re Lookin’ At Country », a great Honky tonk song in its own right. A very fine CD, you surely enjoy if you ever decide to pick it.
Pokey Lafarge & Soul City Three « River Boat Soul » Free Dirt Records (2010). Takoma Park, MD
This is entirely something else. Back to roots music and « jazz manouche ». Pokey and his band do offer a large amount of happy old-time music, be it traditional songs (« Claude Jones » or « Sweet Potato Blues ») or own compositions like « Daffodil Blues ». I felt like their sound of traditional instruments, like kazoo, mouth harp, banjo and acoustic guitar. All selections are taken at brisk tempos, even the blues songs. I noticed the slower « Bag Of Bones », full of laziness. A very nice record I recommend to old-time music lovers. But the other people will enjoy it too !
This is Jack Dumery’s new chronicle. Jack kindly chose the CDs and sent them , allowing me to review them with an open ear. And I found in the batch some real treasures in various styles, honky tonk, cajun or gospel hillbilly. Although I don’t have Jack’s writing abilities to English, I hope to pass round the pleasure I had discovering the CDs.
Jack left, Xavier (bopping editor) right - Attignat, 2008
Here we go…
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Every art form had to deal with the arrival of the atomic age in one manner or another. Some artists were reserved and intellectual in their approach, others less so. The world of popular music, for one, got an especially crazy kick out of the Bomb. Country, blues, jazz, gospel, rock and roll, rockabilly, Calypso, novelty and even polka musicians embraced atomic energy with wild-eyed, and some might argue, inappropriate enthusiasm. These musicians churned out a variety of truly memorable tunes featuring some of the most bizarre lyrics of the 20th century. If it weren’t for Dr. Oppenheimer’s creation, for example, would we have ever heard lines like « Nuclear baby, don’t fission out on me! » or « Radioactive mama, we’ll reach critical mass tonight! »?
There are various subgenres (see below) that comprise the master genre we like to call the Atomic Platter, but mainly these compositions celebrate, lament or lampoon the Bomb and the Cold War that sprang from the mushroom clouds over Japan.
The earlier songs are less self-conscious, more naive (in some cases to the point of downright wackiness) and therefore more intriguing. Needless to say, another reason why many of these songs were selected is—put simply—they swing! Pondering the cultural climate that encouraged songs like 1957′s profoundly strange yet catchy Atom Bomb Baby is a lot more rewarding than, say, examining the obvious metaphors from a pre-electric Dylan protest song like « A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. » And Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction is a memorable « important » song. Read the rest of this entry »
The original of the song was made by the legendary Rex Griffin, one of those pioneers in Honky Tonk music. Here is his biography by a Bruce Eder:
As a songwriter, performer, and recording artist, Rex Griffin bridged the gap between Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams — indeed, it can be said that he bridged the gap between Rodgers and Buddy Holly, and between Rodgers and the Beatles. Griffin was among the first country music stars to record using his own material almost exclusively, and among the least of his accomplishments, one of his songs was covered (albeit without proper credit) by the Beatles. Griffin is the author of the original version of « Everybody’s Tryin’ to Be My Baby, » which Carl Perkins later adapted into his own song, and the Beatles subsequently covered to the profit of all except Griffin, who’d been dead about six years when all of this happened.
Griffin is one of those pre-war figures in country music whose legacy has been unjustly overlooked. He had no hits of his own after 1939, although his biggest hit from that year — « The Last Letter » — continues to get recorded at the end of the century. He was also a direct inspiration to both Hank Williams (whose recording of « Lovesick Blues » was virtually a copy of Griffin’s from ten years earlier) and Lefty Frizzell. One of country music’s first singer/songwriters, Griffin was the model for figures including Floyd Tillman, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard (and one could even throw Buddy Holly in there). And, like Williams, his personal demons in love and substance abuse brought a premature end — albeit not as suddenly as Williams’ — to Griffin’s performing career and his life.
He was born Alsie Griffin, second of seven children of Marion Oliver Griffin and the former Selma Bradshaw. He grew up without much formal education and spent most of his early childhood on the farm that his family owned in Sand Valley. By the 1920s, Ollie Griffin was working in Gasden at the Agricola Foundry, and Alsie followed his father there. The family regarded music as a pastime to be pursued after finishing one’s real work.
Alsie felt differently, however, wanting no part of farm life or the factory if there was any way of helping it. His first instrument was a harmonica, but it wasn’t long before he picked up the guitar. Gasden didn’t offer a big future in music, but Griffin took advantage of what was there, playing local parties and dances.
If the guitar was the first instrument that Griffin felt strongly about, his first love was the music of Jimmie Rodgers. He quickly adopted Rodgers’ style as his own and never entirely abandoned elements of his music — especially the yodeling — even once he had his own style nailed down.
Griffin made his first professional appearance on a bill at the Gasden Theater in 1930, and not long after he moved to Birmingham, where better opportunities awaited. He joined the Smokey Mountaineers, and it was there that he got his new first name — the group’s announcer had difficulty pronouncing Alsie, and simply renamed him Rex. The name stayed with him and he moved from city to city across the South, appearing on radio stations in Chattanooga, Atlanta, and New Orleans, among other cities.
His recording career began in 1935, when Griffin was signed to the newly formed Decca Record company, which already had the Sons of the Pioneers, Tex Ritter, Jimmie Davis, and Milton Brown in their roster of country artists. His first recording sessions were held in Chicago on March 25 and 26 of that year, during which he recorded ten songs, accompanied by his own guitar and Johnny Motlow on tenor banjo. All ten number were originals by Griffin, itself an astonishing achievement in those days. All of the material, both in its style and performance, recalled Rodgers — Griffin’s yodeling never let one forget who his inspiration was, although the songs hold up well on their own terms. Also striking about the recordings is Motlow’s banjo playing which, with its trilling, sounds almost like a mandolin.
Griffin’s first releases were successful enough to justify another session for Decca nearly a year later in New Orleans. This time he provided the only accompaniment on ten of the songs and did two additional songs backed by an amplified steel guitar. Among the songs that came out of those sessions was « Everybody’s Tryin’ to Be My Baby, » which in this context sounds almost like a blues composition, recalling works such as Tampa Red‘s « Tight Like That. » The piece was also a dazzling guitar showcase for Griffin, whose prowess on the instrument was considerable. This blues influence was no fluke — « I’m Ready to Reform » from the same session is a superb piece of white blues that can fool listeners as to its origins as easily as Autry’s or Rodgers’ best blues sides.
Griffin’s records continued to sell well, and in May of 1937, this time in New York, he cut two more sides, including his most famous number. « The Last Letter » became his biggest hit, a suicide note set to music. Stories vary as to its origins, the most commonly circulated one being that Griffin, who had a taste for alcohol that would later blight his life, was in a drunken depression over his failing first marriage when he wrote the note, and later set it to music as sobering up. Whatever the circumstances of its composition, the record caught on and became a hit throughout the South, and also brought Griffin the adulation of many of his colleagues, most notably Ernest Tubb, whose 20-year friendship with Griffin began over « The Last Letter. »
The song was covered by other artists, including Jimmie Davis, soon after its release. Gene Sullivan (vocalist for Roy Newman & his Boys) also covered three Griffin songs, including « Everybody’s Tryin’ to Be My Baby, » in the late ’30s, and even bandleader Bob Crosby cut Griffin’s « I Told You So. » Griffin’s own career kept moving forward, with concerts and radio performances throughout the South that made him one of the more popular performers of the era.
Griffin’s next recording sessions in September of 1939 yielded a dozen songs, including the follow-up to his biggest hit, « Answer to the Last Letter« , and his recording of « Lovesick Blues, » which was to be the model for Williams’ recording nearly a decade later that made Hank a star. Also recorded at the session was « Nobody Wants to Be My Baby« , a fast, breezy honky tonk-style number and one of several songs on which Griffin was backed by guitarist Ted Brooks and bassist Smitty Smith. The latter is also a beautiful piece of bluesy honky tonk and deserves to be better known.
Despite the success of « The Last Letter« , Griffin’s record sales were too poor overall to justify the label keeping him, and he was dropped by Decca after 1939. In the mid-’30s, he had played with Billie Walker and Her Texas Cowboys in New Orleans, and in 1940 he rejoined her band in Memphis. He later moved back to Alabama to spend more time with his ailing mother and appeared locally for the next few years. Among the places he played often was the notorious crime-ridden Alabama town of Phenix City, which would later become the subject of two feature films. In Gasden, he performed with a group called the Melody Boys, which included two future members of Tubb’s Texas Troubadors.
In 1941, following the death of his mother, Griffin moved to Dallas, where he had a regular spot on KRLD’s Texas Round-Up. His popularity from these broadcasts made Griffin a natural to take over the Texas Round-Up. This was to be his best broadcast showcase, and had it not been for the war, Griffin might’ve become a major star from his work on KRLD. As it was, the show ended in 1943 as the available talent dwindled amid continued military call-ups.
Griffin moved to Chicago in 1944, and it was there that he made his next batch of recordings. These 16 sides — recorded with a band that may have included Red Foley on guitar — were not intended for commercial release. Rather, they were made for Decca Records’ World Transcription Services, for broadcast over the air by radio stations that licensed them.
Despite these recordings for the company’s transcription division, there was no interest at the time in trying to release new commercial sides by Griffin. To hear the material today is to glimpse some of the best honky tonk-style music of the era — by that time, Griffin had taken on a more modern style, and he had even cut his Rodgers-inspired yodeling to a minimum. In addition to capturing Griffin performing « live » in the studio, these are among the few sides he left that feature him working with a band and, thus, show something of the sound he must’ve had during that early-’40s Dallas period.
The oversight by the record company, in terms of offering him a new contract, is difficult to explain. It is possible, however, that the wartime rationing of shellac (a key ingredient in 78 rpm records) had so dampened interest in any risky new ventures (the record business at one point seemed doomed to shut down) that Griffin never had a chance with his old label.
He made his last recordings in 1946 for Cincinnati-based King Records, which had previously recorded Grandpa Jones, the Delmore Brothers, and Merle Travis, among others. Griffin cut eight sides for King, backed by Homer & Jethro on guitars and mandolin. The sides showed Griffin in decent form, an easygoing honky tonk singer with a smooth style and a good voice, but lacking the sharp edge to his singing and playing that sparked his earlier work, clearly on the decline by this time.
These proved to be his last recording sessions. His worsening diabetic condition, complicated by drinking and other dietary abuses, forced an end to Griffin’s career, and the collapse of his second marriage late in the 1940s sent him into a personal tailspin. He moved to Dallas and still wrote songs, and when his health allowed (he was hospitalized several times), he pitched them actively to singers who had recording contracts, including Ray Price, who cut « Answer to the Last Letter« , « Beyond the Last Mile« , and « I Saw My Castles Fall Today« .
His friendship with Tubb blossomed into a profitable professional relationship for both, as Tubb recorded many of Griffin’s songs, and Griffin also became close to Tubb’s nephew, Douglas Glenn Tubb. Their interest, coupled with the quality of his work, sustained Griffin during the 1950s, and in 1955 he wrote « Just Call Me Lonesome« , his last hit, recorded by Eddy Arnold and Red Foley. His last years were blighted by further ill health, as Griffin was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was confined to a New Orleans hospital for what proved to be the final months of his life, and died in October of 1958.
Griffin’s death at the age of 46 was a great loss to country music. Moreover, his lack of any hit recordings of his own after 1939 resulted in there never being an LP release of his songs — there was no impetus on the part of Decca Records to explore his recording history, and he was left in limbo as a recording artist, a distant memory to older listeners. The possibility of Decca’s successor, MCA Records, doing anything with Griffin’s music in the 1990s or beyond seems even more remote.
The songs he wrote, however, have endured over the 40 years since. Hank Thompson recorded « An Old Faded Photograph » in 1960, and « The Last Letter » was re-recorded by Jack Greene in 1964 and became a hit once again. Soon after, Tubb cut an entire album of Griffin songs, and other artists who have covered « The Last Letter » include Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard. At the time of his death, Griffin’s quarterly royalty statement from the publisher of his newest songs was 18 dollars and change, a situation that had changed drastically by the 1960s. Additionally, his song « Everybody’s Tryin’ to Be My Baby« , as appropriated by Carl Perkins — the inability of the family to protect the copyright probably cost his daughters millions in royalties — and later covered by the Beatles, has become a rock & roll standard only slightly less familiar than « Blue Suede Shoes » or « Maybelline« . And then there was his version of « Lovesick Blues, » which Williams freely admitted to having learned from Griffin, even though Hank was also familiar with the Emmett Miller original — Griffin did make changes in the lyrics and structure of the song that Williams kept in his version.
In 1970, in recognition of his achievements as a composer, Griffin was among the very first composers inducted into the newly founded National Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in Nashville. In 1996, Bear Family Records of Germany released a long overdue triple-CD career retrospective on Griffin entitled The Last Letter.
In 1938, bandleader and pianist ROY NEWMAN cut in Dallas « Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby« , in a more Western swing mood. Griffin had done it fast- paced, Newman kept it. Whole thing is cheerful, funny, and ideal for dancers. The personnel included: Gene Sullivan on vocal duties, Newman on piano, a young Jim Boyd on guitar, along with Holly Horton (clarinet), Cecil Browen (fiddle), Ish Irwin (bass) and Walter Kirken (banjo). ROY NEWMAN is known for his « I Got Ants In My Pants » and « Rosalie », cut either in Dallas or in New Orleans at the end of the ’30s.
Then ten years later, the song was covered twice. I really don’t know who came first, so I suppose it was GLEN THOMPSON. He hailed from Danville, VA, and had numerous records on the Tornado, (Tennessee) Athens, even his own Glen Thompson labels. Most of his output can be found on a UK. Krazy Kat CD « Tarheel Swing ». Here he delivers a fine, up-to-date hillbilly bop shuffle paced version (uncredited) of the classic on the Manchester, KY Acme label (# 982-B). The steel player is particularly fine (two solos), as the fiddler and the pianist. Lyrics do seem to emanate direct from Griffin. JIMMY SHORT & the Silver Saddle Ranch Boys out on the West coast did their version in 1951 on the 4 Star label (# 1538). A bit Western flavored (as Short yells to invite the members for their solos); the steel Jay Higham is impressive, as the rhythm guitar by Short, who reminds me much of Clyde Moody‘s « The Blues Came Pouring Down » from 1949 (hear this song in his story elsewere in the site).
Billboard April 7, 1951
Then we go to the two last versions we’re interested in. Without doubt, the YORK BROTHERS revived the Griffin song, however strangely crediting it to Wayne Walker and Webb Pierce. Theirs is very good, well-suited to their harmony style, and taken at a Rockabilly tempo. Issued 1957.
Carl Perkins - Sun studio
The musicof GLEN THOMPSON or YORK BROTHERS’ song and the CARL PERKINS song is totally different. The Carl Perkins song has blues-style guitar riffs and a start-stop rhythm closer to « Blue Suede Shoes« . There are two verses in common but Carl Perkins wrote completely new music for his song released on Sun Records in 1957 on the famous « Dance Album » LP 1225.
And the rest is history of Rock’n'Roll, when the song got a world-wide appeal when released in 1964 in England. A fine career for a 1936 session-filler by a long-forgotten honky tonk artist…Finally it was revived in 2003 by JOHNNY CASH, as a tribute to Carl Perkins, his old friend (who had died a couple years before). A nice, strong version.
‘Cat’ has been used as a term in popular music since the Jazz years of the 1920’s. Revered by the ancient Egyptians, cats have a mystique and grace all over their own – no wonder these independent and mysterious animals became such a byword for ‘Cool’ in music from Hep Cats, jazz be-boppers of the ‘40s, and right through into 1950′s Rock’n’Roll.
MICHAEL JEROME BROWNE & The Twin Rivers String Band (Borealis Records)
On this 2004 release, MJB shows his eclectism is american roots music. His vocals and playing shine with the support of top musicians such as JORDAN OFFICER, MICHAEL BALL or MARY GICK.
From the opening track, “BROWNE’S HOEDOWN”, listeners are captivated. The tune is a twin fiddle duet (MJM, Jordan) while “THE COO COO” is an Appalachian classic sung by the artist with the only support of his own banjo, a fascinating combination to all lovers of old-time music.
Sources are various and “YOU DONE ME WRONG” is a Ray Price’s honky-tonk classic from the 50’s which finds a fine old-timey sound here with the superb duet singing of MJB and JODY BENJAMIN.
“OUT ON THE WESTERN PLAINS” comes from the repertoire of LEADBELLY and turns into hot western swing with great fiddle (MICHAEL BALL) and electric lap-steel (JORDAN OFFICER), not to forget first-class yodelin’ from JODY BENJAMIN.
LEADBELLY again with “SHREVEPORT JAIL”, with just MICHAEL’s voice and steel-bodied Hawaïan guitar for 2.49 mn of country-blues heaven.
The artist’s love for Cajun music is also obvious as 4 cuts out of 19 are in the style. All four are excellent, let’s just mention “LA CONTREDANSE A TI-BROWNE” and “TWO STEP DE LA VILLE PLATTE”, the latter was originally made by DENNIS McGEE and is not a two-step like this title might suggest but a beautiful waltz with just vocal and fiddle.
“PAY DAY” from MISSISSIPI JOHN HURT is turned into a banjo tune here. Great singin’ and pickin’.
Other BROWNE’s originals are “STILL ON MY MIND”, “ARLINGTON TOWN” which deals with domestic violence. “JUST LOOK UP” with strong PENNY LANG vocal supports or “MAY YOU COME UP AND STAY”, a memorable fiddle/banjo duet.
From start to finish this collection flows with feeling, energy and emotion. Five stars for MICHAEL JEROME BROWNE and his musicians.
THE BLUE RIDGE RANGERS RIDES AGAIN (Verve records) (2009)
THE BLUE RIDGE RANGERS first appeared in 1973 when FOGERTY recorded such an LP for the Fantasy label. He was also playing all instruments on this project. Everybody remembers this now.
36 years later the idea finds a new life with a major difference in the fact that a solid band is present in the studio with Buddy Miller (guitar), Greg Leisz (pedal/lap-steel, gtrs, dobro, mandolin), Dennis Crouch (bass) to name just a few.
Song selection is faultless as well with first track being “Paradise” which finds one of his most soulful interpretations here.
“Never Ending Song Of Love” was written by Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett and sounds almost like a Cajun song, thanks to Jason Mowery’s fiddle, Dennis Crouch’s slapped bass and shouts in the background.
Everybody knows “Garden party”, the Ricky Nelson classic with vocals by Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit (The Eagles) and a very Burton-like guitar by John.
Let’s not forget the Bakersfield legend with Buck Owens’ “I Don’t Care” recreated with much success. Buck would be proud.
With such a title and arrangement, “Heaven’s Just A Sin Away” could be a gospel song but it’s not. The arms of a loved one are never too far from the heaven doors but I doubt that any pastor would appreciate this song in his church.
The biggest surprise in the song selection comes with “Fallin, Fallin’, Fallin’”, an excellent hillbilly bopper recorded by BUD DECKLEMAN on MGM in the early 50’s. John and his musicians treat the number with respect, fiddle and steel breaks shine while Buddy Miller’s guitar licks are just strikin’.
Another 50’s country classic is “I’ll Be There” (Ray Price). No better choice for such a collection.
Gene Simmons’ “Haunted House” was a 1964 novelty hit on Hi and is a wild country-rocker in this 2009 cover. Not bad at all.
The name of Bruce Springsteen might embarrass some of our readers but his duet with JOHN FOGERTY is a pounding “When Will I Be Loved”, first-class, although I must admit that my own preferences go to “I Don’t Care” or “Fallin’, Fallin’, Fallin’”.
JOHN FOGERTY’s talents are still intact after a long career, he’s definitely a rock star who could be a country music legend too. Thanks to him for paying tribute to the roots with albums like “RIDES AGAIN”. They are only a few in the rock world today.
LUCKY TUBB “DAMN THE LUCK” (TUBB Records) (2008)
This young artist’s is the grand-nephew of the legendary Texas Troubadour, ERNEST TUBB, while his uncle is GLENN DOUGLAS TUBB, better known as GLENN DOUGLAS on his 50’s Decca sides. Who remembers his excellent “Let It Roll” and “You Sure Look Lonesome”.
Many are accusing LUCKY TUBB of being a retro-country act or to try to copy his famous ancestor’s voice which is totally untrue. His appearance at the 2010 Craponne Country Music Festival in France has been much noticed and successful.
Out of the 3 CDs released by LUCKY to this day, I consider this one as being his best.
Most of the 11 cuts are fast country boppers like “Takin’ It Back” or “It’s Your Wagon”, both originals with excellent singin’ and guitar pickin’. Too bad that the name of the guitar player is not mentioned in the sleeve notes; one J.W. Wade is playing an Electrolux Telecaster. Is this thing supposed to be a guitar? Please, help me.
Lucky has written 6 songs on the CD, 3 come from the pen of Glenn.
We also find a cover of Ronnie Wade’s “Annie Don’t Work No More” which I will quote as much better than the original King side from 1957. This new version is 100% rock-a-billy with great guitar and steel breaks.
“Sweet Mental Revenge” was written by Mel Tillis and a hit for Waylon Jennings in the mid-60’s. Strong lyrics and solid interplay between steel and guitar make the song one of the highlights of the CD. Yes, please take me back to the Texas honky-tonks.
Final cut is “Damn The Luck”, a pounding honky-tonk blues, also written by Lucky, with dobro and fiddle well on the fore. Great lyrics with the inevitable reference to uncle Ernest and Waylon and Willie as well as JC (Johnny Cash probably). Lyrics close with such a final line as “to 1950 I’m backslidin’ ‘cause Nashville is just a shame.” With such words you can easily understand why LUCKY TUBB isn’t much welcome in Music City.
Jack Dumery has perhaps the finest knowledge in France of multiple forms of Country music today. He’s well and lives near Orléans, France. Here are three of his best discoveries over the last months. Thanks, Jack, for this post!
WILLIE NELSON/Willie and the Wheels (Bismeaux Records)
WILLIE NELSON goes back to his roots with this new Texas Western Swing CD. RAY BENSON, ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL were pioneers of the style revival in the early 70’s and they bring strong support to Willie on this one. Nobody could have dreamed of such a musical team.
The singer and musicians have selected 12 classics, here brilliantly revisited, from « SWEET JENNY LEE », « OH YOU PRETTY WOMAN » to « CORINNE, CORRINA ». Every player (RAY BENSON, guitar – JASON ROBERTS, fiddle, mandolin – FLOYD DOMINO, piano – EDDIE RIVERS, steel-guitar), a strong rhythm section, WILLIE’s relaxed and jazzy vocals (with shades of FLOYD TILLMAN, one of Willie’s early influences) make this CD one of the best Country releases from the last decade.
« FAN IT » came from Jazz before entering the Western Swing repertoires. Young Rock’n’Roll pioneers like Bill Haley probably found their inspiration in such numbers .
ELISABETH McQUEEN is the regular singer/guitarist with A.A.T.W. and here brings her assistance to Willie for a superb and bluesy « SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD », while an instrumental number, « SOUTH », shows the talents of two great musicians, PAUL SHAFFER on piano and Nashville star VINCE GILL on guitar.
There is also a deluxe edition of « WILLIE AND THE WHEEL » featuring an additional song, « I’LL HAVE SOMEBODY ELSE » with the phenomenal young fiddle player from Austin, RUBY JANE.
Liner notes were written by RAY BENSON himself and pay tribute to the late legendary producer JERRY WEXLER who was the originator of this product in 1979.
THE SIDE-WINDERS/ROMPIN’N’STOMPIN’ WITH (Bop’n’Stomp Records)
Over the last few months, a new type of Rock’n’Roll, performed by Young CaMex musicians, meet the favors of audiences. Wild vocals and high speed temps are opposed to traditional Rockabilly. That is why this new release on the Bop’n’Stomp label from San Diego will be a pleasant surprise to the fans of the latter with deep Hillbilly-Bop/Country-Boogie roots.
RENE EDSON CERVANTES (vocals, guitar), RAMON IBAN ESPINOZA (lead-guitar, vocals), EDWARD GIOVANNI GRANADENO (string-bass) and CARLOS ANDRES VELASQUEZ (drums) are the writers of 11 songs on this CD, the only cover being « FEEL LIKE A MILLION » (EMERY BLADES on ARVIS). JEFFREY MORGAN (steel-guitar) guests on 4 titles, his sound being much welcome.
Twelve gems in Rockabilly style, from « ONE OF THESE DAYS » to « SWEET DREAMS ».
This is undoutedly a group to pay great attention to. Let’s hope this first release will not be their last one.
TIM HUS/BUSH PILOT BUCKAROO (Stony Plain Records, Canada)
Here’s one of my best discoveries over the last few months and this canadian artist has already 4 CDs to his credit, « BUSH PILOT BUCKAROO » being the last one.
With shades of JOHNNY CASH, RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT and TOM CONNORS in his own style, TIM takes us all on the road of real life with a strong and craggy voice, original songs and a first-class backing band usic Telecaster, steel-guitar, dobro, fiddle and string-bass. Nobody should be well unaware of such a talent.
From his first song, « DEMPSEY HIGHWAY », we travel through the vast canadian spaces to meet fascinating characters and admire grand sceneries. California will not be overlooked with « BAKERSFIELD MUSIC », a tribute to MERLE HAGGARD and BUCK OWENS. Every track is a real tale.
« MAN WITH THE BIG HAT » is a cowboy song from present times with GARY FJELLGAARD appearing on a duet with TIM on this one, while « COAL MINE » sounds more like real bluegrass, as opposed to the other songs on the CD. « ROADHOUSE BAND » would have fit WAYLON JENNINGS or HANK WILLIAMS, Jr. in their best days.
Twelve great numbers by an artist who deserves more recognition and larger broadcast on so-called « Country » stations.
HILLBILLY BOOGIE !
Essential component of Rock’n’Roll, this Country stream goes as far as the 30’s. Following the Boogie Woogie wave (1928, Pinetop Smith), everyone includes a boogie in his repertoire : swing big bands (Count Basie : « Basie boogie »), western swing orchestras (Spade Cooley : »Three way boogie », or smaller combos – Country (Tennessee Ernie Ford : « Shot gun boogie », 1951) or Blues (Amos Milburn : « Amo’s Boogie », 1946 – one of thousand artists). And the phenomenon will last a good twenty years. Fast tempo is good for dancers, as in « Hillbilly Boogie » (Jerry Irby, 1949 –Pete Burke at the piano).
Piano style was transposed to
- guitar (Arthur Smith, « Guitar Boogie », 1945),
- harmonica (The Milo Twins, « Truck Driver’s boogie », 1949),
- mandolin (The Armstrong Twins, « Mandolin Boogie », 1949),
- violin (Curley Williams, « Fiddlin’ Boogie », 1949),
- steel-guitar (Speedy West, « Stratosphere Booie », 1954),
- accordion (Nathan Abshire, « Lu Lu Boogie », 1947),
- banjo (The McCormick Brothers, « Red Hen Boogie », 1954),
- vocal too of course (Wesley Tuttle, «Yodelin’ Boogie », 1949).
You can recognize a Hillbilly boogie by the presence of a powerful stand-up bass, often slapped : you can hear here the monumental « Bull Fiddle Boogie » by PeeWee King (Redd Stewart on vocal)(1949).
Numerous other instruments can be found in hillbilly boogie such as saxophone, muted trumpet or clarinet.
And until now I’d only speak of titles including « boogie » ! There were thousands others on this tempo, not always fast, but « uptempo ». Finally it became the standard in hillbilly music, what we call now Hillbilly Bop. One example between hundred is Downie Bowshier’s « Tight Shoe Boogie » (King, 1953). The song complains about shoes too tight to dance to the bop. It is doubly ironic, since Bowshier was confined to a wheel chair.
Recommended listening :
We are well treated these times, because there is a plethora of compilations.
- « Country boogie 1939-1947 » (Frémeaux et associés 161) – 36 classic recordings just before and after WWII, from « Oakie Boogie » (Jack Guthrie) to « Square Dance boogie » (Johnny Lee Wills), to « Saturday night boogie » (Al Dexter). A good choice from Gérard Herzaft, the famous compiler.
- « Hillbilly Bop, Boogie & The Honky Tonk », a serie of 3 double-CDs from Jasmine (UK) at bargain price. Buy in confidence, you won’t be sorry !
- « Hillbilly Boogie » Proper (UK) boxset (4 CD). 100 tunes for £ 10.99. All the greats are here.
- « King Hillbilly Bop’n’Boogie » (UK Ace 854) does concentrate on one of the genre’s best postwar labels. Many uncommon tracks.
-Hillbilly Boogie » (Columbia Legacy 53940) – 20 essential tracks (1990)
- If you are looking for something else, try to find (remoted from current catalog) « A Shot In The Dark – Tennessee Jive », a 7-CD Bear Family boxset devoted to Nashville’s small labels from 1945 to 1955.
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Welcome on bopping!