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.
“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four are excellent, let’s just mention “LA CONTREDANSE A TI-BROWNE” and “TWO STEP DE LA VILLE PLATTE”, the latter was originally made by DENNIS McGEE and is not a two-step like this title might suggest but a beautiful waltz with just vocal and fiddle.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.
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.