Rolling Country 2019

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Here's my Nashville Scene ballot, as sent---still working on the Imaginary Categories, like Country Hon. Mentions and Related Top Ten. Think I mentioned most of this Top Ten on RC '18:

Top Ten Country Albums of 2018 (just in the order they come to mind):

Willie Nelson: Last Man Standing

Brandi Carlile: By The Way, I Forgive You

Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel

Various Artists:King of the Road: A Tribute To Roger Miller

Various Artists: Johnny Cash: Forever Words---The Music

Various Artists: Blaze (Original Cast Recording)

Eric Church:Desperate Man

John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness

Becky Warren: Undesirable

Lori McKenna: The Tree

Top Five Country Reissues of 2018:

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: [i]Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes 1965-1969

Jerry Garcia: [i[Before The Dead[/i]

George Jones and the Jones Boys: Live In Texas 1965

Charlie Rich: Too Many Teardrops---The Complete Groove & RCA Recordings

Various Artists: Outlaws & Armadillos---Country’s Roaring ‘70s

dow, Sunday, 6 January 2019 20:55 (one week ago) Permalink

Becky Warren's War Surplus Deluxe---2017 reissue of the 2016 original, worth getting for the bonus tracks---is a song cycle about life, lives, in a Southern-sounding military town. This is less fluid, less-back-and-forth, seemingly less concerned with verbal particulars, more about sonic particulates in the gritty atmosphere (although WSD has plenty of those). Here she just cranks up the rhythm guitar and drives on through the smog, keeping an eye on everything, of course---while the previous album was where I'd hoped Isbell might reach, considering the highlights of his DBT contributions and debut album (where he was backed by the Truckers, come to think of it), this is more like if they backed her---possibly with some DBT co-writes---but she doesn't need any of that. Although Truckers, Stones, maybe Petty and the Heartbreakers are influences. she's got her own voice and I think of this as rocking country (the kind with lots of living, dying and killing time in the rear-view, watching for lots more ahead)
Oh yeah, she does have some stand-out tracks, writing-wise, especially "Sunshine State," where she's calling to say she's out of prison, ain't mad at ya, just checking in, be good now, bye-bye.

dow, Sunday, 6 January 2019 21:18 (one week ago) Permalink

Xgau's always been big on McKenna, so when he wrote that The Tree was a bit too close to the writer's workshop---with what used to be called kitchen sink realism getting out of hand,sliding from the quotidian to the no-shit-sherlock---I thought 'Uh-oh." But, not that far from Warren's Undesirable, McK's sound immediately took me way into the winter sky over the kitchen sink---which is still full of dishes, but she's going out for a while, back later, honey & kids (that's the verbal gist of one song, the feel of quite a few, if way down in there, sometimes). The singing doesn't seem nearly so constrained here (what the hell, it's her tenth album).

dow, Sunday, 6 January 2019 21:34 (one week ago) Permalink

In a fairly recent interview, Willie Nelson's mentioned taking good medical advice, at least that one time, so he must or should it's not entirely by accident that he's 'bout the Last Man Standing of his generation's country music stature. But he also must know he's dang short and that the famously hygenic Jerry Lee is also still standing, whenever he gets up from the piano. So no need for posturing here, though the wry punchlines are just part of the candid camera shots, of current self and others---mebbe "previous" selves---"You'll know me, I'm the one with his head up his ass," yeah can't miss it, not many of those around. But also the quips are rhythm joeks, feeding the grooves, pick up the tempo and don't let it hit you on the way out.
Pistol Annies have a tough-minded, reasonably good-humored post-post breakup album, with yet more songs or lines I haven't heard elsewhere---somebody must've beat them to the one about love ain't enough, rat?? But theirs really is a "Leaver's Lullaby," a carefully placed kiss-off. The one about not leaving any money in the "Commissary" account for a seriously no-good jailbird family member--not this time---is another underutilized country etc bit, and its work song chant not only mocks the poor-me prisoner, but suggests the way relatives of such can get strung out, at best "runnin' on a long chain," to quote Larry Jon Wilson on a not entirely dissimilar way of life.

dow, Sunday, 6 January 2019 22:55 (one week ago) Permalink

"must or should" know.

dow, Sunday, 6 January 2019 22:56 (one week ago) Permalink

On Sing me Back Home, Across 19 tracks the duo sings the classic country of The Carter Family, The Louvin Brothers, and Jimmie Rodgers; contemporary hits of the 1960s penned by Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard; and barn-burning traditional standards that blur the line between old-time and early bluegrass... a raw, unfiltered listen to Hazel & Alice at the height of their collaborative..., Yes, thanks Bandcamp! Not always crazy about some of the grimmer verses, but I know those voices will blast me 'round the mountain on the choruses. Now I want to check the s/t of the Strange Creek Singers: D&G w Mike Seeger and Tracy Schwarz of the New Lost City Ramblers (also Lamar Grier. maybe better known for playing banjo with Bill Monroe). Also want finally to check the Ramblers; where should I start?

They're namechecked several times by Garcia on Before The Dead, incl. the set prev released sep as as Folk Time, after the Stanford radio show where it was taped. (Already have a couple other inclusions on boot, but 4 remastered CDs for $19.99, so no prob.) The whole thing starts on May 26, 1961, with a hootenanny at Bridget Meier's sixteenth birthday party (she's so excited!) Set is very nice, made distinctive by Garcia's instantly recognizable singing, which, as on most of the rest of the box, doesn't have that high lonesome Dead etc. pitch, but is clear and contemplative and unaffected. Usually with future New Rider David Nelson, pretty often with Robert Hunter, and several guys I really need to look up, he gets more and more into banjo--a bit more than I am, at times---but still got the guitar and those pipes.

dow, Monday, 7 January 2019 00:46 (one week ago) Permalink

*Brigid* Meier, that is.

dow, Monday, 7 January 2019 00:48 (one week ago) Permalink

Also, Alice Gerrard's Follow The Music, released in 2o14, when she was 80, is backed by "members of Hiss Golden Messenger and Megafaun," as her label Tompkins Square considered worth mentioning --yes yes TS, it is worth mentioning, and the album's pretty good.
A couple of tweets:
Charlie Rich, Too Many Teardrops - The Complete Groove & RCA Recordings: Choirs, strings oops upside your head, get bearable and even occasionally useful, incl. killing weakest songs. Always we get Big Ol Charlie on lil cat feet---that voice, them keys! 40 tracks---I like a lot, love several.

George Jones/Jones Boys: Live in TX '65: Brave ballads of self-torture x "C Jam Blues," "White Lightnin'," "Bony Maronie," "B Bowman Bop." Panhandle Rag," "Jole Blon," JB trusty/Bladerunner crooner also cool w girl part on "We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds," heavy guests too. Guests incl. steel guitarist Buddy Emmons and fiddlers Red Hayes and (on "Jole Blond") Rufus Thibodeaux ("Two-By-Four," George calls him). The JBs crooner is Don Adams---android-sounding, strangely(?) satisfying.

dow, Monday, 7 January 2019 01:03 (one week ago) Permalink

Fuckin; finally, I agree w xgau that Outlaws and Armadillos has a lot of the right artists, but not always the right tracks. I get that Johnny Cash was a mavericky inspiration to Outlaws and Texastentialists, and the Stones' take on country also pertained, but why, pray tell, does this set select his version of "No Expectations"? Maybe Townes Van Zandt's cover of "Dead Flowers" would be better? Haven't heard it, but a lot of things would be better. Cash's ain't-sorry "Sam Hill" on the gallows, for instance---oh wait, that's not from the 70s, and this collection (listening companion to a museum exhibit) is very strict. Also very anglo (no Freddie Fender, no Johnny Rodriguez, no Clarence Gatemouth Brown), and omg male. Do have Emmylou and Marica Ball a little bit--no Lou Ann Barton, no Angela Strehli, certainly not Janis Joplin doing "Me and Bobby McGee," or anything else (oh well estates can be a problem with anthologizing, and hers is well-known).
But when I listened again, I realized just how much good stuff, some of it def. underexposed, did make the cut.

dow, Monday, 7 January 2019 01:18 (one week ago) Permalink

The Top Ten's Johnny Cash trib is new music for his bare lyrics, poems, some letters, I think. Only rambles too far when the music does (Costello and his chamber followers, mainly). Otherwise, as hoped for w these things, even most of the artists I don't usually care about rise to the occasion.

dow, Monday, 7 January 2019 01:22 (one week ago) Permalink

I did this on Chelsea Lovitt this week. You Had Your Cake, So Lie in It was cut in 2016 and came out in October 2018, but we'll call it a 2019 album. She's not well known at all, having barely played in Nashville or elsewhere. This album is unique, a political record that I thought was gonna be goofy but which turned out to be rather diverse; the closing track is the most atypical and the one Americana fans ought to know, seeing as how she's writing in a kind of Parsons-Chilton folk-country mode (that she quickly turns into her own rather strange thing), "De Donna," which also reminds me of Parsons' "Luzury Liner."">+'s the piece.

eddhurt, Monday, 7 January 2019 16:54 (one week ago) Permalink

I ended up listening to the Dierks Bentley album far more than expected. He's incapable of recording a good album end to end, but this has a stronger batch of tunes than he's ever assembled.

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 7 January 2019 16:57 (one week ago) Permalink

Here's what I put together for Geoff's Scene poll. The Malcolm Holcombe album had the most structural integrity of any "country" album I heard last year, and came to the harshest conclusions in a harsh year. I was surprised at how much I liked Alvin and Gilmore's album.

1. Malcolm Holcombe Come Hell or High Water Gypsy Eyes Music
2. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore Downey to Lubbock Yep Roc
3. Ashley McBryde Girl Going Nowhere Warner Bros. Nashville
4. Ry Cooder The Prodigal Son Fantasy
5. Pistol Annies Interstate Gospel RCA Nashville
6. Donovan Woods Both Ways Meant Well
7.Mike and the Moonpies Steak Night at the Prairie Rose Mike and the Moonpies
8. Ashley Monroe Sparrow Warner Music Nashville
9. Chelsea Lovitt & Boys You Had Your Cake, Now Lie in It Fat Elvis
10. John Prine The Tree of Forgiveness Oh Boy Records


1. John Prine "Lonesome Friends of Science"
2. Pistol Annies "Got My Name Changed Back"
3. Austin Lucas "Monroe County Nights"
4. Brent Cobb ".30 06"
5.Ashley Monroe "Bombshell"
6.Kacey Musgraves "Butterflies"
7. Maren Morris "Rich"
8.Low Cut Connie "Beverly"
9.Aaron Lee Tashan "If Not Now When"
10.Kevin Gordon "Drunkest Man in Town"


1. George Jones and the Jones Boys Live in Texas 1965 Ace
2. Jess Sah Bi and Peter One Our Garden Needs Its Flowers Awesome Tapes from Africa
3.Lefty Frizzell Signed Sealed and Delivered Sony Legacy
4.Jeannie Seely The Seely Style Sony Legacy
5. Bobbie Gentry The Girl from Chickasaw County: The Complete Capitol Masters UMC

eddhurt, Monday, 7 January 2019 16:59 (one week ago) Permalink

I really liked and admired Austin Lucas' album, Immortal Americans. There's something offputting about Lucas' delivery, which is so bluegrass-influenced and high-lonesome, but I mean that in a good way. He just doesn't seem interested in prettifying anything at any level, and I respect that. There's also a rigorous formalism at work, but he's saying something about the alienation (a word I don't like to use) and loneliness (better) he seems to have felt growing up in that Midwest he writes about. So it's not a record for pleasure-seekers, in many ways. I still regard his 2016 Between the Moon and the Midwest as a tantalizing glimpse at what he could do; it mostly succeeds, and the best tracks have a certain audacity I find bracing. A neglected record, but the followup deserves some attention, so I wanted to include "Monroe County Nights" in the Himes poll. i can't get into Dierks, whose vigor just seems blunted on The Mountain. OK, he's too high in Telluride to hear what he maybe oughta hear. I find it all generic, and well done, that's about all I get out it.

eddhurt, Monday, 7 January 2019 17:13 (one week ago) Permalink

I really liked his '16 album, not into this one yet, but will try again. Thanks for the word on Lovitt and several others I still need to check. Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale will be on my eventually amended Scene ballot's imaginary Related Top Ten, and maybe should've been on the real one, but too much work to fit 'em in, sorry. Here's what I said on TS: Lone Justice or Cruzados or Drivin' & Cryin' or Green On Red or Del Fuegos or Jason & The Scorchers or Long Ryders or Bodeans?:
More blues than I expected, more than I've heard from Jimmie Dale for sure, but his voice and feel fit just fine---"I'm an old Flatlander from the high plains," he sez in title-track opener, which is redundant--who would listen to this album without knowing the bio basics? Pretty sure most of their fans are old fans--but still it's a good capsule description of his sound and sensibility. Dig the way they find musical payoffs in the steady march through "You don't believe I love you look at the fool I been you don't believe I love you look at the hole I'm in" and keep going "back to my same ol' used to be," and now sounding pretty proud of himself/sassy with the wry--it is a jug band blues after all: "Stealin' Stealin" by Memphis Jug Band's Wiil Shade.
Even more oops factor in the even ever-more-timely "Get Together" (candidly precarious hopefulness of the verses coming through more clearly to me than on the Youngbloods' version, so chorus more urgent and troubled too), and "Deportee--Plane Wreck At Los Gatos." Best Dave solos prob on "KC Moan," about which he quotes Jimmie Dale,"There is a time for more Blue Cheer and less Blue Cheer, and this is a time for more." Also good outward bound picking on "Walk On." Only a couple of geezer-snoozers, I think.
Whole thing's here:

dow, Tuesday, 8 January 2019 23:17 (one week ago) Permalink


Also, if you like the Cactus Blossoms, you will enjoy the new Cactus Blossoms album. They excel at their thing.

resident hack (Simon H.), Friday, 11 January 2019 05:00 (five days ago) Permalink

Oh yeah, thanks for the reminder. Nice name.
More about xpost Charlie Rich's Too Many Teardrops,from Charlie Rich - Behind Closed Doors:

...After a couple of listens, I've found it surprisingly easy to get used to the strings and choirs, although some Disc 2 incidents are still annoying, and maybe scale-tipping on the more dubious material---that's okay though; that's what he and/or the suits get for too much turdpolishing. like Elvis, Sinatra, Willie etc. he's found that he can effectively apply his signature sound to inferior imitations of his top-shelf line of goods, and so he does, and I admit there are at least partially redeeming moments in most(?) of the worse, though not worst, tracks. Not many of this last category though!
A good number of the rolling piano jazz-blues-rock tracks I always favor, starting right off with "Big Boss Man," soon followed by "River Stay Away From My Door," later a very sassy "Ol' Man River," such as Jerry Lee might approve, then a more respectful vocal on "The Twelth of Never," though that beloved tearjerker now goes thunkin' along. Mercy!
Also a couple of intriguing ballads written by Freddie Hart:"Too Many Teardrops" starts out feeling for a fella who lost his love to the narrator, yet"I did what any man would do"---emphasis on "man" because the cry guy wasn't "strong enough to play the losing hand"--crying and drinking yourself to death doesn't count as a well-played losing hand, so what does? Revenge, mebbe? Doesn't say.
The other Hart-written track, "There Won't Be Any More, " has a terse lilt that somehow reminds me of some British Invasion tracks, like uhhh covers like "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying"? But with more attitude.
The Riches-written (lots of originals here) "The Grass Is Always Greener" advises that, "You may think you're rollin' in clover/But you better think it over." Shaddup with that, I must not think bad thoughts!
The Complete Smash Sessions is the one to start with, but this is def worth checking out.
40 tracks, and I like at least---28? Love at least an LP's-worth.

dow, Tuesday, 15 January 2019 02:19 (yesterday) Permalink

That is, I like-to-love maybe 12 of the 28, but all 40 are worth hearing.

dow, Tuesday, 15 January 2019 02:25 (yesterday) Permalink

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