Tag: country music

MUSIC REVIEW | Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “The kind of song that I hope would be playing if I ever walked into a southern bar.”

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Kicking off with Right In Time, Lucinda Williams and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road are exactly what I think of when I think of 90s, mainstream country.  In the 90s, when this record was made, I hated that kind of thing.  But these days, I more and more appreciate that country music is where you’ll find some of the best musicians in popular music, as well as some of the best song writers.  Which is what Right In Time delivers.  Solid, tight, disciplined song writing with hooks and melodies that are fresh and familiar at the same time.  With a backing band that knows how to service a song, and flex their muscles without ever getting ion the way.

While there’s a slight twang to Williams’ voice, with down home lyrical allusions, the title track and 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten are more 90s indies rock than country.  Drunken Angel then highlights a great thing about Williams, her song writing and her voice.  She is more than capable of singing in a traditionally pretty way, but even at her “nicest”, she still has an edge and attitude, that she takes advantage of by using her to deliver some amazingly dry and biting lyrics. (more…)

***2015 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Sturgill Simpson – High Top Mountain (2015)

Sturgill
There’s an undeniable sincerity and feel of experience that comes with a southern accent in music.  Lyrics that could sound corny, or overly written, or just plane awkward, can often come off as believable, heartfelt and totally natural when there’s some twang to them.  And twang is what you get with Sturgill Simpson.  But as High Top Mountain proves, there’s a whole lot more to his music than twang.


From the first plucked guitar notes and drawled lyrics, Sturgill Simpson and Life Ain’t Fare and the World is Mean make sure you know exactly what you’re in for.  This is some old school country, in the outlaw vein of Waylon Jennings.  “You can always find me in smoking bars, standing on a dim lit stage”, doesn’t just sound like a matter of fact, it sounds like a mission statement. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Fanny Lumsden – Small Town Big Shot (2015)

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Country meets folk with an Aussie twang that only makes it all the more charming on Fanny Lumsden’s Small Town Big Shot. This is the sound of road trains on the edge of town, morning tea and cake on a formica kitchen table, songs heard in the distance while you watch the wood chop at the local show.


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MUSIC REVIEW | Lucero – All a Man Should Do (2015)

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Classic country grit is dragged into 2015 with Lucero’s approach to a genre they obviously know inside and out. All a Man Should Do is the kind of post modern twist on something that can only be accomplished when a band has faithfully learned all the rules before they start to break them.


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MUSIC REVIEW | Sturgill Simpson – High Top Mountain (2015)

Sturgill
There’s an undeniable sincerity and feel of experience that comes with a southern accent in music.  Lyrics that could sound corny, or overly written, or just plane awkward, can often come off as believable, heartfelt and totally natural when there’s some twang to them.  And twang is what you get with Sturgill Simpson.  But as High Top Mountain proves, there’s a whole lot more to his music than twang.


From the first plucked guitar notes and drawled lyrics, Sturgill Simpson and Life Ain’t Fare and the World is Mean make sure you know exactly what you’re in for.  This is some old school country, in the outlaw vein of Waylon Jennings.  “You can always find me in smoking bars, standing on a dim lit stage”, doesn’t just sound like a matter of fact, it sounds like a mission statement. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Molly Hatchet – Molly Hatchet (1978)

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“So I never saw Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I sure saw Molly Hatchet”.  And with that one line, courtesy of Patterson Hood in the Drive-By Truckers Let There Be Rock, I had to hear what Molly Hatchet was all about.  Which I did, via Molly Hatchet.eroes to Zeroes.


OK, full disclosure, before pressing play on opening track Bounty Hunter, I assumed Molly Hatchet was one chick.  One chick who sang country music.  Now I know how all those dopes feel when they get laughed at for thinking Lynyrd Skynyrd was actually a bloke named Leonard, or that Jethro Tull is some singer song writer.  But it doesn’t take long to get over my embarrassment, because, Bounty Hunter is a chunky slice of ass kicking southern rock that could improve any mood.

The ‘southern’ in southern rock really gets a workout in Gator Country.  String’s are  a-pluckin’,  accents are a-drawlin’, and I assume plenty of moonshine is a-consumed by the kind of people who inspired this song.  And in the tradition of southern rock, Gator Country (and later Dreams I’ll Never See) proves that there’s no such thing as a guitar solo that’s too long, as long as it rocks hard enough.

With a boogie rhythm, blues inspired guitars and a plenty of honkey to be tonked, Big Apple is the kind of song that could be a genuine example of its genre, or a big piss take of its genre.  It all just depends on who’s performing it.

When I hear a song like The Price You Pay or I’ll Be Running, I know why this band was influential enough for Hood to reference them in one of his own songs decades later.  The characters of songs like these are the same kinds of characters who populate so much of Hood’s music.  Guys from the wrong side of the tracks who revel in excess and have no interest in getting to that better side.

A lot of Molly Hatchet lives and dies by its riffs.  All of the highlights are built around the guitars and everything they have to offer.  Cheatin’ Woman has so much attitude and swagger, long before a single lyric is sung.  The guitars in Molly Hatchet have just as much personality as the lyrics.

With Molly Hatchet, Molly Hatchet delivers good, driving, solid southern rock.  And really, it’s a simple formula that works best when kept to its simplest.  Which these guys deliver.  Noodling solos you can chug beers to.  Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Molly Hatchet

MUSIC REVIEW | Bobby Bare – Detroit City and Other Hits (1963)

Bobby Bare
I’d never heard of Bobby Bare before.  Then I watched an episode of Better Call Saul and a song played that grabbed so immediately, I had to pause the show and google the lyrics straight away to find out what it was. What it was, was Bobby Bare with Find Out What’s Happening. It was the kind of classic, storytelling country music of Hank Williams that sounds so simple and pure. I love the outlaw country guys like Waylon Jennings, but there’s something quaint about the Jesus lovin’, wholesome blokes of the generations before that. And that’s what I was hoping to get with Bobby Bare and Detroit City and Other Hits.


You’ve gotta love the hubris of a dude who releases an album of ‘hits’ the same year as his debut.  Is he playing other people’s hits, or declaring these new songs as inevitable future hits?  Either way, I love the balls of it.  And with Detroit City, Is it Wrong (For Loving You) and Lorina, I think that cockiness is warranted.  It’s the epitome of ‘country’ music in the most clichéd sense. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Dolly Parton – Coat of Many Colors (1971)

Dolly
‘Punchline’ is a strong word.  But when I was growing up, Dolly Parton was long past her prime as a respected country super star.  She was the chick with massive cans, the theme park named after herself and the wardrobe of nothing less than pure excess.  In my house, she was also Burt Reynolds‘ co-star in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, a movie that got watched more often than I could ever understand with hindsight.


In the last decade or so, she’s moved passed those 80s and 90s years of pastiche and self parody, and moved into the glory years of elder statesmanship.  But before all of that, there were those years and years of being a respected country super star.  I’m trying to see what all the fuss was out back then, with Coat of Many Colors. (more…)

***2014 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans (2014)

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As far as gateway bands go, I can’t think of another one who has made me change my views on a genre as much as Drive-By Truckers.  Before them, I had written off pretty much every country band or singer.  After hearing the Truckers 2008 album Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, I realised country really has its merits when done well.  And while that appreciation has lead me to newer stuff like Chris Shifflett and the Dead Peasants, and older stuff like Waylon Jennings, there’s still nothing in country music that gets me more pumped than the release of a new Drive-By Truckers album.  And it’s that time again, with English Oceans.


For me, I don’t know if story telling songwriters come any better in 2014 than this band.  Lead Trucker, Patterson Hood, can make any story sound lived in and vintage, vital and fresh all at the same time.  And proof of Mike Cooley’s invaluable contributions can be found in the fact that while he generally only contributes about half as many tracks as Hood to any album, those half as many are always stand outs.  In the case of English Oceans, he starts as strong as ever with Primer Coat, about a man old before his time, “graduated in ’84, quit drinkin’ in ‘92”.  It’s got that signature Cooley drawl that gives anything he sings undeniable gravitas. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Secret to a Happy Ending (2009)

Secret

“Rock and roll means well, but it can’t help tellin’ young boys lies”.

For most of my life, country music seemed like the least appealing genre of music ever committed to tape. Then I found a band called Drive-By Truckers and realised that country music can be kind of amazing. For 25 odd years now, they’ve been plugging away, building an ever growing following and getting more and more successful. It’s that slow and steady rise that makes the Drive-By Truckers story such a great one to tell with The Secret to a Happy Ending.


Focusing mainly on singers and guitarists Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell, it’s a history lesson on the band, how they came to be and the ups and downs along the way, leading up to the firing of Isbell. Sometimes, seeing how art is made can take some of the magic and mystery out of it, but the southern story telling charm of every Trucker means this look behind the curtain gives their songs even more dimension. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Gram Parsons – GP (1973)

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Reading Keith Richards’ awesome autobiography told me absolutely everything I know about Gram Parsons. It told me that Gram and Keef were good mates. It told me that Gram shared Richards’ enthusiasm for a bit of the old heroin. And it told me… Um… Did I mention the white horse jockeying? OK, so it turns out that of the very little I know about Gram Parsons, none of it has anything at all to with his music. Maybe giving GP a spin will change that.


New Parsons Fun Fact Learned Via GP #1: He played country music. This is some pedal steeled, southern drawled, broken hearted stuff. We’ll Sleep on the Ashes in the Morning even comes complete with one of those duelling duets between a man and woman that country music does so well. His Richards connection always made me assume he was a rocker. I even thought he was some variety of guitar solo wailing rocker. Not the case. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | The Avett Brothers – Country Was (2002)

Avett Bros

Folk, country, a little light rock. The Avett Brothers have brought their gentle spin to many a gentle genre, and more often than not, they make it work. I’ve been a fan since 2009’s I and Love and You. By ‘fan’, I mean have I’ve given one or two listens to every album that’s come since then, liked them all, but reverted back to repeated listens of I and Love and You instead of persisting with the newer stuff. And I’ve never gone through their back catalogue. Until now, with Country Was.


It seems like they didn’t take putting the word ‘Country’ in the album’s title lightly. Because Pretty Girl From Matthews might be the most countrified I’ve ever heard the brothers Avett. I’m used to Scott Avett’s banjo from later albums, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it quite as a-pluckin’ as this before. Same with the rich harmonies. I know the band has it in them, it just has an extra country spit and polish here. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Hank Williams Jr – One Night Stands (1971)

Hank II
Whenever the child of a famous performer decides to give that same field of performance a crack, I don’t think I’m alone in assuming it’s probably gonna be a bit shit. It’s unfair, I know, but it’s a sceptical notion I can’t avoid. Hank Williams Jr started making music two decades before I was born, which was also a decade or so after his dad carked it. And even with his own decades of success, I still went into One Night Stands, and the idea of Hank Jr, with pretty modest hopes.


This is a kind of country music that I assume is responsible for the vast majority of anti country music sentiment out there. It’s a time when the scene was embracing the electric, artificial sound and slick sheen of pop music, but still trying to stick with the heartfelt, raw emotion of the old days. And it’s a clash that doesn’t work. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Hank Williams – I Saw the Light (1956)

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Hank Williams died more than 60 years ago. Hank Williams wasn’t even 30 when he popped his (rind stone adorned) clogs. But even at that young, even after all these years, Hank Williams is still one of the most revered and iconic names in country music. Sure, his son and grandson of the same name have kept the moniker alive in the decades since, but I thought it was time I went to the original, to see what all the fuss is about. Based on absolutely nothing at all, I chose William’s 1956 album, I Saw the Light.


Being recorded in the 50s, there’s no remastering technology in the world that could ever give these songs a 21st century polish, and that’s a blessing. This is now faux vintage sound, this is actual vintage. And it’s pretty amazing. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Merle Haggard – Pride in What I Am (1969)

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Merle Haggard has an amazing name for country music. Thus ends my dissertation on absolutely everything I know about Merle Haggard. But he’s one of those dudes who’s been around for decades and has managed to release dozens of “Best Of” compilations in that time. Sure, the vast majority are more than likely blatant cash grabs, but if someone’s been around this long, he must be doing something right. And generally, the early years are the best years for any musician who refuses to go away. So here I am, about to listen to Merle Haggard’s 1969 release, Pride in What I Am.


With a name like Haggard, I expected a bit more edge, a bit more outlaw middle finger raising, a bit more shit kickin’, tobacco spittin’ ass holery. I guess I expected Waylon Jennings. But what I got was tenderness. Bland, beige tenderness. From Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am, through to I Can’t Hold Myself in Line, I barely noticed the album moving from track to track in the first half. (more…)