Western Centuries (from the album Songs from the Deluge available on Free Dirt Records)
The music scene of Seattle, Washington adds honky tonk soul to its roster with Western Centuries blend of styles. The recent release from the group, Songs from the Deluge, strums and sways with songs that freely borrow from, and add influences of, Appalachian string bands, Delta blues, and Texas fiddles under the guidance of the Western Centuries as country and western cowboys. The morning sun glints of the cold steel of fighters preparing for battle on the Tex-Max strums of “Warm Guns”, a snaking guitar line makes its way north to follow the migration of “Wild Birds” and old school soul trudges with the pumping beat of “How Many More Miles to Babylon” as Western Centuries tell the tale of a great night out by staying in with me, myself, and I in “Own Private Honky Tonk”.
Roots music pedigrees hang on the walls of Western Centuries, Cahalen Morrison formerly part of duo Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, Ethan Lawton a member of Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers, and Jim Miller with Donna the Buffalo. All three bandmates pen tunes for Songs from the Deluge, blending influence and talent in songs that paint wide landscapes of American Roots music and Americana. Songs from the Deluge opens on a Cajun rhythm backing a soldier’s story in “Far from Home”, the sound matching the environment when Western Centuries headed to Eunice, Louisiana to record the album with producer Joel Savoy. A fist-thick bass line from newest member Nokosee Fields holds tight to the beat as “Wild You Run” talks to addiction while Songs from the Deluge tosses back a smooth groove with “Three Swallows”, rides a western shuffle under the prairies skies for “Cloud of Woes”, and gently pitches “Rocks and Flames” at a broken heart while Western Centuries dole out “Earthly Justice” at a local bar room brawl.
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Charlie Overbey (from the album Broken Arrow)
A son of California, Charlie Overbey has his window facing south for Broken Arrow, his recent release. The songs burst open, sweeping rock’n’roll anthems with a distinct southern sensibility stand between styles, proud of their ability to honor Country and Rock influences. Growing up in Los Angeles, Charlie Overbey received a musical education from his father’s 1947 Gibson acoustic and the music he played. His plan for Broken Arrow was to brand the Alt Country tracks with the same devotion he experienced as a kid worshipping at ‘the school and church of Johnny Cash’. Broken Arrow soundtracks a tale with both the left and third coast represented in “Trouble Gets the Best of Me” as Charlie Overbey gets taken down by ‘Kentucky whiskey and California weed’. He is joined on the song by Eleanor Whitmore (The Mastersons), who returns with her band as The Mastersons comes in on “Outlaws”, joining guest Eddie Spaghetti (Supersuckers) who shares history and playing for “The Ballad of Eddie Spaghetti”.
Haunted piano chords give way to the ethereal vocals of Miranda Lee Richards (solo, Brian Jonestown Massacre) as she duets on Broken Arrow with “Slip Away”. Charlie Overbey offers vocals that drive the same empty beach roads of Springsteen songs, telling stories over dusty melodies, sturdy rhythms holding on to the gritty western tales. Stark Folk guitar strums are the foundation for Broken Arrow to sing a song for a solider with “Hero in Town” as the album revs up the jukebox for a honky tonk whisper of love with “Last Deep Breath” while Charlie Overbey recalls a rock’n’roll memory as he falls back to time for a summer in “Echo Park”.
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Greyhounds (from the album Cheyenne Valley Drive)
Greyhounds park a trunkful of Rock’n’Soul tunes on Cheyenne Valley Drive, the recent release from the Austin, Texas-based band. Greyhounds dub their music ‘spaceage soul’, the sound tracing back to times when the space race was at a full gallop, and when the 1960’s mixture of Rock’n’Roll and Soul were easier to hear and harder to separate. Guitars and voice are the blood that courses through the sound of Greyhounds. The vocals of Anthony Farrell (keyboards) liberally spread soul on his reading of the stories, smoothly gliding over the repetitive riff of “WMD”. The guitar work of Andrew Trube is a constant in each song, freely wandering over “All We Are” and jabbing at “Credo” with random flecks of notes before taking flight with soaring string gymnastics over the gently rolling rhythm of the cut. Rounding out the trio is Ed Miles. Former members of J.J Grey & Mofro, Anthony Farrell and Andrew Trube formed Greyhounds in 2016.
Handclap beats, gnarly guitar licks, and a piano frenzy form a line to back the claims of “No Other Woman” as Cheyenne Valley Drive strolls down “12th Street” on a doo-wop groove, cradles “Rocky Love” in warm electric piano chords and sets a triphammer beat to light the fuse to “Space Song”. In making the album, Greyhounds wanted the sound of the recording to be in line with sonic influences…. a less produced, more spontaneous style of recording, capturing the sound straight to tape like many of the classic records the band cherish. Bubbling organ notes light the dark shadows as “Get Away Clean” makes an exit while “Goodbye” spits out notes and beats to lay down a potent rhythm underneath as Greyhounds let down their walls, softening the fall with the tender soul promises of “Learning How to Love”.
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Joyann Parker (from the album Hard to Love)
Blue Jazz backs the vocals of Joyann Parker as she strips songs down to their Soul on her recent release, Hard to Love. Her voice wanders in what-if’s on piano rambles and a sturdy upright bass as Hard to Love plays old school honky tonk rock’n’roll to check its look in the mirror asking “What Happened to Me”, and matches the groove with the thick flow of the Mississippi as the river and the story move through “Memphis”. Her classical piano training provided Joyann Parker with singing in a church choir and a gig in a wedding band until recently. She recalls that ‘I didn’t know anything about the Blues until four years ago but then it clicked. I said ‘this is what I’m supposed to do’. A win in the Minnesota Blues Society competition took Joyann Parker to Memphis to represent the state at the International Blues Challenge. For Hard to Love, she returned home with inspiration from the trip, realizing that ‘after I went to the Stax Museum in Memphis, it was like somebody lit a fire under me. I thought ‘I love this music. I want to write it’. I went home and wrote the songs’.
Joyann Parker and her band (Mark Lamoine-guitar, Michael Carvale-bass) lay down a mighty Blues beat to stride down “Home” on a building rhythm, Hard to Love shaking as it shimmies into uncomfortable questions demanding “What What When Where Why”, rattling Folk Blues for “Take My Heart and Run”, and heating up “Envy” with southern Soul. Joyann Parker carries a torch for the Blues, looking to give back to the world what the music has given her as she whispers of past love, her memories piecing together reasons in “Jigsaw Heart” while she joins a second line parade with “Ray” and spins on the see-saw rhythms of “Dizzy”.
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Becky Buller (from the album Crepe Paper Heart available on Dark Shadows Recordings)
Becky Buller entered the studio with instrumental friends for the recording of her recent release, Crepe Paper Heart. On the album, Becky played a Becky Buller model DP Hopkins clawhammer banjo as well as featuring work from longtime associates Leopold, her German violin from an unnamed maker (circa 1800) dubbed ‘the old man’, and Walt, an octave violin that was her Grandpa Buller’s fiddle. Other friends found their own way into the studio, Crepe Paper Heart welcoming Frank Solivan (“Bitter Springs to Big Trees”), The Fairfield Four (“Written in the Back of the Book”), Rhonda Vincent (“Calamity Jane”), Sam Bush (“The Rebel and the Rose”), Rob Ickes, and a stellar cast of other players.
The IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) took notice of Becky Buller, awarding her the 2015 trophy for Songwriter of the Year, and in 2016 handed over two awards for Female Vocalist of the Year and Fiddle Player of the Year. Claire Lynch joins Becky in harmony for “She Loved Sunflowers”. The Becky Buller Band back cuts on Crepe Paper Heart, coming together musically for the instrumental “Cair Paravel” and percolating underneath the story of “John D. Champion” as Becky Buller opens the album on the fast track with “Another Love Gone Wrong” and seeks strength “Speakin’ to That Mountain”.
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Old Crow Medicine Show (from the album Volunteer available on Columbia Nashville)
Gigs have been the easiest part in the musical life of Old Crow Medicine Show. The ground beneath their feet has changed from the street corner busking that began the band’s journey through their Ryman lobby between-main-acts residency. As the stages got wider and deeper, OCMS remains on the same level as their fans due to the same model in place since the group’s 1998 formation. The result of the obvious delight that Old Crow Medicine Show takes in playing their instruments is an infectious joy that translates from the band on stage directly into the audience. Volunteer continues the musical progression of Old Crow Medicine Show and their intuitive talent to bend with the traditions of old-time string band sounds for modern ears. OCMS kick down the door as they enter the album with first cut “Flicker and Shine” barnstorming Volunteer as they knock back a potent dose of old-time music with “The Good Stuff” and whisper a welcome with the sad Country Folk of “Homecoming Party”.
Following an album release and tour that tributed Bob Dylan’s bridge between Rock’n’Roll, Folk, and Country music with 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde, Old Crow Medicine show deliver their first studio album of original music in four years with Volunteer. While the band took advantage of recording in RCA’s Studio A in Nashville with Dave Cobb as producer, their Roots ring as clear as their busking days as they promise to “Shout Mountain Music” as their star rises over more urban environments. Plugging in an electric guitar in their songs for the first time since 2004, OCMS strut down “Dixie Avenue” as they start a fire using only acoustic strings in the instrumental “Elzick’s Farewell” while Volunteer paints “Look Away’ with southern sentiment as it keeps an open window facing south with the history of “Old Hickory” and in its claim to heritage in “Child of the Mississippi”.
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Pat Reedy & The Longtime Goners (from the album That’s All There Is (And There Ain’t No More available on Muddy Roots Records)
A relocation has changed the soundtrack to the stories of Pat Reedy and the Longtime Goners. Moving from the New Orleans base, Pat Reedy traveled north to Nashville to plug in and play his music, recording his new release, That All There Is (And There Ain’t No More) backed by the pure sound of Country music in its classic form. The constant between Louisiana and Tennessee is the neon glow of bar lights, Pat Reedy and the Longtime Goners pointing out the neighborhood matters little in “Nashville 3AM”, as the story cites a universal connection in the observation that ‘everyone’s an outlaw ‘til the cocaine wears off’. The address where Pat Reedy collects his mail is not home as much as the highway under his wheels, That’s All There Is (And There Ain’t No More) admitting that Crescent City and Music City are “Same to Me”, the song romanticizing black top while the title track counts ‘six on the seat and four on the floor’ and rolling road rhythms rumble off the walls of both motel rooms and bars in “Bloodshot Heart”.
Losing interest in judgments about personal decisions, Pat Reedy and the Longtime Goners draw a line and put a stop to a deadend conversation in “You Don’t Have to Tell Me Again” as they head up the mountain and down in the mines with “Coal Train Blues” and slowly spin a honky tonk waltz around “Wedding Ring”. Heartbreak and hope car pool with Pat Reedy and the Longtime Goners, the rear-view mirror out the window showing a long lone of broken bridges behind them, the windshield spreading out with promise stretching down the open road ahead. The unknown becomes a comfort zone, Pat Reedy finding the motion familiar, stating that ‘it's about that feeling when there's nothing to hold you someplace no more. There's a broken relationship that you've tried to fix, but it's not worthy and that's all there is. It's time to hit the road again and start over with a truck and a guitar. And maybe a dog’. That’s All There Is (And There Ain’t No More) bids goodbye to New Orleans against a solid backbeat on “Fare Thee Well” and takes a swing at the status quo for the blue-collar worker in “Funny Thing About a Hammer” as Pat Reedy and the Longtime Goners walk the streets of Abilene with an optimistic bounce in their step and perspective for “Lucky I’m Alive”.
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The Last Revel (from the album Hazard & Fate)
The notions of Hazard & Fate, the new release title from The Last Revel, seem to find different finish lines much like the trio’s musical mix of old-time string band instrumentation with a punkabilly story delivery for their songs. Hazard & Fate is the third album from the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based band. The day closes on a familiar path for The Last Revel as “Sundown, Kick Around” offers a glass of wine and the beat of a traveling band strums front porch Americana into “God Knows Where” as the band purr with a rhythmic rumble signaling “Engine Trouble”.
Modern American Folk music from the Midwest, The Last Revel make good use of the harmonic magic performed by the trio (Lee Henke, Vincenzio Donatelle, Ryan Acker) as they trade vocals as well as guitars, banjos, and fiddles on Hazard & Fate. The acoustic chords and picking of the album walk with confidence into opening cut “Blind in the Fray” and recall a gospel hymn with the fervent memories of “Almighty Amen” as the playing quiets to set up “Homestead” before the rhythm once again finds the fast track. Form words to music, an honesty backs the songs of The Last Revel, the threesome note-for-note united for the background soundchecks of “Honest Man” and locked into the rhythmic determination mirroring the passionate pleas of “California, Be Kind”.
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Long Tall Deb and Colin John (from the album Dragonfly available on Vizztone Records)
For much of the world’s cultures, seeing a Dragonfly is a symbol of change signalling a time of self-realization. Both topics are covered by Long Tall Deb and Colin John on their album release, Dragonfly. Following the success of their initial E.P. pairing, the duo use their natural sense of Blues and Soul as a backdrop for tracks, offering touches of late night Jazz, the excitement of Rock’n’Roll, the experimentation of Americana, the playfulness of Surf music, and the sweeping majesty of spaghetti western soundtracks. Long Tall Deb and Colin John brush noir tones onto their version of Townes Van Zandt’s tune “Lungs” as they rip a sonic hole into “On the Way Down” with feral guitar bites and drape a veil of island breezes over the moods of “Horizontal Lighting”.
The partnership is a marriage of sound, Colin John handling all the guitar work, winding through Dragonfly with sharp-edged notes (“Trouble”), rubbery Tex-Mex twang (“Remember Why”), and tender strums (“Lights That Shine”). The grounding of a powerful vocal steers the songs on Dragonfly, Long Tall Deb guiding the stories as the guitar work accents the emotions. Dragonfly dips its wings in psychedelia for the title track as Long Tall Deb and Colin John turn down the lights and soften the melody to offer experiential advice with “Pull the Pin”.
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Hi Lo Ha (from the E.P. Ain’t Gone Tonight)
When Hi Lo Ha turn the dial for “Radio” on their recent E.P., Ain’t Gone Tonight, the San Francisco, California-based four-piece return to an old neighborhood, immediately hearing crackle coming from the speakers. The sound traveling from the past into the present moment carries the joyful abandon of Rock’n’Roll, jangly guitars against a potent backbeat. Ain’t Gone Tonight embraces the sound and spirit of Rock’n’Roll, using the basic format as a stock for the E.P.’s sonic soup, Hi Lo Ha adding in healthy doses of audio tastes with dashes of Indie Rock, Americana, Folk, and Psychedelia.
Ragged guitar chords trudge like the tour van tires slapping the blacktop underneath as Hi Lo Ha dream of drink tickets and hand stamps on the Folk Rock of “Guest List”, namechecking the E.P. title in the track as they look to next year gigs while pointing out ‘we’re gone tomorrow but we ain’t gone tonight’. The music of Ain’t Gone Tonight is an ever-moving juggernaut, Ben Reisdorph’s vocals holding firmly to the story, telling the tales with an almost conversational delivery as Hi Lo Ha don “Cold Weather Clothes” on as the triphammer hits of Afrobeat guitar licks tickle the melody. World music rhythms and tones are the background sound for “Come Down”, Hi Lo Ha closing out Ain’t Gone Tonight with a goodbye played out on barrelhouse piano beats and southern rock guitar struts for the thoughts of “Thinking ‘Bout a Friend”.
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