Elizabeth Cook gets dubbed a Country Outlaw. Given the title, it would seem that living without laws includes telling truths in real time in an effort to circumvent huge holes of hard times and work through life’s crippling challenges. Exodus of Venus tackles “Dyin’” on a soundtrack of snaking guitar lines and bursts of organ notes, picks at “Slow Pain” on a smoldering groove cruising West L.A., burns through the haze in the air with slashing guitar chords on “Broke Down in London on the M25”, and carves ”Cutting Diamonds” into Exodus of Venus with a heartbeat hammered rhythm. Elizabeth Cook has a sweet vocal, perfectly made for Country music, and attaches it to melodies that provide a future for the genre. Exodus of Venus takes a deep breath as it kicks off with the title track on shaky notes and a confident beat. Elizabeth Cook dons “Straightjacket Love” on the rattle of a classic country rise and fall rhythm in a co-write with album producer, Dexter Green, as she is joined in harmony on the tune by Patty Loveless, as she heads out to back country bayous on the edgy crackle of “Evacuation”.
Tommy Womack catches fans up on the cards he is dealt as hurdles, relating the past with “I Almost Died” as he addresses the loud ticking of his heart clock and marks the time in “Hot Flash Woman”, and on the funky bump of “Comb-Over Blues”. Tommy is ‘just getting’ by’ in “End of the Line” as he circles life with loops in “It's Been All Over Before”, turns up the volume to get out the message to “Angel”, and speaks words over a cool jazz beat to tell a hometown tale in “Nashville”. A wry humor is scripted in the songs of Tommy Womack as he remembers when “When Country Singers Were Ugly” and with the advice that Namaste doles out with “Darling Let Your Free Bird Fly”.
It was a brave decision, and it gave The Low Anthem time to focus on eyeland, as they self-produced the album at the Columbia Theatre in their homebase of Providence, Rhode Island. The bravery the band displayed walking away from its success pales next to the fearlessness they have on eyeland as The Low Anthem let their self-described ‘night noise’ texture the tunes. The audio technology of eyeland is a constant, a barrage of ambient tones so present that they float through the album without demanding attention. Songs exist on eyeland as gentle pickings and an ethereal breeze of tones back “The Pepsi Moon”, and over the determined beat of “In the Air Hockey Fire” set against tender vocal whispers. Overriding the need for formal song structure to guide eyeland, The Low Anthem rely on making moods for listeners to take with them when they leave the album’s aduio. Skittery beats and low slung guitar notes hide “Behind the Airport Mirror”, frantic percussion barrels under the car crash sonics of “I am the Dream or am I the Dreamer”, as the dream state takes another path that rolls over “Circular Ruins in Euphio”.
Rebekah Long plays it as she knows it on Here I Am, opening the album with “Ain't Life Sweet”, singing Country living with a personal history that traces back to a youth in rural Georgia. Rebekah walks the streets of Cheryl Wheeler’s “I Know This Town” with equal understanding and empathy which she displays on a global platform as she takes to the road citing injustice on Tom T. Hall’s “I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew”. Rebekah Long has history with Tom T. Hall through his wife, Dixie, from her work with the songwriter on the box set Daughters of Bluegrass. Rebekah tributes her departed friend on “Sweet Miss Dixie Green”, honoring another Country music lost legend with Merle Haggard’s “Fightin’ Side of Me”. Rebekah Long claims her own ground with Here I Am as she introduces country characters in the ghosts standing by “Hairpin Hattie”, the blush of love in “Nellie Mae”, and in the gentle breeze of harmony opening the “The Maple Tree and Me”.
The band sinks its teeth into the title track, the sights and sounds of the state’s early days spread out over an Alt Country barnburner beat as Sons of the Golden West sign a love letter and salute the state’s Bear Flag in the wish of ‘oh California, I wish I’d known ya when you were young’. Slow strums support the sadness of “Broken Me” as a banjo leads the path through the memories of “Mother’s Happy Now”, while the western bravado of a tough guy cowboy kicks down another door in “Cry Me a River”. Sons of the Golden West pack a lot of territory into a little space with Oh, California!, much like the lady who answers a smile and a greeting with “Let’s Get a Room”.
Sarah Jarosz stages Undercurrent rather than theme the tracks. She solos on four album cuts as she opens Undercurrent picking in “Early Morning Light” and “Take Another Turn”, on dark chords hushing for the confession in “Everything To Hide”, and fuzzy electric clouds bringing “Jacqueline” back from history. Sarah Jarosz is joined by Sara Watkins (solo. Nickel Creek) and Aoife O’Donovan (solo. Crooked Still) on “Still Life”, a co-write with O’Donovan. Other collaborators blend words and music with Sarah on Undercurrent as Parker Millsap is in for a co-write on “Comin’ Undone” and Joey Ryan (Milk Carton Kids) with the soft twang of “Back of My Mind”. Dark Blues colors the mood for nighttime at the “House of Mercy” as Sarah Jarosz searches for “Lost Dog” on scratchy banjos and bad choices while walking through a memory with “Green Lights” against popping guitar and bass notes.
Eric Bibb and North Country Far with Danny Thompson stamps The Happiest Man in the World with an easy mood as much as it touches the tunes with acoustics. The simplicity in the arrangement of “Wish I Could Hold You Now” transcends simple Folk as the track hits hearts with its purity. The Happiest Man in the World was recorded in a few days at a residential studio in Norfolk, England. A summer sway moves the currents coursing under “Tell Ol’ Bill” as a scratchy rattle churns with woes in “Tossin’ and Turnin’” while a slow, smooth groove steers “Toolin' Down the Road” and The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” gets a swamp ride in Blues Country.
Listen and buy the music of Eric Bibb and North Country Far with Danny Thompson from AMAZON or iTunes
The stories are conversations, Kalyn Fay seeming to inhabit both the present and past with the same spirit as she seeks the truth in “The Fight”, finds a fan of Classic Country Kings and Queens in the middle of nowhere in “ Middlegate Station”, seduces tales from a “Spotted Bird” on rumbling beats and freckled notes as she relates “The Plan” on hushed rhythms and quiet fears. The life around her comes alive in the slow sway of her songs. She is the sound track of native soil in “Oklahoma”, as she sings from the perspective of her native heritage in a Cherokee tribe. Kalyn Fay shares her love in the one-on-one requests of “Wherever I Feel Right”, and opens her heart to include for her current home in OK’s Green Country as Bible Belt slows the beat to keep time with “Tulsa”.
A cut from Bonnie’s pen landed on the Nashville television show, and her co-write of “Not Cause I Wanted To” was included on the Bonnie Raitt comeback Slipstream, the track topping the NY Times year-end best-of list. She had been packing the kudos to take on the road for her two hundred dates a year, driving herself from show to show, loading in her own gear, and closing the show to crawl back into the van and go to sleep. After thirteen years of that schedule Bonnie Bishop was broke and the road had reached a dead end. Putting herself in the hands of Dave Cobb, Bonnie knew that ‘I am from Texas, but there’s a lot of Mississippi in me. I definitely got my soul from hanging with all the black girls in choir there. That’s how I learned to sing’.
A really good decision can be heard within Ain’t Who I Was. The album opens with guitar and organ teases as Bonnie Bishop calls for “Mercy”. She slows for Southern Soul in “Poor Man's Melody” as the story rescues her life while Bonnie Bishop admits to being “Broken”, whispering the tune as a prayer. The hope of Ain’t Who I Was comes through in its songs as Bonnie stops love at the door with the promise of “You Will Be Loved”, with gentle wishes in “Be with You”, and within the soulful bustle in the beat of “Looking for You”. Bonnie Bishop gives “Not Cause I Wanted To” a Soul makeover on Ain’t Who I Was as she proudly states reasons for her actions while offering solace to the love left behind.
Too Slim and the Taildraggers carved a reputation as unapologetic Blues Rockers in the Northwest United States, basing in Seattle, Washington before moving to Nashville, Tennessee. Blood Moon was recorded with a three-piece (Robert Kearns-bass, Jeff ‘Shakey’ Fowles-drums), the sound captured in a predominantly live setting at The Switchboard in Music City with Tim Langford in the producers chair. The Blues backs “My Body” with an ethereal roll, letting the music create a wispy shroud cover for the wishes trying to stay above ground. “Good Guys Win” propels across Blood Moon on a scratchy rhythm as Too Slim and the Taildraggers set a determined course on “Twisted Rails”, and slowly peal back clouds of distorted guitar to reveal the title track.
The sound of Charlie Faye and the Fayettes is a mirror image of what Charlie Faye was looking for as her next step. The 60’s era of Love is branded in the stories, though the hearts are in fear of loss (“Carelessly”) as they hope for second chance love (“Coming Round the Bend”), and sway on a spotlight-dance throwing shadows on past mistakes (“One More Chance”). Charlie Faye and the Fayettes update the girl-group gossip with a stance for the modern millennium, not hiding the meaning deep into the lyrics, as they question the pace of a relationship that is clearly giving the “Green Light”. A Western breeze blows the echoes of “Loving Names” for a love lost in the sunset as the trio feels the vibrations, knowing it is not love in the air but the text buzzing in their pockets with “Sweet Little Messages” and open their “Heart” in a private message to the beating in their collective chests. The band pile in the car for a trip to the “Eastside”, spinning the tires on a groove meant for an uptown Saturday night as they cruise a Soul boulevard. Charlie Faye and the Fayettes do not tap into a retro-nostalgia as they sing for the future, not the past, in a real-time revival.
Fans of the band lined up to submit tracks for Good Times, with album producer Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) offering a co-write with Mickey Dolenz on album closer, “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had A Good Time)”. Good Times features a contemporary co-write from Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council) on the tune "Birth of an Accidental Hipster" joining other Brit writers with Andy Partridge (XTC) offering “You Bring the Summer”. American authors are represented by Rivers Cuomo as the Weezer frontman hands over the buoyant “She Makes Me Laugh” with Mickey Dolnez on the vocals while Mike Nesmith takes on the Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) tune “Me and Magdalena”. Good Times does exactly what the title promises as The Monkees put sunshine into every strum and jangle adding smiles into each tambourine shake.
Smart, well-told stories get a honky tonk backdrop for Weight of the World. Western Centuries puts the dusky vocals of Cahalen Morrison over the slow trudge of rhythm that leads to a tomorrow of “Sadder Days”, gets caught in a slow shuffle moment in “The Old You”, and watches love come back again to a heart that reads closed on “Hallucinations”. Guitar strums begin Weight of the World with its title track confidently walking into the album. Western Centuries mark miles of bad weather with a sad country tune in “Knocking 'Em Down” and put twang on a rock’n’roll rhythm with “Rock Salt”.
Andre Williams arrived in Detroit in the 1950’s, entering recording with a doo-wop group before being hired by Berry Gordy for a start-up Motown Records. Andre’s hiring’s and firing’s from Motown were put on a repeat cycle. At Motown, Andre Williams produced Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells, The Contours going on to write songs for Ike and Tina Turner, Parliament, and Edwin Starr. Dennis Coffey of Motown house band, the Funk Brothers helps out on I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City with Jim White and Cat Power lending hands on the Country roll on “Mississippi Sue”. Acoustic Blues guides the kiss off of “I Don’t like You No More” as guitars duel like light sabers marking “Times” while Andre Williams whispers deep secrets as the beat lightly steps into “Meet Me at the Graveyard”.
My Way Home had no plan to play host to themed tracks, Eli never intending to ‘make a Gospel album, just to make a collection of songs that were maybe more serious than the things I’d done before’. The album is exciting, the sound echoey with the vintage textures of early rock’n’roll, the music nodding to bands such as The Dixie Hummingbirds and The Soul Stirrers with Sam Cooke. The enthusiasm is captured in the production as Eli Paperboy Reed shouts salvation to the title track as he ascends a rock’n’soul pulpit warning “Your Sins Will Find You Out” while begging for more time to be a little a better with “A Few More Days”. My Way Home crackles as excitement pops from the band’s playing, matching their licks with Eli Paperboy Reed as he points to a celestial eye-in-the-sky with “Eyes on You”, hears salvation in a sad Soul with “I'd Rather Be Alone”, and raises a Folk chorus for Mother Earth in “What Have We Done”.
Roosevelt Dime dances “Red Shoes” on a skittering rhythm as the title track opens the album with an offer to lose the Blues. “Wealth Addict” coughs and sputters a beat as Roosevelt Dime head out to find the good life, as “Funky Monks” (Red Hot Chili Peppers) bounce on a Bourbon Street strut while “Pass It On” (Bob Marley and the Wailers) hitches its gospel groove to a second line bump.
Mosey stages songs, performing acts of dramatic work in “One Hundred Regrets Avenue” where the vocals are center stage under one stark light while piano keys reveal a path for the story to travel. Daniel Romano lets his voice relax as he reclines on soft pillows of organ swells in “(Gone Is) All But a Quarry of Stone” as fractured angles of notes and beats back the rhymes in “I Had to Hide Your Poem in a Song”. A confident beat and compact guitar riffs are the foundation for the literary ramblings of “Hunger is a Dream You Die In” while a staggering rhythm puts Daniel Romano into a duet with Rachel McAdams on “Toulouse” while Mosey opens its doors with a Tex-Mex taste flavoring the poor choices of “Valerie Leon”.
Rest in Chaos chronicles the first album release from the band of original material. On the first recording, Hard Working Americans wove the songs of other artists into an audio tapestry, using the tales to make a bigger picture for the album theme. The snapshots of life from HWA on Rest In Chaos look into a mother/son relationship that merges different opinions into one decision of “Dope is Dope” while “Half Ass Moses” carves its own religious views into Rock. Hard Working Americans begin the story of Rest in Chaos with an “Opening Statement” that climbs up to a podium of pounding drums with guitar notes flashing like the pop of camera bulbs. A distorted buzz steps aside for the forward thrust and ‘shake’ of “Throwing the Goat” as HWA drop “Acid” on a rhythm rumble, roll out a groove that slowly drips like hot wax in “Roman Candles”, and bounce on the rotating rhythms on “Purple Mountain Jamboree”. Big white fluffy clouds of chords float across Rest In Chaos rising up with “Ascending into Madness” as the audio sky becomes black as dark thunderheads of sound create the foundation for “Something Else”.
The vocals are the thread that connects the musical patterns and near-physical hold of the stories as Robert Ellis builds drama up note by note, attempting to free the past in “You’re Not the One” as piano chords take a bite out of the beat in “It’s Not OK” while “Amanda Jane’ counts past lovers by the lines on her face. Robert Ellis has a siren voice, drawing the mood west into the sunset with his suggestion of “maybe I’ll go to “California”’.
Tony Joe White grew up in northwest Louisiana, near the Arkansas state line. The music has kept his playing in fertile mud since his 1969 debut, Black and White. Rain Crow shows some new sides to Tony Joe White as he gets downright sexy, growling over a potent groove for the “Hoochie Woman”, singing the licks with love from the ‘smoochie man’. Tracks for Rain Crow bear co-writes from Tony Joe’s wife Leeann, and with Billy Bob Thornton as the pair sing of summer in “The Middle of Nowhere”. Rain Crow patters percussion like weather is pouring down on the rhythms as “The Bad Wind” blows death into town while the dark wings of a beat follow hummingbirds and fireflies as they seek warm winters, and “Right Back in the Fire” remembers passion and promises.
There are those who will view this as "America Bashing" and nothing could be further from the truth. This is about bashing the things that are tearing this great country apart. America is shackled to racism, sexism, corporate greed, intolerance, corporate fed drug abuse, political gridlock, child abuse and a widening gap between those who "have" and those who "won't ever be privileged enough to get any." We started in 1980 and worked up to today.
These artists are exceptional without hiding behind a charade of false "exceptionalism." Save the No Apology bullshit for Mitt Romney and the Privileged Class. We have problems, lots of them and this list is about the artists who look at America as it really is not as the people in the mansion on the hill tell you it is. These songs aren't pretty and they don't sugar coat. There's country radio for that...perhaps Brad Paisley will need a new home like the Dixie Chicks, Steve Earle and Johnny Cash did. We're here with open arms.
Here is The American Condition in 50 Songs or Less - The Top 50 Songs about the State of Our Union
1. James McMurtry - We Can't Make it Here - (2007) From the album Just Us Kids. 'We Can't Make it Here' is about corporate greed and how it strangles every aspect of American society. The American 'dream' has been reserved for those who have privilege, power or the cash to purchase it. McMurtry could have half this list but the top spot is his until someone comes up with something better.
"Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin,
or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in?
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today?
No I hate the men sent the jobs away.
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams.
All lily white and squeaky clean.
They've never known want, they'll never know need.
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed.
Their kids won't bleed in their damn little war,
And we can't make it here anymore."
2. Old Crow Medicine Show - Methamphetamine - (2008) - From the album Tennessee Pusher. The scourge of the heartland is methamphetamine or 'Crystal Meth' as it's known on the block. It's a killer from the moment you try it and unlike cocaine it's cheap and with a little ingenuity you can make it at home. Old Crow Medicine Show tackled a host of social issues but this one hits harder in the places where the band has it's biggest following.
"It's gonna rock you like a hurricane.
It's gonna rock you 'til you lose sleep.
It's gonna rock you 'til you're out of a job.
It's gonna rock you 'til you're out on the street.
It's gonna rock you 'til you're down on your knees.
It's gonna have you begging pretty please.
It's gonna rock you like a hurricane.
"The cradle did rock, the cradle been broken
It all fell down in the terrible flood, then
Some people came home, some people gave up
The levee went crash and the cradle did rock"
TV dads represent a little bit of many people. They are pieces of the many, coming together to make the whole. They are champions and sometimes they are an embarrassment. They do right, they do wrong, They make mistakes and the come off like heroes. They are dads.
Frank Gallagher - (William H. Macy) - Shameless - Not only is Frank Gallagher the WORST TV dad ever, he may be the worst TV person, period. On the show Shameless he is a drunk, narcissist and overall despicable human being and those are his good traits. He games the system for a living and occasionally hangs with his pseudo girlfriend Shiela who also collects disability. Gallagher is the occasional "dad" to six children on the show who have pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that they don't really have a "dad." On a particular show he hooks up with a barfly who is awaiting a heart transplant and has a large life insurance policy. He weasels his way into becoming the beneficiary and while she's in the shower a hospital calls with news of a possible heart for her. He tells the hospital she's dead already...'nuf said.
Andy Taylor - (Andy Griffith) - The Andy Griffith Show - Hands down, no argument, the BEST television dad in history was Sheriff Andy Taylor. The show was part "To Kill a Mockingbird" part "Little Rascals" and 100% rural Americana. All the planets were aligned for The Andy Griffith Show and it brought together the genius of Griffith, Don Knotts, Frances Bavier and Ron Howard, who at the age of 6, already showed signs veteran chops as an actor. Opie grew up in front of America's eyes from age 6 to age 14 and America learned most every valuable lesson about life, love, sharing, giving and growing and laughed their asses off while doing it. Ernest T. Bass, Floyd the barber, Emmit's Fix-It-Shop, Gomer Pyle, Goober Pyle, The Darlings, Jubal Foster...we could go on and on.
Dr. John Robinson - (Guy Williams) - Lost in Space - A cheesy spin on the Swiss Family Robinson story by Johan Wyss, Lost in Space was a story of Dr. John Robinson, an astrophysicist, who took a round airstream trailer with less dashboard controls than a '62 Volkswagon into space with a family of 5, a fellow astrophysicist who is hot for his oldest daughter, a stowaway sociopath named Dr. Smith and a clunky robot, called, well...robot. The rest is television magic as Dr. Robinson guides the fam through adolescence, growing pains, love interests, giant alien monsters and Dr. Smith's repeated attempts to get them all killed...no wonder they call the 60's the golden age of television.
Fred Flintstone - (voice of Alan Reed) - The Flintstones - It would take decades and The Simpsons to unseat The Flintstones as the most successful animated series in history but The Flintstones was still the first "prime time" animated series in history. The show was a dead ringer take off of the successful Honeymooners series of Jackie Gleason. Fred didn't actually become a dad until late in the show's third season and parenthood did nothing to slow down his penchant for trouble, get rich schemes or other stone age mayhem. He does have some great friends including Anne Margrock, Mick Jadestone and the Rolling Boulders, The Beau Brummelstones which makes him a cool dad by any standard. Truth be told, The Flintstones 'jumped the shark' when Pebbles and Bamm Bamm entered the picture.
Archie Bunker - (Carroll O'Connor) - All in the Family - The man who said the things that too many Americans were thinking and had the common sense, class and decency to keep it to themselves. Gloria, you're dad was a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, blue collar narcissist and one of the funniest bastards to ever grace the small screen. It was television. Yeah it bit a little close to home for most liberal thinkers but if you get past that aspect he was a decent guy who just existed as a victim of his times. Years later the character of Archie Bunker would re-appear as the entire Rebublican leadership in the country with white collars instead.
Tony Soprano - (James Gandolfini) - The Sopranos - He was the dad on the best television series in the history of television and a good chunk of his character development over the course of the six seasons that the show ran was his relationship to his wife and kids. He was a shit-bum for a husband but as a dad, well, he provided for his family by running the North Jersey mafia, hanging out in a strip club full of silicon implanted "Snookies," and killing people. That was cool until daughter Meadow and son Anthony Jr. found out...fatherhood was pretty much downhill from there. Despite their existential issues with the source, the kids never stopped taking and Tony never stopped "providing."
Ward Cleaver - (Hugh Beaumont) - Leave it to Beaver - Being father to Wally and "the Beav" was no easy task and took patience and several trips to the den each evening to drink it off. Looking back, Leave it to Beaver was simultaneously every parent's nightmare and every parent's dream circa. 1960's America. The Beaver was lily white America's version of juvenile delinquency with peanut butter and jelly stains and a milk mustache. He got into all kinds of trouble that kids got into for generations and Ward would teach the lessons while the boys sat in matching pajamas and shared the same fully stocked bedroom. Ahhh the visions of our youth!
Gomez Addams - (John Astin) - The Addams Family - Alright here's one of the 'cult classic' dads in television history. I've recently re-visited The Addams Family which, to my delight, has gotten better as I age. The hidden innuendo was far ahead of it's time and the macabre has had a resurgence of sorts. Gomez, father of Pugsley and Wednesday, is eccentric, wealthy, aloof and a damn lot of fun. Who hasn't wanted an exploding train set their entire life? As a dad, well, look at Wednesday who raised killer spiders and carried around a Marie Antoinette doll post guillotine and Pugsley who actually guillotined it! These are well adjusted children who would be at home in any household post "Glee," "Friday Night Lights," and "American Idol" America.
Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill), Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) - Modern Family- Four fathers make up the Modern Family Dads. Ed O’Neill saves his good dad rating as patriarch Jay Pritchett. He also tops the dad list for the hottest wife for his second marital choice. Jay’s son-in-law, Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) wants to be one of the guys, even for his two teenage daughters. He is a big lovable lug that means well. Phil is passive and steps aside to let his wife bulldoze her way through the family affairs. Jay’s son, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and his partner Cam (Eric Stonestreet) have adopted a Chinese daughter. They make their way through fatherhood but as their daughter ages, you get the impression she will be running the household soon. We would have named them the first gay dad household but just could not buy the whole ‘live-in man’ scenario with Uncle Bill (Brian Keith) and Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot) on Family Affair.
Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) - Boardwalk Empire - Nucky Thompson is an adopted father on Boardwalk Empire. Sure, he had the birth father killed and dumped in the Atlantic but he loves those kids. Nucky has multiple affairs on wife Margaret, who is no slouch in the extramarital rutting department. Nucky runs the Jersey shore for the purchase or procurement of anything illegal. Nucky Thompson is more comfortable with giving orders to feed more bodies to the fish then he is spending ten minutes as a dad. He can buy love and impress oldest boy, Teddy, and pay for any medical procedures needed by youngest daughter Emily. The parental side of Nucky stops there.
Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) – Bonanza - A single father on the lone prairie, Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) raised three sons, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe. The family ranch, The Ponderosa, was a 600,000 acre ranch along the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. At 937 square miles, The Ponderosa was the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. The west was tough on the women in Ben's life and the Cartwright wives dropped after spawning a son each. Ben was dad to kids that went in all directions emotionally, personally and morally, with English, Swedish and French Creole bloodlines running in their veins. Through the magic of television, Bonanza chronicled the American west between 1861 and 1867 in its fourteen year series run, from September, 1958 through January 1973.
James Evans, Sr. - (John Amos) - Good Times - James Evans, Sr. became a father quickly on Good Times. The show was one of the many spin off children of All in the Family. Good Times descended from Maude but when the producers decided to give Maude housekeeper Florida her own show they changed her firefighter husband Henry to struggling husband James, making no mention of Maude and moving the couple from Tuckahoe, New York to inner-city Chicago projects….other than that, not a lot of changes. James Evans was a black, working class dad in an inner-city project, a new concept on television. Mr. Evans Sr. was a pretty straightforward, no nonsense guy. Nothing to challenge or portray an angry black man. All black community politics were handled by eleven year old son Michael (the militant midget) and the carefree, loving living on welfare attitude that much of the audience expected was handled by older teen J.J. “Dy-no-mite” Evans. (James Jr.).
Maurice - (Maurice Evans) – Bewitched - There were no last names for the witch/warlock contingent on Bewitched. Samantha’s dad was Maurice (Maurice Evans). Maurice treated every scene and set like an Elizabethan stage. Sweeping Shakespearean gestures and dialogue were taken for granted by daughter Samantha and Endora, who referred to Maurice as ‘my daughter’s father’ and thought of their marriage as ‘informal’. His relationship with son-in-law Darrin (Duncan? Durwood? Dustbin?) was strained. Maurice was a warlock, with hundreds of years under his cape, no need to tolerate fools or mortals.
Jed Clampett - (Buddy Ebsen) - Beverly Hillbillies - What a dad! He not only discovers oil (black gold, texas tea) in the backyard while huntin’ possum but decides to move the family from the hills they called home to the hills called Beverly….movie stars and cement ponds. Jed Clampett was the wise man for family matters and the practical voice of reason for the questionable banking practices Mr. Drysdale threw at him weekly. Jed threatened a lot of ‘tan your hide’ or ‘to get a whoopin’’ but never through with threats. His shock meter never registered more than a ‘well doggies’ as admonishments for daughter Ellie May and nephew Jethro. Jed tried to live with the cash but you can take the dad out of the backwoods but never take backwoods out of the dad. He wore the same clothes in every show proving clothes shopping is an unnecessary evil.
Porter Ricks - (Brian Kelly) – Flipper - Porter Ricks was a single dad with two sons to raise and a park/marine preserve somewhere in the Florida Keys to maintain. Given the heavy work load and family responsibilities, it is no surprise that Porter’s companion became the show’s star and namesake, Flipper. The aquatic Lassie took things space age for the 60’s. Whether the dog wagged the tail or the tail wagged the dog did not matter. Flipper could ride on his (her) tail….backward, and make a lot more noise, both above and below water. Take that pooch. Porter Ricks may have been a dream dad for a lot of youngsters….kids living on the water, riding dolphins and with not a lot of parental supervision... and it was always summer, Forget Neverland and Oz, take me to the Keys!
Homer Simpson - The Simpsons - Homer Jay Simpson lived a Hollywood dream. He went from a bit role on three episodes of the Tracy Ullman show to debuting as head of The Simpson household in December 1989. Homer's character seems mild compared to future toon dad Family Guy’s Peter Griffin. Homer was an everyman dad and factory worker. He was overweight, maybe a little clumsy and landed just this side of inappropriate but dude could hold a burp and get his lips to shake like jello on the fault line. Homer played support dad to son Bart for a few seasons, letting his skateboarding first born get all the attention and the great lines….”eat my shorts”, really, Bart, that coulda been your dad’s catch phrase? Homer played the quiet dad, letting his kid get the cred but started taking a stance for lazy, heavy drinking dads across the land. Homer got away with the stuff that was only a dream to many of us.
Alan Harper - (Jon Cryer) - Two and 1/2 Men - You can point fingers and deride Alan Harper for personal choices and severe lack of parental guidance. Alan is the “because-I-said-so” kind of Dad. Alan has a lot of shortcomings but it was his couch surfing at the home of brother Charlie that landed he and his kid, Jake, a Malibu address. Alan does very little, as a house guest, as a contributing member of the household and as a dad. He is available if needed, I guess. Alan is probably the least involved dad on television. It is difficult to put him on the worst or best side, there are very few dad things Alan does that can be measured to decide on his role of a father. He is a dad just because, you know.
Walter White - (Bryan Cranston) - Breaking Bad - Walter White is there for his son if he can be. Walter's son, Walter, Jr., has cerebral palsy. Big medical issues seems to gallop at a full clip through the White household. Walter, Sr. was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Teaching science at his high school day gig took a backseat to the ‘second job” he took to pay the mounting bills. Walter White became a meth maker, then dealer, then major supplier, getting meaner and colder as each minute and deal passed. Walter does his best as a dad but each day his moral compass spins faster and faster, never pointing in any one direction. His job as a dad suffers the same fate as every other aspect of Walter’s life as he transitions from a sympathetic to an extremely unlikable character on Breaking Bad. Forget about judging him as a dad, you might want to take a look at who you are pulling for.
George Jefferson - (Sherman Helmsley) - The Jeffersons - George Jefferson (Sherman Helmsley) successfully moved his family up to the East Side, way uptown. He spent two years en route as a Queens neighbor of Archie Bunker. I am sure a ‘deluxe apartment in the sky’ was more appealing but two years with Archie’s biting words nipping at you could probably bring a little nostalgia even for the ‘hood. George had opinions but he was a good dad. His bark was way louder than his bite, but dad George did have one bad ass strut. George Jefferson spent twelve years as a tv dad, ruling over the family and appearing in all 253 episodes of The Jeffersons. He was a self-made man and an American success story, a small business owner that started and managed a string of dry cleaning stores. George shared more than a street address with neighbor Archie Bunker. The two had the same way of dealing with the world, though George had more street smarts and his schemes for taking care of his family were at the heart of each episode.
Al Bundy - (Ed O'Neill) - Married With Children - Al Bundy got married because he got drunk and asked Peg to marry him. He had children because he got married, Married With Children is where Al was in life when we met him in 1987 and where he stayed for the show’s eleven year run. Things never got better for Al in his life. Wife Peg has a if-it-moves-mount-it attitude, as does daughter Kelly. Son Bud, who proud dad Al named after a beer, would love to be a slut to take care of his perpetual horniness, but can’t ‘cause he’s kind of a geek. The Bundy bunch were a laugh-a –minute, step-by-step guide on what not to do. As a family, they ways to yank the fun out of dysfunctional.
19. The Neville Brothers - Fiyo on the Bayou (1981) - The follow up to the dbut album, The Neville Brothers, Fiyo on the Bayou incorporated more elements of funk, reggae and New Orleans, cajun flavored R&B than it's predecessor. The result resonated with critics and the public and The Neville Brothers have become synomymous with American R&B world wide as a result. It contains the monumental songs, 'Hey Pocky Way,' 'Sitting in Limbo,' and 'The Ten Commandments of Love' that have become 'standards' of the standards.
36. Nanci Griffith - Once in a Very Blue Moon (1983) - Nanci Griffith brought in musical backing for her third album release, Once in a Very Blue Moon. The folk-fed sparseness of her earlier releases was replaced by a fuller sound that contained a little more Country. Guest musicians Bela Fleck (banjo) and Mark O’Connor (fiddle) bring in musical magic as support for the dream texture of “Year Down in New Orleans” and the nod to favorite venues “Spin Around the Red Brick Floor”.
37. Joan Armatrading - Walk Under Ladders (1981) - Joan Armatrading came further into the full-on rock world with the Steve Lillywhite produced Walk Under Ladders. The mix of studio personnel was all over the map with new wave representation from Thomas Dolby and Andy Partridge (XTC), Elton John percussionist Ray Cooper, reggae rhythm man Robbie Shakespeare and Orleans’ Peter Gabriel and Hall & Oates alumni, Jerry Marotta.
38. John Mellencamp - Scarecrow (1985) - Pre-production for Rain on the Scarecrow was simple, and sounds like a lot of fun. John Mellencamp and his band spent a month playing about a hundred Rock’n’Roll songs from the 60’s before heading into the studio to record. The album took a stand in and for the heartland. Without changing the Roots/Rock sound, John Mellencamp brought lyrics that had meaning, talking about good lovin’ in Middle America (“Lonely Ole’ Night”) and touring ala Motown caravans (“R.OC.K. in the U.S.A.”). Rain on the Scarecrow would be the first volley heard for the plight of America’s farmers and for Farm Aid.
39. Chris Isaak - Silvertone (1985) - Chris Isaak had the snarl and the chops to be the next in line for Elvis Presley comparisons. His band was equally stripped down but the resulting sound was more ethereal and dream like. The tone of the music was a good match for filmmaker David Lynch, whose work in films had the same dreamscape attached. The director’s use of the tune “Gone Ridin’” from Silvertone jettisoned the album to much deserved recognition.
As in years past, the main stage (Mane Stage) hosts the Top of the Pops for Country music with 2016 presenting headliners Eric Church, Carrie Underwood, and Luke Bryan. Where Stagecoach differs is in the way it uses the two side stages to host headliners for the Roots music community. In 2016, the Mustang and Palomino Stages play host to Emmylou Harris, John Fogerty, Marty Stuart, Billy Joe Shaver, Rodney Crowell, Lucero, Lee Ann Womack, and a host of other musicians claiming dual citizenship in the Roots and Country music communities. A son of the Roots community begins the charge as Chris Stapleton takes his place on the Mane Stage in 2016.
A good indicator of how Roots music is finding equal footing in the Country marketplace is our list for Stagecoach artists. In the past three years, the list has jumped up to include five more slots each year. Stagecoach 2015 went up to fifteen artist places and in 2016, the number of artists included moves to twenty. The list could easily have gone to twenty-five but we have a festival to catch and will offer a full re-cap of Stagecoach 2016 in May 2016.
So please, find some sand, set up a wind machine, and set the dial for rock’n’roll honky tonk Country music as Stagecoach 2016 roars into the desert for another successful Sold Out festival.
1 – Deeper Well - Emmylou Harris (from the album Wrecking Ball) - The 1995 release of Wrecking Ball gave Emmylou Harris one of her twelve Grammy trophies. The Daniel Lanois-produced album covered Neil Young, and took the “Wrecking Ball” title of his tune for the album name. Neil Young lent harmonies to his song, and Emmylou was joined on the album by Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, and Larry Mullen, Jr (U2).
2 - Rockin' All Over The World - John Fogerty (from the album John Fogerty) - For his second solo release, John Fogerty decided to self-title the 1975 John Fogerty album. The album is out of print, though the track “Rockin’ All Over the World” is still something that John can claim as a real time event.
Find out more about John Fogerty
3 - Outlaw State Of Mind - Chris Stapleton (from the album Traveller) - Chris Stapleton puts out a unifying call to the Roots music community and its resident outlaws. Chris weaves a snaggly guitar line through the track that threads ‘people all across the land’ together in an “Outlaw State of Mind”.
4 – 52 Vincent Black Lightning - Robert Earl Keen (from the album Happy Prisoner, The Bluegrass Album) - Robert Earl Keen went to a Bluegrass backing for his most recent release, Happy Prisoner, The Bluegrass Album. He borrows some wheels from Richard Thompson as he spins his tune, “52 Vincent Black Lightning”, around the album.
5 - The Way I'm Livin' - Lee Ann Womack (from the album The Way I’m Livin’) - Lee Ann Womack received the title of progressive traditionalist for her The Way I’m Livin’ album. The 2014 release was her first for Sugar Hill Records.
6 - I'll Go Stepping Too - The Earls of Leicester (from the album The Earls of Leicester) - Jerry Douglas brings the songs of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs to Stagecoach. The Earls of Leicester use string band music to toss off the warning that leaving the boys at home is not an option in “I’ll Go Stepping To”.
7 - Down Here - The Turnpike Troubadours (from the album Turnpike Troubadours) - The Turnpike Troubadours will take the exit for Stagecoach 2016. The guys shake of Oklahoma red dirt into the California desert as they let you know ‘you’re gonna be all right’ “Down Here”.
8 - It's Hard to be an Outlaw - Billy Joe Shaver (from the album Long in the Tooth) - Time moves on and Billy Joe Shaver still writes Outlaw Country into each and every line of his songs. In his personal life, he is finding it is hard to get arrested as he is joined by Willie Nelson in “It’s Hard to Be an Outlaw”.
9 – “Can't You Hear Them Howl” - Lucero (from the album All That a Man Should Do) - Heading west on Interstate 40 will take Lucero directly from their Memphis, Tennessee home out to the desert. Most of the journey borders the Route 66 Mother Road as the guys roll down their windows in “Can’t You Hear Them Howl”.
10 - Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love - Rodney Crowell (from the album Tarpaper Sky) - Rodney Crowell follows the drum beat as it underscore the “Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love”. Rodney performs a solo set at Stagecoach and a solid bet will be he and Emmylou will join in for duets from their most recent releases.
11 - A Day at a Time - Dale Watson (from the album Call Me Insane) - Dale Waton pulls his rig into the parking lot at Stagecoach, grabs his guitar, and hits the stage with the wisdom of “A Day at a Time”. Dale is playing his Ameripolitan music on a track from his recently released, Call Me Insane.
12 - Goin' Down Rocking - Whitey Morgan and the 78's (from the album Sonic Ranch) - Whitey Morgan rises up out of the guitar haze with the promise that he is “Goin’ Down Rocking”. The track is from his recent release, Sonic Ranch.
13 - Bulletproof - Amanda Shires (from the album Down Fell the Dove) - Amanda Shires tells the story of Tiger Bill and his mysterious bag of goodies. The track is from her last album release, Down Feel the Dove.
14 – Susto (EP coming in summer 2016) - Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, Susto offers a cut from their upcoming EP release and promise a full second album release by late 2016. Susto founder Justin Osborne drew inspiration for the band’s music from discoveries he made while in Cuba along with the homegrown music scene in Charleston.
15 Doin' OK - Cody Jinks (from the album Adobe Sessions) - Cody Jinmks wants mama to know that he is fine in a track from his recently released album,Adobe Sessions.
16 - Ghost Town - Sam Outlaw (from the album Angeleno) - California Country is represented by Los Angeles-based Sam Outlaw at Stagecoach 2016. Sam talks of a “Ghost Town” materializing and then disappearing in the desert sand.
17 – Bacon - Chessboxer (from the E.P. Apollo) - Nashville instrumental machine Chessboxer play strings that glides from wild mountain music into the quietly played tones of Chamber music in their most recent E.P. release, Apollo.
18 Civilizations - William Elliott Whitmore (from the album Radium Death) - William Elliott Whitmore sings for the lost voices of “Civilizations” being eaten alive by industry and technology. He addresses the message to the world with the opening line, ‘don’t mind me, I’m just living here’.
19 - Less Honkin' More Tonkin' -The Deslondes (from the album The Deslondes) - The Deslondes have been scratching an itch all the way from their native New Orleans, Louisiana. They finally got to the desert and can get out of the van to get rid of the “Less Honkin’ More Tonkin’ Blues”.
20 - Rescue Me - A. Rae and the Rescue Dogs (from the album Songs About Dogs) - Alexa and Avery Rae were born into a musical family. The Orange County pre-teens shared a love of music as well as big hearts for unwanted pooches. They put together a honky tonk tale from the other side of the bars as A. Rae and the Rescue Dogs ask to “Rescue Me”.
01 – Kasey Chambers (from the album Bittersweet on Sugar Hill Records 7-24-16) - Kasey Chambers and producer, Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, The Wallflowers, Pearl Jam), crafted an album that tags heritage with the teasing bite of her characters that brands Kasey Chambers and the Roots instrumentation that surrounds her stories. The album, recorded in seven days, stamps a freshness to the tunes that is present on each listen. Kasey relates that for her, she ‘wanted to have an experience making a record that I have never had before. I wanted to challenge myself and I wanted to be excited’.
02 Chris Stapleton (from the album Traveller on Mercury Nashville 5-4-15) - The songs on Traveller crawl up on you like a low slung guitar, bobbing and weaving with footwork that steps to match the moods the stories conjure. A bottle and a wedding ring sit on the table as Chris attaches weight to both, gauging the differences between “Whiskey and You”. Traveller makes its case the perfect pack for a long road trip as Chris steers the songs swaying to the string strums on “More of You” in harmony with wife Morgane Stapleton, shrugs and lights up “Might As Well Get Stoned” with electric guitar chords that strut into the room like a smoking caterpillar pied piper.
03 Glen Hansard (from the album Didn’t He Ramble on Anti- Records 9-18-15) - Didn’t He Ramble enters on a determined whisper as confession becomes commitment as “Grace Beneath the Pines” sets the bar for hurdles that have been jumped. Audio vignettes scroll by on the album as a backdoor Romeo asks the morning birds to grant him one more ‘two step around your front room’ from “Her Mercy”, a scratchy beat tumbles along a get-away path with the “Lowly Deserter”, and quiet to hear the memories rising up , over, and back under “McCormack’s Wall”. Glen Hansard began busking at the age of thirteen on the street of Dublin, Ireland after he quit high school. Didn’t He Ramble still plays to the passersby, drawing them in with words, melody, and magic of hearing exactly what you needed while waiting for the light to change.
04 Punch Brothers (from the album The Phosphorescent Blues on Nonesuch Records 1-27-15) - That style that The Punch Brothers have nurtured is silhouetted against the soft glow of their recent T-Bone Burnett-produced release, The Phosphorescent Blues. The overall sound of the album brings is orchestrated Bluegrass. The magic of The Punch Brothers music is that they can appeal to diverse audiences from mainstream to deep Indie, Bluegrass purists and Americana torch-bearers. They are traditionalist innovators that encompass classical orchestral sweeps the blends with their mountain music on The Phosphorescent Blues.
05 Jason Isbell (from the album Something More Than Free 7-17-15) by Michael Verity - Jason Isbell offers ten strong narratives of the common man’s experience of faith, family and the temporal matters of life with which every grownup must contend on Something More Than Free. The middle half dozen songs on this recording -- from the haunting solo piece of time and travel called “Flagship” to the epic song of a family’s history (“Children of Children”) to the closing chapter of another family’s history (“Speed Trap Town”) -- are among the finest six songs to have been recorded this year. By Michael Verity
06 Steve Earle and the Dukes (from the album Terraplane on New West Records 2-17-05) - Terraplane offers album space to a variety of Blues- based rambles as it shuffles on a front porch rhythm about a New York City woman in “Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now”, corrals a Chuck Berry groove for a raga romp in “Acquainted with the Wind” and uses a rock’n’roll blade made of riffs to carve out a return to fashion for “Go Go Boots are Back”. Steve Earle and the Dukes never line up for one style stamp though they manage to infuse every track with the roots grit falling from their collective boots. Soul pumps the harmonica and the rhythm of its Blues on album opener “Baby Baby Baby (Baby)”, stripping any shred of humility away as it heralds the birth of “King of the Blues”.
07 Kacey Musgraves (from the album Pageant Material on Mercury Nashville) 6-23-15 - Kacey Musgraves has a knowing for how songs should sound; delivered with a wry sense of humor and a big beating heart gives Kacey the crown of Cool Country. Pageant Materialchews a hole back fence gossip making “Biscuits” burn with ‘mend your own fences, and own your own crazy, mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy’. Smart stories stand by the lives they live, and Kacey Musgraves teases the tales with vocals that profess views without preaching positions.
08 The Milk Carton Kids (from the album Monterey on Anti- Records 5-19-15) - The Milk Carton Kids maintain a huge amount of warmth and believability as they gently pick and pluck notes from the air, digging through pockets of Folk to find the quiet nestled just a stone’s throw from silence. The hushed delivery compliments the humor of The Milk Carton Kids banter as well as the microscope they use to script emotion in their songs. The Milk Carton Kids seal songs in amber waves of notes and sepia-toned stories under “Asheville Skies” as the trees spread color into the November fall, mournfully asking in a whisper to “Sing, Sparrow, Sing”, and sway with soft ocean breezes lapping against land as the road calls in the title track.
09 Leon Bridges (from the album Coming Home on Columbia Records 6-23-15) - Leon Bridges uses Coming Home to masterfully moves Soul back to mainstream, guiding Coming Home with one hand on the wheel and two feet planted firmly on a groove.
10 The Turnpike Troubadours (from the album The Turnpike Troubadours 9-18-15) - The musical backing for the Roots of Turnpike Troubadours is a non-stop motion machine. Bobbing and weaving under the stories are teasing fiddles, guitar crunches and a determined rhythm section that give the tunes on The Turnpike Troubadours solid footing. The foundation the band creates make it possible for the stories to ramble, walking to the edge of emotion or reason to find the love left lying on the corner of “Easton and Main” as they provide the only safe spot for the man sinking fast below the poverty line in “The Bird Hunters” while they follow the boy heading down to “Bossier City” to drink and gamble his cares away.
11 Nikki Lane (from the album All or Nothin’ on New West Records 5-6-15) - Nikki Lane caught the ear of her producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys enough to get his studio for free. All or Nothin’ is a sweeping soundscape filled with varied styles and takes on Roots music presented from the perspective of kaleidoscope Country singer, Nikki Lane
12 The Black Lillies (from the album Hard to Please10-2-15) - The Black Lillies open Hard to Please with the title track. It is a tough call whether the song is to a lover, or a higher calling, and it is certainly possible that the band were aiming the title phrase at the music industry that are constantly looking for labels to attach to their artists, or asking them to define themselves in one or two words. Musically, there is no other definition needed than that they are a band making a record, letting the way they hear each song tell the tale of how the music will back the story. On “Hard to Please”, the title track chugs and stomps as a playful twang lightly tags the persistent rhythms that set the pace for its song followers on the recording. “Fade” quietly aids the exit with a love request, bordering album opener with heartfelt pleas.
13 Dave Rawlings’ Machine (from the album Nashville Obsolete on Acony Records 9-18-15) - Dave Rawlings’ Machine is the driving wheel as they guide Nashville Obsolete gracefully through its stories, introducing characters and wearing a skin that remembers, relates, and exposes their tales. “The Last Pharaoh” is a seeker, possibly tracking down a royal line, or maybe looking a Faro card game, the most popular pastime on an American frontier in the 1800’s that stretched Deadwood to Tijuana, Reno to Natchez, New Orleans to St. Louis. Faro tables were familiar sights and sounds in every saloon and become the stage set for the tale.
14 Barrence Whitfield and the Savages (from the album Under the Savage Sky on Bloodshot Records 8-21-15) - Barrence Whitfield and the Savages give their latest Bloodshot Records release, Under the Savage Sky, the identical treatment they have offered with their music since 1984…one hundred and ten percent commitment. Under the Savage Sky is Rock’n’Soul on steroids; Barrence Whitfiled and the Savages a chainsaw to cut through the wall of sound full of the crass representations passing for rock in 2015.
15 Anne McCue (from the album Blue Sky Thinkin’ 2-3-15) - Blue Sky Thinkin’, Anne McCue’s 2015 album release, and the seventh in her catalog, is a satisfying sheaf of twelve new original tunes that speak to her love of music from the 20s, 30s and 40s while demonstrating her sizable skills as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. (Michael Verity)
16 Ray Wylie Hubbard (from the album The Ruffians Misfortune 4-7-15) - Ray Wylie wanted to have a Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood-type of two guitar backing, bringing in Gabe Rhodes and his son, Lucas Hubbard, for The Ruffian’s Misfortune. The twin guitars share space as they propel across a fast-train ride rhythm “Down by the River”, snake underneath “Chicksinger Badass Rockin’”, snap at the white lines trailing below “Bad on Fords”, and drift like six-string ghosts as they tumble with a fiery fiddle calling out “Jessie Mae”. The Ruffian’s Misfortune opens to righteous Blues preaching on “All Loose Things”, as it hums a Kevin Welch tune.
17 Uncle Lucius (from the album The Light 6-9-15) - Uncle Lucius have always had salvation in their songs, sitting comfortably as a sideman for the electric chords and beats. Uncle Lucius turn on The Light and watch its songs go into dark corners, shadowy hallways, and travel one lane roads as they search, seek and provide answers for how to walk a little prouder. The hint is that you can feel a little better about yourself by taking control of your own life.
18 John Moreland (from the album High on Tulsa Heat 4-21-15) - John Moreland songs began to form when a ten years old John and his family moved from Kentucky to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He heard his songs against a punk rock back beat throughout high school, ut and pasted on his dad’s Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Steve Earle records. John recalls that ‘I think what appealed to me about it was lyrics. In hardcore, there might be great lyrics in a song but you have to read them off a piece of paper to know it. I was 19 in 2004, and Steve Earle had put out ‘The Revolution Starts Now,’ and I remember hearing the song ‘Rich Man’s War’ and totally feeling like somebody just punched me in the chest.’
19 Lilly Hiatt (from the album Royal Blue on New West Records 3-3-15) - Royal Blue moves with a pulse pumping a heart aware that things work out in equal measure, sometimes going belly up. Lilly Hiatt doesn’t drown in the ocean she is swimming as she claims the skin of “Somebody’s Daughter”. She is taking the reins, unsure of the hows and whys yet very clear on the end results working out, knowing ‘I’m gonna be fine’. Royal Blue keeps a Modern Beat with a 60’s sci-fi rumble as it reads a broken heart note signed “Too Bad”, “Heart Attack” runs on a David Lynch sound track with its dream-induced beat zig zagging on a ghostly groove, bounces off a rock’n’roll jangle trying to “Get This Right”, and uses tight drum beats to corral the wobbly guitars running “Off Track”.
20 The Grahams (from the album Glory Bound 5-18-15) - If you are looking for a song on Glory Bound to make you feel worse about your day…move along. The Grahams are never far away from waving the banner of the road though they change the mood of their songs like the scenery flying by outside a southbound boxcar. Glory Boundis a light burning bright for taking chances and listening to the voices in your head.
21 The Wood Brothers (from the album Paradise 10-2-15) - Chris Wood uses an electric bass for the first time in Wood Bros. studio recordings on Paradise. The heavier thump grounds tracks like “American Heartache” giving a rock heft to the natural power of The Wood Brothers. Oliver Wood’s voice cries for salvation with the soul-searching of a zealot, as the songs offer inspiration within reach. The ways to plow through the middle of issues is covered in the challenging advice of “Singin’ for Strangers” with additional experiential advice on how to swim upstream on a“River of Gin” to get some kind of ‘amen’ as The Wood Brothers quiet to a hush to sing a “Heartbreak Lullaby” for love sick boys.
22 Della Mae (from the album Della Mae on New Rounder Records 5-12-15) - Della Mae fires its opening salvo with a pro-union and pro-women’s rights song that demands ‘pass me a match and we’ll strike it on the ground, and we’ll head back down to Boston town’. The women of Della Mae stand tall and proud as they challenge workers to take control of their lives and hold on to their dignity.
23 Shelby Lynne (from the album I Can’t Imagine on New Rounder Records 5-4-15) - Shelby Lynne songs sink into your senses with familiarity by the end of the track. “Son of a Gun” slows its pace to save its energy as it ‘walks through the noonday sun’, “Back Door Front Porch” swings with the decisions of its story, and “Better” drifts on clouds of amplifier rings, rising and falling with a delicate grace.
24 Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell (from the album The Traveling Kind on Nonesuch Records 5-12-15) - Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell are no strangers to being a part of one another’s story line. The add accent and emotion, Continuing that model on The Traveling Kind. There is a beauty to the intimate moments that feels like a new page for the Harris-Crowell songbook. Rodney joins Emmylou as they offer a toast to fellow troubadours in the title track before circling back to just two folks looking for a dance floor as they exit The Traveling Kind on a ‘le bon temps roulé’ with “Le Danse de la Joie”.
25 JD McPherson (from the album Let the Good Times Roll on New Rounder Records 2-10-15) - Reverbed chords rotate over Let the Good Times Roll like the blades of an oscillating fan. JD McPherson is not claiming purist or avant garde status….he is just playing it as it lays. Let the Good Times Roll sets the guitar sound in line with the upright bass and rattles with layered reverb in “Precious”, double times a rubbery chord strum to tumble “Head Over Heels” and blows breath beats out on a groove primed by a low riding saxophone pumps. Let the Good Times Roll lays Rhythm over its Blues for R&B circa 2015.