Joe Goldmark

Blue Steel

Lo-Ball

After seven solo albums of pedal-steel instrumentals (all of which include decidedly non-country covers), Joe Goldmark switched gears two albums ago by incorporating vocal numbers.

His new tack began with 2007’s “Seducing the ’60s” (Goldmark’s second all-covers album — the first being 1997’s “Steelin’ the Beatles”), of which half the tracks variously feature guest vocals by two male singers and one female singer. “The Wham of That Steel Man!” was his 2012 follow-up, a two-CD multigenre exercise comprising an instrumental disc and a vocal disc made up entirely of tunes sung by a female singer.

Now comes “Blue Steel,” another outstanding 50/50 instrumental-and-vocal set enlisting a male and a female singer, with one or the other contributing to the non-instrumental numbers.

This time there’s an R&B/blues/soul theme, a unique approach for a pedal-steel album but not without precedence if the criterion were to be “any type of slide guitar”: Jeff Plankenhorn, who plays a custom-built electric dobro, released an all-soul album entitled “SoulSlide” in 2016.

“Blue Steel” opens with a lively original instrumental, “Night Flight.” Recalling such rockin’ steelers as “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow and Red Rhodes, it’s highlighted by guitarist Gary Potterton’s (Tom Fogerty, Kate Wolf) succinct Duane Eddy-esque solo toward the end.

The first of the vocal numbers is “All Night Worker,” a Rufus Thomas hit in 1964, here sourced from the 1966 version by Tex-Mex band Los Stardusters. Former Hoodoo Rhythm Devils singer Glenn Walters provides the voice. The Stardusters arrangement boasts a “She’s About a Mover” groove, which might not be a coincidence: Los Stardusters were on the Texas-based Tear Drop label, founded by Sir Douglas Quintet producer Huey P. Meaux.

San Francisco singer Dallis Craft handles the female half of the album’s vocal equation, beginning with a stunning rendition of “A Love So Beautiful,” the Roy Orbison-Jeff Lynne co-write from Orbison’s 1989 comeback album, “Mystery Girl.”

And so the album’s pattern is established, with the balance alternating between instrumental and vocal selections. The rest of the vocal tunes are also covers, a refreshingly eclectic collection of songs by Jimmy McCracklin (“The Wobble”), Graham Parker (“Howlin’ Wind”), Lefty Frizzell (“Look What Thoughts Will Do”), B.B. King (“Beautician Blues”) and Dallas Frazier (“True Love Travels on a Gravel Road”).

The balance of the instrumentals are mostly Goldmark originals, with two exceptions: Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread” (sourced from eight-string jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter’s 1997 instrumental reimagining of Marley’s 1974 album of the same name) and “I Want to Be With You Forever” (written especially for “Blue Steel” by Bay Area guitarist and Goldmark colleague Jim Campilongo, who also plays guitars on the track).

Tracks
1. Night Flight
2. All Night Worker (feat. Glenn Walters)
3. A Love So Beautiful (feat. Dallis Craft)
4. Ginger Ale
5. The Wobble (feat. Glenn Walters)
6. Warm Rain
7. Howlin’ Wind (feat. Dallis Craft)
8. Natty Dread
9. Look What Thoughts Will Do (feat. Dallis Craft)
10. Tacky Tango
11. Beautician Blues (feat. Glenn Walters)
12. I Want To Be With You Forever (Jim Campilongo — guitars)
13. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road (feat. Dallis Craft)

Total time: 41:34

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Koch Marshall Trio

Toby Arrives

The Players Club

Every once in a while, someone usually regarded as a rock guitarist comes out of left field with an organ trio album that just blows the socks right off unsuspecting listeners.

A couple of relatively recent examples, both from 2008, are “Hi-Fi Stereo” by Reverend Organdrum (a side project for Jim Heath, aka Reverend Horton Heat) and “The Haunted Melody” by the Steve Howe Trio (yes, Steve Howe of Yes).

Now comes Greg Koch with “Toby Arrives” by the Koch Marshall Trio. Like Howe’s offering, it’s also a father-and-son effort with dad on guitar and son playing drums.

Koch has a sizable back catalog of often instrumental music where getting “out there” is the norm and many genres are covered. But this KMT debut sees a more disciplined Koch distilling his normally “all over the map” sound into a potent blues-jazz blend.

As with many good things, the album coalesced by happenstance. Koch’s drummer son Dylan had been doing gigs in the Twin Cities with a guitarist and an organist, and was always telling his dad to check out the latter sometime. As chance would have it, the organist was going to be in Milwaukee and Dylan persuaded a reluctant Greg into agreeing to a jam. Hammond B-3 player extraordinaire Toby Lee Marshall, expecting only a possibility of a jam at the Koch home, was flabbergasted when Greg took him and Dylan to a studio where drums and an organ were already set up and mic’ed — and the rest is history.

The opening title track is what its name implies: the first of two recorded during that initial March 2017 encounter. Five more tracks were laid down in April, followed by a final one in July. Everything was tracked live in the studio except for an acoustic guitar overdub on “Sin Repent Repeat,” the awesome electric-bottleneck showcase that serves as the set’s denouement.

“Blues-jazz” may be a sufficient modifier in the aggregate, but the trio manages to touch on several sub-subgenres. For instance, the aforementioned “Sin Repent Repeat” has strong gospel overtones.

“Enter the Rats,” with its finger-lickin’ chicken-picking, transitions seamlessly into the ZZ Top-flavored “Boogie Yourself Drade.” For prog fans, the 10-minute “Mysterioso” draws inspiration from Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth and Joe Satriani.

“Funk Meat” is another fine display of chicken-picking that starts out sounding like the theme to an alternate-universe “Sanford and Son” and then throws in a contrapuntal snarl or two from Greg’s 1958 Gibson Les Paul reissue. That ax is also used on the title track, but for the rest the Gristleman uses his 1955 Fender Telecaster Custom Shop model.

With all the great virtuosity, tone and recording/mixing/mastering (by Steve Hamilton at Makin’ Sausage Music), it’s no wonder Ed van Zijl of the Netherlands-based Mascot Label Group made “Toby” the first release on his Players Club imprint — and signed KMT to a multi-album deal.

“I am and have always been a lover of great guitar playing,” van Zijl said when Good New Music took a shot in the dark and reached out to him via email. “(On) The Players Club … you will find freestyle jam music all based around the guitar. It might be instrumental, it might be vocal. The artists do not get any instructions from me, only my trust and belief in them.”

Van Zijl added, “I want an outlet for great musicianship and to let the artists do what they are good at, what they love, and have them not make any compromises whatsoever for commercial reasons.”

When asked if anyone else was lined up for future Players Club releases (“Toby Arrives” and Tommy Emmanuel’s “Accomplice One” are the only entries so far), van Zijl replied: “We currently have two more artists recording for TPC: Vernon Reid … (and) Jan Akkerman. … We have more on our target list, of course, who we will announce in due time. I do not know release dates yet for the above albums, but I estimate fall at the earliest.”

Van Zijl said he has plans for taking the Players Club concept on the road, as well.

“Once we have enough albums out, we want the artists to tour together and in the right circuit,” he told GNM. “Imagine Vernon Reid and Jan Akkerman together — that would make a cool package. Just an idea so far. It will take a little time to start that up as that part is never easy, but touring is part of the plan.

“We just did our first Provogue label tour in Europe under the name Rockin’ the Blues … (and did) seven shows in three countries. You can find plenty of that on YouTube. 2019 will see more countries and shows, and I hope to launch it in the U.S. in two or three years.

“(For) The Players Club we will do something similar … but in a smaller and more specialized circuit with maybe residencies in certain towns.”

Go Ed!

Tracks
1. Toby Arrives
2. Funk Meat
3. Heed The Boogaloo
4. Let’s Get Sinister
5. Mysterioso
6. Enter The Rats
7. Boogie Yourself Drade
8. Sin Repent Repeat

Total time: 50:48

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Winnie Winston

Wanted for Steeling

Richard Weize Archives (ACD 12570)

Unlike most pedal steel players, the late great Winnie (aka Julian) Winston’s background was in folk music rather than country: As an award-winning banjoist in the 1960s, he formed the New York City Ramblers with David Grisman, a group that shared the stage with Bob Dylan at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.

In the ’70s Winston switched gears. He designed and built his own pedal steel guitar, and later co-wrote a self-teaching manual called “Pedal Steel Guitar” with Bill Keith. Session work followed — as both banjoist and pedal steel guitarist — for Steve Goodman, David Bromberg, Rosalie Sorrels and Mary McCaslin, among others.

His “solo” pedal-steel albums from that period largely consisted of three obscure, long-out-of-print LPs made with friend and guitarist Hank Davis — the first two of which were issued under the nom de plume “Raunch Radley” (a fictitious country-music legend dreamed up by Davis); the third release bore their real names.

“Wanted for Steeling” is a collection curated by Davis that draws from the above-mentioned three albums as well as from previously unreleased recordings. It’s also another excellent release commissioned by reissue meister Richard Weize for the RWA label, his post-Bear Family Records endeavor.

Though they attended the same New York high school in the late ’50s, Winston and Davis moved in different circles socially and musically, with the former inclined toward folk and the latter preferring rockabilly. Upon graduating, Winston studied industrial design and Davis pursued psychology, and both became teachers. Winston kept up his musical pursuits playing pedal steel in a country band, whereas Davis — who’d wound up at the University of Guelph in Ontario — put recording/performing on the back burner. But then things changed.

The following excerpt from an archival newspaper article in the Kitchener-Waterloo (Ontario) Record tells what happened next:

“(I got a phone call from high school friend) Winnie Winston, a guy I hadn’t seen for 16 years. He played pedal steel guitar in a country band, and he called to say that he had dreamed of me three nights running, and thought he’d better look me up.”

Hank invited Winston to his farm near Puslinch, and Winston brought his pedal steel along.

“We sat around the house playing, and we got real good real fast,” says Hank. “We decided to do a recording session and see what happened.”

Davis and Winston booked time in the Mercey Brothers Studio in Elmira. They recorded 10 songs in 10 takes.

Later, they visited a second studio. Everything about the sessions pleased Hank … except the cost.

“I said to myself, ‘If we’re going to keep making records, I might as well build my own studio at the farm.’ I just went out and bought the equipment and now we record at my place.”

“Wanted for Steeling” documents a telepathic interplay between the visually oriented and psychologically oriented minds, respectively, of Winston and Davis.

This is not flashy hillbilly jazz modeled after 1950s pedal-steel/electric-guitar duo Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant. Davis wears his rock ’n’ roll heart on his sleeve, sometimes enhancing the bed tracks of guitar and pedal steel with his own overdubbed bass, drums, piano or additional guitar. Winston often solos into uncharted territory, using his mind’s eye as a sextant and Davis’ guitar as his North Star.

Davis uses finesse in sequencing the compilation’s tracks, choosing to blend the Raunch Radley selections with the cuts from “Cloud Dancing.”

“With (the) Raunch Radley (material), we were looking to create the feel of vintage ’50s rock ’n’ roll and kind of painted ourselves into a corner,” Davis told Good New Music recently in a telephone interview. “ ‘Cloud Dancing’ (which followed the two Raunch Radley LPs) allowed Winnie to stretch out on pedal steel.”

“Winnie would play the Steel Guitar Convention in St. Louis and come here on his way back,” Davis added. “I got used to the fact that he would come in and put his steel guitar on the floor and be ready to go. I remember one year I had everything ready for him in the studio so he could get it done in Take 1.”

When asked who initiated the idea for the compilation, Davis said it was mutual.

“Richard Weize had put out a Jerry Byrd album,” he told GNM. “I said, ‘If you can put out a Byrd album, you can put out a Winston album.’ He asked if I had the tapes, and I said yes. He wanted to know if I could supply archival photos, and I told him I thought so. ‘Let’s do it!’ he said.”

Among the collection’s previously unissued tracks is “Spider Trap,” at once a groovy and laid-back number. “It’s basically blues,” Davis said. “We did that in one take. It was after ‘Cloud Dancing’ and we never did anything with the tape. I had at least 50 tunes recorded with Winnie and I thought, ‘This is it — it has to come out.’ ”

Another song to see its first light of day is the bouncy “Right Out the Door,” which sounds a lot like “Green Green Grass of Home” but with a Luther Perkins-style chug-along rhythm guitar.

“Dancing Steel” is a previously unreleased instrumental reworking of a Davis vocal song, “I Just Don’t Feel Like Dancing.” Davis explained, “I recorded the vocal version with Winnie in the studio in 1974, the first year we got together. I didn’t have a studio at my house yet. I sang and played piano and Winnie played steel. Years later we tried it as instrumental, and I overdubbed drums and bass.”

In fact, Davis incorporates five songs recorded for his own vocal albums on this otherwise instrumental collection. “But I Do,” “What Went Wrong,” “Conversation” and “Mongoose” have remained in the can for nearly 40 years before seeing release here. “Old New Orleans R&B” came out on Davis’ “One Way Track” album.

The vocal songs were included to show that Winston — besides being a great soloist — was also an excellent sideman, Davis told GNM. “(I knew) those songs … wouldn’t go down well with people who buy my albums today. Otherwise, they were just going to sit in the vault.”

Other standout offerings from among the field of 27 songs (all of which are first-rate) are “Steady as She Goes,” aka “Christmas Train” from the “Cloud Dancing” LP; the previously unissued “Thanksgiving Blessing,” one of three such showpiece tunes recorded immediately after one of Winston’s Pedal Steel Guitar Convention gigs (the other two being “Waltzing Matilda” and the Eagles’ “Desperado”); “Drivin’ and Jivin’ ”; “Misty Morn,” which appeared in a different version on Winston’s 1978 solo album “Steel Wool”; “Big Black Machine”; “Bouncing off the Trees”; and “Dreaming at the Bar.”

Tracks
1. Right Out The Door
2. Almost Home
3. Steady As She Goes
4. Downhill Blues
5. Old New Orleans R&B
6. Dancing Steel
7. Truckstop
8. Snowballs In June
9. Cajun Potatoes
10. The Eagle
11. But I Do
12. The Frog Invasion
13. Lonely Boys Like Me
14. Winding Down
15. Thanksgiving Blessing
16. What Went Wrong
17. Drivin’ And Jivin’
18. Misty Morn
19. Spider Trap
20. Waltzing Matilda
21. Conversation
22. Desperado
23. Big Black Machine
24. Old Time Friend
25. Bouncing Off The Trees
26. Dreaming At The Bar
27. Mongoose

Total time: 1:18:19

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Bear Family Records

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Billy Strings

Turmoil & Tinfoil

Apostol

One of the great things about the Internet Age is the ability to ramble along the Information Superhighway in search of new music, obsessively-compulsively bouncing off the URL walls on a random journey of discovery. And that’s how this reviewer first heard about Billy Strings last summer.

Unexpected Destination No. 1 was a show posted in the Live Music Archive section of the Internet Library. It was an exceptionally well-made matrix (soundboard/audience composite) recording of a stellar performance by Strings and his band at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes Barre, Pa., on July 13, 2017. From there, one hyperlink led to another, and a profile of the wunderkind flatpicking guitarist-singer-songwriter was slowly amassed.

Fast-forward a few months, and Strings (aka William Apostol) has released his crowdfunded, debut full-length solo CD — and it’s more fun than a barrel of virtuosic monkeys playing guitars, banjos, mandolins and occasionally fiddles.

Bluegrass, newgrass, folk, country and even a psychedelic passage or two; it’s all there, sometimes in the same song.

“On the Line” might conjure an image of “Old and in the Way”-era Jerry Garcia smiling down from above in approval, whereas “Meet Me at the Creek” has a lengthy, cosmos-exploring instrumental section.

“All of Tomorrow” is a “San Antonio Rose”-like number, but then there’s “Living Like an Animal” — which benefits from special guest Peter “Madcat” Ruth‘s contributions on harmonica and Jew’s harp, coming across like an updated “Chicken Train” (Ozark Mountain Daredevils).

“Salty Sheep,” the only song not written by Strings, is a flatpicking-guitar medley of traditional songs performed as a duet with special guest Bryan Sutton.

Strings possesses a lived-in bluegrass tenor voice that belies his looks (20-something going on 16) and can play at nearly the speed of light when he wants. Witness “Pyramid Country,” an instrumental that affords Strings, banjoist Billy Failing and mandolinist Drew Matulich the opportunity to take solos in rotation.

But there’s more to “Pyramid County” than meets the ears. It turns out the song shares its name with a skateboard-centric production and apparel company, one of whose principals did the album’s splendidly surreal cover. Good New Music tracked down artist/businessman J.J. Horner:

“I first heard of Billy a couple of years ago,” Horner told GNM via email. “They came through Arizona and played at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale. Jackson (Casey, another owner in Pyramid Country) invited me to go and showed me a couple of his live performances on YouTube to further convince me. I’m a bluegrass/guitar-picking fan so it wasn’t a hard sell. …

“Long story short, I met him at the show and we stayed in contact. … He hit me up about a year ago asking me if I’d be down to do album art. … We worked closely on the concept. I find Billy’s music very psychedelic and visual, sometimes even metal. He pointed out a few paintings he liked on my Instagram and sent me a few songs from the album. I applied those painting concepts to how his music makes me feel and came up with a sketch. I texted it to him and he was hyped. Over the next couple of weeks, I sent him progress photos and bounced ideas back and forth. It was a fun process.”

The album owes its mind-boggling recording quality to co-producer and engineer/acoustician Glenn Brown of GBP Studios, in Strings’ home state of Michigan. GNM also reached out to Brown, himself a guitarist who formed fusion bands in the mid-’70s with Bill Laswell and fronts his own Glenn Brown & Intergalactic Spiral:

“I recorded Billy’s album live to 24-track tape with minimal overdubs,” he told GNM in an email. “Then I finished the mix in a hybrid analog-patched-hardware and digital system (Pro Tools HDX at 96k). I recorded most of the echoes and vibe live during the original takes.”

In other words, the sound is virtually the way it was heard while being created in Brown’s expertly designed workspace, captured using the best of both worlds (analog and digital) to help translate the fire, immediacy and beauty of String’s live shows into a studio environment.

Tracks
1. On The Line
2. Meet Me At The Creek
3. All Of Tomorrow
4. While I’m Waiting Here
5. Living Like An Animal
6. Turmoil & Tinfoil
7. Salty Sheep
8. Spinning
9. Dealing Despair
10. Pyramid Country
11. Doin’ Things Right
12. These Memories Of You

Total time: 1:02:40

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Rusty Young

Waitin’ for the Sun

Blue Elan

“Fifty years in the making.”

While that statement about Rusty Young’s debut solo album might be a stretch, it’s accurate in the minds of diehard “Poconuts” who know that the 50th anniversary of Poco is coming up next year.

Over the past half-century, various members of that seminal country-rock group have recorded a number of solo offerings: Randy Meisner (three), Jim Messina (three), Richie Furay (seven), Timothy B. Schmit (six) and Paul Cotton (three).

Young, sole original member of the still-performing group, quietly bided his time while he and bandmate Paul Cotton kept the group a going concern as — one by one — Messina, Furay, Schmit and even drummer George Grantham moved on. In 2010, Cotton also exited.

As Young gradually evolved from sideman to frontman, the pedal steel guitarist also added acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, mandolin, lap steel and Dobro to his stringed-instrument arsenal.

When Poco was on hiatus in the 1990s, Young took a shot at Nashville stardom with an all-star group of like-minded country-rockers that recorded not one but 2½ unreleased albums: the first for RCA under the moniker Four Wheel Drive (with Bill Lloyd, John Cowan and Patrick Simmons) and the second 1½ for Warner Bros. as the Sky Kings (after a legal snag forced a name change and Simmons departed). The Sky Kings recordings eventually saw the light of day as a limited-edition compilation on the Rhino Handmade label.

Young’s long-awaited solo record presents the multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter freshly emerged from short-lived retirement, happy to have finally done his own thing and on his own terms.

As Young tells it on several recent radio interviews, he was approached by a record label after one of his occasional gigs with Messina.

“When Rusty asked us what kind of album we wanted,” says Blue Elan president Kirk Pasich in a press release, “we said, ‘What kind of album do you want to make?’ ”

After a year spent writing about 20 tunes, Young headed for Johnny Cash’s cabin studio in Hendersonville, Tenn., and laid down tracks with current Poco compadres Jack Sundrud (bass), Michael Webb (keyboards) and Rick Lonow (drums).

The results proved spectacular, with highlights such as the scene-setting title track; the tender ballad “Heaven Tonight”; and the sensory instrumental “Seasons.”

Other standouts include “My Friend,” which joins previous nostalgic numbers such as Poco’s “When It All Began” (from their 1989 reunion album “Legacy”) and Furay’s “We Were the Dreamers” (from his 2015 album “Hand in Hand”), and features cameos from Furay and Schmit; and the rollicking “Honey Bee,” which boasts assists from Messina and Grantham.

Tracks
1. Waitin’ For The Sun
2. My Friend
3. Honey Bee
4. Sara’s Song
5. Heaven Tonight
6. Hey There
7. Seasons
8. Innocent Moon
9. Down Home
10. Gonna Let The Rain

Total time: 36:37

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