Great American Taxi

Dr. Feelgood’s Traveling Medicine Show


GATWhen frontman Vince Herman returned full-time to his reactivated former group Leftover Salmon, the Colorado-based Americana/jam band Great American Taxi chose to keep on truckin’.

It was a good decision, as their fourth release turned out to be their best.

After settling on guitarist/banjoist/singer Arthur Lee Land as Herman’s replacement, they headed into Silo Sound Studios in late 2014 and early 2015 under the guidance of studio owner/engineer Todd Divel and Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone, who also lends occasional fiddle.

Finding themselves between drummers at the time, Duane Trucks (Hard Working Americans, Widespread Panic and younger brother of Derek) filled in.

The resulting “Dr. Feelgood’s Traveling Medicine Show” shows the quintet shifting away from alt-bluegrass toward more of a rock-and-roll sound: The addition of Land sets up some fine Telecaster duels with Jim Lewin.

A slight bluegrass connection remains, with a few songs featuring banjo in a supporting role. But an approximately equal number of other tracks boast founder-keyboardist Chad Staehly’s electric piano, à la “Elephant Mountain”/“Ride the Wind”-era Youngbloods.

One of the banjo highlights is “Home.” Starting out with the sound of crickets and footsteps, the loping song waxes nostalgic as the protagonist recalls days of his not-quite-misspent youth.

“We Can Run” boasts a high-spirited performance by Staehly on Fender Rhodes, with the “feel-good” number riding out on an articulate guitar conversation between Land and Lewin.

“Like There’s No Yesterday” has a bit of a Grateful Dead “Jack Straw” vibe, even boasting a Jerry Garcia-like solo.

The title track is a surreal exercise in carnivalesque klezmer meets surf/twang meets Danny Elfman OST meets “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”

Those hoping to hear plaintive electric slide beautifully juxtaposed with acoustic rhythm guitar, military-style drums, and violin melding with the drone of a Hammond B-3 organ need look no further than “Mother Lode,” a shimmering slow-motion send-off that discusses the importance of persisting in one’s search for the Mother Lode — even in the face of growing old.gnm_end_bug

1. We Can Run
2. Out On The Town
3. Sunshiny Days
4. All The Angels
5. Home
6. Louie Town
7. Everybody
8. Dr. Feelgood’s Traveling Medicine Show
9. Like There’s No Yesterday
10. Mother Lode

Total time: 42:47

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The Carnivaleros

carnivaleros5Dreams Are Strange


The Tucson, Ariz.-based Carnivaleros have always possessed a knack for unusually interesting arrangements, often combining instruments not normally heard together.

On “Dreams Are Strange,” the band makes a swampy Appalachian acoustical foray into Americana, with an expansion of its sound due to the presence of Heather “Lil’ Mama” Hardy’s violin on most tracks.

Tying it together is the decidedly non-Tex Mex/non-polka accordion of singer-songwriter Mackender, who favors basic North American folk and, occasionally, Middle Eastern and klezmer idioms.

Six of the album’s tracks are instrumental, including “Chestnut Oak” (featuring banjo); “Tumacacori” (vibes and lap steel); and “High Speed Yard Sale” (tuba).

Highlights among the album’s eight vocal numbers are the country-and-Cajun “Hesitation Bridge”; the incredibly witty title track; the jump zydeco “Gonna Jump in a Hole”; the upbeat “Who’s to Say” (which would have been a perfect vehicle for the late Dan Hicks, with its Hot Licks-type chorus); and the hard-luck tale “Wore Out My Welcome.”gnm_end_bug

1. Hesitation Bridge
2. Dreams Are Strange
3. The Chestnut Oak
4. Gonna Jump in a Hole
5. Mamie Eisenhower
6. Tumacacori
7. Who’s to Say
8. Moving On
9. The Red Maple
10. Wore Out My Welcome
11. Donna’s Song
12. Psychic Mary
13. Time Traveling
14. High Speed Yard Sale

Total time: 48:49

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Jonny Kaplan and the Lazy Stars

Sparkle and Shine

Reckless Grace

kaplanJonny Kaplan has toiled in obscurity stateside since independently releasing his 1997 debut, “California Heart” — arguably one of the best latter-day country-rock albums to come out of Los Angeles.

He’s worked with Kings of Leon, the Wallflowers, Lucinda Williams, Keith Richards and Wilco. He plays to sell-out crowds in Europe, where his last two albums were released  before they were available domestically. He was a member of the Sin City All Stars, a revolving collective of LA-based musicians that served as house band for the “Return to Sin City: A Tribute to Gram Parsons” concerts in 2004.

“Sparkle and Shine” is the Philadelphia-born musician and songwriter’s fourth effort and first to receive a proper U.S. release. On it, he broadens his palette with an array of sounds and styles, beginning with the full-steam-ahead, Stones-like title track. Kaplan’s voice is very much in tune, but it’s no stretch to imagine Keith Richards covering it, and Kaplan and Dan Wistrom’s slide guitars clinch the deal.

Also featuring twin slide noises is the bluesy “Annalee Meets the Scorpion,” with Kaplan and Wistrom on resonator and slide guitars, respectively, bolstered by Adam MacDougall’s (Black Crowes) B-3 organ.

“The Child Is Gone,” the album’s longest cut at eight minutes, is one of three songs featuring Chris Lawrence on pedal steel. The waltz gradually builds in intensity, finishing with two minutes of instrumental interplay between Wistrom and Lawrence, whose ethereal playing undoubtedly has Jerry Garcia smiling down from above.

Fans of electric 12-string will dig “I’ll Be Around,” which recalls the Byrds but has more of a sunshine-pop vibe than a jingle-jangle feel, thanks to Kaplan’s smooth multitracked vocals. And “Garage Cleaner” boasts some of the best Fender Rhodes this side of the Youngbloods circa “Elephant Mountain,” courtesy the Wallflowers’ Rami Jaffee, whose Fonogenic Studios served as the spawning ground for “Sparkle.”

Taking the album out on a poignant note is the lustful “Pretty Little Nose,” an acoustic-guitar-flavored tale of a man who craves forbidden fruit. Making things even more bittersweet are the violin embellishments by Jessy Greene (Wilco, the Jayhawks, Golden Smog) and Lawrence’s pedal steel.gnm_end_bug

1. Sparkle And Shine
2. Annalee Meets The Scorpion
3. Helena’s Afraid
4. When You’re Down
5. The Child Is Gone
6. I’ll Be Around
7. Sweet Magnolia Flower
8. Billings Blues
9. Garage Cleaner
10. Always
11. Pretty Little Nose

Total time: 48:09

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Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale

Buddy and Jim

New West

In 2008, Lauderdale released an album as Jim Lauderdale and the Dream Players (James Burton, Steve Sheehan, Al Perkins, Glen D. Hardin, Gary Tallent and Ron Tutt). Now comes his dream duets album with fellow Nashville singer-songwriter Buddy Miller, in which the pair unleash a set of modern traditional noncomformist country — with an edge — on an unsuspecting public.

The two longtime friends are nothing if not prolific, and live by the code of artistic integrity. They pursue solo careers while making good livings as hired hands: most recently, Lauderdale with Elvis Costello and Miller with Robert Plant’s Band of Joy. They even host “The Buddy & Jim Show” on SiriusXM radio.

Lauderdale is no stranger to collaboration, with a discography that includes an album with jam band Donna the Buffalo, two with bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley and four with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Likewise for Miller, who’s recorded platters with singer-songwriter wife Julie and joined forces with guitarists Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz to form the Majestic Silver Strings.

On “B&J,” the mission seems to be simply to have fun, while making world-class music along the way. The close harmonies recall brother groups of yore, such as the Everlys, the Louvins, the Wilburns, the Delmores and the Stanleys. Miller’s guitar playing is so top-notch, it’s mind-boggling. Pedal steel guitarist Russ Pahl livens up more than a few tracks (check out the theremin sounds he creates on “Vampire Girl”).

The album was originally conceived as a collection of covers of songs made popular by 1950s country act Johnnie and Jack, but ended up containing multisourced covers as well as originals by Lauderdale and/or Miller. “Down South in New Orleans” is the lone Johnnie and Jack song to make the final cut, and here it absolutely rocks with Miller’s Luther Perkins-style guitar laid atop subtle pedal steel and violin while a rhumba beat bubbles beneath.

Other covers include Frank Hutchison’s “The Train That Carried My Gal From Town,” with Stuart Duncan’s trainlike fiddle; the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Lonely One in This Town,” which sounds like a duet between Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams; Joe Tex’s “I Want to Do Everything for You,” featuring Miller’s Jim Messina-style twang guitar; and Jimmy McCracklin’s “The Wobble,” coming off like Commander Cody’s “Don’t Let Go” meets Dire Straits’ “Industrial Disease.”

1. I Lost My Job Of Loving You
2. The Train That Carried My Gal From Town
3. That’s Not Even Why I Love You
4. Down South In New Orleans
5. It Hurts Me
6. Vampire Girl
7. Forever And A Day
8. Lonely One In This Town
9. Looking For A Heartache
10. I Want To Do Everything For You
11. The Wobble

Total time: 34:28

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Elvis Presley

Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight


PresleyThe King finally has a box set fit for a king. After years of such multidisc compilations as “I Believe — The Gospel Masters,” “The Complete ’68 Comeback Special,” “The Music of Elvis Presley — The 1950s,” “Elvis at the Movies” and “The Country Side of Elvis,” Legacy Recordings commemmorates what would have been the Mississippi Tupelo Flash’s 75th birthday with a career-spanning chronological sampler of 100 songs (incorporating the entire “30 #1 Hits” release) that keeps the singer’s forays in proportion to his artistic success.

An excellent perq to “Elvis 75 – Good Rockin’ Tonight” is the sessionography included in the 80-page booklet, which makes it possible to group tracks according to their respective guitarists, such as:

Original guitarist Scotty Moore. Beginning with the Sun single that gave birth to rockabilly, “That’s All Right,” Moore barnstormed through a 14-year parade of flat-out rockers including “Mystery Train,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up.”

Hank Garland, quintessential Nashville studio guitarist. Garland got the call several times to come in for sessions from 1958 to 1961, when Presley was looking to expand his sound. It wasn’t long before Garland and Moore became a double-guitar team, exemplified by cuts such as “It’s Now or Never,” “Reconsider Baby” and “Little Sister.” Unfortunately, in 1961, a near-fatal car accident ended his career.

Southern soul guitarist Reggie Young. Before settling in Nashville, Young played in former Presley bassist Bill Black’s combo and then became house guitarist at Chips Moman’s American Studios, where the legendary single “Suspicious Minds” and the comeback LP “From Elvis in Memphis” were cut.

James Burton, “chicken pickin’ ” guitarist. The former Rick Nelson guitarist couldn’t play on the “Comeback” television special because of a prior commitment to Frank Sinatra, but a year later he agreed to assemble the Taking Care of Business band to play Vegas and ended up staying with Presley until the end. Some of The King’s best Americana is from this period, including versions of Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie,” Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Joe Babcock’s “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water,” Mickey Newbury’s “An American Trilogy” and James Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues.”

Sprinkled throughout the box are performances by Jerry Reed, Grady Martin, Harold Bradley, Tommy Tedesco, Al Casey and others.gnm_end_bug

DISC ONE (1953-57)
1. My Happiness
2. That’s All Right
3. Blue Moon Of Kentucky
4. Good Rockin’ Tonight
5. Baby Let’s Play House
6. Mystery Train
7. I Forgot To Remember To Forget
8. I Got A Woman
9. Heartbreak Hotel
10. I Was The One
11. Blue Suede Shoes
12. My Baby Left Me
13. One-Sided Love Affair
14. I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)
15. Lawdy, Miss Clawdy
16. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You
17. Hound Dog
18. Don’t Be Cruel
19. Love Me Tender
20. Love Me
21. Paralyzed
22. Too Much
23. All Shook Up
24. Mean Woman Blues
25. (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)
26. (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
27. One Night
28. Jailhouse Rock
29. Treat Me Nice
30. Blue Christmas
31. Don’t

DISC TWO (1958-62)
1. Hard Headed Woman
2. Trouble
3. King Creole
4. Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
5. I Need Your Love Tonight
6. A Big Hunk O’ Love
7. (Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I
8. Stuck On You
9. A Mess Of Blues
10. It’s Now Or Never
11. Thrill Of Your Love
12. Such A Night
13. Are You Lonesome Tonight?
14. Reconsider Baby
15. Doin’ The Best I Can
16. Pocketful Of Rainbows
17. Surrender
18. Crying In The Chapel
19. I Feel So Bad
20. There’s Always Me
21. Judy
22. Can’t Help Falling In Love
23. (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame
24. Little Sister
25. Good Luck Charm
26. Suspicion
27. She’s Not You
28. Return To Sender

DISC THREE (1963-69)
1. Bossa Nova Baby
2. (You’re The) Devil In Disguise
3. (It’s A) Long Lonely Highway
4. I Need Somebody To Lean On
5. Viva Las Vegas
6. It Hurts Me
7. This Is My Heaven
8. Adam And Evil
9. How Great Thou Art
10. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
11. Guitar Man
12. Big Boss Man
13. Too Much Monkey Business
14. U.S. Male
15. If I Can Dream
16. Memories
17. Don’t Cry Daddy
18. In The Ghetto
19. Suspicious Minds
20. Stranger In My Own Home Town
21. Kentucky Rain
22. Only The Strong Survive

DISC FOUR (1970-77)
1. Polk Salad Annie (live)
2. The Fool
3. Funny How Time Slips Away
4. I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
5. I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (live)
6. I’m Leavin’
7. An American Trilogy (live)
8. Burning Love
9. Always On My Mind
10. Steamroller Blues (live)
11. Loving Arms
12. Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues
13. Promised Land
14. T-R-O-U-B-L-E
15. For The Heart
16. Hurt
17. Way Down
18. Unchained Melody (live)
19. A Little Less Conversation (JXL radio remix edit, 2002)

Total time: 4:35:03

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