Adam Carroll

I Walked in Them Shoes

Gypsy Shuffler

The “less is more” philosophy isn’t lost on singer-songwriter Adam Carroll and his new album, “I Walked in Them Shoes.”

The instrumentation alternates between solo acoustic guitar and plus-one accompaniment — supplied via overdubs by either Carroll himself (who also plays harmonica and keyboards) or by producer Lloyd Maines (who provides rhythm, slide and well-traveled pedal steel guitar).

Carroll’s twangy and inviting tenor (picture a Venn diagram showing the overlap between Michael Murphey, Jerry Jeff Walker and Mike Nesmith) could warm the coldest heart, and is a perfect fit for his friendly songs about rambling, weather, women, garages and shirts. Furthermore, the Texas troubadour spins his tales in a literary yet down-to-earth and sometimes humorous fashion, like a musical Mark Twain.

In the middle of the album are two particularly resonant tunes. The first, “Iris and the Lonesome Stranger,” relates the life of a former Las Vegas rodeo rider whose best friend is a bottle of cheap fortified wine. Having once only nearly won a golden buckle, her hangouts in the years since have morphed from Barstow nightclubs to L.A. truckstops to a Northern California bar called the Dew Drop Inn up in Grass Valley.

“The Drew Drop Inn that you remember and the one that I refer to in ‘Iris’ are one and the same,” Carroll told Good New Music by email when this reviewer (who used to live in Grass Valley) inquired. “My wife and I played there. … It has a kind of rough-and-tumble charm. … I wrote that song, with my wife’s help as a ‘scribe,’ when we were driving through your fine state last year. Chris noticed a sign by the side of the highway that said ‘Wild Iris’ somewhere, I think it was along Highway 101, and we started talking about making a song out of that highway sign. The words came to me as we drove back toward Texas. I tried to give Chris a co-writer credit, but she wouldn’t take it.”

The sad tale of “Iris” ends on a happy note when a stranger in town pulls up to the Dew Drop Inn and announces, “I got nobody, but I’ve got a lot of land.” Iris pours him some of her Irish Rose, holds his hand and then takes him by the hand.

The next track, “This Old Garage,” is sort of a sentimental piece Carroll wrote as a tribute to fellow Texas singer-songwriter Mark Jungers — but from Jungers’ point of view. Anyone who’s spent hours on end in a garage listening to music can relate, but the protagonist and the person to whom he’s speaking took it even further by writing songs and recording demos of them on a cassette recorder in their hallowed spot.

“(Mark) is kind of a jack of all trades,” Carroll shared with GNM, “and were you to visit his garage, you’d likely see his old tractor parked in there, in addition to lots of greasy engine parts and electrical stuff that I don’t have the slightest idea how to use. Mark liked to play records in there, and he and I have started and finished many a song in ‘The Garajamahal,’ as some folks have taken to calling it. … I guess you could say that I was imagining Mark giving a tour to an aspiring young songwriter, of what had gone on in his garage; as though it were a museum to his musician buddies.”

The rest of “Shoes” is full of tunes equally as creative and memorable, and Carroll meets Maines’ high bar for musicianship throughout. Pat Manske’s recording, mixing and mastering at The Zone takes the whole affair to the pinnacle of perfection.

Tracks
1. Walked In Them Shoes
2. Caroline
3. Storms
4. Crescent City Angels
5. Iris And The Lonesome Stranger
6. This Old Garage
7. Cordelia
8. My Only Good Shirt
9. The Last Word
10. Night At The Show

Total time: 32:34

External links
artist’s website
Bandcamp
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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Great American Taxi

Dr. Feelgood’s Traveling Medicine Show

LoHi

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

Tracks
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

External links
artist’s site
LoHi
iTunes Store

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The Carnivaleros

carnivaleros5Dreams Are Strange

RootaVega

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

Tracks
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

External links
artist’s website
Bandcamp
iTunes Store

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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

Tracks
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

External links
artist’s website
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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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.”

Tracks
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

External links
Buddy’s website
Jim’s website
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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