Hex & Hell
BR2 Music Publishing
Freeman, who also is a member of Memphis pre-World War II blues cover band Bluff City Backsliders, plugs in for his first solo effort — a wild mélange of Texas boogie; Louisiana swamp; Mississippi Delta and hill-country blues; and Sun Studio-style rockabilly.
And he’s no stranger to that last subgenre, either, working as a Sun Studio tour guide by day. “Working at Sun Studio has expanded my view of the role Memphis has played throughout history,” Freeman says in his bio on the website for “$5 Cover Amplified,” a package of 12 online documentaries produced as a complement to Craig Brewer’s 2009 musical drama series for MTV, “$5 Cover.” “I think that’s helped me raise the bar as to what I’m doing, knowing I’m representing a brand that’s known all over the world. In my own humble way, I’m a representative of that tradition.”
In fact, “Hex & Hell,” a collection of 10 Freeman originals, is the first release on filmmaker Brewer’s new record label. Freeman has a song featured in all of Brewer’s films — ”The Poor & Hungry,” “Hustle & Flow,” “Black Snake Moan” and “Footloose” — and taught Samuel L. Jackson how to play slide guitar for “Black Snake Moan.”
If one had to draw a voice comparison, fellow slide guitarist Roy Rogers might come to mind. But it’s Freeman’s gutsy slide that’s in the spotlight here, presented in a variety of styles and tones, backed by just bass and drums on most tracks.
For variety’s sake, three tracks enjoy expanded instrumentation. “Florida Watah,” the title track and “Love Baby” add organ, violin/violin/cello and saxophone, respectively — all to great effect.
1. Dirty Heart
2. Florida Watah
3. Help Me
4. Hex & Hell
5. Love Baby
6. Magic In My Home
7. (Do The) Rump
8. Memphis Bridge
9. Teasin’ Me
10. The Beginning Of …
Total time: 35:26
Posted February 26th, 2013
Tags: blues, rock, rockabillyNo Comments »
The Stone Foxes refined their San Francisco blues-rock sound over two albums (three if you count “Black Rolling Thunder,” a CD-R they made for friends in 2006 whose title track was reprised on their self-titled official debut in 2008). After 2010′s “Bears & Bulls,” the group lost second guitarist Avi Vinocur, added keyboardist Elliott Peltzman and decided it was time to experiment. The quartet focused on lyrics, abandoned their Fox Den garage studio in favor of a real one and brought in Doug Boehm (Dr. Dog, Drive-By Truckers) to engineer and help produce.
“Small Fires” was funded partly by fans through PledgeMusic, allowing the band to preserve their artistic integrity. They booked The Carriage House in Los Angeles for 12 days and recorded a song per day (no confirmed plans yet for the two outtakes).
Opening track “Everybody Knows” might indicate a penchant for murder ballads, as it’s based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” and follows “I Killed Robert Johnson” from the last album. Drummer Shannon Koehler’s harmonica provides well-placed contrast and a couple of mini-solos.
“Ulysses Jones,” about a man who doesn’t want to lose his home to foreclosure without a fight, gives the first real taste of Peltzman’s formidable prowess on the Fender Rhodes, while the Wilco-like “So Much Better” showcases his organ work as well as Shannon’s brother Spence’s intense electric and acoustic guitar stylings.
Other highlights are the mysterious “Cold Wind,” about crack-toothed Jimmy and his unwillingness to take ownership of his blunders; “Talk to Louise,” possibly the only song to pay homage to The Band and the Rolling Stones simultaneously; the American Indian-sounding “Jump in the Water,” featuring killer bass from Aaron Mort; and “Goodnight Moon,” the lone track that proves the Stone Foxes haven’t lost their country credentials.
1. Everybody Knows
2. Ulysses Jones
3. So Much Better
5. Small Fires
6. Battles, Blades & Bones
7. Cold Wind
8. Talk To Louise
9. Jump In The Water
10. Goodnight Moon
Total time: 39:27
Posted February 15th, 2013
Tags: blues, country, folk, rockNo Comments »
La Costa Perdida
That’s right, a new release from CVB — seven years after the previous “New Roman Times,” 22 after that one’s predecessor “Key Lime Pie.” And this time they’re in a laid-back yet playful mood.
That’s because whereas the last one was a politically philosophical concept album, this one’s a Northern California-themed long player that wistfully looks back on youthful surfer hippie days growing up on the coast.
Offbeat and all over the map as ever, the exhilaration begins with the mandolin-graced litany of old girlfriend names that is Come Down the Coast: Esmerelda, Gabriella, Isabella; Josephina, Magdalena, Rosalinda; even Valentina.
The rocking Too High for the Love-In recalls the group’s best album, “Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart,” right down to the nearly nonsensical lyrics, Balkan folk rhythms and midpoint tempo change. Kicking it up a notch are the interwoven surf guitar licks.
You Got to Roll alternates between blues and alt rock, but also between sexual innuendo and straightforward suggestion.
And on a roll they are, as slide guitar and violin unite for the psychedelic waltz Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out, followed by the left turn of Peaches in the Summertime, a ska-punk revision of the traditional Appalachian tune “Shady Grove.”
It’s not hard to imagine the disc’s centerpiece, the “Holland”-era Beach Boys-inspired Northern California Girls, as an innocently delirious composition by Brian Wilson in answer to his own “California Girls.”
The stream-of-consciousness lyrics of the dirgelike Summer Days long for bygone if monotonous carefree times.
Then there’s the title track, which translates as The Lost Coast, a narcocorrido-style number that still manages to retain a hint of the band’s trademark southeastern Europe motif, set to perhaps David Lowery’s most smart-aleck lyrics of the bunch. Throw in Aged in Wood, a one-minute instrumental nod to “Smile”-era Beach Boys (think “Workshop” but with wood-based sound effects of a different variety) before taking a romantic walk along the shore with the string-sweetened A Love for All Time and that’s a wrap for another work of art from conventionally unconventional Camper Van Beethoven.
1. Come Down The Coast
2. Too High For The Love-In
3. You Got To Roll
4. Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out
5. Peaches In The Summertime
6. Northern California Girls
7. Summer Days
8. La Costa Perdida
9. Aged In Wood
10. A Love For All Time
Total time: 43:04
Posted January 22nd, 2013
Tags: blues, country, ethnic, folk, rockNo Comments »
Buddy and Jim
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 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
Posted December 11th, 2012
Tags: americana, blues, country, folk, rockNo Comments »
Candy Store Kid
When Luther Dickinson (touring with the Black Crowes at the time) joined brother Cody and British blues guitar man Ian Siegal onstage during their set at the 2011 Belgium Rhythm & Blues Festival, the seed was planted for the followup to Siegal’s “The Skinny” — last year’s wildly successful collaboration realized at Luther and Cody’s Zebra Ranch in Mississippi hill country.
Luther, unable to sit in for that album, generously lends his trademark slide guitar to Siegal’s even more brilliant new one. Cody produces again, actually getting to play drums (Rodd Bland helmed the kit last time), and guitarists Garry Burnside and Alvin Youngblood Hart return as well.
Luther and Cody’s regular band, the North Mississippi Allstars, haven’t had a studio release since “Keys to the Kingdom” in early 2011 — a tribute to their recently departed father, legendary producer Jim Dickinson. But they’ve toured some and Luther has been especially prolific, putting put out his first solo album, discs with side projects the Wandering and South Memphis String Band, and a collaboration with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Mato Nanji of Indigenous.
The extracurricular activity no doubt renewed the Dickinsons: “Candy Store Kid” is the best aggregation of hill country blues artists in recent memory. The genre fits Siegal and his Howlin’ Wolf-style vocals like a glove, his seven original compositions sounding almost as authentic as those of real-deal musicians like Mississippi Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. Also included are Lightnin’ Malcolm’s “So Much Trouble,” Garry Burnside’s “Strong Woman” and the obscure “Green Power” (plucked from Little Richard’s 1971 LP “King of Rock and Roll”).
1. Bayou Country
2. Loose Cannon
3. I Am The Train
4. So Much Trouble
6. The Fear
7. Earlie Grace Jnr
8. Green Power
9. Strong Woman
11. Hard Pressed (What Da Fuzz?)
Total time: 46:14
Posted November 6th, 2012
Tags: blues, country, folk, funk, rock, soul, swampNo Comments »