The other day, I woke up humming Guy Clark's "Dublin Blues." That terrific performance is from Transatlantic Sessions, a long-running project uniting musicians from different countries and varying musical backgrounds. "For almost two decades, the sessions have been inviting American musicians – from Rufus Wainwright to Emmylou Harris to James Taylor – to the UK to collaborate with British musicians steeped in the folk tradition, and filming the results. Imagine Later with Jools Holland, if all the acts played on each other's songs. And with more accordion." Drawing from Wikipedia's list of performances, I offer for your listening pleasure... Transatlantic Sessions. [more inside]
You might know him as reformed drug addict Walon in "The Wire," or as Harley Watt from "Treme," or maybe even as the beardy, eyeglasses-wearing dude in the all-star "Give a Kidney" group on "30 Rock." But do you know Steve Earle? Ladies and gentlemen, please let me introduce you to this American treasure -- Grammy-winning singer and songwriter, activist, writer, actor, father, and the last of the hardcore troubadours. [more inside]
Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel - An excellent 90 minute BBC documentary, the story of the legendary country rock pioneer as told by contemporary musicians, family, and friends. It includes rare performance footage. (Via Dangerous Minds) [more inside]
A decade on, the Coen brothers' woefully underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? [alt] is remembered for a lot of things: its sun-drenched, sepia-rich cinematography (a pioneer of digital color grading), its whimsical humor, fluid vernacular, and many subtle references to Homer's Odyssey. But one part of its legacy truly stands out: the music. Assembled by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack is a cornucopia of American folk music, exhibiting everything from cheery ballads and angelic hymns to wistful blues and chain-gang anthems. Woven into the plot of the film through radio and live performances, the songs lent the story a heartfelt, homespun feel that echoed its cultural heritage, a paean and uchronia of the Old South. Though the multiplatinum album was recently reissued, the movie's medley is best heard via famed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker's Down from the Mountain, an extraordinary yet intimate concert film focused on a night of live music by the soundtrack's stars (among them Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley) and wryly hosted by John Hartford, an accomplished fiddler, riverboat captain, and raconteur whose struggle with terminal cancer made this his last major performance. The film is free in its entirety on Hulu and YouTube -- click inside for individual clips, song links, and breakdowns of the set list's fascinating history. [more inside]
Covers by Beck and bonus Beck-related stuff (Many of these will play automatically when you open them) [more inside]
Gram Parsons fans take note - there's a recent new biography and a release of 90 minutes of vintage Flying Burrito Brothers. Some rare footage has also recently surfaced online: performing with FBB and duets with Emmylou Harris 1, 2, 3. Other items of note: Emmylou talks about Gram in 2000; British biographical sketch; Keith Richards on Gram in Rolling Stone; an interview with Manuel, the designer of the famous Nudie suit. [more inside]
"Who is this Loretta Lynn chick, anyway?". Jack White, in a skintight, red cowboy suit, seemed a little nervous when he came out to introduce his opening act. So nervous, in fact, that the White Stripes frontman offered a cautionary preface of sorts to the massive huddle of young fans at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. "Now I want you all to be very nice to my next guest. I think she's the greatest female singer-songwriter of the 20th century,". The crowd looked around at each other, visibly puzzled. In White, Loretta Lynn has found her Rick Rubin. Finally. Much like the producer who revitalized the late Johnny Cash's career with spare, homespun recordings, White has raised the notion of Loretta Lynn as a hip, renegade country artist. The transformation is of the same magnitude as Emmylou Harris's ethereal work with Daniel Lanois in the mid-'90s. more inside
In the wake of the tornados and armageddon, perhaps some happy news is in order. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band have released the third volume in their Will the Circle Be Unbroken series. This series which began 30 years ago and continued with Volume 2 in 1989, features the boys in the Dirt Band getting together with country legends like Johnny Cash, members of the Carter Family and Vassar Clements and inheritors like Emmylou Harris and Ricky Skaggs and doing some astonishing versions of old traditional tunes, hymns and a few originals. I'm listening to Vol. 3 right now, which features first timers like Dwight Yoakam, the lovely Iris Dement and even Tom Petty, and I'm tellin' ya, it's a worthy addition to the tradition, my freinds. Traditional music is enjoying a revival right now and that's great, but these folks have done an enormous amount to keep it alive and vital between the vogues and created some music for us in the bargain.