You can read on Buddy Emmons' Wikipedia page how by the age of 19, he had already mastered and redesigned the pedal steel guitar, slowly turning it into the instrument whose sound we are all familiar with, in one form or another. You can read on his website how his peers revere him, and how he gives back to the community whom he's profoundly influenced. (Or, watch a 100-minute concert and tribute.) But perhaps it's just best to marvel at The Big E as he backs up legends in their own right; on television in 1965; how he destroys the world in a 1970's Redneck Jazz Explosion (with Danny Gatton, previously); in the mid-'80's with the Lawton Jazz Kicks Ensemble; at the 1988 British Steel Guitar convention; at the at the 1997 International Steel Guitar Convention; and in 2007, the year he retired. Or just messin' around with Nashville's top session musicians or reinterpreting the classics. There's also a great AskMe thread of Pedal Steel Guitar recommendations, if you want to hear more.
The Perfect Beat is an article by The New Yorker's music critic Sasha Frere Jones where he lays out the reasoning behind his "Perfect Recordings" project, essentially a list of 200 songs that fit his personal criteria for perfection. The lists are available as Twitter timelines (volumes 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5), Spotify playlists (volumes 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5) or as one 200 song Rdio playlist. Frere-Jones answered some questions about the project and spoke about a few individual songs in The Guardian.
All Roads Lead to [still-living country music legend*] Willie Nelson: "In a time when America is more divided than ever, Nelson could be the one thing that everybody agrees on." [more inside]
The internet and Metafilter are abuzz over Maddie & Tae, the teenage country duo whose first single strikes back against the pervasive and much-maligned trend of "bro country" sweeping the country charts. But Maddie & Tae are hardly the first female country singers to bring a decidedly feminist message to the genre. Here are some highlights, in chronological order, for your listening pleasure. [more inside]
Unlike most murder ballads, The Long Black Veil doesn't retell the story of an actual murder. Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin borrowed bits of stories about Valentino and a murdered priest and a Red Foley chorus and crafted their own story in 1959 to create what he hoped would be a folk song for the ages. [more inside]
Here's a song I didn't know existed until summer 2007, when Lemon Jelly's Fred Deakin released an impeccably curated three-CD mix (full 4 hours on Mixcloud). Halfway through the first disc, the music slipped into an easy, loping groove, sunburned and hungover, and a regretful voice offered Otis Blackwell's lonesome lyric: "You know I can be found/ Sitting home all alone …" [Billy Swan's version of "Don't Be Cruel" is] a beautiful record, though, and utterly different from Elvis's 1956 recording. And it opens a fantastic collection of country funk songs, collected and remastered by Zach Cowie of Light in the Attic Records. More sounds below the break. [more inside]
Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band is a 3-piece country blues band from Brown County, Indiana. They share some metafilter politics, but sing about a few more unique experiences, too. Ben plays drums, Breezy plays washboard, and the Reverend himself plays guitar and the bass line (at the same time), sometimes on a cigar box guitar. If you like what you've heard: hop a train or an old pickup, scream at the night, share some pot roast and kisses, watch out for the devils who look like angels, and don't forget to clap your hands.
Y'all, consisting of Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and James Dean Jay Byrd, first surfaced in New York city in 1992, touting themselves as the first openly gay country music act. That same year, they preformed Y'all's First Xmas Xtravagaza: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. [more inside]
Sir Elvis is his stage name, but his real name is Elvis Otieno, and he may be the most successful country musician in Kenya. That's partly because Kenya doesn't have many country musicians. [more inside]
"Folk Music in America" is a series of 15 LP records published by the Library of Congress between 1976 and 1978 to celebrate the bicentennial of the American Revolution. It was curated by librarian/collector-cum-discographer Richard K. Spottswood, and funded by a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. It's absolutely fantastic. And here it is.
Country crooner Slim Whitman has passed away at the grand old age of 90. His gentle, relaxed and pristine voice (featuring an effortlessly soaring falsetto and a mighty fine yodel, friends) is the kind that, well, you just don't really hear anymore on the pop music landscape. Let's take a moment to revisit a musical aesthetic that now seems a million miles away... Cattle Call, Rose Marie, North Wind, Blues Stay Away From Me and Indian Love Call. So long and happy trails, Slim.
Friends, neighbors, let's drop in on ol' Don Reno, Red Smiley and the Tennessee Cut Ups for a heapin' helpin' of some of that good old time country/bluegrass goodness, shall we? What say we kick it off with their fine rendition of Love Please Come Home? Mmm-MMM, so satisfying! You know, the boys had their own lil' ol' TV show, too, brought to you by the fine folks over at your local Kroger grocery store, and I'll just bet you'd like to watch the pilot episode, now, wouldn't you? Well, here's Part one, and there's... [more inside]
Ry Cooder and the Moula Banda Rhythm Aces - Let's Have A Ball, a film by Les Blanks
This is the complete show from the Catalyst in Santa Cruz in March 1987. Via The Iwebender Channel
Love that Maria Elena.... [more inside]
This is the complete show from the Catalyst in Santa Cruz in March 1987. Via The Iwebender Channel
Love that Maria Elena.... [more inside]
Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer continue their trend of moderating the first and last presidential debates, as they did in 2004 and 2008. Both grew up in Texas, and got their starts in journalism there, too, both covering the JFK assassination in 1963. Following Lehrer's role as moderator in this year's presidential debate, subsequent moderators have been under significant scrutiny before and after their performances, and Schieffer, who has covered all four of the major Washington beats, is ready for his role in the political process, in the middle of partisan divide, which is deeper than any time he can recall from his 43 years in Washington. [more inside]
He won't win any accolades for subtlety or refinement, perhaps, but he was a beloved entertainer who stomped his feet and threw himself wholeheartedly (and very, very energetically) into every tune he ever performed, from the early days of country radio to the Grand Ole Opry to television's Hee Haw series. I'm talking about Louis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones. Today's his birthday, so why not drop in on some of the Grandpa performances on offer at ye olde YouTubes, such as Good Old Mountain Dew, Night Train To Memphis, Are You From Dixie or The Kickin' Mule. When he wasn't hamming it up for the camera, though, his vocal performances were often much more varied and accomplished. Check out, for example, his delivery and vivacious yodeling on T For Texas. And here he turns in a solid, honest version of the great Merle Travis classic, Dark As a Dungeon [more inside]
Corb Lund is a classically trained jazz musician who was a founding member of Canadian metal legends The Smalls. For the past seventeen years, though, as the centrepiece of Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans, he has been cranking out alt-country records that have garnered praise from well outside usual country music circles. His biggest hit is almost certainly the comedic Truck Got Stuck. His most recent single however is the sombre peak-oil apocalypse tune Gettin' Down on the Mountain. Corb also maintains maintains an excellent songwriting blog that he describes as 30% guitar lesson: "What That Song Means Now."
In decades past, R&B and soul artists didn't shy away from covering country songs. That's right, children, straight up country songs. And the results were often stunningly good. For example, Al Green's performance of Kris Kristofferson's For the Good Times (best known as a hit for country crooner Ray Price). Or Ray Charles' performance of Eddy Arnold's You Don't Know Me. Or Aretha Franklin's performance of country chestnut You Are My Sunshine, first recorded in 1939 by the Pine Ridge Boys. And... [more inside]
They're best known for one song: I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), as featured in Benny and Joon in 1993, and though the identical twin brothers faded from the public eye in the US, 500 Miles was lovingly parodied by Homer Simpson in 2001, and the brothers appeared on Family Guy in 2006. That song was featured in Comic Relief 2007, and that rendition was the number 1 song in the UK for three weeks. Given this focus on a single song that was first released in 1988, you might want mark The Proclaimers as a one-hit wonder and leave it at that. But David Pollock, writing for The Guardian, wants you to reconsider: The Proclaimers are a lot better than you probably remember. [more inside]
It's the Porter Wagoner Show! Starring Porter Wagoner and the Wagonmasters with Speck Rhodes and Norma Jean [more inside]
Ray Wylie Hubbard hosts Roots and Branches weekly live from Tavern In The Gruene for New Braunfels, Texas radio station KNBT 92.1 FM. Two hours of music and interviews with established and up and coming Americana artists.
Before hip-hop beefs, there were response records, also known as answer songs, usually replies to well-known songs. There are a few key eras: blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s, including a number of responses to "Work With Me, Annie" (1954), recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, with answers including "Annie had a Baby," and "The Wallflower" by Etta James; and Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" (1953), with a quick response by Louis Innis and Charlie Gore, made a mere week after the original was released, and Rufus Thomas' "Bear Cat" (1953), Sun Records' first hit. Country, rock & roll, doo-wop and pop music picked up where the blues left off, with most activity in the 1950s to 60s. Two examples from this era are "Are You Lonesome To-night" and "Who Put The Bomp," and responses to both. The most well known from the next decade was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974), a response to Neil Young's "Southern Man" (1970) and "Alabama" (1972). Until the 2000s, no answer songs had charted as high as the original hits. That changed with Frankee's "F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)" (2004), a response to Eamon's "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" (2003), which was the first answer song to reach number 1 in the UK. Six years later and across the pond, Katy Perry's "California Gurls" was a response to "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z. It was the first answer song to reach No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100. More Responses inside. [more inside]
There’s Nothing Like a Good Old Country Song, whether it's The Great Speckled Bird, I Am Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes, The Wild Side of Life, or It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels. All I know is, There's a Grand Old Opry Show Playing Somewhere. [more inside]
New Year's Eve is fast approaching, and for lots of folks that means... drinking. Plenty of drinking. And since there's no shortage of singers and songwriters who've had a little something to say about that particular topic, maybe some of the following tunes can serve as an appropriate soundtrack to your own joyous (or not?) imbibing of spirits. For example, there's... Jimmy Liggins with his succinct rendition of Drunk, and there's... [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]
Throughout time immemorial, songs of patriotism, such as Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" are a staple of countries at war. Our ballads root for our soldiers to come back safe and sound to families and sweethearts, but who sings the tale about the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, the autonomous drone that pines for the vending machine it left at home? Only the evil ghost of Johnny Cash does. [more inside]
There's a new crop of Australian bands that take inspiration from old blues, but twist the music in a strange fashion. The trend may have started with CW Stoneking (Jungle Blues, Love Me Or Die), who channeled the old bluesmen despite being a young man. Its continued on to Sydney's Snowdroppers, who started out as a house band for burlesque shows and kept that dirty sensibility up with songs like Rosemary , Do The Stomp, and their signature tune Good Drugs, Bad Women (lyrics NSW). Frequent Snowdroppers touring partners Gay Paris add a Southern horror twist (House Fire In the Origami District, My First Wife? She Was A Foxqueen! ) and an antic stage energy. Some of the bands relay on gimmicks, like Adelaide's The Beards, who sing about how you should consider having sex with a bearded man and point out that if your dad doesn't have a beard, you've got two moms. The Beards recently performed at the World Beard and Mustache Championships. Horror-country-rockers Graveyard Train have picked up the torch dropped when Sydney psychobilly masters Zombie Ghost Train (Graveyard Queen) disbanded. Graveyard Train tunes like Mummy, Ballad for Beelzebub , Tall Shadow and Dead Folk Dance combine cheerful Misfits horror theming with stompy country. Most of the singers from this loose scene are joining forces in Sydney this week to pay tribute to Tom Waits.
Hank Williams III has had a rocky relationship with his label, Curb Records, from the beginning, when his first album with them was an album with his grandfather and father, "thanks to the wonders of 21st century digital overdubbing." A decade and a half later, Hank 3 was free from Curb Records, though the label snuck out one last album, even though the contract was over. It was actually an old album from a decidedly non-country style, but that didn't stop Curb from offering it as a Hank III album at a fire-sale discount, ensuring Billboard Country charting. That was in June of this year. Jump ahead to September: Hank 3 released three albums over four CDs, spanning his broad musical styles and beyond. CD1: country (of sorts); CD2: haunted ambient soundtrack and Cajun-tinted country, with guests (like Tom Waits); CD3: cattle-core; CD4: doom rock.
Remembering Bill Monroe, the “father of bluegrass,” on what would have been his 100th birthday. [more inside]
"Call me nuts, but I find extraordinarily endearing the improbable blend of country music traditionalism and tastefully restrained space-age guitar pyrotechnics that can be heard in these tunes." Yes, friends, the fine folks at WFMU are back with the long-awaited 2nd installment of the tasty and wonderful Country Fuzz Spectacular! [more inside]
Robert Earl Keen is a country songwriter and storyteller, with an unusually good guitarist named Rich Brotherton. [more inside]
Jimmy Murphy was a great country musician who has had less recognition than this MeFi'r feels is justified. Some of his songs are irreverent (but with precedence). Others a bit poignant, if in his signature upbeat kind of way. The man cooks. "When you get salvation you'll know it by it's tone"
Say, you wanna hear a sad song? Eddie Hinton was a guitar player, vocalist, and songwriter from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Co-writer of one of the tenderest, sexiest hits of the late 60s, Dusty Springfield's Breakfast in Bed, Hinton was a key member of the world-famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section from 1967 to 1971 (turning down an invitation from Duane Allman to be a member of the Allman Brothers Band) who worked as a studio musician on albums by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, the Staples Singers, and Toots Hibbert, but his early success was sidetracked by mental problems, booze, and drugs. [more inside]
Wes Freed (some images NSFW) is a painter who combines Southern gothic subject matter with an outsider art style. He's best known for his work with the great Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers and has designed most of their album covers, posters, and merchandise.
In 1969 banjo virtuoso and bluegrass innovator Earl Scruggs parted ways with his longtime musical partner Lester Flatt and the band they led to great popularity and acclaim, The Foggy Mountain Boys. Scruggs wanted to push his musical gifts as far as they could go. In 1970 he was the subject of a PBS documentary where he played with artists such as Bob Dylan, Doc Watson, The Morris Brothers, The Byrds, Charlie Daniels, Bill Monroe, Joan Baez, various friends and family members, and even records a track accompanying a Moog. You can watch the whole thing online: Earl Scruggs, His Family and Friends.
Country music legend Charlie Louvin has passed on. Charlie rose to fame with his brother Ira as the Louvin Brothers, whose career was cut short by Ira's death by automobile accident in 1965. Charlie continued to record and perform solo, and though his popularity never quite reached the heights that it did with his brother he retained a loyal fanbase until the very end. [more inside]
Within that small and very specific sub-genre of musical Americana identifiable as the train imitation, there is one amazing performance, from 1926, that set the standard: Pan-American Blues. The man who recorded it did a fine and fanciful job of evoking the sounds of a fox chase as well, and his rhythmically compelling solo rendition of John Henry stands as testament to the potential for musical greatness achievable by one man and a humble harmonica. He was an African-American who was a founding member of the Grand Ole Opry, a musical institution that we rarely (as in, never) today associate with black people, and his touching and tragic story, documented here, is one that will be of interest to those concerned with the racial, economic and socio-cultural history of American popular music. He stands at one of its more unexpected intersections: his name is DeFord Bailey. [more inside]
It’s maybe a little early yet for year’s end retrospectives, but who cares: we’ve got 157 songs, 10.5 hours, 1.12 GB of “some of the best and most notable music from 2010... covering indie, pop, rock, punk, folk, rap, R&B, soul, dance, country, modern classical, ambient and electronic music, and in many cases, hard-to-classify genre hybrids.” —Curated by FluxBlog’s own Matthew Perpetua.
Peter Grudzien lives in New York and makes psychedelic country music or at least used to, since only two albums of his material ever came out, The Unicorn in 1974, and The Garden of Love, which is mostly a collection of demos. His songs are varied, ranging from noise music to straight up country, and their subject matters are equally wide-ranging, from strange fare, such as lyrics about his clone being at Stonewall, to straight-up love songs. His best known original is probably The Unicorn, a beautiful song whose lyrics recast the early 70s New York gay demimonde in terms of a barren zombie-filled wasteland which will be reborn when the titular unicorn is found by the queen. Other songs on YouTube are White Trash Hillbilly Trick, New York Town and an instrumental cover of the Georgia Gibbs hit Kiss Me Another. Finally, here's a lovely cover of The Unicorn by Calgary folkie Kris Ellestad.
In the late 90s EMI's Songbook Series released an album, "Where Were You When The Fun Stopped" with tracks chosen by author Hunter S. Thompson along with detailed liner notes. Since you can't get the cool notes or photos, why not enjoy Hunter's country and folk flavored taste at your July 4th revelry of choice? Ballad of Thunder Road - Robert Mitchum : I Smell A Rat -
Howlin' Wolf Big Momma Thornton : Spirit In The Sky - Norman Greenbaum : The Hula-Hula Boys - Warren Zevon : Maggie May - Rod Stewart : The Wild Side of Life / It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels - Hank Thompson feat. Kitty Wells & Tanya Tucker : Will The Circle Be Unbroken - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band : Mr Tambourine Man - Bob Dylan : Walk On The Wild Side - Lou Reed : If I Had A Boat - Lyle Lovett : Stars On The Water - Rodney Crowell : Carmelita - Flaco Jiminez feat. Dwight Yoakam : Why Don't We Get Drunk - Jimmy Buffett : American Pie - Don McClean : White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane : The Weight - The Band : Melissa - The Allman Brothers Band : Battle Hymn of the Republic - Herbie Mann (cover) [more inside]
Bluegrass, it's said was invented by Bill Monroe,(yt) but where would bluegrass have been without the banjo style of Earl Scruggs?(yt) Together they created a sound that has become known as Bluegrass. In 1945 George Elam Scruggs joined up with Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, two years later Scruggs left to form a group with Lester Flatt(yt), but not before gifting Monroe with the amalgam that was and is Bluegrass. Other players like Chubby Wise born 1915, Lake City, Florida(yt), and bassist Howard Watts became known as the "Original Bluegrass Band". [more inside]
Born and raised in New Jersey, Jim McGuire was an unlikely country music-lover, but one song changed all that. McGuire was twelve years old on the day he heard Hank Snow’s “Spanish Fireball” for the first time, and he instantly fell in love with country music forever. Music has since been a huge part of McGuire’s life—a muse for his photography—The Nashville Portraits. [more inside]
German country music. You may remember Texas Lightning from Eurovision 2006, but the rabbit hole goes much deeper than that. Oh yes. [more inside]
Perhaps the greatest country baritone since George Jones is confined to a wheelchair by muscular dystrophy and has a day job at a nuclear power plant. [more inside]
"With this blog, I want to use the Folkways Anthology as a roadmap to explore American folk music and maybe other countries traditions along the way. I’ll use texts, images, music and videos gathered from my personal collection and from the net to make this work-in-progress enjoyable and educational the best I can." (via)
The occasionally updated The Celestial Monochord claims to be the "Journal of the Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues" [more inside]
Maybe you remember them from their 'hit' single "Push Th' Little Daisies", or from their appearance on MTV's Beavis and Butt-head. Maybe you know them from their appearance in the film "It's Pat" or from their contributions to the "Road Trip" soundtrack or even from their appearance at Chef Aid on South Park. My hope, however, is that you don't know Ween, allowing me the opportunity to let you taste the waste. [more inside]
John Prine Live in 1980 on youtube--with interspersed interviews from around his hometown: in his 1951 Ford Custom Club Coupe (Automobile), down by the train tracks (Bruised Orange) on the porch ( How Lucky) and at the Scene of the Crime (The Accident). Previously [more inside]
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