Grooves & Cuts: September 2023
John Hartford – A NYC Born Traditional Americana Artist & Licensed Steamboat Captain
This legendary artist who sang & played the fiddle & banjo has been highly regarded for decades in bluegrass & traditional folk music. John was born in New York City, of all places & also became a licensed riverboat captain.
But John’s legacy (1937-2001) was his classic song “Gentle On My Mind,” which was a worldwide hit & won 3 Grammy Awards. The song is also considered one of the top 100 American songs of the 20th Century. The tune appeared for the first time on Hartford’s LP & came to prominence when Glen Campbell recorded it. This allowed Hartford to do whatever he wanted with his life & career.
While his real name was Harford, (no “t”) it was at the suggestion of guitarist Chet Atkins that John add a “t”. John was also accomplished on guitar & mandolin, but it was the fiddle & banjo that was his signature.
He left New York for Nashville initially but eventually Hollywood beckoned. Hartford became a regular on The Smothers Brothers Show on CBS during its turbulent era. Hartford’s playing can be heard as well on The Byrds’ album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” Eventually, John wisely moved back to Nashville.
Signed to RCA from the beginning Hartford issued 4 albums between 1968-1970. After that tenure, he signed with Warner Brothers & the LPs got a little more eccentric (“Bye-Bye,” & “Boogie”). He was able to record in a more nontraditional manner. Some with titles like Aereo-Plain & Morning Bugle. But then he fell in with the independent label Flying Fish where he played with The Dillards & Sam Bush. The music continued to be even more bluegrass but diversified.
Hartford changed record labels a few times during his career. He wasn’t an easy artist to market, but his talent was evident. He was also considered a cofounder of the newgrass music style. One of his most memorable appearances was during the live 2000 concert “Down From The Mountain,” (on YouTube). That chronicles the music that appeared in the Coen Brothers film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Hartford was the master of ceremonies & gave accompaniment to several performers at the Ryman Auditorium. This performance earned him another Grammy Award. It was quite an entertaining evening. While playing a gig in Texas in April of that year he discovered he couldn’t control his fingers anymore & 2 months later John Hartford passed away.
Overall, John left behind a legacy of 30 albums. He was a friend of David Grisman, so he was supposed to be a member of Jerry Garcia’s Old & In the Way, which he did participate in but never recorded due to other commitments. Hartford did record with the likes of Grisman, Vassar Clements & Mike Seeger.
Hartford’s voice can be heard narrating Ken Burns’ documentaries on “Baseball,” & “The Civil War.”
John had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the 1980s but played until he died of the disease at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, TN on June 4, 2001, at 63.
Photos: playing live with fiddle – Color image courtesy of C.L. Garvin/Wikipedia/MerleFest 2000
Music available @ https://www.johnhartford.com/
This showcase came late. The 26-minute EP with just 6 tunes by Buffalo, NY-based vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Davey O was recorded & produced by Davey in Amherst, NY. So, I wasn’t expecting a professional-sounding set. But I was wrong.
While the vocals are a little hot the presentation is impressive. With Davey, you find something closer to Jackson Browne or James Taylor than say, Neil Young or John Prine. What’s most smoothly interpreted through Davey’s songwriting is a highly personal lyrical structure. He isn’t writing with any expectations of impressing a listener but allowing his songs to hold their attention. And he does.
Davey needs to be better produced, however. The production would sound far better where the recording won’t be as hot, so bass-heavy & not allowing the perimeters of the wonderful instrumentation to not get buried in the mix. Davey’s vocals are well-recorded & tracked in spots – he may not be Emitt Rhodes or Todd Rundgren, but he has ideas. He has melodies that stick on this EP Some Days (Dropped Aug 3–Independent).
His lyrics fortunately aren’t elementary. Davey has a good grasp of what he needs to say, says it intelligently, avoids at best any cliches & gets the drama across lightly, especially on tunes like “Travelogue.” The song has the light vocalization on “For a Little While,” which was evident on some tracks that decorated the wonderful Sweet Thursday album decades ago with songs that featured Alun Davies (who played with Cat Stevens aka Yusuf Islam).
The acoustic guitar accompanies Davey’s vocals excellently on this tune. There are no embellishments or showboating. They are all directed toward the value of the tale being told. “A New Season,” is recorded even better. Though again, the vocals are too forward & hot. The song is juiced by a James Taylor tradition & is warm on the brain. A very New England type of singer-songwriter style rather than Laurel Canyon (as mentioned earlier in another review) or Southern California, or Colorado aesthetic.
An experienced producer will give Davey & his songs more sparkle. He has lots of lovely melodies & tells a compelling story. He layers instruments carefully & all his songs have an atmospheric quality. His tune “Texaco Sign” is an excellent track. A touch of Neil Young-harmonica & it becomes a road lullaby. This is where Davey O should be – he does this well. He could make a truck driver cry with this kind of composition.
I’m familiar with Davey O’s work from years ago & he’s consistently poignant in how he approaches his repertoire. Let’s not have to wait 6 years for another.
Highlights – “Travelogue,” “For a Little While,” “A New Season,” “Texaco Sign” & “Some Days.”
B&W photo courtesy of Dave Snyder. CD @ https://daveyo.com/
This is Edward’s 2nd LP & it incorporates some interesting components of folk, rock & punk in his 44-minute musical stab on his 10 new slices that make up To The Light (Drops Oct 7–Appaloosa Record). The LP was impressively produced by Ed (lead vocals/electric & acoustic guitars) with Maurizio Glielmo (electric guitars/bgv).
Ed’s voice skates across the realms of Shane McGowan (The Pogues), The Clash & Dropkick Murphys with its aggressive, melodic foot-tapping jauntiness. “Three Chords and the Truth,” featuring Stiv Cantarelli (acoustic guitar/bgv) in a pub-approved indulgence. A well-captured vibe with clarity & sounds like it could’ve been recorded live. I like this. It has vigor & it’s attractive.
Excellent guitar work comes on “Nothing Left To Say,” which even in its aggressiveness chimes with 3-dimensional performances. Invigorating stuff. With “Just About Now,” Ed slides into a Willie Nile vocal style with lots of NYC edge & elder statesman punk credibility. The addition of David Henry’s strings with a jazzy Andreas Villani sax is a nice touch.
He does it again on the atmospheric “Going Downtown,” which has a really cool groove. Images of the nocturnal city — steaming manholes on dark Lower East Side streets, yellow cabs racing around barriers to beat red lights & bright lights of jazz clubs & eateries. Makes you wish you could go. Toward the coda the melody embellished by the steady tribal beat is tempting.
There are lots of veteran musicians who add their specialties throughout & the LP is consistent with quality melodies, excellent lyrics in each piece & always indulgent vocals. A well-paced & planned album.
A great conglomeration that results in a sound that’s proficient. The songs were mixed in Wales & mastered in Nashville. This is one of the best CDs I’ve heard this year. Expressive singing & well-written songs.
Musicians – Enrico Fossati (bass), Mattia Martini & Winston Watson (drums), Joey Huffman (Hammond B3 organ),
Chris Peet (bgv/shakers/tambourine/drum loops), Marco Andrea Francis Carnelli (acoustic guitar/bgv), Will Allen, Jr. (trumpet/trombone), Francesco Bonfiglio (accordion/piano), Mike Brenner (dobro/slide bass/lap steel), Stefano Speroni (acoustic guitar), Meaghan Kyle & Marco Diamantini (bgv), Richard Hunter (harmonica), Alvin Davis (trumpet/trombone/sax), Max Paganin (trumpet/flugelhorn) & Andreas Villani (sax).
Highlights – “Three Chords and the Truth,” “Nothing Left To Say,” “Just About Now,” “To the Light,” “Going Downtown,” “Stairs To the Stars” & the excellent fiery “Love Note.”
Stitched lyric book included. Color image: https://www.hemifran.com/static/images/item_imgs/Edward_Abbiati_2.jpg
Color image courtesy of Hemifran/Edward’s website. CD @ https://lowlandsband.com/ & https://www.hemifran.com/news/detail/u/1340/Edward%20Abbiati/To%20The%20Light/
This month we have many country-oriented artists who are exceptionally creative, different & transformative. Country with a touch of punk aggression comes from Utah’s Ms. ZZ Ward who even injects a pinch of rap. But it’s the jambalaya of sound that Ms. Ward unflinching adds to tunes like “Fadeaway,” with its vocal conglomeration & tints of harmonica. Some may find it too taxing on the mind since it’s loaded with varied soundscapes but it’s actually quite creative. Easily a danceable beat with drive.
“On One,” is very primal in nature with echo-drenched vocals & funky torrents of instrumentation & effects. It sounds like part of the tune was recorded on a deserted subway platform. Definitely possesses an urban feel despite its subterranean country propensity.
For some, Dirty Shine (Dropped September 8–Independent) may be too much of a groove with its idealistic rapping interspersed but it’s ZZ’s soulful vibe that will radiate. This is a dance number for wide hips & big booty in 3rd gear. Stand back and sweep up the sparks later.
Just plain strange comes with “Strange Hum Hymnal,” which maintains the dance groove for a few moments & bridges the more bravura parts of this showcase. A Valerie June-type vocal blossoms off “Dead or Alive” & “Forget About Us.” Both are dynamic workouts.
With the duet tune “Tin Cups” with Aloe Blocc there’s a generous ounce of Amy Winehouse tonality in ZZ. Good performance. “Don’t Let Me Down, “ concludes with another Valerie June-Amy Winehouse flavor — more rootsy, bluesy formidable showcase. Excellently captured. ZZ has polish.
There aren’t many sleepers in this boudoir. Lots of action. Ms. Ward has created ingeniously a genre of her own which has its rootsy depths but also lots of modern-day blooms surfacing. Likable throughout — especially if you depend more on your dancing feet than your literate mind.
Highlights – “Fadeaway,” “On One,” “Dead or Alive,” “Forgot About Us,” “Friends Like These,” “Baby Don’t,” “Tin Cups” & “Don’t Let Me Down.”
The 14-track CD @ Apple + https://www.zzward.com/
This 12-cut traditionally embedded collection recorded with clarity is an excellent recording. It’s the band’s 6th bluegrass effort. Over the decades since its first inception, the genre has become more versatile but has never lost its appeal. It never sounds like an effort. The set is inspiring, optimistic & wholly made to allow listeners an opportunity to relax & enjoy it in the spirit in which it was made.
The nice intricate but friendly picking on Here We Go Again has a mainstream drive & nothing is ever overcooked. Lots of little groups playing this way seem to be influenced by groups that began playing in this manner with Jerry Garcia & David Grisman in Old & In the Way, or artists like John Hartford or larger bands such as Timber to the more progressive dalliances of Seatrain with fiddler Richard Greene. It works as entertainment; exceptional playing & the tunes seem all have a resonance that is friendly to ears whether rural or city folk. Coming from out of southern Virginia the band has been plying its musical trade for two decades.
This time out their 38-minute CD Here We Go Again (Dropped September 29-Mountain Fever Records) is fortified by bluegrass musically, but sound-wise they also possess a Charlie Gearhart & Goose Creek Symphony spirit. This is especially evident in “Crash & Burn,” where the lead vocalist sings with all the enthusiasm of Gearhart. Quite rousing stuff. Put it next to your Grateful Dead acoustic stuff & definitely Alison Krauss.
Highlights – “Here We Go Again,” “The Thought of Loving You,” “Crash & Burn” & John Prine’s “Paradise.”
Musicians – Mike Andes (mandolin/vocal), Jacobe Lauzon (guitar/vocal), Jacob Flick (banjo/pedal steel guitar/lead vocals), James Cox (bass/lead vocals) & Chris Sexton (fiddle/vocals) with Amanda Cook (tenor).
Color image courtesy of Mountain Fever Records. CD @ http://www.nothinfancybluegrass.com/default.asp?loadpage=disc
Bumpin’ Uglies – Underdog: The Acoustic Sessions
This is an acoustic session by Baltimore, Maryland’s Bumpin’ Uglies that includes 7 new tracks. East Coast punky ska-reggae performances that are tunefully aggressive & include 16 melodies on Underdog: The Acoustic Sessions (Dropped Sept 8-Independent).
Of course, there’s colorful language but the band despite the lighter approach acoustically hasn’t compromised the driving competence of their melodies. They embody a little of the energy that was also common in The Toasters, and while they weren’t as politically radical as The Clash they infuse some tunes with the necessary conviction.
It’s my opinion that this kind of music requires a bit more cohesive band cooperation to coagulate but I can’t dismiss the effort since it does lay bare the bones of the song structures. It gives an audience the opportunity to hear what the songs once written may have sounded like as presented to the rest of the band before they cooked up their own concoctions to fully realize the character of each.
The vocal raucous bleeds in some tunes but that only offers genuine affirmative angst since the material isn’t supposed to be as polished as The Beatles, as full production ignited as The Who, or as blue smoke tinted as Bob Marley or Peter Tosh. What it shows is that these guys do have the reggae-ska-rock steady spirit just shy of being a teddy-boy. They may not have corn rows or big ganja joints, but they may have scuffed Doc Martens, fingerless gloves & plenty of rum & Coke.
When the music begins it fills the toes with unrestrained steps & “Load In, Load Out,” is about as close to genuine reggae as I’ve heard from anyone this side of Jamaica. I just feel many of these excellent little tunes don’t really need the foul language as potently displayed – it’s a bit juvenile. The songs are written in a style that they can indeed stand alone. No embellishments.
The instrumentation is often good such as the acoustic guitar work on “Catch & Release,” which has a great groove & good lyrics & performed with gusto. Some ballads are accomplished. “Keep Moving” is blended from smooth whiskey to moonshine raw but may be too much when a little would’ve been more impressive. The set may be a little tune-heavy (16) as well. But for aficionados of the band, it will be bliss. The Bumpin’ Uglies can play gently – but watch your back.
Highlights – “Locust Avenue,” “Underdog,” “Load In, Load Out,” “Catch & Release,” “Livestreams & Vaccines,” “Suburbia,” “Jerry’s Song” & “Keep Moving.”
The Band: Brandon Hardesty (vocals/guitar), Dave Wolf (vocals/bass), TJ Haslett (drums), Ethan Lichtenberger (keys/horns) & Will Lopez (sax/guitar).
Color image courtesy of the band’s Bandcamp. Music samples @ Bandcamp. CD @ Apple & Amazon + https://www.bumpinugliesmusic.com/
This recently released EP showcase also explores familiar territory with love, loss & “the eventual descent into madness,” as a result of the ramifications of climate change. Loss of innocence, wanderlust, heartbreak & isolation.
New York’s Ms. Ryder is known for telling her lyrical stories through a distorted lens (I like this description, not my words). She weaves through life in the margins where her tunes are rock-influenced. “Road Dogs,” opens the set with chugging deep guitars, snappy drum beats & Eddy’s soaring vocals that straddle the dark of Dead Can Dance with its folky ambiance & creative lyrics, in a different direction from most singer-songwriters & she adds generous doses of haunting sounds, solid arrangements, galvanized vocalizing throughout. It goes from powerful to borderline falsetto which simply adds to an exhilarating drama.
The 5-song Blue Hour (Dropped September 15-Independent) includes colorful language on “Holy Shit, I Think I Love You,” which while it won’t get much radio air time with that lyric is one of the best songs on this short CD.
It’s done with class; it’s memorable & flaunts a gratifying vocal. The whole production is tight & well-conveyed. There really should be an alternate version of this that can be played on the radio because the melody is savvy. Eddy’s voice is devilishly good. Her range will send chills down your spine & she’s an articulate singer. No slurry words, no mish-mosh – all sharp imagery.
“Cold River,” is a stunner. Well performed, impressive & searing. Her attraction is that she creates music that if Tom Waits were to switch to country-oriented themes they’d sound like Eddy – but she has a lock on this genre that’s for sure. Interesting artist. Worth waiting for more.
Color image courtesy of Eddy’s website. CD @ https://www.eddyleeryder.com/
Canadian singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Ryan Wayne’s debut showcase provides a striking production with hefty arrangements with plenty of ambiance. This was produced by Ryan with Malcolm Burn. Crow Amongst the Sparrows (Dropped September 22-Independent) is filled with an interesting mix of tunes, sparkling accompaniment & graceful backup vocals on songs like “Oh, My Maria.”
“Forty Paces To the Bottom,” has a tonality that was once used to great effect by new wave artist & now country artist Robert Ellis Orrall (“Tell Me If It Hurts”). The song has a dark edge, but the melody & arrangement keeps it far above the mainstream surface. Nothing on this set is overwrought, bombastic, or overblown. It comes close, but the production keeps it in a bravura balance.
The cover art is somewhat rural in nature. I don’t think it represents the type of music contained accurately. None of these songs are too floral or pastel. There’s an intensity & it’s high-spirited even when Ryan goes spacey-folky on the waltz-tempo “Wherever You Land,” that’s quite good. It has an ethereal flavor & again, excellent backup singers.
Some pieces have treated guitar textures, but Ryan always remains along the lines of Americana-Roots music.
Overall, an engaging listen & it’s enjoyable.
Highlights – “Oh, My Maria,” “Crow Amongst the Sparrows,” “Forty Paces To The Bottom,” “Wherever You Land” & “Overheard in An All-Night Diner.”
Musicians – Ryan (vocals/guitars/drums/synths), Malcolm Burn (piano/synth) & Alex Needleman (bass).
CD art courtesy of Brent Orr/Photography by David Craig. Color seated image courtesy of Sarah Craig. CD @ https://ryanwaynemusic.com/
Alyssa & Wayne Brewer – A & W Sing George & Tammy
I thought this would be some hokey-pokey imitation parody of legendary artists being simulated through the vocals of two wannabes & sold on TV at a discount. I was wrong. This is actually one of the best respectable hat-tip collections of 2 great artists by 2 equally talented singers. They don’t sound so much the same as Jones & Wynette themselves as they move through several hits by these artists.
I’m impressed. Both Alyssa’s warm country-fried vocals & Wayne’s genuine twangy authentic country vocals together make a great team. The CD features several musicians who have played with name artists & they grace this. It’s done with grace on behalf of both legendary country artists George Jones & Tammy Wynette. Their 10-cut, 27-minute debut effort A & W Sing George & Tammy (Dropped Sept 15–SGM Records/Sony/The Orchard) was produced by Wayne, Mason & Gary Brewer.
From the opener “Someone I Used To Know,” a listener will instantly hear the quality & sincerity of the duo. You’d think one would be great, but the rest would be diluted country music. Not true. “Golden Ring,” is also good. This couple knows they’re filling big shoes & they’re doing it with ease. Wayne Brewer even has a bit of a Waylon Jennings tone at times that makes it value-added. This is a nice serious approach to re-inventing vintage songs & putting them out to remind everyone how great they always were.
The majority are arranged into short, average-timed pop country hits many just under 3 minutes. Get in & get out. Effective. The instrumentation is also genuine & the vocalizing is rich & delivered with honesty despite being classic covers is a testament to the quality of the Brewer’s own stylistic vocalizing. The commercial mainstream weave is still evident in each tune. The vintage quality shows how wonderfully written these songs were, especially “Why Baby Why.”
Opinion – the sepia image on the inside insert would’ve been a far more intense cover photo. That’s the former PR guy talking.
Highlights – “Someone I Used To Know,” “Golden Ring,” “We’re Going To Hold On,” “Why Baby Why,” “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” & “Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms.”
Musicians – Alyssa & Wayne Brewer (lead & harmony vocals), Nathan Fleming (pedal steel guitar), Gary Brewer (acoustic/electric guitar), Jenee Fleenor (fiddle), Josh Balz (piano), Mason Brewer (bass vocals/percussion) & Wayne (upright bass).
CD cover photo & color image by Katie Kauss. CD @ https://awbrewer.com/
Logan Ledger – Golden State
Logan Ledger starts his 10-song CD recorded in L.A. & provides an old-fashioned crooner style popular in the 50s & 60s. Deep-voiced & smooth applications like the vintage Ronnie Dove, Lenny Welch & Danny Williams (“White On White”). While Logan’s voice isn’t as distinctive as Johnny Mathis or the U.K. singer (Colin Vearncombe) aka Black (“Wonderful Life,” “Comedy”), Logan’s in good company.
Ledger (vocals/acoustic, electric & nylon string guitar/bgv) tinkers with the tonality of each past vocalist’s timbre with expertise while “I’m Not Here” simmers with intonation & phrasing close to Jimmie Dale Gilmore. And that’s to be admired.
What’s funny is how Ledger turns “Obviously,” into a dramatic Johnny Ray 50s ballad type vocal. Incredible borrowing that is done respectfully. And who would’ve guessed? Ledger’s showcase is slick, loose & stylistic & not necessarily country, folk, or Americana at all times. But easy listening, middle-of-the-road & each tune is skillfully rendered despite some melodic familiarity to much older forgotten hit songs. Some tunes will be catchy while others will be rudimentary. Whether or not, none are corny songs & the production & performances are quite pristine.
This 2nd CD effort was produced by 3-time Grammy Award winner Shooter Jennings (piano/pump organ/Hammond B3/celeste/Wurlitzer/Rhodes). The 42-minute Golden State (Dropped Sept 8–Rounder Records) isn’t as lush as others described. Because there’s a spirited thread that runs through each melody. The lyrics aren’t intense, but they’re of that clever school of great ballad writers with clever words, turns of phrases & typical lyrical endeavors that continue to be the secret to wonderful songs.
It tempts Schmaltz but never goes over that cliff. It’s a little more Buck Owens country with “All the Wine In California,” sung in an upbeat confident Bakersfield, CA top 40 country manner. This one even sounds like a melody lifted from older country tunes of the 50s or 60s. What’s masterful on these tracks is the enthusiasm of Logan’s voice. I guess what will appeal to older ears is the reminiscence of the older singers from that era. Even the recording process sounds like it’s retro.
“Some Misty Morning,” is lovely (not the Jackie Leven 1995 classic “Some Ancient Misty Morning”) but this one is sung in a duet with Erin Rae & sculptured from a warm delicate arrangement. Anyone who sings with Ledger will be elevated during the vocalizing. Rockier – comes “Court of Love,” for a cool workout mindful of the Rocky Burnette days.
Highlights – “Golden State,” “There Goes My Mind,” “All the Wine In California,” “Midnight In L.A.,” “Some Misty Morning,” “Court of Love,” “I’m Not Here” & “Where Will I Go.” Excellent songs.
Musicians – Jamie Douglass (drums/percussion), Ted Russell Kamp (bass), Nick Bockrath (guitar/celeste/12-string electric/acoustic guitars), Russ Pahl (pedal steel/guitar), Kristin Wilkinson (viola/string arrangements), David Davidson, David Angell & Alicia Enstrom (violins), Kevin Bate (cello), B-Bender, Misa Arriaga, Frank Rische, Ryan Keith & Erin Rae (bgv) & Brian Scanlon (sax).
A 16-page stitched insert with lyrics included. Color image courtesy of Logan’s Bandcamp/Facebook. CD available + song samples @ Bandcamp. CD @ Amazon & https://loganledgermusic.com/
More Than a Whisper – Celebrating The Music of Nanci Griffith
What a lovely woman this Grammy-winning artist Nanci Griffith was. Overwhelmingly talented – yet, she had her detractors. Not country enough, not outlaw enough & not part of the “club.” I couldn’t believe it when I read it. I enjoyed everything she sang.
I found her as a delightful original, a creative artist & a consistently excellent musician & songwriter. I loved her for it. A true Texan who may not have always looked or behaved country didn’t sing in a traditional manner, wasn’t a team player because she was who she was & was true to her muse.
I guess I wasn’t the only one. This collection is filled with major artists who respected Nanci Griffith. And that’s really all she needed. A hat tip from her peers. A wink from her competitors. An embracing of fans that weren’t all from Texas. Maybe that’s enough when someone appreciates your work as they did Nanci.
This 14-cut More Than a Whisper: Celebrating The Music of Nanci Griffith (Dropped Sept. 22–Rounder Records) was produced by individual producers for each song & work with the respective artists & musicians. The tribute CD was shaped & produced by Ken Levitan & John Strohm. The songs are contributions from Nanci’s songbook by both young artists & established ones who were inspired by Ms. Griffith.
Performing solo on some of their favorite Griffith songs you’ll find varied artists from young Billy Strings alongside the late John Prine, Sarah Jarosz, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle & Brandy Clark. Just a few. What more needs to be said about the value of this artist’s repertoire? Nothing. She will cruise into legendary status because she was always genuine, authentic & angelic.
This is a wonderful tribute filled with emotional, expressive renditions of Ms. Griffith’s greatest songs & some she made famous but didn’t write (“From a Distance”). Nanci Griffith was not just a singer-songwriter or performer, no. This lady was an artist. She knew how to write songs with poignancy – a trait not easy to do. That’s how I’ll remember her. I miss her. That’s the best tribute.
Highlights – “Love at the Five & Dime,” (John Prine & Kelsey Waldon), “Love Wore a Halo – Back Before the War,” (Emmylou Harris), “Trouble In the Fields,” (Lyle Lovett with Kathy Mattea), “Gulf Coast Highway,” (Brandy Clark), “Outbound Plane,” (Shawn Colvin), “It’s A Hard Life Wherever You Go,” (Steve Earle), “Late Night Grande Hotel,” (Patty Griffin & Aaron Lee Tasjan), “Banks of Pontchartrain (Iris DeMent) & “More Than a Whisper (Mary Gauthier).
Musicians – Sarah Jarosz (acoustic guitar/vocals), John Leventhal (acoustic guitar/organ), Jeff Picker, Viktor Krauss, Chris Donohue, Jeff Hill & Dave Jacques (upright bass), Dan Rieser, Brian Owings, Fred Eltringham, Nelson Hubbard & Kenneth Blevins (drums), Larry Campbell (pedal steel), John Prine (vocal), Kelsey Waldon (vocal), Jason Wilber (acoustic & electric guitars), Fats Kaplin (pedal steel guitar/mandolin), Billy Strings & Molly Tuttle (guitar/vocal), Emmylou Harris (vocals), Lyle Lovett (vocal/acoustic guitar), Kathy Mattea (harmony vocal), Sam Bush (mandolin/fiddle), Al Perkins (dobro), Brandy Clark (vocal/acoustic guitar/piano), Tony Lucido & Michael Rinne (bass), Jedd Hughes (acoustic guitar/octave mandolin/electric slide/synth), Shawn Colvin (guitar/vocal), Christopher Turpin (vocal/programmed drums/guitar), Chris Masterson (acoustic guitar), Stephanie Jean Ward (vocal/keys/synth/percussion), Steve Earle (octave mandolin/vocal), Ricky Ray Jackson (dobro), Eleanor Whitmore (fiddle/bgv), Brad Pemberton (drums/percussion), Ivan Goff (uilleann pipes), Patty Griffin (harmony vocal), Aaron Lee Tasjan (piano/vocal), Doug Lancio (electric guitar/bass), Todd Snider (vocal/lead vocal), Bobby Terry (multi-instrumental/bgv), Raelyn Nelson (bgv), Jon Graboff (pedal steel guitar), Iris Dement (vocal/piano), Mark Howard (electric guitar), Mary Gauthier (vocal/acoustic guitar), Jaimee Harris (bgv), Danny Mitchell (piano), Will Kimbrough (mandolin), Michele Gazich (strings). The War & the Treaty: Michael Trotter Jr. (keys), Max Brown (guitar), Michael Magett (bass), Johnathan Holmes (drums), Kiran Gupta (organ), Monique Ross (cello) & Chauntee Ross (violin).
A beautiful essay appears on the inside front cover written by Mary Gauthier. B&W portrait of Nanci courtesy of Jim McGuire. Song samples & purchase @ Bandcamp & Amazon https://rounderrecords.bandcamp.com/album/more-than-a-whisper-celebrating-the-music-of-nanci-griffith
This is a change of pace. I believed this would be some kind of children’s CD with silly sing-a-longs, but I was wrong again. The lead-off song by this collective is “That Love Came First,” performed seriously with nice strings, backup vocals & catchy poignant melodies. The vocals are soulful & possess a gentle razzle-dazzle in how they’re showcased.
While the original 6 songs are performed well it’s fairly simple stuff, no showboating just ensemble playing & vocals that are appealing throughout. The majority of the tunes are all engaging in different ways.
Recorded in N.E. Minneapolis & produced by Matt Patrick the 29-minute EP Theater Kids (Drops Oct 6- Independent) doesn’t have much detail, but the dance/funk/ballad mix is surprisingly good. I found every tune delightful. The subjects are rather involved & not just songs to tap your foot to.
The vocals are diversified & that’s what keeps them all interesting. The harmonies are on the mark. I found the title of the band & album a little confusing since it didn’t give me a hint as to how wonderful this effort is. It might sound theatrically juvenile but isn’t. Sounds elementary but it isn’t. It’s a serious tight work performed with expertise & enthusiasm.
Musicians – C.B. James (vocals/cello), Caley Factorial (vocals/guitar), Liz Cates (guitar/vocals), Andrew Lentz (piano/vocals), Daniel Lentz (violin/master shake), Ani Macy (bass/human resources) & Bryce Tuitt (drums/morals).
Song samples available @ Bandcamp + https://www.thecommonpracticeband.com/members
Grooves & Cuts – September 2023
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All pictures, images & CD art displayed in any review were sent from publicists, the artists themselves their websites/Facebook, or PR reps. When available all photographer credits will be noted.
Notice: Obituaries have moved to their own page.