Roots

Twangy Tuesday – Steep Canyon Rangers

One of the things that I am enjoying about writing this blog is that I get to learn about the music that I listen to. huh? you say, well, you see a lot of the music I listen to I pick up at deeply discounted prices at my favorite used CD store Tunes in Marlton. So, I may pick up a band like The Steep Canyon Rangers for say, oh,   $ 3.99  or less bring it home and listen to it and think that it’s good and not understand why it was in the bargain bin, well, Edward maybe it’s because it’s not their main client’s “cup of tea”! Anyway,  as I was researching this post for the second album I listened to today The Steep Canyon Rangers, the band’s self-titled debut album released in 2004. I discovered that they are now an award winning band. They won the International  Bluegrass Music Association (IMBA) Album of the Year in 2008 f or Lovin’ Pretty Women and in 2006 they had been named Emerging Artist of the Year and, oh,  they are also are Steve Martin’s backing band on his Grammy Award winning album The Crow and will start touring with him  on April 19th. Not bad for the quintet from Asheville, N.C. Their latest album Deep in the Shade released in October 2009 is the band’s fourth album!  The band is composed of: Woody Platt (guitar and lead vocals), Graham Sharp (banjo, harmony vocals, Mike Guggino (mandolin and harmony vocals), Charles R. Humphrey III (bass and harmony vocals) and Nicky Sanders (fiddle and harmony vocals).

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Twangy Tuesday Midday Report

So yes, today is twangy Tuesday and that means bluegrass to me! So why do I like bluegrass music, well mostly for the pickin’ a little for the singing. Sometimes bluegrass instrumentals are a lot like jazz, uh, does the name Bela Fleck ring any bells. But bluegrass is a little slice of everyday life a little up, a little down and the down sometimes includes death and murder. Ray Wylie Hubbard always  supports the first amendment rights of gangsta’ rap by saying,  ” In music, Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe have killed more people than Ice T and 50 cent.” I don’t look to bluegrass to teach me anything or carry any great messages I mostly look for it to make me feel better and the first album I listened to today In the Blue Room by Alan Bibey does that and more!  If you don’t listen to bluegrass and you want to start somewhere, this is a great starting point. Bibey is a musician’s musician an extraordinary mandolin picker and he has been a member of great bands like IIIrd Tyme Out and Blue Ridge. Appearing with Bibey on this album is a who’s who of bluegrass music including: Del McCoury, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Jim Mills and Lonesome River Band’s Ronnie Bowman, Sammy Shelor and Kenny Smith and others. There are great instrumental tracks (which made me think that bluegrass is a lot like jazz) like the self-written title track and some great covers of Bill Monroe classics “Evening Prayer Blues” and “Close By”. But throughout the album Bibey’s mandolin picking shines and to think I found this in the bargain bin and paid I think $1.99 or $0.99 cents I can’t remember which. Anyway it has become a favorite and never fails to pick me up when I need it!

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Folk Monday – Carrie Newcomer

I started the day today listening to Carrie Newcomer’s new album Before & After. Before & After is the 12th solo album for the Indiana native and I think maybe her best work ever! The album has a little of everything and it takes more than one or two listens to take it all in. On the first listen, which actually last week the first song that really stood out to me was “Stones in the River” I just loved the symbolism of the chorus:

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Old Friends – Ten Years After

One of my favorite bands from the 60’s and early 70’s was Ten Years After and not just because of Alvin Lee’s guitar wizardry. No, while I liked the overall blues rock feel of the band and loved tracks like “Good Morning, Little School Girl” and “Woke up this Morning”‘ I also liked that the rest of the bands members could play and  the strong  jazz influences on their early  albums particularly on the second release  Undead. I loved the track  “Woodchopper’s Ball”. A cover of the Woody Herman hit. The band was the first band booked by the  Chrysalis Agency and their performance at the Windsor Jazz Festival in 1967 led to their contract with Deram Records.  I have their albums from the first release Ten Years After through Cricklewood Green. Which was their fifth album and contained the hit “Love Like a Man”. After that album the band took a more commercial turn with A Space in Time which contained the song “I’d Love to Change the World and I kinda drifted away.  The band ultimately broke up in 1974 when Alvin Lee embarked on a solo career.

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Forgotten Friday Set List

So the first album that came out of the stack of vinyl here next to the old USB record player was Tom Paxton’s 1983 release Bulletin. While Tom is one of my all-time favorites this album never got a lot of spins. I guess because a few other things were happening in those years like Andrew being 1 year old and Nick being 4 and other stuff. Anyway Track 1 was “It’s Only a Game” a song about that wonderful Rubik’s Cube and the way it can frustrate you and leave you shaking your head saying  “It’s Only a Game!”. The album was produced by Tom’s friend Bob Gibson and the second  track I listened to from the album  “Something’s Wrong with the Rain” feature’s background vocals by Anne Hills and Cindy Mangsen. Tom, Anne Hills and Bob Gibson have recorded an album together and Tom and Anne recorded a great album together Under American Skies.

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Thursday – Mixed Bag Day

I was intrigued this morning when I logged on to Rhapsody and saw that there was a release of a new Jimi Hendrix CD, which I believe means now  he has released more CDs dead than alive or maybe it just seems that way. Anyway I put the album Valleys of Neptune on the mp3 player and gave it a listen and thought it was pretty good but on the second listen my opinion rose to pretty awesome. All of the tracks were recorded in a four month period in 1969  after the release of Electric Ladyland and feature Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. These are the last recordings with these sideman who were shortly to be replaced by the Band of Gypsies, i.e. Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums.  The tracks feature new unreleased versions of “Stone Free”, “Fire” and Red House” and a great cover of an Elmore James’ song “Bleeding Heart” (my favorite on the first listen) and an instrumental version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”. Other good cuts include “Hear My Train A  Comin'” and “Ships Passing Trhough the Night”. Overall it was a great listen definitely a 4.5 and maybe a 5 out of 5 after a few more listens.

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Blues Wednesday – Sean Costello

So like Joe Crookston, I’ve always seen the name Sean Costello as a hot new bluesman but I’ve never really sought out his music.  So the other day as I was thinking about what I would listen to today his name popped into my head. So I went to emusic to see what they had there and they had most of his releases. Then I did some research and discovered that he died from an accidental drug overdose on April 15, 2008 the eve of his 29th birthday. His family later revealed that he suffered from bipolar disorder and set up The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research. So this morning I downloaded Cuttin’ In his second album released in 2000 when he was let’s see 21! In an obituary posted on Jambands.com on April 16,2008, Tinsley Ellis a favorite of mine called Costello:

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Twangy Tuesday – Two High String Band

So I finished listening to Michael Martin Murphey’s CD Buckaro Blue Grass and overall I really like the CD particularly “Cherokee Fiddle” and “Fiddlin’ Man” and ” Close to the Land”. Overall I’d rate it a 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked it just didn’t love it. I also finished Balsam Range’s Last Train to Kitty Hawk, which is a fine bluegrass album like I said earlier “Julie’s Train” sets the tune for the album and it’s a good one.  Overall, I have to listen a few more times to tell which songs I like the best but there’s lot’s of good pickin’ and fiddling on this CD and it will certainly get more spins! This one rates four out of five for the boys from Haywood County, North Carolina.

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Mid-day Report Twangy Tuesday

So today we will visit the land of bluegrass. Bluegrass music has one job to set my feet a tappin’ and make me feel good. I first visited the bluegrass charts on  Roots Music Report and looked for names that looked interesting… ah number one Michael Murphey’s new CD Buckaro Blue Grass, yes the Michael Martin Murphey of “Wildfire” fame though my favorite is “Geronimo’s Cadillac” and number 27  Last Train to Kitty Hawk Balsam Range ah Front Range is one of my favorite bluegrass bands so I’ll try this one. So I put both on the mp3 player via Rhapsody “on the go” and have listened to parts of both this morning. Both sound pretty good the first track on the Balsam Range album “Julie’s Train” had my foot a tappin’ so that’s a good start. I’ll listen to the rest of both CDs this afternoon and report tonight!

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Monday Folk – Joe Crookston

So I have heard his name on Gene Shay’s radio show and heard him in passing but never really listened to Joe Crookston until today and in the words of Christine Lavin “What Was I Thinking!”  This guy is great and his album Able, Baker Charlie and Dog is wonderful and I am not alone in my opinion. The album was   “Album of the Year” by the International Folk Alliance. and  Joe was a 2008 Falcon Ridge Folk Fest Most Wanted Artist and a Rockefeller Foundation Songwriting grant recipient. Joe is originally from Ohio and attended Kent State. He lived in Seattle for several years and now calls  Ithaca, New York home. The Rockefeller Grant was part of the “Fingers Lake Project” and Joe wandered the Finger Lakes area and collected stories and four of those story songs appear on this album. I love story songs and Joe’s story songs are fantastic.  The songs that appear on this album from stories Joe collected  are some of the best tracks on the album and include: “John Jones”  The story of a slave who escaped to Elmira, NY and became part of the underground railroad. “Red Rooster in the Mash Pile” tells the story of a family  making  liquor during prohibition and the roosters who imbided along with the distillers. “Blue Tattoo” tells the story of an Aushwitz survivor explaining to her daughter her blue tatoo and finally “Able, Baker, Charlie and Dog” tells Joe’s grandfather’s story about building the airstrip on Tinian Island that would be used to launch the nuclear attacks on Japan. These songs aren’t the only great songs on this album, heck, I already said the whole album is fantastic! So I am glad that I picked Joe Crookston and if you like good music and like me enjoy good story songs check out Able, Baker, Charlie and Dog. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

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