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Grayson Capps – If You Knew My Mind

A quick search for the “top Americana albums of 2005” reminds us of some fine records from that year by the likes of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Okkervil River, My Morning Jacket, and the ever-interesting Bobby Bare. One that didn’t get much attention back then was this excellent set of music from Grayson Capps, If You Knew My Mind, released a decade ago by the small-yet-mighty Nashville/L.A. outpost called Hyena Records.
One of the songs on the album, “A Love Song for Bobby Long,” was the title track to a movie of the same name, based on a book by Capps’ father and starring none other than John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson. One would think that would’ve generated some considerable buzz, but the film was met with mixed reviews that tended toward the negative. The soundtrack (though it was an interesting mix of Los Lobos and Helen Humes) was generally disregarded, and Capps’ album flew, most unfairly, under the radar.
Thanks to the tasteful folks at Royal Potato Family — who are behind the excellent new set from 6 String Drag — this record’s getting a well-deserved second chance with Americana music fans. And rightly so. It’s an album that’s beautifully grand in its poetry and charmingly disheveled in its presentation.
The opening line of the opening song, “Get Back Up,” says it all. “Yesterday was a very fine day, indeed,” he growls over a dirty harp-driven blues. “I got a bottle of beer, went outside, and brushed my teeth.” He puts on dirty clothes, goes back to work because he’s “got to make the money to give the money away at the rich man’s store.” There are too many great lines in the Resonator-rich title cut to pick just one but this slice of humor — “I know you’re 22 and I ruined your life. But please, pretty baby, put down that kitchen knife” — is a good place to start.
“Slidell” starts out as a story about “five people who got murdered by a drunk woman talking on her cell phone,” but is ultimately about the narrator’s own Slidell story, which includes being drunk at every turn and for every miniscule event. After the slow R&B groove of “I Can’t Hear You,” we get to witness the aforementioned “Love Song to Bobby Long,” the heart-wrenching Dylanesque story of a former football hero — a dispassionate dreamer gone drunk, an anti-hero of Bruton, AL.
“Eliza’s in the ground. Thunder is her moan,” recites Capps in the Faulknerian stream of consciousness that is “Graveyard.” Halfway through the record, Capps tears open a can of Texas blues on “Mercy,” the modern day equivalent to “Sympathy for the Devil” (and just as spine-chillingly soulful). “Yesterday I had a dream. I could fly through the sky. Then I woke up in a sweat, not dead yet, but on the ground,” Capps sings over the subtle Rhodes and Resonator arrangement of “Lorraine’s Song.” “Here comes,” he says as he counts off the lovely ballad “Washboard Lisa,” a tune as tender as the best ballads from the pens of Crowell or Clark. “Buckshot” is a blood red fuzzy guitar rock tune that bridges the space between “Washboard Lisa” and the funky rhythm and blues of “How’s I To Know.” The original recording ends with the ballad “I See You” before the RPF people tacked on a live version of the blues classic “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed & Burning” — a clever tune about how his woman ran off with an “Australian banjo player with a fake Southern accent” — and a sweet outtake of “Washboard Lisa.”
Indeed, this is a record most grand in its poetry, even though they are simple lines about simple people living simple lives. The tracks are exceptionally well-played examples of the great Southern music tradition, loosely approached but tightly delivered. This 10-year-old record is as good as anything being made today. Props to the Royal Potato people for bringing it back to light.

Otis Gibbs

Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth

by Otis Gibbs

While writing the songs on this record, I found myself thinking an awful lot about my father and how he encouraged me to do everything I could to pursue a creative life. He rode a Harley Davidson chopper, sang along to Jerry Lee Lewis records and took absolutely no shit from anyone. The only job he ever enjoyed was driving a tow truck, but he couldn’t support the family on just 85 cents an hour. He was convinced he’d finally hit the jackpot when he got a job throwing 100 pound bags of starch into boxcars for $1.85 an hour. 30 years later he retired with a worn out back, a bad shoulder and a cheap certificate in a cardboard frame. He once told me they were his, “Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth.”

One thing I inherited from my father was his low tolerance for bullshit and let’s face it, the arts world is full of it. With that in mind, one morning I scribbled a thought onto the cover of my notebook that served as a reminder while working on these songs. “There are only two people in art who matter. There’s the creative individual and the person experiencing it, everything else is an artificial filter.”  If I have one core artistic belief, that would probably be it. That principle and a whole lot of scratching, clawing and sacrifice has earned me a loyal cult following throughout Europe and in parts of the USA, but don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of me. I like to joke around the house that I’ve done everything I can to remain obscure without realizing it.

While my parents worked during the day, it fell upon some strange individuals to babysit me. One of these people was my uncle. He wasn’t the best choice to babysit a 4 year old because he’d just got out of prison. He wasn’t even really my uncle, he and my aunt were just shacking up. Living in sin. Renting with the option to buy. He got bored watching me so he took me to a neighborhood bar that had an upright piano in the corner. He’d sit me on top of that piano and I’d sing Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers songs while he accompanied me. The drunks thought I was a cute kid, so they gave me tip money and I’d sing their requests. My uncle would then take that money and get drunk on it. That’s when I first learned how the music industry actually works.

One of the benefits of being a touring musician is I often find myself dropped into unexpected situations.  These moments sometimes make their way into my songwriting. Experiences like crossing the Carpathian Mountains in Romania in a snowstorm and picking up a nine year old hitchhiker named “Cozmina.” She told me her family’s tragic story as I gave her a ride over the top of the mountain.

I recently visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. There’s a saying that every American knows someone whose name is on that wall, but as I stood there, I couldn’t think of anyone. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  As a kid in Wanamaker, Indiana, we had an aging boxer living in the house next door who had just lost his son in Vietnam. My Father did everything he could to be supportive, so we stopped by every day to visit. At the time, I was just a kid and didn’t understand any of it. After finding my neighbor’s son’s name on the wall, I found myself standing there silently grieving beside strangers and remembering his Father (and mine). These newfound memories of my father and our pugilist friend stuck with me and eventually lead to  “Ghosts Of Our Fathers.”

I’ve planted 7,176 trees in my lifetime. These were all large trees and were planted without the benefit of heavy machinery. Just shovels, spades and strong backs. It was my day job for about ten years and I loved it, but my body started to break down towards the end. Luckily, I started touring more in the UK and Europe which allowed me to play music full time. I quit that job about 8 years ago and haven’t had a day job since. “No Rust On My Spade” is a song that looks back to those days when I prided myself in being a Nurseryman.

“It Was A Train” and “The Darker Side Of Me” are loosely based on stories told to me by hobo friends around Midwestern campfires.

My father was a hunter. At a very young age I followed him into the forests of Indiana in search of deer, rabbit and squirrel. I struggled for years to find a way to tell him that I loved being alone in the woods with him more than anything, but the idea of killing animals for “sport” repulsed me. “With A Gun In My Hand” tells the story that I was unable to tell as a kid. I’m happy to report that as he aged he lost all interest in hunting. This made him love the outdoors even more.

I host a show called Thanks For Giving A Damn. It features your favorite musicians telling road stories, tall tales and vague recollections. There’s no music, just talk. It’s available as a podcast and there’s a new episode posted to iTunes every Wednesday. I love hearing road stories, so I started the show as a way to share these stories directly with the people who enjoy my work. I had modest expectations at first, but was pleasantly surprised when the audience grew much quicker than I ever could have hoped.

I’m happily living in East Nashville with my partner, Amy Lashley and a few too many rescued pets (Let me know if you need a cat). Amy and I have been together for over 15 years, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. We’re just hanging out.

I’m a hell of a lot more like my old man than I’d care to admit. Like him, I work for a living. My job is to make people feel something and that’s what I’ve tried to do with “Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth.” It’s a record that I’m proud of and I believe it’s my finest work to date. Thank you kindly for taking the time to experience it and I hope we might one day meet in person.
Thanks for giving a damn,
-Otis Gibbs

The Word – Soul Food

Fourteen years elapsed between the Word‘s raucous self-titled debut offering and Soul Food. All the members of this supergroup — pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph, keyboardist John Medeski, and the North Mississippi Allstars (Chris Chew and Cody and Luther Dickinson) — have had full and demanding careers in the interim. Randolph was only 22, had played one gig outside his church, and had just one released track when he joined his bandmates in 2000. Soul Food was cut in New York and at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studio in Memphis, and picks up where its predecessor left off. Musically, this is a much tighter record — none of these tunes get to the six-minute mark — but the raw, joyous, exploratory spontaneity remains; it’s just more focused. Blues, R&B, and gritty roots rock & roll are plentiful here, as is a more formal approach to gospel, but there are other sounds too. On the first soul-drenched single (and album opener), “New Word Order,” gritty Southern R&B meets the prophetic Pentecostal tradition of Randolph‘s spiritual home, the Church of God in Christ. On “Come by Here,” a squalling minor-key juke joint blues runs head-on into pre-Thomas Dorsey African-styled chants in a chorale of male voices. Randolph‘s solo screams atop Medeski‘s spiraling B-3 and keyboards and Luther‘s razored fills. Suggesting a young Mavis Staples, Ruthie Foster guests on “When I See the Blood,” a straight-up Southern gospel romp. Randolph and Medeski trade fills and fours throughout, and the entire clattering rhythm section gets as funky as it does gritty. The first of the two parts of the title track is framed inside a breezy Polynesian vibe, kissed by soul, while the second crosses funky R&B guitar with martial snares and breaks, punchy organ chords, and Randolph‘s many-toned pedal steel coloring in the frames. It eventually becomes a rave-up where the spirit of the Allman Brothers Band (whose second “home” was playing N.Y.C.) meets the groove of Otha Turner’s Fife and Drum Corps at Stax! “You Brought the Sunshine” is straight-up reggae with a dubwise Chew bassline framing a gospel piano, bluesy pedal steel, and jazzed-up B-3 and guitar vamps. “Swamp Road” feels like Booker T. & the MG’s playing in a shake shack. Luther‘s tough jazz-blues solo above Cody‘s in-the-pocket beat steals the cut. Amy Helm duets with Luther on the set closer, “Glory Glory.” What begins as a rowdy country boogie becomes a Southern-fried country gospel stomper, adorned by Wurlitzer piano, hard-swinging acoustic six-string with flatpicking breaks, brushed toms and snares, thumping standup bass, and wily pedal steel. It’s a fitting sendoff because it is an affirmation of all the Word express as a band. All these years on, Soul Food may sound as revolutionary as its predecessor, but it is stronger and far more adventurous musically.

Ruby Amanfu

Ruby Amanfu has been around the Nashville music scene since she could sing but getting noticed is never easy. Releasing some quality songs with Sam Brooker as Sam & Ruby and competing on The Sing-Off gave her a little exposure, however it was playing the foil to Jack White on the emotional “Love Interruption” that really broke open her career.

Now on Standing Still, Amanfu takes the spotlight and owns it, projecting various vocal styles through a wide range of covers. Immediately greatness is achieved as she reinterprets “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)” a track made famous by the irrepressible Irma Thomas. Amanfu’s version keeps the heartbreak of Thomas but raises the emotional stakes to breathtaking heights via a lush soulful beginning, huge climax and almost whispering vocals to close; a take-your-breath-away rendition of the classic.

Standing Still came about when engineer Mark Howard was sent a video of Ruby singing a show stopping version of Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” from a NYC Dylan Tribute. Howard, who worked with Daniel Lanois on the original, was enamored and signed her up right away. Having been in the Bowery Ballroom on that night I can personally attest that was the moment of a show filled with a few. Her recreation of the Dylan number on Standing Still is a knockout as well.

Those two covers alone are enough to recommend the album but the hits keep coming from a wide variety of areas. Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s “Where You Going” has an excellent mix of bass, drums and chimes while “As The Dawn Breaks” by Richard Hawley is simple and delicate allowing Amanfu’s voice to breathe excellence without restraint.

“Out At Sea” by The Heartless Bastards is one of the few covers that doesn’t mesh well here, while Amanfu has made a revisit to Kanye West’s “Street Lights” a must as she adds a warmth to the 808s & Heartbreak track Yeezus could never muster. The gospel placed into Wilco’s (via Woody Guthrie) “One By One” moves things along swimmingly before Amanfu’s only original “I Tried” ends the album. The haunting energy of Brandi Carlile’s “Shadow on the Wall” is an excellent showcase for Ruby’s talents and when she sings “I will make no sound at all” listeners everywhere should be grateful that she went against that feeling and created Standing Still, an album that should help make her a star.

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The Slambovian Circus of Dreams

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams have been called  “the hillbilly Pink Floyd,” which is an apt description, particularly if you throw in elements of Incredible String Band, Neil Young, The Band, Dylan, and maybe even some Frank Zappa as well.  This spring 2015 the band finishes a year long tour of the U.K., US and Canada where they spread their contagious brand of quirky Americana promoting the 2014 release of ‘A Box of Everything’ – their Sony Red distributed ‘greatest hits you never heard’.

 Now beginning work on their sixth studio album, “A Very Unusual Head”,  Joziah Longo, (lead singer/songwriter for the band) describes the new bundle of songs as “A notebook of music about those go-to topics:  meta-physical science and religion,  poking fun with scorching humor at the state of the world, and a few anthemic beauties that will hopefully sweep everyone off their feet for a moment… the sound may be more adventurous this time – we’ve always had a bit of psychedelic grit that steals from our British cousins.” For the uninitiated, the band’s all over the map melodic avant folk conjures Tom Petty, Dinosaur Jr., and a fuller Buffalo Tom. Equal parts Washington Irving and Woodstock, the band taps a broad palette of styles ranging from dusty Americana ballads to huge Pink Floydesque cinematic anthems. Playing art school roots-rock, trad  folk and a moody but uplifting americana, they possess an extensive instrumental arsenal (accordion, cello, mandolin, theremin). “The entire root system of Rock Family Trees is embedded in Longo’s voice.”- The Big Issue, Scotland, U.K.

Together since the late 90’s where they met in art school, they settled in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and formed The Slambovian Circus of Dreams. The band has toured nationally and abroad since forming in 1998. Known for their electrifying live performances, and critically acclaimed original music, they have an extremely devoted fan base.

The band produces Halloween shows every year at moving locations – in 2010 they even brought their legendary Halloween show,  ‘The Grand Slambovian Extraterrestrial Hillbilly~Pirate Ball’ to London’s Electric Ballroom AND New York City’s Gramercy Theater. “Saturday was a blast! I want you to know how great I thought your show was – you guys really made the Gramercy shine and ooze with your own personality.” – Harvey Leeds, Live Nation NYC. This year, 2015’s  shows will be a ‘Mischief Night’ at Mauch Chunk Opera House October 24th and Halloween show is at Infinity Hall in Hartford, Ct October 31st.

In 2010 bandleader and songwriter Longo, (known for tall tales and philosophizing) began work with Broadway theater legend Theodore Mann writing the musical score for 2 productions performed at Broadway’s Circle in The Square Theater in New York City from 2010-2012.

Soon unleashing their hauntingly signature songs on the world once again, the bands next studio album is scheduled for release in early 2016. The new songs should knit into the band’s classics like an old paisley quilt wrapped around a very large family. The ultimate DIY’ers, the band runs its own label and has previously released 4 critically acclaimed studio albums and one ‘greatest hits’, ‘A Box of Everything’ released in 2014, “The Grand Slambovians”2010, ‘The Great Unravel’ (2008), 2004’s double-disc ‘Flapjacks from the Sky’, and ‘A Good Thief Tips His Hat‘ (1999)

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams are:

Joziah Longo (lead vocals, guitars, harmonica), born in Philadelphia, grew up playing traditional country, folk and mummers music with his father. Performing professionally from the age of 13 doing Dylan covers, he moved to New York to pursue his muse. Playing venues ranging from CBGB’s to Carnegie Hall as a headline performer, Joziah was also the first American musician invited to perform in mainland China in the early 90’s ending a decade-long ban on Western music.

Multi-instrumentalist Tink Lloyd (accordion, cello, flute, theremin) comes from a long line of feisty Irish musicians which brings a unique spark to the band’s music as well as performance. Tink has worked with Joziah and Sharkey on previous projects.

Sharkey McEwen (guitars, mandolin, backing vocals), longtime musical partner of Joziah, has Louisiana roots but grew up in L.A. where he cut his teeth on the club circuit before coming to New York in the early 90’s. His inventive, evocative playing is a strong counterpoint to Joziah’s songwriting and performance. He is has been the band’s engineer and main producer with Joziah for all their albums.

Eric Puente grew up in Rome, NY, and has been playing drums, in several different forms and styles, his entire life. He has been a session drummer/percussionist, in the NY music scene for the past 20 years, recording, touring, and arranging, with various rock, jazz, folk/americana, and orchestral ensembles. He has studied with Joe Morello, Mike Clark, Tony Jefferson, and Joe Cusatis. Eric has been a Slambovian musical friend for several years, and in March 2012, he started performing with Joziah and Sharkey on the NYC Broadway play “Aesop’s Fables” (for which Joziah wrote the musical score). Since then, he has been touring and recording on a fulltime basis with the Slambovians.

Caddy Cooper

Caddy’s new album, OUTSIDE THE WIRE has exploded on to the Blues, Country and Folk scenes to blanket five star critical acclaim!

“OUTSIDE THE WIRE is a restless, feverish and marvellous album release by a talented artist determined to buck the trend.  Caddy Cooper has an ear for a great sound and the skill to produce a superlative record successful in steering its content in the right direction for many discerning fans of roots music.”
Three Chords and the Truth UK

“With an awesome mix of blues, bluegrass and country, it is clear that Caddy is a hugely talented writer”
For the Country Record

“All Killer, No Filler”
The Blues and Roots Music


Caddy Cooper is a West Australian acoustic blues, country and folk singer/songwriter and a traveling soul at heart.

After training at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Music Theatre, Caddy played featured roles in musicals such as The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and A ChorusLine.

Caddy has performed in major theatres across the UK, Ireland and Australia and for the likes of Sir Richard Attenborough, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, the West Australian Agent General Kerry Sanderson and a number of BBC television personalities.


She was the lyricist and composer behind Australian pop sensation ‘ENVY’s singles Fever Fever Fever and Monster in Me and was awarded a prestigious Honourable Mention in the International Song of the Year Competition for her urban composition Tender Heart (Teenage Girl) in 2012.

In March 2012, Caddy published the first of a series of children’s sign language songbooks called ‘Sign & Song’ (short-listed for the Rhinegold Publishing ‘Best New Resource’ Award 2013) which incorporates the use of Makaton signing in a bid to encourage language development and cohesion between children in the mainstream, those with English as a second language and children and young adults with special needs.

Caddy released ‘Acoustic EP’ in 2011 which quickly gained momentum and led to the international release of Caddy’s debut album, ‘Snapshot’. After touring nine countries in 2014 (including UK tour and festivals tour, a British military tour in Afghanistan, Australia, and across Europe – to name a few highlights) promoting the critically acclaimed ‘Snapshot’, Caddy released her next album ‘Outside the Wire’  on March 6th, 2015 at Club WM, The O2, London.

Outside the Wire (arguably the most successful of Caddy’s releases so far) has exploded onto the Country and Blues scenes to rave FIVE STAR reviews


David Bromberg – Archives, Volume 1

“Big Boy Crudup recorded a song with this title,” says Dave Bromberg of the tune “If I Get Lucky,” one of a dozen gems that make up this debut archive recording. “Elvis did his version on one of his first records,” he continues. “I thought at one time I was doing Big Boy Crudup’s song. This song has nothing to do with that one beyond the first line. I think I wrote it.” So goes the brand of self-effacing sincerity that informs this collection of train songs, love songs, train songs about love and love songs about trains. Drawing primarily from live recordings and radio programs he did in the early ’70s, Bromberg offers an intimate version of The Carter Family’s “Cannonball,” taken from Howard and Roz Lamer’s Folkscene program along with the aforementioned “If I Get Lucky,” which was harvested from his 1970 appearance at the Philly Folk Fest.
From an early ’70s coffee house performance, Bromberg offers a stunning version of “Salt Creek.” “I was playing it in the Jabberwocky Coffee House in Syracuse,” he recalls in his liner notes. “(I) decided on the spur of the moment to see if I could play the harmony and the melody part at the same time. I didn’t think it worked, so I doubt that I ever did it again. It actually did work, but I never heard the tape until 2014.”
“James Brown, eat your heart out,” he announces over the intro of “Danger Man,” which features an early version of his band that included bassist Steve Burgh, saxophonist Andy Statman, mandolinist Will Scarlett and guitarist Peter Ecklund (who grabs a trumpet and does his best Beiderbecke imitation for this one). Bromberg recommends checking out the YouTube video for this version of “Jelly Jaw Joe,” wherein drummer Steve Mosley plays a solo on his cheeks (among other wacked-out band antics) and notes that “Send Me To The Electric Chair” is one of his most very favorite Bessie Smith tunes.
When all is said and done, Bromberg’s earnest liner notes combined with his always stellar playing — and the program’s nice range of covers and originals, all nicely remastered — paint a joyous picture of a guy who has always been a serious player but has never taken himself too seriously.