If Dan Bern didn’t exist, Jack Kerouac would have met him on the road and invented the character. Huddled over cheap scotch in some post-colonial hotel, the upper floors held up by long white planks and pretty windows that screech in complaint when pulled up, they shelter from the dark night drizzle, talking in slow, low voices. Dan tells Jack of the time he pranked an article he wrote claiming that Bob Dylan’s mother really penned all his songs. Bob was pissed, Bob took his revenge “Dan Bern is a scurrilous little wretch with a hard-on for comedy”. “Hey”, Jack said… “I’ve been called worse, I’ve called people worse, at least Bob Dylan spoke to you, you’ve got that” Bern is prolific, he’s prolific at writing, song writing and painting, this is his 26th album or EP release, did I mention he’s prolific? Where some would find chaos and disorder, others find adventure and imagination. ‘Regent Street’ is the latest addition to his collection, it’s an album that claps and beats its way into your head. I have no idea what his influences are, but I listen to ‘Theresa Brown’ and if Bern was British, we’d be talking about Ray Davies, and that’s a good thing on our scale of lyric writing. Maybe you like an album to be variations on a theme. Maybe you don’t like to be surprised, maybe you listen to an artist’s songs because they give you what you want and expect. Dan Bern isn’t offering that; he’s giving you a challenge. He’s going to take you in different directions, it might sometimes seem to be a Cul De Sac, but somewhere he’ll meet you, as the track ‘Not perfect’ suggests, “It’s not perfect, nothing ever is”. What works so well with this album is that is full of randomness, just when you think you’ve got a handle on Dan Bern, he goes and takes you off on his journey of thoughts. Sometimes it’s like trying to nail jelly to a wall, but there you still are, with hammer in hand, willing to give it a go. ‘America without the people’ departs from the often-whimsical writings of Bern, offering a discordant, dystopian view of his home country. The lyrical quality of this song is outstanding, despairing at cruel isolationism and the surrender of unity. It might be a depressing vision, but it’s one that deserves a hearing.
We’re never far away from poking fun though, not so much tongue in cheek as tongue piercing through the cheek and coming out the other side. ‘Dear Tiger Woods’ ponders on Wood’s father’s assertion that Tiger could become a greater humanitarian than Gandhi. It’s nonsense of course and Bern treats it with the sarcasm it deserves, but we shouldn’t ignore the musicianship that accompanies the track. What makes this whole album work is that for all the seemingly offhand lyrics and musings on subjects nobody else would probably consider worth writing about, it’s still the quality of the music that underpins everything. I can only describe this as eclectic, comedic, political, irreverent. If you put your albums in alphabetical order, you’re lucky, if you put them into genres, good luck with this one. “Maybe I’m the circus, rolling into town, grab your ticket find a seat, the curtains coming down”. ‘One Song’ is the final track, maybe Dan Bern is the circus, if he rolls into town, make sure you buy a ticket, find a seat, and watch the show.
“In an era of widespread vocal sweetness, Libby Koch has that rare blend of powerful real-life honesty in her vocals that lends instant depth and credibility to her songs.” – Melissa Clarke, Americana Highways
“Her music makes you want to persevere on the off chance that the new morning might yield an unexpected creation. Such moments may be fleeting, but there are none as rewarding.” – No Depression
“Koch plays country the way it is meant to be played, with emotion, musicianship, and earthy, clever songwriting.” – That Music Mag
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of her first album, Redemption, Americana singer-songwriter Libby Koch is releasing a full band, track-for-track reimagining of the original solo acoustic recording. Redemption 10: Live at Blue Rock will be released by Berkalin Records on October 18, 2019.
The format of this record was an experiment for Koch. Recording her 2016 album Just Move On on Music Row in Nashville hooked Libby on the energy of making a record with a band playing the songs together, recording live in the studio. She wondered what it might be like to add a live studio audience to the equation – to let fans be part of the experience as well. Koch found the perfect location for this endeavor at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberley, Texas. Blue Rock is a state of the art studio and performance space in the Texas Hill Country that has the capability to film and broadcast live performances while providing an intimate experience for the audience and capturing pristine audio of the performance.
With the location set, Libby enlisted her friend Patterson Barrett (Buddy Miller, Jerry Jeff Walker, Nanci Griffith) to co-produce the project and assemble an all-star band of Austin musicians to record Redemption 10 in front of a live studio audience at Blue Rock. Tickets quickly sold out. Libby and the band played the album straight through once and then played a second take of a couple of songs, but in the end they decided that the flow and the feeling of the first takes were the ones that needed to be on the record. It was a magical evening.
While not a traditional live album, the atmosphere and the feedback from the crowd absolutely fed the band and shaped the experience that was caught on tape. Koch and her band sound relaxed and in an energized zone that only a live setting can provide, but at the same time they have the tight knit sound of an experienced studio band. In the end the experiment was a resounding success. The record shows a Libby Koch that her fans have loved for a decade now and presented these tracks in a fuller more realized way. If Redemption 10 is your introduction to Koch, you are in for major musical treat.
The band of Austin all-stars included lead guitarist Bill Browder (Denim, Steve Fromholz), drummer Eddie Cantu (Bruce Robison, Maren Morris), violinist Javier Chaparro (Austin Symphony, John Denver), and Glenn Schuetz (Jimmy LaFave). Libby played acoustic guitar, harmonica, and sang lead vocals, while Patterson Barrett rounded out the sound of the record by providing pedal steel, piano, organ, mandolin, and harmony vocals.
When asked about the inspiration behind the project Koch says:
“Ten years ago, when I recorded Redemption, I was a young attorney at a big law firm in Houston. At the time, I thought this was probably the only record I would ever make, and I certainly didn’t anticipate I would ever have a career in music. Once I self-released the album and started playing shows and selling copies of the CD in Houston, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was building a career in music! Ten years later, I’ve put out a few more records (Redemption 10 will be the sixth), and I’ve played hundreds of shows across the US and Europe. It’s been an incredible adventure, and I’m most thankful for all the great friendships I’ve made with musicians and music lovers across the globe. Revisiting my first album feels like a fun and fitting celebration of the music and memories I’ve made over the past decade.”
1. Houston: I wrote this song the day after I graduated from law school in Nashville. The movers had come and gone, and the house was empty. I was leaving for my new job and new life in Houston the following morning, but before I left, this song had to be written. At the time, I thought I was saying goodbye to a guy, but upon reflection I now see that I was closing one chapter and starting another.
2. Just the Way: This song is about the somewhat cyclical nature of “dating” (I don’t think the kids call it that anymore). It was written in a time when I was perpetually single and not particularly good at keeping it casual! This has been one of the most fun songs from Redemption to revamp and play live, both for the band and the folks on the dance floor.
3. Can’t Complain: Writing this song was an attempt to gain a little perspective after a breakup and remind myself that, at the end of the day, I was going to be okay. In true Texas style, I was raised to dust myself off and get back on the horse after you fall out of the saddle, and this song is part of that tradition.
4. Stay With Me: I wrote this song in law school. When I played it for my roommate, she said “oh my god, that’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard.” Little did she know, I was just getting started!
5. Redemption: One of the most interesting elements of this project has been revisiting the songs to see if they’ve changed, I’ve changed, or both! This is one of the songs that has grown in meaning and depth for me, as it was written for someone who I now know never really loved me back. Now I sing it for someone who really deserves these words.
6. How Long: This record definitely intertwines spiritual themes into love songs…How Long is a great example of that. I based this song on the text of Psalm 40, with lines of each verse and the chorus tracking the Psalm: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of a slimy pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand”
7. Down: This is probably the song that changed the most from the original version. I always heard this song in my head as a honky tonk number, but Patterson said “what if we make it a rocker?” Once the band kicked into gear on this groove it was clear that it was meant to be. We had THE most fun with this song!
8. Don’t Give Up On Me: This is a spiritual song that I wrote in high school. I got my start playing guitar in my church’s youth group and the Young Life band, so a lot of my early songs were written from a spiritual angle. At such a young age it was easier for me to write those spiritual songs than it was to write something personal about someone else…I was so afraid people would figure out the songs were about them!
9. Ready Now: This is another song I wrote when I was young that started out as a spiritual song, but ended up being a love song. It’s also one of the songs that has changed for me in the past decade since I recorded the original version. Now I see this song as a readiness to dive in headfirst to life and love to see what happens (spoiler: good things usually happen when you do that).
10. I Still Miss Someone: I decided to close the album with one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, I Still Miss Someone. The original Redemption version was just me, my harmonica, and my guitar…a really intimate version of the song. This live version ended up being a little more lively and faster than we anticipated, but I think we were all having such a great time and in a nice groove that it turned out the way it did. I love both versions and am so happy with how this entire project turned out.
Houston Tx (September 17 2019) – Chris Gardner’s “Hangin’ On The Line” album continues to rise on the charts. Now in its 15th week the eleven song compilation finds the top ten by rising to number 9 on Roots Music Report’s Americana chart. (see above) When asked for a remark on how it feels Chris had this to say, “I wrote these songs and then began working with Andy Bradley at Wire Road Studios. Andy surrounded me with world class session musicians and as we progressed through the recordings we realized we might have something rather special. Once it was mixed completed it was ready for Bill Wence to release it to the stations. Talk about being excited and anxious all at one time. Then it began to rise up the charts while John in Houston was continuing to let the stations and the publications know it was out there. Now to think that “Hangin’ On The Line” is in the top ten with Rodney Crowell, Chris Stapleton, and the other greats in that category well that is just something else.” “Hangin’ On The Line” Musicians include: On piano Paul English, bass Rankin Peters, Drums Tyson Sheth, Guitar Wayne Turner, Guitar David Gellego, On steel Brian Thomas, fiddle Hilary Sloan, background vocals Tommie Lee Bradley.
KPFT Show hosts invite
Chris to share his story
Chris visits with KPFT’s Tom Tranchilla and co-host Eric of The Songwriter’s Studio. The ever popular Tom Tranchilla show is the listener’s choice on late Sunday afternoons in southeast Texas. The mic was hot, the stories interesting, and the humor poured across the air waves. “These are two great guys, great questions and we did indeed have fun.”
Videographer Tan Truong (West Side Recording) Shoots
Complete Video Music Library of “Hangin’ On The Line”
The audio recording sessions were over and Chris wanted to do something a little bit different with the release of his new upcoming album “Hangin’ On The Line”. So he decided to call professional videographer Tan Truong and inquire about the possibility of shooting a complete album from beginning to end in front of a live studio audience. Tan liked the idea, added some thought to the project, and a date was set to shoot it at Wire Road Studios in Houston. There on a Sunday afternoon with Andy Bradley at the helm the musicians came in, tuned up, and then something really cool was about to take place. It was decided that the video would be shot without stopping. All eleven songs would be shot just in the order as they are on the album in front of the live audience. The countdown began and these masters of recording sessions were absolutely flawless. From the beginning to the end it came down just like the old days of analog sessions. You go for it in one take. Now Chris is releasing one track at a time and soon the complete audio collection of “Hangin’ On The Line” will be a music video collection as well. Below is the second track from the album, just released this week.
“Chris Gardner from Houston Texas
is a great Americana singer. So be looking for Chris’s new album on Hank’s Americana Radio” – Hank
Just click on the arrow below to see the live action that took place at Wire Road
Chris Joins Music Talk Show Host Allen Weissman in Chicago Illinois on “In A Nutshell”
Shot at Comcast Studios last month and due to be streamed to over a million viewers later this month the shoot was something else. Show host Allen Weissman shares, “Chris is a true gentleman my wife and I enjoyed both the green room and on set visits.”
“Modern, indie, super-cool sounds abound in ‘The Dream & The Dreamer’, produced by Price.” – NPR Music
“Ivey cooks up a gentle country rhythm featuring fingerstyle acoustic guitar, woozy Dobro licks, and electric guitar accents, evoking Mutations-era Beck” – Rolling Stone
“Margo Price captures her husband’s vibe perfectly, keeping the sound open, airy and enticing. And who better to help steer Ivey’s first solo set than the person who knows him best?” – American Songwriter
“There is a substantial portion of [Nashville]’s underground that’s enamored more with Warren Zevon than, say, George Jones. I can see that in Ivey, but I see a whole lot more. His music is grounded in the best the ’70s had to offer, introspective country-rock with a dash of psychedelia that he first explored in the band Buffalo Clover.” – No Depression
Nashville-based storyteller Jeremy Ivey has released his debut album The Dream and the Dreamer today; Listen to the title track HERE. Ivey has operated in the background for years, initially performing in bands like Secret Handshake and country-soul group Buffalo Clover with his wife, celebrated country-rock luminary Margo Price. But now, at 40, Ivey is ready to take a much-deserved step into the spotlight. Ivey recently sat down with Rolling Stone to chat about his early 40’s ambitions, being adopted and recently listening to Springsteen’s Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. for the first time. Read that interview HERE.
“I want to prove that you can be in your 40s and be at the peak of your creativity,” he says. “Not a has-been, but as an ‘is-being.’” Recorded in a “little bitty house studio” in Nashville and produced by Price, the nine-song album hosts a collection of homespun, deeply introspective tracks. Ivey, who writes prolifically and ideally wants to release an album a year, cites everyone from the Beatles to Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan as influences.
“I wrote The Dream and the Dreamer in my sleep,” comments Ivey. “[Margo and I] were in Mexico. We both passed out kind of early and I woke up in the night and I had this dream about these two characters. One of them was a glowing green ball and the other one was a figure. The dream is a green ball and a figure was the dreamer… And then it turned out that it was a story is about America, and that the dream was the American dream. The dreamer was the exodus from England to find a new place.”
Meanwhile, Ivey is invested in his own version of the American Dream—specifically, offering up a melting pot of genres, ideas, and stories. “The best thing I could say is that I’m trying to fill the holes that I can see in the scene,” he says. “Whether it be Americana or country or rock or whatever. There’s a certain type of song that isn’t being written.”
Yes it is the same Mary different hair colour but just as mean.
Cold is the newest and most intimate release to date from award-winning musician/writer, Mean Mary (Mary James). The moody, almost gothic, lyrics and dark melodies take the listener through the colder seasons of the year and of the heart. Produced by Mary James, the album features all original songs with some lyrics taken straight from her journal entries.
As usual on a Mean Mary project, Mary provides the bulk of vocals and instrumentation to the songs but her family is always there as the unsung heroes. Brother, Frank James, adds his unusual guitar style and harmonies to 4 of the tracks, and Mother (award-winning writer, Jean James) is the co-writer that blends her own brand of lyrics so seamlessly with her daughter’s.
Not a pair to stay on the couch, The Rightly So have been touring relentlessly, living on the road, and in fact, that lifestyle and new perspective has become inspiration for this new release.
“We’ve spent the last year and a half living out of our homemade RV built inside an old Verizon work truck, traveling over 40,000 miles and playing shows in over 20 states. “Vandura” is the culmination of 18 months of adventures, a collection of stories we’ve watched unfold and all of the places we’ve been. Living on the road has given us an entirely new perspective that has permeated this album to its core. It’s a layered look into the many facets of what it’s like to travel the back roads of America in an old van for a living, and our love for this new lifestyle that we’ve embraced is a constant theme.”
Press Quotes “The Rightly So have it going on! “Blackberry Brandy” and “Crash This Car” are worth the price of admission. And really, there isn’t a mediocre song on the album, which is full of good melodies and superb vocal harmonies.” -The Huffington Post
“There’s music and then there’s music; sounds that make your day better, soundtracks that turn to life changing records and the artists that make those soundtracks, are the epitome of vulnerable beauty. The Rightly So, are the definitive of that greatness; and their latest self-titled release proves it instantly.” -No Depression
“Whether it’s the absolutely remarkable vocal capabilities of Jess Chizuk and Greg Zeis of New York duo, The Rightly So, that reel you in or their award-winning songwriting excellence, there is a harmony between the two that is electric and deeply in tune.” -Tattoo.com
– 100+ shows each year for the last 5 years
– 1.5 years of full time national touring
– Opening slots for Howie Day, Dylan Jakobsen, Davina and the Vagabonds, Sean Patrick McGraw, Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers, Cory Branan, and the Vandoliers
– Features in The Huffington Post, No Depression Magazine, and NPR affiliates in Amarillo (TX) and Grand Junction (CO), and Knoxville’s WDVX Blue Plate Special.
Release Info Artist Name: The Rightly So Location: Buffalo, NY Release Name: Vandura Release Date: Sep 06, 2019 Label: Independent Producer: N/a Track List:
1. Black and Blue
2. You Can Bet On Me
3. Honest Kind of Peace
4. Ball and Chain
5. All These Things
6. Dying Day
7. Devil’s Work
8. Nothing But The Weather
9. Good Luck and Godspeed
10. The Lucky Ones
11. Not Coming Home Musicians:
Jess Chizuk: Vocals and Guitar
Greg Zeis: Vocals and Guitar Styles: Americana, Modern Folk, Alt Country Similar To: Brandi Carlile, The Lumineers, Jason Isbell
Born in the heart of the Buffalo rust belt, The Rightly So brings a vibrant energy to Americana music. The young acoustic duo is comprised of esteemed guitarist and performer Gregory Zeis, and award-winning singer/songwriter Jess Chizuk. Likened to The Milk Carton Kids and The Secret Sisters, The Rightly So has developed a unique style of captivating acoustic music carried by perfectly blended harmonies by voices that have been described as “electric and deeply in tune.”
Combined, Jess and Greg have nearly 20 years of performing experience while still in their early 20’s themselves. The duo has played 100+ shows each year for the last 4 years and orchestrated three nationwide tours. They have performed with Howie Day, Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers, Sean Patrick McGraw, Dylan Jakobsen, and Davina and the Vagabonds, and have been featured in The Huffington Post, No Depression Magazine, and NPR affiliates in Amarillo (TX) and Grand Junction (CO). The Rightly So’s music combines the nostalgia of classic, down-home Americana with the sounds of contemporary folk. Their self-titled album provides an honest look into what a live performance from this duo is like; two guitars, two voices and a batch of well-crafted songs, full of vibrant energy and chemistry without losing any musical integrity. Their tasteful guitar riffs, singable melodies and storytelling lyrics have won them a number of accolades and awards alike.
“We are willing to bet that these two are going to be standing tall along the likes of the Milk Carton Kids and Secret Sisters more than their efforts would ever be considered bunk,” writes Jonathan Fram of For Folk’s Sake. “The Rightly So sound like successes with their strummy and sweet instrumental delivery melded together by the utter beacon that is their tantalizing harmonies.”
Their self-titled debut album was released to much acclaim in July of 2017: the project combines new renditions of old songs from past projects as well as plenty of brand new collaboration pieces. With a new album set to release in the summer of 2019 and their full-time touring schedule showing no sign of slowing down, it’s evident that The Rightly So is at their best when they are together, and that things are only just getting started.
“When I listen to a Susan Gibson song, I know she is sharing a piece if her heart and soul with me. Susan writes about true stories in her life. She writes with courage puts forth her message with powerful and heartfelt guitar and vocals. It only takes a few lines of her recorded songs for me to recognize that “Susan Sound”
Her new record has that for sure. Enjoy…..”
-Lloyd Maines- Music producer and musician.
Wimberley, TX. Take it from Susan Gibson: “Nothing lifts a heavy heart like some elbow grease and a funny bone.” That’s the conclusion that the award-winning singer-songwriter reaches on the title track to her long-awaited new album, The Hard Stuff (due out Oct. 4 on Gibson’s own For the Records), and it may be the best bit of practical advice that she’s put to music since, well … “Check the oil.”
That “oil” line, a father’s reminder to a young daughter heading out on her own in pursuit of “Wide Open Spaces,” has been sung along to by millions of fans around the world ever since the Dixie Chicks recorded Gibson’s song as the title track to their major-label debut back in 1998. It became one of the biggest songs in modern country music history, but Gibson wasn’t aiming for a “hit” when she wrote it some 28 years ago. She was fresh out of college and had yet to officially embark on her professional music career, let alone to have figured out the basics of what she calls the “craft part” of songwriting. All she had to work with at the time, sitting at her parents’ kitchen table in Amarillo, Texas, and wanting to tell “an honest story with some universal truths,” was “sincerity and instinct.”
Three decades, thousands of miles and countless songs and performances (both as a member of the ’90s Americana group the Groobees and as a successful solo act) down the road, Gibson is now recognized by fans, critics, and peers alike as a master troubadour who very much has the “craft part” of her art down cold. But check under the hood of The Hard Stuff, and it’s clear her songwriting engine still runs on pure emotional honesty. The only difference, really, is the mileage: Instead of reflecting the carefree exuberance of youth, these are the songs of a life-wizened, full-grown woman whose indomitable spirit springs not from untested naivety, but from hardened and tempered choice.
The Hard Stuff is Gibson’s seventh release as a solo artist and her first full-length album since 2011’s Tight Rope. Much like the stop-gap EP that preceded it, 2016’s Remember Who You Are, it’s a record deeply rooted in grief, as Gibson wrote many of the songs while in the midst of coming to terms with the death of first one parent and then the other in the span of four years, a time during which she admits her career became far less of a priority to her than her family. But it was that very period of slowing down for emotional recalibration that ultimately pulled her out of the dark and back into the light, resulting in the most life-affirming and musically adventurous recording of her career.
Producer Andres Moran (of the Belle Sounds) had a lot to do with helping Gibson expand her horizons at Austin’s Congress House Studio. “I’m a fan of the Belle Sounds, but Andres was a bit of an unknown to me to going into this, and I didn’t really know what he was going to do,” Gibson admits. “But I liked what I did know about him. The thing is, I’ve actually never used the same producer twice, which I think sometimes makes it hard for me to measure my growth or compare one album to the rest and go, ‘Was that forward or backwards?’ But for this one, I knew that I definitely wanted to stretch a bit more than usual. I’ve been very inspired lately by my friend Jana Pochop, who’s a brave writer and just the most unassuming pop star you could ever meet, but also a really good study in how to trust a collaborator enough to let them do their thing, instead of just what you might want them to do. She’s been getting some really good stuff that way, just by not putting limitations on herself in the studio or being tied to her acoustic guitar.”
Moran took Gibson’s “no limits” directive and ran with it. Although still unmistakably a Susan Gibson album, with her warm, friendly rasp of a voice front and center in the mix and an abundance of buoyant melodies brightening even the darkest corners (with a special assist from her beloved banjo on the bittersweet closer, “8×10”), the arrangements throughout The Hard Stuff are full of surprises. Rife with bursts of pop elan, splashes of funk (horns!), and even flirty hints of jazz, it’s a bright, technicolor palette delightfully unfettered by the constraints of her usually solo acoustic live shows. But far from seeming even remotely out of her element, Gibson embraces it all with arms and heart wide open, delivering her most spirited performances on record to date , and 10 of the best songs of her career, each one illuminated by her refreshingly clear-eyed perspectives on life, love, work, and yes, true to album’s title, even death.
Which brings us back to that line about nothing lifting a heavy heart like “some elbow grease and a funny bone”: the key point being, it takes both. And of course, a little time helps, too.
“I feel like Remember Who You Are came out of a lot of really raw and immediate, direct grief,” she says, recalling the EP she made not long after her mother’s death and her focus at the time on “the ache of loss and the balm of letting go.” A lot of that ache lingers still on The Hard Stuff, compounded of course by the loss of a second parent, but the sense of healing is palpable. But the difference with this batch of songs is, they’re not scabs anymore they’re starting to become scars: scars that you can talk about and tell stories about, and even find humor in. I don’t think it’s a particularly ‘humorous’ record, but I do feel like the common thread in a lot of the songs is me trying to not take myself so seriously.”
To wit, in the title track, inspired by conversations with her concerned older sister (and an old John Wayne quote from the movie The Sands of Iwo Jima), Gibson reminds herself that, “if you’re gonna be stupid, you better be tough,” while in “The Big Game,” she baits a light-hearted account of frustrated desire with the winking tease, “Why you gotta make it so hard / for me to be easy?”
A little bit of that kind of playfulness goes a long way; but its the elbow grease and hard-earned experience that ultimately does the heaviest lifting. In the opening “Imaginary Lines,” co-written with her aforementioned friend Jana Pochop, Gibson shifts seamlessly from a country mouse in the big city anecdote (and an account of a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a contract-waving industry business suit) to an exhilarating chorus reaffirming her commitment to the independent music back roads less traveled but traveled hard and with a joyous sense of purpose. The extended metaphors in “Diagnostic Heart” and “Hurricane” hit like brutally honest, tough-love therapy sessions, and the achingly beautiful “Wildflowers in the Weeds” ,ostensibly written for her friend and fellow independent Texas songwriter, Terri Hendrix, but by Gibson’s candid admission just as much about herself is a portrait of courage and resilience painted in rich hues of empathy and bittersweet truth. And even when Gibson gets around to directly singing about how much she misses her mother (in “8×10”), or about the heartbreak of watching her elderly father struggle just to keep up in the world as a widower in the final years of his own life, her sadness is counterbalanced with equal measures of deeply felt gratitude for the memories she shared with them and the wisdom she learned from them. As she sings in “Antiques,” “Getting older ain’t for the weak / it only happens to the strongest ones.”
That’s the kind of “hard stuff” that The Hard Stuff is really about. Not the kind that breaks, but the kind that endures.
1. Imaginary Lines (4:12)
2. Antiques (4:07)
3. The Hard Stuff (3:48)
4. Lookin’ For A Fight (3:19)
5. The Big Game (3:41)
6. Diagnostic Heart (4:06)
7. 2 Fake IDs (4:21)
8. Hurricane (3:52)
9. Wildflowers In The Weeds (3:35)
10. 8 X 10 (4:05)
All FCC Clean
Focus Tracks : 1, 3, 8, 9
All Songs by Susan Gibson except:
“Imaginary Lines” – Susan Gibson, Jana Pochop, Michael Scwartz
“Helene Cronin can flat out spin a lyric. Her ability to crawl within a subject and pull a story or emotion out the other end is what makes her a brilliant songwriter. Those writing chops delivered with those earthy vocals have made her one of the best artists I’ve heard in a long time.”
– Terri Hendrix, Songwriter
“I like songs that tell the truth. Helene Cronin’s songs do just that. Helene delivers her songs with sheer soul. She invites you into her world and it’s a great listen.”
– Lloyd Maines, Producer and Musician
“Helene is a master of words who writes and sings straight from the heart. Each song is a handcrafted mini-movie.”
– Zane Williams, Artist
Helene Cronin spent over 15 years performing and songwriting — often for other people — before she awakened to the idea that she needed to follow her muse and start making records that more accurately represent the songs coming from her own heart. Following 2 recent EPs, Old Ghosts & Lost Causes is her first full length offering, although Cronin is a seasoned player. Produced by Matt King and featuring Kenny Vaughan, Byron House and others, the album serves up Cronin’s phenomenal songwriting in a sonic landscape that runs the gamut of the label Americana with hard driving guitar and thoughtful, top shelf musicianship.
The crux of it all is the lyrical mastery and vocal delivery that made Cronin a New Folk winner at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival in 2018. Starting off the album is the first single, “Careless With a Heart”, a reflective song that considers how we treat the fragile but resilient human heart. Following that is the blues-infused “Mean Bone”, a co-write with her novelist daughter, Alex, which examines the idea: what if someone did in fact have a “mean bone in his body” contrary to the popular use of that expression? From that song about the darker side of humanity, Cronin flows into what she calls a centerpiece of the album, the uplifting “Humankind” which celebrates people’s inherent desire to care for others. Later in “Riding The Gray Line”, she turns her attention to a host of characters riding a Greyhound bus and weaves their stories over an acoustic-based bed. To close out the record Helene returns fully to her folk roots with “Ghost”, a six minute ballad, recounting from his perspective the story of a dead husband, performed completely solo long after the band had finished their work in the studio.
Overall, Old Ghosts & Lost Causes is the perfect vehicle for the precision of Helene Cronin”s songs. It showcases her versatility as a writer and performer while maintaining a cohesive overall feeling. In a world obsessed with singles and rushing to the next thing, Old Ghosts will grab ahold of you and demand that you sit and give it the attention a proper album deserves.
Helene Cronin: vocals, background vocals, guitar Bobby Terry: acoustic and steel guitar, mandolin Byron House: bass Chad Cromwell: drums Kenny Vaughan: electric guitar Heidi Newfield: harmonica, background vocals Matt King: background vocals
Produced by Matt King Engineered & mixed by Mitch Dane
Where do beach balls turn when they’re feeling deflated? Alcohol? Sex? Adventure?
Cinematic rock group, The Grahams (Alyssa & Doug), tackle this question and more with their brand new video for “Just What You Deserve,” the first single off their upcoming record KIDS LIKE US (set for release in early 2020 via3 Sirens Music Group/RED MUSIC/The Orchard). The video follows the rocky relationship of two beach balls, focusing on one’s journey out of their toxic partnership, as well as the self-discovery that strengthens a beach ball from the inside out. While admittedly beach ball-centric, the video’s sentiment, alongside the track’s balmy, graceful, and anthemic brand of dream pop, demonstrates a universal human story of love, loss, grief, and ultimately hope.
“Did you ever deny a love so fiercely that it’s a definitive affirmation?” asks one half of the duo, Alyssa Graham. “This is a song that reveals its own deception. We worked with our longtime co-writer Bryan McCann (BMC) and pieced together this dark love story that all of us know all too well. Deception of self and denial of passion.
Katie Knipp is equipped with powerful vocals and plays a variety of instruments from boogie woogie piano to slide guitar, to honest harmonica laden stories in between. She has opened for Robert Cray, Joan Osborne, Jimmie Vaughan, Jon Cleary, The Doobie Brothers, Tim Reynolds, The James Hunter Six, and more. #10 on Blues Albums Billboard and 2019 SAMMIE award winner for best blues artist.
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Mary Gauthier - Rifles & Rosary Beads
Sep 08, 2019
Co-written with U.S. veterans and their families, the eleven deeply personal songs on this album reveal the untold stories, and powerful struggles that these veterans and their spouses deal with abroad and after returning home.
_"You’ll be hard-pressed to hear a more powerfully moving work than Rifles & Rosary Beads this year — or any other.”
Last year we saw the release of Jim Allchin’s Decisions album which garnered good critical review for it’s great songs and musicianship. Allchin returned to the studio this past Spring to once again collaborate with Tom Hambridge and his team. Hambridge has produced Grammy winners before and to make things even sweeter he and Allchin invited Mike Zito, Bobby Rush and The Memphis Horns to join them on this production.
The output of all that is 14 new songs, 3 penned by Allchin alone and the other 11 were collaborations between Allchin, Hambridge and a couple of other folks here and there. In addition to Allchin on vocals and guitar are Bob Britt, Kenny Greenberg and Rob McNelley on rhythm guitar, Hambridge on drums, Kevin McKendree on keys, Glenn Worf on bass, Mycle Wastman on backing vocals and the aforementioned guest musicians.
Peter Rowan has paid his dues, spending more than 50 years in and around bluegrass, sharing the stage with everyone from Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia. Now, he’s paying tribute.
His new CD on Rebel Records is called Carter Stanley’s Eyes. But the title cut isn’t the only nod to the man many consider the best lead singer in bluegrass. Cut after cut, including two written by Carter, two written by his brother Ralph, and one by Monroe, the songs conjure up memories of the artist who left us far too soon, in 1966.
But the title cut, one of three songs on the CD written by Rowan, seals the deal. The Light in Carter Stanley’s Eyes recounts the day in 1965 when Monroe and Rowan — a member of the Blue Grass Boys who wasn’t yet old enough to vote — visited Carter near the end of his tragically shortened life.
The song includes a spoken part, in which Rowan recalls Monroe telling Stanley that he had been one of his favorite Blue Grass Boys, and his favorite lead singer. It also recounts Stanley asking Rowan if he was “going to stick with it,” which Rowan answered affirmatively. Given that more than half a century has passed between the question and this new project, Rowan clearly kept his end of the bargain.
The song, with it’s built-in oral history of an important moment in bluegrass history, will help make Carter Stanley relevant to new generations of pickers. And it should add momentum to the push to add Carter and Ralph to the Country Music Hall of Fame, an oversight that frankly should have been corrected long ago.
Buddy Guy stands as one of the last true traditional blues legends of his time; an era that predated the rock ‘n’ roll explosion of the mid-1960s. Few remain, and even fewer are still releasing albums that remind us as to why they have enjoyed such a lengthy and illustrious career. The Blues Is Alive And Well is very much one of those albums. As a follow-up to his 2015 release, Born To Play Guitar, and his eighteenth solo studio album, The Blues Is Alive And Well features collaborations with Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger, and is certainly one of the best blues records to be released this year.
Becky’s body of work is already vast and impressive, as a songwriter and as artist, and she has the awards and accolades to back it up. But, as Crepe Paper Heart demonstrates, she’s not about to rest on her laurels.
From the opening notes of Another Love Gone Wrong to the closing of Phoenix Arise, the 12 songs will take you on an emotional roller coaster of thrills, tears, longing and loss. The stories are compelling, as her songs tend to be. And the performances are top drawer. Again, that’s no surprise if you’ve followed her on stage and on record. With the collective strength of her band and an all-star lineup of guests, anything less would be shocking.
Heartbreak is never any fun, but it sure seems to be good fuel for the creative process. Nicki Bluhm first found an audience for her rich, smoky voice while making music with her husband Tim Bluhm, who produced her early albums and co-founded their band, the Gramblers. But in November 2015, the Bluhms revealed they were getting a divorce, and their creative partnership ended along with their marriage. Splitting up was clearly not a pleasant experience for Nicki, and she lays out all her hurt and disappointment on her 2018 album, To Rise You Gotta Fall. This is a breakup album if there ever were such a thing, but Bluhm doesn't sound like the experience has weakened her. There are bittersweet moments in "Staring at the Sun" and "Last to Know" where Bluhm reveals her emotional wounds, but more often she sounds clear-eyed in her postmortem of her relationship ("Something Really Mean") or defiant as she moves past the wreckage ("Can't Fool the Fool" and "Things I've Done"). Musically, To Rise You Gotta Fall is steeped in vintage R&B and soul with a dash of country for seasoning, and the bluesy angles of the music are a perfect match for Bluhm's ruminations on a love that used to be. The album was cut in Memphis at the legendary Sam Phillips Recording Studio, and producer Matt Ross-Spang has put together a band that can evoke the sounds of R&B past without sounding dated or falsely nostalgic. And To Rise You Gotta Fall features some of Bluhm's finest vocal work, filled with passion and nuance at the same time, and for all the powerful emotions in play here, she doesn't overplay, and the focus and restraint only make this music more intense. Hopefully Nicki Bluhm won't have to get dumped again for her to make an album this good, but at least she found a way to put her broken heart to good use, and To Rise You Gotta Fall ranks with her best music to date.
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Kinky Friedman - Circus of Life
Sep 08, 2019
Before he was a novelist, and before he ran for governor of the state of Texas, Kinky Friedman was known as a musician. Proof of that can be found in his first new album in close to four decades, Circus of Life, being released on his own Echo Hill label.
As the lead singer of Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys he was responsible for such country classics as “Asshole from El Paso” and “They Don’t Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore”. The band also hold the distinction of being one of the few who were filmed for the famed TV show Austin City Limits but whose segment was never aired. (It is available on DVD if you look hard enough).
While Kinky has mellowed somewhat since those halcyon days, only “Little Jewford” Shelby (piano) still rides with him, and his songs aren’t as in your face as they used to be, none of that impacts on the quality of the material you’ll find on this album. For while the twelve songs on the disc only add up to just over 35 minutes of music, their substance can’t be measured by how much time they take up.
A new album from John Prine is always reason to celebrate, but an album in which he wrote or co-wrote all the songs is an even bigger reason to rejoice. The Tree of Forgiveness is the first album since 2005’s Fair & Square where Prine has written the songs. He has issued albums since then, but like Bob Dylan, they have been albums of cover versions, but this album is Prine and, I would argue, Prine at his best.
Prine co-writes with old friends and longtime collaborators on this album. He even wrote a song with Phil Spector — he started writing the song, “God Only Knows”, decades ago. Pat McLaughlin, Roger Cook, and Keith Sykes have worked with Prine in the past. He has made some new friends too in Dan Auerbach, who co-wrote the brilliant “Caravan of Fools”, and Brandi Carlile, who duets with Prine on the beautiful “I Have Met My Love Today”.
When Nashville-based singer/songwriter/producer Tom Hambridge decided to pay tribute to the city of New Orleans with this CD, he had no trouble recruiting several of the biggest names in Big Easy music – including Ivan Neville, Sonny Landreth and the late Allen Toussaint — to help him. But that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s aware of the rich legacy he’s already created in the worlds of blues, country and rock.
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., who graduated from Berklee College Of Music and spent three years on the road as the percussionist for guitar legend Roy Buchanan, Hambridge has earned Grammys as a producer of Buddy Guy’s Living Proof and Born To Play Guitar albums as well as more nominations for his collaboration with a who’s who of entertainers, including Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Van Morrison, Johnny Winter, Gregg Allman, Kid Rock, George Thorogood, Susan Tedeschi and many others.
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Mark Knopfler - Down the Road Wherever
Sep 08, 2019
Mark Knopfler’s ninth solo studio album ‘Down The Road Wherever’ features unhurriedly elegant new songs inspired by a wide range of subjects, including his early days in Deptford with Dire Straits, a stray football fan lost in a strange town, and the compulsion of a musician hitching home through the snow. Mark has a poet’s eye for telling details that infuse his songs with his unique psychogeography – ‘where the Delta meets the Tyne’ as he describes it – and his warm Geordie vocal tone and his deft, richly melodic guitar playing are as breathtaking and thrilling as ever.
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JP Harris - Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
Sep 08, 2019
JP Harris doesn’t fancy himself a musician as much as a carpenter who writes country songs. With his forthcoming album, Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing (out October 5 on Free Dirt Records), Harris is back after a four-year hiatus to remind us what it's like to actually live the stories we hear so often in country music. Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Harris left home at 14 and traveled the country hopping freight trains, working the odd job, and living without electricity or running water for over a decade. For this record, his third full-length, he tapped a handful of his favorite players and called on the production prowess of Morgan Jahnig (Old Crow Medicine Show) to capture the stories of his stranger-than-fiction life. Dripping with pedal steel and telecaster twang, the record has the rugged edges of outlaw, the danceability of honky tonk, and classic country's beloved emotional candor. After more than a decade in the trenches, Harris is more in love with country music than ever. If he hasn't already, his latest effort will make you a believer.
Steve Forbert’s new album ‘Magic Tree,’ recorded in Meridian (his birthplace in Mississippi), Nashville, New York, New Jersey and Virginia, is a collection of his own songs and the music loses nothing in its quality of production despite the country wide recording venues. Throughout the album his folk roots shine clear, as does his song writing ability honed over his forty years in the music industry.
It might be naive to think you can detect authentic music without being familiar with the particular genre. Paul Thorn’s Don’t Let the Devil Ride, is an incredible gospel and gospel-influenced album that sounds like the real deal: From its production, which sounds like it was recorded inside an old hot wooden church stuffed full of sinning parishioners, to the songs, which make the listener feel like they’ve stumbled into perhaps the South’s most exciting church service. It’s all the more amazing given that Thorn isn’t a gospel artist.
The album kills because it’s intense without being noodle-y. Every song sounds like great musicians trying–somewhat unsuccessfully–to hide just how talented they are. As is often the case with gospel, much of this comes from the organ, which propels many of the songs here. The album kicks off with “Come On Let’s Go,” which is propelled by that organ, as mentioned earlier. An infectious hand-clap keeps the beat, with horns popping in and out of gospel-tinged background vocals. The song builds to a manic climax before collapsing into a swirl of organ. Truthfully, if Thorn had ended the album on that first song, everyone would have felt like they got their money’s worth.
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Sugarcane Jane - Southern State of Mind
Sep 08, 2019
Sugarcane Jane, the Alabama Gulf Coast-based husband and wife duo of Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee have recorded Southern State Of Mind with producer Buzz Cason. The recording starts off with a rousing "Cabin On The Hill", already a favorite with Sugarcane Jane fans. It is followed by "Campfire", the first single. The thought-provoking, fresh and exciting "Man Of Fewest Words" precedes the title track, "Southern State Of Mind", the tale of the joys of Southern living. "Destiny", a raw rocker, is foreshadowed by the inspirational "Rainbow". "Red Flags Warning", a true gem from the pen of Anthony Crawford is cut #7. Savana Lee is featured beautifully on "The One Before Me". "How Do You Know" and "We Can Dream" wrap up this eclectic collection of songs from the duo.
Brooklyn based but with a somewhat nomadic background, Ana Egge is one of those songwriters who seem to hover around the edge of the mainstream. She gets great reviews but she’s certainly not a household name even in the most dedicated of Americana infested households. Her album with The Stray Birds, ‘Bright Shadow’, did cause a bit of a buzz, perhaps down to that trio’s reputation but we can safely say here that ‘White Tiger’ is a much more multi faceted affair than the folky infused ‘Bright Shadow’, bursting as it is with imaginative arrangements adorned with horns and synths.
Tas Cru’s bio begins like this, “Raucous, rowdy, gentle, sweet, eccentric, quirky, and outright irreverent are all words that fittingly describe Tas Cru’s songs and testify to his reputation as a one of the most unique of bluesmen plying his trade today. ”
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Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Downey To Lubbock
Sep 08, 2019
DOWNEY TO LUBBOCK was born by immaculate inspiration from live shows Grammy winner Dave Alvin and Grammy nominee Jimmie Dale Gilmore performed together in 2017. Just the two of them were swapping songs and cutting up, each with a guitar and a heart full of soul, musicians who’ve been on the road their entire adult lives. The result is an album of blues, rock and folk inspired tunes that both of their fans will enjoy.
The album contains 12 songs - 10 covers and two originals - and is destined to be a classic Americana album from two Americana legends.
Joyann Parker brings a full range of talent to her performances as an accomplished singer, pianist, songwriter must-hear lead guitarist, currently endorsed by Heritage Guitars in Kalamazoo, MI. She has performed for thousands at major venues and festivals across the country.
For one so young (he was born in 1988), Travis Bowlin has already achieved a hell of a lot. Not only can he play the guitar, he can make them too! At first he made cigar box guitars for his own use but people seeing him use them, created a demand that he now meets through his separate business, Bowlin Box Instruments. Travis was born near Cincinnati and raised in a household full of many genres of music…so he soaked up blues, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and country. He got his first guitar aged 15 and very soon started to perform around his home and surrounding states. To take his devotion a step further, he moved to Nashville and released his first album in 2014, called See You Again. His influences have a wide range as he cites Led Zeppelin, BB King, Robert Johnson, Prince, Steppenwolf, 3 Dog Night and Albert King amongst others.
He has now released his follow up album called, rather neatly, Secundus, as it means second but can also, apparently, be used to mean ‘lucky’. It contains 12 all original tracks and shows a development from that first outing with its more developed, blues-oriented feeling and manages to cover virtually every emotion a human being can experience. There are many more flavours to be discerned and I can hear jazz and soul in the mix and I even picked up a hint of progginess in a Yes kind of way.
In the past several years, Sideline has jumped from being a literal side project for some bluegrass A-listers to a fully-fledged band working its way to the top of the bluegrass world. With a few of those original “sidemen” on board, as well as the addition of several younger faces, Sideline has continued to up their game with the release of their new Mountain Home album, Front and Center.
Opening track Thunder Dan has captivated radio audiences with its catchy chorus and bluesy, mash-style grass. Penned by Josh Manning, it’s a take on the familiar “mountain man” story, featuring a title character with an itchy trigger finger and strong vocals from Troy Boone. The song hit number one last month and was back at the top spot on the Bluegrass Today chart this past week. Lysander Hayes is another rough character, keeping his mama up worrying and praying while he picks and drinks and runs around. Skip Cherryholmes pulls out the clawhammer banjo for this song, which along with Nathan Aldridge’s fiddle, makes for a nice old-time-with-drive vibe.
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