Jaimie Wyatt – Felony Blues

Jaime Wyatt’s life story is about as country as it gets. After a recording contract fell through when she was 17, Wyatt developed a drug problem that ended in her robbing her dealer and going to jail. She spent eight months in county jail and came out the other side with a new lease on life—along with the seven tracks that constitute Felony Blues. Those include a cover of Merle Haggard’s “Misery and Gin” and the original composition “Stone Hotel,” an exuberant track about making peace with jail life (“Time holds still at the stone hotel / three free meals on the county bill.

Wyatt was born in Los Angeles but grew up in rural Washington, near Seattle. Country music was a big part of life for her family;  distant relatives on her mom’s side even lived in Bakersfield. The capital of California country music’s influence can be heard throughout Felony Blues.

“My mother’s extended family played country in Bakersfield. I never knew that, I was just always drawn to that kind of singing,” Wyatt says of her distinctive twang. “I remember seeing a pedal steel in their trailer, their double wide.”

For all intents and purposes Wyatt is outlaw country through and through. “I just like to take country and fuck it up” she tells me, paraphrasing Shooter Jennings, a good friend of hers. “I try not to get too frustrated with labels on that. I do think it’s funny that the outlaw country thing is so big right now, calling it that even is funny. Most folks don’t know about living outside of the law.”

Sera Cahoone heads out on first full band tour in 5 years this fall!

Cahoone readies for first full-band tour in 5 years!

We’re very excited to announce that Sera Cahoone is heading out on tour this September! This past year has seen her touring with the likes of Tift Merrit, Son Volt and Gregory Alan Isakov but now she’s ready to strike out on with her full band in tow to support From Where I Started.

We had some wonderful press for the album including the NPR First Listen Stephen Thompson wrote up here and CBC’s First Play here. This fantastic interview on Uproxx, a glowing No Depression review, this piece on LGTBQNation referencing the interview Cahoone had with Jewly Hight for NPR’s Songs We LoveElle Magazine’s ’10 Best New Songs’ of March and a great American Songwriter piece. Beyond that Sera’s album received high praise from the Bluegrass Situation, Saving Country Music, Curve Magazine, KEXP, Paste, The Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, Seattle Metropolitan, Seattle Weekly and a ton more.


 

The world of American roots music is no stranger to Seattle songwriter Sera Cahoone. Even though her last three albums were on Sub Pop Records and she spent years at the top of the indie charts, she’s always had a streak of Americana that ran through her music, a love of the humble folk song that bolstered her art. She’s returning now to these earliest influences with her new album, From Where I Started (to be released March 24, 2017). Growing up, Cahoone first found her voice in Colorado dive bars, backing up old blues musicians at age 12 on the drums. Her father, a Rocky Mountain dynamite salesman, took the family along to mining conferences and old honky-tonks in the state. The sounds she heard there—the twang of country crooners, cowboy boots on peanut shells—have stayed with her all the way to Seattle, where she lives now, and the seminal indie rock bands she’s been a part of in the city (Carissa’s Weird, Band of Horses).

To make From Where I Started, her first new album since 2012’s Dear Creek Canyon, Cahoone traveled south to Portland to work with producer John Askew (Neko Case, Laura Gibson, Alela Diane). Askew brought together key Portland musicians like Rob Berger (Iron and Wine, Lucinda Williams), Dave Depper (Death Cab For Cutie) and Annalisa Tornfelt (Black Prairie) with Cahoone’s Seattle bandmates – Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan, Amy Ray) and Jason Kardong (Son Volt, Jay Farrar). The band lays a deep bedrock beneath Cahoone’s songs, supporting her arcing vocals and innovative guitar and banjo playing. The album is driven by a strong rhythmic sensibility, owed to Cahoone’s background as a drummer for indie rock bands. “A lot of my songs start as a beat, I add guitar, then lyrics at the end,” she says. “When I write songs I usually sit at my drum kit playing both drums and guitar at the same time.”

From Where I Started plays on the rougher, darker edges of the traditional love song. Like any good country album, the songs here deal with love and loss, but Cahoone also knows how to surround loss with hope, to temper a sad song with a turn in the major key. The optimism of the love song “Up To Me,” buoyed by fingerpicked guitar and banjo, gives way to the weary resignation of “Taken Its Toll,” with its plaintive pedal steel and echoing vocal harmonies. “Ladybug,” is a poignant song that followed the tragic death of Cahoone’s cousin Tawnee.

From Where I Started represents a refocusing for Sera Cahoone. It positions her as a songwriter beholden to the old country sounds she grew up with, a songwriter who’s always been able to deftly translate a personal perspective into a universal view. It’s an album about falling in and out of love, finding new hope, and learning that the best way to move forward is to remember whereyou began.

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PHOEBE LEGERE

PHOEBE LEGERE fronts a family-friendly ensemble that blends elements of Americana, Cajun, New Orleans jazz, country, folk and blues into a spicy gumbo.  A standard bearer of the Acadian-Cajun renaissance, Legere is descended from one of the original Acadian families in North America. Phoebe Legere plays seven instruments. She is an award-winning accordion player, virtuoso piano player, a rural folk blues guitar stylist, and an award-winning songwriter.

Phoebe Legere has released fifteen CDs of original and traditional music. Legere’s 2015 ACADIAN MOON was added to over forty radio stations in Canada.  Her new full length album is called Heart of Love. It ships to college radio this week.Legere blurs the lines between music composition, visual art, performance, community organizing and political activism. Legere has appeared on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, ABC, NBC, PBS and Charlie Rose.  She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and at the Congrés Mondial Acadien. In 2014 Phoebe, received the prestigious Acker Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2015 Legere appeared on HBO’s documentary IT’S ME HILARY which was produced by Lena (Girls) Dunham. Her original song Hip Hop Frog, a humorous but deeply serious environmental song,  was licensed by HBO and will be on her new album.

As a teenager Legere was signed Epic Records as a songwriter. She opened for David Bowie on his National Tour in 1991. She led highly influential downtown bands, from Monad to 4 Nurses of the Apocalypse to her nine piece swing-punk outfit Swingalicious. After the spectacular college radio success of “Marilyn Monroe” (Island Records), and her appearance in numerous underground films Legere turned her attention to avant-garde classical music. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her work with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. Legere has had six of her original plays with music produced in New York City. She has two upcoming commissions: Theater for the New City (2017) and Dixon Place (2018)

Ms. Legere studied jazz with John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Phoebe graduated from Vassar College, studied composition at the Juilliard School, studied piano at the New England Conservatory, and film scoring, orchestration and jazz arranging at the NYU Graduate School of Music Composition. She studied composition with John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Morton Subotnick, Wayne Oquin and Dinu Gezzo. She also studied jazz arranging with Ira Newborn and Rick Shemaria.

This highly regarded “musicians musician” has said that the death of the record business is a much needed correction. “Right now musicians have a golden opportunity. For the first time we can shape our own careers. Musicians are no longer the slaves of music corporations. We are free to invent the music we hear in our hearts today, and invent new ways to deliver it to the listeners of tomorrow.” 

The New York Times raved: “Legere plays the piano with enormous authority in a style that encompasses Chopin, blues, ragtime, bebop and beyond, and she brings to her vocal delivery a four octave range, and an extraordinary palette of tonal color and meticulous phrasing.”

This “multi-keyboard, vocal wizard” (CBS) has been compared to “Beethoven” (Paper Magazine) “Edith Piaf” (Stephen Holden, NY Times), “Frank Zappa” (Billboard) “Dorothy Donegan” (John Wilson,NY Times) “Dorothy Parker” (Ruddy Cheeks, The Phoenix) “Jerry Lee Lewis” (Proctor.Lippincott, NY Times) and “Bobby Short” (LIz Smith, NY Daily News). Washington Post called Phoebe Legere “Mick Jagger with an accordion.” and Timeout called her “the Sexiest Accordionist on the Planet.”

Phoebe Legere

Torgeir Waldemar

Torgeir Waldemar: «No Offending Borders»

Jansen Plateproduksjon, 2017

Torgeir Waldemar took the Norwegian people and music press by surprise with his eponymous debut album in 2014. Who had thought that the black-clad, longhaired and bearded man would deliver an album that captivated and moved us as much as it did. An acoustic masterpiece that sounded like it came straight from the rehearsal room of a young troubadour from Laurel Canyon in the seventies.

 

While his previous album cultivated a pure, acoustic sound, we get more rock music this time, and for Torgeir Waldemar nothing is more natural. With his background as a guitar hero in various rock bands, it was only a question of time before distorted tones would assert themselves in his solo career. «No Offending Borders» is a gloriously composite work with both dead honest acoustic laments and grandiose rock songs.

But the record is so much more than that, and for Torgeir this is a document that shows the seriousness we meet in our everyday lives. Both on the personal level, with relationships that falls apart and the loss of loved ones, but also on a national and global level, with refugee crises, suicide statistics and the weakest members of our society. You may have guessed it already, but this is a solemn record.

If you’re afraid that Torgeir Waldemar has turned away from what he presented on his debut album, you can relax. Here we get acoustic folk songs like «Falling Rain (Link Wray)», «Island Bliss» and «Souls on a String», but the album also contains more intense rock songs like «Summer In Toulouse», «Sylvia (Southern People)» and «Among the Low». A complete album, you might say … and we’re saying it.

 

Aesthetically, it’s also consistent from beginning to end – nothing at all is done by chance here. The historical lines that are drawn in the cover design, are also meant to point back to ourselves and to make us conscious of our past, so that we won’t make the same mistakes again. The cover of the single «Souls on a String» featured a photo of the decorated carrier pigeon from World War I, Cher Ami. It saved a whole British company during the war, when the British were caught in a battle, without any food or ammunition. Cher Ami was sent away, and taken under fire by the enemy, but finally delivered the message that saved the British troops.

The chair on the cover of «No Offending Borders» is from Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand. This is the chair that Wilhelm II, the King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany, was sitting in when he was told that World War I had started. Wilhelm II was a friend of Norway and spent much time on the west coast in the early 1900s. What would you have done if you were sitting in that chair and received that message? Sit down, think thoroughly about it, while you’re listening to «No Offending Borders».

It’s hard not to love an album that blows away your expectations, and the latest release from this award winning Norwegian singer/songwriter does just that. His acclaimed eponymous debut was an introspective and wistful acoustic affair, whereas No Offending Borders sees him treading new ground. Often the changes are subtle; the dark lament of ‘The Bottom Of The Well’ wouldn’t sound amiss in a classic western movie and the gorgeous gentle melody of ‘Island Bliss’ really lives up to its name. ‘Among The Low’, the album’s most experimental offering, mixes celtic folk with subtle eastern tinges, interspersed with feedback fuelled southern rock riffs.  With these tracks we find a diverse and interesting folk record, and a worthy successor to his debut.

The big talking point of this album however is not in those subtle changes, but in the two big powerhouse tracks. ‘Summer in Toulouse’ and ‘Sylvia (Southern People)’ are both sprawling Americana epics that could have come straight from the golden age of Neil Young. They just don’t make them like this anymore! Both tracks are the perfect template of how it should be done and I’m sure at least one of them will find its way into my list of top ten songs at the end of the year. These hulking behemoths of southern rock splendour would be enough to make this an excellent album just from their own merit. When I factor in the fantastic folk alongside them it seems clear that this is the first truly great album I have heard in 2017.

Rolling Stone Country, The Boot say you need to keep and eye on Jack Grelle in 2017

2017 looks like Jack Grelle’s year, with his unapologetically political honky tonk Rolling Stone Country says he “blends the social awareness of punk with country twang to thought-provoking results” and on the video premiere of “Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down” Brittney McKenna calls it a “hardscrabble heartbreak song told from the perspective of a woman, a refreshing, subversive challenge to traditional gender norms that’s also tailor-made for dancing.” The Boot also has high praise for Grelle including him in their “10 Artists To Watch In 2017” and extolling the varied influences on his record from Tejano and Cajun to Rock and Roll and Folk.

 

Jack Grelle Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down
You wouldn’t expect radically progressive views in most honky-tonks, but St. Louis Americana artist Jack Grelle and his new record, Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down, have done just that. Grelle’s subversive songwriting tactics, like discussing the pitfalls of traditional masculinity within a classic country love song, owe to the person Jack Grelle is: resilient. In its most basic form resiliency is surviving, but as we evolve resiliency becomes about progress. It becomes a way to enact change, to form communities and to build bridges. Through his time in the DIY punk scene, living that ethos out in the gritty St. Louis underground country community, he has witnessed the plight of his city, and Grelle has an ardent desire to be better. He sees things more clearly and is able to ask the hard questions. To be released on Big Muddy Records on October 28, 2016, the best of St. Louis’ music scene comes out for Jack Grelle’s new album, including the South City Three (Pokey Lafarge’s band) and John Horton (The Bottle Rockets) along with a large cast of Big Muddy Records regulars. On Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down, Jack Grelle adeptly weaves Cajun, Tejano, country, honky-tonk, rock and folk to create a passionately complex overlay of the genres.

We think about the macro all the time, grappling with the realities of immense social change, while what Grelle is looking at isn’t to have all the answers but a way to have frank, open conversations about how to change ourselves and our communities. He knows there is a wrong side and a right side of history; he just wants us to be on the right side.

The Hidden Cameras

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One of Canada’s most mercurial artists, Joel Gibb is the lead singer, songwriter and choir captain of TheHidden Cameras. Forming in Toronto in 2001, Gibb and his gang of musical provocateurs have createdmusic and live performances legendary for their raucous, unfettered celebration of freedom and sexuality.

Released on the eve of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations, ‘Home On Native Land’ is an inquisitiveode to Gibb’s homeland; it’s a stealthy return to Canadian soil both philosophically and physically. Afterrelocating to Berlin for some time, The Hidden Cameras pick up and head west to commune with musicalancestors and explore the gentle folk sounds of the Canadian countryside. But as with everything Gibbdoes, there’s a darker undercurrent flowing beneath the Canadiana terrain. With the title ‘Home On NativeLand’ being a play on the national anthem line ‘home and native land’, this title questions the definition andidentity of Gibb’s nation, referencing the raging debate about repatriation of First Nations in Canada. Everthe master of subversion, Gibb arches an inquiring eyebrow at the personal as well as the political throughhis songs, returning to themes of belonging and identity from within. As a commanding, provocativefigurehead of the LGBTQ community, Gibb inhabits the guise of the lonesome cowboy to his own ends,plumbing the depths of musical memory and delivering a beautiful album of life­affirming experiences in allit’s colours along the way.

‘Home On Native Land’ was written and recorded over ten years by Gibb with friends, bandmates and iconsincluding Rufus Wainwright, Feist, Neil Tennant, Bahamas, Ron Sexsmith and Mary Margaret O’Hara. Gibbonce again assembles a band of musical accomplices and takes them on an adventure in revisionist history,forming a chorus of voices over a score of dulcet tones and twanging rock. The album makes new offers tothe Canadiana genre with infectious melodies (“Big Blue”) and wild hymns (“Drunk Dancer’s Waltz”),overarched by Gibbs’ trademark, honeyed vocals and sighing guitars. His talents as a songwriter andcomposer remain undimmed, his on point lyrics oozing with hopefulness, joy and sorrow.

Alongside several new compositions, ‘Home On Native Land’ also borrows from the classic countrysongbook, reimagining soulful standards like “Dark End of the Street,” and “Don’t Make Promises” originallyrecorded by Tim Hardin. “Log Driver’s Waltz” is a cover of one of the most successful and beloved Canadianfolk songs of all time. On “He is the Boss of Me” Gibb turns the tables and covers himself, giving a classicHidden Cameras song a proper studio recording, transforming it from an early 4­track demo from 2001debut EP ‘Ecce Homo’.

 

 

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Jack Grelle ‘Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down’ Out On Big Muddy Records

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Jack Grelle subverts modern country tropes with his new album Got Dressed Up to be Let Down

Jack Grelle has been touring with Lavender Country, the first gay country band, and recently dedicated a song to #blacklivesmatter at AmericanaFest in Nashville, earning him a walkout from the audience who flipped him the bird on the way out the door. We love him for that, but we also really love the grittiness of his new-school country sound. He’s been getting love from American Songwriter, The Bluegrass Situation, and The Boot, so we’re not the only ones liking this! The album, “Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down” is out now on Big Muddy Records out of St Louis and features Pokey Lafarge’s South City Three and Johnny Horton from the Bottle Rockets.

“Got Dressed Up to Be Let Down is timely to a great degree. There, Grelle offers an affirmative nod to women who have been suppressed by society, a song Donald Trump ought to be force-fed continuously until he learns it’s not right to excuse bragging about sexual assault as mere locker room banter.” – Lee Zimmerman, No Depression

“Got Dressed Up to Be Let Down contrasts a traditional country sound with subversive, thought-provoking lyrics.” – Brittney Mckenna, American Songwriter

You wouldn’t expect radically progressive views in most honky-tonks, but St. Louis Americana artist Jack Grelle and his new record, Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down, have done just that. Grelle’s subversive songwriting tactics, like discussing the pitfalls of traditional masculinity within a classic country love song, owe to the person Jack Grelle is: resilient. In its most basic form resiliency is surviving, but as we evolve resiliency becomes about progress. It becomes a way to enact change, to form communities and to build bridges. Through his time in the DIY punk scene, living that ethos out in the gritty St. Louis underground country community, he has witnessed the plight of his city, and Grellehas an ardent desire to be better. He sees things more clearly and is able to ask the hard questions. To be released on Big Muddy Records on October 28, 2016, the best of St. Louis’ music scene comes out for Jack Grelle’s new album, including the South City Three (Pokey Lafarge’s band) and John Horton (The Bottle Rockets) along with a large cast of Big Muddy Records regulars. On Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down, Jack Grelle adeptly weaves Cajun, Tejano, country, honky-tonk, rock and folk to create a passionately complex overlay of the genres.

We think about the macro all the time, grappling with the realities of immense social change, while what Grelle is looking at isn’t to have all the answers but a way to have frank, open conversations about how to change ourselves and our communities. He knows there is a wrong side and a right side of history; he just wants us to be on the right side.

Alejandro Escovedo – Burn Something Beautiful

Born in 1951, Alejandro Escovedo is at an age where most rock musicians are happily coasting on their past accomplishments, if they're still making new music at all. Thankfully, Escovedo is and always has been a maverick, and he's eagerly overhauled his sound and approach with his twelfth studio album, 2016's Burn Something Beautiful. After making three fine albums with producer Tony Visconti and a band anchored by guitarist Chuck Prophet, Escovedo has taken a creative left turn and crafted Burn Something Beautiful with a new set of collaborators. The album was produced by former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Young Fresh Fellows and Minus 5 founder Scott McCaughey, and the two also co-wrote the songs with Escovedo. The studio band includes Buck, McCaughey, Kurt Bloch (of the Fastbacks), and John Moen (of the Decemberists), with guest appearances from Corin Tucker (ex-Sleater-Kinney). Kelly Hogan (longtime vocal cohort with Neko Case), and Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos). The finished product sounds unmistakably like an Alejandro Escovedo album, but the textures of his musical personality readily mesh with the tuneful but noisy, anything-goes freedom of Buck's freewheeling post-R.E.M. solo albums. The thick layers of buzzy guitar that dominate tunes like "Horizontal" and "Luna de Miel" take Escovedo's punk and glam influences and twist them into new shapes, while pop-oriented tracks such as "Heartbeat Smile" and "Farewell to the Good Times" have potent hooks but also a tough, insistent rock & roll backbone. And when Escovedo bares his soul on tunes like "Suit of Lights" and "I Don't Want to Play Guitar Anymore," his collaborators know how to match the mood without letting the music go limp. Escovedo is working with some stellar musicians who also lock in with him like a band, and this is an album where the players create a whole that's more than the sum of its parts. Burn Something Beautiful comes after a period of transition for Escovedo, with the artist leaving his longtime home of Austin, Texas for Houston after a health scare and a brush with death when he and his new wife found their honeymoon interrupted by a category four hurricane. But despite time and tough circumstances, the man is still writing outstanding, revealing songs full of heart, soul, and intelligence, and these performances show he's hardly run short of new ways to make his work communicate. An album full of potent atmosphere, dirty guitars, and emotional honesty, Burn Something Beautiful ranks with Escovedo's best and most adventurous work, and both fans and curious neophytes owe it to themselves to give it a listen.

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ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO TO RELEASE

BURN SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL OCTOBER 28TH

VIA FANTASY RECORDS

Acclaimed Texas Troubadour Teams with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey On His First New Solo Album in Four Years

 

 Renowned songwriter, singer, true believer, Alejandro Escovedo is set to deliver Burn Something Beautiful on October 28th, 2016 via Fantasy Records.  The new album, Escovedo’s first solo endeavor since 2012’s highly acclaimed Big Station, is in actuality, a highly collaborative affair.  Teaming with Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5) to co-write the album’s songs, Escovedo also enlisted the pair to act as the project’s producers.

Escovedo and company take some mighty big swings here. At once a celebration of the rock and roll life, a contemplation on mortality, and the healing power of love, Burn Something Beautiful connects repeatedly with Escovedo’s soulful heart and voice at its core. Recorded in April at Portland’s Type Foundry studio, the project coalesced with the help of an esteemed group of musicians who give the album a genuine band feel.  They include guitarist Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks), drummer John Moen (The Decemberists), vocalists Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney) and Kelly Hogan (Neko Case) as well as saxophonist Steve Berlin (Los Lobos).   

In a trailblazing career that began with The Nuns, San Francisco’s famed punk innovators, to the Austin-based-based alt-country rock pioneers, Rank & File, to Texas bred darlings, True Believers, through countless all-star collaborations and tribute album appearances and finally a series of beloved solo albums beginning with 1992’s acclaimed Gravity, Escovedo has earned a surplus of distinctions: No Depression magazine’s Artist of the Decade Award in 1998 and the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Performing in 2006, just to name two.

“You just do your good work, and people care,” Alejandro says. “I always believed, when I was a kid, that if you worked hard, you would find fulfillment. I think I got a lot of that from my father and my brothers. A working musician is all I ever wanted to be. Hard work, stay true to what you want to do, and then eventually someone would notice for that very reason.”

Co-producer Peter Buck says, “I’ve been a fan of Alejandro’s music for over 30 years, and recording with him was as good as I expected it to be.  I think he, Scott McCaughey and I really extended our vocabulary as writers and musicians, coming up with something that is unlike anything we have done individually in the past.”

“I felt a real kinship with Alejandro since we first met in 1986,” Scott McCaughey says. “We bonded over our mutual love of the rock & roll circus. Making this record really meant a lot to me, and I think people will get that when they hear it.”

Burn Something Beautiful is Alejandro Escovedo at his very best.  His many gifts are revealed across a lifetime spent in dedication to and faith in the hard work of life and music…and its possibilities. Refusing to go unnoticed.

www.alejandroescovedo.com

www.concordmusicgroup.com

 

Track list:

  1. Horizontal
  2. Heartbeat Smile
  3. Sunday Morning Feeling
  4. Suit Of Lights
  5. Redemption Blues
  6. Shave The Cat
  7. Johnny Volume
  8. Beauty Of Your Smile
  9. I Don't Want To Play Guitar Anymore
  10. Beauty And The Buzz
  11. Luna De Miel
  12. Farewell To The Good Times
  13. Thought I'd Let You Know

Jon Dee Graham – Knoxville Skyline

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Jon Dee Graham is a guitarist and songwriter from Austin, Texas. A former member of the True Believers with Alejandro Escovedo, Graham is the only musician ever to be inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame three times.

Jon Dee Graham is most well known for his solo work, including the critically acclaimed records “Escape from Monster Island”, “Hooray For The Moon”, and “Full”. He is also well known for his tenure in The Skunks, Austin’s very first punk band, and roots-rock pioneers The True Believers with Alejandro Escovedo. Jon Dee has also played guitar with acts such as John Doe (X, The Knitters), Exene Cervenka (X), Michelle Shocked, Alejandro Escovedo, Kelly Willis, and The Gourds and has had his songs covered by many artists, including Patty Smythe, Patty Griffin and James McMurtry.

Between his gravelly, raspy growl of a voice and penchant for ferociously violent guitar outbursts — not to mention that cranky sea captain beard he wears of late — Jon Dee Graham can cut a mighty imposing figure. But even at full roar, the lion’s (or rather, bear’s) share of his songs have long betrayed him as far more of a hopelessly incurable optimist than a callous-hardened cynic. Oh, he might fight it tooth and nail at times, but the former/eternal True Believer has always been at his best when he sings of hope, strong hearts and the majesty of love. It’s a truism proven once again on Knoxville Station, a disarmingly sweet and unabashedly sentimental five-song mini-album/EP that Graham knocked out out in Tennessee backed by Knoxville rockers the Tim Lee 3 (guitarist Tim Lee, bassist/singer Susan Bauer, and drummer Chris Bratta).

Given that it’s been four years since Graham’s last studio offering (2012’s Garage Sale), Knoxville Skyline’s 21-minute run time admittedly seems a bit stingy at first. But there’s a clear focus and sense purpose evident here that that gives these five songs a truly satisfying cohesion. The set is bookend by the bluesy shuffle of “Things Might Turn Out Right” and the classic Jon-Dee-style ballad, “Careless Prayer,” both of which find Graham taking a hard look at a glass half full from different angles as if trying to find the empty. He shrugs the conundrum off rather lightly in that opening track, which may be the closest this guy’s ever come to sounding outright happy-go-lucky, but there’s a real sense of struggle in the closer. Weighing his rocky, self-destructive past (“made nothing but holes, found nothing but harm”) against the centered familial bliss of his present (“Now I’ve got a garden grown green and tall / All of my treasures are asleep down the hall”), he chalks both up to “a careless prayer.” Is there a hint that he sometimes still feels the tug of his old ways like the twitch of a phantom limb? Maybe. But as he sagely acknowledges with the wisdom of hindsight, although all prayers are answered, “sometimes the answer turns out to be no.”

As fun as it starts and ruminative as it ends, though, it’s the three very different but equally heartfelt tributes in the middle of the EP that really make Knoxville Skyline shine. “Dan Stuart’s Blues” floats along like a wistful daydream, with Graham flipping through careworn memories of his mid-90s stint playing guitar with the former frontman of L.A.’s Green on Red. (For the record, Stuart’s not dead — just living down in Mexico, still “looking for the real thing.”) Vivid and poignant snapshot memories also fill “The Ballad of Barbara and Steve,” Graham’s deeply moving eulogy for Barbara Wolfe and Steve Silbas, who ran the beloved San Antonio cafe and venue Casbeers from 1999 to 2011. Within three years of Casbeers’ closing, both husband and wife passed away from separate health ailments. There’s a sadness palpable in every line, but in lieu of maudlin mourning, Graham pays his respects to the couple in the form of a romantic, Tex-Mex-tinged paean to their love — not just for each other, but for the roots-music scene they dedicated their lives to supporting.

And then there’s the rocker. That there’s only one of those out of the bunch here should be a bummer, but “Shoeshine Charlie” — Graham’s flat-out best moment of amp-frying, scorched-earth badassery  since 2001’s “Laredo (Small Dark Something)” — deserves its own pedestal. Fittingly, it’s a righteous tribute to Graham’s favorite room for rocking in the entire world, Austin’s Continental Club. The late “Shoeshine” Charlie Miller may be long gone, along with a lot of the other old Continental mainstays and former bandmates Graham mentions in the song (some went back East, others out West, “and who knows what ever happened to the rest”), but their spirits still haunt the iconic Sought Congress hotspot. Just like Graham himself, hellhound for that stage every “Wednesday to eternity” with a battle-cry roar of “Strap it up boys — these kittens aren’t going to drown themselves!” He makes it sound like dirty work, because it is, but don’t let that fool you: For Graham, every damned word and note is a labor of love

Dan Layus – Dangerous Things

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Dan Layus moved to Tennessee during the summer of 2013. He’d been a California kid all his life. As the frontman of Augustana, Layus had logged a decade on the poppy fringes of American rock & roll. “Since my early 20s, I’ve been a big fan of alternative country, which led me to more traditional country music,” he says from his new home in Franklin, a half hour’s drive from Nashville. “I lived off of ‘Willie’s Roadhouse’ for three years straight. Those songs just don’t miss!” He’s replaced Augustana’s anthemic punch with acoustic guitars, one-take vocal performances and nearly a half-dozen appearances by harmony duo the Secret Sisters.