august 2008

A Statement from Rosanne Cash

cashAs reported on on August 18, Rosanne Cash issued a personal response to country artist John Rich, who was quoted at a rally for John McCain as saying, "I'm sure Johnny Cash would have been a John McCain supporter if he was still around." The quote ran on Rosanne Cash sent the following statement:

"It is appalling to me that people still want to invoke my father's name, five years after his death, to ascribe beliefs, ideals, values and loyalties to him that cannot possibly be determined and to try to further their own agendas by doing so. I knew my father pretty well, at least better than some of those who entitle themselves to his legacy and his supposed ideals, and even I would not presume to say publicly what I 'know' he thought or felt. This is especially dangerous in the case of political affiliation. It is unfair and presumptuous to use him to bolster any platform. I would ask that my father not be co-opted in this election for either side since he is clearly not here to defend or state his own allegiance."

Cover Story: Bearfoot Storms Out of the Wild
This is the story of five young Alaskans who play with an assurance well beyond their tender years, and have arrived at this summit in a fairly short time. They've been together since their early teens, are all now approaching their mid-20s, and are out introducing themselves to the Lower 48 in dramatic fashion behind their third album, the astonishing Follow Me. Follow our indefatigable reporter as he tries to pin down these mysterious strangers for some serious chat about where they came from and where they're bound. Along the way producer Gene Libbea, who steered the band through the making of Follow Me, offers informed commentary on what made the quintet one of the most intriguing young bands in a bluegrass world brimming with a burgeoning population of gifted youth.

Gone Country? Try Born Country
Ashton Sheppard Sings It, Writes It Like It Oughta Be

For those of a certain generation the backwoods sound of Sheppard’s voice is a rare treat nowadays, a singular voice, instantly identifiable as hers, and in that sense a throwback to the days when artists weren’t signed unless they could answer exactly as young Elvis Presley did when the Sun studio’s Marion Keisker asked him who he sounded like: “I don’t sound like nobody,” the Hillbilly Cat proclaimed, before proceeding to prove it after Sam Phillips arrived. Ashton Sheppard don’t sound like nobody, either, and that’s a very good thing.

Keep On Keepin' On: The Grascals Search Their Souls (And Go To #1)
When the Grascals’ lead vocalist/guitarist Terry Eldredge says “a lot of the things we do just happen,” and adds: “I guess the good Lord is looking down on us saying, ‘I’ll lead you this way,’” it is time to take him seriously. Because all evidence seems to affirm his suspicions. In little more than three years together, the band has racked up multiple IBMA awards, two Grammy nominations, an Everest-like pile of rave reviews for its (now) three albums, the respect of its peers and the affection of both traditional and progressive bluegrass fans. Upon the mid-July release of the group’s third exemplary long player, Keep On Walkin’, the good Lord led the assembled multitude to the top of the Billboard bluegrass chart first week out.

THE GOSPEL SET: A Sanctuary For the Selfless
Marion LoGuidice Goes To A Healing Place in God's House

Every song on Marion LoGuidice's second album, God's House, is imbued with what LoGuidice calls "a sacred kind of energy field. When you travel broken for years, with no one to tell you what to do with the brokenness and you're pouring the worst medicine into the worst wounds, each song I wrote, not knowing it, became medicine to heal this broken part of myself. And so each song became a little vertebrae in this new backbone-but I didn't know that. I just followed the call." This current journey has taken her to places of reflection on past friendships and the many faces of love, and into the heart and soul of Mary Magdalene. Read on.

Where to begin enumerating the many virtues of Cadillac Sky’s thrilling Gravity’s Our Enemy? This is some kind of aggressive progressive bluegrass the quintet is offering, as if they’re trying to one-up the Punch Brothers. There isn’t anything on this long player as ambitious as Chris Thile’s four-movement “The Blind Leaving the Blind” on Punch!, but there’s not a single track that doesn’t arrest one’s attention with its unpredictable textures and dynamics, and the exhilirating variety of influences the musicians have melded into a signature sound to support the advanced songwriting artistry of Bryan Simpson.

NEWS & NOTES: Remembering Jerry Wexler, Isaac Hayes and Don Helms.


clevelandMichael Cleveland, LEAVIN' TOWN
Five-time IBMA Fiddler of the Year Michael Cleveland is skilled in the art of tearing it up (on barnburning numbers) and tearing it out (your heart, that is), but on his first album with his new band Flamekeeper he gives wide berth to his talented bandmates to ride roughshod over listeners’ emotions, even while enhancing the various conversations with his own deeply felt and smartly crafted solos.

mickeysThe Mickeys, WALK ALONG
Those who missed the 2003 debut album, Finding Our Way, from the identical twin sisters who identify themselves by their maiden name, Mickey, ought to take time to get acquainted with Amy and Julie (married surnames being Sherman and Peebles, respectively) the second time around on a thoroughly engaging sophomore release, Walk Along, on their own Riverbeat Music label. Emmylou Harris once observed, in speaking of the Everly Brothers, an utterly unique and unreplicable blood-deep quality in sibling harmony, a theory borne out in the smooth, plaintive folk singer voices Amy and Julie show off here, solo and in tandem. A single immersion in the aching harmonizing they engage in on the tender, mountain country-flavored love song, “Stay With Me,” is enough to grab the heart for good, but that moment comes nine cuts into the album, by which time you’re liable to be hooked anyway.

coverJerry Douglas, GLIDE
by Billy Altman

Like its predecessors going all the way back to Fluxology, Glide features the same seemingly nonchalant virtuosity that has always been Douglas' trademark. It also sports the same eclectic taste and insatiable curiosity that has characterized his entire career.

frittsDonnie Fritts, ONE FOOT IN THE GROOVE
You can listen to music for the rest of your born days and you'll have a hard time finding anything so profoundly soulful from top to bottom and in every nook and cranny as Donnie Fritts's first solo recording in a decade, the oh-so-appropriately titled One Foot In the Groove. Recipient of a life saving kidney transplant in 2001, this southern soul pioneer, so essential to the vitality of the Muscle Shoals scene back in the day, songwriter of note, confidante and accompanying musician to a host of stellar soul, R&B, country and rock 'n' roll titans since the mid-'60s, doesn't beat around the bush here-he has much to celebrate and to reflect on, and he does both, in abundance, using all the tools at his command, along a bunch of great musician friends, to lend the varied soundscapes their impossibly rich, compelling textures.

Beyond The Blue

guyBuddy Guy, SKIN DEEP
Don’t be misled about Skin Deep, Buddy Guy’s triumphant rebound from 2005’s uneven Bring ‘Em In, which found him giving a bit too much latitude to John Mayer and Carlos Santana, at the expense of his own artistry. The guests he brings in this time—and they are formidable, numbering Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph and the husband-and-wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi—contribute uniformly inspired performances, but the force of Guy’s performances insures that the spotlight properly stays on his work. Hitting with sledgehammer force every time he enters the scene, Guy delivers house wrecking blues of the first order, like he’d been smokin’ dynamite and drinkin’ TNT.

butlerHenry Butler, PiaNOLA LIVE
A true artifact of Hurricane Katrina, native New Orleanian Henry Butler's PiaNOLA Live is a collection of solo piano performances spanning a period of two decades, salvaged from Butler's tape archive, which miraculously survived the storm's near-total destruction of his home and possessions. Considering the timeframe, it's a remarkably seamless presentation, kudos going to Butler and his producer, George Winston (a pretty fair piano player himself) for their work in the flawless sonic assembly of these eleven numbers.

Heat on medium flame. Instructions for warming up soup? Perhaps so, but the directive also describes Kate McGarry's impressive new display of interpretive singing as captured on If Less Is More...Nothing Is Everything. On reflection, though, a soup analogy is eminently appropriate, when considering that this delectable comestible is redolent with the spice of exploration and rich in savory textures of voices and instruments playing off of, to and with each other in bursts of jazzy improvisation and dreamy flights of pop grandeur.

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