January 2, 2020
Willie Nelson released his first studio album in 1862 and now, 56 years later, at the age of 85, shows no sign of slowing down. My Way is his 12th release since 2010.
Nelson’s new album, as the title suggests, is an album of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. He is one of the few living artists who could even attempt an album of this type as Sinatra made just about any song his own and his versions are considered definitive.
Nelson is an iconic country artist but has moved in a pop and easy listening direction on a number of occasions. His voice may not be as strong as in the past but it has acquired a nice patina. He brings a weariness and nostalgia to the songs as opposed to Sinatra’s smoothness.
Nelson has always had impeccable phrasing and that serves him well on covers such as the title song, “It Was A Very Good Year,” “Summer Wind,” and “Fly Me To The Moon.”
Possibly the best track is “One For My Baby (And One For The Road), which is closer to the original. The most interesting track is a duet with Norah Jones on ‘What Is This Thing Called Love,” which gives it a different spin.
This is not country Willie; this is the Great American Songbook Willie. Sinatra’s originals are always worth a listen but Nelson does a credible job providing a different take on many of these classic tunes.
July 5, 2019
I have always had a soft spot for guitarists and especially steel guitarists, which brings us to Joe Goldmark. Now four decades into his career, he has emerged as one of the better steel guitarists working today. Wile his technical ability is first rate, it is the sound he can coax from his instrument that sets him apart.
His new album, Blue Steel, is a combination of original tunes and covers. He also uses guest vocalists Glenn Walters and Dallas Craft on a number of tracks but the instrumental tracks are the heart of the release.
The album opening “Night Flight” and a cover of Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread” feature his unique approach of having his steel guitar as the lead instrument. “I Want To Be With You Forever,” with guest guitarist Jim Campilongo, has nice interplay between the two and creates a wonderfully plaintive sound.
Blue Steel may not have mainstream appeal but within its niche, it shines.
July 5, 2019
Peter Rowan was born in Massachusetts, which is not a state you usually associate with a bluegrass legend. At the age of 20, he auditioned and won the position of lead guitarist/vocalist in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys.
During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s he played rock and roll as a member of Earth Opera, The Rowan Brothers, Seatrain, and for a short spell with Jerry Garcia. His solo career has incorporated a number of styles but he remains a bluegrass artist in his soul.
His new album returns him to his roots. The Stanley Brothers, Carter and Ralph, were early influences and Carter Stanley’s Eyes is a heart felt tribute to them. While he records two of their tunes; Carter’s “A Vision Of Mother” and Ralph’s “Ridin’ On That Midnight Train,” he channels their style through the 14 tracks.
Rowan is now in his mid 70s and a number of songs deal with mortality. “Drumbeats On The Watchtower” is a song of aging and acceptance that only a person of his age could compose. The Carter “Will You Miss Me” is partly sung without instruments as he ruminates about the world without him in it.
There are a couple tunes where he fuses different styles to bluegrass. The gospel song, “The Crown He Wore,” connects the two closely associated disciplines. Ledbelly’s “Alabama Bound” has a nice blues feel within the parameters of bluegrass instrumentation.
The Carter Brothers helped Rowan to hone his bluegrass skills and in many ways the direction of his life. Carter Stanley’s Eyes is a payment for lessons well-learned.
June 24, 2018
Many artists who have been active for decades, both dead and alive, seem to have an unlimited reservoir of unreleased material. Prince has a treasure trove in the Paisley Park vaults, Elvis has the RCA archives, Dylan has his seemingly endless Bootleg Series, and Willie Nelson has his stash.
Thus far, Nelson’s archival series has been a family affair. The first release from his stash was December Day with his sister Bobbie. Now comes Willie And The Boys: Willie’s Stash Volume 2, which features sons Lucas and Micah.
Nelson describes the album as…’kinda like the country version of ‘Stardust’ and that is an apt description. It consists of classic country songs that many people are unfamiliar with these days.
The album’s core is seven compositions by Hank Williams Sr. Songs such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold Cold Heart,” “Why Don’t You Love Me’ and particularly “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” are perfect for Nelson’s laid back approach and cadence.
Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” Hank Cochran’s “Can I Sleep In Your Arms,” and Hank Locklin’s “Send me The Pillow You Dream On” are re-imagined by one of the great interpreter’s of country music. The only original tune is Nelson’s “Healing Hands Of Time,” which fits the overall concept of the album well.
The vinyl pressing has a superb sound as one would expect with modern day recording techniques. There is something to be said for listening to classic country the old fashioned way.
Willie Nelson is like “Old Man River” in that he just keeps flowing along. Willie Nelson And The Boys is a fine album that makes one wonder what else is lurking in his stash.
March 21, 2017
It has been almost a half-century since vocalist/guitarist Richard Young, drummer Fred Young, and lead guitarist Greg Martin began playing together, Bassist Doug Phelps was an early addition, and they have remained together ever since. It took them nearly 20 years to issue their first album but Pickin’ On Nashville was worth the wait as it sold just over two-million copies.
The Kentucky Headhunters have just released their 12th studio album titled On Safari. Their sound has changed with the passing of time. They have evolved from an electric country band into a southern rock group who incorporate blues into their mix.
Their new album includes ten originals and two covers, Alice Cooper’s “Caught In A Dream” and Charlie Daniel’s “Way Down Yonder.”
It is the ten original compositions that form the heart and soul of the album. They are the type of sold rock and roll that one has come to expect from the Headhunters. “Rainbow Shine,” ”Jukebox Full Of Blues,” and “ “Deep Southern Blues Again” wrap their southern rock roots around a blues foundation. “Beaver Creek Mansion” and “Lowdown Memphis Town Blues” are a clever look at their own history wrapped in rock and roll.
The Kentucky Headhunters have evolved into one of the great American rock bands. On Safari is another brick in their musical wall.
March 21, 2017
The career of the Mavericks has passed the quarter-century mark, not counting a nine year hiatus. Founding members Raul Malo (vocals/guitar) and Paul Deakin (drummer) are now joined by Eddie Perez (guitar), and Jerry Dale McFadden (keyboards).
The Mavericks are difficult to pigeon hole stylistically. They cross a lot of musical boundaries as they explore country, rock, blues, and even a little Latin vibe. The one constant is their live shows. They remain one of the best stage bands in American popular music. Their latest album, All Night Live Volume 1, brings their show to CD.
They wisely add some additional musicians to give their live sound some extra flexibility. Michael Guerra (accordion), Mike Abrams (sax), Matt Cappy (trumpet), and Ed Friedland (upright bass) add extra layers and textures to the sound. It all adds up to an energetic romp through 16 of their songs.
My only real problem with the release is the sound. Given the excellence of modern technology, it should have been better and it detracts from the overall enjoyment of the music. A smaller issue is the song section as it comes primarily from two albums. I would have preferred a more career spanning collection.
Other than the above; the album is a good presentation of their energetic live sound. The opening title track is a horn-laden blast that builds as it progresses. They almost move in a big band direction with a swinging version of “Stories We Could Tell.” They move to a blues vibe with the smoldering “Do You Want Me To.” The only cover song is a laid back version of Neil Young’s “Harvest Song.”
All Night Live Volume 1 retains the energy of the Mavericks on stage. Sound aside, it presents live music as it should always be.