Blue Steel By Joe Goldmark

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.


Carter Stanley’s Eyes By Peter Rowan

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.


Willie And The Boys: Willie’s Stash Volume II (Vinyl Release) By Willie Nelson

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.


God’s Problem Child By Willie Nelson

November 29, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Willie Nelson is like Old Man River; he just keeps rolling along. At the age of 84, he has returned with one of the better albums of his career titled God’s Problem Child. Lately he has relied on cover songs and albums dedicated to other people’s music, but now all 13 tracks are newly recorded songs, including seven co-written by Nelson.

While my copy of the album is on vinyl with a crystal clear sound, it has also been released digitally and as a CD.

Nelson is now considered an American musical icon. His voice is instantly recognizable and he has the ability to interpret songs from many different styles. His voice may have lost a little of its power but he makes up for that fact with wonderful phrasing.

His new album travels in a number of directions. There have been a number of reports Nelson’s death and “Still Not Dead” is his making fun of the situation. The more serious “Delete and Fast-Forward” are his thoughts about the recent Presidential election.

There are two tracks that reflect his age. The title track includes a vocal performance by Leon Russell, in what may have been his last performance before his death. The album’s final track, “He Won’t Ever Be Gone, is his eulogy to friend and fellow-country musician Merle Haggard.

Perhaps the best track is “Little House on The Hill.” It was written by the 92 year old Lyndel Rhodes, who is the mother of producer Buddy Cannon. It is a classic Nelson performance.

That Willie Nelson is still recording and performing about 100 concerts a years in his mid-80’s is remarkable. That he is able to create such a high quality album is a testament to his talent as one of country music’s most creative musicians.

God’s Problem Child is a must listen for his fan base and lovers of country music.


On Safari By The Kentucky Headhunters

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.


All Night Live By The Mavericks

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.


Christmas: There’ll Be Peace In The Valley By Johnny Cash

March 16, 2017

A new Johnny Cash release is a part of a series of vinyl-only albums issued by the Legacy label in time for the holiday season.

Christmas: There’ll Be Peace In The Valley comes on the heels of a new Elvis Presley Christmas vinyl release and pales in comparison. The sound is excellent and the individual performances are fine but the album has a cobbled together feel. Cash has a vast catalogue of material to draw from and there are a number of Christmas songs that would have fit together better and given the album a more cohesive feel.

Cash had a unique vocal approach and when applied to the right material; the results are excellent. Songs such as “Mary Christmas Mary,” “The Christmas Spirit,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and “Christmas Time’s A-Comin,’” are like putty in his hands. On the other hand, “Jingle Bells” and “Blue Christmas” are a bit of a stretch.

The main problems are the “Opening Dialogue,” “The Ballad Of Hap Weaver,” and “(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley” don’t really fit in with the Christmas theme.

The album is what it is and the individual performances should please any fan of the man in black, especially since they are a unique collectable because of the vinyl format. However, if you are a casual fan of the man in black, there are a number of classic Christmas albums out there.