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September 30, 2011

New Music for September

To most of America, Hugh Laurie is simply Dr. House. But, Laurie had a long (long) history as a performer long before he took on the role of the clever, yet socially inept TV doctor. Laurie has now put his musical skills to work on his first CD, Let Them Talk, a blues collection rich in the spirit of New Orleans - far from his Oxford roots.

Prologue is the first release from the Milk Carton Kids (you know a band is brand spanking new when they don't even have a Wikipedia page). The duo of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan sound like a trip back in time to the dusty, pre-electric Dylan, '50s. And, that's a good thing.

Guy Clark is not new on the scene. The legendary singer/songwriter has been creating songs for nearly four decades. His latest, Songs and Stories, is a delightful mix of, well, songs and stories. Recorded live with an all-star band, the album is a reminder of why Clark has amassed multiple generations of fans during his many years on the road (read Matt Watroba's review in the Folk Alley blog).

Although he's no longer with us on this plane, Bill Monroe will never truly disappear. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, Rounder Records has released a tribute to the father of bluegrass. The two CDs of Bill Monore Centennial Celebration: A Classic Bluegrass Tribute contain performances of many of the master's great songs by artists including Dailey & Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Claire Lynch, IIIrd Tyme Out, Tony Rice, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper and others.

Other CDs making their way to our shelves:

Ry Cooder - "Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down"
John Hiatt - "Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns"
Joy Kills Sorrow - "This Unknown Science"
Blue Highway - "Sounds of Home"
Catie Curtis - "Stretch Limousine on Fire"
Rosi Golen - "Lead Balloon"
Downtown Ramblers - "On the Other Side of the City"
The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore - "The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore"
Joe Ely - "Satisfied at Last"
Dave Alvin - "Eleven Eleven"
R.J. Cowdery - "In This Light"
Moody Bluegrass - "Two... Much Love"
Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 9:44 AM

Review: Guy Clark ~ Songs and Stories

September 28, 2011

Guy Clark better.jpg

by Matt Watroba,

Guy Clark
Songs and Stories

I've never liked the term legend to describe someone like Guy Clark. A legend is unverifiable. We know Guy lives because we see him in concert and revel in the trail of perfectly crafted gems he's left along the path of a career that spans over 35 years. His latest gift to us is a live performance captured at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, and preserved forever on the new CD, Songs and Stories.

Songs and Stories is a thirteen song retrospective of Guy's songwriting life along with the stories that put those songs, and his extraordinary artistic life, in perspective. Guy gives some of it away to his life-long friend and fellow writer Verlon Thompson as well as his pal and frequent co-writer, Shawn Camp. Also joining Guy on stage is bassist, Bryn Davies and famed percussionist, Kenny Malone. The result highlights songs that span from Guy's first studio release Old No. 1 (first released in 1975) and his last, Some Days the Song Writes You (2009). From his classic, "L.A. Freeway" to his "Magnolia Wind" Guy proves, once again, that every line counts.

Listening to Songs and Stories feels like being at a party where great friends are sitting around telling tales and making music together. Alongside the familiar Guy Clark tunes like "Homegrown Tomatoes" and "Out In the Parking Lot," you'll also find Camp's (and Guy's) "Sis Draper," and a spirited performance of Thompson's, "Joe Walker's Mare." With a nod to co-writer Rodney Crowell--who happens to be sitting in the audience--Guy also brings back to life the poignant, "Stuff That Works," a song originally recorded on his masterpiece, Dublin Blues. This live performance pays tribute, not to the legend, but to the man who has raised the bar for singer/songwriters throughout the world.

Posted by Matt Watroba at 9:30 AM

Review: Pharis & Jason Romero ~ A Passing Glimpse

September 9, 2011

Pharis and Jason_passinglimpse_cover.jpgby Jim Blum,

Pharis & Jason Romero
A Passing Glimpse
(Lula Records)

You may not recognize the name Pharis Romero, but it's likely you have heard her voice on Folk Alley. Pharis was the lead singer of Outlaw Social and The Haints Old Time Stringband which also featured her husband Jason. She has a dynamic voice with unlimited range and in this setting she is paired with Jason alone. Both play guitar and Jason often doubles on one the old time banjos he also makes. They sing well together and though their songs are often serious their story is sweet.

Jason Romero is from California and the two met at a fiddlers' convention in his home state. They hit it off and began playing together. Today they live in a really small town in British Columbia where Pharis is from - and what a name: Horsefly. That's where Jason has also set up shop to build his instruments which are becoming in demand.

Now to the songs. The album opens with "Forsaken Love," in which a Dear John letter is received. Knowing what it will tell, a decision is made to set the letter aside unread, as knowing the details will only make the truth more painful. Another heartbreaker is the album's title "A Passing Glimpse" in which Pharis sings as a wife wondering if her husband will eventually lose interest as she grows older. Jason gets a lead on "Hillbilly Blues." This Uncle Dave Macon classic reveals the loneliness that many men in Appalachia faced a century ago. The countryside was beautiful but there was often no way to meet someone in which to share it. "Dad's Song" relates an all too familiar story of a farmer's struggle to support his family despite hard work.

Yes, these are sad songs, but they are engaging and timeless. The harmonies are close and the instruments are appropriate, and well played. Comparisons to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will be made, but the Romeros have a distinct style which will grab you and take you the place in your heart where hardship dwells and questions linger. It's not a bad place to be.

Posted by Jim Blum at 12:50 PM

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