This piece is a contribution from Niall Toner, a songwriter, mandolinist, and bandleader who lives in the Blackstairs Mountains in County Carlow. Niall will be recording a new album for Pinecastle Records in Nashville in May and touring the US.
I believe it’s an accident of Fate with regard to how we acquire and frame our indivual tastes in food, art, sports or music, and I have always thought of my own introduction to the music of Bill Monroe, when I was about twelve years of age, to be pure good fortune. After all, it was in the early 60s, and I was growing up in Dublin in Ireland, and we were being bombarded from all sides with the pop and rock music from Radio Luxemborg and BBC Radio, as well as the ever-present Irish traditional music and song, the latter being very-much a part of the School Curriculum. Into this mix came a young friend of mine, Fran O’Donnell, and he was the proud owner of a substantial collection of classic country music, including folks like Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, and when he played Bill Monroe for me, I was hooked.
In another life, Vince Herman, along with his first band of brothers, Leftover Salmon, was often associated with music festivals. These days there are new words from Vince Herman and it's with his newer band, Great American Taxi (Thirty Tiger Label). Shedding a “jam band” and creating a band with a unique sound, all while combining many musical roots isn't easy. In Great American Taxi's third studio effort, that's exactly what they have accomplished. Paradise Lost has a genuine sound and serves as their most polished album to date.
Now, at a time when most acts are looking wistfully at either nostalgia tours or bed, Dr. John finds himself the subject of a cool reboot, that stalwart tactic of the heritage music industry. This time, his collaborator is not one of the usual tribute crew – Elvis Costello, Dave Stewart or one of several familiar middle-aged hipsters – but the relatively young and happening Dan Auerbach from the modernist blues band The Black Keys. Best of all, Auerbach is interested neither in providing pastiches of Dr. John’s old sound nor weighing it down with misguided over-contemporary tricks; Locked Down is an unusual album, clearly based in the 21st century with its jagged guitars, staccato beats and stark production, but it’s also true to the spirit of the artist on its cover, being mean, lean and funky.
Joe Pug got his start by giving away music. If you liked what you heard, all you had to do was email the Chicago singer-songwriter through his website, and he'd send you a physical copy of his five-song sampler. In fact, Pug, who is set to release his second album The Great Despiser in April, still offers that sampler via his website.
New Multitudes, the album on which Jay Farrar, Jim James, Anders Parker, and Will Johnson set unused Woody Guthrie lyrics to music, is a work of intimate mystery, born of hours in the archives and sentiments that Guthrie himself either abandoned or left buried on purpose. But on stage at Union Transfer Tuesday night, the songs burst into the public sphere, pushing private thoughts into the open and converting whispers to a full-blooded shout.
Chocked full of songs about crooked bankers, the pleasures of recreational drugs, and the evils of organized religion, Todd Snider’s reputation as America’s favorite alt-folk shit disturber remains firmly intact with the release of his newest album...
Recently, country music acquired a new convert: The Decemberists. Having long been indie-rock heroes with a reputation for releasing records with abnormally wonderful songwriting and a flare for the literary, their 2011 efforts The King Is Dead and Long Live the King (EP) crossed into my camp, i.e., old time country music. Recorded in an old barn in the Pacific Northwest with Americana queen Gillian Welch singing background and front man Colin Meloy touting a prominent harmonica, the Decemberists turned heads, especially within the Americana community. As is bound to happen when the great Gillian Welch graces you with her voice, The King Is Dead seemed to be more than just another indie-pop band trying to “get back to their roots.” The efforts appeared genuine, and Meloy would prove his sincerity.
It turns out Gillian Welch was not just a hired hand in the project, but would stick around for performances on Austin City Limits, The Tonight Show, and a host of live shows
This month’s guest artist is the rajah of the resophonic guitar, Rob Ickes. At an early age, Rob was kidnapped by pirates who left him on an island off the coast of California with nothing but a Dobro and a year’s supply of fish tacos. When the pirates returned, he could play Monkey Let the Hogs Out on the Dobro in 12 keys, but had only eaten half a taco. Rob credits this time for establishing his signature growl on the instrument, which sounds a lot like “Arrrrrrrrrr…”
The late great Townes Van Zandt oversimplified the issue when he declared “There’s only two kinds of music, Blues and Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.” Kevin Gordon's fan funded Gloryland (Crowville Media) may not be the blues but it certainly is not Zip-a-dee-doo-dah. With a poet's eye, a storyteller's ear and a rock and roll heart Kevin delivers twelve distinctly Southern stories that are both a magnifying glass and a mirror.
A wicked reinvention of the sound of Bo Diddley – a set that electrifies his groove even more than before – and takes him into the same mix of funk and blues that Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf were exploring at the time! This album's right up there with the two Cadet/Chess classics by both of those artists – and is possibly even more messed-up too – with lots of jagged edges that push past the usual Bo Diddley groove – even though that classic sense of rhythm is still at the core to drive things along!
In college, I took a course called American Roots Music. One genre we discussed was folk music. A portion of the class had to give a presentation on any folk musician they wanted. Of the 15 or so people who presented, I kid you not, all but one of those students presented on either Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, or Woody Guthrie. Over and over again we had to listen to the same material – the same bullet points of life and career highlights that defined the significance of these three musicians. They each are, of course, great musicians. My fondness for folk music – and the fact that I presented in this genre for that class – led me to discover some really great, lesser-known folk musicians. When researching for my project, I wanted to make sure I found someone no one else would talk about. You’ll have to read the list to find out who I did my project on…
Half a century after the release of his debut album, are we any closer to fathoming Mr Zimmerman? Fifty years ago today Bob Dylan released his first album, Bob Dylan, on Columbia. Within 12 months he was a rising star; twelve months more and he was the voice of the times; a little over a year later he had gone from saviour to Judas. And on it went. For half a century now successive generations have wrestled with Dylan's mutations; mostly we pick and choose and settle for – at best – a partial understanding. At the age of 70, Dylan's appeal is still wrapped up in mystery, mischief and contradiction. He could even yet, you feel, turn out to be considerably less or more than he appears.
When Bob Dylan's self-titled debut LP hit shelves on March 19th, 1962, it didn't sound anything like the popular music of the time. It was the height of "The Twist" dance craze, and 11 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart had the word "twist" in the title, including "Dear Lady Twist" by Gary U.S. Bonds, "Twistin' The Night Away" by Sam Cooke, "Hey, Let's Twist" by Joey Dee and the Starlighters," "Twistin' Postman" by the Marvelettes and "Alvin Twist" by the Chipmunks. (A new California group called the Beach Boys reached a new high of Number 77 that week with their first single, "Surfin.'")
It's been 13 years since alt-country act the Sadies first teamed up with R&B belter Andre Williams for Red Dirt, , but both sides have come together again for Williams's next platter, Night & Day.
A statement from Yep Roc Records explains that the imprint will issue the album on May 15. The collection reportedly began tracking in 2008 at the Key Club Studio in Detroit, but Williams's drug and legal troubles held the project up for a bit. Eventually, both sides reconvened to finish the disc.
The first sound you hear on City of Refuge is not Abigail Washburn’s delicate clawhammer banjo or her tender, aching voice. Instead, her second solo album begins with the sound of laughing and children playing, whom she recorded in 2009 in the Sichuan Province of China for the Shanghai Restoration Project. It’s an apt prelude to her songs about perseverance and compassion, especially considering that the children had been left homeless by a massive earthquake.
When Washburn and her collaborator Kai Welch came into the Paste offices for a session earlier this year, the two defined the art of storytelling, performing a six-song, 45-minute session that featured stories behind many of the songs from her latest album. Check out the entire session, featuring performances in both Chinese and English, in this week’s mPlayer.
A British guy from Texas? Oh, ya, that. See one Doug Sahm, a mad monk, a Texas-bred mad monk, of musical talent wanted to ride the wave, the 1960s British invasion wave led by the Beatles that changed the face of rock and roll more than somewhat. Just like Elvis, Chuck and Jerry Lee did a generation before, a rock generation that is, and , strangely, brought blues, big heartland, butcher to the world, industrial city hard life electric blues via Chicago and Memphis and country harder life acoustic blues via the Delta cotton field broiling sun sweats and Saturday night no electricity jukes, mainly, back to America. So ride the wave, take the ride and pay for the ticket, to paraphrase the late gonzo journalist, Doctor Hunter S. Thompson a kindred, here comes none other than the Sir Douglas Quintet no less high and hard in the 1960s American post-invasion hip-hop night.
After more than 50 years riding the ups and downs of the music business, Levon Helm continues to disprove the notion that there are no second acts in Americana music. From barnstorming around Northeastern Canada with Ronnie Hawkins in the early 1960s to redefining rock music with The Band and Bob Dylan later that decade, to starring in the best concert documentary ever in “The Last Waltz,” which segued into a successful movie career, to recovering from cancer of his vocal cords to assume the mantle of elder statesman of American music, Helm has fit more than a few acts into his 70 years.
It's been 39 years and well over 40 musicians since Greg Cahill, a Chicago social worker, founded the Cook County Doo Dah Boys _ the band that became The Special Consensus in 1975. The idea was to showcase his "urban traditionalist take on bluegrass which encompasses elements of Chicago blues, swing, newgrass and country music," according to Compass Records, the band's current home. It took the band four years to get its first record deal and start touring.
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