This week, I’m tidying up a few loose ends in my Americana listening stack.
This truly is a genre of great singer-songwriters, and three of them have current albums that you absolutely must own. They are John Hiatt’s Same Old Man, James McMurtry’s Just Us Kids and Bruce Robison’s His Greatest, which earns our Disc of the Day prize today.
Listen and believe.
CHRIS VALLILLO/Battle Cry Of Freedom
Writer: George F. Root; Producer: Chris Vallillo; Publisher: public domain; Gin Ridge (Track) (www.chrisvallillo.com)
—I am writing this on President’s Day, and this year we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. What better day to remind everyone that this slide guitarist and folk singer has an album called Abraham Lincoln in Song? Vallillo performs the melodies that were popular during Abe’s lifetime, beginning with this call to arms. Ordinarily played as an uptempo tune, he slows it down to bring out the beauty of its ebbing and cresting melody. He’s such a good player that it’s a shame that this is the CD’s only instrumental. Other tunes include “Aura Lee,” “Darling Nelly Gray,” “Dixie’s Land,” “Lorena,” “Hard Times Come Again No More” and “We Are Coming Father Abraham.”
JOHN HIATT/Same Old Man
Writer: none listed; Producer: John Hiatt; Publisher: none listed; New West (track) (www.johnhiatt.com)
—The title tune to this Nashville treasure’s current CD is a gently rolling love lyric. “A few less brain cells, a lot less hair/Honey, tell me, do you still care?” Those of us of a certain age can certainly relate. I was the one yelling loudest when he won his Americana lifetime-achievement honor and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame last fall. I own every one of John Hiatt’s albums, and so should you.
THE MIGHTY HANDFUL/Reconsider Baby
Writer: Lowell Fulson; Producer: Scotty Moore; Publisher: Arc, ASCAP; BMCD (track) (www.scottymoore.net)
—This is the tune that led to this extraordinary collaboration. The Mighty Handful was Bob Moore, Boots Randolph, Bucky Barrett, Steve Shepherd, Fred Satterfield and Buddy Spicher with Billy Swan on vocals and Scotty Moore at the board. The self-titled CD is loose-limbed blues all the way through, recorded live. This is one of those discs I never got around to last year. Better late than never.
BRUCE ROBISON/Travelin’ Soldier
Writer: Bruce Robison; Producer: Bruce Robison; Publisher: Tiltawhirl/Carnival/Bruce Robison, BMI; Premium (track)
—The album is called His Greatest. You need it. Badly. It’s Bruce singing his own versions of “Wrapped,” “Angry All the Time,” “Desperately” and the other hits he’s written for others. My favorite leads off the collection, an awesome war song that the Dixie Chicks took up the charts in 2002. Wife Kelly Willis sings harmony on the choruses, and the band is rootsy and terrific. I am such a total fan of this guy.
JAMES McMURTRY/Cheney’s Toy
Writer: none listed; Producer: James McMurtry; Publisher: none listed; Lightning Rod (track) (www.jamesmcmurtry.com)
—McMurtry’s latest is called Just Us Kids. As always, every performance is compelling. On this one, he intones, “You’re no longer daddy’s boy / You’re the one they’re all afraid of / But you’re only Cheney’s toy.” Sung to a military march tempo, this will make the hairs on the back of your neck tingle. Last fall, it was a nominee for Americana Song of the Year. No wonder.
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