Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen are back, sounding as hale and hearty as ever. Dale Watson returns as well, and he is still a country singer’s country singer. The evergreen Bellamy Brothers remain the groove masters they have always been.
The Disc of the Day belongs to Little Big Town. I dig it that they are following “Little White Church” with something that shows a different sonic side.
Whenever I am asked, “What is your favorite music to listen to?” my answer is always the same. It is old-time music, sounds from before World War II, when folks in recording studios sounded like just plain folks in recording studios. I love the purity and innocence of The Blue Sky Boys, Patsy Montana, Jimmie Rodgers, Vernon Dalhart and their peers of the 1920s and 1930s. And my favorite old-time group of all is The Carter Family.
Having said that, it should come as no surprise that this week’s DisCovery Award is going to The Carter Family III.
Writer: Robert E. Walden/Adam Grant/Charlie Gilbert; Producer: Larry Blackmon; Publisher: none listed; GMR/Group 7/Pyramid (www.badhorse.tv)
—Washed up on the beach, having drowned in synth strings.
CHRIS HILLMAN & HERB PEDERSEN/If I Could Only Win Your Love
Writer: Ira Louvin/Charlie Louvin; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Sony-ATV Acuff-Rose, BMI; Rounder (track) (www.chrishillman.com)
—Chris is one of the great survivors (The Hillmen, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, Souther-Hillman-Furay, McGuinn-Clark-Hillman, The Desert Rose Band). Herb has collaborated with him for decades, from even before their Desert Rose Band days together. Also, Herb sang on Emmylou Harris’s 1975 revival of this Louvin Brothers gem. It appears anew on At Edwards Barn, a live CD that also brings back several other tunes from this team’s past (”Eight Miles High,” “Sin City,” “Love Reunited,” etc.). The sound is sparkling throughout.
JADI NORRIS/Home Is Where The Heart Is
Writer: Jadi Norris; Producer: Jadi Norris & Otto D’Agnolo; Publisher: Jumpin’ Armadillo, BMI; Jumpin’ Armadillo (track) (www.jadinorris.com)
—Twang rock, with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Pile-driving and lotsa fun.
LITTLE BIG TOWN/Kiss Goodbye
Writer: Gordie Sampson/Hillary Lindsay/Steve McEwan; Producer: Wayne Kirkpatrck & Little Big Town; Publisher: No Such Music/Bug/Music of Windswept/Raylene/EMI Blackwood/Birds With Ears/, SOCAN/ASCAP/BMI; Capitol Nashville (track)
—In a word, gorgeous. It begins as a hushed, crystalline ballad then builds to a thundering, harmony-drenched chorus. A sonic marvel.
J.D. NEWBURY/Last One
Writer: J.D. Newbury; Producer: Lorne O’Neil; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Neches River (www.jdnewbury.com)
—A trainwreck. He can just barely sing, and the band members seem to be going off in different directions. The tempo shifting doesn’t help, either.
THE CARTER FAMILY III/Maybelle’s Guitar
Writer: Ron Short; Producer: John Carter Cash; Publisher: Lonesome Ace, BMI; Cash House (track) (www.carterfamilyIII.com)
—The group’s moniker is well earned. A.P. Carter and his wife Sara had a daughter named Janette. She is the mother of this group’s Dale Jett. After the original trio broke up, co-founder Maybelle Carter formed a second Carter Family with her daughters Helen, June and Anita. John Carter Cash is June’s son. He and his gifted wife Laura Cash form the other two thirds of The Carter Family III with cousin Dale. Are you with me so far? With Laura on acoustic guitar, fiddle and vocals and John on acoustic guitar and autoharp, the sound is beautifully folkie. Dale—who plays autoharp and acoustic guitar—sings lead on this track. “Music’s getting cold down on Music Row…They’ve traded music’s soul for a pocket full of gold,” he warbles plaintively while guitars strum “Wildwood Flower.” Charmingly Appalachian.
KELLY KENNING/Nothin’ But Smoke
Writer: Tony Ramey/Kris Bergsnes; Producer: Kelly Kenning & David Chamberlain; Publisher: Sony-ATV/Song Garden, BMI; Davis Music Group (www.kellykenning.com)
—He sings with great warmth, and the ballad is ultra melodic. Get a load of this hook: “There was nothin’ but smoke between me and my old flame.” A winner.
DALE WATSON/Carryin’ On This Way
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; E1 Entertainment(track)
—I am forever a fan. This guy remains one of our very finest neo honky-tonk vocalists. On this breezy outing, Mr. Watson manages to channel both Haggard and Glen Campbell. He phrases so beautifully that you hang on every word. Dazzling guitar and fiddle solos are the icing on the cake.
STONEHONEY/Two Years Down
Writer: Davis/Hurley; Producer: Stonehoney & Fred Remmert; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP/BMI; Music Road (track) (www.stonehoney.com)
—Solid country-rock, played and sung by real pros. This spirited song kicks off a CD called The Cedar Creek Sessions. It is a measure of the band’s ability that the entire record was recorded live in the studio with “no overdubs or studio tricks.” Righteous.
THE BELLAMY BROTHERS/Back In The Day
Writer: David Bellamy; Producer: David Bellamy, Howard Bellamy & Randy Heibert; Publisher: Bellamy Brothers, ASCAP; Bellamy Brothers (www.bellamybrothers.com)
—As you might expect, this has a relentlessly catchy rhythmic groove, which is what these guys have always specialized in. It chugs along like a Z.Z. Top classic while the brothers sing of French kissing in the back seat of an old Chevy and other such nostalgia.