DISClaimer: Americana Takes Over Nashville

Dana Cooper

Dana Cooper

The annual Americana convention is upon us this week, so let’s listen to some of the genre’s current offerings.

As it should be, this stack of platters is dominated by singer-songwriters. The most outstanding of these are HoneyHoney, Dana Cooper, Joe Ely, Angela Easterling and Ted Russell Kamp.

Nashville veteran Cooper wins the Disc of the Day prize. Easterling captivated me and earned the DisCovery Award.

FAIRGROUND SAINTS/Can’t Control The Weather
Writers: Mason Van Valin; Producer: Matthew Wilder; Publisher: Van Valin, ASCAP; Verve (track)
-Sweet sounding, jaunty folk-pop featuring strumming guitars, bright horn bursts and sunny vocal harmonies. Trio is based in L.A.

Writers: Ted Russell Kamp/Jennifer Gibbons/John Schreffler; Producer: Ted Russell Kamp; Publishers: Terys the Silver/Peacock Choir/So Help Me, ASCAP; Pomo (track)
-He’s an in-demand bass player who has backed Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, Lee Roy Parnell, Tony Joe White and others. TRK also makes solo albums that get rave reviews, thanks to his gripping songwriting and raspy, soulful singing. His new one is titled The Low and Lonesome Sound. Like much of the collection, this track is stark and intimate, stripped down to just his heartbeat bass notes and drawling vocal. Ted will be playing all over town this week. He’s at The Tennessee Brew Works Thursday at 7 p.m., the East Side Performing Artists Co-op Friday at 2 p.m. and Drifters BBQ Friday at 9 p.m. You can also catch him playing bass with Calico at that band’s various showcases.

Angela Easterling

Angela Easterling

Writers: Angela Easterling; Producers: Brandon Turner & Joe Pisapla; Publisher: De L’Est, ASCAP; De L’Est (track)
-This South Carolina singer-songwriter is surrounded by such Nashville talents as Will Kimbrough, Fats Kaplan and Joe Pisapia on her Common Law Wife CD. This loping, lead-off track shimmers with steel sighs and co-producer Brandon Turner’s soft harmony singing. Its lyrics were inspired by the late Pete Seeger. This lady has the goods, people.

JOE ELY/Wounded Creek
Writer: Joe Ely; Producer: Joe Ely; Publishers: Tornado Temple/BMG//Bumblebee, BMI; Rack ‘Em (track)
-The eternally great Joe Ely has a new collection called Panhandle Rambler. This is its dry, dusty first track, a story song of a ghostly roadside vision. You’ll hang on every line. The whole album is like that, evoking the desolation and solitude of his West Texas roots.

EMMYLOU HARRIS/Bury Me Beneath The Willow
Writers: traditional; Producer: Carl Jackson; Publisher: public domain; Legacy (track)
Orthophonic Joy is a double CD of performances reviving the songs recorded at the 1927 “Bristol Sessions” that are regarded as “the big bang” of country music. Perfectly produced by the esteemed Carl Jackson, it includes such talents as Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Jesse McReynolds, Marty Stuart, Dolly Parton, Ashley Monroe, Brad Paisley, Keb’ Mo’, Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow. Here, Emmylou is accompanied by lively autoharp strumming on a Carter Family classic. I could have done without the lengthy historical narration between the songs. But song for song, this fund raiser for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a winner.

ANNE McCUE/Little White Cat
Writers: A. McCue; Producers: Anne McCue/Dusty Wakeman; Publishers: APRA; AM (track)
-I ran into this veteran Nashville folkie at a recent NARAS reception. Her latest is titled Blue Sky Thinkin’ and features this bopping, toe-tapping swing tune with the band answering her saucy vocals about a lucky day when a kitty crossed her path. The cast members — including Dave Pomeroy, Dave Alvin, Deanie Richardson, Jim Hoke and Dusty Wakeman — sound like they are having a ball. Anne’s Americana Convention showcase is at Douglas Corner on Thursday.

Writers: Colin Linden/Janice Powers; Producer: The Rotting Matadors; Publishers: Colin Linden/Stony Plain/Button Moulder, SOCAN; Stony Plain (track)
-This electric-guitar great splits his time between Nashville and his Canadian homeland. The title tune of his latest album is an echoey ballad that moans the blues with a slow, simmering burn. He’s a soul man, for sure.

DANA COOPER/No Second Coming
Writers: Dana Cooper; Producers: Dana Cooper/Thomm Jutz; Publishers: Dog Eared/Bluewater, SESAC; DC (track)
-This Nashville singer-songwriter has been making great albums since 1973. His 25th one is just out. Titled Building a Human Being, it features this cool, lightly rocking tune wherein a fed-up Jesus informs us, “I’m not taking your calls anymore” and “I’m not bleeding for you again.” Kim Carnes and Sally Barris are among the groovy backing vocalists. Highly recommended.

Writers: Steve Riley; Producers: Chris Stafford, Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys; Publisher: JSRII, BMI; SR (track)
-This Cajun accordion player and his band are celebrating their 25th anniversary of music making with a CD titled Voyageurs. It begins with the pulsing energy of this mid-tempo tune of saying bye-bye to your hometown. Go ahead. Get up and bop around the room.

HONEYHONEY/Father’s Daughter
Writers: Suzanne Santo/Ben Jaffe; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publishers: none listed; Rounder (track)
-HoneyHoney showcases at the Americana Convention on Thursday at Mercy Lounge. The duo’s new CD is titled III. It includes this downbeat atmospheric meditation with a string section embellishing lead vocalist Santo’s penetrating, sultry, captivating, rangy and passionate vocal performance. They are former Nashvillians now based in L.A. who returned to Music City to record their third album. The thread running through it is extraordinary song craftsmanship. Essential listening.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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