We are way overdue for an Americana overview.
Today’s listening stack includes a number of favorites in this genre — John Prine, Lori McKenna, Dana Cooper, Will Hoge. The Disc of the Day belongs to a pair of other longtime faves, Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis.
From our handful of newcomers (Granville Automatic, Love Canon, Tyler Childers, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band) emerges our DisCovery Award winner, singer-songwriter Adam Hood.
ROBBIE FULKS AND LINDA GAIL LEWIS/Wild Wild Wild
Writers: R. Fulks; Producer: Fulks; Publisher: Lorne Rail, ASCAP; Bloodshot (track)
– As she has proved so often, Linda Gail is a first-class piano-pounding rocker in league with big brother Jerry Lee. For a demonstration, check out the album opener, “Round Too Long,” the romping “Boogie Woogie Country Gal” or this this blazing title tune. And if you miss George and Tammy as much as I do, let this pair remind you of what a barroom lament is supposed to sound like (”That’s Why They Call It Temptation,” “I Just Lived a Country Song”). Robbie cares about Real Country Music, and it shows in every groove of this delightful disc.
TYLER CHILDERS/Feathered Indians
Writers: Tyler Childers; Producers: Sturgill Simpson/David Ferguson; Publishers: none listed; Hickman Holler/Thirty Tigers
– When he was named Americana’s Emerging Artist award winner, Childers insisted that he’s a country artist. He’s right. Not only that, he’s the freshest sounding young male singer-songwriter working in country music today. The album is called Purgatory. It is essential.
LORI McKENNA/People Get Old
Writer: Lori McKenna; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publishers: Creative Nation; CN/Thirty Tigers
– I am so in love with this woman’s music. Her current The Tree LP contains her own version of “Happy People” (popularized by LBT). And there are plenty of other tunes just as captivating, including this striking meditation on aging. Her conversational, just-folks vocal delivery draws you in, and her extraordinary lyrics take your breath away.
GRANVILLE AUTOMATIC/Radio Hymns
Writers: Elizabeth Elkins/Vanessa Olivarez/Matraca Berg; Producers: Elizabeth Elkins & Vanessa Olivarez; Publishers: BMG Platinum/Songs of Adams and Strahl and Granbury/Songs of the Ribbon/Jeff’s Wife/Songs of Sally Sue’s Medicine Show, BMI; GA (track)
– This female duo has an ear-opening concept album. Its various songs tell tales of Nashville’s history, ranging from a Music Row hanging (”Black Avenue Gallows”) to a millionairess taking a body home (”Adelicia”), from Jimi Hendrix (”Marbles”) to Timothy Demonbreun (”Summer Street”). The echoey, atmospheric title tune relates the near-demise of The Ryman Auditorium. Throughout, their production skills are as impressive as their performances. Guests include Jim Lauderdale, Kevin Griffin (Better Than Ezra) and Ben Fields.
DANA COOPER/Making A Killing
Writer: Dana Cooper; Producers: Thomm Jutz and Dana Cooper; Publishers: Dog Eared/Bluewater, SESAC; travianna (track)
– Dana has a new video from his Incendiary Kid CD. It’s this bluesy lament about how tough it can be to simply make a living. The protagonist is jobless, loveless and hopeless. He’s also in a terrifically relentless groove. Active since the 1970s, this singer-songwriter is a perennially impressive folk talent. If you don’t know his music, you should. “Dance Toward the Light,” “Flat Made Round,” “My America,” “Maybe Tomorrow” and the rest collected here will make a believer out of you.
WILL HOGE/Gilded Walls
Writer: Will Hoge; Producer: Will Hoge; Publisher: Julia’s Husband, BMI; Edio/Thirty Tigers
– I love it that Will can be both commercially successful (”Strong,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”) and politically outspoken. This wailing blues rocker is a thinly veiled attack on Donald Trump. To wit: “I work two jobs to raise a family/While you’re living on everything your daddy left behind” and, “Another group of kids in high school dead/But you’re still at your golf course teeing off at nine” and, “You sit around spouting more bullshit online.” His blue-collar singing voice and ace rock band accompanists add urgency to every lyric. The album is pointedly titled My American Dream.
Writers: Adam Hood/Jason Eady; Producer: Oran Thornton; Publishers: none listed; Southern Songs
-He’s an Alabama troubadour who sings of good people facing hard times. His warm drawl on this mid-tempo lament is supported by an exquisite production of gently twanged guitars. The album is titled Somewhere In Between, and it is a stunner. Hood’s songs have been recorded by Miranda Lambert, Anderson East, Little Big Town, Brent Cobb and Lee Ann Womack. Based on what I hear here, the whole town should be lining up to grab his works.
LOVE CANON/Kyrie Eielson
Writers: Steven Park/John R. Lang/Richard J. Page; Producer: Love Canon; Publishers: Ali-Aja/Indolent Sloth/Panola Park/WB, ASCAP; Organic (track)
– The concept behind this quintet’s Cover Story CD is doing acoustic/bluegrassy treatments of rock staples such as “Graceland,” “Islands in the Stream,” “Tempted” and the like. This Electric Prunes cover is a good example of how accomplished the band is at this. The writer credits, however, are incorrect. This song was written by David Axelrod.
JOHN PRINE/Summer’s End
Writers: John Prine/Pat McLaughlin; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publishers: Tommy Jack/Corn Country, BMI; Oh Boy
– Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness CD has been featured in every music mag in existence since its release last spring. He has issued a string of singles/videos from it (”Knockin’ on Your Screen Door,” “Crazy Bone,” etc.), of which this is the most recent. It’s a laconic, loping sideways look at Southern quirks and goofy apocalyptic notions. Underlying it all is a poignant invitation to the comfort of home. The album is Prine’s first collection of new original tunes since 2005. And that, alone, calls for a celebration.
REVEREND PEYTON’S BIG DAMN BAND/Poor Until Payday
Writers: Reverend Peyton; Producer: Reverend Peyton; Publishers: 26F/Family Owned, SESAC; Family Owned/Thirty Tigers
– He’s a hoarse screamer and a slide-guitar demon. The rest of the band consists of drummer Maxwell Senteney and Washboard Breezy Peyton. As his wife’s name indicates, she plays the washboard. She also reportedly sets it on fire a la Hendrix. His YouTube videos feature him playing guitars made out of a shotgun and an axe. I am not making this stuff up. The title tune of the CD is monotonously repetitive blues-rock. I think that’s wholly intentional. It goes along with the whole minimalist aesthetic that’s going on here.
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