There's a thriving community of songwriters and musicians living in the low-rent section of town know as East Nashville. It has little to do with the big machine that consumes artists up there on Music Row. It is an inter-active network that produces some of the best music coming from the town known as Music City. It offers a varied and mixed stew of music that, in truth, has as little to do with traditional country as has much of Nashville's mainstream releases. Rather it is a haven to the art of the below-the-radar singer/songwriter. Volume 1 was a double CD that was produced by label founder Eric Brace, as is this volume. A few of the artists from the initial set are also featured here, something to do with the transient natute of the working troubadour. Among those who appear on both are Kieran Kane, Stephen Simmons, Kevin Gordon, Tom Mason and Tim Carroll all of whom contribute some of the best music on offer. Some of the songs are unreleased, like Elizabeth Cook's On The Wire, which is a little different from her usual output being rockier with a distorted guitar backing that offers a wider view of her talent. Given that the songs on such compilations are not usually the best song from an artist's album, understandably, it is a perfect vehicle to use an used track or to give the listener an idea of what an artists music is like in the main. In that light it makes you want to check out artists you may not have heard before. Artists like Matt Urmy whose Renaissance Rodeo has a Todd Snider sense of wordplay and underlying humour. Nashville treasure Phil Lee opens and closes the album with tracks from his So, Long It's Been Good To Know You and if you don't know Phil Lee then this is a good way to check him out along with 18 other East Nashville residents. No matter where they've come from. Say hello to antipodeans Audrey Auld and Anne McCue. Check out Red Beet and its other release at www.redbeatrecords.com and for links to the sites of the artists featured here.You won't be disappointed.
This Austin based singer-songwriter has released a second album of original songs that are equal parts filled with humour, history and observation that make them a good listen. Musically Rondeau rings the changes and adds instrumental textures throughout. Rapture features banjo and brass to help set the mood of the songs quizzical nature, a reflection on the mysterious ways. That contrasts with the album closer Better Place For You which features a bare bones backing of banjo and fiddle. Between those points there is enough pedal steel and dobro to firmly stamp the words "country music" across the songs, but coming from Austin don't expect that Music Row sheen and pop-polish. While Rondeau doesn't have the most distinctive voice you may come across it is one that does what it needs to do to get these songs across, and one that will get better with age and timbre. The players include the renowned Cindy Cashdollar on dobro and steel along with some fine Austin players who give the perfect backing to this set of serviceable songs. Rondeau's Civil War era outlaw song Had I Know, with its atmospheric trumpet, is one of the strongest songs here and an album highlight. Leo Rondeau is definitely one to watch and Down At The End Of The Bar suggest a bigger talent in the making. www.leorondeau.net
The duo's second album has it's roots planted in the past but it's shoots are reaching out towards a full moon. Produced by the duo and Bo Ramsey the album is centered around the soft spoken singing voices of the duo, Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt who deliver their original songs over a restrained but effective backing of bass, drums and keyboards. The electric guitar contributions give the songs their tension and spark. The delivery is in tune with some of their contemporaries whilst also suggest a link to that softer late 60's and 70's folk mixed with country sound. The two voices are similar and blend with ease to give the overall a casual warmth that is easy to assimilate. The two cover they have chosen fit well within their canon Skipper And His Wife is again graced by some fine guitar picking that moves the song along while Mississippi John Hurt's Spike Driver Blues floats on slide and electric guitar that adds to the urgency of the songs message of return and ruin. The shortest song here Avenue Of The Saints, the only one clocking in at under 3 minuets is an echoey instrumental that has an instant attraction in it's own right. The longest song is the closer Shiny Shoes but it never seems to outstay its welcome. Something that can be said of the whole album - an understated collection of songs that captivated with their sense of drawing a listener into its heart of semi moonlight darkness. www.thepinesmusic.com
A talented San Francisco artist with several albums to his credit delivers this confident and clever album. Co-produced by Forest Sun and Michael Winger with a core trio of Sun, bassist Steve Adams and drummer Michael Messer. Add to that backing vocalists, cello, dobro, keyboards and accordion and the songs are full of contrasting instrumentation that covers quite a few musical stepping stones. All of which makes this an album offers much to the listener with an open mind. It has no foot in any particular genre other than good music but overall the feel is of a rootsy base that should appeal across the board and is an example of the fact that there is a lot of music out there fling under the radar that is unlikely to get the attention it deserves in a situation where specialist music programmes are being squandered rather than encouraged by a system that prefers everything to be the same rather than encouraging individualism. Forest Sun makes music that may not appeal to all but their is not doubting the craft on display here. His voice is strong and confident throughout and the focal point of the album. Gurus and Rockstars, which features Larkin Gayl on equally strong duet vocals is a song in search of a movie or some mainstream placement. The one cover Dylan's She Belongs To Me is giving a treatment that makes it fits with the overall context of the album but also shows Sun reverential to the original but giving the song his own touch. Harlequin Goodnight will tuck you in after entertaining you. www.forestsun.com
A six track ep from this accomplished band that mixes a couple of covers along with material from various band members. Soul Parking is a robust guitar led uptempo song with strong vocals. By way of contrast the three covers My Baby Just Cares For Me has an altogether cosmopolitan feel with hints of jazz in the mix. What Now My Love, sung in French and English again takes on a different mood that sees the band having fun with the different touch stones being displayed. Autumn Leaves is given a semi-Cash/surf treatment until the vocals, again sung in French come in and the song eases off the pedal. Big Fish is fun and taken at a rate of notes and is the most obviously countryfied song here. The opening Always Raining On My Street again emphasizes the band's skill and versatility and shows that next time out they could further explore any of these avenues or a different one entirely but either way Six Songs is what it is and is a fun excursion. www.redbeatrecords.com