Wednesday
Sep082010

Dierks Bentley 'Up On The Ridge' Capitol/Humphead

This is an album that Bentley both wanted and needed to make. On his arrival in Nashville he spent time down in the Station Inn listening and absorbing the welcome harmonies of bluegrass. There it mingled with his love of classic country and righteous rock. He has included bluegrass-styled tracks on his albums before but here he has delivered an album that is rooted in the music he heard delivered by the likes of The Sidemen and while it may not exactly fit the more rigid demands of the bluegrass purist it will delight many. The key however is if it will please those who have previously been very taken with his hi-octane radio friendly country. Dierks Bentley is well aware of the need to grow, to move on and develop his music and Up On The Ridge does that. It does it very well. Now it just needs to sell. With slightly left field producer Jon Randall Stewart at the helm this album has a more organic sound and provides Bentley with the backdrop to deliver his best vocal performance to date. He is surrounded with a fine bunch of players, harmony vocalist and guest singers. They all add much to the proceedings without overwhelming the man whose name is on the cover. Those friends include Bryan Sutton, Del, Ronnie and Rob McCoury. The Punch Brothers, Kris Kristofferson, Vince Gill and many more. The songs are a mix of co-writes with producer Stewart, Tim O'Brien and Angelo as well as songs from writers of note such as Bob Dylan, Shawn Camp, Kristofferson and some upcoming Irish band called U2 (Pride - In The Name Of Love). There's a lot to like here with Senor, Fiddlin' Around, Love Grows Wild and Down In The Mine immediately hitting home on what is a very strong and satisfying album that has already gained much critical kudos.


Wednesday
Sep082010

The Jayhawks / Humphead

This is the re-release of The Jayhawks original vinyl only debut, know as the "bunkhouse album". It shows the band at their countriest, delivering music filled with enthusiasm and energy. Music that comes from the inspiration that came from the records they listened to then. Recorded in Minneapolis and produced by their then manager and mentor Charlie Pine it's not that far removed from Rank and File and other early "cow-punk" bands as well as a big nod to Gram Parsons notion of country played by rockers. It has charm and displays where the band where at at the time and howe far they have come since then. Olson handles most of the vocals on a bunch of songs that have titles that suit like Behind Bars, Six Pack On The Dashboard, Misery Tavern and Falling Star. All are enhanced by Cal Hand's pedal steel guitar runs. It's a period piece but one that still stands up to listening and dancing around to. Bands, and band members, grow and move on. The music changes and gets technically better as the bands skills develop but sometimes. That first bloom offers something that can never be repeated. It may be naive but that first flush that first time in the studio feel that will never be repeated. It may be a part of the band's history but it's more that that. It is the beginning and you need to know where you've come from to know where you want to go.

Wednesday
Sep082010

Jewel 'Sweet and Wild' Humphead/Valory Music

Fitting into the current vision of contemporary country singers should be seen as the more grown-up relative of Taylor Swift. A singer and songwriter well capable of delivering these songs that deal with love, in a mostly positive and uplifting way. The backings are a radio friendly mix of upfront drums, big sounds with some steel and fiddle in there with the B3 and big arrangements. Something that is highlighted on this deluxe edition that has a second CD which has exactly the same songs delivered in a very sparse setting of just Jewel and her guitar. This shows her undoubted talent as singer and songwriter rather than just the vocal addition to a producer's vision of the songs. That Jewel was involved with the production of both supposes that the two sides of this coin are designed to offer different perspectives on her songs, both valid and both likely to appeal to different sets of listening moods. Given the choice I prefer the Sweet and Mild acoustic set over the full on Sweet and Wild side. Either way you can make that choice yourselves and decide which Jewel shines the most for you. Either way both ides should have mainstream appeal if they get picked up by radio. If they do then Jewel can join the list of artists who may make a impact on European sensibilities. Lovers of hardcore honky-tonk though should look elsewhere for their fix.

Wednesday
Sep082010

Larkin Poe 'Spring' Edvins

This duo grew out of the Lovell Sisters and after the departure of elder sister Jessica now consists of Rebecca and Megan Lovell and a trio of additional musicians who make up Larkin Poe. The music is loosely defined Americana with touches of both pop and folk. The set subtitled The Spring EP features 9 songs written individually or together and featuring both sisters on vocals. The harmony singing is a key part of the sound which also has adds the sonic textures of lap steel, mandolin, ukulele, banjo to the bass drums and guitar bedrock. The arrangements are full of subtle melodies that stretch out across the songs making it the kind of album that requires attention to get most out of the songs. But, on occasion, songs like The Principle Of Silver Lining the emotional appeal is more direct. They have in their previous incarnation performed with Elvis Costello and the projection of their music to where it is now is undoubtably influenced by that search for craftsmanship and musical adventure. Spring is a first step, one that will have resonance with those who like their music to have some depth and to cross genres listening and looking out for the next adventure. www.larkinpoe.com

Wednesday
Sep082010

Rose's Pawn Shop 'Dancing On The Gallows' Self-Released

This LA based quartet are part of a selection of bands who take acoustic bluegrass and old-time music and add additional layers onto that core. In this case the acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandolin are give additional drive by the presence of upright bass and drums. They are helped out on this Ethan Allen produced album by an additional seven players and two vocalists. All of which gives the album a full and decidedly powerful sound. The music then is well able to cover a lot of bases from country, country rock as well as the core layer of bluegrass. The end result has been described as "Del McCoury meets Mick Jagger" and be that as it may this is strong enough to stand on its own feet. But the description and the punkish attitude means your in for a fast ride. They come as a part of the LA country music tradition that was spearheaded back in the eighties by Dwight Yoakam's country with rock attitude that saw hardcore country being played in punk rock clubs as well as in the Palamino. Lead singer Paul Givant possess a strong voice that can deliver the out and out energy of Ball Of Flames as well as the more poignant place of Patiently. He is ably backed up by the rest of the band with well positioned vocal harmonies. An album highlight however has to be One Last Of Whiskey, a song about the pain of trying to quit, once again, the lure of alcoholic absolution. Rose's Pawn Shop are a welcome addition to a strong legacy of country music emanating from that town south of Bakersfield. Dancing On The Gallows will have your feet tapping and your heart racing and Rose's Pawn Shop is will worth redeeming. www.RosesPawnShop.com