country

In Memory of Chris Porter: The Mastersons #1706

Friendships run deep when you are a musician. Friends with whom you can pick up right where you left off, after months on the road, become family. Chris Porter forged deep, fast friendships with people in every town he toured, but especially with his tight-knit chosen family of fellow “lifers.” Eleanor Whitmore and Chris Masterson of The Mastersons were family for Porter. The Masterson’s sound permeates his prior album, This Red Mountain. They dropped into the studio one night, just off the plane from tour, to add their sparkle to Don’t Go Baby, It’s Gonna Get Weird Without You. The Masterson’s latest release, Transient Lullaby, was completed but not yet released when he passed away unexpectedly. They dedicated the album to Porter, and often perform the song they co-wrote, “You Got the Last Laugh,” in his memory.

Town Mountain #1606

Town Mountain‘s new album, Southern Crescent, will be out on April Fools’ Day 2016 on Todd Snider’s new record label, Lo Hi. We previously featured this IBMA Award winning band just prior to the release of Leave the Bottle. When we talked for this podcast at Revelator Coffee in Nashville during AmericanaFest, the band had not publicly announced the album and were shopping it around. Southern Crescent reflects the band’s loose, dance-able music, more reflective of their festival and club sets that a staid performing arts center straight-bluegrass set. I’m not sure if the Southern Crescent still runs from Atlanta to Boston like my relatives talked about taking to go “visit culture” in the Northeast, but I’m fairly sure it still runs down to New Orleans, where a more exhilarating culture has endured — an apt analogy for this album.

Town Mountain Southern Crescent is available here on Amazon and iTunes.

The Paisley Fields “Brooklyn Rodeo”

The Paisley Fields are a Brooklyn country band, playing dance-able light honky-tonk songs with sweet lyrics and unexpected social commentary on urban life. James Wilson’s themes stay modern, while wrapping them in a fun, slightly retro sound. The Paisley Fields latest release, Oh These Urban Fences, is available now.

Cale Tyson #1506

Cale Tyson surprised us with news of his upcoming country soul debut album, recording this spring at FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. His two recent EPs took him to traditional country music, cementing his transition from Texas indie folk to Nashville. After straddling the bubble of Belmont and real-life working musicians, Tyson is ready to find his voice in the coming year.

Buy Cale Tyson’s music here.

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Karen & The Sorrows

Karen and the Sorrows play traditional country music straight out of New York City. Their songwriting is personal and often dark, with widespread appeal. Her vocals balance between high lonesome and honky tonk, with top-notch playing. The band regularly plays across New York, but has not ventured out of the region much; I am kicking myself for missing their Southern run early this summer through Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina (–SS).

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Amy Ray

I don’t usually get very excited about a press release, but word of an Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) solo country album intrigued me. Gotta wait til January 28, 2014, though. Little birdy told me we might be talking with her soon.

Buy Amy Ray’s music HERE on Amazon or HERE on iTunes.

Dahlonega, GA: Amy Ray has released the first single, “Oyster and Pearl,” from her upcoming album, Goodnight Tender. As half of Grammy-winning songwriting folk-rock duo the Indigo Girls, Ray has always been a a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. But her upcoming solo release, on Ray’s own Decatur-based imprint, Daemon Records on January 28, 2014, will be a career first for her — a pure country music album. Recorded last spring at Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, N.C. with guests Justin Vernon, Heather McEntire (Mt. Moriah, Merge Records), members of Megafaun and vocal appearances by Kelly Hogan and Susan Tedeschi, this collection features 11 originals by Ray, along with a cover penned by McEntire.

“‘Oyster and Pearl’ is about the hope for a simple life and a simple death,” Ray told Paste Magazine, which premiered the song. “I want the listener to feel like they are sitting on a river bottom, watching the world and their days go by, just contemplating life in an easy way. I want it to feel wistful but sure, something with some age on it.”

Ray enlisted an impressive roster of collaborators for this track, including Justin Vernon, Megafaun’s Phil Cook, Mount Moriah’s Heather McEntire and Hiss Golden Messenger’s Terry Lonergan. The track was recorded live to tape at Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, N.C. and mixed by Trina Shoemaker who gives the recording a warm, intimate sound.

Goodnight Tender marks a dramatic departure from Ray’s previous work, both as a solo artist and an Indigo Girl. Along with a group of trusted artists and collaborators, Ray’s sessions included fiddle, banjo, dobro, pedal steel, guitar, mandolin, bass, and drums gathered ’round a few microphones to create an authentic, vintage sound.

The songs were written over more than a decade. “I wrote ‘Broken Record’ in early 2000 while playing a few shows in Montana for Honor the Earth (the Indigo Girls’ charity organization), imagining being a bartender, missing his/her traveling lover,” Ray says. “‘My Dog’ was a little song I wrote on the bouzouki before I played much mandolin. ‘More Pills’ was one of my earliest tunes, a contrite love song about trying to rescue lost potential. The song ‘Anyhow’ came to me when I was standing in the woods watching one of my dogs get a deathly hold of a copperhead; I was thinking about half a life left.”

Legendary country songwriter, Harlan Howard, famously summed up country music as “three chords and the truth,” and Goodnight Tender offers just that — the kind of stripped-down melodies, honest, hat-in-hand emotions, keening pedal steel and old-time strings that once dominated tear-stained, honky-tonk jukeboxes. In her take on the early Nashville Sound, she sings movingly about dogs, pills, Duane Allman and heartache.

“The bloodlines and kinships in music feel pretty powerful and infinite to me these day,” she says. “I’ve heard some folks say that country is where punks go to die, I don’t know about all that, but I imagine the last mile is the most lonesome, and there’s nothing like the sound of a pedal steel to keep you company.”

Matt Hudgins

Real live country music from a real live songwriter from Georgia, Matt Hudgins. Coming soon to Country Fried Rock.

Michael & The Lonesome Playboys

We are thrilled to share the new album from Michael & The Lonesome Playboys, Bottle Cap Sky.

Buy this album HERE ON AMAZON or HERE ON ITUNES.

Michael and the Lonesome Playboys Keep Country Real–“Bottle Cap Sky” is a record for fans that want an alternative to a slick pop country sound

There’s an underground scene in every city and for Los Angeles, that scene is Americana/Roots music. Old and Young, there is no generation gap; everyone is pulled together by a common thread–good music and musicians that know how to play it.

One of these musicians is Michael Ubaldini of Michael and the Lonesome Playboys. Disillusioned with the pop slick sounds that mainstream country music has been churning out, Ubaldini has written an antiphon to this music called, “Bottle Cap Sky”. The 15-song record is rooted in the traditional sounds of honky tonk, rock n’ roll and blues, but with 21st Century lyrics and an attitude of early Dylan and Kerouac and the influences of Hank Williams and the Clash. (Joe Strummer was actually a fan of Ubaldini’s and would show up for his LA gigs when able.)

Dylan and Kerouac are heavy names to be throwing around, but backing up these lyrical claims is the fact that Ubaldini has written a book of poetry, “Lost American Nights: Lyrics and Poems” which is now in its 2nd edition. Along with strong lyrics, Michael and the Lonesome Playboys recorded “Bottle Cap Sky” live without auto-tuning or a lot of tracking, so what you hear are musicians that have mastered their instruments or, as Ubaldini likes to joke, “My records have no Botox.”

His band on the record includes two members of his live performance band, Rob King on bass and Gary Brandin on pedal steel and dobro. Michael plays lead guitar and acoustic and adds blues harmonica to the mix. Guest musicians include Candy Girard on fiddle (Jerry Garcia, Mason Williams) and Jeremy Long on piano. Jim Doyle (Charlie Terrell, Jesse Harris) is Ubaldini’s new live drummer, but on the record several guests keep the beat: Micky Wieland, Kip Dabbs, Jerry Angel and Mitch Ross.

The songs on “Bottle Cap Sky” were influenced by Ubaldini’s life, a few of them written from a hospital bed in 2010 where he was fighting for his life from endocarditis. (CNN did a news story on Ubaldini during this period about his recovery.) They are full of characters from what he calls his “circus style” of existence; outlaws, Texas oil tycoons, crooked lawmakers and false prophets. “Basically, my wild life and the road to its salvation.” explains Ubaldini.

“Walk Through Fire” is a kicking Memphis blues tune that is both soulful and has a groove. It’s about facing down death with a strong will to survive. “Moon Dog Mad” is a honky tonk Armageddon of a song where you find your toes conversely tapping to the lyrics, “there’s blood on the moon and things are looking real bad.” The gears shift for the ballad, “Lonesome When You’re Gone” and “Three Cheers for Heartache” is a melodic rock n’ roll song with a country feel and the lyrics saluting the outcasts of the world. “Rosewood Night” is a haunting country tune about betrayal, and yet hope holding out for a love’s return.

Whether it’s love, betrayal, sex, rebellion, sin or salvation, Michael Ubaldini’s got it covered. “The songs all men something to me,” he says, “I’m usually jacked up on caffeine in an all-night diner or cheap motel when I’m writing them. I try to be in the moment, so the story or sense of place is in the songs. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t gone through what I had to write a particular song, but if it helps someone out in their own dire situation and can give hope, well, that means a lot to me.”

Los Angeles and Nashville have been taking notice–recently Dwight Yoakam hand-picked the band to open for him on a Southern tour and they are in their 6th year of traveling to the famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, where they are annually asked to play. Ubaldini’s last record, “Last of the Honky Tonks” garnered rave reviews stateside and entered the Mojo Magazine charts at #6 and it topped the CMP charts in the UK.

When asked about his core fan base, Ubaldini says, “We tend to get a lot of hard-core Americana music fans and people I would call outcasts. And by outcasts I mean the current generation of country music listeners who are displaced. There are a lot of young people who are exploring traditional country music and also looking for something fresh.” He continues, “I have kids coming up to me all of the time and telling me they like my music. I feel proud when they say it made them look at the genre of honky tonk and roots music in a new light.”

In this culture of reality television where artists beg to be approved by a panel of judges, Ubaldini is a breath of fresh air. Citing Blake Shelton as an example, Ubaldini claims that country music has “devolved not evolved”. “People should pay attention to the call of the music and not kowtow to industry insiders,” he says. “Just Imagine if the Beatles let any suits convince them that guitars were on their way out, or if Dylan listened to the critics who told them he can’t sing. I just love to write and I love music–that’s what drives me–the drive to create. It’s what I do. I just go where the wind and the music take me.”

Michael and the Lonesome Playboys will celebrate the release of “Bottle Cap Sky” opening for David Allan Coe on August 10th at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA.

Rich Mahan #1304

Rich Mahan blames Bobby Bare for his slightly naughty, humorous songs, but really, he just wants you to have fun and enjoy the music.  Mahan’s debut solo record, Blame Bobby Bare, creates an auditory party–even if it’s just a quick escape from your workday and stresses of life by cranking up the music.  Go ahead and dance around the office if you want.

Mahan’s own musical journey began with a middle school talent show, leading him to play guitar with bands ranging from jamband to Texas rock, and find a way to be in the music field in some way at all times.  The deconstruction of smaller imprints of major labels sent him from Los Angeles to Nashville, where Mahan found other creative communities forging their own DIY path apart from the current music mold.

This independent trajectory, and intense pool of exemplary players and persons in the music industry, made Mahan’s album possible.  From the analog recording and mixing choices, to the top-notch musicians who joined the project, Blame Bobby Bare represents not just where Mahan is now, but how his history has led him to this day–fun, slightly inappropriate, but something most people can relate to and enjoy–even if your mother never found…you know…in your room!

Liner Notes

  • Rich Mahan Blame Bobby Bare [Explicit]  From his days of contributing songs to Dr. Demento to now, Mahan’s songs are fun, embracing some of life’s bad decisions with gusto.  Please note that there are drug references in many of these songs.
  • Shurman Still Waiting For The Sunset  A record from the Country Fried Rock alums, now out of Texas.  When they were all in Los Angeles, Rich Mahan was part of the band and contributed to several songs even when he was no longer in the band.
  • Rainbow The Best Of Rainbow  Great big rock and roll.
  • Bobby Bare Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends And Lies (And More) “Dropkick Me Jesus” This was a tough decision, as I really wanted to select one of the songs written by Shel Silverstein, “Qualudes Again,” but there wasn’t enough time.
  • The Standells The Very Best Of The Standells “Dirty Water” I chose the original album version instead of the spruced up version you occasionally hear on classic rock radio.
  • The Who Quadrophenia [Explicit]  “The Real Me” The most serious song in this week’s radio show, but the emotion contrasts nicely with all the silly, fun, party music of the rest of the show.
  • Boo Ray Bad News Travels Fast  This is a record from a Country Fried Rock alum, one that really should be part of a roots music collection.

NOTE:  There are references to drug use in the 1960’s and 1970’s  in this conversation and some of these songs, specifically, a bit about Jimi Hendrix using drugs before the Monterey Pop Festival and by the musicians in The Last Waltz.  Some of the song lyrics also reference drugs, as evidenced by their titles.

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#1250 Gretchen Peters

When Gretchen Peters decided to write about her private upheaval of the last few years, she chose to record these songs herself.  Calling on a small circle of close friends, including her new husband–but longtime bandmate–Barry Walsh, Peters crafted a dark but cathartic album.  For listeners familiar with her previous albums, Peters’ voice explores the lower end of her register, hinting at the difference in this theme and what is to come in Hello Cruel World.

Most Americana fans know Rodney Crowell for his songwriting and performing, but to Peters and Walsh, he was also their marriage officiant, with a certificate straight off the Internet.  Despite their familiarity with each other, Peters was a bit intimidated to work with Crowell on this record, and especially on the song that turned into their duet.  Even noted songwriters like Peters can have professional idols and a little bit of fangirl-dom, too!

Country Fried Rock probably would not have been tapped into Peters’ album if she had not stopped by  Couch By CouchWest 2012, a virtual music festival held each March.  In this event, songwriters send exclusive videos of themselves performing from a couch–or elevator, sofabed, recliner–and music fans all over Twitter join in.  This year, #CXCW went crazy when noted writers Ray Wylie Hubbard and Gretchen Peters, respectively, sent in videos.  Thanks to a fun time on the Internet, we rediscovered a writer we may have overlooked.

Liner Notes:  Gretchen Peters has extensive liner notes for Hello Cruel World on her website.
Gretchen Peters Hello Cruel World [Explicit] Gretchen Peters
Kim Richey Wreck Your WheelsWreck Your Wheels - Kim Richey
Daddy (Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack) For A Second Time Kim Richey
Mickey Newbury An American Trilogy Mickey Newbury
Bob Dylan and The Band The Basement Tapes The Basement Tapes - Bob Dylan & The Band

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#1249 Mike Cullison

Mike Cullison writes country songs, the kind that pretty boys in rhinestone skinny jeans don’t sing. Cullison’s latest album, The Barstool Monologues, is the most brilliant country concept album in years: auditory theater, imagery via sound, and a premise that pulls it all together. Somewhat like Marty Stuart’s album, The Pilgrim, Cullison calls upon his network of friends to perform his songs (so, the lineup is not Cash, Jones, Harris, and Scruggs, but the idea is similar) and his role as the narrator, in this case, The Bartender, keeps the thread going.

As a songwriter, Cullison crafts his tunes with others’ voices in mind from the beginning, so listening to this album and hearing his own songs sung by others was not odd—it was by design. For listeners unfamiliar with songwriters’ concept albums, one could imagine this as a tribute album in which the writer is the collaborator and even instigator. The Barstool Monologues is a very sensuous collection (if you remember the grocery store grammar lesson in Animal House) appealing to the senses musically, and filling the stories with smoke and scenery. It is as if a short film is running for each song, which is very much intended.

For the CD release show, Cullision created the entire scene of the Roadhouse, with him as narrator and the players rolling in and out. As a premise, this could easily be picked up into a TV series, playing on the success of Nashville, but more purposely focused on the grittier side of music. The idea would play well on stage, too, or even in a genius viral video campaign for the right product. All of this supports the songs, which are exactly what a straight-up country song should be, no pretense.

Thanks for buying the music in this radio show! A small percentage of your purchase supports this program, at no additional cost to you. Amazon links are in the text and iTunes links are small buttons.

  • Mike CullisonMike Cullison
  • Mark Robinson: Produced this album and several of those of The Regulars. He also has a great record of his own, the autobiographical, Quit Your Job, Play Guitar. Quit Your Job - Play Guitar - Mark Robinson
  • Hank Williams: From Cullison’s early music influencesHank Williams
  • Dobie Gray: “Love Is on the Line” was co-written by Don Goodman (Cullison’s early mentor), Waylon Jennings, and Troy SealsDobie Gray
  • Brian Langlinais: One of The RegularsBrian Langlinais
  • Delbert McClinton: Cullison’s music has been described as a cross between McClinton and Hank WilliamsDelbert McClinton
  • John Mellencamp: “Crazy Ones” was co-written with Randy Handley, one of The RegularsJohn Mellencamp
  • Tommy Womack: Daniel Seymour is one of The Regulars, and frequently plays bass with Womack, including on his most recent albumTommy Womack
  • Jon Byrd: One of The RegularsJon Byrd


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