Our listeners choose Country Fried Rock’s Best of 2015 list by streaming or downloading our podcasts throughout the year. Usually, this leads to a very clear selection of songwriters, but there were several ties this year, so the Top 10 are actually the top 14! Even better!
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Justin Townes Earle ended up moving to Vagrant Records and surprised his fans with not one, but two, new albums within a year. The companion pieces, Single Mothers and Absent Fathers, are not concept records, but complimentary, as he describes, “like the two parts of Springsteen’s The River.” Our conversation w/ Earle was conducted live in the studio of a radio station in Columbia, SC, that my friend, Mike Allen, was kind enough to include me, knowing that I am a fan. The format differs from our typical conversations, but we have the pleasure of better quality audio because of the studio. Enjoy!
Stream or download the conversation here or on SoundCloud.
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Henry Wagons must have watched a few too many Las Vegas television specials growing up. How else would the Australian songwriter developed a fascination with the showmanship of Tom Jones and Elvis? Add to the mix (literally) Wagons’ obsession with vintage reverb sounds like the songs of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, and you end up with a record full of noir duets that is both retro and ethereal–without becoming too trippy.
Henry Wagons’ band, Wagons, reached Australian success, and roots music first-adopters may have heard either Wagons’ tune “Willie Nelson” or “I Blew It.” His album of duets with a variety of beautiful voices, Expecting Company, is his first with a wide-scale American release. Sonicly, this record maintains the over-the-top vibe of much of his songwriting, but the contrast with gorgeous singing from Jenn Grant, Sophia Brous, and Alison Mosshart (among others) brings this record to a new plane.
Wagons’ theatrics on stage and expansive recordings mirror his personality, as well. He is quite entertaining to interview, regaling tales of his cooking skills, his vision for music videos (some of which are extremely conceptual), and his love for ELO, the Electric Light Orchestra. While some people might tell these tales on themselves for the amusement alone, Wagons manages to share his genuine passion for these over-the-top antics, reflecting his love for them, not sarcasm, snark, nor superiority. Henry Wagons repeatedly mentions how thankful and grateful he is for the success he has had, in spite of his drive to fulfill his “egomaniacal vision.” Just another self-deprecating line from Wagons himself!
Henry Wagons “Expecting Company?” “I’m In Love with Mary Magdalene,” “Give Things a Chance,” “Marylou Two”
Van Halen Diver Down “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)”