music

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.

Chad Cochran #1701

I first got to know Chad Cochran, known online as CowtownChad, through the defunct Twitter event, Couch By Couchwest. Cochran’s photographs and mixed media art featuring haunting landscapes and abandoned buildings held titles from songs by musicians featured on our show. Through the magic of social media, we became friends and hung out at AmericanaFest in Nashville one year, and then he came down to South Carolina to cover the Country Fried Rock 4th-ish Anniversary party, where Caleb Caudle played in our rural school house, a magical, slightly decrepit place that is made for singing.

At the urging of Lydia Loveless, Cochran has expanded his photography to include concert shots, with a specialty for stage images and raw portraits. In this podcast, we talk about many of the bands he has “shot” recently (Charles Bradley, Old 97s, John Moreland, etc.) and festivals from Nelsonville to High Water. I also put him on the spot about a “wish project” that I hope he accomplishes, with your help.

Sam Doores #1309

Sam Doores collaborates in recording and performing, making creative and practical decisions that allow his songs to reach as many audiences as possible. Whether Doores is playing solo, with his band, in a duo setting with a stompbox, or as part of Hurray for the Riff Raff, the versatile musician and songwriter is adding more to his professional toolbox. Doores’ influences range from Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, to knowledge by necessity with a weekly four-hour gig just off Bourbon Street in New Orleans–fusing the music of Allen Toussaint, old R&B, swamp pop, and traditional country with Irish barroom tunes. Such a diverse setlist allowed him to develop his own skills and sounds as he crafted and improved his own songwriting.

Liner Notes

Podcast

Old Man Luedecke #1305

Old Man Luedecke may be new to US audiences, but the Canadian folk songwriter is well-known and lauded north of the border.  As his photo indicates, he is not old, but the music that captures his interest and influences his writing is old.  Luedecke references traditional music from the Smithsonian Folkways series, like the Red Clay Ramblers, but sounds more like a folked-out Paul Simon to me.  (Interestingly, Simon is never referenced, but I cannot get the vocal comparison out of my ears with this record.)

Despite obscure literary references, Tender is the Night, is solidly present.  Although F. Scott Fitzgerald or even Jackson Browne may come to mind, Luedecke has never read that book nor has he heard to catchy tune of the same name–although his mandolin player sings it to him often.  (Luedecke says he is referencing Melville’s Billy Budd who is referencing Keats and a reflection on Thomas Payne’s “Rights of Man.”)  Despite the heavy influences, the music is simple and accessible–producer, Tim O’Brien, gently decorated Luedecke’s songs.

While much more folk-y than most of the music we cover, the connection to the history of folk music and a modern reflection of it, tie  these songs to the rest of the catalog.  Luedecke’s use of humor and the absurd, Biblical topics and modern life, demonstrate how traditional lyrical subjects continue to engage listeners.

Liner Notes

Podcast

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.

Podcast

Whitehorse #1301

Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet joined creatively to form Whitehorse, after many years of successful, separate music careers in Canada.   Their first release together sounded like alternating their individual sounds, but their new album, The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss, creates a new sound that is neither his nor hers, but theirs.  With this record, Whitehorse decided to expand into the States.  Leaving their comfort zone of Canada and their established careers proved challenging–not just in building new audiences, but also in the realistic logistics of constant touring and creating their sound with limited personnel.

Making music work right now requires more than just being “all in” with the art; it also necessitates the leanest live interpretation of a band’s music possible, without compromising the ethos.  Financially, many songwriters have opted for stripped down touring with the lofty goal of just breaking even while on the road.  Whitehorse holed up in a cottage on a lake and crafted a live performance with just the two of them–yet still nearly replicating the layered sounds of their studio album.

By seamlessly integrating technology–particularly a brilliant use of a looping pedal–and alternative gear like an old-fashioned telephone receiver as a microphone, Whitehorse crafted a dynamic and fascinating live show full of instrumentation and sound.  Their set is not a note-for-note replication of their album, but a creative extension of the vibe of their songwriting.  The performance mesmerizes audiences.  Whitehorse is poised to dominate late-night television, and engage fans in a variety of genres.  Our prediction?  By the end of 2013, the duo will dominate critics’ picks lists and people who see them live will win over their own friends to being fans of Whitehorse.  The Fate of the World Depends on this Kiss is sleek, but Whitehorse’s show is spell-binding.

Liner Notes

  • Whitehorse The Fate of the World Depends on This KissWhitehorse  I was familiar with both Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet’s prior work, then I had the honor of emceeing their showcase at the Americana Music Festival 2012 at the High Watt, Nashville.  Their set was mesmerizing.  Of all the 2012 AMA showcases, this was one of the best.  If you get the chance, you really must see them live.
  • k.d. lang Absolute Torch and Twang “Big, Big Love” Absolute Torch and Twang - k.d. lang
  • Sarah McLachlan Rarities “Blackbird” She has a beautiful voice, and I just really like this Beatles tune. Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff, Vol. 2 - Sarah McLachlan
  • Sloan One Chord to Another “Good in Everyone” (the bevy of drummers on Whitehorse’s album) A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005 - Sloan
  • The Weakerthans Reconstruction Site (more from the bevy of drummers) Reconstruction Site - The Weakerthans
  • Lee DorseyFreedom For The Funk “Wonder Woman”  The title of Whitehorse’s album comes from a vintage Wonder Woman comic, but I have always loved Dorsey’s soul and funk, and this fits lyrically more than the campy TV theme.  Besides, in case you did not grow up knowing his music, this album is a great place to start. Soul Mine - The Greatest Hits & More 1960-1978 - Lee Dorsey
  • Trampled By Turtles Stars And Satellites  “Midnight on the Interstate”  Chosen because TBT was also on the Festy bill in 2012, but also because of the discussion about life on the road and avoiding the cliche of road songs, while still acknowledging that is one’s actual life.  Stars and Satellites - Trampled By Turtles

Podcast

#1248 Michelle Malone

Michelle Malone was part of the Atlanta music scene that evolved from the Indigo Girls’ success, enjoying national attention for the music of Shawn Mullins, Tinsley Ellis, and Drivin N Cryin, with her band at the time, Drag the River. The confluence of blues-tinged Southern music at the time made for an exciting music scene, that was later replaced by the still-dominant hiphop scene. Atlanta is a weird place filled with temporary residents who are not from the area, but it is also a collection of neighborhoods with their own identities and people who are part of the arts culture and give different places their distinct vibes. It is from the latter community that Michelle Malone emerges, not as an ingenue, but as the definition of the Atlanta rock sound–Southern, blues-touched, guitar-driven, but still about the song.

When Malone decided to record her most recent album, Day 2, she called upon her long-time friend, Shawn Mullins, to produce. Mullins and Malone collaborated to include their friends in the project, including Gerry Hansen (as co-producer), Phil Skipper, Tom Ryan, Trish Land, Chuck Leavell, Marty Kearns, Glen Matullo, and Randall Bramblett. Pretty much everyone who has ever been in the Atlanta roots scene has played with one or more of these stellar musicians. Malone knew her songs and vision were in excellent hands, and sought out their ideas and guidance in the recording process.

Currently, Day 2 is available in limited release directly from Malone’s website. She has released music within the spectrum of independent to labels and back again, finding the “new normal” DIY allows the artist to retain creative control. Michelle Malone plays regularly, both solo and with her band. If you get a chance to see her, you should try to catch a show in each setting, as the songs adapt to the venue, and bring fresh sounds with each format–more Southern than bluesy this time around. Malone is a player and songwriter that should be as recognizable to roots music fans as Bonnie Raitt is to blues rock fans.

Please support the musicians by purchasing their music through these Amazon and iTunes links. A small portion of your purchase also supports this radio show, at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

  • Michelle Malone Day 2 currently only available for purchase via her website. National release expected mid-2013. Michelle Malone
  • Indigo Girls “I Don’t Wanna Know” selected from Strange Fire because it is co-written with Michelle. Indigo Girls
  • Shawn Mullins produced Malone’s current album. Shawn Mullins
  • Callaghan also on Cayamo 2013, as well as another album produced by Mullins. Callaghan
  • Drivin N Cryin “Honeysuckle Blue” from Mystery Road chosen because Malone’s vocals are distinctly essential in this song. Drivin' n' Cryin'
  • Sea Level chosen because of Chuck Leavell, the keyboard player most known for his stint in the early 1970’s with the Allman Brothers Band, who also played on Malone’s album.  Sea Level, from C. Leavell, was his mid-late 1970’s band that garnered Southern recognition, but not national attention. Sea Level
  • Linda Ronstadt was Malone’s gateway to the music of Little Feat, Hank Williams, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Neil Young, and more. Linda Ronstadt
  • Little Feat quintessential Southern fusion band, defying genre and beloved to many. Little Feat

Podcast

#1240 Greensky Bluegrass

“Sometimes, we’re the weird band in a bluegrass festival; sometimes, we’re the bluegrass band in a weird festival.” Either way, Greensky Bluegrass fans will pack their festivals, large and small, usually for the entire run of their shows. From their home base in Michigan, Greensky Bluegrass rapidly developed a devoted following and spread that dedication to their music across the country playing hundreds of shows per year for years on end. The hard work has paid off, as the band is readily mentioned in the same phrases as Yonder Mountain String Band and the Infamous Stringdusters–bluegrass-ish bands with more in common than just their feat of bringing the hippies into the bluegrass fold; the three bands also share a songwriting mentor in Benny Galloway.

For modern bluegrass players who did not grow up with an Appalachian music heritage, pickers are usually brought into the style in two major ways: either they played punk rock and found the traditional instrumentation appealing, or they were jamband fans, who followed the path from The Grateful Dead through Jerry Garcia to Old and in the Way to David Grisman, Tony Rice, and pretty soon, they were playing Flatt and Scruggs tunes. While the traditional and progressive bluegrass camps may not always agree about “bluegrass,” the latter methods have brought more young musicians under the tent. In about five minutes of listening, fans can easily tell which influences formed the band.

Anders Beck joined Greensky Bluegrass after an earlier run with the Wayword (sic) Sons.  As it became apparent that the Wayword Sons were not going to be a full-time touring band, Beck decided to examine the bands who were making music he liked who were also on the road constantly  and determine which ones could benefit from the addition of a dobro.  After a tour to test each other out, Beck became part of the band nearly five years ago.  Since then, his instrumentals and hooks have added to the main songwriting of Greensky’s mandolin player, Paul Hoffman (who, interestingly, writes songs on acoustic guitar).  To find out Beck’s connection to Metallica, though, you’ll have to listen to the radio show.

Songs in this week’s radio show:
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Podcast

#1236 Town Mountain

Town Mountain brings the bluegrass-infused Asheville, North Carolina, music scene into its creative process. In a place where open and invitational bluegrass jams abound, there is little room for slackers, but there is always room for newbies. For a picker who really wants to learn to play from the best, jump in and try to keep up. For the members of the band, they do not join forces with either “side” of the bluegrass camps, and instead write music that appeals to the traditionalist while reflecting what is new and forward-thinking. Town Mountain are Big Tent pickers.

While individuals like Don Reno, Doc Watson, and Earl Scruggs who hailed from the regions made names for themselves, the proliferation of bluegrass jams has spawned many newer players and bands. Steep Canyon Rangers have made international headlines since 2009 when they joined Steve Martin as his “official back-up band,” but many other old-time and bluegrass peers, like Town Mountain, Red June, Balsam Range, and Dehlia Low, bring fresh ideas to the saturated Western North Carolina sounds. Jesse Langlais of Town Mountain sought out this rich musical haven, to hone his skills and make music his life.

With their most recent studio record, Leave the Bottle, Town Mountain keeps their recordings close to their live sound, while incorporating the process as part of the art. For them, this yields an “80% live” album. The band share writing responsibilities, not as a group, but as individuals who then bring some of their songs to the Town Mountain project. By allowing for the freedom to pursue solo projects and other permutations, Town Mountain never gets stale for its members, rather, it’s a refreshing return to a product that is more than the sum of its parts. townmountain.netYour purchase of these songs supports the musicians and this radio show: