Zach Lupetin advertised for some bandmates on Craig’s List, and from that post, Dustbowl Revival formed. Over the years, this collective of musicians (it’s not exactly a fixed band lineup and not a revolving door, either) has released several records refining their sound from stringband to to multi-instrumental roots swing with drums, horns, and nearly every stringed instrument you can imagine! With influences ranging from Stevie Wonder to opera to the Rolling Stones, you can imagine the challenge of creating a cohesive vision for their own songs and the traditional songs they arrange. Dustbowl Revival’s latest album, Carry Me Home, most fully embodies the energy of their live shows without becoming a chaotic mess of instrumentation. Have fun and dance in your car to this one!
Frank Fairfield curates another reissue of 78 rpm records – this time with the help of a few of his collector friends. The collection focuses on some of the most seldom acknowledged varieties of Anglo-American vernacular music. You’ll hear unusual performers, uncommon instrumentation and great fiddlers from California to Ohio, New Mexico to West Virginia. Forget “Americana”, this collection shows Anglo-American down-home music as it actually was and in many cases (although largely unrecognized) still is. With painstaking audio restoration by the great Michael Kieffer (Origin Jazz Library).
‘Turn Me Loose’ is Frank’s second compilation of 78s. ‘Unheard Ofs & Forgotten Abouts’, released on Pawn/Tompkins Square in 2010, provides a broad view of the “Gramophone era”, specifically concerning the recording of vernacular music from around the world: from Atlanta, Georgia to Kisumu, Kenya; from the the 10’s to the 60’s.
I met The Howlin’ Brothers in the parking lot at the Family Wash in East Nashville during Americana Music Festival in 2012. I had seen them a couple of times at the Station Inn, and mistakenly thought they were from North Carolina. As we chatted in the parking lot, Ian Craft told me that they had just finished recording a new album that would be released in the Spring of 2013. Happily for The Howlin’ Brothers, their new album, Howl, had some additional support as the band was signed to Brendan Benson’s label, Readymade Records. With Benson’s direction in the studio and his support for their vision with their music, The Howlin’ Brothers have expanded the sounds they bring to their old time music, but have not strayed from who they are. The band still plays Layla’s Bluegrass Inn and the Station Inn regularly, but they are now able to be on the road more and are a treat to see perform live. When you see them, ask them to dance.
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.
UPDATE: Nobody Knows You by Steep Canyon Rangers was just nominated for a Grammy Award! Congratulations!
Steep Canyon Rangers forged their way in the traditional music scene from their home state of North Carolina through regular forays into the Rockies and back at their base in the Western North Carolina mountains, putting in over 20,000 hours of hard work along the way. (Even Bob Lefsetz might approve of their drive.) Over the years, they have made their own mark within the tight-knit scene, but it was not until they were selected to be Steve Martin’s backing band that their name-recognition expanded beyond Americana, bluegrass, and old time fans. Add in a whirlwind few years of selected shows in Martin’s support and some hefty awards and honors, and the stringband from Carolina was suddenly time-warped from headliner to sell-out headliner.
Along the way, Steep Canyon Rangers took Martin’s advice and emphasized their strengths. His encouragement and seeing their ability to “hold their own” in such esteemed company yielded their most clearly defined album. Highlighting the “Steep Canyon Rangers’ sound” allows them to stand out in a bluegrass or traditional music festival, but also to captivate an audience when sharing the stage with other genres; in fact, that contrast of sounds often produces a better show for both bands. As a thank you gift for supporting his performances, Martin facilitated a graphic design partnership for Steep Canyon Rangers’ record, Nobody Knows You, for which they just won an International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) award for packaging design.
Despite their international recognition and recent success, Steep Canyon Rangers continue to support their region of North Carolina. Their festival, Mountain Song, held in Brevard, NC, has raised over $300,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County. The band is taking their knowledge of hosting a great traditional and acoustic music event to another stage this winter, launching the inaugural Mountain Song at Sea cruise (NOTE: not for the benefit of the charity) in February 2013. With much the same line-up as their festivals on land, this themed cruise should be quite fun. (NOTE: Country Fried Rock is in no way affiliated with the cruise, the band, nor the promotion company behind the cruise. We receive no advertising, sponsorship, or trade from any of these entities.)
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Steep Canyon Rangers
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:
Town Mountain Leave The Bottle “Lawdog,” “Four Miles,” “You Weighed Heavy on My Mind”