Tag Archives: country music

Country icon Crowell brings rock and gospel to Twangfest

Rodney Crowell and Jedd Hughes at Twangfest 18 / Photo by Barry Gilbert
Rodney Crowell and Jedd Hughes at Twangfest 18 / Photo by Barry Gilbert

By Barry Gilbert

Country music legend Rodney Crowell came to St. Louis last night (June 5, 2014) and broke out his rock and gospel show for the second night of Twangfest 18.

Backed by an excellent, sympathetic band featuring Australia’s Jedd Hughes on electric guitar, Crowell played for about 90 minutes, hitting most of his career milestones while obliterating expectations of what the show would be like.

Crowell threw his set list in the trash before the show even started, moving the topical rocker “Sex and Gasoline” to the leadoff position and saving “Stars on the Water” for later.

And for the first hour, the music did the only talking, as Crowell built momentum through a series of songs that mixed older material such as “Telephone Road” with new tunes from his “Tarpaper Sky” CD, including the ballad “Anything But Tame.”

Then came the midset surprise.

Stars on the Water,” from Crowell’s first album in 1977 and which Jimmy Buffett has been performing live for 30 years, flowed into – of all things – the Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself.”

Fueled by the backup vocals of touring partner Shannon McNally and the powerful Joanne Gardner, “Respect Yourself” had the audience dancing. And Crowell, playing acoustic guitar, prowled the stage making eye contact with Hughes, joyfully grinning drummer Keio Stroud and upright-bass slapper Michael Rennie.

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Rodney Crowell continues quest for ‘timelessness’

 

Rodney Crowell / Photo by David McClister
Rodney Crowell / Photo by David McClister

By Barry Gilbert

Rodney Crowell, bluesman. That might sound like a contradiction coming from a veteran country music singer/songwriter, but he has said that a bluesman is inside him trying to get out – and that the bluesman hasn’t always been there.

However, Crowell, a perfectionist who’s most recent CD, “Tarpaper Sky,” continues to sit atop the American Music Association chart, is hesitant to talk too much about it.

You have to be careful … when you’re trying to tap into and learn to create from an artistic place that comes to you later on,” he said recently from his home in Tennessee. “To talk about it is tricky. To hear you quote me that way, I was thinking, hmm, am I being wise to talk about it?”

Crowell, who tore up the country charts in 1988 with five No. 1 singles from his fifth album, “Diamonds & Dirt,” acknowledges that rock musicians such as Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones drew from Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and that Stevie Ray Vaughan drew from Lightin’ Hopkins.

I certainly understood (the blues) from Day 1, from being 4 years old, I understood Hank Williams’ version of the blues, and it is an authentic version of the blues,” Crowell says. “I’ve certainly been trying to get instinctive about it and intuitive enough that I’m not manufacturing rehashed blues, but to intuitively find my own version of it. That’s the way I work. And to speak of it before you’ve actually achieved it is maybe not the smartest thing to do.”

I interviewed Crowell recently in advance of his show in St. Louis on June 5, 2014, when he will headline the second night of the 18th annual, four-night roots music series Twangfest. I found him to be extremely gracious and generous with his time and, as expected, very thoughtful.

Continue reading Rodney Crowell continues quest for ‘timelessness’

Iris DeMent, a perfectionist of spirit, comes to a musical crossroad

Iris DeMent // Photo by Pieta Brown

By Barry Gilbert
Special to Go! Magazine

ST. LOUIS – The saying “good things come to those who wait” epitomizes folk singer Iris DeMent as well as her fans. It took 16 years for DeMent to release her fourth studio CD, last year’s “Sing the Delta.” And that gap says volumes about DeMent and, as she put it, “my music career, if you want to call it that.”

DeMent, who performs with a full band Friday (Nov. 22, 2013) at the Sheldon Concert Hall, is a perfectionist of spirit. If her writing doesn’t move her, she won’t record it.

As the years passed after the release of “The Way I Should” in 1996, “I kept trying to write, but there was just no life to it,” DeMent says by phone from her home in Iowa City, Iowa. “And I didn’t feel like making a record that was just a bunch of songs that didn’t have life and spirit to them. … My secret fear is that I’m a lazy ass, but I don’t think that’s it, because I (put in the work).”

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The Del-Lords rock in return to St. Louis

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The Del-Lords are (from left) Steve Almaas, Scott Kempner, Eric Ambel and Frank Funaro.

By Barry Gilbert

The Del-Lords brought their A game to St. Louis on Oct. 18. But they ended up playing before a too-small crowd, an unfortunate consequence of the Cardinals finishing off the Dodgers to win the National League pennant just three miles down Broadway at Busch Stadium.

No matter. The lucky three-dozen or so at the Off Broadway music venue who kept their ears focused on the music (and one eye on their cell phones for the score) were amply rewarded. The reunited Del-Lords performed as if the room was full, swaggering through a 14-song set that included a healthy selection from their initial run in the ’80s, a few from this year’s “Elvis Club” CD and a couple of killer covers.

It was the kind of show that reinforced why I love rock ‘n’ roll. As Del-Lords guitarist Scott Kempner says, quoting his friend, the music legend Dion DiMucci: Two guitars, bass and drums; it worked then, it works now.

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Mandolinist Jeff Austin is honest with himself

 

Jeff Austin

By Barry Gilbert

Jeff Austin’s career path was set. He was going to a college conservatory of music, taking acting and dance, and auditioning for shows. Next stop: Broadway. Then, after 100 or so Grateful Dead shows, he decided he’d rather play in a band. Trouble was, he barely played guitar.

That was 21 years ago. Now 39, Austin is an accomplished mandolin player and a founding member of the Yonder Mountain String Band. He is branching out with an upcoming solo project, and he’s bringing a side band, the Here and Now, to the Old Rock House in St. Louis on Sept. 4.

The Here and Now, Austin says, is and will be what its name implies: Jeff Austin and whoever is available and willing to play with him at any particular time. For this tour, his bandmates include banjo magician Danny Barnes, guitarist Larry Keel and bassist Jenny Keel.

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Dwight Yoakam’s generous Pageant show spans genres

Dwight Yoakam performs at the 42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards in New York on June 16, 2011. Associated Press file
Dwight Yoakam performs at the 42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards in New York on June 16, 2011. Associated Press file

August 19, 2013 12:53 pm

By Barry Gilbert
Special to Go! Magazine

To call Dwight Yoakam a country singer really doesn’t do him justice. If that were strictly true, Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring of Fire” wouldn’t have the sound and rhythms of T Rex’s classic “Bang a Gong” when played by Yoakam and his hard-rocking band.

As Yoakam told the Post-Dispatch in the days leading up to Sunday night’s concert at the Pageant, genre is something music marketers worry about, “but it’s not a boundary for musicians.”

And that was true throughout the generous 32-song, two-hour-plus show. “Trying” from last year’s “3 Pears” CD, rode on Jonathan Clark’s bass line and rhythm, which would be at home on many a Memphis soul record. Other songs took on a similar vibe with washes of organ by multi-instrumentalist Brian Whelan.

Another new song, “Rock It All Away,” was built on power chords any rock fan would love, and early Elvis Presley hovered over the stage during a cover of “Little Sister” and in the Jordanaires-like background vocals of “Always Late With Your Kisses.” (Missing was his rave-up cover of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds.”)

Continue reading at stltoday.com

Dwight Yoakam Q&A: Guitars, Nudie Suits Etc. Etc.

Photo by Emily Joyce
Photo by Emily Joyce

By Barry Gilbert

Country music star Dwight Yoakam is spending the summer reconnecting with fans on a tour that takes him to a mix of venues, from theaters and festivals to state fairs and casinos. It’s a variety he appreciates, but he’s especially partial to festivals, having played Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days, Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Stagecoach in California, among others, already this year.

I caught up with him late last month while he was home in Los Angeles for one day, running errands and doing interviews before heading out on the road again. (I wrote an advance for his concert in St. Louis on Aug. 18 based on this conversation for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

We talked about a variety of subjects, from geeky guitar stuff to Western music fashion to the future of music distribution. But we started off with “3 Pears,” his latest album that came out last fall and landed him atop the Americana chart for eight straight weeks, a big change from his days as a hitmaker on mainstream Country radio.

Here is a transcript of that 44-minute interview, edited for length and clarity:

BG: Let’s start off with “3 Pears.” It’s been nine months, I guess? It was a smash on Americana …

DY: Yeah, it was an honor to have that kind of response to it, held the No. 1 spot for eight weeks on Americana radio. I was just elated. In some ways it felt like it was a full circle journey to have this album come out and be received on an alternative format, sort of like the first EP was when I began with “Guitars Cadillacs.”

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Yoakam gives a nod to the Beatles on new album ‘3 Pears’

Dwight Yoakam performs at the 42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards in 2011 in New York. Associated Press file
Dwight Yoakam performs at the 42nd Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards in 2011 in New York. Associated Press file

August 15, 2013 1:45 pm •

By Barry Gilbert
Special to Go! Magazine

Dwight Yoakam was part of what Steve Earle has called the Great Credibility Scare of the late ’80s, when so-called New Traditionalists filled the country radio charts post-“Urban Cowboy” and pre-Garth Brooks. But Yoakam’s career has been anything but traditional.
A Kentucky native reared in Ohio, Yoakam was embraced by Los Angeles roots rockers and punk rockers despite channeling the Bakersfield vibe of country icons Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Even while racking up hits on mainstream country radio, his music drew from other genres and was unlike most of what was being played.

Most recently, after spending some time on independent labels, he returned to his original home at Warner Reprise — but to the label’s Nashville office, where expectations turned upside down again and he became a hit on the Americana radio chart.

Continue reading at stltoday.com

The Band Perry makes songwriting a group effort

(From left) Neil, Kimberly and Reid Perry, perform at the Boots and Hearts Canadian Country Music Festival, Saturday, August 3, 2013, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario.  The Canadian Press Images PHOTO/Boots and Hearts Music Festival
(From left) Neil, Kimberly and Reid Perry, perform at the Boots and Hearts Canadian Country Music Festival, Saturday, August 3, 2013, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. The Canadian Press Images PHOTO/Boots and Hearts Music Festival

AUGUST 15, 2013 9:00 AM

BY BARRY GILBERT
SPECIAL TO GO! MAGAZINE

The sibling country group the Band Perry has had some dramatic successes, with five hit singles from its first two albums. Yet the song that has taken on a life of its own — “Pioneer,” the title track from the group’s sophomore release — is not one of the singles.

Lead singer Kimberly, 30, bassist Reid, 24, and mandolinist Neil, 23, finished the song with their friends the Henningsens, another family band (this one a father-daughter-son combo). But the song and the album had its birth on a hilltop in Santa Fe, N.M., where the trio stopped on a Nashville-to-California road trip.

They sat down, took out their guitars and started working through “the questions that were in our head at the time,” Neil Perry says, speaking with his brother and sister from a tour stop at Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyo. The Perrys and Rascal Flatts play Friday night at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

Continue reading at stltoday.com

Curtis McMurtry, third-generation storyteller, begins his journey

By Barry Gilbert

curtis mcmurtry Jul 27, 2013 9-39 PM About six years ago, Kelly House Concerts in St. Louis presented Justin Townes Earle, a young man who was all but unknown save for his famous last name. On Saturday night, KHC presented Curtis McMurtry – son of musician James, grandson of novelist Larry – and it will be interesting to see whether this young college grad travels a career arc similar to that of the son of Steve Earle.

It shouldn’t be ruled out. As with the Earle show, a small audience of about 30 gathered in Kelly’s listening space, drawn by the enthusiasm of the hostess and curiosity about McMurtry. Would his voice hint of the droll, deadpan delivery of his dad? Would his songs convey details of time and place like the writing of both dad and granddad?

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