james mcmurtry

james mcmurtry Content tagged as james mcmurtry.

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Lucinda Williams: West (Universal)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007 Lucinda Williams: West (Universal)

Although saturated in the sadness which has affected her in recent years -- the break-up of a relationship, the death of her mother -- it would be unwise to presume that everything here has turned on those events: Williams is too smart and too poetic a writer to be quite that literal. That said, she concedes the opener Are You Alright? was...

Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha (Spunk) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha (Spunk) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Years ago this Chicago singer-songwriter-violinist helmed his band Bowl of Fire through strange back-alleys of music which referred to blues and jazz of the 20s, circuses and travelling shows, low-rent bars and brothel music of old time New Orleans, and a bit of Tom Waits. After a while I gave up telling people how good he was. It's that...

John Prine and Mac Wiseman: Standard Songs for Average People (Oh Boy)

John Prine and Mac Wiseman: Standard Songs for Average People (Oh Boy)

Elsewhere has never pretended to be fashionable, and this one certainly ain't. Two salty old pals just a-sittin' and a-playin' a bunch of tunes from their back pages: Bob Wills' Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age; Charlie Feathers' I Forgot To Remember To Forget; Saginaw Michigan; Old Cape Cod; The Blue Side of Lonesome; Old Rugged Cross . . . It...

Jimmy LaFave: Cimmaron Manifesto (Red House/Elite)

Jimmy LaFave: Cimmaron Manifesto (Red House/Elite)

Austin-based singer-songwriter LaFave has perhaps covered too many Dylan songs in his long career (usually very well indeed it must be said) so it's amusing to find on this album he shifts his sights and does Donovan's Catch The Wind. But he also does Dylan's Not Dark Yet so he's still finding that influence hard to shake. LaFave has a...

Steve Earle: Washington Square Serenade (NewWest/Elite)

Steve Earle: Washington Square Serenade (NewWest/Elite)

A decade after Bob Dylan washed up in Greenwich Village, Steve Earle left his home in Texas and started on the same journey -- inspired, he admits, by the cover photo on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan which showed the skinny Bob and his girlfriend Suze huddling on a wind-whipped street. Earle (see tag for interviews, album reviews) never made it...

Various: Wounded Heart of America; Tom Russell Songs (Hightone)

Various: Wounded Heart of America; Tom Russell Songs (Hightone)

Some weeks ago I was invited to give a talk about some of my favourite music to a group of people in someone's home. It was a very pleasant night and the first few things I played were either by the American singer-songwriter Tom Russell or his songs sung by others (notably Joe Ely covering the dramatic Gallo Del Cielo which I said I could...

John Fogerty: Revival (Fantasy)

John Fogerty: Revival (Fantasy)

Now back on his original label after decades of litigation, animosity and a refusal to play the Creedence Clearwater Revival hits that made his repuation, Fogerty sounds like a man at peace with himself -- but as angry as ever about his country being involved in yet another foreign war. On this album which doesn't stray far from that winning...

The Pines: Sparrows in the Bell (Elite)

The Pines: Sparrows in the Bell (Elite)

If these young guys had been around 35 years ago and come out with this album they would have been pegged as yet another "new Dylan". And even now that's a tag they would seem happy with: the opener has the refrain "world gone wrong" which was Dylan album title, and Dylan's slower delivery is everywhere in these...

James Luther Dickinson: Killers From Space (Memphis/Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

James Luther Dickinson: Killers From Space (Memphis/Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

In a cover which looks like it was thought up by a couple of drug-addled on-line kids -- and with a title from a B-grade movie -- comes the latest album by one of the great ignored/overlooked/wayward talents from the South. This is a man for whom a never-recorded, whiskey-soaked Sun session overseen by a voodoo priestess with Mick'n'Keith (c...

Eric Andersen: Blue Rain: Live (Appleseed/Elite)

Eric Andersen: Blue Rain: Live (Appleseed/Elite)

After four decades as a troubadour, Andersen has finally got round to recording a live album -- but he has done it with typically wilfulness: he hooked up with a Norwegian blues band and recorded it in a rock club in Oslo. But this is no foot-to-the-floor rock-blues session because everyone holds back and the songs seethe with barely...

Blanche: Little Amber Bottles (LooseMusic/Shock)

Blanche: Little Amber Bottles (LooseMusic/Shock)

Think Johnny Cash duetting with Nancy Sinatra; think alt.country from Detroit with Gothic overtones; think Nick Cave with a backwoods twang . . . This band out of the Motor City USA has a real country heart, so much so that Jack White hooked them in to support Loretta Lynn on the Van Lear Rose album he produced for her. Mainman Dan John...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Drive-By Truckers: Brighter than Creation's Dark (New West/Elite)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Drive-By Truckers: Brighter than Creation's Dark (New West/Elite)

The Truckers inspire passionate loyalty for their Southern-framed country rock'n'roll and literate, sometimes provocative, lyrics. They often make you want to crack the top off a beer and kick back, but the words touch some deep and dark places as well. Here they open with a weary song about a guy at the gates of Heaven ("two...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Ryan Bingham: Mescalito (Lost Highway)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Ryan Bingham: Mescalito (Lost Highway)

We live and we learn -- and I have been living and relearning by repeat plays of this exceptional debut by someone called Ryan Bingham of whom I know nothing. And in a way, I'm grateful he has lived whatever he has in my place. The hard lessons he seems to have learned, I'm happy to just hear from this distance. I hear dark alt.country,...

Jeffrey Foucault: Ghost Repeater (Signature)

Jeffrey Foucault: Ghost Repeater (Signature)

Not sure where this album has been -- it was recorded in 2005 and released in the rest of the world the following year - but it has just turned up in my letterbox. Produced by Bo Ramsey (a hallmark of quality) these are troubadour country songs grounded in a dark America of lonesome travellers, the search for a place, ghosts of the past and...

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig Lazarus Dig (Mute)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig Lazarus Dig (Mute)

My guess is that by this time in his career (and your life) you are either for Cave or couldn't care less. If you are with him but have your critical radar alert you might not concur with the extreme approval some reviewers have given Dig Lazarus Dig. After the very amusing Grinderman project -- which really was rack-it-up music -- this one...

Caroline Herring, Lantana (Signature)

Caroline Herring, Lantana (Signature)

To my embarrassment I admit to never having heard of this alt.country singer-songwriter, now onto (I think) her third album. Apparently she won the best new artist award at Austin's South X Southwest Festival in 2002 and I imagine she has picked a few awards and many fans since. She's won me with this one, her pure Baez-like vocals, the...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: James McMurtry: Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod/Elite)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: James McMurtry: Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod/Elite)

The murky photo of a small, barroom audience on the inner sleeve of this brittle and typically dark album by singer-poet McMurtry might have included me. It looks like it was taken in the Continental Club in Austin where I caught him and his band the Heartless Bastards a couple of years ago playing their regular gig. Since his remarkable...

THE MOTEL LIFE, a novel by WILLY VLAUTIN

THE MOTEL LIFE, a novel by WILLY VLAUTIN

This dark and depressing novel is an impressive debut by Vlautin, the frontman and songwriter for the American alt.country band Richmond Fontaine whose music is, unfortunately, little known here. The band’s melancholy album The Fitzgerald was a result of Vlautin living in the rundown Reno casino of that name and is peopled by marginal,...

TOM RUSSELL INTERVIEWED: The stories he could tell

TOM RUSSELL INTERVIEWED: The stories he could tell

Julio Gonzalez was pumped up and crazy when he was tossed out of the Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx in mid-March 1990. He was 36, unemployed and had been in the States for only 10 years after arriving with thousands of other Cubans in the Mariel boatlift. An argument with his former girlfriend who worked in the cloakroom, a couple of...

Rodney Crowell: The Houston Kid (Sugar Hill)

Rodney Crowell: The Houston Kid (Sugar Hill)

Rodney Crowell's star has been in steady decline since the 80s and now the former son-in-law of Johnny Cash and rockin' country singer-songwriter is on the same minor label as Dolly Parton who also seems to prefer a smaller label. On first hearing, the quasi-autobiographical The Houston Kid sounds uneven, but after a few plays its power...

BONFIRE OF ROADMAPS by JOE ELY (2008)

BONFIRE OF ROADMAPS by JOE ELY (2008)

Joe Ely who grew up in Lubbock, West Texas (Buddy Holly's hometown) is something of a legend in Americana/alt.country rock: he was on the road in the early 70s hitching around to play gigs far and wide but also formed the formidable band the Flatlanders with Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (both of whom have gone on to remarkable...

Joe Ely: Streets of Sin (Rounder)

Joe Ely: Streets of Sin (Rounder)

Ely from the flatlands of West Texas offers a triple threat: a memorable leathery twang cured in tequila, the paraffin soul of a rocker in the clothes of a Tex-Mex country singer, and a connection to a songwriting tradition which includes his gifted peers Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (of the shortlived Flatlanders which included...

Barry Saunders: Zodiac (Ode)

Barry Saunders: Zodiac (Ode)

By my count this is Saunders' fifth solo album, and is by far the strongest from the Warratah frontman. He reaches to the Phoenix Foundation for a downhome(ly) remake of their Going Fishing and his own lyrics are allusive, just specific enough to nail down some hard images ("down at the Kingdom Hall") and the snappy band (which...

John Prine: The Missing Years (1991)

John Prine: The Missing Years (1991)

Around the time in the early 90s when he went from cult figure to frontline, American singer-songwriter John Prine got a nice kiss-off line to his entry in the Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music: “His live solo act is spellbinding,” the final sentence of his brief career synopsis stated baldly. Well, he’d had plenty of...

Shane Nicholson: Familiar Ghosts (Liberation)

Shane Nicholson: Familiar Ghosts (Liberation)

Anyone who heard the exceptional alt.country Rattlin' Bones album by Australians Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson of last year (one of the Best of Elsewhere 2008 albums) -- or better still caught them in concert -- will need no second invitation to this, Nicholson's third solo album. A number of these often brooding and always literate...

The Flatlanders: Hills and Valleys (New West)

The Flatlanders: Hills and Valleys (New West)

The great Flatlanders from West Texas - Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, each one a name in their own right -- record together so infrequently that every album (they average one a decade about 40 years) is an occasion. Unfortunately it is never quite the special occasion you wish for. This one starts with the exceptional...

Steve Earle: Townes (New West)

Steve Earle: Townes (New West)

The legend of Townes Van Zandt (who died age 52 on New Year's Day 1997) continues to grow and the somewhat messy details of life -- depression, alcoholism, drugs -- have faded steadily to allow a greater clarity in which his dark but often beautiful work can shine. Down the decades he has been covered frequently by the...

Son Volt: American Central Dust (Rounder)

Son Volt: American Central Dust (Rounder)

For a while in the late Eighties/early Nineties alt.country was an exciting but difficult music to follow: no sooner had you tuned in to Uncle Tupelo than they split (Jay Farrar to found Son Volt, Jeff Tweedy and the rest to form Wilco); then Jay Bennett was out of Wilco and into a solo career (his death a few months ago was a bitter coda to...

Greg Brown and Dream City: Essential Recordings Vol 2 1997-2006 (Red House)

Greg Brown and Dream City: Essential Recordings Vol 2 1997-2006 (Red House)

This extraordinary singer-songwriter-poet appeared at Elsewhere previously with his much recommended Evening Call album although at the time I noted an excellent starting point if he was new to you was the compilation If I Had Known (which covered 1980-96) because it came with a DVD film of his life and work. This double-disc collection picks...

Patterson Hood: Murdering Oscar and other love songs (Shock)

Patterson Hood: Murdering Oscar and other love songs (Shock)

One of the mainmen in Elsewhere favourites Drive-By Truckers, Patterson Hood here weighs in with the second solo outing under his own name which stalks similar musical territory as the Truckers (alt.country, Stones-riffery, dark ballads) but takes an even more dense emotional turn in some places. Many of the songs here -- as he explains in...

The Duke and the King: Nothing Good Can Stay (Shock)

The Duke and the King: Nothing Good Can Stay (Shock)

The singer-songwriter behind this gorgeously tuneful, lyrically probing debut is Simone Felice of the terrific Felice Brothers, two times Best of Elsewhere artists (2007, 2008) for their amalgam of ragged-but-right country which owed huge debts to the early Band and country-styled Bob Dylan, but who put their own stamp on proceedings. The...

Tom Russell: Blood and Candle Smoke (Proper/Southbound)

Tom Russell: Blood and Candle Smoke (Proper/Southbound)

Tom Russell is a cinematic singer-songwriter whose storytelling is compelling, and whose whisky’n’grit vocals can take you to the heart of Tex-Mex territory. The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti said he was “Johnny Cash, [poet and novelist] Jim Harrison and [barfly writer] Charles Bukowski rolled into one“. Born and...

The Pines: Tremolo (Red House/Ode)

The Pines: Tremolo (Red House/Ode)

Quite why the Pines -- who are Branson, the son of the legendary singer-songwriter Bo Ramsey, and David Huckfelt -- didn't get more alt.country/indie.rock traction with their excellent Sparrows in the Bell album was a mystery to me. Maybe the father association put people off in that Lennon-kids way?  To me they sounded like a bridge...

Caroline Herring: Golden Apples of the Sun (Ode)

Caroline Herring: Golden Apples of the Sun (Ode)

The previous album by this Atlanta-based singer-songwriter, Lantana of last year, was a revelation: her crystalline vocals conjured up the purity of Joan Baez but her sometimes dark subject matter took her into that emotionally unsettling area where the likes of Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams and Eilen Jewell sometimes set up shop. The...

Guy Clark: Somedays the Song Writes You (Dualtone)

Guy Clark: Somedays the Song Writes You (Dualtone)

Now in his late 60s -- he turned 68 in November -- this great Texas singer-songwriter is sounding very weak'n'weary in these 10 co-writes and his cover of Townes Van Zandt's If I Needed You. And that is its very strength. Clark brings a melancholy reflectiveness or quiet gravitas to these lyrics and whether it be considering the mysteries...

Warren Zevon, The Wind

Warren Zevon, The Wind

The late Warren Zevon was a self-destructive guy - throwing himself down stairs while in the grip of the demon drink was one of his things - but this Jekyll and Hyde of sunny California in the 80s, who wrote the lovely Hasten Down the Wind, could also pen, "He took little Susie to the Junior Prom, and he raped her and killed her, then he...

Hyacinth House: Black Crows' Country (Phantom)

Hyacinth House: Black Crows' Country (Phantom)

Very belated acknowledgement of an album that was recorded in 2007, came out Stateside in 2008 (to little fanfare) but to the best of my knowledge only appeared in New Zealand in late 2009. This dark, edgy country-rock (and beyond) band with a revolving door membership -- who perhaps take their name from the Doors song of the same title? --...

Various Artists: Introducing Townes Van Zandt via the Great Unknown (For the Sake of the Song)

Various Artists: Introducing Townes Van Zandt via the Great Unknown (For the Sake of the Song)

The late Van Zandt is hardly the little-known cult artist he once was: there are many tribute albums (Steve Earle most recently) and his estate must coin it in from all the covers alt.country artists do. Most of Van Zandt’s originals were spare, lowkey and acoustic -- so the surprise here is what an embellishing or reconfiguring...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Warren Zevon; The Original Album Series (Rhino)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Warren Zevon; The Original Album Series (Rhino)

Singer songwriter Warren Zevon (1947- 2003) was a different one alright. When he emerged in LA in the mid Seventies he was like the anti-Jackson Browne: he was the anthesis of those mellow singer-songwriters from Laurel Canyon. His sardonic wit and sometimes weird songs caught the ears and the imaginations of critics and fellow artists, although...

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (Shock)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (Shock)

It's instructive but perhaps unfair to put this album from the former member of Drive By Truckers alongside their most recent album, The Big To-Do: after a flawed solo debut Sirens of the Ditch in 07 Isbell here sounds in command again, whereas the Truckers album is pretty ropey in places. Here Isbell and his band (on an album that came...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Wilco, Wilco (the Album)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Wilco, Wilco (the Album)

Although widely regarded one of the great rock bands Wilco -- the vehicle for singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy -- had its origins in the Illinois-based band Uncle Tupelo which drew from post-punk rock and alt.country music equally. High school friends Tweedy and Jay Farrar steered Uncle Tupelo from the late 80s up to the acrimonious...

CHRIS WHITLEY INTERVIEWED (1991): The Law man living with the lore

CHRIS WHITLEY INTERVIEWED (1991): The Law man living with the lore

Sometimes you can just get too much too soon - and the wrong kind of attention. Take American singer Chris Whitley, whose debut album Living with the Law has been picking up praise by the bucketload. Sure it’s a great album; Rolling Stone called it “riveting and original” before acclaiming Whitley as “a visionary...

BILLY BRAGG INTERVIEWED ABOUT WOODY GUTHRIE (1998): Woody'n'Wilco and rude'n'boozy songs

BILLY BRAGG INTERVIEWED ABOUT WOODY GUTHRIE (1998): Woody'n'Wilco and rude'n'boozy songs

From the rollicking singalong which opens the new Mermaid Avenue album by Billy Bragg, you know something is different. There’s Bragg and the American band Wilco in a swaggering tale of looking for booze and, to put it delicately, female companionship. From there on it’s a strange trip with Bragg and the band: an old man’s...

Greg Fleming: Taken (LucaDiscs/Rhythmethod)

Greg Fleming: Taken (LucaDiscs/Rhythmethod)

The excellent liner notes by New Zealand's Greg Fleming (with lyrics and reflections on the genesis of these songs) tell their own story about why Taken never appeared in '95 after the excellent Ghosts Are White album (remastered and added here as a bonus disc). But we should be very glad it has come out because after the alt.rock blast of...

GUY CLARK INTERVIEWED (1989): Close to the chest and heart

GUY CLARK INTERVIEWED (1989): Close to the chest and heart

In a way it almost doesn’t matter if you don’t know who Guy Clark is -- Bono and the rest of U2 do. Not only do they attend his concerts (and a month ago, when Clark was in Dublin for a television show, they dropped by there too), but the Irish stadium rockers have signed this quiet singer/songwriter from Nashville to a...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Junky Star (Lost Highway)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Junky Star (Lost Highway)

The name "Ryan Bingham" has been getting a lot of eartime recently -- it was the name of George Clooney's character in the movie Up in the Air. But more importantly in the real world it belongs to one of the most interesting Americana singer-songwriters of the past deacde -- the man who picked up an Oscar for his song The Weary...

John Prine: In Person and On Stage (Oh Boy)

John Prine: In Person and On Stage (Oh Boy)

The great John Prine falls somewhere between folk and country, but also has a rare downbeat sense of humour and his wry observations have always elevated his albums. Here on a collection of live tracks -- essentially a greatest hits by a man who has rarely had a hit -- he has some grin-inducing anecdotes at times which are kinda...

Lee Clayton: Industry (live, 1989)

Lee Clayton: Industry (live, 1989)

Rocking country singer Lee Clayton out of Alabama and Tennessee almost made the big time at the end of the Seventies with two exceptional albums, Border Affair and Naked Child. In some ways he was ahead of his time and if they had arrrived around the same time as James McMurtry, Chris Whitley and a few others a decade later he might have...

JAMES McMURTRY INTERVIEWED (1990): In from the wasteland

JAMES McMURTRY INTERVIEWED (1990): In from the wasteland

The literary landscape of the American south sets it apart from that of the rest of the country. The hard indifference of William Faulkner’s world is reflected in his lean poetic writing; the inhospitable, suspicious small towns and brooding menace stand stark in Eudora Welty’s stories, and crippling heat brings sweat and...

Justin Townes Earle: Harlem River Blues (Bloodshot/Southbound)

Justin Townes Earle: Harlem River Blues (Bloodshot/Southbound)

Over three previous albums this son of Steve (and named for Townes Van Zandt) has cut an increasingly confident path with originals which are nominally country-Americana but refer to alt.rock, bluegrass, honky-tonk, ragtime and Hank Williams-styled truck-stop rock. His shows here have been popular and on this album he slips in the...

Barry Saunders: Far As The Eye Can See (Ode)

Barry Saunders: Far As The Eye Can See (Ode)

More than just a compilation of tracks from his various albums and radio sessions (including some from his excellent Zodiac album), this collection of songs by country-inflected singer-songwriter Saunders was a prompt for various painters and visual artists. Wellington curator Ron Epskamp of Exhibitions Gallery (here) invited 14 artists to...

Andrew McKenzie: The Edge of the World (Arch Hill)

Andrew McKenzie: The Edge of the World (Arch Hill)

Andrew McKenzie is the singer-guitarist in the New Zealand band Grand Prix which has long delivered a very pointed kind of slightly snarling alt.country with a rock'n'roll heartbeat and a dark, unsettling edge. For this album under his own name McKenzie (who plays almost everything from drums and bass to harmonica and sitar) mines some of...

Matt Langley: Featherbones (Hometown)

Matt Langley: Featherbones (Hometown)

Langley's rootsy folk-cum-alt.country EP Lost Companions of 2007 – recorded in Wellington – announced a mature lyricist and a singer with a delivery like the best Americana artists (James McMurtry particularly) with a little Dylanesque drawl. It went past most, and this debut album is doing the same with few mainstream media...

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Matt Langley

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Matt Langley

Matt Langley from Dunedin, New Zealand is one of the smaller but brightest lights on the musical landscape. His debut EP Lost Companions was critically well received but his album Featherbones showed the full measure of his talents which touch on folk, blues and alt.country. He does things the old fashioned way which others are now...

The Thomas Oliver Band: Baby, I'll Play (Rhythmethod)

The Thomas Oliver Band: Baby, I'll Play (Rhythmethod)

As with his fellow Wellingtonian Darren Watson, Thomas Oliver is a finalist in the blues category of the International Song Writing Competition to be judged in April 2011. The song is Goin' Home - which kicks off this rootsy, bluesy and alt.country-tinged album -- and the video of it released a year ago was named among the top 30...

Bob Dylan: Jet Pilot (1965)

Bob Dylan: Jet Pilot (1965)

Although things would come to a literal grinding halt in mid '66 when he was tumbled from his motorcycle -- and he used the break to recover from emotional exhaustion after his lightspeed career of the previous four years -- in '65 Bob Dylan was still enjoying his position as the man who was taking folk and smart words into rock. During the...

The Felice Brothers: Celebration, Florida (Spunk)

The Felice Brothers: Celebration, Florida (Spunk)

While it's interesting to read in a promo slip that this new album by the so-far fascinating Felice Brothers "casts scenes of dreamy characters and stories interwoven like a block of primetime TV", this is promo-hype. It presumes you will actually be engaged enough to listen with unswerving intensity through the sonic haze of...

Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots (ATO)

Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots (ATO)

Despite doing well on the charts, the last album by the Truckers -- The Big To-Do -- was a disappointment: perhaps the knocked-off-quickly feel worked against it, you wouldn't attribute it directly to the loss of one of their songwriters Jason Isbell to a solo career (although many felt that). Its occasional rowdiness had undoubted appeal,...

Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring For My Halo (Matador)

Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring For My Halo (Matador)

The captivatingly named rock troubadour Vile from Philadelphia offers a kind of alt.folk-cum-indie rock skew which refers to Cohen as much as Cobain. But he also has an ear for a mainstream rock melody (Puppet the the Man here with AOR guitars behind his echoed alt.rock vocals) and recently said his current listening includes the Stones'...

Steve Earle: I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

Steve Earle: I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

Perhaps because there is already so much Steve Earle in the world -- this is his 14th studio album by my account -- there is very little frisson of delight or surprise coming from this album. Little Emperor would seem to be addressed to George W Bush ("no pomp and circumstance, no more shock and awe, you're just a little emperor that's...

Greg Brown: Freak Flag (YepRoc)

Greg Brown: Freak Flag (YepRoc)

When you get to your 24th album you probably aren't expecting a major breakthrough in terms of having a whole new audience find you. And nothing on this fine album sounds like either a departure, or capable of taking this poet/singer beyond those who already know of him. Formerly the musical director on the famous A Prairie Home Companion...

The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Heirloom Music (Neanderthal)

The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Heirloom Music (Neanderthal)

Jimmie Dale Gilmore possesses one of the most distinctive voices and when deployed on lachrymose ballads he can tear your heart out. But this is an odd and old time project, Gilmore out front of a band of mixed abilities (interesting, but not interesting enough) and performing mostly songs from the Thirties and Forties, some of which come from...

Joe Ely: Satisfied at Last (Rack 'Em Records/Southbound)

Joe Ely: Satisfied at Last (Rack 'Em Records/Southbound)

The very good news is that the great Joe Ely -- who has delivered a few patchy albums in the past decade -- doesn't sound at all "satisfied" as the album's title would suggest. In fact from the opener The Highway is My Home to Butch Hancock's Circumstance 40 minutes later this tight'n'tidy 10 song collection has much of the old...

Drive-By Truckers: Ugly Buildings, Whores and Politicians; Greatest Hits 1998-2009 (New West)

Drive-By Truckers: Ugly Buildings, Whores and Politicians; Greatest Hits 1998-2009 (New West)

Those who have missed the career of Drive-By Truckers out of Athens, Georgia are advised to just dive in at their Southern Rock Opera of a decade ago (which gets four of the 16 tracks on this chronological collection), The Dirty South (three tracks here) and/or Brighter Than Creation's Dark (two). Grounded in Southern rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd)...

Tom Russell: Mesabi (Proper)

Tom Russell: Mesabi (Proper)

Although American singer-songwriter Tom Russell's name isn't as widely known as that of Joe Ely, Townes Van Zandt and others, his songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Peter Case, Iris DeMent and many more, and his story-telling tied to a backbeat has consistently drawn praise from critics and peers. Jerry Jeff Walker, poet Lawrence...

Guy Clark: Songs and Stories (Dualtone)

Guy Clark: Songs and Stories (Dualtone)

Although the smart money would have been against his longevity, here is the road-worn troubadour Guy Clark -- 70 in November 2011 -- working his way through exactly what it says on the box, singing his back-catalogue (LA Freeway, The Randall Knife, The Cape, Homegrown Tomatoes among them) and Townes Van Zandt's If I Needed You. Recording...

STEVE EARLE INTERVIEWS (2004, 2002): A hero on the homefront . . . and relevant album reviews

STEVE EARLE INTERVIEWS (2004, 2002): A hero on the homefront . . . and relevant album reviews

By 2004, Steve Earle could reflect on a career and life which had been one of the most extraordinary in American music. He crashed into country music with his 1986 classic rockin' country album Guitar Town then spun through a drug-fuelled downward spiral which earned him a prison term in the early 90s. He emerged a stronger man, vocal...

Bruce Springsteen; Nebraska (1982)

Bruce Springsteen; Nebraska (1982)

From this distance it is hard to remember just how huge Springsteen was in the late 70s and early 80s: these days disco and punk/new wave get more pages in rock history books, but Bruce Springsteen deserves a chapter on his own. In the States alone Born to Run in '75 sold in excess of seven million, it's follow-up the more bleak Darkness on...

Alejandro Escovedo: The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch/EMI)

Alejandro Escovedo: The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch/EMI)

When you see that John Cale, formerly of The Velvet Underground, has produced an album you tend to take notice: he helmed the stunning debuts by Patti Smith, The Stooges and Modern Lovers, and down the decades has worked with Nico, Jennifer Warnes and Jesus Lizard. With singer-guitarist Escovedo he has a like-minded, dark-hearted spirit who...

James McCann: Where Was I Then (Torn and Frayed/Border)

James McCann: Where Was I Then (Torn and Frayed/Border)

McCann was once in the Australian rock band the Drones who get my vote for their great album title: Wait Long By The River & The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By. (Don't we wish?) The Drones make dark and dramatic bluesy-rock which owes debts to diverse sources from Tom Waits and Neil Young, to fellow Aussie rockers the Triffids and...

Ray LaMontagne: Till The Sun Turns Black (Sony)

Ray LaMontagne: Till The Sun Turns Black (Sony)

Singer/songwriter LaMontagne is a reclusive type whose previous album Trouble of two years ago was a critical favourite and even managed to sell around a quarter of a million copies. Not bad for an unknown whose music has a deeply personal and cathartic quality, and hardly sounds chipper or media friendly in his tight-lipped interviews....

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