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Bettye LaVette and Drive-By Truckers: The Scene of the Crime (Anti) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Bettye LaVette and Drive-By Truckers: The Scene of the Crime (Anti) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

This is an unexpected pairing: soul-singer LaVette with alt-country rockers Drive-By Truckers recording in Muscle Shoals in Alabama. A marriage made in heaven (or a somewhat hotter place) as it turns out: the band are edgy or supportive and nudge LaVette (who needs little prompting it must be said) through a collection of gritty songs which...

Cat Power: Jukebox (Matador)

Cat Power: Jukebox (Matador)

Covers albums can be uneven and most often uncalled for: usually they represent some stopgap measure for an artist, and at their worst seem pretty pointless, like Patti Smith's recent Twelve in which she covered songs which had influenced her but she brought nothing to them other than her stylistic signature. Or Bryan Ferry's recent...

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...

Drive By Truckers: Live from Austin, Tx (New West CD/DVD)

Drive By Truckers: Live from Austin, Tx (New West CD/DVD)

You would have thought live albums might have died out shortly after the arrival of MTV when people could finally see the bands whose albums they were hearing. But no, live albums still come -- although the smart bands now combine a CD with a DVD, as do Drive By Truckers, a longtime Elsewhere favourite whose previous albums (and the recent...

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...

Jim Ford: The Unissued Capitol Album. Big Mouth USA; The Unissued Paramount Album (both Bear Family)

Jim Ford: The Unissued Capitol Album. Big Mouth USA; The Unissued Paramount Album (both Bear Family)

As Nick Lowe recently observed, he's supposed to be an expert on American music but there are still any number of artists and albums being unearthed and brought into the light again. Ford might not exactly be in that category -- he was a major influence on Lowe and his stuff has been floating around among cognoscenti for a couple of years --...

Drive-By Truckers: The Big To-Do (Pias)

Drive-By Truckers: The Big To-Do (Pias)

The Truckers inspire great loyalty, but fans may be tested by this outing which was knocked off quickly and suffers for it. Certainly it rocks like Pearl Jam with Neil Young or Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers on a three-day drunk, but songs like the otherwise excellent stripper’s story of Birthday Boy stumble to a halt and others just...

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...

Bettye LaVette: Interpretations; The British Rock Songbook (Anti)

Bettye LaVette: Interpretations; The British Rock Songbook (Anti)

Soul singer and Muscle Shoals veteran LaVette has enjoyed a revival recently: her 05 album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise put her back to the foreground; the excellent 07 Scene of the Crime teamed her with US alt.country rockers Drive-By Truckers; and last year she was at Barack Obama's inauguration and with the remaining Beatles at New...

Donna Dean: What Am I Gonna Do? (Ode)

Donna Dean: What Am I Gonna Do? (Ode)

When it comes to country music (alt. or country-rock) Donna Dean has the credentials: the gal has done it all -- marriage, kids, divorce, rehab, bars and clubs, opening for the likes of Willie Nelson, Jimmy Webb and the Penn-Oldham team . . . She spent time in London and Europe, recorded her debut album Money with The Amazing Rhythm Aces in...

Kasey Chambers: Little Bird (Liberation)

Kasey Chambers: Little Bird (Liberation)

Almost a decade ago this Australian singer-songwriter penned Not Pretty Enough, a penetrating chart-topper about self-doubt. The title track here sounds like its rejoinder with the wisdom of years: Chambers sings of a broken relationship, how a little bird told her what to do the get the guy back, “but I don't want you that...

Lauren Thomson: Chanteuses and Shotguns (Ode)

Lauren Thomson: Chanteuses and Shotguns (Ode)

Auckland singer-songwriter Thomson deservedly struck lucky when she went to Canada with Tami Neilson to assist on Neilson's follow-up to The Kitchen Sessions Vol 1 . . . Thomson got this new album at the same time. As she writes in the liner notes here, "Playing music and hanging out with the Neilson family in the hot Canadian sun was...

Tami Neilson: The Kitchen Table Session Volume II (Ode)

Tami Neilson: The Kitchen Table Session Volume II (Ode)

When reviewing her previous album The Kitchen Table Sessions Vol 1, I noted the promise of the title and looked forward to Auckland-based Neilson getting back around the table in her brother's house in Canada to deliver a follow-up. This time she took with her singer-songwriter Lauren Thomson who plays guitar, sings back-up in places here...

Shane Nicholson: Bad Machines (Liberation)

Shane Nicholson: Bad Machines (Liberation)

Nicholson is one of the finest of Australia's singers-songwriters with his feet in alt.country and Americana, but he's as comfortable with Dylanesque wordplay in a strange narrative (Blueberry Pie with its "monkey with the golden tooth") as he is delivering emotionally weighted acoustic ballads (Trick Knee Blues). And as always he...

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,...

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)...

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