Johnny Cash was in the unenviable position of being a living legend who was beloved by fans of classic country music without being able to interest anyone in his most recent work when he was signed to Rick Rubin's American Recordings label in 1994. Rubin, best known for his work with edgy rockers and hip-hop acts, opted to produce Cash's first album for American, and as he tried to brainstorm an approach that would introduce Cash to a new audience, he struck upon a brilliant idea -- doing nothing.
For American Recordings, Rubin simply set up some recording equipment in Cash's Tennessee cabin and recorded him singing a set of songs accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. The result is an album that captured the glorious details of Johnny Cash's voice and allowed him to demonstrate just how emotionally powerful an instrument he possessed. While Rubin clearly brought some material to Cash for these sessions -- it's hard to imagine he would have recorded tunes by Glenn Danzig or Tom Waits without a bit of prodding -- Cash manages to put his stamp on every tune on this set, and he also brought some excellent new songs to the table, including the Vietnam veteran's memoir "Drive On," the powerful testimony of faith "Redemption," and a sly but moving recollection of his wild younger days, "Like a Soldier." American Recordings became a critical sensation and a commercial success, though it was overrated in some quarters simply because it reminded audiences that one of America's greatest musical talents was still capable of making compelling music, something he had never stopped doing even if no one bothered to listen.
Still, American Recordings did something very important -- it gave Cash a chance to show how much he could do with a set of great songs and no creative interference, and it afforded him the respect he'd been denied for so long, and the result is a powerful and intimate album that brought the Man in Black back to the spotlight, where he belonged.
After 1994's American Recordings revitalized Johnny Cash's career, he and producer Rick Rubin had to come up with an encore, and in some respects 1996's Unchained was the sort of album many were expecting American Recordings to be. Instead of the solo acoustic approach of American Recordings, Unchained paired Cash with a noted rock band Rubin had worked with in the past -- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, whose roots-conscious style and Southern heritage would seemingly make them compatible with the Man in Black. There's no arguing that Petty and his band sound fully committed on Unchained and deliver uniformly heartfelt and expert performances. However, part of what made American Recordings so effective was the opportunity to hear Cash's emotionally forceful vocals with only the most minimal accompaniment, and as good as the Heartbreakers are, in their presence Cash sounds a bit more restrained and less willing to push himself.
Also, while having Cash cover Glenn Danzig's "Thirteen" worked unexpectedly well on American Recordings, taking on Beck and Soundgarden doesn't fare nearly as well here, and Cash's version of "Memories Are Made of This" may have been a better match in theory, but it doesn't quite make it in practice. But there are more than a few triumphant moments on this disc, including inspired recuts of "Country Boy" and "Mean Eyed Cat," a dignified and deeply felt interpretation of Petty's "Southern Accents," and a rollicking tear through "I've Been Everywhere" for the finale. If Unchained didn't seem like an event or an instant classic like its immediate predecessor, it confirmed Cash was still a vital artist with plenty of life in him, no mean feat for a man of 64 who'd been making records for more than 40 years.
The Man in Black shows hints of gray on American III: Solitary Man, his first studio album since being interrupted by a series of serious illnesses in 1997. While the inevitability of aging has been the downfall of many of his contemporaries, Johnny Cash's dark convictions and powerful presence have gone from rough hardwood to solid stone. The stark beauty of his 1994 release American Recordings and the warm, friendly collaborations on 1996's Unchained combine to create two distinct moods: one of living-room jam sessions with invited friends, and another of stark solo (and near-solo) songs highlighting Cash's years and stories.
Partnering once again with Tom Petty, the two join together on Petty's own "I Won't Back Down" and the Neil Diamond-penned title track. Cash also lays his lonesome hands on U2's "One" and reunites with fellow outlaw Merle Haggard on the stubborn "I'm Leavin' Now." These duets and well-known covers show an inviting side of Johnny Cash. But the real highlights of the album are those reminiscent of his American Recordings songs; they feature just the man and his guitar, with nothing else to clutter the story. The creaks and despair of the vaudeville song "Nobody" tell of a man who has become hardened by his solitude, while the Palace hymn "I See a Darkness" soars with the passion of a thousand gospel choirs, even though there are only two men singing. Although at times it is difficult to hear past Tom Petty's growl or Sheryl Crow's young harmonies in the more popular songs Cash covers, these obscure prison songs and country ballads sound as honest and heartfelt as his own compositions. At age 68, his warm baritone may waver but his passion never does.
American V: A Hundred Highways is the long-awaited album of Johnny Cash's final recordings, the basic tracks for which (i.e., Cash's vocals) were recorded in 2002-2003, with overdubs added by producer Rick Rubin after his death on September 12, 2003, at age 71. Between 1994 and 2002, Cashand Rubin had succeeded in fashioning a third act for the veteran country singer's career, following his acclaimed 1950s work for Sun Records and his popular recordings for Columbia in the 1960s and '70s. In the '80s, Cash's star had faded, but Rubin reinvented him as a hip country-folk-rock elder at 62 withAmerican Recordings (1994), his first new studio album to reach the pop charts in 18 years.Unchained (1996) and American III: Solitary Man (2000) continued the comeback, at least as far as the critics were concerned, though none of the albums was actually a big seller. But American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002), propelled by Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" and a powerful video, stayed in the pop charts longer than any Cash album since 1969's Johnny Cash at San Quentin. By 2002, however, Cash was in failing health, homebound and in a wheelchair, and he suffered a personal blow when his wife, June Carter Cash, died on May 15, 2003. The American series, which posited Cash as an aged sage and the repository for a bottomless American songbook, had already shown a predilection for gloom in the name of gravity; it's no surprise that the fifth and final volume would be even more concerned with, as three earlier Cash compilations had put it, God, Love, and Murder.
The ailing septuagenarian certainly sounds like he's near the end of his life, but that said, he doesn't sound bad. Cash was never a great singer in a technical sense: he hadn't much range, his pitch often wobbled, and his lack of breath control sometimes found him grasping for sound at the end of lines. But he was a great singer in the sense of projecting a persona through his voice; his emotional range, which went from a Sinatra-like swagger to an almost embarrassingly intimate vulnerability, was as wide as the spread of notes he could hit confidently was narrow. Such a singer doesn't really lose that much with age; in fact, he gains even more interpretive depth. Listening to this album, one can't get around the knowledge that it is a posthumous collection made in Cash's last days, but even without that context, it would have much the same impact.
The album begins with two religious songs, Larry Gatlin's "Help Me," a plea to God, and the traditional "God's Gonna Cut You Down," which, in a sense, answers that plea. The finality of death thus established, Cash launches into what is billed as the last song he ever wrote, "Like the 309," which is about a train taking his casket away. The same image is used later in the cover of Hank Williams' "On the Evening Train," in which a man and his child put the coffin of a wife and mother on another train.Cash sings these songs in a restrained manner, and even has a sense of humor in "Like the 309," in which he complains about his asthma: "It should be awhile/Before I see Doctor Death/So it would sure be nice/If I could get my breath." In between the two train songs come songs that may not have been about death when their authors wrote them, but sure sound like they are here. As written, Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" seems to concern a romantic breakup expressed in literary and cinematic terms, but in Cash's voice, lines like "You know that ghost is me" and "But stories always end" become inescapably elegiac. Bruce Springsteen's "Further On (Up the Road)" is even easier to interpret as a call to the hereafter, with lines like "Got on my dead man's suit and my smilin' skull ring/My lucky graveyard boots and song to sing." These two songs make a pair with the album's two closing songs. Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds" is, like the Lightfoot selection, a folk standard by a Canadian songwriter, also nominally about romantic dissolution, although here the singer who is "bound for moving on" doesn't seem likely to come back. And the closing song, "I'm Free from the Chain Gang Now," may have lyrics implying that the unjustly imprisoned narrator has been set free, but in Cash's voice it sounds like he's been executed instead and is singing from beyond the grave. The four songs in between "On the Evening Train" and "Four Strong Winds," dealing with faith and love (the former expressed in a previously recorded 1984 Cash copyright, "I Came to Believe"), are weaker than what surrounds them, but they serve to complete the picture. And it's worth noting that Cash at death's door still outsings croaking Rod McKuen on the songwriter's ever-cloying "Love's Been Good to Me." Cashmay never have heard Rubin's overdubs, but they are restrained and tasteful, never doing anything more than to support the singer and the song. If the entire series of American recordings makes for a fitting finale to a great career, American V: A Hundred Highways is a more than respectable coda.
Released for the occasion of Johnny Cash's 78th birthday, American VI: Ain't No Grave is the final installment in the collaboration between Cash and Rick Rubin that began with 1994’s American Recordings. These ten songs were cut during the same sessions for American V: A Hundred Highways. Guitarists Mike Campbell, Matt Sweeney, Smokey Hormel, and Benmont Tench on keyboards were present, as were other musicians. June Carter Cash died during routine surgery during these sessions. Cash, though grief stricken and with full knowledge that he too was dying due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, worked as often as his health would allow. He died three months after these songs were recorded.
Ain't No Grave is an elegiac and deeply spiritual album, a formal goodbye without regret from a man and an artist of almost mythic stature. The song selection is rooted in the Americana, folk, country, and gospel traditions. There is an excellent reading of Tom Paxton's “Wonder Where I’m Bound” that doesn’t feel as lost as the original, but more a statement after reflecting on a life fully lived. Likewise his version of Sheryl Crow's “Redemption Day” sums up Cash’s own long commitment to social justice, and the need for individual accountability; its statement of hope is underscored here not as a dream, but as a conviction. Kris Kristofferson's “For the Good Times” begins with the words: “Don’t look so sad, I know it’s over/But life goes on/And this ole world will keep on turning.” It offers a portrait of the dignity and grace Cash performed with all his life. “I Corinthian’s 15:55” is his last self-penned song, a sweet, country-gospel melody that echoes far beyond the margins of contemporary music to an earlier time, and looks at the future with unshakable faith. The title track is a country-gospel-blues by Brother Claude Ely -- it’s a fierce showdown with the Reaper, with the singer winning it hands down. There are excellent covers of Bob Nolan's “Cool Water,” a song Cashoften sang live that expresses empathy for the downtrodden, and “Satisfied Mind,” written by Jack Rhodes and Red Hayes, played on a lone acoustic guitar, which dispenses the truth of earthly life into two-minutes-and-forty-eight seconds. Ed McCurdy's “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” is a true anti-war song that serves as a testimonial. The album’s final cut is Queen Liliuokalani's traditional Hawaiian ballad “Aloha Oe,” one of the sweetest, most affectionate leaving songs ever written. And Cash’s version? It’s devastatingly beautiful; to the point of tears. If there were any justice, Ain't No Grave would be the last album released under Cash’s name. It is not only a compelling contribution to his legacy, but an offering that closes the historic American Recordings series with the same stamp of quality that began it.
Gritty/grimy metal was the name of the game for underground rockers Buzzoven. A group that was quite obscure during their tenure together (they split in 2001), Buzzoven are rightfully considered trailblazers nowadays, as they combined elements of extreme metal and punk rock during a time when few (if any) other bands had the cajones to merge the two styles. Their 2010 release, Violence from the Vault, collects five cheerful little ditties that managed to slip through the cracks, and have now been dusted off and put on display. Recorded after their 1994 album, Sore, these tunes are certainly as intense and brutal as anything else the lads offered -- especially "Mainline" and "Breed." And while the over-15-minute long meandering ditty, "Nod," borders on never-ending sonic torture, fans of Buzzoven's early work should definitely enjoy this unexpected blast from the past.
For a man whose musical inspiration supposedly emanates from monumental marijuana consumption, former Buzzov*en demi-legend "Dixie" Dave Collins certainly kept himself busy round the turn of the new millennium, simultaneously lending his services to Wisconsin heshers Bongzilla and leading his new prime creative vehicle, Weedeater, featuring guitarist Dave Shepherd and drummer Keith Kirkum. The Wilmington, NC trio's second brick of so-called "weed metal" (their own pet name) appeared in 2003, and there really couldn't be a better, more perfectly descriptive title than Sixteen Tons for the acidic brand of stoner/doom/sludge found within -- except for "weed metal," of course.
Anyway, there's nothing revolutionary or even terribly unique about Weedeater's vision that might suggest secession from the Sludge Union; at least as far as crawling steamrollers such as "Bull," "Buzz," and the aptly named "Riff" are concerned, or even semi-energized head-nodding grooves like "Pot Belly," "Time Served," and "Lines," for that matter. But Weedeater actually break out of character with a pair of acoustic-based songs (the still amazingly dour "Woe's Me" and the instrumental bass workout "Kira May"), while on the particularly malevolent-sounding "Dummy," Collins' earth-crumbling bass and glottal croaking combine with such visceral power as to make his distinctive contributions to the style undeniable. And on the topical "No. 3," the band members pay tribute to recently deceased NASCAR giant and Southern icon Dale Earnhardt the only way they know how: using news report sound bytes where more poignant lyrics clearly failed them, and it still works. All in all, Sixteen Tonswas a fine sophomore effort and appeared to promise better things were soon to come, until Weedeater succumbed to an unnecessarily long five-year layoff between albums, severely stunting the propagation of their trademarked "weed metal."
Since 2004's Player!, blues-centric guitarist/vocalist Nick Curran left his record label, joined up withKim Wilson's latest incarnation of the Fabulous T-Birds, performed with his own punk-blues combo Deguello, and basically rumbled and tumbled through a number of sundry side projects, all the while eschewing the solo career that led to him taking home the 2004 W.C. Handy Award for Best New Artist Debut. Clearly, this allowed the ever-musically voracious Curran a chance to stretch his chops and imbibe more of the vast array of influences that spark his interests, from '40s jump blues and '50s rock & roll, to '70s punk and '80s hard rock. All of which Curran brings to bear on his fiendishly inspired, 2010 solo comeback Reform School Girl.
A fiery, campy, and insanely rockin' album, Reform School Girlsounds like something along the lines of Little Richard backed by the Misfits with Phil Spectorrecording the proceedings in his garage. Which isn't to say that the album sounds sonically "gross" -- raw, for sure, but ain't that the point?! -- in fact, Curran has hooked up yet-again with his longtime partner in crime Billy Horton who helped deliver the old-school vintage sound that Curran has made his trademark. Further, while Curran can lay blues-pipe as good as any of the other contemporary T-Bone Walker and Jimmie Vaughan freaks, the blues is only one of many connective musical tissues he rips through here. To these ends, the title track finds Curran nodding his Wild One motorcycle cap tothe Ronettes as he humorously turns the standard girl-gone-bad story on its head. Elsewhere, burners like "Kill My Baby," "Psycho," and "Baby You Crazy" are fingersnapping rockers with deliciously nasty sentiments that call into question the exact nature of Curran's romantic devotion. Also inspired is theRitchie Valens-esque rave-up "Filthy" (a Deguello carry-over), and Curran's revelatory head-thumping take on AC/DC's "Rocker."
With Curran sadly amiss from our day to day grind it's musical icon albums such as this which are the jewels in our crowns as we build anew and forge ahead in against the corporate jungle of mass production and filth that surrounds us daily. Take it one step back, give it one more punch, lay another kick and leave the corporate music industry bleeding in the street and raise Curran to that of cult hero status where he undoubtedly and righteously rests today in our memory. We miss you Nick
While 1991's Too Much Pork for Just One Fork was a good calling card for Southern Culture on the Skids after the band went through a major restructuring period, most of the album sounded a bit too clean for its own good, with the production too drab and faceless to flatter the band's aural personality. For the most part recorded at the band's rehearsal space, 1993's For Lovers Only was a remarkable improvement; Dave Schmitt's production and engineering give these tracks a lively, vividly ambient sound that makes the most of Dave Hartman's clattering percussion and Mary Huff's dead-solid bass, while Rick Miller's guitar work sounds positively heroic compared to his earlier stuff, fusing the styles of Link Wray, Dick Dale, Steve Cropper, Travis Wammick, and a dozen other roots guitar icons into a single trailer park genius with a battered Danelectro.
Miller is also given plenty of room to stretch out and strut his stuff and, on "Nashville Toupee" and "Biscuit Eater," he manages that rarity in contemporary rock music, extended guitar solos you can actually dance to. While most of the songs cover the band's favorite theme -- namely, life on the white trash side of the fence -- the humor is a lot more charitable than most bands following a similar path; they strive to suggest that they're making fun of themselves more than anyone else, which helps a lot. And Miller writes great tunes that should bring a smile to anyone who digs American rock & roll in its purest form. And, finally, do you really want to be without an album that features a song dedicated to Hank Snow, Carl Perkins, and William Shatner? Of course not!
One day Wilmington, North Carolina-based mega-stoners Weedeater will run out of cheeky, drug-based puns with which to name their records, but that day lies somewhere in the future, beyond the release of 2011's Jason the Dragon ("chasin' the dragon," get it?): their fourth studio opus in a decade's worth of vocal, guitar, bass, drums, and substance abuse. Oh, and don't forget physical abuse, because over the two years they spent touring, off and on, in support of 2007's God Luck and Good Speed, Weedeater's accident-prone musicians managed to tear themselves some knee ligaments (drummer Keith "Keko" Kirkum), break pinky fingers (bassist Dave Shepherd) and, best of all, blow off a few toes with a shotgun (vocalist/bassist "Dixie" Dave Collins)! All of which begs the question: does Southern Lord offer its acts health insurance? Whether they do or do not, fact is that the ailing trio still made it into Steve Albini's Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago just eight months behind schedule, and the resulting Jason the Dragon not surprisingly boasts the tightest, punchiest (errr, most Albini-esque) production of any Weedeater LP thus far.
Don't panic, now, the new material still comes familiarly slathered in the grimiest of guitar tones, fuzziest feedback, growliest bass, rowdiest drum work, not to mention Dixie's inimitable alligator croak, all of which wrestle for supremacy both on their trademark zombie marches ("Hammerhandle," "Turkey Warlock," "Long Gone," etc.) and occasional grinds in double time ( "Mancoon," "Homecoming," the title track). The only difference from earlier efforts is a clearer separation between all these sonic elements and instruments, without distancing the band from its authentically coarse Southern doom/sludge roots. And, since Weedeater can never resist including a few unorthodox surprises, "Palms of Opium" features Beelzebub on pedal steel (well, it sounds like Beelzebub; it sounds like pedal steel); "March of the Bipolar Bear" pretty much amounts to a brief drum solo (hence the title); and the album-closing "Whiskey Creek" amusingly sounds like a banjo taking a shower. Funny guys, Weedeater, and we're not just laughing at their various injuries, either, but rather Jason the Dragon's admirable musical merits, of course. That's entertainment.
After five years away from the recording studio, the Legendary Shack Shakers don't sound as frantic as they did back in the days of Cockadoodledon't, but their commitment to bad craziness below the Mason-Dixon line is as strong as ever, so the title The Southern Surreal is more than fitting.
Instead of going for the breakneck psychobilly of their formative days, in 2015 the Shack Shakers continue to explore the swampy sound that dominated 2007's Swampblood as they ponder the more forbidding side of life in the deep South. Bassist Mark Robertson and drummer Brett Whitacre lay out a deep, implacable rhythm as guitarist Rod Hamdallah spreads echo-drenched guitar figures over it all and Col. J.D. Wilkes howls and moans his tales of booze, bad living, the walking dead, and other unhealthy phenomena of life along the riverbank (and occasionally tosses in some high-powered harmonica work).
The band also brings along a few high-powered guests (including former Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison and sax player Ralph Carney, best known for his work with Tom Waits), and Billy Bob Thornton steps up to the vocal mike for a brilliantly creepy spoken word piece. As the Shack Shakers' formula has grown more complex with the passage of time, the pickers have gotten better and their take on blues, swamp rock, and hillbilly stomp is richer and more satisfying than many would expect, and the group's efforts to create a soggy netherworld of the mind are impressive and effective. Raw, organic, but ambitious, The Southern Surreal shows one can play with less than noble images of the deep South without taking cheap shots, and that these jokers are getting more serious -- and better -- each time they return from the studio.
Folsom Prison looms large in Johnny Cash's legacy, providing the setting for perhaps his definitive song and the location for his definitive album, At Folsom Prison. The ideal blend of mythmaking and gritty reality, At Folsom Prison is the moment when Cash turned into the towering Man in Black, a haunted troubadour singing songs of crime, conflicted conscience, and jail. Surely, this dark outlaw stance wasn't a contrivance but it was an exaggeration, with Cash creating this image by tailoring his set list to his audience of prisoners, filling up the set with tales of murder and imprisonment -- a bid for common ground with the convicts, but also a sly way to suggest that maybe Cash really did shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
Given the cloud of death that hangs over the songs on At Folsom Prison, there's a temptation to think of it as a gothic, gloomy affair or perhaps a repository of rage, but what's striking about Cash's performance is that he never romanticizes either the crime or the criminals: if anything, he underplays the seriousness with his matter-of-fact ballad delivery or how he throws out wry jokes. Cash is relating to the prisoners and he's entertaining them too, singing "Cocaine Blues" like a bastard on the run, turning a death sentence into literal gallows humor on "25 Minutes to Go," playing "I Got Stripes" as if it were a badge of pride. Never before had his music seemed so vigorous as it does here, nor had he tied together his humor, gravity, and spirituality in one record. In every sense, it was a breakthrough, but more than that, At Folsom Prison is the quintessential Johnny Cash album, the place where his legend burns bright and eternal. [This Expanded Edition of At Folsom Prison added three bonus tracks to the songs included in the original 16-track LP.]
Shifting further away from the frantic blues and punkabilly than on their last album, the Shack Shakers morph into a more European, even Gypsy approach on much of this release. The band's third effort retains all the wild-eyed, frenetic, unhinged qualities that have by now become its calling card. Adding occasional piano, fiddle, horns, and banjo doesn't soften or dilute the overdriven intensity. Rather, it is heightened, as the barely half-hour disc careens and bounces along so breathlessly that most listeners wouldn't want the album to last any longer. Lead singer/harp player J.D. Wilkes remains the main attraction; he writes or co-writes all the songs and his often demonic vocals and frenzied harp shenanigans make this somewhat of a one-man project with lots of guests.
The "Wipe Out"-styled scream that kicks off the opening "Ichabod!" sets the tone for this nonstop, breakneck-paced, often humorous set that touches bases with Tom Waits' twisted carnival barking and oompah waltz inclinations ("Nellie Bell"), Stan Ridgway's cracked spoken/sung technique ("Monkey in the Doghouse"), and even Yello's Boris Blank, especially on the spooky baritone Wilkes drops into on "Bottom Road." When the hyperactive rhythms subside for the jazzy "Bible, Candle and Skull," the tense undercurrent and bizarre lyrics still won't let the listener relax. Reverend Horton Heat and Jello Biafra add their talents to a handful of tracks, but this remains Wilkes' freaky sideshow, and he is mighty impressive. He also co-produces with bassist Mark Robertson, and it's here that the album is most successful. The duo mixes American and European goth sensibilities with the musty roots of country and blues along with the live-fast, die-young energy of early rock with dynamic results. Wilkes ties the disparate influences together by not taking himself seriously and keeping the tracks so tightly packed that by the time you figure out his direction, the next one is clobbering you. It's a wild, rowdy, heart-pounding ride -- but one definitely worth hanging on for.
As the opening track, "Agony Wagon," shuffles out of the starting blocks like some sort of hillbilly klezmer chestnut, complete with violin and clarinet, you can't help but wonder if the Legendary Shack Shakers have done a 180 for their fourth album, 2004's Believe. Further research confirms this isn't quite the case, but Believe does find this band of hot-wired Nashville maniacs adding a few more flavors to their usual gumbo of country, blues, rockabilly, and punk. Fiddles and horns add seasoning to a few tracks, the group musters up a shade more technical finesse than they did on their blasting debut,Cockadoodledon't, and the graceful waltz-time "The Pony to Bet On" suggests this band might actually have some subtlety lurking deep down inside of them. But for the most part Believe shows the Shack Shakers's instincts remain mercifully unchanged -- they're here to kick ass and get wild, and man oh man, are they good at it.
The blues-shot swagger of "All My Life to Kill," the ominous thunder of "Where's the Devil When You Need Him?," and the swampy hipshake of "Piss and Vinegar" all capture this band in high-impact mode, and if anything they're stronger and more swingin' than on their debut.Believe is a high-octane shot of energy and attitude that confirms the promise of the Legendary Shack Shakers' debut, and proves this is one revved-up live band who know how to make their sweat and shakin' signify on tape -- these guys are the best thing to happen to Dixie-fried dementia since Southern Culture on the Skids.
I really hate your face
I hate the things you do
I know you don't like me
I'm comin' after you
I really hate your face
I hate the things you do
I know you don't like me
I'm gonna bury you. . .
With a sudden eerily surreptitious and broodingly clandestine curtain part; the all too ill gotten silence of the aforementioned gravel drawn lyrics of one "Dixie" Dave Collins are found splattered and draped across the opening bars of the comically vaudevillian funeral processional which sets the stage for the entrance of the Goliathian. The Goliathian in any context conjures up mythical proportions of monstrosity and domination beyond our personal comforts and well past the depths of our cerebral cortex; Weedeater enters with clinical precision and bludgeoning forced entry adorned with a lifetime of servitude beneath the hand of the Leviathon - "Goliathan".
What we have come to expect arrives with unmitigated force and blunt dissection. May 19, 2015 will forever be remembered as the date the Goliathan was unleashed upon earth, like a cryptic mystical symbol of some lost Mayan Civilization, the Goliathan is vague in description but certain in it's delivery and magnitude. Weedeater is back for more after record success with "And Justice For Y'All", "God Luck & Good Speed", "Jason the Dragon" and "Sixteen Tons" and now entering the sonic sludge metal temple and placing at the alter their latest offering in "Goliathan".
As with previous albums Weedeater is in a single word - "unconventional"; bringing a raucous mix of purposeful and unintentional feedback, filtered with a dotted pulsing heartbeat of mass distortion and growling eviscerated vocals, we see the "Goliathan" remaining true to form and celebrating the successful formula which has birthed Weedeater among us. Weedeater is the roaring auricular equivalent of a modern day Black Sabbath. Before you start typing your responses and condemn me for the very comparison, please understand. . .Weedeater are doing what is most uncomfortable to the mass media populous. They continually are embarking on an afferent journey which assaults the olfactory and auditory senses equally; discomfort and searing otic penetrations are the staple diet of the Weedeater follower and connoisseur, expected are the raucous ride of determinate ebb and flow patterns and vociferous vocal expressions of urgency and abandon.
As with any album by the band there unexpected polished and meticulously manicured soft spots similar to those found in the occipital and frontal bones of the developing human skull. Gently separating the ragged edges of formative tissues and visceral unpleasantness that is most certainly where Weedeater finds it's niche are these delicately obtuse flowers inexplicably placed as if directing you to the next sonorous assault. Weedeater has fed off this formula of growth and destruction within each of the previous albums and it has been the pleasantry which has sustained each; it is the color on a grey and blackened landscape voided of color. The introductory song "Processional" is the linkage which forms and carries the listener in a supportive buoy, negotiating each of the "Goliathian's" subsequent offerings.
Following into the familiar fuzz bass and distortion of "Dixie" Dave Collins, the second track of "Goliathan" centers the focus of the listener and cues the familiar and resounding guitars and drums best known to be found in the innermost junctions of all Weedeater staples; marshaled by guitarist Dave "Shep" Shepherd and side saddled drummer Travis Owen, the die is cast and the beast of Goliathan gathers itself, placing it's first steps upon the landscape and gathering momentum as we meld into the third track "Cain Enabler".
With the cryptically surreal opening lyric ". . .this house is miiiine, cuz Cain ain't able - I'm feelin' fine, this ain't no fable! - I'll blow your mind!" it's clear we've reached a point of critical mass and potential energy which must be ridden until the finale. Accompanied with surging resonance and overwhelming distortion again, Collins searing pain stricken voice erupts in desperate utterance of the cautionary poise to be exercised beyond this point.
Opening next into the fourth track, we are greeted with the all to common oppressive nature of Collins as he cries out "Bow down to me!!". Like a lumbering engine laden with blackened engine oil, the pistons of the "Bow Down" churn against their stainless machined steel housings; the compression of Weedeater's fuel building midsong into a crescendo of befouled exhaust. Once again concluding with the complimentary twangy introductions to the fifth entry of "Battered & Fried".
"Battered & Fried" opens again with the familiar obscurity itself within the vacuum space found lurking beneath the cover of "Goliathan". Like some wildly distorted claw hammer banjo pickin' medley complimented with frogs croaking, gators swimming and the crick wandering lazily through the reeds; Weedeater dusts of their acoustic accoutrement with harmonic harmonies of the hohner variety and the eerily Tom Sawyer - esque dual personality played by Collins.
Beyond the reaches of "Battered & Fried" we find tracks 6 through 9, each fulfilling a personal quotient of exploration for each listener which I will refrain from spoiling in this review. These are your songs to interpret and traverse as was the intent of Weedeater in their conception, development and delivery.
The conclusion is once again an unexpected departure of the norm, serving as our final reminder that among us is the blessing for something different and unlike our most comforted albums, exploratory and qualifying in nature; Collins, Shepherd and Owen have brought us acoustic and amplified magic which is to be savored by the palate and tempered in the mind and shared at the fingertips. Weedeater has struck gold once again and shows no signs of inconsistency or exhaustion - this in and of itself is the nature of the beast and is the creation of the Goliathan.
Neil Fallon: Vocals/ Guitar
Jean-Paul Gaster: Drums
Dan Maines: Bass
Tim Sult: Guitar
It’s the parabolic motion of projectiles. Or, as Isaac Newton stated, what goes up must come down — that is, everything except Clutch.
October 2nd 2015 – Clutch, the influential heavy rock band from Maryland, has released its eleventh studio album “Psychic Warfare” today via their own label Weathermaker Music. The album is currently sitting at number 1 on both the US iTunes and Amazon rock charts and number 1 on UK iTunes.
The verdict is in… here’s what the critics are saying:
“Their new record Psychic Warfare…is their best in years…with an endless stockpile of riffs, hooks and fantastical tales.”
“If you haven’t got on the Clutch train yet, Psychic Warfare is the perfect place to board.” –
Earth Rocker created an insurmountable peak. But Psychic Warfare has altered laws of physics by elevating the smart songwriting and impressive performances of that last album, setting an even higher benchmark as their now-definitive album to date.
The eleventh Clutch studio album Psychic Warfare goes straight for the throat with “X- Ray Visions” and never lets go. Working again with acclaimed producer Machine, this time in Texas, the concise arrangements that made Earth Rocker so assertive is the same harness for the combustible musical energy on Psychic Warfare. Harder, faster… let the rhythm hit ‘em.
Formed in 1991, the Maryland-based band’s ability to absorb different musical styles and fabricate them into a distinct Clutch sound continues to be their forté. “A Quick Death In Texas,” overstocked with signature “Clutch heavy” Tim Sult riffs and lonesome guitar licks, and the funk undercurrent of “Your Love Is Incarceration,” color Psychic Warfare with articulate musicality and comfortable familiarity.
The overall intensity of Psychic Warfare would be self-consuming without the pressure valve of a canny rhythm section. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and bassist Dan Maines have an intuitive sense of dynamics that gives weight and contrast to the forcefulness of the vocals, steering Clutch into the straightaway out of tight, exhilarating corners.
“I listened closely to the rhythm of Neil’s vocals this time around.” Gaster explains. “The rhythms he sings, are very syncopated. It was my goal to articulate these rhythms on the drums while keeping the pulse of the music strong.”
Psychic Warfare is cinematic, a soundtrack to the plot of singer Neil Fallon’s imagination. The narrative of “The Affidavit” sets the scene for an album of gunslingers, energy weapons, paranoid neurosis, and the occasional three-legged mule. It’s an episodic lyrical landscape populated by abstract characterization, nuance, and clever peculiarity.
“I spent a lot of time doting over the lyrics,” Fallon says. “It was fun because I have a great luxury that I’m a professional liar — that’s what a storyteller is. Or at least that’s what I try to be. It’s the one socially acceptable way to completely deceive people, and that’s what they want. If you sing it with enough conviction, people won’t question it. I just love that escapism, the fantasy aspect of it. And fantasy doesn’t necessarily equate to dragons and wizards. It can be seedy hotel rooms and sketchy hitchhikers.”
Gaster says the band knowing Earth Rocker was such a high water mark put them in a position of needing to follow up with an exceptional album. “Looking back on the process, one thing that sticks out in my mind is the amount of rehearsal the band put in. We started each pre-production day by writing out a new album sequence and then playing that sequence straight thru as if it were a set list. I think this allowed us to get inside the songs in a way we had not done before. When it came time to record drum tracks, I had a clear idea of how I wanted to play each song.”
In the past, Clutch consciously made each album conspicuously different from the last one. “We had a sadistic fear of repeating ourselves,” Fallon admits. “But over the last few years, we’ve realized our strengths and what it is that people like about us. Why deny it? Clutch is Clutch, embrace what you are.”
The bar is set higher, laws of physics be damned. Psychic Warfare is the new adventure, and it has no limit.
For more information, check out the band’s official website: www.pro-rock.com
The Legendary Shack Shakers (originally Those or Th' ) are an American rockabilly/blues band that formed in Paducah, Kentucky in the mid-1990s. They are inspired by rock 'n roll, country blues, old time music, carnival music, swamp rock, and other obscure Southern music genres. The band originally had a traditional rockabilly sound, but later began to rely more on its rock 'n roll and "southern gothic" influences.
Th' Legendary Shack Shakers haven't called their fifth studio album Swampblood for nothing -- there's plenty of the band's usual amped-up Dixie-core frenzy on this album, but as usual they continue to expand their musical palette with each album, and on this set the Tennessee hell-raisers have added a healthy portion of classic swamp rock to the menu. The title cut sounds like Tony Joe White if he'd been born under an especially bad sign, the dark harp-enhanced shuffle of "Old Spur Line" calls up the ghost of Slim Harpo, and "Hellwater" could be the best Creedence Clearwater Revival track John Fogerty and company never bothered to record. There's a lot more stylistic shape-shifting on Swampblood; "Eastern Flesh" and "Cheat the Hangman" show the band can still crank the tempos with the best of them, "The Deadenin'" and "When I Die" are a gloomy but energetic slices of Southern gothic, "Down and Out" is a weird ghostly march into the unknown, "He Ain't Right" is a whacked-out rockabilly stomp, and "Angel Lust"'s rollicking piano could pass for jazz in dim light. Whatever th' Shack Shakers do, they do full-out, and Swampblood offers ample evidence that these guys have instrumental skills to go along with their imagination and mania -- David Lee's guitar work is superb regardless of the context,Colonel J.D. Wilkes' vocals and harmonica are both feral but superbly controlled, and bassist Mark Robertson and Brett Whitacre are one powerfully tight rhythm section. While some have accused th' Legendary Shack Shakers of being more about schtick than music, a quick spin of their albums tells the real story -- they offer up something different each time they step into the recording studio, andSwampblood shows they aren't running out of steam anytime soon.
Founding member J.D. Wilkes is the band's vocalist and also plays the harmonica. Musical maverick Joe Buck joined the band in the early 21st Century and played all the upright bass, guitars, and drums on the group's first wide release release, Cockadoodledon't (2003). Wilkes is noted for his theatric stage performances, which have been compared to those of Iggy Pop, David Byrne, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Joe Buck left the band in late 2003 and began touring and recording with Hank Williams III. Mark Robertson currently plays upright bass, and Brett Whitacre is the drummer. Duane Denison, member of recently reformed The Jesus Lizard (and formerly of Hank Williams III) joined the band in 2008. Current garage blues guitar player Rod Hamdallah joined the group in early 2012.
The band initially gained notoriety when GEICO used their track "CB Song" on their year-long "Sunglasses" television ad. Horror novelist Stephen King would later list the same track as among his iPod's Top Five in a 2008 Entertainment Weekly article. That same year, the Legendary Shack Shakers' tune "Swampblood" was featured on the soundtrack for HBO's True Blood, the CD release of which went on to receive a Grammy nomination the following year.
Throughout the mid 2000s, the band regularly toured with The Reverend Horton Heat, who also appears as a guest guitarist on three tracks from their 2006 album, Pandelirium. Former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra also guested on the album's opening track, "Ichabod."
In 2006, the band opened up for Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville TN.
Robert Plant is a noted Legendary Shack Shakers fan, and hand-picked the band to open for him on his 2005 tour of Europe. Plant also named "Believe" his favorite record of 2005.
The band released their 6th studio album; AgriDustrial, on April 13, 2010 on their own Colonel Knowledge record label.
Occasionally, Wilkes and the Shack Shakers appear in the Danish theatrical production FUBAR., a production of Copenhagen’s Mute Comp Theatre. The play, which tackles the subject of illegal gun trade around the globe, features a speaking part by Wilkes. After performing at the 2013 production of FUBAR, the band resumed their two-year hiatus. Currently, Legendary Shack Shakers is planning a new LP to be released on the band's 20th anniversary in 2015.
If Out Among the Stars had come out when its sessions were completed, it would've appeared sometime in 1984, arriving between 1983's flinty Johnny 99 and 1985's slippery, sentimental Rainbow. Allegedly, this album -- discovered by Legacy and John Carter Cash during some archival work in 2012 -- was shelved because its Billy Sherrill production was just a little bit too pop for Johnny Cash's taste, but that reasoning isn't sound, particularly with the Chips Moman-produced crossover of sugar of Rainbow taken into consideration. Moman had been riding high on the hits he produced for Willie Nelson -- notably "Always on My Mind," Willie's last great crossover smash -- and he applied a similar heavy-handed touch to Cash, who at that point was several years away from his last Country Top 10 hit ("The Baron" went to 10 in 1981). Sherrill had a lighter touch with Cash than Moman, something that might surprise listeners who associate his name with his symphonic, string-heavy productions for George Jones, but the producer winds up simply sweetening Johnny without changing his core sound.
Comprised of sessions from 1981 and 1984, Out Among the Stars is generally chipper and bright, containing a couple of spare, reflective moments -- the sentimental "After All," the June Carter Cash bluegrass duet "Don't You Think It's Come Our Time," and "I Came to Believe," the gospel-ish closer that ambles along nicely -- that add a little dimension to a cheerful album. "Out Among the Stars" nicely updates the signature Cash train-track rhythm, a cover of the Dave Edmunds/Carlene Carter duet "Baby Ride Easy" rolls along with spirit, Cash yucks it up with Waylon Jennings on a cover of the Hank Snow standard "I'm Movin' On," and "I Drove Her Out of My Mind" conjures some of the old outlaw magic. Every one of these seem like they could have some kind of potential on the charts, so the fact they were shelved is a bit of a mystery because, when taken together -- despite misguided novelties like "If I Told You Who It Was" -- it adds up to one of Cash's stronger '80s albums.
The Legendary Shack Shakers (originally Those or Th' ) are an American rockabilly/blues band that formed in Paducah, Kentucky in the mid-1990s. They are inspired by rock 'n roll, country blues, old time music, carnival music, swamp rock, and other obscure Southern music genres. The band originally had a traditional rockabilly sound, but later began to rely more on its rock 'n roll and "southern gothic" influences.
The Legendary Shack Shakers have long been known for their knack for grinding up the most unstable aspects of American roots music forms, including redneck country, punk, honky tonk, swamp blues, garage rock, and primal rockabilly and serving them up in a dark, steaming, 200-proof cocktail of chaos. But "Melungeon Melody" and "Killswitch," the track that closes the album, are extreme even by Shack Shaker standards. Why they'd choose to open a set with a discharge of unlistenable noise is anybody's guess, but the rest of the album finds the band in its familiar, over-the-top mode. There have been a few recent personnel changes, but new guitarist Duane Denison (Hank III, Jesus Lizard) plays with the enthusiastic power of his predecessors, while new drummer Brett Whitacre drives his kit like it's a semi full of dynamite rolling down a steep hill with no brakes. Singer Colonel J.D. Wilkes matches the mania of his bandmates, and with longtime bass man Mark Robertson in tow, they deliver a disc packed with sizzling slabs of rock mayhem. Wilkes' primal snarl and demented harp work drive the bluesy "Sin Eater," the punky truck driver song "Greasy Creek," and the odd, galloping gothic tale of serial murder and mystery, "The Hills of Hell." Fans would have been happy if every track bristled with their usual uncontained energy, but they change pace every now and then with surprisingly good results.
"Hammer and Tongs" is a haunted love song using metal-working metaphors to celebrate nasty, passionate lovemaking. "Hobos Are My Heroes" is a swing tune with a clattering banjo and a restrained vocal from Wilkes, with a bit of casual yodeling tossed in for good effect. "The Lost Cause" is an anti-war song that features an army of skeletons marching home from the war they lost. Wilkes wails like a defeated soldier and blows some primal harp to bring the tune home. The Shack Shakers have long been tearing it up on stages around the nation since 2001, and while it's hard to imagine their next record topping the dark, uncontained energy of this one, critics have said much the same after every previous album. Whatever it is they've tapped into should be on the menu of every other American band. In an era when most bands plod along with albums full of mid tempo snoozers, the Shack Shakers still play like their lives depend on wringing the maximum force out of every note.
Even a label that goes by the slogan "the home of insurgent country" pushes their boundaries for these gonzo, stripped-down rockabilly blues folks. With horror-movie vocals by frontman "Colonel" J.D Wilkes straight out of the Lux Interior school and a hardcore, ragged combination of frayed blues, twisted bluegrass, and ornery swamp, this is a full-frontal assault that doesn't let up until the whole thing collapses after just over a half-hour. Their frantic, heart-pounding attack on the blues standard "Bullfrog Blues" with Wilkes' overdriven harmonica and ear-wincing screams is enough to scare most blues fans off, and a similar take on their own "Devil's Night Auction" with manic Jew's harp and carnival accordion will do the same for mountain music lovers.
Originals such as "Help Me From My Brain" and "Blood on the Bluegrass" accurately indicate their inspiration. Wilkes also blows serious harp on "CB Song," a track that could easily slot on a Southern Culture on the Skids album. And covering fringe rockabilly raver Benny Joy's "Wild Wild Lover" -- a tune also done by the Flat Duo Jets and the A-Bones -- gives you an idea of this band's influences. In this context, their hopped-up garage blues take on Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips" sounds tame in comparison. The music is fun, frantic, and nerve-wracking, just the way they want it. The Bloodshot reissue adds an extra track, "Hunkerdown," that fuels a moreCramps-styled flavor to their approach.
With tenuous exuberance and sonic feedback abound in mythically gigantic proportions; Weedeater fills the conical basket of each speaker and lays waste to their audible surroundings with their clinical precision and fuzz bass stylings - beyond the comfort you will find your desolate wasteland being delivered in due time. Weedeater are a stoner metal band formed in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1998. The band has released four full length albums and recorded their fifth album in September 2014.
The band formed in 1998 and was initially planned to be the side-project of Dave "Dixie" Collins, the band's vocalist and bassist who was occupied with his primary project Buzzoven, however the band disbanded the same year so decided to concentrate his efforts on Weedeater and made it his new primary project, recruiting members Dave "Shep" Shepherd on guitar and Keith "Keko" Kirkum on drums.
The band released their debut album titled ... And Justice for Y'all in 2001 and released their second album Sixteen Tons in 2003, both albums where released via their first record label Berserker Records.
After the release of Sixteen Tons in 2003, the band decided to leave Berserker Records and joined American metal record label Southern Lord Records and released their third album and label debut God Luck and Good Speed. In 2009 a deluxe double LP version on the album was also released. The band was also announced as a support act for the American heavy metal supergroup Down. The band was later announced as one of the acts to play at 2010's Hellfest among the likes of Arch Enemy, Architects and Gwar.
The album was finally released on March 15 2011 after all the setbacks caused by the bands injuries throughout 2010. The band went on tour in the US to support the release of the album however had to cancel the last few shows due to Dave Shepherd breaking his hand which disallowed him to play guitar.
In November 2013 it was announced by French record label Season of Mist had officially listed Weedeater as part of their roster, and along with the announcement the label re-released all of the band's previous albums digitally on December 10 the same year, the band also commented that they will hopefully be entering the studio soon with either producer Steve Albini or Billy Anderson who they have helped produce the band's previous albums. Travis Owen joined the band as drummer and they are scheduled to record their newest album in September of 2014 with Steve Albini in Chicago, IL.
With all the biography and history of Weedeater they are comfortable to find their niche within a vacuum and develop their twisted brand of sludge stoner metal amongst few that successfully challenge them in their own arena. Nearly five years after their second CD, the underrated Sixteen Tons, was unexpectedly met with a few industry sighs as the modest decline in sludge stoner metal popularity began, the members of North Carolina's Weedeater inclusively returned to their Southern Roots with the aptly named Southern Lord label, and with duty abound they broke conditional parameters with a hell of a comeback album.
2007's God Luck and Good Speed is the epitome of the traditional burning, iron smelting, hash bubbling greasy deep melodies bursting with coarse, crusty, stoner sludgecore aromatic overtones of the highest market value. The album winds into it's opening onslaught with "God Luck and Good Speed", with an introduction like this few are left standing and able to carry on but those in a smoke induced stupor. Heavily beating the listener with a melodically sinister, yet passive audiometric abuse, the only repent is with the gravelly vocals of one "Dixie" Dave Collins. This becomes immediately apparent on the album's impressive opening triple threat -- the earth-shaking, hell driven grooves of the title track, the uproarious speed-blast of "Wizard Fight," and the maniacally driven laughs of "For Evan's Sake" -- all of which surf on surging waves of feedback, their tendrils forming dirty electric causeways for an extended, uninterrupted buzz. Then suddenly, all is quiet for the one-off austerity of "Alone," featuring only a banjo, an acoustic bass, and vocalist "Dixie" Dave Collins replacing his trademark croak with a drunken baritone à la Tom Waits, stinking drunk out on the bayou.
The visceral volumized punishment and viscosity of Weedeater's brand coupled with the steady distortion are only lightly tempered by subsequent aural bulldozers like the instrumental "$20 Peanut," the doomy but somewhat dull "Dirt Merchant," and the oddly named epic "Weed Monkey" (all interlocked by even more feedback, naturally). And to emphasize their sub-Mason Dixon line allegiance, Weedeater deliver an aptly sludge-encrusted cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Gimme Back My Bullets" as sung by Swamp Thing. Final verdict? The wait was worth it: God Luck and Good Speed is definitely some of Weedeater's strongest stuff yet.
If you're looking for something in the vein of "untapped & unusual" you've most certainly hit your mark with Weedeater. These men like warriors are epic in stage presence and personae, they embody the metal lifestyle and choice accompaniments. Within Weedeater are the raw elements through which formulate the superhero musical acts; these men are all about blood, sweat and tears - they walk as they talk, speak it like it needs to be said, and never look back with any degree of regret - living only each day with healthy abandon for sound reason and decisiveness.
Get you some Weedeater! - God Luck and Good Speed!
The softened tempered majesty of a bull bison resting within it's 2 dimensional conte chalk background is the simplest explanatory imagery within which we find the heavy brooding vocal release of Brook Blanche. Brook has long been the mainstay anchor point of the cult like following of The Calamity Cubes!, a Kansas based roots band, with other members Kody Oh, and Joey Henry. The Cubes play a very original style of music, hard driving banjo, upright bass, and acoustic guitar make up the instrumentation. The music would best be classified and a blend of traditional Country, Folk & Bluegrass, with the fire of an 80's Punk Band. They take heartache and pain seriously, you can hear it in many of their tracks, soaked in misery and whiskey, the Cubes! always deliver a song for any emotion.
As with any group projects of the musical sort, there is always a introspective period of growth which inevitably forces all artists regardless of experience or level of talent to explore unchartered territory and choose to walk newer and dimly lit path alone, and seek the truths within. As with The Calamity Cubes!, the time has risen to the surface in a right of passage for all concerned that each member must look within themselves and seek the origins of their talent and challenge their limitations of personal growth. It is at this crossroads where we come to see Brook Blanche, a large hulking presence of gentle candor and melodic harmony resting as the bison in the grasses observing the passersby.
The bison is an accurate primal portrayal of Blanche, the soft and mottled unkempt appearance - the sharpened horns and wary eyes of the beast; giving way in an unexpected beauty of song and majesty of movement which flows centrally through the heart and soul. Brook is nothing short of a very intimidating presence with a large frame, deep booming baritone voice and a gravely southern drawl that is hungrily what any true roots artists thirsts for - beneath it all there is the "gentleness" and youthful nature of the truest beauty that is that of a child who is doing what they hold most closely to their heart. Within the liner notes we see two small gleaming examples of this side of the man
". . .without you, this couldn't have happened. Without you coming to shows and giving support in all the ways you do, I would never have had the courage or the means to make this album. I hope you find something in these songs that can help you even a fraction as much as you've helped me".
It's in the words above the we see Blanche is not a man without his struggles and metaphorical bumps within his travels, it is important to recognize that below the iron defenses of the bison adult, beats the heart of the "one day" youth - within the youth we understand risk, chance, possibility, action without consequence and the elemental components of joy at it's core. With this album Brook Blanche, is making a connection to all those points below his surface and inviting us to search within ourselves so we may enjoy the same textures, colors and tones. At the root and blooming as it's essence, Blanche is no stranger to the concept of loving those around him and it's through this that I believe the album is so successful in reaching out to all listeners regardless of genre preference. Much the same of what has been a mainstay in The Calamity Cubes!, has made a reconnection here and amplified the communicative emotional nerves within us to answer back that we believe as he does that music starts and ends with the heart and therein - love.
With the opening of the CD we are introduced to the fragile baritone of Brook Blanche, the opening words ". . .there's fools on their barstools" seems to provide a steady warming wind beneath our wings as we take effortless flight with this giant man and his well worn guitar. Like his pioneering forefathers, Blanche's vocal range is nothing short of mind blowing, his peaks and valleys with complimentary range and dexterity are those that we rarely find except from the great's like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. With ear chord strung, Blanche matches with perfection the accompanying tone and elevates his successive range to build sequentially from one stanza to the next.
Like two lovers lost in a sea of miscommunication, Blanche reaches through the mist and murk in search of his second to explain his lack of understanding "your side". The old time fiddle rag of "Your Side" is the pure essence of the country gentleman and the gravely vocals of Brook are what bring us continually back to the perfect marriage between instrument and songwriter / vocalist.
Picking at his guitar strings, them snapping gently with the characteristic plucking and click, begins the third track "Enough"; in this expose Blanche seems the wounded beast with a heart pulsing its last beats within a chest wall heavy laden with regret. As simple as this song is in its point of origin and as the song says "I give a little, but I take a lot. . .you give me everything you've got", there is an unquenchable thirst here for acceptance and yet from such an immovable object there is a gentle openness and unmistakable vulnerability at the core. Tempered in every word and wounded by each tear stained note Blanche pours himself into his vocal frustrations; ". . .I tried to love you and tried to leave, you asked me what I need. You know everything that you do could never be enough for me".
There is such a beautiful majesty about men like Brook Blanche and their talents among us; perhaps it is that reason simply that they are such a vocal and musical rarity. It's men like Brook Blanche, who remind us what it is to be true to ourselves, to never waver from our convictions and morals, to remain pure in our ethics and to put effort into each duty whether fraught with disaster or rich with success - the effort must never be vacant. The music of Brook Blanche is that of the heart being co-mingled with the soul, this is not music that has been white washed with censorship and flavored artificially; this is music as pure as the rain from heaven and the dew that clings to a blade of grass on an early Tennessee morning. Brook Blanche is the real article and there are few among us that can fill his shoes nor should they. Treasures are meant to be enjoyed in the time we have and passed along as mementos to our contemporaries - remember Brook Blanche and his journey the next time you are recommending music to a colleague. Send them down the path less travelled and be there for them when they stumble; pick them up when they fall and remember that even the mighty among us have fallen but in doing so great music is the resultant remedy to heal the wounds.
Beneath the mighty exterior of a giant - beats the vulnerable heart. . .
Johnny Cash left Sun Records in 1958 to sign with Columbia, and three years later he was a bigger star than ever and well on his way to becoming one of the living legends of country music. Sun, naturally, wanted to take advantage of Cash's growing popularity, and 1961's Now Here's Johnny Cash was a "new" album from their former star tacked together from single sides, unreleased tunes and demos gussied up with overdubs for their release on LP. Now Here's Johnny Cash is a rather curious hodgepodge, but it's also a satisfying listen and features a handful of top-shelf tunes. "Cry! Cry! Cry!," "Hey Porter" and "Home of the Blues" had all been hits for Cash, and with good reason, while two of his early compositions, "Port of Lonely Hearts" and "My Treasure," made their first public appearances on this album.
While "Sugartime" and "Down the Street to 301" are just too sentimental to sound comfortable coming from Cash, he handles them with graceful aplomb, and his take on Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me" is one of the better renditions of the old chestnut. Much of the rest of the album feels more like filler than anything else, but every song features the voice of Johnny Cash, always an impressive thing to witness, and while there are many better collections of his recordings for Sun, on its own terms it's not a bad way to pass 25 minutes.
When we search in the night sky for the familiarity of day, we are seldom struck with a beam of light which guides our perilous path amidst our pitfalls and demons of our journey. In one such case, we find ourselves with the good fortune of a storytelling musician like Joe Huber as our vagabond road wearing guide calling us ahead, to forge on in spite of adversity and the chaos of blood spilled and tear stained memories. Joe is another shining example of what is "right" with the music world of today. . .sadly like so many of his contemporaries, Joe's not always recognized with the same rockstar status as those musicians who have given their souls in exchange for heavy production and at a cost. Humility is his sidearm and a tenuous weary eye is his balance to those he meets; a quiet and gentle lanky giant he is the silent unsuspecting gem which when caught by the transformative beams of sunlight can fill a stage with a magical brilliant healing light. In hindsight, what makes Joe Huber a celebrant among men is the healing power and guiding light of his music; such is the case with the 2010 album offering of "Bury Me Where I Fall" - an echoing, haunting relic of an album which gives the desperate - hope, the exhausted - cadence, the weak - strength and the parched - relief from their thirst with the soul quenching melodies of a man who is as honest and true the soil from which stands. In from the cold and out of the darkness, Joe Huber appears like an old friend with travel case, guitar, shaggy locks and a weathered smile - a brief assembly of his trusted guitar on his knee and he is ready. . .let us begin.
The year 2010 brought us many notable offerings from a wide variety of artists, with much pageantry and pomp - the preformed, precut, template produced songs oozed as per usual from the usual suspects. Among them walked a lone individual with a different and varied approach - Joe Huber is for all intensive purposes a very "vague personality" - there is much a mystery at his surface introduction, below the mantle of his mind is a simmering core of wholesome folk roots and tender tempered blue grass influences of Scruggs & Flatt. Like a humble servant of the industry which serves as both his mistress and mentor, Huber has struck a balance between sorrow and soaring heights, sadness and tears of joy and personal exploration along the journey. With his album "Bury Me Where I Fall", there is a familiar Joe Huber vibe to this album even to the first time listener, this reaches out from simpler times with simpler melodies and complex arrangements of rhythm, percussion, string and harmonica accompaniment. The continued steady hand of Huber is hard to deny like that of a father to his son, the teachings he delivers are the sage lessons of travel between the small town American homesteading towns that dot the prairies and heartlands which are interconnected and entwined with the creosote stained steel railways.
The opening track of "Bury Me Where I Fall" of the same name, is a haunting and eerily mournful preemptive departure from the traditional Huber substance; this song serves notice to demonstrate the long standing and well worn ability of the man and to set the unmistakable tone of the forthcoming album. It is with a well tuned ear you can almost hear a vacant familiarity we've all been dealt in death, Huber has excised the pain from our hearts in song and given voice to the undelivered words of the dead. With a gentle hand guiding a bow across the strings of his heart, the fiddle player matches Huber's tone and vocal reach; the pendulous rhythms of the song remain to and fro as the final lyric is read like a sermon at the grave ". . .just throw the dirt o'er my face - and bury me where I fall".
The simplicity of Joe Huber is perhaps his most endearing quality, it's what is the formative element between friends and family - Huber's work is rife with vocal reinforcement of this lifestyle choice. With such notable songs "Downtime", Joe brings the basic elements back to the light of day and lays them before us his audience, in a self professed musical confession he is ever consummate professional and gentle soul among few. Some may look at Joe's work as a surreal viewpoint of idealistic values and morals that may evade the masses but if you scratch deeper than beyond the surface you will see a man who is singing not from his mind but from his body, heart, soul and being - all tempered with real life experience. The song "Slow Death March" is a model where we see a somber Joe reach out and celebrate the life of the living but also commend the passing of the dead and offer nothing but thanks for the memory and experiences therein. Death is often a sensitive missed step when songwriting, so difficult is the dissection of this human condition that many musicians avoid it in favor of treading easier waters - this is not the case with Huber.
From start to finish on this album there is a painful and sorrow filled heavy stone that accompanies the listener and the songwriter; through clipping guitar chords, rhythmical vocal cadence and spoken word Joe Huber navigates our journey to safety. Huber is as much is as obvious a product of the Woody Guthrie / Jack Kerouac musical generation, his lone stage presence with his instruments being what can be transported on his back are give him the label of 'musical vagabond' and within, we find a man content and satisfied with what is his. From men like Joe Huber we are offered the time between lifetimes as an exercise in mentorship, so too did Joe have his time with his mentors - we too have our time with him. In our time together we find the experiences and love between lessons being the tangible document in song; we must never linger and lose sight as so too will come the day when we must bury those we love most where they fall, in doing so we may look to our time with Joe Huber and lean upon him to guide us once again.
As most AC/DC fans are aware, their Australian and American discographies differed greatly in tracklists and cover art. Australia also got one more record (T.N.T.) than we did. This amounted to a number of Bon Scott tracks that were left off the original American releases. It made sense to eventually release them, so in 1984, five tracks were released on the tenth anniversary EP, ’74 Jailbreak. Of note, none of these songs are actually from 1974.
The track “Jailbreak” itself didn’t become a hit until this compilation was released. It was originally on 1976’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in Australia. It definitely sounds from that era, and it’s long been one of my favourites. I found that little riff irresistible, then and now. I love Bon Scott’s storytelling lyrics, still cool today. “Big man lying on the ground, with a hole in his body where his life had been.” And c’mon, you have to love the music video, or you have no sense of fun in your rock!
The next four tracks were all from High Voltage, another favourite album of mine. “You Ain’t Got a Hold on Me” is one of those slinky Bon Scott rockers.
I like the spare riff and Angus’ bluesy playing. Uptempo “Show Business” is a wry dig on the business side of rock and roll. “You’re smoking butts, they smoke cigars.” Angus’ playing here is especially tasty as he takes his Gibson SG for a ride. Then “Soul Stripper” takes it to a dirty place. AC/DC return to that slinky territory they used to do so well with Bon. “Soul Stripper” is a highlight among highlights, with those quieter bass-driven verses. “Pulled out a knife and flashed it before me, stuck it in and turned it around.”
A cover of “Baby, Please Don’t Go” closes the EP on a frenetic extended jam. Bon shrieks as if in agony. The band blast away as only one of the greatest pure rock and roll bands can. This is rock and roll 101, your teachers are in class, so pay attention to Mr. Young and Mr. Young!
None of the songs on ’74 Jailbreak are outtake quality. I never fully understood who decided what songs were to be left off American releases and why. Some of these songs were singles in Australia! As mentioned, these are only some of the songs unreleased on American albums. There were more and they too were pretty damn good. They are “Stick Around” and “Love Song” from High Voltage, “R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)” from Dirty Deeds, “Crabsody in Blue” from Let There Be Rock, and “Cold Hearted Man” from Powerage. All these songs can be had on the Backtracks box set today.