Showing posts with label Kelcy Salisbury. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kelcy Salisbury. Show all posts

May 14, 2013

Album Review: Jason Boland & The Stragglers - Dark and Dirty Mile

by Kelcy Salisbury

I'm not certain when I first heard the term applied, but the latest release from Jason Boland & The Stragglers certainly embodies the "Thinking Side of Country." Boland has consistently been one of the strongest lyricists in any realm of music over the past decade plus; on Dark And Dirty Mile his words strike much deeper than ever before, an impressive feat coming immediately after the two most critically acclaimed (and best selling) studio albums (Comal County Blue & Rancho Alto) of the bands 15 year run. So what is the difference?

The answer probably lies in one word: maturity. There is a self assurance, a knowledge of who they are & what they do that positively permeates the record. It's a hard-won assurance, honed by thousands upon thousands of shows all over North America (along with several swings through Europe, one of which the band just completed early this month), battles with personal demons both public & private, along with all the introspection that comes with a group of artists who've now been playing music together for their entire adult lives.

The tone is set at the beginning as the albums leadoff track (and first single) is the title song (a first for JB&S), a thoughtful look at the journey of life. All the classic touchstones of Boland's songwriting are here in spades. There are looks into life, love, faith (in a Higher Power & in oneself), and the loss of all the above. There are no throwaway tracks here, and while its not a concept album any more than any of the previous efforts were, it's readily apparent much care was taken with song selection and sequence.

There are cultural touchstones aplenty here, but they aren't the stereotypical beer-trucks-river ramblings usually associated with so-called Red Dirt or Texas Country. You'll grab a history book (or at least Wikepedia) if you're paying attention. From the striking miners shot down in Ludlow, to the Trail Of Tears & Oklahoma Land Rush in the Randy Crouch penned They Took It Away, this album takes a hard look at the past, both personal & public - but that past always informs the present.

Boland has long been one of the best and most accessible songwriters in the game. He's got a knack for taking his own pain, joy, losses & gains and turning them into words that are near universally true. What I found most fascinating about this album is the way the lead track essentially lays out an outline for the themes of the album, and the songs that follow dig deeper into the various themes touched on at the beginning. I'm not sure it's an intentional detail, and it's certainly not a new idea (arguably JB&S 2005 effort, The Bourbon Legend, follows the same pattern with its lead track, The Last Country Song) but it couldn't be executed more flawlessly.

The music is so flawless largely because it is clearly not overproduced. This is the exact sound you'll experience at a live show. The band (Roger Ray, Grant Tracy, Brad Rice & Nick Worley) are at the absolute peak of their powers. Clearly they are a cohesive unit that has reached the same stage of confident self-assurance demonstrated in the song writing. There's no part that shoves its way to the front of the listeners attention. "Tasteful" is the best word that comes to mind for the playing and arrangements.

Shooter Jennings served as producer for the first time on a Boland album and he has clearly chosen to simply try to capture the sound that the band has honed through the years and miles. It would be a temptation for a producer working with such talented individuals to attempt to leave their own signature on the record, but here Shooter leaves his mark by doing what may well be the most difficult thing for a producer to do, he simply steps back and lets the band tell the tale.

Care was obviously taken to ensure that the entire album is a piece of art recalling the days before consumption of music was primarily digital. The cover art is hauntingly excellent, relying heavily upon the theme of the title track.

Yes it's a dangerous, rough journey we're all on through this life. Take this album along with you though, and the journey will be a little richer for it.
You can purchase Dark & Dirty Mile here or here (and other places like iTunes).

Apr 18, 2013

Album Review: Javi Garcia - The Great Controversy

By Kelcy Salisbury

I'll admit two things going in to this review: First, I've been a huge fan of Madly In Anger/A Southern Horror since they first came out & was expecting nothing less than a stellar follow up effort. Second, this was one of the more difficult reviews I've had to write partly because of the first.

The album sets a searingly dark tone from the opener and never let's off the throttle. I'm familiar with Javi's fondness for The Rolling Stones & tried to set that aside at first listen. By the time I got halfway through the pounding "Stick To The Facts" I'd completely forgotten about it. This whole record has Sticky Fingers-era Stones all over it, to the point that if it weren't for Javi's scowling & brooding vocals on top of the track it wouldn't surprise you to learn that this was a recently unearthed treasure trove of songs from 45 years ago just now released to the public.

None of that is meant to diminish from the greatness of this work. It can stand side by side with any great work. This is simply meant to acknowledge that, whether he meant for it to or not, Javi's first great musical love can be heard and felt all through this record.

The songs are, as a whole, every bit as dark as the first record. The story telling has grown more distinct than before. Each song tells a chapter of the story, but unlike before they won't let you linger some favorite spot along the way. There is no spot to catch your breath.

I went through about 6 different attempts to go at this on a track by track basis but in the end I couldn't make a single track more important than another and scrapped the format. I tried to come up with a way to not say, "hey, I think this could be the Great Lost Stones Record" but I really couldn't and still be honest in my reaction.

So basically I took away three things from this record:

1) This is the rarest type of album. It requires owning in its entirety, else you miss a large chunk of the story. Yes some tracks (Nightfall in particular) seem more radio friendly than others but that's not the point of any track.

2) Passion still matters for a lot in anything. Passion in the creative process produces great result. This album has the kind of passion to it that tells you it was never an option. It HAD to be made.

3) You could drop songs from this album into a playlist for some old rock n roll fans to listen to, mixed right up next to anything from Sticky Fingers or Exile On Main Street & nobody would bitch. I tried it.

That's why at the end of the day all I can say is that it's a great album, and I think that Mick & Keith would both give their right arm for this kind of album any time in at least the past 30 years.

Even though I've seen him in person, I picture the songwriting Javi as something like Javier Bardem's character in No Country For Old Men. This album is the audio equivalent to that movie. I happen to love both but even if you hate the movie you should really give it a listen anyway.

Also, for those of you who didn't jump at your chance to get a pen-and-ink skull drawn by Javi back a couple months ago, you really should have. The man is a great artist in more than one medium.

Sample tracks here.
Listen to an acoustic version of "Josephine" on YouTube
Javi Garcia's The Great Controversy can be purchased here and at all the other usual outlets.

Jan 25, 2013

Album Review: Chris King - 1983

Chris King - 1983
by Kelcy Salisbury

Country music is far from dead. The best of the genre has largely moved outside of the Nashville "box" but this isn't about any kind of contrived TX/OK vs Nashville battle. This is about the first really good country album of 2013 (a year with a lot of albums to look forward to.)

I've never seen Chris King play live. I didn't even hear of him until I started to see quite a bit of buzz surrounding his debut album, 1983 (I assume its a reference to his birth year, thanks for making me feel old buddy).

The whole album is a solid hunk of country goodness. The songwriting is strong throughout. My personal favorites are "Antler Ballroom" & "Man Enough" which features the inimitable vocal stylings of Jamie Wilson (best known for her work with The Trishas & on the Turnpike Troubadours' Goodbye Normal Street).

King sings in a distinctive tenor that strikes a sure-footed balance between youth and old-soul experience, making his voice the perfect vehicle for exploration of a life caught in that dichotomy. Though he's of the Texas/Red Dirt scene, so to speak, his presentation bears little resemblance to any stereotypical "sound" you expect when you read that classification. His music is catchy and accessible, yet layered and soulful.

There isn't a throwaway track on the album. 1983 truly is the first really good true country album of the admittedly young year & will no doubt be a contender when it comes time to make my 2013 "best of" list.

So here's a big "Thank You" to Chris King for making a true country album & here's to many years of continued success.

You can purchase 1983 at Lonestar Music, Amazon, CD Baby or iTunes.

Jan 9, 2013

FTM Top Albums of '12: Kelcy's 14

-by Kelcy Salisbury

This list is by no means exhaustive. 2012 has been an absolute banner year for good music. I’m sure there are several great albums released in 2012 that I haven’t even heard yet and will discover some time down the road & wish I’d included them. I tried doing a top 5 list, then I tried for 10 but in the end these were the albums I just couldn’t bring myself to cut off the list.

14) Corb Lund - Cabin Fever
The Canadian musician released some of his finer work with this album (get the deluxe edition with multiple acoustic versions of several songs.) Don’t miss Down On The Mountain, Drink It Like You Mean It, One Left In The Chamber & the hilarious Hayes Carll collaboration of Bible On The Dash (as a former rodeo cowboy who’s done his share of traveling I found this to be one of the most truthfully humorous compositions I’ve heard in years.)

13) Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Grifter’sHymnal
Texas music godfather reaches out to an under-served demographic. Grifters need hymnals too, right? Seriously, Coricidin Bottle & Lazarus are as good as any work he’s done. My favorite Ray Wylie Hubbard album since Delirium Tremolos.

12) Shooter Jennings - Family Man
The album is a touch uneven in places but songs like The Long Road Ahead, Summers Dreams and Daddy’s Hands are so good that they elevate the entire thing. There’s not a song on here I skip, but there are a few I look forward to more than others. Can’t wait to see what the next project sounds like.

11) The Trishas - High Wide And Handsome
Not sure I can really describe this one but to say that The Trishas are easily the best female duo or group in country music right now and it’s not even close (sorry Pistol Annies but you could take some notes from these ladies). I hate to distinguish them as a “female” act though. Isn’t it about time we just acknowledge that this is one incredibly good bunch of musicians? They can play, they can sing, and they can write…How they can write! I’d tell you what my favorite songs are on the album, but that changes every time through. Last time around it was Mother Of Invention, John Wayne & Gold&Silver. Listen for yourself, if you haven’t heard this album you’re missing something great.

10) Dwight Yoakam - 3 Pears
I’m a Dwight fan, I’ll admit that. I’ve also appreciated Pete Anderson’s production work, so when I heard that Dwight’s new album would not employ Pete as producer I was a little worried. I’m sure the folks who want to hear “Guitars, Cadillacs” re-made over and over won’t care for this. It’s unabashedly Dwight’s “rock” album, but it’s outstanding. Top songs are Waterfall, It’s Never Alright and Long Way To Go.

9) Jason Eady - AM Country Heaven
Probably the best pure country record of the year, this one saw Eady take a slight detour from his more folk oriented material and record a straight ahead country album that draws heavily on the Merle Haggard school of writing & playing. The end result is simply astoundingly good in its simplicity. Don’t miss the scathing songwriting of the title cut, the heartbreaking Wishful Drinking or the Patty Loveless duet of Man On A Mountain.

8) Dirty River Boys - The Science Of Flight
I have to thank Brad Rice (the drummer from Jason Boland & The Stragglers, not the one from Son Volt) for bringing this band to my attention. I was honestly getting a little burned out on “new” Texas/Red Dirt/Independent bands. I hadn’t heard a new one doing anything original in a few years & even with all the buzz about these guys I hadn’t paid a bit of attention. Brad told me they were “original” and “different” and was he ever right! I’d venture to say that this album would be top 3 material if I’d only picked it up a little sooner. I’ve only had time to listen to it twice but it absolutely blew me away and forced me to include it on this list. Dirty River Boys sound is a hard thing to describe, but I’ll try. Let’s imagine that the Black Crowes & Nick Cave had a baby that was raised by a group of Celtic musicians who also happened to be bluegrass fans & the baby ran away from home at age 14 to tour with Ray Wylie Hubbard & Gram Parsons. These guys aren’t scared to try a mixture of styles and influences and the end result is something amazing to hear. I can’t wait to get a chance to see them live. Best songs on the album (and there isn’t a bad one) are the title song & Six Riders, but you’d better get the whole thing.

7) Soundgarden - King Animal
The best voice in 90s rock is back where he belongs as Chris Cornell has reunited with Soundgarden & put out an album that sounds like a worthy follow-up to Superunknown, not the album that showed up a decade plus after Down On The Upside. There’s no Get On The Snake, Blow Up The Outside World or Fell On Black Days (my 3 personal favorite Soundgarden songs) here but what there is, is more than enough to be the hard rock album of the year. Soundgarden was somewhat unfairly labeled as “just another grunge band” in the 90s & were never completely able to break free from that. They may never break away from it completely but hopefully this album will earn them a whole new generation of fans as well as reminding their legions of Gen X fans (how’d we all get so old anyway?) that Soundgarden are still kings of the rock universe.

6) Jack White - Blunderbuss
Jack White may be the direct spiritual descendant of Keith Richards & Led Zeppelin. Nobody in mainstream music is doing anything remotely close to his sound. Just great rootsy rock 'n roll that comes straight from the heart. This album, along with most of his output is proof that 3 chords and the truth are really all you need.

5) Turnpike Troubadors - Goodbye Normal Street
Turnpike Troubadours are one of the finest live bands to come out of the rich musical scene of eastern Oklahoma in the past several years. Their first two albums showed tremendous promise due to the great songwriting and musicianship. What sets this album apart is the addition of backing vocals of Jamie Wilson of The Trishas. Like most of the albums near the top of this list, there simply is not a single throwaway track. The album needs to be heard in it’s entirety. The musicianship has actually improved over their first two albums (Bossier City & Diamonds and Gasoline) if that is even possible. Either this or Eady’s album are the best true country albums of this year, if not the best of the past 2-3 years. The only country album I’ve heard in the past couple of years that can stand on the same level is Jason Boland & The Stragglers Rancho Alto.

4) The Departed - Adventus
After This Is Indian Land came out last year I was intrigued to see what this band could do with their original material. I’m happy to report that they exceeded all my expectations. This isn’t a country album, it’s a bluesy, rootsy, gospel influenced trip through the prodigious talents of a band that (while made up of an all-star cast of players) is truly much more than the sum of it’s parts.
3) Chris Knight: Little Victories
Mr Knight (I feel like I should refer to him as Mr., just because I’m pretty sure anybody with the kind of body count usually exhibited in his songs might stab me if I don’t call him Mr.) has released the finest album of his remarkable career. It’s not quite a protest album, but there is a theme of social commentary running through the entire thing. In almost any other year this would be my album of the year. I’ve only had the album since early October, but all the songs are among my most played for the entire year. I can’t hear Jack Loved Jessie, Nothing On Me or The Lonesome Way while driving without risking a speeding ticket.

2) Matt King - Apples & Orphans
First a bit of background: I am such a fan of Matt’s 2005 album “Rube” (right down to the Marilyn Manson sounding drums, and other industrial sounding touches) that I have worn out two CD copies, and it’s been one of the top 2 most played albums on my iPod every year since I got the digital copy, something like 5 years running now. I liked the Matt King & The Cutters EP. I loved the bare bones approach of Raw, which is also an album that’s been in heavy rotation for the past couple of years. (I’ll admit to not being a huge fan of Matt’s mid 90s Nashville country output, but hopefully Matt will forgive me for that…) Point is, I had very high expectations for this album even though I didn’t really know quite what to expect. If you’re looking for real stories of real life Matt is one of the three songwriters I’d point you toward to start with (Chris Knight & Javi Garcia would be the other two.) I’d be doing this album and the listener a disservice to point out one song over another as the “must have” tracks on this album. It’s an album that’s meant to be heard from start to finish. It’s clearly a labor of love, care was paid to the sequencing of songs - so get the album and listen to it the way it was meant to be heard, start to finish. My brother once asked me what Matt King sounded like and I told him that if Trent Reznor & Loretta Lynn had a child who was raised in the Appalachians by Woody Guthrie, he would be Matt King. That was meant as a compliment & hopefully it’ll be taken that way.

1) Lincoln Durham - The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones
This one came out early in the year, February I believe.  Anyway, the first time I heard Drifting Wood I was hooked.  This album is proof that you don’t need “top of the line” equipment or fancy production to make a great album.  The pure soul of the vocals, the simple blues influenced music suits each song perfectly.  There’s great variety here.  Clementine & Truckers Love Song are simple yet beautiful (if somewhat unconventional) love songs.  Mud Puddles, Drifting Wood, Living This Hard and Reckoning Lament are haunting rootsy slices of goodness.  I had the privilege of catching Lincoln opening for Billy Joe Shaver last fall in San Marcos,TX and he blew me away.  The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in terms of a single person making sounds that one person shouldn’t be able to.  Lincoln is a young man with an old soul and a clear appreciation for the traditions of such influential acts as Robert Johnson and Ray Wylie Hubbard.  If you’ve somehow missed the greatness that is The Shovel VS The Howling Bones, go pick it up today.  You can thank me later.


Albums I’m looking forward to in 2013:
New music from Jason Boland & The Stragglers: The best traditional country band going has a new album (produced by Shooter Jennings) on the way early in '13.

Javi Garcia & The Cold Cold Ground are finally coming with a follow up to A Southern Horror.  March is the targeted release date.

Tyler McCumber (he’s a star in Italy of all places) plans to release some new music in '13.  In an interesting side note, Javi Garcia was a member of Tyler’s first band.

Nov 19, 2012

Album Review: Corb Lund - Cabin Fever

By Kelcy Salisbury

Corb Lund, as I’ve said before, is the Canadian singer who should be a superstar rather than Justin Beiber or (showing my age) Bryan Adams. And that’s probably the first time his name has appeared in a sentence with Justin Beiber.

On August 14th Corb released his most ambitious project to date, the 26 track (if you buy the deluxe edition) Cabin Fever. Now I’m a fan of Corb’s work, I’ve bought all his albums since he started playing with the Hurtin’ Albertans, back around a decade ago, so I don’t consider myself completely impartial but I do believe Corb’s albums have progressively improved with each release, a rare thing indeed.

Cabin Fever kicks off with the politically charged Getting’ Down On The Mountain, a song that feels to me like a bit of a companion piece to The Truth Comes Out from his previous album, Losin’ Lately Gambler. From there it swerves almost into Matt King territory with the macabre humor of Dig Gravedigger Dig. This 1-2-3 punch is completed by Bible On The Dash, a classic Corb Lund road tale kicked up into a higher gear as a duet with Hayes Carll.

The album continues to draw on all Corb’s varied influences ranging from bluegrass, to punk, to rockabilly and classic cowboy music but somehow it all hangs together as a whole as Corb’s road worn voice narrates tales of ranching (Cows Around), running too fast on a motorcycle made in Germany (Mein Duetches Motorrad), death (Priceless Antique Pistol & Pour ‘Em Kinda Strong), wild girlfriends (Gothest Girl I Can), heartbreak (September & One Left In The Chamber).

I could break down each song, but I’m sure others will do a better job than I could, the bottom line is that this is a strong though wide-ranging and sometimes scattered effort. If you’ve never listened to Corb this might not be the best album to start with (although it’s certainly a good one). I’d recommend Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer or Losin’ Lately Gambler for an introduction. If you’re already a fan I don’t have to tell you that you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re a fan of old-school cowboy music there’s something here for you. The same goes for fans of the folk stylings of Ian Tyson. There’s even some yodeling, featured in most of Corb’s albums. Hayes Carll fans will want to own it just for Bible On The Dash. It’s certainly Corb’s most ambitious and far ranging album, there’s even a strong Beach Boys influence on one song. I found it to be a fun and satisfying album. The mix is perfect throughout, the musicianship is great, and the storytelling is great, the true hallmark of Corb Lund’s music.

If I had to give it a grade I’d say 4.5 out of 5 stars. Corb may be an acquired taste, but he’s a taste well worth acquiring.

Buy it here or elsewhere:

Nov 13, 2012

Album Review: The Departed - Adventus

By Kelcy Salisbury

Southern Rock has always owed a large debt to the blues for it's roots, and with the formation of The Departed, it could be said that former Cross Canadian Ragweed frontman & bassist Cody Canada & Jeremy Plato have gone back to their roots. 

I greatly enjoyed This Is Indian Land, the debut album from The Departed, but it felt rather like a Ragweed side project.  Understandably so, given that this tribute album to great Oklahoma songwriters was the labor of love that Canada & Plato had both spoken often of wanting to do while still in Ragweed.  Sure, the album had plenty of unique touches, particularly Seth James bluesy take on his guitar parts & the addition of keys by Steve Littleton (a musical heavyweight on the Oklahoma scene for years even before the ascendance of Ragweed) but Indian Land mostly served as a placeholder to whet my appetite for the new music that would hopefully be coming soon.

With Adventus (from the Latin for "Arrival") that appetite is sated.  Make no mistake, Indian Land was a fine album & an outstanding tribute to many of my own musical heroes, but Adventus is the sound of a dream fully realized, stomping the boards & defiantly proclaiming it's place in the American musical landscape.

This is no Ragweed album, and I sincerely hope (in spite of my nearly 20 years of affection for the band, a band I truly felt like I grew up with) that this album will put all the comparisons to bed at last.  This is definitely it's own animal & you know it from front to back on the album.  Cody Canada's name may still be nearly synonymous with the band, but the contributions that elevate this album from good to great come from the fact that the rest of the band is so perfectly in tune with the vision.  I don't know if it's Cody's vision or a truly shared one, but I'd guess that the entire band is perfectly in tune with it.  It would be nearly impossible to pull off something this good that remains so unique in scope & style, without every single member being equally on board. 

I could go through this album song by song, but I doubt anyone wants to read that many paragraphs, so I'll just point out the things that jumped out to me the most on my most recent listen.

The Seth James penned tune, "Prayer For The Lonely" is just about as moving & gut-wrenching honest as song-writing can get.  If you are a fan of Red Solo Cups this might be out of your depth.  However, if you are a thinking human, you can't help but find it moving for all the right reasons.

The lead single "Worth The Fight" blew me away the first couple listens.  I'm sure it will do well within the regional charts in Texas & Oklahoma.  This song deserves to be getting spins nationwide though.  I don't know how they could've chosen a finer song with which to tell the world "This is who we are.  This is what we are about.  We are here to stay & you're gonna like it."

The cover art is great.  I grew up on albums (you know, the big black plastic CDs?) and even when CDs came along there was very little I enjoyed more than poring through the booklet, examining the cover art, reading the notes & checking out the lyrics.  The music industry as a whole has gotten away from that, and of course the digital download boom has been the biggest reason, but I can say that after seeing the cover photo (taken at a Led Zeppelin concert in Dallas, the police officers working security used bullets as makeshift earplugs because Led Zeppelin was LOUD [you rap/metal loving kids have NO idea]) I was just in love with the concept immediately. I will be ordering the Vinyl edition just as soon as possible.  Sadly, I missed out on the pre-order for a signed copy, but I still cannot wait to add this to my vinyl collection and enjoy the full tactile experience in edition to the auditory treat that is the album in any format.

In summary, if you're a fan of anything that Cody Canada, Seth James, Jeremy Plato, Steve Littleton or have done in the past you will love this album.  If you're a fan of good bluesy rock n roll you will love this album.  Shoot, if you're just a fan of good music with some substance, you need to pick up a copy.  So get Adventus & celebrate the true Arrival of The Departed on the scene.  I expect this album to fill a high slot on my 2012 "best of" list, and I expect it'll be one of your favorites as well.


Adventus can be purchased at Lone Star Music, iTunes, Amazon and all the other usual retailers.

Jul 24, 2012

EP Review - Proud Cut Ponies

by Kelcy Salisbury

So back about two months ago I was asked to give a listen to a new band, and consider reviewing their material.  The band called themselves Proud Cut Ponies, and my initial thoughts were, #1 "Oh great, another Texas/Red Dirt/Outlaw country band that thinks they're doing something cool and original" and #2 "At least they appear to have a sense of humor, based on the name".  It took a little while before I even bothered to listen to the Lubbock, TX based bands EP, and even longer to finally get around to reviewing it (sorry but my real world job takes up a little bit of time).  I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised by Proud Cut Ponies...and I wonder how many people outside their current fan base will get all the levels of the joke in their name (the Angel Dust reference is the easy part, for you city folks at least).
My overall impression was that the band immediately reminded me of the John D Hale Band (a criminally underrated country band out of Southeast Missouri if you're not familiar).  The story-telling brand of songwriting is quite similar, and that's a good thing in my book.
I didn't hear a single song about floating the river, or how awesome it is to be from Texas...another positive on the first listen.  Cigarette seems kind of familiar, perhaps a bit too much so, but Corby Owens sells it with all his might in the vocals, the guitar work is more than adequate, the drumming is solid and the song works.  My only complaint with it was that the bass was hard to find in the mix, although it could have been due to the relatively low quality speakers I heard it on.  Jesse James opens with a buzzing riff that sounds like it borrows heavily from Heart's "Barracuda", which seems a bit off-putting at first given the subject matter of the song.  But again the band means what they're doing and the sincerity with which they sell the song makes it work.  This tune is the one that most calls John D Hale's songwriting to mind.  It's simple, straightforward, even blunt, but it's also very effective at painting the picture of the story it tells.  The EP closes with Guitar Hero, which is easily the strongest song of the set.  The songwriting is very good, Corby Owens' voice is better suited to this song than the previous two and the music is perfectly suited to the song.  It's extremely well done & it sold me on the EP & on the future possibilities for Proud Cut Ponies. 
Proud Cut Ponies are Corby Owens on lead vocals, Drake Hayes on Bass, Jamie Berryhill on lead guitar, and Roy Stout on drums.  You can check them out and hear their songs at . I've heard a rumor that tee-shirts and other merchandise are available as well, so if you've ever wanted an "I Love PCP" shirt (and who doesn't need one of those for the family reunion? I know I do) they can help you out with that.  Seriously, these guys are a cut above the vast majority of new music I've heard coming out of the TX/OK scene in the last few years so give it a listen.

Not sure of a release date for the EP, but we'll let you know. For the time being, check them out here: for tour dates and other information.

Jun 28, 2012

Kelcy Interviews Brad Rice of Jason Boland and the Stragglers

Brad Rice. Photo from Lovers, quarrels and more.
Enjoy this enlightening new interview, as Kelcy sits down (figuratively) with the opinionated Brad Rice, drummer for Jason Boland and the Stragglers.

Kelcy: Please tell us your background, such as where you were born, when where and why you started playing music, and what your other hobbies were at that time (sports, video games, cooking meth, whatever…ok maybe don’t incriminate yourself)

Brad: I was born in Oklahoma City in 1977. Growing up I played soccer ad basketball, but joined the junior high band in the 6th grade. I started taking private lessons when i was 13. I grew up in a very musical, but normal household.

K: What first appealed to you about playing drums and when did you begin to approach them seriously as a possible career choice?

B: I liked the physical aspect of playing drums, it really involves your whole body. I found that it is a great emotional outlet to beat the shit out of something, and there's really no substitute as i hate violence :)

K: When and where was your first organized gig?  What about your first paid gig?  First gig with your current band?

B: My first gig was at a Strawberry festival in Cushing, OK with a group of buddies. I believe I was 15, I know i didn't drive to this.  First paying gig was with JB&S, but we didn't make any money the first 3 years.  First gig with JB&S was Halloween, 1998.

K: How long has it been since you’ve had to do anything other than play music to make a living, or do you still work?  If so, what kind of work do you do?

B: We have been full time with the band for 10 years, so I'm pretty far removed from the "real world". I have a lawn business on the side with a buddy in Tulsa, and I do a few side projects in the studio every year.

K: What’s your favorite venue to play currently?  All time favorite gig?  Most memorable gig (good or bad)?

B: My favorite current and all-time gig is Cain's Ballroom, nothing compares.  Most memorable gig---pick one before Jason quit drinking.

K: What is your favorite part of touring?  Least favorite part of it?

B: My favorite part of touring is that nothing really gets old, there's always spontaneity at the drop of a hat.  There is nothing that constitutes work about my job, we literally get paid to play music.  I hate being away from my wife and two sons.

What are you lookin' at punk?
K: What’s your favorite restaurant to stop at on the road?  (I know you’ve got the world’s best chicken enchilada recipe, I’ve gotta get that from you again)

B: Juicy Jim's in Memphis has the best sub sandwich in the country. [Kelcy says: I can verify this to be the gospel, so don’t even start whining all you east coasters]

K: Where do you live now?  Wife, kids, dogs? 

B: Tulsa, Ok--married with 2 boys, 8 and 4-- 2 dogs, german shepherd and doberman ( I don't like people in my yard)

K: What’s your favorite hobby, favorite sports teams?  How do you like to pass time on the road?

B: My teams are the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the OKC Thunder.
Enjoy working out, elliptical and lifting weights, riding my bike--love to cook, might pursue that as a 2nd career if we ever slow down on touring---love to drink beer and watch sporting events of all kinds---also enjoy carpentry and gardening---I'm a full time student so i spend a majority of my time studying on the road

K: Of all the songs in your catalog which is your favorite of all time?  Favorite to play live? Favorite on current album? Favorite cover song to play live?

B: I'd say Blowin' Through The Hills is my favorite, it's kinda country-metal.  It's a blast to play live, and people cheer as as soon as they hear the riff at the beginning.  I love Billy Joe Shaver's Thunderbird Wine.  We do a pretty punked-up version that's a lot of fun to play.

K: Who are your biggest musical influences? Who are your current favorite bands to listen to? Tour with? If you could play live as part of any band, who would you choose?

B: Musical influences are Dave Weckl, William C Calhoun, John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder, John Bonham, Queens of the Stone Age, Stone Temple Pilots, my marching band director in highschool, my mom (badass pianist)

I love death metal, lately I've been into Job For A Cowboy, Cannibal Corpse, Gojira, Opeth.  I also love Jamie Lidell, John Coltrane, Buddy Rich, The Beatles, Binary Star, Clutch, Eagles of Death Metal, High On Fire, My Morning Jacket, Jurassic 5, The Mars Volta, Melvins, Nine Inch Nails, The Police, TOOL, Radiohead, Static-X, and WEEN

I'd love to play in several rock bands, too many to list, but Tool is up there. I'm not good enough, though.

K: If you could have dinner with any three people, who would you choose? What’s on the menu?

B: I'd like to sit down with Senator Jim Inhoffe from Oklahoma and ask him what his fucking problem is, so he's one.  Two, James Harden from the OKC Thunder, I like his style.  Three, my wife, we never get to go out by ourselves any more.

K: If you had to choose another career path, what would you be doing for a living?

B: I’m pretty sure I'd be a chef if I didn't have music, it has many parallel aspects in that it's very creative.

K: Is there any currently touring artist you’ve never seen that you’d love to see?

B: I’d love to see Tool or Mastodon

K: If you had to sum up your life view/philosophy in just a few sentences what would you say?

B: Be nice to people, show them love.  Read books.

K: What’s your opinion on the current state of the music business in general and specifically in independent country music?  Is there really such a thing as independent country music anymore?  If so, what artist best embodies it?

B: I don't think there are a whole bunch of sincere artists out there, independent or major. It seems most of them want to go the American Idol route.

K: If you had the power to mandate two books that everyone in the country should read what would they be?

B: I think everyone should read 1984, it's eerily close to our current situation.  I also really like Walden, it really stresses the importance of nature, simplicity and love.

K: What about if you had to choose two albums of music that the entire country should own?

B: The Beatles Revolver and John Coltrane Blue Train

K: If you could give a message to the entire world, what would you say? (because that’s the kind of website hits we’re looking for)

B: Stop fucking watching reality television and pick up a damn book

Jason Boland and the Stragglers most recent album is the excellent Rancho Alto.

Jun 4, 2012

Bo Phillips: The FTM Interview

Kelcy Salisbury recently interviewed Texas singer-songwriter Bo Phillips, singer of tunes like "Red Dirt Girl" and the hilarious Toby Keith parody "Blue Dixie Cup." Here is what transpired.


Kelcy: Please tell us your background, such as where you were born, when where and why you started playing music, and what your other hobbies were at that time (sports, video games, cooking meth, whatever…ok maybe don’t incriminate yourself)

Bo: I was born in Houston, TX, and moved to the Rio Grande Valley where I was the only white kid in my class(Mexicans).  Then we moved to Oklahoma when I was 9, and guess what, I was the only white kid in my class(Indians).  So yeah, I know the pain of the Man keepin ya down!  We grew up poor, so the only hobbies we had (other than meth labs and Chinese hookers) was fishing, and FFA.  Damn good at both (actually, all 4)

K: What first appealed to you about playing music and when did you begin to approach it seriously as a possible career choice?

B: I got my first guitar when I was 9, it came with a chord book with three chords in it.  The rest I learned from watching “Austin City Limits” on one of the two TV stations we picked up (when the wind was blowing right)  I taught my brothers how to play, and went to college, got my degrees and pursued a career in teaching (yeah, me in charge of kids… now I can’t be within 500 feet of a Chuck-E-Cheese) 
I was actually in a School Board Meeting being interviewed to be the new principal when the thought occurred to me that I didn’t want to do what I LIKED for a living… I wanted to do something I LOVED, so I became a Chinese hooker… and then a musician.

K: When and where was your first organized gig?  What about your first paid gig?  First gig with your current band?

B: My first gig was actually hosting karaoke in Stillwater.  The owner told me play music in between requests to stretch the time out.  My sets gradually became more popular than the karaoke (you’re welcome, Stillwater), and I got my own night at Roosters in Stillwater.  I’m currently on an acoustic tour, actually hunting for band mates with talent and no egoes.. the search continues….

K: How long has it been since you’ve had to do anything other than play music to make a living, or do you still work?  If so, what kind of work do you do?  (Do you own a truck, I need some help moving if you want to make an extra $20 this weekend)

B: I actually took a year pause in music about 5 years ago to be a National Sales Trainer for a newspaper company in New York. (Imagine me in a suit and tie… I don’t even like SLEEVES!)  The work I do now is to kill the boredom, generally building/repairing things.  Handyman kinda stuff, and underground pimping.

K: What’s your favorite venue to play currently?  All time favorite gig?  Most memorable gig (good or bad)?

B: Current favorite is Gruene Hall.  Great staff, and the crowd is always huge and true music-lovers.  All-time favorite would be where it all started at Roosters in Stillwater.  The place was always packed and ready to throw down.  Most memorable gig….  Calf Fry in Stillwater, OK… 12,000 people singing along with you is a feeling few get to experience.

K: What is your favorite part of touring?  Least favorite part of it?

B: Favorite part is learning the history of the towns we visit, and experiencing more than the tourist side of where we go.  Least favorite is filling up the damn gas tank.  And yes I have a truck, I need that $20

K: What’s your favorite restaurant to stop at on the road?

B: It’s a toss up between Hooten Holler’n BBQ in Whitney, TX and Cooper’s BBQ in Ft Worth/New Braunfels.. Love me some dead livestock!

K: Of all the songs in your catalog which is your favorite of all time?  Favorite to play live?Favorite on current album? Favorite cover song to play live?

B: Favorite original is probably Red Dirt Girl, the current single.  I actually feel the spirits of who I’m singing about when I perform it.  Favorite to play live.. Blue Dixie Cup, people who have never heard it before end up yelling it at the top of their lungs when we’re done.  Very cool experience.   Favorite cover to play…depend on the night (slow song would be “Long Black Veil”, I LOVE doing “Satisfied” by Ian Moore

K: Who are your biggest musical influences? Who are your current favorite bands to listen to? Tour with?

B: Influences are pretty much anyone who graced the stage of Austin City Limits in 80’s and 90’s.  That’s where I learned not only to play guitar, but also appreciate music.  Current bands to listen to – TPTroubadours, Damn Quails, Great Divide, Departed, Boland, stuff like that.  Touring would be a similar list.

K: If you could play live as part of any band, who would you choose?

B: Allman Brothers Band.. Musical STUDS

K: If you could have dinner with any three people, who would you choose? What’s on the menu?

B: Definitely not Jesus… I’m a carnivore, I need meat in my diet.  Breadsticks and grapejuice don’t cut it for this country boy.  I’d probably pick my two brothers, and my grand-dad. (sappy I know, but fuck off, it’s my dinner)  Fried fish, potatoes, and homemade tartar sauce.  Damn, I’m hungry now.. thanks asshole.

K: If you had to choose another career path, what would you be doing for a living?

B: I thought we already addressed the Chinese hooker topic?   Seriously though, I’d be a home builder.  I love all aspects of home building, and would love to be a contractor someday.

K: Is there any currently touring artist you’ve never seen that you’d love to see?

B: Zac Brown Band… Musical Studs again.  Would love to see their interaction, and see how many fingers they have… Damn they’re good.

B: If you had to sum up your life view/philosophy in just a few sentences what would you say?

K: Put more in than you take out. The end.

K: What’s your opinion on the current state of the music business in general and specifically in independent country music?  Is there really such a thing as independent country music anymore?  If so, what artist best embodies it?

B: I think it’s a damn shame the direction it’s gone.  It used to be where people had to be talented to be successful.  Now all you need is money.  Piss on that.  It sickens me daily to see some of the songs towards the top of the charts.  When utter douche-bags forget where they came from and treat the fan-base like shit, that makes me wanna puke.  It is the most disingenuous thing I’ve ever seen.   I think there are a few truly talented, humble folks still in the bizz (Wade Bowen is my first choice, but there are others)

K: If you had the power to mandate two books that everyone in the country should read what would they be?

B: Introduction to Agricultural Education – I believe that more people need to be made aware of where their food, clothes, fuel, etc, comes from.  I think that when a society starts taking for granted their commodities, they stop appreciating them as well.  Leading to an epidemic of people who think they’re entitled to everything and not expected to work for it.
The Bible – Not necessarily for the religious aspects, but for the moral aspects.  I don’t really care what each person believes is their ticket to heaven.  But I do care how they treat me in the process.

K: What about if you had to choose two albums of music that the entire country should own?

B: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.  Simple music by simple folks.
Red Headed Stranger – Willie Nelson.  Back when an album was written and sequenced.  Today, everything is on shuffle and you lose the meaning of the record.

K: If you could give a message to the entire world, what would you say? (because that’s the kind of website hits we’re looking for)

B: “Pull your heads out of your asses, don’t like music just because the radio plays it all the time.  Be unique, just like everyone else”

K: Thanks for taking the time to do this.  Feel free to say anything at all you’d like in this space.

B: Usually at this point in the interview, I’m snortin’ blow off the hip-bone of a super-model, but you’re cool so here goes.
Advice to musicians… Quit being dicks to your fans.  Without them, you’re just elevator music.


Follow Bo on Twitter for a lot of laughs here.
His albums Dirt Road and Fishin' with Grandpa are available here.

May 21, 2012

Lost Classics: Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels - Live 1973

Lost Classics: Gram Parsons & The Fallen Angels - Live 1973

by Kelcy Salisbury
Retro is cool these days.  Punks are wearing "Cash" tee shirts, as a shout out to the man who's frequently considered the ultimate symbol of rock-n-roll cool.  Hipsters are wearing them for irony.  The comic books of my childhood are blockbuster movies.  They even re-made Dukes of Hazzard (shudder).
In the rush to embrace "retro-cool" the true pioneers, the ones who influenced the folks who get the credit, very rarely are recognized.  I don't see anybody (punks, hipsters or otherwise) wearing "Rodgers" or "Cooke" tee shirts.  I'm pretty sure if I started a business making these shirts, I'd be even broker than I am in record time.  Personally, I've always embraced retro, always been interested in digging deeper and finding the roots of the music I loved.  When I heard Mama Tried on vinyl as a kid, it led me to Buck Owens.  When I heard Waylon Jennings sing that Bob Wills was still the king, I dug into Wills, Ernest Tubb, and so on.  I'm ashamed to say I didn't discover one of the most interesting, influential and tragic figures in American music until about 1998 or so.  Dwight Yoakam had released Under The Covers, an album of songs that had influenced him, and I heard an incredible duet titled Sin City.  I had to know who originally recorded it, which of course led me straight to The Flying Burrito Brothers and their seminal album, The Gilded Palace of Sin.  The album might have been around 30 years old at the time but the music jumped out of the speakers and grabbed ahold of me.  I had to find out more about the band and the man behind the songs, Gram Parsons, who up to that point I knew of only as the writer of the Rolling Stones hit Dead Flowers and a tragically (if not surprising) deceased friend of Keith Richards. 
What I found was fascinating.  Here was a true country music "outlaw", the father of a movement that gave America The Eagles, a breathtakingly talented songwriter, a man whose (albeit brief) commercial success of the early 1970s helped pave the way for the outlaw movement that was soon to follow, and a tragically flawed human being who left behind one of the all time great stories of a young rock-n-roller's death.  A man who did all this, didn't even live to 30, and was largely responsible for Emmylou Harris' career.
Of course even a casual Parsons fan is familiar with his work with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and his two solo albums, GP & Grievous Angel.  Eventually I discovered a recording of an in-studio concert, recorded as part of a 1974 radio tour on Hempstead, Long Island, NY. 
The recording is a slice of Americana of the time, as banter between Parsons, Emmylou Harris and the disc jockey is all captured on the recording, right down to Parsons' tongue in cheek takes at live reads of a bread commercial, a brief discussion of the band's new tour bus, a stop in Blytheville,AR is mentioned, and Parsons personality and sense of humor shine through as he seems quite lucid and healthy in spite of his prodigous drug and alcohol abuse at the time.  Looking back it's a bittersweet thing to hear a man who would soon be dead, his ashes scattered in the California desert (look up the story, it's well worth the read), sounding so alive, and happy to be so.
The songs are superb.  Emmylou Harris never sounded better in her illustrious career than when she was backing Parsons as a member of the Fallen Angels.  Parsons himself sounds like the living embodiment of a fallen angel as the songs run the gamut from the regretful "We'll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning", the straight ahead gospel of "Country Baptizing", an extremely strong cover of Merle Haggard's "California Cotton Fields", Tompball Glaser's "Streets Of Baltimore", and on a version of "Love Hurts" that puts all others to shame.  These songs are primarily covers, but the versions of "Six Days On The Road" & "Cry One More Time" stand up favorably with the originals.  Parsons puts his own stamp on the album by playing "Big Mouth Blues" (a song Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has long covered in concert), "The New Soft Shoe" and my personal favorite, the slightly subversive, definitely wierd, "Drug Store Truck Driving Man". 
In summary this is not an album to cherry pick songs from, or to skip songs while listening to.  It's meant to be heard as it is, because it was never really supposed to be an album anyway.  It's just a group of musicians who loved true country music playing it and having a good time at it, all while having no idea what they were doing that day on Long Island would still be heard and appreciated nearly 40 years later.  This might not be the best introduction to Gram Parsons music, although as brief as his catalog is almost any album is as good a place to start as another, but it's a solid addition to the collection of any fan of country, rock-n-roll, or just radio the way it ought to be.  Who knows, maybe soon Hot Topic will start carrying "Parsons" tee shirts (oh how I hope not!)
Until next time, enjoy some timeless music and throw on a Gram Parsons record.


Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels Live 1973
Available here.

May 14, 2012

Kelcy Reviews: Turnpike Troubadours - Goodbye Normal Street

This is one joyful goodbye

by Kelcy Salisbury

I've been a Turnpike Troubadours fan since Jason Boland introduced me to their music back about the time their debut album, Bossier City came out. The album was raw in places, sometimes loose, a little sloppy, but there was an honesty and a joy in the playing and a gripping, photographic quality to the lyrics that made me sit up and pay attention. I remember thinking to myself that this was a young band with incredible promise that could really blow up if they could only make it through the trials and pitfalls of being a young band on the road. 

Time went by and the Troubadours released one of the great sophomore albums of the past decade (at least), with Diamonds and Gasoline. It was a Mike McClure produced gem of an album. Everything was an improvement, the playing was stronger, the songwriting began to stand out from the crowd with its evocative pictures of everything from vivid dreams of MLK (1968, I challenge you to find a more uniquely themed song anywhere in country music in the past 5 years), and the haunting title song. 

So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to May 8th when I learned that was the release date for Goodbye Normal Street, the Troubadours third album. Back in late September last year I finally saw the Troubadours life at a small festival in Morrilton,AR with Matt Stell & Jason Boland & The Stragglers. I heard about 5 of the new songs that night and learned at least three things about the band: they are a prodigiously talented bunch of players with every instrument on the stage, even better live than recorded. Second, Evan Felker lacks the motor skills to open a non twist off beer bottle without an opener. Finally, Felker bears a pretty strong resemblance to a non sexually ambiguous Daniel Tosh (although he did not show any videos of puking while on stage). Anyway, the experience certainly whet my appetite for the new album and it absolutely does not disappoint. 

The lead single, Gin, Smoke, Lies kicks off the album with fiery fiddle and a poundingly addictive drum track. The subject matter may be dark and sad, but as with the majority of the album, its presented with such infectiously upbeat musicianship and a lyrical delivery that veers toward tongue in cheek at times, the whole album sounds to me like a wonderful slice of Celtic influenced country that leans on a certain cynical, dark humor to set it apart from anything else I've heard in a while. 

This feeling comes across strongest in Before The Devil Knows We're Dead, a story song that draws directly on Irish traditions for both the catchy chorus and the fiery fiddle playing (Felker credits The Pogues as a major influence on this song.)

Southeastern Son & Blue Star tell stories of a young man joining the National Guard and a slightly older family member adjusting to life after a career in the military. 

Call A Spade A Spade features Jamie Wilson sharing vocal duties with Felker on a song that feels like a sequel to Down On Washington from Diamonds and Gasoline. 

Morgan Street is the classic tale of a group of misfits and past-their-prime party animals that could have easily come off as a retread of a number of other songs in the Texas/Red Dirt catalog, but the heartfelt treatment it gets from the entire band saves it from being the only possible weak link in the album. Truth be told I like the song a lot, even if one line always reminds me of Small Town Saturday night (give it a listen, you'll hear it too I'm sure). Perhaps the "Liquor on his breath, trouble on his mind" is an intentional homage to Hal Ketchum's mid 90s hit, perhaps not, but either way it's still an endearing number. 

It doesn't hurt that Morgan Street segues into two of the finest tracks on the album, Gone Gone Gone, a classic theme and story that sounds amazingly fresh thanks to incredibly strong and unique lyrics and Good God Lorrie, a song that I particularly love because of its spot-on references to the people and places of my native Arkansas. 

Things continue to stay on the right track with Empty As A Drum, probably the best take on the same basic story as Vern Gosdin's (RIP) Alone. Any time you can make a song that evokes positive comparisons to one of Gosdin's greatest songs, that's a huge compliment in my book. 

From there we move right into Wrecked, another dark song with the tiniest sliver of a certain dark humor in it. The clever lyrics may make this my favorite tune on the album, but anytime an album is this strong I could easily say the same of 7 or so other songs. 

Goodbye Normal Street closes with another song packed full of wry dark humor, Quit While I'm Ahead. It's obvious the frustrations and trials of the road on a young musician heavily influenced the song, and yet once again the Turnpike Troubadours bring just enough levity to the performance to give the song, like the entire album a vibe that can't help but put a smile on your face. 

It was a difficult feat to equal the quality of Diamonds and Gasoline, but with Goodbye Normal Street the Troubadours have not only made their strongest album to date but may have actually made an album that will transcend their current circles and push them past the barriers faced by independent musicians and into mainstream consciousness. The Turnpike Troubadours may soon be saying goodbye to their current state of normal and hello to a huge splash into the mainstream. I hope to see it happen, but even if it never does they will always be able to know that they have made about as perfect an album as anyone is likely to hear in this or any other year. 

Finally, if you want to catch the best country music show on the road keep an eye out for one of the frequent Turnpike Troubadours/Jason Boland & The Stragglers concerts. I've personally never seen a better one-two punch than these two since Willie & Waylon live, and I am completely serious about that. 

5 stars for sure.

Turnpike Troubadours - Goodbye Normal Street is available at Amazon, Lone Star Music, iTunes and all the other usual outlets.


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