Showing posts with label Kevin Broughton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kevin Broughton. Show all posts

Apr 2, 2020

Breaking Down Steve Earle's Discography (Pre-Woke)

By Kevin Broughton

They say Gram Parsons was the Godfather of alt country, and I believe them. Evidence abounds. If that’s the case, Steve Earle was the Michael to Parsons’ Vito. I don’t know – though I doubt it – that they ever met. If they had, I’m sure Steve would have told us. Funny thing: Neither knew they were part of a musical movement. At least Steve didn’t in 1986, when Guitar Town came out, and I was a sophomore in college and about to ship out for Army basic training. (I have Auburn University’s WEGL to thank for even knowing who he was at the time.)

It was a record that transformed my musical life. Suddenly it was okay -- cool, even --  for a kid raised on rock ‘n’ roll to dig country music. He was part of the “new traditionalist” movement that included Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam. But there was something extra-edgy about this guy. A few years later I’d learn to play guitar, inspired by the songs on Guitar Town and Exit 0. I’d write to him in prison, after I’d wondered, pre-Internet, where the hell he’d gone.

There was always a populist, working-class ethos to his music. But it stayed mostly below the surface, never predominating his work. Well, for a while, anyway. His dad was an air traffic controller who got bounced when Ronaldus Maximus fired him and the rest of his brethren in the PATCO strike of 1981. I don’t think Steve ever got over that. Politics sprinkled his musical world for a while, but eventually covered it. Early on, he was clever and nuanced about it; later, he decided you needed to be punched in the mouth with his Che Guevara chic. Steve Earle, you see, was “woke” before “woke” was a thing…you little savage capitalists.

He had his (then) pet projects. Death penalty bad! Land mines bad! I guess we can let Steve in on the bad news – not that he doesn’t know.

Quadruple murderers can still get the needle.

American soldiers in the Second Infantry Division just south of the 38th Parallel in Free Korea can still count on defensive land mines to help stave off Kim Jong Un’s communist hordes, at least until the cavalry can arrive.

Western Civilization can be thankful that Steve Earle failed in his woke crusades to abolish the death penalty and land mines.

There’s a new pet project, you know. You didn’t? You didn’t know Steve Earle’s a playwright? Yeah! And he doesn’t hate Trump supporters anymore. (I’m not one, so I don’t really care, but yeah.) He talked all about how he doesn’t loathe Republicans anymore. I’m sure it’s not because he wants people to SPEND THEIR CAPITALIST DOLLARS to buy records or go see his play or anything. It’s all about the West Virginia miners. Not money. Money is evil, like capitalism.

But that’s not why we’re here.

We’re here to break down the albums of Steve Earle. Well, the ones of his pre-WOKE era, anyway. And by “pre-woke,” we mean every album up to the point he became so overcome with hatred for America that he felt compelled to write an ode to the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh. Nah. We stop just before the album Jerusalem.

I say “we.”

I mean “I.”

I quit listening, Steve, when you glorified Lindh. My fellow Auburn alum, Mike Spann, was the wrong American to die that day in Balkh Province in November of 2001.  It should have been the California POS you wrote your song about.

Oh, wait. I’m getting angry and political, aren’t I? Sort of like you and all your records after 9/11? Mike Spann’s buried in Arlington. Think you’ll ever write a song about him? Here’s a picture.

Sorry. Let’s look at the Steve Earle albums before he got so angry and political, shall we?

Okay, let’s break them down…

One more thing, sorry. Hey, Steve: I’m sure your reaching out to Trump voters has nothing to do with making money for your stupid effing play that trashes the coal industry that employs millions of people, right? Because that would make you a capitalist…and a hypocrite.

Okay, I promise. I’m done.

We’ll look at them in chronological order, highlighting the great songs, then do a rating, which will be purely subjective. Sound good? Okay.

The pre-prison albums

Guitar Town, 1986

The one that started it all. The title cut is so good and attention-grabbing. It was just SO different for the time. Kathy Mattea and Randy Travis and Michael Martin Murphy were pulling country back to its roots, but there was an anti-hero vibe from this guy who’d learned his chops from Guy Clark and Townes. This sad song is the one that hooked me. “Lovers leave and friends will let you down.” I think he might have been singing about heroin.  

Exit 0, 1987

The perfect follow-up record. If you go through the whole (pre-woke) Steve Earle catalog, I challenge you to find two back-to-back albums that pair together more seamlessly. “The keeper at the gate is blind, so you better be prepared to pay.” So much unintentional foreshadowing. “The Rain Came Down” was his answer to Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow,” and it was better. “Six Days on the Road” made it onto  the Planes, Trains and Automobiles soundtrack. “Someday” is a teenage wonder-hit.

Copperhead Road, 1988

At this point, Steve and MCA knew they were headed for a breakup, even as he had his first – and only – crossover hit. He didn’t LOOK like a country singer was supposed to, and he was basically telling Nashville to pound sand. So very many great songs… “Snake Oil” is his song of rage against Reagan, and well done. Maria Mckee of Lone Justice sings with him on the most unlikely Christmas song, “Nothing But a Child.” My favorite? The WW II ode, “Johnny Come Lately,” with the help of The Pogues.

The Hard Way, 1990

Things are really starting to fall apart for him now, though no one really knew – again, pre-Internet. Crack and heroin are in control of Steve’s life right now. There are two or three decent songs on this one. “Billy Austin” is the best, but it’s a bedwetting, anti-death penalty, pro-murderer ballad.  We’re posting the other good one:

Shut Up And Die Like An Aviator (Live), 1991

If we’re to believe the storyline of “Johnny Come Lately,” we have to believe the title of this album is from a saying of Steve’s granddaddy. He’s pretty out of his gourd during this one. But this cover got me interested in the Stones’ (Keith’s, really) country fixation.

The Post-prison albums

“Post-prison,” you say?

Yeah. Steve got 11 months, 29 days for a bunch of failure-to-appear violations on crack/heroin offenses. In fact, he did a prison gig at Cold Creek Correctional Facility as part of his community service. MTV filmed it, while he was working out some new material. This was in 1996. But first there was…

Train A Comin’, 1995

A truly unplugged album, and a new beginning. It features a Beatles cover (“I’m Lookin’ Through You”), and his first recorded cover with Emmylou, “Nothin’ Without You.” We also got a taste for Steve’s appreciation for history with a couple cuts. “Tom Ames’ Prayer” is an outlaw ballad that makes mention of Arkansas Judge “Hanging” Isaac Parker. But what’s really chilling is his point-of-view tale of a Confederate soldier:

I Feel Alright, 1996

The post-prison triumph and return to form, and maybe the best pre-woke album. “The Unrepentant” is a straight rocker. “Hardcore Troubadour” is the most Steve Earle song ever, and a duet with Lucinda Williams is the unheralded gem of a great record.

El Corazon, 1997

Notable for several collaborations, and Steve’s first foray into bluegrass. Del McCoury and his band (FORESHADOWING ALERT) post up on “I Still Carry You Around.” The Fairfield Four accompany him on “Telephone Road.” Emmy makes a return on the historiography “Taneytown,” another great point-of-view song. “You’d think that they’d never seen a colored boy before.” What a line in a great murder ballad.

This next one’s so good it deserves its own

Separate Heading. Though Still Chronological, The Bluegrass Record:

The Mountain (With The Del McCoury Band), 1999

The thing about bluegrass is, you don’t just dabble in bluegrass. Yet Steve wrote a really good record in the genre. It didn’t hurt that he got a really good band to back him. Steve, being Steve, managed to offend Del not long after by using a bunch of foul language at the bluegrass festivals they played together. Still, what a bunch of keepers on this record. “Carrie Brown” was his vision of an enduring bluegrass hit. It should be.

But just to bookend things, I like the Civil War song, this time from a Yankee’s point of view. Based, incidentally, on a composite character in the Michael Shaara novel The Killer Angels.

“I am Kilrain from the 20th Maine and I fight for Chamberlain. ‘Cause he stood right with us when the Johnnies came like a banshee on the wind.”

There will never be a better couplet written about July 2, 1863. Makes this Johnny weep. It’s that good.

“…now we’re all Americans.”

Transcendental Blues, 2000

As we wrap up our tour of the pre-woke catalog, we see a transition into what might have been: that old/new Steve Earle sound without virtue-signaling pretense. There are a handful of really good songs here. The title cut is great. “Everyone’s In Love With You” is an electric rocking/stalking tune in the tradition of “More Than I Can Do” from I Feel Alright. “The Galway Girl” is a return to a Gaelic thing we’d heard hints of on a bunch of records. “All Of My Life” is a real keeper. Sucks he had to get all preachy after this record.

Maybe he’ll come back, that Steve Earle.

Ranking Them

1. Copperhead Road

2. Guitar Town

3. I Feel Alright

4. Exit 0

5. The Mountain

6. Train A Comin’

7. Transcendental Blues

8. El Corazon

9. Shut Up and Die Like an Aviator

10. The Hard Way

Mar 27, 2020

Everyone’s got their own story to tell: A conversation with Jesse Daniel

By Kevin Broughton

I work this room on Tuesday nights
It isn’t much, but it pays alright
From 9 p.m. until last call
Sometimes I’m playing to the wall.

            Jesse Daniel, “Old At Heart.”

On a rainy Tuesday night in Atlanta, Jesse Daniel isn’t “playing to the wall,” but the room at Terminal West has plenty of space, even with Jason Boland and The Stragglers for a headlining act. The Wuhan Virus isn’t really on the radar yet; a week’s worth of monsoon rains are the likely culprit. But as the Stragglers’ diehards continue to filter in during the 27-year-old’s half-hour set, there’s minimal chatter. He’s gotten their attention, and makes the most of this exposure to a new audience.

“I try my best to live with humility and thankfulness,” says Daniel as he posts up at his own merchandise table after his set. “I want to make the most of the opportunities I have.” He engages with every customer he can as the Boland crew and band set up. The lanky, square-jawed Californian is making the most of this chance. His album release date is six weeks out, and one can sense momentum building for this troubadour of the Bakersfield sound.

Halfway through the Stragglers’ set, Daniel will pack up and drive, hoping to make it to “someplace right outside Mobile, I forget the name” in time for a few hours’ sleep before doing it all over.

Rollin’ On, out today wherever you purchase music, is the culmination of Daniel’s remarkable life turnaround and one of the finest country albums of the young, crazy year. (This will be true in December – mark it down.) Poignant lyrics and a first-rate studio band and producer make it a must-have for the serious, intelligent country music fan.

About four years ago he was dope-sick with track marks up and down his arms. Today, he’s on the cusp of greatness, and too grounded to let anything go to his head. No one knows what the next few months will hold in the Age of Quarantine and Social Distancing. Daniel, no doubt, will emulate the title of this magnificent album.

It was a real treat to chat with him about his punk-rock roots, writing songs by candlelight with his best friend and partner, and an unlikely part-time rehab worker who helped him “put down the spoon and pick up the pen.”

You were a punk rocker growing up. It’s fascinating to me that some of the best roots/country acts today were heavily influenced by punk. It seems counterintuitive; what do you think the common thread is, if there is one?

You know, Kevin, I think it’s individual and varies from person to person. But I definitely know a lot of people who were in punk rock bands and in that scene, who later got into country music. I think when you’re talking about a lot of the older country music, there’s a kind of punk ethos to it, a do-it-yourself mentality. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but growing up there was always such a parallel between punk rock and country for me. Just listening to it, it kind of soothes the same part of my soul.

Sticking with influences for a moment: Rollin’ On just oozes that Bakersfield sound. But you’ve mentioned that you found your way to your producer (and steel player,) Tommy Detamore, by listening to the likes of Doug Sahm and Jim Lauderdale. What is it about those two artists that resonate with you?

Yeah, the way I found Tommy was listening to that last album [The Return of Wayne Douglas] he did with Doug before he passed. That album has so many good songs, and the production is so great, and so is the steel.  I was already a huge fan of that record, and also This Changes Everything by Jim Lauderdale, which was also produced by Tommy. He also played steel on it.

So I had been listening to those, and had my eye out for a producer. Tommy’s name kept coming up. There were so many times I’d hear a great song and think, “I wonder who’s playing steel?” And it would turn out to be Tommy on steel, and a lot of times he was the producer, too. So I basically just reached out; cold-emailed him. That’s what set everything in motion, but it started with my being a big fan of those two albums. It couldn’t have ended up any better, and we ended up being great friends.

There are times on this album when your voice reminds me of Gram Parsons. Have you ever heard that comparison? Are you at all influenced by his music?

Man, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard that one before, but I really appreciate it. But I love Gram Parsons, and he certainly was a big influence on me, especially early on. I loved his work with the Burrito Brothers, and I listened to that GP album over and over. Just wore it out. So I don’t doubt that some Gram influence got in there somehow.

Did Tommy put the band together for the recording sessions?

Yeah. You know, Tommy is very linked in with all the Austin players, and some of the ones in San Antonio, too. I reached out to him and told him I wanted to have some professional players on the record. Without saying too much – he was very nonchalant about it – he said, “Yeah, I’ll put together a good band for you.” He got Kevin Smith on bass, who plays with Willie Nelson; Tom Lewis from Heybale – he also played on a lot of Jim Lauderdale’s records; Michael Guerra on accordion, who plays with the Mavericks. John Carroll on guitar – he plays with a lot of people, like Corey Morrow. Tommy played steel of course. On fiddle we had Bobby Florres and Hank Singer.

That’s quite a lineup.

Yeah, he sent me that list and said, “These are the guys I have who will be on the record,” and it blew my mind. I was even more excited to get into the studio. They’re all Texas players, but at the same time realized that my sound is steeped in the Bakersfield stuff; that was the sound I was going for. They really met me in the middle. We got that “sheen” production I wanted without losing the Bakersfield grit.

Do you have a touring band?

Yeah, I do. The band I’m touring with is kind of evolving, but I have the same core group of guys (rhythm section and what not) that I stick with. They’re great. They really bring it, and we’re about to hit the road with Jason Boland after the record comes out for some full-band stuff.  

Are you on a label?

Yeah, it’s called Die True Records. Jodi Lyford – she’s my manager and partner – she started it. We put the last album out on it, too.

You’re touring with Jason Boland & The Stragglers, giants of the Red Dirt scene. What’s that been like, and what kind of exposure have you gained, being exposed to new audiences?

I joined up with them in Virginia Beach, then we did New York City, Sellersville, Pennsylvania, Richmond, and now Atlanta. I was joking around with them and said I’m calling this the “Chasin’ Jason” tour, because I’m following their tour bus in my car.

But yeah, their fans are really dedicated and devoted, and I’ve gotten to share that following with them. When bands like Jason’s tell their fans something is good, the fans tend to listen. So I’ve been very fortunate. Red Dirt is really not my sound or a demographic I’ve played for, but ultimately they’re country music fans. Any doubt I had that they would be picking up what I was putting down went away pretty quickly. It’s been a blast so far.

You won an Ameripolitan Award a couple years back, for “Best Honky Tonk Male Performer.” They have four sub-genres, I guess, honky tonk, western swing, rockabilly and outlaw. I guess you could put them all together, and you’d have something like, I dunno, “Country Music.”

[Laughs] Yeah, exactly!

If you had to slap a label on what you do, what would it be?

Ah, I really just tell people “country music.” I really respect what Dale [Watson] is trying to do with the Ameripolitan Awards, by bringing a new term and trying to generate new interest; you know, bringing some new eyes to a lot of music that might be overlooked by radio. So that’s really great. But I tell people “country music” because that’s what I play and that’s what I love. Music fans are intelligent. They’re able to tell the difference between pop country and more authentic stuff. 

The album exudes resiliency and hope, yet makes references to some of the darker times in your life. You’ve been sober for three years and have made no secret of your past troubles with addiction, and you even did some time. If you don’t mind, can you point to one event or set of circumstances that led to your getting clean?

Yeah, man, absolutely. The last record was really more about some of those things, and this one has a more “forward” feel to it, a little more hopeful.

One of the biggest events that really sticks out in my mind…there was a gentleman who was working at a rehabilitation facility that I went to. He worked there part time and he would come in and play guitar as part of the group exercises we’d do. I was a heroin addict, de-toxing off of it, and I was very sick. Finally after about a week when I was able to get out of bed and start functioning again, I went into the room where he was playing old Hank Williams songs. He also played some Billy Joe Shaver and Emmylou Harris – a lot of great country covers, and even some artists I wasn’t familiar with. So I would ask him and he would tell me all about them.
He was a really good guy. After a while I started playing some songs, and we’d go back and forth. At some point I said, “I really wish I could play country music and do what you do.” And he looked at me like I was stupid or something and said, “Why don’t you?” That shook me to my core. And I thought, “Yeah. That’s true.”

And this is the craziest story, man, that happened just the other day. The rehab facility was in Oakland, California. And I was sitting down with Jodi for some lunch in Austin, Texas, and I see this guy walking down the street who looks just like him. So I chased him down to see if he was the guy, and he was!

Oh, wow.

And I almost broke down right there. I said, “You changed my life. You’re the reason I’m doing this today. You were that pivotal moment for me.” We’ve been in contact since, and he’s actually a rippin’ harmonica player, and so I hope we’re gonna play some together.

Wow. What a blessing.

Exactly, a tremendous blessing, and it was one of those moments that was so confirming for me. It’s certainly one of the biggest events that sticks out in my memory.

This is not a slight to your songwriting or vocals – because they’re stellar – but one of my favorite cuts, and one I’ve been playing over and over, is the instrumental “Chickadee.” How did that one come about?

You know, I love the tradition of instrumentals in country music. One of the guys I really love, Marty Stuart, does a lot of them. Buck Owens had a whole lot of instrumentals – The Buckaroos had at least one on every record, I think. Instrumentals are very cinematic, I think; they tell a story without words.

But I had this one riff that was kind of a Don Rich/Bakersfield sound-type of thing that I was messing around with. And one day in the studio we just worked it out with the band, and it just came to life within 20-30 minutes.

It’s amazing you say “cinematic,” because I kept thinking to myself, “That sounds like it belongs on a movie soundtrack.”

Ha. Thanks man, that was really what I was going for. I wanted to capture that Bakersfield sound, and incorporate all those instruments. It also gets to showcase all the other players who are on the record. They all get a moment to shine.

A question about your partner/manager, Jodi. Do y’all write songs together? Give us some detail about that relationship, if you don’t mind.

We sure do. We wrote a good portion, probably half the songs on the new record, together. It’s great. Our relationship started out – about four years ago – as a friendship. She was a tattoo artist and I would go to her shop and we’d just play music. She had a lot of songs that she’d written and she’d play them for me, and vice-versa. Then we started writing together just for fun.

And when I got more serious about music, we kind of got together. We lived way up in the mountains, and sometimes the power would go out for a week at a time. At night there was nothing to do; we just had candles. A lot of the songs on this record were written in the dark. It’s a huge part of our relationship, and I’m really glad she has a bigger role on this album: probably half the songwriting and all the backup vocals that she sang.

Who’s “Sam,” besides a guy who might have acquired illicit substances for you in your youth?

Sam is a real person and he’s still around. I was friends with his younger brother, and grew up down the street from him. We hit it off, and got into trouble together. My dad called us “The Gruesome Twosome.” Sam was a mythical figure to me because he was a little bit older; I looked up to him.

He was always getting into trouble with drugs or alcohol, and he would just leave for a while, just get on a Greyhound bus and go. He’d just disappear, and I always thought that was pretty crazy. And I figured I’d write a song about it.

“Sam, where did you go?”

Exactly. And now whenever I talk to him it’s interesting to find out where he is. For a while he was in Florida living on a boat. I texted him recently, and he was in Connecticut. He’s been acting in some commercials…he’s a character, man.

Do you have a goal for where Rollin’ On might take your career, in terms of exposure or critical acclaim?

Yes, I do. The goal for me with playing is to be able to put positive music into the world. And by “positive” I don’t mean that every song has to be happy. I feel right now there’s a lot of emphasis on using recreational drugs. People are gonna do that, but I think there’s enough of that in music right now.

I just want to keep it about the music. I want to make good country music that people love. I want to take it as far as I can. Jodi and I have a motto that the sky’s the limit. We’re not putting limitations on anything.

*          *          *

“Good country music that people love,” indeed.

We’ve been smitten with Daniel’s work for the last couple months, and this will be one of the best – if not the best – country albums of the year. FTM was honored to premiere a song from it, “If You Ain’t Happy Now (You Never Will Be,)” and we gave you a taste of his live chops from his Atlanta gig last month. The best, most gripping song on the record is “Old At Heart.” (It happens to be Daniel’s favorite, too.) But to hear that one, you have to buy the record.

Now, it’s time to step up. That Feb. 18 show at Terminal West seems like a lifetime ago; nobody had a clue how crazily things would change, or how quickly. Musicians in every genre have taken a pounding in canceled gigs, and nobody knows if or when things will get back to something approaching normal.

Buy this album. In fact, go to Daniel’s store and get some more cool stuff. I got one of these awesome tee shirts.

It’s cool. And it’s true.

Now more than ever, support independent musicians. This one in particular.

Mar 12, 2020

Exclusive Song Premiere / Jesse Daniel / "If You Ain't Happy Now (You Never Will Be)"


From his forthcoming album, Rollin’ On, here’s Jesse Daniel with a song found only on Farce The Music. While “If You Ain’t Happy Now” could presumably be directed at a perennially dissatisfied love interest, Daniel was looking in the mirror.

"So much of the music industry is based on the future,” Daniel said. “As an artist, you’re always planning ahead and it’s easy to forget to appreciate the here and now. I wrote this song as a personal reminder to stay in the moment. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn’t here yet... All we truly have is now.”

Trust us on this one: Go ahead and pre-order Rollin’ On now, as it will be one of the best country albums of the year. And check back in a couple weeks for our exclusive, in-depth interview with this rising star.

-- Kevin Broughton

Feb 19, 2020

Jesse Daniel Performs "Son of the San Lorenzo"

Jesse Daniel opens his set at Terminal West in Atlanta with “Son of the San Lorenzo,” the final cut of his forthcoming album Rollin’ On.

Daniel, playing a string of opening dates for Jason Boland & The Stragglers, made a bunch of new fans in Atlanta with his fresh imprint on the Bakersfield Sound. The new album’s out March 27. Pre-order it now, and check back in a few weeks for our exclusive, in-depth interview with this rising country music phenom. 

— Kevin Broughton

Feb 14, 2020

Road Dispatch: Jonathan Tyler at the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Feb. 6

Jonathan Tyler at the Tabernacle
By Kevin Broughton
These can be tough times for the independent, professional musician. Without a label’s support – and the bill that inevitably comes due for up-front money – an artist might find himself playing to a room of six people; then it’s on to the next town with no guarantee there, either. 

Jonathan Tyler – who’s been steadily grinding while putting the finishing touches on his next album – was recently presented an opportunity from an unlikely source, a chance to gain exposure to new audiences without taking a financial hit.

Those familiar with Tyler’s work might raise an eyebrow when they hear he’s opening for Midland, a mainstream country act on the Big Machine label. It actually makes perfect sense.  “It’s a cool opportunity, because I’ve become friends with these guys in Midland, and it might lead to more things down the road,” he says. It’s the second long weekend of three in this mini-tour. “Last week was Boston and New Jersey; this weekend is Atlanta, Huntsville, Ala. and Baton Rouge.” 

We caught up with Tyler over spaghetti and Budweisers after his sound check. In a couple hours, he’ll open the show at the Tabernacle, a historic and iconic Atlanta venue. And he’ll light the place up, rocking out a 30-minute set for the capacity crowd of 2,600 with the help of drummer Josh Greco (formerly of Austin’s Uncle Lucius.) Oh, and Midland drummer Robbie Crowell – who’s dabbling in bass guitar – joined them on that instrument for a couple songs.

After the Baton Rouge show Saturday, it’s back home to Austin where Tyler will put on his producer’s hat and record Jeremy Pinell’s next album in the studio he’s built in his house. He scored a Jack Daniel’s commercial last fall, enabling him to make upgrades. “I keep re-investing everything,” he says. “I did something for Camel cigarettes last year, too, and several other corporate music-production jobs. The Jack Daniel’s spot was such a huge opportunity for me, and I’ve bought more microphones and a bunch more gear.”

Texas Jonny backstage,
sporting a Kinky Friedman look
On the Midland opportunities, present and future:

“It’s been really nice. They’re letting me ride on the bus; they’re giving me enough money to make a little bit. It’s a good thing, to go on tour and not lose money. It’s a little early to be thinking about it, but I feel like we’re getting close to that point – where we might look at producing a cut, or helping them write a song on their next album. I’d love to do that. 

“Right now a three-week thing. It might turn into more. Maybe they’ll ask me to do more dates.”

On expanding his in-home studio: 

“Now I’m able to invite other artists into my house and make music with them. It’s a win-win, all the way around.”

On producing and engineering for Jeremy Pinnell:

“I met Jeremy through a friend and got to check out a few of his shows. He’s just out there grinding, playing three or four shows a week, driving from town to town. Jeremy’s really putting in the hard work, and his band has gotten so tight. He’s another one of these guys who’s just so good, but gets overlooked by the modern country ‘business.’ So I wanted to help him out and make music with him. We’ve already done a lot of pre-production. So he and his band and I are just gonna track a bunch of stuff live; we’ll try to get it all done in five days. It won’t be easy, but those guys are real musicians, man. They can play. And Jeremy’s one of those blue-collar guys. I really respect his work ethic.”

(Note: as of press time, Pinnell & his band were on their way from Austin to Little Rock for a Valentine’s night show. “No title yet,” Tyler says. “But it’s gonna be really good.”)

On the release of his album, the follow-up to 2015’s Holy Smokes:

“I’m trying to figure it out. I made the album on my own – self-financed – and it wasn’t cheap. So I’m sorta out of money right now. I may just self-release it into the vacuum. It’d be nice to have a record label, but these are tricky times; I’ll probably just start releasing individual tracks on my own, directly to Spotify, Apple Music and the other outlets in March because I just can’t wait any longer. I would say that the entire album will be released by the summer time.” 

Final thoughts?

“The new Drive By Truckers album may have been financed by the Chinese government. I really don’t know.”

Jan 3, 2020

Kevin's Top 10 Albums of 2019

Kevin Broughton’s Top 10 Albums of 2019

I think 2019 was a really good year for songwriting and debut albums. I’d also note some consensus I had with other FTM contributors; seven of my Top 10 made the critics’ Top 10 as well.  And my list falls on a definitive Lone Star-to-Appalachia axis, with four Texans, three Kentuckians and one West Virginian winning accolades. 

1. Dalton Domino – Songs From The Exile

A change of pace, style and life converge in this brilliant follow up to 2017’s Corners. On this album it’s all about the lyrics, and the artist is brutally honest in his self-reflection. The lyrical imagery is reminiscent of Isbell’s Southeastern, and one hopes that sobriety will have a similarly positive impact on Domino’s career going forward. Even if Songs From The Exile is his upper limit, it’s a worthy career-defining effort.

I didn’t cross paths with this album till late in the year, several months after its release. It’s still in heavy rotation.

2. Vandoliers – Forever

Josh Fleming and his rowdy band of Texas rockers had their wish come true when they inked a deal with Bloodshot records, then rewarded the label’s faith in them with this tour de force. It’s an album that combines Fleming’s focused, fiery storytelling with the raw, rough-edged roots you might hear from Lucero or the Old 97s. And oh, the fiddles and horns!

3. Whiskey Myers – self-titled

It’s counterintuitive that this band self-produced a masterpiece after having two great records helmed by all-everything Dave Cobb, but that’s exactly what happened here. There’s depth and balance to this album, but ultimately it’s a Southern rock record in the very best tradition of a nearly forgotten genre. “Houston County Sky” channels The Marshall Tucker Band, and “Little More Money” and “Bad Weather” are right out of Dirty South-era Drive By Truckers. “Hammer” is a sultry, swampy reminiscence of early Black Crowes. This album is a triumph, and long-awaited.

4. Jason Hawk Harris – Love And The Dark

Bloodshot continues its hot streak of great debut records. Harris endured an unimaginable series of tragedies in the few years leading up to this album, yet managed to emerge with clarity and hopefulness. He’s a brilliant songwriter who also deserves legitimate Isbell comparisons.

5. Ian Noe – Between The Country

This guy. He writes this generation’s “Sam Stone,” about every other cut. Born for this time, in this day’s Kentucky. The sad, hard truth, from the guy who’s been milling it for a good, long while.

6. Charles Wesley Godwin – Seneca
Godwin paints a rich and honest portrayal of his homeland and its people with his debut album. Seneca is a moving snapshot of life and well-soiled roots in the Appalachian hills, a backdrop that has given birth to some of the most intelligent and hard-working people in the country.

7. Kelsey Waldon – White Noise/White Lines

A tough, touring gal posts up with an album and band that shows John Prine was right to sign her to O Boy Records. It’s dreamy and trippy and wonderful, and she’s so full of confidence. Kelsey Waldon will amaze.

8. Drivin N Cryin – Live The Love Beautiful

The band’s first full-length album in a decade, it’s a top-4 or-5 in the all-time catalog. Kevn and the band are comfortable in their skin, three decades in. And Trailer was right to put “Ian MacLagan” in his top songs of the year.

9. Chris Knight – Almost Daylight

A couple of things about the fact that all the great Chris Knight songs sound alike: They all rock, they’re all true. And he only puts albums out about every five years. Wait. That’s three things. I don’t care. He’s William Freaking Callahan.

10. Flatland Cavalry – Homeland Insecurity

Building on 2016’s Humble Folks – a fantastic album – this one is well-enough produced to ask if Flatland might crack the mainstream. Maybe this could be a “crossover” act that could win converts?


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