Showing posts with label Song Premiere. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Song Premiere. Show all posts

Jan 30, 2019

Song Premiere / Marley's Ghost / "So Happy I'll Be"

Got the debut of a great gospel country song for you this afternoon. This'll take you back. It's upbeat, warm, and catchy. Marley's Ghost will get your toe tapping with a strong shot of harmony and rhythm for the Lord. This is good stuff if you dig Flatt & Scruggs or the Oak Ridge Boys. Their album Travelin' Shoes comes out February 9th. 

“So Happy I’ll Be” was a celebratory ode to joy from Flatt & Scruggs’ wonderful gospel repertoire which we left pretty much unchanged. It’s a very fun song to sing with gospel harmonies and emulating Earl Scruggs’ guitar fingerstyle is an added bonus. —Mike Phelan

More information about the album and band below the song player!

SEATTLE, Wash.—As most people will tell you, there’s an undeniable connection between versatility and variation. Suffice it to say that each depends on the other. In the case of Seattle-based Marley’s Ghost, that eclectic energy has resulted in a broad repertoire that has defied any ability to tag them to any one particular genre. Their dozen albums to date — like the output of The Band— survey a broad scope of Americana and acoustic music in general, refusing to confine them to any singular niche.

“It is, and always has been, about the music,” bassist, fiddler, guitarist, singer and chief songwriter Dan Wheetman insists. “That’s what’s kept this band going for so long. It’s always been about digging a little deeper, honing our skills and celebrating the entire playing process. That drives us forward.”

For their upcoming album, the aptly named Travelin’ Shoes, Marley’s Ghost veers towards a path that doesn’t detract from that overarched umbrella, but instead helps define it further. Due for release on February 8, 2019, the 12-song set offers an assured selection of traditional gospel tunes, each delivered with the rich, dynamic, vibrant instrumentation and tightly locked communal harmonies that have been integral elements in Marley’s Ghost’s m.o. for well over 30 years.

“Most of us in the band grew up with gospel music,” Wheetman reflects. “It’s a sound that connects with our spirit in a very direct way. That’s the thing about gospel music. It was written by people who were eager to express their faith and feelings.”

Produced by acclaimed virtuoso Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm), who was previously behind the boards for their highly acclaimed 2016 album The Woodstock SessionsTravelin’ Shoes is a joyous and surprisingly diverse set of songs, a celebratory salute to the finest traditions of American music. From the compelling, banjo-plucking, back porch delivery of the title track, the crisp, Caribbean flavor of “Run Come See Jerusalem,” and the festive sing-alongs “Hear Jerusalem Moan” and “So Happy I’ll Be,” to the goodtime feel of “Someday” and the upward gaze and chorus of clapping that informs “You Can’t Stand Alone,” it’s an album that will have even the most confirmed skeptics, cynics and agnostics sharing in the sentiment.

“Larry has a vast knowledge that spans so many genres,” Wheetman recalls. “The thing he recognized in us is our connection to the folk and roots musicians of a past generation, and he saw in us an ability to give that music contemporary credence. He knew our strengths and how to use them to the best advantage in each of the songs.”

Or, as the L.A. Weekly aptly put it, “This West Coast group deftly dashes across decades of American music to create a sound that’s steeped in tradition but never bogged down by traditionalism.” Acoustic Guitar added its praises by insisting “The real draw is the band itself, showcasing the kind of ensemble performances that come only from a lifetime of playing together, thriving across the decades as virtuosic, unsung heroes of country, folk, and Western swing.”

That dedication to purpose has bound this band of multi-instrumentalists together from the start. Wheetman, Jon Wilcox (mandolin, guitar, bouzouki, vocals), Mike Phelan(guitars, dobro, bass, fiddle, vocals) and Ed Littlefield Jr. (pedal steel, guitars, bass, fiddle, bagpipes, vocals) have been together since the beginning. Wheetman, Wilcox and Phelan first came together like bluegrass samurai during a fateful week of St. Patrick’s Day shows in the San Fernando Valley in March 1986. Wheetman was living with Wilcox, who brought along his friend, Phelan. The three clicked instantly. It was reggae-minded Wilcox who conjured up the name, offering a nod to Charles Dickens.
They reprised the set a couple of months later at the first spring edition of the Strawberry Music Festival, the gathering that became a long-standing California folk music tradition. Given that it was on the verge of branching out beyond the strictly traditional music the festival always featured, it became an ideal forum for the still budding band.

That winter, when Wheetman went to record a solo album at the invitation of his friend, Littlefield Jr. (who had built a recording studio on his remote Washington farm, where the group continues to record), he brought Wilcox and Phelan to sing with him on the sessions. Littlefield set up his gear with the band the first night they arrived and the jam session went into the early hours. “When I woke up the next morning,” says Phelan, “Eddie was in the band.” In time, old pal and kindred musical spirit Jerry Fletcher (keyboards, accordion, vocals) and Bob Nichols (drums, percussion) respectively followed suit, officially joining the ensemble and bonding with the others right from the get-go. 

More than three decades from the initial spark, they’re still playing together with the same passion, purpose and chemistry that inspired them early on. Their combined career has since resulted in a recent series of albums of singular distinction. Van Dyke Parks — he of Brian Wilson and Beach Boys fame — produced 2006’s Spooked, while artist Robert Crumb (the same man who created the iconic cover of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s classic Cheap Thrills album) did the artwork. Jubilee, released in 2012, was produced by the legendary Cowboy Jack Clement and included guest appearances by none other than Emmylou Harris, John Prine, and Old Crow Medicine Show. Their last outing, The Woodstock Sessions, raised the game even further.

Naturally then, their efforts have been frequently praised by the press.

No Depression noted their “remarkable, distinctive voices” and “giddily eccentric eclecticism,” proclaiming them “a heady, subversive treat.” PopMatters called Jubilee “a joyous record that more than earns its title ... Marley’s Ghost is a fantastic band who have themselves figured out.” Relix summed it up even more succinctly when it declared, “The vocals will blow you away with their purity ... the group sings with the heartfelt conviction that only those who embody music’s spirituality can convey.”

“We now have this album of songs that just happens to be a gospel album,” Wheetman reflects. “Our mission was to aim higher. It’s not just about singing a song, but rather to bring a part of ourselves to the proceedings. Art is an expression of what one feels inside. The primary goal is to create that connection, and at the same time to keep things fresh. And if, along the way, it resonates with another human being, then all the better.”

Apr 13, 2018

Exclusive Song Premiere: Charlie Overbey w/Eleanor Whitmore "Trouble Likes Me Best"

Photo by Chris Phelps
Here's a great new song from Charlie Overbey, a Californian with a southern soul. It's an anthemic mid-tempo country tune about …well, getting in trouble. What's more country than that? Joining Charlie with some great backing vocals is Eleanor Whitmore. I don't want to call it an outlaw song, but it certainly dabbles in the habits and misfortunes of that brand of country. Definitely a great Friday tune and a solid introduction to his forthcoming album, Broken Arrow. Give it a listen!

From Charlie:
"Trouble Likes Me Best" was written about a combo of truths from a trip to the county jail in Nashville to witnessing a couple of stoned young ladies driving onto the highway off-ramp in Los Angeles, CA.

David Allan Coe once said to me while touring together, “I shoulda written that fuckin’ song~!“

But my favorite is that my father used to say, “That’s the best song you ever wrote, son. Who wrote that?”

More information after the song player!

"Written as a kind of last will and testament, Overbey inhabits his friend's psyche to celebrate his life with thrilling glee" -   LA TIMES

“Country folk rock that packs a gritty emotional punch." - Cowboys & Indians

"This well-traveled troubadour gets our attention with a gruff vocal style whose undertone says, ‘I’ve lived it, I’ve been there.’” - Music Connection

“Overbey has the songcraft to turn his anecdotes and observations into engaging songs that are by turns melodically hooky and lyrically genuine.” - Music Connection

“L.A. rock veteran Charlie Overbey is creating quite a buzz with his brand of California alt-country.” -

“Charlie spent years evolving as a musician, from Sunset Strip band Big Bang Babies to cowpunks Custom Made Scare to Deadbolt and Charlie & the Valentine Killers. Now he’s emerged—not entirely unscathed—as a pretty serious songwriter.” - Little Brother Music

“A staple of  the Los Angeles music scene.” - Echo Park Rising

“Overbey has been writing songs for years that hit listeners with raw emotion.” - The Coachella Valley Independent

“Captivating. Overbey’s songwriting takes you on a musical journey filled with emotion and vivid imagery. He lands himself right next to some great singer/songwriters like Tom Petty, Jackson Browne & Bruce Springsteen.” - Music Junkie Press

“Uptempo twang. California to the core.” - Monterey County Weekly

“Wearing Willie Nelson’s braids, holding his guitar low and approaching his songs with some Springsteen muscle. … an energetic ballet of layered guitars with plenty of heartbreak, setbacks, tattoos & whiskey.” - Rock NYC 

“A hard-rocking classic-country sound, soulful lyrics and a bit of twang on the side - Rock NYC



Charlie Overbey may be a lifelong Californian, but his songs are steeped in the timeless traditions of the American South. After years of touring the world supporting acts ranging from David Allan Coe and Blackberry Smoke to Social Distortion and Motorhead, Overbey slowly amassed a collection of introspective original songs that transcend the endless rock & roll party, taking a stark, undeniably honest look at some of life’s most gritty moments. The result is Charlie Overbey’s new LP, Broken Arrow.

A triumphant collection of road-hardened alt-country tunes born of Overbey’s upbringing in what he calls “the school and church of Johnny Cash,” Broken Arrow  features guest appearances from The Mastersons (who also play in Steve Earle's band The Dukes), Miranda Lee Richards (who sings on duet single “Slip Away”) and Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers, and was produced by Ted Hutt who recently won a Grammy for his work with Old Crow Medicine Show, and has helmed multiple albums by Lucero, The Gaslight Anthem, Dropkick Murphys and many more.

“I’ve never worked with anybody like Ted,” Overbey says, reflecting on the sessions. “This is the first time I’ve ever let go and trusted somebody else as a partner in my songs. He really pulled some stuff out of me that I had not planned on delivering. Honestly, these songs can be hard for me to sing—they come from a deep, real and sometimes dark place.”

Self-aware and introspective without relying on played-out tropes of love and loss, Overbey’s songwriting is genuine, fearless and visceral. Authentic, reverb-drenched ‘70s-channeling album opener “Slip Away” gets right at the heart of life’s darkness, chronicling the heart-wrenching suicide of a young girl. Accompanied by wailing pedal steel and the haunting harmonies of Miranda Lee Richards, the song sets a tone of somber acceptance in the face of mortality.

“The Ballad of Eddie Spaghetti”—featuring a guest appearance from its namesake—also addresses mortality, though from a different perspective, confronting Spaghetti’s recent struggles with cancer. While the refrain, “If I die at 47, if I die before my time / Will they drag me up to heaven or deliver me to Hell in my prime” might read as a last will & testament, the soaring vocals and upbeat tempo elevate it to an awe-inspiring, fist-pumping battle cry. As Overbey sees it, “You gotta step up and kick life’s ass sometimes.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Overbey was exposed to country music early and often. It wasn’t something he sought out on his own—his father owned a 1947 Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar, and almost every time it was played, out spilled a Johnny Cash song. Overbey recalls these times fondly and admits they shaped his musical growth, though it took years of punk-rock rebellion before he’d come to appreciate the genre’s influence on him. “When you’re raised, and it’s all around you,” he says, “it’s the last thing you want to be a part of.” 

Overbey’s first success in the music industry came when his cowpunk outfit Custom Made Scare landed a deal with Side One Dummy Records in 1998. But before the band’s debut album dropped, Overbey went on the run from the law for months, finally turning himself in and spending a year in prison. The very same week he was released, the band hit the road immediately, and toured heavily into the new millennium alongside seminal punk acts such as Suicidal Tendencies, Social Distortion, Agent Orange, Zeke and REO Speedealer.

A side project of Overbey’s called Charlie & The Valentine Killers also toured in the late 2000s with David Allan Coe and Lemmy's side outfit The Headcat. “It was still days of angst,” Overbey says, but the country-leaning project’s sound served as an important precursor to his current solo work backed by the Broken Arrows.

Looking ahead to the April 2018 release of Broken Arrow, Overbey is gearing up to hit the road with a vengeance for the first time in years. He and the band are already working on songs for a follow-up record that will draw from the same rich vein as Broken Arrow. Overbey isn’t one for idle hands—when he isn’t playing or writing, Charlie has become a well-known name in the fashion world with his one-of-a-kind, hand-shaped Lone Hawk Hats, for devotees in the Americana scene, including the camps of Blackberry Smoke, Miranda Lambert, Lucero, the Foo Fighters, Dwight Yoakam, Cage The Elephant, Kaleo, and Miley Cyrus. Lone Hawk Hats were even the focus point in a recent Stella McCartney campaign. It’s a craft Overbey taught himself by trial and error, ultimately carrying with it the same authenticity and attention to detail you’ll find in his songwriting. They are available at several high-end locations, including he and his lady's brick-and-mortar shop Honeywood Vintage / Lone Hawk Hats on ultra hip York Blvd in Highland Park, Los Angeles. 

As the album title suggests, an existential darkness permeates Broken Arrow. It is the work of a road-savvy rock & roll veteran who sees the world as it is, fully grasping the jagged pain of life. But this darkness isn’t a dead end—Overbey’s songs are shot through with enough hard-fought resilience, determination and optimism to remind listeners the only way out is forward, and that the wild ride of life is a mysterious and beautiful gift.

Mar 30, 2018

Exclusive Song Premiere: Western Centuries "Wild Birds"

Photo by Joseph Vidrine
"Wild Birds," from Western Centuries' forthcoming album Songs From The Deluge, was written by Jim Miller. It's his first autobiographical song, and breaks his life into three phases. 

"It's a sad song," Miller says, "but singing it in front of audiences has taught me how to dissociate myself from personal emotions, which seems to be an important aspect of performing."

Check back a week from today -- the album's release date -- for our extended conversation with Jim Miller, about the band, the record and much more. 


Songs from the Deluge comes out next Friday, April, 6. You can preorder now at Western Centuries' site, Amazon, etc.

Jan 22, 2018

Exclusive Single Premiere: Whiskey in the Pines "Sixteen"

Today we offer you the exclusive single premiere from Florida alt-country outfit Whiskey in the Pines. "Sixteen" is a bass line driven slice of anthemic Americana in the vein of American Aquarium and Ryan Adams. It may take you back to the 90s heyday of alt-country music, when Son Volt was being played on MTV, The Jayhawks were on fire, and Wilco wasn't dad rock. It did me.

There's a bit more bio information and the band's thoughts on "Sixteen" below the player.

Their new EP, Sunshine From the Blue Cactus is available February 2, 2018 from Amazon, iTunes, etc.

What is "Sixteen" about? 
This is one of those songs that just fell out of the sky. To break it down simplistically the song was my way of expressing that in the end, it all works out. There is no doubt that the song is the most personal on the record and it encapsulates this strange emotion I was feeling at the time. My mom had passed, my son had just been born, and in the middle of it all was this feeling of retrospect of what in the hell just happened. We move so fast in life we don’t process what we feel. This was me simply looking back saying to myself “If you would have told me that in one year from now this is where you will be, sitting on this bed, writing this song, I would have called you a bold face liar.” I don’t know if it’s because I am more aware these days or just more grateful but I am still astonished at how unpredictable life can be and how good it really all is.

Who/what were some influences when it came to writing "Sixteen?" 
Oh, it was so long ago it’s tough for me to remember what I may have been listening to at the time. But I remember distinctively watching an interview with Ryan Adams and he was discussing how he knew what kind of song he would be writing based on where he placed his capo. I never really purposely thought of it like that, even though I love using a capo. On “Sixteen” the capo on the guitar is on the 4th fret which brings a bit of a brighter feeling to it. I remember when I was coming up with the melody in my head that I wanted it to be a bit brighter and the best way to do that was to bring the capo to a higher register. So to answer the question I suppose I would tip my hat to Mr. Adams for at least making me realize how powerful the capo can be when tapping into the emotional feel of a song.


Photo by Pat McDonnel


While Whiskey in the Pines’ hails from Florida, synonymous with endless sunshine
and miles of beaches, the ocean is still a long way from the band’s hometown
Tallahassee. “It’s about a two-hour drive,” says David Lareau, Whiskey in the Pines’
plainspoken singer and principal songwriter. The band’s unmistakably Southern
moniker—a perfect fit for its brand of heartfelt, no-frills Americana—was inspired by
their frequent excursions down US-319 south to the languid shores of the Gulf.
“You’re traveling miles of road surrounded by nothing but pine trees,” he says. “And
a good friend of mine always called me ‘Whiskey.’ I drove out to the beach so often
that when it came time to name the band, it was a pretty straightforward choice.”
For Lareau, Whiskey In The Pines has been at once a new beginning and a much-
needed salve to heal the wounds of a tumultuous year. As the band prepares to
release its new EP, Sunshine From The Blue Cactus (named for drummer Erik
Wutz's admired waitress, Sunshine, who worked the lunch shift at the band’s favorite
haunt), Lareau has been reflecting back on the pothole-filled road that led him to this
“When I was writing the songs for Sunshine, My mom had recently passed away,
and I’d also just had my first kid,” Lareau says. “There were all sorts of conflicting
emotions pouring out through the songs. It’s been a journey, for sure.”
Lareau’s Florida roots provide the EP’s alt-country songs with a gentle warmth and
sense of connectedness. This is heartland rock & roll, shot through with an ambling,
country-tinged flourishes. There are songs that would perfectly score a backyard
day-drinking session and others that work as peaceful codas to soundtrack the
after-party cleanup. Which makes perfect sense after everything Lareau has
experienced in recent years. On the autobiographical “Sixteen” and shifty love paean
“Do You Believe in Hell,” Lareau ruefully examines his life’s circumstances,
pondering how past decisions have influenced his present state. Elsewhere on the
EP, “Roses” chugs forward with a driving melody reminiscent of Jason Isbell or Ryan
Adams’ earlier work in Whiskeytown. “It’s times like these when you’re driving
through this town / And you’re playing Tom Petty with the windows down,” Lareau
sings on the chorus, delivering his lines with the authenticity of someone, who—like
the rock legend he name-checks—knows small-town Southern life firsthand.  
Inspiration comes to Lareau in many forms. An avid distance runner, he often works
up melodic ideas as he pounds the pavement, reveling in the solitary miles. And, of
course, life in Tallahassee is inseparable from college football and the Florida State
Seminoles—it was at a tailgate where Lareau came up with the framework for what
would become the somber “Drunk with My Friends.” Sometimes, though, the tunes
come together until the pressure is on to record, which was the case with “Roses.”
“My first stab at writing that song came out really dark, which wasn’t a great fit for the
upbeat melody,” Lareau says. “I was stuck on it for a while but ended up pulling out
some new lyrics the night before we cut it. Everyone loved the spontaneity, so we
went with it.”
Lareau writes quickly and trusts his instincts. He may edit things later upon further
reflection or after hearing input from his bandmates, but he knows he’s at his best
when he strikes while the iron is hot. “For ‘Sixteen,’ I literally picked up the guitar with
the melody in my head laid down with my wife and son beside me, and wrote the
lyrics on my phone in ten minutes,” he says. “I luckily found the right words that
rhyme at 3:30 in the morning.”
Though Lareau anchors the band as frontman and songwriter, Whiskey In the Pines
is a collaborative affair and his bandmates have the chops to make these tunes
really hum. Bassist Aaron Halford and guitarist Kelly Chavers are longtime pals. Noel
Hartough produced the band’s new EP while Erik Wutz handled drums on the
recordings, and ace session musician Barrett Williams soars on pedal steel. The
band dynamic and this new set of songs have energized Lareau as he prepares to hit
the road in support of Sunshine From The Blue Cactus. 
“We’re really proud of this one,” he says. “We want people to remember these
songs, to sing them in the shower, or when they’re taking their kids to school—to

have them become a part of their life.”

Nov 17, 2017

Song Premiere: Craig Gerdes "Redneck Sonsabitches"

Photo by Al Steinz
Here's a brand new song from honky-tonker Craig Gerdes. It's a rowdy, plain-spoken tale about struggling against the country machine on Music Row. A very outlaw point of view that fits in perfectly with other anti-Nashville anthems like Shooter Jennings' "Outlaw You" and Dale Watson's "Nashville Rash."  RIYL: Dale Watson, Dallas Moore, Billy Joe Shaver.

Gerdes' forthcoming record, Smokin', Drinkin' & Gamblin' (out February 16) features pedal steel and production work from Jim Vest (Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson, David Allan Coe), as well as steel from Robby Turner (Waylon Jennings, Chris Stapleton). Gerdes has also recently collaborated with Jeff Tweel (Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers), and has shared bills with country legend Billy Joe Shaver.

Smokin' Drinkin' & Gamblin' is full of outlaw-country rug cutters and ballads about strong heads and weak hearts. Fueled by nostalgia, Gerdes' songwriting talent turns old habits into dependable crutches, nursing the phantom pain of distant love. The nine-track album is full old-school four-to-the-floor honky tonk that calls to mind country legends like George Strait, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson.

New single “Red Neck Sonsabitches” is a chicken pickin’, honky-tonkin’ country song detailing Gerdes’ experience as a working musician in Nashville before deciding to buck the system and go his own way, back into the rural landscape of central Illinois. Bright, twangy production and a brash, anti-Nashville attitude give this song a timeless outlaw country feel that recalls the genre legends of the 1970s.

More information about Craig below the song player!


Craig Gerdes is a singer whose voice is steadied by the legion of angels he believes watch over him. He tells stories at a Southern pace, with a soft voice and slow drawl. His new album Smokin', Drinkin', and Gamblin' is full of outlaw country rug cutters, and ballads about strong heads and weak hearts. Fueled by nostalgia, his songwriting talent turns old habits into dependable crutches, and nurses the phantom pain of missing lovers. 

Though he hails from rural Illinois, his sound is four-to-the-floor, old-school honky tonk, reminiscent of greats like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard. As great songwriters often do, he spent time as a writer in Nashville, where he had some success, and learned that his songs were too country for the cosmopolitan elite. 

"Redneck Sonsabitches" eloquently details the story of his Nashville experience, one that put him in front of great outlaw songwriter Billie Joe Shaver. Shaver laughed with him about the difficult road honest songwriters sometimes face on Music Row, and asked him if he'd ever been to Texas. Another man of faith, Shaver ensured Gerdes they'd meet again, and three years later Gerdes opened a show for him outside La Grange. The song he penned about it is a swaggerin' chicken-pickin' electric two stepper. The band careens through a tempo change where he namechecks Shaver, who told him "Son, I know just how you feel," before he remembers what record companies remarked about his work—"You long haired redneck sonsabitches are not wanted here in Nashville, Tennessee."

Gerdes began playing country music at the age of 10 in the band of his father, who, as a child, would crowd around the radio with his family waiting for the wind to blow in just the right direction so they could pick up the faint signal from the Grand Ole Opry. The songs his father loved—by country icons like George Jones, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash—provided the foundation for Craig's work. By age 12, he was already a capable songwriter and musician. And by 16, he'd wandered from the narrow path. "In the same summer," he recalls, "I totaled my car, broke my best friend's neck, dropped out of high school, got arrested and got married."

A few years later, after a chance meeting with a Nashville band, Gerdes wound up living on Music Row. For a time, he literally slept on the floor of a studio where greats like George Jones and Jerry Reed had recorded, a place that's now a one bedroom apartment. "I was hoping to soak up some of that mojo," he jokes about harder times. While Gerdes was able to gain traction with a publishing company and even do some co-writing, his traditional songs just didn't fit in. After years of the seven-hour commute back and forth from his family in unincorporated Pattonsburg, Illinois. (pop. 348), every weekend, he decided to go his own way, leaving Nashville behind and returning full-time to rural life. During this point in his life, while Gerdes was on a hiatus from songwriting to concentrate on raising his kids, his 16-year-old cousin was killed in a car wreck. He was compelled to write again by an angel he believes is her. 

Many of Gerdes' songs embody the life of the traveler. While listening to the radio on a trip, he heard the story of a man found cut up in a box and was inspired to write the murder ballad "Dead In A Box In Kentucky." There's a Spanish guitar solo during the bridge that dances into a climactic finish that concludes with a Hitchcockian fratricidal twist. Gerdes' voice is at its strongest on "Almost To Alabama," where he's joined by dobro, imagining the end of the road, and distant lovers. The title track, "Smokin' Drinkin' Gamblin'" is another song only a road-weary rambler could write. It's the apex of country music, where the rhythm section leads in a thudding backbeat, and steel guitar has room to wander all over the beat, while Gerdes moans about "ramblin' my young life away."

Gerdes sings a mean cheatin' song as well. His ribald song "Learned From The Best" and his cover of Johnny Paycheck’s  "Slide Off Of Your Satin Sheets" bookend the album, the latter a fitting choice—on the surface, Paycheck’s lyrics are about an illicit affair, but under the covers it's about class distinction; the sleek countrypolitan image the music industry creates, and the actual people they use to make the music they desire. 

While Gerdes' songs about smokin', drinkin' and gamblin' aren't necessarily gospel fare he is for certain "spreading the gospel of country music." His experiences and his angels guard him from writing songs "with no heart or soul." Rarely has classic barroom country been so crossover capable. Give it a listen and you, too, will believe.

Oct 12, 2017

Exclusive Premiere: Chris Porter & The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes "Stoned in Traffic"

Chris Porter was a good dude. An extremely talented songwriter and musician with a voice you might have to get used to, but once you do, you love it. Beyond all that though, he was just a good dude. Chris was always friendly and funny. He's a Couch by Couchwest veteran. He personally sent his music to Farce the Music and was always gracious whenever we'd post about him. I miss him.

Today, we're exclusively premiering a new track (from the forthcoming release Don't Go Baby It's Gonna Get Weird Without You), "Stoned in Traffic," from Chris and his all-star band The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, who consist of John Calvin Abney, Will Johnson, and Shonna Tucker. A lineup doesn't get much better than that, and this is a cool song. Hope you dig it. And stick around - below the player is a lot more information about this great artist and stellar human who left us far too early.

On October 19, 2016, tragedy struck on on I-95 in North Carolina when Chris Porter and his bandmate Mitchell Vandenberg, were killed in a van crash on their way to play a show in Baltimore. Even before his budding solo career, Porter had been a cult favorite amongst his fellow musicians, an adored staple of the Americana scene, touring all over the country with his bands Some Dark Holler, The Back Row Baptists and Porter & the Pollies. 

Prior to his death, Porter—along with an all-star cast of musicians including producer Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel, Monsters of Folk), ex-Drive-By Truckers bassist Shonna Tucker, Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore (The Mastersons, Steve Earle) & John Calvin Abney (John Moreland, Samantha Crain)—had just finished writing and recording what would be his swan song, Don't Go Baby It's Gonna Get Weird Without You. The album is the follow up to Porter's acclaimed solo debut, This Red Mountain. Now, with the help of his friends and family, this brilliant posthumous record from Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes is slated for an Oct. 20 release on Cornelius Chapel Records.

New single "Stoned In Traffic" is a raunchy guitar and cowbell-driven rocker with a boot-stomping groove and a chorus that begs to be blared out of the windows of a truck rolling down the highway on a sunny day. It feels reminiscent of Uncle Tupelo's more upbeat work, with a hint of power pop added by a synth pad that fits right in, despite what genre purists might think at a glance. 

Chris Porter (1980-2016). Photo by Alex Hooks.

On October 19, 2016, tragedy struck on on I-95 in North Carolina when beloved Americana artist, Chris Porter, and his bandmate Mitchell Vandenberg, were killed in a van crash on their way to play a show in Baltimore. Long before his budding solo career, Porter had been an adored staple of the Americana scene, touring all over the country with his bands Some Dark Holler, The Back Row Baptists and Porter & the Pollies. 

Prior to his death, Porter—along with an all-star cast of musicians including producer Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel, Monsters of Folk), former Drive-By Truckers bassist Shonna Tucker, Chris Masterson & Eleanor Whitmore (The Mastersons, Steve Earle) & John Calvin Abney (John Moreland, Samantha Crain)—had just finished writing and recording what would be his swan song, Don't Go Baby It's Gonna Get Weird Without You. The album is the follow up to Porter's acclaimed solo debut, This Red Mountain. Now, with the help of his friends and family, this brilliant posthumous record from Porter & the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes is slated for an Oct. 20 release via Cornelius Chapel Records.

"I think Porter wanted things loose and wanted things to rock a little more on this record," says friend and producer Will Johnson. "He was ready to turn the guitars up a little more and let the band be the band.  He'd experienced a great deal between This Red Mountain and Don't Go Baby—he'd settled into Austin, toured relentlessly, had fallen in love again, and experienced the difficult loss of his dog just a couple months before the sessions. I can only guess he wanted this record to represent a clear-eyed document of the road traveled since This Red Mountain, and a look at whatever the road ahead might have held for him. There was a lot going on."

The first track to surface from the album, contemplative mid-tempo rocker "Shit Got Dark"—presumably about trying in vain to break free of the chains of your hometown—takes on a deeper, almost chilling significance in the wake of Porter's untimely death...

Shit got dark, whole town fell apart
The place that healed your heart began to die
Shit got tragic, goddamn he almost had it
They say this town is magic when you’re high

Is there something in the air that makes ‘em go so young in Alabama
Well I might have to question all the reasons that I run
Count the stars and stages on the walls that hold up Birmingham
Try to live ’til next year, when I come

Well I got low, how was I to know
Wrapped around me slow and burned like fire
Did I get past it, or did I just outlast it
Or am I next to go from darker times

Is there something in the air that makes us grieve so long in Alabama ...

"Porter survived a lot of heartache in his short life and I think you can tell on this album," says, Porter's fiance, Andrea Juarez, who—along with several of Porter's closest musician friends—was instrumental in making sure his final album would see release. "He was tired of touring, tired of hustling and not making it. He was tired of Austin turning into nothing but high-end condos and $7 dollar tacos. But he loved his music, and we loved each other. Our game plan was to get the album out, get married, buy a house in Nashville and split time in Austin.

"I've never heard a guitarist play the guitar like Porter did. He had this way of stroking the guitar strings as he played—I can close my eyes and see him do it and hear it. He was so damned proud of the songs he wrote on this new album. He'd always been a part of something—The Stolen Roses, The Back Row Baptists, Porter & The Pollies, Some Dark Holler—and then the previous album he made with Bonnie Whitmore's help. Don't Go Baby was truly the first time he stood alone and he knew that. He was ready and he put his heart and soul in it."

After the album's Oct. 20 release on Cornelius Chapel Records, there will be a pair of album-release shows in Porter's two former hometowns, where his life will be celebrated by his many musician friends, who will be paying heartfelt tribute. The first, in Austin, Texas, is scheduled for Oct. 21, and the second, at Syndicate Lounge in Birmingham, Ala., will be Nov. 4.

Jul 13, 2017

Exclusive Song Premiere: Johnny Dango "Western Front (War Hymn #2)"

Today, we've got a new song from Johnny Dango called "Western Front (War Hymn #2). It's a fun, psychedelic, honky-tonk tune with sing-along vocals and almost ragtime instrumentation contrasting the serious lyrics about wartime. Really unique and memorable stuff. RIYL: Kris Kristofferson, King Oliver, Flying Burrito Brothers, Commander Cody, Phosphorescent, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Dango has worked alongside Stoney Larue and Will & Lily Courtney (Brothers and Sisters), and has shared bills with Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker, Alejandro Escovedo & more. His upcoming record Recluse in Plain Sight was recorded by Steven Collins (Doug Burr, Deadman) at The Troubadour Studio in Austin, and comes out September 1. Dango has recently premiered tracks at PopMatters & No Depression, and was featured in the Americana Music Association's most recent newsletter...

Recluse in Plain Sight contradicts the standard, formulaic approach to Americana, toggling between timeless California Country string-infused ballads, psychedelic honky-tonk tunes, and last-call alt-country singalongs. The new LP effortlessly chronicles an arsenal of movements in the Country music genre while simultaneously channeling '60s Stones and Beatles psych grandeur. 

You can pre-order Recluse in Plain Sight at his Bandcamp page.

More information about Johnny after the song player...

Johnny Dango - Recluse in Plain Sight (out September 1)

From the hushed fields of Stillwater, Okla., to the raucous barrooms of Austin, Texas, the hard work and bloody fingers of singer/songwriter Johnny Dango have given rise to a cosmic honky-tonk thunder, a deliciously irreverent mix of downhome Americana and heady classic rock. Dango has paid his dues in bands such as Brothers & Sisters and The Memphis Strange, and as a sideman for country-rocker Stoney LaRue. And he’s shared bills with legends such as Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker and Alejandro Escovedo, over the years developing a unique and gorgeously tumbledown aesthetic that is potently concentrated in the neon avenues and creaking front porches of his debut solo album, Recluse in Plain Sight.

“I’m not into paint-by-numbers,” Dango says. “I have no interest in making another generic Americana record. There are already plenty of ‘em out there.”

As the varied tracks on this album unfurl, tackling themes of transience and displacement, Dango slowly reveals the inner mechanics of his influences. From the George Harrison-meets-Mott the Hoople guitar lines of “Hole in My Heart” to the psychedelic ragtime theatrics of “Western Front (War Hymn #2),” he continually smashes rules and upends expectations. While drunken rocker “Barfly” lives in the Stones’ world, sleepy piano ballad “Someday Soon”—written in a traffic jam on the way to a gig—tips its worn pork-pie hat to Tom Waits, Randy Newman, and Father John Misty. Traditional rural sentiments and Southern rhythms get twisted up on “I Was Wrong,” Dango’s “failed attempt at a bad country song,” during which he reorients well-worn sounds into potent ruminations that exhale ache. The off-center melodicism of his vocals deftly mirrors Recluse in Plain Sight’s stylistic realignments, an affecting rumble and shiver slithering through each bucolic chorus. And if a song happens to call for some dramatic Jeff Lynne-style synths, then so be it.

Recluse in Plain Sight—co-produced with Steve Collins—is Dango's resolute answer to the recent homogenization of the Americana landscape. This record isn’t stuck in a cycle of self-glorification, nor is it primed to pander to any awards ceremonies—it’s the result of a heart ready for examination and revelation. Driven by a need to stretch the comforts of his own influences, he positions these songs as rustic therapy and as a necessary escape from what has become a commodified musical perspective.

“It’s so weird how Americana spun off from country into its own thing, like, ‘We reject mainstream country music,’” Dango ruminates. “But then to go and behave the exact same way? I mean, they made up a whole new category, just so they could put on an awards shows and give themselves a trophy. It’s such a bunch of self-congratulatory bullshit.”

Instead of positioning himself as some sort of quasi-country savior, Dango takes solace in the creative freedom of his work, which reflects in equal measure the bold, psychoactive experimentation of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and the lost years when nascent country music was guided by torn hearts and the need to pass stories from one generation to the next. With the touring that will encircle the release of his upcoming record, Dango will be burning up the highways in search of like-minded souls for whom these authentic sounds represent more than just a passing interest. With Recluse in Plain Sight, he wants you to hear the past and future collide.

Jun 22, 2017

Song Premiere: Tom Irwin "Delicate Flower"

Check out the new single, "Delicate Flower," from heartland Americana singer/songwriter Tom Irwin.  It's a spare, heartfelt poem of a ballad that's somehow both plaintive and positive at once. Very nice tune.

Irwin's debut LP, All That Love, was produced by Wilco's John Stirratt, who also plays on the record. For decades, Irwin has performed over 200 Midwest regional dates per year, sharing bills with Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, Chuck Prophet, Hank Williams III & more, and was named "Best Americana Band" in 2015 in the Illinois Times Readers' Poll.

Tom Irwin is the idyllic sixth-generation Country artist, sonically answering all of Hank Williams’ and Willie Nelson’s revivalist prayers. All That Love's eleven tracks deftly blend classic Country and modern Americana, twisting decades of influence into a familiar-yet-progressive signature sound. New single, “Delicate Flower” showcases Irwin's sentimental side, with its mix of delicate, fingerpicked acoustic guitar and dreamy backup vocals that lend the track an air of comprehensive tranquility.

Find Tom on social media:

Bio below the player.

"Tom’s skills as a songwriter and performer have only deepened in the intervening 20 years or so, and he has also experienced a considerable amount of personal growth." - Illinois Times

“Tom’s songs get stuck in my head and I don’t mind it.” - G. Wiz (drummer for Norah Jones)

Tom Irwin - All That Love
Born a sixth-generation central Illinois resident, singer-songwriter-musician Tom Irwin, uses his long standing local roots as a sound base for a world wide view of a life in the music arts. The 50-something, guitar playing guy, called “a modern day troubadour” by John Stirratt of the Grammy-award winning rock band, Wilco, spent a lifetime making a living making music in the Midwest with occasional forays into the rest of the country. When Stirratt played a gig at the Castle in Bloomington, Illinois with Chicago rockers Candy Golde (Bun E. Carlos, Nick Tremulis and Rick Rizzo), Irwin’s group the Hayburners opened the show and caught the ear of the acclaimed bassist, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and arranger. It took a few years of scheduling to get it all together, but the outcome of the collaboration is All That Love, the latest music collection from Irwin and one that “catches the vibe these songs needed,” according to Stirratt. 

The song selection on the record bridges a lifetime of writing with some tunes recently penned, a few others that were written over thirty years ago and what ever else John and Tom agreed to from the hundreds of original compositions in the prolific songwriter’s back catalog. Stirratt enlisted members of his other band The Autumn Defense, including New York City’s Greg Wieczorek, aka, G. Wiz, on drums (Norah Jones) and Chicago-based musician and owner of Lakland Music, John Pirruccello on 12-string guitar and pedal steel. The multi-talented Scott Ligon (NRBQ, the Flat Five) played an assortment of instruments including piano, organ, accordion, bass and guitar. Theresa O’Hare added flute to the title cut and Paul Von Mertens (Brian Wilson, Poi Dog Pondering) blew sax on the song, A Maybe Moon. Irwin’s hometown band, the Hayburners covered the sounds for three songs on the record with Stirratt playing bass, acoustic guitar, odd sounds and background harmonies as needed. The recording took place at Wall to Wall studios in Chicago, a downtown studio staple for 40 years that was recently demolished to make way for luxury condos.

From his beginnings in music as a teenager learning Deep Purple songs with friends and Johnny Cash tunes from his dad, Irwin soaked up the deep and flowing current of American popular music. By the time he started his first band at age 14, through a run with a regionally successful, new wave band called Condition 90 in the mid-80s, the concept of music as a lifestyle was well set in place. By the late 80s, Irwin had embarked on a solo career consisting of a guitar, a voice and plenty of self-penned songs with regular independent recording releases that continues through today. Consistent regional gigs of over 200 dates a year for decades, garnered him several “Best of” awards for music in the Springfield-based, weekly newspaper Illinois Times Readers Poll, ranging from Best Folk Band in 1992 to Best Americana Band in 2015 and several Best Male Musician and Vocalist in between. In 2001 he opened up for Willie Nelson and Family at the Illinois State Fair grandstand with his band the Hired Hands to a boisterous crowd of 5,000 Willie fans. After a 20-year run of almost every Sunday night at the Brewhaus, a legendary local bar, Downtown Springfield, Inc., made Irwin the one and only recipient of a “Downtown Music Legend” award, presented for “achievement in the arts to the community at large” as a token of appreciation to his dedication to live music and original artistry in the area.

During this decades-long, decorated music career, Irwin helped raise three sons to adulthood, received a Master’s of Arts in Liberal & Integrative Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, released eight full length independent recordings and since 2000, penned Now Playing, a weekly column on local live music, for Illinois Times.

Now with the new album in hand, Irwin begins the process of reaching out to a national audience through the time-honored practice of promotion and publicity, touring and traveling, but mostly through doing what he’s always done — play good songs well with a dedication to the spirit and emotion of a life based in original music and heartfelt performance.

Jun 8, 2017

Exclusive Song Premiere: Nathan Bell "The Long Way Down"

We've got a new song to debut today, and it's a good one.  Veteran songwriter Nathan Bell brings us his new tune "The Long Way Down" from his forthcoming LOVE>FEAR album. It's a simple and spare production with hard hitting lyrics and a memorable melody. "The Long Way Down" tells the story of a working class man's fall from grace and his fears of loneliness and destitution. It's a powerful and timely song. RIYL: Springsteen, Prine, Guthrie, Tom Russell, Dylan, Earle

More about Nathan Bell below the song player.

Here's the album details:

ALBUM: LOVE>FEAR (48 hours in traitorland)
RELEASE: June 30 via Stone Barn Records


Nathan Bell. Photo by Guy Johnson.

“One of those increasingly rare finds: an unpretentious, unified set of literate and witty songs, impeccably performed." - Rolling Stone 

"Nathan Bell may be the Woody Guthrie we need in the age of globalization." - The Bitter Southerner 

Bell has created a song cycle that is both moving and timely." - Paste

“A gifted and thought-provoking songwriter." - No Depression

"His mellow, world-weary folk music chronicles the endless grind of all shades of the working person in America, from mine workers to middle managers." - PopMatters

“A crisp, literary quality, a tough blue-collar sensibility and a terse, muscular musicality." - Nashville Scene

"With his crisp, handcrafted playing and intimate, incisive lyrics, Bell documents an America teetering on the edge."  - Acoustic Guitar Magazine

Nathan Bell - LOVE > FEAR (48 Hours in Traitorland)

Nathan Bell is a songwriter’s songwriter—at 57, the troubadour’s weary voice bleeds experience. He made his bones sharing bills with legends like Townes Van Zandt, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal and Norman Blake. The son of a poet and professor, the Iowa-born/Chattanooga-based Bell has a keen eye for detail and an unapologetic penchant for the political, populist humanism of his literary heroes John Steinbeck, Jack London and Studs Terkel. So it’s no surprise that the 2016 presidential race—culminating the election of Donald J. Trump—was a powerful catalyst for Bell’s affecting new album Love>Fear (48 Hours in Traitorland). 

Right before we did the deed and elected an oligarch, PT Barnum-style scam artist, I started thinking it was time to collect some of thepolitical songs I’d written over the years, and combine them with some of the new ones I’d been working on," Bell says. "I’ve always been resistant to slogans and catchphrases, so Traitorland is more an album of pointed stories about people affected by the callousness of thewealthy and the power brokers. Nowadays, they’re so disconnected from the working class—they’re even more cruel than Carnegie was. Paul Ryan—I don’t know how he sleeps at night. I don’t know how a man like Steve Bannon is allowed to spend a day near whoever’s in power. My family’s half Jewish, and I look at Bannon and think, ‘Great, we’re either gonna have to run or fight again.’ So the album comes from that.”

Bell is no Johnny-come-lately at speaking truth to power. Back in the ’70s, his first gig as a teenager was a rally against the Vietnam War. “I’ve been doing this—and, trust me, it’s not the most profitable way to navigate the music industry—for a longlong time,” Bell says. “I’d take more credit for it, morally, except I don’t think I could’ve done it any other way. I never set out to be a songwriter—I wanted to be a journalist, I wanted to be Steinbeck or Hemingway. But I can’t write prose the way I can write songs. Now, Hemingway—as famous, wealthy and full of shit as he sometimes was—when he saw there was something to say about the Spanish Civil War, he said it. And he didn’t do it by getting on a soapbox and writing some heavy-handed political poem—he did it by telling stories about people.”

Turns out Bell and his literary heroes are pretty damn simpatico. On Love>Fear, his characters are portrayed with such painstaking detail and emotional depth, you wouldn’t flinch if they walked straight out of your stereo speakers, sat down on the couch and asked you for a cup of coffee. There’s a tattooed failure with nowhere to turn. A broken widower in the midst of a crisis of faith. A first-time mobile-home owner staring down a foreclosure. A beautiful woman struggling to be appreciated for her talent, intelligence and hard work. An obese veterinarian in love with a skinny, secretly transgender patent-attorney rodeo clown. The impoverished sick committing armed robbery to pay for healthcare. An active-duty soldier turned conscientious objector who opts for the stockade over the battlefield. A middled-aged man caught in the for-profit prison system, his best years slipping through his fingers. These songs are stories about real Americans—there is no black & white, no oversimplification, no us-vs.-them Left/Right posturing, just beautiful, inclusive, somehow vibrant shades of grey.

“There are people all around us who believe differently than we do,” Bell says. “Good people. And in the basics of their daily life, the political sign in their yard is no reflection on who they are to their neighbors. Over the last few years, we’ve forgotten this, and a certain level of humanity has disappeared. To me, the whole point of liberal politics is, we let people in even if they’ve made a mistake. I was out walking my dogs a few weeks ago, and I ran into one of my neighbors down the street, and she says, ‘Hey, I voted for Trump, and I'm scared shitless. Did you vote for Trump?’ Now that's a golden opportunity. I said, ‘No, I didn't vote for him. He scares the hell out of me, and he's got a Nazi working with him.’ So we stood there and talked for awhile, and I find out she's a fiscal conservative, she's a little bit socially conservative, but like a lot of people in the South, she's got six gay cousins she likes just fine. So we had a conversation, which is what we're supposed to do. Let the other side be exclusive, keep people out, and pretend everyone should be divided up into groups; at the end of the day, no matter how hard we fight, even if it means physical dissent, when the war is over, people are still people. It's how you avoid theHutus and the Tutsis warring back and forth, chopping each other up with machetes. If someone comes to you and says, 'Look, I shouldn't have voted for assholes the last 12 years. How do we put our country back together and make sure everybody's protected?' then you've got to accept that. It's hard, but you've gotta look some assholes in the eye and accept that maybe they've changed. I can't forgive a fucking Nazi, I think—until I meet some guy who was a skinhead for 25 years, and spends the rest of his life working in the AIDS ward trying to atone for it. There's always some reason for you to doubt your certainty.” 

Love > Fear captures the stark, unadorned directness of Bell’s solo acoustic performances. Many of the tracks were recorded live-in-thestudio in front of a small audience. There’s no doubling and almost no overdubs—just a man with a harp around his neck and a guitar in his weathered hands, singing and playing his heart out. At times, the sound is earthy and optimistic, a silver glimmer breaking through theclouds above an Appalachian peak; other times, it’s sparse, haunting and distant, a warning flare erupting across the dusk. But no matter the track, it’s unvarnished and immediate, the songs given room to shine in all their expertly constructed glory, shot through with the grace & grit of the finest American prose.
“I felt like this record was my chance to use what I’ve been doing for a long time, what I feel most comfortable doing, and that’s telling stories,” Bell says, “giving people a chance to use their knowledge of others to feel hopeful. Sure, there’s some sad shit on there, but ultimately it’s a hopeful record. My big goal in life is to make it so much better to love people that, after a while, hating people seems like a lot of work. You only need one commandment, right? If you love everybody, then all the other commandments are unnecessary. I'm not a religious man at all. As a matter of fact, I'm completely anti-religion. But if I could give everybody just one commandment, it would be, love each other."


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