Friday, January 31, 2014

Album Review: David Serby and the Latest Scam

The goal of this blog has always been to promote the great music that is created by hard working, dedicated and talented artists who do their best to stay positive to themselves and their craft.  I’ve had the great fortune to write about a lot of great musicians, singers, songwriters and bands.  These are the people I love writing about, the ones that create music and albums for the love of the art.  Los Angeles, California has long been known as a hot bed for great music, and the latest project from David Serby is proof positive that the Los Angeles independent music scene is still thriving to this day.

David Serby and the Latest Scam is the fifth release from this talented singer-songwriter-musician.  If you're looking for an album that explores various aspects of human relationships, the trials of life and has a feel good aspect to it, this project belongs in your collection.  The album is reminiscent of the old sound of California country-rock of the late 60’s and early 70’s in the vain of Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Considering this project is a double-CD containing 20 songs in total, it is great value for your money. 

The first CD kicks off with a great up tempo number called “True Love” and leads right in to one of the many highlights of the album, "Amnesia."    This is a cleverly written tune that speaks to a condition I'm sure many of us have acquired when we find ourselves in the opening stages of a new romantic relationship.  Generally speaking, it leads to a situation where your world becomes that person, you don't go out with your friends anymore, that sort of thing, which is a different topic for a different blog.

"When  Couples Fall In Love" keeps the new love theme going, and the masses can relate to this story.  New love starts off with fiery passion, then settles down somewhat as the relationship grows and gains solidarity.  What impresses me about  this track, in addition to the solid writing, is how it sounds.  Sonically, it takes me back to the days of a great country music group of the mid- to late-1980's, The Desert Rose Band.  

Another of the great highlights of this double CD package is "You're Bored", which relates the story of the (dreaded?) phone call that one may receive from that ex-partner who wants to, possibly/maybe/who the heck knows for sure, get back together.  Fortunately for our central character in this story, he has the strength to see through the folly of getting involved again. Great song lyrically and musically.

Other highlights of this double-CD package include "Breaking News", "Rumour of Our Own", "Better With My Hands" and "Waiting Out the Storm."   This is a really solid project that David Serby and producer Ed Tree have put together.  You can order the package directly from their web site, and you can sample six of the tracks via the playlist.  Give David Serby and the Latest Scam your time.  If this project is any indication of the great music to come in 2014, it is going to be an outstanding year.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Album Review: Steve Parkinson and the Stony Lonesome, Kentucky Straight Heartbreak

Many times in this space I have lamented about the loss of honest and real country music.  Country music that is sorely lacking from the airwaves of today’s country music radio stations.  The style of country music that speaks to real life topics that are the norm for everyday people.  Topics that are more than just bush and tailgate parties, girls in pickup trucks, beer in coolers and how much your country ass will kick another ones country ass.  I’m speaking of the good stuff, topics like family, love, hate, murder, infidelity and the like.  It’s well known that Americana isn’t afraid to speak to these topics, and I’m happy to review an album by a Canadian band that has captured that sound with a great album released in 2013.

Kentucky Straight Heartbreak (Busted Flat Records) by Steve Parkinson and the Stony Lonesome is just what the doctor ordered when looking to satisfy that need for that classic country sound.  Setting the stage for this solid album in the lead track, “No Alter Boy”, in which the main character describes the folly of his bank robbing actions.  “Four Wheels” is a great song about family and appreciating what you have.  One of the top songs on the album both sonically and lyrically, “Jasper County”, speaks to the challenges of moving on after experiencing tragedy. 

Story songs have always been a staple in the old days of country music, and that need is filled with “Sam Steele”, a wonderful tale of a lonesome Northwest Mounted Police office patrolling the Yukon in the gold rush.  The title track is a solid rocker about drinking away the love that you’ve lost.  The albums closer, “Lead Me Home”, is one of the darkest songs I’ve heard in a long time.  A very well written tale about a man on the run not only from the authorities, but from himself.

Kentucky Straight Heartbreak represents a solid throwback to that classic country sound of the 70’s with solid, pronounced electric and steel guitars, strong lyrics and smooth vocals.  It’s a wonderful album that will cure any need you may have for that pure country sound that is missing from today’s airwaves.  Click here to visit the band's website where you can listen to and purchase the album.  Be sure to join Steve Parkinson and The Stony Lonesome the last Sunday of every month in their hometown of Waterloo, Ontario at Jane Bond.  Show time is 8:00.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Brand New Year

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope your holiday season was filled with much laughter, love, joy and enough relaxation to leave you refreshed and ready for a new year.  With the year 2014 just over a week old, it doesn’t hurt to take a quick look in the rear view mirror at the year that was 2013. 

Looking back on the previous year, it could be said with great confidence that this was the best year in the relatively short history of Americana.  The commercial success of The Lumineer’s and Mumford and Sons brought more fans to the format with everyone in the genre benefitting in some way.  Late night’s David Letterman and Jay Leno showcased Jason Isbell and Alabama Shakes on their shows, introducing those wonderful acts to a wider audience.  Even the Grand Ole Opry has clued in on the Americana movement with artists like Elizabeth Cook serving as regular performers on the show.  And, who could overlook the induction of Old Crow Medicine Show, clearly an Americana group, as members of the Opry.

Some great albums were released, including the aforementioned Isbell with Southeastern.  Patty Griffin released a stellar record with American Kid, Holly Williams asserted herself as an Americana mainstay with The Highway, and Ashley Monroe showed everyone why she’s a key gatekeeper to the classic country music sound with her release of Like a Rose.  There was so much great music released in 2013, it makes you wonder with anticipation what 2014 will bring. 

The Americana Music Association reported their most successful conference and festival which took place this past September.  The Awards presentation was one for the ages, as the Association honoured new and veteran acts alike with Shovels and Rope, and Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell leading the way with well deserved victories in their categories.  The conference and festival enjoyed record attendance in 2013, a clear indication that the art form is moving in the right direction.

The music community lost several significant artists as well.  The passing of J. J. Cale, Etta James, Jim Foglesong and most recently Ray Price has left a void in the community.  However, the loss of George Jones cannot be understated.  The passing of Mr. Jones, and his long time friend Mr. Price, to me was devastating to the older, more pure style of country music.  Indeed, it felt at the time like that pure sounding country music that I grew up on had passed away along with Mr. Jones.  And I believe, in some ways, it has.  Voices and talent like George Jones and Ray Price are generational.  They do not come along every day, which is what made them so special.  An old Keith Whitley song once said “Sad Songs and Waltzes aren’t selling this year”, and that’s been the way of mainstream country music for some time now.  My great wish for the coming year (or year’s) is for mainstream country to come back to its roots, if only just a little bit.  Recognize its rich and lengthy history, and embrace it.  Showcase it for the younger generation of fans that are following the music now, so they can see where the genre has been.  As Brad Paisley stated at the end of this past year, regarding the passing of Mr. Jones. “there’s a reason for all this ruckus.”  It was his way of encouraging young country fans to get out and learn about the music of George Jones.  I would encourage the same thing.  I would also add that while the younger fans are learning about George Jones, they also learn about Ray Price.

Having said all of that, it is not all doom and gloom.  I am looking forward to what 2014 can bring for all of us as music fans and those in the industry.  Two artists that I’ll be watching for this year are Sturgill Simpson and John Fulbright, as I believe they are poised for breakout success.  If anyone can bring back the classic country sound, it’s Sturgill Simpson.  John Fulbright is as strong a singer-songwriter as you will find, and this young man is in his early 20’s.  It’s exciting to this he hasn’t hit his peak yet.  Expect big things career wise from these two gentlemen in 2014, the talent is there and they are ready for the next level.

As for myself and Americana Review, expect more consistency and regularity in blog posts this year.  Thanks to you, the blog is now at a point where I feel that it’s time to take Americana Review to the next level as well.  It’s time to move everything over to its own site where more items and content can be provided for your enjoyment.  It has been a wonderful 4 years of writing about all of these wonderful, independent and creative artists, and I look forward to many more years of doing the same.  For that, I have to thank all of you, the readers, for your continued support.

I would also like to thank all of the artists, musicians, publicists, record label executives and my fellow bloggers for all of your support over the past year.  Keep the music coming folks, I love receiving new material to write about and promote to anyone who will listen.  Without any of you, this site is not possible.  Thank you all so much, and I wish everyone a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!