Wanting some sultry southern slide driven gumbo to start your weekend with? Look no further as the opening song, Around The Bend on Susan Kane’s excellent album A Word Child should satisfy anyone reared on Little Feat and early Bonnie Raitt. Sliding into view with Billy Masters’ superb guitar slink buttressed by Mark Addison’s soulful organ Around The Bend grabs the attention even before Kane starts singing. And when she does the contract is signed, sealed and delivered with her voice strong, and effortless, an equal to Raitt back in the seventies. Add some fine harmonies from the ever excellent Jess Klein and you have the best opening song of the year so far.
Kane is a NY based singer who’s recorded this, her third album, in Austin, Texas and it’s certainly far removed from the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle. Instead we have the aforementioned southern blues style along with some sweet country best exemplified by the fiddle laced Buffalo Jump. Aside from her voice Kane is a fine writer with Buffalo Jump‘s jauntiness for example offset by the lyrics which appear to be a valedictory from an elderly woman preparing for her end. Elsewhere she uses a classic country sound to bemoan the life of a woman who considers herself invisible in the shadow of her partner on the heart tugging I Know About Your Broken Heart while Paulita’s Lament is a great narrative on the life, crimes and death of Billy The Kid as seen by his lover. Kane sounds great on all of these however she turns in her best performance on Aquamarine , a homage to a friend which flows as sweetly as a mountain stream. Here as elsewhere the playing is excellent with Masters (who also produced the album) dripping some magical notes from his guitar.
There are four cover versions. A fine twangy rendition of Stephen Ray Kirkman’s Black Roses which is energetic and engaging while an adaptation of Irish poet, Lady Augusta Persse, Lady Gregory, founder of the Abbey Theatre’s Donal Og takes Kane into Richard Thompson territory temporarily. Again Masters’ guitar is, well, masterful. Intriguingly the other two covers are both penned by the late Jerry Garcia in partnership with Robert hunter. The classic gambler’s tale Loser is given a fine reading while the more obscure Row Jimmy (from the Dead’s Wake of the Flood album) returns to the opening song’s organ and slide guitar groove and slides down as easily as honey.
Posts Tagged ‘Little Feat’
Posted in Reviews, tagged Alabama 3, Americana, Blind Bblake, Bob Dylan, Charlie Gillet, Edinburgh, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Fats Domino, Grateful Dead, Huey Smith, John Prine, John Ptine, Little Feat, Louis Jordan, Lowell George, Randy Newman, Sonny Boy Williamson, The band, The Chilli Dogs, Tommy McLain, Van Morrison on December 20, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
There was a movie years ago called “Support Your Local Sheriff” and I’m sure that over the years there have been numerous “support your local band” slogans thrown around. Well, here’s our turn to hold that banner high. While gig going and seeing your heroes on stage is as fine a thrill as can be had there’s much to be said for having a local band that you can drop in on and depend on for a fine night of well played and well selected songs. Cover versions perhaps but played with dexterity and a finely honed sense of homage to the masters. Best heard in a bar, an indulgence for the band (who probably all have day jobs) and for the audience (for whom beers will flow) but ultimately all part of the musical mindscape that folk who read blogs like this inhabit.
The Chilli Dogs are one such conglomeration. They dwell on the classic Americana songbook (folk, blues, jazz, country, singer songwriter, L.A. canyon rock and all points between) and can usually be seen and heard in the folk and drinking dens of Edinburgh. Back in the days they would be so local as to be only available to local folk but due to the wonders of digital recording they’ve unveiled an album that shamelessly exposes them to the wider world, to their credit they avoid blushes and display their wares with a flourish.
Recorded in a living room the album features ten Chilli Dogs in various permutations on 15 songs written by artists as varied as Lowell George, Blind Blake, The Grateful Dead, John Prine and Sonny Boy Williamson. The basic sound is acoustic, string based music although there is some fine electric guitar from Jonathon Hearn. Fiddles blaze, guitars resonate and slide, accordions wheeze and over all this lead vocals are swapped from song to song. In fact the varied menu does its best to approximate a gig set list so that one minute you’re in Louisiana Cajun country and the next grooving to a nasty Chicago blues groove. With the opportunity to flesh out the bones of their acoustic pub sets there are some fine touches such as the organ on Help Me and the revivalist tent sounds on The Old Purple Tin, a tremendous demon drink sound (originally by The Alabama 3). With the majority of the songs covered here familiar to anyone with a decent record collection The Chilli Dogs don’t claim to improve on the originals but there’s no denying the sense of fun and joy they’ve had recording this. Songs like Before I Grow too Old, a Fats Domino song but here using the Tommy McLain arrangement from the tremendous Charlie Gillet compilation Another Saturday Night, show that they know their stuff. The best is the closing arrangement of No More Cane on the Brazos where the whole ensemble join in the singing bringing a fine little album to a fine end.
The album is a perfect souvenir for anyone who catches the band live and in the spirit of the opening sentence above well recommended for anyone wanting to support some local musicians. The album is available at their gigs, the next one at the Royal Oak this Thursday. Alternatively you can download it
No More Cane On The Brazos
Three fine albums here, take your pick…..
Wiser Time. Beggars and Thieves.
First up are New Jersey band Wiser Time with their third release, Beggars and Thieves. Starting off with a rumbling guitar that smacks of Keith Richards’ exiled in the south of France the opening song Love and Devotion fails to live up to the wasted elegance that comprised Exile on Main Street but nonetheless is a fine slice of slide and piano driven boogie that ultimately recalls Little Feat. Main man Carmen Sclafani is obviously in thrall to the early seventies sound of such bands however this is not a retread of tired boogiedom and some of the better moments occur when the band ease back and rock gently with Sclafani dipping into a more mellow mood. Take Me back Home for example has some elements of Steve Stills’ solo work but with a sweet fiddle and mandolin backdrop and some fine guitar work this is a tremendous song. The B3 organ that comes in at the end adds a fine organic feeling and at times this sounds like an American roots version of a Steve Winwood ballad. The following song It’s Hard Letting You Go maintains this quality, a piano based ballad with Lowell George like slide guitar from Jimmy Somma it would fit perfectly on the soundtrack to “Almost Famous.” The album closes with a superb cover of the Bad Company song, Seagull which in our mind is an improvement on the original, less dramatic and enhanced by some very sympathetic percussion and mandolin, basically an encapsulation of the whole album, an affectionate nod to those far away days.
Take Me back Home
Talmadge was a Texas lawyer who packed it in to become an itinerant musician working very much in the Texan vein with clear routes back to Jerry Jeff Walker and Guy Clark. While he hasn’t produced anything to match the best of either of these two he does provide a winning take on the genre on this, his seventh album. Armed with an attractive vocal delivery, warm but experienced, he spins tales of Texas folk buttressed by a superb line up of musicians that include Pat McInerney on percussion, Fats Kaplin, fiddle and steel guitar Freddy Holm, Dobro, Ray Bonneville, harmonica, Lloyd Maines, pedal steel and Tim O’Brien on mandolin. In fact anyone who likes acoustic albums laced with Dobro, steel guitar, mandolin and fiddle need read no more, just buy this.
While there are some upbeat songs including the opening If It wasn’t For the Wind, a David Olney cover and the jaunty Sometimes You Choose Love the meat of the album is in the moodier, darker moments with several that raise the album well above the average. One Spectacular Moon has a romantic yearning to it and features some fine fiddle playing from Kaplin. It’ll Sure be Cold Tonight is a stark tale of homelessness that raises goosepimples. Molly showcases Tim O’Brien’s mandolin on a tale that is straight out of the Townes Van Zandt stylebook. Summer Road is a classic of its sort, elegiac, wide screen nostalgia, this is dusty and vital. Finally He’ll Give Her Back This Town Tonight is a break up song that is delivered in a heartbreaking style with the band excelling on the oh so sympathetic backing, a song that could be destined for late night radio programmers everywhere.
He’ll Give Her back This Town Tonight
Cam Penner Gypsy Summer.
Canadian Cam Penner has released several albums that can be considered “confessional.” Tender, despite his occasionally gruff voice his last release Trouble and Mercy was a stripped down affair. Here, despite recording the album in a cabin near the Rockies, he achieves a plush, warm, occasionally funky sound that is dynamic and engaging. Guitars and bass throb and thrum, strings (violin and viola) add to the drama at times and the percussion drives several songs with an almost J. J. Cale like shuffle. The title song unwinds slowly building to a crescendo that is spooky and evil sounding, as most songs with Gypsy in the title seem to do. Ghost Car has a strong pulse beat that drives the song which has a neon lit highway feel to it while the clash and clatter of My Lover & I is the sort of R’n’B shuffle that Ry Cooder has been fond of in the past, there’s a decidedly southern feel to this. The highlight of the album is the opening song Driftwood which starts off with a classic guitar /harmonica part so beloved of Neil Young. Perhaps it’s the title of the song but we find some of The Band’s influence here also as Penner delivers a downbeat tale of a relationship that’s taking some work to keep together. Here Penner and his band deliver a perfectly nuanced folk rock song. An instrumental reprise of the song towards the end of the album supports its claim to be a superior piece of music.
The closing song Come As You Are reverts to Penner’s stripped down style with just guitar, piano and voice and is reminiscent of Bill Callaghan’s work in Smog. A fine end to a fine album.