Adam Klein “Wounded Electric Youth”

Based in Athens. Georgia, Adam Klein’s last album Western Tales and Trails was well received with comparisons made to story tellers such as Townes Van Zandt. Here he moves away from a singer songwriter base into the direction of well crafted and sweet forays in a country pop idiom that should have radio programmers salivating at the bit.
The infectious Driftin’ and To Be a Loner which open the album are both hook laden songs that are country in origin but swing along with the joyful abandon that Van Morrison employed on Brown Eyed Girl. Adding to the playlist friendly sound are two songs that use horns to punchy effect. Anna (You Were Supposed to be Mine) and Griffin’s Song are buttressed by the horns with the latter sounding like a mix of The Beatles and Clem Snide.
Klein’s voice is tender and frail at times and does sound a bit like Eef Barzaley but this adds to the world weary romantic feel that several of the songs promote with Call My Name being the best example. Elsewhere Klein delves into a more traditional sound on the country swagger that is Wayward Son with lashings of fiddle and pedal steel on a song that Jason and The Scorchers would be proud to deliver. Of Pirates and Vagabonds takes us back to the sound of his earlier albums. A lengthy narrative delivered in a starker style than the rest of the album with fiddle and mandolin backing this dark tale of maritime ne’er do wells, chilling and thrilling as it builds to a climax.
Overall an excellent album.


Wayword Son

Hymn For Her Presents Lucy and Wayne and The Amairican Stream.

Hymn For Her are a married couple who live with their child and dog in a 16 foot caravan. Not any old caravan however. A trailer indeed is the preferred American usage and theirs is one of those shiny metal beasts familiar to anyone who owns the first Ry Cooder album. A 1961 Bambi Airstream, it’s smaller than the one featured with Cooder but still serves as an iconic image of a certain type of America. Here however it’s not a romanticised vision of travelling the highways, free and easy but is redolent of a precarious, much derided trailer park existence, The cover art reinforces this with its image of beer swigging barbecuing family life.
Why mention all of this. Well the album in question here was recorded within the said trailer in various parks, garages and driveways by the duo as they travelled from show to show. Playing “stomp-grass punk folk.” (their description) Lucy Tight plays a home-made instrument, a three stringed cigar box while her partner Wayne Waxing plays guitar, bass or Dobro while working a bass drum and percussion with his feet, somewhat of a bizarre cross between Seasick Steve and the White Stripes. With this limited palette they create an almighty noise at times and the stinging slide drone of the three string cigar box guitar buzzes like an angry bee all over the album.
The majority of the songs are country rockers with a dollop of the blues thrown in. The sound is reminiscent of Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper at times. I defy anyone not to be jumping up and down on hearing the first three stomps that open the album. Sharing vocals Tight and Waxing can be tender when required as on the closing song Odette which features Tight almost acapella on a paean to a lost child but they are at their best on the thrilling and energetic Sea where the wailing cigar box sounds like it could be sampled from Led Zeppelin. They manage to combine some light and shade on the excellent Fiddlestix which manages to capture their range in a single song.


Jericho Hill play Live At Folsom Prison

The tribute band for those who don’t like tribute bands, Jericho Hill play the songs of Johnny Cash with a keen eye and ear firmly pointed at his early rebel outlaw image. Not the tux clad family TV show host nor the older statesman of American music but the snarling, angry finger birding punk who was pilled up and seemed like a train wreck waiting to happen.

These two persona collided in 1968 when Cash and his entourage filmed and recorded a concert in Folsom Prison in California. Cash had been performing in prisons since 1957 but Folsom and its inmates had a unique place in his history being the inspiration for his early hit Folsom Prison Blues. The resulting album was a hit and cash repeated the exercise in San Quentin a year later producing another hit album. Of the two Folsom is rawer and it’s fitting that Jericho Hill (remember them) plan to reproduce the album live next week at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry. When Blabber ‘n’ Smoke has seen them Jericho Hill have been great fun with rip snarling renditions of Cash songs everyone knows and generally the audience gets off on the sheer energy they transmit. Whether they can maintain this song by song on an album that has its moments of humour and pathos remains to be seen but they will perform their usual set after the Folsom Prison section.
Taking place next Thursday, 24th February, two days before the great man’s birthday this promises to be a fine night. Tickets are available via Ticket Scotland and in the spirit of the night the audience are asked to turn up wearing some form of stripes.

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Yvette Landry. Should Have Known


Yet another in what has been a bumper bag of fine honky tonking country swing type albums from female artists that have arrived over the past few months. Should Have Known is a fine debut from Yvette Landry, a seasoned sidekick for numerous bands and artists but here standing tall on her own two feet.
The 16 songs are written by Landry and while they remain firmly in the tried and tested tradition of being about drinking, loving, heartbreak and fighting she proves that she can dip into tradition and come up with a set anyone of which could become a staple on country radio. One More Broken Heart is perhaps the best example of a song that drips with an old time Nashville feeling with fat steel guitar but the mention of “cougars in the night” brings it smack up to date. Although the tempo is varied with the lighting quick title song, Blue Moon Girl’s frenzied delivery and the bluegrass rush of Jack all perfect for the dancehall the standouts are the tearstained ballads. Better Days and Friday Night Special are made to be listened to late at night after a few drinks and perhaps in a morose mood. At times like these the mournful guitar playing of Richard Comeaux and Chas Justus are like teardrops falling from the songs.
While Landry can sound like a Loretta Lynn for these days her Louisiana roots are evident at times. The album was co-produced by Joel Savoy who plays some fine harmony fiddle while Betse Ellis (of the Wilders) handles the main fiddle duties (and provides some of the highlights of the album especially on the opening title song).
An above average debut and one which already is reaping praise and awards.


One More Broken Heart – Yvette Landry by paulk

Dead Rock West. Bright Morning Stars.

The chattering classes may have been well impressed by Tom Jones and his recent “gospel” album however for an education on how to marry rock with gospel here’s a primer that swings and wails with a holy rolling beat.
Dead Rock West are currently a duo consisting of Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennan. Their debut album Honey and Salt was a mixture of LA rock with rootsy Americana and evidenced a strong X influence. Here they take this one step further with X members John Doe and Exene Cervenka helping out on vocals on several songs and D. J. Bonebrake on drums throughout. Digging into old time spiritual songs the duo eventually decided to “get back to the simplicity of life by connecting with the source.” Their masterstroke was to enlist Peter Case as producer and as anyone who has heard his latest album Wig would testify Case is a master at rootsy American music. In addition Case plays guitar and adds vocals on several songs. In the main however guitar duties are handled by Ron Franklin who impresses mightily on the opening song Ain’t No Grave and throughout the disc.
From the onset the scrubbed guitar and pounding drums on Ain’t No Grave bode well with Doe duetting with Wasserman on a song that can’t avoid comparison with latter day X. However it’s a tremendous curtain raiser, all fire and brimstone with the band stoking the fire as if their lives depended on it. The rhythm section are on fire all through this album with Bonebrake sounding like a freight train, pummelling, barrelling and firing on all cylinders. It’s a brave move putting such a tour de force at the beginning of an album but believe it or not there are several other gems that match it. Second song, God Moves On Water has a Bo Diddley beat that hypnotises the listener with enough clatter and clutter in the engine room guitars to satisfy anyone who misses Ry Cooder’s forays into this genre. Overall this is like listening to a hi octane version of the Robert Plant /Alison Krauss album. The infectious gospel harmonies, shuffled beat and stinging guitar of Two Wings are straight from the Staple Singers stable and one is left wondering how, after this tremendous opening trio of songs Dead Rock West can better this. The answer is that they don’t but for the most part they maintain a firm hand on the tiller with several other songs that are on a par with these. Wings of Angels has Mark Olson (Jayhawks) singing with Wasserman on a fine spiritual stomp while Tell The Angels and This Might Be The Last Time are stone cold solid updates on spiritual gospel with glorious harmonising and dread filled backing all in place. The production here is perfect with gutbucket bass and drums thudding away while the guitars and organ speak in tongues.
A surprising rendition of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s God Help Me fits well into the overall feel of the album and even has a touch of their signature feedback guitar noise but the rendition of Case’s Beyond The Blues smacks perhaps of hubris on the part of the producer. While it’s given a fine telling it does seem slightly out of place here and the album would not be any the less for its omission.
Overall a tremendous piece of work that carries on the work that the likes of Cooder, Plant and Krauss or even Woven hand do. Dead Rock West are in Glasgow on March 8 at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, maybe a fine night.


Dead Rock West- Two Wings by paulk

Chris Brecht and Dead Flowers. Dead Flower Motel.

Chris Brecht’s debut The Great Ride was one of my favourite albums of 2008. With a mid sixties Dylan feel and a beat sensibility it was a fantastic example of how an artist can take a genre and re inject some vigour into it. After a fairly lengthy wait here we have his second offering which while not as exhilarating as The Great Ride shows a fine progression while retaining much that was great about the first album. With his band, Dead Flowers getting equal billing here the sound is expanded so that while there are still rambling rockers such as Living Twice as Hard and Devil and with the rollocking ride that is Not Where You Are, a direct link to the previous album Brecht is now using a wider canvas with the sound more expansive with some fine organ and pedal steel throughout the album.
The opening song, Hollywood has some of the ennui and faded grandeur that graced some of the more obscure early seventies LA albums by the likes of Terry Melcher and Gene Clark with the mock orchestral opening perhaps lampooning the string arrangements that were usually present. The song has a fine sense of drama and some fine pedal steel from Ricky Ray Jackson. The pedal steel indeed snakes throughout the album but not in a country sense, much more like the colourings added to late sixties, early seventies rock bands like The Grateful Dead or even the Stones.
On his webpage Brecht ponders the Dylan comparison’s he has evoked stating “I wanted to make a record that sounded like an acoustic social club that toured by freight train in 1922.” However there’s no getting away from the comparison when listening to Don’t take It So Hard which contains the very essence of Dylan in his pre motorcycle crash days. An excellent song. Brecht doesn’t sound like Dylan nor does he even try to but the music and the delivery are in thrall to that time. As good as this is Brecht gets even better with Blue Thunder, a song that is epic and understated at the same time with muffled percussion and crashing waves of sound.
Although the band excel throughout the album the stars of the show are Brecht’s lyrics and vocals. He inhabits a space vocally that is worn and weary, an old head on young shoulders. His words reference writers and poets, are reminiscent of Ansel Adams’ landscapes and find poetry in everyday circumstances.
Why Brecht is not better known is a mystery but it’s early days yet and he has the potential to leap into at least minor stardom. Whether he wants that or not is another matter. On his website he offers trenchant thought on his albums, his music and life in general and overall has a fine handle on his life.
Thoroughly recommended for anyone interested in Americana music.


Chris Brecht and Dead Flowers-Don’t Take It So hard by paulk


Lucky Bones. Together We Are All Alone

A vehicle for Irish songwriter Eamonn O’Connor, Lucky Bones are now a bona fide band but this album was recorded by him with local musicians in Texas after he met producer Stephen Ceresia while touring. Overall it’s a fine collection that showcases O’Connor’s writing that is poetic to read and sits well within the songs. However the variety of styles on show here leads to a sense that he has still to find his own métier. There is Americana, delivered on the opening title song which is a jaunty road trip with banjo and fiddle well to the fore and Longshot which has a power pop jangle and a driving rhythm. Elsewhere Stand So Tall is a smoky tale of a mysterious femme from New Orleans and has a fine mellifluous guitar sound which is used again on Frank Sinatra, a ballad which verges on the lachrymose and which, despite the stark Carveresque lyric almost blunders into bland James Blunt territory.
Two songs stand out. Magnificent Mistake marries O’Connor’s Irish sensibilities with the cool, laid back delivery of the late Gene Clark to the extent that I had to check to see that it wasn’t a cover of a Clark song. It isn’t. O’Connor follows this up with Unbelieving Eyes, a harrowing tale of a pointless murder, delivered with a passion and the tune of which seems to be based on the Times They are A Changin’. More of this and we would have a much more interesting album.


Lucky Bones-Unbelieving Eyes by paulk

Hank Woji. There Was A Time.

Back to basics with this one. There Comes A Time is a great example of Texan troubadouring. With Woji channelling the greats including Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Woody Guthrie this is a fine rootsy album that digs into the past with an excellent version of Deep Ellum Blues and brings things bang up to date with The Ballad of Bernie, a song about the disgraced Ponzi fraud felon. From the opening Warm East Texas Rain to the closing My Last Ole Dollar Wolji delivers the goods. Anyone who digs acoustic Earle, John Prine or Butch Hancock will find much here to whet their whistle. Woji has the required (and attractive) weathered voice, the guitars and harmonica sweep all before them and his writing is well above par. The aforementioned Ballad Of Bernie would sit well on a John Prine album with Wolji turning in a humorous and topical observation with some panache. No One To Talk To shows another gentler side, a gorgeous and gentle lovelorn snapshot. Well recommended.


Hank Wolji- The ballad of Bernie by paulk

Sarah McClurg. Tennessee Rain.

Ms. McClurg is one of those ballsy female singers who hails from a country background but delivers her goods with a rock attitude. The danger here is that Nashville has cottoned on to this and McClurg occasionally dances dangerously to the edge on this album with a few of the songs coming across as so much AOR fodder. Overall however the scales tip in her favour. The title song is gutsy while Little More Highway is a classic crash between a road song and a lost relationship tale. Out of Nowhere has some gutsy guitar and it’s fair to say that throughout the album the guitarists excel along with the legendary Al Perkins on pedal steel. There’s a Rolling Stones touch in the raunchy Home Is Where You Are while Sunday Morning swirls with organ and jumbled guitars to produce a great Southern soul sound. The best song on the album however is the closer Tumbleweed which resembles classic early seventies country rock with piano well to the fore while the guitars grumble and growl.
Ms. McClurg is currently touring the UK and appears at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry on February 20th.


Sarah McClurg- Home Is Where You are by paulk

Molecules, planets and Ian Hunter – A conversation with Howe Gelb

When Giant Sand played Celtic Connections Blabber’n’Smoke was fortunate enough to spend some time with Howe Gelb courtesy of Maverick magazine. After the band’s soundcheck at the ABC we found a quiet space in the CCA along the road where Howe spoke at some length on various topics. The Maverick piece was for a short feature on the band and the current re releases and will be in the March edition. In the meantime here’s some of the other topics we discussed.

The interview took place less than a week after the Tucson shootings and Howe was obviously affected by this. Initially he spoke about Gabby Giffords and his reflections on Barak Obama’s visit and speech in Tucson thereafter. This led us into some talk about his on line journal where he had reported on Obama’s visit and I asked him first of all if he had any thoughts on further writing, a book or some such.

“If I do it might be somewhere hidden in the tour journals but I don’t know if it would be a book I would want to read. That’s the problem and with the tour journals nothing is more banal or boring or routine than a tour journal so that’s why I allow that challenge to attempt to make the writing leaner and entertaining because it’s virtually the same thing every day. And you know when you’re younger you get into more trouble, you don’t know what will happen, you just go off in all kind of directions and its more lusty but when you’re older you kinda know what’s going to happen, so you’re wise enough to avoid that. So therefore the challenge is to make that writing in any way easier to swallow. I don’t know if my writing is clear enough so that folk understand what I’m saying and I don’t want to overindulge either and I also hate being the main subject matter, just that its convenient. That’s all because you’re aware of yourself mostly but then you’re still trying to step out of it now. It somehow has to relate to the world or other people. If you go by the fact that you’re a character read only by a fan base then you’re failing as a writer but if you make it so anyone can read it then it’s a good exercise.”

Have you read Ian hunters diary, a lot of it is about very humdrum day to day stuff

“Yeah, I only read it a year or two ago. I found it in John Parish’s house and I read it and it finishes with a show in Pennsylvania that I saw. I still remember that show, they opened for Edgar Winter and it’s really interesting now being in a similar situation as that guy. The full circle of him going to a gig and all of the stuff you put up with and then going to that gig in Scranton Pennsylvania.”

Half the time he’s most interested in whether the hairdryer’s working.

“He’s really a sensible cool guy in there way more than……. I don’t know. It sounded like it could happen today, the way he thinks and the way he went about things, I guess his values were sound. I saw them twice in Pennsylvania the second time they were headlining, I was 16 then, first time, 15, around 72. He said something about this in the book. First time they were opening for people, Edgar Winter had that hit Frankenstein and he was playing all those instruments on stage running around. But beforehand Mott the Hoople came out and man, for all these kids in Pennsylvania, to see those guys with those huge heels and those guitars and all those crazy shapes and shit it was fantastic. The next time I saw them, it was the same year I think ‘cos I don’t think I was able to drive yet. This was after the flood, the flood was in 72, they cleaned up after the flood so I went back there. I was there with my girlfriend and I remember it got so crowded some poor kid got pushed through the glass doors and the doors opened and my girlfriend lost her shoes and there was glass everywhere so I had to pick her up. It was all very exciting. And then the opening band was Queen and no one had ever heard of them, Brian May blew my mind that night, I kept thinking this was what Jimi Hendrix must have been like, the guy was amazing.”

Well some folk go all out for rock’n’ roll. Is that sad or silly?

“No, its necessary, I’m not sure why. It’s like some kind of sonic church where you don’t have to commit. It’s really without perimeters, it will embrace you if you want to embrace it but its not demanding at all. When you feel the surge of all those people, all that energy. And then reflecting off the people that are making the music back to the people who are sending it back to the band that’s when its at its best. And the people who are making the music are the same as the people in the crowd but they just found a way of crafting their workload the same as any carpenter or tradesman. The side effect of fame could be entertaining in itself but it could also just get in the way of the workload, there’s many trappings that can take you out of the game. ”

Well in the last two years we had the sad deaths of Vic Chesnutt and Mark Linkhouse

“Yeah there was also Jim Dickinson and Alex Chilton.”

Chilton was huge in Glasgow

“He was amazing, I only saw him live one time, we played with him in this tiny village in Italy and the way he constructed his songs was unlike anyone, really old school, a dying art. It was really cool how he set his melody outside of the box of the chords and songs and rhythms they used.”

Is that not something you do?

“No I wish, his was specific, mine is really non-specific.”

Well an album like Flies on Sherbet was primitive, not polished. not hit song after hit song. Some of your albums have been criticised for snippets of sound, sonic tomfoolery. Neither of you were looking for a number one hit.

“I don’t see anything in common but that’s OK if you do ‘cos the whole idea of any of this stuff is you put it out there. Just going by your own gut instinct and you’re trying to hand down something you think is good that someone else hasn’t got wind of yet. That’s how it seemed like it was when I was receiving that information from people when I was growing up and so when I didn’t get enough of it so I tried to overcompensate. Get more of it and that sustains a lot of the music, all those bits and pieces but there’s not enough time. Always seems like there’s never enough time. There’s all this stuff and I want to give all this stuff to as many people as possible in as little time as possible and that’s been what’s been dogging me since the get go. Especially as I thought when I was 28 and finally making a record that this should have happened four or five years before and now I got to catch up. There’s less time than I thought I had. Coming up with material never seemed to be a problem but within that material I wanted to season it with as many elements as possible that I thought was good, even if it was smaller moments and then switch it to this other thing. It wasn’t until way later that people started saying it was weird or all over the place or if I had any sense of where I was slotting in category wise. Its not what I call weird or strange so sometimes I pause to think about why people do but I don’t want to speculate. Doesn’t matter what I think.”

Well most folk expect an album to have twelve songs.

“If you take yourself way outside the orbit of a song, you know the orbit of a song can be molecular, could be as small as an atom especially in your world because your world is so cluttered with other stuff. So when you do hear a song it has to cut through all this other stuff. When you hear a song simply constructed with a chorus that you can hum by the second time you hear it now you’re involved with it, its allowing you in. If by the end if the song it seems shorter than it really was that’s a good sign, its easily and readily digestible and you want more. But if you look at it most of my stuff doesn’t do that. Because it’s molecular. It’s not as big as the universe. With the molecular stuff it’s the same thing goin’ on but just by application you have to go into the molecule, you’re not already in the molecule like you’re in the solar system. You got to now go into the molecule and if have the luxury of time to check out what’s happening then it will be just as effective. The bottom line, the end result is most people, the molecule whizzes by them . They don’t have the time or why should they dive into that thing when everything they need is going to hit them over the head like a solar system anyway. Waiting for a planet to hit them on the head.”

At that we had to call it a day as showtime was beckoning. The gig was tremendous with blistering renditions of older Giant Sand songs and some rip-roaring stuff from the latest album, Blue Blurry Mountain. On stage Gelb continued to be the gentleman, wooing the crowd with his unique mannerisms and elegant language. A fine night.