dave rawlings machine

I heard this on Sirius-XM’s The Loft today. There was something familiar about it. Something earthy and 70’s, Eagles and country-tinged Stones (it would make a great Keef tune), maybe some Gram Parsons… the harmonies seemed familiar too.

It was the Dave Rawlings Machine. The song was “Ruby”. And by the end I was singing along to the great harmonies. Looking DRM up tonight, I found that Dave Rawlins has worked extensively with Gillian Welch and Old Crow Medicine Show. In fact, that’s why the harmonies sounded familiar – it’s OCMS providing them.

Check it out.

Dave Rawlings Machine: Ruby (mp3)

Buy A Friend of a Friend

Visit DRM’s Site.

Review: Works Progress Administration, “WPA”

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Glen Phillips’ brand of Southern California folk-rock has always flirted on the edge of its bluegrass and country and western roots. In the years since Toad the Wet Sprocket closed up shop, his songwriting has danced closer and closer to those roots, and with 2000’s Mutual Admiration Society – pairing Phillips with members of Nickel Creek – it seemed to come to the forefront. Taking that collaborative spirit to the next level, Works Progress Administration consists of Phillips and his MAS cohorts Sean and Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek, Fiction Family) with Luke Bulla (Jerry Douglas Band, Lyle Lovett), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Greg Leisz (Joni Mitchell, Bill Frisell), Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello and the Imposters).

The group’s debut record, WPA, is a slice of modern Americana with strong pop sensibilities. Recorded over the course of five days, the recording itself feels very alive and immediate thanks to the production of Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty). There is a dynamic that showcases the collective beautifully and shines a light on the real star of the show: the 12 well crafted songs that make up the album.

”Always Have My Love” is easily one of the strongest tunes that Phillips has written in the past 10 years. It’s followed by the equally stellar “Good as Ever”, with Sara Watkins providing her angelic voice to bolster Glen’s vocal. Sara takes the lead for the gut-wrenching cover of Ray Davies’ “I Go to Sleep”.  As strong as these songs are, “I Could End This Now” (mp3) is easily my favorite track of the bunch. It manages to take the bluegrass mélange and adds just a touch of soul resulting in a stormy mid-tempo ballad.

WPA is not without its faults. The rave-up of “Paralyzed” and the hoedown of “Wedding or a Wake” seem awkward by comparison to the rest of the material. The record’s lowest moments come at the plodding “Who’s Gonna Cry for You” and “Remember Well”. Despite these small missteps, this record is a must for fans of the group’s respective origins.

Buy WPA: Amazon

Links: Official Site | on Last.fm | on MySpace | on Facebook | on Twitter

On Tour: Works Progress Administration

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The music collective known as Works Progress Administration is heading out on tour to support their self-titled debut, which is to be released on September 15th.

At the core of Works Progress Administration (or WPA, for short) is the trio of ‘Founding Directors’ Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket), Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek, Fiction Family) and Luke Bulla (Jerry Douglas Band, Lyle Lovett). In addition to the base is the group of ‘Executive Board Members’ consisting of Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Greg Leisz (Joni Mitchell, Bill Frizell), Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello and the Imposters). The collective explains the origin of their name…

Works Progress Administration takes its name from FDR’s 1939 New Deal initiative, which put millions to work making buildings, bridges, theater, art and music. The original WPA was rooted in the values of community and creativity, and helped to keep the fire of human dignity burning through the darkest years of the Great Imposters.

Eschewing the usual “supergroup” clichés, WPA appears to be a truly community driven project with collaboration at every level. Vocal duties are shared across the board with each core member contributing lead vocals. The lead-off track “Always Have My Love” is an catchy uptempo number featuring Phillips lead vocals and layers upon layers of fiddles and pedal steel that give the track a depth that can sometimes be lacking in modern Bluegrass / Alt-Country recordings.

You can download “Always Have My Love” at the groups official site for the price of an email address (link)

Links: Official Site | on Last.fm | on MySpace | on Facebook | on Twitter

Click through for the groups tour dates…

Continue reading “On Tour: Works Progress Administration”

Video: Old Californio – “Chilao”

I stumbled upon Old Californio’s YouTube page tonight, and they just uploaded a bunch of sweet video action from a recent in-studio performance at SoCal’s KPFK.

If you don’t have their Westering Again album, which came out earlier this year, youse a fool baby. Buy It.

Here’s a kickass tune called “Chilao” which isn’t on the album but I sure wish it was! It sums up everything I love about these guys: the earthy Southwest vibe, the unique arrangements and instrumentation… Gah! I love ’em!

Ick’s Pick: Gina Villalobos

Okay, as the story goes around here, it’s not too often that I gravitate toward female singers – but I do have my favorites: the Patty Griffins and the Lucindas, and some good finds the last few years with artists like Mary Gauthier and Girl in a Coma (badass ladies)… and God bless her, despite all her troubles, Amy Winehouse is such an amazing talent.

We can tack another one to the list – another female singer-songwriter who will receive a permanent spot in my iTunes library: her name is Gina Villalobos.

A California native, Gina’s well known in CA’s folk / alt-country / Americana set – and she just released her 4th CD this week: Days On Their Side. Gina’s got a killer voice. She’s got the sweet tone of a Sheryl Crow, but with a sandy, relaxed disposition like Lucinda Williams. Laid back, and really pleasant to the ears.

I’m finding the album surprisingly strong – great hooks, strong, talented players, and the showcase: Gina’s sweet n’ scratchy vocals.

Standout tracks: “String It Out”, “Take a Beating”, “Crazy”, and…

Listen: Sun In My Eyes (mp3)

Buy: Days On Their Side

Visit: Official Site | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter

Ick’s Pick: Deer Tick’s Born on Flag Day

Deer Tick is a band that I tracked down because of all the buzz – on the blogs, on Twitter, in the pages of Rolling Stone. I guess I assumed they’d be too “indie” for my tastes, but never judge a book by its cover. What I found instead is the best damn country album I’ve heard all year. No, not Country with a capital C, but country in a raw, dirty, gritty sense – stripped down and real.

The deal sealer for me is the raspy voice of one John Joseph McCauley III. Yeah, I’m a fan of the raspy voiced singers – the Bruces, the Prines, the Earles (and add to the list lately Mr. Ryan Bingham). So hearing a new band that plays with some kick and some twang, with a lead singer that’s anything but smooth & polished – but rough around the edges – that’s always what I’m happy to find.

McCauley and his band mates are only in their early 20’s – but the feel of their latest record, Born on Flag Day, sure doesn’t sound like it came from a bunch of guys fresh out of their teens.

With new music, you tend to have those “oh, this sounds like ___” moments – and this record certainly does have its derivative moments: “Houston, TX” has a bass line reminiscent of the Dead’s “Friend of the Devil”. “Song About A Man” brings Dylan to mind. And the gorgeous 60’s style ballad “Stung” sounds like a country cousin of “You Belong To Me” – if the cousin drank whiskey and raised hell.

There are a lot of standout moments for me on this album…

The opener, and maybe the most “mainstream” of the songs, is “Easy”. Feedback gives way to a twangy guitar solo, the first verse, and lets loose with an explosive chorus: “And you don’t know how easy it is / No you don’t know how easy it is / You were never there/ No never there”.

The late night tavern feel of “Little White Lies” – starting off with a slow tempo, the lazy pedal steel, and launching into an uptempo stomper. Great harmonies by Liz Isenberg.

“Friday XIII”, a catchy shuffle of a tune with some great vocal tradeoffs between McCauley and Isenberg – that traditional banter a la classic Johnny and June Carter Cash. The effects on McCauley’s vocals make me visualize one of those classic old mics from the Elvis days. In fact, those vocal effects show up throughout the album. Sort of a distant echo.

“The Ghost” has one of the more classic country vibes. The rhythm and vocal delivery are punchy and fun. One of my favorites right now…

Hidden in the latter half of the last track, “Stung”, is an intimate, impromptu version of “Good Night Irene” (starting around the 6:00 mark). Beer cans are crackin’, rowdy friends are hollerin’… but the by end, everyone’s singing along, enjoying themselves – and McCauley has them right where he wants them. A lot like the album…

Hear: The Ghost (mp3)

Buy this album: Born On Flag Day

Randoms:

  • Deer Tick has has been covering John Prine’s “Unwed Fathers” (including this week’s stop in Phoenix, which I missed). And I hear they cover the Boss too.
  • I think I’ve nailed down McCauley’s voice: a mix between Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers and Serge Bielanko, (formerly) of Marah. Anyone?

Good things from Old Crow Medicine Show

You can count Old Crow Medicine Show among those bands that I like more and more each time I hear them. They may have the “old timey” label affixed to them, but it’s only one facet. The guys  play quintessential American music – folk, rock, bluegrass – and they have a hell of a lot of fun doing it.

On August 18th, OCMS will release their first live DVD, Live at the Orange Peel and Tennessee Theatre. I’ll soon have a copy to give away to one of you fine folks. In the meantime, see this excellent clip from the DVD. Talk about a loose band having a good time together. This is live music…

This one’s called “Down Home Girl”..

You can catch up with the guys at their Official Site.

And get this, they’re launching the Big Surprise Tour on August 4th, along with The Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, and the Dave Rawlings Machine (feat. Gillian Welch). Now that’s a traveling show. These are the dates so far. Hopefully they’ll creep their way west…

AUGUST 2009

04 – Hampton Beach, NH @ Casino Ballroom
05 – Boston, MA @ House Of Blues
06 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre
07 – Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory
09 – Charlottesville, VA @ Charlottesville Pavilion
10 – Cary, NC @ Koka Booth Amphitheatre
12 – Louisville, KY @ Waterfront Park
13 – Nashville, TN @ Riverfront Park
14 – Knoxville, TN @ World’s Fair Park

You can also catch them later this month opening for the Dave Matthews Band along the Eastern seaboard.

New Tunes: Ted Russell Kamp

I would call playing bass for Shooter Jennings a pretty cool gig. Touring the country, laying down the bass lines for Shooter’s rowdy rockin’ brand of country. But does Ted Russell Kamp rest on his laurels? Helll nooo. His brain’s a buzzing with all sorts of cool tunes, and he’s been busy in his Southern California headquarters recording his own albums, writing his own songs, and making some extra scratch as an in-demand session player.

Poor Man’s Paradise
looks like Ted’s 5th studio album (based on his AllMusic discography). Truth be told, a few of the songs are a tad cliche for my tastes (“Just a Yesterday Away”, “Let the Rain Fall Down”). But the strong ones make up for it. Leading the pack is this slow burner of a tune – “Let Love Do The Rest”. A song for a dark night, driving home from a tavern in the rain, thinking about that person who’s just out of reach.

Give me a Hammond B3 and a forlorn ballad and I’m a happy man.

Listen: Let Love Do The Rest (mp3)

Buy: Poor Mans Paradise

Visit: Ted’s Official Site | MySpace

Steve Earle Album Cover and Letterman Appearance

A week before the Boss drops his Magic on us, Steve Earle’s new album, Washington Square Serenade, will be released (Sept. 25th).

Steve will be appearing on Letterman Thursday night (Aug. 23rd) to perform “City of Immigrants” from the new record. Look for some YouTube action here soon after. [UPDATE: Video is here.]

Preorder Washington Square Serenade.

You can hear “City of Immigrants” over on Steve’s new MySpace page.