When the venerable Vercher boys let me know recently that things were drawing to a hard stop for this site, I can’t say that I was entirely shocked, because a) they’d made it clear, even publicly, that tending to this work was beginning to demand drastic amounts of time they’d not quite expected, a real issue for daily bloggers and site editors alike and because b) for music reporting and commentary of virtually all varieties, it’s pretty tough all over these days. This ending things just keeps on happening. So I’m unshocked—but as one of the oldest country lyrics of them all would put it, going down this road’s got me feeling bad.
I do believe that The 9513 has been providing a service that’s genuinely unique, a place where country music of any stripe—yet with contemporary mainstream country very much included, respected, and featured among those ranks—could be reported on, taken seriously enough to be subject to criticism, and provided along with an open invitation for intelligent discussion.
The invitation has often been excitingly well taken, and sometimes, it could seem, only half-taken, since a site as fundamentally open as this one has been leaves itself open to serial posting by a few who make caustic, belligerent, or allegedly clever pokes at anybody else bothering to write or comment thoughtfully their personal sport, and say so. (Not that you couldn’t tell who they are, anyhow, because sooner or later they always get around to suggesting that it’s the site-hired writers who have “ego” issues, and not perhaps obsessive self-appointed snark mongers themselves.)
Sometimes we have to do things that suck, and unfortunately, today is one of those times. Brady and I decided to retire The 9513. Yep, big time suck.
Believe me, it was a hard decision, and one I wish we didn’t have to make, but I could hardly find the time to write this announcement, and that’s the crux of this decision. We have high standards, and operating a site to those standards is a full-time job in itself. As our time became more and more monopolized by our other job (we’re self-employed), our performance here suffered. You probably saw signs with the decrease in news roundups and number of articles per day. So instead of continuing to offer something of diminished value, we felt like it was time to hang up our publisher gloves.The passion for the music is still there. The desire to share the quality stuff is still there, but for now, the resources aren’t.
That means we gonna have to continue on, make room for somebody else. – Hank Williams
With that said, I’d like to extend a thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read, comment or email us over the past few years for helping us build something that I believe was valuable, informative, and at times entertaining.
When I mentioned diminished value above, that was solely in reference to mine and Brady’s performance. I’m proud to say that the quality of writing only improved over time, so a very special thanks goes out to all our writers, beginning with Matt C. and Jim Malec on through to our current staff: Blake Boldt, Barry Mazor, Chris Neal, C.M. Wilcox, Drew Kennedy, Janet Goodman, Juli Thanki, Karlie Justus, Ken Morton, Jr., Paul W. Dennis, Pierce Greenberg, Sam Gazdziak and Stephen Deusner.
Lastly, file this under things that don’t suck: Barry Mazor — despite being all kinds of busy himself — was kind enough to write a closing column here.
As one-half of the famed rock-pop duo Hall & Oates, John Oates has sold millions of records, toured around the world, won numerous awards and is a member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Despite all the accolades, however, not many people are aware of his background and the music that inspired him to become a musician in the first place. His new album, Mississippi Mile, aims to change that.
Released this month on Elektra Nashville/Phunk Shui, Mississippi Mile finds Oates doing his take on classic songs from the likes of Elvis Presley, Curtis Mayfield and Chuck Berry, as well as traditional folk songs like “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” and “He Was a Friend of Mind.” Oates and co-producer Mike Henderson assembled an all-star band, including Bekka Bramlett, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas and recorded much of the album live in the studio.
Oates says that his original intent was to record some songs he loved growing up. As he began putting the album together, he realized that he was creating somewhat of a musical autobiography.
“I realized that people didn’t know a lot about me from before Hall & Oates–if I started playing guitar the day I met Daryl or what,” he says. “The truth of the matter, I was playing for 12 or 13 years before I met him, in bands or by myself on the folk circuit.”
One of the important things to Oates in making this album was to add a little bit of himself to each of the songs while still paying tribute to the original. His take on “All Shook Up,” for example, is a bluesier, grittier version than the Elvis version.
There’s been a lot of news around technology lately centered around music cloud services from Amazon, Apple and Google.
Amazon won the race in launching first, bringing cloud services to its users in early April. Labels weren’t happy, as the company didn’t secure new licensing; instead, Amazon said the service did not need licenses since the music already belonged to the users.
Now, Google and Apple are playing catch up, with Apple in the lead according to Reuters. But as the race continues, the common theme of labels’ resistance is playing out across the board. Wayne Russo’s Wayne’s World blog posted the rumor that Google may soon join Amazon’s disregard of licensing:
I’m told that this is when the idea of launching without licenses came up. Google may be starting to think that if the industry weren’t going to sue Amazon, then why would they take on Google? After all, who needs whom the most in this scenario? Could you even wrap your brain around the legal costs? As a source pointed out to me, “Larry, Serge and Eric could buy the entire music industry with their personal money”.
Over on Glyn Moody’s Open… blog, the blogger posed this question in response to the rumor:
But that throwaway comment also raises another interesting idea: how about if Google *did* buy the music industry? That would solve its licensing problems at a stroke. Of course, the anti-trust authorities around the world would definitely have something to say about this, so it might be necessary to tweak the idea a little.
How about if a consortium of leading Internet companies – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Baidu, Amazon etc. – jointly bought the entire music industry, and promised to license its content to anyone on a non-discriminatory basis?
At the very least, the idea ought to send a shiver down the spine of the fat-cats currently running the record labels, and encourage them to stop whining so much just in case they make the thought of firing them all too attractive to the people whose lives they are currently making an utter misery….
Give us your take – what do you think about the new cloud music services? Have you been using Amazon’s version, and has it improved your way of consuming music digitally?
And what about Moody’s questions – do you see the major labels and these giant technology music providers working together?
According to myth and folklore, some 170 years ago, a hero was born with a hammer in his hand. John Henry was a mountain of a man who developed a specialty of driving railroad steel. When the railroad owner had the foreman bring a steam-powered hammer to do the work, John Henry challenged the owner to a contest. John Henry bet his life for the jobs of his fellow black driving crew. He raced the steam hammer alone through a mountain. In the end, John Henry beat the machine, but exhausted, collapsed and dies.
Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe sings about the folk hero in “Nine Pound Hammer:” “That nine pound hammer that killed John Henry/Ain’t a gonna kill me, ain’t a gonna kill me.”
My kids were watching the Disney channel this past week and saw an animated short about John Henry hosted by James Earl Jones. It got me thinking about the similarities between John Henry’s tale and the current state of the music business. Our music heroes are trying to carve out a living just like John Henry was. In their case, it’s selling their music. In our modern story, the railroad owner could be Steve Jobs. The steam-powered hammer could be compared to iTunes. Instead of the death of man-powered railroad tie-laying, this modern story tells of the tale of the death of the album. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it does bring about this week’s Friday Five–five songs about John Henry.
The sheer joy and enthusiasm that permeates every nook and cranny of The Blind Boys of Alabama’s new album launches full-throttle in its opening seconds, seamlessly combining a breathless, preaching testimony, crisply powerful harmonies and an instrumental backing that could have been pulled from classic Merle Haggard standards.
And it’s every bit as wonderful as that sounds.
In fact, the star-studded affair–even the legendary George Jones couldn’t stay away, attending recording sessions alongside Bill Anderson–produces one of the strongest collisions of genres in recent history, combining deliciously rebellious licks of steel guitar and meandering honky-tonk arrangements with goosebump-inducing harmonies and meaty statements about faith, hope and heaven.
The project grew out of founding member Jimmy Carter’s love for country music, and marks a detour from the classic, old-school gospel the Blind Boys made its name on. The Grammy Award-winning group first came together in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, and is now made up of vocalists Carter, Bishop Billy Bowers and Ben Moore, and musicians Eric “Ricky” McKinnie, Joey Williams, Tracy Pierce and Peter Levin.
The idea behind Take The High Road hit full-gear when the group met and performed with fellow Alabama native Jamey Johnson at the 2010 Alabama Music Hall of Fame inductions. Johnson signed on as co-producer (sharing duties with long-time Blind Boys producer Chris Goldsmith and musicians Chad Cromwell and Kevin Grantt) and brought his trademark catch-all recording style to the album, stripping down the wall between recording studio and listening room.
There was no pre-production or rehearsals for the album, and it shows: There are “Amens!,” arrangement discussions, intro countdowns and guitar riff samples, and the result is a participatory effect that places listeners in a church revival at Tootsie’s bar with a congregation of legendary musicians. (Perhaps for good reason – Johnson actually took the Blind Boys on a tour of Nashville hotspots, including the famous Broadway joint where the group ended up onstage.)
Here, that congregation is made up of Nashville heavy-hitters The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Ann Womack, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, and Hank Williams, Jr., who join Johnson as musical guests. They all bring something unique and fresh from their country backgrounds, but still possess the prerequisite levels of soul and reverence needed to match the Blind Boys.
These collaborations work staggeringly well in their own ways: Lead-off track and single “Take the High Road” demands attention, combining the harmonies of the Blind Boys with the Oak Ridge Boys. That energy is matched on both “I Was a Burden,” where lone female Womack denounces former addictions to “dope, whiskey and wine” to the strains of a triumphant steel solo, and Gill’s “Can You Give Me a Drink?” It’s the loosest song of the bunch, grooving its way through a first-person account of Jesus’ search for a good Samaritan, to a beat that would have had Elvis’ hips twitching.
Conversely, two of the most attention-grabbing collaborative tracks are also its quietest moments. Johnson delivers an intimate rendition of “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” that builds to a powerful ending. The similarly hushed and acoustic take on Willie Nelson’s own song “Family Bible” layers the heft of the Blind Boys’ harmonies over Nelson’s famous phrasing.
And while these tracks will receive the most attention, the Blind Boys are just as at ease on its solo efforts. While most follow a pattern of acoustic gospel harmonies that transition into funky steel, piano and harmonica-laced country arrangements, the standout “I Know a Place” is buoyed simply by its own convictions and the quiet arrangement that spotlights its central proclamation “I am certain, for the Lord told me so.”
The one misstep on the album comes on its last track, when the energy of the first twelve songs dips after Hank Williams, Jr. turns his father’s “I Saw the Light” into an exuberant romp. The steel guitar races up and down, seemingly as excited about the spiritual epiphany as the vocalists themselves. His Bocephus twang wraps perfectly around the down and dirty exclamations of “I saw the light,” making it one of the brightest spots on the album. It would be a fitting ending, but closer “The Last Mile of the Way” robs it of that title and quietly drags the album to an end.
Regardless, the cumulative effect up to those final moments on Take The High Road is at once majestic and humbling. Just as the rough-hewn edges of Johnson and company’s production choices contrast well with the lofty subject matter, the country and gospel genres make for a natural pairing. After all, Saturday night and Sunday morning are only a few hours apart.
Ignore the artwork and poor online presence for a second and listen.
“Clinch Mountain Hills” (a tribute to the Stanley Brothers)
“I hear Carter Stanley & Larry Sparks influences here. There’s also an unmistakable Jamey Johnson, Waylon-esque quality to this stuff, and I believe either of those titans would have been right at home with these great songs.” — Larry Cordle
By now, there’s not a recording artist, country or otherwise, who hasn’t heard that we’re in a new era — fundamentally, a singles era. They’ve all heard how CD album chart leaders are topping those charts with lower sales figures than anyone can remember. And they’ve all heard horror stories (as have followers of The 9513, for that matter) of new artists having a single or two released along with a label’s suggestion or promise that the album they’ve recorded will follow, only to find that the finished CD never sees the light of day. And yet, I can’t help but notice, artists persist in aspiring to make albums, go ahead and make them, and hope to see them reach their audience. Most who this applies to are not playing in, and may not even want to play in, the Super-Holy Cow-Multi-Platinum Crapshoot league, so no; the album impulse is not just about selling and making millions. As some quality new and upcoming releases remind me, there are plenty of reasons artists still choose to focus on albums—and they’re perfectly good reasons.
Take, for instance, It’s Already Tomorrow, the first new album from the mighty Foster & Lloyd in a mere 21 years, set for release digitally on April 26th and on physical CD on May 27th (on the sweetly named “Effin ‘Ell” label, which sounds like a nod to their British Invasion pop-flavored side). There may be a little of “we’re album-era guys, and we think in terms of albums” at work there, though Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd are no strangers to hit country singles. But this is an album that, in its entirety, accomplishes something else. It stakes a claim; namely, that this pair’s got the voices, instrumental chops, chemistry together and song-making ability they’d always had, and, except for the pesky fact that times are different, they’re ready to proceed as engagingly and memorably as in their big label heyday together. Trust me, the record shows that this is exactly so.
Bluegrass and Dixieland jazz may, upon first glance, seem rather different from one another, but they do have several common traits, such as a shared love of improvisation. In addition, as their names suggest, both genres grew out of specific regions and remain linked to those regions and their people. These shared characteristics are part of why the Del McCoury Band and Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s collaboration is such a wonderful listening experience as the two groups explore their musical traditions and find common ground. It’s also because the entire album sounds as though the musicians are having so much fun that the listener can’t help but be pulled along.
The Del McCoury Band and Preservation Hall Jazz Band collaborated before, on a track for a benefit record. Here, they once more blend their sounds, bringing Bourbon Street to the Blue Grass State on a dozen tracks both old and new. The Hank Williams classic “Jambalaya” is served up so wonderfully that you can almost taste the crawfish pie and filé gumbo as Del’s singing soars over the impeccable PHJB horns (courtesy of Mark Braud, Charlie Gabriel, Clint Maedgen, Frank Demond, and Ben Jaffe) and son Ronnie’s mandolin. Classic jazz gets some love too, with a raucous version of the standard “Milenberg Joys,” which has been recorded (under slightly different song titles) by artists like the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Jelly Roll Morton, and, well, Bill Monroe. Spiritual songs, another shared element of both forms of music, is explored on the joyfully noisy “I’ll Fly Away,” on which McCoury’s high lonesome voice alternates with saxophonist Clint Maedgen’s soulful vocals that sound straight from a church pew.
The banjo—whether it’s a tenor banjo or the five-string—is no stranger to jazz, and the banjo work on American Legacies is one of its high points. Rob McCoury is joined on a handful of tracks by Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Carl LeBlanc, a skilled musician who has played with artists like Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint. On the rollicking instrumental “Banjo Frisco” (composed by Del), Rob and Carl intricately weave their way through horns and piano; it’s a good-natured toetapper, and banjo geeks should thrill at the chance to hear those two men on a recording together.
Every song on American Legacies is simply delightful. The strength of the music as well as the uniqueness of this collaboration between two bands that are at the top of their respective fields, makes the record a must-listen as well as a frontrunner for Musical Event of the Year. Might your more hardcore traditionalists of either genre raise a few objections to American Legacies? Perhaps. But as Pres. Hall’s Clint Maedgen sings in the album opener, the bands “came to play/Sweep up the ashes/Get out the way.”
- Jack Hanford: For those who are interested, there is a new 90-minute documentary video about Tompall & the Glaser Brothers on DVD ...
- joe morris: how come nobody mentions his fan club which started 1950 and was called the " the penny pushers " which ...
- jane: I'm reading this article in 2013 and I've yet to hear anything from the album played on the radio.....
- Catwandy: I guess Matt C. is eating his well-deserved crow 'bout now. Critics....gotta love 'em , bless their little hearts.
- Ed McClendon: Saw the brothers in Greeley CO on the occasion of Tompall's 50th birthday. The show wasn't well promoted and there ...
- Roby Fox: I'm sure no one else will know, or even care about this little tidbit of trivia. "Keep Your Change" was ...
- kate wonders: Roni Stoneman is still on Hee Haw every Sunday night on RFD channel.
- Marsha Blades: Tommy, You were so kind to me during a tough time in my life and I don't think I ever ...
- Leona Jones: I seen Chris at the Grand Ole Opry last week.. First time I have heard of him.. He rocked the ...
- Sonicjar Music: Agree with Lucas, But one thing is certain, for a song to come to existence, so many things have to ...