Tasteful and bittersweet guitar playing make Steven Palmer’s ‘Morning Road’ glow

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Steven Palmer/Morning Road

The title is apt because, if you’re traveling for an extended period of time, Steven Palmer’s Morning Road is what you want playing in your car. There are miles in Palmer’s voice; you can almost see the scenery that his mind has captured through the decades of his life. I love how the title track recalls Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” at one point. Is it intentional? Perhaps or maybe unconsciously. Nevertheless, it fits the mood and meaning of the song.

Palmer is no hotshot acoustic gunslinger; this is a man that, if he had started recording albums such as this early in his life, we might be looking at him differently, such as an icon in his autumn years. Palmer’s songwriting and guitar playing are tasteful and bittersweet; each cut is crafted with feeling and poetic flair. The tropical “A Simple Man Needs a Simple Plan” invigorates with a summer glow while Palmer’s cover of Charles Johnson’s “The Dill Pickled Rag” has some stunningly beautiful crystalline riffs. Lovely.

http://www.spmusic.ca

Advertisements

Orchestral touches power Laura Pursell’s new album

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Laura Pursell/Somewhere in this Room

Singer/songwriter Laura Pursell has never been on my radar before but she certainly will be after hearing Somewhere in this Room. Unlike most solo projects, this seems to be more of a collaboration between her and her producer Andrew Bonime, who arranged and co-wrote these lovely songs. In other words, this is no mere folk or acoustic confessional, stripped down to its basic ingredients. Bonime has gifted Pursell as massive lens in which to shoot with. This isn’t just a record a with a girl and a guitar but a girl with the power of an orchestra behind her. Violins, cellos, violas, French horns, saxophones, oboes, and organs complement the basic guitar/bass/drums set-up. Actually, complement is an understatement; they elevate these songs to another level.

Those who prefer the less-is-more standard of today’s pop craftsmanship might be puzzled by all the added instrumentation here, but Pursell and Bonime are reaching for the artistic heights set by the jazz and soul artists of the past when having a Big Band behind you was considered cool. It certainly is a breath of fresh air, and not everything on Somewhere in this Room climbs to such mountainous extremes. The softly melodic “It Might As Well Be Magic” bridges together folk and smooth jazz with subtlety and technical precision while “Skywriting Neon Lights” is reminiscent of Heart’s vintage mellow-yellow dreaminess. The rainy-afternoon melancholy of “My Heart Knows You Were Here” plumbs the depths of Pursell’s heartbroken emotional state after a friend’s suicide. It’ll leave you knocked to the ground.

http://www.somewhereinthisroom.com

Harmonies highlight old-school country album from Amy Gallatin and Roger Williams

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Amy Gallatin and Roger Williams/Something ‘Bout You

What is missing from country music these days? Just about everything that is on Amy Gallatin and Roger Williams’ Something ‘Bout You. You can call me a purist even though my introduction to country music was through the film Urban Cowboy more than 20 years ago. But once you hear the greats – Patsy Cline; Hank Williams, Sr.; Johnny Cash; etc – it’s really hard to stomach the designer jeans stitched by Nashville since achy-breaky hearts were broken in the early ’90s. Gallatin and Williams belong to the old-school country crowd, which is oddly finding a devoted audience amongst indie college kids these days.

For authentic, whiskey-drinking, beef-jerky munching Americana, it doesn’t get any more pure than Something ‘Bout You. There are no slick studio add-ons here, just the melodic voices of Gallatin and Williams accompanied by traditional country instruments such as pedal steel, fiddles, and mandolins. The harmonizing of Gallatin and Williams is delicious to to the ears; on the title track and “I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name,” the duo reach emotional highs and lows with eloquence and heartbreaking drama. The singing alone makes this record one that is highly recommended. However, the music rises to the challenge of capturing the wounded sentiments of its vocalists. Listen to Wayne Benson’s radiant mandolin playing on “Forever Has Come to an End” and tell me that you’re not touched.

http://amygallatin.com

Published in: on March 25, 2008 at 7:19 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Vickie Russell evokes laughs, tears on new album

 

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Vickie Russell/Next

Don’t be fooled by the smiling, innocuous face on the cover; there’s a wicked wit hiding beneath the pop country flavors and Adult Contemporary hooks on Next. More specifically, the title track which is about searching for Mr. Right and, well, sometimes ending up with Ms. Wrong. “Big, blonde and built/You thought he was a steal,” Russell sings playfully. “Then you caught him dancing/In your panties and heels.” Pretty funny stuff, and the kind of song which could leap onto country radio with its hilarious lyrics alone. (Actually, knowing the market quite well, it’d probably take a cover from a popular country act to get it onto the proper airwaves, which is too bad.) That tune alone is worth having this CD. Every woman should be able to relate to it, the frustrations of the dating scene wherein each seemingly good find turns out to be a bust – or even an arsonist.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to peg Vickie Russell as a novelty singer, either. “All the Time” is a moving tale of romantic reconciliation with a sad beginning and a happy ending, breaking away from country music’s soap opera formula of napkin weeping. Russell strays from her country roots, too. The piano-driven, cello-colored “Painted by Monet” showcases some elegant artistry while “Tell Me from Your Heart” recalls early ’80s AM radio Adult Contemporary. On “He’s Your Man Now,” Russell manages to be both humorous and melancholy, simultaneously missing an old flame while warning his new girl about his faults. 

http://www.vickierussell.com

Published in: on March 22, 2008 at 5:39 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Lisa Dudley EP offers heartwarming patriotism with old-school country

 

Reviewed by Carson James

Lisa Dudley/I Believe in America (EP)

To say that Lisa Dudley’s music sounds as if it was released decades ago is an understatement. One track in particular, “Bring ‘Em Home, Lord,” captures the mournful twang of vintage country so well that it gives me flashbacks to an era I never lived through. In other words, like those classic black-and-white films they air on cable TV, “Bring ‘Em Home, Lord” has a haunting time-machine pull. Dudley’s rhythm guitar, Bo Brown’s mandolin and dobro, and Jonathan David Brown’s bass sound as if they’ve just returned from a Patsy Cline recording session. Then there is Dudley’s voice – fragile, sobbing, and filled with Gospel yearning. The shocker is that the performance, the lyrics, and the music are all new. Take it into the context of the Iraq War, and “Bring ‘Em Home, Lord” suddenly hits the world of today.

While the other two cuts on this emotionally stirring EP, the title track and “Twenty-One Guns,” don’t have the retro rush of “Bring ‘Em Home, Lord,” there’s no denying Dudley’s country-gold singing style. Free from the bogus pop seasonings of many of today’s country artists, Dudley returns the genre to its roots with her singing alone. The patriotic bent of this CD might be too sweet and sentimental to youthful cynics, but it is heartwarming and always a joy to listen to.

http://www.lisadudley.com

Published in: on March 9, 2008 at 5:25 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Country artist Dave Dykins mixes new and classic sounds on ‘All Hung Over U’

Reviewed by Jessica Shearer

Dave Dykins/All Hung Over U

Dave Dykins is one of the more commercial artists that you’ll find here in Twang Town; however, at the same time Dykins symbolizes what this site is most affectionate about. Swinging back and forth from classic to young country (whether he is conscious about that, we don’t know), Dykins gives us plenty to cheer about on All Hung Over U. This is an unpretentious, fun record; even when he sings about his woe, you can sense Dykins’ love for the material in every word that pours from his lips.

The witty “Temporary Insanity” jumps from the gate with a ’50s country shuffle. Dykins offers a lively, rowdy performance that will definitely get people on their feet. In live performance, this track must be a firecracker. On “Love Is Blind,” Dykins opts for more of an Americana feel, delivering a midtempo, romantic number with pleasant jangling guitars. “Between Here and Las Vegas” is Dykins’ home run. His deep, dramatic singing in front of the mix, he showcases himself as a country artist that can be held up to today’s Top-40 hitmakers. 

http://davedykins.net

Published in: on December 17, 2007 at 5:28 am  Leave a Comment