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Spring 2017 Select Seven

Welcome to a brand new periodic feature on Roots Rock Review where we will glance at select albums that were recently released.


Moved to Duarte by Les Bohem

Moved to Duarte by Les Bohem

Moved To Duarte is the debut album Les Bohem, an artist with a rich history of songwriting in the Los Angeles music scene and beyond.

Les Bohem online

Les Bohem on Facebook v on Twitter  Les Bohem on Instagram
Les Bohem website
Buy Moved to Duarte


Furnace by Dead Man Winter

Furnace by Dead Man Winter

Minnesota based musician Dave Simonett composes and performs with his latest rock project, Dead Man Winter on the album Furnace.

Dead Man Winter online

Dead Man Winter on Facebook Dead Man Winter on Twitter  Dead Man Winter on Instagram
Dead Man Winter website
Buy Furnace


The Kingdom Belongs To a Child by Cashavelly Morrison

The Kingdom Belongs to a Child by Cashavelly Morrison

Americana-Alt Country artist Cashavelly Morrison made an impressive and award-winning debut album in 2015 with The Kingdom Belongs to a Child.

Cashavelly Morrison online

Cashavelly Morrison on Reverbnation Cashavelly Morrison on Facebook Cashavelly Morrison on Twitter  Cashavelly Morrison on Instagram
Cashavelly Morrison website
Buy The Kingdom Belongs To a Child


Rainmakers by AP Mauro

Rainmakers EP by AP Mauro

Rainmaker features fantastic layered, chiming guitars on top of eclectic songs of emotion by New Jersey based artist AP Mauro.

AP Mauro online

Cashavelly Morrison on Facebook Cashavelly Morrison on Twitter
AP Mauro website
Buy Rainmakers


All For Loving You by Alexis P Suter

All For Loving You by Alexis P Suter Band

The legendary BB King once stated that it was “a rare thing to share the stage with great talent” like Alexis P Suter. All For Loving You is the latest release by the Alexis P Suter Band.

Alexis P Suter online

Alexis P Suter on Reverbnation Alexis P Suter on Facebook Alexis P Suter on Twitter
Alexis P Suter Band website
Buy All For Loving You


Two For the Blues by Generations

Two for the Blues by Generations

Generations is a progressive urban folk group led by the father and son duo of Mike & Aleksi Glick. Their latest release is the impressive album Two for the Blues.

Generations online

Alexis P Suter on Reverbnation Alexis P Suter on Facebook


Maniac World by The Good For Nothin Band

Maniac World by The Good for Nothin’ Band

The Good for Nothin’ Band performs New Orleans jazz like a garage band with just a slight bit of edge. The album Maniac World nicely showcases this unique sound.

The Good for Nothin’ Band online

The Good for Nothin' Band on Facebook
Buy Maniac World


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Roots Rock Review’s look at seven new quality album and EP releases, published on May 21, 2017.

 

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American V: A Hundred Highways
by Johnny Cash

Buy American V: A Hundred Highways

American V: A Hundred Highways by Johnny CashEven though Johnny Cash‘s career spanned nearly 50 years, it is still incredible how prolific of a recording career he had. His posthumous 2006 album, American V: A Hundred Highways, was Cash’s 93rd overall album, 52nd studio album, and (as the title suggests) the 5th in the “American” series with producer Rick Rubin, dating back to the original American Recordings in 1994. As with the previous albums in this series, American V includes a hodge-podge of originals, covers, and a re-recordings of a earlier Cash songs. However this album, which was largely recorded in the months prior to Cash’s death in September 2013, has a chilling vibe of mortality throughout.

After a multi-decade tenure with Columbia Records, Cash was released from his solo recording contract in 1988, although Cash would remain affiliated with the label as a member of the country music super group, The Highwaymen. During the late 80s and early 90s, he tried some new approaches, such as modern recordings of his classic hits as well as a duets album, but none of these caught on commercially. Things changed when Rubin convinced Cash to do some simple, stripped down recordings for his brand new American Recordings label. The result was a Grammy winner for Best Contemporary Folk Album and launched many sequels with slightly different arrangements. The second American Recording album in 1996 paired Cash with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and was another Grammy Award winner. Diagnosed with a degenerative disease in the late nineties, Cash continued to work and tour. Despite damaged lungs, Cash released American III: Solitary Man in 2000 and American IV: The Man Comes Around in 2002.

In May 2003, Johnny’s wife June Carter Cash passed away. Shortly before, she told him to keep working and the wheelchair-bound Cash recorded several dozen songs through the summer of 2003. Following the singer’s death, Rubin meticulously chose the twelve best recordings of Cash’s often strained but always emotional vocals. Later, many session players were brought in to record overdub parts in the slow construction of American V.

Roots Rock Review logoAmerican V: A Hundred Highways by Johnny Cash
Released: July 4, 2006
Produced by: Rick Rubin
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Help Me
Like the 309
If You Could Read My Mind
Further On Up the Road
On the Evening Train
I Came to Believe
Love’s Been Good to Me
A Legend in My Time
Rose of My Heart
Four Strong Winds
I’m Free from the Chain Gang Now
Johnny Cash
Lead Vocals, Guitars
Smokey Hormel
Guitars
Larry Perkins
Guitars
Laura Cash
Fiddle
Benmont Trench
Organ
Dennis Crouch
Bass

 

Larry Gatlin’s “Help Me” starts the album on a sad and somber note, as a personal plea to God to help him hang on just a little longer. Cash had previously recorded this track as “Help” on his 1973 religious album, The Gospel Road. The traditional song, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”, is a religious tune from the opposite view with a dark sense of sense of vengeance. Musically, the acoustic song is driven by a strong, percussive stomp throughout. “Like the 309” is the last original song Johnny Cash ever wrote and recorded, doing both just weeks before his death. He bares his vocals during the intro verse and the lyrical directives are almost like a living will as they talk about a train taking his casket away.

The quiet and reserved cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” is not quite as melodic as the original, but in its own way is beautiful and haunting throughout. “Further On Up the Road” is another fine cover as a classic Country/Western adaptation of a recent Bruce Springsteen composition. Musically, it features a full but restrained arrangement with a couple of acoustic guitars, piano, and some slight but potent keyboards by Benmont Trench. Hank Williams’ “On the Evening Train” follows as a slow Country ballad with methodical and deliberate rhyming of a series of run-on verses.

Johnny Cash in the 2000s

“I Came to Believe” is the second and final original on this album, although it was originally recorded by Cash in the 1980s. Rod McKuen’s “Love’s Been Good to Me” is a bright folk song with very good chord structure and a complex melody. This song also includes the lyric which gives the album its title;

I have been a rover, I have walked alone / Hiked a hundred highways, Never found a home…”

The album winds down with four final diverse tracks. “A Legend in My Time” is a slow and deliberate country waltz, while “Rose of My Heart” is a more of a pop/country track reflective of the 1980s era when it was written. “Four Strong Winds” is one of the stronger tracks from the latter part of the album, with a lead acoustic guitar pattern which forecasts and a good piano accompaniment. This track was originally recorded by Cash for the 1962 album, The Sound of Johnny Cash. “I’m Free from the Chain Gang Now” features somber music which slightly contrasts the lyrical theme of breaking free. However, this album closer could be interpreted as a self-eulogy from beyond the grave, which gives it a whole different perspective.

American V: A Hundred Highways topped both the Pop and Country charts in the US, making it Johnny Cash’s first #1 album since …At San Quentin in 1969. The liner notes of a later box set claimed that about 50 songs were recorded during the American V, but to date only this album and the 2010 album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave, have been released.

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Johnny Cash Online

Johnny Cash on Twitter  Johnny Cash on Facebook
Johnny Cash website
Buy American V: A Hundred Highways

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History of the Blues, Part 1

We examine the evolution of American blues from the start of the 20the century into the early 1940s. This is done in conjunction with the below video, which is part 1 of a 2-part 2013 BBC Documentary called Blues America: Woke Up This Morning.

While a common understanding is that the Blues is born strictly out of racial suffering and suppression, the blues actually started as a music of celebration. It proliferated in the Mississippi Delta, the Northwest corner of the state of Mississippi. This was a relatively “new” area due to the construction of levees on the Mississippi river, forming a flat former flood plain which had very fertile soil for cotton planting. Most of the occupants of this area in the earliest decade of the 20the century were young black men who were there to clear the land and ultimately work in the cotton fields. As such, the Delta took on the features of a “boom town” and the entertainment developed here was original and cutting edge.

In 1902, a vagrant slide guitar player at railroad station in Tutwiler, MS was overheard by a college educated black man named W.C. Handy, who was immediately inspired to go into the musical publishing business. Through the next decades, Handy, who became known as the “Father of the Blues”, traveled the south and learned the musical vernacular and styles of distinct regions, adapting it for his own compositions. By 1917, Handy had a publishing business headquartered on Times Square in New York City and had published “Memphis Blues”, “Beale Street Blues”, and “Saint Louis Blues”, the most popular blues songs in America. Handy also published some of the earliest jazz standards and, in 1926, he compiled Blues: An Anthology—Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs, cited as the attempt to record and describe the blues and its historical significance.

In the early 1920s, record companies began releasing “race records” – black artists recorded for black audiences. The first recorded stars were mainly women; “blues queens” who traveled the theater circuit. Starting in 1923, Bessie Smith became the first blues “superstar”, commanding up to $2000/week for live performances at her peak. Her 1925 recording of Handy’s “Saint Louis Blues” with Louis Armstrong is considered by some to be the finest recording of the 1920s. Smith also became an early film star and a major influence on contemporary jazz singers before her untimely death in an auto accident in 1937.

Blind Lemon Jefferson developed a new style of self-accompanied solo performing in the mid 1920s. Jefferson incorporated replications of everyday life with skillful guitar playing and an impressive vocal range. This style caught fire and soon ushered in a new generation of solo blues performers. Charley Patton  followed as “The Father of the Delta Blues” from Dockery Plantation, where he tutored later, more famous blues performers such as John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, and Robert Johnson,

Although he never reached any notable level of fame during his lifetime, Robert Johnson was notable on two fronts. He was the first to take influence from popular blues and swing records, such as the very successful recordings of Count Basie, which gave Johnson a depth of melody and style like no one before him. Then there was the popular “crossroads” legend, which intrigued later generations and helped Johnson become a major influence on later British artists decades after his untimely death in 1938. In 1961, Johnson’s compilation album King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961 was released a quarter century after the recordings were made and went on to spark a whole new revival of Delta-based modern blues rock.

Finally there is Muddy Waters, the link between the earlier Mississippi blues style and the later Chicago blues style. A plantation worker and student of Son House and Robert Johnson, Waters had a chance encounter with folklore-ist Alan Lomax who made a recording for the Library of Congress, sparking Muddy Waters to take a copy of that record and move to Chicago in 1943, with the hope of becoming a full-time professional musician.

History of the Blues, Part 2

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