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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Earle

Quick Hits: Mudcrutch – Mudcrutch

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When Tom Petty decided to put the band back together he really decided to put the band back together. After a thirty-two year hiatus, Petty recently re-assembled his old college group, Mudcrutch for an album and tour. The tour ended last month. The album is a gem.

Regardless of what you think about Tom Petty or his performance at this year’s Super Bowl, this album proves that Petty has gotten better with age. Mudcrutch combines songs from all walks of the American musical landscape, ending as a record that is refreshing while maintaining a welcomed amount of familiarity. Nowhere on the record is this more evident than in its first song, a cover of the classic mountain tune “Shady Grove.” By opening with this older-than-the-hills tune, Mudcrutch sends two immediate messages: first, this is not a Tom Petty record; second, the band knows its roots, cares about ‘em, and ain’t afraid to use ‘em. The same can be said about “Six Days on the Road,” the classic rocker that has been covered by the likes of Steve Earle, George Thorogood, and Taj Mahal (whose version tops them all). Mudcrutch, like Mahal, plows through the song like a tour bus flying down an open highway.

As for the band’s other material, there is little disappointment to be found. Songs like “Orphan of the Storm” resemble the best of pioneering country-rock bands like the Byrds. The instrumental track “June Apple” harkens back to the soul of early Stax artists like Booker T. and the M.G.’s mixed in with some driving seventies-country twang. “Lover of the Bayou,” an early single (“Scare Easy” is another standout), sounds like the great Petty hit “Last Dance with Mary Jane” only Mary Jane is being drowned in a dark, muddy, Louisiana swamp (which, it turns out, makes for one hell of a song). My favorite track is the finale “House of Stone,” which has the soul of a Monroe or Louvin Brothers gospel song, and a mandolin solo to boot.

On a whole, Mudcrutch is a tour through the last sixty years of American soul music. While the album is not without its faults, the few throwaway tracks are outnumbered by the wealth of well-written and soulful tunes that look back and pay homage without losing sight of the road ahead.

For more on the re-assembled band check out this NYTimes article.

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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: April 4th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. FEAR – Let’s Have A War

2. FEAR – New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones

I’ve really been in a FEAR mode lately. After seeing the live footage of them performing in the Hardcore film “The Decline Of Western Civlization”, I’ve been pretty enamored with them. They had such a Fuck You attitude, it’s hard to not like these guys. Before the show even started they almost had a riot break out by exchanging insults with the crowd. A must watch.

The two FEAR songs I picked are fav’s of mine. I just love how the early Hardcore Punk bands could switch between such silly topics and politically charged songs fearlessly, and successfully. Though they are frequently lumped with Hardcore bands, I think FEAR’s style was a bit different from the typical hardcore band: They have a singer who can actually sing!? AND they have guitar solos? So they were a bit off the track, but their attitude proves them guilty.

3. The Adolescents – Amoeba

Amoeba by the Adolescents (Punkers from the OC) must be the most anthemic punk song ever. I really don’t have any idea what they’re singing about in that song, yet I find myself singing AMOEBA, AMOEBA, all the time. It’s just too cool. So, enjoy.

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Adam Tensta – 80s Baby

This is one of my favorite tracks off Tensta’s album because I too am an 80s baby — played the same video games, wore the same clothes, listened to the same music. The beat’s uptempo, yet maintains a smooth, even, wavy quality throughout, with a classic vocal sample in the chorus that really makes the song. And makes me want to put on my headphones and close my eyes.

2. Snoop Dogg Feat. Robyn – Sexual Eruption (Fyre Dept. Remix)

This is the newest — and best — remix of Snoop’s hit single, “Sexual Eruption,” featuring guest choruses and verses from Robyn, the Swedish electro-pop sensation whose self-titled album was easily one of the highlights of 2007. Producer Shawty Redd’s beat got an synthy electro upgrade on this remix, making an already bona fide club jam into certified banger. This is what a remix should be and rarely is.

3. Fantasia Feat. Polow da Don & Young Jeezy – When I See U (Remix)

I referenced this track at the end of my piece on Adam Tensta and the changing production styles of some American super-producers like Kanye West and Timbaland. While producer Polow da Don hasn’t quite reached “super” status just yet, his recent synth-driven success with Usher’s “Love In This Club” is certainly helping his case. On this, the official (though hard to find) remix of Fantasia’s “When I See U,” I generally try to ignore her mediocre singing, and focus Polow’s bold use of synth sounds that rarely make it out of European studios, let alone onto an American R&B record.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Gillian Welch – Wichita

“Wichita” is a fun song from a songwriter who doesn’t usually write fun songs. Gillian Welch is contemporary artist whose songs invariably sound old as the hills. This goes for her voice too. But, don’t let the catchy tune fool you, the lyrics are beautifully written and serious, yet simple, a Welch trademark. This version is from a 1999 performance with long-time partner (and excellent guitar player/singer in his own right) David Rawlings at California’s Strawberry Music Festival.

2. The Band – Rockin’ Chair

Vocals, musical talent, lyrics, The Band had it all. Oddly enough, four out of five members of what is arguably the greatest American band ever were Canadians. While “Rockin’ Chair” comes toward the end of The Band’s 1969 eponymous album and often gets overshadowed by songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Rag Mama Rag,” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” it is really one of the group’s best. Richard Manuel’s vocals are rich and haunting and Levon Helm’s mandolin carries the song off to a faraway, wonderous place.

3. Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band – Harlan Man

Steve Earle is a renowned songwriter and hard-edged country singer. Del McCoury and his band are straight off the Bill Monroe bluegrass family tree; meaning that they play bluegrass the way it should be played, hard, fast, and with soul. Put the two together and you get the awesome 1998 album The Mountain. “Harlan Man” showcases Earle’s songwriting prowess and gruff, no nonsense attitude. McCoury & co. provide the drive, and you’ve got yourself a great American song, off a great American album.

Ignatius’ Picks

1. Animal Collective – Fireworks

I once watched a friend of mine rip his headphones out of his ears when an Animal Collective song came up during shuffle play on his iPod. His facial expression lingered somewhere between somebody who has just finished eating an economy-sized jar of mayonnaise, and somebody who realizes too late that they’ve set their house on fire. He looked offended, as though his mp3 player had purposefully tried to attack his sensibilities and good taste. Enjoy the song.

2. Johnny Greenwood – Open Spaces

I was a huge fan of Johnny Greenwood’s solo output before his work on There Will Be Blood, and this soundtrack reaffirmed my ‘fan status’ tenfold. Open Spaces is the perfect bookend on this menacing hulk of a film score. What I think is truly remarkable is how his arrangements still hold so much weight outside the context of the film.

3. Ween – Ocean Man

I picked this track simply because it’s a fun song of an amazing record. Ween is often dismissed a novelty act, an accusation that I will no doubt refute in a later posting. Whether you worship at the feet of Boognish (the demon that inspired Gene and Dean Ween to begin their songwriting careers) or have written off the Ween brothers as a bunch of hacks, I would imagine it difficult not to enjoy this song.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc playlist HERE

Townes and Guy: Songwriters You Should Know (Part II of II)

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Townes

Townes Van Zandt is the greatest American songwriter to have ever lived, period. As Steve Earle, a talented songwriter in his own right, put it, “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”

(To Live is to Fly)

Like Guy Clark, Townes was a songwriter’s songwriter, a true poet. He was a little more commercially successful than Clark, though, blipping on the radar with his “Pancho and Lefty,” made famous by Willie Nelson. But most still don’t know who he is and why his music is magic.

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Written by JustJake

April 1, 2008 at 8:42 pm