Posts Tagged ‘E1’

Dale Watson: Carryin’ On

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Watson makes old-school sounds with old-school players

Dale Watson has always been a country music militant. But as he’s aged, he’s moved away from explicit railing against the modern country music establishment, choosing instead to show them up by crafting songs that are more country than “country.” Of course, there’s some irony in Watson’s embrace of an era that was scorned by then-contemporary critics who felt Nashville had irrevocably compromised the hillbilly roots of earlier times with the introduction of electric guitars and drums. But one can easily trace the DNA shared by the Carter Family, Merle Haggard and Dale Watson, while many of Nashville’s modern radio stars seem to have grown from the Petri dish of arena rock. The music that Watson idolizes, and the place from which he composes, grew from the same roots, even as electric instruments were introduced and pedals were added to the steel guitars.

His latest album draws directly upon the golden age by featuring Lloyd Green (steel guitar), Hargus “Pig” Robbins (piano) and Pete Wade (guitar) as instrumentalists, with the Carol Lee Cooper Singers (led by the daughter of legends Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper) adding deft countrypolitan touches in the background. Watson’s baritone is less strident than in his earlier days, showing his love of country songs with his vocal caress rather than with lyrical barbs. He shuffles with the swinging glide of Ray Price, tenderly holding a lover, switching to the bottle’s embrace when left behind, and finally counseling the cheaters of the world “How to Break Your Own Heart.”

The album’s title track borrows the rolling rhythm of “Gentle on My Mind,” but its self-assessment of an aging party boy charts a future without John Hartford’s wistful memories. Robbins’ piano and Green’s steel underline the emotions as Watson’s songs wallow in romantic misery, moon over absent mates, and celebrate being in love. The album’s one moment of modern-Nashville-inspired enmity is the closing “Hello, I’m an Old Country Song.” But here the words are filled with sorrow rather than barbs, more nostalgic and resigned than ready to pick a fight. Still, as long as Waston is writing and singing, he keeps the flame of his beloved country sounds vital, and that’s truly the best rebuttal of all. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

Dale Watson’s MySpace Page

Andy Kim: Happen Again

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Welcome return of talented 60s/70s singer-songwriter

Singer-songwriter Andy Kim’s time in the spotlight of mass public acclaim was surprisingly short. In 1968 he co-wrote the song of the year (and national anthem of the bubblegum nation), “Sugar Sugar,” along with its follow-up, “Jingle Jangle” and other effervescent Archies’ album cuts. He edged onto the charts with his own “So Good Together” and “Rainbow Ride,” and cracked the Top 20 with covers of the Ronettes’ “Baby, I Love You” and “Be My Baby” in 1969 and 1970. Despite several fine albums for the Steed label [1 2], further commercial success eluded him until 1975’s chart-topping “Rock Me Gently.” Then, as the single’s run ended, so did Kim fade from public view. He resurfaced in the 1980s with a pair of albums under the name Baron Longfellow, but mostly stayed out of the spotlight.

In 1995 Kim connected with Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies, and in 2005 was coaxed from retirement to record an EP and give sporadic public performances. Another five years further on – twenty years since his last full album – Kim returns in superb voice with a disc full of terrific new songs. His writing craft translates smoothly to modern production sounds, and his voice, lowered both by age and choice (his earlier hits were often sped up to sound younger), is more studied and reflective than the unbridled optimism of the 1970s. “Judy Garland” offers a note of support to the troubled star with a rolling rhythm, CS&N-styled harmonies and a killer chorus hook. His thoughtful contemplation of mortality, “Someday,” reaches back to the Brill Building for a baion beat, but dresses it minimally in riveting percussion and a moody organ.

Kim and his studio crew have gathered together instrumental elements across several decades, marrying power-, sunshine- and synth-pop sounds into a truly compelling whole. Kim’s clearly continued listening to new music during his time away from the limelight, as he incorporates the emotional grandeur and orchestral touches of Verve and Coldplay, but without surrendering his ‘70s roots. He writes of love and relationships, but his lyrics ask questions rather than proclaim answers.  On the album’s title track he wonders, “Do you feel connected / to sentimental times,” and laments innocence lost. He’s optimistic, but the tone hasn’t the brash certainty of someone in their 20s or 30s.

The exhilaration that Kim does find, such as the schoolboy love of “I Forgot to Mention,” only really busts out in the chorus, and even then its insular focus is nagged by the outside world. Ironically, his realization that “Love Has Never Been My Friend” is sung to a bouncy melody that playfully undermines the song’s plea for Cupid to keep his distance. If one were to mentally extrapolate Kim’s music from the ‘70s to today, you’d get exactly this album: a thoughtful, finely honed collection of songs that refract youthful enthusiasms through the grounding of adult living, expressed in melodies that linger in your ears. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Someday
Andy Kim’s Home Page
Andy Kim’s MySpace Page
Download Happen Again