Posts Tagged ‘Swamp Pop’

Jim Ford: Harlan County

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Your favorite’s favorite country-soul singer-songwriter

You may have never heard country-soul singer-songwriter Jim Ford, but you’ve likely heard his songs, and you’ve certainly heard his fans. Ford co-wrote P.J. Proby’s hit single “Niki Hoeky,” an album for the Temptations, and songs recorded by Bobby Womack, Aretha Franklin, Bobbie Gentry, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. The latter named Ford as his biggest musical influence, and recorded Ford’s songs with his pub rock group Brinsley Schwarz and as a solo act. This 1969 debut was the only full-length release of Ford’s lifetime, which also included singles, unreleased albums for Capitol and Paramount, and a wealth of session tracks that slowly found their way out of the tape vault.

Recorded in Los Angeles with support from James Burton, Dr. John, Jim Keltner and Pat and Lolly Vegas, Ford laid down an unusual mix of funk, soul, country and swamp pop. Burton’s guitar figures combine with soulful backing vocals, horns and strings, to create an album that sounds as if it could have just as easily been recorded in Memphis as in Southern California. The title track looks back at the poverty and back breaking work from which Ford ran away as a teenager. The song’s breakdowns into hymn contrast with full throated pleas for relief, as Ford recounts the sort of living that wears a man down by his early twenties. His early years inform his recording of Delaney & Bonnie’s “Long Road Ahead,” and his move from New Orleans to California is essayed in the autobiographical “Working My Way To LA.”

Oddly, for an album by a songwriter, half the selections are covers, including Stevie Wonder’s “I Wanna Make Her Love Me,” a swamp-boogie take on Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful,” and a vocally strained rendition of Alex Harvey’s “To Make My Life Beautiful.” Ford’s originals include the broken hearted road metaphors of “Under Construction,” the emotionally satisfied “Love on My Brain” and the not-too-subtle drug references of “Dr. Handy’s Dandy Candy.” None of this made an impression on radio programmers or record buyers, and the album quickly disappeared. Ford eventually made his way to England where sessions with Brinsley Schwarz and the Grease Band failed to generate releases, and additional masters recorded for Paramount were shelved.

Ford drifted into partying and out of the music industry, eventually ending up in Northern California’s Mendocino County, where he passed away in 2007. Bill Dahl’s liner notes tell the story of Ford’s career leading up to, through and following this album, and the booklet reproduces the album’s front and back cover art. The original ten tracks have been reissued several times on vinyl and CD, including a 2014 release by Varese, and an expanded 2013 edition by Bear Family. Additional volumes [1 2 3 4] of previously unreleased material have also been issued, but if you’re new to Ford as a performer, this 1969 debut is the place to start. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Shinyribs: I Got Your Medicine

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Stupendous gulf coast soul sounds

When we first heard Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell as a solo artist on 2010’s Well After Awhile, he was taking a short break from his Austin band, The Gourds. Since that time the group regrouped for Old Mad Joy, starred in the documentary All the Labor, and then declared themselves on hiatus. Russell’s used the free time to expand his solo catalog with albums in 2013 and 2015, and now offers a deep soak in Southern soul, co-produced by Jimbo Mathus. The band simmers New Orleans rhythm ‘n’ roll, Memphis soul and Louisiana swamp pop into a unique gulf coast stew whose flavor is enhanced by the Tijuana Train Wreck Horns (Tiger Anaya and Mark Wilson) and the backing vocals of the Shiny Soul Sisters (Alice Spencer and Sally Allen).

This, it turns out, is the band Russell has been waiting for, and he makes the most of them across nine originals and three covers, the latter including superb versions of Allen Toussaint’s oft recordedA Certain Girl,” Ted Hawkins’ “I Gave Up All I Had” and Toussaint McCall’s heartbreaking “Nothing Takes the Place of You.” With the horns goosing the up-tempo numbers, going sly at mid-tempo and lining the ballads, Russell reaches into deep wells of ecstasy and sorrow, fueling an incredible display of soul singing. Spencer steps forward for the thorny duet “I Don’t Give a Sh*t,” and the album closes with the gospel original “The Cross is Boss.” If you’re sick of today’s vacant, auto-tuned pop, Shinyribs definitely has your medicine. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

RIYL: Allen Toussaint, Ernie K-Doe, the Neville Brothers, Tony Joe White

Shinyribs’ Home Page

Tony Joe White: Rain Crow

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

TonyJoeWhite_RainCrowMagic signs, rural rituals and (of course) swamps

Though Tony Joe White reached his commercial zenith as a performer with his 1968 debut, Black and White and its single “Polk Salad Annie,” he’s continued makin music ever since. In the nearly fifty years since that debut, he’s released two dozen albums across Monument, Warner Brothers, RCA, Casablanca, Columbia, Polydor and a host of independent labels. This latest finds his fuzz-toned guitar still slithering, and his vocal growl weary, wary and fully simmered in his native Louisiana. The Memphis funk of his earlier years has mostly given way to darker blues as he sings of magic signs, rural rituals, betrayal and, of course, swamps.

White writes from biographical seeds, pairing with his wife Leann to pen “Hoochie Woman,” and with Billy Bob Thornton for “The Middle of Nowhere.” The latter reignites White’s swamp chug of drums, low bass and percussive guitar, as the lyric takes the point of view of a friend’s highly observational son. The title track is based on a traditional Southern omen, and “Tell Me a Swamp Story” draws upon a harrowing chapter of White’s childhood. The songs are confessed as much as sung, but the revelations engender more mysteries than they resolve. It’s dark in the swamps, and you can’t always be sure of what you’re seeing, but you can be sure of what you’re hearing here, and it’s badass. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Tony Joe White’s Home Page

The Revelers: Swamp Pop Classics, Volume 1

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Revelers_SwampPopClassicsVolume1Hot covers of four swamp-pop favorites

Founding members from two of Louisiana’s freshest bands of the past decade – the Red Stick Ramblers and the Pine Leaf Boys – have joined together to produce this four-song salute to swamp pop. Swamp pop is a label given to the late-50s amalgam of southern R&B, soul, doo-wop, country, Cajun and zydeco influences heard in chart hits like Jimmy Clanton’s “Just a Dream,” Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love” Grace and Dale’s “I’m Leaving It Up To You,’ and most famous of all (due to Bill Haley’s rock ‘n’ roll cover), Bobby Charles’ classic “Later Alligator.”

The EP opens with a Cajun-influenced arrangement of “Let the Good Times Roll,” that combines accordion, horns and second-line drumming with electric guitar and bass that lean to Chicago R&B. Bobby Charles’ “Grow Too Old” brings the R&B focus back to New Orleans, and Jerry LaCroix’s “Lonely Room” echoes the ’50s vocal thread that runs through many swamp pop originals. The closing “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is a horns-and-organ soul instrumental [1 2] juiced with a hot tempo, Blake Miller’s accordion, and a sizzling sax solo from the band’s newest addition, Chris Miller.

This is available on vinyl from the band’s website, or as a digital download from retail; either way, it’s sure to heat up your dance party. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Revelers’ Home Page