Tag Archives: Thirty Tigers

Whitney Rose: Rule 62

Country, soul and girl group blossom under Rose’s command

With her friend and mentor Raul Malo co-producing, and a studio band drawn from the Mavericks, Jayhawks and Asleep at the Wheel, Canadian-born, Austin-based Whitney Rose doubles up on the retro country pop highlighted on 2015’s Heartbreaker of the Year. Across nine originals, and covers of “Tied to the Wheel” and “You’re a Mess,” Rose plugs into ‘70s country vibes, girl group sounds and, on “Can’t Stop Shakin’,” a deep soul groove. There’s an echo of Danny O’Keefe’s “Goodtime Charlie’s Got the Blues” in the downbeat mood of “You Never Cross My Mind,” and the rolling rhythm of the bittersweet “Trucker’s Funeral” suggests John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind.”

Rose is decisive as she leaves behind the wreckage of failed romances, and definitively cuts the ties that bind. She leaves without anger, and though hardened by experience, the emotional toll still leaves her numb, and on the Brill Building-worthy “Better to My Baby,” remorseful. Malo pops up throughout the album, singing harmony on “You Don’t Scare Me” and adding terrific guitar leads along with ace Kenny Vaughn. Malo and co-producer Niko Bolas showcase Rose’s vocal charms while also giving the musicians and songs room to shine. Chris Scruggs’ steel, Aaron Till’s fiddle and Jen Gunderman’s piano and organ are perfectly staged, and Rose is commanding as she eases herself into songs whose classic tones belie their originality. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Whitney Rose’s Home Page

The Mavericks: All Night Live, Volume 1

mavericks_allnightlivevol1Live set leans on post-reunion material

The genre-bending Mavericks launch their own label with the release of a live album that complements the earlier It’s Now! It’s Live! and Live in Austin Texas. The new set shows how the band’s stage act has continued to grow in power, and by cherry-picking performances from their 2015 Mono Mundo tour, the set makes every song a highlight performance. Since reuniting four years ago, there have been lineup changes (including the dismissal of founding member Robert Reynolds) and new studio recordings, but it’s the stage show that has remained the group’s focal point. This generous 78-minute disc shows the core four-piece band, augmented by players on bass, sax, trumpet and accordion, to be as flexible as the Mavericks’ catalog. And rather than a nostalgic rehash of earlier glories, the band keeps their set fresh with material from 2013’s In Time and 2015’s Mono.

In fact, the sixteen tracks collected here focus almost entirely on music created since the 2012 reunion. More than half the tracks are taken from Mono and In Time, so if you’re looking for live versions of the band’s earlier hits (e.g., “What a Crying Shame,” “All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down”), you’ll need to check the previous live albums. On the one hand, you can admire their creative push, on the other, this isn’t the concert experience that fans have come to love. The new material is very good, and while it definitely augments their live set, it can’t replace history. The band plays with a lot of energy and spirit, but their verve is undercut by a recording that is distant and lacking in definition. It makes for a compelling invitation to get out and hear the band in person, but doesn’t fully reproduce the experience. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Mavericks’ Home Page

Tommy Emmanuel: It’s Never Too Late

TommyEmmanuel_ItsNeverTooLateExtraordinary solo fingerstyle acoustic guitar

Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel is a magician. On his first solo all-acoustic album in more than a decade, he shows off the precision, dexterity and soulfulness that earned him one of five “Certified Guitar Player” titles bestowed by Chet Atkins. Emmanuel picks lead, rhythm chords and bass so seamlessly that his solo recordings often sound like multiple guitars. Rather than reducing his original compositions and reimagined covers to fit a single set of strings, his playing expands to orchestrate the songs. He picks the R&B “One Mint Julep” as a slow blues, with his percussive chords backing surprising turns in the lead. He adds Spanish flair to “El Vaquero,” paints a Western sunset in “The Duke,” and salutes Chet Atkins with “The Bug.” Emmanuel is a virtuoso in the truest sense of the word, a skilled artist whose technical mastery never overshadows his expression. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Tommy Emmanuel’s Home Page

Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison: Our Year

KellyWillisBruceRobison_OurYearTwo great sounds that sound great together

This married pair has appeared together on stage and on one another’s solo releases, but it’s only in the past few years they’ve focused on working regularly as a duo. Their duets on tribute albums, and what at the time seemed a one-off project in 2003’s Happy Holidays (and its 2006 expansion), turned into a deeper collaboration with 2012’s Cheater’s Game, live shows and now a second album. As on their previous releases, they trade leads, backing and harmony vocals, supporting one another with a familiarity that makes duets more than the sum of their parts. Robison contributes a pair of original songs, Willis one, and they fill out the track list with endearingly selected covers.

The album opens with “Departing Louisiana,” a biographical song whose emotional details suggest a Robison original, but it’s actually from the pen of his sister, Robyn Ludwick. When you count in their brother Charlie, it’s clear that songwriting runs in the family. Robison’s “Carousel” evinces the resigned sadness of Roger Miller’s “Husbands and Wives,” but the mood is turned around by the rolling beat and hopeful longing of Willis’ “Lonely for You.” The album’s covers include Buddy Mize’s “Hangin’ On,” sung with the same enthralled powerlessness as the Gosdin Brothers’ original, and a funky take on Tom T. Hall’s “Harper Valley PTA” that’s become a staple of Willis’ live act.

The lead vocal on T-Bone Burnett’s “Shake Yourself Loose” is so shot-through with emotion that you scarcely need the lyrics, and the duo’s harmony work is as bone-chillingly effective as anything sung by Gram and Emmylou. The album closes with the Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year,” aptly demonstrating how Willis and Robison’s country roots inform everything they do. Like the best duet acts, this pair builds upon their individual talents as singers, forging a third voice that’s the unique combination of the individual elements. Their strengths as singers and songwriters peek through at every turn, but it’s the way their emotional conversation amplifies one another that sets this apart from their solo work. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis’ Home Page

Bobby Rush: Down in Louisiana

BobbyRush_DownInLouisianaSwamp-tinged, soul-grooved electric blues

Singer/guitarist Bobby Rush has traveled an interesting road as a musician. Born in Louisiana, his family relocated to Chicago in the early ‘50s, where Rush was schooled by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and other giants of the Windy City’s iconic blues scene. He developed his own sound in the ‘60s, equally fueled by blues, funk and soul, and then in 1971 he moved back to the South and made it his home base for extensive roadwork. He’s traveled the remnants of the chitlin’ circuit, played nightclubs, auditoriums and Las Vegas showrooms, and at the age of 77 remains terrifically vital as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player. His latest album blends electric blues with the soul of his native Louisiana, rendered by a stripped-down quintet of guitar, keyboards, harmonica, bass and drums. The results range from twelve bar blues to swamp-funk to the ‘70s styled groove “Rock This House.” Rush and co-producer/keyboardist Paul Brown add a few contemporary touches to the vocals, but the music never strays far from the sounds that are deeply rooted in Rush’s musical soul. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Henry Wagons: Expecting Company?

HenryWagons_ExpectingCompanyDark duets album from Aussie singer-songwriter

Henry Wagons’ namesake band has been galloping about Australia since their 2002 debut, but this EP is the singer-songwriter’s first “solo” effort. There are quotes around that because, as the title suggests, Wagons welcomes partners (including the Kills’ Allison Mosshart and the Go-Between’s Robert Forster) on six of the seven tracks. The more straight-forward country sounds of 2011’s Rumble, Shake and Tumble have widened into the sort of cinematic Ennio Morricone-vein once spun by Wall of Voodoo. Wagons sings darkly themed songs in low tones reminiscent of NickCave, Johnny Cash and Lee Hazelwood. The latter’s eccentric drama attaches especially well to lyrics of rat-filled nightmares, an executioner’s lament, an unchaste ode to Mary Magdelene, cheating and second-chance appeals. The set closes with, “Marylou Two,” remade from his group’s last album, and its lyric of loneliness is sung here as the EP’s only solo vocal. This is a good taste of Henry Wagons’ music, though several shades darker than that made with his eponymous group. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Henry Wagons’ Home Page

Chuck Mead: Journeyman’s Wager

ChuckMead_JourneymansWagerBR549 lead’s first solo album

Chuck Mead’s first solo album doesn’t stray far from the country, rock and blues he’d mixed and matches successfully as guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with BR549. With the band having run through a number of record labels and transitioned through key personnel changes, they now seem to be on hiatus, leaving Mead time to record and tour his first solo album. His originals sound as if they could have been worked up by BR549, though a looser rhythm section and the addition of horns adds new flavor. Ten originals and a cover of George Harrison’s Beatles-era “Old Brown Shoe” should tide BR549 fans over, but may also signal the launch of a full-time solo career. Either way, Mead’s roadhouse rockers, back-porch blues, and country-rock offer a fine balance of humor and sincerity as he crafts dance floor burners, thoughtful ballads, and novelty titles. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

Chuck Mead’s MySpace Page