Tag Archives: Trad Jazz

6 String Drag: High Hat

Long-lost 1997 Americana swan song finally back in print

By the time 6 String Drag caught the attention of Steve Earle and his producing partner Ray Kennedy, the band’s initial run was nearly over. Although they’d pioneered their sound in the middle of the Americana movement, this 1997 sophomore release on Earle and Kennedy’s E-Squared label would be their last album of new material until 2015’s reunion, Roots Rock & Roll, and the recent follow-up, Top of the World. With the band back in action, the time was right for a remaster and reissue of this classic, on CD, digital download, and for the first time ever, vinyl. The album finds vocalist Kenny Roby and the band stretching out across a variety of American sounds, including country, rock, southern boogie, rockabilly, bluegrass, trad jazz, soul and gospel, exploring the rootsy polyglot ground tilled by NRBQ, Rockpile and others. “Driven Man” has the meter and wordiness of an Elvis Costello song, and the addition of horns on several tracks gives the album a fuller sound than the group’s self-titled debut. The group’s abbreviated first life temporarily cut short a talented musical collective, but more lastingly seems to have consigned this shining moment to undeserved obscurity. Hopefully this 2018 reissue, augmented with a previously unreleased cover of the Louvin Brothers’ “Lorene,” will restore the album to its rightful place in the Americana canon, and point new listeners to the group’s renewed lineup. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

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The Hello People: Fusion

HelloPeople_FusionTuneful “mime rock” from 1968

The Hello People were a late-60s sextet that performed in white face and mimed skits amid their live musical performances. Their visual imagery and theatrical skills landed the band slots on several television variety shows, but even with national exposure, their records failed to dent the charts. The group’s best known track, “Anthem,” was a pungent reaction to songwriter Sonny Tongue’s incarceration for draft-dodging, but even its socially-charged message couldn’t lift the group beyond regional success. The group’s sound incorporated several then-current trends, including baroque-pop, sunshine harmonies, country-rock, electric folk and and old-timey jazz. You can hear influences of the Left Banke, Grass Roots, Blues Project, Lovin’ Spoonful and others, and though the band was quite accomplished (especially in flautist Michael Sagarese and bassist Greg Geddes), their lack of a singular style and the novelty of their stage act seem to have relegated them to a footnote. The group continued into the mid-70s in various formations, releasing their own records and backing Todd Rundgren on Back to the Bars, but this 1968 album is the most complete expression of their original concept. Real Gone’s first-ever CD reissue includes the album’s original ten tracks and a twelve-page booklet with new liner notes by Gene Scalutti. Separated from their stage visuals, the group’s music still holds up. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Jason Serious: Undercover Folk

Exceptional indie album of folk, country and trad jazz

To say that Jason Serious’ solo debut is accomplished would be to sell it short. Not only is it full of incredibly memorable original songs, but its evocation of American musical vernacular is all the more extraordinary for his ex-pat status and the talented band of Europeans with which he recorded. To write and record something so immersed in American folk, country and early jazz while living in the states would be difficult enough, but to do so in Munich is nearly unimaginable. If this was a homesick love letter trying to bridge the distance, its rootedness would be more easily explained, but these are songs from a rural Marylander whose roots seem unaffected by the change in firmament, and whose sentiments seem to have nourished his talented, widely-listened band mates.

The brassy shuffle “Met Jack Kerouac” and drunken melody of “Buckets of Gin” recall the goodtime music of the Lovin’ Spoonful, and the steel-lined “ESB” mixes hand-clapping upbeat country-folk, colorful imagery and a chorus (“everybody’s somebody’s beautiful”) that would make Mr. Rogers smile. Serious is a surprisingly polished artist, given that much of his woodshedding took place on the couch; it’s only in the past few years that he began sharing his solo work with others, and only in the past year that he began recording. The sessions themselves choreographed a dozen local musicians, adding deft splashes of banjo, violin, mandolin, steel, horns and harmony vocals across the nine tracks. Ausgezeichnet! [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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Brigitte DeMeyer: Rose of Jericho

A rootsy, soulful singer-songwriter’s fifth

On her fifth album, singer-songwriter Brigette DeMeyer shows off an impressive range of styles. There’s the rootsy gospel “One Wish,” the road warrior’s country-rock lament “This Fix I’m In,” the trad-jazz “Alright A-Coming,” and the irresistible New Orleans-styled “Say Big Poppa.” Each provides a different angle on DeMeyer’s on a soulful voice whose edges resound with the character of Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow and (if you listened past her megahit singles), Deana Carter. DeMeyer blends just as easily with fingerpicked acoustic guitars as with twangy pedal steel and the fat tone of a muted trombone. She’s supported by Sam Bush (founder of one of DeMeyer’s earliest musical influences, New Grass Revival), Will Kimbrough, Mike Farris and co-produced by drummer Brady Blade. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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