Photo: Will Claytor
By Dave Cantor
Jason Evans Groth handles a winding road headed out of the West Virginia mountains.
The freeway twists past seemingly endless trees as the guitarist discusses his tenure in Jason Molina’s Magnolia Electric Co., a group as mercurial as its frontman, spurning players and welcoming new voices when its leader felt it a necessity. Evans Groth remembers his friend—Molina died March 16, 2013, reportedly from complications related to alcoholism—as a talker. Someone who was capable of worldwide friendliness, but who was also an intensely emotional guy. People didn’t drift away from Molina; he just had shit to tend to and split. Read the rest of this entry »
Listening to “We Can’t Make It Here” from the 2005 album “Childish Things” immediately makes you respect James McMurtry: his lyrics are a direct indictment of the hypocrisies of the right and also of big-box discount stores like Walmart who encourage companies to ship jobs overseas in order to reduce costs to their customers.
The son of novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry, McMurtry has been part of the folk-rock scene since John Mellencamp produced his debut “Too Long in the Wasteland” back in 1989. He has since collaborated with the likes of John Prine and Dwight Yoakam (in the “supergroup” Buzzin’ Cousins) and has regularly recorded and toured with his backing band, the Heartless Bastards—though the band is no longer billed in that manner because of confusion with the Ohio-based band of the same name. Read the rest of this entry »
Whether Old Crow Medicine Show would be an engaging group of players without a blueprint laid out by the best country and string-band players isn’t an easy call. The ensemble has done everything it can to recreate the past, going so far as to pull in producer Don Was for collaboration. But issuing five discs’ worth of high-test tunes in just about a decade is no mean feat. 2008’s “Tennessee Pusher” even reads like an album’s worth of songs lazily telling a story about hawking drugs in the South, using I-65 as its main drag. Read the rest of this entry »
On the new release by the Little Willies, the New York-based country music (!) group formed by Norah Jones (piano, vocals), Richard Julian (guitar, vocals), Jim Campilongo (guitar), Lee Alexander (bass) and Dan Rieser (drums), the group tackles a selection of old classics made famous by the likes of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and others.
Among the notable tracks is “Tommy Rockwood,” an instrumental by Campilongo that is the sole original tune on the disc. The tune is mostly guitar-oriented with a country-rock vibe, but there is a smart Norah Jones solo that proves that she does have the chops to back up the acclaim some jazz snobs say is undeserved. Also very good is the cover of Parton’s classic “Jolene,” played here more organically than the original. Read the rest of this entry »
When Bill Wyman left the Rolling Stones in 1992, fans of the septuagenarian bassist thought he would simply retire and concentrate on Sticky Fingers, his United States-themed cafe (according to Keith Richards’ best-selling autobiography) and his signature metal detector. However, nothing could be further from the truth. He has kept quite busy with his Rhythm Kings, a band he founded in 1998 with longtime musical partner Terry Taylor. Read the rest of this entry »
Alt-Country, Bluegrass, Blues, Chicago Artists, Country, Country folk, Folk, Folk-rock, Jazz, Minimalism, R&B, Record Reviews, Rock, Soul, Vocal Music, World Music
The Old Town School of Folk Music has been the stage for countless performances for its half-century existence, hosting concerts that run the gamut from Americana to folk-rock and world music and in the meantime giving lesser-known artists a chance to showcase their talents to appreciative audiences that might not be reached otherwise.
To celebrate this, the school is releasing a four-disc box set of recordings made during these shows—some made on the sound board and others captured during radio broadcasts. The full package includes as many as 127 songs that had to be individually cleared with each artist or their estates. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: M Sharkey
Listening to Brooklyn-based alt-Latin band Pistolera (“female gunslinger”) you’d think they hail from the north of Mexico. Their sound is strongly influenced by “corrido,” a fast-paced, syncopated beat with lyrics about various issues—heartbreak, social issues and, more recently, the tension involving immigration to the United States. That influence can be felt in songs like “Cazador,” a protest song about the Minutemen vigilantes on the Mexico-US border, and the very danceable “Policia.” Read the rest of this entry »
The number of people Jerry Douglas has played with is pretty much incalculable—although Del McCoury, a one-time compatriot, is set to perform at the Old Town School of Folk this week. Appearing on a steady stream of albums since the sixties, this Ohio-born dobro player has spent the better part of the last decade and change lending a hand to Alison Krauss in her backing group. The singer, who hails from Decatur, has counted innumerable accolades over time. And while Krauss’ vocals and acumen on fiddle are undeniable, the company she keeps isn’t too shabby either. Read the rest of this entry »
From 1972’s “The Fast One” through J.D. Souther’s re-recording of “Silver Blue” for this year’s low-key “A Natural History,” the singer/songwriter’s vision of country, rock and folk’s intersection hasn’t been daring. But it has been sturdy and enduring, which accounts for a handful of artists from other genres adapting his compositions. Starting out as a jazzbo, toting around a sax as much as drumsticks, Souther found himself in the middle of SoCal’s embrace of countrified sounds during the late sixties and into the early seventies. Never as raucous as the Flying Burrito Brothers or as psychedelic as the Byrds, Souther’s talents afforded him interaction with all those folks while sharing an apartment with soon-to-be Eagles’ frontman Glenn Frey. Souther, in fact, would be responsible for some of that band’s biggest hits. Read the rest of this entry »
This Americana/folk band paid their dues in their native New London, Connecticut for several years, but recently they picked up and left for the West Coast. Led by vocalist Sean Spellman, their sound has very strong country tendencies with a rock edge. Think of them as an update on Crazy Horse with tight CSN & Y harmonies, which can be heard on tunes like “Downtown”—sort of a jaded look at New York City and “Young Girls,” a tune that goes even heavier on their country side. The band is rounded out by Ryan Spellman, Craig Rupert, Jeremy Bruno, Harris Pittman and—as their official Facebook page states—friends… whatever that might mean. They have a strong following via social networks, which they use to advertise gigs, post videos and invite fans to concerts. They are currently on a major national tour in support of Seattle-based The Moondoggies, another folk group with stronger rock ‘n’ roll tendencies. (Ernest Barteldes)
February 4 at The Hideout, 1354 West Wabansia, (773)227-4433, 10pm. $10.