Thursday, August 26, 2004
The Unbroken Circle: The Musical Heritage of the Carter Family | Dualtone Records
The Unbroken Circle is a top-notch tribute to the Carter Family, a Virginia trio that basically started country music and recorded scores of songs that are now considered standards—“Wabash Cannonball” and “Sunny Side of the Street”—by A-list musicians, including George Jones, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow.
From songs based on Biblical stories (“Little Moses,” “On the Sea of Galilee”) to tales of good folks gone bad (“Black Jack David,” “Rambling Boy,”) the tunes reflect the Carter Family’s wide range of subject matter.
The album includes John Prine’s Steve Earle-ish take on “Bear Creek Blues,” Willie Nelson’s “You Are My Flower” and, best of all, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives doing the hair-raising ballad “Never Let the Devil Get the Upper Hand of You,” with an electric sitar for atmosphere.
The Unbroken Circle is a proper tribute that exposes the genius of a legendary band with excellent performances by highly credible artists. (ST)
CALL AND RESPONSE
Winds Take No Shape | Badman Recording Co.
It’s always encouraging to see a new and beautiful form emerge from the snotty aesthetic quagmire marketed as “indie rock.” Case in point, Winds Take No Shape is a bold, well-defined album.
Unlike the general pop-structure of their earlier songs, the songwriting here seems more earnest, is more complicated, and even manages to competently incorporate elements of jazz technique. The result is a light and lovely sonic experience.
The lyrics are thoughtful and well crafted but suffer from moments of poetic discord. The chorus for “Trapped Under Ice” runs: “you can’t cry when you’re trapped under ice.” This line fails for the fact that, in such a situation, crying would simply be a waste of time.
The only other regrettable fact is that keyboard player Simone Rubi doesn’t sing lead or contribute any of her compositions to this particular album. There are moments on Winds Take No Shape when lead singer Carrie Clough’s voice can sound irritatingly pure and Rubi’s would be a welcome variation. (MB)
True To Yourself | Blind Pig
It gets harder every passing week to make the blues fresh-sounding and worthy. The ole ears have pretty much heard every change and sentiment worked to death, so the appearance of this unassuming and workmanlike-looking offering wasn’t exactly welcome.
Lordy be, t’is a pleasant surprise. Mr. Cummings may appear at first listening to be devoted to the memory and preservation of St. Stevie’s mantle and legacy, but despite musical direction from Vaughn’s bassist, he really doesn’t work that side of the street. All attack, overtone and overdrive, Cummings eschews the clear-as-a-bell Austin blues timbre and scratches, bends and distorts his work so that at times he resembles the late Robert Quine more than the late Albert King.
If only he wrote more like Quine’s old bosses Richard Hell and Lou Reed or like any of the famous Kings (BB, Earl n’ Albert n’ Freddie). The songs are lyrically and melodically right down the bar band alley, almost proudly unadventurous, with the exception of the workingman’s anthem, “Come Up For Air.” Still, it’s a more than acceptable slice of the boogie. Worth a listen. (JA)