Sep 9, 2013 Podcasts
A few weeks ago our good friend George Douglas had a chance to sit down with Australian born singer/ songwriter Audrey Auld before a show. George talks to Audrey about her brand new release, Tonk, moving to East Nashville, playing with Fred Eaglesmith among other things.
As always if you like what you hear, tell someone about the site/ show and if you feel frisky leave a comment or a review on iTunes and if you really feel froggy drop a few dollars in the tip jar at the side of the page.
Learn more about Audrey here.
Ara Babajian, Courtney Love, Frank Bello (bass, Anthrax), Fred Eaglesmith, Isaac Brock (vocals & guitar, Modest Mouse), Jack White, Jacob Hoggard, Jesse McReynolds (vocals & mandolin, Jim and Jesse), Jim Kerr (vocals & keys, Simple Minds), Marc Almond (vocals & guitar, Soft Cell)…The late Bon Scott (vocals, ACDC), Eddie Dean, Lee Hazelwood, Mitch Mitchell (drums, Jimi Hendrix Experience), Molly O’Day, and Root Boy Slim also called this day their birthday.
Tags: Fred Eaglesmith
May 20, 2013 Concert Reviews
Much to my surprise that is exactly what the show was, backed by Canadians singer/songwriter, Scott Nolan (guitar/backing vocals) and Joanna Miller (drums/backing vocals) Gauthier tore through versions of her songs with a much harder edge. She did so without losing an ounce of the emotion and brilliance that always resides inside her music.
Taking place at The Columbus Performance Arts Center as part of the Six String Concert Series, her 90 minute set covered songs from all six of her studio albums. She included many of her fan favorites alongside of some deeper cuts, Fred Eaglesmith covers and a few new songs as well.
During the entire show, Gauthier genuinely seemed to be having more fun than anyone in the room. Stepping back in the middle of songs to let Nolan take lead breaks while she grinned from ear to ear, like a four year old left alone with the cookie jar. It was quite refreshing to see an artist, who writes songs that run so emotionally deep and often sad, not take herself too seriously while on stage. Gauthier’s in between song banter and interactions with the crowd came off as uncontrived and natural, and added the comedic interludes that songs with such heaviness need.
Sonically, the band seemed loose but perfect for the moment. Miller and Nolan’s backing vocals filled in nicely when needed with Miller’s vocals sometimes standing out in a beautifully haunting way. The drums and the lead guitar gave a much enjoyed boost to the songs that is often lacking from singer/ songwriter type shows.
Highlights of the show for me included a great version of “Your Sister Cried”, that far eclipsed the original Eaglesmith version. Early on in the show, she played crowd and personal favorite, “I Drink” which really set the stage for the type of night we were going to have. I really enjoyed hearing “Karla Faye” and “Last of the Hobo Kings” live as well. Towards the end of the set she played a brand new co-write with Irish singer, Ben Glover, entitled “Oh Soul” that brought all of us in the crowd together with a great sing along part. Closing the set was her signature song, “Drag Queens in Limousines” and a solo acoustic encore of “Mercy Now”.
Over all I’d say the 150 folks in the audience got every penny of their money’s worth as Gauthier definitely prides herself on delivering a damn fine show to her fans. While I was disappointed to not get a podcast recorded (cancelled due to timing issues) I was sure glad I got to finally see her perform.
A few final notes of interest from the show, Gauthier delivered a marriage proposal to a lady who’s partner had decided to pop the question to after 22 years together. Another break in the show had Gauthier stepping aside as Nolan and Miller performed his song, “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. This track which was covered by Hayes Carll on his album, Trouble in Mind, was a million times better coming from Nolan and has definitely made it clear I must investigate his albums a little more.
I will discuss Rod Picott’s excellent opening set later this week when I post the podcast Rod and I recorded.
Find out more on Mary Gauthier here : www.MaryGauthier.com
Buy her latest album here:Live at Blue Rock
and finally learn about Scott Nolan here: www.ScottNolan.ca
Roger Marin at The Bistro
Sally Creek Golf Course,
Woodstock, Ontario, Canada
Saturday April 13, 2013
My friend Carolyn has taken on managing this restaurant on a new golf course in my hometown of Woodstock. She mentioned to me last fall that she was going to try to get music going on a regular basis at this new venue in an old furnace/incinerator building. I know Caroline from music festivals we both attend like the Roots on the River Festival in Bellows Falls, Vermont and Roger Marin’s Cicadafest held in St. Catherines, Ontario the during July for the last 4b or 5 years.. I first met her when Scott Nolan played my backyard in back in 2008 and stayed at Carolyn and Davids place, as had Gordie Tentrees when he played my basement a year later. I met Scott in Texas when he was touring with Roger’s band.
Roger was brand new in Fred Eaglesmith’s band back in 1999 when I saw my first Fred show at his annual charity picnic. That was the last picnic near Port Dover and they moved to The Catfish Creek campgrounds in the Springwater Conservation area near Aylmer (Ontario) the next year where they’ve been since. I lived for those picnics because folks from all over North America would gather a stones throw from my home and bands and musicians they’d met on the road would show up for a weekend of music and partying and lots of campfire jams. The great thing about the picnics was that quite often somebody that had been up on stage that afternoon would be sitting across the fire from you later that night. I can remember one memorable campfire jam where we had, Roger, Hayes Carll, J.T. Van Zandt (Townes’son), Dan Walsh, Washboard Hank, and a few assorted D.Rangers jammin’ and laughing and bringing out tunes.
It was around this time that Roger started playing a few of his own songs and asking us what we thought…we thought they were great…so were the covers he was doing, most notably a couple from Adam Carroll. Next year in June of 2004, I met Adam for the first time when I made the long drive down to Bellows Falls Vermont and that was the weekend Roger first had his debut CD for sale. That festival blew my mind, it was the first time I saw Adam, Hayes Carll, Chris Knight, Slaid Cleaves, Gandalph Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams and a ton of other great acts! In the evening there were up close shows in a little room at the Everyday Inn and later jams in the parking lot. It was magical.
At Christmastime in Port Dover, after the Fred show Roger played down the street at a little bar called Captain Billy’s with his Fred bandmates Dan Walsh & Darcy Yates and his buddy Matt Keighan on the skins.
The next time I saw Roger with a band was at an outdoor show at a flea market in Brantford, Ontario. Matt was back behind the kit and he had a really tall guy with a mohawk named Rod Standish and bass player who had long, almost waist length black hair named Phil Bosley along this time. They rocked that day and they rocked harder in Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas the next time I saw them. Led Zeppelin covers of HeartBreaker and Livin’ Lovin’ Maid – complete with screaming guitars and usually a drum solo on a beer keg closed many a set those days.
June 2006 in Bellows Falls, Roger , Matty, Phil and Rod parked themselves outside my motel room at the Everyday Inn and jammed all night long. I had my kids along that time, Danielle who was 18 and George Jr. two years younger, and a pretty good guitar player already. I think they were impressed by my friends. Roger gave my son his name and phone number and told him to call if he wanted to do something musically. That was a very king thing for him to do. It’s written on the CD cover for High Roads which came out that year and is one the very few sophomore albums that is stronger than the debut disc. At Christmas that year Roger opened the Fredmas shows in Port Dover solo. Here’s a video of him doing Broken Glass and Busted Songs that weekend.
2010 brought the release of Silvertown, which is reviewed here on Broken Jukebox by yours truly. So I’ll try to to stop with the history lesson here and get onto telling you about the show a few nights back.
The Bistro is a large room with red brick walls and big windows with rounded tops. In it’s former life it was the furnace room/incinerator for the Ontario Hospital that sat north of town and was a collection of dozens of buildings spread over many acres either side of Highway 59. The OH, as it was known, was a mental hospital and at one time was the City of Woodstock’s biggest employer. Many of my friends and my wife Donna worked there when I was a teen in the 70’s, in fact one of my friends; Greg, who was at the show on Saturday night said his last day of employment was in this building. Attitudes and ideas about mental health changed over the years and the patients were mostly integrated into group homes inside town. The city grew and a subdivision and golf course named Sally Creek were built on the site of the former hospital. The towering red brick chimney still stands outside this impressive old building.
There was a large group of 35 or so people already at the restaurant for a birthday party for a 70 year old woman when we got there at 7 for dinner before the show. They were having a good time and most stayed right through the show. I’d reserved a table for 12 friends and co-workers and most of them were there by 8. Roger and his wife Rogina showed up about that time and Roger noted that there wasn’t a P.A. and said “Oh well, I’ll just sing loud”. I offered to go grab mine but he demurred saying “No sit down and enjoy yourself”. Mike Tuyp showed 15 minutes later and I looked over at his electric guitar and thought to myself “How’s this gonna work?” The raucous group at the back was making it hard to converse across the table so I went home (the other side of this small city) and unburied the PA and speakers, grabbed a mic and stand and was back in a half hour.
I’ve seen Mike and Roger do the duo thing a half dozen times and I’m always blown away by how perfectly Mr. Tuyp complements the songs. It’s so seamless it’s scary sometimes. Roger opened with the title track from Silvertown and was playing a gorgeous old well-weathered Guild Acoustic. It must have had a short because if he moved too fast there’d be a large crack echoing through the room. I lasted a song and a half before I went and got my Martin out of the trunk of my car and he played the rest of the night with that. I love hearing that guitar in the hands of good players and there’ve been a few play it over the years. At a house concert a couple years ago Manitoba Hal Brolund put down his double necked ukulele for a song and borrowed it for a great tune. When he was finished blowing us away my buddy Pete turned to me and said “Well, George, it’s not the guitar…sounds good when he plays it!” Blair Hogan used it and Brock Zeman used my friend Gary’s Larrivee when they played Roots on the River last June. That’s a lot of heavy duty mojo that I’m hoping will seep back into my playing someday. Brock told me, after touring a bit with Roger, that he was impressed with how adaptable and positive he was. He told me if his guitar wasn’t available, he’d borrow one…. If there was no guitar he’d play piano…no problem. He is a killer pedal steel player, a gifted mechanic….and a Mechanical Engineer! Based on a couple of remarks he made during the set he’s becoming a master drywaller too.
Pretty early in the set Roger performed “I Wish it Would Rain” a Rodney Crowell penned tune that he does so well. Roger met Rodney on one of the Delbert McClinton Cruises and they became friends. During the course of the show he also covered Mary Gauthier’s “I Drink” , Adam Carroll’s “Blondie & Dagwood” and ”The Girl With the Dirty Hair” and tossed in a Todd Snider tune too. I mention the covers because I’m a know-it-all and when I’d hear one starting up I lean into someone close by and say confidently in their ear “That’s an Adam Carroll song!” I have iPhone video of “Broken” and “It’ll Be Alright” that will accompany this piece and without a setlist I know I heard “Rollin’On”, “Film Star”, “You Hate Yourself” and the aforementioned “Silvertown”. I missed hearing two of my favourites “High Roads” and “Whiskey Take Me Off The Shelf “ but I didn’t want to shout them out either.
There was probably 30 folks there to see Roger and about the same number in the restaurant for other reasons so it was a good crowd. Roger remarked how nice it was to play town for the first time and see so many familiar faces. The folks I brought, who had not heard him before, loved it as much as the fans that have seen him develop over the years. I’m looking forward to a bunch more shows at this new venue – The Bistro at Sally Creek.
I’m walkin’ through streets that are dead
Walkin’, walkin’ with you in my head
My feet are so tired
My brain is so wired
And the clouds are weepin’…
It’s October 1997, I am driving around in my first car, a 1985 Chevy Camaro with t-tops. Time Out of Mind has been out nearly a month now, and has not left my tape player since. This is Dylan’s first record of new material in 7 years, but more importantly the first that he has released since I became a Dylan fan.
The weather is warm and Ohio’s Autumn smell permeates the air, by the end of the month I will have played this record for everyone I know. As a junior in high school, the music that we listen to is a big part of what defines us. While the hip hop of the era will dominate most of the cars in the high school parking lot, every morning I will ease into my space to the sound of Dylan’s “great comeback”. This, a very important time in my life will forever be linked to this album.
…Well, my heart’s in the highlands at the break of day
Over the hills and far away
There’s a way to get there and I’ll figure it out somehow
Well, I’m already there in my mind, and that’s good enough for now.
The record ends and here I sit in a completely different place and time than the one I have occupied for the last 72 or so minutes. I am no longer that 16 year old, driving around town in a cloud of smoke without a care in the world. Instead I am once again rapidly approaching my mid thirties, juggling a mortgage, children’s dance class and soccer practices.
I am constantly amazed at music’s ability to completely transport us to another time, make us see someone’s face or hear their voice just by association. Here are the words and voice of a then 56 year old man bringing me back to a time when I wasn’t old enough to vote.
I have found that this effect can be brought about by a song, a record or even a certain artist. The link between music and emotion is a deep seeded and often discussed topic. For me, it is the only art form that has this ability. I have written before that when I hear Fred Eaglesmith’s voice I immediately think of my uncle, with whom I bonded over musical tastes.
I am positive that everyone who reads this will have similar stories. For Nashville based songwriter, Peter Cooper it’s the sound of Mike Auldridge’s dobro. Cooper offered this when asked about it, “When I hear Mike Auldridge’s dobro on anything, I’m instantly transported to the front row of The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, where I sat as a teenager and watched as Auldridge played with The Seldom Scene.”
Texas music legend, Jon Dee Graham relayed a few different songs that placed him in certain times, that evoked, “Incredibly specific detailed memories right down to how it felt.”, among them ZZ Top’s “Hot Blue and Righteous” which took him back to his high school parking lot. Rod Picott takes it a step further stating, “I’m not sure how that all works. All I know is that Stevie Wonder’s ‘My Cherie Amour’ is the smell of Cheryl Baker’s hair.”
The more I thought about the way music affects us emotionally as a listener, I began to wonder how that relationship works out from the writer / performers point of view. These songs that have such an impact on us fans, were after all born from the events and feelings in these people’s lives. So I sent out questions to some songwriters that I respect to get their thoughts on this idea.
All songs are written with some kind of emotion behind them, the setting, time it was written, or person who inspired it all play a part in the formation of the song. As fans we attach the events of our own lives to them, but I wondered if the artist continues to revisit that place and time whenever they play a particular song and what happens to that connection over time.
David Olney says that he spends so much time finding the right feeling for a song while writing it, that it is nearly impossible not to revisit those emotions when performing the song later on. He actually strives not to overstate that emotion for fear of cheapening the song itself. Canadian Brock Zeman has a completely opposite idea, he finds that if spends less time building the song, it’s easier to find a spark later on down the line.
Eric Brace (Last Train Home) makes an attempt to channel the feelings he had when writing a song, to try to stay true to it. He gave me this example, “…like when I’m singing the song “Hendersonville,” which I wrote for Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash after they’d died and which was written when my father was dying of cancer — and it gets emotional on stage.”
British, punk-folk artist, Frank Turner has difficulty reaching the emotional peak that was present during the writing of the song, saying “. In all honesty, I can’t say I relive the full emotional gauntlet of every song every time I sing it – for the harder songs that would kill me!”.
While Graham insists that he must find that spot completely or risk losing the song altogether. “… in fact if I let myself drift away from where that song lives I will screw it up, forget the next line, blow a chord change. I don’t keep a scrapbook,” Graham continues, “I have the songs; I can tell you right where I was when every one of my songs were conceived.”
So it is obvious that connection to the time and place that the song was written is an important part of the performance, although the method of connecting and the intensity of said connection differs from artist to artist. Next I wanted to learn more about the evolution of those emotions.
Often a song, artist or record will conjure certain memories for me, but those memories can be replaced by newer ones that I associate with that music. Maybe the old feelings have faded over time or the new ones are just that much stronger. Sometimes someone else will offer their ideas on a song and that will color my interpretation of or feelings about it.
When asked the songwriters had different feelings about how time and outside influences affect the way they feel about and perform certain material. With some songs such as Zeman’s “Danny’s Song”, written about a friend that committed suicide those feelings linger latch on and affect the performance for a long period of time.
Cooper says that this happens more to him as a listener and fan than as a performer or writer. He cites a song that he had loved for years, and was a friend’s favorite. After that friend suffered an untimely death that song made Cooper think of the friend.
Picott recalls a point that the meaning of a song changed for him drastically, based on a single performance:
There is a song called “River Runs” from my second cd Stray Dogs. I wrote the song with Slaid Cleaves. The pre chorus goes- “I’ve seen the lines on all their faces, faces weary and true but I’ll keep searching till I find you…”
After the 9/11 attacks The Bottom Line in New York decided to have a free evening of music to sort of invite the city back out into the world. It was a very stressful time. It wasn’t long after the attack and workers will still sorting through the wreckage. I was on the road with Slaid who was invited to perform at the event. Slaid graciously offered to let me play a few minutes of his allotted time so I played our co-write River Runs. It was like being hit by a truck when I got to those lines of the song. Obviously that wasn’t what we were referring to when we wrote the song but it couldn’t have been more powerful. I humbled by the serendipity of the moment and the song is forever changed for me. It’s a much more powerful song to sing even now than it was before that night. It’s not something we constructed but I’ll never forget the look in people’s eyes when I got to those lines…it grabs at my throat even now to think about it
Texas songwriter, Mark Jungers and Athens Georgia based, Daniel Hutchens (Bloodkin) say even a fan’s perspective on a song can change the way they see it. They both mentioned that when someone gives their interpretation of a song and it alters what they originally intended to say in the song, when they play it from then on they will think of these new ideas and emotions along side their own.
Jon Dee Graham shared a funny story of how different people hear different things in a song and how that can affect the emotions contained in the song. “…once, after Escape from Monster Island came out I had a fan tell me how the song on there about me and my brother led to a reconciliation between him and HIS brother. And I was grateful and humbled and moved, but the THING IS, there is no song on there about me and my brother. But there was for HIM, and it helped him out. So I don’t put lyric sheets in my albums. Ever. Who am I to tell people what they need to hear?”
Songwriter and renown producer, Gurf summed up the effects of time on a song by saying, “As life unfolds, more experiences come along that may connect to past songs in some meaningful ways. They can make a song seem more relevant, sometimes.”
After discussing the original emotional connection with their material and how that evolves over time and with outside influences, I asked if there were songs that they would not play due to the emotions they evoked or because they had lost that “feeling” and could not do them justice any longer.
Peter Cooper cited a song that had a reference to the death of childhood pet, that has a negative effect on the audience. Olney says he retires songs because they “need a rest”, but most of the time they find their way back into the fold like an old friend.
Hutchens plays certain songs and leaves other out based on the mood of the crowd, gauging how the emotions that certain song will affect what is happening in the moment.
Brace states that sometimes he just looses a song completely because over time he has grown apart from the emotion of it. While Jungers moves away from songs because he feels closer to the new ones he has just written, saying that the new ones “just want to be played”. Morlix comes out and says that emotions don’t play a rule in dropping a song from rotation rather he stops playing them because he thinks they “suck”. Along the same lines Picott says that sometimes a song goes away because, “…a lyric that sounds clever at 28 years old can sound quite foolish at 48″.
The last thing that I asked the writers about was cover songs. When they cover a song do they have the same feelings they did as a fan or does it morph more into their own song. Likewise what emotions and thoughts are brought forward when someone else does one of their compositions whether on record or live.
Olney had this to say about covering other artists:
Getting inside someone else’s song is a skill that is much undervalued these days. To sing your own song is to connect with your own emotions. To sing someone else’s is to connect with their emotions which is not so easy. I sing The BG’s New York Mining Disaster. Part of me is a miner trying to show other trapped miners a picture of his wife hoping the rescue team is able to dig them out. This is what I pictured when I first heard the song. Another part of me is remembering being arrested and stuck in jail in New York City hoping someone was working on getting me out. There has to be a personal connection to cover a song.
Jungers tries to share the emotions that he felt when hearing the song he is covering to his audience. Hutchens strives to make a song his own, but recognizes that the original feeling he got as a fan of the song remains present at the same time. Frank Turner also feels that the most important part of a cover is the interpretation and finding “…your own line into the heart of the song”.
When it comes time to hear someone else play one of their songs, the people asked seemed to take more notice of the way the song was played rather than the emotion that was conveyed. Cooper says that when he hears Irene Kelley play a song they co-wrote he thinks to himself that they “clean up well”. Picott takes another route saying that no matter how good a version someone does of his song, to him it seems to be off slightly.
Zeman admits to having heard a better version of his song “Dear Father”, about the trials and tribulations of a Canadian winter, performed around a campfire in Texas. Jon Dee mentioned a few covers of his songs that he felt hit the mark better than the original version.
In the end of all this, I’m not sure that I am any closer to understanding how or why music has this effect on people, but I do have a better feel for what goes on during the lifetime of a song from the perspective of the stage. As long as artists continue to successfully convey their emotions through the recording and performing process we as fans will be able to continue time stamping our memories with songs. Every time I dust off a certain record and take the proverbial trip down memory lane, I will have some insight on what that performer may be thinking and feeling as they those same songs that seem to define the moments of my life.
I’d like to take a second to thank everyone who was gracious enough to take the time to answer my questions and allow me to post their answers in this article. All of the pictures in the article link directly to the artist’s website please take the time to visit them all, maybe buy a record or two or go and see them live to experience the great songs they have provided us with over the years.
Tags: bob dylan, Brock Zeman, daniel hutchens, david olney, eric brace, Frank Turner, Fred Eaglesmith, gurf morlix, jon dee graham, Mark Jungers, Mike Auldridge, peter cooper, Rod Picott, The seldom Scene
Mar 1, 2013 Playlist
There for awhile I was posting a different list of five every Friday. I am extending that idea and stealing a page from Bob Dylan’s book this week. I am going to try to post a somewhat themed playlist as often as every week. You can download the playlist by right clicking the link at the bottom of this page and choose “Save target as”. As a note of importance, if you or anyone you represent own these songs and would like them taken off the playlist please inform me and I will do so immediately. This lists are not meant to steal music, rather to highlight the songs and artists included, so please go out and buy these records.
This week’s playlist is all gambling related songs. I have always loved a good gambling tune and these are some of my favorites. There are some poker players, pool shooters, horse tracks among these songs. Most of them are originals but there are a few select cover songs that I am fond of as well.
Here is the the track listing:
1. Bob Dylan : “Ramblin’ Gamblin” Willie” from The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3
2. Brock Zeman and Dan Walsh: “Don’t Tell Jimmy” from The Bourbon Sessions
3. Corb Lund: “A Game in Town Like This” from Losin’ Lately Gambler
4. David Olney: “Ace of Spades Blues” from Migration
5. Fred Eaglesmith: “Rooster Fight” from Bailin
6. Jackie Greene: “The Gambler” from Small Tempest
7. Jerry Garcia: “The Loser” from Garcia
8. Jim Croce: “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” from You Don’t Mess Around With Jim
9. John Hiatt: “Cold River” from Master of Disaster
10. Malcolm Holcombe: “High Rolling Gambler” from Wager
11. Old and in the Way: “Land of the Navejo” from Old and in the Way
12. Paul Geremia: “Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues” from Live From Uncle Sam’s Backyard
13. Peter Case: “Roving Gambler” from Sings Like Hell
14. Ray Wylie Hubbard: “Mississippi Flush” from Eternal and Lowdown
15. Todd Snider: “Easy Money” from Songs From the Daily Planet
16. Townes Van Zandt: “Mr. Gold and Mr. Mudd” from High Low and In Between
Tags: bob dylan, Brock Zeman, corb lund, david olney, Fred Eaglesmith, Jackie Greene, jerry garcia, jim croce, John Hiatt, malcolm holcombe, old and in the way, peter case, ray wylie hubbard, todd snider, Townes Van Zandt
On February 15, 2008 the music world lost a great ambassador in Willie P. Bennett. The Canadian native passed away from a heart attack at a fairly young age, leaving behind a treasure trove of recorded music and a lifetime of stories and memories.
Bennett, began his career in the middle of a blossoming Canadian folk scene in the mid seventies. Over the next 20 plus years he released 6 critically acclaimed records and toured endlessly both as a solo act and a virtuoso sideman. Starting 1991 Willie joined with fellow Canadian songwriter, Fred Eaglesmith’s band where he would continue to add unparalleled depth and talent to Eaglesmith’s live shows and recordings until just prior to his death.
Bennett’s 1998 record, Heartstrings garnered him a Juno Award for best roots and traditional album and in 2010 he was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Perhaps more impressive and definitely more important than his career achievements, were the memories Willie seemed to leave with everyone he came into contact with. Over the years, I have heard nothing but great words spoken of the man. My only notable contact with Willie came in Nelsonville, Ohio at a folk festival when he was preparing for Fred’s set with a pre-show smoke. We sat alone on a picnic table and discussed the area for nearly 20 minutes. At no point in our conversation did I feel that I was imposing on him in any way. After the show, Willie was packing up their gear and as my wife and I walked by he called over to me by name to ask if I enjoyed myself and absolutely seemed eager to hear my response.
The idea for this article was prompted by George Douglas, a long time friend and fan of Willie’s. I started out asking a few people to share there thoughts and memories both musical and personal of Willie. As the responses came rolling in, I quickly realized that I needed to share them word for word to give them the gravity they deserved.
I am convinced that this is not a case of revisionist history that often comes after the passing of someone in the public eye and that the following stories would have been told with the same tone if Willie P. Bennett were still with us today.
George Douglas (Writer Broken Jukebox)
If you and I have met, it’s because of Willie P. Bennett. In 1997 when the World Wide Web was sparkly and new, I typed his name into several search engines before I came across a page that was just black text on a white background listing the album’s that the page author’s brother, Ralph had played on with some guy named Fred Eaglesmith and Willie P. Bennett. What prompted me to look for him was the album High or Hurtin’ by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings…I had to find out more about the man who wrote those songs. Months before I ever made it to a live Fred show I found a streaming broadcast of the band at Sons of Hermann Hall in Texas. As they would be at every show thereafter my eyes were drawn to Willie almost to the point of being hypnotized. Whether it was the mandolin licks or the damn near perfect harmonica playing or his uncanny ability to sing harmony against Fred or anybody else it was usually his contributions that lifted songs or performances from being good, zoomed right past great into that zone where they become magic. Even when there were 6 or seven musicians on stage I only had eyes for the maestro. I feel privileged that I’ve seen dozens of solo Willie P. solo shows. I’ve never been to one that wasn’t sold out or filled to capacity whether it was crammed into the Hobo store or the Aeolian Hall in London or Saengerhalle in Texas, when Willie played his songs, conversations stopped, rowdies became quiet and women swooned. I wasn’t surprised when I travelled to Vermont and Texas at what a high regard he was held by audiences and musicians everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever been to solo show where someone didn’t shout out “We Love You Willie!” The Willie P. Bennefit in Peterborough this past summer was just the tip of a huge iceberg of musicians who hold WPB in the highest regard. Sunday afternoon in the cold rain at the Southern Picnic last summer he surprised and delighted us with his surprise appearance and I’m glad it was raining because I was crying. He played with Fred’s band later that afternoon and then a few shows at Christmas in Port Dover. I was gonna go to see him March 1st in London and again in June when he was going to be playing with the Dixie Flyers. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that there’s not going to be anymore shows…damn. I had a few conversations with Willie. He was shy and I became tongue-tied around him because I was so in awe of the man. I have had many conversations about him and established several friendships with folks who felt the same. It’s always been a way find the true believers…say Willie P. Bennett and watch them smile and have the light come into their eyes. This afternoon was spent on the phone with several of those true believers, were all numb, hoping it wasn’t true, but it is. I think like Townes Van Zandt, Willie’s songs and reputation will snowball with his passing. This is the bluest Valentine of all. I miss you Bill. God speed.
Dan Walsh ( Singer, Guitar Player, Member of Fred’s band w/ Willie )
As we approach the 5th anniversary of Willie’s passing, there really isn’t a day when I don’t think of him or some event that took place during our time together on the road. Willie has been a huge influence on me not only as a musician but also as a person and my life has definitely been enriched with his presence. The one thing that I will forever remember, is that Willie always had time for people no matter how busy and hectic our schedule was. And more importantly, he had a knack for remembering a name and a face. So many times we would step off the bus in some of the wierdest (in a good way) places, and he would totally remember lots of people that would greet us. And looking back, it’s easy to see why so many people loved and respected him. He always made you feel like you were old friends.
Willie also had an uncanny knack for zeroing in on abhorent frequencies in a monitor system. Many nights on the road, you are not always afforded the best in sound reinforcement, and The Eaglesmith band in those days certainly had a wide array of different musical styles within one band, but no matter how painfully inadequate the sound system was, Willie was always able to achieve consistency by knowing what frequencies to pull out of the monitors. I remember so many times when sound engineers would come to Willie after the show and thank him for his guidance and patience while enduring a somewhat brutal sound check. And sometimes they didn’t thank Willie But they should have……
And finally, many knew Willie as a Singer/Mando/Harmonica player. I knew him as one of the strongest rythym guitarists I have ever heard. And I mean this. Being around Willie for the years I was, totally changed the way I approach and play the guitar. He had this great sorta subtle back beat with his right hand that I have yet to to learn exactly how he did it. However, his style completely influenced and changed the way I play to this day. And I am forever indebted to him for that……
Miss you Willie……
Pokey Karol ( Songwriter )
One of the things about Willie was his accessibility. I mean, this guy could have been Elvis in Canada, but instead chose a simpler life. When you met him, he was just this friendly guy, and not a big rock star. When he was on stage, he made you feel like he was singing directly to you. The man had a certain grace with people. He had a beautiful boozy Buddha quality about him, a cosmic presence that’s hard to describe. I learned to play the mandolin just because I met him. One of my fondest memories of him is just sitting in the sand at Loon Lake, sipping tequila and shooting the breeze together. I’m glad I got a chance to know him.
Now That Good Ol’ Willie’s Gone
by Pokey KaroL
high or hurting
he tugged at our heartstrings
a light shone in his face
when he got on the stage
When Willie would play
he took our breath away
solo or sideman
Who will be our icon
now that good ol’ Willie’s gone
now that good ol’ Willie’s gone
He took the stage
he took our hearts
he made us grin
he gave us the love
We’ll never hear a mandolin
played like that ever again
oh, Who will I lose
all my poker money to
who will play goalie
at ball hockey from now on
now that good lo’ Willie’s gone
now that good ol’ Willie’s gone
I miss his face
I miss his voice
I miss his playing
we all miss the love
a packed theatre in London
on a soggy campground
in the tiny HOBO store
all those places and more
the music would come
he gave us the love
who’ll i drink tequila with
until the break of dawn
now that good lo’ Willie’s gone
now that good ol’ Willie’s gone
now that good ol’ Willie’s gone
Romi Mayes ( Songwriter )
Willie P was and always will be one of the strongest influences in my life. The man truly had a glow around him when he performed. Whenever I had the fortune of spending time with him, he gave me great advice for on and off the stage, how to be a better singer, a better musician, and a better person. I still cover his tunes and try to share his music with as many people as I can. In my eyes, he remains a legend and an icon.
Joe Gee ( Songwriter )
We all loved Willie – an amazing musician, person, and friend. I saw him many times with Fred Eaglesmith, having been fortunate to perform at a number of shows including Fred’s Texas Weekend, The Southern Picnic in Aylmer, The Great Northern Picnic in Cobalt, Fred’s Downeast Picnic in New Brunswick and Roots On the River in Vermont – and at tons of other shows I’ve attended. Here’s my most lasting Willie memory:
I caught my first-ever Willie set at the Riverhawk Festival in Florida in November of 2004; he played Saturday at 2 p.m. on a small stage set up in a little covered picnic area near the campground. There were maybe 100 of us jammed in there, and were treated to the finest solo performance I ever saw and may ever see in my life. A high-wire balancing act of gentleness and force built on some of the greatest songwriting and musicianship imaginable. Thanks, Willie.
Kenny Butterill ( Songwriter )
With this month marking the fifth anniversary of the passing of our close friend Willie P Bennett, we unveiled “Willie We Miss Ya” – my tribute song to Willie P at KPIG Radio. The legendary Washboard Hank flew in from the Great White North to play it with me. For those of you unfamiliar with Willie, he was a highly acclaimed Canadian singer songwriter who was beloved by music lovers all over the world. Willie played on my last CD release. He would come to my house when he was touring here in Northern California and up in Canada, when he came to visit me at my Balsam Lake cottage north of Toronto he surprised me by giving me one of his Harmony guitars as house warming gift. He won a Juno award in Canada (equivalent to a Grammy in the States) and a super group called Blackie and the Rodeo Kings was formed to just do Willie P songs. Willie was one of my biggest supporters in music and we had plans to write together and play out – and then he died. Very sad. Willie We Miss Ya. To listen to the song go to http://www.nobullsongs.com/news/clips.htm .
Dave Russo ( Fan )
When I think of Willie, I see him loading in amplifiers, microphones, and cables for the band. He sets it all up and does his thorough, get-it-right sound check. Then I see him on stage with his belt of harmonicas and his mandolin, making them ring and wail, making a wave of sound the band rides on. Then the music stops, and Willie packs it all away. He hauls it back to the bus. The bus rolls away in the dark.
Lila Forro ( Fan )
First memory: Meeting Willie circa 1998, when Fred and the band played one of the legendary Pine Hill Farm house concerts in Durham, NC. Because I had no idea of Willie’s status as a musician in Canada, I didn’t realize whom I was asking about why he played the mandolin…how he learned it…and other inane questions. It was the first of many times I would experience Willie’s kindness and civility.
Middle memory: Attending my first Roots on the River Festival in Bellows Falls, Vermont, 2003. A picture of me with Pokey Karol, both of us on the edge of our seats with our mouths hanging open, says more than words can about the spectacle of Mr. Bennett going airborne with that mandolin.
Last memory: Seeing Willie for the last time at the Fred Eaglesmith Winter Weekend in 2007. We were on one end of an empty hallway at the theatre when Willie emerged, snow-covered, through a door at the other end. I ran down the hall and threw my arms around him, and he bear-hugged me back. I’m so very glad I did that.
Eva Graves ( Former Promoter : Great Northern Picnic )
My husband Terry and I were sitting on the porch at the Walpole Inn on a very late night during one of the Roots on The River picnics in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Bill Chambers was one of the acts, and he, Audrey Auld, Fred and Willie were jamming on the porch. Willie started playing White Line and they all joined in. After the song, Bill turned to Willie and asked “Who wrote that song; I’ve always loved it”. The look on his face and the smiles on everyone else’s was priceless when Willie responded “I did”. Just one of many Willie memories.
I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to this article for doing so and for helping keep the memory of Willie P. Bennett alive. A special thanks goes out to George Douglas for helping me contact people and organize this tribute.
Jun 5, 2011 Album Reviews
I used to read an online forum about Fred Eaglesmith called “The Digest” as religiously some folks follow their favourite sports team. That’s the first place I heard about Audrey Auld after she and Bill Chambers had played at the Roots on the River Festival in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Bill’s daughter Kasey Chambers was breaking big in North America with her album The Captain around that time and I remember being excited when I heard that title cut on a Sopranos episode.
Sometime after that I met my good friend and Austin-based singer-songwriter pal Joe Gee, who was as enthusiastic about Audrey and her music as as a dog is about meat. I have a picture of him sitting in a lawn chair in the pouring rain for one of her shows. Most of my encounters with this pretty, witty, humorous and sometimes ribald lady have been around Fred shows or events around North America.
It was a year or two later that I first saw Audrey at Roots on the River and heard her pronounce “Roots”(in her Tasmanian accent) as a North American might say “Ruts” and tell us that in Australia a root has the same meaning as a rut would over/up here! I next saw her perform at Saengerhalle in New Braunfels, Texas and now her name was Audrey Auld Mezera and she had an album called Texas. That show was the one that turned me into a fan…I bought the CD and played it a lot over the next few years.
In November of 2009 I was lucky enough to travel on a train from Winnipeg, Manitoba up to Churchill to see where I’d been born and to see Polar Bears while there were still some to see. It was a Roots on the Rails trip (www.flyingunderradar.com) with Fred Eaglesmith and his band, Washboard Hank & Lance Loree, Gurf Morlix, Jon Dee Graham and Audrey who was accompanied by the incomparable Andrew Hardin on guitar. What a hoot we had! Performers and passengers totaled around 90 folks and we played and drank and laughed and laughed and laughed our way up from Winnipeg, heading north past where the roads end and the trees get shorter and shorter, across the muskeg and snow to a small town on the edge of James Bay. There were daily open mics where I got to play with Mr. Hardin and Elsabe Kloppers, a naturalist and fiddler, song swaps with various mixes of performers, concert shows from all the pros and the very best part – late night jams in the baggage car! With the side doors open to vent the cigarette smoke and the back doors open where you could see the tracks rolling out from under the car, this was the place to be.
Audrey’s suitcase and beloved Taylor guitar had somehow travelled a different route to Winnipeg than she had and didn’t make it onto the train so she was without them on the two days up to and one of the days there in Churchill. The title cut and album opener ‘Come Find Me’ was written on this trip and may have originated as a little prayer from Audrey. It has a waltz time beat to it and I can’t read the words without hearing the melody in my head. If this CD is the first time you’ve heard Audrey, than this song is the invitation into her words and music.
I was and am a fan of all the performers on that trip but was most excited to get to spend some time around Jon Dee Graham. He was still in a lot of pain from a recent car accident and shortly after the trip he fell from a ladder…but’s he’s tough, profane and resilient and he goes on. Petals (for Jon Dee) is the fourth cut on the CD and is Audrey’s rap song about “The King of Austin”. I had heard the majority of these songs live and on a couple of EP’s before the CD but not this one. It immediately grabbed my attention with it’s poetry and beat. Ms. Auld-Mezera is good at tribute songs, on Texas she used her admiring pen to write about Woody Guthrie and Billy Joe Shaver and on this album she gives us “Orphan Girl”, with the lyrics by Australian Terry MacArthur, about Mary Gauthier, whom Auds has attentively covered in the past. She sings this a cappella to great effect.
I was closer to fifty than forty when I first heard “Forty”, a sardonic, minor key commemoration of that milestone in her life. The chorus of “I’m halfway home” made me think about my own mortality while smiling at the other wry observations in the song. I think Audrey Auld is the only Tasmanian I’ve ever met and she tells us about her birthplace in the song “Tasmania”. She has said in promo material that Tasmania has more trees than people and the song “Tree” examines the nature of beauty in inanimate objects, with a nice melody.
“Just Love” is a co-write with her husband Mez, and if there is such a thing as singles these days this song would be my pick for one. I first heard it at a concert at Gram’s Place in Tampa that was organized by my friends George & Marlene. I’m amazed that someone can write another song about the subject of love and make it profound, memorable and radio friendly all at the same time.
The album has a dozen tracks, the last song being “Bread & Roses”. It takes it’s title from an organization in California that brings artists into prisons to work with inmates. Audrey was working with them, going into San Quentin to do songwriting workshops with the residents and the rules are pretty stringent as to what can be brought into the facility. It’s my favourite song to attempt to sing but a lot easier because it’s included in her songbook “Write out Loud” and is available at www.audreyauld.com.
CD Baby lists Kasey Chambers, Lucinda Williams and Patty Griffin as other artists that you may like but this album, I feel, has appeal beyond the country rock or Americana genre. If you’re already a fan, you’ll love this album, if your new to Audrey Auld, accept her invitation to “Come Find Me”, you’ll be happy you did.
Nov 16, 2010 Album Reviews
Silvertown shows up on Wikipedia as being part of Niagara Falls, Ontario. I’ve heard Roger introduced as being from the Falls as well as from St. Catherines or Thorold, and if you’ve driven in that area lately you know it’s hard to tell where the individual towns end and another starts. I think that’s called urban sprawl. Roger’s previous two albums had a little more twang to them than this one…there’s still some twang but there’s a lot of rock and roll and an urban feel to it too.
The cover of this CD shows the band standing outside the Silvertown Chinese Theatre and by their attire and courtesy of a couple props they are trying to convey Grauman’s Chinese theatre from Hollywood. There’s even a couple of palm trees in the picture; I don’t know if palm trees grow in southern Ontario. I do know there’s a few in Port Dover, the hometown base of Fred Eaglesmith, in whose band Roger labored as guitarist/pedal steel player/bus mechanic. In Dover they take the palms into a nursery each fall and replant them in the spring. Roger is wearing a Homburg, holding a cane and has unfastened polka dot suspenders, a wide black clip-on tie and handkerchief on a white shirt that gives him a cross between a Charlie Chaplin and a Stan Laurel type look. Bass player Phil Bosley has abandoned his ubiquitous black tee shirt for a white button down shirt and grey sports jacket. Matty Keighan has a black tee but compensates with a sports jacket that can’t cover his ripped knee jeans. New guy guitarist Mike Tuyp peaks over Rogers shoulder and is too hidden for me to convey his sartorial choices.
The Grauman’s theme is continued with chalk outlines of RMB’s members hands (instead of the hands in concrete) on the back cover. It states that the album was recorded and mixed by Matt Kieghan and Roger Marin Band and was mastered by Matt. Kudos on that boys – the production sounds as awesome and better than many big studio efforts I’ve heard.
Track one – You Hate Yourself puts me in mind of rolling around town in a buddy’s car on a weekend night listening to Foghat and Aerosmith on the 8 track. It’s a co-write with Texas co-writing slut Mark Jungers who has also penned songs with Adam Carroll, Scott Nolan, Brock Zeman and probably dozens of other partners. I first heard RMB (there’s no the before RMB) do this song in Bellows Fall Vermont this past June. There’s a key part of the song where they all scream, onstage only Phil did, so when I put the CD on driving home it sounded strange to hear all the voices. It was a hell of a rock and roll scream though…right up there with the one in Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Long before Americana became part of my musical lexicon, I liked Springsteen and John Mellencamp a lot and thought of Bruce as the urban and John as the country side of that coin. The title track of this CD – Silvertown, sounds like a co-write by those two guys. Roger released this song online as a preview to the CD, and it really caught my attention. I would have (and did) buy the album on the strength of this song alone. Thankfully the rest are really good too
Thirteen or fourteen years ago I heard Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ first album, High or Hurtin’ a tribute to Willie P. Bennett. I immediately had to hear more and see the man himself. I searched on a very new World Wide Web (before Google!) and tracked him down playing in a band with some guy named Fred J. Eaglesmith who turned out to be from the same part of Southern Ontario as I am, and then I went to see the band at a weekend long festival near Port Dover. Roger was brand new in the band then. There’s been hundreds of Fred shows and weekends since then and I started travelling to Vermont, Texas and across Canada to see shows and meet up with friends from all over the world that liked this kind of music. Willie P. died way too young in February of 2008. The Christmas shows in Port Dover in 2007 were Mr. Bennett’s last with Fred’s band. Roger, who had gone off on his own a couple years before, was opening the shows solo and sitting in with Fred’s band that weekend. He told of a late night call from Willie where he’d answered the phone to hear him say “ Roger…write this down – Whiskey take me off the shelf. You’re welcome”, click. The song as presented here is great, and lists Mark, Joy Junger and Adam Carroll as co-writers.
I first saw Adam Carroll (and Hayes Carll and Chris Knight) in Bellows Falls, Vermont, in 2004. Friends thought I was crazy to travel that far to see a bunch of folks they’d never heard of. I made friends and saw music that changed my life that weekend, and when I got to Texas a couple of years later I saw Mark Jungers do a set at Gruene Hall because he had a song on a Fred tribute album. Scott Nolan was there that weekend too and a few years later he said “When I met Roger Marin and made friends with him I immediately became friends with about 200 other people scattered across this continent.’ I know what he means.
The first album is called Roger Marin Jr. The second is High Roads and attributed to Roger Marin. Silvertown is by Roger Marin Band, and it is very much a band album. It Brings Me Down penned and sung by Matt K. is about the road. It’s as bright as his smile and as cool as that beard of his. Phil checks in with Bring It Home which lists the various vagaries of living the life of a travelling musician, but also acknowledges that he loves it. Roger has always been egalitarian in sharing the mic with his bandmates onstage, and it’s cool to see them singing their own songs here. Phil recently made and met a challenge of writing and recording 30 songs in 45 days, I listened to several of them on Facebook and was very impressed. The album closes with How Ya Doin’ Tonight which is a cowrite with Erica Poley and former RMB member Rod Standish. The song switches from Roger’s daughters singing those words spookily over a languid drum beat, to Roger speaking some lyrics to James Standish freestyling rap style and back and forth throughout the song. It’s a cool way to end this excellent album which is available on CD BABY and iTunes. You can find Roger on line here.
Jul 18, 2010 Album Reviews
We all know someone whose life should be a song. He hangs out in all of the hole in the wall bars in town, telling stories to whomever will listen to them. You are not sure how old he is because he still drinks, smokes and gets in trouble like he might still be in his twenties, but the lines on his face, the bad prison tattoo and his seemingly endless tales of wisdom suggest he is approaching sixty. You are glad you are on good terms with this guy because although you’ve never seen it, you’ve heard all kinds of stories about what he is capable of if in the wrong mood.
Meet Robert Larisey, he’s just that guy from Carlton Place, Ontario and he plays guitar and has finally gotten around to writing those songs. I’m not sure how old Larisey is, but hearing the songs on Nights Take Forever I think he may have been around for quite some time before recording this, his debut album.
This record should come with a bottle of cheap bourbon, a pair of work boots and perhaps a pistol to protect you from the singer. The entire album exudes honesty and experience, even in the songs that Larisey himself hasn’t lived.
The sound on the record goes from Merle Haggard country to Fred Eaglesmith type bluegrass. The core of the band on the album is well, mainly Blair Hogan whom I only had ever heard play bass. On this recording Hogan steps up alongside the great songwriting as the co-star and plays everything that was needed in the studio, including guitars, mandolin, piano and organ. Filling out the band for all of the record is first time producer, Brock Zeman who plays rhythm guitar and bass.
Highlights of the album include “3 Squares a Day”, the story of a man who who is on death row and his grieving mother. Larisey writes about the main character, “Some souls can’t be saved” before the man is executed.
Another standout on this record is “Yesterday” which follows a few characters as they longingly look back at the things they once had and come to the realization that their time may be numbered.
Perhaps the finest song on the album is the almost assuredly autobiographical, “Whiskey Plowboy”. We follow Larisey as he happily raises hell throughout his entire countryside, making friends and enemies along the way.
We live in an interesting day for music. Twenty years ago this album probably never would have gotten made. I get the feeling that Larisey is happy just playing some shows in local bars and going about his life. With the lowered cost of recording and the lack of reliance on major record labels to get things heard, Zeman was able to capture what is an album that needed to be heard.
Hopefully this record is met with some success so that Larisey continues to show up in the studio and share the songs that he has lived with us. After you listen to this you will want to teach your town’s version of Robert how to play guitar and write great tunes so that you too can have some great entertainment as you sit in your work boots, drinking a few shots and clutching that pistol just in case.
You can find this album on iTunes and CD Baby and learn more about it on Zeman’s Mud Music page on his website.
Jul 7, 2010 Artist of the Month
This month we venture north of the border for the Artist of the Month. Canadian, Brock Zeman puts out better Americana music than most everyone in the States as far as I’m concerned. With six studio efforts and a live album under his belt already this 28 year old has quite a body of work in a short time.
I first heard Brock when I was still promoting shows on a regular basis and he sent me an email. Anyone who does any promoting knows that these emails flood your inbox about everyday and you are really looking for something that stands out in them. With Brock’s, he threw out a couple of names that caught my eye. He had opened for Chris Knight and Fred Eaglesmith and in fact was then touring with ex-Eaglesmith band member, Dan Walsh.
I listened to a few clips on his site and went ahead and booked the show on a Thursday night (show available soon on this site). When Brock showed and played one of the best shows I saw that whole entire year to a crowd of ten of us, I was hooked. It was quickly obvious that the name dropping in the email was unnecessary and that Zeman’s songs could easily stand on their own two feet amid songs from any songwriter.
This guy has songs filling his pockets. He is constantly writing and it seems that he can write about any topic and really in any style he chooses. He can make you laugh one minute and bring the tears the next. On top of that he is a phenomenal showman, weaving stories and songs seamlessly together.
His songs whether on album or live have an energy that just draw you in. I know that it has become the cliche, go to description but his voice is definitely whiskey drenched, which fits his songs perfectly. I would recommend all of his records but, I do have some favorites.
Welcome Home Ivy Jane from 2006 features Brock with his band, The Dirty Hands. This album brings out the country side of Brock as well as any of his recordings to date. There a few rockers on here as well, but the slower songs are what stand out the most for on this one. “Cindy” is a letter to an ex lover full of lies of how well he is doing and reminds me of Waits’ “Christmas Card From a Hooker” tune with a few new twists. “Saturday Night” is the next in a long line of songs about what happens after the last chord is struck and the band finishes it’s gig for the night. More upbeat is ” Down in the Basement” the story of Brock staying in a very un-kept basement that after a few hours and perhaps some paranoia inducing drinking, seems to contain all kinds of strange characters and objects. Of his earlier albums this one stands out as my favorite.
If you are like me you have come across a bootleg of unreleased demos or outtakes from one of your favorite artists and thought, man these versions of the songs are so much better than the ones they ended up releasing. 2007′s Bourbon Sessions from Zeman and Walsh is that bootleg only it was released. Recorded over a couple of days and a lot of shots of bourbon in Walsh’s home studio this album is right in my wheelhouse. The stripped down feel of the songs that Zeman was just kicking around at the time completely captures what seeing Brock live is like. With little to no overdubbing the album just allows the master song craft to shine through.
My favorites on this one are hard to pick because really top to bottom this one is a must listen. “Don’t Ya Tell Jimmy” caught me immediately because I am a sucker for gambling tunes, and this one is a classic. Also on the album is a ramped up stomper of a tune about a night in a very rough bar, “Blood on the Hardwood Floor”. A couple of stories of eventual murder round out my picks for this one in “Rock Fence” and “Something’s Gonna Crack”.
The final album I will go into is Zeman’s latest studio effort, $100 Difference. Released in late 2008, this record brings out the rock n roll in Zeman. A lot of the tunes on this one include a full out rockin’ band and are generally more up beat than some of his earlier stuff.
“Girl With a Gun” according to Brock, is about a relationship where you are completely afraid of the woman. “Train in Me” is a track that appeared in bare parts on The Bourbon Sessions, but here is a rocked out ode to everyone’s favorite subject. The album closer is “Once Upon a Saturday Night” and it follows the narrator through a night of drunken mischief that ends in a lot of needed apologies. Over all it is one of Brock’s finest releases to date.
Zeman also released his first live record last year with “Live @ Acoustic Grill”. I have just recently gotten a copy of this so I can’t really go into a lot of detail about it. I can say that the line up on the record is Zeman, Walsh, and Blair Hogan on bass and it features a number of previously unreleased songs. I have seen that line up on three occasions and every time it was amazing.
Shortly after the release of the live record, Zeman and Walsh parted ways and Hogan is now playing all of the lead guitar in the live sets. From what I’ve seen via Youtube clips, this change has not altered the quality of the show whatsoever as Hogan is a phenomenal guitar player. He also plays a few other instruments at times on stage and therefore brings a little something extra to the table.
Zeman, who is currently on Busted Flat Records, is almost certainly working on his next release even as you read this. I know for a fact that he is sitting on stockpile of material so it is just a matter of finding time in his schedule to hit the studio.
In addition to his own music, Brock has ventured off into the realm of producing and has recently released an album by fellow Canadian, Robert Larisey, on his new record label, Mud Music. From the tracks I’ve heard it is also going to be a great record and it features Zeman on bass and Hogan on multiple instruments.
Unfortunately for those of us Stateside we will not be getting the chance to see Zeman live for awhile as he is currently booked all year in Canada. You can, however, visit his website and buy all of his albums, which I would highly recommend. You can also find his email on the site and begin sending him messages asking for his return to the states.
Look for that first live show to appear here later this week as a download in mp3 format. Also look for a review of the Larisey album later this month.
To further convince you to check out more of Brock’s stuff here is a video of him performing “The Juggler”, a song about a performer in traveling show, with Blair Hogan
Jun 10, 2010 Album Reviews
So I am finally getting around to reviewing the latest release from Fred Eaglesmith. I have to say I am pretty taken with this record even with only a few listens. The sound is new, with Fred adding a Bossa Nova sound to the music and featuring the background singing of the Fabulous Ginn Sisters, but the songs are all Fred.
This album also features a rock base similar to what was on 50 Odd Dollars which is a welcome sound for me. Listening to the record makes you feel like you are watching a movie. One where the antihero, a gunslinger or gambler, is falling love with a woman who can’t decide if she is going to return the sentiment. You can just see multiple scenes in border town bar with Fred and his band as the house band.
Lyrically the record is fantastic, with Eaglesmith delivering some understated vocals that fit the feel of the record perfectly. The backing vocals from The Fabulous Ginn Sisters help add to the haunting, desperate feeling of Fred’s voice and lyrics.
Highlights of this record for me start right at the beginning of the album with “Careless”. Here Fred tells the woman that she has been “careless with his love” and compares himself to a favorite pair of pants that she only wears out to dance. This song sets the tone both lyrically and sonically for the entire album.
The next track that really grabbed a hold of me is “Sliver of the Moon” . Eaglesmith lists things that are around him that are proving that he has fallen for a woman. I think we all have experienced the bliss and fright associated with the realization that the narrator is describing in this song.
“Dynamite and Whiskey” is a tune that just flat out sounds cool. It has a cool rocking beat and Fred almost speaking/ whispering the lyrics with the Ginn Sisters distorted in the background.
One final track that I really enjoy is “Car”. The same scorned man is now seeing the woman of his desires everywhere he looks. The desperation really comes to a head in this song.
About a month ago I posted a list of things that would make me happy in the world of music and one of those wishes has been answered. Cha Cha Cha reminded me why I love Fred Eaglesmith. Once again, Fred has ventured off in another direction musically and he really hit a home run with this one. By far my favorite Eaglesmith record since Bailin’ .
I do have to mention that it was weird not to hear the recently departed Willie P. Bennnett on the album, but I think the addition of the Ginn Sisters did a good job of adding something to the record without being derivative of the past recordings with Bennett.
You can order the record now on Fred’s official site and it looks like it will be available via other outlets next week.
May 15, 2010 Rant
You may be asking yourself, who the hell is Matt Scott ? Matt Scott was an uncle of mine that I was very close to for years and he’s been on my mind a lot lately.
To fully understand why this is relevant and why I have been thinking of him recently, I must give you the short version of the back story of our relationship. I grew up pretty close to him and my aunt; my mother and I even lived with them for a short time when I was too young to remember it. For most of my youth he was just my uncle. When I was 18 or 19 we were all at a family gathering and he asked me if I knew who Keb’ Mo’ was out of the blue. Well, I was absolutely floored, never having thought about what it was my Uncle Matt listened to much less figuring he was into Keb’ Mo’.
This new discovery led to us spending the entire evening discussing different blues guys and finding out that we shared an obsession with not only blues, but all kinds of music. Over the next few years he became one of if not my best friend. We shared many a night with good smoke and better music. He was the only person in my family that not only understood my need to own more music than one person could ever need, but he had the same affliction.
At least once a week we would get together and play the game of “have you heard… (insert artist name) and copying the other’s cd’s. He turned me on to Steve Earle and Billy Joe Shaver. In turn I got him into Gov’t Mule and the Drive-by Truckers. We would go on to discover a plethora of new artists together. I remember the first time I heard Todd Snider. I had traded for a Snider show and was listening to it in my car, three songs in my plans had changed, I was going to Matt’s because he had to hear this guy.
All of this has been filling my mind lately because Fred Eaglesmith has released a new album and I am eagerly awaiting it’s arrival in my mailbox. Fred was one of Matt and my best discoveries. I had just arrived home late one evening from work and I got a phone call. On the other end of the phone was an excited Uncle Matt, “you have to come over now and hear what I just downloaded”. I had no choice, I changed clothes and headed over.
When I walked in the door there was a song playing on his computer that immediately had me intrigued after only hearing the chorus…
Time to get a gun
That’s what I’m thinkin’
I could afford one
If I did a little less drinkin’
Time to put something
Between me and the sun
When the talkin’ is over
It’s time to get a gun
What the hell was this and more importantly why had I never heard it before. Matt goes on to tell me, this is Fred Eaglesmith, an artist he had stumbled onto and found a few tracks of on limewire or something. He proceeded to play me, “Alcohol and Pills”, “Spookin’ the Horses”, “He’s a Good Dog”, and “Wilder Than Me” . Man, was this stuff good.
The next day, he and I went to the locally owned record store (remember when those existed) and had the proprietor order us up some Eaglesmtih albums. (Side note: There is a lesson here record companies…we downloaded, liked, and immediately bought everything available) . Over the next couple of weeks we digested as much Fred as we could possibly stand.
To this day anytime I hear anything by Fred, I immediately think of Matt. There are so many songs that were just perfect for my uncle. He was a car guy (“Pontiac”, “Mighty Big Car”) who drove fast (“105″) and who loved his dogs more than most humans (“He’s a Dog”, “I Shot Your Dog”) . He was also not a perfect man and Fred had songs that addressed that as well (“Drinkin’ Too Much”).
My Uncle Matt passed away very unexpectedly at a fairly young age. He had given up drinking and was getting all of his health problems under control so it came as a total shock when I got the call saying he had died. It’s been going on three years now that he has been gone. I was two days away from leaving for my wedding when he died and I thought he would not have wanted me to dwell on his passing. I don’t think I ever have really come to terms with his death, but I do so a little at a time. My aunt has since married again to a great guy, who takes care of her, but sometimes it’s hard for me to see her without Matt and I’m not sure that will ever go away.
As they were cleaning out his things, my father called asked me if there was anything that I wanted of his to remember him. I thought long and hard and decided that no, none of his material possessions could ever give me the memories of my Uncle that the music we shared would, so I didn’t need anything. So now whenever I am looking through a cd case of mine I will come across an album or a mixed disc with his writing on it and I have to listen to it. They inevitably make me sad and happy at the same time.
So in a week or so my copy of Cha, Cha, Cha will arrive via the postal service and I will spend a couple of hours listening to it and assuredly Matt’s memory will come up. I know everyone has a person in their past that leaps into their minds when a certain song, album, or artists comes out of the speakers. I’m not talking about the annoying ex-girlfriend who played the shit out of Janis Joplin, but rather someone who you have shared a positive musical experience with. I’m asking you to join me in remembering those people this week and break out that old tune, have a drink, laugh, cry a little and just remember.
In Matt’s Memory here a couple of Youtube clips, the first is Fred Eaglesmith “Time to Get a Gun” and the second his personal theme song, “Mustang Sally” performed by Buddy Guy.
Apr 22, 2010 Lists
Everyone likes lists, they make things easy to see and understand. Furthermore, everyone likes making lists, whether it be top-tens, things to do, best/worst, etc. Well what the hell, I thought I’d go ahead and make my own list. This list has no glue to hold it together except that these are all things that would me happy in the realm of music. The items on the list appear in no particular order. Some of these inevitably will happen, some could possibly happen, and some are completely ludicrous. So keeping in mind those caveats, let’s get to the list.
1. A new Jackie Greene album soon.
Not only do I love Jackie Greene but, it has now been two years since Giving up the Ghost came out. Let me also (since this is my list) ask that this hypothetical new Jackie Greene record be as good as its predecessor. Some would probably argue that 2006′s American Myth is Greene’s best record, but I’m here to tell you that they would be wrong. Ghost had a little of everything that Greene can give you, some folky, some bluesy, a little pop feel, and a couple of down right ball busting rock n roll songs. So here’s to hoping that Mr. Greene sees this and expedites that new record.
2. The forever rumored to be coming soon follow up to Voodoo from R&B singer D’angelo finally comes and is somewhat worth the wait.
D’angelo ? You might ask, not necessarily in line with the other artists that have been written about in the short life of this site. Yes, D’angelo this guy is great. It’s like Snoop Dogg and Otis Redding had a love child and God granted this imaginary child with a kick ass band and said go forth and sing. Then in this story the hero child seems to squander his talent by making only two albums in fifteen years, touring sporadically, and smoking entirely too much pot. I still listen Voodoo on a regular basis, and this new record has been the subject of rumors off and on for years. The latest of these rumors has the record hitting the shelves late this summer and perhaps having Prince involved. Needless to say it has me interested.
3. Fred Eaglesmith’s new release, Cha Cha Cha, reminds me why I love Fred Eaglesmith again.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what Eaglesmith did on Tinderbox, I’m all for an artist stretching their wings from time to time and it’s not like I hated the record, it was just not one of my favorites. For that matter neither was Milly’s Cafe (which by the way was not out of his wheelhouse) nor was Dusty. So that makes three straight studio records since I was really thrilled about an Eaglesmith release. I have liked all three of those releases, but man I would kill for another Lies, Lipstick and Gasoline or Drive-In Movie.
4. Tommy Womack finds some commercial success.
I could think of nobody else that survives in the indy singer/ songwriter world that deserves it more than Tommy. The man is a great songsmith, a talented guitar player, an amazing performer, and most importantly a genuinely good guy. I have had the pleasure of promoting a number of shows with Tommy in the last couple of years and he is always very humble and grateful for not only the gig itself but, for everyone who comes out to see him. Tommy has seen some good fortunes recently with a new Daddy record and with Jimmy Buffett choosing to cover a song that Tommy co-wrote with his pal Will Kimbrough. So here’s to hoping the Parrotheads embrace “Nobody from Nowhere” and it brings some recognition and financial windfall to Tommy’s doorstep.
5. Tom Waits turns back the clock.
The first Tom Waits record I got into was the Grammy winning Mule Variations, so needless to say I am a huge fan of his newer records. However I feel that I got cheated by my not being able to witness the great live shows he was putting on during the mid to late 70′s. I’d love for Waits to do a tour of small, smoke filled bars with a stripped down band, sit down behind the piano or stand at the mic and start delivering versions of the songs off of Small Change, Blue Valentine, and Heart of Saturday Night. Not only would it just be an amazing atmosphere to be able to experience it would be great to see where songs like “Christmas Card from a Hooker” and “Small Change” would go with Tom now. This one would fall under that ludicrous heading, but one can hope.
So there you have the first official list on The Broken Jukebox. I would imagine I am not alone in wanting these things to happen. Feel free to drop a comment with a few things you would like to see happen this year in music.