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B.J. Thomas Gets 2-Disc Scepter Re-Issue Thanks to Real Gone Music

4 Jul

Texas native B. J . Thomas had a great set of pipes — that most of us can agree upon.  He had a tremendously rich voice and a powerful upper range. His career started as a country crooner, reached its zenith via the pop artistry of Bacharach and David, and then returned to country stardom with hits like “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” Yet I contend that his collaboration with producer Chips Moman, tunesmith Mark James, and his time spent in the American Recording Studio in Memphis yielded perhaps his most durable platters. All those singles were released on the Scepter label and all are thankfully included in this excellent new collection from Real Gone Music.

Elvis Presley struck vinyl gold at American — so did Neil Diamond. Chips Moman sure had the midas touch … that’s for certain. It helped having a guitar/sitar picker like Reggie Young, songwriters like Mark James and Spooner Oldham, and drummers like the mighty Gene Chrisman. After Thomas enjoyed some regional country success, the James’ composition “The Eyes of a New York Woman” really got the ball rolling for B.J. (charting #28 in 1968). That was soon followed by the classic “Hooked on a Feeling,” a James creation. “It’s Only Love” came next and crested at #45, although it deserved a much better fate. “Pass the Apple Eve” stalled out even further from the top of the charts and it seemed the run was just about over for Thomas.

Just as hope was fading, Burt Bacharach entered the picture and B.J. Thomas’ 1969 recording of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” became a certified worldwide smash.  “Everybody’s Out of Town” (1970) is vintage Bacharach-David and one of my personal favorites. Then came “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” another top ten hit — this one from the pens of the legendary Mann-Weill songwriting team. “Send My Picture to Scranton, PA” (1970) and “Long Ago Tomorrow” (1971) are two more Bacharach contributions not to be overlooked. And I still cannot believe that Mark James’ song “The Mask” did not fare better (it didn’t even chart — madness!).

Sure, some of the B-sides were clunkers. Shoot, some of the A-sides were too. But listening to them is half the fun with collections such as this. You’re not just enjoying a little music. You are listening to a talented artist trying to find his way. Or an singer attempting to live up to the promise of his previous smash. Or a genius producer, top notch session players, and a young vocalist creating a sound that remains branded in our collective mind some 4 decades later.   

From his 1966 recording of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” through his 1972 double-sided hit single “That’s What Friends Are For”/”Happier Than the Morning Sun,” B.J. Thomas enjoyed a string of hits rivaled by few artists of that time. And the fact that he did this on an indie label, Scepter, makes the achievement even more impressive. Various compilations of Thomas’ Scepter sides have come and gone. But Real Gone’s 44-track anthology is the first to offer A- and B-sides of every one of the artists’ Scepter singles, including his 19 hits. Many of the B-sides never appeared on albums. DJ/journalist Michael Ragogna wrote the notes, which feature quotes from Thomas.

Nashville’s Triple Threat Jerry Reed Enjoys New Life Thanks to Real Gone Music

26 May

JERRY REED

The Unbelievable Guitar & Voice of Jerry Reed

Nashville Underground

OK, folks. Let me begin by stating that this CD does not contain the radio hits “Amos Moses,’ “When You’re Hot You’re Hot,” “Ko-Ko Joe,” or “East Bound and Down.” So does this mean should immediately dismiss the new Jerry Reed release from Real Gone Music? Nope. Check that. Make it “Hell no!” Jerry Reed Hubbard was one talented cat, y’all. Master guitar picker. Cracker Jack sense of humor. Accomplished song writer. Starred in a few movies too (who can forget him as Burt Reynold’s sidekick in “Smokey and the Bandit”?).

Real Gone’s new CD covers 2 early Reed efforts (1967 & 1968) on the RCA label. RCA was riding high during those times – thanks in good measure to the production skills of legendary Chet Atkins and all the talented musicians and tunesmiths who called Nashville’s fabled RCA Studio B home. Reed spent some valuable time in that stable, but it soon became evident that this Georgia native had major star power.

Check out “Guitar Man” — you’ll dig it. Elvis did too. The King recorded it and it became a sizeable hit. Presley also tackled “U.S. Male,” another rockin’ track appearing on the original issue of “The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed.” Sure, a pretty wordy album title. But you must keep in mind that Jerry Reed was not exactly a man of few words. In fact, some of his recordings might even be called “Redneck Rap.” The old boy had a way with the King’s English, that’s for certain.

Reed’s nimble fingers get a 1:59 workout on his signature instrumental piece, “The Claw.” “Love Man” spotlight’s his undeniable Dixie-fried bravado, while a few Nashville Underground tracks like “A Thing Called Love” showcase Jerry’s softer side and actually tug at the heartstrings. Reed’s voice tended to take on a deeper tone when delivering this type of sentimental material. The song’s a keeper … as are cuts like “Fine on my Mind” and the raucous “Tupelo Mississippi Flash.” The latter tune is a fine example of Jerry Reed’s trademark sense of humor and gift of gab. Have a listen to this disc, hoss. We think it will, as Jerry used to say, “knock your hat in the creek.”

Two classic, late-‘60s albums from Jerry Reed, both of them never on CD before! The titles to these two records (his first two) really tell the tale; Jerry was an unbelievable guitarist and singer, and you can add songwriter to the list—at least Elvis thought so, as he covered both “Guitar Man” and “U.S. Male” from Unbelievable (and hired Jerry to play guitar on both)! Jerry returned the favor by writing an Elvis tribute song (“Tupelo Mississippi Flash”) on 1968’s Nashville Underground, which lives up to its title by presenting a revelatory blend of country, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, blue-eyed soul and even progressive pop.

Though Reed was a protégé of Chet Atkins, his eclectic taste and irrepressible personality—later on full display in the Smokey and the Bandit films—ensured that this record busted out of the countrypolitan mold that held sway in Nashville at the time. Both of these albums are must-listens for any alt-country and roots music fan, and Chris Morris contributes notes that place these two albums in context of Jerry’s incredible (and, to this day, underappreciated) career.

Featured Songs:

It Don’t Work That Way

Guitar Man

You’re Young and You’ll Forget

Woman Shy

I Feel for You

Take a Walk

Love Man

If I Promise

U.S. Male

Long Gone

If It Comes to That

The Claw

Remembering

A Thing Called Love

You Wouldn’t Know a Good Thing

Save Your Dreams

Almost Crazy

You’ve Been Cryin’ Again

Fine on My Mind

Tupelo Mississippi Flash

Wabash Cannonball

Hallelujah, I Love Her So

John Henry

Available May 29, 2012 Pre-Order Now!

Moot Davis – “Man About Town” — and Country

4 Feb

New Jersey’s MOOT DAVIS deliversMAN ABOUT TOWN”

Davis enlists Sirius XM host Elizabeth Cook & Kenny Vaughan as guests on new CD.

I had never really heard of Moot Davis when this CD hit my mailbox.  The cover provided a few clues. My wife said Moot looked like a cross between Clint Eastwood and Chris Isaak. He sported a Blues Brother suit and cradled a Black/White Fender Telecaster in his lap. The CD was produced by Kenny Vaughan of the Marty Stuart Band and recorded and mixed by George “The Tone Chaperone” Bradfute. Many of you may remember Bradfute from his tour of duty with the fabulous Webb Wilder.

I popped the disc into my CD player and gave it spin. I was immediately struck by the Dwight Yoakam influence. No big surprise — especially given the fact that Davis’ first 2 CDs were done by Yoakam sidekick and Los Angeles guitar master Pete Anderson. Fans of Yoakam, Kelly Willis, Hank Williams, and Chris Isaak should enjoy this newest collection. It’s pretty straight forward country stuff.

Fade to Gold and Queensbury Rules are especially good. Rocket mixes things up a bit with something of a rhumba beat. Black & White Picture harks back to the South of the Border story songs made famous by the great Marty Robbins. The acoustic guitar pickin’ on this number is tastefully executed. Rust is a bouncy, bluesy, echo-laden romp. Memory Lane is perhaps the closest Moot comes to sounding like Chris Isaak, while Everybody’s Gal is one of those classic, roll up the carpet, fiddle-driven Texas two-step numbers.

Old Moot is not pulling any punches here, folks . Sure, he’s a Jersey Boy. But I don’t expect he watches a lot of “Jersey Shore.” He’s country through and through — and damn proud of it. So if that is where your tastes lie, come and get it.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — From Auckland to Austin to Nashville, New Jersey-based country musician Moot Davis took quite a journey to make his third CD, Man About Town, but it was certainly worth it. Davis describes his new release as the one he likes the most because “it wasn’t altered to suit anybody’s tastes but mine.”

Moot Davis burst onto the country music scene in the mid-2000s. With his self-titled debut, Davis delivered a set of timeless honky tonk that brought comparisons to Hank Williams Sr. Entertainment Today touted Davis as “primed to be the leader in the new insurgent country music scene.” The kudos continued for his second effort, Already Moved On, which about.com’s Kathy Coleman ranked as the Fourth Best Country Album of the Year, ahead of the likes of Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley.

Man About Town fulfills the promise of his earlier efforts while also expanding into new musical territory. Tracks like “Day the World Shook My Hand,” “How Long” and “Only You” should resonate with fans of his earlier, retro honky-tonk sound. “Queensbury Rules,” on the other hand, boasts a harder, rockier sound, while “Rust” mixes country twang with a funky beat. Davis wanted a change with this disc. “I didn’t want to make the same album again and again.”

In a sign of his artistic growth, Davis accomplishes several firsts on Man About Town. “Crazy in Love With You” stands as his first duet, with the delightful Elizabeth Cook serving as his singing partner. He also delivers his first murder ballad with “Black & White Picture,” a highly cinematic tale driven by Mexican-style guitar picking.

Davis populates this CD with a number of vivid character studies. The lead-off track, “Rags to Rhinestones,” is a prime example of his storytelling talents. In this classic honky-tonk number, a musician goes from “rented rooms to mansion homes” only to squander it all and wind up being kicked “out of bars on Lower Broadway.” The tune came together for Davis after his buddy, musician Dave Gleason, told him of a successful country musician whose life and career veered off course. Davis became intrigued by the idea of “someone who rises to a certain level and then just dive-bombs.”

The song’s Nashville references reflect the fact that this album is the first one Davis recorded in Music City. (His first two, released on Little Dog Records, were done with the esteemed producer Pete Anderson in Los Angeles.) The ace players on Man About Town are from Marty Stuart’s band: guitarist Kenny Vaughan, who served as producer; pedal and lap steel player Chris Scruggs; drummer Harry Stinson and bassist Paul Martin. Also featured is fiddler Hank Singer, who plays with George Jones. These guys, according to Davis, are “all serious players but they are all regular guys too.” He describes the sessions as “one of those things where everything comes together. It’s kinda rare.”

Man About Town marks a return to recording after a short hiatus as Davis extricated himself from his Little Dog contract. A bit disillusioned with the music business, he travelled to New Zealand to do some acting. There, he says, “I fell back in love with music” and started writing songs again on an acoustic guitar. He next moved to Austin, bought a Telecaster and continued working on his tunes. The music evolved even more upon his return to New Jersey, where he played with some local guys. “They’d rehearse for hours with me, just kicking songs around. It was kind of like a therapy session.”

Growing up in New Jersey, Davis actually was more into classic rock than country. In fact, he sparked to traditional country from an unusual source: a TV ad. In his early 20s, he heard Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” in a Pepsi ad and, in Davis’ words, “it just got my antenna going.” He immersed himself in the music of Hank Sr., Lefty Frizzell, Webb Pierce and others from the golden era of honky tonk. This music inspired him to learn to play an acoustic guitar and start writing songs.

A major turning point came for him when he wrote the song “Whiskey Town.” When he played it for other people and saw their reactions, Davis recalls, “I knew I was onto something.” Within a year of writing that tune, he had moved to Nashville and a year later he was flying to L.A. to record with Pete Anderson. “Whiskey Town” also landed a spot on the Crash soundtrack — the first of now nearly 20 song placements that Davis has had over the years, from movies like The Hills Have Eyes to TV shows such as Criminal Minds.

Man About Town also is the first album on Davis’ his own record label, Highway Kind Records. He started the label with Paul W. Reed, a Texas businessman who is a huge Davis fan. Davis marvels how this friendship developed and evolved into a business relationship too. “He really had some guts to help get this going,” Davis admits, adding, “I find it’s always better to be in charge of your own destiny.” Davis feels the current music scene has created a leveled playing field that allows the opportunity to achieve the American Dream if you work hard enough and have some talent. “Every success is a victory,” he exclaims — and with this new album, Moot Davis should have many more victories in his future.

www.mootdavis.com
twitter: @mootdavis

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Ray Charles’ “Singular Genius” Shines Through on New 5-CD Box

6 Nov
 
This, in my humble opinion, is a long-overdue release. Florida native Ray Charles’ output while with the ABC-Paramount label was pretty extraordinary. And while his earlier Atlantic recordings placed him on our collective radar for the first time, his ABC singles allowed him to stretch out and reach for the stars. Country, soul, pop, R & B … it’s all here. And laid down in a way only Brother Ray could. In fact, I can think of no one else who could have pulled this kind of mix together in such a cohesive, effortless manner. 53 singles, 11 #1 hits. You call yourself a true fan of American Popular Music and Culture? Then you simply must own this historic collection.

 

RAY CHARLES’ SINGULAR GENIUS: THE COMPLETE ABC SINGLES,
AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 15 ON CONCORD RECORDS, COMPILES
HITS AND B-SIDES — MANY NEVER PREVIOUSLY ON ALBUM

106 recordings on five compact discs totaling 53 singles
are housed in handsome linen-textured collectors’ box

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — With the release of Ray Charles’ Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles, on November 15, 2011, Concord Records will make available for the first time the artist’s collection of ABC-Paramount singles during this prolific period (1960-1972).

The digitally remastered deluxe 106-song collection presents the A and B sides of 53 singles, including 11 #1 hits, such Grammy Award winners “Hit the Road Jack,” “Busted,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Crying Time,” “America the Beautiful,” and many more.

 

Twenty-one of the songs are making their digital debut, and 30 have never previously been available on CD. Liner notes were written by R&B recording artist and music historian Billy Vera and rare photographs are included.

According to Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation, “This compilation provides an opportunity to hear Ray’s evolution into a full-fledged artist and creative force. The song selection was based upon the interpretation he could bring to the music and not the genre. The ABC singles comprise an epoch of essential Ray Charles music and a window into how his genius evolved.”

John Burk, Concord Music Group’s Chief Creative Officer stated, “Ray Charles is one of America’s most iconic and treasured voices. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to present Ray’s historic ABC singles with the reverence and respect they deserve and continue our dynamic partnership and acclaimed reissue program with Valerie Ervin and everyone at the Ray Charles Foundation.”

By the time the singer released his first single for his new label affiliation, ABC-Paramount, in January 1960, he had crossed over into the stardom that show biz insiders had long known was his due. After several years of R&B hits on his previous label, Atlantic Records, he’d finally reached the coveted white teen market with his smash, “What’d I Say,” the simplest, most basic song of his career.

 

Charles’ contract was coming up for renewal and the Atlantic brass expected an easy negotiation. After all, most entertainers took a passive approach to their business, especially when things were going well. However, his agency, Shaw Artists, wanted to bring Charles to a broader audience, which they felt could be better delivered by a major record company.

One such company was ABC-Paramount, a newer major that had found success with teen idols Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian, while crossing Lloyd Price over into pop. ABC’s Larry Newton convinced label president Sam Clark that Ray Charles was the ideal artist to not only make hits but to attract other black acts to the fold. Charles was granted a magnanimous contract that included ownership of his masters after five years. Even Frank Sinatra, as Vera points out, did not have a deal like this.

 

Sid Feller became Charles’ A&R man and producer. Though as Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler once said, “You don’t produce Ray Charles; you just get out of the way and let him do his thing.”

After striking a rich deal, the Ray Charles/ABC relationship had a momentary setback when the first ABC single, “Who You Gonna Love” b/w “My Baby,” sold disappointingly. The second single, “Sticks and Stones,” a “What’d I Say” knockoff, went to #2 R&B and #540 pop. Finally, the third ABC single, “Georgia on My Mind,” culled from the album The Genius Hits the Road, reached #1 on the pop charts. With the overwhelming popularity of “Georgia on My Mind,” Charles was at last a full-fledged mainstream star, right up there with the Nat Coles and Peggy Lees. The company’s strategy was to cater to his new market while still releasing singles to serve his R&B base.

Charles in the meantime launched a publishing arm, Tangerine Music, signing one of the greats of West Coast blues, Percy Mayfield. Mayfield brought with him a song he’d pitched to Specialty Records without success, “Hit the Road, Jack.” Ray’s version rose to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. It was followed by “Unchain My Heart.”

ABC-Paramount celebrated his grand success by giving Charles his own label, Tangerine, which he used to record some of his personal R&B heroes including Mayfield, Louis Jordan, and Little Jimmy Scott. At the same point in time, Charles became enamored of country music and recorded several country sides: “Take These Chains From My heart,” “Busted,” “That Old Lucky Sun,” and from Buck Owens, “Crying Time” and “Together Again.”

 

1966 saw the opening of Ray Charles’ own RPM Studios on Washington Blvd. in Los Angeles. The first song he recorded at the facility was “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” a Coasters cover penned by Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson, and Jo Armistead.

The ABC-Paramount recordings continued into the late ’60s and early ’70s. In 1972 Charles cut a version of the New Seekers hit, “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma,” but it was the B-side, “America the Beautiful,” that became a runaway hit, Grammy Award winner (one of five on this collection) and to a younger generation unfamiliar with his earlier major works, his signature song.

# # #

Gulf Coast Foodways Organziation is Officially Unveiled

24 Mar

 

Gulf Coast Foodways is a new community of foodies on a mission to preserve and promote the rich culinary culture along the US Gulf Coast through education, events, documentaries, seminars and more. Gulf Coast Foodways will be a member driven organization and we’re currently looking for charter members and sponsors.

How exactly are we going to do all of this, you ask?  Through the development of thematic maps and tours, we can drive food tourism to our region. Through video documentation, we can capture and show off the unique culinary culture of our coast.  Cookbooks and published compilations of local food writings and treasured family recipes will draw attention to the traditional foodways of our area. 

We plan to hold periodic meetings for members to make connections and network. These events will include guest speakers on local topics and you can always count on a good meal or two along the way. Our annual symposium weekend is now in the initial planning stage.  Hotel and restaurant industry members will always benefit from the trails, meetings, and symposiums.

We’d like for you to play a key role in the creation of this tasty “gumbo.” 

 Your annual membership or sponsorship will:

 *Help finance research projects

*Promote food-related businesses along the Gulf Coast

*Document local traditions & businesses preserving them

*Promote and grow food tourism along the Gulf Coast

*Underwrite any necessary administrative costs

 In return, your benefits will include:

 *Bi-annual e-newsletter

*Profile feature on the Gulf Coast Foodways blog: www.gulfcoastfoodways.wordpress.com 

*10% off all Gulf Coast Foodways event registration

*Priority registration for events

*Discounts at participating restaurants/shops

 We urge you to join this worthy cause today.

Contact Eileen or Gary Saunders at gulfcoastfoodways@yahoo.com.

***Pass this note along to your friends and LIKE us on FACEBOOK.

Ray Charles Live In Concert to be Re-issued by Concord Music Group

22 Mar

In the half-century between his earliest recordings in the 1950s and his death in 2004, Ray Charles ascended to icon status by leaving his mark on virtually every form of American popular music that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century. Nowhere was this more evident than in his live performances, where one was likely to hear shades of blues, soul, R&B, jazz, gospel, country, and more in a single evening – indeed, sometimes in a single song. To put it simply, the Right Reverend did it all.

 All of these subtle shades and styles are evident in Concord Music Group’s reissue of Ray Charles Live in Concert. Originally released as a 12-song LP on ABC-Paramount in early 1965, Live in Concert captured Ray at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in September 1964. More than four decades later, the CD reissue brings additional depth and perspective to the 1964 recording with the help of 24-bit remastering, seven previously unreleased tracks and extensive new liner notes that provide additional historical context to what is already considered a pivotal recording in Ray’s overall body of work.

“There could be no more uplifting live musical experience than digging Ray Charles and his mighty orchestra in their prime,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl. Indeed, the 15-piece orchestra backing Ray on this date – assembled just a few years earlier in 1961 – boasted no less than a dozen horns, including formidable saxophonists David “Fathead” Newman, Hank Crawford, and Leroy “Hog” Cooper, all of whom had been with Ray since his days as a leader of smaller combos. “This amazing aggregation,” says Dahl, “was every bit as conversant with the intricacies of modern jazz as with the gospel-blues synthesis that Brother Ray pioneered during the mid-1950s, when he began accruing serious cred as the father of what would soon become known as soul music.”

Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Live in Concert reissue, notes that the Shrine Auditorium performance took place at a transitional moment in Ray’s career, just as he was transcending the confines of R&B and entering the mainstream by demonstrating a firm grasp of various other genres. “He’d made his ascendance in the early ’60s, and he had the world at his feet by this time,” says Clough. “He’d basically invented soul, he’d done R&B, he’d conquered country and he was on his way to becoming an American icon.”

In the span of 19 songs, Live in Concert illuminates the route to that destination. Ray wastes no time taking his audience on a ride from jazzy big band groove of “Swing a Little Taste” to the Latin-flavored “One Mint Julep” to the blues-gospel hybrid of his classic “I Got a Woman.” Although his live rendition of “Georgia On My Mind” on this date didn’t make the cut on the original LP, the song is a standout track on the reissue, thanks to his complex organ runs and the flute lines moving in counterpoint with his rich vocals.

Clough considers the yearning “You Don’t Know Me” and the previously unreleased “That Lucky Old Sun” to be among the high points of the recording. “It sounds like he’s really baring his soul on those two tracks, and they just sound incredible,” says Clough, noting that Ray was unaware that tape was rolling during this performance. “This particular date was at the end of their tour, and the performance seems a little loose as a result – in a good way, and in a less slick way.”

Further in, the rousing “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” is driven by a gospel groove and embellished with a sax solo by Newman that closely mirrors the original 1957 recording. The result is a familiar hit for an audience that’s more than ready to reinforce Ray’s foot-stomping beat with handclaps.

The sly and swaggering “Makin’ Whoopee” is delivered completely off the cuff, with drummer Wilbert Hogan, bassist Edgar Willis, and guitarist Sonny Forriest improvising an accompaniment behind what Dahl calls “Ray’s luxurious piano and breathy, supremely knowing vocals.” By all accounts, Ray spontaneously inserted the song into the set in response to the negative press he’d received overseas about his private life.

In the home stretch, Ray introduces the Raeletts, the female backing vocalists who served as his foil for some of his biggest hits. Together they work their way through “Don’t Set Me Free” (with Lillian Fort stepping forward for a duet with Ray), the comical “Two Ton Tessie” and the torchy “My Baby” before climaxing with the churning “What’d I Say,” a song tailor-made to stoke any room to a fever pitch.

A huge piece of the Ray Charles legacy is his mastery of any style he touched, and his ability to make it his own in a way that no other artist could – powers that can only come from an innate sense of adventure and spontaneity that are fully evident in Ray Charles Live in Concert.

“Few performers were less predictable onstage than Ray Charles,” says Dahl. “And nobody did it better.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com

New Stuff from Marty, Neil and Harry

29 Sep

Marty Stuart continues to crank out classic country in the honky tonk tradition.

Neil Young is aging, but he still likes his music LOUD! Just ask Daniel Lanois.

Harry Nilsson is finally getting his due with his very own documentary.

Two Versions of Johnny Horton’s Classic “The Battle of New Orleans”

28 Aug

This is the original version (above) of the 1959 hit song.

The British version (above) was recorded for sales in the UK.

***Why let a few little historical facts get in the way of commerce???

Former Mavericks’ Frontman Raul Malo releases “Sinners & Saints” Solo CD

17 Jul

From the plaintive opening wail of a mariachi’s horn, to the lonesome twang of the Duane Eddy-style guitar, to the bouncing echo of a vintage Tex-Mex organ, you know this is going to be a very interesting ride. The title track “Sinners & Saints” sets the tone for what proves to be a very ambitious solo effort from former Mavericks’ leader, Raul Malo. We all have long known that Malo can flat out sing. His voice conjures up a haunting “Roy Orbison heads South of the Border” sound. Raul has frequently been stylistically compared to the likes of Orbison, Marty Robbins and Chris Isaak. Yet he has often worked within the contraints of Nashville’s major record label system.

This new Concord release granted Raul the freedom to experiment with a variety of musical styles. His voice is still always at the forefront — a soaring, operatic instrument that has become a very potent and recognizable musical weapon. In this effort you will be treated to bluesy numbers, Tex-Mex rockers a la Doug Sahm, accordian driven party tracks, country weepers, and traditional Latin tunes inspired by Malo’s childhood in the Cuban neighborhoods of South Florida. The wah-wah laced “Staying Here,” one of my favorite cuts on the new record, sounds like a long-lost Jimmy Webb ballad that could have been penned for a fresh-scrubbed Glen Campbell in the mid-1960’s.  

This satisfying collection of recordings immediately grabs your attention like a fiery hot salsa rojo. And repeated listens will only deepen your appetite for Malo’s spicy musical tastes and the magnificent pipes with which the Saints have blessed him — and us.  

 RAUL MALO’S SINNERS & SAINTS ALBUM, DUE SEPTEMBER 28, IS BLESSED WITH TEX-MEX RHYTHMS AND LATIN SOUL

New album for Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group recorded in Nashville and Austin; guests include Augie Meyers, Shawn Sahm, Michael Guerra and The Trishas

AUSTIN, Texas — Self-produced in his home studio, Sinners & Saints is the most intimate, honest and complex album Raul Malo has made in an already distinguished career. One hears in it a lifetime’s journey, from the singer-songwriter’s youth in Cuban neighborhoods of Miami through his years as one of the most intriguing talents in the Americana scene. The album is set for September 28, 2010 release on Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group. Sinners & Saints follows 2009’s critically acclaimed album Lucky One, Malo’s Fantasy debut.

Rooted in Malo’s lifelong connection to Latin music but infused with his wide-ranging love of country, blues, jazz and vintage rock ’n’ roll, Sinners & Saints combines sonic ingenuity with emotional sincerity.

Entertainment Weekly stated, “Malo is one of those rare singers who transcend the mundane with the sheer operatic sweep of his marvelous instrument. He’s among the last of a breed: a country stylist with finesse and brawn in equal measure, turning his laments into bittersweet valentines.”

In a departure from his past albums, Malo took his tracks from his home studio in Nashville to Austin, where an incredible musical cross-pollination took place. Malo has spent much time playing in Texas with the Lone Star State’s wealth of legendary musicians. He entered longtime friend Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Studios and finished the album with the help of Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornado veteran Augie Meyers on the Vox Continental organ and, on the song “Superstar,” guitarist Shawn Sahm, Sir Douglas’ son. The Trishas (Savannah Welch, Kelley Mickwee, Liz Foster and Jamie Wilson) provided background vocals. And hotshot accordionist Michael Guerra, known for his work with the Tex-Mex Experience, lent further Tejas authenticity to the sound.

The title track opens the record, setting the album’s tone thematically and musically. From his boyhood and through his years of coming of age in Miami, Malo spent many nights in neighborhood music rooms listening to local artists perform their Flamenco zarzuelas. Malo wrote “Sinners & Saints” by conjuring up those nights in his head, and playing his electric guitar with a cross between Flamenco melodicism and retro surf-twang. “It has no chorus, no repeatable line,” he says, “And it’s long. Purposefully long.”

The second track, “Living for Today,” ventures into socio-political territory against an upbeat sound that includes chiming guitars, Meyers’ Vox organ and the Trishas’ backing vocals. In a musical space that includes the biting observations of Rodney Crowell, James McMurtry or Todd Snider, this song is a welcome addition. Speaking of Crowell, Malo provides a heart-felt reading of his modern-day standard “Til I Gain Control Again.”

The disc’s other songs are also full of special moments. In Austin Malo recorded an original song called “Superstar” with several pals from the Texas Tornados. That and several other tracks feature Guerra’s blazing Tex-Mex accordion, as in “San Antonio Baby.” In a more serious vein, Malo delivers the classic Spanish song “Sombras” in the stunning tenor voice that made him famous. He also offers an innovative cover of Los Lobos’ “Saint Behind the Glass,” whose rich mix of percussion, guitars and Mexican instruments will leave audiophiles deeply absorbed. The cryptic lyrics offer an unexpected finale to the album.

Malo & The Mavericks perform one of their Country hits

Raul Malo has seen and done a great deal in his career but Sinners & Saints demonstrates there is much more inside him. “This is the hardest I’ve ever worked on an album,” he says with a mixture of relief and pride. That includes the physical labor of confronting the studio alone day after day as well as the emotional courage to challenge his listeners and speak his mind. “This really is about me and my point of view. I realized that after I’d done it. It reflects really how I feel about a lot of things. That’s why this is as much of me as I’ve ever put on a record.”

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Zac Brown Band – Chicken Fried

20 May

How could any blog called Dixie Dining not dig this???

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