Archive for the ‘ Americana ’ Category

McGuinness Flint (self-titled)

McGuinness Flint

Here’s another roots rock classic in the same vein as The Band, only this slice of ‘Americana’ is from the UK! McGuinness Flint is sort of ‘The British Band’ and their debut album is a good, straightforward roots rock record worthy of your attention.

McGuinness Flint are Steve McGuinness, former Manfred Mann guitarist, and Hughie Flint, former John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers drummer. They only lasted from about 1970-1973 and thus were a bit ahead of the emerging Pub Rock scene in the UK, which might have provided them some more longevity, but it was well received in 1971. Two of these songs made the top 5 upon release in the UK: the upbeat go-to track, When I’m Dead And Gone(#2), and the polka-ish Malt And Barley Blues(#5). There are fun and strong tunes here like Bodang Buck, and Lazy Afternoon has a great mid-song transition. Mister Mister is brilliantly penned and infinitely catchy. Mainly, a good English folk/blues classic, and a pleasurable listen.

Faintly, the album teases some classic rock schmaltz; I don’t know how comfortable I’d be singing along to the lyrics “Rock on, rock on, everybody’s gonna rock on!” (unless it were a T-Rex song or something). And one time I dj’ed a track from this at a party and had to cut it short. But you can’t let missteps like these be judge. Fans of the Band are sure to be pleased with this quality record and will find the right time and place to let it ride.

The Capitol Years collection of Flint is your best bet, combining their first two albums on the same affordable CD. Their 3rd album, Lo and Behold, is a collection of Dylan covers!

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“When I’m Dead And Gone”

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Bobby Charles “Bobby Charles”

Bobby Charles

Bobby Charles’ self-titled debut album is an easy favorite. Fans of The Band have no excuse not to track this one down, as it features production work from Rick Danko, keys from Garth Hudson and contributions from Levon Helm, and Dr. John as well. (Check the lineup here). If you love The Band (s/t) and Music From Big Pink, this is the next record you need.

The record hits you song after song with its relaxed vibe, authentic lyrics, and instantly gratifying hooks. Bobby kills me when he sings “oh what a good day to go fishing” on the ballad “I Must Be In A Good Place Now” and the 100th time thru the “Save Me Jesus” chorus gets me too. Bobby Charles s/t is split pretty much down the middle with soulful ballads and upbeat groovers. “Grow Too Old” borders on a Randy Newman sound. “He’s Got All The Whiskey” should be a standard! “Small Town Talk” is like a country-cajun Shuggie Otis! Who’s not going to dig this?

The songs on the B side take a little more investment to hear, but they all pay off. There’s the beautiful “Tennessee Blues” and an ahead-of-its-time treatment to (bonus track) “New Mexico.”   A really classic and contemporary sound on these tracks and just a perfect feel. Sick album, I love it.

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“Small Town Talk”

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mp3: New Mexico

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Neil Young “Tonight’s The Night”

Tonight’s The Night

Easily my favorite Neil Young record.  I grew up not listening to Neil because I had never latched on to the sound of his radio hits. But a while back I got into his records (starting with On The Beach) and realized what a miss I had made. If you made this same mistake, go start with above record and make amends.

It’s a bit seedy and a little drunk;  Neil tells it like it is on “Borrowed Tune”: “..singing this borrowed tune…too wasted to write my own.” When I first heard this late night piano confessional, a tribute to the Rolling Stones’ Lady Jane, the final lyrics gave me the chills. Then they come in with “Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown,”  a remake of the rollickin’ Crazy Horse tune, and you’re sold. Easy as that.

It was recorded in 1973 and released in 1975. The whole record feels as if it was as loosely constructed as possible, like they just wrapped a couple of one-take sessions in newspaper and dropped ’em off at the video store. It’s a masterpiece, on about loss, sorrow, and drugs. Apparently, this album was part of the ‘Ditch Triology‘, an unofficial grouping of three experimental albums recorded after his initial commercial successes.

The first of the trilogy is a live record called Time Fades Away which still hasn’t seen release. Give it a look @ aquariumdrunkard.com.

I love this song “Albuquerque.” It make you think every city should have a song.

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“Albuquerque”

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Little Feat “Little Feat”

Little Feat

Drop any preconceived notions you may have about this band and get this debut record. It’s a unique sound in their discography. A bluesy, roots rocker masterpiece with the loose feel of Exile on Main Street and the all around good presence of Manassas.

Formed under the wake of Frank Zappa, and even including former Mother, Roy Estrada on bass, Little Feat would go on, after their poorly selling debut record, to release albums with a different sound, featuring iconic sleeves by Weasels Ripped My Flesh artist Neon Park. I think it’s impossible to flip through a stack of used vinyl without finding that lady duck on the cover of Down on the Farm. Later Little Feat has its place, but we recommend this beast.

Some gems: there’s the beautiful, stripped-down Willin’, the song Zappa supposedly fired Lowell George over (either because it was too damn good for a session man or because it championed “weed, whites, and wine”). This song would be re-recorded by a later incarnation of Little Feat and become one of their most loved songs. A ripping Howlin’ Wolf tribute medley in Forty-Four Blues / How Many More Years is a nice feature. The album is great for a first listen because it just fills up the room with rock, but it is truly better as you delve in and listen more.

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“Snakes On Everything”

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John Hartford “Aereo-Plain”

Aereo-Plain

John Hartford started off like many songwriters, writing song after song trying to hit a big one. And when he did, with Gentle On My Mind (one of the most recorded songs ever), he hung out on those royalties, and all of his subsequent albums were exactly what you would expect from a bluegrass entertainer who did just exactly what he wanted to do. Of course, I must admit that the first time my buddy showed me his tattered LP with some goggled longhair singing hillbilly tunes I wasn’t too interested (probably opting at that time for Trout Mask Replica or the like), but of all the albums I once ignored, this was my biggest mistake.

Hartford is the Frank Zappa of bluegrass. Not quite as prolific in terms of releases, but both musicians were so firmly entrenched in their respective musics, and at the same time, so able to comment on it from an outside, and humorously different point of view. With Aereo-Plain, the first album any wannabe John (or even bluegrass) fan should nab, Hartford grabbed some of the best pickers in town (Norman Blake, Tut Taylor, Vassar Clements, and Randy Scruggs on electric bass guitar) and just let ’em go. In the studio, the only requirements were that at least one picker had to know the song, and the rest could follow. It was a free-form recording and they didn’t listen to playback until it was all over.

There was magic there at that studio, and for a closer look we have the wonderful, newish companion CD, Steam Powered Aereo-Takes which gathers many great outtakes from the sessions. But seriously, start here with the biggie. John’ll rip that banjo and sing about Steamboats (of which he was a Mississippi River pilot), hippies, drug dealin’, songwriting, and the “Goodle Days” in general. In fact, this nearly conceptual album has a nostalgic theme almost in line The Kinks’ classic Village Green album.

Not to be missed, then get Morning Bugle.

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“Back In The Goodle Days”

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