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Posts Tagged ‘Son Volt’

 (Above: Charlie Louvin sings of the “Great Atomic Power” at a February, 2009, performance in Raleigh, N.C.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

My first exposure to the Louvin Brothers was on one of those “worst album covers of all time” Web sites. Standing in front of what appears to be a backyard BBQ gone horribly wrong, two Bing Crosby wannabes in matching white suits raise their arms in welcome. Above them, the title proclaims “Satan is Real.” Behind them, the most ridiculously fake, wooden Mephistopheles looms like failed a junior high shop class project.

A few years later, while visiting home during college, I decided this cover would be a perfect piece of art in my dorm room and went to the Music Exchange in search of a copy. I asked the man behind the counter (it wasn’t Ron Rook) if they had any albums by the “Lovin’ Brothers.”

“Do you mean the Loooovin Brothers,” he asked, making a point of drawing out the long “o” and informing the store of my ignorance.

“Um, yeah, whatever,” I stammered. They were out.

Sometime after that, I happened upon a CD of “Satan Is Real” at the Kansas City Public Library. After mocking its cover for so long, I had to hear what the actual music sounded like. Pretty freaking good, it turned out.

Charlie and Ira Louvin’s music wasn’t the kind I wanted to listen to that often, but when the mood hit it landed deep and only the Louvins would do. As if by magic, their names started appearing in the album credits of my favorite musicians – the Byrds and Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Buddy Miller, Uncle Tupelo. Far from a novelty act or wacky cover, the brothers’ influence was everywhere.

A couple years ago, a friend lent me his copy of the Louvin Brothers Bear Family box set. At eight discs it was way more than I’d ever need, but he swore it was the best stuff ever recorded. I respected his deep and diverse tasted and promised to dive in. I’ll now confess that I only just scratched the surface. A little country gospel still goes a long way for me.

This same friend also told me about the time he saw Charlie played the Grand Emporium. Only a few people bothered to show up for the full set peppered with stories and a fond remembrance of Ira, who died in a car crash near Jefferson City, Mo. in 1965. Afterward, Charlie hung out, reveling in conversation with his fans.

I made a mental note to see Charlie the next time he came through town. His next appearance was opening for Lucinda Williams. It was a dream ticket, but I had other obligations that night. Then were appearances booked at Knuckleheads and Davey’s Uptown. Just before the show, however, the performance would be cancelled. Then, miraculously, another date would be booked several months out.

Each time a show was cancelled I feared that I’d missed my chance. Wednesday my worries were confirmed: Charlie Louvin died from complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 83.

My in-person opportunity may have vanished, but I have hours of his music to relish. As I think of Charlie reuniting with Ira at long last, a song by Gram Parsons, one of the brothers’ greatest disciples – in style, if not message – springs to mind: “The Angels Rejoiced Last Night.”

Keep reading:

Review: Chris Hillman thumbs through his back pages

Carrie Rodriguez honors family, roots on new album

KC Recalls: Johnny Cash at Leavenworth prison

 

 

 

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By Joel Francis

Metric – Fantasies
Indie synth band shines
on fourth album. Smart dance-pop
bests Metric, Phoenix.

Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
Fun from start to end,
Brit blends hip hop, jazz and soul,
wins Mercury Prize.

Bela Fleck – Throw Down Your Heart: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3
Mismatch on paper
Banjo goes to Africa?
A joyous result.

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
Red-head continues
streak of amazing albums.
Doubtless to persist.

Allen Toussaint – The Bright Mississippi
NOLA pianist
and songwriter honors roots
with great jazz album.

Me’Shell Ndegeocello – Devil’s Halo
Poetry, jazz, soul –
Don’t try to classify this.
Bass phenom triumphs.

Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar – One Fast Move or I’m Gone
Voices of Death Cab
and Son Volt pay homage to
poet Kerouac.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!
Southern soul throwbacks
bridge JB, Otis.
For fans of Daptone.

Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come
Indie sensation
examines life via Bible.
(Isn’t Christian rock.)

Mos Def – The Ecstatic
Fourth LP finds MC
back on game. Fans rejoice. More
rhymes, less acting, please.

Honorable mention:
Maxwell – BLACKsummer’snight
Eight years, a long time.
Welcome back, neo-soul man.
Slow jams worth the wait.

Keep Reading:

Top 10 Albums of 2008 (haiku remix)

Top 10 concerts of 2008

Review: Son Volt (2005)

Review: Neko Case, Son Volt and more at Wakarusa 2005

Green Ribbon Haikus (2008)

Feature: Hail Death Cab

Review: Bela Fleck’s Africa Project

Top 10 Albums of 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2006

Review: Mos Def, Kweli, others at Rock the Bells (2007)

Top 10 albums of 2005

Top 10 Albums of 2004

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wakarusa_05_c.sized

By Joel Francis

This weekend marks the first time Wakarusa will not be held at Clinton Lake near Lawrence, Kan. After establishing itself as a second-tier destination festival in 2004, Wakarusa has moved to Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Ark.

The Daily Record covered the previous four incarnations of Wakarusa. Join us now in a look back at the festival.

2005 – Wakarusa grows in its second year, offering what may be its greatest lineup to date, including Son Volt, Wilco, Neko Case, Calexico, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, String Cheese Incident and a then-unknown Matisyahu. Promoters are rewarded with a turnout of about 15,000 fans each day, doubling the inaugural turnout. Read more Wakarusa 2005 festival coverage.

2006 – The third annual Wakarusa Music Festival gets off to a sour start when music fans are greeted with highway patrol drug checks near Clinton Lake. “Narcarusa” is further sullied when it is revealed police strategically placed infrared cameras around the festival grounds to catch drug activity. Despite these setbacks, the festival once again reaches its 15,000-fan daily capacity and features the Flaming Lips, Les Claypool, P-Funk sideman Bernie Worrell, Gov’t Mule, Robert Randolph and the Family Band and back-to-back sets by Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. Read more Wakarusa 2006 festival coverage.

2007 – Security is toned-down, but Mother Nature rages with hard winds on Friday and Sunday rain during the fourth Wakarusa. Crowds are down to 12,000 fans each day, which might be a reflection of the festival’s most mediocre lineup. Michael Franti and Spearhead close out the festival and the lineup also includes Be Good Tanyas, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Widespread Panic and Ben Harper. Read more Wakarusa 2007 festival coverage.

2008 – Heavy rains capsize Wakarusa’s final festival to date at Clinton Lake. The downpour ends Friday’s sets prematurely and the swamp left inside most concert tents force fans to abandon shoes at the perimeter or in the muck. Further disappointment hits when Bettye LaVette, Dweezil Zappa and Emmylou Harris cancel performances. An return engagement with the Flaming Lips in addition to sets by Old 97s, Ben Folds, Alejandro Escovedo, members of the Meters, Ozomatli and a Friday afternoon infusion of hip hop from Blackalicious and Arrested Development still leave fans with plenty to love. Read more Wakarusa 2008 festival coverage.

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Oct. 8 in Westport

Kansas City Star

By Joel Francis

Four months ago, Son Volt took the main stage at the Wakarusa Music Festival at Clinton Lake early on Friday afternoon. The sun was hot and the oversized crowd seemed more interested in talking to each other than paying attention to the music.
Saturday night’s show in the parking lot across the street from the Beaumont Club in Westport couldn’t have been more different. The sun was down and the temperature hovered around 40 degrees. The crowd of more than 1,500 people hung on every word of lead singer and songwriter Jay Farrar.
The Wakarusa show was one of the revamped Son Volt’s first shows together (only Farrar remains from the band’s original ’90s incarnation).
The band’s album “Okemah and the Melody of Riot” has also been on store shelves for a couple months now, giving the fans a chance to become familiar with the new material. Some in the crowd were even requesting the newer songs, which is always a good sign.
Farrar and his four-piece band played 10 of the album’s 12 songs, half of those coming as the show’s opening five numbers. But after that fifth song, Farrar announced “something from a long time ago.” The band launched into “Medicine Hat,” knowingly nodding at the material the most people came to hear. From there it was a sprinkling of more “Okemah” material alongside classic Son Volt songs from “Trace,” “Straightaways” and “Wide Swing Tremolo.”
If “Medicine Hat” hinted at the band’s best era, the new song “Medication” was the fulcrum on which the show’s momentum rest.
“Medication,” a Indian-influenced drone and one of “Okemah”’s stand-out cuts, ended with Farrar ferociously banging his fists against the body of his guitar as the rest of the band jammed. The song abruptly collided with “Route” from “Trace” and was the best one-two punch of the 90 minute set.
The steadily dropping temperature thinned the crowd considerably as the evening progressed. By the end of the night, the crowd’s brave remainders were either toasted or frosty, but all were rewarded.

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Wilco

June 17-19, Clinton Lake, Lawrence (Kan.)

Kansas City Star

By Joel Francis

Son Volt – Friday afternoon, Sun Down Stage
Jay Farrar’s revamped Son Volt made their regional debut on Friday afternoon to a collective yawn. Maybe it was the early hour of the show – 3 p.m. – but more people were greeting each other than grooving to the music. Son Volt Version 2.0 leaned heavily on classic material from “Trace” and “Straightaways” in its hourlong set, but were not as country-leaning as the previous incarnation. Uncle Tupelo was no where to be found._The new lineup is rawer and plays up Farrar’s classic rock influences – a sound closer to Joe Walsh than Joe Ely.

Matisyahu – Friday afternoon, Campground Stage
Matisyahu’s novelty – a Hasidic Jew playing reggae music – may have drawn people to his tent, but his music made them stay.
Dressed in a white dress shirt and glasses and sporting a full black beard, he may have looked like a rabbi, but he sounded like Toots Hibbert. Matisyahu’s groove spread quicker than a flu bug in day care, and though the tent was too crowded to give the music the motion it deserved, no one seemed to mind, least of all Matisyahu, who had to rest a hand on his head to keep his yarmulke from flying off as he jumped up and down. After proving his reggae credibility, Matisyahu dismissed the band and began an a capella beatboxing, incorporating dub, hip-hop and techno rhythms culminating in a call-and-response with the drummer.

Ozomatli – Friday evening, Sun Up Stage
Ozomatli isn’t afraid to toss a rap into a Spanish melody. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything musically. The10-piece band blended Spanish, rock, African, Middle Eastern and hip hop into the most contagious and diverse groove of the day. The 75-minute set drew heavily from Ozomatli’s latest album, last year’s “Street Signs,” but the band worked in a new song, a rap driven by a Middle Eastern flute. The crowd thinned considerably when the String Cheese Incident took the adjacent stage, but there were enough hands raised in the air and bodies shaking to show that these folks weren’t just killing time.

Junior Brown – Saturday evening, Revival Tent
Junior Brown took a mostly full and enthusiastic Revival Tent crowd honky tonkin’ early Saturday evening. Wearing an immaculate three-piece suit and backed by a three-piece band, including his wife Tanya Rae, Brown kept the stage banter to a minimum and kept his music plowing along like the Orange Blossom Special. His deep voice was cribbed in the same fertile tone as Johnny Cash’s and he deftly switched from traditional country melodies to a Spanish language song and even a surf guitar medley.
The highlights were all of Brown’s tasteful guitar solos, performed on his trademark “guit-steel,” a double-neck six-string and pedal steel guitar, and his drummer of 31 years, who was able to do more with his simple snare and cymbal set than most can from an entire trap kit.

Neko Case – Saturday night, Sun Down Stage
Despite having a large crowd assembled in anticipation of headliner Wilco, Neko Case did not go out of her way to win any new converts Saturday night. Case’s hourlong restrained set never moved above mid-tempo and failed to engage the patient crowd. Taken individually, each song was quite good, but together they became a long, lonesome lullaby. Like a mournful train whistle crying out late in the night, Case and her four-piece band wallowed in love gone wrong. The material was well-done, but best suited for an intimate club and Case looked a little overwhelmed by the crowd, which was polite in spite of the pacing problems and the fact that few of her subtleties transferred effectively to the lawn.

Wilco – Saturday night, Sun Down Stage
Jeff Tweedy, Wilco’s frontman and songwriter, had the sold-out crowd eating out of his hand from the opening strains of the first number, “A Shot in the Arm.” The 90-minute show only got better from there. Wilco’s expanded six-piece line-up, including two keyboards and two guitars, fought like siblings in the sonic mélange. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did, creating the perfect atmosphere for each song. “Handshake Drugs” and “Kidsmoke (Spiders)” had thick walls of distortion that would have made Sonic Youth proud, while the folksier romps through the “Mermaid Ave.” material were warm and happy. If the audience participation bits failed, it was only because Wilco’s material isn’t really suited for it. Besides, Tweedy already had them at hello.

Proto-Kaw – Sunday afternoon, Sun Down Stage
Proto-Kaw will inevitably be compared to songwriter Kerry Livgren’s other band, Kansas, but the call-and-response in the opening number between Livgren’s guitar John Bolton’s flute should put those differences to rest. Formed in the early ‘70s, the band folded after failing to land a record contract and Livgren’s leap to a rival band and classic rock history. The septet belatedly reconvened when their archival demos were released to critical acclaim in 2002 and have since recorded an all-new album together. Proto-Kaw drew from both of those sources in their hour-long set that was enjoyed by the meager and decidedly older crowd that braved the mid-day sun for a set of progressive rock that somehow managed to replace arena-ready anthems with splashes of jazz and funk.

Jazz Mandolin Project – Sunday afternoon, Revival Tent
The Jazz Mandolin Project has more in common soncially with its good friends in Phish than it does the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, of which bandleader Jamie Masefield was once a member. Anyone expecting soothing acoustic jazz may have been pleased by the first number, but the songs grew more experimental and danceable as the set progressed. The quartet – mandolin, drums, upright bass and trumpet – is what the Flecktones would sound like if they were a jam band. The crowd was enthralled by the improvisation, but the bass and drums were sometimes so propulsive and funky one lost track of the mandolin. The 70-minute set culminated with the feel-good and danceable “Oh Yeah,” the best song of the night.

Old Crow Medicine Show – Sunday evening, Revival Tent
If, as the old saying goes, you can’t play sad music on a banjo, then Old Crow Medicine Show is the happiest band in the world. With half of the sextet on the jubilant drumhead five-string, the Crows threw a mighty hoedown as the sun set over the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival.
The Revival Tent was about half full at the start of the set, but by the end the tent was so full that people were dancing outside. The clappin’ and stompin’ were nonstop throughout the 70-minute set, which included classics like “CC Rider,” “Poor Man,” “Take ‘Em Away,” a cover of “Bluegrass Bob” Marley’s “Soul Rebel” and plenty of down-home stage banter.

Keep Reading:

Wakarusa Music Festival (2006)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2007)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2008)

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