Roots, Blues, and BBQ: Saturday

Image result for roots blues and bbq 2016Day Two of the festival didn’t disappoint. I was able to hear several new-to-me bands and hear three favorites, one for the first time.

Among the highlights was an introduction to Deke Dickerson. Originally from Columbia, MO, Deke is a well-respected guitarist and frontman in a variety of styles including rockabilly, surf rock, Western swing, and country. His guitar playing was impeccable and easily moved from style to style. His set was highlighted by a reunion with members of his high school band, Untamed Youth. All good stuff and an artist I will be following now.

As the afternoon progressed, I bounced back and forth between stages. I was able to hear parts of the sets from the Oh Hellos and the Jackie Greene Band. The Oh Hellos seemed to be heavily driven by literate lyrics that unfortunately were somewhat lost in the sound mix (vocals weren’t crisp for much of the weekend). Their set was punctuated by a large instrumental ensemble that added drama and tension to many of their songs ala Mumford and Sons. I enjoyed their set and expect to seek out more from them. I heard less of Jackie Greene but was impressed by solid songs and a captivating voice. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d reversed my priorities for these two, but that is part of the festival experience.

By far the highlight of the day, the Mavericks were amazing. Originally out of Miami, FL, the Mavericks fuse country, rock, and Latin influences into a danceable, driving blend that had the entire crowd moving. Their stage presence is huge with soaring, Roy Orbison influenced vocals and showmanship from each member of the band. The keyboard player, Jerry Dale McFadden, was so into his exuberant dancing that he lost his balance and pulled the keyboard down on him as he fell. Amazingly, he didn’t miss a note as the stage crew came out to help him recover from the fall. Lead guitarist Eddie Perez’s swagger during his solos played the perfect foil to Raul Malo’s romantic leading man/vocalist. This set was about as close to pure fun and joy as the day could deliver. I highly recommend seeing the Mavericks live if you can.

In another compromise to the stage schedule, I was able to catch only the end of Sam Bush’s set. As always though, Sam delivered the goods. By the time I arrived though, he had entered the extended jam portion of his set, so I don’t know how much of his new album was performed. It would have been nice to see/hear the crowd reaction to what would have been a bit mellower Sam. He ended the set with a rousing 10-minute long version of Old Joe Clark which strayed into a wholly electric finish with Steve Mougin moving to electric guitar and Scott Vestal switching to an electric banjo processed through a synthesizer to make it sound like a keyboard. Along the way, they touched on at least four classic rock songs all before winding up back with Old Joe Clark. Vintage Sam.

On a side note, it was fun to see the mostly stunned expression of the folks sitting next to us after Sam’s set. They’d never seen him before and had no idea what to expect. After I answered a few of their questions about Sam’s background and accomplishments, Sam won two new fans yesterday.

The last of the new-to-me bands was The Devil Makes Three. A trio out of Santa Cruz, CA, they blend bluegrass, old time, country, folk, and blues into to their music. For this show, the they supplemented their sound with a drummer and occasional fiddle player. I enjoyed much of what they did, but in many ways their songs and stage presence didn’t seem to fit the size of the venue. Again, due to the mix their lyrics were often not able to be understood. I expect I would have enjoyed their set in a smaller, more intimate gathering. That being said, they seem to have a strong college following and enchanted the throng in front of the stage.

Ending the evening for me was one of the more highly anticipated sets of the weekend, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. This time without wife, Amanda Shires who is on tour to support her own acclaimed album, many of her fiddle parts were supplemented by the second lead guitar/slide guitar player (sorry, didn’t hear the introduction; maybe Browan Lollar?). Jason can certainly rock and keep the party going as he did with Super 8, but so much of his recent work is introspective and, quite frankly, sad. Nonetheless, the crowd was into it and sang along to songs like Alabama Pines, 24 Frames, If It Takes a Lifetime, How to Forget, Traveling Alone (dedicated to Amanda), and Cover Me Up. I’ve seen Jason twice now, each time at this festival, and I’ve loved what I’ve heard. I think it’s time now to hear him in a different venue to see how his show is different. Still, this set was an awesome end to a long day of music.

Life happens and unfortunately I will not be able to attend day 3 of the festival, so my chronicle will end with this blog. As always though, I’ll leave you with a few tunes. Thanks for reading.

Here’s Deke Dickerson doing what he does best:

One of the crowd favorites from the Mavericks, Back in Your Arms Again:

Lastly, here’s the opening track from Jason Isbell’s Americana Album of the Year, Something More Than Free, If It Takes a Lifetime:

Roots Blues and BBQ: Friday

Image result for roots blues and bbq 2016One of our almost-annual musical treks is the Roots Blues and BBQ Festival in Columbia, MO at Stephens Lake Park. Last night was the first evening of the weekend-long festival (now in its 10th year) and it started out very strong.

The highlight of the evening was an absolutely mesmerizing set from St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Led by lead singer Paul Janeway and backed by one of the tightest bands I’ve seen in a long while, their set was the epitome of the ecstatic energy of a charismatic church event combined with the heady one-ness found in a dive bar where everyone is into the groove of the band and lost in that exact moment. Janeway is an amazing performer who makes his performance seem intimate and personal even in front of the huge crowd surrounding him. Exhibiting a hint of Otis Redding, James Brown, and Al Green, he had the crowd in his hand for the entire set. But don’t believe for a second that he chewed up the spotlight to the detriment of his band. Rather, he punctuated each performer’s solos by yielding the spotlight, dancing to every nuance, and clearly showing appreciation for their part in making St. Paul and the Broken Bones what it is. This was truly a memorable event.

Another great moment was encountering one of the “pop up” bands that set up on the festival grounds and perform short sets wholly acoustic. Todd Day Wait and Pigpen gave us a wonderful overview of the unique style that existed in the 1920s when country, blues, and jazz came together into something wholly unique. Think Jimmie Rogers without the yodeling. We saw them a few years ago at the same event, but the addition of a lap steel player took the band to a new level. I’d love to see what they can do on one of the main stages soon.

Our evening ended with Missouri’s own Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Clearly, the crowd was primed for this band. As the last set still going, the crowd (possibly 20,000 strong?) all made their way to gather around this stage. As a result, our vantage point was poor but we enjoyed the set all the same. Still, we couldn’t help but wonder if seeing these guys in a smaller hall wouldn’t have been a better experience. By the reaction of the crowd around us, they did not share that feeling.

I’ll share some highlights from Saturday’s shows tomorrow. And for the record, unless I get lucky enough to get a killer shot of the band, I will not be sharing a bunch of fuzzy pictures or videos. Once the festival has released their official pics and videos, I may share some of them at a later date. Now, here’s one tune each from the three bands I enjoyed most last night.

Here is All I Ever Wonder from St Paul and the Broken Bones’ latest release, Sea of Noise:

Here’s Todd Day Wait and Pigpen covering a Johnny Horton song:

Lastly, here’s Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats:


Real by Lydia Loveless

Image result for lydia lovelessI’m new to the Lydia Loveless bandwagon. Frankly, I hadn’t heard of her until I started hearing tracks from her new album, Real, from a variety of sources along with the buzz that accompanies a new artist about to break through. I picked up her new album a bit over a week ago and have enjoyed it’s unique sound and vision.

Lydia has been around in one form or another for several years. Her earlier work was heavily influenced by two disparate musical styles, punk and traditional country. With the band establishing punk-leaning grooves, Lydia effortlessly added a barroom-tinged, snarling country vocal. To further illustrate the point, she’s been compared to artists as wide ranging as Loretta Lynn, Stevie Nicks, and the Replacements. She often performs covers from artists like Prince and Elvis Costello in her live shows adding to the unusual ancestry from which her music springs.

On Real, she’s found a compelling blend of punk, traditional country, and pop that feels unique to her. Earlier fans may be disappointed that some of the rough edges have been removed but in many ways this allows the songcraft to show through more clearly. Always acknowledged as a strong lyricist, Lydia plumbs new depths on Real.In fact, lyrically she chooses to embrace a subtly in wordplay exceeding her prior work. These songs need a moment to breathe to fully be appreciated.

Her record company, Bloodshot Records, describes Lydia’s new album in this way, “Real is one of those exciting records where you sense an artist truly hitting their stride, that their vision is both focused and expansive, and that their talent brims with a confident sense of  place, execution and exploration.” Lydia is currently on an extensive tour supporting Real.

For me, stand out tracks include Longer, which appears to be the single from the album, Real, and European. Here’s the official video for Longer:

And here’s a heavier live version of Real from this year’s SXSW festival:

Lastly, here’s a live version of Clumps, the most stripped down song from the album.

Tiny Desk: Milk Carton Kids

I’ll be going to see these guys live as part of the Lampedusa: Concerts for Refugees in just over two weeks at the Sheldon. The bill includes also includes singer-songwriters Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, and the Milk Carton Kids.

Since it will be my first time seeing the Milk Carton Kids live, I decided to check out their Tiny Desk Concert from a few years ago. And now, I’ll share it with you too.

For those of you interested in what this series of concerts is all about, you can visit the Jesuit Refugee Service here.

2016 Americana Music Award Winners

Last night’s Americana Music awards program didn’t disappoint with a slate of deserving awards for the people who make this genre of music so exciting.

To the right, is a picture of  John Prine congratulating Jason Isbell on winning Album of the Year. Jason’s twitter feed includes this picture with this caption: This picture makes up for all the shitty hotel rooms I ever slept in.

The winners are:

Album of the Year: Something More Than Free, Jason Isbell, Produced by Dave Cobb

Artist of the Year: Chris Stapleton

Group/Duo of the Year: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell

Song of the Year: “24 Frames,” Jason Isbell

Emerging Artist of the Year: Margo Price

Instrumentalist of the Year: Sara Watkins

Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Billy Bragg

Lifetime Achievement Award, Trailblazer: Shawn Colvin

Lifetime Achievement Award, Songwriting: William Bell

Lifetime Achievement Award, Performance: Bob Weir

Lifetime Achievement Award, WagonMaster: Jim Lauderdale

President’s Award: Woody Guthrie

While not every one of my choices from last spring got the award, I certainly can’t quibble with a single one of these. Now go find that music, folks!

And because we need music in every post, here’s the title cut from Sara Watkins’s new album, Young in All the Wrong Ways.

Farm Aid 2016

Image result for farm aid 2016Today’s concert audio is being broadcast live on Sirius XM on Willie’s Roadhouse. The concert can also be viewed in its entirety today via the Farm Aid website. So far, I’ve been able to catch Jamey Johnson with Alison Krauss, Nathaniel Rateliff, and Sturgill Simpson with plenty more to follow including Alabama Shakes, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Willie Nelson.


Dwight Yoakam’s Version of Purple Rain

I mentioned this upcoming release a few blogs ago. Since then I’ve been trying to find an advance audio track of Dwight‘s take on this iconic song. Found it!

I realize this won’t be to many people’s taste either due to style or because you’re just not supposed to mess with classic songs, but this made me smile for a whole lot of reasons. And there are a few people who might disagree with that don’t-mess-with-classic-songs axiom as well. Just sayin’

Interestingly enough, the first recording session for this song was before Prince died. For some reason, that makes me feel even better about this cover.

Anyway, this link will take you to short article about Dwight’s cover of Purple Rain and a bit about the new album. The audio-only link is at the top of the article. Enjoy!