Keep scrolling down the page for our blog/program guide.
Pics, bios, reviews, album art and more! Learn lots about all the folks on the show!
I’m Yours- John McVey- “Meet Me In Houston”
When I Was Yours- Emmylou Harris- “Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems”
What I’ve Got (Is All Yours)- Polly & The Billets Doux- “Money Tree”
I Wanna Be Yours- Barbara Carroll- “This Heart Of Mine”
You Show Me Yours (I’ll Show You Mine)/ Stranger”- Kris Kristofferson- “Live From Austin, Texas”
Hold On To Yours (And I’ll Hold Onto Mine)- Billy Joe Shaver- “Freedom’s Child”
Nobody’s Fool But Yours- Vince Gill & Paul Franklin- “Bakersfield”
Hot New Music”
Let The Good Times Roll- JD McPherson- “Let The Good Times Roll”
Won’t You Stay- Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar- “Send The Nightingale”
Cajun Music Saved My Life Tonight- Michael Hardie- “Real”
See Me For You- Wookalily- “All The Waiting While”
If You Wanna Leave- Thorbjorn Risager- “Too Many Roads”
Warm Summer’s Evening- Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers- “Walk With Me”
Your Trailer Or Mine- Honky Tonk Confidential- “Your Trailer Or Mine”
Child Of Mine- Carole King- “Writer”
Gonna Make You Mine- Frank Frost- “Jelly Roll King”
Anything To Say You’re Mine- Etta James- “At Last”
A Heart Like Mine- Dwight Yoakum- “3 Pears”
Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine- Carolina Chocolate Drops- “Genuine Negro Jig”
She’s Mine- George Jones- “The Great Lost Hits”
** Keep scrolling down the page for our informative blog/program guide. Follow along as you listen! **
I’m Yours- John McVey
John McVey is a veteran of Texas Blues, who created his signature tone and earned his aggressive guitar chops as a member of touring bands on the Chitlin’ Circuit. He was mentored by Blues legends Larry Davis and Albert King. With no effects pedals, his ‘singing guitar’ emotes heart-rending bends and smooth runs as well as bold chording that has led many, including the legendary ‘Uncle’ John Turner, to call McVey ‘the best rhythm guitar player around.’
His musical resume includes world-wide performances with Hook Herrera & the Hitchhikers and Paul Orta & the Kingpins. After a very profitable Miller Genuine Draft Light television spot, John joined the Lavelle White Band in ATX as guitarist and band leader. With Lavelle, he played the major festival circuit for several years on shows with Luther Allison, John Lee Hooker and more.
When I Was Yours- Emmylou Harris
It’s difficult to write about Emmylou Harris without lapsing into a long train of superlatives — she really does have one of the most beautiful voices of her generation, and her taste in material and skill in using her instrument is nearly faultless. However, as good as Harris is and as consistently strong as her body of work has been, one could make a convincing argument that she’s been frequently underrated through much of her career — more than just a lovely woman with a pure, clear voice and a fine ear, she’s championed a number of gifted songwriters before they went on to have distinguished careers of their own (from Rodney Crowell to Gillian Welch), matured into a first-rate tunesmith herself, collaborated with a remarkable array of artists, and has never been afraid to take her talents into unexpected directions, from purist bluegrass to the experimental atmospherics of her work with Daniel Lanois. Songbird: Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems is a hefty four-CD box set (with a bonus DVD) compiled by Harris in collaboration with James Austin that does justice to the scope of a career that’s spanned five decades thus far, and unlike most multi-disc collections it isn’t merely a super-sized “greatest-hits” collection. Harris and Austin have purposefully avoided her most recognizable work on Songbird, instead charting an alternate path through her back catalog.
-Mark Deming, AllMusic.com
What I’ve Got (Is All Yours)- Polly & The Billets Doux
Polly And The Billets Doux are something different. The genre-defiant quartet began life in the middle of a smoky Winchester venue’s backroom in 2006, performing totally unamplified to a full-capacity audience. Their distinctive sound combines elements of blues, country, folk, soul and gospel to create a sumptuous and totally unique sound with a quintessentially English twist.
Polly And The Billets Doux self-released their debut album ‘Fiction, Half-Truths & Downright Lies’ via independent label Bleak Mouse Records in 2009. They charted at number 17 on the BBC Radio 1 Indie Chart and gained recognition from BBC national radio and regional stations throughout the UK, including Bob Harris and Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2. In 2014, they released their second full studio album, Money Tree.
Returning with their second full-length album, Polly and the Billet Doux’s Money Tree reads like a collection of open letters to the American South, written from within the belly of Southern England. Touching upon country, folk and blues, the Winchester quartet aren’t afraid to flirt with change, and at times the results are stunning.
-Chris Bunt, rapturemagazine.com
I Wanna Be Yours- Barbara Carroll
In the year 2005, Barbara Carroll could boast that she has began playing piano for a grand total of 75 years. Not without a pause to sleep and eat, obviously, but with a determination that might suggest such extremes. Born Barbara Carole Coppersmith, she began the instrument at only five-years-old and went on to classical training three years later, eventually graduating from the New England Conservatory. In terms of professional stagecraft, her initial training ground was a USO tour during the second World War in which she was part of an all-girl trio. This was quickly followed by leading her own trio on New York City’s famous lane of jazz, 52nd Street, where she adopted her middle name of Carole as a stage name. The pianist was associated with such fine players as guitarist Chuck Wayne and bassist Clyde Lombardi, but what would develop into an extensive discography began in 1949 with a recording session backing up multi-instrumentalist Eddie Shu for the Rainbow label.
Among female piano players, Carroll is known as the first to venture into the progressive bebop style that was especially associated with Bud Powell. Unlike the infamous Billy Tipton, Carroll also did not think it was necessary to hide the fact that she was a woman in jazz — but this was New York City, not Oklahoma or Washington state. Not that Carroll had an easy time in a genre dominated by men. “People tended to put you down before they ever heard you,” she has commented in interviews. “If you were a girl piano player, the tendency was to say: ‘Oh, how could she possibly play?’ You never even got a chance to present what you could do. But then, if you did prove yourself, it almost became a commercial asset, in a sense; you were regarded as unique.”
-Eugene Chadbourne, AllMusic.com
You Show Me Yours (I’ll Show You Mine)/ Stranger”- Kris Kristofferson
After a lengthy period of struggle, Kris Kristofferson achieved remarkable success as a country songwriter at the start of the 1970s. His songs “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” and “For the Good Times,” all chart-topping hits, helped redefine country songwriting, making it more personal and serious, much in the way that Bob Dylan’s songs had transformed pop music songwriting in the mid-’60s. By 1987, it was estimated that Kristofferson’s compositions had been recorded by more than 450 artists. His renown as a songwriter enabled him to launch a moderately successful career as a musical performer and that, in turn, brought him to the attention of Hollywood, leading to a lengthy career as a film actor.
The eldest of three children of an Air Force major general who retired from the military to head up air operations for the Saudi Arabian company Aramco, Kristofferson spent most of his childhood in Brownsville, TX, though his family moved around, finally settling in San Mateo, CA, by his junior high-school years. He graduated from San Mateo High School in 1954 and entered Pomona College in Claremont, CA. There he studied creative writing and he won first prize and three other placements in a collegiate short-story contest sponsored by Atlantic Monthly magazine. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1958, having secured a prestigious Rhodes scholarship to continue his studies at Oxford University in England. While at Oxford, he wrote and performed his own songs, which brought him to the attention of manager Larry Parnes (who handled Tommy Steele and other British pop stars).
-William Ruhlmann, AllMusic.com
Hold On To Yours (And I’ll Hold Onto Mine)- Billy Joe Shaver
Billy Joe Shaver has never been a household name, but his songs became country standards during the ’70s and his reputation among musicians and critics hasn’t diminished during the ensuing decades.
One of the best synopses of Shaver’s upbringing is his own song, “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train.” When he sings, “my grandma’s old-age pension is the reason that I’m standing here today,” he ain’t kidding. The “good Christian raising” and “eighth grade education” — not to mention being abandoned by his parents shortly after being born, working on his uncles’ farms instead of going to high school, and losing part of his fingers during a job at a sawmill — are all part of his life story. “I got all my country learning,” he sings, “picking cotton, raising hell, and bailing hay.”
After several trips between Texas andTennessee, he appeared one day in 1968 inBobby Bare‘s Nashville office, where he convinced Bare to listen to him play. Bareended up giving him a writing job and soon his songs began to see the light thanks toKris Kristofferson (“Good Christian Soldier”),Tom T. Hall (“Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me”), Bare (“Ride Me Down Easy”), and later,the Allman Brothers (“Sweet Mama”) and Elvis Presley (“You Asked Me To”). Shaver’s real breakthrough, though, came in 1973 whenWaylon Jennings recorded an album composed almost entirely of Shaver’s songs, Honky Tonk Heroes — largely considered the first true “outlaw” album.
Nobody’s Fool But Yours- Vince Gill & Paul Franklin
It’s a small miracle that Bakersfield, the collaborative hard country album by Vince Gill and Paul Franklin, was released by a major label. Totally out of fashion and having nothing whatsoever to do with contemporary country, it’s a clarion reminder of the music’s most creative period. Bakersfield is a collection of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard tunes from the 1960s, cut by an all-star session band. It not only pays tribute to these giants and the era, but also the sound, and the men who created it: guitarists Don Rich and Roy Nichols, pedal steel guitarist Tom Brumley, and fiddler Jelly Sanders. No one is more qualified to sing these songs than Gill, who is the greatest living vocalist in country music and a killer guitarist whose catalog reveals that he’s has been on a creative tear since 2000. Franklin has played on over 500 records; he’s a multi-instrumentalist who migrated from Detroit to Nashville in the late ’70s to become a modern pedal steel legend. The two are also members of the country and bluegrass band the Time Jumpers. Bakersfield is not merely an exercise in nostalgia; these cats reveal the timeless appeal of California country’s golden age. Owens and Haggard were outsiders, true to the tradition of Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers. They were harder, edgier, definitely not “countrypolitan.”
-Thom Jurek, AllMusic.com
Let The Good Times Roll- JD McPherson
Singer/songwriter JD McPherson makes vintage-sounding rock with nods to ’40s R&B, blues, and ’50s rockabilly. A native of Oklahoma, he grew up listening to a wide array of music from traditional country and rockabilly to punk and hip-hop. Although music was always an interest, McPherson first worked on his family’s cattle ranch and later earned a Master’s degree in open media from Tulsa University, eventually teaching and receiving attention for his video art installations. McPherson is a member of the Tulsa-based rockabilly ensemble the Starkweather Boys, whose classic style caught the ear of Chicago retro-rock impresario Jimmy Sutton. A job backing Sutton on a few shows followed for McPherson, as did the idea of his own solo project. In 2010, he released his solo debut, the Sutton-produced Signs & Signifiers (featuring the single “North Side Gal”), on Hi-Style Records. In 2012, Signs & Signifiers was re-released to a wider audience on Rounder Records and ultimately reached number 47 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart. That same year, McPherson was invited to join acclaimed British singer/songwriter Nick Lowe on a leg of his West Coast tour.
-Matt Collar, AllMusic.com
Trumpeted by the flagship single “North Side Gal,” JD McPherson burst onto the roots music scene in 2010 with his debut album, Signs & Signifiers. Blessed with an angelically resonant voice and a vintage analog production sound (the latter courtesy of bassist/collaborator/studio guru Jimmy Sutton), McPherson had boiled his take on rock & roll down to the essentials. Using those timeless elements, combined with his literate, art school-informed songwriting aesthetic (he carries an M.F.A. from the University of Tulsa), McPherson at once codified and recontextualized a purist mid-century ethos that had been brewing among rockabilly, old-school R&B, and car-culture fanatics since at least the 1980s. All of which brings us to his sophomore full-length album, 2015’s Let the Good Times Roll. Produced by Mark Neill (who previously helmed similarly inclined albums from the Paladins, Los Straitjackets, and the Black Keys), Let the Good Times Roll is a purposeful companion piece to Signs & Signifiers, showcasing a bigger, more dynamic sound than its predecessor, full of atmospheric plate reverb, juke-joint rhythms, spine-tingling piano lines, verdant horn sections, and even more densely packed guitar twang and strut. And, as always, at the center is McPherson’s voice, a wailing croon that sounds as contemporary as Bruno Mars, even as it raises the romantic specter of Jackie Wilson. It’s this ability to reference the past (even his own recent past) while remaining firmly lodged in the present that colors everything McPherson does.
-Matt Collar, AllMusic.com
Won’t You Stay- Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar
“Absolutely one of my favorite singers. A voice dripping with character, tone and raw power.”
“Interesting that she’s coming up at the same time as Etta James has (sadly) passed. Samantha Martin has a voice that stops people in their tracks. Those are rare.”
“Samantha is a powerhouse of soul and with a shredding raspy vocal that clearly comes straight from the heart… Think Bonnie Raitt after 8 shots of whiskey and you get Samantha Martin.”
“….a cowgirl in blue suede boots: big voice, true heart, classic sound. Samantha Martin is a one of a kind dame whose voice manages to be all at once gritty, playful, sexy and 100% real. The album is a moody road trip through the Americana landscape, with more south than north in it, evocative of sweltering August nights and the smell of Mississippi silt… She’s gonna holler ‘em all down with her rifle of a voice, leaving nothing behind but a smoking microphone and a trail of loyal fans.”
“Samantha Martin has the kind of growl that whups my ass and gets my heart pumpin'”
“Samantha Martin’s new album showcases her soulful, whisky-sweet vocals. The songwriting on the album is a tip of the hat to her early influences – a mix of classic country, 50’s rock, rockabilly, gospel and reggae and she’s backed solidly by her band, The Haggard. The new album is fresh, fiery fun!”
“You may not know it yet, but Samantha Martin is a rock star, she’ll tear your heart out one note at a time.”
If Mavis Staples and The Black Keys had a child, and Sharon Jones was the Auntie, it would sound like Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar.
In July 2013 Samantha road-tested a new sound, recently named Delta Sugar. If you have ever wondered what Martin’s music would sound like if it was stripped down and raw – this is your chance to hear it. The latest incarnation of this artist, as she refines her craft results in “gorgeous triple part harmonies and distinct guitar tones” (Exclaim! Feb. 2014)
In this new gospel infused, blues and soul formation, Martin is releasing an EP in April 2014 titled “Mississippi Sun”. As always, Samantha’s voice is huge, she is not.
Cajun Music Saved My Life Tonight- Michael Hardie
In many ways the story of Texas Native, Michael Hardie, began in 1991 when Wolfgang Doebling, editor of the German Rolling Stone Magazine, heard his album “Houston Blues” and invited him to Berlin for the B.I.D. music conference.
This first trip to Europe sparked a creative period of songwriting that would redefine him as an artist. Moving to the east part of Berlin in June 1992 was the beginning of a wanderlust that found him going back and forth from Berlin and Texas for the next 2 decades. He also became connected with Brazil and the world was open to him. Berlin has officially become his second home.
See Me For You- Wookalily
Wookalily is a female led Americana folk band with roots in bluegrass and country. They turf out timeless songs from the bogs of Northern Ireland to the bayous of Louisiana. Having been swamped in both musical traditions they’ve managed to create a transatlantic sound that is authentic yet quirky. Between hammerin’ out the harmonies, slammin’ on the geetars, slappin’ the bass, beatin the drums, pickin’ on the banjos (not to mention the banjo players) and chopping on the fiddle it’s a miracle Wookalily haven’t been arrested for cruelty to expensive musical instruments. Despite their reckless ways they’ve managed to create a unique and distinctive sound that’s all heart. Their style, sometimes referred to among the lilys as chillbilly roots, has an old-timey feel with a young-timey appeal.
“Wookalily make excellent music and All The Waiting While is a really impressive album. The songs are memorable, the ensemble playing is joyous and it’s always a treat to see the band performing these tunes live. Quite the achievement.”
– Stuart Bailie, BBC Radio Ulster (Official) and CEO Oh Yeah Music Centre, February 2015
“It’s hard to pigeon hole, it’s one of those that really blends the genres. You can hear that swampy Louisiana Jazz sound in there, a lot of folk in there and some bluegrass…Blew off the cobwebs…Four piece girl band from Ireland. The music really does the talking. There’s some instrumentation/instrumentals on there and they’re really playing their instruments well so something a little bit different.”
– Marie Crichton’s Country Show, BBC Radio Shropshire, February 2015
“These four young women could (should!) turn out to be the roots music find of the decade. Their playing and arrangements almost defy superlatives.”
– Mike Morrison, Americana Roots UK, 14th December 2014
“One of the most exciting new arrivals on the bluegrass scene – Ireland’s answer to The Be Good Tanyas”
– Mike Davies, Folking.com, 25th November 2014
“Wookalily are the most brilliant, intoxicating and life-enhancing band I’ve heard in 20 years – not only from Northern Ireland, from anywhere. Lindsay Crothers is a vocal sensation. It’s unbelievable that these people can still be seen for free in bars around Belfast.”
– Colin Harper, author of Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British folk and blues revival (Bloomsbury, 2000; rev 2012) and Bathed In Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Jawbone, 2014), November 2014
If You Wanna Leave- Thorbjorn Risager
In the blues world, a big voice is often accompanied by a big ego (or at least a medium sized one…)
But the Danish singer Thorbjørn Risager, praised for his rough and strong voice by an unanimous choir of critics from a growing number of countries – 15 the last time we counted them – is a soft-spoken gentleman off stage. He is the leader of his seven-piece band mainly for practical reasons – to bring any little issue into a group discussion can be quite time-consuming. He is also composing most of the band’s music, and during the performance he is the obvious center of attention, even if the band has a charming way of passing round the task of introducing the songs between them, so that each musician gets his word in.
And this is a real smooth organization, who has divided all practical tasks such as web master, CD sales on gigs etc between themselves. Which makes life easier in the midst of their heavy touring schedule. Since the start, they have played in 15 countries, and only from Feb – Aug 2010 they have concerts booked in 11 European countries.
But the 38-year-old Dane had other plans for his life. He studied to be a school teacher, and worked in this profession for some years, before he decided to let the music take over. He studied at the Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen, a quite unique education where many of the teachers are jazz- or rock musicians, and where the emphasis is on Rhythmic music of all genres.
In 2003 he started his band, selected musicians he liked both musically and personally, and the fact that up until today only one of them left and was replaced, at an early stage of the band’s career, proves that the choice was excellent.
But of course Thorbjørn’s musical interest started long before this. He played the saxophone from the age of 12, then guitar – but the singing was more of a coincidence at first. He was exposed to the blues through a neighbour, a middle-aged gentleman who was friends with his parents, and who started playing blues records to the young Thorbjørn. That’s how his life-long love story with the blues started, with B B King as his biggest hero. Ray Charles is one of his other obvious influences, but today, with almost 40 recorded songs from his own pen, he has definitely defined his own sound and style.
His mixture of genres is something that is sometimes mentioned by critics, who are looking for something of more homogenity. But this is Thorbjørn’s deliberate choice.
There are days when I feel the avalanche of new blues releases is a stream of been there, heard that shuffles and boogies. But once every blues moon or so, I hear someone who takes all the old ingredients and revitalizes and reinvigorates standard recipes. Ironically, Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado, while sounding as deep-Delta as anyone can ask, have done just that, even though they hail from across the pond in Denmark.
Roughly speaking, the rough and raunchy voice of 42-year-old Risager is in the tradition of singers like Son House, Long John Baldry, Alexis Korner, Johnny Winter, and Taj Mahal. Appropriately, the 12 new songs on his Too Many Roads are on Rough Records, a label currently excelling with its international roster of contemporary blues artists.
-Wesley Britton, June 15, 2014, blogcritics.org
Photo by: Robert Lemm
Warm Summer’s Evening- Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers
Like all troubadours, singer-songwriter Phoebe Hunt is a rambler. Recent years have seen the Texas native relocate from Austin to Nashville to her current residence in Brooklyn. This wanderlust is evident in her new album with The Gatherers featuring Connor Forsyth, Walk with Me (out Aug. 26, 2014), which effortlessly blends country, swing, jazz, folk, and pop.
Hunt and singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Connor Forsyth (a founding member of roots act The Ghosts Along the Brazos) have been collaborating together for more than six years: they first began performing together as bandmates in Americana/swing/gypsy jazz band The Belleville Outfit. After that group dissolved, the two musicians began writing songs together as Forsyth toured with the legendary Ray Price and Hunt pursued a solo career, releasing a self-titled EP in 2012 and a live album in 2013, in between touring with cellist Ben Sollee and forming Fuel Our Fire (Heal the World Through Music), a program that brings the gift of musical collaboration to young artists from around the world.
>> Read more…
“The Many Sides of Phoebe Hunt” might be a good alternative title for Walk with Me, the fine new album from Phoebe Hunt and The Gatherers due for release later this month (August 26). She does pop. She does country. She does folk. She can swing with a touch of jazz or sell an emotional ballad. And she does it all on the new album, and she does it all with style and vigor.
There might be some who see this as a scatter shot artist in search of herself. That would be a mistake, as this is a talented artist who won’t be pigeon-holed. And she shouldn’t be. If you can do it all, why accept limits?
Joined by multi-instrumentalist Connor Forsyth, she runs through a set of 11 tunes that spotlight both the singer/songwriter’s different vocal personalities and her mastery of a variety of genres.
-Jack Goodstein, August 8, 2014, blogcritics.org
Your Trailer Or Mine- Honky Tonk Confidential
It’s not often you’ll find a computer programmer, librarian, and producer/writer for a major television network performing traditional country songs, but that’s exactly what Honky Tonk Confidential is all about. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, this collection of musicians has performed in everything from punk and new wave groups, to having shared the stage with Webb Pierce and Mac Wiseman. In 1998, the group performed in various areas around Washington before putting its music to tape. In 1999, the group released its debut self-titled album. Critics welcomed the album as a fresh face on the traditional country honky tonk scene.
-Jason MacNeil, AllMusic.com
Although from the Washington, D.C., area, the quintet which composes Honky Tonk Confidential sounds as if they were pulled off of a gin-soaked Texas barroom floor. From the lap steel and subtle tickle of the ivories on the title track, the band comes across as having years under their thick silver belt buckles, thanks in large part to the sharing of vocals.
-Jason MacNeil, AllMusic.com
Child Of Mine- Carole King
While the landmark Tapestry album earned her superstar status, singer/songwriter Carole King had already firmly established herself as one of pop music’s most gifted and successful composers, with work recorded by everyone from the Beatles to Aretha Franklin. Born Carole Klein on February 9, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York, she began playing piano at the age of four, and formed her first band, the vocal quartet the Co-Sines, while in high school. A devotee of the composing team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller (the duo behind numerous hits for Elvis Presley, the Coasters, and Ben E. King), she became a fixture at influential DJ Alan Freed’s local rock & roll shows; while attending Queens College, she fell in with budding songwriters Paul Simon and Neil Sedaka as well as Gerry Goffin, with whom she forged a writing partnership.
In 1959, Sedaka scored a hit with “Oh! Carol,” written in her honor; King cut an answer record, “Oh! Neil,” but it stiffed. She and Goffin, who eventually married, began writing under publishers Don Kirshner and Al Nevins in the famed pop songwriting house the Brill Building, where they worked alongside the likes of Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and countless others. In 1961, Goffin and King scored their first hit with the Shirelles’ chart-topping “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”; their next effort, Bobby Vee’s “Take Good Care of My Baby,” also hit number one, as did “The Locomotion,” recorded by their babysitter, Little Eva. Together, the couple wrote over 100 chart hits in a vast range of styles, including the Chiffons’ “One Fine Day,” the Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” the Drifters’ “Up on the Roof,” the Cookies’ “Chains” (later covered by the Beatles), Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman…
-Jason Ankeny, AllMusic.com
Gonna Make You Mine- Frank Frost
Although the atmospheric juke joint blues of Frank Frost remained steeped in unadulterated Delta funk throughout his career, his ongoing musical journey took him well outside his Mississippi home base. He moved to St. Louis in 1951, learning how to blow harp first from Little Willie Foster and then from the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson, who took him on the road — as a guitar player — from 1956 to 1959. Drummer Sam Carr, a longtime Frost ally, was also part of the equation, having enticed Frost to front his combo in 1954 before hooking up with Sonny Boy.
Leaving Williamson’s employ in 1959, Frost and Carr settled in Lula, Mississippi. Guitarist Jack Johnson came on board in 1962 after sitting in with the pair at the Savoy Theater in Clarksdale. The three meshed perfectly — enough to interest Memphis producer Sam Phillips in a short-lived back-to-the-blues campaign that same year. Hey Boss Man!, issued on Sun’s Phillips International subsidiary as by Frank Frost & the Night Hawks, was a wonderful collection of uncompromising Southern blues (albeit totally out of step with the marketplace at the time).
Elvis Presley’s ex-guitarist Scotty Moore produced Frost’s next sessions in Nashville in 1966 for Jewel Records. Augmented by session bassist Chip Young, the trio’s tight down-home ensemble work was once again seamless. “My Back Scratcher,” Frost’s takeoff on Slim Harpo’s “Baby Scratch My Back,” even dented the R&B charts on Shreveport-based Jewel for three weeks.
Chicago blues fan Michael Frank sought out Frost in 1975. He located Frost, Johnson, and Carr playing inside Johnson’s Clarksdale tavern, the Black Fox. Mesmerized by their sound, Frank soon formed his own record label, Earwig, to capture their raw, charismatic brand of blues.
- Bill Dahl, AllMusic.com
A master of swampy juke joint blues, Frank Frost brought his own version of deep south harmonica and vocals to a mix of Slim Harpo and Jimmy Reed-like tunes in a career that is notable both for its longevity and for its unfailing vitality. This release from Britain’s Charly Records is actually a great place to discover Frost, since it combines on one disc several of the tracks he did for famed Memphis producer Sam Phillips in 1962 for the Sun Records subsidiary, Phillips International, along with tracks Frost cut for Scotty Moore (yep, Elvis Presley’s old guitar player) and the Louisiana label Jewel Records a couple of years later. Sides from the two sessions fit together seamlessly, and having “Jelly Roll King” and “Big Boss Man” from the Sun date bumping up against “My Back Scratcher” from the Jewel date makes this arguably the best Frost comp out there.
-Steve Leggett, AllMusic.com
Anything To Say You’re Mine- Etta James
Few female R&B stars enjoyed the kind of consistent acclaim Etta James received throughout a career that spanned six decades; the celebrated producer Jerry Wexler once called her “the greatest of all modern blues singers,” and she recorded a number of enduring hits, including “At Last,” “Tell Mama,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” and “All I Could Do Was Cry.” At the same time, despite possessing one of the most powerful voices in music, James only belatedly gained the attention of the mainstream audience, appearing rarely on the pop charts despite scoring 30 R&B hits, and she lived a rough-and-tumble life that could have inspired a dozen soap operas, battling drug addiction and bad relationships while outrunning a variety of health and legal problems.
Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, California on January 25, 1938; her mother was just 14 years old at the time, and she never knew her father, though she would later say she had reason to believe he was the well-known pool hustler Minnesota Fats. James was raised by friends and relatives instead of her mother through most of her childhood, and it was while she was living with her grandparents that she began regularly attending a Baptist church. James’ voice made her a natural for the choir, and despite her young age she became a soloist with the group, and appeared with them on local radio broadcasts. At the age of 12, after the death of her foster mother, James found herself living with her mother in San Francisco, and with little adult supervision, she began to slide into juvenile delinquency. But James’ love of music was also growing stronger, and with a pair of friends she formed a singing group called the Creolettes. The girls attracted the attention of famed bandleader Johnny Otis, and when he heard their song “Roll with Me Henry” — a racy answer song to Hank Ballard’s infamous “Work with Me Annie” — he arranged for them to sign with Modern Records, and the Creolettes cut the tune under the name the Peaches (the new handle coming from Etta’s longtime nickname). “Roll with Me Henry,” renamed “The Wallflower,” became a hit in 1955, though Georgia Gibbs would score a bigger success with her cover version, much to Etta’s dismay. After charting with a second R&B hit, “Good Rockin’ Daddy,” the Peaches broke up and James stepped out on her own.
-Mark Deming, AllMusic.com
After spending a few years in limbo after scoring her first R&B hits “Dance With Me, Henry” and “Good Rocking Daddy,” Etta James returned to the spotlight in 1961 with her first Chess release, At Last. James made both the R&B and pop charts with the album’s title cut, “All I Could Do Was Cry,” and “Trust in Me.” What makes At Last a great album is not only the solid hits it contains, but also the strong variety of material throughout. James expertly handles jazz standards like “Stormy Weather” and “A Sunday Kind of Love,” as well as Willie Dixon’s blues classic “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” James demonstrates her keen facility on the title track in particular, as she easily moves from powerful blues shouting to more subtle, airy phrasing; her Ruth Brown-inspired, bad-girl growl only adds to the intensity. James would go on to even greater success with later hits like “Tell Mama,” but on At Last one hears the singer at her peak in a swinging and varied program of blues, R&B, and jazz standards.
-Stephen Cook, AllMusic.com
A Heart Like Mine- Dwight Yoakum
With his stripped-down approach to traditional honky tonk and Bakersfield country, Dwight Yoakam helped return country music to its roots in the late ’80s. Like his idols Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams, Yoakam never played by Nashville’s rules; consequently, he never dominated the charts like his contemporary Randy Travis. Then again, Travis never played around with the sound and style of country music like Yoakam. On each of his records, he twists around the form enough to make it seem like he doesn’t respect all of country’s traditions. Appropriately, his core audience was composed mainly of roots rock and rock & roll fans, not the mainstream country audience. Nevertheless, he was frequently able to chart in the country Top Ten, and he remained one of the most respected and adventurous recording country artists well into the ’90s.
Born in Kentucky but raised in Ohio, Yoakam learned how to play guitar at the age of six. As a child, he listened to his mother’s record collection, honing in on the traditional country of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, as well as the Bakersfield honky tonk of Buck Owens. When he was in high school, Yoakam played with a variety of bands, playing everything from country to rock & roll. After completing high school, Yoakam briefly attended Ohio State University, but he dropped out and moved to Nashville in the late ’70s with the intent of becoming a recording artist.
At the time he moved to Nashville, the town was in the throes of the pop-oriented urban cowboy movement and had no interest in his updated honky tonk. While in Nashville, he met guitarist Pete Anderson, who shared a similar taste in music. The pair moved out to Los Angeles, where they found a more appreciative audience than they did in Nashville. In L.A., Yoakam and Anderson didn’t just play country clubs, they played the same nightclubs that punk and post-punk rock bands like X, the Dead Kennedys, Los Lobos, the Blasters, and the Butthole Surfers did. What Yoakam had in common with rock bands like X, the Blasters, and Los Angeles was similar musical influences; they all drew from ’50s rock & roll and country. In comparison to the polished music coming out of Nashville, Yoakam’s stripped-down, direct revivalism seemed radical. The cowpunks, as they were called, that attended Yoakam’s shows provided an invaluable support for his fledgling career.
-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusic.com
Dwight Yoakam effectively went into hibernation after the release Blame the Vain in 2005. He spent some time acting and playing shows, releasing an excellent Buck Owens tribute in 2007, but he shied away from original material for a full seven years, and when he re-emerged in 2012 with 3 Pears, it was to return to the Warner group after spending the 2000s as an independent artist. Oddly enough, 3 Pears feels more indie than anything he’s cut in the new millennium, and not just because he’s enlisted alt-rocker Beck as a producer for a pair of tracks. Yoakam, who produced the bulk of the album on his own, has decided to delve deeply into the spirit of the ’60s, looking beyond Bakersfield and adding some serious swatches of pop color throughout the album. Certainly, this is steeped in the thick twang that’s been at the heart of Yoakam’s music since the start, but he’s attempting more sounds and styles here than at anytime since 1993’s This Time. This is an album where one song in no way predicts what comes next…
-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusic.com
Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine- Carolina Chocolate Drops
In early 2012, Grammy award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops released their studio album Leaving Eden (Nonesuch Records) produced by Buddy Miller. The traditional African-American string band’s album was recorded in Nashville and featured founding members Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons, along with multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and cellist Leyla McCalla, already a familiar presence at the group’s live shows. With Flemons and McCalla now concentrating on solo work, the group’s 2014 lineup will feature two more virtuosic players alongside Giddens and Jenkins – cellist Malcolm Parson and multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett — illustrating the expansive, continually exploratory nature of the Chocolate Drops’ music. Expect a new disc from this quartet in 2015.
The Chocolate Drops got their start in 2005 with Giddens, Flemons and fiddle player Justin Robinson, who amicably left the group in 2011. The Durham, North Carolina-based trio would travel every Thursday night to the home of old-time fiddler and songster Joe Thompson to learn tunes, listen to stories and, most importantly, to jam. Joe was in his 80s, a black fiddler with a short bowing style that he inherited from generations of family musicians. Now he was passing those same lessons onto a new generation. When the three students decided to form a band, they didn’t have big plans. It was mostly a tribute to Joe, a chance to bring his music back out of the house again and into dancehalls and public places.
With their 2010 Nonesuch debut, Genuine Negro Jig—which garnered a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy—the Carolina Chocolate Drops proved that the old-time, fiddle and banjo-based music they’d so scrupulously researched and passionately performed could be a living, breathing, ever-evolving sound. Starting with material culled from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, they sought to freshly interpret this work, not merely recreate it, highlighting the central role African-Americans played in shaping our nation’s popular music from its beginnings more than a century ago. The virtuosic trio’s approach was provocative and revelatory. Their concerts, The New York Times declared, were “an end-to-end display of excellence… They dip into styles of southern black music from the 1920s and ’30s—string- band music, jug-band music, fife and drum, early jazz—and beam their curiosity outward. They make short work of their instructive mission and spend their energy on things that require it: flatfoot dancing, jug playing, shouting.”
-Michael Hill, carolinachocolatedrops.com
She’s Mine- George Jones
By most accounts, George Jones was the finest vocalist in the recorded history of country music. Initially, he was a hardcore honky tonker in the tradition of Hank Williams, but over the course of his career he developed an affecting, nuanced ballad style. In the course of his career, he never left the top of the country charts, even as he suffered innumerable personal and professional difficulties. Only Eddy Arnold had more Top Ten hits, and Jones always stayed closer to the roots of hardcore country.
Jones was born and raised in East Texas, near the city of Beaumont. At an early age, he displayed an affection for music. He enjoyed the gospel he heard in church and on the family’s Carter Family records, but he truly became fascinated with country music when his family bought a radio when he was seven. When he was nine, his father bought him his first guitar. Soon, his father had Jones playing and singing on the streets on Beaumont, earning spare change. At 16, he ran away to Jasper, Texas, where he sang at a local radio station.
-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AllMusic.com
This double-disc compilation of George Jones’ singles has a bit of a misnomer attached as a title: none of these tracks were actually “lost.” These recordings were cut for Pappy Daily’s Musicor label and were the subject of a legal dispute for a number of years that was only settled in the early years of the 21st century. Recordings for Starday (another Daily label), United Artists, Mercury, and Epic have ben released, but these remained back in the vault after the LPs and cassettes they were originally released on went out of print. The material here is simple, much more sparse and direct than the Billy Sherrill-produced sides for Epic. The songs contain immediacy, warmth and country music classicism.
-Thom Jurek, AllMusic.com