The Uniquely Weekly Roots Music RPM5

Image by Sandy Dyas

Welcome to the front door of The Real Easy Ed, where each week I curate, aggregate and update news, events, images, ideas, sounds, odds and ends. I consider this simply a speck of dust on the highway; just another place to pause for a few moments and take a break from the surf.

New Music Rising: A Family Album of Close Harmony and Tasty Covers.

Born in Mississauga, Ontario, Matthew Barber is three years older than his sister Jill. Over the years they’ve enjoyed separate music careers that have taken them down different roads. Each have released multiple acclaimed solo albums, but they are stylistically different with Matthew the more hyphenated folk-pop-roots-singer-songwriter, while Jill zigs and zags across the genre-landscape of jazz, pop, chansons, old school soul and torch ballad country.

The Family Album is their first album as a duo, and features three originals from Jill, two from Matthew and cover versions of songs written or recorded by Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, Bobby Charles, Ian Tyson and Gene MacLellan. In addition to an eclectc song selection, the sibling close harmony with arrangements and instrumentation in the roots-folk tradition make this an absolute standout.

The entire recording process took only a week at a Toronto studio, and for many in America this may be your first introduction to the Barbers. And while songs like ‘Comes A Time’, ‘If I Needed You’ and ‘The Patrician’ might seem to some as being endlessly reworked in the past, these arrangements come off sounding to my ears more as well done redefinitions and less the usual note for note reworking.

There are about a dozen tour dates scheduled in Canada over the next month or two, and June gigs in NYC and Boston. Hoping that The Family Album creates a big buzz so that these two will wander across the border a little more often, and fly over the ocean.

Every Picture Tells a Story.

The image at the top of this page was shot by my long-time-we’ve-only-met-online friend Sandy Dyas, who is a visual artist based in Iowa City that I’ve written about often. You can visit her website here and check out her work, books (buy them…really) and blog. And more of her images can be found on this site….like this one

Does It Matter That Loretta Lynn Supports Donald Trump?

My most recent Broadside column, which is published on No Depression‘s site every other week, asked the above question. Many people, looking no further than the headline, made the assumption that I was somehow putting Lynn down for her support of a man that I believe has a black heart full of rage, anger, and intolerance, and who strikes fear in me at the possibility he could get elected to be America’s president. Lynn not only supports Trump, but she is actively speaking out for hm at her concerts, and is willing to do even more. She’s been quoted as saying she’s waiting for the call. Here’s my thought:

It might seem easy to simply condemn Lynn for her support of Trump, but it’s a soft target. If you believe in free will and free speech as I do, then you have to recognize that she has every right to stand on the stage and say whatever she wants. While I won’t pay to hear her say it, I also won’t stop listening to her music and thinking respectfully of the trails she’s blazed for women, and the progressive issues she’s spoken out about, through her music.

If you’d like to read the entire column, click hereLong before her Trump endorsement, here’s something else she promoted. 

Jason and the Scorchers…Another in a Series of ‘Great Rock Bands From The Eighties’.

I happened to come across an article in The Guardian this past week from Michael Hann about Jason and The Scorchers, a band that for a brief moment in time back in the mid-eighties stood on the edge of immense possibility. Fronted by Jason Ringenberg who moved to Nashville in 1981 with the dream of starting up a high energy roots band, he found three musicians who were more interested in playing power-punk than twang. The blend was almost indescribable.

Hann’s memory is far better than mine, but like him I also got the chance to see them play during that summer of 1985 at Nashville’s Exit/In. I equate it to that moment when you tug on the seat belt as the roller coaster starts to climb and it’s too damn late to get off. It was a confluence of sound and energy that I’ve never seen before nor since. 

Here’s just a few excerpts from Hann’s article. It’s really a great story, and so I encourage you to read it all here

There are only ever a handful of names that get mentioned when the idea of “the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world” is raised. Actually, there have been dozens of greatest rock’n’roll bands in the world, but most of them never get recognised – because they were only ever the greatest band for a week, or a month, a summer. 

Jason and the Scorchers made music that sounded like no one else, a berserk, overdriven racket, in which country covers and Ringenberg’s originals were played with Never Mind the Bollocks power by the other three.

As you’ll already have guessed, the moment of greatness was brief. The Scorchers became less Ringenberg’s band than Hodges’, as EMI ushered them towards big hair and big makeup, to go with the big guitars. If the Pistols at the Opry worked, Poison at the Opry most certainly didn’t. Their next album, 1986’s Still Standing, might have been better retitled Going Backwards. One more record, Thunder and Fire, and the Scorchers were no more.

Back in 2004 there was a documentary released called The Appalachians which tells the story of the people and the land of Appalachia. The film uses interviews with ordinary people, scholars, and musicians like Loretta Lynn, Marty Stuart, Rosanne and Johnny Cash, and others. Dualtone Records put out a soundtrack, and Jason, by then a solo artist, contributed ‘The Price of Progress’ which has always been my favorite from him. 

Steve Earle On Getting Beat Up and The Importance of Merle Haggard To Him.

This was published on April 12, 2016 by The New York Times as an Op Ed, and I’ll cut and paste the first few paragraphs along with the link to the entire essay that was written by Steve. Not only does he have a way with lyrics and music, but Earle is a fine wordsmith.

In late 1969 and early 1970, when “Okie From Muskogee” was blaring from every jukebox in every beer joint, truck stop and restaurant in my hometown, San Antonio, I wanted, sometimes very much, to hate Merle Haggard.

I say blaring because that’s the kind of record “Okie” was. The kind that, when it dropped into place on an automated turntable or crackled from the speakers of an AM radio, you wanted to turn it up.

Well, not me. I was pretty much a rock-and-folk guy, but this was Texas at the height of the Vietnam War, and San Antonio was a military town boasting five Air Force bases and an Army post, so I’m pretty certain I was in the minority. There were kids in my high school who took pride in listening to nothing but country music. Whether Hag intended it or not, his blue-collar anthem became a battle cry for Vietnam-bound working-class youths with a snowball’s chance in Saigon of a student deferment. Music to kick some hippie butt by. Click here for the full story.

Record Store Day 2016 and The Story of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.

One of the many special releases this year for RSD will come from Light In The Attic Records. Limited to only 1,500 copies, they have put together a 40th Anniversary Edition Box Set of Heartworn Highways with restored image and sound, and a whole bunch of extras. This documentary which was shot in late 1975 through early 1976, and  covers singer-songwriters whose songs are more traditional to early folk and country music instead of following in the tradition of the previous generation. Some of film’s featured performers are Guy and Townes as well as other ‘outlaws’ such as Steve Earle, David Allen Coe, Rodney Crowell, Gamble Rogers, Steve Young and The Charlie Daniels Band.

I think the best of the bonus items in this set is an 80 page book with exhaustive 20,000 word essay by Sam Sweet interviewing artists, documentary creators and crew, including ephemera and over 100 unseen photos taken during the making of the film. Oxford American posted an excerpt this week on their website titles  From Houston to Long Beach to Old Hickory Lake and it’s one great story. Here’s just the opening, and I’ll link it below.

Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt met during what Clark later called “the great folk scare.” Houston in the early 1960s had a folk community that paralleled those in Cambridge, Minneapolis, or Los Angeles—only smaller and with better bluesmen. The musicologist John Lomax ran the Texas Folklore Society and would arrange for veterans like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb to play concerts at the Jester Lounge on Westheimer, where they would turn Kingston Trio fans onto something tougher. As Lomax’s son, John Lomax III, put it, “Lightnin’ was as electric as you could get with an acoustic.” Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt were among the room’s transfixed teenagers. Click here to read the rest.

Videos You Wouldn’t Know Existed, Unless You Found Them By Mistake.

A quick programming note: Some of you might have noticed that I’ve dropped three words off the original title to my weekly installation. I’ve used the term ‘Random Thoughts’ for several years now on stories posted over on No Depression that would veer from the subject of music. But since pretty much everything I think or write about is random, it seemed redundant. It made the title too darn long especially on social media. So until I decide to change it again to something else, going forward we’ll just be calling this The Uniquely Weekly Roots Music RPM-whatever-number-it-is.

This is a cross-post from my site The Real Easy Ed, and is a slightly abridged version minus some imagery.

I aggregate and post daily on my Twitter feed:@therealeasyed and Facebook page:The Real Easy Ed: Roots Music and Random Thoughts.

My every other week Broadside column is published at No Depression and you can follow me here if you'd like.