Discussion

Underappreciated artists and albums

I'm listening to Jason Eady's new album, "When The Money's All Gone." It's every bit as excellent as his previous CD, "Wild-Eyed Serenade," and, like that album, his new one is likely to receive far, far less attention than it deserves. Which got me thinking about underappreciated artists and CDs. To get things started, here's a list of some of the artists I think are top-notch but who don't get nearly the attention they deserve. (Note that Sam Baker would ordinarily be at the top of my list, but he's starting to get more attention, including in another thread here.) What artists and albums do you think are criminally neglected? Here are some of my choices: Jason Eady. If there was any justice, he'd be in heavy rotation on the "country" stations. But he's too country and way too smart to get that sort of attention. Bap Kennedy. I'm still not sold on his newest, "Howl On," but his Irish/Van Morrison-inflected brand of alt-country is as good as any alt-country ever produced in the U.S. Lance Mills. His first release last year, Wore Out Shoes, was pitch perfect. Paul Burch -- His newest, "Still Your Man" is, like his previous work, awesomely solid. What will it take for this guy to get the attention he deserves.
Terri Hendrix is a wonderfully talented singer, songwriter and performer.  Her songs can be humorous, serious, endearing and insightful. We have a handful of her late 90's - early 00's records and they are unfailingly enjoyable, as are her live shows, which we always look forward to. I'm sure she's well known in Texas, outside of which I'm guessing she's less known and appreciated than she deserves.  www.terrihendrix.com

I'll have to give Homemade Blood a few more listens based on Kenny and Nicks comments. Have thought he smoothened out the edges a bit too much on that one whereas the Hurting Business highlighted them.

My favorite Home Made Blood song - New Year's Day

The back cover lists 2010.

 

Chris, glad you posted that video here.  My favorite tune on that record is Lucky Day..."Neil Young, the Who, the Clash, all in a row!". Great stuff.

I've always loved Rock Salt & Nails, Steve Young's 1969 country-folk-rock masterpiece. Embedded below is the album's title song, in which the incredible  James Burton plays the haunting dobro, and that's  Gram Parsons  playing the concertina hand organ.  Byrds alumni Chris Hillman & Gene Clark also make appearances on the album.  The album is hard to find.  I finally unearthed an Australian issued edition of Rock Salt in Nails around five years ago and I jumped for joy. 

 

 David Olney. The live shows are performance art at its best.  I'm partial to "The Wheel" but you can't go wrong with any of his work.

Others:

Jeff Black, especially "B Sides..."

John Fullbright is young, but one to watch.

Peter Case

Steve Forbert just puts out one good album after another.

And while she hasn't put anything out recently, I think Caitlin Cary, solo and with Tres Chicas and Thad Cockrell, is a real talent, sadly unappreciated.

Hillbilly Haiku -- your post was attractive to my eyes because I love discovering people I absolutely never heard of. Your recommendations were all diamonds.

 

Couldn't locate a sample of "Carve It To the Heart" by Ms. McRae but did listen to her "This Winding Road" and she is a find. What a great vocalist. Good recommendation.

 

Didn't find any studio downloads yet of Krista Detor except for her live stuff and I don't want to prejudge on poor quality videos. But I already know your recommendation is valid. What little I did hear warrants further looking. Krista does have a great voice and seems to have personality too. 

 

Ed Snodderly -- didn't find Brief Visions but did listen to a live PBS show he did that sounded acceptable. He had very good audience interaction telling little stories of growing up, the 70's etc..made it interesting. Usually people like John Prine and Tom Waits possess and have mastered that audience chatter. He comes across like a more edgier progressive James Taylor. Even looks like a cousin. Gritty guitar playing too on a song about being "twisted like a rubberband." No title to the song listed.  I like him. Thanks

Ben Bedford - Land of the Shadows - song recalls the late Emmett Till. Saw a video of the studio track. Excellent acoustic guitar work. I really liked the female vocalist that accompanies him on this. You hit the target again sir. Excellent recommendation. If I ever buy a radio station you can be a disc jockey. Good taste.

 

Hayward Williams - Cotton Bell - Intense. Very good, but sad video of photographs. Hayward sounds like a Leonard Cohen with singing lessons. Enjoyed this one too. Song is dark and sad but well produced.

 

Abby Owens - Indiantown - Excellent song and singer. Almost makes me want to give up trying when I hear people like this. There are so many talented people out there with their own messages. Mainstream radio hasn't got a clue who the real musicians in thsi world are. Not a clue.

 

Otis Gibbs -- I located Kansas City (from the lp "Joe Hill's Ashes") and the voice just grabbed me. I love that gruff unpolished vocal on a track like this -- it reeks of sincerity.

 

Jimmy LaFave - Oklahoma Hills - this was a good introduction. I heard of Jimmy but never listened until you gave it a recommendation. Another classic Americana voice.

 

Larry Jon Wilson -- Holy sh--! This guy should have been up there with Waylon, Cash, Tony Joe White. Could have been a member of the Highwaymen easily. This is the BEST recommendation yet from you. I am stuck on this guy now like I was with Elvis Presley back in the 60's. Great voice, terrific songs. I am going to busy tonight getting acquainted with Larry because of you Hillbilly Haiku.

 

I am familiar with some of the others through earlier recommendations.

 

Hillbilly Haiku -- thanks for a great sampling. Look forward to more recommendations from you.

That's what I thought when I first heard it ( late as that was ). Amazon says 12-8-09, B&N says 1-19-10, AllMusicGuide overlooks it entirely.  Hell, I'm voting it in my best of 2010 anyway!

I also agree, Jerry.  This is an excellent album, perhaps the best by this under-appreciated artist.  And, for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure the official release date is January, 2010.

Jerry, I agree. I had to re-post this in-store video I shot back in April of this year.

Jon Dee Graham - I didn't hear it until this year though it apparently came out last December, but his most recent album It's Not As Bad As It Looks is very underappreciated IMO (and by me too, though that changed when I finally heard it) . Among its many wonders - after all these years a songwriter calls out Neil Young (who I adore) without coming off as a reactionary flamer. Song for song it's as solid a collection as I've heard in some time.

AGREE - Cary Hudson's THREE solo records are superb.

Linda McRae - Carve It To The Heart

Krista Detor - all, but maybe start with Mudshow

Ed Snodderly - Brier Visions

Ben Bedford - Land Of The Shadows

Hayward Williams - Cotton Bell

Abby Owens - Indiantown

 

Otis Gibbs and Jimmy LaFave, absolutely. Also James Talley, Keith Sykes, Phil Lee, Ray Bonneville, and a true treasure who left this life this year, Larry Jon Wilson.

 

Pretty much everything by Blue Mountain.  Also, Cary Hudson's 3 solo albums.  This guy is a top of the line guitar player and songwriter, and nearly everyone that I introduce his music to, loves it.  

 

It goes without saying that NRBQ was underappreciated. They spent 40 years as Americas best kept secret.  I just hope that the new Spampinato Brothers disc "Pie In The Sky" doesn't get overlooked. I think its the best pop record I've heard all year and ranks with the best Q albums ever.  It may only be available at their website at the moment but its worth the effort to get. Seriously.

 

Bob

I agree Jack. I guess we take him for granted down here in Texas because he seems to play around here quite frequently.

I believe he is from OK and is a huge Woody Guthrie fan and supporter. Not only that but he does some very nice Dylan covers.

Jimmy Lafave - I'm not sure how well known he is among roots music fans, don't recall seeing his name much on this site. He has had a long, successful touring careeer so he's probably earned his stripes with us folks, but he's certainly earned more than he's received in the appreciation department in terms of radio play and national exposure.  I enjoy his Road Novel and Blue Nightfall records, and his live shows are powerful. www.jimmylafave.com

Chuck's  "Homemade Blood" is one of my favorites.. He never plays my two favorite songs off that album "Textbook Case" & "Ooh Wee".  Great songs but he's afraid of being labeled a Tom Petty..  

I have a very deep attachment to Man Under the Influence -- it was one of the albums that really, really cemented my love for Americana whatever-it-is music and it remains one of my all-time favorite albums.  And, at times,  I had the noise-for-noise-sake reaction to Real Animal (and even more so with The Boxing Mirror before it).  But, yes, when it comes to Street Songs, we're all picking nits about an album that we all seem to like a lot.  Is it a 9, 9.5 or 10 -- I dunno, but I love listening to it.

Several cuts.

Have it, like it a great deal.  Wave especially, and Castanets, what a blast. 

My comments re Street Songs are probably more me than the record, which is very well played and contructed.

 

 

I think both Al and Chuck are so talented. They are a cut above so many of the other artists featured and discussed on this website (in my opinion).

If you haven't already, I would highly recommend checking out Alejandro's "A Man Under the Influence". I put it right up there with his best.

Songwriting excellence has long been Alejandro's norm, same goes for Chuck. Both are longtime personal favorites that I've seen live many times.  I thought the lyrics on Real Animal and Street Songs were up to Al's usual, but not a departure. Chuck seems to me to be much like Al in the sense of bringing in unuusal and divergent sounds and influences to his records, and Chuck seems, to me, to have a keen pop sensibility to go with his more experimental side.  I thought this would complement Al's garage and glam tendencies and his more acoustic oriented side as well. And it does work very nicely, just maybe a bit better on paper than in practice to my ear. But on Street Songs in particular, it's the arrangements that leave me short of loving the record. There's plenty of noisy commotion but some of it sounds a bit hollow, maybe noisy for noisy sake in spots. At first I thought it was a matter of letting it all sink in more, but after repeated listens, that's how it's settling in with me.  I do like the record.  Maybe I'm quibbling.

 

As for Al's best records, wow, plenty to choose from. I'd go with Gravity and Bourbonitis Blues as the two I enjoy most.  Bourbonitis is a bit of a compilation, studio and live, so it's not quite a normal release. Sacramento & Polk is among my favorite of his tunes and the arrangments on this record and that song are particularly appealing to me.

 

We've both commented on how seeing someone live influences how studio work is perceived.  Having seen Al in so many modes from solo acoustic to small acoustic lineups to full electric rock, the songs take on different feelings, but regardless of the lineup, the shows are so rewarding. 

Personally, I liked, but didn't love Real Animal but think that Street Songs of Love is easily Alejandro's best album, and that is saying a real lot. I say that based on the performances, production and, most important, the songwriting, which was uniformly strong, both lyrically and musically, from start to finish.  Chuck co-wrote many, if not most of the songs on Street Songs, but didn't play on any of the tracks (or produce).  But I had Street Songs as my second favorite album of 2010 and it wouldn't have been that high were it not for the exceptional songwriting, for which Chuck gets a lot of credit.

Chuck's catalog is consistently first rate. He's amazingly creative, wildly talented; guitar, singing, writing, production, unbeatable live.

 

Especially love Chuck's collaborations with Kelly Willis (playing, songwriting, production).  Speaking of Kelly, let's throw her into this discussion; lots of bigger names, not so many bigger talents. What a voice.  What I Deserve and Translated From Love are two of her finest efforts (Chuck on both).

 

How do you guys feel about the collaboration between Chuck and Alejandro on Al's last two?  I like it, but I'm not sure the sum exceeds the parts.

 

I agree. Not only is he really busy making great music on his own, he is constantly co-writing and working with other artists as well.

 

Chuck Prophet... period

Hyperbolium -- I find all of Cindy's albums from "Somewhere Between Heaven & Earth" to her latest album excellent. But you are right, "Neverland" is one extraordinary album. I think she may have written the majority of those songs when writing "Somewhere Between Heaven & Earth." I always make the mistake of thinking "The Right Kind of Goodbye" is from SBHE and it's actually on "Neverland." I placed both cds into a double cd container -- they just belong together like a double album.
Glad to hear you liked the list Chris. Cindy Bullens is an incredible performer & songwriter. I discovered her by taking a chance & picking up her "Somewhere Between Heaven & Earth." Songs were primarily written after the death of her 11 year old daughter Jessie. A beautifully intense album. The LP credits are a who's who in Americana. All follow up albums were equally compelling. Nothing but jewels. I met her briefly when she sang in Ringwood, NJ with her cohorts Deborah Holland & Wendy Waldman. Some tracks mentioned in my list can be previewed on YouTube. Most of these songs are never too far from my ears. Hope you find something you can appreciate from that batch.
John, I like your list. I'm going to check out some of these I don't know. Cindy Bullens' "Jellico Highway" has been stuck in my head since I first heard it a couple of years ago.
Cindy Bullens' Neverland is extraordinary.
I'm a relatively new Jason Eady fan and have added a few of his songs onto my ipod - hoping to really dig in - so it's great to see another fan.
A few artists & songs that impressed me -- yet, they remain relatively unknown or under the radar: Peter Himmelman - Only You Can Walk Away (Lots of Himmelman is excellent. Bob Dylan's son-in-law) David McWilliams - Don't Need Your Blues (Frank Sinatra would have had a hit with this saloon song no doubt) -- McWilliams sole signature tune was "The Days of Pearly Spencer." Many great tracks. Teddy Randazzo - Let the Sunshine In (not the song from Broadway show Hair -- but a great early 60's blues track by the man who wrote "Goin Out of My Head" and tons of other songs) Kit Hain - Waiting for the Gypsies & Parting Would Be Painless (many songs by Kit covered by Roger Daltry) 1994 w/ Karen Lawrence - Once Again, Bring It On Home & Don't Give It Up - fantastic powerful vocals -- later became a fulltime blues singer with Blue By Nature. Chubby Checker - Yeah, Yeah, Yeah -- Chubby Checker -- listen to Twenty Miles or more recently his ignored country tracks -- Rowdy Country Boys Like Me, Take Me Back to Oklahoma or Honky Tonk Girls -- he ain't Garth Brooks or Johnny Cash but he's better than 75% of what is out there. Don Nix - Anything -- this is a musician's musician. Pros know who he is. Cindy Bullens - sinfully under appreciated. Every song melodic, powerful & sincere. Carrie Newcomer - anything -- this mid-western artist has sung with Mary Chapin Carpenter & is excellent. Top shelf. Nicklecreek covered her & she has performed on Alison Krauss bills. Robert Hazard - anything in recent years was Americana. He started out like country singer/songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall with new wave music & his transition to Americana was remarkable. Big Back 40 - Blood (from the Bested album) - The entire album has great tracks. Mark Germino - Fields of Man's New Order - The album Rank & File is a masterpiece. Shona Laing - Walk Away (42nd Street) - great New Zealand singer -- New On Earth is the lp. Heather Nova - Majority of her lps excellent. London Rain, Heart & Shoulder and Like Lovers Do -- beautiful stuff. Eleanor McEvoy - All of her lps are excellent. "Only A Woman's Heart" (this is the original that Parton, Harris & Ronstadt covered) The Paladinos - Only one album but the tracks Rockin The Black Road & I Won't Be Going South - incredible Low & Sweet Orchestra - Only one album all tracks excellent -- Sometimes the Truth Is All You Get & Miss Her Anyway -- some clever playing. Allison Moorer - Cold in California -- sounds like what the Beatles' producer George Martin would do if he produced country music. I've taken up too much space. Sorry. Just believe me -- if you do hunt some of these artists or songs down the majority won't disappoint you. Many can be found in the 99 cent bin now.
Rick Shea: Sawbones - an older record later added to, remixed and reissued as Bound For Trouble. I have the original version, a gem of songwriting, singing and musicianship. When people lament the current state of country music, this is exactly what they wish they were hearing instead. www.rickshea.net

Detroit Cobras: Mink Rat Or Rabbit and Life, Love and Leaving - two great records. Not quite sure how to describe their sound; let's say revved up garage/r&b/punk. Just dynamite. www.detroitcobras.org
All a matter of taste, of course. And I haven't seen him in person, which we all know can change how we feel about an artist (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse). But ... I thought East to West was a pitch-perfect roots/rock-and-roll album that was very reminiscent of (but not derivative of) T-Bone Burnett's early solo albums from the 80's, which are still, in my opinion, roots landmarks. Still Your Man is very different. It's very music-revivalist, which normally I don't care for, but he put a lot of energy into it and the album is quite skillfully played, sung, produced and recorded and I like it quite a bit.
David, I've seen Paul Burch a few times and just do not get him. What is it that strikes you?
I Agree with You on Paul Burch I own Every Album and actually still your man is the best to Me And Otis Gibbs is somebody who deserves way more attention then what He gets
I think The Buzzcocks are as good as The Beatles.