AUK’s Chain Gang: Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks “I Scare Myself”

Last week’s Chain Gang track was Hot Club of Cowtown’s ‘Pennies From Heaven’ and it is impossible to imagine artists like Hot Club of Cowtown without the ground breaking example of that true eccentric Dan Hicks who mixed retro styles with his own humorous and original compositions played on generally acoustic instruments. Dan first came to prominence as the drummer, singer and main songwriter with the original San Francisco ’60s band The Charlatans, who mixed jug band, country and blues music and were a major influence on the then emerging San Francisco sound. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks “I Scare Myself””

Classic Americana Albums: Nick Lowe “The Impossible Bird” (Demon Records/Upstart, 1994)

Nick Lowe has reached the exalted position of a national treasure, with appearances on Breakfast TV and various TV chat shows and coverage in the national press. This was definitely not the case in 1993, when, after a period of falling sales, he found himself without a major record deal, his latest push for mainstream success, the group Little Village with Ry Cooder, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner, had not delivered artistically or commercially and, while he had a legendary reputation with fellow musicians, particularly in America, he was struggling to re-start his career. Fate then took a hand when Curtis Stigers was asked to record a cover of Nick’s ‘What’s So Funny ’bout Peace, Love And Understanding’ for ‘The Bodyguard’ film soundtrack. While the song didn’t appear in the actual film, it was included on the soundtrack album which sold 45 million copies giving Nick a seven-figure payday. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Nick Lowe “The Impossible Bird” (Demon Records/Upstart, 1994)”

The Song Remains: James “Slim” Hand 1952-2020

The death of James ”Slim” Hand on 8th June, due to complications resulting from congestive heart failure, will bring feelings of great loss, not only to his family and friends, but also to the dedicated group of fans who appreciated his unique talent and irreplaceable presence on the Texas concert circuit he made his home. Some of those who truly understood his talents include Willie Nelson and the UK’s own Ags Connolly. James Hand didn’t record his first record until he was 47, in 1999, and he didn’t really tour outside his native Texas, and even in Texas he remained close to his home town of West, West Texas. However, he did tour Europe with Dale Watson in the mid-2000s, which resulted in a small but very dedicated European fan base being established. Continue reading “The Song Remains: James “Slim” Hand 1952-2020″

10 great Americana Beatles’ covers

As most of our regular readers will know, AUK Towers is based in Liverpool, and while we have a pool of internationally based writers from all corners of the UK and beyond, Liverpool and its culture does seep into AUK from time to time. It seems only right then that we celebrate that city’s most famous musical export and our love of americana music. Country music was never far away from John, Paul, George and Ringo in their early days as they cut their musical teeth in the skiffle boom of the ’50s. One of Paul McCartney’s earliest songs ‘In Spite Of All The Danger’, co-written with George when they were members of The Quarrymen, is a country song. The Beatles’ cover of Buck Owen’s ‘Act Naturally’, with Ringo on vocals, was a feature of their live shows when they actually played live. Continue reading “10 great Americana Beatles’ covers”

Tenci “My Heart Is An Open Field” (Keeled Scales, 2020)

  • Tenci is really bedroom folk artist Jess Shoman backed by more famous musicians from the Chicago music scene and their debut album is released on Austin label Keeled Scales. Jess Shoman spent nearly ten years writing her songs before deciding to start playing them live in the clubs of Chicago. It was when she started appearing as a solo performer that she attracted the attention of Everyone Else vocalist Tina Scarpello, who started backing her on bass and brought her song demos to the attention of Spencer Radcliffe, who produced and played guitar, piano, sax and piano on ‘My Heart Is An Open Field’. Continue reading “Tenci “My Heart Is An Open Field” (Keeled Scales, 2020)”

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real “Naked Garden” (Fantasy Records, 2020)

Last June’s ‘Turn Off The News (Build A Garden)’ was Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real’s eighth and most successful album – it was also their best to date. ‘Naked Garden’ is an album of out-takes and alternative versions from the sessions, at The Band‘s old Shangri La studio and Village Studios in LA, for ‘Turn Off The News (Build A Garden)’ and is just as good, if not in some ways, better than its predecessor. For those who don’t know it, guitarist and singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson is Willie’s son and he started touring with his dad in the early ’00s. He has said his main musical influences are Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young and his instrumental skills were clear from the start. Bob Dylan offered to take a teenage Lukas on the road as his guitarist only to have his mother forbid it. He ended up at college in LA in 2007 and over a year formed Promise of the Real to play a mix of country and rock’n’roll. Continue reading “Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real “Naked Garden” (Fantasy Records, 2020)”

AmericanA to Z: Asleep At The Wheel

The late ‘60s were a strange and interesting time so it shouldn’t be seen as too surprising that a Jewish Philadelphia born jazz fan, who had actually managed to shake John Coltrane’s hand, formed a Western Swing band in Paw Paw, West Virginia, after attending a Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen gig. The jazz fan was Ray Benson and the band was Asleep At The Wheel and the year was 1969. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: Asleep At The Wheel”

Forgotten Artists – Willis Alan Ramsey

Willis Alan Ramsey was not only in at the start of the Austin music scene of the ‘70s but he was also one of the first of the new wave of singer-songwriters, subsequently tagged as progressive country, to get a contract with a major label. His first self-titled album, released in 1972, contained eleven self-written tracks and ten have subsequently been covered by other artists including Jimmy Buffet, Sam Bush, Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, Continue reading “Forgotten Artists – Willis Alan Ramsey”

10 Grateful Dead Songs Covered By Bluegrass, Country and Americana Artists

The Grateful Dead have many claims to fame, from being at the heart of the development of psychedelic rock in San Francisco and paving the way for the Summer Of Love in 1967, to being the giant touring machine of the ‘80s and ‘90s setting attendance records at major stadia across America. They also just happened to have one of the best songwriting partnerships of modern times in guitarist Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter. Those who have more than a passing interest also know that with their albums ‘Workingman’s Dead’ and ‘American Beauty’ they contributed to the development of country-rock. Continue reading “10 Grateful Dead Songs Covered By Bluegrass, Country and Americana Artists”

Lilly Hiatt “Walking Proof” (New West, 2020)

It can be surprisingly difficult to establish a long-term career as a musician if you have a parent who is also a successful musician. Obviously you get first hand knowledge of the music industry, and you will get help with starting your career, but very quickly you will find you will, more often than not, be in competition with your famous parent, and, if you don’t come up with the goods quickly enough, interest in you will fade. This makes it particularly hard for Lilly Hiatt, as she is in competition with one of the best current songwriters in America, her dad John Hiatt. However, if the cover of ‘Walking Proof’, her fourth album, with its vibrant and strong colours is anything to go by, Lilly Hiatt is enjoying her music and is full of confidence about the future, and so she should be, as this is her best album to date. Continue reading “Lilly Hiatt “Walking Proof” (New West, 2020)”