Classic Americana Albums: Gregg Allman “Laid Back” (Capricorn/Polydor, 1973)

A friend once offered me the thought that music, as with all art, could and should offer the listener the opportunity to experience the depths as well as the heights of feeling. He suggested two examples, ‘Berlin’, by Lou Reed, and, ‘Laid Back’, by Gregg Allman. I’m not intending to review, ‘Berlin’The thing about perceived emotional content is that one man’s meat is almost bound to be another’s poison. Often it seems to relate to nothing more than the faces that are pulled or the amount of sweat generated. But then why do we swear that A is all soulful connection and intent whilst B is lightweight and lacking any emotional depth, based solely on the sound that comes out of their mouths? Why are we seduced into thinking that guitarists that play at one end of the neck are more ‘emotional’ and ‘heartfelt’ than someone at the other? Any answers are very welcome.    Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Gregg Allman “Laid Back” (Capricorn/Polydor, 1973)”

Classic Americana Albums: The Ozark Mountain Daredevils “The Ozark Mountain Daredevils” (A&M, 1973)

Mention the Ozark Mountain Daredevils these days and most responses would be along the lines of “didn’t they have some soft, country-ish single in our charts years ago?”. Yes, that was ‘Jackie Blue’ in 1974 but their repertoire contained far more than 1970s country-pop. For the real Daredevils go back a year to their debut, eponymously titled, album. ‘The Quilt Album’, as it became known, is classic Americana because it takes country-rock as in The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers not to Nashville but deep into to the real roots of their Missouri home. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: The Ozark Mountain Daredevils “The Ozark Mountain Daredevils” (A&M, 1973)”

Classic Americana Albums: Ry Cooder “Into The Purple Valley” (Warner, 1972)

Ry Cooder has a unique and special place in the Americana realm, his reputation based on his consummate skills on guitar (especially slide, where many rate him among the world’s best) and mandolin, and as an arranger of roots and traditional music, from the USA and beyond. His musical legacy now spans five decades, 17 solo albums, as many collaborations again, including ‘Buena Vista Social Club’, and a similar number of movie soundtracks, most notably for Wim Wenders’ ‘Paris, Texas’. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Ry Cooder “Into The Purple Valley” (Warner, 1972)”

Classic Americana Albums: Bright Eyes “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” (Saddle Creek Records, 2005)

There’s something about Conor Oberst, lead singer of Bright Eyes, that presses all my emotional buttons. That cracked voice, those sweet lyrics, music that veers from barely there to full-on rocking guitars. And it was this album that really cemented for me that while I could *pretend* that it was his indie-rock boy music that I loved, it was truly this album that had taken my heart. ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ is so undeniably folk-americana that it hurts. It’s got all the hallmarks of a great alt-country album, not least that country-royalty Emmylou Harris features on three tracks. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Bright Eyes “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” (Saddle Creek Records, 2005)”

Classic Americana Albums: The Jayhawks “The Sound of Lies” (American Recordings, 1997)

In the winter of 1996 The Jayhawks were still ostensibly reeling from the departure of Mark Olson the supposed key writing partner of Gary Louris and certainly one of the figureheads of the band. The brace of albums that preceded 1996’s ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ and ‘Tomorrow The Green Grass’ were rightly lauded as genre-defining with their swooning harmonies, sharp songwriting and almost spiritual melodies so where would they go from here? Or even where could they go from here? Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: The Jayhawks “The Sound of Lies” (American Recordings, 1997)”

Classic Americana Albums: Manassas “Manassas” (Atlantic Records, 1972)

His bandmate Graham Nash may have sung prophetically of being ‘King Midas in Reverse‘ – everything that is touched would turn to rust – but there was a golden period from the release of ‘Crosby Stills and Nash‘ in 1969 until maybe as late as 1977 when all that the trio, and occasional quartet with Young, touched was if not pure gold then a good quality alloy of gold and silver. Amongst all their combined outpourings as various solo, duo and full trio outputs there was also Stephen Stills’ incomparable side-band Manassas. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Manassas “Manassas” (Atlantic Records, 1972)”

Classic Americana Albums: Courtney Marie Andrews “Honest Life” (Loose, 2017)

Courtney Marie Andrews ‘Honest Life’ beholds some life-affirming writing. The use of confessional and observational writing coupled with the liquid cool backdrop of the band make this album quite simply, an unmissable modern-day classic of Americana. Released in the good company of the Mama Bird Recording Co in 2016 and Loose in 2017, this album put Andrews in good stead for the future, but getting there did not manifest overnight. This makes it one of the most alluring features as it was actually Andrews’ 6th album, shining a light on the fact that dedication and passion will ultimately prevail. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Courtney Marie Andrews “Honest Life” (Loose, 2017)”

Classic Americana Albums: Lucinda Williams “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” (Mercury, 1998)

In 1998 when ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road’ was released my musical tastes were much more rock-oriented and my gradual assimilation into all things Americana was really just beginning and I paid it scant attention at the time.  That all changed though in late June of 2002.  I’d bought, and was hugely enjoying Williams’ next album ‘Essence‘ and faced with a 350-mile drive from Chicago, where I lived at the time, to a friend’s summer lake house in northern Wisconsin, I’d splashed out on some more CD’s (for those old enough to remember them) and of course one of them was ‘Car Wheels on a Gravel Road‘. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Lucinda Williams “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” (Mercury, 1998)”

Classic Americana Albums: Jeff Buckley “Grace” (Columbia, 1994)

An ex boyfriend of mine once told me that a friend of his (whom I never met) got to see Jeff Buckley perform once. This was told to me years ago, yet I still sometimes find myself thinking enviously of this person whose name I don’t recall, which is a sure testament to the God-like level of worship Buckley brings when you hear his music. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Jeff Buckley “Grace” (Columbia, 1994)”

Classic Americana Albums: Robbie Fulks ‘”Country Love Songs” (Bloodshot, 1996)

It’s late July 2019 and my latest Bloodshot records update drops through the electronic mailbox. My excitement is palpable. Finally, after 23 years, one of the finest records ever to pass through my CD laser beams was coming out on vinyl and I would be able to hear (and smell!) it in its full glory.  Robbie Fulks’ ‘Country Love Songs’ was about to become only the third album in my entire accumulation deemed so special as to be purchased on more than one format*. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Robbie Fulks ‘”Country Love Songs” (Bloodshot, 1996)”