Review of Wannabe by Taylor Kingman

Wannabe
by Taylor Kingman
(2017, Mama Bird)

By ERIC KOTILA

“I wannabe strong. That time I proved I was right, I was wrong.”

I love records where the artist opens up and shares everything they have. For some songwriters (John Moreland, Willy Tea Taylor, Micah Schnabel), it just comes naturally and they do it all the time. Others (Jason Isbell, BJ Barham) share it from a period in their life when there is growth. Taylor Kingman is among the latter, and it’s evident on his solo debut, “Wannabe.”

I first met Taylor at the 2013 Wildwood MusicFest & Campout as lead singer of The Hill Dogs and, I must be honest here, I was not impressed. A late start to his showcase set and a missed slot at the Sunday morning review showed me a kid still trying to figure things out while having the time of his life. Soon afterward he was spending a lot more time here in Portland and a few friends who also saw the Wildwood performance said I should get to know him better and see him for the talented, good-natured kid that he is.

Getting to know more about Taylor the person, I discovered a kind spirit with a big smile who truly loves music. We had him and The Hill Dogs on the podcast (see Episode #72) and I could tell immediately he had figured stuff out. He launched an open mic on Sundays at The Laurelthirst Pub, challenging all comers with a new songwriting theme each week. He started hanging and playing with the regular musicians there as well. This is where we have seen him shedding his old skin for new. His songwriting is amazing and has matured so much. We all witnessed a rebirth at Wildwood 2016. The Hill Dogs were perfect and blew everyone away.

Now Taylor has made an honest and truly great solo record.

“I wannabe forgiven for everything I knew. I wannabe true.”

To purchase a CD, cassette or digital download of “Wannabe” by Taylor Kingman, visit his page at the Mama Bird Recording Co. website. Taylor will be performing songs from “Wannabe” and also playing with his band TK and The Holy Know Nothings on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at Mississippi Studios.

Listen to “Wannabe” on Spotify, courtesy of Mama Bird Recording Co.:

Review of A Long Way From Your Heart by Turnpike Troubadours

A Long Way from Your Heart
by Turnpike Troubadours
(2017, Bossier City)
 
100 words on A Long Way from Your Heart
By MIKE LEE
Every great road trip is about the journey more than the destination. The latest offering from Turnpike Troubadours is a leisurely drive on the back roads of Oklahoma. The windows down on the old Chevrolet C-10 as the fence posts whiz past and the roadside attractions become paragraphs in your travel memoir. The boys in the band are seasoned guides taking you to all the fun spots including that great, local diner in the town you never heard of before now. Easy yet meaningful conversation and hearty laughter are the hallmarks of this trip which doesn’t leave you choking on red dirt.

Mixtape Trio Bravo:

Listen to “The Housefire”:  The Housefire

Listen to “Pay No Rent”:  Pay No Rent

Listen to “Pipe Bomb Dream”:  Pipe Bomb Dream

Review of Tell It To The Jukebox by Miller & Sasser

Miller & Sasser
Tell It To The Jukebox
(2017, Never Lucky)

By PHIL FAVORITE

There’s a small AM radio station north of Seattle that plays what I would define as classic country music — the hit songs I heard in my mother’s Ford Granada (no FM radio) back in the 70s and 80s. I wasn’t a huge fan of that music back then, but these days when my travels take me up that way, I love switching to that station because it offers such sonic relief and pure contrast from the same-sounding singers, songs and raunchy, computer-generated beats that populate country music radio today.

I get that same feeling of “ahhh” listening Tell It To The Jukebox, the new CD by the Portland-based country duo Miller & Sasser. Their music takes you back to the early 70s when the Charlies — Charley Pride and Charlie Rich — were dominating the charts with songs that went straight for the heart instead of the crotch. No bedazzled jeans here; just great songwriting, killer picking and some really, really fine singing.

The title cut — with its tight twin telecasters and vocal harmonies — tells of a love gone wrong from too much time in the honky tonk. “Lonesome Eyes” is a masterful demonstration of country melody executed with a terrific twangy mix of mandolin, acoustic and electric guitars. And the clever combination of guitars and the smooth vocal delivery of Chris Miller on “Way Out Of No Way” will take you right back to 1974.

More than simple nostalgia, the 10 original songs on Tell It To The Jukebox show how two talented country artists — Mr. Miller and his partner James Sasser — can use the old playbook and still deliver a sound that feels crisp and refreshing.

And if you close your eyes, you can imagine what the AM radio in my mom’s Granada sounded like during country music’s Golden Era.

Podcast Trio Bravo:

Listen to “Tell It To The Jukebox”:  Tell It To The Jukebox

Listen to “Way Out Of No Way”:  Way Out Of No Way

Listen to “Lonesome Eyes”:  Lonesome Eyes

To download or purchase a copy of “Tell It To The Jukebox,” visit Miller & Sasser’s page at Bandcamp. Miller & Sasser will be performing live at the Laurelthirst Public House in Portland on Friday, Nov. 10 with Matty Charles + Katie Rose. Visit the Miller & Sasser website for more info.

Review of Hellhound In The House by Hip Hatchet

Hellhound In The House EP
by Hip Hatchet

One listen, 100 words
By MIKE LEE

The protest song is a tradition not unique to America but somewhat apropos to our current situation. Portland, Oregon-based Hip Hatchet paints a stark portrait of a country facing complicated challenges. How do we fight the battle that seems overwhelming? Will we be triumphant when our weapons of songs, poems and love battle the almighty dollar? Do we stand a chance if the fight turns into another civil war to be battled in the streets? We are walking a tightrope in America and we need voices and songs to keep us grounded and marching to victory over vile hatred.

So it goes.

Listen to “Hellhound in the House”:  Hellhound in the House

Listen to “Burden of an Empath”:  Burden of an Empath

Listen to “Great Divide”: Great Divide

Review of Between The Moon & The Midwest by Austin Lucas

Austin_Lucas_BTMATM_Cover

Between The Moon & The Midwest
by Austin Lucas
(2016, Last Chance Records)

One listen, 100 words
By MIKE LEE

I don’t know if Austin Lucas was searching for clarity when he wrote this new album, but he seems to have captured something that eludes most people in this fast paced, always “on” society. I have been a fan of Austin’s for the arc of his career and it appears to me that with this album he has found the clarity in his role as a musician and performer and as a friend and man in this cruelly funny, unpredictable world.

Mixtape Trio Bravo:  Kristie Rae / Wrong Side Of The Dream / William

Listen to “Kristie Rae”: Kristie Ray

Listen To “Wrong Side Of The Dream”: Wrong Side Of The Dream

Listen to “William”: William

Review of You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To by Richmond Fontaine

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You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To
by Richmond Fontaine
(2016, Fluff & Gravy Records)

One listen, 100 words
By MIKE LEE
For That Much Further West Podcast

No one weaves misery like Richmond Fontaine. The loom has no room for bold emoesque, overtly melancholic fibers but yields itself to a more intricate pattern of a working-class, every-man misery. The letdown that follows when your numbers don’t hit or that horse fails to place. The thread-worn jeans or duct-taped boots you still wear because new school clothes for the kids or perhaps that bottle of Old Crow and half-rack of Rainier cans were more important this time. In any case this is a blanket we can’t give to Goodwill no matter how many times it must be patched.

Mixtape Trio Bravo: “Wake Up Ray” / “Three Brothers Roll Into Town” / “A Night In The City”

Listen to “Wake Up Ray”: Wake Up Ray

Listen to “Three Brothers Roll Into Town”: Three Brothers Roll Into Town

Listen to “A Night In The City” : A Night In The City

Review of Carolina Ghost by Caleb Caudle

carolinaghost

Carolina Ghost by Caleb Caudle (2016, This Is American Music)

By MIKE LEE
For That Much Further West Podcast

I first became aware of Caleb Caudle when someone I was acquainted with on Facebook posted a link to the video for his 2014 song “Trade All the Lights.” I became somewhat obsessed with the song and video and it led me to discover other offerings from Caleb.

When Caleb started posting on social media about his upcoming album I was pretty excited to get my hands on a copy and soak it in. I now have been living with this album for the past six weeks and I keep going back to it over and over.

The songs are new and fresh yet instantly familiar and comfortable. I always have been drawn to a song that feels like it belongs to me. I don’t claim to write the lyrics or play the music, but when a song has a tangible quality and feels like I have always known the words or hummed the melody, those are ones you can live with and carry with you through life.

Carolina Ghost hits all the marks with top-notch songwriting and great musicianship. Songs about love, friendship, addiction and the never-ending changes in the carousel of life are the hallmarks of a great country album, one that relies on the strength of the storytelling and music to stay above the fray of mass-produced crap.

The new and rising vanguard of country artists (Isbell, Stapleton, Simpson, etc.) definitely has a new comrade in Caleb Caudle. I look forward to the future of real country music with these sluggers at the top. Now if we could just get Caleb to tour the west coast!!!!

Mix tape Trio Bravo: “Carolina Ghost” / “Tuscaloosa” / “Borrowed Smiles”

Listen to “Carolina Ghost” Carolina Ghost

Listen to “Tuscaloosa” Tuscaloosa

Listen to “Borrowed Smiles” Podcast Picks 2-1-16

Review of When The Darkness Come by Michael Dean Damron

mikedcover

When the Darkness Come, Michael Dean Damron (2015, Sad Crow)

I am listening to When The Darkness Come by Michael Dean Damron. This is Mike D’s fifth solo album over the past 10 years and he has more albums with his kick-ass rock band, I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House. There is a certain thread of melancholy, despair and darkness running through Mike D’s songs. I don’t feel depressed when I listen, however. There is a pool of tears right below the surface and I struggle to keep them from overflowing when I understand that Mike speaks for a whole lot of people in this world.

Listen to “The Butcher” The Butcher

A troubadour on the slow march to Hades, Mr. Damron gives us a soundtrack about life in our current state of affairs. We are all the common man or woman trying to make it work against great odds. Mike is a lifetime musician on the constant struggle to scratch together a living with his music. He is a monster on stage performing yet thankful and humble for all he gets from each song, performance and fan. His songs and his music make me realize the struggle is real for the plumber, the cook, the dancer, the mechanic and all of us trying to make sense of what is happening around us.

Listen to “Simmer In The Pot” Simmer in the Pot

We need sad songs. We need songs that are not afraid to go out in the rain and stroll on a dreary, grey day. There is beauty and life in these moments just as much as the upbeat, sun-shiny songs. I encourage you to listen to this collection of 11 songs collectively called When The Darkness Come but don’t forget to wear your raincoat.

Listen to “Now You’re In The Mud” Now You’re in the Mud

So it goes.

— MIKE LEE
That Much Further West Podcast

Review of Somewhere Else by Lydia Loveless

somewhereelse

Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else (2014, Bloodshot)

She was all dressed up and ready to be crowned alt-country’s queen-in-waiting, but a funny thing happened on the way home from the prom. Lydia Loveless rolled down the window, tossed the tiara, took a left turn and hit the throttle.

On her third full-length record, the 23-year-old Loveless says goodbye to the raging banjos and cowpunk shuffles that made it so easy to box her in as the future of alt-country. Somewhere Else is something very different — a radio-ready rock album that aligns the singer less with country blues songstress Lucinda Williams and more with a fellow Ohioan, rocker Chrissie Hynde.

Sure, many of those good ol’ country music themes (drinking, cheating, etc.) remain at the heart of Loveless’ songwriting, and she’s not afraid to cast herself in a bad light. On Somewhere Else, the singer is a drunk, a home-wrecker, an obsessive helplessly bent on self-destruction and destined to wind up alone. But she also knows her way around a song, with lyrics so direct and sexually frank it’s hard to miss the point — or not get caught up in the naughty fun.

Listen to “Really Want To See You” “Really Wanna See You” by Lydia Loveless

The album’s first track, “Really Want To See You,” announces not just its obsessive lyrical tone but also its direction as a straight-ahead rock record. The listener is greeted with screaming guitars, heavy drums and not a hint of the twang that was a hallmark of Loveless’ previous work.

On the poppier “Wine Lips,” Loveless shows off her talent for terrific word play. Early in the song when she sings, “Ain’t there somewhere where you and me can be alone/Honey, this isn’t a party if it’s chaperoned,” you already have a good idea of who you’re dealing with. This is an artist who isn’t afraid to say what she wants, and seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

Listen to “Wine Lips” “Wine Lips” by Lydia Loveless

Eventually, steel guitar winds it’s way into the mix as the songs start to sink from the heart to the gut and, eventually, the crotch. On the slow-burner “Hurts So Bad,” Loveless sings, “I swore I’d go to bed, but I must have it bad/’Cause I got up and I pushed every button your elevator had.” On the not-so-subtle “Head,” she sings, “The sooner I go to sleep, the sooner I can dream/Well, maybe if I get lucky tonight you’ll be there waiting, ready for me.”

Listen to “Head” “Head” by Lydia Loveless

As things slow down on the back half of the record, Loveless offers a glimpse at her more gentle side. But obsession, longing and desire for love remain constant themes throughout Somewhere Else, a record so well executed, straightforward and fun that it’s bound to elevate Ms. Loveless’ profile as an indie-rock comer and destined to be included on many lists of the 2014’s best.

— PHIL FAVORITE
That Much Further West Podcast

Lydia Loveless and her band will be performing live in Portland at Doug Fir Lounge on Wednesday, April 2. The Stubborn Lovers open the show. Visit www.dougfirlounge.com for more information.

 

 

Review of Nothin’ But Blood by Scott H. Biram

NothinButBlood

Scott H. Biram, Nothin’ But Blood  (2014, Bloodshot Records)

I guess there is really no point in trying to describe the type of music played by Scott H. Biram. I have given his new album, Nothing But Blood, at least 20-plus spins in preparation to write this review and I pick up on something different every time. The “Dirty Old One Man Band” as Scott is called could just as easily be labeled the “Dirty Old One Man Musical Library” ranging from punk to blues to country to metal to gospel and straight-up, dirty rock & roll.

The new album starts with a mellow, introspective country picker, “Slow & Easy,” with lyrics that could also be dropped in to fit a more raucous, rocking framework, or with a bit of steel guitar could convey that oozy, alt-country feel.

Listen to “Slow & Easy” Slow & Easy [Explicit]

This song takes me back to a certain summer when I was a teenager and my stepfather Garry and I spent two weeks high up in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Garry was a scrap metal guy and we got a job tearing down some old logging equipment left behind many years prior. Long days were spent cutting and tearing apart this old, rusty metal and at night we would drive up to camp above the timberline, where we would turn on the AM radio and pick up stations of all genres from as far away as Mississippi, Oklahoma and California and closer stations in Colorado. The station waves would roll in and out as the car radio scanned past each station.

Those old familiar songs from all over the dial made the nights more comfortable and the thoughts of home slip away and get lost in the thin, mountain air.

Listen to “Never Comin’ Home” Never Comin’ Home

Nothing But Blood is a definite trip throughout its 14 tracks (11 plus three bonus) and a listener might feel as if their iPod is on shuffle. It delivers The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Biram and his music. I reckon Scott is like the majority of true music fans whose tastes and influences are wide and ever evolving. I appreciate his willingness to push his boundaries and deliver new and different styles and material. I also enjoy that Nothin’ But Blood can be just as chaotic and jarring as his live performances, but also just as moving and exciting.

Every good performer and musician learns from their predecessors and contemporaries. With Nothing But Blood, Biram takes those lessons and twists them into the hot, sweaty joyride only he can deliver.

Listen to “Church Point Girls” Church Point Girls

Scott H. Biram is currently on tour with Larry and His Flask and The Whiskey Shivers and will be performing on Saturday, March 8 at the Hawthorne Theatre in Portland. For more information, check out www.scottbiram.com and be sure to pick up his new album Nothing But Blood on Bloodshot Records.

— MIKE LEE
That Much Further West Podcast