Crushed Coins by Caleb Caudle (2018, Cornelius Chapel)
100 Words on Crushed Coins By Mike Lee That Much Further West Podcast
Pushing the boundaries of sadness appears to be the job of today’s songwriter and it stands in stark contrast to the smiley-face emoticon façade of social media. However, to the discerning listener, there is so much more than melancholy in the works of the modern-day troubadour. The great albums will give us love and laughter along with tears and pain all paired side by side with adventure to add spice to the experiences of life. This album covers a plethora of emotions, giving us a glimpse of the wholeness we seek for ourselves.
The Big Three: Western Centruies featuring (l to r) Jim Miller, Cahalen Morrison and Ethan Lawton on the tiny stage at Landmark Saloon in Portland.
Western Centuries Live at Landmark Saloon
Portland, OR, USA 1-10-17
By Phil Favorite
When it comes to West Coast country bands, it doesn’t get much better than Western Centuries — the five-piece, Seattle-based unit featuring three distinct singer-songwriters and a harmony sound all their own.
So when Western Centuries loaded into the tiny Landmark Saloon for a couple of intimate sets of high quality Honky Tonk, the Whiskey Wednesday regulars knew they were in for a treat. The place packed quickly but there was just enough room for the dancing crowd to shake and spin, just a step or two from the band and arm’s length from the tip jar.
With singers Jim Miller, Cahalen Morrison and Ethan Lawton sharing the spotlight, the band famously rotated instruments and kept it loose. Lawton and Morrison switched back and forth from fronting the band to playing drums, and Morrison and Miller swapped duties on lead guitar, with one plucking a clean telecaster while the other strummed a rich acoustic.
Describing Western Centuries sound as straight Honky Tonk would be misleading. It’s easy to identify influences from across the Americana spectrum — R&B, country, soul, folk and cajun music all color the sound.
The band played favorites from their excellent 2016 record “Weight of the World,” but much of the first set drew from their upcoming album, “Songs From The Deluge,” due out April 6 on Free Dirt Records. The sweat and smiles pouring from the dance floor all night told the rest of the story.
Late last year,Western Centuries premiered four of the songs from the new album n KEXP’s Swinging Doors program, hosted by DJ Don Slack. For a taste of what this band is all about, check out live versions of “Wild Birds,” “Wild You Run,” “How Many More Miles To Babylon” and “Three Swallows” in the video below.
Long Time Running
(2017, TV-14, 1hr 35m) Available on Netflix
Stuck inside this New Year’s weekend or just wanting to skip the hoopla and hang at home? Check out this beautifully filmed documentary that follows Canada’s favorite musical sons, The Tragically Hip, on their final tour across the country. But brace yourself — this is an emotionally powerful trip, especially if you’re a fan of the band and their iconic lead singer, Gord Downie. This movie shows you not just the amazing level of devotion this kick-ass rock band inspired, but also the full power of the human spirit — an artist giving every bit of his remaining strength in an attempt to return that devotion to his fans. — Phil Favorite
“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.:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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”
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!!!!