June 2009

Mississippi Sheiks: Rural Abandon

Just recording 70 sides over a career won’t necessarily guarantee a performer the ability to be recalled a few decades on. If one of those tracks, though, is “Sittin’ on Top of the World,” you’d get your deference. The Mississippi Sheiks, who penned and recorded that track in the ‘30s, were one of the early familial dynasties in recorded music. Using the moniker Carter, but actually being named Chatmon, the family’s figurehead, Ezell, was the uncle of Charlie Patton and was a popular performer during the waning days of slavery. His sons, any combination of Lonnie, Bo and Sam along with Walter Vinson, comprised the shifting line up of the Mississippi Sheiks.

J.J. Cale: Country Aversion

Having a pretty nonchalant opinion of fame or renown generally won’t get you too fat in the music biz. That, however, doesn’t apply to J.J. Cale, a singer, songwriter and pretty sedate figure who has made a career of music for the better part of a half a century. He isn’t the most well known name in any genre, even if he’s written more than one tune that’s been covered by some other band or performer and subsequently made them a few dollars. That isn’t the way by which to figure success, but it is a good way to figure a personality. And Cale seems to be one genuine dude

Lee Hazlewood: Downer Love Songs

Unfortunately, turned into a footnote, Lee Hazlewood impacted the rock medium more than most would be able to figure. Although his most commercially successful works would come behind the boards as a producer or engineer, the music that Hazlewood had a hand in, regardless of what he was doing, fused together disparate elements of rock and country that could arguably be considered the foundation of country rock.

A Hillbilly Rave Up with Dave Holland

New Grass is an odd way by which to explain that some folks associated with the counter culture of the '60s got a hold of some traditional American tunes, smoked a bit, revved up the music and maybe covered a Chuck Berry or Rolling Stones' song. But New Grass it is. Although, at this point, the phrase has been around for just about forty years or so, making New Grass the oldest new subgenre in Americana.