by James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor
Welcome to the first edition of Slim’s Juke Box. Our goal is to spread the word about recent, new and upcoming CD releases that may appeal to the average ATLRetro.com reader. Every few weeks we will be presenting a summary of five or so albums that are spending time in my disc drive. There will be various country, Americana, deep soul and assorted roots rock artists, plus whatever else floats my boat, as I have a pretty wide range of musical interests. You can also expect a few words on worthy re-issues. Hopefully you will read about something that strikes your fancy, and check it out.
SIGNS AND SIGNIFIERS
I’m embarrassed to say that this dude somehow went under my radar for the last couple of years, but one listen to this great new release and I was hooked! Mining the caves of classic R&B, rockabilly, and jump blues, McPherson fits in somewhere between Big Sandy and James Hunter. From the deep groove of opening track “Northside Gal,” through the Sun Session sounding “Fire Bug,” and the evocative moody ramble in “A Gentle Awakening,” McPherson and the band get it right on every point. Jeremy Sutton nails the bass lines, and drummer Alex Hall keeps things moving. I can’t pick a favorite song; it’s all good!
MAN ABOUT TOWN
Highway Kind Records
New Jersey native Moot Davis was originally a rocker, but his discovery of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and other classic country artists led him down a different path. After a couple of albums that went nowhere but on the critic’s “Best Of” lists, he took some time off. A stint in Austin and now Nashville has rekindled the twang, and “MAN ABOUT TOWN is a fine collection of new tunes from a real deal honky tonker. Chris Scruggs’ sweet steel intro on “Rags To Rhinestones” sets the bar high, and Davis keeps the caliber up from start to finish. It’s not hard to do with Kenny Vaughn on lead guitar and production, and the fine duet with Elizabeth Cook on “Crazy In Love With You” recalls George & Tammy. This is the kind of stuff that’s simply too country for country radio anymore.
BEAUTIFUL AND WILD
It takes a lot of guts to try and make a living as a musician, and while Amelia White is willing to take on the arduous and often unrewarded task, the big question is why hasn’t she gotten more attention? With her fifth album, White proves she has the chops to stand alongside some of Americana’s finest. With a smooth syrupy voice (BETTER than Lucinda. There, I said it) and a penchant for rich emotional lyrics, White’s introspective songs capture a side of life that few people get an opportunity to experience. She goes far beyond the formulaic singer-songwriter shtick, with sitars, deep percussion and drifting melodies that keep you guessing. While Music City pushes the likes of Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, real talented people like Amelia White grind it out on the road, making music worth listening to.
BEST OF THE BEST: 25 GREATEST HITS
Fourteen Carat Music
Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s there were some awesome country tunes on top of the charts. It was a time when commercial country was finding a balance between the traditional style and the obtuse pop influences brought about by Chet Atkins and Billy Sherrill. Texas roadhouse singer Gene Watson had a string of hits during that era, and managed to toe the line between pop and country (with an emphasis on the country). On this career retrospective, Watson re-records 25 of his signature tunes, some were chart toppers and some were deep album cuts, but they are all pretty dang good. Well, the schmaltzy “Paper Rosie” may not be as intense as the classic “Should I Go Home (Or Should I Go Crazy)” or his best known opus “Farewell Party,” but it’s fun stuff nevertheless. Watson had a stellar chart history, and a recent bout with cancer has not affected his amazing voice. It’s good to see and hear the old timers keeping it real.
The Hobart Brothers + Lil’ Sis Hobart
AT LEAST WE HAVE EACH OTHER
Supergroups come in many forms, but a supergroup consisting of indie artists Jon Dee Graham, Freedy Johnson and Susan Cowsill bring a whole new perspective to the concept. Recorded over various dates, the trio got together in Austin, and a musical harmonic convergence occurred. Susan, yes, from THOSE Cowsills, is one of the most talented songwriters in the business, with an ear for catchy hooks and a great voice. Graham has been a mainstay in the Austin scene for years, and even though his solo works is amazing he may be best known for the True Believers, with Alejandro Escovedo. Johnson is an amazing songwriter, but virtually uncategorizable. Combined, the talents of all three result in one of the most listenable, infecting, and entertaining albums of the year. Each member brings something unique to the mix, and it works on every level. Great stuff, trust me.