Tag Archives: Americana

Paul McCartney – Run Devil Run

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Paul McCartney’s Run Devil Run album (1999), marked his first release following the death of his wife, Linda McMartney, a year before. This is the second 50s-focused album that McCartney has released, the other being Снова в СССР from 1988. However, unlike the 1988 album, Run Devil Run chooses not to focus on the great rock’n’roll standards, like “That’s All Right” or “Lucille”, but on more obscure cuts that McCartney, and the other Beatles, grew up with in the 1950s.

The sound on Run Devil Run varies noticeably from track to track. This may be a side-effect of the album being recorded in different sessions at different times. On the highlight tracks, and most of the numbers to be fair, the sound is pretty much spot on. The vocals are clear but well supported by the rhythm while, in the first track especially, the guitars kick in loud when they come to solo. However, there are a handful of tracks where, similar to Jerry Lee Lewis’ Youngblood, an artificial attempt at 50s echo is made. This leads to some tracks losing vocal clarity – most noticeable on “Honey Hush”.

Track List

Blue Jean Bop – This Gene Vincent classic kicks the album off at a rather steady pace. Paul starts off alone with just voice and bass before the drums kick in. This opener delivers two stinging guitar solos and overall the track starts the album with a faithful 50s sound.

She Said Yeah – One of the highlights on the album for me. Paul makes the most of his voice, kicking into ‘Little Richard’ mode to belt this one out. The speed is high, the vocals are loud and the whole thing rocks!

All Shook Up – The first track that Paul has some fun with. A catchy guitar riff kicks the track off before Paul starts to rip through. The vocals are a little OTT for me on this one, the lyrics better the suit the more suggestive tone taken by The King.

Run Devil Run – The first of Paul’s originals on the album. Named after a drug store in the US and written in a style aimed to pay tribute to Chuck Berry, this track rocks full out. The story concerns the ups and downs of a ‘holy roller’, including getting siblings out of jail and picking cotton!

No Other Baby – Paul claims that this is the ‘most obscure song on the album’ and that he ‘never had the record’. However, the song remains imprinted in his memory and Paul and the band produce a solid job on this slower, more bluesy number.

Lonesome Town – A Ricky Nelson song that, lyrically, doesn’t stray far from the “Heartbreak Hotel” territory. This is a classic early ballad and fits neatly into the “Who Will The Next Fool Be” line of piano led songs.

Try Not To Cry – The second of McCartney’s originals on the album. This is one of the least 50s sounding tracks on the album and, while its not my favorite track, it does inject some variety into the album.

Movie Magg – I prefer this cut of “Movie Magg” compared to the original by Carl Perkins. Paul keeps the general country feel of the track, but, with the less-American voice, the overall effect feels more subtle.

Brown Eyed Handsome Man – This track, like “All Shook Up”, makes a conscious effort to step away from the original – in this case the Buddy Holly version of the Chuck Berry classic. I wouldn’t say that this version is my favorite but it is quirky and different and that deserves recognition on a track this well known.

What It Is – Another stand-out track on the album and another McCartney original. This is almost early-Beatles sounding and retains that classic sound, belting vocals and is a happy, uplifting track that rocks along in its own relaxed way.

Coquette – McCartney rolls out his best Fats Domino impersonation for this bluesy number. At this stage in the album it seems important to note the overall impact on Paul these musicians had, including his singing voice. Paul’s singing stye owes a lot to Little Richard and the other 50s rockers.

I Got Stung – An obscure Elvis number. This song is really the archetypal rockabilly sound on nearly every instrument. Drum stops, key-bashing piano and faced paced chuggin’ guitars – all at max pace. The lyrics are a little forgettable and, for that reason, this track isn’t one that I race back to time and again.

Honey Hush – An pre-rock’n’roll Big Joe Turner song. I can’t say this track does much for me. The leveling is out, making lyrics hard to hear – therefore the song becomes Paul wailing over slightly overdriven guitars screeching 12-bar.

Shake A Hand – This echo-soaked slower number nudges the album towards the close. A Little Richard number that Paul picked up when in Germany with The Beatles. This song is ok but lacks the oomph or impact of some of the highlights of the album.

Party – Another obscure Elvis number, this time from the movie, Loving You. The song is upbeat, happy and paced to make you dance. This makes is ideal to close out this album – a celebration of the 50s and the great rock’n’roll music.

Overall, Run Devil Run is an enjoyable, rocking album. Most of Paul’s singing and performances sound fresh and the band is tight and rockin’. There are a few tracks that I’m largely indifferent about but the tracks that are absolutely top-notch more than make up for that. A final reflection on rock’n’roll albums: Part of the challenge I think is knowing when to stop – too short an album and the customer feels cheated, too long and album and sub-par tracks sneak in; aren’t we a tough lot to please!

Paul McCartney – Run Devil Run – 6/10

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New John Fogerty Album Due

www.mojo4music.com/

In an exclusive interview with Mojo Magazine, John Fogerty has announced that he has a new album coming out in Autumn, 2012.

This is set to be a duet’s album, including re-workings of some of Fogerty’s self-penned classics with Creedence Clearwater Revival. Full details of the album are not yet clear but the article states that one of the duet partners is the rock band, Foo Fighters and one of the tracks to be featured is “Lookin’ Out My Backdoor”.

See Mojo Magazine for more details!

(Report courtesy of Mojo Magazine)

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Lee Rocker – Night Train To Memphis

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2012’s Night Train To Memphis is Rocker’s new album following last year’s Cover Sessions EP. In the build-up to the album Rocker claimed that this would be his stamp on his favourite rockabilly classics and cuts from his career with Stray Cats. The tracks that he’s picked to cover certainly span his career from his early Stray Cats days, and before, to his working with Carl Perkins, something he reflected on when playing his brother, Jay Perkins, in Million Dollar Quartet.

The sound on Night Train To Memphis is not far removed from that on The Cover Session EP. Lee’s band play more of a role on this album and the overall sound is tilted more towards the rockabilly end of the spectrum. However, Lee has not lost all of the country flavour that marked out his last album. The country sounds pop up in some unexpected places on the album which I’ll cover in the track-by-track. Generally, the sound on the sound on the album is crisp, clean and very well levelled.

Track List

Rockabilly Boogie (Burnette, Burnette, Mortimer & Hawkins) – Rocker leaves no doubt as to his primary instrument as a thoroughly-slapped bass kicks this album off! The lyrics of this track make it one of my less appreciated on the album as I always feel rockabilly songs about rockabilly are a little thin. However, both guitarists and Lee are in fine form on this track so there’s still something for the instrumentalists to enjoy, even if the  solos are tantalizingly short.

Night Train To Memphis (Acuff) – The second track on the album starts off with a more gentle acoustic feel with one semi adding almost slide-guitar style riffs. Lee’s voice and tone suit this song perfectly and in many ways it reminds me of some of the gentler stuff on Lee’s strongest album, Black Cat Bone. Look out for the Luther Perkins-style guitar solo.

Slap The Bass (Rocker) – When I first heard the sample for this track I feared that this going to be Lee’s attempt at “Rockabilly Boogie” type song which had little originality in it and generally wouldn’t appeal. I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised by a number where Buzz Campbell’s jazzy playing and Comets-style riffs keeps proceedings interesting and adds a good deal of cool spice.

Twenty Flight Rock (Fairchild) –  I must start off on a controversial note here and say I generally don’t like Stray Cats’ covers of Eddie Cochran songs! I know this may sound very odd, with Cochran being a key influence on the band, but, to me, they miss that sense of cool Eddie had in his singing. To me, Cochran always sounded slightly laid back in most of his singing, like there was always another gear he could push on to but never used. The Cats however, tend to go for all out hell-for-leather covers that then lose that sense of cool. That said, this is a fair cover and one of the better efforts a Cat has made a covering an Eddie Cochran classic.

Wild Child (O’Keefe) – This version of “Wild Child” takes its inspiration most strongly from the cut that Jerry Lee Lewis recorded when he was at sun records and was also a track Brian Setzer chose for his covers album, Rockabilly Riot. Unlike Setzer, Rocker chooses to leave the piano at home at home for this track and it becomes a guitar led rockin’ chugger. Considering that two of the Cats have chosen to cover this song, it seems odd that it’s not surfaced on either any Stray Cats live album that I’ve heard, nor on the Stray Cats’ Original Cool.

Honey Don’t (Perkins) – This track is perhaps the closest to the original of any on the album. Having worked with Carl Perkins in the 1980s, I think this track is intended as a direct tribute to Mr Blue Suede Shoes. Overall, a strong performance where Buzz Campbell shines in particular through his delicate finger picking and rhythm playing.

That’s Alright / Blue Moon (Crudup / Monroe) – A medley of these tracks has been a regular staple of Lee’s career and he has released a live version on Burnin’ Love and Blue Suede Nights. This rendering is very much a studio recording of how Lee has played this live without the bass solo as the songs pass from one to the other.

Tear In My Beer (Williams) – My least favored track on the album. This is a strong country-and-western flavored track that would have felt at home in Rocker’s previous release. For me, this is too country and also it strikes me as being some of Williams’ weakest writing when compared to his other compositions, such as “You Win Again” or “Lost Highway”.

Lonesome Tears (Holly) – A relatively hidden gem in Buddy Holly’s catalogue is wonderfully brought to life by Lee Rocker. At this point I must mention the strength of Lee’s guitarists in referencing the styles of various 50s guitarists as various Tommy Allsup licks are spread over this track. Again, this is faithful to the original song and Lee’s vocals are top-notch.

Built For Speed (Setzer) – A interesting, quirky cover of this Stray Cats staple. When the album was originally advertised I expected several straight runs of Stray Cats classics with Lee singing. However, we have one, and straight it isn’t! The primary instrument here is not a chugging Gretsch but a banjo and an acoustic taking back towards Cover Session territory. A definite grower and an interesting twist to a track that any Stray Cats aficionado can hum in their sleep!

So Sad (Smith) – The first of a pair of Everly Brothers classics that see out the album. The two tracks together give a gentle, soulful close to the album and I feel give a timely nod to the Everlys, who are easily forgotten on much of the rockabilly scene.

All I Have To Do Is Dream (Bryant and Bryant) – This is another recent staple of Lee’s gigs. From what I’ve seen, the song is performed live by Lee and Buzz Campbell singing together Everly-style. However, on the record the whole band is in place. In this faithful covering it’s hard to tell if the second voice is Rocker overdubbed or Campbell supporting the, clearly, Rocker vocal lead. My guess is that it’s the former.

Overall I prefer Night Train To Memphis to its predecessor as I prefer the stronger rockabilly stamp that this album holds. Night Train To Memphis is an enjoyable listen where all the musicians shine and the performances are generally strong. However, after two covers releases, I’m now looking forward to hearing more original material from Rocker that can match the superb serving we got on Black Cat Bone.

Lee Rocker – Night Train To Memphis – 7/10

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Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three – Middle Of Everywhere

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Middle Of Everywhere is the 2011 release by Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. This album is in a style that stands apart from all the other pieces I have blogged on to this point – being a mix of pre-WWII country, blues and ragtime merged into what laFarge calls River Boat Soul. I first became aware of the band through their performance on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny show at New Year.

At a first listen, country is the predominant style on the album but I have found that, the more listens through I give it, the more I pick up. Traces of Robert Johnson’s blues, Woody Guthrie’s folk and others are all in the seamless mix that the band has put together. Each of the tracks is led by LaFarge’s nasal, yet charismatic singing and his rhythm guitar. The South City Three consist of upright bass player Joey Glynn, Adam Hoskins on lead arch-top guitar and Ryan Koenig on washboard percussion. All of the group are superb musicians in their own right and each plays an integral role in the overall sound.

Track List

“So Long Honeybee, Goodbye” (LaFarge) – An ‘old-time’ country flavored track that laments trying to hold together a relationship while being on the road. The singer remains upbeat, claiming that, if the girl gives up on him,  ‘You’ll be the one to sit alone and cry’ as there is plenty of fish in the sea. A strong opener to the album with a cleverly used change of pace later in the song.

“Ain’t The Same” (LaFarge) – A guitar and harmonica track that strongly reminds me of the soundtracks to the Railroad Tycoon games! The singer here is arguing that he can offer a girl a life better than the one she is living and more like the wanted she wanted further back in time. The song keeps it bluesy feel throughout and has a very catchy central riff.

“Head To Toe” (LaFarge) – A feel-good ragtime song with a strong call-and-answer technique throughout. The lyrics are fairly traditional ‘I Love You’ lyrics but this doesn’t stop the song being enjoyable.

“Sunny Side Of The Street” (LaFarge) – A laid-back song where the singer is crying out for something ‘to lift my out of the world’ after a failed love affair has broken down. A gentler song.

“Shenandoah River” (LaFarge) – Another of the album’s gentler tracks that talks about a couple sharing a gentle sail in a rowboat on the title’s river. The song has a jazzy feel contained within it, brought through in some of the chord choices.

“Mississippi Girl” (LaFarge) – The pace picks up here as the harmonica brings this track in. The pace has picked up to that which marks the opening songs on the album. Here the singer sings of the joys of dancing with a southern girl.

“Feels So Good” (LaFarge) – Another of jazzier feeling tracks on the album. Set to a raunchy beat, the lyrics are talking about how good it is to be in love. There is a brief bass solo in this track, slapped in the rockabilly style. Also this track features the largest amount of horn music on the album.

“River Rock Bottom” (LaFarge) – A harmonica driven ballad gives the tale of the singer complaining of having the blues while his partner claims that she has all he needs to get the blues over. This is the most downbeat start to a song on the album so far but as it progresses to the solo it kicks up to the gear LaFarge has used throughout the album.

“Weedwacker Rag” (LaFarge) – This track is again representative of LaFarge’s charismatic singing as he proclaims that he’s a whole new type of person from those mostly found in the world.

“Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight” (LaFarge) – The song that caught my attention on Jools Holland. The song is a celebration of drinking together with friends and the good times that ensues. The song, especially live, shows off the musical ability of the band and the charismatic leadership of LaFarge.

“Good Country Girls” (LaFarge) – Like so many of the tracks on this album, this one is hard to pin down. In line with the song’s title, country, is a strong influence here but there’s also a fair amount of ragtime jazz in the mix here and this mix keeps the track interesting as the different instruments, especially the harmonica, solo through.

“Coffe Pot Blues” (LaFarge) – The song sounds very different to most on the album. I’m not sure if this was recorded in a different place to the rest of the album or whether the change is simply a deliberate choice of LaFarge. This is  a strong bluesy track that has strong traces of Robert Johnson and other pre-war blues artists in it.

“Keep Your Hands Off My Gal” (LaFarge) – The album finishes on a gently jazzy note where the singer calmly threatens to kill  anyone who puts their hands on his girl!

Overall the sound that Pokey LaFarge has (re)created on this album sits well outside of what I would usually listen to. The strong pre-war country/ ragtime/ blues feel marks it out from my more normal fare of rockabilly and classic rock. However, the band’s secret weapon is Pokey – his voice and charisma keeps drawing me in and I find it infectious, especially in the stronger tracks. The only downside to the album is the samey feel of some of the songs. Listening to this album does make a refreshing change generally and I do think it is dominated by an upbeat feel that’s guaranteed to garner a smile.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three – Middle of Everywhere 6/10

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