“How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart?” by Norah Jones / Hank Williams

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Dec 312011
 

Nora Jones’ contribution to The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams project in which current songwriters set previously unpublished Hank Williams to music. Hear the story of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams on episode 68 of the Taproot Podcast.

Dec 262011
 

Special audio show about the making of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. 13 singer/songwriters were given the opportunity to set lyrics from Hank Williams’ notebooks to music and perform them on the CD. On this show hosted by Alejandro Escovedo, we hear the artists such as Jack White, Rodney Crowell, and Alan Jackson talk about what it was like to “collaborate” with Hank Williams.

lost notebooks of hank williams cover

TPR#68 The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams – Radio Feature (MP3)

 

Show Notes

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams on iTunes

Recap of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams Radio Feature

Alejandro Escovedo introduces the show:
Hank Williams wrote a lot of songs he never got to record. He kept notebooks of lyrics and song ideas. When Hank Williams died in 1953, the notebooks were locked away for many years. Now 13 accomplished singers and songwriters have been given the chance to complete a Hank Williams song.

Patty Loveless performs “ Your Through Fooling Me.”

There are more tributes to hank than there are Hank Williams recordings. When he died he had only released a few dozen singles. His notebooks contained lyrics for 66 more songs.

Michael McColl is a writer at the Country Music Hall of Fame. He says the Hank Williams notebooks are treated like the lost scrolls and treated with reverence.

Bob Dylan performs “The Love That Faded.”

Mary Martin is a country music industry exec. She felt that every participant in this project must be a songwriter because Hank Williams wrote both lyrics and melodies.

Peggy Lamb is a music publisher says they made sure they protected Hank’s legacy by ensuring that the collaborators didn’t change the idea of the song. They know each of the artists and trusted them but they also put it on paper of the agreement.

Rodney Crowell found a snippet of a gospel that was reminiscent of Hanks gospel alter ego, Luke The Drifter. Rodney found a couplet in the Notebooks called I hope you shed a million tears. He wrote an old style Sunday morning recitation to go with it. He worked with Vince Gil who put it to a Hank Williams waltz. They got Williams’s original steel player Don Helms to play on the session. It was his last session before he died.

Alan Jackson talks about what a thrill it was to be listed as a Hank Williams’ collaborator. He talks about how some of them were cool lyrics but didn’t have the structure of a song. He chose one that had a good lyric structure already.

Alan Jackson performs “You’ve Been Lonesome Too.”

[break]

Hank Williams started playing early. Had his first show at 14 with band the Drifting Cowboys until most of them were drafted into World War II. Michael McColl talks about Hank Williams starting out in Montgomery Alabama and publishing his first song with Acuff Rose Publishing. That was the first publishing company in Nashville. A few years later his wife sent several songs to Acuff Rose. Fred Rose saw the songs and recognized the talent Hank Williams had. Fred Rose became a mentor for Hank Williams and the reason we have Hank Williams songs is because of Fred Rost.

“Lovesick Blues” by Hank Williams

Hank Williams had one of his first hits wiith “Lovesick Blues.” That got him an invitation to the Grand Old Opry. On his first performance he got six encores that night. The Grand Old Opry was made more famous by Hank Williams. They sort of had a symbiotic relationship formany years until 1953 when he was fired for habitual drunkenness.

“You’ll Never Again Be Mine” performed by Levon Helm.

Jack White says Hank Williams represents all that is good about country music. Jack White says Hank Williams almost seems alien because everything about him is all so unbelievable. His looks, his delivery, the stories you hear about him all seem so exaggerated. And Hank Williams had a tendency for exaggeration. His alcoholism was probably due to a rare spine condition that kept him in pain a lot.

Rodney Crowell says there was something very worldly about the simplicity of his deep Alabama message. He was a voice that a son of a sharecropper could relate too.
Hank Williams was the soundtrack to poor Southerners’ lives

“You’re Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams

Alan Jackson says it’s hard to sit down and write like Hank Williams did. He kept it simple, which is tough to do. Rodney Crowell says Hank Williams invented the “Saturday Night Sinning, Sunday Morning Redemption” style of country music that fit the times.

“Sermon On The Mount” by Merle Haggard

Rodney Crowell says no one is more natural in their delivery, and that Hank’s delivery influenced Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.

Colin Ascott wrote a biography of Hank Williams. He says that when Hank Williams was alive, there were several country singers that were much bigger than Hank Williams was, including Eddie Arnold and Red Foley. They were more popular because they wrote for people who didn’t like country music. They smoothed over their sound to make it more appealing. On the other hand, Hank Williams kept the edge in his sound and that’s why his sound is still popular today while the other guys’ music sounds so dated.

“How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart” by Norah Jones.

Hand Williams’ influence has spread far and wide. Jack White has produced both rock music and country, including albums for Wanda Jackson and Loretta Lynn. Jack White says that when he signed up for this project, he just wanted to be an antenna for Hank Williams. Didn’t want any of himself in the song. He played it first for Bob Dylan who told him that it sounded like it came straight out of the 50’s and that’s how Jack White knew it was done.

“You Know That I Know” by Jack White

Holly Williams is Hank Williams’ Granddaughter. She is reminded at how prolific Hank Was at 29 compared to herself and most artists. She found that playing her grandfather’s music took a lot more than learning the parts. He didn’t do any crazy minor chords, but wrote melodies.

“Blue Is My Heart” by Holly Williams

Hank Williams Jr. says “It would be like we found more Shakespeare.” He says you could imagine every one of Hank Williams lyrics.

“I’m So Happy That I Found You” by Lucinda Williams

Hank Williams Jr talks about when they took him to Hollywood to sign a movie contract. He wasn’t impressed by the movie stars he saw at the studios and he made some disparaging remarks about the owner of the studios and that was the end of the movie contract.

“Angel Mine” by Sheryl Crow

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Legal

The Taproot Radio Podcast is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com. The episode as a whole is copyright 2011 by Taproot Media.

Feedback

If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode, please send mail to feedback@taprootradio.com.

Dec 152011
 

Taproot best of 2011 logoIn the six years I’ve been hacking away at Taproot Radio, the thing that keeps me going is that every CD that shows up in the mail has something going for it. Every single CD has an enthusiastic, heartfelt band or singer behind it. I get a kick out of the enthusiasm people have for their music.

But some CDs are better than others. Some folks are still working on their musicianship and some folks are still trying to learn the elusive art of songwriting.

And some CDs knock my socks off. Every now and then I’ll be slogging through what seems to be the 100th not-quite-ready-for-prime-time CD and I’ll slide one into the car player that blows me away. When the music’s right and the lyrics are right, and the band’s attitude is right everything feels right with the world.

This year’s Taproot Best of 2011, as always, comes from CDs that have been submitted to Taproot Radio. And the number of CDs that came into the station was the largest ever. So these 20 CDs are truly the cream of the crop. I’m proud to be able to share them with you.

Enjoy. As always I value your thoughts and feedback in the comments or by email. And please, support and thank these artists. They deserve it.

Calvin Powers, Music Director, Taproot Radio

1. Queen Of The Minor Key – Eilen Jewell

queen of the minor key by eilen jewellEilen Jewel’s had hints of rockabilly in her previous CDs, hidden behind the blues crooning and the sweet country twangs. But on Queen of the Minor Key, Eilen Jewell bring the rockabilly front and center, just to prove she can. She’s still got the surf guitar, blues, and country bits in these songs. Most importantly her strong feminine voice carries it all. By all rights Queen of the Minor Key ought to be an instant rockabilly classic.

Queen of the Minor Key on iTunes

 

2. Old Mad Joy – The Gourds

old mad joy by the gourdsThe problem with every Gourds CD that comes out is that you have to get over the “but it doesn’t sound exactly like the last CD which I liked so much” problem. They never go for a radical change from one CD to the next. They just keep evolving and growing in new directions. This year’s Old Mad Joy is no exception. They’ve moved in to full-on rock and roll territory on Old Mad Joy, with Jimmy Smiths’ lyrics being just as obtuse and intriguing as ever and Kevin Russel’s mandolin taking a beating like never before. They keep adding instruments. They keep adding more and more vocals. The sound just keeps getting richer, grittier, heavier and, well, funner. The Gourds are still the best bar band ever in my book.

Old Mad Joy on iTunes

 

3. Eleven Eleven – Dave Alvin

eleven eleven by dave alvinNo one makes you want to drop what you’re doing to run off and join a band like Dave Alvin does. His blues rock vibe has just the right mix of bittersweet sleaze and aloof indifference to the facts of life most people have to pay attention too. This year’s Eleven Eleven rides into my top 10 on the strength of “Johnny Ace is Dead” with good support from “Harlan Country Line” and “Black Rose of Texas.” I also give him props for having the guts to include a song like “Dirty Nightgown” in the mix as well.

Eleven Eleven on iTunes

 

 

4. The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams – Various Artists

the lost notebooks of hank williamsIt’s not just a historic project destined to sit on the shelves of museums. It’s also a really fine CD, carried both by the amazingly powerful melodic simplicity of Hank Williams’ lyrics and the “posthumous collaboration” from 13 stellar singer/songwriters who knew how to stay true to the Hank Williams sound. Hardly a weak track on the CD.

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams on iTunes

On Episode 68 of the Taproot Podcast, listen to a special audio show about the making of The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. 13 singer/songwriters were given the opportunity to set lyrics from Hank Williams’ notebooks to music and perform them on the CD. On this show hosted by Alejandro Escovedo, we hear the artists such as Jack White, Rodney Crowell, and Alan Jackson talk about what it was like to “collaborate” with Hank Williams. (To be released on December 26, 2011)

 

5. To Drink The Rain – Malcolm Holcombe

to drink the rain by malcolm holcombe Like all great visionary artists, Malcolm Holcombe sounds equal parts childish, grandfatherly, and crazy. His Appalachian blues/soul music has a tough as nails energy to it without losing the foot tapping appeal. Studio musicians have said they would fight for the right to play on a Malcolm Holcombe CD and To Drink The Rain shows you why.  This is one of those CD’s that I’d like to put every track into rotation, but I limited myself to “One Leg At A Time,” “Down In The Woods,” “Becky’s Blessed (Backporch Flowers),” “A Mighty City,” and “To Drink The Rain”

To Drink The Rain on iTunes

On episode 44 of the Taproot Podcast, talks about living in the North Carolina Mountains and talks about 3 tracks from the CD, To Drink The Rain.

6. Bad Ingredients – Scott H. Biram

bad ingredients by scott h biramThe dirty one man band is back with Bad Ingredients. Some people have tried to characterize this CD has his “quiet” album. But as I said in my review, “quiet” is a relative term in this context, more along the lines of channeling his demons rather than exorcising them.My focus tracks were “Black Creek Risin’,” “Dontcha Lie to Me Baby,” “Hang Your Head and Cry,” and “Memories of You Sweetheart.”

Bad Ingredients on iTunes

 

7. If I Walked on Water – Ted Hefko And The Thousandaires

if i walked on water by ted hefko and the thousandairesTed Hefko writes New Orleans inspired jazz that appeals to the NYC crowd. That’s a tall order but he and his band, the Thousandaires know how to make music that sounds upbeat, sophisticated, and fun while staying true to the spirit of New Orleans. Think of him as an urban Dr. John. My focus tracks are “If I Walked On Water,” “It’s Cold In Here,” and “You’ve Gotta Take Steps.”

If I Walked On Water on iTunes

On episode 66 of the Taproot Podcast, Ted Hefko talks about the extremely competitive music scene in NYC and how that’s a positive influence on artists, how Dylan’s early work was a huge inspiration for him, riding the Greyhound Bus to move to New Orleans when he was just out of high school, and learning to “fix his face.”

8. More Like A Good Dog Than A Bad Cat – Mark Jungers

more like a good dog than a bad cat by mark jungers The Texas highways are littered with the discarded Texan  songwriters who failed the authenticity sniff test. But veteran singer Mark Jungers has survived, writing songs that fit the here and now of  rural Texas without sounding cheap or pandering. My focus tracks are a”Show Me A Sign,” “Wasn’t Thinking,” “50 Head,” and “Drive.”

More Like A Good Dog Than A Bad Cat on iTunes

On episode 47 of the Taproot Podcast, Mark Jungers talks about the upcoming Frio River Festival, how he came up with the title “More Like A Good Dog Than A Bad Cat,” and why he needed to write a cattle-rustling song,

 

9. Paladino – Paladino

paladino Most of Paladino’s songs explode out of the psyche of lead man Jonathan Harkham so fast that the backing band can hardly keep up.  You don’t so much listen to them as hit against them like flying into the side of a beautiful southern California mountainside. The things is, you’ll want to thank the band when it’s done. My focus tracks are “Have You Ever Been Lonely,” “Lonely Mountain,” “Mexicali Rainsong,” “Ode To Misery,” and “Snow Deer.”

Paladino on iTunes

On episode 67 of the Taproot Podcast, Joanathan Harkham talks about trying to capture the textures of the southern California landscape and latino culture, listening to his mother’s country music while growing up in Los Angeles, and why he chose to cover “Green Green Grass of Home.” (To be published on December 19, 2011)

10. Who Was That Man? – Tokyo Rosenthal

It would be a mistake and a shame to saddle Tokyo “Toke” Rosenthall with the label”singer/songwriter.” Better to call him one of the most entertaining story tellers working today. His latest CD, Who Was That Man?, unfolds like the opening credits of an epic western movie, complete with dramatic mariachi horns. There are elements of “Country and Western” music woven throughout the CD, but he’s not riding off into cliche’ territory. He’s just setting expectations for a set of songs that are borderline mythic ballads. Highlights for me are “Maybe I’ve Been Where I’m Goin’,” “San Antone,” and the bizarre and catchy tune, “The Librarian.”

Who Was That Man? on iTunes

On episode 50 of the Taproot Podcast, Tokyo Rosenthal talks about the award he won for his song “Black To Blue,” his experience with European “listening rooms,” and where he got those mysterious horn players on his latest CD.

11. Middle of Everywhere – Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three

middle of everywhere by poky lafarge and the south city three Not since the Squirrel Nut Zippers has 20’s/30’s/Depression era music been so fun. I don’t know how a group of young guys can make such achingly authentic music, but they do it. They treat it like the fun romp this sort of music was always intended to be. The track “Mississippi Girl” could earn the CD a spot on anyone’s Best of list all by itself. “So Long Honeybee, Goodbye,” and “Head to Toe” are winners too.

Middle of Everywhere on iTunes

 

12. Bad Man’s Blood – Ray Bonneville

bad man's blood by ray bonneville Ray Bonneville is one of the best barroom balladeers working today not to mention a guitar player second to no one. Whether he is pounding on it like a rock and roll star or creating bluesy atmospherics, he knows how to tell a story in song and music. Every song will keep your attention. There’s always something building in there. Think Dave Alvin, but more rugged, more scarred, more stories.  Highlights for me are “Bad Man’s Blood,” “Sugar and Riley,” “Mississippi,” and “Blonde of Mine.”

Bad Man’s Blood on iTunes

On Episode 52 of The Taproot Podcast, Ray Bonneville talks about whether or not he’s a blues man, his time in New Orleans, and the spaces in his songs.

13. Okra And Ecclesiastes – Grant Peeples

okra and ecclesiastes by grant peeples Grant Peeple’s third CD, Okra And Ecclesiastes wins my reward for best original CD title in, oh, well, a long time. Some how that title builds an image of Deep Woods Gothic that permeates the whole CD and Grant follows through with Ray Wylie Hubbard style lyrics and gritty, grindy, guitars. Highlights for me are “Power Lines,” “Down Here In The Country,” and “My People Come From Dirt.”

Okra and Ecclesiastes on iTunes

On episode 31 of the Taproot Podcast, Grant Peeples talks about selling music on the honor system, his North Carolina connection, and how he nearly set his dog on fire.

14. Welding Burns – Rod Picott

welding burns by rod picott Rod Picott’s latest CD, Welding Burns, is just right for the times, which is to say it’s about tough people working their way through hard times. It’s a CD full of stories about people doing the right thing sometimes, and sometimes, well, not so much. Picott’s CD comes across as a set of tough as nails rock and roll ballads tempered with just a little bit of mournful country twang. Highlights for me are the title track, “410,” and “Sheetrock”.

Welding Burns on iTunes

 

15. Ghost Stories – Eric Hisaw

ghost stories by eric hisawEric Hisaw has a way with the Joe Sixpack Rock and Roll Ballad. His songs deserve to be turned into anthems for the working class. All the characters in his songs are so real you’d swear you’ve met them before. My focus tracks are “Johnston County,” “California,” “Don’t Live There Anymore,” and “The Love She Wants.”

Ghost Stories on iTunes

On episode 53 of the Taproot Podcast, Eric Hisaw talks about his cheap living days, the writers who inspired him, and the challenges and rewards of writing songs about your family.

16. Wreck And The Mess – Scotty Alan

wreck and the mess by scotty alan Scotty Alan knows how to write songs with a hook in them. Wreck and the Mess wins my 2011 award for most songs I like to sing along with at the chorus. Most songs are driven by an acoustic guitar riff that could be at home in a punk band, which is pretty much where Scotty cut his teeth musically.  My focus tracks are “Good-Bye,” “Your Hero?,” “Long Ways From Laughin’,”  and “Ain’t Much.”

Wreck and the Mess on iTunes

On episode 63 of the Taproot Podcast, Scotty Alan talks about living in the wilds of Michigan, his punk rock days, making music at home, how he found himself in Los Angeles to record his CD, Wreck and the Mess, and his “Irish roots.”

17. The Sun Session – The Border Blasters

the sun session by the border blasters I have to give props to The Border Blasters’ new CD, The Sun Sessions.  It was recorded in the legendary Sun studios in Memphis, but these songs are so easy-going and relaxed it has a back porch music vibe which I really really like. This is a fantastic CD to listen to after a hard day’s work.

The Sun Session on iTunes

On episode 64 of the Taproot Podcast, Todd Jagger and JR Harrell talk about listening to border radio stations when they were kids, their own radio show, the joys of Texas swing, and their experience recording in Sun Studios with ghosts looking over their shoulder.

18. Another Lost Highway – Arty Hill

another lost highway by arty hillHere’s what you need to know about Arty Hill and his band, The Long Gone Daddys. They are the the best honky tonk band working today. Their songs are original, fun, and just right for the times. Yeah, they cover the classic tried and true honky tonk songs at their live gigs. But you’ll want to dance to their originals even more.

Another Lost Highway on iTunes

On episode 60 of the Taproot Podcast, Arty Hill talks about changing the name of his most recent CD, his theory of what makes a song great, getting preloaded on a Ford, and why he had to write a song about drinking charcoal.

 

19. Wood And Stone – Tara Nevins

wood and stone by tara nevins Tara Nevins’ solo CD, Wood and Stone, is a deeply personal set of songs about working through relationships, work, and life in general. But she manages to make them universal  and you’d swear she’s singing about your life by the time you get to the end of the CD.  You can hear strains of her Donna The Buffalo music in this CD, but at the end of the day, this CD is Tara’s voice.

Wood and Stone on iTunes

On episode 40 of the Taproot Podcast, Tara Nevins from Donna The Buffalo discusses her new solo CD, Wood and Stone, her reunion with her previous band mates, and announces the location of the new Grass Roots Festival.

 

20. Lie To Me by Bettysoo and Doug Cox

lie to me by bettysoo and doug cox Two great voices, a guitar, and a dobro is all it takes for Bettysoo and Doug Cox to knock it out of the park with their latest CD, Lie To Me.  Bettysoo’s voice is strong, feminine, and mesmerizing, and Doug Cox’ guitar riffs are a perfect complement, soulful, tight, and clear. The CD  highlight the duo’s strengths and range from old-school Doug Sahm to more modern fare like Jane Siberry. Highlights for me are “Lie To Me,” “Boxcars,” and their cover of “Dublin Blues.”

Lie To Me on iTunes

On episode 51 of the Taproot Podcast, Bettysoo and Doug Cox talk about their one year anniversary as musical collaborators, their naming challenges, and the sensuous mysteries of the dobro..

 

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams – Various Artists

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Oct 282011
 

Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams AlbumThe big music release this week is The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. Here’s how I understand the background of this CD. Apparently Hank Williams had bunches of notebooks of lyrics that were never set to music. Bob Dylan got permission from the estate to ask wel known artists to compose songs built around the lyrics. Dylan put together an all-star line up of folks to write the songs including Alan Jackson, Norah Jones, Vince Gil, Jack White, Levon Helm, Patty Loveless, Sheryl Crow. What’s amazing to me is how well all these artists stayed true to the spirit of the project, creating songs that sound like they could have come from Hank Williams himself. The notable exception is Lucinda Williams’s track where she takes Williams’ melodic lyrics and drags them through the mud, trying to make them sound like moans and wails. Ridiculous. But she’s the exception. The rest of the CD is amazing. Bob Dylan of course contributes a track the the performance which strikes a good balance between Bob Dylan’s style, which, honestly, is the only way he can sing and Hank Williams. But the big surprise on the disc for me was the Jakob Dylan contribution. He took a set of lyrics that sounded like a standard issue honky-tonk song and turned it into a poignant heart breaker of a song. Very good job. Highly recommend this CD.