Steve Cropper, the Booker T and the MG’s legendary guitarist, has rounded up a bunch of well known artists to help produce Dedicated: A Tribute To The 5 Royales. And there’s no one that deserves a tribute CD more than these North Carolina-based soul stars from the 50’s. They were key in fusing realy doo wop, R&B, and gospel into what we think of as soul music that came out of Memphis and Muscle Shoals in the 60s. So I was very glad to see Steve Cropper’s work to pay tribute to their influence. There are covers of the 5 Royales from Bettye Lavette, Lucinda Williams, B.B. Kink, Buddy Miller and many others. This tribute CD is highly recommended.
Dale Watson is more or less known as one of the outlaw country artists, up there with Waylon Jennings and the like. And his music is hard core honky tonk. That is, until this latest CD called The Sun Sessions. I have not read the press kit on this CD. But I’m guessing it’s a concept album trying to capture as closely as possible the sounds of Johnny Cash during his years with Sun. The band has the johnny Cash bass and rhythm sound down pat. And Dale does an excellent job rendering that Johnny Cash baritone. What makes this CD amazing, is that as far as I can tell, all these songs are originals. And he hads just enough of his trademark honky tonk to give these songs a little more jump and life than you sometimes got from Cash. I’m not prepared to say Dale Watson is more Johnny Cash than Cash, but I’ll say if you every liked a single Johnny Cash song, you’re gonna love The Sun Sessions from Dale Watson.
Dale Watson tells the stories behind the songs on episode 57 of the Taproot Podcast
Ray Bonneville is one of the best barroom balladeers working today not to mention a guitar player second to no one. Whether 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. His latest CD, Bad Man’s Blues is going into rotation this week and it’s his best work effort. Think Dave Alvin, but more rugged, more scars, more stories. Highlights for me are “Bad Man’s Blood,” “Sugar and Riley,” “Mississippi,” and “Blonde of Mine.”
Listen to Ray Bonnevile tell the stories behind the songs on Bad Man’s Blood on episode 52 of the Taproot Podcast.
Marquise Knox writes original blues tunes that are so natural, easy going, and fun they sound like seasoned blues standards from decades past. His guitar riffs ave the energy of a young man while his voice sounds like veteran bluesman. Highlights for me include. “You Better Pray,” “Two Can Play Your Game,” “America’s Blues,” “Can A Young Man Play The Blues?” and “Love Me Through The Pain.”
On What You’re Doing To Me, Tilford Sellers revives the early days of American music where country/blues/rock where still basically the same music. You can hear strains of the Grand Old Opry and Hank Williams. You can hear echos of Charlie Feathers and Buddy Holly. It’s feel-good honky tonk music that’s refreshingly simple, direct, and fun. Highlights for me are “Get Read” and the title track, “What You’re Doing To Me.”
If James Brown was the Godfather of soul, Dex Romweber is the Godfather of psycho-surf-rockabilly-garage-punk. He needs to get a cape with bling on it just like James Brown. He could make it work. He and sister Sara make up the core of the Dex Romweber Duo and their latest CD, Is The You In The Blue, is the kind of music meant to be felt in your chest, not piped through some tinny earbuds. It’s loud, raw, simple, _fundamental_ rock ‘n roll that makes you wanna yell, “Hit Me! Take Me To The Bridge!” Top tracks for me are Jungle Drums, Death of Me (Written by Django Haskins of Old Ceremony), and Midnight Sun.
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”.
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, Across The Borderline: 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 a set of well chosen covers that 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,” and “Boxcars.”
Jesse Lége & Joel Savoy are a long-time due playing cajun music who recently teamed up with Caleb Klauder and the Foghorn String Band to create the Cajun Country Revival and they’ve put out a CD called The Right Combination which is full of traditional cajun songs plus a few traditional country songs done up cajun style. As you might expect, the CD is pure fun, front to back. This music will make even everyone want to dance, even if just on the inside. Highlights for me are “Ouvre La Porte” (Open the Door), “Tippy Toeing,” and “Corina”. But honestly there’s not a bad track on this CD. Great music for the road.
The New Familiars have long been local legends around Charlotte and for good reason. They are first and foremost a rock band. but there’s just enough mandolin and other bluegrass/twangy elements to their music to make it “southern” and there’s more than a few head nods to country music. You might think of them as The Band for the 21str century, but I don’t think The Band ever rocked this hard. Their latest CD, Between The Moon And The Morning Light takes a lap around the infield, tagging all the bases of a southern rock album. The highlights for me are “Icaraus,” “New River,” “Wait,” and “All In All.”