Thursday, May 28, 2020

Sights and Sounds: Bill Kirchen, Sara Evans, PJ Harvey

Plenty of news to share! While we all wait (and wait...) for concerts and live music events to return, the focus now is on new albums, reissues and special live stream events...

Bill Kirchen - Telecaster titan - readies 'The Proper Years'

Combines three solo albums connecting dots across his acclaimed 50-year career

AUSTIN, Texas — Upon tallying how many decades he’s worked as a professional guitar slinger, Telecaster master Bill Kirchen quips, “Well, they don't make 50 years like they used to.”
They don’t often make careers like his, either. From performing with his Who Knows Pickers jug band in Ann Arbor High School’s senior talent show (also on the program: the future Iggy Pop), to birthing the Americana genre with the original “hippie country band,”Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, this affable Austinite has been everywhere, man, flying alongside some of the planet’s coolest cats — including the Jesus of Cool, Nick Lowe, and Lowe’s old protégé, Elvis Costello. Kirchen has toured the world with Lowe, who produced an album by Kirchen’s post-Airmen band, the Moonlighters, and Costello recruited Kirchen for high-profile gigs like the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival — and even named his festival band after Kirchen’s Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods album.
Lowe appears on that 2006 album, and its 2010 follow-up, Word to the Wise, along with Costello, Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks and other luminaries. And now those albums, plus Kirchen’s third Proper American release, 2013’s Seeds and Stems, are being combined as a two-CD retrospective titled The Proper Years. The package, on U.K. label The Last Music Co., arrives July 24, 2020. Waxworks, a vinyl best-of version, also releases July 24.
A well-balanced mix of engaging originals and wonderfully rendered covers, The Proper Years admirably conveys Kirchen’s versatility as a player and singer — one of the first to mash up rockabilly, country, Western swing, honky-tonk, jump blues, jazz, boogie-woogie and even the “psychedelic folk rock” he played with the Seventh Seal, the band he formed while attending the University of Michigan. (MC5 manager/activist John Sinclair got them a deal on the ESP-Disk label, home of Sun Ra, but the band turned it down.) Somewhere between steering Commander Cody’s “Hot Rod Lincoln” into a top-10 hit and scoring a Grammy nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance, Kirchen dubbed his sound “dieselbilly,” wrapping his fondness for country’s truck-driving song subgenre (as in big rigs, not pickups), its intersection with the Bakersfield Sound, and his own name into one memorable moniker.
Kirchen’s right-place-at-the-right-time career has put him at the forefront of many musical movements, including outlaw country; Commander Cody’s 1974 album, Live From Deep in the Heart of Texasrecorded at Austin’s legendary Armadillo World Headquarters, made Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Albums of All Time list. 
But whatever label Kirchen’s music wears, it’s always notable for its balance of high-octane energy and deft understatement. There’s no leadfoot excess; Kirchen’s all about finesse — a sensibility absorbed from the symphonies and Broadway musicals his parents loved, along with the orchestral works he played as a school-band trombonist. Through another major influence, Interlochen Center for the Arts summer camp counselor David Siglin (who would go on to run famed Ann Arbor venue the Ark), Kirchen became immersed in folk traditions and learned to love the “big, sonorous tones” of an undistorted guitar. 
“I was more interested in sounding like Doc Watson than Eric Clapton,” admits Kirchen, whose main guitar was crafted by Rick Kelly of Carmine Street Guitars from 200-year-old pine floorboards recycled from film director Jim Jarmusch’s loft.
It’s fitting that this collection begins with his ode to that Telly-modeled “stick of wood” he calls “the bicycle of the electric guitar — the most efficient way to get from point A to point B.” That song also serves as exhibit A in a collection showcasing a central facet of Kirchen’s songwriting: his wit. If there’s a laugh to be reached for — or stooped to — Kirchen’s goin’ for it; you don’t survive years in a band named Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, or drop album titles like Seeds and Stems, without possessing a gleefully subversive, double-entendre-loving funnybone. 
“I like music where at least someone onstage is smiling sometimes, fer crissake,” jokes Kirchen, who’s often grinning happily when he’s not busy singing. But for every injection of humor, there’s an equal dose of heart (and in some cases, heartbreak). And songs like “Tell Me the Reason” or “Get a Little Goner” illustrate another truism: Kirchen often sets the saddest or most biting lyrics to the jauntiest melodies. 
Those two were cowritten by his wife, Louise; “Goner” also features frequent contributor Sarah Brown(coincidentally also raised in Ann Arbor). Kirchen likes collaborating: on Word to the Wise, a musical reminiscence of sorts, he tapped several favorite artists to join him, carefully selecting or writing songs for each. In the liner notes, he explains, “The criteria we used were that you had to be A) someone I had actually played with, either on stage or record, and B) not dead yet.” 
Sadly, Norton Buffalo, who played harmonica with the Airmen and Moonlighters, passed away shortly after recording “Valley of the Moon” — in which Kirchen revisits scenes of his early life with Louise on a trip to attend a funeral (for Hacienda Brother Chris Gaffney, another musical mate). Dan Hicks, who delivered a note-perfect duet on the title tune — written for him — died in 2016. But as of this writing, Lowe, Costello, Maria Muldaur, Paul Carrack, original Asleep at the Wheel vocalist Chris O’Connell and Commander Cody (a.k.a. George Frayne) are still very much with us. 
Kirchen’s entertaining liner notes explain his connection to each, tracing many of these relationships directly to longtime collaborator and “main man” Austin de Lone, who appears on all three albums and is part of the core band on two.

Philadelphia-born keyboardist de Lone and his band, Eggs Over Easy, moved to England in 1970, urged by Jimi Hendrix’s manager, Chas Chandler. Their rootsy mix of blues, country and rock caught on — and germinated the pub-rock movement, whose acolytes included Brinsley Schwarz, in which Lowe played bass. In 1972, de Lone moved to California, where he met Kirchen. Years later, de Lone wound up joining the Moonlighters and introducing Kirchen to Lowe, who produced the band’s 1983 album, Rush Hour (and introduced Kirchen to Costello). That album was engineered by Paul Riley, who eventually would produce all of Kirchen’s Proper releases.
A devoted Anglophile, thanks to two aunts who married Brits, Kirchen began recording for the British label (distributed in the U.S. under the Proper American name) after owner Malcolm Mills promised, “I'm going to give you the best deal you've had in 25 years.” 
He did, too. Mills not only supports Kirchen’s recorded output, he also supports the guitarist onstage, right alongside bassist Riley. “Where else do you get a record company where the owner plays drums, the producer plays bass, and they tour with you?” Kirchen says of his good friends. “They’re the best.” 

That’s just another twist in an incredible career trajectory set in motion, according to Kirchen, by two pivotal events: the 1964 and ’65 Newport Folk Festivals. As a high-school kid on a quest to catch Mississippi John Hurt, he thumbed to the first one, then went back the following year — and witnessed Dylan going electric.
“That pretty well blew away the competition for what I was going to do before, or if, or when I grew up,” he says of those experiences. Five years later, he found himself sharing a bill with John Lennon, Yoko Ono,and Stevie Wonder, when Commander Cody and the Airmen, who’d formed in Ann Arbor, played a benefit for Sinclair after he got 10 years for two joints.
A mere 50 years later, Kirchen’s still having a blast. He’s even planning another tour with Riley and Mills. But releasing this package, he says, “nicely puts a bow on a whole, very enjoyable period of my life.” 
“Not that it's over,” he adds quickly. “I mean, I’ve got more stuff in the works.”
Then he cracks, “Don’t tell anybody, but it's not as hard as it looks.” 

Sara Evans 'Copy That' livestream on Friday, May 29 to benefit local venues
Celebrates new album with Virtual Performance,
Q&A, and Meet & Greet

Nashville, TN — May 27, 2020 – Sara Evans is celebrating the success of her brand-new album, Copy That, with a live stream performance on Friday, May 29.  The special event, featuring Sara playing a mix of hits and new music, taking a request or two, a Q&A and meet & greet, will benefit local venues in four states – Indiana, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin.  For more information and to participate in this event, click HERE.
Local Venues Supported By Livestream Include:
Riviera Theater / The Pabst Theater Group - Milwaukee, WI
Meyer Theater - Green Bay, WI
Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center – Midland, TX
Victory Theater – Evansville, IN
Orpheum Theater, Omaha Performing Arts - Omaha, NE

“Participating in the Sara Evans live stream performance not only provides much needed financial help for The Pabst Theater Group during these difficult times, it also helps us to stay connected with our community and provide them with one of the very special things that has been taken away from them…the beauty of a live performance,” said Gary Witt, CEO Pabst Theater Group-Milwaukee.

“We’re really excited to bring Sara into the Omaha area and be a part of a new initiative to connect with our community,” said Andy Cassano, Vice President of Programming & Education for Omaha Performing Arts.

Copy That, the first solo studio album in three years from multi-platinum star Sara Evans, released on May 15 and opened at #1 on the iTunes Country Chart. Co-produced by Sara and Jarrad K (Ruston Kelly, Weezer, Goo Goo Dolls), and released on her own Born To Fly Records, the 13-song collection spans six decades. Featuring collaborations with Old Crow Medicine Show and Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet, Copy That showcases Evans’ creative take on some of the most iconic songs in country and pop music, songs that have inspired her life and career, as well as shines a spotlight on some little-known gems. Sara pays tribute to her early days fronting her family band and covers everyone from Hank Williams to Patsy ClineFleetwood MacThe PretendersPoco, John MayerDexy’s Midnight RunnersChicago and more.  Download or stream Copy That by visiting

Sara will continue her wildly popular “Closet Chaos” Instagram Live series each Monday. The hilarious series, which she has been doing alongside daughter Oliva Barker, has welcomed guests such as Tony DovolaniClinton KellyMartina McBrideMelissa Peterman, and Phillip Sweet.

About Sara Evans: 
Multi-platinum entertainer SARA EVANS is at the top of her game. As the fifth most-played female artist at country radio in nearly the last two decades — her five No. 1 singles include “No Place That Far,” “Suds In The Bucket, “A Real Fine Place To Start,” “Born to Fly,” and “A Little Bit Stronger,” which spent 2 weeks in the top spot and was certified platinum by the R.I.A.A. Sara’s “stunning, country voice” (Rolling Stone) has earned her the prestigious Academy of Country Music Top Female vocalist accolade as well as numerous American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Country Music Association, CMT and Grammy Awards nominations. In addition, the CMA awarded Video of the Year honors for her hit chart-topping single, "Born to Fly" from her landmark double-platinum album of the same name, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2020.  Evans’ discography also includes the platinum-selling studio albums Real Fine Place and Restless as well as the gold-certified projects Stronger and No Place That Far.

Sara has continued to forge her bold, creative path with Copy That, which opened at #1 on the iTunes Country chart, released on her own Born To Fly Records on May 15, 2020. The 13-song collection, spanning six decades, showcased Evans’ distinctive creative stamp on some of the most iconic songs in country and pop music, songs that have inspired her life and career, as well as shining a spotlight on some little-known gems. Copy That follows her critically acclaimed Words, which debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums Chart in 2017. Last year brought album and touring collaborations with her children, Avery and Olivia Barker, for The Barker Family Band.

On September 8, 2020, Sara will release her memoir, Born To Fly, through Howard Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.  For the first time, Evans will open up and share stories not only about her career and what it is like living in the spotlight, but about what inspires her and how her faith keeps her strong.  Drawing on stories from her own life, she shares wisdom on topics ranging from motherhood and marriage to finding your purpose.

For more information on Sara Evans, visit and engage with her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

PJ Harvey entire back catalog reissued on vinyl 

Plus album demos available as stand-alone collections for first time

‘DRY’ and ‘DRY – Demos’
Available July 24

Listen to demo version of “Sheela-Na-Gig” here

Photo Credit: Maria Mochnacz
Watch video for “Dress” here

“[DRY] …still fearless, forever timeless. It’s both vicious blues-punk – a noise that’s bruised and battered, murky and muscular.” – THE GUARDIAN 

Santa Monica, CA – May 28, 2020 – UMe/Island and Beggars today announce a comprehensive reissue campaign which will see PJ Harvey’s entire back catalog - plus her two albums in collaboration with John Parish - released on vinyl over the next 12 months. For the first time, each of PJ Harvey’s album demos will be available as a stand-alone album on digital and vinyl. 

This catalog project will celebrate every aspect of Harvey’s recording career and afford a comprehensive and exciting look at the evolution of one of the most singular and extraordinary artists of modern times. 

The first release is DRY, Harvey’s seminal debut album back in print on vinyl for the first time in 20 years with the Beggars Archive/Too Pure Records reissue on July 24. Released to worldwide critical acclaim on March 30, 1992, it was recorded at The Ice House in Yeovil and features the singles “Dress” and “Sheela-Na-Gig.” DRY saw PJ Harvey burst onto the global stage to begin her unique path. “… a seductive calling card that signals the arrival of an extraordinary new artist.”  - Robert Hilburn, LOS ANGELES TIMES. 

July 24 also sees the release of the 11 track DRY- Demos, previously released with DRY almost 30 years ago, and now available for the first time as a stand-alone vinyl/CD/digital release. Listen to “Sheela-Na-Gig” demo here.

"Polly dredges these sounds from the pit of her dissected soul and drags them out of her mouth with clenched fists." – NME (DRY review,1992)

On her debut [DRY], Polly Jean Harvey matched Patti Smith’s incandescence with Bessie Smith’s lasciviousness, outplayed everyone on the British indie circuit, and became an instant star.” – PITCHFORK

[DRY] ….an uncompromising work of exhilarating, cauterizing beauty." – ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

An 11-track collection of demos of all songs from the debut studio album Dry by PJ Harvey, available for the first time since 1992 and previously unreleased as a standalone album. 

Featuring brand new artwork with previously unseen photos by Maria Mochnacz.

LP Info:
  • 1LP, 180gram black vinyl
  • Full color outer sleeve, with printed inner sleeve
  • Artwork includes 3 previously unreleased photos
  • Download card

CD Info:
  • Mini-gatefold style outer sleeve, with printed inner sleeve
  • Artwork includes 3 previously unreleased photos

Digital Info:
11-track standard definition release, available digitally for the first time. 

  1. Oh my Lover (Demo)
  2. O Stella (Demo)
  3. Dress (Demo)
  4. Victory (Demo)
  5. Happy & Bleeding (Demo)
  6. Sheela-Na-Gig (Demo)
  7. Hair (Demo)
  8. Joe (Demo)
  9. Plants & Rags (Demo)
  10. Fountain (Demo)
  11. Water (Demo) 

Dry – Demos is available on digital, CD and vinyl on July 24 on UMe/Island Records. Pre-order here


Remastered by DRY producer ‘Head’ and replicated to the original version. 

Dry (studio album) is available on Too Pure/Beggars Archive on vinyl on July 24. Pre-order here.

PJ HARVEY – Discography: 
Dry (1992)
Rid Of Me (1993)
To Bring You My Love (1995)
Is This Desire? (1998)
Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000)
Uh Huh Her (2004)
White Chalk (2007)
Let England Shake (2011)
The Hope Six Demolition Project (2016)

With John Parish:
Dance Hall At Louse Point (1996)
A Woman A Man Walked By (2009)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

INXS "Live Baby Live" on DVD, Blu-ray, Digital Formats - June 26, 2020

Very exciting news that a legendary INXS 1991 performance is coming next month! Get all the details and see the cover artwork for the highly-anticipated release below - Robert Kinsler


New York, NY (May 27th 2020) – Eagle Vision today announced the release of Live Baby Live, the seminal live show by INXS from 1991, on digital download, 4K Ultra High Definition Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on June 26th. The release follows the restored film’s hugely successful debut theatrical run in late 2019, playing on over a thousand screens from Sydney to Stockholm and London to Los Angeles.
The home entertainment release features the film presented in widescreen for the first time, and in over 20 times greater resolution (on 4K UHD blu-ray) than the original DVD release. The full Wembley soundtrack is available in the blu-ray and DVD bundles, plus “Shining Star”, the studio track recorded the day after the show in London which then became the lead single from the original live compilation album in 1991.
This masterclass in showmanship and musicianship has been meticulously restored over a twelve-month period from the original 35mm negative to 4K Ultra HD, and during the process a previously thought lost performance of the ‘X’ album track “Lately” was discovered and reinstated into the film, much to the fans delight.
To accompany the astonishing visual upgrade, the audio is now presented in Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio (Blu-ray only), DTS 5.1 Surround and Dolby 5.1 Surround - all created by Giles Martin, the band’s Executive Music Director, and Sam Okell at Abbey Road Studios.
The physical packages feature new 4K-sourced photography from the show, new notes from the band and an essay by broadcaster and uber INXS fan Jamie East, who was in the crowd that day.
1.) Guns in the Sky
2.) New Sensation
3.) I Send a Message
4.) The Stairs
5.) Know the Difference
6.) Disappear
7.) By My Side
8.) Hear That Sound
9.) Lately*
10.) The Loved One
11.) Wild Life
12.) Mystify
13.) Bitter Tears
14.) Suicide Blonde
15.) What You Need
16.) Kick
17.) Need You Tonight
18.) Mediate
19.) Never Tear Us Apart
20.) Who Pays the Price
21.) Devil Inside
22.) Shining Star
Previously unseen/unheard performance
INXS ‘LIVE BABY LIVE'’ Technical Specs
BD & 4K BD Audio: LPCM Stereo, DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Dolby Atmos
BD & 4K Region: ABC (All Regions)
4K BD Format: UHD-66
BD Format: BD-50
DVD Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
DVD Region: 0 (All Regions)
DVD Format: DVD-9
DVD, BD & 4K BD Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Total running time: 98 mins approx.
About INXS
INXS has sold over 50 million records worldwide including number ones in 4 different continents and performed over 4,000 live shows to over 25 million people in almost 50 countries.
The band had 23 hits in the UK, 18 in the US (7 top ten) and 36 Australian hits (13 top ten). They had 6 consecutive top ten UK and US albums and 13 Australian top 10 albums. The band won countless awards including seven Arias, two Brits, a dozen Countdown Awards, five MTV Awards and in 2001 were inducted into the Aria Hall of Fame.
In 2014 ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ a two-part miniseries about the band was a ratings smash and catapulted the band back into the Australian charts resulting in six albums in the top 40 and two singles in the top 30. The band’s legacy lives on in 2019 with songs such as Never Tear Us Apart, New Sensation, What You Need, Listen Like Thieves, Need You Tonight and many more now rightfully recognised as classics.
About Eagle Rock
Eagle Rock Entertainment is the world-leading producer and distributor of music-based programming, including documentaries and concert films. Founded in 1997, the multi-award-winning company creates over 50 productions a year and distributes over 2,000 hours of music-related programming.
Their catalogue includes work by award-winning filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Brett Morgan, Mike Figgis, Stanley Nelson, Paul Dugdale, Jeremy Marre, Leslie Woodhead and Michael Epstein. They work with a huge number of artists over a wide spectrum of genres, including the Rolling Stones, Eminem, Katy Perry, Queen, Muse, Steven Wilson, Madonna, Imagine Dragons, The Cure, Eric Clapton, Shania Twain, Iggy Pop, Paul McCartney, and Black Sabbath. Eagle is a Universal Music Group company, and is headquartered in London.
About Petrol Records
Petrol, founded in 2001, is the world’s most successful first all-digital record company and the first independent label to sign a worldwide distribution agreement with Apple Inc.’s iTunes. Petrol’s numerous chart and sales successes over the years in various musical genres, together with Christopher M. Murphy’s other multimedia endeavours, resulted in Murphy receiving the New South Wales Premier’s Expo Award for Arts & Entertainment and being named Australian Entrepreneur of the Year by Business Review Weekly for his many achievements.
In 2008 Murphy received a Grammy nomination for his documentary on the street music of Cuba (now referred to as ‘Reggaeton’). In 2009, Petrol signed INXS’ classic catalogue to the label and in 2017, INXS were awarded for 50 million worldwide sales. With iTunes alone, Petrol has achieved more than 180 #1’s, more than 700 Top 10, and more than 1,600 Top 100 positions. In addition to Murphy’s Grammy nomination for a cutting-edge documentary, and following the # 1 rated television mini-series in 2014, Petrol broke all records with six albums in the Top 10. With millions of records sold worldwide and ranking as one of the world’s most successful independent labels, Petrol continue to succeed in the marketplace.

Monday, May 25, 2020

New Music: The Lickerish Quartet, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The Claudettes, Sara Evans, Waylon Jennings

Whether you are sheltering in place or getting back out to work or play, there are some truly fantastic new releases worth discovering including the debut from The Lickerish Quartet, as well as the latest albums from Steve Earle & The Dukes, The Claudettes, and Sara Evans. There is also an essential new Waylon Jennings release out via DVD and digital.

The Lickerish Quartet - Tim Smith, Eric Dover and Roger Joseph Manning Jr.

Artist: The Lickerish Quartet
Title: Threesome Vol. 1 (The Lickerish Quartet/Label Logic)
You might like if you enjoy: Jellyfish, Jason Falkner, Imperial Drag, dada
Tell me more: While groundbreaking '90s psychedelic pop outfit Jellyfish appears unlikely to ever reform, the next-best-thing is the new musical project christened the Lickerish Quartet featuring Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Tim Smith and Eric Dover  all of whom were members of Jellyfish. The band's debut release Threesome Vol. 1 fully delivers on the anticipation that has surrounded the Lickerish Quartet from the earliest moments when the trio's formation was announced in early March 2020. "Bluebird's Blues" recalls the magic of Jellyfish to be sure, an original track as intoxicating and melodic as it is inventive   shimmering harmonies and stunning pop craft as bright as the sun. The bouncy and buoyant "Fadoodle" is pure fun, a power pop shot that celebrates rekindling romantic lust with unabashed joy.  "There is a Magic Number" is a relatively quiet affair; but listen closely to the lovely luster constructed via nuanced layers of vocal harmonies and involving instrumental flourishes that embolden the cut. The ace offering on the EP is the ambitious "Lighthouse Spaceship," a  minute dose of greatness borne out of the friendly ghosts of XTC, Queen, Electric Light Orchestra and "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys. The digital version of the album is available now, while the audio CD format is set for release on June 26, 2020. Information:

Artist: Steve Earle & The Dukes
Title: Ghosts of West Virginia (New West)
You might like if you enjoy: Phil Ochs, Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp
Tell me more: Ambitious, forceful and resplendent in ways that will excite discerning listeners of all stripes, Steve Earle & The Dukes' new LP Ghosts of West Virginia is an important and compelling tour de force. The album features six songs from the play "Coal Country" (a collaboration that Earle worked on with playwrights Jessical Blank and Erik Jensen) as well as four additional tracks. Opening on March 3, 2020  at The Public Theater in New York City, "Coal Country" was postponed after only two weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Steve Earle / Photo By Jacob Blickenstaff 

But it will take more than a global pandemic to diminish the power of Ghosts of West Virginia. The a capella opener "Heaven Ain't Goin' Nowhere," old-time sing-along "Union, God and Country" that addresses the multi-generational role that mining plays in coal country, and Appalachia-drenched "Devil Put the Coal into the Ground" transport the listener into a world that few outsiders know or appreciate. The Springsteen-styled "John Henry was a Steel Drivin' Man" and probing "Time Is Never On Our Side" delve further into the realities that have reduced the value of human life in coal mines. The rage from the lives lost consumes "It's About Blood," a searing rocker that finds Earle sounding off the names of every victim who died in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in 2010 as the Dukes play powerfully in accompaniment. The gorgeous country ballad "If I Could See Your Face Again" (sung by actress Mary Bacon) imagines a miner's widow lamenting she won't see her husband again: "If I could touch you one more time / Just to Hold your Head in Mine / I'd never let you go again / I promise"  a particularly melancholic and mournful track. Other songs like the potent mandolin-adorned "Black Lung," Southern rocker "Fastest Man Alive" and sparse "The Mine" bring further power and poetic grace to the purposeful "Ghosts of West Virginia." Information:

Artist: The Claudettes
Title: High Times in the Dark (Forty Below Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Alabama Shakes, Southern Avenue

Tell me more: The Claudettes' sound is at once magically familiar and decidedly new, with the quartet's sound somehow weaving roots rock, New Orleans rhythm and blues, and Memphis rock 'n' soul together with a post-punk attitude blended together into a sonic brew the band has rightfully dubbed "garage cabaret." On the troupe's brilliant new album High Times in the Dark, Johnny Iguana's astounding piano playing and singer Berit Ulseth's marvelous voice vy for attention in all the right ways, while there is still room to showcase the top-tier work of Michael Caskey (drums) and Zach Verdoorn (bass, guitar). The rip roaring "24/5," lush "I Swear to God, I Will," edgy rocker "Declined" and moody "I Don't Do That Stuff Anymore" showcase the wide-ranging approach of the talented outfit. The songs are powerful, with sweeping arrangements equaled by the involving lyrics exploring the vast reaches of the modern world. The lavish "You Drummers Keep Breaking My Heart" addresses the challenges of keeping the seat behind the kit filled, while the album-closing track "The Sun Will Fool You" is a sobering account of an unfeeling lover who has everyone fooled  this selection that finds Ulseth's soprano at its most vulnerable while Iguana offers lone accompaniment with plaintive playing on his keyboard. Information:

Artist: Sara Evans
Title: Copy That (Born To Fly Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Sara Evans, Old Crow Medicine Show, Little Big Town
Tell me more: Country singer Sara Evans uses her signature vocals in the service of revisiting more than a dozen classic hits on her aptly-named Copy That. Revisiting iconic selections forged over the past six decades and representing several genres, the exuberant Celtic pop romp "Come On Eileen" (a 1982 hit for Dexy's Midnight Runners) and Chicago's "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" feel mostly faithful while the reworked takes on the Pretenders' "Don't Get Me Wrong" and Carole King's "It's Too Late" are much more interesting. Other surefire choices include Evans' lavish version of John Mayer's "All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye," a lush reading of the Wallflowers' "6th Avenue Heartache" and a rousing modern take on The Knack's "My Sharona." Evans also has a couple of interesting collaborations, including the spirited "Whenever I Call You 'Friend' " with Little Big Town's Phillip Sweet and yearning "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" with Old Crow Medicine Show. Information:

Artist: Waylon Jennings
Title: The Outlaw Performance (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings, Johnny Cash
Tell me more: Fans of the late outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings are in luck. The newly-released The Outlaw Performance (available on DVD or via digital) features a special 1978 concert featuring Jennings playing in front of a sold-out crowd in Nashville, TN. The presentation features Jennings and his band in concert, with the concert footage combined with Jennings' own words adding depth to the performance. Highlights find him recalling his connection with country music and music friends in his life; he talks about key songs, why he learned how to play lead guitar, and his admiration and connection with Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly and George JonesAfter kicking things off with the uptempo opener "Are You Ready for the Country?" (written by Neil Young), Jennings delivers one great track after another including the rowdy "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean" (enhanced by his sharp lead guitar work), a cover of Robert Lee McDill's tender ballad "Amanda," Merle Haggard's "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down" the confessional "You Asked Me To" and the audience favorite "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys." He closes out the set with his 1973 classic "Honky Tonk Heroes" and his 1975 number one hit "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way." Bonus features on the release include "Friends Remember The Outlaw" with archival interviews with George Jones, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Jennings' long-time drummer Richie Albright. The full concert without the narration is also included. Information:

Robert Kinsler

Friday, May 22, 2020

Steve Earle & The Dukes Release "Ghosts of West Virginia" - full album Live Stream details

Don't let this news slip by today, and make sure to check out news related to the new Steve Earle & The Dukes album below, and catch Earle's solo performance today too...Posted by Robert Kinsler


Steve Earle & The Dukes will release their anticipated Ghosts of West Virginia today (May 22, 2020) via New West Records.  The album centers on the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion that killed twenty-nine men in that state in 2010, making it one of the worst mining disasters in American history. Its first seven songs were written for and performed by Earle in Coal Country, a play with music about the disaster. Opening to critical acclaim on March 3, 2020 at the Public Theater in NYC, the production was postponed after only two weeks due to COVID-19. Despite its abbreviated run, Earle has received a nomination in the “Outstanding Music in a Play” category for the 65th Annual Drama Desk Awards. Ghosts of West Virginia has received widespread praise with Rolling Stone stating, “Like the best of Earle’s early work, Ghosts of West Virginia is an album that gets the details right,” while the Associated Press said “Earle’s empathetic attempt to address the divide has resulted in one of his best albums.” In their 4 out of 5 Star review, American Songwriter called the album “... one of his most potent ever which, in a career with 20 releases is saying plenty. Ghosts of West Virginia displays once again that Steve Earle is one of America’s most captivating, unvarnished, provocative and talented singer/songwriters.” 
Today, Billboard has premiered Ghosts of West Virginia in its entirety. Listen to the album in full, a day ahead of its release HERE.  
Earle will commemorate the release of Ghosts of West Virginia with a live, solo performance of the full album and post-show conversation today, Friday, May 22nd at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT. Tens of thousands of hardworking, never give up, one day longer sisters and brothers in the Labor Movement from across America have been invited to attend the virtual concert experience.
The Union, God and Country-Saluting Labor event will be simulcast on Steve Earle’s Official Facebook and YouTube platforms and shared with the United Mine Workers of America, United Steel Workers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers and others. During the post-show Q&A, Steve will answer questions from union members about the new album, his thoughts on the labor movement and more. 
Phil Smith, Director of Communications and Governmental Affairs for the UMWA says “Steve Earle has long captured true blue-collar spirit in his music, but with this album he has also captured the struggles of West Virginia coal miners who put their lives and health on the line every single day – far too many of them without the protection of a union contract. The choice coal operators give to nonunion miners is not whether they want a union or not, it is whether they want a job or not. The miners at the Upper Big Branch mine voted against organizing a UMWA Local Union on two separate occasions as a result of campaigns of outright fear and intimidation by their employer, Massey Energy. They knew their mine was not safe. But they needed the job. That was the choice they had. God Bless those miners who lost their lives that terrible day in April, and God Bless their families today. It IS about the blood.”
Lisa Jordan, Director of Education/Membership Development of the United Steel Workers adds “Steve Earle knows the value of working ‘union’ in terms of health and safety, and wages and benefits. Most of all, he knows the voice of union labor. Whether from the workers or the family of miners who have died, his songs show a true understanding of the texture of their lives, the realities, and the significance of coal mining in this often-forgotten part of America. This performance will salute all those that have to go to work every day to support their families and to make sure America runs-the nurses and laborers, the steelworkers and teachers, the public sector workers and tire-builders, the teamsters and the grocery clerks, the mineworkers and the academics. All those that believe in democracy in our communities and workplaces, this is for you.” 
In ten deftly drawn, powerfully conveyed sonic portraits, Earle explores the historical role of coal in rural communities. With Ghosts of West Virginia, he says that he was interested in exploring a new approach to his songwriting. “I’ve already made the preaching-to-the-choir album,” he says, specifically alluding to his 2004 Grammy Award winning The Revolution Starts...Now. As anyone politically attuned as Earle understands, there are times when the faithful need music that will raise their spirits and toughen their resolve. But he came to believe that our times might also benefit from something that addresses a different audience, songs written from a point of view that he is particularly capable of rendering. 
“You can’t begin communicating with people unless you understand the texture of their lives, the realities that provide significance to their days. That is the entire point of Ghosts of West Virginia. I thought that, given the way things are now, it was maybe my responsibility to make a record that spoke to and for people who didn’t vote the way that I did but that doesn’t mean we don’t have anything in common. We need to learn how to communicate with each other. My involvement in this project is my little contribution to that effort. And the way to do that — and to do it impeccably — is simply to honor those guys who died at Upper Big Branch,” says Earle.
Steve Earle’s Ghosts of West Virginia will be available across digital retailers, on compact disc, and standard black vinyl. A limited Yellow & Blue West Virginia Swirl colored LP edition will be available at Independent Retailers. An extremely limited to 500 Smoke/Coal Colored Vinyl Edition autographed by Steve Earle is available for now via NEW WEST RECORDS. 

I last covered Earle give an acoustic performance when he performed at City National Grove of Anaheim six years ago (May 24, 2014). You can read my review of that memorable performance here.