Tag Archives: country

George Jones Talks About His Greatest Lines

My review of Rich Kienzle’s new biography The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones, is in Sunday’s Washington Post. There’s probably some other stuff in there that would be good to read, too, I bet.

Here’s a paragraph I had to cut for space.

Amid his dutiful, carefully sourced recounting of booze-lubricated recording sessions and singles, Kienzle highlights some amusingly unexpected sides of Jones, like when he told his ex-wife Tammy Wynette in a 1980 interview in Country Music (a magazine Kienzle contributed to for 24 of its 31 years) that if he had to find a second career he would enjoy being an interior decorator. He might fare better than he did as the proprietor of three outdoor country music parks, which he opened at three different points in his life and quickly abandoned. He was also wanton enough with his brand to lend it to random products: George Jones Country Sausage and, also, troublingly, George Jones Country Gold Dog Food and Cat Food. Kienzle notes that a TV spot for the latter was called “George Jones Talks About His Greatest Lines.” If a TV commercial has to have a title, that’s either an unfortunate one or a brilliant one for a pitch from a man whose life and career were so damaged by an eight-year dalliance with cocaine.

I wouldn’t ordinarily be so flip discussing something as serious as an addiction problem, but that ad beggars belief.

No Guilty Pleasures: Talking with alt-country chanteuse Lydia Loveless

Lydia Loveless (Patrick Crawford/Blackletter)

I spoke with the great singer-songwriter (and Ke$ha song-improver) Lydia Loveless for the Washington City Paper’s Arts Desk in advance of her show at the 9:30 Club Saturday night in support of Old 97’s, (sic) one of my favorite bands. Read a gently edited transcript here.

When the 97’s last came through town, in October 2012, I had a really good talk with their frontmanRhett Miller. In 2008 I talked to their second singer-songwriter, Murry Hammond, too.

Deleted Scene: Hayes Carll

Hayes Carll's devotion to the songwriter's art entails contemplating sex with Ann Coulter if necessary.

I’m a big fan of Austin singer-songwriter Hayes Carll, whose work I have written about before. I talked to him last week for Washingtonian; you can read that here. In honor of his appearance at the Birchmere tonight, I’d like to share a question I asked him when last I interviewed him, in June of this year. I wasn’t able to use what he said in the piece I wrote then, so here it is now for you enjoyment and/or edification. Take it away, Me. Continue reading

Christopher “Chris” Klimek on Kristoffer Kristian “Kris” Kristofferson

Photo: Marina Chavez

So Saturday, me and my pal @HeatherMG went to see the guy who wrote “Me and Bobby McGee.” This short review is kinda buried in today’s Paper of Record, and split over two pages web-wise, so I’m posting it here to make things easier. For all of us.

Kris Kristofferson is no hurry, but he doesn’t like to waste time. At the Music Center at Strathmore last night, he marched onstage in his customary black-shirt-black-jeans-black-boots regalia at exactly the announced go-time of 8 p.m., launching with little fanfare into a generous 30-song solo acoustic revue of his bone-deep body of work. A hardy 74, the Rhodes Scholar and former Army helicopter pilot moved lightly from one coiled, economical story-song to the next, punctuating each tune with an abrupt “Thank you!” or better still, “True story!” rather than allow the last note to hang in the air — as they can, within the Music Center’s sound-abetting walls. His tectonic growl would be frightening if it didn’t let it break so freely into laughter, or if you couldn’t see that beatific smile. Continue reading

King of Americana

So Elvis Costello is playing in town tonight. I am a fan. I admire a lot of things about Elvis besides the fact that he’s written hundreds of songs, a very high percentage of which I find listenable, dozens I think are pretty great, and at least a handful I don’t know how I lived without. (Not ’til I was 22 did a pal give me a copy of the The Very Best of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, if you can believe.)

Admittedly, my can’t-live-without E.C. playlist does not include anything from, say, the album he made with Anne Sofie von Otter, or the one he made with Burt Bacharach. But I commend his adventurousness and versatility, and especially his work ethic: He’s always giving songs away, interviewing Lou Reed or Bruce Springsteen or Bill Clinton on premium cable, singing on other people’s records, teaching himself musical notation 20 years into his career, composing a ballet, making unaccountable cameos in movies like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, writing an opera, and here and there tossing off another perfectly nasty rock song like it’s nothing. Dude always has four projects cooking and and nine more on the back burner, and he seems to pay for his collection of funny hats by flying around playing concerts that seldom repeat a setlist and regularly clock in around two-and-a-half hours. So: Respect.

Of course, Elvis’s productivity and idiomatic wanderlust are the selfsame qualities that can make him seem like an annoying magpie, especially to listeners who only want to hear him spit venom about Liv Tyler’s mom while keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas open up the throttle. Continue reading

Shoot Out the Lights: Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs at IOTA

Just how retro is the strain of handmade country-blues peddled by Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs? During their ramshackle hour-long set at IOTA last night, the guitarist/percussionist/singer Lawyer Dave introduced two different tunes as “a song about domestic abuse,” and in neither case did he follow-up with a Chris Brown joke.

Violence between lovers has always been one of the major themes of this music, of course. No one goes to counseling in the blues! Continue reading

Live Last Night: Elvis Costello & The Sugarcanes

Elvis Costello 2009
No matter how many Will Ferrell flicks or Stephen Colbert Christmas specials Elvis Costello turns up in, the circa 1978 image of him as the logorheic and self-immolating Angry Young Man endures.

But in the latter two-thirds of his wildly eclectic career, he’s evolved into something more like the Martin Scorcese of music, as much a historian and curator as he is an original artist. Continue reading

Live Two Nights Ago: John Doe & The Sadies at IOTA

Photo by Derek von Essen / courtesy Yep Roc Records

Photo by Derek von Essen / courtesy Yep Roc Records

The great Los Angeles punkabilly quartet known as X had already made their best albums by 1985, when three-fourths of its lineup joined guitarist Dave Alvin to form the country and western offshoot The Knitters. That band took 20 years to brew a follow-up, but X/Knitters co-frontman John Doe’s sand-polished voice instantly proved to be such a natural and expressive delivery system for old-timey C&W that you knew (or at least hoped) he’d eventually get around to cutting a record like “Country Club”— his month-old set of (primarily) Bakersfield-centric “countrypolitan” classics, recorded with Toronto-based roots eclecticians The Sadies.
Continue reading

Little Big Town with Zac Brown Band (or vice-versa) at the 9:30

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There’s something paradoxical about screaming the lyrics of a Buffet-esque ode to taking it easy at mellow-harshing volume. But don’t tell that the 1,200 or so militant back-kickers who packed at the 9:30 Club Wednesday night to declaim the chorus of “Toes” (as in, “toes in the water, ass in the sand / Not a care in the world, cold beer in my hand”) back at Georgia’s Zac Brown band. Y’alls have never been here before, have you?

Riding the wave of their No. 1 country single “Chicken Fried” — a slice of (literally) blue jeans and cold beer-venerating Americana that reads as reassuring and/or unbearably hokey in these waning days of empire — the group’s homespun sound is built around Brown’s warm, James Taylor-ific vocal timbre and Jimmy De Martini’s white-lightning fiddle. Fittingly, their 55-minute set opening for the country vocal quartet Little Big Town included a cover of the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” though Brown later embroidered his wanderlust ballad, “Free,” with a few verses of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” as if to demonstrate he has influences other than just the ones you can hear.

The result seems to land in the sweet spot between the Dave Matthews Band and Kenny Chesney. Perhaps “sweet” isn’t the word everyone would use to describe that thar spot, but it’s a big tent with room for dudes in knitted caps (like the one sported by Brown himself), dudes in ball caps, and dudes in cowboy hats. Also, women! Brown’s tendency to bathe even songs about a divorced father’s estrangement from his kids (“Highway 20 Ride”) in soothing acoustic sunshine may guarantee him a lucrative recording career (well, unless his fans from the country sphere turn out to be as enthusiastic about file-sharing as his jam-band constituency) but stunts like the De Martini-Brown fiddle-guitar duel were what elevated the band’s live show above the level of their often-generic (if well-crafted) material.

The Foundation, the group’s major-label debut, has been lodged in the Top Ten on Billboard’s country albums chart since its mid-November release, and is currently No. 39 on the Billboard 200. The band’s current lineup has been in place since 2004, honing its skills in some 200 gigs per year.

After Brown’s opening set, the 9:30 crowd seemed to thin slightly, but Little Big Town still managed to defend their headliner status despite strong competition from the undercard. Their energetic 90-minute set included slick, faithful covers of songs by their most obvious influences — those would be Fleetwood Mac (“The Chain”) and The Eagles, whose “Heartache Tonight” brought the evening to a rousing, high-fiving close. The group uses the former’s two-man, two-woman composition and the latter’s close vocal harmonies to impart their derivative material with more than enough flash and verve to keep the train rolling.

Which isn’t to suggest you could guess their every move. The group might have been dismayed by the 9:30 crowd’s refusual to quiet down for their a capella performance of “Lost,” but “Boondocks” — which pairs a hometown pride (or home-“town” pride) lyric to a made-for-the stage Appalaichain stomp — just about brought the house down. And opening their encore set with a cover of “Life in a Northern Town,” the mid-80s hit by the Dream Academy? You didn’t see that one coming.

A shorter version of this review appears in today’s Paper of Record.

For the Coal Miner’s Daughter, a Family Affair

jack_white-loretta_lynn-grammy-kiss

Lucky me, I got to review her 9:30 gig for the Paper of Record.

The Setlist:

Ernie Lynn:
01 I Ain’t as Good as I Once Was
02 Feel Like Jesse James

Patsy Lynn & Peggy Lynn:
03 All I Gotta Say About That
04 Tulsa Time

Loretta:
05 Let Your Love Flow
06 You’re Looking at Country
07 When the Tingle Becomes a Chill
08 I Wanna Be Free
09 Here I Am Again
10 False start of “You’re Looking at Country” / You Ain’t Woman Enough
11 Blue Kentucky Girl
12 Portland, Oregon
13 Fist City
14 Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man (w/ Bart)
15 Feelins (w/ drunken Ernie Lynn)
16 Rated X (by her granddaughter, Tayla Lynn)
17 Coal Dust (In My Veins) (Tayla Lynn)
18 Honky Tonk Girl
19 One’s on the Way
20 The Pill
21 How Long (by the three dudes)
22 Man of Constant Sorrow (by the three dudes)
23 Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven
24 Who Says God Is Dead
25 Where No One Stands Alone
26 Coal Miner’s Daughter

Emmylooooooooooooooooouuuuuuu!

Photo by Rocky Schenck.

My Weekend section debut is a review of Emmylou Harris’s fine new album, All I Intended to Be. I’m also covering her Wolf Trap show on Sunday; lucky me. And I actually interviewed her last week for a short profile, also out today.

Nice lady, she. Can sing a little, too.