Mary Gauthier is a fast rising star in what she calls “American music”. She’s been hailed by publications as diverse as No Depression and the New York Times. Even the Reader’s Digest has named her the best about-to-hit country artists.
A latecomer to music, she started writing songs at the age of 35 after going into rehab and managing to stay sober for ten years. That’s no small feat, but then neither is making music this honest and authentic.
“The Revolution Starts Now” (Artemis Records) is not Steve Earle’s best work but it’s still pretty dang good. He threw it together in a hurry to get his message out during the 2004 presidential campaign and it serves the purpose well. Earle’s songs, like his politics, are not subtle.
A sense of betrayal runs through the songs on this disc. Most point out the senselessness of the war in Iraq and the dismal state of affairs here in the U.S. In particular, “Rich Man’s War” tells parallel tales of young people who are pawns in wars started by older powerbrokers who themselves are not at risk.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Whiskeytown live.
It was a Bloodshot Records package tour that had them and Hazeldine opening for Old 97s at the Sons of Hermann Hall. I had been listening to their debut “Faithless Street” in pretty heavy rotation and was I ever psyched for an alt country throwdown.
They didn’t let me down. Lead singer Ryan Adams was all rock-and-roll attitude and, after spending the evening downstairs in the bar chatting up the old bartender, really seemed to relish being up there on that legendary stage.
Adam Carroll, a singer/songwriter from – you guessed it – Texas, views life at a slant and weaves vivid stories out of ordinary commonplace events, fleshing them out with real and imagined details. All but one of these songs can be found on his two earlier releases “Lookin’ Out the Screen Door” and “South of Town.”
Like his previous albums, the live album (Downhole Records) has a stripped down sound –downhome vocals and a guitar accented with some plaintive harmonica action and a little bit of Jew’s harp. Carroll has an eye for the whimsical and his understated sense of humor is inserted into each song. His stories are full of hillbillies and city slickers, waitresses and race car drivers, snow cone men, whiskey throats, and trailer parks.
Dave Alvin’s obviously been doing a lot of reminiscing.
His latest studio effort, “Ashgrove,” released by Yep Roc Records, is full of looking back and longing: for a simpler time, for lost friends, lost love, and lost youth. And as a little bonus, it boasts another one of his patented narratives from the grave.