Tag Archives: Alternative Country
Quit While I’m Ahead (Turnpike Troubadours Cover Version)
Richard Inman – Heartbroken Troubadour Of The Prairie Provinces
Richard Inman certainly does keep a low profile on Social Media (good for him) so I cannot go too much into the specifics of his background. I assume he’s First Nation, and, according to his only (as far as I’m aware) online presence on Bandcamp currently living in the small Alberta, Canada town of Pincher Creek.
Of course most of his songs can be found on YouTube, but fortunately there are also quite a few of his live performances to be found which are mainly acoustic solo performances which is fine by me, as that how I like his music best anyway. Just him, a guitar, and his more often than not excellent songs.
His first EP and LP are from 2015 and he’s also released another LP in 2016, but 2019’s Hasta La Vista is the earliest of his records I know (so far) and probably my favourite as it’s the most stripped-down and acoustic album. It does feature a whole load of outstanding and lovely songs. First track Thanksgiving Day is the first of his songs I got to know and loved it right away. It’s setting the scene for where he is coming from and what he’s writing about perfectly. As the name implies it’s about the yearly get together of a family, with reverence for the protagonists’s grandmother and a little mischief all rolled into one sentence ‘leave the beer outside behind the cars, grandma don’t like liquor bless her heart’ with a sparse backing of acoustic guitar, banjo and accordion. What I Did Wrong leads onto a well-travelled path throughout many of his songs, of lost love and regret, surely not new ground covered with that, but it’s done very well indeed and spiced up with the minutiae of small-town life in Western Canada’s prairie provinces. In which lies perhaps strong part of appeal in his music for me personally. I am not from that part of the world myself, but have travelled it a few times and what I observed on these occasions and the things Inman is writing about does encapsulate my perception of living there vividly. Sunday Morning, Pt. 2 is very much in the same vein, both musically and lyrically, but as can be said about pretty much all of the songs on the album, all the better for it. Corinna’s On Main Street in contrast is a bit more cheerful in a bluesyCountry kind of way and is dealing with his life on the road as a musician (with Corinna, I assume, being the small town prostitute) encountered in one town. No Rules is a brief taped answer phone machine/mailbox message with the opening chords of next rack Lilac played around them. Lilac itself is gorgeous. Brief, ruminative and simply accompanied (acoustic guitar and banjo) – a lovely song. Perhaps THE highlight however for me on the album is Joplin Blues (For Aaron R Schorzman) but don’t take my word for it, listen for yourself here.
Album closer and title track Hasta La Vista is done again in a different and more band oriented arrangement on 2020’s Faded Love Better Days, as are Thanksgiving Day and Red River Racer. Especially the latter works brilliantly in this faster version (although I do love the more acoustic version on Hasta La Vista a whole lot too – it’s just a fab song). And it probably is the only song around written about a female stock car driver. Raining In December sounds perhaps a bit unusual compared with the other tracks on the album, sure it’s melancholic as hell, but the prominent lap/pedal steel guitar throughout the song does lend the lilting atmosphere an almost Psych-Pop-like touch, which is usually not heard in his music, but works very well indeed.
New Years Blues is an upbeat Country-Rock track (done even better imo in this acoustic version on YouTube ). The jaunty Truest Form Of Love somehow does remind me of John Print, especially lyrically. Like Prine, Inman has a knack for writing highly affective and accessible, musically rather simply built catchy songs. Although many of his best songs (especially the more folky ones). however, do remind me of Townes Van Zandt, but I guess he’s heard that before more than once. On this album it’s most obvious on the album closer Holding You Was Worth More, a sad melancholic Folk (although Inman apparently doesn’t consider his music Folk at all, but I guess that’s a matter of definition) song only accompanied by a fingerpicked acoustic and a beautiful Dobro as lead guitar – gorgeous.
His most recent album Come Back Through (2022) does flesh out the sound of the previous record further into classic Country and Roots Rock territory with galloping drums and a lot of steel guitar work, Loving’ Rose being the most pronounced example of the first with a guitar intro and solo straight out of Bakersfield ca. 1965. My favorite song on here for me is the sad 100000 Tears which once more deals with lost love, like many of his songs, but is appropriately arranged with only a fingerpicked guitar and harmonica – the classic folky way, once again reminiscent of T. Van Zandt, ending with the touching chorus ‘… so I sat down in the kitchen, I couldn’t bring myself to cry, you can only spend so many tears, asking yourself why’. Waiting On The River is a lovely mid-tempo song with a prominent fiddle, while Cut Fence (Let God Sort ’em Out) is about a forest fire threatening a man’s livestock, a song rooted firmly in the soil Inman is from. The Bottle Or The Truth is another standout track for me on the album with big chords strummed and a tempo that alternates between mid- and up-tempo in the verses and chorus respectively and an affecting melody, of which Richard Inman writes a great many. Listen here:
The last three songs on the album Come Back Through, Kings On The Corner and Pictures are all melancholic as fxxx with the first two sounding almost as good as Son Volt’s Tear Stained Eye and that is very high praise indeed coming from me. And Pictures is ending a very fine album on a more acoustic note (with a beautiful fiddle again).
Richard Inman certainly doesn’t break any new ground with his music compared with the few references I used above, but he does what he does damn well indeed, and for me is up with the best in the field between folky acoustic goodness and more downbeat Americana Roots Rock.
Richard Inman : What I Did Wrong
Woody Guthrie did it in the 1940’s, Bob Dylan in the ’60’s, Steve Earle has been doing it since the 1980’s and in 2022 we have Richard Inman.
Rebels With A Cause – How Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle Saved Country Music
Read this brief, but spot-on story about the new blood being infused into the Country Music scene in the mid-1980’s over at Acoustic Guitar Magazine. I am glad to be able to truthfully state that I was with them both (and a host of other artists mentioned in the article) from early on as I bought both Guitar Town and Guitars Cadillacs Etc., Etc. pretty much when they came out (on vinyl back then of course.
Rebels With A Cause How Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle Saved Country Music
Dwight Yoakam : Guitars Cadillacs
Steve Earle : My Old Friend The Blues
Plus, Steve Earle can be seen playing a Martin 15 Series guitar in the article closely related to the one I do (although he undoubtedly does so much better than me)
The Walking Roots Band : Come Down, O Love Divine
Uncle Tupelo : Looking For A Way Out
I made this slide show to one of my (many) favorite Uncle Tupelo songs (from Still Feel Gone) a few years back. It’s not prefect by any means but I wanted to capture the feeling of living in small towns (in Texas in this case) and ‘looking for a way out’. Whether or not that is always the right way forward or not I am not too sure about, but I guess a lot of people can relate to that urge, I certainly can or rather could when I was younger.
The Pines : Where Something Wild Still Grows
This is an unofficial video I found on YouTube to celebrate the arrival of my copy of The Pines’ latest, splendid album Above The Prairie (released early February 2016). More info and my review of the album to follow in the next few weeks. In the meantime, all that’s left for me to say is: Enjoy.
Back Road Bound’s Favorite Songs in 2015 (Pt. 02)
The Second part of my annual music roundup.
Jack White : Did You Hear John Hurt? (from Another Day, Another Time)
The Avett Brothers : That’s How I Got To Memphis (from Another Day, Another Time)
Danny Schmidt : Cries Of Shadows (from Owls)
Eliza Gilkyson : Peace Call (from Land Of Milk & Honey)
Bruce Cockburn : Pacing The Cage (from Slice O Life)
The Honey Dewdrops : Loneliest Songs (from Tangled Country)
Eric Bibb : Sittin’ In A Hotel Room (from Deeper In The Well)
Joan Shelley : No More Shelter (from Over And Even)
Son Volt : True To Life (Live At The Bottom Line 2/12/96) (from Trace)
Donovan : Epistle To Derroll (from A Gift From A Flower To A Garden)
Dar Williams : If I Wrote You (from Many Great Companions)
Bill Morrissey & Greg Brown : Fishing With Bill (from Friend Of Mine)
The Cowboy Junkies : Misguided Angel (from The Trinity Sessions)
Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer : Way Over Yonder in The Minor Key (from Little Blue Egg)
Back Road Bound’s Favorite Songs in 2015 (Pt.1)
Wait, you think, that can’t be right. Eric Andersen’s I Shall Go Unbounded on a 2015 mix? Damn right you are, it dates from 1966. But with all of my year end mixes they only contains a fraction of new music. I have neither got the time nor the money (yeah, I know we’ve got filesharing nowadays) to listen/buy all the new releases I could be interested in. And I am always discovering both new and old music, so just putting new music on a mix doesn’t really make that much sense to me. I originally intended to make two mixes but as I am, as usual, somewhat short of time this will be the only one , at least for now, as the second part is already pretty much finished so I might upload that at some point.
You can listen to the mix over on my Mixcloud page:
Eric Andersen : I Shall Go Unbounded (from ‘Bout Changes And Things)
Believe it or not, I hadn’t really heard about Eric Andersen until last year, but once I heard Thirsty Boots, I immediately was hooked on his Dylanesque acoustic guitar/harmonica sounds. He certainly wrote brilliant songs judging from the uniformly excellent ones on ‘Bout Changes And Things, and his voice is a bit better than Dylan’s.
Robert Earl Keen : This World Is Not My Home (from Happy Prisoner (The Bluegrass Sessions))
Happy Prisoner without a doubt is my favorite album released in 2015. Why it is ranked so far down in some of the Best Of 2015 lists (e.g. somewhere way down in the 30′ s in No Depression) is absolutely beyond me. Nothing about this album couldn’t be called perfect: Neither the choice of songs (most of them very old or traditionals) or their rough-around-the-edges treatment (take Wayfaring Stranger, doubtlessly recorded hundreds of times, sounds totally fresh and new on here) could possibly have been done better in a Bluegrass context. Genius.
Dave Carter with Tracy Grammer : When I Go (from When I Go)
One or the other of Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer’s releases was always right next to my CD player for most of this year, and I probably listened to their music more than anybody else’s during the course of 2015. Due to Dave Carter’s early passing, they didn’t release too many albums, but every single one of them I own so far enchanted me to the highest degree. Theirs was a sound as gentle as imaginative, yet steeped in age-old traditions and the lyrics where alway astounding and captivating with their own kind of spiritualistic American realism. Their music is as pure and invigorating as a mountain stream.
Eric Bibb : Shingle By Shingle (from An Evenng with Eric Bibb)
Yet another masterful release (recorded in 2002 and released in 2007) by Eric Bibb, an artist I have grown very, very fond of in the past 12 months. This concert shows him only accompanied by a bass player, in fine mood and on top of his game. All he needs to make a release as powerful and convincing as this if you ask me, although he is known not to limit his stylistic expressions and has got an all-encompassing sense of musical openness. Soulful sounds and lyrics, whether they are slightly melancholic (yet hopeful) as on Shingle By Shingle or full of glee as on Lonesome Valley or I Heard The Angels Singing, they are played to perfection in a nevertheless spontaneous way.
Conor Oberst : Four Strong Winds (from Another Day, Another Time)
Four Strong Winds is taken from the mighty fine concert performance inspired by The Coen Brother’s fab Inside Llewyn Davis. This is exactly how I like Mr. Bright Eyes/Desaparecidos like best. Just him, his brittle, still young sounding voice, a few acoustic guitars and background vocals (by Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings), and a splendid song (by Canadian Folk/Country legend Ian Tyson). Lovely and melancholic.
Dar Williams : Southern California Wants To Be Western New York (from Mortal City)
A youthful Dar Williams convinces with this simple, affecting Acoustic Folk gem taken from one of her early releases, Mortal City is chock-full of gorgeous and intensively arranged songs, of which Southern California… is just one of my favorite songs.
The Pines : Banks Of The Ohio (from Pasture Folk Songs)
The best of the young-ish Alternative Country/Dark Folk bands to come out of the US in a very long time in my opinion, The Pines don’t disappoint with this brief in between 7-song EP (read my review here). The traditional Banks Of The Ohio has hardly been done more melancholic and lovely than on here and is just one of the 7 (yes, that’s right) highlights on Pasture for me. Their next full-length album is due for release in early February 2016 (again on Red House Records), so watch this space.
Greg Brown : Poor Backslider (from Down In There)
As soon as I heard and saw Greg Brown’s fantastic, spontaneous live rendition of Poor Backslider on the highly recommended Brown documentary Hacklebarney Tunes (available as part of the fine If I had Known CD/DVD compilation) I fell in love with the sad tale of a Hillbilly alcoholic going through all the motions that stem from such a scenario. This is a full-steam version with a fabulous slide guitar by Mr. Bo Ramsey (of course it is fabulous) and a brilliantly told tale straight of the American Heartland – who could do such a song better than Mr. Brown? Nobody, that’s who, if you ask me.
Bill Morrissey : Small Town On The River (from The Essential Collection)
Small Town In The River for me has become one of Bill Morrissey’s signature songs. Like most of his songs it’s a wonderfully melancholic and beautiful tale of things not going too well, this time for a whole town.
Joan Shelley : Something Small (from Electric Ursa)
Read my recent review of Joan Shelley’s 2014 album Electric Ursa here
Dave Rawlings Machine : The Trip (from Nashville Obsolete)
The Trip is by far the most outstanding song on Nashville Obsolete (all of the almost 11 minutes of it). Totally relaxed and brilliantly executed and arranged (naturally I should say, this is a Dave Rawlings/Gillian Welch release after all)
Lucy Kaplansky : Every Grain Of Sand (from A Nod To Bob 2)
Like many songs on A Nod To Bob 2, Every Grain Of Sand made me realise (again) just how good a songwriter Bob Dylan is. Just listen to the lyrics on Every Grain Of Sand, that the stripped-down piano arrangement and Kaplansky’s vocals are quite beautiful does help too of course.
Jorma Kaukonen : San Francisco Bay Blues (from 2003-08-08 The Bottom Line New York City, NY)
Another artist I didn’t really have on my radar until a few months ago. Kaukonen is of course something of a legend, as a member of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, but I doubt there are many of both bands releases I would like better than the 35 song, 3 and a half hour set of expertly crafted, acoustic Swinging/Rock’n’Rolling and otherwise infectious Folk/Country-Blues fest that is this 2003 live set. Almost every song’s a hit and the musicianship (with a Mandolin and a slide guitar player accompanying him here) on display here is outstanding.
Jimmy LaFave : Not Dark Yet (from A Nod To Bob 2)
This version of one of the, for me, comparatively few highlights of Dylan’s later career, is outstanding due to its relaxed and wistful mood and the perfect, but not too perfect arrangement. Time for me to delve into LaFave’s other records I guess.
Judy Collins : Bob Dylan’s Dream (from Judy Collins Sings Dylan)
Bob Dylan’s Dream has always been a particular Dylan fave of mine, and this version is one of the best (and certainly the most beautiful) songs on an album that is, in parts, not doing Dylan’s songs justice, as quite a few songs are arranged far too tame and MOR for my taste. That said, there are a few other songs also worth hearing, but this is probably the most successfully realised one.
Donovan : Why Do You Treat Me Like You Do? (from Catch The Wind)
With Donovan being from Scotland, this is a departure from the usual and heavily North American-centric theme of this here blog. But Why Do You Treat me…? sounds suitably Dylanesque and is downright tongue in cheek fun