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.

Brilliant, right?

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.

Greg Brown (& Bo Ramsey) Cold & Dark & Wet

I only recently came upon this fine track ( don’t even know which album the original can be found on). Given that it’s indeed cold, dark and wet outside where I live, I thought it fitting to post this today.

Also, Bo Ramsey (as usual) kills it on lead guitar – no lead guitarist I know can say so much with so few notes. Outstanding.

As an additional plus, the video and audio quality in this video are excellent (there are more Greg Brown videos of this gig from the same user, do yourself a favour and check them out also if you like this).

The Honey Dewdrops : Tangled Country

The Honey Dewdrops Tangled Country album cover jpeg

Tangled Country is the 4th album by Baltimore’s The Honey Dewdrops. Not a trace to be found of the Wire’s gritty, ugly urbanism on it, thankfully.

The Honey Dewdrops are on the way to carving themselves a niche of exceedingly fine purveyors of the lonesome, gentle side of Alternative Country. Young was the first track of theirs I ever heard, and it quickly became clear to me, that their music was exactly my cup of tea. It’s a poignant summarization of the feeling many of us can relate to (certainly I can) of not being that young anymore and finding yourself slightly bewildered by the changes taking place to anybody else’s lifestyle, except you. The only thing preventing it from becoming a classic for me are its rather modern lyrics with their allusions to flat screen TV’s, Bluetooth and Facebook.

There’s a number of outstanding songs on here, such as the aforementioned Young. But this excellent song gets topped by Loneliest Songs – which is simply stunningly beautiful and lovely. One of the best songs I have heard in a long while. Plus, it’s pretty much the only song I can think of on which the bass is the instrument I like best, it’s plucking away wonderfully and forlornly in the background. Their masterpiece of a song so far, I’d say (not having heard any of their other records). Also excellent is the gorgeous Numb, the song most veering towards conventional country music sounds, I love the harmonica on here a whole lot.

The instrumental album closer Remington is quite amazing too, although it’s making do without Laurie Wortman’s enchanting vocals which are contributing substantially to making most songs on Tangled Country especially wonderful.

I am most probably not the only that has to think about Gillian Welch & David Rawlings listening to their music. And the fact that they do not quite reach that other, slightly more famous couple’s mile high class, can only be attributed to Welch and Rawlings being so far above and beyond anybody else in the field of this kind of music, at least in my book. BUT, on this very fine album, they definitely do come rather close to that on a number of songs. An album to cherish for a long, long time.

A fine live version of Loneliest Songs (without that fabulous bass of the album version, unfortunately).

 

Robert Earl Keen : Ride

It’s laughable I know, but this is the first time I consciously listen to a Robert Earl Keen song and I haven’t even got one of his albums (yeah, I know).

Don’t care much for the video to this, but there wasn’t a really good sounding version I could find of this on YouTube so I choose this one. It’s a smashing song. And perfect for a day you are fed up with your job…