Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best New Music of 2011

What a great year for new music!  This list features some of my favorites from the past year.  It's a wide range of genres, certainly not limited to "Americana," but all worth a listen. 

Best of 2011

1. Middle Brother – Middle Brother
2. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
3. Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
4. Hayes Carll – KMAG-YOYO
5. Tune-Yards – WhoKill
6. J. Mascis – Several Shades of Why
7. Johnny Corndawg – Down on the Bikini Line
8. Drive By Truckers – Go-Go Boots
9. Sarah Jarosz – Follow Me Down
10. Lucinda Williams - Blessed
11. Jason Isbell – Here We Rest
12. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
13. Gillian Welch – The Harrow and The Harvest
14. Wilco – Whole Love
15. Yuck – Yuck
16. Ryan Adams – Dirty Rain
17. Amy Winehouse – Lioness: Hidden Treasures
18. The Black Keys – El Camino
19. Foster the People – Torches
20. Man Man – Life Fantastic
21. The Black Angels – Phosgene Nightmare
22. Alison Kraus and Union Station – Paper Airplane
23. Chris Thile and Michael Daves – Sleep With One Eye Open
24. Tom Waits – Bad As Me
25. Portugal the Man – In the Mountain in the Cloud

Also Worth Noting...

Amanda Shires – Crazy Lightning; Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts; Seryn - This is Where We Are; Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose; Malcom Holcombe – To Drink the Rain; Deer Tick – Divine Providence; Radiohead – King of Limbs; Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator; Greg Allman – Lowcountry Blues; TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light; Umphrey’s McGee – Death by Stereo; John Hiatt – Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hyms; The Jayhawks – Mockingbird Time; The Gourds – Old Mad Joy; Primus – Green Naugahyde; The Head and the Heart – Self-Titled; Gomez – Whatever’s on Your Mind; The Decembrists – The King is Dead; Steve Earle – I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive; Big Daddy Love – Let it Grow; The V-Roys – Sooner or Later; Trombone Shorty – For True; Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, Yo-Yo Ma – The Goat Rodeo Sessions

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Museum of Musical Insturments

Here's a cool site you can really get lost exploring!  The sections of Woody Guthrie and Mark Twain are particularly rich.  The story of Mark Twain's 1835 Martin guitar will blow your mind.

Bound For Glory: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie

The Private Life of Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jonny Corndawg Interview (and new video)

Great interview - Jonny calls it his "best" ever - from No Directions



Here's a great video of a different interview:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Those Darlins

Suppose the Carter Family sisters had a time-machine, traveled into the future, and started a roller-derby team, you might get something like Those Darlins!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Give Me The Banjo"

Thanks to PBS for putting together this awesome history of the Banjo in America. Narrated by Steve Martin, this documentary pretty much covers it all.

Give Me The Banjo

Pete Seeger's Banjo:
"This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender"

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Ever since Sam Bush and Company formed New Grass Revival in the 1970s the term "newgrass" has been somewhat problematic. When Bill Monroe pioneered the genre of "bluegrass" out of traditional "old-time" music, he (IMHO) never meant to pigeon hole his particular style of music. So, I don't like the term "newgrass" but hot-damn, I sure do love the stuff that gets filed under the label...

Trampled By Turtles:

Link to a TBT SBD recording from 07-20-2007


Here's some Cornmeal from Jam Crusie 9 (2011-01-05)

Railroad Earth:

Well, all things considered, it'd be wrong to not include a little New Grass Revival in this post!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Yet another up and coming Americana act making this a great musical moment!

But don't take my word for it; just ask Jackson Browne, Robbie Robertson, or Alison Krauss, all of whom have offered their support for this awesome group of musicians, and, as far as I can tell, great group of guys as well. They seem like the sort of folks that could be around for a long time. That's be fine by me!

Dawes' second full-length album solidifies their place amongst the most soulful and authentic song-writers today. Seriously, in "A Little Bit of Everything," they take the listener on a journey from suicide, to reconciliation, and ultimately the bonds of love and marriage by weaving three different stories in a single song.

Check out this review from No Depression

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

History Lesson

Check out the BBC documentary, "Folk America" on YouTube. It's all there! This clip shows the the origins of "song-catchers" and folklorists searching the mountain south for examples of "local color" that they could sell to early record labels.

Alan Lomax narrates a history of Appalachian music:

Download a compilation of Smoky Mountain Ballads

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Middle Brother

A collaboration between members of Dawes, Deer Tick, and Delta Spirit. Middle Brother, with a little help from Jonny Corndawg, crank out great songs with catchy melodies and feel-good authenticity.

From the Band's website:
In a time when synthesizers and laptops are taking over stages, Goldsmith, McCauley and Vasquez are leading the pack of young rock songwriters who strive to carry on the tradition of figures such as Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty.

Check out a free download of their Daytrotter Session

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jonny Corndawg

Jonny "Corndawg" Fritz might just be the freshest, most fun-loving, and genuinely funny singer/song-writer I've heard in a long time. A central Virginia native, Corndawg offers a 21st century hybrid of Porter Wagoner, Tom T. Hall, Billy Joe Shaver, and Steve Goodman; but with enough hipster flair to satisfy even the coolest bran in Brooklyn rollin' on his fixie for a sixer of PBR. Corndawg's the real deal.

"Ain't It Your Birthday?"

"When a Ford Man Turns to Chevy" (from a few years back)

"Keep Your Body Happy Through Exercise"
(oh yea, Corndawg's also a marathon runner!)

Official Website - TeamCorndawg

Check out this story in American Songwriter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Junebug (2005)

Such a great movie, exploring themes like the "outsider" among regular "folks," as well as contrasting images of urban and rural American culture.  Oh yea, some (darkly) funny moments, as well  Definitely worth watching.

Plot Summary:

Successfull Carolinian George Johnsten meets Chicago art gallery holder Madeleine
at an electoral benefit art auction- love at first sight. Madeleine decides to meet a 
Southern original artist, so George seizes the opportunity to come along and present 
her to his South Carolina parents Eugene and Peg, drop-out brother Johhny and his 
high-pregnant wife Ashly. Confronting the outsider soon opens a can of worms as 
emotions revive or emerge, like admiration and jealousy.
-Summary by KGF Vissers (IMDb)

Check it on IMDb

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"The Kids Are All Right"

It seems like all us jaded vets, hipper than thou, old curmudgeons are always lamenting what today's (no matter the generation) kids are listening too. Of course, the majority of what passes as "pop" music warrants our scornful disdain, but let's not throw out the babies (pun sort-of intended) with the bathwater!

Here's a glimpse at the next generation of great artists.

Sarah Jarosz, Sam Grisman (son of the great David Grisman and part of The Deadly Gentlemen), and Alex Hargreaves:

I mean, really, a 19-year old girl covering Tom Waits (and nailing it!)

Wade Darnell:

Check out Wade Darnell's YouTube Channel to how far this great talent has progressed since the previous video was shot. Pretty sure Tony Trishka and Bela Fleck have successfully made their mark on the next great banjo virtuoso!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

John Hartford

I can't think of a single, greater, all-time embodiment of everything good about America and "Americana" than the late-great John Hartford. He'll be forever gentle on our minds, indeed.

Just Can't Beat This One - Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglass, and Mark O'Connor takin' it home on the old Steam Powered Aeroplane!

Download John Hartford 1977-02-09 - East Lansing, MI

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tecumseh Valley

Nanci Griffith leading an all-star cast in tribute to the late-great Townes Van Zandt. This might be the most emotional version of this song I've ever heard (see Nanci tear up and look toward heaven around 4:30). I still fight back the tears every time I watch this.

Nanci Griffith is an American treasure.

Townes Van Zandt from a private concert (circa 1991)

Townes Van Zandt Live at The Down Home - Johnson City, TN (1985-04-18)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Inbred Rednecks

A "B-movie" comedy not to be missed. Filmed on a shoestring budget in the hills and hollows of western NC (Madison County) this flick had it all; cockfighting, moonshine, Highland microbrews, and of course, plenty of "inbred" rednecks! It's not an easy film to find...I remember back in the day, you could buy it on VHS at the "Red Dot" market near the Forks of Ivy/Barnardsville, NC. Anyway, if you just want a mindless laugh, watch this movie!


Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

Rotten Tomatoes (includes an additional trailer)

Scathing review in the New York Times (Wudchexspect?)

On My Long Journey Home

This traditional song was made famous by The Monroe Brothers, but dates back to at least 1890. Alternative titles include; "High Sheriff," "Deadheads and Suckers," and "Big Ball in Texas." The latter was recorded by The Prairie Ramblers in 1935 and is the likely source of modern renditions.

The New Lost City Ramblers...
My Long Journey Home (NLCRs) by BikesOnTheWall

Jeff Mosier (from Blueground Undergrass) and the pioneering "jam-band" Phish, pickin' in the parking lot before a 1994 concert in Bloomington, IN.
Long Journey Home (Jeff Mosier with Phish, 1994) by BikesOnTheWall

Get the Whole Set

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lightnin Hopkins

Lightnin' Hopkins and Sonny Terry - Last Night Blues

What a feast of images! The scenes in this documentary not only show the raw, rural, and rockin' roots of American Blues music, but it also challenges many of our preconceived notions of race and culture.

From the 1970 film, The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins

Lightnin' Hopkins talkin' 'bout "The Blues"

"Drinkin' Woman" from The Complete Aladdin Recordings

Drinkin' Woman (Lightnin' Hopkins)
by BikesOnTheWall

Bukka White and Howlin' Wolf - Blues at Newport

Dock Boggs - Country Blues

Dock Boggs - Country Blues (1966)

Doc and Merle Watson doing it justice out in California...

Doc & Merle Watson_Country Blues_Marin Co. Bluegrass Festival, 1974
by BikesOnTheWall

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Justin Townes Earle

Long Live the Troubadours!!

Watching and listening to JT Earle, it's as if the ghost of Hank Williams - in addition to his Dad and namesake (Townes Van Zandt) - simultaneously occupy and haunt his soul. This guy is the real deal, for sure!

Justin Townes Earle - 2010-01-28 - Barley's Taproom, Knoxville, TN

Boy Keep Movin' by BikesOnTheWall

Get the full show HERE

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Redneck Mother"

Originally written by Ray Willie Hubbard (and based on a "true" story)... There's no better anthem for the so-called "Cosmic Cowboys" that originated in the southwestern U.S. during the late 1960s.

Here's a version done by the legendary New Riders of the Purple Sage...

Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother (NRPS) by BikesOnTheWall

Ray Willie spinnin' a yarn with Jerry Jeff Walker on the song's origins...

It really just can't get much better than Willie's 4th of July Picnic and the "Lost Gonzo Band" (1974)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scott H Biram, "Judgement Day"

Hell Fire and Hillbilly Angst!! Scott H. Biram brings the heat!! Check him out

The Jim Sullivan Story

This album would be good even if there wasn't such a wild story behind it. Read more and order the LP, CD, or download the mp3 from Light In The Attic Records.

A Few Tracks:

Jerome by BikesOnTheWall

Highways by BikesOnTheWall

Get the mp3


Just when you thought the American Labor movement was a historical relic or little more than just another political lobby, Wisconsin workers have shown the power of average Americans standing up to powerful forces determined to throw them under the bus for the sake of profit. This is NOT a political blog, but there's no denying the role that folk songs have played in bringing about social justice!

The Almanac Singers - Roll The Union On

Pete Seeger - Which Side Are You On?