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The Top Ten Merle Haggard Albums

Posted by V.B., October 21, 2014 02:50pm | Post a Comment

It’s been said that during his heyday, 1966-1976, Merle Haggard wrote a good song every day.  I’ve only heard that said about one other artist: Stevie Wonder.  Indeed, Merle’s albums during this period showcase his talents as a songwriter and performer.  When he wasn’t recording his own tunes, his covers of mostly Bakersfield songwriters further displayed his unique ability to get to the heart of a song.

Merle started out playing bass in Wynn Stewart’s band and soon cut some singles for Tally, a small Bakersfield label.  After scoring a top 20 country hit with “Sing a Sad Song,” Merle got signed to Capitol and was teamed up with producer Ken Nelson.  Ken let Merle use his own band, supplemented with some L.A. studio guys like James Burton, to get his Bakersfield sound.  The key components were the hot but sparse sounds of guitarist Roy Nichols, steelers Ralph Mooney and Norm Hamlet, and the stark harmonies of Merle’s then wife, Bonnie Owens.  Merle had more hits when he moved on to MCA, Epic, Curb, Anti- and others, but the hard-biting brilliance of his early Capitol works defines Bakersfield C&W music.  There were also five excellent, mostly instrumental albums by Merle’s band, The Strangers, that are worth seeking out if you like slinky West Coast country pickin’.

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The Rural Upsurge -- A Brief History of Country Cool and Uncool

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 2, 2014 02:20pm | Post a Comment
Country Mouse and Town Mouse
Arthur Rackham illustration for The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Since the US's founding, Americans have steadily moved from the countryside to the city but the story of our pop culture has always been the product of a dialogue between the two worlds, with urban and rural fashions coming and going. While being country might not be cool again, it does seem that American television's landscape is once again overwhelmingly rural in character -- a world populated by catfish scammers, catfish hand-fishers, Sasquatch hunters, morbidly obese Mennonite mafioso, bootlegging bigamist Baptist beauty contestants, and other cryptozoological specimens. 43 years ago the television landscape was similarly dominated by rural caricatures when, at the end of March, the so-called "Rural Purge" resulted in a deliberate shift away from rural-themed shows to those set in cities.
 

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Americans have long generally migrated to the cities and their environs, including the suburbs, and today the percentage of America's population who live in the country is at an all time low -- about 16%. However, it wasn't until the 1910s that America's urban population overtook its rural. 

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Pan-American Blues -- Black Country

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 27, 2013 06:32pm | Post a Comment

If one listens to a “hillbilly” record like, say, Jimmie Rodgers’s “Blue Yodel” back-to-back with a “race” record like Lead Belly’s “Cow Cow Yiki” it should become immediately clear to the listener that often the distinction between these two genres has for many years been (and continues to be) more of an industry marketing rather than musicological one. After decades of segregation, one needn’t watch the CMT Music Awards to know that Country music has for a long time been almost totally dominated by white performers. However, there have always been black country musicians and more continue to emerge. Whether or not they're embraced by the Nashville industry or public is another question.



WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DIRTY SOUTH?

To Americans for whom there are only two coasts (the East and West), the South is with tiresome regularity portrayed and imagined to be a homogeneous region populated entirely by menacing, toothless, racist rednecks (whereas the North is totally free of racists, naturally). If these regionalist haters ever bothered to explore the South they’d likely be surprised by the physical and cultural variety of the Appalachians, the Delta, the Deep South, the Old South, the Ozarks, the Piedmont, the Upper South, the cities and countryside and so on. It would probably surprise many of them to learn that almost every single county in the country with a majority black population is located in the South since they imagine everyone there to be a white Republican.

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Amoeba Presents The Be Good Tanyas at Bootleg Bar Aug. 17

Posted by Billy Gil, July 26, 2012 03:15pm | Post a Comment
Be Good TanyasAmericana heroines The Be Good Tanyas will play the Bootleg Bar in Los Angeles August 17, following their gig at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival on Saturday Aug. 11 with the likes of Metallica, Sigur Ros, The Kills and more.

Amoeba Music
is proud to present the show, which also features Leftover Cuties and Willie Watson of Americana string band Old Crow Medicine Show. This is a 21+ event. Tickets are available at Amoeba Hollywood! As is their latest album, A Collection (2000-2012), which gives an overview of the 21st century roots band’s existence. Their three studio albums, Blue Horse, Chinatown and Hello Love, are available as well.

The Be Good Tanyas CollectionThe Be Good Tanyas, consisting of Frazey Ford (guitar, vocals), Samantha Parton (guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals) and Trish Klein (guitar, banjo, vocals), formed in the late 1990s after meeting at tree-planting camps in British Columbia — yes, apparently these exist in Canada, which is clearly a more thoughtful place. The band also once included the Tom Waits-feted folk singer Jolie Holland. The band is known for its exquisite harmonies, renditions of traditional songs such as “Oh! Susannah” and particularly a rousing take on “The Lakes of Pontchartrain,” as well as original songs faithful to traditional roots music. Ford’s sweetly warbling voice also has been featured on her solo ablum Obadiah, released in 2010. You may have heard her haunting “Firecracker” now and then on KCRW, where she also recently performed.

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Local SF Bands Unite for Blaze Foley Record Release and Tribute Show!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, January 25, 2012 04:49pm | Post a Comment
blaze foley tribute show amnesia outlaw country grace cooper sandwitches sf local bands
Blaze Foley's songs have been celebrated and covered by so many notable Country and Western heavy hitters like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, John Prine and Lyle Lovett that one could hardly say the man's work has gone unsung. However, despite his music being some of the best, most hauntingly honest and soul-stirring country yarns ever spun, his true voice and vision have long gone unheard and under-appreciated by mainstream Country audiences. This Thursday night at Amnesia will certainly prove to be something of a comeuppance fest for fans of Foley's works in the form of an album release and tribute show featuring a fresh & hot line-up of local San Francisco artists curated by Secret Seven Records. This is going to be the kind of show that feels balanced on choice cosmic alignment and I have a feeling that several impeccable answers to that silly old "what becomes a a legend most?" question will be provided as the night progresses.

For more info on Blaze Foley check out the Secret Seven record release profile here, read about his biography Living In The Woods In A Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley by Sybil Rosen here and check out info on the documentary film, Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah, here. There is also a special episode of the Astral Maps podcast dedicated to the works of Blaze Foley, featuring a guest appearance by Greg Gardener - the man behind the curtains at Secret Seven records, here. Incidentally, if you ever just want to talk it out concerning your esteem for lost country greats, all things Blaze and/or outlaw country in general be sure to seek out Astral Maps podcasters Andrew K. and Sterling the next time you visit Amoeba Music in San Francisco, feel free to let 'em know I sent ya!

Here is the trailer for Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah. Do come out and spread love for local musicians as they celebrate the life and work of Blaze Foley - it's going to be a phenomenal show!

Blaze Foley documentary trailer

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