Upon the release of her new album, The Company We Keep, and marking the 15th anniversary of her and her husband Garry West's adventurous Compass Records label, ALISON BROWN reflects on her remarkable career and offers an inside account of her creative process and guiding philosophy. Banjo virtuoso/mother of three/record company executive: she has her hands full, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
One of America's greatest contemporary songwriters is back, at last, with a new album, Love Filling Station, and the usual quizzical response to all the fuss being made over him. The album is a gem, his self-effacing manner and graciousnees charming, but Fred Astaire he ain't. Read on.
EXCLUSIVE TO THEBLUEGRASSSPECIAL.COM: THEN & NOW: CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE, a Dutch string band, serves up vintage songs about the FDR era in Waitin' On Roosevelt, and touches a nerve in the Obama era. Herewith an exclusive interview with lead singer/historian Sjef Hermans and YouTube clips of CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE in concert and FDR sitting in with Bun Wright's Fiddle Band.
IN CONCERT: THE DUHKS
THE DUHKS, with vocalist Sarah Dugas in full emotive dudgeon, come to New York City's Highline Ballroom and proceed to prove why, on this night, in this place, at this moment in time, they are the best live band on the planet.
ALBUM SPOTLIGHT: VIENNA TENG, Inland Territory
"I wrote these songs for people who listen closely, who are willing to be challenged by what they hear," VIENNA TANG says in her official bio. If she can challenge herself, indeed, why not challenge her listeners? On Inland Territory, newly explored, freshly mapped, her fearlessness is our gain.
ALBUM SPOTLIGHT: CHICAGO BLUES: A LIVING HISTORY
By Linda Crain
In her first review for TheBluegrassSpecial.com, Linda Crain, owner/publisher/managing editor of the Chicago Blues Guide, appraises a new double-disc set featuring an all-star lineup of Chicago's finest bluesmen paying deeply felt tribute to the giants of yore.
They are young, they are gifted and they are equally at home in blues and country. Their new albums are amazing. They inspire critical hosannas, and they deserve them.
POEM: QUEEN OF THE BLUES—FOR KOKO TAYLOR by GEORGE KALAMARAS
Award winning poet George Kalamaras makes his debut in TheBluegrassSpecial.com with a fervent, earthy billet-doux in verse to blues titan KOKO TAYLOR. Kalamaras is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990, and the author of nine books of poetry.
HEY BILLY BOB—THIS ‘SPUD’’S FOR YOU
By Billy Altman
Whether it's all the bad reviews he's been getting or all that tar and nicotine he's been inhaling that's made him go off the deep end, BILLY BOB THORNTON's attack on Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi for having the temerity to ask him about his film career was bizarre enough. But then Thornton took things to a whole other level by knocking the entire Great White North, comparing Canadian audiences to potatoes.
DUNCE'S CORNER: Representative VIRGINIA FOXX from North Carolina shames herself, her position, her state and her country with an uniformed rant on the House floor, asserting that Matthew Shepard's murder was "a hoax," during a debate on an extension of the hate crimes billed named after Shepard.
THE GOSPEL SET: ROCK OF AGES
A collection of the greatest gospel hymns as performed by Jessy Dixon, Andrae Crouch, the Blackwood Brothers, Mark Lowry and other stellar vocalists makes Rock of Ages one of the finest of the Gaither Homecoming videos.
ROBERT BRADLEY’S BLACKWATER SURPRISE, Out Of the Wilderness
Channeling latter-era Ray Charles in his gritty, expressive voice, Robert Bradley makes a major statement right off the bat in the album opening title track of his new album, when he moans, "Well, I'm outta the wilderness, out on my own" as a tough, snarling blues band sets into a menacing, rich groove behind him. Then the party begins.
Will Neko Case be the background soundtrack for better loft parties everywhere, or will she rip the joint up and demand a response from all of us? She's a Voice, alright, but one that's still in search of the right ears.
NEWFOUND ROAD, Same Old Place
Lead vocalist Tim Shelton makes Same Old Place his personal statement with a display of power, nuance and soulfulness in a league with that of the genre's finest young singers. He gets so far into some of these songs emotionally, it's almost scary.
CASEY DRIESSEN, Oog
A fiddler who has found homes in the progressive and traditional worlds both, Casey Driessen (and his distinctive 5 String Fiddle) plants his foot firmly in the former on this, his second solo album.
M SHANGHAI, The Mapmaker's Daughter
The Mapmaker's Daughter, Brooklyn-based M Shanghai's third long player, shows precisely the strengths and weaknesses of the band and underscores how close the assembled multitude is to delivering something transcendent ahead.
BEYOND THE BLUE
DANNY O'KEEFE, In Time
In the eight years since his previous album release, Danny O'Keefe has lived a lifetime's worth of emotions, it appears, and is now in a place where he can make sense of it all.
SCOTT MILLER, For Crying Out Loud
Chalk up this long player as a big winner for Scott Miller: there's neither a false note nor a bad song nor an impotent vocal in evidence. It may be too stylistically diverse for those who prefer to pigeonhole artists into neatly defined categories, but wherever he lands on this disc, Miller sounds like he belongs right there.
INTRODUCING SONNY AND HER JOY BOYS
Duke Robillard, he of the intimate acquaintance with all manner of blues-based roots music, now goes into small combo swing band mode to further the ambitions of one fine vocalist of lovely mien and expressive interpretive artistry, Sunny Crownover. Herein producer and acoustic archtop guitarist Robillard steers Crownover through a tasty set of largely '30s and '40s era chestnuts, cool and swinging, dreamy and seductive, the lot of them. How could you go wrong when you have a singer who can deliver and a band that can roil and simmer as the moment requires?
NEW! NEW! NEW!
VIDEO FILE: A whimsically chosen collection of fine YouTube performances, memorable scenes from classic movies and old cartoon fare. Because they're there.