Diggin’ Up Some New Roots & Blues

Ryan Bingham          flatlanders_hills_main

The most interesting music coming out right now could be classified as roots music – country-rock, Americana, folk-rock, blues, etc.  These artists may appear mainly on indie labels, or are big names trying to figure out a new hook but for the most part they are making some pretty good music.

Ryan Bingham, coming out of the wild west (New Mexico) and using Texas as his base, rocks on Roadhouse Sun, his third album.  Like on Mescalito, his breakthrough album from 2007, Bingham infuses his music with heavy doses of Rolling Stones/Black Crowes sensibility (Crowes guitarist Marc Ford produced this), and on “Change Is,” mixes in a dollop of Led Zeppelin. 

MP3: “Dylan’s Hard Rain” by Ryan Bingham

The Flatlanders may be a legend, but they’re also a band – and Hills and Valleys, their fourth official release, may be their best yet.  Kicking off with the brilliant “Homeland Refugee” and the voice of Joe Ely, this Texas trio kicks the Lone Star dust off their boots and range far afield with selections like “Cry For Freedom” but their words hit home and sound just right for today.  Highly recommended.

MP3: “No Way I’ll Never Need You” by the Flatlanders

Austin, Texas, is known as a roots music capital, but first there felice_brothers_yonderwas Woodstock, the little Hudson Valley hamlet in upstate New York where some of the most down-home music of the late 1960s and early 1970s was produced.  The Felice Brothers, coming down out of the Catskills, put one in mind of the Band woodshedding at Big Pink, but with an edgy modern-day sensibility.  Yonder Is The Clock, the Felice Bro’s second major release, is a goldmine of ear-opening, barnstormin’ hooping and hollering that is a tonic for the tired soul.  Also highly recommended (even if they aren’t from Texas). 

MP3: “Run Chicken Run” by the Felice Brothers

Elvis Costello teams up with über roots producer T-Bone Burnett for Secret, Profane and Sugarcane, cut with a bunch of Nashville and bluegrass vets.   While it may sound like a good idea, this ain’t the return of Plant/Krauss: despite a promising beginning and a nice remake of “Complicated Shadows,” too much of this music is dead on arrival.  Costello has succeeded in cross-genre exercises before, but he fails here – even his new songs sound like stale museum pieces.

MP3: “Complicated Shadows” by Elvis Costello & the Sugarcanes

cyrilCyril Neville, youngest of the mighty Neville Brothers (and a member of the Meters), gives us some Brand New Blues by way of his native New Orleans via Austin, where he now lives.  Cyril’s still kinda pissed about Katrina – his anger hot-wires the remake of Bob Marley’s “Slave Driver.”  A host of guest stars, including a few of Cyril’s bros, show up and the music is bluesy and soulful.  A good time will be had by all.

MP3: “Cream Them Beans” by Cyril Neville

Willie Dixon is a giant of the blues – he wrote such classics as “Spoonful,” “Wang Dang Doodle” and “Back Door Man” for Howlin’ Wolf, Clarence Carter, Muddy Waters and many more.  Alex Dixon is Willie’s grandson, and his debut album Rising From The Bushes would make grandpa proud.  Alex covers some Willie classics (“Spoonful,” “Down In The Bottom”) but really shines on his originals.  The band includes some seasoned Chicago blues hands, including vocalist Marcella Detroit, a.k.a. Marcy Levy, who’s sung backup with the likes of Eric Clapton, Bob Seger and Leon Russell.

MP3: “Fantasy” by the Alex Dixon Band (feat. Marcella Detroit)

One Response to “Diggin’ Up Some New Roots & Blues”

  1. I picked up the Flatlanders new album a bit ago and highly recommend it, W.

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