The Chiefs, The Foxhut: San Francisco 1973 and 1976. This Chieftains concert collection is the ninth release from the archives of the late recording engineer and LSD maker Owsley Stanley, who also produced excellent live albums by artists like Tim Buckley and Johnny Cash. The two-and-a-half-hour two-disc set offers a pair of well-recorded shows from 1973 and 1976 along with two bonus tracks: an interview with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, who discusses the Irish roots of bluegrass, and excerpts from a conversation with Chieftains co-founder Paddy Moloney that took place shortly before his death last year.
If you’re not familiar with the Chieftains, you should be. Their albums, which won six Grammys, went a long way in popularizing Irish music around the world and resulted in collaborations with fans ranging from Van Morrison and Elvis Costello to Sinead O’Connor and Mick Jagger.
These shows from San Francisco are a great introduction for newcomers and a must-listen for long-time fans. The 1973 gig captures the Chieftains on their first US tour, opening for Old & in the Way, Garcia’s bluegrass band. The 1976 recording – made after the band was much better known in the US – finds the Chieftains headlining the much larger (and full) Great American Music Hall. The recordings emphasize traditional material and songs from 18eby Celtic composer of the century Turlough O’Carolan and come with a CD-sized hardcover book that includes never-before-seen photos and extensive liner notes.
dead horses, Brady Street. Brady Street is the first full-length album in four years from Dead Horses, a Milwaukee, Wis.-based duo consisting of guitarist/vocalist Sarah Vos, who wrote all the material, and bassist Daniel Wolff.
Accompanied by a drummer, a keyboardist and an electric guitarist, the duo offers a rock-tinged sound that sometimes recalls, for example on the anthem “Days Grow Longer”, outfits like 10,000 Maniacs. Elsewhere, like on the thoughtful “Ward” and the title, they seem more evocative of traditional folk groups like the Fairport Convention in England. Throughout, they impress with sympathetic, intricate arrangements and beautiful vocal and instrumental work.
The sensational wonders of country blues!, The Adventures of a Psychedelic Cowboy. This is the sequel to the 2020s The world will break your heart, the debut album of original material from New Jersey-based Gary Van Miert, who performs as Sensational Country Blues Wonders!. Like the previous CD, this one incorporates elements of rock, gospel and country, but it adds a new component: psychedelia.
Van Miert, who wrote all the songs, uses instruments such as the sitar, mellotron and theremin, and features lines like “I’m a trippy, astral-riding cowboy” (“The Psychedelic Cowboy” ) and “The cosmos is dancing with joy and vitality” (“There’s a hole in the fabric of my reality”). Among the album’s influences, he lists the Jimi Hendrix experience, the 13th floor elevators, Peter Max, Salvador Dali, traditional country music and “British music hall filtered through the Kinks and the Beatles”.
Some of the lyrics are rather childish, and you might well dispute Van Miert’s claim that he created a new genre called “psychedelic Americana.” (Have you ever heard of The Grateful Dead?) That said, it’s a fun outing from start to finish – well-sung, light-hearted, and full of bright, catchy melodies.
3 pairs of boots, mighty love. This is the third album by multi-instrumentalist Andrew Stern and his singer wife, Laura Arias, whose latest release, long rideroffered a collection of well-hooked pop-rock originals. mighty love, which finds the duo accompanied by a drummer and a keyboardist, is just as endearing. Stern produced and wrote or co-wrote all the songs, aside from the addictive title cut, which Arias wrote, and “The Waiting,” a moody cover of Tom Petty’s 1981 hit.
The band doesn’t take any detours from the mainstream, let alone blaze new trails here. But its mostly upbeat material is still appealing, thanks to hummable melodies, Arias’ vocals, and Stern’s jingle-jangle guitar work.
Robin Lane, Dirt road to paradise. This singer-songwriter remains best known as the frontman of a Boston-area rock band of the late 1970s and early 1980s whose work was re-released in 2019. Many Years Ago: The Complete Collection of Robin Lane and Chartbusters. Since his days with that band, however, Lane has sporadically released solo albums.
This latest of 11 tracks, most of which Lane wrote or co-wrote, offers plenty to love. Assisted by a team that adds accordion, banjo, drums, lap steel, backing vocals, and more, Lane flirts (not for the first time) with country music on songs like “Faded Leaves,” features gorgeous vocal work on numbers like “Hurricane Watch,” and turns up the heat on tracks like the sultry “Hunny Dummer,” where she sings, “Turn off the phone, turn on George Jones, and let me show you this that I feel.
Martha Spencer, Wonderland. It’s the long-awaited sequel to Appalachian singer/songwriter Martha Spencer’s 2018 self-titled debut album, which showcased what seemed like fully formed talent. nothing on Wonderland change that impression. The CD, which mixes eight well-crafted originals with an equal number of covers and includes several duets with male singers, finds the Virginia-based singer in great shape.
Spencer plays guitar, banjo and bass and is backed here by a long list of top-notch instrumentalists and assorted vocalists, including veteran bluegrass artist Alice Gerrard on one track. She also seems at home with gospel music (“Walking in Jerusalem”), pop (“Summer Wine” by Lee Hazelwood), blues (“Hesitation Blues”), country ballads (her own magnificent “Yodelady” listen)) and traditional bluegrass (“Woman of Creekfield”).
Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Bakersfield Gold: Top 10 Hits 1959-1974. The late country singer/songwriter Buck Owens, one of the key architects of stripped Bakersfield [California] his, was as successful as he was influential. In just 15 years, he topped the country charts 21 times and scored 25 more Top 10 hits. This two-CD release collects all 46 of those numbers, including “Act Naturally,” which Ringo Starr and the Beatles famously covered, and “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail”.
In recent years, the Omnivore label has reissued many of Owens’ original albums as well as a trio of two-CD box sets collecting all of his singles from 1957 to 1975. If you want the kit and the caboodle, these are the records to buy , but if you don’t want to dig so deep, pick up Gold Bakersfieldwhich serves all the essentials.