Friday, September 24, 2010

Road Music Roundup

It's been awhile since I've posted anything music-related, but here are some of my recommendations for those long road trips to your favorite fields and coverts.

Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses - Junky Star
I was unsure of what to expect on Bingham's third album, this one produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett. Bingham's first two efforts were gems -- raw, rootsy, and raspy. But since his anointment by Hollywood (for his Oscar-winning "Weary Kind" theme song from "Crazy Heart"), I feared he might be caught up in the glitzy trappings of the west coast.  Instead, it appears he used his relocation to the Golden State to his advantage. This disc is a reflective snapshot of our country at a time where it can't seem to figure out what (or where) it wants to be -- only that it doesn't want to be where it currently is. There are no rocking cuts like on previous CDs (think "Bread and Water" or "Hey Hey Hurray"), but it'll sound good on a cool evening sitting around a campfire with a glass of Ezra on ice.

Jamey Johnson - The Guitar Song
I can't quite figure out why this guy gets the modicum of mainstream country airplay that he does -- and that's intended as a compliment. He's definitely old school country, owing more to Waylon and Merle than Big and Rich. This album, like "That Lonesome Song" before it, has some funky instrumental noodling in between tracks that gives the voluminous album some continuity. There's not a lame track among them, but some standouts include "Can't Cash My Checks," "Mental Revenge," "I Remember You," and "That's How I Don't Love You." And he's confident enough in his own talents that he's not afraid to throw in a few classic covers by Vern Gosdin, Kris Kristofferson, and even MMM-Mel TTT-Tillis.

J.J. Grey and Mofro - Georgia Warhorse
This is swamp soul that begs to be played loud and sung along to. On "Warhorse," the Jacksonville, Florida-based Grey and his band show that they can channel some pretty classic Motown, too, with tracks like "The Sweetest Thing," "All," and "Beautiful World." And if you can't get laid to "Slow, Hot, and Sweaty," well then no amount of Levitra is going to help you either, pal.

Danny Barnes - Pizza Box
For me, a little banjo goes a long way. Don't get me wrong -- I don't mind it as an accompaniment, but it rarely does it for me as a main course. Maybe that's why I like this album so much. Danny Barnes is an accomplished banjo traditionalist, having played with the likes of Del McCoury and Bela Fleck, but also sits in with varied artists like Lyle Lovett, the Butthole Surfers, and Ministry. "Pizza Box" takes the banjo out of the nonconsensual sodomy arena of Deliverance and into completely new, modern territory. It's a really cool mix of rock, folk, bluegrass, country, hip-hop, and jazz. It's been out for nearly a year, but I'm just now discovering it.

Terry Allen - Lubbock (On Everything)
Ok, so this one's not even close to new, but this 1979 double album by Texas panhandle savant Terry Allen never ceases to amaze me. It's a (sort of) concept album that tells the story of cotton and guitar-picking farmers, tired waitresses, high school football players, art dilletantes, and Wolfman Jack. Ridiculous? You bet.  But somehow, Terry Allen pulls it off with aplomb.  This one's a "desert island album" for me, as it has been for nearly 20 years.


  1. I love your taste in music, we are going to see REK in Little Rock tonight, I bet he opens with a Terry Allen song, (Amarillo highway).Good luck on your trips, headed to Montana next week.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Billy... hope REK was up to his typical awesomeness.

  3. Thanks for the recommendations, all (but Terry Allen) new to me. Twelve years ago, or so, Allen and REK played a double bill in a little place called the Dingo Bar in Albuquerque, with Lloyd Maines playing pedal steel for both. Great, great show.