New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: shannon brown

A LMFAO New Album and a Union Square Show by Honkytonkers Trailer Radio

Right off the bat, the opening track of New York honkytonk band Trailer Radio‘s new album Country Girls Ain’t Cheap tells it like it is:

Out here in podunk
We aren’t very metro
Everybody’s drunk
Everybody’s hetero…
We don’t like it in the blue states
We can live without…
Sister bought a trailer
‘Cause she’s selling crystal meth
Brother aced his driver’s test
Bourbon on his breath…

And the story gets even more amusing from there. On one hand, Trailer Radio are a really funny cowpunk band whose lyrics are packed with jokes too good to give away here. On the other hand, they really nail a classic 60s honkytonk vibe, adding a corrosively cynical lyrical edge: urban country, 2016. The twin guitar attack of David Weiss and Mike Dvorkin combines for classics riff from the 60s on forward while frontwoman Shannon Brown channels a genuine West Virginia twang over the swinging rhythm section of bassist Joel Shelton and drummer Kenny Soule. The new album – streaming at the band’s music page – is characteristically sardonic, hilarious, and they’ve got a show on April 24 at 6 PM at Brother Jimmy’s Union Square, 116 E 16th St. (bet. Union Square East and Irving Place). Then on April 30 they’re at An Beal Bocht Cafe, 445 W 238th St. (near Graystone) in the Bronx at 9.

The album’s title track, an electrified bluegrass tune, skewers good ole boy machoness as much as it pillories the gold-digging women they chase. Set to a tasty, Rickenbacker guitar-fueled Sweetheart of the Rodeo shuffle, Dirt Queen offers a shout-out to an outdoorsy type who’e inseparable from her ATV. Then the band brings it down for the wry ballad Woe Is Me, where Brown explores the various ways women self-medicate.

One of the guy duets with Brown on Jimmy Jack’s Diner (located adjacent to a landfill), a sad reminder that not all mom-and-pop joints with “authentic country charm” are an improvement over Mickey D’s. Three Diamond Rings is one of the funniest numbers here, a shuffling honkytonk chronicle that revisits the gold-digger theme, but as a kiss-off anthem. Another electric bluegrass tune with some bristling banjo work, Jesus Loves You (But I’m on the Fence) is another really funny one: this dude can’t even keep his shit together on his wedding day.

The album’s hardest-rocking cut, The Bottom of Her Boots tells the tale of one vengeful ex who really goes on the warpath: not only does she throw her boyfriend’s stuff out, she paints his AK-47 pink and sells his twelve-point buck on Ebay. A spot-on Moe Bandy-style hard honkytonk hit, Tar Beach pays tribute to rooftop rednecks who“don’t fit in with those Jersey Shore Italians or the Hamptons and their snooty finery” and who are plenty content to hang out on the roof. The album winds up with a droll murder ballad, Big Day for Steffie, a Chuck Berry/Stones rocker with some ferocious, vintage Keith/Mick Taylor twin lead guitars. Shelton’s Eric Ambel-style purist production enhances the vintage sonics. Not only is this a great counyry and roots rock album, Brown’s sense of humor will have you in stitches whether or not y’all grew up surrounded by rednecks.

A Fun, Eclectic Early-Evening Americana Triplebill

New York venues should have more early shows. That’s not to say that staying out til the wee hours isn’t fun…but the train home afterward, or lack thereof? Ouch. For those of us in New York who live in neighborhoods poorly served by mass transit (which is just about everybody, right?) the American Folk Art Museum just south of the triangle where Amsterdam Avenue crosses Broadway on the Upper West Side offers free, 5:30 PM shows on Friday nights. And the performers can be fantastic. Turkish folk band Dolunay played an amazing couple of sets there last week; this week’s lineup was an acoustic Americana bill of songwriter Karen Hudson, fiddler Melody Allegra Berger and comedic honkytonk band Trailer Radio doing a stripped-down acoustic duo show, and all three acts were excellent.

Hudson almost always plays with a band behind her and for that reason might not be the first person you would think would be a good solo acoustic performer. But she was tremendous. She’s an elegant tunesmith and evocative lyricist who often uses an aphoristic, vintage C&W vernacular without sounding hokey or derivative, and she’s grown into an excellent, subtly nuanced singer. Some of her songs were funny, like Nicotine, her irresistibly amusing ode to the death-defying lure of tobacco. Others, like I Thought I Died, with its litany of near-misses, had the matter-of-fact resoluteness that runs through much of her songwriting. Others were haunting, in a memorably Mary Lee Kortes vein. The best of these was Mama Was a Trainwreck (Daddy Was a Train) – the best track on Hudson’s new Eric Ambel-produced album Sonic Bloom. It rocks pretty hard on record; stripped to its acoustic roots, it had a harrowing oldtime Britfolk feel, a bitterly surreal account of growing up with a father who, as Hudson put it, “was never able to change his ways.” She revisited that theme on a quieter, more reflective number before picking up the pace and ending with Late Bloomer and its gently insistent, optimistic nature imagery.

Fiddler Melody Allegra Berger picked up the energy further, plucking and soaring and singing here way through a mix of bluegrass and Americana classics alongside banjo player Bennett Sullivan. She’s true to her name, tuneful and fast. He’s got an intriguing album of his own out, and the two played the title track, Lady Nora. You might not think that an atmospheric ballad could be played on the banjo, but with his intriguing use of harmonics, that’s where Sullivan went with it. Berger led the duo through mix of instrumentals along with several vocal numbers, showing off a brittle vibrato reminiscent of but not deferential to Hazel Dickens. They opened with a romp through Soldier’s Joy, then a little later did a couple of songs about being hanged, as Berger gleefully explained, first the instrumental Hangman’s Reel and then Hang Me, which turned out to be one of the seemingly unlimited number of versions of the old folk song I’ve Been All Around This World. They wound up the set with a couple more hard-charging bluegrass tunes, setting the stage for Trailer Radio frontwoman Shannon Brown and her brilliant guitarist bandmate David Weiss, whose lightning flatpicking, big western swing chords and edgy blues kept the energy at full throttle.

As Brown told the crowd, she got run out of her hometown of Man, West Virginia “for being too impatient.” She really has a handle on cornball C&W humor, and her songs can be hilarious. The two mixed wryly amusing numbers like Football Widow (about a woman who uses her tv-addict husband and his dumb friends as an excuse to have more fun than them on a Sunday afternoon), He’s a Six (about a guy who’s just thisclose to being a decent choice of boyfriend), Two Tavern Town (inspired by the dead-end beer joints where Brown grew up) and the wry Too Old and Way Too Ugly, with a handful of slowly unwinding, unexpectedly somber blues tunes.

Oldschool C&W from Trailer Radio

If classic country music from the 60s and 70s with a comedic edge is your thing, you’ll love Trailer Radio. Just speaking for the music, their new album is excellent: the rhythm section of bassist Joe Ongie and drummer Kenny Soule swings, and the band’s two guitarists David Weiss and Mike Dvorkin are an encyclopedia of smartly chosen C&W and soul licks. Not all the songs here are funny, but the ones that are really hit the spot.

If country radio still played country music, the album’s opening track, Football Widow would be a monster hit. It sounds like something Tom T. Hall might have written for somebody like, say, Lynn Anderson, about 40 years ago. Musically, it’s a throwback to the Bakersfield sound of ten years before that, with upbeat honkytonk lead guitar intertwined with pedal steel. Frontwoman Shannon Brown’s bright twangy delivery makes it clear that she won’t accept defeat – and as the song goes on, she gets even. The second track, A Little Too Old and a Lot Too Ugly is cruel, and hilarious, and spot-on: it’s an anthem for any woman who’s had to fend off old Viagroid geezers in bars. It’s also got some sweetly multitracked 12-string and acoustic guitar, too.

Boll Weevil is a surreal, twisted Texas shuffle as Buck Owens might have done it; Southern Accents, a slow soul-infused ballad with more of those juicy, tremoloing, artfully layered guitar parts. With its Del Shannon style 50s rock vibe, He’s a Six is a thoughtful number about settling – and wine goggles – with some memorably surfy baritone-style guitar. The band follows that with Like a Train Left the Tramp, a joyously bouncy honkytonk kissoff song: “I took everything he had except his old guitar and his amp and I left him like a train left the tramp.”

Streets of Savannah is a detour into classic 60s soul music, pulsing along on a mellow Hendrix-influenced groove. I’m Not Leaving I’m Just Looking proves they’re just as good at western swing, then they rock out with the Stevie Ray Vaughan-style 11:59, Brown leaving no doubt that she’s had it up to here. The album winds up with Jack Daniels, a Stonesy rock song that explores the aftermath of overdoing it one too many times. How genuinely ironic that some of the best real country music around is being made in New York City. Trailer Radio’s next gig is on Jan 17 at 8 PM at the comfortable, laid-back Shrine in Harlem.