New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: willie nelson

Texas Art-Rock Jamband and Neil Young Collaborators Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real in Williamsburg Tonight

If the idea of blowing off work or school today to wait for hours in the suddenly scorching sun for this evening’s free MOMA Summergarden event – where the new Neil Young album is being premiered over the PA at 6 out behind the museum – doesn’t appeal to you, there’s a relatively inexpensive alternative tonight at Brooklyn Bowl where Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, who back Young on the record, are playing their own stuff at around 9. Cover is a reasonable $15. That a band that packs stadiums coast to coast hasn’t sold out this comparatively smaller venue testifies to something really troubling as far as live music in New York is concerned.

The group’s latest album Something Real is streaming at Spotify. The opening track, Surprise, is exactly that, kicking off with a wry Pink Floyd quote and then hitting a bluesy metal sway over an altered version of the hook from Sabbath’s Paranoid .Then they make a doublespeed Blue Oyster Cult boogie of sorts out of it. The title track is a straight-up boogie: “I got tired of trying to please everybody…you’re just a name in a picture frame,” the bandleader rails, then bassist Corey McCormick, percussionist Tato Melgar and drummer Anthony LoGerfo take it down for a searing, blues-infused solo. These guys don’t coast on their bloodlines: Lukas and Micah Nelson play like they really listened to their dad…at his loudest.

Set Me Down on a Cloud has a pretty straight-up, growling Neil-style country-rock sway. Don’t Want to Fly has a similar groove, a dark stoner blues gem that David Gilmour would probably love to have written. Ugly Color is an unlikely successful, epic mashup of Santana slink, Another Brick in the Wall art-pop and BoDeans highway rock. Speaking of the BoDeans, the ballad Georgia is a tensely low-key ringer for something from that band circa 1995.

This brother outfit goes back to boogie blues with the strutting I’ll Make Love to You Any Ol’ Time. Then they blast through Everything Is Fake in a swirling hailstorm of tremolo-picking. The album winds up with an amped-up cover of Scott McKenzie’s famous 1967 janglepop hit San Francisco, Neil Young cameo included. It’s sad how so few children of noteworthy rock musicians have lived up to their parents’ greatness – on the other hand, it’s heartwarming to see these guys join the ranks of Amy Allison (daughter of Mose), the Wallflowers’ Jakob Dylan and Sean Lennon. And these guys rock a lot harder than all of them.

Gill Landry Makes a Night Out Among the Tourists Actually Worthwhile

When’s the last time a song absolutely ripped your face off? Gill Landry‘s Waiting for Your Love will do that to you. It’s a kiss-off anthem, but it’s also a requiem for a relationship gone irreparably wrong. Via a travelogue worthy of Kerouac, the Old Crow Medicine Show guitarist recounts a long downward spiral, with an ending that will give you chills. Not to spoil anything, but this time around, only death brings closure.

The rest of Landry’s solo album – streaming at Spotify – isn’t quite up to that level of haunting, but it’s excellent all the same. He’ll be playing plenty of this material tonight, May 7 at 7 PM at the big room at the Rockwood. Cover is $15; if the idea of spending a Saturday night dodging crowds of beer pong types seems dubious, consider that Landry’s solo stuff is more likely to draw a listening crowd rather than those people That’s not to say that Old Crow play beer pong music, just that some of those types gravitate to it. As a bonus, Landry is followd eventually at around 11 by the mighty gospel-rock orchestra Jesus on the Mainline, co-fronted by one of the most spectacular voices in town, Mel Flannery.

Over a matter-of-fact inteweave of acoustic flatpicking, the chilling Funeral In My Heart sets up the rest of Landry’s album:

Regret is by your coffin, can’t do anything but cry
The bloodless face of Used to Be is looking cold and grim
As the pallbearers of My True Love sing a silent hymn

Just Like You, like the rest of the songs here, is a gorgeously jangling, bittersweet update on a well-traveled sound, the angst-fueled highway rock of 80s and 90s bands like the BoDeans. Landry’s resonant baritone brings to mind that band’s former frontman Sam Llanas, sonically as well as thematically: Llanas mines a lot of the same existential angst as Landry does here.

The stately waltz Emily mashes up Tex-Mex, indie nebulosity and mid-70s Willie Nelson:

Flashing in foreign tongues to now-dead melodies
I tried to exalt you as you crucified me

Laura Marling adds her elegant voice to the duet Take This Body over a low-key acoustic countrypolitan backdrop. Odessa Jorgensen‘s uneasily soaring fiddle lines spice up the dark border-rock-shuffle Fennario. Over a bed of burning electric guitars, Lost Love evokes the blue-flame intensity of the mid-90s BoDeans, circa Joe Dirt Car, than anything else here. And while the organ-infused soul ballad Lately Right Now – as in, “Lately I need you right now” – at first sounds like an oxymoron, consider how many different directions, wry and otherwise, that phrase could go in.

Landry keeps the organ up in the mix through the ominously swaying, regret-laden Long Road. The final cut is the haunted outlaw country waltz Bad Love: “Hard looks and cold words, they kill by degrees,” Landry intones bitterly, a sobering look at how quickly something good can decay, bringing this hard-hitting, emotionally raw collection of songs full circle with a real wallop.

A Star-Studded Tribute to the Hendrix of the Pedal Steel, Buddy Emmons

If there’s one instrument most closely associated with classic country music, it’s the pedal steel. Buddy Emmons is recognized as the Jimi Hendrix of the pedal steel – in addition to his revolutionary, jazz-inspired style and technical innovations, he also patented and first produced the version of the instrument that’s been the global standard since 1962. Emmons got his start as an eighteeen-year-old phenom in Little Jimmy Dickens’ band in 1955 and never looked back, recording and touring with Ray Price, Roger Miller and a stampede of country stars as well as recording many of his own albums which explore jazz as well as C&W. There’s also a compilation album, The Big E – A Salute to Steel Guitarist Buddy Emmons, out recently, with many of the world’s top pedal steel players and country stars paying tribute to the iconic musician/inventor. The whole thing is streaming at Spotify.

The playing throughout the tracks here is fantastic: although there’s a rotating cast of musicians, they pretty much sound like a single great Nashville band circa 1965 or so, a mix of current-day stars and veterans trading licks throughout a smart, inspired mix of some of the songs most closely associated with Emmons throughout his country career.

Vince Gill leads a band with steel players Paul Franklin and Tommy White trading richly jazzy western swing solos before Gill himself shows off some jazz guitar chops on Country Boy, an early Little Jimmy Dickens hit that Emmons played hundreds of times onstage. Steve Fishell takes over the pedals with his own resonant, terse licks on Emmylou Harris’ and Rodney Crowell‘s duet of That’s All It Took, a Gram Parsons homage. Duane Eddy exchanges low, twilit guitar shades with steel player Dan Dugmore‘s judicious riffs and Spooner Oldham‘s similarly tasteful piano on Blue Jade, a big Emmons instrumental hit. Then Willie Nelson contributes a spare acoustic take of Are You Sure, which he co-wrote in 1961 with Emmons.

Longtime Buck Owens steel player JayDee Maness and guitarist Albert Lee exchange purist, sometimes whispery, bluesy verses on instrumental version of the 1963 Ray Price hit This Cold War With You. John Anderson sings the 1958 Ernest Tubb honkytonk single Half a Mind, Buck Reid employing the famous tuning that Emmons invented while showing off some juicy western swing riffs. Greg Leisz follows with a mostly instrumental version of Wild Mountain Thyme, slowly making his way through the melody and then adding some richly tuneful embellishments.

John Sebastian’s Rainbows All Over Your Blues gives Maness and Lee a chance to choogle and spiral, followed by the album’s most energizing number, Doug Jernigan‘s lickety-split version of Buddy’s Boogie, an iconically difficult piece in the pedal steel canon. Then Brad Paisley’s longtime steel player Randle Currie takes it down, spacious and suspenseful, on a take of Willie Nelson’s Night Life sung by Raul Malo.

The Lee Boys’ Roosevelt Collier plays steel with a snarling but cool Albert Collins-style tone on a version of Feel So Bad, Fishell following with more sunbaked, sustained lines behind Chris Stapleton’s animated soul vocals. Joanie Keller Johnson‘s lovely Dolly Parton-tinged vocals grace a version of Someday Soon in tribute to Emmons’ playing on the 1969 Judy Collins hit.
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Norm Hamlet of Merle Haggard’s band takes the steel chair on Roger Miller’shonkytonk hit Invitation to the Blues, but he lets Lee’s spiraling Strat take the song all the way up. Dickens himself sings a fetchingly soulful take of his classic When Your House Is Not a Home, featuring similarly low-key but intense solos from Dugmore and Eddy. Steel player Gary Carter , from Marty Stuart’s band, contributes a spacious, minimalist take of Shenandoah, which turns out to be the most avant garde thing here. The album winds up with Eddy and Dugmore exchanging resonant, elegantly moonlit lines on an instrumental of the Hank Williams classic Mansion on a Hill.