ALBUM REVIEW: Rosanne Cash, Seven Year Ache

Don’t you hate it when you have a wad of cash in your pocket, yet you don’t have enough to buy your music haul. What do you do? Instead of putting a cd or album back, or maybe even multiple items, you can use your credit card! Yes, that is always the answer when one cannot afford their full load with cash.

Just make sure you pay it off the next month, interest is a disgusting little bug.

musicstack
Musicstack.com

Recently, when I sat and watched the needle decipher those vinyl groves, I had a since of cash, credit, and interest. These words usually cause high anxiety in my life, were actually quite enjoyable. This album was Seven Year Ache, by Rosanne Cash.

Rosanne in herself has an interesting history and achieved high commercial success with this album. This was her second album after her self titled debut. This album climbed the charts to number one and produced three number one singles on the country charts.

This album creates a concoction of rock, blues, and country, in other words, Rockabilly. I would consider it one of the most modern recordings of this genre, although it came out in 1981. I knew that Rosanne had inducted the queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson, and cited her as a tremendous influence on her music, but it became very obvious once I listened to this album. This is in no way a copy, but a legendary influence. Music gives birth to more music.

The album opens with “Rainin’.” A great opener, this song has both electric and acoustic guitar. It sounds both country and rock. This is an uptempo song, but it has a downside. The song’s content is about how it’s “rainin’ in her soul” because he left her. Not to mention, Rosanne’s voice is extremely, in my opinion, bluesy and brings another twist upon this song, well the whole album to be exact.

wombleton-october-2011-005
Wombleton Records

Next is the album’s namesake, and number one single, “Seven Year Ache.” This song possesses both country and rock components, with a steady, in my opinion, “sock hop” beat. Rosanne penned this song and it is the only one that has the lyrics printed on the album sleeve. Lyrically, this song is both intriguing and universal. We all find ourselves in a slump or “ache,” where no matter where you are or who you are around matters, all while keeping a smile upon our face. My favorite lyric: “Don’t you know heartaches are heroes when their pockets are full?”

The rest of side A keeps the country, blues, and rock feel. She follows with another number one single “Blue Moon With Heartache.” This song is a mid-tempo ballad that Rosanne wrote herself. Next is “What Kinda Girl?” This song just sets the record straight for any man interesting in Ms. Cash, in a fast, two-stepping fashion. Lastly, this side provides “You Don’t Have to Go Very Far.” This song contains, both lyrically and musically, classic country roots. This could highly be attributed to it being co-written by Merle Haggard.

Side B opens with another number one single, “My Baby Thinks He’s a Train.” This song is distinctively country, not quite classic, but coming off a 70’s wave. It expresses how she is with such a high paced man that it drives her insane and that she is “dragged around like an old caboose.” This song is cleverly written, with Emmylou Harris doing background vocals.

Rosanne follows with “Only Human,” a mid-tempo ballad asking why she is treated like she is not human. Vince Gill provides backing vocals. One of my personal favorites, “Where Will the Words Come From” follows. This song is a ballad that expresses her need to move on, yet she doesn’t know how to tell him she doesn’t love him or need him anymore. The words always seem to escape her. Harris also provides backing vocals for this track.

“Hometown Blues,” written by Tom Petty, really shows a modern Rockabilly set. It’s upbeat, but very blue considering its content.  She even vocally “growls” during this song. A distinctive technic used by all the greats.

The album concludes with something I have never heard, a country ballad, that has classic pop standard attributes. “I Can’t Resist” makes great use of a horn and string section. I often judge an album off it’s first and last song, and this proves my technique works. Rosanne’s bluesy tone is tempting while expressing her own temptation. So this song has components of country, rock, blues, and pop standard. This is the true hidden gem of the album.

After listening to this record I have become quite a fan of Rosanne Cash, mainly because of her vocals. Her voice seems to express emotion like I haven’t heard. Her songs are not musically climatic, yet her delivery is potent. Her voice seems to possess a similar tone between songs, but you can always tell the mood of the song, whether it is lonely, confused, or sassy. I believe there may be an echo of her father in there.

So I first give Rosanne cash. For she is from this legendary lineage, and I payed cash for her album. It was worth every penny.

Second, I give Rosanne credit. She didn’t need her father to prove she was musical. She is completely independent of his long black shadow. She also wrote two of the number one songs on the album.

Lastly, I give Rosanne interest, which can often be scary in my collection. Every Rosanne album I find will be bought. She also deserves the interest, for her voice is completely intriguing and technically indescribable.

So I guess I shouldn’t be so anxious about cash, credit, and interest. Sometimes you just can’t resist, bills keep rainin’ and you fall into a seven year ache over one purchase, but, at least this time, it is completely worth it.

An acoustic version of “Seven Year Ache.”

ALBUM REVIEW: Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues

Google defines country music as a form of popular music originating in the rural southern US. It is traditionally a mixture of ballads and dance tunes played characteristically on fiddle, guitar, steel guitar, drums, and keyboard.

May I also add its contents include whiskey, women, cheating, drinking, and the occasional loss of a dog.

Google defines soul music as a kind of music incorporating elements of rhythm and blues and gospel music, popularized by African-Americans. Characterized by an emphasis on vocals and an impassioned improvisatory delivery.

May I also add that it often gives you those dancing feet and you may occasionally utter a positive “mmm” or “come on.”

Lastly, since this is not a test study sheet, Google defines folk music as music that originates in traditional popular culture or that is written in such a style.

May I also add it usually has a heavy guitar influence and imagery.

Now add them all together.

Country+Soul+Folk= Justin Townes Earle

My first encounter with Earle was through Wanda Jackson. He produced her latest studio album, Unfinished Business. He duets with Jackson on “Am I Even a Memory.” That became my favorite song off the album, and it spurred my interest in Earle. This album was produced to pristine detail.

Justin Townes Earle is the son of famed country musician Steve Earle. He has released 1 etownEP and 5 albums. I recently found his fourth album Harlem City Blues at Guestroom Records in OKC. I wasn’t exactly expecting what I heard. The album touches a wide array of subjects including suicide, breakups, loneliness, the need to leave, and coming back.

The album opens with its title’s namesake, “Harlem City Blues.” This song envokes every genre I discussed previously. The music is distinctly country, the tempo is folksy, and Earle’s voice contains the soul. This song makes me think it is touching suicide, for he states “dirty water is going to cover me over and I’m not gonna make a sound.” Although dark in content, this song possesses a positive sense of spirituality.

The album then goes into “One More Night in Brooklyn.” He talks about leaving town with his woman. I love the beat to this one. It’s almost “island-like.” This is an addictive tune. You then have a hoe down with “Move Over Mama.” Next is the song “Workin for the MTA.” This song especially evokes the essence of folk music, it’s about hard work in what I believe would either be mines or the building of train tracks. It has a purpose and mission. I see a man walking lonely through a desolate area dragging a sledgehammer when I listen to this song. It’s a great slow down moment for the album.

The last song on Side A is “Wanderin.” This is one of my top two favorites off the album. For this song’s face value, it talks about wandering over areas and personal situations, but deeper than that, it’s about reflecting on life and spirituality. It is a modern day “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” You have to wonder to find home.

My second favorite on this album is “Christchurch Woman.” The song talks about waiting for a woman. He talks of how he is waiting for a “Christchurch woman in the rain, and the rain keeps comin, but it ain’t enough to cover the pain.” You can feel pain in Earle’s voice as he is wanting that certain someone, yet even he admits he’ll probably get tired of her later in the song. This song could be comforting to those who are waiting. Waiting gets easier with each passing day, and you might even realize it’s not the right thing after all.

The closing song, besides a choir reprise of “Harlem City Blues,” is “Rogers Park.” The songs opens up with a beautiful piano arrangement and it carries throughout. It is like Earle is walking through a small town park, reminiscing on his life and what could and can be. This shows the genius of Earle’s songwriting. My favorite lyric: “There ain’t no hope in leaving them. There ain’t no prayer for the poor and all that’s lost in stealing. She can’t hold me anymore.” and a choral line of “Punching holes in the dark.” Let the interpretations begin…

In the end, this record is not of any genre. The country musical influence is dominant, thebloodshot records storytelling of folk is there, and Earle’s voice is extremely soulful. I find this album to be remarkable. Earle is multitalented, being able to produce, perform, and write: a musical triple threat.

Although I’m not ready to let that ol’ dirty water run over me, I am ready for my Christchurch woman in the rain, and more importantly, I can’t wait to purchase another Justin Townes Earle album.

CONCERT: Lionel Richie, Runnin’ All Night Long

I truly experienced an amazing concert. I’ve never felt so easy watching a show. Although, there was a lot of dancing, some were ballerinas, while others were just up on the ceiling. The artist was stuck on you, as if you were the only one in the whole arena. It was worth every penny.

Just in case you were wondering, on Saturday evening, Tulsa Oklahoma’s Hard Rock Casino hosted the show Lionel Richie: All the Hits, All Night Long tour. I had IMG_5040purchased VIP tickets so that my mom and I would be able to meet him and get a picture. She’s been a fan longer then I’ve been alive, and I couldn’t pass it up either. I let him know that I had been a fan since the womb.

It was a full brick house. It was a completely sold out event. Mr. Richie opened the concert with “Just for You” and then immediately headed into his hits with “Penny Lover.” He covered every spectrum of his musical career, from his early Commodore days to “Hello” and beyond.

I have never felt so much energy in a concert hall. From the moment Lionel set foot on stage everybody was up. Even during his slow songs you would stand and belt them out. He moves just as if he was still a Commodore. Throughout the concert he made a point to share stories, talk with the audience, and even play a prank.

And boy was it a mean one for me.

IMG_5080Right before he went into “Endless Love (one of my favorite songs for many reasons),” he said that he had called his friend, Diana. You know, Ms. Ross? Well, he had supposedly asked her to come join him at this concert. I had seen Ross early this year in the Hard rock, so to my logic, that made perfect sense. After I finished screaming and yelling shut up, he ended the joke by telling us all she had said…no. I would pay money just to see that song live. That prank played heavily with my emotions.

My favorite song of the night was “Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady.” He said he wrote this song for his mom. One day his dad came home and wanted to toast his mom. He said three beautiful things about her and a song was born. Richie said his dad was always trying to get the royalties off of that song. Since I was with my mom, I found the moment particularly touching.

Ok, sorry, no more mushy gushy stuff.

I have been to many concerts of older performers and newer, but this concert will stick outIMG_5137 as one of the best. There was no disappointment in the show. The band was fun and interactive, the videos and set were spectacular, and then Lionel himself was pretty much flawless. I don’t think that his voice has aged at all.

In the end, I could have stayed all night long. He closed the show with an encore of “We Are the World,” of which he dedicated to his late friend Michael Jackson. This placed everybody in the arena on the same page, and it was chilling hearing that many people sing this legendary song.

You know you’ve been to a good concert when your body feels completely worn out as you walk out of the auditorium. Mr. Richie was able to connect with his audience and when you walked out that door, you actually felt you knew him personally. That is the true essences of a good concert. That is the essence of a good performer.

IMG_5142He also broke a few no autographs rules for me and signed my album cover. As I sail on I will always have this reminder of a great concert.

 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, United

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell were a match made in heaven vocally. Although their lives were far from harmonious, this record is prior to their eventful downfalls. If it was not for Terrell’s unfortunate death, she would have become one of Motown’s, and the late 1960’s, biggest stars.

Gaye and Terrell released United in 1967. This was their first duet album together to be followed by two more, one of which Terrell was suffering from her ailing brain tumor. Gaye had previously released two duet albums with Kim Weston.

This album covers the terrain of 1960’s Motown. In my opinion, it is the best example of what Berry Gordy was trying to accomplish. This album perfectly mixes pop and soul, even throwing in some salsa to spice it up. I find the invention and workings of Motown to not only be musically legendary but historically. I’m not having any new revelation, but it truly brought African American artists to the forefront of the pop charts. The behind the scene stories may not always be pretty, but there is a lot to thank Motown for.

The album opens with the classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” This version shows the chemistry between both singers. One would think they were in love, and in a sense, they could have been, but to my knowledge, it was always a friendship. Their vocals were distinctly different, yet seemed like one. They were like two ribbons wrapped around each other. You could see each’s color, but there was only one structure.

last.fm
Last.fm

Terrell’s vocals really sore on this album. At times I felt Marvin’s were a little more distant, not in feeling, but just the mixing of the album. I found her vocals especially special on “You Got What it Takes.” They are so sassy, so soulful, yet so universal.

“If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” is one of the nicest love songs. This was one of the album’s major hits as well. The salsa spice is given during “Somthin’ Stupid.” It is also a perfect example of how their voices were ribbons. Every word of the song is sung in unison with each other.

I personally enjoy “Two Can Have a Party.” The song simply explains how just a couple can be a party. There’s no need to go and meet up with others, as long as you are with the other. I love the jive of “Little Ole Girl and Little Ole Boy.” Terrell’s vocals sound sultry in this tune, yet they still capture innocence. This song was co-written by Etta James.

Tammi_duet_with_Marvin_Gaye
Wikipedia.

The only sad song on this whole album is entitled “Sad Wedding.” The song’s composition puts great use to the wedding march, and of course Gaye and Terrell’s voices sore in this gospel element. A true gem on this otherwise happy record.

In the end, this record gives me hope. Once you read the stories of the artists and their deaths, you will get the same sense. Terrell died just three short years after this album was released. She went through many surgeries for her brain tumor, until she eventually slipped into a coma and passed away. I was once watching a documentary on her, and it said she stayed positive all the way through. She was ready to take back that mic. Marvin was tragically shot by his father after a family disagreement, but his story is one of resilience. One that overcame many obstacles to make the legendary music that he did.

Throughout the whole album, there is imagery in the weather, the sun, stars, and heavy terrain (high mountains, low valleys, etc.). That explains their appeal and vocals. They were so large, yet so versatile that they are for everybody. There ain’t no river wide enough, yet there is a river long enough for everyone to jump on a boat and enjoy this diamond of Motown glory.

If only music shows were still like this….