Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Slaid Cleaves Give JJ Baron Thumbs Up

You're invited to celebrate the release of JJ Baron's new CD this Friday night at the Narrows! I've heard several cuts off it, and it's great!

Slaid Cleaves performs on the CD, as do a number of other notables. Here's what Slaid says about JJ:

"It's hard to believe someone so young could be so talented. JJ reminds me of myself 20 years ago. Except he has a lot more talent than I did. JJ's got the gift. He knows how to craft songs that give you the goose bumps, he plays a mean guitar, and he has a great attitude. In the next few years, the folk world will come to know JJ Baron, and I'll be saying, 'I told you so!' "

It will be a great show Friday night, and we hope you'll be there!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Haven't Bought your Buckwheat Zydeco Ticket Yet? Read What You May Miss

Buckwheat Zydeco is coming to the Narrows on Thursday, June 2nd, and tickets are moving, but are still available.

Here's a review of a Buckwheat Zydeco show earlier this year to whet our appetites.

It's from zydecoroad.com. Click here to read the write up. Then get your tickets before they're gone.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Projo Photo Contest Picture Features Holmes Brother at Narrows Event

You may remember back in March we produced a tribute show to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. One of the featured acts was the Holmes Brothers.

Actor/photographer Keith Jochim of Warwick was at the show and snapped a black and white photo that won the annual Providence Journal photo contest.

The shot features bassist Sherman Holmes.

Unfortunately, there's no direct link to the photo, but go to www.projo.com and scroll down until you find it. Don't know how long the Projo will display the piece on its webpage, so if you can't find it, sorry about that.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Rumor: Sarah Borges To Open for Rosie Flores

It's not yet confirmed at this writing, but the word I get is that Sarah Borges, whose debut CD is being celebrated across the country, will open for Rosie Flores on Saturday, July 23rd.

Sarah and her band opened for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals recently at the Narrows, and tore the place down!

If you like twangy country that KICKS ASS, you'll love Sarah Borges and her CD "Silver City," which is named after her hometown, Taunton.

By day, Sarah is an admissions counselor at Berklee School of Music in Boston. At night she becomes an angst-filled, in-your-face country/rockabilly singer, who somehow mixes hard rock sensibilities with a traditional country feel.

July 23 will be a special evening at the Narrows, with Sarah and Rosie!

Country Music Television (CMT) High on Hayes Carll

As you may have heard, Hayes Carll is coming to the Narrows on Sunday, June 12th. You may not have heard of him, but his CD "Little Rock" is one of the hottest in the Americana genre.

Even the mainstream media are taking notice. Here's something from CMT.com:

Hayes Carll, Little Rock (Highway 87): I still say this guy is going to be a huge star, and I suppose I'll have to be happy for him when that day arrives. But in the meantime, there are very few songwriters I'd rather hear perform in a bar. His self-deprecating wisecracks from the stage are as charming as the colorful songs he writes, and that's saying something. If you enjoy dry humor, get this.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Review of Chip Taylor, Carrie Rodriguez's Latest CD

Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez are coming to the Narrows on Friday, June 10th. Their latest CD was just released, and I wrote a review for the San Antonio-based website americanaroots.com.

You can link to the review right here.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Hayes Carll Coming to Narrows June 12

Although things are kinda quiet at the Narrows right now, as the volunteers get re-introduced to their families over the Memorial Day weekend, hot shows are afoot!

Thursday, June 2nd, we feature the great Buckwheat Zydeco! Tickets are moving on this one already, so you might want to get your tickets soon before they're gone.

Friday, June 3rd is a record release party for our adopted son, JJ Baron. JJ has got some wonderful songs on his new CD and some great players, including Jim Weider, Buddy Cage and Slaid Cleaves.

Saturday and Sunday feature a play called "The Belle of Amherst." Then back to the music:

Thursday, June 9, Graham Parker returns, but this time with the band The Figgs. This will be a rockin' show!

Friday, June 10, Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez, the power couple in the Americana genre. Their latest CD, "Red Dog Tracks," just released, is getting critical acclaim, and is already moving on the Americana charts! In fact, last we checked it was #4!

Saturday, June 11, Greg Trooper with opener Dulcie Taylor. Greg's latest CD has been zooming up the charts across the country for awhile. He's played the Narrows before, and knocked 'em dead!

AND...this just in, on Sunday, June 12, we'll be presenting Texan Hayes Carll. At this writing, this is not on the official schedule. Learn about him at www.hayescarll.com. By the way, his latest CD, "Little Rock," is right behind Chip and Carrie on the Americana chart.


Review of Jim Weider's New CD "Percolator"

Does Jim Weider need an introduction? Probably, although he replaced roots legend Robbie Robertson on lead guitar in The Band in 1985.

Maybe you saw him at the Narrows earlier this year. Maybe you saw him at the Bob Dylan Tribute at Madison Square Garden (dubbed “Bobfest”) in 1992 playing with The Band. Maybe you were at Bill Clinton’s “Unofficial Blue Jean Bash” in 1993, along with Jim Weider, Bob Dylan, Steven Stills and Dr. John. Or maybe you spotted him on the A & E Biography show about The Band.

Or maybe you studied guitar using one of Jim’s instructional videos.

Jim’s a master of the Telecaster, which, thanks to Texas native Buck Owens, became “the instrument of choice in the country field,” according to author John Einarson in his book “Desperados, The Roots of Country Rock.” “The thing about a Telecaster…,” he quotes Eagle Bernie Leadon as saying, “is that it’s remarkably comfortable for an acoustic player to make the transition to electric guitar. A Les Paul or Stratocaster is more suited for rock. You can play most of the same styles on a Tele that you do on an acoustic, and it just sounds great. It has to do with the tone. Leo Fender designed the Strat to be a country instrument, but over time the Tele caught on more for country music.”

Which finally brings us to Jim Weider’s new CD “Percolator,” which has plenty of “Tele” on it—however, it’s not a country record. Oops!

“Percolator” is an instrumental album that’s in the “jam” style so popular with many of the same people who would have boogied to the Grateful Dead were they alive during the Dead’s heyday. The recently departed Phish and “Martin, Medeski and Wood” might be described as jam bands. (I don’t mean to be pedantic, but I keep running into people who’ve never heard of the whole jam band thing.) John Medeski, by the way, is playing B3 organ all over “Percolator.”

(And I have to mention that bass legend Tony Levin is on several cuts. Levin has played with everybody great--John Lennon (that was him playing on “Double Fantasy”), Yes, James Taylor, Lou Reed, Buddy Rich (?), Ringo Starr, Tom Waits and many more.)

This is a top-notch CD if you dig funky guitar instrumental recordings, or even if you like to have on quality background music while you’re at work. If you get a chance to see Jim Weider don’t miss it. He’s based in the Woodstock, New York area, so you’ll probably have a better chance seeing him if you live in the Northeast.

NOTE FOR GUITAR FANATICS: In the CD booklet, Jim lists the guitars he plays on the recording. They include: a 1952 Telecaster, a Flying Finn Telecaster (with humbuckers), a 1960 Guild Starfire, and a Gibson Sonoma Acoustic. Not being a guitar fanatic, I guess that’s good stuff!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Silver City Means Taunton

One of the hottest Americana CDs across the country is by Boston-based Sarah Borges, who recently performed with her band at the Narrows.

The name of the CD is "Silver City," which I thought was sort of a Western-style thing, like "Dodge City," or something like that.


Silver City is right up the road from the Narrows--Taunton, Massachusetts. Sarah noted during her performance that she's actually from Taunton, which is known as "the silver city," and that's where she got the title of her album.

In life, sometimes the answer lies right in front of your nose. Duh.

Monday, May 23, 2005

We Talk With Greg Trooper

Greg Trooper is returning to the Narrows on Saturday, June 11th!

He has one of the hottest Americana CDs in the nation. It's called "Make It Through This World," and it's receiving rave reviews.

We emailed Greg with some questions about the CD and other topics.

Question: The new album seems to be a breakthrough for you, from a commercial point of view. If that's true, what are the benefits of having some commercial success?

Well, it's too early to tell if it's a commercial success but if that does happen I'm going to the dentist straight away.

Question: Are you thinking about your next recording? Are you writing?

Haven't been writing much lately. Been busy touring in support of the CD and don't write a whole lot on the road.

Question: Much has been made about your working with legendary producer Dan Penn. Do you think you'll do your next record with him?

I will make my next 100 records with Dan if the opportunity presents itself.

Question: What music are your listening to these days? Any recommendations?

Can't get enough of Nick Lowe "The Convincer" and just bought John Prine's latest. It's gorgeous.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Dan Hicks Loans Guitar to Jimmy Page!!

Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks are coming to the Narrows on Thursday, June 16.

I thought you'd enjoy this little tidbit I spotted on the Dan Hicks website, www.danhicks.net.

From Rolling Stone Magazine online:“When guitar [sic] JIMMY PAGE began work on a new album on which each track would feature him playing a different, rare guitar, he was quick to contact DAN HICKS. Hicks had an exclusive 1956 Gibson, given to him decades ago by a fan who claimed the instrument had belonged toCHUCK BERRY. Hicks, at work putting the last touches on his upcoming Selected Shorts (due November 9th), sent the Gibson off to Page's London studio . . . “

All About Jazz Webzine Write-Up On Buckwheat Zydeco

On Thursday, June 2nd, the Narrows welcomes Buckwheat Zydeco!

Read about him in this write-up in allaboutjazz.com.

Tickets are still available for the show, but they are moving rapidly. You might want to get yours in advance.

Visit www.ncfta.org for more information about getting tickets.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Chris Wood Show Not Happening

It turns out that Chris Wood will not be playing the Narrows in June, as previously announced. Watch this space for future announcements regarding another date.

Chris Wood, as you may know, plays in the jam band Medeski, Martin and Wood. But he's doing an Americana roots thing with his brother Oliver.

We hope to bring the Wood Brothers to the Narrows soon!

New Orleans Roots Radio Reviews New Buckwheat Zydeco CD

Thursday, June 2, the Narrows hosts Buckwheat Zydeco, just about the time Buckwheat releases a brand new CD.

New Orleans Roots Radio WWOZ already has a review on-line. Read it here!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Tickets Still Available for Saturday Night's Show

Saturday night we feature Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Sarah Borges, who has an extremely hot CD across the country. She should have it for sale at the show.

Advance ticket sales have been healthy, particulary since these are young performers who are just starting to generate buzz (Remember how we had the Duhks before they were one of the hottest roots acts in the country? Same thing for Ollabelle.)

Nonetheless, we expect to have tickets available at the door. So bring a date, your spouse, your partner, your kids, your friends. Remember, we don't sell alcohol, but you can bring it with you if you are of legal age. We do sell coffee, etc.

See you Saturday night at the Narrows!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Dulcie Taylor Interviewed by FolkWax

Dulcie Taylor, who is opening for Greg Trooper at the Narrows on Saturday, June 11, is interviewed by FolkWax.

Read it here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Narrows Artists Continue to Dominate Americana Chart

The Americana Radio Chart almost looks like the Narrows Center for the Arts music schedule!

Let's see--there's Sarah Borges, who's playing the Narrows on Saturday night. Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez, who are playing the Narrows on Friday, June 10th. Greg Trooper, who's playing Saturday, June 11th. And that's just for starters!

There's Jimmy LaFave, Mary Gauthier, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, the Red Stick Ramblers, the Duhks, Donna the Buffalo, Tish Hinojosa and Chatham County Line.

JJ Baron Wants to Own a Home in 5 Years!

Friday, June 3, JJ Baron has a CD release party at the Narrows. JJ's new CD features great tunes and great players, including Jim Weider, formerly of The Band.

If you come to a lot of Narrows' shows, you've probably seen JJ open, as a solo artist or with a backing group. We wanted you to get to know this rising young artist a bit better, before he's so famous he won't even answer our questions.

Question: How did you learn to play and sing so well?

A. I played and PLAYED the guitar and sang and sang and sang. It's a very very lonesome job, a lot of ALONE time....

Question: Your songs seem well-crafted. Does songwriting take a lot of time?

A. I started writing before I could play guitar, lyrics and poems, songs with melodies in my head...I started at 11 or 12. I use to rap with a turntable. Those were the days!

Question: Are you searching for a major label? Or are you planning to go the "indie" route for your recordings?

A. Searching? No, we have an aim and destination when it comes to a major label.

Question: What music are you listening to these days? Any artists you would recommend to the readers?

A. Local Artist: Michael Troy, Ryan Fitzsimmons, Jenna Nicholls, The Lingo,Lindsay Mac.....National: Tom Waits, Ryan Adams, Doug Burr, Slaid Cleaves, Townes Van Zandt, Paul Westerberg, Iron and Wine.....

Question: Those of us who have been following your career know that you have been considering moving outside of New England. Any plans in the works right now?

A. Boston or New York, New York or Boston??? That is the question....maybe Nashville for a little while, but not to go there and struggle; maybe to hang there for awhile....

Question: Where do you want to be in your music career 5 years from now?

A. I want to be able to buy a house within 5 years. I'm 22 now and by the timeI'm 23 I hope to be touring nonstop/writing and recording.... those things are in the works right now, which is nice! Five years I hope to be able to make a good living. I think it will be an adventure!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Professor Louis and the Crowmatix CD Review

Here's a little review I did for americanaroots.com of the latest CD from Narrows faves "Professor Louis and the Crowmatix."

Get the review by clicking right here.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Narrows Faves The Holmes Brothers Get Blues Award

Our buddies The Holmes Brothers received a W.C. Handy Award recently. The W.C. Handy is sometimes called the "blues Grammy."

Anyway, they got the "blues band" award.

Congrats to the guys!

For the complete list of winners, go to

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Show Opener In Chart Top 20

It's never happened before, as far as we know: The opening act having a record on the charts, while the featured act does not.

That's the case on Saturday, May 21, when Sarah Borges opens for Grace Potter.

Sarah is #20 on the latest Americana Radio chart, just above Nanci Griffith. She's #15 on the Free Form American Roots chart.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Ronnie Earl Tickets Still Available for Saturday Night

As I write this, about 7 p.m. on Friday night, there still are Ronnie Earl tickets available for Saturday night's big show.

But don't wait much longer. Get your tickets in advance on-line. Or you can stop by the Narrows on Friday night (tonight) until about 10, or on Saturday afternoon from noon until 5 p.m.

This could be a sell-out, so don't delay.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Chris Wood of Medeski, Martin & Wood to Play Narrows

Chris Wood, bass player for jam band legends Medeski, Martin and Wood, is coming to the Narrows with his brother Oliver on Sunday, June 12th.

They do a guitar/bass Americana rootsy sort of thing.

Mark this one down on your calendars. Tickets should be available soon.

Learn more about Chris Wood's side project at www.mmw.net

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Red Stick Ramblers Podcast

Although it's not listed yet on our official calendar, the Red Stick Ramblers return to the Narrows on July 15.

In the meantime, check out a podcast regarding their latest album.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Opener for Delmhorst Worth Coming Early For

Friday, May 13 we welcome back Kris Delmhorst to the Narrows. But we also welcome for the first time Sarah Siskind.

We grabbed a bio off her website, for your reference:

Sarah Siskind started making records earlier than many people begin collecting records. As a girl growing up in Winston-Salem, N.C., in a family of bluegrass and Celtic musicians, she was encouraged not only to play piano and sing, but to do what too few young students are given the freedom to do: make up her own music.Much of it was instrumental, which she often played during services at her church.

But there also were songs, and she was playing and singing regularly in coffee houses and song contests in her early teens. Home schooled, she had extra time in the afternoons, and she filled many days playing piano at a mall food court to make money to buy a four-track tape recorder, a rudimentary version of what is found in full-size studios.

Her first album-length cassette came out when she was 14. Another project followed at 17, a six-song CD just a few years later.

As a result, Siskind, now 24, worked through most of the trial and error of learning how to record before preparing what amounts to her official debut as a ready-for-prime-time artist.

But listening to Covered, a 12-song collection featuring the backing guitar of Bill Frisell and vocals of Jennifer Kimball, one wonders if she's ever erred in her musical judgment.The independently released project exudes intelligent, emotional atmosphere and moody electricity. Indeed, it is one of the finest albums of any genre to emerge from Nashville this year, and a genuine contribution to the singer/songwriter canon, thanks to its startling originality."-Craig Havighurst, The Tennessean

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Narrows Alums Play Austin City Limits Festival

Narrows alums the Weary Boys, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Donna the Buffalo will be performing with the likes of the Black Crowes, Wilco, and the Allman Brothers in September at the Austin City Limits Festival.

Austin City Limits, as you probably know, is a public broadcasting show that has featured folk, country, blues and stuff-in-between for many years.

Learn more at www.austincitylimits.org.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Giving Some Respect to WSMU, 91.1 FM

WSMU, 91.1 FM hasn't gotten the attention on this blog it deserves!

Here's their latest folk chart which features several Narrows alums, including Kris Delmhorst (coming to the Narrows Friday, May 13), who's featured on "Redbird," which is #2 on the chart, The Duhks, Jimmy LaFave, Greg Brown, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Greg Trooper, who's coming to the Narrows on Saturday, June 11.

April 2005

Various Artists
These Times We're Living In


The Waifs
A Brief History

Crooked Still
Hop High!

David Francey
The Waking Hour

Various Artists
The Signature Sounds 10th Anniversary

Jimmy LaFave
Blue Nightgfall

The Grascals
The Grascals

Kate McDonnell
Where the Mangoes Are

Dana & Susan Robinson
Native Soil

The Chieftains
Live From Dublin Hall - A Tribute to Derek Bell

Greg Brown
In The Hills of Caifornia

The Makem Brothers
Like Others Before Us

Greg Trooper
Make It Through This World

The Duhks

Local Ground

Erica Wheeler
Almost Like Tonight Live

Ray Wylie Hubbard
Delerium Tremelos

Chuck Brodsky
Color Came One Day

Richard Shindell

Friday, May 06, 2005

We Interview Kris Delmhorst!!!

As you know, singer/songwriter Kris Delmhorst is playing the Narrows on Friday, May 13th, for the first time in many years. Yes, we know it will be Friday the 13th, but we think that anybody who comes to the show will be very lucky anyway!

We caught up with Kris, who has been on tour, to ask a few questions.

Question: You seem to tour practically non-stop. When do you have down time?

I'm actually pretty careful about building in down time. The schedule is pretty cyclical, so when a record comes out I'll tour pretty hard for up to a year, then ease off for a while to get the next one ready. I'm actually headed into the down part of the cycle right now. and I always take at least one solid month off a year, sometimes two. Otherwise no writing happens.

Question: What CDs are you listening to these days? Any recommendations?

I've been listening to a ton of stuff. I'm completely smitten with Iron & Wine's new EP "Woman King." I love the new Keren Ann record. And Beck's new one is great too.

Question: Your latest CD is "Songs for a Hurricane." Since it's been out awhile, is there anything you wish you did differently on the CD?

To tell you truth, I haven't listened to anything from that record in over a year, so nothing leaps to mind. I certainly learned a lot of lessons from the making of it but I always think of them more as things to take to the next project, rather than worrying too much about the ones that are already done.

Question: Tell us about the "Redbird" project.

It's a record that I did for fun with Peter Mulvey, Jeffrey Foucault, & David Goodrich. Covers mostly, just songs we like. We recorded it live in a living room around one microphone and had a great time. We just finished spending the whole month of April touring it around the country.

Question: Are you planning your next CD? If so, when do you think it will be released?

Working on writing it right now. It'll be next year sometime but still no concrete idea of when.

Question: Any television or network radio appearances coming up? Didn't you just do something on one of the satellite radio stations?

Redbird taped shows on both Sirius and XM satellite radio stations. I myself won't be focusing on any of that stuff til the next record comes out.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Our Friends on the Blues Roots Chart

For all you chart fans, here's one which has some of our friends who have performed at the Narrows, including John Hammond and Prof. Louis and the Crowmatix.

Kris Delmhorst Bio

On Friday, May 13, Kris Delmhorst will be appearing at the Narrows.

Here's a bio I grabbed from her website.

Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, with one ear permanently glued to the radio, a hopeless love of language, and a four-part-harmony-in-the-car family, Kris Delmhorst was a songwriter waiting to happen. While pursuing a multi-instrumental education, Kris authored notebooks full of poetry and fed her voracious curiosity for the inner workings of music from the Beatles to Tom Waits, Jimmy Reed to John Coltrane, Led Zeppelin to Dvorak to The Smiths.

Songwriting waited patiently as Kris traveled down various life paths: obtaining a studio art degree, living and working on a remote homestead farm in Maine, hitchhiking around Ireland while learning fiddle from old-timers, working on a seagoing schooner, and leading an outdoor education program for 5th graders on Cape Cod. The combination of these experiences led to the appearance of the first song in Kris' own voice in her early twenties. That beginning has since matured into a body of work reflecting the wide-ranging travels of an inquisitive artist, songs with pavement under their feet, dirt under their fingernails, and sometimes out of sight of land altogether.

Kris’s third CD "Songs For A Hurricane,” set to be released in August 2003 on Signature Sounds, is the latest stride in a career she's built in classic Do-It-Yourself fashion – touring the country incessantly and releasing her music independently. Clearly she’s hit the mark, having sold 25,000 copies of her first two releases, "Appetite" and "Five Stories," on the foundation of strong performances and word-of-mouth alone. She’s toured the States and Europe with Dar Williams, Chris Smither, Catie Curtis, and Mary Gauthier. Along the way she’s garnered six Boston Music Award nominations, snagged first prize in the 2001 Telluride Troubadour Songwriter Competition, and secured her place in a stack of DJs' top ten lists from coast to coast.

Between tours, Kris's well-worn suitcase gets unpacked in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she has planted musical roots in the vibrant Boston music community. This multi-faceted musician thrives on the range of opportunities to recombine and re-inspire – performing and recording as a supporting player on cello, fiddle, and voice, forming bands and side projects, and serving on the production team for two editions of “Respond” (award-winning compilations working to end domestic violence).

Now Kris readies "Songs For A Hurricane,” produced with Morphine’s Billy Conway at his Hi-n-Dry Studio in Cambridge. This time around, the team chose to trim back the range of instruments, allowing the songs to breathe without losing the rich sonic textures of "Five Stories." This was achieved in part by matching the personalities of different guitarists to particular songs. "Hurricane’s" musical crew includes Conway on drums, Andrew Mazzone on bass, Julie Wolf on keyboards, and on various tracks, Mark Erelli, Jabe Beyer, Kevin Barry, and Steve Mayone playing guitar.

Early on in the recording, Delmhorst developed a vision for the album’s momentum. As the title suggests, the record relates to a turbulent time. The sequence of songs traces a hurricane’s arc – the suspended motion that precedes it, the corporeal build of energy, the sudden calm of the eye, the tension and release as elements combine, the pensive conclusion as it settles, and the destruction and redemption left in its wake. Kris certainly knows a thing or two about this transformative journey; "Songs For A Hurricane” tells a universal tale of heading through the teeth of a storm and coming out the other side whole, wiser for wear, and forever changed.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Jonathan Edwards Interview at the Narrows

I took advantage of Jonathan Edwards' recent visit to the Narrows to sit down with him and chat. The interview and concert write-up are located on San Antonio-based americanaroots.com.

Thanks to Jonathan for taking the time before his concert to talk!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Greg Trooper on a Podcast

Greg Trooper, who makes a triumphant return to the Narrows Saturday, June 11, is featured on a podcast at www.americanaroots.com.

The neat thing about a podcast is that you can hear actual selections of music. So this is an opportunity to sample some of Greg's work. Essentially, a podcast is an MP3 file, so if you can play MP3s, you probably can play the podcast.

Americanaroots.com is a new website which yours truly contributes to from time to time with written reviews. If memory serves, the podcast was produced by a fellow out in the state of Washington.

JP Jones Tells Story Behind Song on WUMB

JP Jones, who's new CD "Thugs and Lovers" is fab, will be telling the story behind one of the songs on WUMB's morning show.

We can't figure out exactly when JP will be on, but it's sometime this week during the morning show. But check out this link, and see if you can tell. Please post a comment if you can figure it out.

Or email me at stephenhug@comcast.net.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Chat with Narrows Fave Chris Smither

A little chat with Chris Smither I found on the globalvillageidiot.net.

"Part of me wants to say it's gotten easier, and to a degree that's true. But there's another part of me that says it's just as hard as it ever was!"

Chris Smither has been around the block a few times. You can hear it in his voice. And you can hear it in his songs, where experience and hope mingle. But at 59, that's only to be expected. On Train Home , his 11th album, his distills everything into a remarkable collection of performances that manage to sound relaxed and intense at the same time.

"The basic tracks were recorded in the house," he explains. "We brought in a very high-end studio and set it up. It produced a comfort factor, a relaxed feel. I loved it, and David 'Goody' Goodrich really wanted to do it that way. He said he'd missed the intimacy in my studio records. He wanted people to hear them the way he first heard them across my dining room table."

So he simply played the songs, one after another. Then he'd take a break, and "then play them all again in a different order. We did that four times and we had them all."

But the New Orleans native, who makes his home in Boston, is used to performing; it's something he's been doing since 1966. During the early '70s he recorded three albums (one of which remains unreleased), and then "I just fell into all the worst kinds of drugs and alcohol, mostly alcohol. When I got tired of that, or it got tired of me, I sort of washed up on a different shore and started recording and writing again. And things have been pretty good since about '89."

Since that rebirth his music has mined a rich seam, and he's found a voice and style that's truly his own., showing excellent chops as both songwriter and guitar picker. Still, that's perhaps to be expected from someone whose first inspiration was a bluesman who tapped his own deep well - Lightnin' Hopkins.

"In the '50s and '60s I was really into rock'n'roll, and here was a guy who was playing rock'n'roll all by himself. IT just appealed. I never wanted to be in a band, I was always something of a loner. I was unsure of myself for one thing. I couldn't believe all this noise coming out of one guy with one acoustic guitar, and I couldn't imagine how it was done at first. After a while the lyric got to me. He was a wonderful storyteller. At the same time, there was nothing involved about it. There was a concision to it, a brevity of expression that spoke worlds. I even realized at an early age that it was the combination of the rhythmic aspect of it and it was all the things I liked about rock'n'roll, a synthesis of rhythm and simple lyrics that just hit home with tremendous power. And the ultimate beauty was that I could do it by myself. I didn't have to be involved with other people. Rock'n'roll lyrics didn't read well until the Beatles, Cream and everybody else. It taught me a lot about guitar playing and solo orchestration of songs. That served me well when I started listening to Dylan. Dylan was a guy very much like me. He started off playing blues - on his first record he was playing Blind Lemon Jefferson. And if you listen to what he does now, it's all informed by blues. That's me, too. It took me years to realize we'd followed the same path."

The discovery of music by the old bluesmen - often from the legendary Anthology of American Music - was a turning point for an entire generation of young musicians, what Smither terms "the cataclysmic fusion."

For Smither it came full circle with Avalon Blues , the tribute to the music of Mississippi John Hurt that was assembled by Peter Case. Hurt was Smither's "second bluesman, and at one time or another, I probably learned everything John Hurt ever did." He ended up covering "Frankie and Albert," in a version that fell together in about an hour, "so we ran over to a studio and laid it down. I sent it to Peter Case, probably within two weeks of when he called me. Then two years later I was doing a show with him in Chicago and he handed me an advance copy of the record."

And on Train Home's epic performance (among other wonderful covers and his own material) he takes on Dylan, with his own interpretation of "Desolation Row."

"That song stayed with me for years. There's a kind of intimate air of resignation about it that he never approached. He was still such an angry young man, he was like 23 when he wrote it. There's this quiet resignation about the song, and a bit of despair, too, but it needs to be recounted person to person. It's not a high dudgeon, declamatory thing at all. Goody told me he wanted to do it up, start off real simple and build into a big moment, then tail off. He said 'I want you to call your pal Bonnie [Raitt] and get her to work on it.' So I was calling in favors - and he was right. I've never asked her to do anything before, I wanted to have something that made sense for her to work on rather than marquee value. And that was it. She did a killer job. I never even saw. I sent her the basic acoustic version on disk. She went into the studio and laid down a whole bunch of stuff and said 'Take your pick.' And it was all good. It sounded like we'd been living together for 20 years."

There's plenty of his own material on Train Home, too, proof that Smither is the equal of all his inspirations. There's maturity, in the very best way, throughout his work.

"Part of me wants to say it's gotten easier, and to a degree that's true. But there's another part of me that says it's just as hard as it ever was! The only difference is that now you have the confidence that if you keep at it, it will happen."

Which could almost stand as a metaphor for Smithers's own career