The Low Anthem’s “Smart Flesh”

The Low Anthem “Smart Flesh” (Nonesuch)

The Low Anthem’s first major label effort is a haunting masterpiece, a new generation’s “Music From the Big Pink.” Like the mystical alchemy The Band conjured in a West Saugerties, New York, house, the four members of the Low Anthem have created a new sound, turning our expectations of Americana (or Alt Americana, if you will) on its head, partly by using the sonics of the place.


“Smart Flesh” gets much of its ghostly, otherwordly feel from months of recording in an abandoned pasta sauce factory in Providence, Rhode Island, home to the band, who met as students at Brown University. Just like The Band decades ago, much of the power of “Smart Flesh” comes from the instruments they chose. But this time it’s not mandolin and fiddle. The Low Anthem hauled in an entire studio and a warehouse worth of instruments, including, saws, jaw harp, banjo, dulcimer, various horns, and of course, a pump organ or two. Ben Knox Miller, who does most of the singing, can sound like Richard Manuel on one tune, then Leonard Cohen on another (listen to the sad banjo and softly wailing saw frame Knox’s vocals on “Burn”).

Some songs, like the beautiful opener, “Ghost Woman Blues,” are incantations, modern hymns, as they are anything else. “Apothecary Love,” the second cut,  is an old fashioned country weeping waltz that could have been on “Big Pink.” But while the overall mood is airy and subdued, the disc isn’t quiet throughout. That’s clear when the horns and drums come galloping out of the box on the anthemic “Boeing 773,” an indie rocker about 9/11. “I was in the air when the towers came down/ In a bar on the 84th floor.”
But the words almost seem secondary to the atmosphere. The second half of the album after the instrumental break of “Wire,” a meditation on clarinet, is full of somber grace punctuated in the middle by the rollicking “Hey, All You Hippies!”  fueled by organ and vocals that recall The Band.  On “I’ll Take Out Your Ashes,” whcih sounds like something from a cabin’s front porch, the plucked banjo again frames an apology and a lament about a wife’s cremated ashes that haven’t been given their immortal resting place. “It’s a sad and guilty feeling/ Since I did not take out your ashes/ Whatever I was feeling, never came to passing.”

The title track closer is a creepy, maudlin meditation that it seems could only have been recorded in the empty, sprawling space. But that’s appropriate. “Smart Flesh” is a new kind of folk record where the feeling is the message.

The Susan Cowsill Band at North Shore Point House Concerts

The final North Shore Point House Concerts show of 2010 features The Susan Cowsill Band in what should be a fun night of folk/rock music in Norfolk.  If you’re interested in attending email jim@northshorepoint.com or northshorepoint@aol.com.  The show is at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16. For more on the series, go to www.northshorepoint.com Feel free to tell friends and share links to this blog and the site.

House concerts are special evenings, laidback events shared by fans who come to listen, talk, and enjoy the community experience.

It’s interesting how Susan Cowsill spans generations. To some, she’s the youngest member of the singing family of the 1960s.

To others, she’s one of the principals in a superb band, The Continental Drifters, based in New Orleans during the 1990s.  The Drifters put out two superb albums of power pop/rock highlighted by the songwriting of Cowsill, VIcki Peterson, late of The Bangles, and Peter Holsapple,  who plays with R.E.M, has released two fine albums with Chris Stamey, and was in the pioneering alt pop North Carolina group, the dBs.

And to a third group, she’s the front woman of a band that has released two critically-acclaimed albums around being flooded out of her New Orleans home (after Katrina, she spent four months living out of her car and staying with friends).

Wrote Eric Feber in The Virginian-Pilot earlier this year:
“With help from Jackson Browne and her remaining brothers on harmonies, Cowsill eloquently and passionately sings of her personal losses and the struggles and triumphs of the Crescent City. Her accessibly melodic songs are delivered in folk-rock, Celtic and country-pop arrangements, ranging from spirited full-band rockers to melancholy ballads illuminated by strings and acoustic backing.

On “Lighthouse,” Cowsill steps out of the shadows of her family’s band and tragedies to deliver a triumphant record of sweet and bittersweet music.”

Rolling Stone writes: “From Katrina to Super Bowl champs, this is our story,” singer-songwriter and proud New Orleans resident Susan Cowsill writes in the credits, and she repeatedly veers between drowning and daylight, exile and homecoming, on Lighthouse, an earthy, often crunchy folk-pop gem. But Cowsill has a supple survivor’s alto, and it runs like a sturdy lifeline through the silken dreaming in “Dragon Flys,” her hard-soul resolve of “Could This Be Home” and especially the gospel-rock liftoff in “River of Love,” written by her brother Barry, who perished in Katrina, and sung by Susan with a heavy heart and sweet memory in the same deep breaths.”

Summer Albums, Part 2, (the guys)

It’s past the half way point of 2010 so it’s about time I review four of my favorite albums of the past six months. Some were released recently, some in the spring. They’re all good for summer listening.

Kevin Welch “A Patch of Blue Sky” (Music Road)

That Kevin Welch isn’t a household name is a crime for fans of finely wrought, soul-searching, and soul-touching songs. Welch has been writing for more than three decades and he’s a master songwriter, a son of Oklahoma (like Woody) who recently moved from Nashville to the hill country of Texas. “Blue Sky” is his first solo record in eight years (although he’s released a couple of must-have discs with buddies Kieran Kane and Fats Kaplin during that time) and it’s one of the year’s best, ten songs framed by his rich, expressive voice (listen to him take that breath at just the right time on “Answer Me That”) and tasteful Americana instrumentation (hey, he’s credited with inventing the genre).

Every cut is a highlight from the opener, “Come a Rain,” a litany of simple character statements – “Jesus was a pagan, Woody was a punk” – on through the soulful, gospel sounding title track that’s both hopeful and defiant and blessed with soaring harmonies by the Trishas, which include his daughter, Savannah. Dustin, his son, lends a major hand, helping with the writing and playing guitar. He prodded his father into finishing a poem, “A New Widow,” which is one of the album’s highlights. Welch has never shied from the tough questions, the broken hearts and broken dreams. On “Answer Me That,” he writes:

If love is the answer, what is the question
I still can’t get it right somehow
Where does it come from
What could it become
How can I find some right now
Answer me that

“Long Gone Dream” pines for a lost love. “Marysville” is about a town blown away by the fires of heaven. “The Andaman Sea,” perhaps the disc’s most beautiful cut thanks to Brian Standefer’s cello playing, looks out on that Thai sea and back on a relationship. On “The Great Emancipation,” he notes “blood runs deep, souls run deeper.” Welch’s heartfelt writing is only part of what makes “Blue Sky” so compelling. His voice has gotten better, more emotional, over the years. He may have been through some rough times, but he can see the clouds parting on “A Patch of Blue Sky:”

This is gonna pass me by
That’s all I know
Honey this ain’t my
First rodeo
Been a month of Sundays
Since you said goodbye
All I’m waitin’ on now
Is a patch of blue sky

Peter Wolf “MIdnight Souvenirs” (Verve).

If you only know Peter Wolf from the late-era J. Geils Band hits, then you’re missing something, maybe everything. On “Midnight Souvenirs,” his first solo disc in eight years, he’s the master of ceremonies for a house rockin’ night of R&B (real, soulful analog R&B). Just try to stay in your seat. Wolf, the night owl, leads you through a long night into day of hip-shaking, love making (and breaking), and soul depraving time. Sit back and let Wolf spin you a tale on the mostly spoken word yucks of “Overnight Lows.”

The guy has great taste and it shows although “Midnight” isn’t just an R&B homage. There’s plenty of cutting licks by guests Duke Levine (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Otis Rush) and Larry Campbell (Dylan, others). Sax and strings enter at just the right time on cuts like “The Night Comes Down” and “The Green Fields of Summer.” The lyrics are confessional, descriptive, and occasionally funny.

Wolf chooses his dance partners well. A duet with Nashville bad girl Shelby Lynne on “Tragedy” is a perfect marriage. The cut opens the album and announces we’re going to party over the sadness. Wolf pleads, but Lynne, as soulful as ever, is defiant; she’s not coming back. Cue the horns, guitars that would make Steve Cropper proud, and the late B-3 entry. A mid-album folk rock turn by Neko Case on the fiddle-driven “The Green Fields of Summer” provides a welcome breather. And Merle Haggard indulges Wolf’s twang inclinations with the closing “It’s Too Late for Me.” (Wolf started his career as a DJ and I wonder if “Green Fields” pays homage to the folk classic while “Watch Her Move,” a rollicking piece of R&B makes a nod to Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “She Moves Me”).

Wolf touches down on blues, gospel, country (listen Kris Delmhorst’s backing vocals and Campbell’s sighing guitar on “Then It Leaves Us All Behind)”, and rock. But everything moves you, including the lone cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Everything I Do (Gonna be Funky).”. This is one to put on repeat and play all night long.

Blue Rodeo “The Things We Left Behind” (TeleSoul)

It says something aboutBlue Rodeo’s Lower 48 profile that this fine double disc was released in their native Canada last November, but not in the States until a couple of months later. Why the group never rode the alt country wave of the 1990s that saw Wilco, The Jayhawks, Whiskeytown and others emerge isn’t clear. Blue Rodeo has sold millions of albums up north, won a ton of Juno awards and regularly sells out arenas. Not so much here and that’s a shame. Especially because after a couple of treading-water releases, the band is back in excellent form this time out, moving easily from rockers to ballads to a couple of stretched-out jams on an ambitious double disc that clocks in at 80 minutes (two easily digestible albums).

Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy, the songwriters and co-lead singers, have been penning great tunes for nearly 30 years. On “The Things We Left Behind” they trade lead vocals from song to song with each disc coming in at about 40 minutes. There’s a sampling of roots styles here, from rockers to ballads and they all work. They explore influences ranging from The Beatles — several cuts feature “Abbey Road”-era harmonies and guitar work — to the early Eagles/California sound of “Arizona Dust” to rockers like “Never Look Back” and “Candice,” which opens with a piano riff that instantly brings The Band to mind.

In fact, it’s not a stretch to say these guys are direct descendants of The Band. Their writing has been consistently superb over a long period and now, as they look back on a life lived, it’s grown only deeper. “It’s such a small place you came from; it’s so far the other way that you’ve gone,” they sing on “Million Miles.”

“We thought we had two records, one that could be like a ‘daytime’ record, and one that could be ‘night time’ with more moody pieces on it, or would be a bit more jammy. By the time we laid the songs out it seemed that idea would do a disservice to them, so we finally had to commit to doing a double record, with each disc being the traditional length of an album, 40 or 45 minutes,” Cuddy said of the album. “While we were at the point of deciding all of this, Thom Yorke made his big pronouncement that the album was dead, albums are boring, we’ll never participate in that again, and we’ll only be doing singles. That made us think there couldn’t be a better time then to make a double album. If Thom Yorke said that, then we’ve gotta do the opposite.”

Along with “Diamond Mine,” “Five Days in July” and “Lost Together,” “The Things We Left Behind” is essential, a return to form that shows the band still has plenty left.

Graham Parker “Imaginary Television” (Bloodshot).

The conceit behind this album, if you believe the press release (and I don’t), is that Graham Parker was asked to create a theme song for a television show. His offering was summarily rejected and that sent him off penning an album of tunes for non-existent shows, shows he’s outlined in the liner notes. To me, that sounds like the wise ass Parker just having one more laugh. The premises are amusing. Parker claims “Weather Report,” the disc’s rocking opener, is about a television series centered on an agoraphobic who’s obsessed with the Weather Channel. But his lyrics portray a man on the outside trying to figure it all out.

“Hey, can you tell me where everybody’s going to,” he sings on “Weather Report.” “They’re out there on the street. They must be elite. They got shoes I can’t afford on their quick fast feet. They have modified irises behind opaque lenses. They’re hiding equipment behind barbed wire fences. They’ve got this high end electronic stuff I wouldn’t know how to work…I’m sitting there on my couch, my enthusiasm sinking. Don’t know where everybody’s going; don’t know what they’re thinking. There seems to be some secret everybody’s on to, but I just don’t seem to get it, man, not even if I want to.”

Whatever the motivation and creative juice, “Imaginary Television” is one damn fine, if often mellow, rock and roll record with Parker’s typically sneering wit looking at life after mid-life. The arrangements are simple, emphasizing Parker’s words and melodies. And while the tone strikes you at first as light, there’s a dark underbelly. What else would you expect?

Close listens — and this disc only gets better with each listen — reveals “Imaginary Television” is a song cycle about a man taking stock of who he is and where he fits as an artist, pamphleteer (read Parker’s fiction and blogs for grins as well as The Graham Parker Show) and a husband and father. Just listen to him: “I don’t feel comfortable inside my own skin,” he sings. “It doesn’t keep things in.”

Over the loping reggae beat of “See Things My Way,” he acknowledges “There is more than one of me” before assuring his wife that “I’ll be there for you and you know that’s true. I just can’t guarantee which one of me that will be so see things my way.”

On the sardonic “Bring Me a Heart Again,” he sings, “I got some courage and I got a brain, straw man though I may be. But long ago I felt my empathy wane. Bring me a heart again. ”

On “Always Greener,” he tells the tale of a man with “something lacking in his life, but he can’t define it. Three kids, two cars, a house, a wife. I guess that defines me. The grass is always greener. On “It’s My Party (But I Won’t Cry,” a riff on the Lesley Gore song, he is again on the outs, left only “chocolate and warm beer. ”
Even the lone cover of Johnny Nash’s “More Questions Than Answers” fits: “The more I find out, the less I know” is the key line.

Throughout the melodies are simple and catchy and, as always, Parker dips into a variety of genres to color his works.

Behind every wise guy, of course, is a sentimentalist. And Parker closes with a pledge to his son on “1st Responder.” “I’ll turn up in a hybrid or a Hummer or a Honda,” he promises. ” I’ll be your first responder. A wicked Maserati, a Kia or Hyunda. I’ll be your first responder.”

Parker made a lot of noise in the ’70s and ’80s, but never made the breakthrough. Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to put pen to paper, even as his subjects and his perspective changes.

Summer Albums, Part 1

The Mynabirds “What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood” (Saddle Creek).

The Mynabirds are singer/songwriter Laura Burhenn, once half of the D.C. pop duo Georgie James, but this luscious slice of blue-eyed soul pop sounds nothing like her old group. It builds on, but does not mimic, the ’60s sounds of Dusty Springfield, Jackie DeShannon and Carole King and is one of the summer’s delights, a catchy, sometimes dark, often joyous 30 minutes. Burhenn has a warm, inviting voice although nothing the power of a Springfield or even King. But the music by producer Richard Swift, who also plays on the disc, perfectly frames her talents. Check out the smoldering“Give It Time.” There are enough modern touches, on songs like the percussive “Let the Record Go” and “Wash It Out.” There’s a nice smattering of smoldering ballads, notably “LA Rain; a bit of alt twang on “Good Heart; some girl group fun on “We Made a Mountain,” and a terrifically catchy pop single,“The Numbers Don’t Lie,” one of the summer’s road trip pleasures.

The Mynabirds – Numbers Don’t Lie from Saddle Creek on Vimeo.

It was the single that brought me to this album, but it’s the evocative rest of the disc that brings me back time and again thanks to the tasteful, restrained production, intriguing lyrics and slow-burning melodies.

Laura Marling “I Speak Because I Can” (Astralwerks)

Laura Marling’s title suggests she feels more secure in her abilities following her debut, “Alas I Cannot Swim” at 18, two years ago. The disc makes good on that implicit promise, establishing her in a long line of Britiish folkies going back to Sandy Denny and Nick Drake and moving forward through Kate Rusby and Beth Orton. This is an often dark, mature and wise record from the the opening “Devil’s Spoke” through “Rambling Man” and on to guitar strumming propulsion of “Nature of Dust,” the closer.

The subjects are familiar folk rock concerns, nothing less than love, sex, sorrow, and the eternal. The melancholy “Made by Maid” sounds like it could have come off Drake’s “Pink Moon,” complete with hushed, spoken vocals and gentle guitar. But elsewhere she uses the folk foundation to venture into more lapel-grabbing ground. The bluesy affirmation of “Devil’s Spoke” is propelled by a furiously strummed guitar. “Let it always be known that I was who I am,’ she sings on “Rambling Man,” another relatively raucous folk rocker. Just as quickly, she is whispering about death in “Blackberry Stone.” The musical swings are deftly done, the bursts of banjo, mandolin and backing vocals from Mumford & Sons.

This is a record to cozy up to again and again, its pleasures revealed with repeated listenings, especially to Marling’s lyrics, which can be lost on shallow listenings as you call in love with her beguiling voice. “It’s hard to accept yourself as someone you don’t desire/ as someone you don’t want to be,” she writes in “Rambling Man.” On “Alpha Shallows” she sings of a man who will “work my heart till its raw.” On the title track, she looks at life from the perspective of an ignored wife. “I cooked the meals and he got the life,” she writes.
The disc manages the rare feat of delivering a thoughtful, emotional wallop. Just give it time.

Tift Merritt “See You on the Moon” (Fantasy).

Tift Merritt’s latest meditation opens with “Mixtape,” a catchy pop song driven by hand claps and framed by strings about making a mixtape for a potential lover, the narrator seeing herself “like a rare B-side.” It’s utterly captivating and it’s also utterly unlike anything else on the album.
Few artists have made an many stylistic turns in as few albums at Merritt, who debuted as an alt country chanteuse on “Bramble Rose,” then moved into mainstream blue-eyed rock and soul on the Grammy-nominated “Tambourine” before going roots like on the quiet “Another Country.” “See You on the Moon” is an often revelatory album that walks the line between the best of her last two efforts.

“Engine to Turn” and the Byrdsy “Six More Days of Rain” reach the edge of the catchiness found on “Tambourine.” “Never Talk About It,” guided by a strummed acoustic guitar, and “All the Reasons We Don’t Have to Fight,” are spare, elegant, and quietly beautiful. Merritt’s voice has grown quieter, more emotionally fragile over time and the production frames that with quiet simplicity in most cases. If “Tambourine” grabbed you and demanded attention, “Moon” sits back and beckons.

A few years ago, she fronted a band for an irresistible show at The Attucks Theatre as part of the Discovery series. While there were quiet moments, it was a rock show through and through. Merritt is on a different journey now, not as immediate, but equally rewarding.

Daphne Willis “What to Say” (Vanguard)

On the opening cut of this album, “Everybody Else,”a perfect choice for a summer in the car, Daphne Willis comes across as the female progeny of Dave Matthews, early Rickie Lee Jones and Jack Johnson with a groove-y, horn-fueled piece of pop. She doesn’t let down for the rest of this disc’s delightful dozen cuts. “Bluff” should be a summer single. “Yellow Dress” has that funky, percussive Johnson feel and is as sunny as it sounds. “All I Know” and it’s loping horn-driven chorus has a Memphis feel, even if Willis is a Chicago native.
What holds court throughout her jaunts through various acoustic pop styles, horns occasionally blaring, is Willis’s warm, easy-to-love voice and smart lyrics. “Yellow dress you leave me a mess,” she writes. “Teasing the wind, you’re there then you left. And I guess, you know by now, that I really adore you. Your eccentric mannerisms make me smile. Would it fancy you to share some thoughts for a while?”

Just put this on and listen. “What to Say” is about as tasteful and catchy folk pop record as you’ll find this summer. It’s also an example why good independent music stores (and book stores) still matter. I bought the disc because Barry Friedman at Birdland Records thrust it into my hand as I was checking out and said I needed to have it. He was right.

Jimmy LaFave at North Shore Point House Concerts

My house concert series, North Shore Point House Concerts in Norfolk, will be hosting Jimmy LaFave on August 1.

I’ve wanted to book Jimmy for a long time. He’s the real deal, a Texas songwriter and one of the most soulful singers around. Listen to his “Rain Falling Down.”

His  “River Road”  is another beautiful cut.

He is also the driving force behind the Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway show that brings Woody Guthrie’s music and words to stages.

For more information, go to the house concert web site or email jim@northshorepoint.com.

Like last month’s show with Kevin Welch, Sam Baker, Natalia Zukerman, and John Fullbright, this one isn’t to be missed.

Shannon McNally House Concert, April 10

Shannon McNally, a fine songwriter with a  sultry rock/folk/blues voice., will be playing my house concert series, North Shore Point House Concerts, on Saturday April 10.

Her debut album, “Jukebox Sparrow,” in 2002 captivated me and I’ve been a fan since. I never expected we’d be able to land her for the series. This should be a great show with her band, Hot Sauce.

If you’re interested in attending, email me at jim@northshorepoint.com.

You can listen to samples at: http://www.rhapsody.com/shannon-mcnally

You can see her perform at: http://www.google.com/search?q=shannon+mcnally&hl=en&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENUS245&tbs=vid:1&tbo=u&ei=5pmqS5CbL6aitgOP7_G3Bw&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&ct=title&resnum=10&ved=0CEUQqwQwCQ

She has opened for Ryan Adams, Stevie Nicks, Wilco, John Mellencamp, Dave Alvin, and Willie Nelson (several of us saw her at The NorVa a few years back).

Don’t rely on my word; here’s what the reviewers say:
“McNally’s sound bears a timelessness that’s truly uncommon.. [she] projects tenderness and toughness in ways that are remarkable and unequaled.”
— Jim Caligiuiri, The Austin Chronicle

“Her angelic shiver-sending drawl gives the music its hurt, its hate and, most importantly its heart… McNally gives the gift of believability to all she sings.”
— Mike Bell, The Calgary Sun

“She has the voice: bruised, smoky and ornery, right at home where country and soul meet.. She has the melodies and the timing.. she’s irresistible.”
— Jon Pareles, The New York Times”

Richard Ferreira Talks about new Charlotte Park Rangers Album

Richard Ferreira’s “Somewhereville” didn’t get much notice, but it was one of the soulful Americana gems of the early 2000s featuring one of the best kiss-off songs ever, “Bye Bye Baby.” Ferreira’s catchy melodies and solid lyrics made the record sound familiar from the first listen.

But those of us who heard him play the house concert series, North Shore Point House Concerts, know how fine a singer and songwriter he is.

Now, the veteran Nashville songwriter is back with a trio, Charlotte Park Rangers, that explores terrain both familiar and new, touching a toe in some old time country with an assist from bluegrass legend Carlton Moody and drummer Rick Lonow.

This album was – what? — seven years since your solo effort?
Yeah about 7 years, where does the time go, but I have been pretty busy with life.

Tell me how you assembled the songs.
The process was to get together and drink a lot of coffee and then start playing while rolling tape
We would play a lot of covers early in the day to loosen up, lots of R&B tunes and George Jones songs, Eventually we would find a lick or something would pop out, and we would find ourselves on the hunt of a song, Once we got to that point the songs wrote themselves for the most part. I went back later on and did more lyric writing to straighten out a few things before final vocals were put down. Most of the lyrics though were done rather spontaneously. It was also a way for me to get out of my own head and write for Carlton’s voice.

I had the concept that the songs were to be light and funky, I didn’t want to do a serious introspective type thing and I didn’t want to get into Nashville style co-writing where you sit around with yellow legal pads, It was an attempt I suppose at a big pink type of situation and I wanted to create a mythical landscape based on the characters and geography of “Charlotte Park,”, which is a real neighborhood on the banks of the Cumberland river in the northwest corner of Nashville where I live and the album was written and recorded

You co-wrote them with Carlton Moody and Rick Lonow for the most part. Were they done in the studio?

Carlton brought in “Fall In Love Again” & “Angeline” and I brought in “I Want To Get Lost. ” Everything else was written on the studio floor. We all share equally in the publishing, no matter who wrote what. It was the chemistry of the combined talent that was the juice. We have a bunch of leftovers; hopefully there will be volume 2

How did you guys get together?

Carlton’s other band Burrito Deluxe recorded a few of my songs on there last couple of records and I also played guitar and organ on those records so how that’s how we first met. Rick Lonow has played with me for years. He was on “Somewhereville.” So we had all worked together before. Originally, we were just doing some demos but it turned into a project once we saw what we had.

There’s a co-write with Gwil Owen. How did that come about?

I’ve written a lot with Gwil over the years and I produced his last 2 cds, Gravy and Ahabs Birthday which is just released. We had 3 co-writes on the last Toni Price cd

The album shifts styles from songs with your lead vocals that favor The Band and
songs with Carton’s lead vocals that are more straightforward country. Was that a conscious decision?
Well, I knew it sounded that way and I’m ok with that, if we do another record it will be probably be more seamless because everyone will be on the same page from the beginning, part of it is the quality of Carlton’s voice. its razor sharp country and I love the contrast of putting him in unorthodox non traditional settings, theres also a Burrito Brothers vibe imbedded in the record which is probably more Carlton’s .

How does that reflect your interests?

I think it makes it interesting, I guess I am known more for my R&B leanings, but I’ve been writing country songs for a long time, and I was really trying to write for Carltons voice. “Georgia Time” is a key example, and I love the way it slides into “Catfish Song.” I think it reflects my interests pretty well. I probably should point out that was done over a fairly long stretch of time. Carlton was living in Paris the whole time this was being done so on any given day I might of been feeling more country than soul but it all works for me.

Certainly your vocal resemblance to Rick Danko and a bit of Levon Helm comes across.
Well, its a very soulful style of singing, I don’t consciously try to sound like those guys though, although my natural voice does sound a bit like Danko’s. We all listened to the same records growing up; we are about the same age. I am a little big younger, I get this a lot, and Van Morrison and Elvis Costello. Really the guy who I always wanted to sound like was Al Anderson, I grew up next to Al and he was a really huge influence on me. Thanks Al.


How important are those guys to what you do?

Pretty strong I would say, anybody in this arena of music would be hard pressed to deny that, but they are only part of it, aside from there huge musical chops. It’s Robertson’s writing that really floors me.

Richard Bell makes an appearance. Tell me about that.
We are so fortunate that we got to know and play with Richard, probably the best musician I have ever known and a super guy. He passed away last year and we miss him dearly.
We met Richard through Garth Hudson, who is a friend of ours. I first worked with Garth in 1989 on my first album. Garth and Richard were best pals,
Richard of course was an original member of the Hawks. He had the best rock and roll stories you ‘ve ever heard, amazing piano player, very funny and sweet. RIP Richard

Where does the name Charlotte Park Rangers come from?

I guess Charlotte Park is sort of my Lake Woebegone , I envision future CPR outings with other guests and vocal pairings, a great outlet for songs, and a relief from being me. As I explained earlier, it’s my neighborhood. Maybe if we get famous the value of my home will get back up to where it was when I bought it.

Tell me about the origins of “Catfish Song.”
I live close to the river and I go down there a lot in the early morning and I think about bringing a fishin’ pole but I never do. It’s great, a great place for morning meditations and a creative well that I visit. So I was developing these Charlotte Park characters, and because they are mythical they do strange things, the wrongly accused murderer in “Georgia Time,” the prostitute who finds Jesus and then drowns herself in “Sunshine,” and the love-lorn loser in “Catfish” who goes downtown for a hooker and laments his lost love to her. I was looking for folks who had lost it, and what they do next. It’s all about redemption in a way.

“I Want to Get Lost” finds you trading leads. Was it written that way?
Well, not when we wrote it but I liked the effect of it, that was me just wanting to get out of town, about once a day I consider moving to a quiet place and getting out of Nashvegas.

Did you find your way to “Where the Soul…” through Hank Williams?

Carlton had that, but, yeah, it goes back to Hank, Carlton was a member of the Moody Brothers, a traditional Bluegrass/Gospel brother trio that won 2 Grammy years ago. He’s from that Carolina Moody dynasty,, Clyde Moody etc, so he’s been playing that song 40 years

Will you guys be touring?
Absolutely. We are dirt broke! Probably as a duo at first; nobody can afford a band anymore.

You can find the album online at:
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/CharlotteParkRangers
http://www.myspace.com/123562813