TOP 5: BANDS MOST LIKELY TO…


My Twitter and Facebook feeds were all a flutter Monday morning about The Grammys. The Black Keys won 3 Grammys and Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers performed on the show! Not to mention Mumford & Sons being up for Best New Artist. For a day at least, everyone was openly wondering who the next band from whatever our little niche of music is was gonna be.

So that’s this week’s Top 5. Give me your opinion on the 5 artists or bands that have the best shot at moving from this little scene we live and play in up to the bright lights of the Grammys.

Here are mine:

Gaslight Anthem: They’re one of those “love em or hate em” bands but the simple fact is that they have the polish, the hooks and the looks.

The Gaslight Anthem – The 59 Sound

Lucero: They’re almost the anti-Gaslight but what they lack in polish they make up for in substance. These guys have the songs, have put in the work and if the ever growing crowds have proven anything, they have mass appeal too.

Lucero – What Are You Willing To Lose

Glossary: These guys are almost an amalgam of Lucero and Gaslight. Every time I play their new album for someone, I end up burning a copy for them (sorry Glossies, but it’s the truth). If the country still had any real DJ’s outside of community radio these guys would be getting tons of airplay right now.

Glossary – Save Your Money For The Weekend

Whitey Morgan and The 78’s: If country music radio had any balls or if country music radio listeners actually cared about music these dudes would be huge already. The nashville country music scene and fan is dying for something worthwhile and these guys supply it without asking those pop country ears to try to hard.

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s – Bad News

Old Crow Medicine Show: Watching Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers actually perform on the Grammy stage while Bob Dylan tried to sing through some snot goober he had lodged mid-throat makes Old Crow the most obvious in this list.

Old Crow Medicine Show – My Good Gal

So. There you go. What are your 5?
Also, anyone else notice how much the singer of Mumford & Sons looked like Tim Tebow in the Grammy performance?

TOP 5: TAKEN TOO SOON…


December 8, 1980 & December 8, 2004. John Lennon and Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott respectively were shot. If there is a running theme in music besides “Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll” it’s the consistent muting of some of it’s brightest stars before their time and I thought today’s Top 5 could acknowledge that.

So, today’s Top 5 is “Artists Who Died Too Soon”.

Here are mine:

Robert Johnson: The lack of reliable documentation about Robert’s life has allowed plenty of rumor and conjecture up to and including the story the he sold his soul to the devil. However, what is known is that Robert Johnson recorded exactly 29 songs and in doing so, essentially defined a genre. On August 16, 1938, Robert died at the age of 27 from symptoms consistent with strychnine poisoning.

Robert Johnson – Cross Road Blues

Jim Croce: Jim released 3 albums while he was alive. His 4th album, I Got A Name, was released shortly after his airplane crashed in Louisiana on September 20, 1973. While Jim’s best known for hits like “Operator”, “Time In A Bottle” and “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” I think his more interesting works were his character songs.

Jim Croce – You Don’t Mess Around With Jim

Hank Williams: Died on January 1, 1953 at the age of 29 and still worshiped at the altars of country music some 50+ years later. Originally, I wasn’t gonna include anyone who died from a drug overdose on my list but it kept feeling incomplete without Hank on it so I broke my one rule. I guess Hank was worth that though. Interesting factoid: The last single released while Hank was alive was the prophetic, “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive”.

Hank Williams – I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

Tupac Shakur: It’s easy to just blow 2Pac off as “a gangsta rapper”. It’s easy for people who aren’t fans of hiphop to just blow rap off all together. Both are shortsighted and shallow. If ever the phrase, “muting of some of it’s brightest stars before their time” applied to an artist, it’s Tupac (though he has released more albums dead than he ever did alive).

Tupac – So Many Tears

Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines & Cassie Gaines: Were they the best southern rock band? Probably not. Do they define it the southern rock sound? No doubt about it and they might have gone on to be the most important band to ever emerge from the south. But an airplane took that chance away in 1977.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Tuesday’s Gone

JAMEY JOHNSON – THE GUITAR SONG


Jamey Johnson was born in some small town in Alabama that you’ve only heard of if you lived in or broke down there. He was born in 1975 and, by all accounts, he lived a musical life pretty similar to the rest of us who grew up in that time frame. Matter of fact, from what I’ve read about the dude, he’s pretty much lived a similar life to all the rest of us Southern mid-30-somethings.

That said, Jamey ain’t like the rest of us at all. See, Jamey committed a horrific crime. No, he didn’t rape a woman, kill someone or beat a kid. You can go to jail and pay your debt to society for crime like that, but you see Jamey wrote “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”, and that is a seemingly unforgivable crime in the world of country music proper. Now, while I don’t typically get into my feelings on these types of things….I am now. Is “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” a bad song? Of course it is. Was “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” a ridiculous hit? Hell, it still is to this day, and that’s the reason the anti-Nashville community hates Jamey Johnson by default. Not ‘cause he wrote a shitty song (see 95% of David Allen Coe’s song folder), but because he wrote a crossover hit. While I can understand a strict militarism of my music (I grew up in the industrial music scene), but at 37 years of age I’ve started to bore of it. I no longer hate a certain brand of music, I only hate “bad” music, and the simple fact is that Jamey Johnson’s latest album, The Guitar Song, isn’t bad music. Had he used a stronger editing hand and cut it down to 1 cd instead of 2, it’d be fucking great music. So don’t get caught up in the anti-Nashville chatter and write this fella off. Fact is, the dude has put out a good double cd, that when I pared down to a single cd I am willing to label as Essential Listening.

I know this post is gonna draw ire from the anti-pop country community, but fortunately for me it’ll take ‘em a while to see this, since they’re currently trying to figure out if one of their own got called out in a Taylor Swift song. To them I offer a challenge; forget “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and really listen to the album. Narrow it down to a single album’s worth of songs. Now, drop your guard and tell me if you like it. It’s okay if you don’t, but I think we’ll agree this album ain’t a warrior in the fight against country music proper, and something else tells me that, unlike Shooter Jennings, Jamey is sincere.

Jamey Johnson – Poor Man’s Blues
Jamey Johnson – Set ‘Em Up Joe
Jamey Johnson – Even The Skies Are Blues

Jamey Johnson’s Official Site, Stream the album (cd1) (cd2), Buy The Guitar Song

HONKY TONK REPORT: JEREMY STEDING AND MIKE KELLY @ THE ARMADILLO PALACE

For the last two weeks I have been six feet under at work. I mean I have been there between nine and eleven hours a day and not able to take lunch, save eating at my desk, much less find time to post about the cool shit I have found. In the middle of all this I got a text from Jeremy Steding that he was playing a free show at the The Armadillo Palace with Mike Kelly. As far as shows go it was an early show so I wrapped up what I could and bailed out of work with the knowledge that I would be playing catch up the next day but that my need to decompress was more important than not adding a few more inches to the hole I was already buried in. I was not wrong.

The show was just Jeremy and Mike trading acoustic songs which was just the sort of thing I needed. Mind you I didn’t know I needed it until Jeremy texted me a couple of hours before the show. Now you may remember my posts (album review and live show) on Jeremy from a while back and he didn’t disappoint. The boy is a ham on stage and obviously loves what he is doing. He played a few songs off his upcoming album and they proved everything I have said about him in the past. He is an amazing songwriter and his talents are only growing. I highly recommend dropping by his site, if you haven’t already, and availing yourself of his first two albums, which he offers for free. And I am not just saying that because he wouldn’t let me buy my own beer at the show!

Mike Kelly is a new face here on 9B and one I hope I get to write a lot more about. He has lived all over the US and is now one of Texas’ own. His songwriting is different from Jeremy’s but the differences made the show that much better. Mike writes about everything and I mean everything. From barroom ditties about the joys of all girls becoming pretty at 1:30 to songs about nearly dying written during his recent recovery from open heart surgery to love songs that only those of us who could drink for living, if it paid, will really understand. This kid runs the gambit and does it with style. My internet connection at home is, on a scale of one to ten for uploading, classified as SUCK so the videos I have of him belting out his tunes will have to wait until I can get them uploaded but suffice it to say this kid is the real deal. I will be reviewing his latest release very soon but I will give you a little preview here…

In closing this show, in a honky tonk only Texas could create, was a just what this cowboy needed to get through a couple of week of hell at work. I can’t thank these boys enough for inviting me out and, shockingly, putting me on their tab. These guys love their fans as much as they love playing their music and in the country music scene that’s something you don’t see that much anymore. I did talk Jeremy into recording a 9B exclusive after the show. Mike was going to but time ran short and the venue was playing their canned music pretty loud so we agreed I’d get an exclusive from him next time he was in town. I hope you enjoy!



Jeremy Steding’s official site (Both his album are available for free here)
Mike Kelly’s official site

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – HARLEM RIVER BLUES


Okay, I know this is gonna sound horrible but I am gonna say it anyway. I know all about Justin’s recent troubles with the law and his possible/probable relapse. That said, I don’t care. I don’t know Justin from Adam and he don’t know me, so what he does in his personal life affects me in the same way reading about Lindsay Lohan’s latest antics on Perez Hilton does, which is a wordy way of saying that, outside of tabloid fascination, it doesn’t. See, ninebullets is a site about music and seeing as my relationship with Justin is as deep as the silver cd his label sends me, that’s all I need to write about.

There has also been a little discussion of whether Justin’s music is folk or country. Again, this is an argument that registers on the irrelevant radar for me. Country music has to be one of the most segmented and hyper-hyphenated genres in music and I try to avoid getting into the overclassification game. Ninebullets is about good music and there should little doubt about whether or not JTE falls into that category.

So now that we’ve filled a screen with what we’re not gonna talk about, let’s get into something we are gonna talk about; how good this album is. Harlem River Blues has certainly been a polarizing album. Seems people either love it or hate it, and I fall squarely in the love it category. To me, Harlem River Blues far exceeds his previous two efforts, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that he pays very little to no reverence to the limits imposed by the country/alt.country fan base. He made an album as he wanted to. Too polished and full in sound to please the fundamental country crowd, while too calm and deliberate to appease the Double Latte Starbucks crowd. And, as if to take the wind out of both sails, there are moments that feel like a modern take on the 50’s bebop sound.

Personally, while I love Midnight at the Movies, Harlem River Blues feels like the album that should have followed The Good Life. Either way, it’s definitely Essential Listening, and even though Justin refuses to tour Florida (edit: Since I wrote this piece JTE has blinked and booked a Florida leg in November) I hope he’s out of rehab and back to penning and singing songs soon.

Justin Townes Earle – Move Over Mama
Justin Townes Earle – One More Night In Brooklyn
Justin Townes Earle – Slippin’ and Slidin’

Justin Townes Earle’s Official Site, Justin Townes Earle on myspace, Buy Harlem River Blues

HELLBOUND GLORY – OLD HIGHS AND NEW LOWS


Hellbound Glory.

I’ll be honest with y’all. I’ve seen their name around the internets and received numerous suggestions to check ’em out over the past year or so but the band’s name coupled with the album title of Scumbag Country and song titles like “Mickey Meth” I just blew them off as a novelty band at best and raper of the southern image at worst. In other words, I never listened to them and had no real intentions of ever doing so.

Then, somewhere on the way to never, I came across a mention of the band earlier this month by Triggerman (of Saving Country Music), a blogger who’s opinion I don’t always agree with but I do always respect. With that, I begrudgingly decided that this was a band I should at least give an obligatory listen to…

Hellbound Glory comes to us out of Reno (how appropriate), Nevada. The band’s bio has all the appropriate outlaw, cash, haggard, Coe references while their songs round up all the drug, booze and heartache that one would add to the pot when cooking up a new “outlaw” country album.

If it sounds like I’m not completely convinced of the image Hellbound Glory is putting forth, it’s because, in truth, I’m not wholly convinced it isn’t contrived or at least pushed to complete hyperbole. That said, I am convinced that 95% of the songs on Old Highs and New Lows are fantastic….even when they tread well worn ground. Musically these guys do a great job of making that classic country sound you’re used to hearing come out of your old man’s truck radio while being lyrically focusing on the bingeing and drugging of the modern “outlaw” country movement. In a pitch you could call these guys the “rock bottom” version of Whitey Morgan and the 78’s.

Old Highs and New Lows is well worth checking out as is Hellbound Glory. I only hope that as time wears on they start to expand lyrically less they end up travelling the same “been there heard that” road III is currently on.

Hellbound Glory – Why Take The Pain
Hellbound Glory – Gettin’ High and Hittin’ New Lows
Hellbound Glory – Slow Suicide

Hellbound Glory’s Official Site, Hellbound Glory on myspace, Buy Old Highs and New Lows

AMERICAN GRAVEYARD – HALLELUJAHLAND


American Graveyard (or their hired hands) mounted a pretty substantial email PR blitz a couple of weeks ago, and being quite possibly the greatest fringe country music blog in the history of the internets to write about music and be named after a Drive-By Truckers song, it was only a matter of time before I received the email with the lead single, “The Common Ones”, from their latest effort, Hallelujahland, attached.

As I’ve said before, I try and read every PR email I get (this gets harder and harder as time goes on) and make an effort to listen to a decent chunk of the music that comes with those PR emails. When I initially listened to “The Common Ones” I was taken aback, one could even say I was blown away. “The Common Ones” could easily be a Tim Barry track if it were a little leaner and meaner, but I was worried that the album could not live up to song.

Unlike “The Common Ones”, and quite possibly its title track, Hallelujahland is decidedly not a Tim Barry album if it were leaner and meaner. Matter of fact, the album’s opening song is more comparable to The Legendary Shackshakers than anything and the fluidity of their sound never lets up. I say that, but the roots of the songs are always the same, so it ain’t like you’re on some odd iPod on shuffle genre jumping listening experience or anything. While there isn’t another track on the album that melts my face quite like “The Common Ones”, this album has managed to acquire a cherished spot on the AIV iPhone (which is a mirror of the 9B Essential Listening list), sans a few horribly ill advised tracks like “Fuck”.

Anyhow, this little band out of Austin is definitely worth giving a couple of listens to. I suspect very few of you will regret it.

American Graveyard – The Common Ones
American Graveyard – Hallelujahland
American Graveyard – Pinebox

American Graveyard on myspace, Buy Hallelujahland

QUICK TAKES: FREE CASH AND A VIDEO:

Making my blog rounds this morning I saw something worth reposting over on Saving Country Music. Apparently 15 tracks from early sessions that would utlimately give birth to Johnny’s American Recordings have been assembled and offered for free. Now, I haven’t listened to them yet but according to Saving Country Music, “It’s just Johnny Cash and his guitar, sitting in Rick Rubin’s living room, except for one track accompanied by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. No overdubbs, just a live mic, warts and all.”

You can download it over at thefrontloader.com.

Now, for something of a lighter note….

Normally, I don’t post this kind of stuff but this fan made video for The Black Keys’ track, “Tighten Up” makes me laugh everytime I watch it so I thought I’d share it with y’all:

BEING A LOVESICK DRUNK DON'T MAKE YOU HANK:

…Bill Wilson’s three eldest sons grew up listening to him fingerpick old country tunes around the house. They learned to sing harmony at family holidays and inherited old guitars with their hand-me-down jeans. The past two decades sent James, Sam and Abe in disparate musical directions: teenage heavy metal fests, old-time barn dances, college bars and New York City jazz clubs. But in 2005 the brothers all returned – one from a cattle ranch in Nevada, one from an apartment in Brooklyn, one from Grad school in Maryland – and for the first time in their lives they began to make music together. With the addition of long-time friends Seth Green and Brian Caputo, Bill’s sons became Sons of Bill.

I didn’t want to like this album. The back story of three brothers who grew up listening to their old man pick the guitar, grew up, moved apart, and one day got back together to make music was honestly cheesy no matter how honest the story is. It didn’t take long for The Sons of Bill to win me over. One Town Away won’t make my album of the year list but there are some gems that shouldn’t be passed up. Musically this is a pretty standard country and western album but then the lyrics come in and that’s where the strengths of this album really lay.

It took a couple of listens to really catch my attention, mostly because I am listening while I work, but the first track on the CD really sets the tone for the album. Titled Joey’s Arm punches right into the small town feeling that runs through the album with a modern day perspective: “The dirt underneath the methadone and concrete has got to be more than dust and bones, ‘Cause the south ain’t gonna rise again but we’re holdin’ out for Jesus or so they say on AM radio”. Skip ahead to the title cut One Town Away and you can really see the strength in the Wilson brothers’ writing. While James wrote most the songs on the album there are tracks from both Abe and Sam as well.

This album feels a little more like a first album than a sophomore effort but it’s worth picking up if you like clean country music with lyrics that are little outside Nashville’s idea of what sounds good. The band is on tour now and coming through Texas with some of my favorite artists and even have a show with 9b favorite Jason Isbell in VA. I have a feeling that they won’t disappoint live and plan to catch them when they come through here.

Joey’s Arm
Charleston
Broken Bottles

Sons of Bill’s Official Site, Son’s of Bill on myspace, Buy One Town Away

AN ELDER STATESMAN…

Hailed in the press as the elder statesman of Texas music Ray Wylie Hubbard has been pickin’ guitars and writin’ songs for longer than I have been alive. Most of you probably know his work through Jerry Jeff Walker who made Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother famous back in 1973. With fourteen albums under his belt and almost forty years in country music industry Ray Wylie is the real deal. He has lived his music and was a sodden drunk until sometime in 1987 when he credits another Texas great: Stevie Ray Vaughan with convincing him to stop drinking.

I have to admit his first albums have not grown on me even over the years but what could one expect when one of the was named Ray Wylie & The Cowboy Twinkies? In fact almost two decades of his career is mostly lost on me. 1992 marked the release of Lost Train of Thought and that is where I believe Ray Wylie came into his own. Seventeen years and nine albums later Ray still has the stuff he couldn’t find in the 70’s and 80’s. Now I don’t know if he really is an elder statesman of the Texas music scene but I do know that he still tours, still picks his guitar, and still writes amazing music. He just finished an album that’s slated to be released in January as well as having co-written a screenplay that’s said to worthy of Sam Peckinpah. The movie is called The Last Rites of Ransom Pride and stars Dwight Yoakum along with Cote de Pablo of NCIS fame. Along with the soundtrack he wrote all of the music for the movie. For a man his age he’s a busy son of a bitch.

If you ever have the chance to see him live I would highly recommend that you don’t miss it. It won’t be a rowdy show that leaves you draggin’ ass home and it won’t be a sing-along but it will be a show that you won’t likely forget. In case you need a teaser here are some Ray Wylie tracks for your listening pleasure:

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Choctaw Bingo
Ray Wylie Hubbard – Dust of the Chase
Ray Wylie Hubbard – Dallas After Midnight

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Official Site, Ray Wylie Hubbard – MySpace, The Last Rites of Ransom Pride