Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez
Red Dog Tracks
Back Porch Records 70786-19328-2-9
For those not familiar with the name Chip Taylor when it comes to popular music, how about songs like “Wild Thing” and “Angel Of The Morning”? You see, it was Taylor who way back when wrote each of those monster hits of the 1960s. An alumni of the Brill Building pop songwriter crew of the 1960s, Taylor has had his songs covered by performers too numerous to mention. Add to that the fact that he also produced albums from James Taylor when he was just starting out and Neil Diamond and we are talking about a plenty seasoned vet when it comes to the music business. (Just an aside, Taylor also happens to be the brother of actor Jon Voight brother and at one point even gave up the songwriting and music career for a successful gambling career.) Violinist Carrie Rodriguez was not far removed from her days at the Berklee College of Music in Boston when she met Taylor five years ago at the South-by-Southwest Music Festival in Austin. Artistically speaking, the two clicked instantly and Taylor invited her on a European tour to play fiddle in his band. During the tour he persuaded her to try her hand at singing and the overwhelming response from audiences planted the seed for what became their first album, Let’s Leave This Town, released in 2002. Only a year later came the sophomore release from the duo called The Trouble With Humans. Whereas I liked each of those first two albums just fine, it wasn’t until seeing them perform together live just a year ago at a couple of terrific outdoor shows as part of the South-by-Southwest Music festival that the duo really struck a nerve. Between Taylor’s steadfast vocals and stellar songs and the sweet Texas twang of Rodriguez’s voice to go with her timely bow work on the fiddle, it made for an irresistible combination. That was the middle of March in 2004. The slam dunk came just 10 days later when they performed to a packed and very intimate house concert right here in Peace Dale. Let’s just say I left the latter show a fan for life. Now along comes round three from the twosome, a new album they call Red Dog Tracks. A much more laid back and quieter affair compared to those first two albums, chemistry is all over the 13 tracks comprising Red Dog Tracks. Where the album deviates from the previous releases most notably is that it finds Rodriguez stepping more into the vocal forefront and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Joining the duo for the first time for this recording is guitar great Bill Frisell. His understated strokes on the six string are only icing on the cake for what is another winning album from this duo. Highly recommended. (Back Porch Records, 4650 N. Port Washington Road, Milwaukee, WI 53212, or www.backporchrecords.com)
Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez appear at the Narrows Center For the Arts in Fall River on Friday, June 10. The Narrows is located at 16 Anawan Street. Call (508) 324-1926 or check the web site at www.ncfta.org.
Make It Through This World
Sugar Hill Records SUG-CD 1083
For his latest release called Make It Through This World With Me, Nashville-based singer/songwriter Greg Trooper hooks up for the first time with esteemed producer and songwriter Dan Penn. In Trooper’s world, the opportunity to work with a fellow of Penn’s stature whose credits include writing songs such as “I’m Your Puppet”, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, and “Dark End of the Street” not to mention producing such R&B and soul legends as Solomon Burke and Irma Thomas was a bit of a no brainer. After several records with a real contemporary folk rock edge to them, Trooper was looking to get back to the basics with his next release. Always a fan of the relaxed feel that engulfed many a classic Muscle Shoals soul album, Trooper hoped to bring that same sort of vibe into his own work. A veteran of that scene, there was no better producer to hook with than Penn whose track record includes many a recording session at that legendary Alabama locale. It was pal Dave Alvin, after hearing of Trooper’s goal for his next record, who suggested Penn. From there it was Trooper’s comrade and former producer Buddy Miller who introduced him to Penn and the rest, so they say, is history. Penn’s influence is obvious right from the git-go on Make It Through This World With Me with the soulful waft of Hammond B3 organ that introduces the first track on the album “Dream Away The Blues”. Almost gospel like in its sound and structure, it is a perfect kickoff to the eleven tracks that follow. Not that Make It Through This World is some sort of straight-ahead soul record. A blue-eyed brand of soul is more like it. A highly respected tunesmith, the Nashville-based Trooper has always been regarded as one of those songwriters’ songwriter’s. Those songwriting chops are in full bloom on Make It Through This World With Me. A highly listenable affair, it’s an album that melds strands of folk, country, R&B, and rock with songs chock full of soul-searching lyrics on which Trooper more often than not wears his heart on his sleeve. Whereas there are plenty of highlights on Make It Through This World With Me, a particular standout is “Green Eyed Girl” which has all the sound and feel of some traditional classic, but in reality is a brand new song dressed up to sound like an old time tune. Another standout is the hoppin’ little number called “When I Think of You My Friends” which has an almost rockabilly cadence to it thanks to Bill Kirchen’s fine guitar work. Simply put, Greg Trooper has himself another winner with Make It Through This World With Me. (Sugar Hill Records, P.O. Box 55300, Durham, NC 27717, or www.sugarhillrecords.com)
Greg Trooper appears at the Narrows Center For the Arts in Fall River on Saturday, June 11. The Narrows is located at 16 Anawan Street. Call (508) 324-1926 or check the web site at www.ncfta.org.
The Duncan Donuts Newport Folk Festival happens August 5 -7. Much like previous years, the 2005 edition mixes star power with a number of relatively unknown talents on the Americana, rock, and roots circuits. On the star side, this year’s headliner is undoubtedly Elvis Costello who makes his Newport debut. Who would’ve thunk it 25-plus years ago when My Aim Is True was released that Costello would one day headline of all places, the Newport Folk Fest. Sort of like a horse named Giacomo winning the Kentucky Derby is the odds I would’ve given way back then. Costello will be joined by his Imposters band. The other headliners are not too shabby, either. They include Emmylou Harris, Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes, Patty Griffin, Richard Thompson, Bela Fleck, Odetta, Kasey Chambers, Jim James of My Morning Jacket fame, and fast rising star Ray Lamontagne, among the big name artists. This year’s festival begins on Thursday evening, August 4, with a new event, a rare screening of Murray Lerner’s 1967 film “Festival!”. It is a filmed record of the Newport Folk Festival from 1964 through 1966 featuring footage of Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, the Staple Singers, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Howlin’ Wolf, and Bob Dylan in his first ever appearance with an electric band. It happens at the Jane Pickens Theater with screen time at 7 pm. Music kicks off Friday, August 5th, with performances by Arlo Guthrie and Nanci Griffith at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. On Saturday, August 6th, activities move to Fort Adams State Park with music running from 11:30 am to 6:30 pm on three separate stages. The Saturday lineup includes Thompson performing solo acoustic; Griffin; the Bela Fleck Acoustic Trio featuring Bryan Sutton & Casey Driessen; the Del McCoury Band; Lamontagne; Odetta; the Holmes Brothers; The Kennedys; the Lonesome Sisters; Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell; Teddy Thompson; Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion; Foghorn Stringband, Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops; the Wiyos; and the Cajun sounds of Jesse Lege & Bayou Brew. On Sunday, August 7th, the lineup is equally as impressive with performances scheduled from Costello; Harris; Oberst and Bright Eyes; Chambers; Buddy Miller; James; M. Ward; Jane Siberry; Old Crow Medicine Show; Jim Lauderdale; Kaki King; Larry Campbell; Old School Freight Train; Hot Buttered Rum String Band; Woody Russell; and The Mammals. Further information can be obtained by calling the festival box office at 401-847-3700 or by visiting the web site at www.newportfolk.com.