Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Chicks?

I reviewed the Chicks last CD which is basically a rootsy, alternative sound and disses the country scene. There are many very well done songs. Rick Rubin has produced a clinically, mistake free masterpiece. The disc has sold very well. The CD plays it safe sonically, very heavily produced and some, well, maybe too much venting about their past.
What I do not get is why their PR people want the songs on country radio so much. I was very surprised to see their album on the Country Billboard Charts. Country Music has ignored them for at least three years. "Not Ready To Make Nice", which attacks country music fans, was their first single attempt, which totally failed. Now they are promoting "Voices In My Head" as their next single. Better, but I think that something like "Bitter End" or "Favorite Year" would work because of the lyrical content. Usually music like this ends up on adult alternative AAA stations or college stations.
I have been listening to some earlier Chicks, more specifically "Wide Open Spaces", my favorite CD for four years and still on my top ten. Also, I have been listening to "Top of The World Tour " which is great, the Chicks are great live, had the pleasure of seeing them twice.
There is something so emotive and creative about all twelve songs on "Wide Open Spaces" , I have gone thru two or three discs. It is honky tonk country, a great country production and the great dobro, fiddle and banjo of the Chicks which is missing in their new disc. (Well, a little banjo deep in the mix.) Not heavily produced, even a live cut with their road band.
The live CD of "Top Of The World Tour" which only went Gold is a great two disc live performance. I remember the "Fly" tour, at that time, their fans were teenage girls. The whole venue in Philly stood up from song one to the end of the show. The great pedal steel, banjo fiddle and dobro. Missing in action here, replaced by orchestra and layers of hard rock guitars. What I really don't get is there are no instrumental solos to speak of, just power chords except for some John Mayer riffs.
Just switched from listening to "Taking The Long Way" to "Wide Open Spaces". Compared to Rubin's production, Chancey/Worley's production sounds like a demo. What a great country sound, this disc turned country music back to country again.
Well, you know there's a big tour coming up "Accidents and Accusations", the same basic band that did the last tour. There's some trouble selling tickets and I've heard some shows are being cancelled, especially in country music hotbeds.
Oh, for a simpler time, when they didn't have midgets on Country stages and country music was all about God, apple pie and broke down pickups. There's some great new indies and always great bluegrass. Brooks and Dunn still win duo of the year. Patty Loveless is at the top of her game, but her last CD was ignored. Vince Gill, I miss you, you were class.
Well, what do you think?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Stand Still- Look Pretty" - The Wreckers - A Review

When I saw Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp with their beautiful Gibson acoustics and sparse backup band do "Leave The Pieces" on Leno, I was blown away. It was incredibly refreshingly good music. I had to hear more. So I got the disc and have been listening to it incessantly. A great recording with some great tunes.

Branch has been a name known artist for awhile, her friendship with blond beauty Jessica Harp who is a Nashville singer-songwriter is six years old. The combination is magical. They are just made to sing and play together. They also wrote all of the songs except for two. Patty Griffin gave them one. "One More Girl" , which is a slow edgy song about what most guys look for in women. A rock sounding song.

John Levanthal (Roseanne Cash) produced the whole CD except for two songs, one being the bouncy "Leave The Pieces" which was produced by Branch and John Shanks. This song has incredible harmonies and is a hit waiting to happen. Great, light weight slick production.

The song that caught my ear was "My, Oh My", produced by Paul Worley (Dixie Chicks and mega others Nashville acts). Worley brought in some great Nashville sessions players Stuart Duncan/fiddle and mandolin, Shannon Forrest/drums, Randy Kohrs/Dobro and Biff Watson/National guitar. Really love this upbeat country sounding sounding song, reminds me of early Dixie Chicks. Michelle Branch said that she would like Worley to produce a whole CD for her in the liner notes.

Levanthal does a great job of getting an audiophile organic sound in the mix, playing most of the instruments in the songs he produces. It's hard to tell from the liner notes whether the girls play their guitars or not, does not matter, great overall sound, mastered very well by Stephen Marcussen of Marcussen Mastering.

"Stand Still, Look Pretty" is a pretty, slow song about getting around in the music world as a woman. Their vocals say more than that, they sound so good.

"Cigarettes" sung by Harp is a great song about the road of life and finding true love. "Tennessee" is another very pretty song that Harp sings. Neither has a country accent or fakes one, which is refreshing.

Overall, I find this to be a refreshing change of pace in music this year, A CD of just great well recorded and performed music.
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