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Author Archives: Rich Kienzle

Elana James

Black Beauty
 
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For her second solo effort, Elana James, fiddler-vocalist for the western-swing trio Hot Club of Cowtown, ventures afield into other genres. This shouldn’t be surprising, given her 2006 touring work as part of Bob Dylan’s band. Along with original tunes, James covers material by Dylan, the Grateful (more…)

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The Mavericks

Mono
Lightning In A New Bottle
 
The-Mavericks

After their acclaimed 2014 comeback album In Time and a successful tour, the Mavericks wasted no time creating a followup effort continuing the eclectic sounds, original material, and powerful performances that began in ’91 with their self-released first album. Singer-songwriter Raul Malo, who recorded a number (more…)

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Bobby Black

Steel Before and After Commander Cody
 
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When he got the invitation, Bobby Black wasn’t sure. The pedal-steel virtuoso, a 20-plus-year veteran of San Francisco’s music scene, had just been asked to join the long-hairs in Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. It was the fall of 1971, and Black was in a comfortable situation – he owned a recording studio […]

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Steve Earle

Terraplane
 
Steve-Earle

The title, inspired by Robert Johnson’s immortal “Terraplane Blues,” says it all. Here’s Earle’s homage to the blues: 11 original, personal songs bathed in honest, authentic arrangements inspired by various vintage styles. “Baby Baby Baby (Baby)” has the loping feel of a Jimmy Reed shuffle. The (more…)

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Neil LeVang

Six Strings Behind — and Beyond — Champagne Music
 
Neil LeVang

Neil LeVang was about to get a lecture. Days earlier, the A-list studio guitarist’s new boss, Lawrence Welk, had golfed with a couple well-known singers who mentioned that LeVang had played on their sessions. “Neil,” Welk implored in his famous German accent, “If you thought as much about this (band) as recording with all these […]

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Jim Ed Brown

In Style Again
 
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Jim Ed Brown was one third of the vocal trio The Browns with sisters Bonnie and Maxine, a popular act whose ’59 hit recording of “The Three Bells,” topped both country and pop charts. A Grand Ole Opry member, Brown launched a highly successful solo (more…)

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James Carothers

Honky Tonk Land
 
James-Carothers

It’s no surprise that Tennessee native James Carothers kicks off his debut album with an original titled “New Country Singers,” a witty jab at today’s current crop of drink/party/pickup truck chart-topping lightweights. Suffice it to say he approaches drinking songs with a more authentic perspective. Younger (more…)

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Red Allen, Frank Wakefield, and the Kentuckians

The WDON Recordings 1963
 
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Washington, D.C. and vicinity, known for forward-thinking bluegrass bands like the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene, also had staunch traditionalists, among them the team of mandolin virtuoso Frank Wakefield (a one-time Stanley Brothers and Jimmy Martin sideman) and former Osborne Brothers singer-guitarist Red Allen. In 1963, (more…)

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Bill Kirchen

Seeds, Stems, and a Tele-fied Legacy
 
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There’s ample revisiting in Seeds and Stems, Telecaster slinger Bill Kirchen’s third album for Proper America. Five of the 13 songs hearken back to his late-’60s/mid-’70s days with pioneer country-rockers Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. “Flip Flop,” “Womb To The Tomb” and “Rockabilly Funeral,” are longstanding favorites of his solo repertoire, as is […]

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Eric Johnson and Mike Stern

Eclectic
 
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Two iconic players joining forces can soar or falter depending on material, the players’ adaptability, the number of guest performers, and many other factors. Eric Johnson and Mike Stern certainly arrived at the table with their ducks in line, toting a blend of (more…)

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