Carol Young of The Greencards recommends Gerry Rafferty

Carol Young of The Greencards and Gerry Rafferty

Carol Young’s recommendation: “I can remember growing up in Australia hearing Gerry Rafferty’s mega-hit Baker Street on the radio – the song where the saxophone solos as much as Gerry sings. I didn’t fall in love with that song as much as I did his other commercially successful song, Right Down The Line. Then there was Gerry’s obsession with Bob Dylan which lead to the formation of Stealers Wheel – you can still hear their monster 1972 single release, Stuck In The Middle With You daily on the radio. His voice can often be heard with doubled vocals which I don’t normally like, but it suits his singing. It’s been said “his voice is reminiscent of the dim dawn after a dark night of the soul.” I connect with his lyrics but I think it’s more about the way he delivers the song that means so much to me. Gerry’s got this Irish/Scottish folk influence in his music and the production is normally low-fi. I was in Nashville, TN in 2011 when I heard of his death which resulted from years of alcohol abuse. That was a sad day, indeed. My favorite Gerry Rafferty album is City to City. Listen to Whatever’s Written In Your Heart for killer lyrics and vocal performance. This album never makes the Rolling Stone’s “Best Of” lists but in my humble opinion, it should.”

Carol Young About our guest author, Carol Young: Carol met Kym Warner when they were both members of Kasey Chamber’s backing band. Originally from Australia, the duo packed up their love for George Jones and Merle Haggard and headed to America where they formed The Greencards in 2002 and released their first album, Movin’ On in 2003. The band’s fresh take on bluegrass, affectionately labeled as ‘newgrass,’ won over spectators at their early Austin, TX shows and they soon found themselves opening for the likes of Robert Earl Keen and landing a record deal with Nashville’s Dualtone Records. Accolades washed over the band in 2004 as they were named in a list of top five nights of live music for the year in 2004 in the Houston Chronicle and they were named “Best New Band” at the Austin Music Awards. Grammy nominations and the honor of serving as the opening act for Bob Dylan (Wikipedia tells us that Warner was hoping to get some fatherly advice from Bob about music and performing…no dice) and Willie Nelson followed. The band most recently released Sweetheart of the Sun, which was produced by Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss and John Prine) and is grounded in Americana instrumentation, complete with mandolin and fiddle. But the music is moodier and the arrangements are far from run of the mill. Reaction to the album has been stellar as Buddy Miller has called it “simply stunning” and Rolling Stone says that the band is creating some of the finest Americana around.” Still not convinced? Well, the record just got a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album. Be sure to keep up with the band’s tour dates and join The Greencards’ social pages for the latest info.

James Maddock recommends Louis Armstrong

James Maddock and Louis Armstrong

James Maddock (photo by Mary Ellen Matthews) and Louis Armstrong


James Maddock’s artist recommendation: “Louis Armstrong is my musical hero. Every time I listen to him, I’m filled with wonder and amazement. Songs like Struttin’ With Some Barbecue or Memories of You are unforgettable.

For me, Louis is the pinnacle of music. Phrasing, tone, invention, imagination, excitement. No one touches Armstrong. 50 years of recording genius, from the beginnings of jazz and recorded music through to the 1970′s, Louis has seen it all and had been the father of modern music.

Ken Burns said “Armstrong was the sky under which all modern music lives.” I love that image and hold it to be true.”

Not familiar with Louis Armstrong? James suggests you start here: “I would highly recommend starting with Louis Armstrong: Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man 1923-1934. It’s a box set and has great notes on each song so you can read along as you listen. Or, see if you can get the You’re Drivin’ Me Crazy album, which is Volume 7 in the Columbia recording series. That’s a wonderful collection too.”

James MaddockAbout our guest author, James Maddock: The time just feels right for James Maddock’s break out moment. After fronting the successful UK band Wood (who had several songs featured on Dawson’s Creek) and the release of a string of critic and indie radio fave solo albums, Maddock now offers up his latest collection, Another Life, produced by jazz heavyweight Matt Person (k.d. Lang and Joshua Redman). To get an idea of Maddock’s style, give a listen to the album’s title track (video below). You’ll hear the easy, rustling melody that would sound at home on a Nanci Griffith record, a distinct vocal croon that’s easy on the ear, and most importantly, a sincerity that makes you feel like you’re talking to an old friend that’s opening up a piece of his world to you. Maddock’s authenticity has won him a loyal fan base that helped his Sunrise on C Street record win the 2010 NY Music Award for Best Americana album and to secure a popular residency at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall. Maddock’s high quality output has also earned him the right to share the stage and recording booth with other elite New York area rock poets, namely Willie Nile, Garland Jeffreys and Bruce Springsteen. Maddock has proven himself as an A+ artists and we look forward to seeing the next impressive bullet that is sure to be added to his already stellar rock resume. Be sure to check James’ tour dates to see where he’s playing near you.

Ben Nichols of Lucero recommends Joey Kneiser

Ben Nichols of Lucero and Joey Kneiser

Ben Nichols of Lucero and Joey Kneiser

Ben Nichols’ recommendation: “I went through my whole itunes library looking for what moved me the most. It was a tough choice. Some things I skipped over because they were too well known or too obvious, others because as much as I love them I don’t listen to them often enough to feel right writing about them. Made a list and narrowed it down to about 15 artists and bands that really hit me where it counts, from the Constantines to The Faces to The Night Marchers to Warren Zevon. But the record that has honestly been the most moving to me and the most listened to in recent times is All Night Bedroom Revival (available for free download) by a guy named Joey Kneiser. Joey Kneiser is best known as the lead singer for Tennesee-based band Glossary. This is a solo record however and I believe Joey plays everything on it. It’s mainly acoustic guitar with a few overdubs but never sounds like it’s missing anything. People discuss “brilliant songwriting” all the time and usually that just isn’t the proper description of whatever they are talking about… but that is exactly what these songs are. Bruised Ribs, The Big Ocean, and Funeral Flowers are three of the most moving on the record. Joey takes the best elements of Rock & Roll songwriting and combines them with the more thoughtful and emotional singer/songwriter style of doing things and comes up with exactly the right mix. Not too simple and not too complicated. Brilliant songwriting.”

MP3: Bruised Ribs by Joey Kneiser

MP3: The Big Ocean by Joey Kneiser

More about Joey Kneiser and Glossary

Ben NicholsAbout our guest author, Ben Nichols: Ben Nichols fronts Lucero, an alt-country band that was formed in Memphis in the late ’90s. The band has been a critics favorite and has a backstory that can only be described as Wilcoesque. Their early albums have won the praises of critics and they have a steady following, but success was limited by the flailing music business. They’ve put out killer albums only to have their labels fold but they’ve persevered by starting their own label and putting on killer live shows. Ben also put out a solo record, The Last Pale Light in the West which was inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s novel, Blood Meridian. Be sure to check Lucero webstite to check the Lucero live dates and listen to album audio streams.

Serge Bielanko of Marah recommends Badly Drawn Boy

Serge Bielanko and Badly Drawn Boy

Serge Bielanko and Badly Drawn Boy

Serge Bielanko’s recommendation: “I’d say that Badly Drawn Boy and his record The Hour of Bewilderbeast move me more these days than much of anything else. I really can’t put my finger on it exactly, which is how it usually goes with the best stuff. It’s a combination of things, I think. The songs are beautiful and eloquent without even trying. And the music is this hodgepodge flea market of folk and pop, with magnificent clever beats and melodies. I can’t say enough about it really. There are a lot of songs on the record, something like 17 or 18, and that usually is a bad sign. Not here though. There isn’t any filler at all. None. Everything sort of flows together, songs ooze into other songs. I think it there might be magic spells hidden back behind the chords. Whenever I put it on, usually in the car, I see deer and rabbits and shit. Wild things come out of the forest. That doesn’t happen with most records, you know. I never had it happen when I played any other albums, so I quit listening to most of them.

I have never really admitted this to myself before, but I’m gonna do it here. Why not. I love this record maybe more than any record I have ever listened to. No lie. I find the whole damn thing inspiring and hopeful and pumped full of some kind of love that isn’t easy or free, but is worth it in the end. It isn’t a record to share with your friends while you sit around the kitchen table drinking beers and bullshitting. It’s more like a hundred dollar bill. You keep that shit in your wallet, it makes you happy/gives you a little peace of mind in a mad world. You don’t go flashing it around.

Does that make sense?

No?

Ok. Try this.

Badly Drawn Boy’s Hour of the Bewilderbeast is basically the soundtrack to meeting an old elf in a country pub and getting drunk with him out in the beer-garden, in the warm and pouring rain.”

Serge BielankoAbout our guest author, Serge Bielanko: The last we heard from Serge musically was in 2008 where he belted out stirring vocals (check Wilderness below) on Marah’s masterwork, Angels of Destruction!. He then moved out to Utah, became a Dad and showed us another side of his greatness through the incredibly well written dad-blog, Thunder Pie. (We here at Rocktorch.com also return to Serge’s great tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s right hand man, Terry Magovern (scroll down for Serge’s piece) every so often, just to remind ourselves that dreams really do freakin’ come true!). But now, Serge is back in the band, joining brother Dave and Christine Smith to set the music world straight and, to put it plainly, we can’t fuckin’ wait. Spy the rehearsal video below and catch one of the US shows in VA and PA before they go off and conquer Spain. Serge, welcome back!

MP3: Wilderness

Related links:

* Marah’s official site
* Dave Bielanko of Marah recommends Dexter Romweber
* Christine Smith of Marah recommends Waylon Jennings