Tribute albums saluting the works of a couple of important cogs in the country music arena, Roger Miller and Jerry Jeff Walker, are in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week. Letâ€™s take a look.
Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker
Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables
He grew up the son of a shoe salesman in Upstate New York. His teen band auditioned for American Bandstand in the late 1950s and he did time on the burgeoning Greenwich Village folk scene in the mid 1960s. Yet with all that, the singer/songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker would go on to become was one of the most beloved artists arising out of the progressive country outlaw movement synonymous with Texas in the 1970s. Itâ€™s a career that can still pack them in to this day. Whereas his signature song was â€śMr. Bojangles,â€ť Walker from the 1970s to theâ€™90s delivered a string of classic albums chock full of keeper songs that helped define the country/folk subgenre later on referred to as â€śTexas music.â€ť Tribute albums are usually more miss than hit, but in the singer/songwriter Todd Snider the songs of Jerry Jeff have found a perfect match. With the release Time As We Know It, Snider salutes the artist who was his initial inspiration to seek a career in music (â€śHeâ€™s the guy I saw at 19 and decided to be like.â€ť) by trotting out 14 of his favorites from the Jerry Jeff song bag. Snider doesnâ€™t go for the â€śapeâ€ť approach, but instead wears the selected songs like a favorite pair of old blue jeans. He gets inside the soul of the song playing it loose when they need to be loose, flip when they need to be flip, stoner when they need a little of that kind of juice, and heartfelt when the strings of the thumper need to be tugged some. Itâ€™s obvious Snider has a relationship with these tunes. Walker fan or not, the end result is a rebirth of sorts and a collection of songs that sound as good the second time around as they did the first.
While weâ€™re talking Todd Snider, he also has a brand new album of original material just out called Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables. The 11 songs are vintage Snider aiming his oft-times sarcastic story-song pen to push societal hot-button issues from the financial crisis (â€śNew York Bankerâ€ť) to the bustinâ€™ a sag youth of today (â€śPrecious Little Miraclesâ€ť). Visit www.toddsnider.net.
Oâ€™Brien Party of 7
Reincarnation: The Songs of Roger Miller
Howdy Skies Records
When it came to songwriting, the late Country Music Hall of Fame member Roger Miller cast a wide net. Be it a sweet, simple love ditty (â€śTall Tall Treesâ€ť), his classic tune of a happy drifter (â€śKing of the Roadâ€ť), or a completely off the wall novelty number like â€śYou Canâ€™t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd,â€ť Miller was a craftsman. Reincarnation: The Songs of Roger Miller is a salute to Miller from the Oâ€™Brien clan, that being brother-sister duo Tim and Mollie Oâ€™Brien joined by members of their respective families. The sibling duo had always wanted to do a project that could bring their musically-inclined families together and in the songs of Miller, they found common ground. The democratic process is hard at work across the 11 songs comprising this family affair with each of the seven participants taking a lead vocal turn on at least one of the tracks that mix Miller classics with some lesser known, but equally worthy, compositions. Visit www.timobrien.net.
The 6th annual Bayou Nâ€™ Boogie Festival moves to a new location this year, the Sterling Campground in Sterling, CT, for a weekend filled with the sounds of Louisiana and then some. Music begins on Friday evening at 5 pm and continues through Sunday evening. The lineup is a hearty one that features Leroy Thomas & the Zydeco Roadrunners, Ruben Moreno & Re-Evolution Zydeco Band, The Revelers, Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic, Sidewalk Zydeco, Jeffery Broussard & the Creole Cowboys Mitch Woods & the Rocket 88â€™s, and Harper. Visit the festival web site at www.bayounboogiefest.com for information.
Consider the soul singer Bettye LaVette one of the great interpreters or song. From Lucinda Williams to Joan Armatrading to Dolly Parton, LaVette has an uncanny ability to make the songs of others her own. She shows just how itâ€™s done at the Narrows Center for the Arts (16 Anawan Street, Fall River, MA) on Friday night beginning at 8 pm.
Sugar Ray & the Bluetones invade the The Knickerbocker CafĂ© (35 Railroad Ave, Westerly) on Friday night for a performance beginning at 9 pm.
Itâ€™s a doubleheader at The Ocean Mist on Sunday with The Senders performing in the afternoon slot at 3 pm and John Cafferty & Beaver Brown holding down the evening honors. Also on Sunday, The Bourbon Boys are at The Wood River Inn (1193 Main St, Richmond) playing bluegrass music starting at 6 and The James Montgomery Blues Band at The Knickerbocker CafĂ© for an 8 pm show.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 â€“ 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.)