I’m rather partial to the Braun family. There are four brothers who split into two bands. One is Reckless Kelly and the other is Micky & The Motor Cars. The latter’s Long Time Comin’ release was one of 2019’s strongest. Now in 2020 we get a double album from the older siblings – Willy and Cody. The sound is probably more country than rock and the themes they sing are the well used tropes– love, loss, homecoming and family all often involving cinematic sweeping vistas of the USA.
Willy Braun explains that American Jackpot was already recorded when he pulled the band together again to record American Girls. On both albums Willy wanted to talk about everyday American themes and in part the current political climate in the USA. At this point I might flinch but in fairness it has a light touch. “North American Jackpot” starts with a piano and rock introduction before Willy reflects on the changes in the USA over 300 years from the The Mayflower’s arrival (and America embracing newcomers) through to today where he “watches the fading lamplight that once lit the golden door”. Elegant words for his point of view, which goes onto to celebrate his country and what a fine place it is to live. Other more impactful social commentary comes on “Put On Your Brave Face Mary” where Willy laments, in a ballad, about the suicide rate of the military. Anthemic and impactful.
Ledger’s debut is a prize: pairing his languorous yet captivating voice and lyrics with T Bone Burnett’s production, Ledger’s delivered one of this year’s unexpected delights. The partnership drew this comment from Ledger – “I think we’re each attracted to the more sinister aspects of folk and roots music, and we each have a desire to keep music alive while finding a way to make something new out of it.” You get an album that seems at first listen, a near conventional traditional Country album, but starts revealing some shadowy corners and wider genre sensibilities as you become acquainted.
Burnett has let the voice do the talking and what a siren to follow. Over 11 songs the sound swings from straight Buck Owens (“Starlight”) through to 70s British pop with sci-fi images (“Electric Fantasy”). Burnett’s assembled band played the 2009 Grammy winning Raising Sand for Alison Kraus and Robert Plant. Their accomplished playing here is measured and varied.
Caudle’s distinctive voice harbours doom as the band chugs into life on “Better Hurry Up”. This steamy swamp rocker urges alacrity as time slips away with a message about your own personal journey. The simple song structure has a chanting chorus of voices including John Paul White and Elizabeth Cook. “Monte Carlo”, “Dirty Curtain” & “Reach Down” all have that New Orleans swamp vibe and provide a welcome breadth to the sounds on this album.
John Jackson (Jayhawks) handled production responsibilities. He brought a fabulous band and a ‘live’ sound, which enabled each song to have more impact. Much is made in the PR material that the recording was done at Cash Cabin Studios on Johnny Cash’s estate. If the location had a meaningful impact then this small and intimate setting clearly brought the best out of all the players.
In some ways ‘it’s a long time no speak’. Obviously my recent bike ride up Australia was followed by many of you but I suspect the majority didn’t follow my restless and fruitless search for a koala or (live) kangaroo on two wheels. I really not sure what to think about the four weeks after it’s premature end. Some great scenery, interesting communities, banter and the childish joy of riding a bike to come to mind but something was missing.
Since my evacuation from Down Under and re-integration into ‘lock down’ Britain it has been a mixture of experiences. The first was the reality that it hasn’t affected my diet, exercise regime, opportunity to listen to music or write.
However the limits on movement and the continued close supervisory presence of the first wife has been different. Evasion of various stipulated outstanding tasks, by her having better things to do with her talents, has been difficult. A protestation that glossing some yellow skirting boards due to a lack of masking tape saw her texting a neighbour who (at a discreet distance) turned up at the door with said product. I never did like him…
It was a blow to my tactics. Other things on the list included turning over the flower beds and weeding. Frankly, any budding fundamentalist terrorist flirting with the idea of Western destruction could have his fervour nipped in the bud with the threat of several days of standing, with a spade, on a hard clay soil complete with hiding toads to first dig into it and then remove various roots and weeds. Continue reading The Fear of clay, masking tape & scissors – Week 15 : 2020→