Wake up, grab a cup of steaming Joe, and sit back for a rousing start to your weekend today on Music City Roots. Today, it’s Marshall Chapman, The G2 Bluegrass Band, Old Man Luedecke, Songs Of The Fall, and The Amigos Band playing direct from The Loveless Cafe stage. As always, Jim Lauderdale hosts.
About the artists:
Marshall Chapman has been making records for longer than most of today’s indie rockers have been alive. Blaze of Glory is her 13th release, her seventh on Tallgirl Records.
At age 64, Chapman is, as author Peter Guralnick put it, “a force of nature.” Some might argue she’s even picking up steam. In the last two and a half years, she’s had a book published (They Came To Nashville), seen her musical Good Ol’ Girls (adapted from the fiction of Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle, featuring songs by Chapman and Matraca Berg) open off-Broadway, acted in a movie (playing Gwyneth Paltrow’s road manager in Country Strong), and recorded two albums — Big Lonesome (named “Best Country/Roots Album of 2010” by the Philadelphia Inquirer) and the soon-to-be-released Blaze of Glory.
“I felt, at the time, like Big Lonesome was my best,” Chapman says. “So it was a no-brainer bringing in the same crew — Mike Utley, Will Kimbrough, Jim Mayer and Casey Wood — for Blaze of Glory.” The album kicks off with “Love in the Wind,” a duet with Todd Snider, a longtime friend for whom Chapman opened many shows while promoting her previous album.
“Everyone, myself included, just seemed to pick up and soar from where we left off,” Chapman continues. “I have never felt so focused making a record. Everybody just brought it. It was magic.”
Many are hailing Blaze of Glory as Marshall’s masterpiece. Singer/songwriter Tom Russell says it’s “her best yet,” and Rodney Crowell concurs, calling it “the most satisfying record yet from the Goddess of Tall.”
Marshall attributes time spent in Mexico as the inspiration for many of the songs. “I had myself convinced my muse lived down there,” she says. “To dig deep, you have to live deep. That’s great for songwriting, but it can be hell on a marriage. I had to pull back, which was painful. For a while, all I could see was my own mortality staring me in the face.”
Chapman has perhaps her strongest slate of songs here, most of which she wrote. “I didn’t think I could go any deeper. But I was in free fall, and the songs just kept coming.”
Lucinda Williams, who recently listened to Blaze of Glory, had this to say: “[Marshall’s] voice sounds warm with a certain soulful, cool edge that really stands out. The production, up close and real. The songs give a nod to the past in a very hip way. I found myself singing along with ‘I Don’t Want Nobody.’ Love the duet with Todd Snider. You done good, Marshall!”
And this unexpected quote from Scotty Moore, the man whose guitar lit Chapman’s rock ’n’ roll fuse when she was but a tow-headed seven-year-old, sitting in the colored balcony of the Carolina Theater in Spartanburg, S.C., with her family’s maid, as Moore, bassist Bill Black and a youthful Elvis Presley performed below:
“I have loved Marshall for years, but Blaze of Glory is a real work of art. The band is small; you can hear every note from every instrument (thanks Mr. Mixer); the voice is enough on top to hear every emotion in the words but not overpowering. In addition to the mechanics of the CD, which sounds much more like we did at Sun Studio in 1955 than something from Nashville in 2013, the songs are just as good as I expect from Ms. Chapman. I especially like the Bo Diddley-type opener, but every song sounds good. This is one to put on and listen all the way through, not just put one or two cuts on your iPod.”
Chapman has been labeled many things over the years: No-Shame Dame, the female Mick Jagger, outlaw woman, country punk, rock ’n’ roll authoress, etc. These days she’s often called a survivor. But as she wrote years ago in one of her songs: “Survival is easy / It’s living that’s hard / It takes lots of courage / Just to be who you are.”
As her friend, the three-time Grammy-nominated songwriter Matraca Berg puts it: “Marshall Chapman IS a blaze of glory. She’s brave and smart and wise and . . . WILD!”
“I never intended to make it this far,” Chapman sings on the title track. “I never had a fallback plan / I always thought I’d go in a blaze of glory.”
Marshall Chapman is still “burning like a comet across the night sky.”
And that’s good news for the rest of us.
Marshall Chapman is an American singer-songwriter-author who was born and raised in Spartanburg, S.C. For the past 40 years, she’s mostly lived in Nashville. To date she has released 12 critically acclaimed albums, and Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker, Irma Thomas and John Hiatt are just a few who’ve recorded her songs. Over the years, she’s toured extensively on her own and opened for everybody from the Ramones to John Prine. This summer she’ll be inducted into the Spartanburg Music Trail, the town’s open-air hall of fame (http://spartanburgmusictrail.com/), along with David Ball, the Sparkletones and Buck Trent. Chapman is a contributing editor to Garden & Gun and Nashville Arts Magazine. She has also written for The Oxford American, Southern Living, W, Performing Songwriter, and The Bob Edwards Show (Sirius/XM). But “music,” she says, “is my first and last love.”
In a few years, the name G2 will be synonymous with European bluegrass. The five band members, best friends since they met while jamming at a festival in their native Sweden four years ago, have formed the most exciting bluegrass band ever to come out of Europe. With one album under their belts, another in the works, and plans to tour extensively in the United States, G2 is poised to make a mark on the bluegrass world.
The name G2 stands for generation two. Each member of the band has a father or uncle who plays bluegrass and country music, making them the second generation of Swedish bluegrass musicians. When they played together for the first time Christoffer Olsson, Jens Koch, Erik Igelström, Tobias Strömberg, and Jimmy Sunnebrandt realized almost instantly that they had something special. They clicked musically and personally and their collaboration has quickly borne fruit.
The band’s first CD, Where the Tall Grass Grows, was widely acclaimed by critics and fans alike. Bluegrass Unlimited praises the band for playing bluegrass that, “still retain[s] its original flavor without coming off as ironic or retro.” The Bluegrass Blog lauds the album for capturing the band’s “technical prowess.” With their second release, Untapped Routes, G2 continues to develop their own unique sound with more original material written by Christoffer and honed by the group.
G2 won the #1 European Bluegrass Band title in 2007. The have already toured in America, playing festivals such as Bean Blossom, ROMP, and the IBMA Fan Fest. They have appeared on Swedish television’s national morning show Nyhetsmorgon and opened up for Kris Kristofferson at the gorgeous Dalhalla amphitheater.
The next couple of years are shaping up to be big for the band. In 2009 they will again appear at IBMA and 2010 will see an extended U.S. tour. They win new fans with every appearance. Crowds, especially younger folks, are drawn to G2’s contagious enthusiasm, prodigious talent, and overwhelming joy for playing the music. They are breaking new ground as a European band in America and the world is watching.
Christoffer is G2’s prolific songwriter and lead singer. Since the age of seven he has written songs in English because, he says, “you can’t rhyme in Swedish!” His compositions capture the essence of modern bluegrass and his guitar playing drives the band’s rhythm.
Erik grew up playing folk and country on the guitar, taking after his dad. The movie O Brother Where Art Thou sparked his interest in bluegrass and the mandolin. When he finally got the instrument in his hands, it felt like it was always meant to be there.
Jens got his first banjo from his uncle for Christmas at age twelve. Although it was difficult getting started on the banjo in Sweden, he listened a lot and made a couple of trips to the U.S. while learning. His playing is straight-ahead traditional Scruggs-style and just from listening one might guess he’d been born in North Carolina.
Tobias grew up hearing his banjo-playing dad sing “Sunny Side of the Mountain” while they herded sheep, but he played mostly punk rock until about ten years ago when he almost accidentally slipped into bluegrass from the rockabilly he and his friends were playing. He heard the dobro for the first time at a festival in Sweden and he was hooked.
Jimmy has played the fiddle since he was little. He played bass in a bluegrass band with his dad and studied and played everything from classical to jazz to hard rock while in school. His solid bass playing establishes the foundation of the band’s rhythm and his harmony vocals form a tight seamless blend.
Old Man Luedecke isn’t afraid to put his neck on the line. His latest album, Tender Is The Night, goes beyond his beloved solo, banjo-driven folk tunes. Driving a Nashville band from beginning to end with his recognizable voice, this is an artist honing his cunning lyrical flair – tenderly pushing the boundaries of his storytelling with his unique mix of folk, bluegrass and pop hooks.
Old Man Luedecke has a penchant for language. Based in Chester, Nova Scotia, the award-winning roots singer-songwriter’s latest album, Tender Is The Night, gives nod to F.R. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel, a title lifted from John Keats poem, ‘Ode To A Nightingale.’
With skillful precision and a storyteller’s heart, Luedecke’s narrative-driven folk songs are playful, coy, and soul warming. Rich in metaphor, heart and instrumentation, Tender Is The Night muses on love, art and purpose.
“I am running like everyone else. Laughing just to keep from crying. I am always trying to find a way to express,” says Luedecke. “I am a prisoner for my appreciation for language; language that moves me is language that is unusual. I feel like it’s an important thing I can contribute to songwriting.”
After touring the globe, winning multiple Juno Awards, and becoming a father to twin girls, Luedecke has finally found confidence in himself, and his art. Tender Is The Night is a balancing act, a collection of songs artfully crafted, and tenderly performed.
“The songs are about a variety of topics, a meditation on art and ambition is present in a lot of what I do. Art and whether there is spiritual success without worldly success, that’s at the heart of Tender Is The Night,” says Luedecke.
Recorded live in Nashville at The Butcher Shoppe in four days with producer Tim O’Brien, Old Man Luedecke’s fifth album Tender Is The Night, follows up My Hands Are On Fire and Other Love Songs (Black Hen Music, 2010), Proof of Love (Black Hen Music, 2008), Hinterland (Black Hen Music, 2006), and Mole In The Ground (2003).
As Nashville provided an inspirational backdrop, Luedecke surrounded himself with the top players in folk and bluegrass music, including: multi-instrumentalist and producer O’Brien, bassist Mike Bub and drummer Kenny Malone.
“I have always liked and modeled myself on the ruffian qualities, I was attracted to the purity, misguided notions, and honesty,” says Luedecke. “I love Tim’s playing. I listen to his records all the time. He’s top of the heap, in my mind, when it comes to traditional music, specifically American music.”
“Kingdom Come,” opens the record with a heart rendering declaration of belonging. “Jonah,” explores a character struggling, crying out from inside the belly of a whale. “Tortoise and the Hare,” is an ode to the push for success. With splashes of somber sentimentalism, “Little Stream of Whiskey,” leaves listeners savouring the last sip.
“A&W,” cheekily pokes fun at post-bar boozy cravings, where a cabbie and drunk find themselves at a drive-thru. “This Might Hurt A Bit,” gets your toes tapping, and sifts through the endless layers of love. “Tender Is The Night,” is a poetic and pensive testament to longing. “Long Suffering Jesus,” closes the album with biblical flair and optimism.
“These are songs of reassurance, the only way I can reassure myself is writing uniquely and successfully as possible,” says Luedecke. “Pop songs are all about how things are going to be okay, music should make you feel good.
“The way I can make you feel good is saying the decisions that you make that aren’t popular, or going with the mainstream, are going to work out.”
In the digital age we live in, music is still the one thing that can grip and infect us with raw energy and emotional passion that we can’t easily find in our modern, static society. Songs of the Fall, comprised of Stetson Adkisson and Cia Cherryholmes, is a Nashville based Americana duo with a love of music and communicating it to people on a very personal, relatable level.
“Whether touring as just an acoustic duo or with a full band, we love playing and singing our songs for people. We try to write about the things that move us and hope the realness of the songs carries across to the audience. The greatest compliment we can receive is someone telling us a song touched them or made them weep or that it was their story. Life is rough, and we all want that one song we can rock out or cry along to”. -Cia
“People have asked, why the name ‘Songs of the Fall’? The way we see it, the story of mankind is all about falling–From the original fall of man, the tottering steps we take as a child, to growing up and falling in love, into temptations, and in and out of luck. Life is about the fall and how we keep learning and growing, and those are the things worth singing about”. -Stetson
Songs of the Fall is kicking off 2013 as the opening act for David Crowder’s It’ll Cure What Ails Ya americana music tour. They also released their self-titled debut album, produced by Paul Ebersold.
The Amigos Band (formerly The Tres Amigos) is a quintessential American folk band with a sound and style all their own. They have appeared in recent performances with Pete Seeger, David Amram, New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and bluegrass legend Tony Rice. They recently gave a sold-out performance at New York City’s Lincoln Center and completed a successful residency at the famed Lower East Side club, The Living Room. The Amigos were chosen to appear in the premier showcase at the 2012 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) conference and are featured on the first American Folk Art Museum album.
Careening back and forth between three-part harmony-singing and bursts of instrumental improvisation, The Amigos deliver daring takes on American standards and original songs that already sound like classics—all tightly arranged to suit the group’s unique mix of alto saxophone, accordion, acoustic guitar, and hollerin’ voices.
Avid students of American culture, The Amigos travel the country in search of unique sounds and collaborations. They revel in genre-crossing, messy history of American music and believe in the importance of keeping these stories and songs alive and accessible to all people.