Even with gas prices reaching $3.95 a gallon in some parts of the southeast (according to gasbuddy.com), summer is for road trips. And road trips mean music. So with that in mind, here are three recordings, as different as different can be, but each wholly satisfying and exciting in its own way.
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
Red Beet Records (2010)
I mentioned this album in my last post because I was about to go see these guys at their South By Southeast show at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot. I was so taken with their performance that night, I picked up a copy of the CD and have been transported to another place ever since. Mind you, this is more acoustic guitar than I’ve listened to for the whole last year, but it reminds me how much I value melody and harmony and intelligent song-writing.
Master Sessions features two of East Nashville’s up and comers: Peter Cooper and Eric Brace. If you’re at all into Americana music, you need to know about these two. For this 11-track disc, they’ve enlisted the talents of two of their own musical heroes: Mike Auldridge, legendary dobro player for the Seldom Scene, the progressive bluegrass group out of Alexandria, Va. and master of the pedal steel guitar, Lloyd Green. Throughout the recording, the synergy is awe-inspiring.
Opening track is “Wait a Minute,” the bittersweet Herb Pedersen tune about love shattered by life on the road. This song, by the way, was a staple for the Seldom Scene. And both Cooper and Brace say they used to be mesmerized by the group’s performance of it – long before they ever met. “Circus” is a sweet little tune penned by Brace and Cooper, one that I find completely enticing. Maybe it’s the simplicity. In the album notes, they credit contributions by Lloyd and Auldridge for taking the song “far beyond what Eric and Peter could have imagined.”
Track 8 is “I Flew Over Our House Last Night,” written by country legend Tom T. Hall. It’s another quietly longing tune that’s performed simply and beautifully. Of course, I could say the same thing about the whole album. And I do.
Track List: Wait a Minute, Suffer a Fool, It Won’t Be Me, Missoula Tonight, Big Steve, Circus, Behind Your Back, I Flew Over Our House Last Night, Nice Old Man, Silent Night, I Wish We Had Our Time Again.
Youth Is In Our Blood
The Dirty Guv’Nahs
In a nutshell, this CD is a rockin’ good time, and I can’t wait to take it on the highway with me. The sound is sophisticated and fresh. The band is tight. The vocals blow me away. There’s a great mix of rockers and power ballads. But why had I not heard of these guys before? Have I been living under a rock?
The Guv’Nahs have played Bonnaroo. They’ve opened for names like Zac Brown, Drive By Truckers, Blues Traveler, and Levon Helm, naming just a few here. The Dirty Guv’Nuhs has been voted – three years in a row – Best Band in Knoxvillie, Tenn. by the Metro Pulse Readers Poll.
Recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y. Youth Is In Our Blood brings some strong country, blues and soul influences to bear. Opening rocker “Baby We Were Young” sets the CD’s theme.
Love was the shape we made
Love was the breath we drew
Love was in our blood
And baby we were young
“Wide Awake” is a vocally rich ballad, somehow simultaneously fresh and reminiscent.
I’ve never seen this band live, but I’m betting that “Ain’t It Strange” is a great sing-along.
This band is one to watch.
The Dirty Guv’Nahs are Michael Jenkins (guitar), Justin Hoskins (bass), Aaron Hoskins (drums), Cozmo Holloway (guitar), Chris Doody (keyboards/ organ/vocals) and James Trimble (vocals). All 13 tracks are original with music and lyrics by Jenkins and Trimble on all except track 12 by Chris Doody and track 13 by Aaron Hoskins.
Track list: Baby We Were Young, Wide Awake, Walk Wtih Me, We’ll Be the Light, Song For My Beloved, New Salvation, It’s Dangerous, Courage, The Country, Blue Rose Stroll, Ain’t It Strange, Seeds On the Rise, Recovery.
Trouble With Lovin’
Serenity Hill (2010)
You remember the female vocalist in Little Feat belting out the Bob Dylan tune, “It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry,” on Chinese Work Songs (2000)? Well, that was Shaun Murphy. And this mama rocks the room. After leaving her gig with Little Feat in 2009, Murphy – also a veteran of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band and Eric Clapton’s tour band – formed the Shaun Murphy Band and released her first solo CD, Livin’ the Blues (Serenity Hill 2009), followed by last year’s Trouble With Lovin’ .
The ten-track CD is chock full of Murphy’s signature soulful blues, velvety smooth one minute, gritty the next. It’s hard to choose a favorite tune. The title track, “Trouble With Livin’,” is classic Shaun Murphy, really showing off her vocal range. “Blue Tears” is a sexy piece that can get your hips to swivelin’ in a heartbeat. On Burton Gaar’s “Mississipi Water,” Shaun gets that gravelly thing going that we love so much.
Also featured on the CD are some of Shaun’s high-powered buddies including Grammy Award nominee Johnny Neel (keyboard, harp), keyboard player Mike Finnigan, saxophonist Danny Pelfry.
In my unasked-for opinion, Shaun Murphy should be a lot more famous than she is. Buy her CD. Help make her famous.
Track list: Bed of Roses, Deservin’ of Love, Mississippi Water, The Trouble With Lovin’, Hopelessly In Love With You, Blue Tears, Did you Call, Rio Esperanza, The Blues Don’t Tell It all, That’s What Love Will Make You Do.
This is also published in Alternatives NewsMagazine and Coast Magazine (issue June 2 – 16, 2011) and in the online version .
South By Southeast has put together another tasty Music Feast and I’ve been craving it since the show was still in the discussion stages. For my money, no one has a better story to tell than the singer/ songwriter, and this time around there are two of them – Eric Brace and Peter Cooper.
This pair has been touring, recording and performing together since 2004, which is also the year Brace moved to Nashville. They have quietly created a loyal following of Americana buffs who share their love for songwriting and harmony.
They’re touring in support of two new recordings, Master Sessions and Cooper’s solo effort, The Lloyd Green Album.
I talked to them last week as they were heading from Portland Me. to Northampton, Mass. to open for John Prine. In addition to penning tunes, these guys are respected journalists. Eric Brace is a former columnist for the Washington Post. He covered the city’s night life and music scene. Peter Cooper is a music writer for the Tennessean, the daily newspaper in Nashville, Tenn.
“Many may decry this fact,” Cooper laughed during our conversation, “but we have day jobs. Most musicians have day jobs and mine puts me right there in the music every day … interviewing people like Kris Kristopherson and others … it keeps me thinking.”
Google his name and you’ll find blog posts, interviews and newspaper stories about some of Nashville’s biggest stars. You’ll also find some great quotes about the latest CD out from this dynamic duo, Master Sessions released last year on Brace’s Red Beet Records label.
“The harmonies are unforgettable, classic and touching. One of the irresistible surprises of the year,” said Jim Morrison with No Depression (Visit www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/eric-brace-and-peter-cooper for a great interview and video clip.)
“This album’s title is no misnomer,” says American Twang, which puts the CD at No. 8 on its list of Top Ten Not Quite Country Albums.
“Eric Brace and Peter Cooper sound as if there were born to play together,” comes from ToxicPete.co.uk. Oh wait, looks like that one’s about an earlier disc, You Don’t Have To Like Them Both ( Red Beet Records 2009).
Getting back to Master Sessions, the disc features two of the duo’s longtime musical heroes – Lloyd Green on pedal steel and Mike Auldridge on dobro. These two names may not be on the lips of America, but bluegrass, country and Americana fans know them well. Green is one of the most respected pedal steel guitarists around. He’s played with the Byrds, Paul McCartney, George Jones, Charlie Pride and Alan Jackson.
Auldridge was a founding member of legendary bluegrass group, the Seldom Scene and more recently with Darren Beachley and the Legends of the Potomac bluegrass band.
“Eric and I used to go see Mike with the Seldom Scene,” Peter says. “He is the most inventive player!”
The album’s first track is “Wait a Minute,” a tune well-known to fans of the Seldom Scene. According to Cooper, it wasn’t a chart hit, but it was big. “We needed a third vocal,” Peter continued, “and we knew Kenny Chesney was a big Seldom Scene fan, so Eric texted him and he said he was honored to perform on a CD with Mike Auldridge.”
Longtime South By Southeast fans may recall Brace’s last visit to the Train Depot.
“I came with my band, Last Train Home, in 2007, and it was one of the best shows we ever did,” said Eric. “I mean that, it was one of our best shows ever … and Jeff Roberts … well, you can imagine some of the people you meet … Jeff was one of the all-time greats.”
I can hear him smile as he thinks about the former director of South By Southeast, who passed away suddenly in January 2009. It still hurts, doesn’t it? I think that Last Train Home show was one of the ones that Jeff nagged me to see, but I missed it. And, once again, I should have Trusted the Frog, because I’ve heard some of their music and I would have loved seeing this rockin’ roots band.
However, I won’t make that mistake again. I’ll be at the Train Depot for this show!
Tickets are $25 or $20 for annual SxSE concert subscribers. (Send an email with your name, number of tickets requested and your membership status to email@example.com.)
Along with an incredible night of music, your ticket includes a potluck dinner and dessert, wine and beer from New South Brewery, soft drinks and coffee. Feasting begins at six o’clock and the music starts at 7 p.m.
Players on the Master Sessions CD are: Mike Auldridge – dobro; Richard Bennett – guitars, octave mandolin; Eric Brace – acoustic guitar, vocals; Peter Cooper – acoustic guitar, vocals; Lloyd Green – pedal steel guitar; Jen Gunderman – keyboards, accordion; Pat McInerney – drums, percussion; Dave Roe – bass; with Jon Randall – harmony vocals (2, 5, 11); Julie Lee – harmony vocals (4, 7, 8, 11); Kenny Chesney – harmony vocals (1).
Players on The Lloyd Green Album are: Peter Cooper (acoustic guitar, vocals), Lloyd Green (pedal steel guitar), Richard Bennett (guitars), Jen Gunderman (keyboards, accordion), Pat McInerney (drums, percussion), Mark Horn (drums) and harmony vocals by Kim Carnes, Rodney Crowell, Pam Rose, Fayssoux Starling McLean, Julie Lee and Eric Brace.
Also coming soon from Red Beet Records is I Love:Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow, a tribute and nod to the 75th birthday of Nashville’s iconic country songwriter Tom T. Hall. The disc is produced by Cooper and Brace, and features the monster talents of Buddy Miller, Patty, Griffin, Duane Eddy, and Bobby Bare. Also performing are Lloyd Green (pedal steel guitar); Jen Gunderman (keyboard, piano, accordion); Mike Bub (acoustic bass) and Mark Horn (drums).
The Train Depot is located at 851 Broadway, Myrtle Beach, S.C. For more information, log onto southbysoutheast.org. And don’t forget to check out these upcoming shows: Saturday, Aug. 6 – Josh Roberts & the Hinges; Saturday, Oct. 1 – Steve Young & Jubal Lee Young; Saturday, Dec. 3 – Yonrico Scott Band.