Tag Archives: Billy Joe Shaver

New Album! Tom Jones

No blame, just praise.

When Johnny Cash hooked up with Rick Rubin to make the inspired series of albums known as the American Recordings, he proved that a talented artist could reinvent himself beyond a lifelong public perception. But where Cash had a long legacy of artistic credibility to go along with his popular success, Tom Jones was known for his booming voice and the collection of underwear tossed at his feet.

No one expected that he’d issue a stark blues and gospel album, and I’m certain that nobody predicted he’d release an album that is a serious contender for the best record of the year.

Surprise.

Fronting a stripped down sound often comparable to the chunk and thwack of The White Stripes, Jones has created a spiritual journey that begins soft and subtle, surfs the River Styx and ascends towards the heavens before leaving the listener by the doorstep with a personal challenge. In other words, Jones not only got around on that fastball, he crushed it.

Jones, at seventy, still possesses those powerful pipes and sounds absolutely rejuvenated on these selections. The myriad of well chosen songs taps the songbooks of Bob Dylan, Pops Staples,  Billy Joe Shaver and John Lee Hooker, whose “Burning Hell” is punctuated by greasy slide guitar and the guttural bark and howl of the singer. I saw him do this live with just a drummer and guitar player as accompaniment and it was riveting.

Sometimes people release an album outside their wheelhouse to be trendy and widen their audience. I don’t know Jones personally nor can I speak for his religious beliefs (or lack thereof). But I can tell you that after listening to this forty minute sermon, I’m converted.

Go listen to clips and judge for yourself.

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Under The Radar: The Juleps

I thought Chicago was Second City - who knew?

I thought it was Second City - who knew?

I guess I could also call this a blast from the past, as it was ten years ago that I came across The Juleps and wrote about them for a similar column focusing on artists you might be missing out on. But since I don’t think they ever got the credit they deserved, let’s go with this category, shall we?

I don’t even remember how I first came across them, but no doubt I was up late following tangents on sites like CD Baby and Amazon, a practice that has yielded many rewards over the years. But this was, and is, a real keeper. From that article back in 2000, and my first take on this great band:

It’s pretty hard to find a band who can play a Billy Joe Shaver song better than ‘ol Billy Joe himself, but their live version of “Hottest Thing In Town” might be the track that changes that theory forever. It’s from a CD called Live At Thurston’s that’s only available via the MP3 site. If you’re wondering where you’ve heard that voice before, vocalist Gary Yerkins (as well as a couple of Juleps) is also a member of The Insiders, who released a couple of albums for Columbia and had an FM hit with “Ghost On The Beach”.

While The Insiders focus more on solid pop and rock and roll, The Juleps are more strum and twang territory. When Yerkins and vocalist Cathy Richardson harmonize, it’s like Steve Earle and Emmylou ripping it up – “Wild Beautiful Thing” and “Can’t Back It Up” are nothing short of fabulous! Many of the live tracks are available on the studio CD Kickbutt City, USA, which is also available from the band. Yerkins says that the band was formed as an “anti-agenda, anti-biz, anti-career band” where he could write music along the lines of his favorite artists and feature duets with a female voice. It turned out to be much cooler than anyone anticipated.

I don’t believe The Juleps still exist as an ongoing effort anymore, but their recordings still stand. Gary Yerkins has continued to record; his wonderful solo CD Compass is available here. And John Siegle – who was in Screams with Brad Elvis (“Imagine Me Without You”) – also released a great solo album; check it out here. Ah, fertile Illinois…more on The Elvis Brothers and John Siegle another day…

Link to The Juleps webpage

“If Wishes Were Horses”, live in 2006

“Ghost On The Beach”, still killer.

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