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Old 06-21-2009, 10:10 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Noteworthy roots & Americana albums

Below is a song list of my favorite Americana music that I did for Amazon in 2005. If you want to read more of my lists and reviews at Amazon here's a link to my homepage there: Gavin B. @ Amazon.com
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Noteworthy Roots and Americana Albums

Many have said that the current revival in roots music began in 1992 with the release of “No Depression” by Uncle Tupelo. After Lucinda Williams’ brilliant “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” in 1998, and the runaway success of the “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack, it appeared that a full blown Americana trend was happening. Last year,“Van Lear Rose” a Loretta Lynn album produced by White Stripe garage/indie rocker icon Jack White was about the only album to consistently appear on year end critic’s lists of the Best of 2004.

The most striking aspect is how despite very little airplay or promotion in the four decades of it's exsistence, the music we call variously Americana, alt rock roots rock, country rock, or whatever you wanna call it, has maintained a steadily growing cult following, every since the Sixties. Despite attempts to give roots rock a shiny new pop music sheen, by the Eagles and other california pop rockers in the Seventies, roots music has survived. Indeed in a time when hip-hop and schlocky American Idol type acts have overwhelmed rock on the sales charts, the roots sound of Americana gains a bigger share of the market every year. Roots music has become a trend-proof genre like the blues or jazz.

Here's my retrospective of noteworthy albums from the early and middle years of roots rock and Americana:


PART I. THE SIXTIES

Music from Big Pink (1968)
The BAND- Ground zero in the roots rock revival in the Sixties underground.

Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968)
The BYRDS- McGuinn adds Gram Parsons to the Byrds and retools to a country & western sound.

The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark (1968)
DILLARD & CLARK- A largely overlooked roots classic & bluegrass collaboration between Dillard family banjoist Doug Dillard & former Byrds singer Gene Clark.

Bradley's Barn (1968)
BEAU BRUMMELS- The San Francisco folk rockers meet Nashville at Bradley's Barn.

The Gilded Palace of Sin/Burrito Deluxe (1969)
FLYING BURRITTO BROS- Gram Parsons highest musical acheivement. A splinter group from the Byrds formed by Parsons & Byrds bassist Chris Hillman.

Townes Van Zandt (1969)
TOWNES VAN ZANDT- The emergence of Texas troubadour Van Zandt, who wrote a truckload of superb songs during his career.

Oar (1969)
SKIP SPENCE- A strange union of roots music with psychedelica by the dynamo who played with Quicksilver, the Jefferson Airplane and most notably Moby Grape.


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PART II. THE SEVENTIES

Magnetic South
MICHAEL NESMITH- Nesmith was no longer making a Monkee of himself with his country oriented solo albums beginning with Magnetic South.

Into the Purple Valley (1971)
RY COODER- Slide & finger picking guitarist and mandolinist Ry Cooder was a one man music revival, and still is 30 + years later.

John Prine (1971)
JOHN PRINE- After this debut album, John Prine became the leading anti-establishment singer in country music with topical songs like, "Illegal Smile" (marijuana use), "Sam Stone" (Viet veterans), "Pipe Dream" (Back to the earth movement) & "American Flag Decal... (patriotism & fundamentalist religion)

Aereo-Plain (1971)
JOHN HARTFORD- Ex-Glen Campbell songwriter goes hippie & produces a homespun album that has been called the "Revolver" of roots music.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (30th Anniversary Edition) (1972)
NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND- Ex-LA based folk rockers do sessions with Doc Watson, Maybelle Carter, Roy Acuff, and Merle Travis and make what has been called the "Sergeant Pepper's" of roots music.

Doug Sahm & Band (1973)
THE DOUG SAM BAND- Ex-Sir Douglas Quintet garage rocker makes an album of his country and tex-mex border roots. Bob Dylan joins him.

Elite Hotel (1975)
EMMYLOUS HARRIS- Session singer & Gram Parsons associate Emmylou Harris marks the starting point in her long running music career with her major label debut.

Comes a Time (1978)
NEIL YOUNG- Neil Young revisits country rock for the first time since 1972's "Harvest" and makes an even better album of rootsy sounding country rock.


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Part III. THE EIGHTIES

American Music (1980)
THE BLASTERS- The Blasters were at ground zero of the L.A. rockabilly revival. The Stray Cats were campy parodies and late-comers to rockabilly.

Musta Notta Gotta Lotta (1981)
JOE ELY- Ely was one of the early Texas roots rockers and still one of the best. He built an audience among American punk rockers when he opened for the Clash on their 1980 tour of the USA.

Fire of Love (1981)
GUN CLUB- The Gun Club fronted by flamboyant Texas vocalist, Jeffery Lee Pierce, was a combination of punk rock, rockabilly and Louisiana Creole swamp music. It came to be called shockabilly.

Sundown (1982)
RANK & FILE- An early Los Angeles based cowpunk band that had Aljendro Escovedo on guitar. Part of an entire breed of rockabilly influenced bands in LA, like the Blasters & X.

How Will the Wolf Survive? (1984)
LOS LOBOS- An east L.A. band who played rockabilly, mexicali, psychedelic garage rock, border wave and just about anything else.

Native Sons (1984)
LONG RYDERS- Yet another Los Angeles band who was heavily influenced by Gram Parsons and Buffalo Springfield.


Lone Justice (1985)
LONE JUSTICE- The last great band of the early Eighties cowpunk movement in Los Angeles. Maria McKee is still a great vocalist who never quite reached a critical mass.

Guitar Town (Remastered)(Bonus Track) (1986)
STEVE EARLE- The debut album of the most consequential artist in the roots music revival.

Tales from the Crypt (1987)
JOE "KING" CARRASCO - My first choice for Carrasco was the out of issue,"Snyapse Gap" (1982) but "Tales From the Crypt" is another excellent album by this border wave rocker.

Lucinda Williams (1988)
LUCINDA WILLIAMS- This early album by Lucinda was on the Los Angeles punk label, Slash. It is a collection of songs she wrote and performed in Austin for several years before moving to L.A.

Shadowland (1988)
K.D. LANG- Cowpunk singer K.D. Lang meets the legendary country and western producer Owen Bradley.

Slow Turning (1988)
JOHN HIATT- Hiatt had been around the music scene since the early Seventies but "Slow Turning" was his most sublime moment. "Bring the Family" was excellent but "Slow Turning" is a roots rock classic.

The Trinity Session (1989)
COWBOY JUNKIES- Ironically, the last great "Americana" album of the Eighties came from a Canadian group. By end of the Eighties it appeared that the leading edge of rock and roll was right back where it started: roots and country music.
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Old 06-21-2009, 05:04 PM   #2 (permalink)
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This not generally my sort of thing but a well written and informative post always deserves my attention. I look forward to more.
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Old 12-29-2012, 10:34 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I`m bumping this thread because the OP is packed with interesting albums and because it seems like a good place to respond to something Frownland mentioned:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frownland View Post
I'll definitely check out the Meeting by the River album with Ry Cooder, I haven't heard much of his work, just Safe as Milk and Taj Mahal.
^ I always meant to follow up on this comment, Frownland; sorry that it`s taken me, er, five months to do so.

Did you end up exploring any of Ry Cooder`s albums ? He has some great material, but a discography that can make you wonder where to start. Well, this would be my advice for someone looking at Ry Cooder`s stuff for the first time:-

(i) don`t expect to hear anything remotely resembling Safe As Milk.
(ii) be aware that RC is one of those consumately polite musicians; when he collaborates his intention is to let his collaboree shine, so you may not hear the real Ry on those albums.
(iii) when Gavin B. recommended Into The Purple Valley, the excellent double-cd complilation The UFO has Landed hadn`t been released. This compilation album is easily the best way to get a handle on RC`s bewildering scope of styles. It does what only the best anthologies do; pulls together the various strands of the artists work, so you end up making connections that you hadn`t previously noticed. It was only after listening to UFO that I could at last say with some confidence, "Ah, yes, that is the RC sound !"

PS. I wonder why Gavin B`s excellent thread starter was left to shrivel up and die like a slug under salt. Anyone, three years down the line, with a comment on the albums he mentioned ?
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Old 12-29-2012, 10:53 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Nice bump Lisnaholic. Looks like plenty of food for thought there from Gavin B. I recently came across the Van Zandt and will be sure to check out some more of these recs.
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Old 12-29-2012, 11:44 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks, stp ! I have to go out right now, but I`ll be doing some investigating too; might even get out that old John Prine cassette I`ve got somewhere. John Hartford sounds interesting too...
Anyway, I hope to see you reporting back later on this thread - and I hope you had a good Christmas, btw.
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Old 12-29-2012, 01:57 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think I will be keeping an eye on this thread! I've been very curious about "Americana" but I always put it off due to other music. I may very well make use of this, thank you!

I might also check out that Cooder compilation. I've listened to Paradise & Lunch and Into the Purple Valley and although they were good neither really drew me in for repeated listens.
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:54 AM   #7 (permalink)
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> I`d be very interested to hear your impressions of Americana, Chives, as your exploration of Dylan`s albums seems to`ve run out of steam recently.

> Americana is such a huge genre these days and its musical boundaries are pretty blurred, I believe. Gavin B`s list stops at 1989, and since then Americana has developed a whole new dark and dirty side that those innocent Byrds never dreamed of. I`d be more than happy to trade comments and questions in this thread.

> I haven`t heard much of of those two RC albums you mention, but I know to my cost that sometimes RC is just too eclectic - he revives material that perhaps had been left in obscurity for a reason ...
The compilation album tracklist was put together by RC`s son, so you can hear some genuine highlights, as well as his dad`s personal favourites, all in one place. I hope you can find it, and enjoy it; at any event it might provide some light relief after all that Dylan material you`ve been wading through !
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Old 12-30-2012, 01:21 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Yeah I got burnt out on the Dylan stuff after I got through to his early 90s. I'll get back to it eventually though because I love him as much as always, but the man released a lot of music! It's tough to convince myself to continue a Dylan marathon when there are so many artists I've never listened to before that I know I really need to!

And yeah I can already agree with that opinion about Cooder. He drags up any old song that strikes his fancy, which is hit and miss but definitely gives his work character. I've always met to listen to more of him because he seems like a very interesting and talented fellow. I'll try and track down that compilation and if not I'll listen to a couple more albums I guess. I'll start looking for the albums on this list as well.
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Old 01-04-2013, 02:43 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I think we could start with the Smithsonian Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music before The Band. However, those first two records by The Band were something very special and have never been bettered in my opinion.
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Old 01-06-2013, 06:07 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisnaholic View Post

^ I always meant to follow up on this comment, Frownland; sorry that it`s taken me, er, five months to do so.

Did you end up exploring any of Ry Cooder`s albums ? He has some great material, but a discography that can make you wonder where to start. Well, this would be my advice for someone looking at Ry Cooder`s stuff for the first time:-

(i) don`t expect to hear anything remotely resembling Safe As Milk.
(ii) be aware that RC is one of those consumately polite musicians; when he collaborates his intention is to let his collaboree shine, so you may not hear the real Ry on those albums.
(iii) when Gavin B. recommended Into The Purple Valley, the excellent double-cd complilation The UFO has Landed hadn`t been released. This compilation album is easily the best way to get a handle on RC`s bewildering scope of styles. It does what only the best anthologies do; pulls together the various strands of the artists work, so you end up making connections that you hadn`t previously noticed. It was only after listening to UFO that I could at last say with some confidence, "Ah, yes, that is the RC sound !"
I did end up checking that album out, but I didn't look into his other works. I'll give UFO a listen, and I have heard some great stuff from Taj Mahal, which gives me high hopes that I'll enjoy it. Thanks for the rec!
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