Monday, June 29, 2009

Todd Snider @ The Intersection

Todd Snider was originally scheduled to play a small acoustic show in the front room of the Intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Friday June 26th before his show on Saturday at the Ark in Ann Arbor. Due to larger than expected ticket sales they had to move the show to the main stage and included Ashliegh Flynn to open the show. It was still an acoustic show but thats the best way to experience Todd and his music. Arriving to the show in his Volkswagen bus armed with a few guitars and his harmonica he took the stage barefoot pausing between songs to talk about them and sometimes just go on his off the wall tangeants that have nothing to do with much of anything but are always humerous. Fans of Todd's were attempting to sneak backstage before and after the show to meet him and give him handmade crafts and handrolled homegrown. Todd played mostly the songs he's known for going back to the "Songs for a Daily Planet" debut album even though he has a new release out called the "excitment plan" produced by Don Was, he chose to stick with his hits like "Play a train song" and "Talking seattle Grunge Rock Blues" to the delight of the crowd. I got to talk with Todd after the show a bit and he signed my hat and posed for a few photos and left in his VW bus to the next show.

Country Fever summary and slide show.

Country Fever in Pryor Oklahoma was an amazing and overwhelming event for me, although it may not have been a great success for the owners and promoters of the venue, i don't know of any final numbers at all. For the bands and musicians and everyone around them it was a coming home for some and a reunion for others. The weather was hot but it didn't rain, the people were incredibly friendly and outgoing, they were passionate about the music that permeates life in Oklahoma. The musicians were supportive of each other and watched each others shows when possible and that's what is so great about this genre labeled red dirt music not to mention the integrity each artist brings to their craft. Thirty seven plus bands and musicians in one location in four days time was incredible for me, i got to see and hear some of my hero's and discover a few more. I have been a fan of red dirt music and Texas country for years but this just solidified it even more for me, I become more discouraged with Nashville's idea of country music everyday, Nashville has an inferior product right now, people who are willing to take the time to search out good music know this and more are learning about this genre and the Americana movement all the time. i want to thank the organizers of Country Fever for taking such a big risk to promote this great music and i need to thank Lindsay at Event Marketing Group and John Cooper of the Red Dirt Rangers as well as Jessie Scott and for helping me and my friend Rob Watson over the past few months in arranging for us to do this. John has already mentioned having us back next year, we don't know if they can pull of what they did this year and i don't know how they can top such an amazing line up but i hope it happens. I am working on putting together a site with a slideshow for all the hundreds of photos i did not use yet. If you love this music like i do, send me a friend request on Facebook, i have a link to mine further down the right side of the page, i look forward to meeting anyone that loves this great music. Click on the title to this post to view a slide show of over 300 photos of performances from the main stage at Country fever 2009.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jerry Jeff Walker @ Country Fever

Well i can come up with all kinds of adjectives like, legendary and iconic to describe Jerry Jeff Walker and they are all true. Seeing Jerry Jeff for the first time after listening to his music for years either through one of his records or through someone else covering one of his many songs, i can say that he has only gotten better. His infamous hard partying ways have seemed to mellow him and his voice out which usually that doesnt happen. Jerry had a stellar band with him on stage he introduced as "The Sons of the Pioneers" and played all his hits to the remaining loyal fans that were on hand to watch the last act on the main stage in Pryor. Jerry Jeff has always done things his own way, never compromising his music and has his own record label "Tried & True" so he can do just that. He has played for Presidents and for working folk in the honky tonks and saloons across America, although he was born and raised in New York state he is a true Texas Troubadour and continues to inspire musicians and songwriters around the world with his story telling songs that are both serious and humerous. I was moved sitting there in one of the seats listening to his show after photographing him realizing that Im here actually watching Jerry Jeff Walker on stage. After seeing so many other incredible talent on the main stage as well as the side stages i still gotta admit Jerry Jeff Walker is a master of his craft like no one else will ever be.

The Eli Young Band @ Country Fever

The Eli Young band took the stage after Johnny Cooper funked it up. The guys in the band were sending out Twitter messages about how so few people were there for the show but when they came out on stage they rocked just like they were in a sold out venue somewhere, anywhere since these guys tour where most bands from Texas never get to, today they are in Minneapolis roaming around the Mall of America before their show at The Caboose.. The Eli Young band has been getting alot of attention and breaking out of the regional scene and becoming a national act with recent television appearances and their last single "Always the love songs" doing very well for them. They just released another single "Radio Waves" off their lastest CD "Jet Black and Jealous" and a few months back they were nominated for an Academy of Country Music award and played at the CMT awards although only for a minute it helps them get their name out there. The guys looked like they were having fun on stage and the people that were there showed their support.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Johnny Cooper @ Country Fever

Storme Warren interviewed each artist performing in Pryor Oklahoma and aired each taping right before the band took stage. I watched Johnny Coopers interview and he said that he just turned 21 years old recently. I kept that in mind as i watched him take the stage and as he began his set by beat boxing the intro to "Texas to you" and remarked to my friend helping me out with photography Rob Watson that this guy is really fresh and hip but that he still has that red dirt sound. He reminds me of a modern version of Cody Canada atleast the way his vocals sound, other than that he could be any American idol contestant because he's young and he's got a contemporary and relevant sound. One visit to his new web site and you will immediately notice what i am talking about, this cats hip. Managed by his parents Johnny is working on new material that ive heard deviates from the typical red dirt sound. Guess we will wait and see.

Ryan Bingham @ Country fever

After all the press and talk i have been seeing and hearing since the buzz around Ryan's new release "Roadhouse Sun" started, i was really looking forward to seeing what made this guy and his music get so much attention. Ryan Bingham and his band The Dead Horses took the stage after Brandon Rhyder and started off with the lead track on his newly released cd "When the day is done" Click on the title of this post to watch the video i shot of him performing this song. Ryan comes from a background in West Texas and New Mexico as a real cowboy riding the rodeo circuit until he decided on the unconventional route of moving to California to persue his musical dreams. In California he met up with Marc Ford who was the lead guitarist in the Black Crowes who was there to help him along in the industry. The Dead Horses are drummer Matthew Smith, bass player Elijah Ford and multi instrumentalist Corby Schaub who builds his own Mandolins with help from his family. Ryan has also played a wide variety of music festivals including Coachella and the Montreux Jazz festival. Ryan dedicated his song "Endless Ways" on stage to Dick Cheney. The crowd was very thin for most of Sundays performances and maybe that had something to do with the energy of Ryan Bingham's performance but since i have never seen him before and in front of a large crowd i cant really judge him on that. I was impressed.

Brandon Rhyder @ Country Fever

Texas singer and songwriter Brandon Rhyder started things off on Sunday, the final day of the Country fever music festival in Pryor Oklahoma. It was becoming the hottest day we had yet and the sun was high in the sky early in the afternoon. It was also fathers day and Brandon talked about how he wishes he was with his family and that he would be back home on Monday to see them. Brandon recently signed a publishing deal with Harlan Howard Publishing in Nashville and has been writing alot of his own material heard on his albums. His fifth CD "Every night" will be released soon and was produced by Radney Foster. Brandon has his sights set on national exposure enlisting the help of many people in Nashville yet will remain grounded in Austin Texas with his family. Brandon co wrote the song "One step closer to you" with Wade Bowen and it can be found in both artists releases.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cross Canadian Ragweed @ Country Fever

The ambassadors of the Oklahoma red dirt music sound known as Ragweed or CCR by their loyal ever growing fan base took the stage after Jason Boland. The crowd was the largest assembled during the four day festival and was in full party mode ready to get rocked by the boys from Oklahoma. Storme Warren from GAC television was on hand all weekend and interviewed each band before introducing them on stage. A quiet and seemingly shy Cody Canada talked in a barely discernible voice answering Storme's questions and its obvious that he and the band are much more comfortable being on stage than being interviewed. Storme came out to introduce the band and ceremonially carried the bands mascot "Henry" a wood carved statue by Doug Moreland to his place on the amps to bring good karma to the band and the crowd. Cody surprised people that havent seen him since they have been secluded away in California recording their new album by sporting a fresh new short haircut. They opened appropriately with their song co written with Stoney LaRue entitled "Oklahoma" which is a sort of short and personal history of the state and the ways it intertwines with his life. Later in the set they played a few new songs like "burn like the Sun" which until then i haven't heard done as a finished arrangement, only as an acoustic version last time i saw them at Joe's bar in Chicago. I am extremely excited for the release of the new record which will be called "Happiness and all the other Things" due out in September. Lots of rumors are floating around about the songs that will be included like a song Cody said before that he would not release because he did not want the label making money off a song about his son. I have also heard rumors of a second CD being released that will feature covers of their favorite bands music that they have been unable to do because of their current contract. Again i was unable to confirm these rumors so we will all have to wait for official reports from the band. In the meantime look out for the awesome new song i heard on New Braunfels Radio station KNBT 92.1 called "51 Pieces" and the new single co written with Brandon Jenkins called "Drag"

Jason Boland & The Stragglers @ Country Fever

The problems of the past seem to be haunting Jason Boland much less these days as i heard him describe how he deals with having to give up drinking and how when he was drinking everyone around him was an enabler. Now that he is not drinking the people have become enablers in the process of him staying sober. Jason and the Stragglers came out after Reckless Kelly to a sun that was beginning to set and the temperature was becoming comfortable. The Stragglers consist of drummer Brad Rice, fiddler Noah Jeffries, Grant tracy on Bass and Roger Ray on pedal steel, dobro and guitar. One of the members of the musical fraternity known as "The farm" and living in the famed "yellow House" that was kind of a wayward home housing fellow Oklahoma musicians like Stoney LaRue and Cody Canada. Jason Boland was drawn to music by other Oklahoma red dirt pioneers like Bob Childers and the Red Dirt Rangers. After dealing with surgury to remove a blood polyp from his vocal chords, Jason had to work through vocal therapy to be able to sing, and now he has learned to sing the correct way and his voice is sounding much better. Noah Jeffries is one of the best and most musically adventurous fiddelers around and Roger Ray is absolutely amazing in his ability to make a steel guitar moan like the masters of years past. I am looking forward to seeing Jason perform again soon at Joe's bar in Chicago and i encourage anyone who is a fan of good straight forward real country music to see them live.

Reckless Kelly @ Country Fever

After the Red Dirt Rangers set, Reckless Kelly took the stage. Formed by the brothers from Stanley Idaho Willy and Cody Braun the band came together first in Oregon before settling in the live music capitol of the world, Austin Texas. With a sound "Ragged as the Road" and with their original bass player the band played all their popular songs and a few off their latest release "Bulletproof" including "American Blood" which points a condemning finger at a the Iraq war and an administration that chose to enter into this conflict blindly, risking American soldiers lives. Reckless Kelly has been working on new songs for a release that covers the work of songwriter Randy pease.

The Red Dirt Rangers @ Country Fever

After talking with the Red Dirt Rangers John Cooper on the phone a few times arranging my press passes for the event and knowing that the Rangers were playing the Country Fever festival with Randy crouch i couldnt wait to see them. It was only after i returned home and read an article in the festivals program that my memory was jogged by a certain event involving the Red Dirt Rangers. About 5 years ago the guys were riding in a helicopter that clipped some power lines and crashed. I remember seeing the story on television on one of those reality video shows and didnt put that whole thing together until i read that. The Red Dirt Rangers have been making their brand of original Oklahoma influenced music for twenty some years and are considered red dirt music even though their songs go way beyond the confines of that genre. Taking cues from everyone from the Grateful dead to Tom Skinner, Bob Childers and Jimmy LaFave. Embracing the hippie jam band aspect and the cosmic country of late sixties and early seventies bands like The flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons and with The "Hillbilly Hendrix" Randy crouch's amazing fiddle and steel guitar playing the Rangers are a treasure of the Oklahoma music scene. The band consists of a core made up of singer and mandolin player John M Cooper, Gutarist and vocalist Brad Piccolo and guitarist Ben Han Labuan with Randy Crouch often filling in on pedal steel and fiddle. Don Morris playing bass with Tulsa producer Jim Karstein on drums often rounds out the line up and they sat in with the Rangers in Pryor. I caught Don Morris sitting with Monica Taylor later that night.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ray Wylie Hubbard @ Country Fever

If you were in the mood for some deep blues and dark poetry you came out to see the "Wylie Lama" Ray Wylie Hubbard. An Oklahoman by birth he grew up in Oak Cliff Texas. Famous for his hit "Up against the wall Redneck Mother" Hubbard went to high school with Michael Martin Murphy and spent some time honing his craft as a folk singer in New Mexico. Ray Wylie Hubbard's song writing is revered by up and coming musicians in the red dirt scene and many like Cross Canadian Ragweed have covered his songs. Often using poetic imagery to weave detailed character studies and mythical proverbs deep and dark into a bluesy groove, Hubbard is a gritty, greasy slice of true Americana. After over coming alcohol with the help of Stevie Ray Vaughan he began to focus again on his music. Songs like "Dust of the Chase" and "Conversations with the Devil" envoke a spell binding demand for your attention. One of my favorites, which is of a lighter theme is "Screw you , were from Texas" and the humorous "Snake Farm" Hubbard has a thirteen year old son who often shares the stage on guitar with him but during the press conference i attended with Hubbard, he stated that Lucas "did not want to ride up from Texas to Pryor stuck in a car with a bunch of old guys" so filling in was another up and coming guitar player and songwriter by the name of Seth James. Ray stuck around after the press conference to to talk with fans and was kind enough to sign my hat. Dont forget to take a listen to New Braunfels radio 92.1 KNBT for Ray Wylie Hubbard's Americana show "Roots & Branches"

Aaron Watson @ Country Fever

I made the mistake of putting my camera battery on the charger and leaving it in our media trailer and since we are only allowed to shoot the first three songs from the front of the stage i am waiting on my friend Rob Watson to send over his shots. He went with me to Pryor to help me cover this whole event considering just how much music there was to cover his assistance was much appreciated. Click on the title of this post to view his online albums. Saturday's entertainment began with Texas country musician Aaron Watson. Aaron is from Abilene and stays true to the Texas country genre like George Strait also playing a healthy dose of western swing. Aaron has collaborated with Willie Nelson on the single "Honky Tonk Kid" and has released seven albums including one live one recorded at the Texas Hall of Fame. Aaron was inspired to play music after an injury forced him to forgo a baseball career and after having front row seats to a Garth Brooks concert at Texas stadium. Aaron tours all over the south and south west and has been a featured performer at musicfest in steamboat Springs Colorado. Photos by Robert Watson.

Stoney Larue & The Arsenal @ Country fever

Oklahoma native Stoney Larue did not ride into Pryor on a big fancy tour bus, instead he rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle from where ever he was, probably visiting friends and family not too far away. Always enthusiastic to be on stage performing for a crowd big or small he is always smiling and happy to play his unique brand of red dirt music which is mix of the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan with some local flavor of red dirt pioneers like the late Bob Childers. Stoney has been working on new material for a new release also. Early on in the show he made a comment that "if security doesnt mind ya'll can come up here on the stage" and at first no one did but it didnt take long for the rush to the stage to begin. The stage in Pryor is very deep and really separates the musicians from the crowd and performers in the genre are used to having an intimate and interacting audience. Saturday night Stoney even made an appearance at the after hours party tent in the VIP campground along with Roger Ray from Jason Bolands band and Storme Warren from GAC television.

The Randy Rogers Band @ Country Fever

The Randy Rogers band has been coming off quite a run lately with late night television appearances on Letterman and Leno and a nomination for an Academy of Country Music award. They took the stage in Pryor Oklahoma after Jack Ingram on Friday night to a crowd that was ready to party after a long hot work week. They came out swinging with the song "Down & Out" off the "Rollercoaster" Cd. Randy Rogers has been doing a series of acoustic shows with Wade Bowen in select cities around the country and is wrapping that tour up right now. Brady Black is always fun to watch on the stage playing his fiddle. The sun was going down on the second night of Country fever and as we were walking around i relished the sound of that fiddle reverberating off the tents and disappearing into the night air.

Jack Ingram @ Country fever

Jack Ingram is a Texas native now releasing music via Nashville after a long time of paying his dues in the dance halls and bars. The music may have gotten better production with increased budgets but Jack has simply grown along with it. He has become an artist that consistently releases solid ten or twelve song albums that can be listened to front to back all while singing along to his gritty soulful delivery. Jack likes to rock the crowd, giving anyone unfamiliar with the rowdiness of a great venue in Texas a good dose of what it might be like. Digging deep into his repertoire of past releases he will go from The early Texas twang of "Beat up ford" to "Mustang burn" and then his version of the band Hinder's "Lips of an Angel" and on to his current hit "Barefoot & Crazy" Jack travels with a young and energetic band that will go out onto the edge of the stage and pull you back in.

Mike McClure @ Country Fever

Former founding member of the ground breaking band The great divide, Mike McClure came on stage next after Billy Joe Shaver on Friday June 19th. I was pretty excited to see Mike for the first time after seeing his name credited to quite a few of the last releases by Cross Canadian Ragweed and a few others as a producer. Mike left the Great Divide to pursue a change of course he felt he needed to follow even though it might have meant loosing an established fan base. I have heard Mike's work being hailed as something that has changed and modernized the whole sound of red dirt music and one careful listen to his last three releases will have you believing it. The production is so unconventional and so crisp yet retains a roughness thats prevalent in the red dirt scene, maybe just because it comes through in his voice or in his heavy classic rock style distorted riff's through a vintage Orange amp, Mike is not afraid to take a risk. Using his askew view of the surrounding world and his off the wall sense of humor he can relay images vivid in songs like "belly of the Beast" to sweet reminiscence like "Little Sister Sunshine". Mike performed with a three piece band consisting of drums and bass and his own mighty guitar chords taking requests from those waiting to see him at the front of the stage, fans yelled out for "Saints in the Twilight" and they got it right away. Check out Mike's production work soon on Cross Canadian Ragweed's next release and keep an eye out for new material from Mike as a prolific songwriter he's adding to his set each time.