Kim Ruehl's Blog (345)

On Ancient History, Nickel Creek, and the Sometimes Necessary Genrefication of Music

One of the oldest human possessions ever found is a flute. I'm talking somewhere in the area of 50,000 years ago, someone sat or squatted - presumably on the ground - playing a flute. The fact that these old flutes exist indicates the presence of music is much older. It would have to be in order for people to get good enough at flute-making as to fashion an instrument that would be so durable. 

But, think about the implications here. You can't run from a predator when you're…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on March 27, 2014 at 8:30am — 17 Comments

Considering the Music of "Nashville", Take Two

At the end of Nashville's last season, news broke that T Bone Burnett, world class record producer and husband to show creator Callie Khouri, would not be continuing as the music supervisor. I wrote in this space about how that could be a good thing. Though T Bone populated the show with some incredible songs to come out of characters like…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on March 14, 2014 at 7:00am — 3 Comments

Songwriters on Songwriting: Greg Brown

Originally written for the Bluegrass Situation

Greg Brown is what you might call a songwriter’s songwriter. From the blues to old school country, folk and so forth, his music doesn’t fixate on any one style. The songs he writes go where they want to go, say what they want to say so naturally, they start to feel as though they’ve written…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on February 17, 2014 at 7:06am — 13 Comments

Chatting with Amy Ray about God, Hunting, and Good Country Music

Amy Ray was backstage at the Isis in Asheville, NC, last week, listening to the soundcheck of her opener, a local artist named Lyric. As we got to talking about her new album Goodnight Tender, which dropped on her own Daemon label on Jan. 21, Ray periodically paused mid-sentence to enjoy the muffled funk happening on the other side of the wall.

To most people, it might seem odd to pair a funk and…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on February 3, 2014 at 2:30pm — 1 Comment

Thoughts on How to Honor Pete Seeger's Life

Every image of Pete Seeger that's been playing on a reel in my head today - and on videos that seem to be crowding the social media sphere as millions mourn the end of his incredible life - has Pete behind a microphone, looking away, his mouth still shaping the words, but the sound is coming from the dark expanse in front of him. It's a fitting image - the voice of the crowd creating a noise that appears to be emerging from Pete's own mouth. His life's work, after all, was getting…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on January 28, 2014 at 2:30pm — 5 Comments

Jason Isbell and Holly Williams - The Orange Peel (Asheville, NC) - Jan. 23, 2014

There are times in the life of a music critic when you see a show or hear an album and all you really want to say is "holy shit." Analysing guitar solos and parsing the energy between people on a stage starts to feel a little like looking for the trapdoor in a magic show. You kind of have to just show up and witness the the part where the guy stands right up on the mic, the force of the melody bending his body back a good ten inches at the top, like his voice is the rock in a big…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on January 24, 2014 at 8:00am — 16 Comments

Ongoing Thoughts about Martin Luther King, Jr., and "We Shall Overcome"

I've been thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr., a lot lately. Which makes sense, in a way. After all, this past August was a half-century since Dr. King made his famous "I Have a Dream Speech", one of many made during a day of demonstration for "Jobs and Freedom." Lately, the mainstream media has been focusing on another anniversary - that which marks President Johnson's declaration of a War on Poverty. This only puts Dr. King in my head further, since it was poverty which was…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on January 20, 2014 at 5:00am — 6 Comments

Live at Caffe Lena: Music From America's Legendary Coffeehouse 1967-2013 (Album Review)

Originally written for Folk Alley

Since the spring of 1960, Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY, has been welcoming folk singers and musicians onto its stage. Among them have been folks as variant as Tom Paxton and John Gorka, Robin and Linda Williams, Anais Mitchell, Greg Brown, Arlo Guthrie, and Tift Merritt. It's the longest continuously running coffee house in the country, and crowds continue to gather there…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on January 8, 2014 at 2:13pm — 1 Comment

Songwriters on Songwriting: Casey Driessen

Originally written for the Bluegrass Situation

Songwriting takes many forms. Sure, in the realm of Americana music, “songwriting” typically refers to the thing most people do with an acoustic guitar, a voice, and their sense of poetry. But, in many areas of traditional music – folk, bluegrass, classical, jazz – “songwriting” can be a process by which an…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on January 6, 2014 at 9:49am — 3 Comments

"Every Time I Move / I Make a Woman's Movement" - Thoughts on Ani DiFranco's Song Camp Mistake

The internet has been buzzing the past day or two over a folksinger gaffe that, in the grand scope of All Things, let's be perfectly honest here, is not really the end of the world. 

A little background. 

In 1989, a bald, nose-pierced, hairy pitted teenager from Buffalo, NY, put out a demo on a cassette tape. She had been performing in the Buffalo area for years, and had developed a guitar picking style that was unique, for lack of a better word. Many of her songs -…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on December 31, 2013 at 6:00am — 19 Comments

Interview with Julie Lee about Till and Mule

It's funny that I should have come across Julie Lee only recently, and only through hearing her sing backup for other artists. First for Robby Hecht on YouTube, then behind Rose Cousins at the AMA festival, Lee delivered backing harmonies that were surprising, creative, and woefully heartbreaking. Grante,d both Hecht and Cousins write songs that aren't exactly a barrel of monkeys, but there was something about what Lee was…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on December 23, 2013 at 10:00am — 1 Comment

Best of 2013 Closeup: Jason Isbell - "Southeastern" (Album Review)

My daddy told me and I believe he told me true

The right thing's always the hardest thing to do

Indeed, it's not easy to change your life. Whether you're changing away from addiction, toward an illness your body can't fight, into the welcoming arms of someone who truly loves you (and, consequently, away from all the forces that just keep you around to validate them), and so on. It's complicated and full of layers. Like turning your head - it's not just your…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on December 17, 2013 at 7:55am — 19 Comments

Best Albums of 2013 Closeup: Holly Williams - "The Highway"

I ignored Holly Williams's new album, The Highway, as long as I could. It arrived in a swarm of padded envelopes, among a flurry of other CDs I also didn't listen to right away. The cover photo showed a pretty blond woman, her hair in her face, close up. She looked tired or urgent, or maybe like she was waiting for something, it was hard to tell which. Besides, the idea of an Americana album called The Highway seemed oh so preciously cliche. 

I had tried to…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on December 4, 2013 at 7:30am — 12 Comments

Best Albums of 2013 Closeup: Robbie Fulks - "Gone Away Backward" (Album Review)

Hang out in Americana circles long enough, and you'll start to hear people toss around phrases like "real country music". More than an ethnocentric down-the-nose judgmnet about fakery, the phrase tends to be employed when describing music that comes from a desire to tell stories about things that matter to real country people, not only those interested in purchasing something from a certain section of a store (or, a certain page on iTunes). Sure, plenty of real country people…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on November 25, 2013 at 2:00pm — 7 Comments

Best Albums of 2013 Closeup: Aoife O'Donovan - "Fossils" (Album Review)

It takes a lot of nerve to imagine you can sing a song better than - or, at least, as well as - Alison Krauss. Let's just start there. 

Granted, Aoife O'Donovan wrote "Lay My Burden Down", the song Krauss included on her last Grammy-nominated album with Union Station, Paper Airplane. But Krauss has become famous precisely because she is able to immediately hone in on the essence of a song and sing straight at it. From "The Lucky One" to "Down to the River to Pray",…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on November 18, 2013 at 6:30am — 13 Comments

Milk Carton Kids - Altamont Theater (Asheville, NC - Nov. 1, 2013)

The Altamont Theater sits on a small, sleepy sidestreet in the heart of downtown Asheville. It's such a sleepy little street, you'd hardly notice the buskers and sidewalk diners and demonstrators who typically gather right around the corner near Pack Square.

The prorprieters are New York City transplants who met in the theater community up there and thought it might be nice to open a small theater and corresponding company here in the mountain south. They picked an old…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on November 8, 2013 at 8:00am — No Comments

For Elliott, Forever Ago

To be perfectly honest, I don't know why I started writing this piece about Elliott Smith this week. I was never a big fan, never studied his music very closely. I didn't even like it all that much until I found myself in a relationship with someone who did, who played it all the time. Then his lyrics and lulling, background melodies wandered, painstakingly, subconsciously, into my favor. Apparently.

Meanwhile, a lot of people in my profession have been…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on October 24, 2013 at 1:00pm — 3 Comments

Patrick Park, Mipso, and More First Listen Reviews

I do these First Listen Reviews every now and then, pulling a couple of CDs at random from the often overwhelming stacks of review copies piling up in my office. Were I to write a full-length well-considered review, I would give the album at least five spins. Often it takes until the fifth time through to really connect with the music at all. This time around, I got lucky and connected with most of it right off the bat. So, without further ado, here are four new albums, all well worth…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on October 24, 2013 at 11:30am — No Comments

Sarah Jarosz talks about Build Me Up from Bones

Originally written for Folk Alley

Sarah Jarosz got started early, releasing stunning albums of imaginative acoustic music before she was so much as out of high school. Of course, it helped that the discs included support from some of the other great mandolinists (her primary instrument) - folks like Sam Bush and Chris Thile, to drop a few names. But the songwriting and the…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on October 22, 2013 at 6:00am — 4 Comments

Interview with Billy Bragg about 'Tooth and Nail', among other things

The punk kid inside Billy Bragg must have been amused (in some weird way) by the buzzing whirl of  Taylor Swift superfans, who dotted the lobby of his Nashville hotel the weekend of this year's Americana Music Association Festival and Conference. He'd come to Nashville to play some music, catch up with old friends, and answer questions in front of a live audience during the conference. He chose a different hotel, no doubt for the peace and quiet of being a few blocks from the AMA's…

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Added by Kim Ruehl on October 4, 2013 at 9:00am — 5 Comments

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.