Best Roots Music Roots Photos of the Week
Margaret Glaspy is from Califonia but now lives in New York City’s Upper West Side, by way of Boston’s Berklee College of Music. While she was born to two guitarists, she originally took up the fiddle before finally seeing that guitars were her future. Now, at the age of 26, her songs are infused with raw pop with influences as wide as Bill Withers and Rage Against the Machine. She has a loyal following in New York, having recently sold out the Bowery Ballroom. While she’s released several singles, her first album for ATO is scheduled for this summer. Definitely an artist to be on the lookout for.
Lindi Ortega, from Toronto, Ontario, is of Mexican-Irish descent and now lives in Nashville, so she is a natural fit for Americana. She’s released two EPs and seven albums — most recently, last year’s Faded Gloryville. She’s also won the Roots Artist of the Year from the Canadian Country Music Association for two years running.
Since releasing his first album some three and a half years ago, Gary Clark Jr. has taken the world, it seems, by storm. Since then he’s no stranger to sold out shows, and has released four more albums. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, he began playing the guitar at age 12, which has morphed into a distorted style offset by smooth vocals. In such a short time, he’s become a staple of the international music scene, including being the highlight of a Beatles tribute show I attended in 2014. His solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” stole the show and, along with Prince’s turn on it, is my favorite cover of that song.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was formed nearly 20 years ago in San Francisco and, after seven albums, they’ve just released Live in Paris — a CD/DVD combination. They play good, old-fashioned, raucous rock and roll, and kick up quite a fuss for a trio.
I have a thing for Henry Wagons, one of Australia’s finest exports, who calls oft-frequented Nashville his second home. He’s recorded several exceptional albums there. I profiled his most recent one, After What I Did Last Night, for ND, and one of its songs — “Head or Heart” — was a ND Fresh Track last month. If you are not familiar with him, you should be.
There cannot be enough words to express how much John Prine means to Americana music — and to me. Ever since getting his first album 45 years ago, with the photo of him sitting on a hay bale, and first seeing him in 1972 drunk as a skunk, I knew he was something special. He’s had trials and tribulations along the way, but this photo of him with Chris Smither is special.
The photo of Leon Russell is timely, as Les Blank’s near-impossible-to-see 1974 documentary about him, A Poem Is a Naked Person, has finally come to DVD, following a theatrical run last year. Unless you were around in the early ’70s, you have no idea how BIG Russell was. He was the biggest name in American music. He began as an arranger for Frank Sinatra, and Elton John was his opening act on his first American tour. He worked with Joe Cocker and Willie Nelson … few folks have been as instrumental in any genre of music as Leon Russell has been. Oh, and a couple years back, when he appeared at MerleFest, I was his security detail. I was a happy guy.
I had no idea who Shaun Fleming was until I saw this photo, but I was so taken with it, I thought I’d check him out. He’s been in a bunch of movies and TV, is the drummer for Foxygen, and has a solo project named Diane Coffee whose last release was last year — Everybody’s a Good Dog.
Shemekia Copeland is, as you know, the daughter of the great Texas bluesman Johnny Copeland. She got her start when his health began failing and she went on the road with him, often as the opening act. Eight albums later, including last year’s Outskirts of Love, she sounds like no one else. Whether she’s singing a ballad, a soul-stirrer, or a blues rocker, Copeland is a force.
Los Lobos, who won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the AMA last year, may just be the most American band ever. Mixing every conceivable style of “American” music with Tex Mex, they’ve won just about every award possible and released 22 albums, including last year’s Gates of Gold. They are a national treasure.
Well, this is first time Elvis Costello has been featured in this column. He’s dabbled in nearly every genre in his 40-year musical career and had written a well-received book. I have seen him numerous times, but the most memorable was when I ran into him in 2002 at the Warhol Museum as we both were browsing a Patti Smith exhibit.
Laura and the Killed Men are also new to me. From Arizona, their just-released album, Everchanging Trail, is pure country and western, with an emphasis on “western.” Frontwoman Laura Kepner-Adney sounds like a cross between Iris Dement and Chrissie Hynde and has worked with Robyn Hitchcock, Calexico, and Howie Gelb. She’s also been involved with other roots bands for a decade, so she’s not an ingenue. They are currently on tour in the Southwest. And they sound pretty good, too.
The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach began a solo project as the Arcs, but since the release of that album last Fall, Yours, Dreamily, it seems the Arcs have become a band. That should be no real surprise, as not only have they been playing together for years, but all the songs were written by band members and they all participated in the recording process. As the title promises, the sound is dreamier than the Keys. It could be your cup of tea.