Field Reportings from Issue #64
KING OF ROCK & SOUL GOES COUNTRY: After a couple of high-profile comeback albums in which he was paired with producers Joe Henry (2002’s Don’t Give Up On Me) and Don Was (2005’s Make Do With What You Got), legendary R&B/soul singer SOLOMON BURKE traveled to Nashville this spring to make his next record with BUDDY MILLER.
Tentatively set for a September 26 release on the Shout! Factory label, the album was recorded over a couple weeks at Miller’s home studio. “Solomon had talked about wanting to make a country record,” said Miller, who met Burke in September 2005 when the two artists performed in adjacent venues at the Americana Music Association’s convention in Nashville.
“The second time or third time we spoke, Wilson Pickett had just passed away, and he told me then that they had talked about making a country record together,” Miller continued. “So, it’s something that I think he was gonna do, one way or another. I just feel really fortunate that I got to be involved in it.”
Miller presented a list of about 100 songs to Burke for consideration, of which they recorded sixteen (with fourteen tentatively set to appear on the disc). The material includes selections from Dolly Parton (“Tomorrow Is Forever”), Don Williams (“Atta Way To Go”), Tom T. Hall (“That’s How I Got To Memphis”), Bruce Springsteen (“Ain’t Got You”), Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Patty Griffin, Jim Lauderdale (“Seems Like You’re Gonna Take Me Back”), Kevin Welch (“Millionaire”), Paul Kennerley, and Miller and his wife Julie (“Does My Ring Burn Your Finger”). Also recorded were two songs associated with Tammy Wynette: “We’re Gonna Hold On”, a Wynette/George Jones duet written by Jones and Earl Montgomery; and “‘Til I Get It Right”, a 1972 chart-topper for Wynette written by Larry Henley and Red Lane.
“I tried to involve the writers on their songs as much as I could — having them play on their track or sing on their track,” Miller said. Among those who contributed to their own songs were Parton, Welch & Rawlings, Griffin, Welch, and Kennerley; E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent played on the Springsteen track. Others adding vocal or instrumental parts included Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Sam Bush, Al Perkins, Larry Campbell, Kenny Vaughan, Mike Henderson, Brady Blade, Bryan Owings, Phil Madeira, Byron House, and Chris Donohue.
Matching Burke’s voice to country material was hardly a stretch, Miller said. “Several of his bigger hits were on country songs redone for the R&B market,” he points out. “That country-soul thing, that’s just built-in — that’s kind of what he does.”
The challenge, in fact, was narrowing the choices down to just an album’s worth. “Even when we were done with the record,” Miller said, “Julie and I would be sitting around and she’d go, ‘You know, I’d love to hear him singing this song, or that song,’ and we’d just be still trying to pick out songs we’d want him to sing. Because that voice is just unbelievable; it’s so deep.
“One of the reasons I had some of the writers coming over was just so that, when they put their headphones on and they’d be playing on their song, they’d hear that voice singing it. I would turn around every day to see a big smile on whoever was new in the room.”
THE STRAIGHT CROOKED: After half a decade of albums under the name Crooked Fingers following the demise of his ’90s band Archers Of Loaf, ERIC BACHMANN is finally releasing a record under his own name.
To The Races, due August 22 on Saddle Creek, is not only solo in name, but almost nearly so in the credits. Violinist Tom Hagerman and backing vocalist Miranda Brown appear on a few tracks, but “other than that I played everything else…which is just guitar, piano, and voice,” Bachman noted via e-mail from Guatemala, where he spent six weeks this spring.
“I’m learning Spanish and I like the way the Kakchikel, the Quiche, and the Zutujil Mayans dress and cook,” he explained of the relocation. “More than likely I’ll continue living between Guatemala and Denver, Colorado. I have some family living here (my mother and stepfather) in Panajachel, and my girl and her daughter live in Denver.”
To The Races was recorded in his former home state of North Carolina. “I recorded it in a hotel room on the Outer Banks…a place called the Tower Circle Hotel in Buxton, near the Hatteras Lighthouse,” Bachmann recalled. “It was a bit difficult technically because there was a lot of wind howling…sometimes I just had to wait and drink beer while the wind died down so it would be quiet enough. And sometimes the ocean was too loud, too.”
Bachmann played nylon-string guitar throughout the record, which enhances its intimate feel. He’s not inclined to describe this muted approach as a new direction, though. “I try not to know where I’m gonna go next,” he wrote. “Even when I make plans they never seem to work out the way I thought they would, so I figure I should just let it go.”
LEGENDS IN THEIR TIME: Redemption, the first album in eleven years from JERRY LEE LEWIS, is due in September on Columbia. Guest contributors to the record include Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and B.B. King….
GEORGE JONES and MERLE HAGGARD have booked studio time this summer with producer Keith Stegall to record a dual tribute to each other, with Jones doing five Haggard hits (including “Silver Wings” and “The Way I Am”) and Haggard doing five Jones hits (including “She Things I Still Care” and “The Window Up Above”). They’ll also record a few duets, notably the album’s title track, Haggard’s “Kicking Out The Footlights…Again”. Release is scheduled for October on Bandit Records….
Soul great SAM MOORE releases Overnight Sensational August 29 on Rhino Records. Participants in the sessions included Eric Clapton, Vince Gill, Sting, Sheila E., Robert Randolph, Steve Winwood and Bruce Springsteen.
COMING SOON: Reclusive songwriter P.F. SLOAN emerges from the shadows with Sailover, due August 22 on HighTone. Produced by Jon Tiven, the disc includes contributions from Lucinda Williams, Frank Black and Buddy Miller. The material includes newly recorded versions of Sloan staples such as “Eve Of Destruction” and “Sins Of A Family” as well as several new songs….
A late-summer release is planned for the sophomore album from RAY LAMONTAGNE on RCA, with the working title Till The Sun Turns Black. Ethan Johns returns as producer….
A second BYRDS box, There Is A Season, is due August 29 on Columbia/Legacy. The four-disc set includes 99 tracks plus a DVD of TV appearances.
IN THE STUDIO: Country chart-topper ALAN JACKSON has enlisted bluegrass star ALISON KRAUSS to produce his next record, tentatively set for a late-September release on Arista Nashville….
BOBBY BARE JR. spent time in early spring with producer Brad Jones at Nashville’s Ocean Way studios working on a new disc due out on Bloodshot this fall. In addition to Bare’s band Young Criminals’ Starvation League, also taking part was Jim James of My Morning Jacket….
Memphis band LUCERO booked a two-week early-summer studio session for its next record with Cracker’s David Lowery producing….
Joining NORAH JONES in the studio in May on sessions for her next album was The Band’s GARTH HUDSON.
SIGN HERE: New to the Lost Highway roster is Texas singer-songwriter HAYES CARLL, whose debut for the label will come out next year….
15-year-old New Orleans fiddler and singer AMANDA SHAW has signed with Rounder and is recording her debut for the label this summer with Scott Billington….
Singer-songwriter Evan Dando has reunited his rock band the LEMONHEADS for an album due this fall on Vagrant.
DESERT TO DELTA: Graciously, a compilation to benefit hurricane victims, comes out July 11 on Tucson, Arizona, label Funzalo in conjunction with renowned local studio Wavelab. It includes twelve tracks recorded at Wavelab by artists including Calexico, John Doe, Robyn Hitchcock, Richmond Fontaine, Friends Of Dean Martinez, Tony Furtado, Howe Gelb & Scout Niblett, and Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3. A third of the proceeds will be donated to Habitat For Humanity’s Musician’s Village Project, established to help build homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.