Honoring Baseball and Tradition
As we head further into autumn, toward another World Series, let’s celebrate and honor tradition with a few fine new albums.
Cold & Bitter Tears: Songs of Ted Hawkins
It seems like there’s been at least a thousand tribute albums over the years, and I figured they’d run out of artists by now. But leave it to radio promoter and manager Jenni Finley to shine the light on a largely forgotten Southern California soulful street musician named Ted Hawkins. Hawkins would have died a homeless busker were it not for some European tourists discovering him. The subsequent 1983 album, Watch Your Step, garnered a rare 5-star Rolling Stone review.
The bottom line is that these songs still hold up and the artists involved really rose to the occasion, across the board. The Texas-centric list includes James McMurtry, Kasey Chambers, Jon Dee Graham, Danny Barnes, Mary Gauthier, the Damnations, and co-producer Kevin Russell.
Willy Tea Taylor
Taylor grew up in a small town in the central valley of California where he found his passion for baseball — he played catcher and hoped for the pros, before a knee injury sidelined him. Lucky for us, he ignited his next passion from seeing a Greg Brown set at a music festival. This is his second solo outing and it shows a depth of songwriting and a nod to his baseball roots on the title track. “I want a shot at the title, I’m in my knuckleball prime/I won’t hang it out boys, not this time/I’m hittin’ all the corners, gonna shed some light.”
There’s great production from Michael Witcher and host of his talented friends help to support Taylor’s songs. Fans of Otis Gibbs, Malcolm Holcombe, and even John Prine will love this guy. What’s more, every album sale benefits music and arts education through the Blackwing Foundation.
The Cox Family
Gone Like the Cotton
Also of note is a new album by the Cox Family, a bluegrass band that have been performing together since the 1970s. They recorded this album in 1997, before father Willard Cox became disabled from a car accident and then the label shelved the album. Producer Alison Krauss unearthed the recording and cleaned it up. It’s a real nice album that’s not strictly bluegrass.
I also like the second release from Amanda Pearcy, The Offering, which features a soulful remake of “Ode to Billy Joe” that is better than you’d think.
Next week, I’m interested in hearing a new Peter Case record, Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift’s 1989, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell’s second album, and more.