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Hits and Misses 5
• Tom Ewing: Adventures of a Bluegrass Boy (2016, Patuxent Music)
I can’t do more than to quote Tom Ewing himself:
Between 1986 and 1996, while I was one of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, I had many great adventures. But few equaled the ones involved with the making of these recordings. Unfortunately, most were released on cassette tapes at a time when the CD was making cassettes obsolete, and I was unable to afford to convert them to the new technology. Now, thanks to Tom Mindte of Patuxent Music, I can share these adventures with you.
I don’t recall hearing much of Tom Ewing’s own work, so this was an unexpected, and as it turned out, delightful treat. Tom sings a confident, mellow lead that reminds me at times of Carter Stanley (who Bill Monroe said was the greatest lead singer he ever worked with). The picking is impeccable, with familiar players from the ’80s and ’90s, and the songs are a wonderful mix of traditional (can’t think of the last time I heard “Please Come Back, Little Pal”) and—to my great surprise—a large helping (eight out of 14) of originals by Tom himself. Original, yes, but right in the heart of the mountain bluegrass tradition, gems really. Here’s a sample, a tribute to his own home state of Ohio (and the only song I recall about that state):
I can’t think of an new album I’ve enjoyed more right out of the folder. If you’re taking a trip, get a copy and toss it into the CD player. You’ll be tapping your toes and singing along. Kudos to Tom Mindte of Patuxent Music for issuing these long-neglected performances from the very core of bluegrass-style country music. A HIT, for sure! /CL
Off Again—Pre-Recorded Saturday the 13th
UPDATE (19May17)—or maybe it’s a ‘Downdate’: We’re back from Wisconsin, but I’m down with a nasty cold (are there other kinds?) that seems to be devolving into bronchitis. So you’ll be treated to four full hours of pre-recorded HAH tomorrow. Sit back and enjoy it! /CL
Yup, we’re on the road—or rather rails again, this time on the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, then on the Empire Builder, but only as far as Columbus, Wisconsin. Dr Janie’s brother and his wife, Wally and Barb, picked us up and drove us to their home in Sun Prairie, WI (a suburb of Madison). We’ll also see my cousin Spike, who lives in Madison, and Dr J’s niece Casey and her family as well. The show will be pre-recorded, actually ending early for the last of the season Met Opry and “Prelude to the Met” with David Elliott (12:15). We’ll reverse literal tracks next week, so I should be back for a full four hours on the May 20th.
It’s nice that Amtrak has made a point of retaining the names of some of the nation’s most famous long-distance trains, like the California Zephyr and the Capitol Limited, and others, including of course the two I mentioned above. The Lake Shore Limited has two sections, one originating in Boston, the other in New York. At 6:00 PM (more or less—more on Wednesday as we got delayed in Pittsfield waiting for the eastbound LSL on the single-track line) the two trains meet at Albany-Rensselaer and link up, minus the locomotives from one. Here they are, from Boston on the left, and NYC on the right:
Although the New York locomotive bore the more striking ‘Empire Service’ colors, the pair of P42 Genesis locomotives from Boston won the day, and took over the combined 15-car train, overnight to Chicago.
That’s for the railfans in the audience. I’ll be back live with country music on the 20th. /CL
Roses in the Snow
Over on the estimable Watts Up With That? website, New Englander Ric Werme has posted a meteorological recollection of the May snowstorm in 1977: “40 Years Ago: Massachusetts Snags a Memorable Snowfall in May Storm.”
I remember that snow well, and often refer to it when chatting with other New Englanders about our variable weather. Dr Janie and I were living in Newton Corner at the time. The day after the storm it was delightful to see the spring flowers with garlands of bright white snow in the sun. Nowadays I always think of this song:
Of course the roses probably weren’t out yet, and the album wasn’t released until 1980, but whenever I play the song, it reminds me of May 9th, 1977.
Read Rick Werme’s post, and the Comments as well (unlike so many Internet sites, always a treat and an education). I posted this video there as well. /CL
Hits and Misses 4: Loretta Lynn’s ‘Full Circle’
• Loretta Lynn: Full Circle (2016, Sony Legacy)
I’ve been meaning to do a little capsule on this album ever since it came out last year. Now Loretta has been sidelined with a stroke (see below), making it more important not to wait to give her flowers.
This is a wonderful album. John Carter Cash and Patsy Lynn Russell (Loretta’s daughter) have been recording her since 2007, and according to the former have about a hundred songs in the can. What can I say? Loretta just turned 85, so she started recording these songs at 75. She sounds as strong and clear and distinctively ‘Loretta’ as she did at 35!
The program is a mix of hits and favorites, including some old traditional numbers, like “Black Jack David” and “In the Pines.” This new version of “Fist City” may even be more powerful than the original. The CD begins with Loretta describing how she wrote her first song (and first album), “Whispering Sea,” and then she sings it. What a moment! A 25-year-old mother of four in the Pacific Northwest makes an album on her own, her husband Doolittle gets Speedy West to produce, and an enormous talent is unleashed upon the world.
Here’s Loretta recording “Whispering Sea,” with John Carter Cash producing:
My favorite is the T. Graham Brown-Bruce Burch-Ted Hewitt co-written “Wine Into Water,” for its poignant message. But I could listen to Loretta sing “I Never Will Marry” with just Randy Scruggs on guitar and Will Smith on autoharp all day long. The production of the whole album is impeccable. The addition of Elvis Costello and Willie Nelson on the last two songs does no harm. All told, a splendid HIT. Available everywhere.
LATEST NEWS, from Loretta Lynn’s official website (Friday May 5th):
American country music legend Loretta Lynn was admitted into a hospital in Nashville Thursday night after she suffered a stroke at her home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
She is currently under medical care and is responsive and expected to make a full recovery.
Loretta, who just celebrated her 85th birthday, has been advised by her doctors to stay off the road while she is recuperating. Regrettably, upcoming scheduled shows will be postponed.
For information on when shows will be rescheduled, fans are encouraged to visit LorettaLynn.com.
Pre-recorded Show Saturday the 22nd–with Update
We finally made it down to Virginia to visit with daughter Sarah and her family. Last December we were frustrated by our dog Ali’s problems with a corneal abrasion, requiring daily eyedrops and an ‘Elizabethan Collar’. This Tuesday Ali developed what the vet ended up calling a ‘dietary indiscretion’ two hours before train time. With prescribed medication and train rescheduling, we got off yesterday (Thursday) on Northeast Regional No. 93. It was a pleasant ride down to Richmond, and today we explored the new paths Sarah and James made in the 11-acre woods and marsh in Powhatan where the kids plan to build a house. Enjoy the Generic Hours, and I’ll be back next week. /CL
UPDATE Monday, 24Apr17: Here’s a photo of me towing the three grandsons (Sam, Miles, Jeff) with the little hand-me-down yard tractor last Friday. Since then it has been raining steadily and we have been confined indoors. Oh well; the trees love it. We did get over to the Virginia Historical Society museum in Richmond, which is definitely worth visiting—they have an original Conestoga wagon, among many other interesting exhibits. /CL