Tag Archives: Jason Isbell

Music, News and What Not: The Pirate Broadside


For those of you who visit No Depression: The Journal of Roots Music website for the latest music news, reviews and columns…May 2017 marks the month that the site has hit the pause button on fresh content in order to run a subscription drive for their quarterly print journal. You can read about it here, but the deal is this: you commit to just $6 USD per month and you receive four copies of incredible music journalism each year delivered to your doorstep. And you can cancel at any time. Took me a second to punch in my numbers and take the plunge.

To give you an idea of the quality of writing you’ll be getting, No Depression has sidelined all new content this month in favor of running some of their past long form stories that originally were published in the print journal. So if you want a sampling, here’s a few complimentary stories to check out:

Songs from The Gut: A Conversation with John Prine from Holly Gleason

Sweet Freedom: Jason Isbell Has Hit His Stride by Kelly McCartney (No relation to above pirate.)

Re-Trace: Jay Farrar Looks Back on 20 Years of Son Volt from David McPherson

So there it is…my personal Public Service Announcement; a swing and a pitch to keep No Depression alive and well. Keep in mind this is a non-profit organization, and most of us who contribute do it for literally peanuts or soy beans. Money and writing are like oil and water these days, so unless you’re James Patterson or Stephen King, flipping burgers is in your future.

Enough….let’s pull something new out of the ether and take a music break. Even though No Depression is in ‘send me money mode’…there is plenty of news, music and what not. Here’s Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit performing ‘If We Were Vampires’ live in TV Studio A at KCPT in Kansas City, Missouri. This is on the new new album and it sounds great.

The 2017 Americana Music Awards‘ nominees announcement ceremony included special performances from the Milk Carton Kids, the Jerry Douglas Band, Caitlin Canty and more — but it also featured one particularly special moment: Jason Isbell and the Drive-By Truckers‘ Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley coming together for an acoustic performance.

Isbell, Hood and Cooley sing “Outfit,” originally from the Truckers’ 2003 album Decoration Day. Written by Isbell alone, the song is one of two songs that the then-24-year-old penned for the album; the other, also written solo, is the record’s title track. Earlier this year, in late January, Isbell — now, of course, a solo artist — reunited with his former bandmates during a Drive-By Truckers show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. (From theboot.com)

Speaking of the AMA awards, I was taken aback by the announcement of Van Morrison receiving a lifetime achievement award for songwriting. No disrespect: Van is indeed The Man, and we know that the organization loves to recognize those from the UK (Richard Thompson and Robert Plant were past recipients), but I just don’t get it. Although I know this guy probably doesn’t give a damn and wouldn’t show up anyway, I think he might be deserving of anything with the tagline ‘Americana’ in it.

The folks over at Pitchfork have published a User Guide to The Grateful Dead that focuses not on their studio work but rather the gazillion of live tracks that are out there. Which reminds me…Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter…a songwriting team that deserves acknowledgement from the Americana cabal. You know, since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame people are often slapped around for missing folks like Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers, the AMA might be moving into their elitist territory. Sad…to quote the POTUS.

By now you’ve heard about the sad passing of Austin singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave. Local radio station KOKE-FM published the statement from his label and family, and you can find it here. And No Depression co-founder Peter Blackstock covered LaFave’s Songwriters Rendezvous for the Austin American-Statesman, and I think it’s a beautiful piece of writing. Click here to get there. This video was recorded at SXSW in 2011. Rest in peace.

“Every day, every minute, someone in the world is singing a Pete Seeger song. The songs he wrote, including the antiwar tunes, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and those he popularized, including “This Land Is Your Land” and “We Shall Overcome,” have been recorded by hundreds of artists in many languages and have become global anthems for people fighting for freedom.” So begins a story of Pete, and how we keep his spirit alive.

Writer Susanna Reich and illustrator Adam Gustavson have produced a book dedicated to that objective. In 38 pages of text, paintings and drawings, Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice provides a wonderful portrait of Seeger, focusing on how his strongly-held beliefs motivated his music and his activism. The book introduces children to the notion that music can be a powerful tool for change. As Reich notes, Seeger saw himself as a link in “a chain in which music and social responsibility are intertwined.”

Read more about Pete and his music in this wonderful article posted at Common Dreams.

This year marks 50 years since Otis Redding died. He’d ignited the crowd at the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967; later that year, he and his band were en route to a show in Madison, Wisc., when their plane hit rough weather and crashed in an icy lake. Redding was 26 years old. Half a century later, Redding’s influence as a singer and spirit of soul music remains. Author Jonathan Gould, who’s written a new biography called Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life and you can read more about it here.

Guess it’s time to close the ‘pirated’ version of my Broadside column out with something that captures Mr. McCartney’s early acting career. In the meantime, while I’m officially on hiatus, please feel free to come visit me at therealeasyed.com ,  The Real Easy Ed: Roots Music and Random Thoughts which is my Facebook home where I aggregate daily and feel free to subscribe to my Flipboard e-mag of the same name.






Make Americana Great Again: Why We Cherish Those Amazing Polls

donald-trump-neil-young-rockin-free-worldThat is one helluva picture. You might recall that it surfaced this past June after Neil Young demanded that Donald Trump stop using “Rockin’ in the Free World” at his campaign events. Utilizing his standard and preferred method of statesmanship, Trump went on the morning news shows, called Young a bad name, and then tweeted this: “A few months ago Neil Young came to my office looking for $$$ on an audio deal and called me last week to go to his concert. Wow!”

Young, no slouch himself when it comes to using social media, seemed to confirm Trump’s assertion of capitalistic hypocrisy when he wrote on Facebook: “It was a photograph taken during a meeting when I was trying to raise funds for Pono, my online high resolution music service.”

That Neil Young would choose Trump to get cozy with as a potential partner is enough to cause the price of flannel futures to tumble. Besides, in the past several months, Young’s digital entree has entered and floundered into the ether of a disinterested marketplace.

Pushing that particular random thought-bubble aside, it’s time to talk about the annual readers and critics polls that focus on one type of music or another. These are soon to occupy much of our collective time and space via traditional and social media, using the skill sets and wisdom of random cubes tossed together in a Yahtzee cup and spilt onto the countertop. Can we all agree that this excercise produces an inaccurate and imperfect list of superlatives? At the very least, I hope it will open up new avenues of exploration for some folks, as well as simply serving to bolster our own opinions based on an album’s popularity.

It is the former that most excites me because, with well over 120,000 new albums being released each year, there is no possible way to see all, know all, or hear all. It’s the depth and diversity of new music that makes scanning these polls so much fun. Nothing beats discovering something that slipped through the cracks.

In late October, the editor of No Depression:The Roots Music Authority requested a list of my favorite titles (I think she used the word “best”), and this is the list I sent her:

Jason Isbell, Daniel Romano, John Moreland, Pharis and Jason Romero, Tom Brosseau, Noah Gundersen, Watkins Family Hour, Joan Shelley, Milk Carton Kids, and an exceptional concert compilation called Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of a Dreadful Film. (Note to self: Going forward, try to be nicer.)

I’m sure y’all can spot the problem. It was way too exclusive. Narrowing my favorite albums of the year down to ten is just plain silly.

I also would have loved to include releases from Calexico, Jessica Pratt, the Westies, Kristin Andreassen, Joe Pug, Shakey Graves, Sufjan Stevens, The Kennedys, Kepi Ghoulie, Leon Bridges, Meg Baird, the Lonesome Trio, the Deslondes, Frazey Ford, the Skylarks, Kacey Musgraves, Ana Egge, Darrell Scott, Nikki Talley, Lindi Ortega, Dave Rawlings Machine, Jill Andrews, Darlingside, Decemberists, Daniel Martin Moore, Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band, and my friends Spuyten Duyvil.

I really like the duos and duets too. Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield, Anna and Elizabeth, the Lowest Pair, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Not to mention the Honey Dewdrops, Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell, Dave and Phil Alvin, and both the Wainwright and Chapin Sisters.

Don’t forget compilations with really long names that may or may not have been released this year, that I’ve been enjoying regardless: Arkansas at 78 RPM: Corn Dodgers & Hoss Hair Pullers, The Brighter Side: A 25th Anniversary Tribute to Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression, Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs By Karen Dalton, and Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music On the Mason-Dixon Line.

And then there are the names you already know: Iris Dement, Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, Leonard Cohen, Jesse Winchester, Dwight Yoakam, Mark Knopfler, Fairport Convention, and Bob Dylan (the old new stuff, not the new old stuff).

I haven’t counted them up, but this longer list of mine can’t be more than 50 or 60 albums — a pitiful, sickly and puny little list. Seriously, I’m ashamed. There are at least 119,940 or more to choose from and I know that you can do better than me. Whether you participate in the No Depression poll or any of the thousands of others that lurk out there, relax and enjoy. Have fun, don’t stress, don’t argue. It’s all about exploration.

Postscript: For the record, Americana is a radio format and an association, not a genre.