2011 Americana Music Award Nominees Announced

Elizabeth Cook on the stove

Here’s the announced list for Americana Music Association Honors and Nominees: The ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, October 13 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  My comments follow each category…

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Band of Joy, Robert Plant
Welder, Elizabeth Cook
Harlem River Blues, Justin Townes Earle
Blessed, Lucinda Williams

ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Buddy Miller
Elizabeth Cook
Hayes Carll
Robert Plant

NEW/EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR
The Civil Wars
Mumford And Sons
The Secret Sisters
Jessica Lea Mayfield

DUO/GROUP OF THE YEAR
The Avett Brothers
The Civil Wars
Mumford And Sons
Robert Plant and the Band Of Joy

SONG OF THE YEAR
Decemberists with Gillian Welch- “Down By The Water”
Elizabeth Cook – “El Camino”
Hayes Carll – “Kmag Yoyo”
Justin Townes Earle – “Harlem River Blues”

INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Buddy Miller
Gurf Morlix
Kenny Vaughan
Sarah Jarosz
Will Kimbrough

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E Street Band’s Clarence Clemons Dies

As a music fan, I understand that if we live long enough, it is inevitable that we lose some of our heroes.  Clarence Clemons wasn’t so much a hero to me, as an icon in rock and roll music – a symbol of power, spirituality, and an undefinable and immeasurably important piece of the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band  equation.  A link to the rock sax sounds of the 50’s and 60’s; a bodyguard to the band, even in failing health. 

Springsteen introduced him last at shows for a reason: because he was the Big Man.  We understood, and waited for Clarence to raise his sax into air and let loose a shout. Bruce would plant a kiss on the Big Man’s lips at the end of “Thunder Road”, sliding across the stage on his knees as Clarence finished the song with a sax solo.  It was a beautiful representation of the power of loyalty and love. 

Clemons died Saturday night after suffering a stroke on June 12.  He was 69.  And the rock and roll feels different tonight.   How exactly?  To be honest, I am not sure.  Other musicians, from U2 to Bon Jovi  to Eddie Vedder, seem to sense it too – all three heard about his passing while playing their own concerts, and immediately paid tribute from the stage Saturday night. 

It’s feels like we have lost a man who seemed to make those around him better, sometimes by playing, and sometimes just by being close. Larger than life?  That seems to fit pretty damn well. 

And maybe he was.  Maybe now he is playing his King Curtis-inspired riffs someplace else. 

God, I hope so. 

Jungleland – September 19, 1978

Indiana Music: Catching up with Henry French

After his stint as leader of Henry French and the Shameless (and the excellent rock record that came from that version of the band) French has been spending his time with solo gigs, the Purple Hat Project and working his way towards a new album.

French, who has a healthy understanding of what makes rock music great (read about his favorite DVD’s here), seems to be the kind of guy who has it in him to make Indianapolis’ next great rock and roll record. That’s what I think. We caught up with the Telecaster-wielding guitarist recently, hoping to uncover what is next for the singer/songwriter, and when we can expect to hear a new record.

ROB NICHOLS: What about some new songs and original music? Got any for us?
HENRY FRENCH: New songs are definitely on the way. I’ve whittled the list down to 15 songs, and will certainly reduce a little more from there as I start recording real soon. What was intended to be another EP last year has turned into either a full-length album or maybe two EPs.

RN: Do you have a new band?
HF: Full band shows will start back up towards the end of July. I’ve been playing solo acoustic shows over the past year or so as a way of trying new material out. I’ve always been a firm believer that any good song can be played on one guitar with one vocal, and that’s how I’ve tested songs for the past several years. The Shameless has evolved into a revolving cast of players, so, depending on the night, there may be different players than the last time. In the past I looked for a core of musicians to call my band; (Now) I’m happy to have some great musicians to call on as needed, who all lend their own stamp on the music for each performance. The album will probably follow the same formula, using different musicians to get a blend of different takes and tastes on my tunes.

RN: How do you get your music recorded?
HF: I do demos at home, get together and flesh them out with musicians, and try to let the songs evolve on their own. It’s a pretty long process, sometimes taking months to years to get it to the point where I feel it’s ready to be recorded. I then try to turn over the recording portion to a producer or engineer, so I can concentrate on the performance. If done right, I like the studio and home for different aspects.

RN: How’s the Indianapolis been treating your music? I’d call your style rock and roll, to try and not pigeonhole it too much. To me, rock is guitars, drums and good words.
HF: I’d consider myself a pop songwriter, the same way I consider Foo Fighters, Tom Petty, the Replacements, and Wilco all pop songwriters, and heavy influences of mine. At the core of all these bands are simple, memorable hooks. Ttheir delivery is just not in the commonly perceived “pop” vein. I love the honesty of that folk/americana/alt-country sound, or the simplicity of what a rock band used to be, and that’s the sound that gets me described as Americana – which I’m ok with. The art of the 2 1/2 minute pop song, actually written and played by the band seems to be a lost art nowadays (with a few exceptions), and that’s what I strive for. Simple, honest, intelligent and personal pop songs seem to be rare, regardless of genre. Although it’s really tough to build an original music business in this town, these tenets of how I try to write are a big reason why I live here. Indianapolis is a great midwest town that, at it’s best, can be simple, honest intelligent and personal. That’s why Indy is my home.

RN:What have you been listening to recently?
HF: Recent listens? Gaslight Anthem, the Deep Vibration, the Damnwells, Lucinda Williams. Considering the current musical landscape, I’m generally excited by music I rediscover years later. Currently in my car is Pleased To Meet Me by the Replacements, Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie (Wonder), The Smithereens, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco, and Will Hoge.

RN: So, musically, the next year means what?
HF: The remainder of this year is all about getting my little tunes recorded right. If I can get it done quick, the songs will be out at the end of this summer. If it takes longer, it takes longer. Life has a way of making it’s own schedule for my tunes.

Indiana Music: Sindacato acoustic reunion in Franklin

For fans of Sindacato: Following up on an interview we did recently with Indianapolis alt-country/Americana trailblazer Frank Dean, we have learned that Dean, Gary Wasson and Jon Martin will be performing a bit of a Sindacato reunion on Saturday, June 11th at The Jeff Street Pub in Franklin at 7pm. It will be a free, no smoking, all-ages show.

Frank also says he starts recording his next new album, Antique Finish, in two weeks. It will be his first solo recording in nearly ten years. He says “some of the finest musicians around have signed on to help out”. He says you can check out his Facebook page to stay up to date.

Roots Rock Notes: Jethro Easyfields talk guitar rock, Tim Grimm and Foster & Lloyd release new albums

Jethro Easyfields

Jethro Easyfields reports he is “in planning stages and gatherin’ ideas” for his next album. Easyfields says the sound may be an “album full of fleshy guitars” and “is gonna be a doozie.” He’s shopping around for a drummer/bass player combination for the project. He’s prevous outing, 2010’s Bloodletting veered into an interesting wierder-than-Tom Petty territory, and a number of cuts on the album echoed REM sounds, circa Fables of Reconstruction and Life’s Rich Pageant. (read full NUVO review here)

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One of Indiana’s most refined and intelligent folk artists,Tim Grimm, has a new album out, called Thank You Tom Paxton, co-produced by his friend and Prine guitarist Jason Wilber. In addition to helping produce, Wilber played guitar on most of the songs.

Tim Grimm

For the album, Tim recorded 12 of his favorite Tom Paxton songs. In addition to staying true to many of the originals, Wilber and Grimm also created some new arrangements for some of the tunes. The UK based music magazine Maverick gave the CD 4 stars.

Grimm, joined at some by Wilber, will be playing CD release shows, mostly in the Midwest this summer, but  to the east coast at the end of July– with a small ensemble. He’ll be playing a couple of John Prine: A Tribute Concert shows, and a Festival at pal Joe Crookston’s place in Ithaca, NY. He’s heading to Texas in the Fall, then up the West coast, with dates in Washington state and Colorado.

For fans of the 1980’s country/rock/pop duo Foster and Lloyd, a new album called It’s Already Tomorrow, was released May 17, reuniting the Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd after 20 years. For their fourth album together they had an assist from Bruce Springsteen’s E. St. Band bassist, Garry Tallent on the the acoustic-based “When I Finally Let You Go”.