Sturgill Simpson Announces Departure of Guitarist Laur Joamets

On Sturgill Simpson’s rise to the top there’s been a familiar face with him. But as Simpson has announced on his Facebook page, it’s time for a “new chapter.” Lead guitarist Laur Joamets is leaving the group, as well as the trio of New Orleans horn players that have been touring with Simpson in support of his third album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Joamets, nicknamed “Little Joe” is leaving to simply pursue new opportunities as Simpson explains:

It’s certainly a bitter-sweet moment for longtime fans of Simpson, but certainly understandable. As someone who has seen Joamets play in-person twice, I can tell you all of the praise heaped on him is more than well deserved. Simply put he’s one of the best guitarists today and certainly was instrumental in helping Simpson make some of the finest music released in the last few years. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Joamets ends up with some kick ass rock group or something because he could play with just about anyone and I’m glad I got to see him before he departed the band. The Estonian guitarist is also in the process of becoming a permanent American citizen as Simpson explains, which is great to hear.

Simpson simultaneously takes over as lead guitarist, as he admits to missing playing electric guitar. The other big tidbit here of course is Simpson announcing “the beginning of a new chapter,” no doubt already turning his wheels about his fourth studio album. And with the horn trio leaving the touring band it seems like the next album won’t have as many horns if any at all. But as Simpson fans know all too well it’s impossible to predict what Sturgill has in-store for his music next.

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Review – Midland’s “Drinkin’ Problem”

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A traditional country band on a major label? Being pushed at radio? Yeah right. You’re pulling my leg. There’s no way this new group Midland is a traditional group, so let’s take a look at them. They’re a trio made up of Mark Wystrach (lead singer), Jess Carson (lead guitarist) and Cameron Duddy (bass player). Based out of Dripping Springs, Texas they came up with their name based off a Dwight Yoakam song. Some of their biggest influences they cite are Merle Haggard and Gary Stewart. Hold on a second. Stewart? Anyone who cites him as an influence must be the real deal (and good people to boot). After listening to lead single “Drinkin’ Problem” these guys prove they’re absolutely the real deal. This is straight up, stone cold, country music. It immediately takes me back to what country radio sounded like a couple of decades ago with all of the steel guitar. The song is your classic country theme of a guy at the bar drinking. Everyone is calling the situation a problem and something he needs to stop. But he assures it’s very much a solution and the real problem is heartbreak and a lot of thinking. Props to producer Shane McAnally for keeping the production restrained and letting the lyrics really drive this song. Wystrach’s delivers an all-around solid vocal performance. This is a group I can’t wait to hear more from. They’ve only released a self-titled EP so far and are currently working on a full album with McAnally and Josh Osborne. If that album is along the lines of “Drinkin’ Problem” and the rest of the EP, we’re in for a real treat. This is country music done right.

Grade: 8/10

 

Recommend? – Yes

Written by Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne

Video – Brent Cobb Performs “Black Crow” at Sam Phillips Studio

Brent Cobb has certainly been making his presence known in the last year. He released his debut record Shine On Rainy Day in 2016 to critical and fan acclaim. It made our very own Top 30 Albums of 2016 list. He also made an appearance on the excellent Southern Family album. Cobb just released a video performing “Black Crow” at Sam Phillips Studio in Memphis as part of the ‘Elektra Sessions’. Give it watch yourself below:

Album Review – Rhiannon Giddens’ ‘Freedom Highway’

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Rhiannon Giddens is undoubtedly one of the most talented artists in Americana today. The front woman of the Carolina Chocolate Drops might be mistaken as new by fans introduced to her via her appearance on Eric Church’s current single “Kill A Word.” But I assure you she’s been making music for a while and is an artist I consider essential listening for Americana fans. Her voice is absolutely enthralling and impressed from my first listen of her debut album Tomorrow Is My Turn. That was an album of covers, so I was looking forward to hear an album of mostly original material, which is exactly what we get on her new album Freedom Highway. There was a reason I’ve had my eye on this album and man does it live up to the high expectations I had for it.

Slow, rhythmic drums play in the decidedly folk “At The Purchaser’s Option.” It’s a song about a woman raped by an owner at an early age, leading to her conceiving a child out of the assault. But she’s reminded that her baby can be taken at any moment at the purchaser’s option. It’s an incredibly powerful song that can take on multiple meanings. “The Angels Laid Him Away” is a cover of Mississippi John Hurt’s song. It’s a solemn song about death that shows off Giddens’ beautiful voice, as well as her great banjo picking. The bluegrass driven “Julie” is about a mistress and slave being in love, but the slave finding out later the mistress has sold her children. It’s another emotional story on an album full of them. Not to mention the instrumentation really sets the tone of the song and draws the listener in. Giddens does a fantastic job covering Richard Farina’s “Birmingham Sunday.” The song is about the 16th Street Baptist church in 1963 being bombed by members of the KKK that ended up killing four girls and 22 others.

It’s kind of hard to pick the best song on this incredibly deep album. But if I had to pick one it would be “Better Get It Right the First Time.” The funky sounding song is about a young African-American man mistakenly ending up at the wrong place and getting gunned down as he ran. It demonstrates how African-Americans are expected to walk a tight rope and get it right the first time, or there won’t be another time. Giddens’ nephew Justin Harrington comes in later in the song and lays down a rap to make an already excellent song better. The softer “We Could Fly” tells of flying home after death. It’s a very much a spiritual, meditative reflection of finding peace and freedom. Giddens dives into smooth and upbeat New Orleans style jazz on “Hey Bébé.” It’s probably the happiest moment on this album, as it’s an instant toe-tapper and the horn play is top-notch.

“Come Love Come” is about a slave couple on the run trying to outrun their captors and just trying to live their lives together. The song ends with the woman waiting for her man to arrive in Tennessee, hopeful he one day makes it to her. We get more jazzy goodness on “The Love We Almost Had.” It’s about love that almost was and leaving both sides wondering what if on the possible relationship. The forever fleeting love song is another standout on the album. The somber “Baby Boy” is about a mother vowing to always watch over her son. The song features some wonderful harmonies from Giddens and Lalenja Harrington that impress. The instrumental “Following the North Star” plays in the album’s title track, a Pops Staples song, to close out the record. Giddens duets with fellow Americana artist Bhi Bhiman on this energetic anthem about marching down the highway of freedom. Some lively horns appropriately play out the song and end the album with a real exclamation point.

To be honest I really don’t feel like my words do justice to this magnificent album. Rhiannon Giddens’ Freedom Highway is a flawless album from start to finish. The songwriting and themes explored on this album are incredibly powerful and graceful. Giddens voice is golden as always and I can’t believe how many different genres this album explores. There’s folk, bluegrass, blues, funk, hip-hop, soul and jazz. Each are executed wonderfully and show the true definition of Americana (a big credit goes to multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell). This is absolutely one best albums you’ll hear all year and may even go down as the very best of 2017.

Grade: 10/10

 

Recommend? – YES!

Album Highlights: Better Get It Right the First Time, At The Purchaser’s Option, We Could Fly, Julie, The Love We Almost Had, Freedom Highway

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: None


Country Perspective’s Best Music Reviewed in February

This is the monthly recap post of all the great music we reviewed on the blog in case you missed it or just came across our humble, little blog. So check this music out if you haven’t already.

Albums

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Nikki Lane – Highway Queen

Nikki Lane delivers music excellence in Highway Queen. It feels like a truly breakout moment for Lane, as her personality and style shines though so well on this record. The instrumentation and production are spot-on and frames each song like they should, which shows how well Lane and Tyler worked in making this album. This album delivers the rollicking and fun foot-stompers just as well as it delivers emotional gut-punchers. Mark my words: this will go down as one of the best country albums of the year. Lane hits the jackpot and wins big with Highway Queen.

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Balto – Strangers

Simply put Strangers is a fantastic album. Balto intrigued me from my first listen of Strangers and the more I pulled back the layers of this album, the more impressed I became. There’s such a rich, variety display of sounds throughout this album that pair up so well with their lyrical counterparts. It’s an album that kind of pulls you every which way and you feel a little bit of everything listening to it. While the instrumentation is something that will immediately impress, the songwriting is equally admirable and lead vocalist Sheron really does a great job bringing the songs to life. Strangers is the type of album that will leave a smile on your face and reward you for listening from start to finish.

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Alison Krauss – Windy City

For fans of classic country and Alison Krauss, Windy City is a real joy to listen to from start to finish. I really applaud Krauss and Cannon for picking a great group of songs to cover. There’s plenty of variety, a song for any mood you’re in on this album. Each listen through you’ll have a new favorite. It’s also an educational album for those aren’t as informed about the history of the genre and brings to light some quality old artists worth knowing about. I wouldn’t be surprised if this album sees Krauss add to her staggering Grammys total. Krauss once again delivers really good music with Windy City.

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Whitney Rose – South Texas Suite (EP)

Whitney Rose was looking to capture and honor the spirit of Texas style country and she absolutely accomplishes this with South Texas Suite. The instrumentation on this album is damn near flawless, featuring lots of twangy steel guitars and fiddle (a must of course if you’re gonna play in Texas). The songwriting is great and deceptively deeper than you think upon first listen. Rose also still manages to incorporate her throwback soulful influence into the music too. All in all it’s just a flat-out fun listen that I think any country fan can come to appreciate. Rose once again reminds us of her fantastic talent, reaffirming herself as one of the brightest, best up and coming artists in country music today with South Texas Suite.

 

Songs

Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man”