Last weekend my wife and I visited Roanoke, Virginia. It was our second trip there and the return visit reinforced all the good things I remembered about my first trip. It's about as small as you can get and still be called a "city." It's feels busier than a sleepy town, but you'd never call it a bustling metropolis either. In other words, just about my speed. But what amazes me about Roanoke is that every where you look, the surrounding mountains make their presence felt. As you can see from this picture, Roanoke is nestled in a valley and there are gorgeous Appalachian mountains everywhere you look.
Roanoke's local landmark is this star on top of Mill Mountain, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The locals claim that this star is "the world's largest freestanding illuminated man-made star." Hey, who would argue with that? Sadly I couldn't catch a good picture of it at night. But it's really nice to see it up there at night. It's like a symbol of people being able to illuminate this remote valley with something resembling civilization.
Find your way back home,
On episode 181 of the Americana Music Show, the Sioux City Kid talks about escapism in the Pacific Northwest, his obsession with Howlin' Wolf and Blind Willie Johnson, and his surprise in Wichita Falls. He also plays three tracks from his Minutes, Miles, Troubles, and Trials album. Also on this episode, travelin' music from The Far West, retro-Bakersfield twang from The Palominos, old-school jazz from Will Kimbrough, country-rock from Rod Picott, rock & roll from Lydia Loveless, beautiful country music from MaryLeigh Roohan, alt-country from Uncle Tupelo, backwoods swamp music from Les Claypool's Duo De Twang, and stomp blues from Scott H. Biram.
I think it's fair to say Scott H. Biram is a visionary blues man. But not in that high-minded intellectual minor-chords and weird time signature kind of way, but in that back woods poison snake and moonshine sort of way. And on his latest album,Nothing But Blood, he comes across just as rude and scary as ever... and then there are the moments of, well, it can't be described as anything else but rapture. This is a must have lo-fi stomp blues album and I'm happy to announce I'm giving away five copies of Nothing But Blood as the March album giveaway courtesy of Blood Shot Records.
When you listen to the 1950 Chess Recordings version of Muddy Waters singing “Rollin’ ‘n Tumblin’” you are immediately struck by that fuzzy electric guitar licks overlaid on the that 30′s era drum skiff. Muddy’s voice is a man of experience. You can imagine that he actually did have to sleep in a hollow log at one point in his life. It’s his song, his experience. So when a bunch of modern era white guys cover the song, the worst thing they could do is try to cover it just like Muddy Waters did. That’s not their song that’s not their experience. The trick to to take the song an make it your own. Which is exactly what the North Mississippi Allstars do with their cover of Muddy Waters’ ”Rollin’ ‘n Tumblin’” on their album, World Boogie.
I've been waiting for weeks and weeks to finally be able to share with you the latest album from The Far West. It's called Any Day Now and I'll repeat what I said when frontman Lee Briante released the band's last album, he writes Paul Simon level lyrics. I'm adding, oh, I dunno, maybe half the album to rotation including "On The Road," "Hudson Valley," "The Bright Side," "Leonard," and "Words From A Letter."
The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash have another coutnry-rock road trip album out called New Old Story. Probably best played in a truck. I'm adding "Highway Bound," "Poor Man's Son," and "Leave A Light On."
Chuck Mead and his Grassy Knoll Boys have a new one out called Free State Serenade. He hits all the bases with this one. There's soem western swing, some honky tonk, some blues and more than a little bit of rock. I'm adding "Neosho Valley Sue," "A Short Good Bye," "The Light Of Day," "Sittin' On Top Of The Bottom," and my favorite track, "Ain't Nothing Like The Love Of A Woman."
If you want some good straight up country, you might want to check out the feel good sounds of Clay McClinton 's Bitin' At The Bit. I'm adding "Nobody Knows My Baby," and "Poison Love."
Neosho Valley Sue / Chuck Mead / Free State Serenade / 2:34
A Short Goodbye / Chuck Mead / Free State Serenade / 4:01
The Light Of The Day / Chuck Mead / Free State Serenade / 3:23
Ain't Nothing Like The Love Of A Woman / Chuck Mead / Free State Serenade / 3:18
Sittin' On Top Of The Bottom / Chuck Mead / Free State Serenade /3:26
On The Road / The Far West / Any Day Now / 4:01
Hudson Valley / The Far West / Any Day Now / 4:04
The Bright Side / The Far West / Any Day Now / 3:36
Leonard / The Far West / Any Day Now / 3:13
Words From A Letter / The Far West / Any Day Now / 3:35
Nobody Knows My Baby / Clay McClinton / Bitin’ At The Bit / 3:35
Poison Love / Clay McClinton / Bitin’ At The Bit / 2:46
Highway Bound / Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash / New Old Story / 3:31
Poor Man's Son / Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash / New Old Story / 4:04
Leave A Light On / Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash / New Old Story /2:47
Wanderin' Blue / Oh Dry Land - EP / John Meeks / 3:18
Papa's Down The Road Dead / Robby Hecht / Robby Hecht / 3:05
Smoking Gun / Long Roots / David White / 4:37
I Get the Hint / Long Roots / David White / 4:02
Love Don't You Haunt Me / All the Way Home / Ocean Carolina / 3:32
Bottle Of Whiskey / Fingerpistol / Stepped In It Again / 3:34
Empty Out The Tip Jar / Fingerpistol / Stepped In It Again / 3:15
I Need A Small Town / Byrd and Street / Words And Music / 3:26
Empty / Mare Wakefield And Nomad / Poet On the Moon / 3:04
Unblue / Fresh Air / Midnight River Choir / 4:13
You Can't Break Me Again / Life On Fire / Scott Wolfson And Other Heroes / 2:56
Home / Natural Born Days / Tommy Malone / 2:57
What The Heart Wants / Running Out Of Time / Mary Ann Casale /4:36
On The Wind / Uprooted / Escaping Pavement / 4:10
Crumpled Up Twenties / The Wolfman / Chris Wolf / 4:53
About Calvin Powers
Calvin Powers is the host and producer of the Americana Music Show.