Monday, July 6, 2020 
--archival-captured-cinematronic-continuity error-daily report-datastream-depth of field--
--drama-44.1 khz-gramophone-inquisitive-needle drops-picture book-twinklepop--
Neumu = Art + Music + Words
Search Neumu:  



From a Johnny Cash or a Solomon Burke I want recordings as good as or better than the classic work that made us care in the first place.



Joe Ely (top), Jimmie Dale Gilmore (lower left) and Butch Hancock: For once, a "supergroup" that works. Photos by Wyatt McSpadden.


Radio Is A Sound Salvation

Jolie Holland Navigates Our 'Scary World'

Revisiting Let It Be

Music For The Turning Of The Leaves

The Triumph Of The Wrens

Terence Blanchard's Got What It Takes

Warren Zevon's Final Album

Grooving To The Stanley Jackson Trio

The Late Nite Mix

The New Buena Vista Social Club

The 'Masterpiece' That Is Astral Weeks

The Outsiders

Minutemen Live On!

The Rise & Fall Of Jefferson Airplane

Radiohead's 'Apocalypse Now'

Cyrus Chestnut Keeps The Home Fires Burning

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Perfect Album

Fear Of Jazz

We're Not On The Same Trip

Becoming An Artist

Jason Molina Wants To Make A Change

Chan Marshall Wants You To Be Free

The Elusive Jolie Holland

Nick Cave Steps Into The Light

Ry Cooder And Manuel Galban Imagine The Past

When Artists Find Their 'Voice'

The Sound Of The "New Rock Revolution"

Hanging With The Clash

When Music Is Just Entertainment

Goldberg's Fave Recordings Of 2002

What Frank Black And The Black Keys Have In Common

More Treasure From Dylan's Vaults

Out Of Time With Beth Gibbons

Eminem Revisited (Sort Of)

Finally Grokking Sigur Rós

Rhett Miller's Nervous Heart

The Downbeat Sound

Tom Petty Takes A Stand

How Does One Become A Rock Critic?

The Low-Key Sounds Of Beck And Sue Garner

Reconsidering Springsteen's 'The Rising'

The Mekons Are 'Out Of Our Heads'

Spoon's Experiments In Sound

Sleater-Kinney Search For 'Hope, Goodness And Faith'

peruse archival

the drama you've been craving

by Michael Goldberg

Monday, July 15, 2002

The Flatlanders Deliver A 'Classic'

Or, can a new country recording be 'authentic'?

I was talking to a friend about Solomon Burke's new album, Don't Give Up on Me, which finds the legendary soul man singing previously unrecorded songs by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson and others. So far, with the exception of the Elvis Costello-penned "The Judgement," the album is good, but it doesn't totally knock me out. "The first song sounds like an Otis Redding ballad," I said. "I've already got albums with Otis singing Otis Redding ballads. Why do I want to hear Solomon Burke sing one?"

My friend, who likes the album, replied, "But he's the last original soul man still around. It's cool to hear someone doing that stuff right now." (Actually, those aren't my friend's exact words; we were just talking and I wasn't taking notes. But that's what he meant.)

OK, I kinda get it. If I wanted to hear a real soul singer and Solomon Burke happened to be in my town performing, I could catch his set. And even if it wasn't as strong a performance as Otis live in '68, it would still be really cool. But why listen to this new album when I could listen to the classic soul recordings of Redding and Sam & Dave and James Brown and Wilson Pickett and Aretha (to name a few)? And if I get in the mood for some Solomon Burke, I'm sure there are some of his classic recordings from the '60s that I'd probably dig more than this new one.

I don't mean to harp on Don't Give Up on Me, 'cause for all I know, it will grow on me if I play it a couple more times. Still, sometimes the best-laid plans don't produce classic recordings. And while all the folks who are trying to revive Burke's career could have the best of intentions, it ultimately gets down to the music. I think back to Roy Orbison's last album, which included some help from Bono and others, and a solo Roger McGuinn album that Elvis Costello and Tom Petty helped out on. Both have their moments, but when I want to hear Orbison or McGuinn, those aren't the albums I reach for.

It gets down to what we want from particular artists. From a Johnny Cash or a Solomon Burke I want recordings as good as or better than the classic work that made us care in the first place. I want music that feels authentic. I don't want something that sounds like an attempt at the real thing. I want the real thing.

I'd begun thinking about authenticity when I recently listened to a wonderful album by The Flatlanders titled Now Again, released a couple of months ago.

The Flatlanders are a kind of not-quite-supergroup of country rock, comprising Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. The group, which first came together in Lubbock, Texas in 1970, recorded one previous album in 1972. For reasons not really that interesting, the album wasn't released in the U.S. until 1990, when it came out with the title More a Legend Than a Band. By then all three singer/songwriters had successful solo careers. Occasionally, in recent years, they've performed as The Flatlanders, and now there's a new album, produced by Ely at studios in Austin.

Now the thing about Now Again is that it sounds authentic, the way Gillian Welch sounds authentic. It could have been recorded in the '50s. The singing is rough yet soulful. The electric guitar work will remind you of old Merle Haggard and Buck Owens records. There are country ballads, honky-tonk rockers and some rockabilly blowouts. Usually one of the guys handles the lead vocals while the others provide harmony, sometimes in the style of the male vocals on '50s rhythm & blues recordings.

At times Now Again reminds me of the first two albums — Lost in the Ozone Again and Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Trucker's Favourites — released by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen at the end of the '60s ("Hot Rod Lincoln," off Hot Licks.... was the novelty hit, but not at all representative of the excellent country and rockabilly music that filled those albums).

Now the Cody band were hippies who dug country music. They were based in the San Francisco Bay Area and they performed at rock shows in the midst of the psychedelic rock scene. They were doing their best to create music in the spirit of the original (authentic) country records they loved. And The Flatlanders, in 2002, are also making music from another time. Music that the O Brother, Where Art Thou? audience will love if they hear it. (I should know, I'm a proud member of that audience.)

Now I can listen to Now Again or I can pull out some of my old country CDs and listen to Merle or Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson. I could put on some hillbilly recordings that were made many decades ago. That stuff is surely authentic.

That's not what I'm doing. I've been listening to Now Again a lot. It's a great album. A number of the songs sound like they might pass the test of time.

So I'm going to give that Solomon Burke album another chance, and if it still sounds like it's trying too hard, so be it. With Now Again The Flatlanders prove that in 2002 you can still record an "authentic" country record. Now how cool is that?

-snippetcontactsnippetcontributorssnippetvisionsnippethelpsnippetcopyrightsnippetlegalsnippetterms of usesnippetThis site is Copyright © 2003 Insider One LLC