Monday, February 4, 2013

Hundred Word Highlights - February 2012

Hundred Word Highlights
Each CD review is guaranteed to be a full one hundred words, because sometimes ninety-nine and a half won’t do.

Mike Cooley
The Fool on Every Corner
In November of last year, Hundred Word Highlights reviewed Patterson Hood’s record Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance and this month is his partner Mike Cooley’s turn.  The Drive-By Truckers’ other half may be less loquacious and prolific than Mr. Hood, but he is just as talented of a songwriter and performer.  This live acoustic solo recording showcases finger-picked versions of his rock tunes along with a full glass of wit served with a side of sly winks and surprisingly keen insights. Cooley even picks up the banjo for an eerily wicked take on Cottonseed. Picks: Cottonseed, Carl Perkins Cadillac.

Buddy and Jim

Two of the brightest stars in the Americana firmament team up for this collection of country, R&B and good-natured rock. Buddy and Jim are well-respected musicians, with shelves of awards between them, but more than that, they’re friends and this record has that easy vibe of two buddies making music together. There’s not a Buddy song or a Jim song, they both own them, especially when their harmonies remind you of the Everly Brothers with a twang. The eleven songs won’t break any new ground, but that’s kinda the point.  Picks: Vampire Girl, I Lost My Job of Loving You.

Curtis Lynch
February 2013

Mary Gauthier
Live at Blue Rock
In the Black Records

Mary Gauthier’s songs, like the artist herself, require your attention before their brilliance becomes apparent. This is music that involves and captivates, not background music that slides underneath whatever else you have going on. In the same way Bob Dylan’s early lyrics held meaning and weight, her songs are carefully crafted, whittled and polished until what remains is gleaming, straight and perfect.  Gauthier, Louisiana-born but now living in Nashville, has a lyrical preoccupation with outcasts and outsiders and her songs are imbued with a sense of her real life, a hard life, and so are the three covers she chose for Live at Blue Rock, all from another fine songwriter, Fred Eaglesmith. A teenaged runaway and recovering addict, Gauthier sings about what she knows, or as another cinematic songwriter, Guy Clark, put it in his song Homeless, “the bums, the whores and the abused.”

The eleven tracks here were recorded in an intimate setting outside of Austin, Texas, with Mary on vocals and acoustic guitar, Mike Meadows on percussion and the wonderful Tania Elizabeth on fiddle and vocals. Tania’s fiddle perfectly accentuates the songs and is an essential element, while the percussion is solid throughout.  On some tunes, not a syllable is wasted, not a line thrown away and on others the words tumble out like coins from a Biloxi jackpot, especially on Wheel Inside the Wheel (a track covered by Jimmy Buffett, she sometimes jokes that his cut of this tune allows her to drive a nice car). It’s a Mardi Gras tune of a surreal sort (“Sipping wormwood concoctions/drinking absinthe and talking trash/it’s a red carpet, black tie all night celestial bash.”) that caps the record, rolling to a driving, joyous conclusion.

Her sixth record overall and her first live recording, Live at Blue Rock may not be an easy record to like, but it’s an incredibly easy record to love.

Curtis Lynch
February 2012
 Mary Gauthier's "I Drink"