Friday, August 19, 2005

Jimmie Dale Gilmore's new Come On Back album is dedicated to the memory of his musician father Brian, who died of Lou Gehrig's Disease five years ago. The album features 13 of his father's favourite old country tunes, and the choice of material helps make this a standout. The album was produced by Gilmore's Lubbock, Tex. childhood buddy and fellow Flatlander Joe Ely, who also plays on the disc. Things get off to a great start with a fiddle-driven version of Harlan Howard's Pick Me Up On Your Way Down. Gilmore's homespun, slightly nasal vocals fit well on the Lefty Frizzell hit, Saginaw, Michigan. Gilmore was named after country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers, so it's quite appropriate that he covers the "Singin' Brakeman's" Standin' On The Corner (Blue Yodel No. 9). There are also exemplary covers of Hank Williams' I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, Ernest Tubb's classic Walking The Floor Over You and The Carter Family's Jimmie Brown The Newsboy, while fiddle and electric guitar drive Hank Snow's I'm Movin' On along like the little engine that could. Gilmore's voice doesn't have the resonance of either Marty Robbins or Johnny Cash, but that's still no reason to overlook his respective versions of Don't Worry 'Bout Me and Train Of Love. Gotta Travel On has already been recorded by a lot of people, but Gilmore's take is by no means superfluous. The album ends with the sacred Peace In The Valley, which became Brian Gilmore's favourite song shortly before he died. If you're a fan of either Gilmore or classic old country music, add this to your collection. It's a definite top 20 of 2005 contender for me.

Going back even further than the repertoire on Gilmore's album is The Stanley Brothers' Earliest Recordings: The Complete Rich-R-Tone 78s (1947-1952). The 13 songs here (The Little Glass Of Wine appears in two versions) include the brothers' first recordings ever, and most of them also feature Pee Wee (mandolin) and Ray (bass) Lambert and Leslie Keith (fiddle) playing along with Carter (guitar) and Ralph (banjo). There were four separate sessions, and some of them sound more crackly than others, but that adds to the ambience of these vintage recordings. There are traditionals, gospel tunes, Carter Stanley originals, as well as songs from Pee Wee Lambert, Ernest Tubb and Bill Monroe, including the most energetic and most bluegrass-flavoured tune on the album, Molly and Tenbrook. If you're into old-time country and exploring archival material, this may interest you.

Alana Levandoski is a 26-year-old singer/songwriter from rural Manitoba who recently released her debut album, Unsettled Down. She's a very good and detailed storyteller with a charming voice that suits her rootsy folk- and country-based pop songs. The production by Norm Dugas is impressively full, and Levandoski's acoustic guitar is nicely rounded out by electric guitar, bass, drums, pedal steel, fiddle, organ and piano. Though this isn't the kind of stuff that I'd listen to on a regular basis, I recognize its quality and wouldn't have a problem recommending it to fans of Nanci Griffith, Patty Griffin and the like. Levandoski is managed by Billboard Canadian bureau chief Larry Leblanc, who also works with Joel Kroeker.

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