New Riders of the Purple Sage- Gene Clark- More

Our focus on Americana music listens to vintage music from highly-influential acts New Riders of the Purple Sage and Gene Clark as well as several releases from contemporary artists.

New Riders of the Purple Sage - Hempsteader: Live at the Calderone Concert Hall

This concert from 1976 finds NRPS performing a generous 18-song set that draws from the seven studio albums they had released to date. The guys --- guitarists and singers John Dawson and David Nelson, pedal steel man Buddy Cage, bass player Stephen Love and drummer Spencer Dryden --- begin the show with a take on a perennial favorite, the Peter Rowan-penned "Panama Red" before moving into other covers including the steel guitar-driven boot scooter "Little Old Lady," complete with some cowboy yodeling, Delbert McClinton's "Honky Tonkin' (I Guess I Done Me Some)" and Jack Tempchin's "Fifteen Days Under the Hood." Numerous Dawson originals find their way into the set including the hopped-up bluegrass of "Henry," "Portland Woman," "Whiskey" and late in the set, the beloved "Glendale Train." Other covers include Rusty Wier's amusing "I Heard You Been Layin' My Old Lady," Loudon Wainwright III's "The Swimming Song," the Chuck Berry standard "You Never Can Tell" and to close the satisfying set, the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers."

Gene Clark - The Lost Studio Sessions 1964-1982

Former member of the Byrds Clark is considered by many to be one of the main architects of the west coast country rock sound and with a listen to this compilation it is easy to hear why. With the exception of just a few cuts all of the songs here are written by Clark including folk-oriented cuts "The Way I Am," the whistling-enhanced "I'd Feel Better," "That Girl" and the loping "A Worried Heart," all of which feature just Gene on vocals and acoustic guitar. "Back Street Mirror" finds Clark adding more instrumentation and tuning into the hippie era sound; there's some funkiness too as "Don't Let it Fall Through," arranged by Leon Russell, works with a Hugh Masekela-led horn section. Clark, back in a folky mood, is starkly mesmerizing on "The Awakening Within" and lost in wonderment in the love song "Sweet Adrienne" but he explores country rock on "She Darked the Sun," a co-write with Bernie Leadon where he's backed by the Flying Burrito Brothers lineup of the day: Leadon, Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Michael Clarke. Another cut that Clark performs with his pals is Spooner Oldham's "Bars Have Made a Prisoner Out of Me" with Oldham, Byron Berline, Clarence White, Eric White Sr., Kleinow, Clarke, Chris Ethridge and background singers including Roger McGuinn and Merry Clayton. Appended to the offering is a five-song set from Clark's short-lived 1982 group Nyteflyte featuring Gram Parsons songs "One Hundred Years from Now" and "Still Feeling Blue" along with a take on Rodney Crowell's "No Memories Hangin' Round." The album's included booklet features a lengthy essay from Dominic Priore as well as song credits where they are known. A very nice memento for long time Clark fans as well as those who might come on board after a listen. Clark passed away in 1991.

Alex Miller - My Daddy's Dad

It's only been a few years since Miller made a major impact in Season 19 of "American Idol" but boy has he been making good use of that time. Hit singles like "Puttin' Up Hay," "When God Made the South" and "Girl, I Know a Guy" have caused his fan base to swell and garnered him opening spots on shows with big stars like Jamey Johnson, Tracy Byrd, Brooks & Dunn and Hank Williams, Jr. With his brand new release, a five-song EP called My Daddy's Dad, Miller is bound for even better things. Miller deals in authentic country music and has a voice that makes him sound like the country boy next door and he's absolutely believable when he sings the praises of a love interest on "She Makes Dirt Look Good," a surefire hit. It's a more wistful sound on "Oh, Odessa" a bit of a tear-jerker where he's lamenting having let a flame burn out. Both of those songs were written by others but Miller fills out the effort with three co-penned cuts; a look back at growing up that is "The Last House in God's Country," a brushing-off of regrets in the mid-tempo "Ain't Ever Saying Never" and the tender "My Daddy's Dad" that is about his late grandfather. Fiddle, steel guitar, twang and Miller's sincere vocals make this EP a winner.

The Stetson Family - The Stars, If You Look Closely

The Stetson Family is a five-piece from Melbourne, Australia that specializes in bluegrass, usually thought of as an American idiom. And you would be hard pressed to tell that the band is not from the States; lead vocalist Nadine Budge does not have any noticeable accent and their music is exquisitely done Americana. Title cut "The Stars, If You Look Closely" tells a tale of western exploration and uncertainty, driven by fiddle and banjo and complete with lyrics that mention coyotes and trains. And it's not just the music that is compelling here; it's also the storytelling that plays out in cuts like "The Other Side," about a failed hanging, and the similarly outlaw-themed "Dollar in My Hand" that make the album so enthralling. Perhaps the band's name is a clue that they have a fascination with the American Old West and they certainly know how to express that in song. The way the music plays out on "Better Left Unsaid" and Budge's plaintive vocals on the cut make the song sound like something out of the Neil Young sound book, "Heading West" has an eerie and ominous vibe but "Brother," with Budge on resonator guitar, drips with all the emotion that goes into trying to help a family member stay on track. The album is full of sweet harmony vocals too, especially well done on the slow and quiet "Angel's Hand."

Adrian Sutherland - Precious Diamonds

Sutherland is a Canadian singer, songwriter, guitarist and keyboards player who has been releasing solo albums since 2021 and albums with rockers Midnight Shine before that. His heritage is Cree and he attains a long-held goal here of releasing two songs sung in Cree, the album opener "Notawe (Father)," a gentle, folk-tinged cut that features palpable emotion and hooks easily understood by non-Cree speakers and "Kiyash (Before)," a mid-tempo rocker that features harmonica playing by Mickey Raphael, famed as Willie Nelson's harp man, and a chanted part that is easily recognizable as coming from First Nations culture. The rest of the album is sung in English including the bluesy and self-explanatory "My Rebel Spirit" and the touching "The Storm," about a man losing his way that's made all the more melancholy with B3 organ fills from Janice Powers. Raphael again features on "Let it Shine" where Sutherland's voice soars like nowhere else on the album; some will name closing cut "Precious," with its funky groove, as the album's highlight.

Share this article

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Pin it Share on Reddit email this article