Albert King (from the album Born Under a Bad Sign) - Debut albums are important; the right songs, players, producer, sessions, studio, etc. Albert King had recorded for a number of other labels, making Born Under A Bad Sign his debut for Stax Records. Mr King was a good fit with the Stax label team of Al Bell, Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart, its songwriters Booker T. Jones and William Bell, and backing players from Booker T & The M.G.’s and the Memphis Horns. On its release, Born Under a Bad Sign was a fine effort.

Time has made it the gem in Albert King’s output. The album is grounded with the title track use a monster bass line developed by song author William Bell and Booker T. Other highlights on board are King’s first hit for the label, “Laundromat Blues”, “Crosscut Saw”, and “Oh Pretty Woman”, with M.G. axman Steve Cropper holding the rhythm steady for Albert’s blues riffs. Born Under A Bad Sign offers Albert King covering “Kansas City” and two rare ballad turns with “The Very Thought of You” and Ivory Joe Hunter’s “I Almost Lost My Mind”.

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J.D. Souther  (from the album John David Souther) - For his debut album, JD Souther spelled his name out for the front cover title, John David Souther. It was a critical success, and has been viewed as a ‘lost gem’. The release was 1971, and a spotlight was on the Southern California Country Rock sounds and scene, as promoted by David Geffen and Asylum Records. The songs on John David Souther are completely timeless. Looking back, the phrasing and story lines feel outside of what Country radio was playing, and the Americana template that can only be viewed in hindsight was getting on Rock radio only with a lot of electricity and extended jams behind it. JD Souther has a direct connection between his voice and his words on his debut.

As a singer-songwriter, JD Souther slides his slight vocal twang in on a Soul bubble for the subtlefunk of “White Wing”, and packs the album with the kind of Country music then only found at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, California with tracks like “Out to Sea”, and “It’s the Same”. John David Souther flies “Kite Woman” on a Country Rock close to the sound of his then next prohect, Souther-Hillman-Furay Band with Chris Hillman (The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers), and Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield, Poco). Artists have cherry-picked the debut for tracks, with JD Souther penning songs found on John David Souther that became hits for Bonnie Raitt (“Run Like a  Thief”), Linda Ronstadt (“The Fast One”), and the 2005 Eagles reunion with their first single, “How Long”.  

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Buddy Guy (from the album Rhtyhm and Blues) - Buddy Guy lets the music do his talking, and with his new album title, he also lets is define the distinct tastes for his double-disc release.  Rhythm & Blues offers one side for each style. Buddy Guy collaborates with Aerosmith members Joe Perry, Brad Whitford and Steven Tyler and welcomes first-time studio partners such Gary Clark, Jr and Keith Urban on the album. Rhythm & Blues is the follow-up to Buddy’s 2010 Grammy winning Living Proof, and on the tails of his 2012 Kennedy Center Honors.

The ‘Rhythm’ half of the discs shows up under the flag of hard R&B for “What You Gonna Do About Me”. The track partners Buddy Guy with Beth Hart, the lady who knocked the Kennedy Center show into orbit with her rendition of “I’d Rather Go Blind” with Jeff Beck. “Whiskey Ghost” travels like a midnight fog coming into Memphis from the Mississippi, “Messin’ with the Kid” pairs Buddy with a man who owns part of the tune’s title, Kid Rock, for some jumping rhythm and “What’s Up With That” features the Memphis Horns backing Buddy and his guitar. On the Blues disc, Buddy Guy kicks it off with a percolating uptown blues that is heading downtown to “Meet Me in Chicago”. “I Could Die Happy” marries the past of a finger-plucked folk blues with a contemporary rafter reaching electric riff over a story that uses a universal theme than spans all decades with a meetings of the sexes, Buddy explaining that he is “not a young man, but still young at heart”. Buddy Guy is an American legend evidenced by his multiple awards and recognition by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. What makes him a star is that he handles the many kudos and commendations by putting out a stellar double disc.

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Lucinda Williams (from the album Lucinda WIlliams) - Lucinda Williams began her recording career on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Her output for the label was two albums, Ramblin’ (1979) and Happy Woman Blues (1980), both acoustic folk/blues. Lucinda as a tender folkie surrounded by gentle acoustic instrumentation did not catch traction at radio or with fans.When she moved away covering songs traditional to the genre and into writing her own material, the sound joined with the style of other delta musicians that had gone before the Lafayette, Louisiana born singer.

Lucinda had been playing live since her early 20’s with shows on the Austin and Houston folk circuit mixing the folk, blues and country hybrid found on her first albums. She moved to Jackson, Mississippi to record her pair of Smithsonian Folkways albums. In the 1980’s Lucinda moved her address and her sound west, relocating to Los Angeles.

The L.A. move changed Lucinda’s back-up. Her stages were still on the folk circuit but her backing was a rock’n’roll band. The west coast club version of Dylan at Newport worked well for Lucinda and she started to develop a following from both fans and press. The pairing of her lines against a harder-edged sound was the match that lit a flame for Lucinda’s career. She recorded her debut for Rough Trade Records in 1988 under her own name, branding her sound as home grown, and standing behind the decision by claiming the newly plowed Americana landscape as her own.

Lucinda Williams, produced by Gurf Morlix, was well received. As of an accounting in 2000, the album has sold over 100,000 copies. Often referred to as “The Rough Trade” album for the U.K. label that released the record, Lucinda Williams has been out of print for ten years. The new package includes a remastered version of the original master recordings, missing for over twenty years. The package features a bonus disc containing an unreleased 1989 live concert recorded in Eindhoven, Netherlands and six previously released live bonus tracks.  The record hosts a number of Lucinda Williams standards such as “Changed the Locks”, covered by Tom Petty and “Passionate Kisses”, covered by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

The Lucinda Williams version of her tune “Passionate Kisses” is a template for the future hit of Mary Chapin Carpenter. The track became a Country hit for the singer and garnered Lucinda her first Grammy for Best Country Song. Lucinda Williams has a Zydeco music bed lead a southern girl back home via “Crescent City”. The song, later covered by Emmylou Harris on her Cowgirl’s Prayer album, sees homecoming as lots of dancing and tagging along with siblings ‘cause ‘my brother knows where all the best bars are’. There is a freedom to the songs on Lucinda Williams. It could have been the change in location or the style switch. Certainly a rock’n’roll backing is a perfect complement to her words and the rock attitude that Lucinda’s wears like faded jeans…..a natural fit.

“The Night’s Too Long” name checks Sylvia as the character driving the song. The story tells of a small town waitress saving tips to buy the wheels that help her find an exit. She is hunting for something to make her feel alive and she is ‘tired of these small town boys, they don’t move fast enough…I’m gonna find me one who wears a leather jacket and likes his living rough.’ As the song follows Sylvia to a town where the night has no end the story mirrors the sonic changes that were happening in the music of Lucinda Williams.

Lucinda Williams (Deluxe Edition) celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the course changing album. It captures not only Lucinda Williams as she shifts direction for her music but re-fires the shot heard around the world for Americana music.

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Marvin Etzioni - Marvin's Country - Marvin Etzioni is The Mandolin Man, songwriter, musician, producer and Marvin Country! is where he lives; playing, producing and ruling over a kingdom steeped in tradition, with an eye and ear towards the future.Marvin Country! is a result of collecting and gatherings over several years for Marvin Etzioni. Following three solo releases in the early 1990’s (The Mandolin Man (1991), Bone (1992) and Weapons of the Spirit (1994)), Marvin moved into the man behind the boards, producing tracks with and for artists/friends.

The result of patience gives the tracks on Marvin Country! a big foot up with A list names popping up on the credits. Buddy Miller and Marvin get the boxcar rattling like it is headed down a steep hill with no brakes in hands reach in “Living Like A Hobo”, sticking to bare bones as stand-up bass, squeezebox and jew’s harp hurry to keep up with the groove set in place with drums and electric guitar. “It Don’t Cost Much” edges in a Cajun beat anchored with accordion and tambourine to keep it in Dixie country, a fat sax bump securing its city cred. Marvin Etizioni peppers the air around the double disc with Roots music of every flavor. The diversity of the songs gathers them under a like-minded Roots banner.

Marvin Etzioni: “In the early 1990’s I began recording what would become Marvin Country!  I recorded “Son of a Carpenter”, “You Possess Me” with Maria McKee. We would walk in and play a track and move on to the next song. The whole style of the producing the album was not to analyze it. If the recording wasn’t right, we would go back next day and do the song again.  The album has had different sequences over the last year thanks a few people in on the inner circle of decision. Right before mastering I sequenced it and there were so many options. I was reading an article about how John Lennon and Paul McCartney had sequenced The White Album. There were certainly a lot of ways that could have gone. I used The Beatles as a model in sequencing from both Revolver and The White Album. How Revolver went from “Taxman” into “Eleanor Rigby”. I am really attracted to how those two albums took chances.  If I was to sequence Marvin Country! today, it would have gone differently. It took on really different form because of the time it took to complete. It evolved naturally. If it was one album , it would have told different story.

Personal history for Marvin had set him up for challenges. In 1980 Los Angeles, Marvin Etzioni was ground zero for early steps in Alt Country and Americana, then flying under the banner of Cowpunk.

Marvin Etzioni: There was not Roots scene in Los Angeles in 1982, Lone Justice originally formed around 1981 or 1982. I was playing solo acoustic shows at that time there were not many venues where you could just have you and a guitar. There was the Café de Grand. I would call Madame Wong’s and ask to play acoustic. I met Ryan (Hedgecock, guitar for Lone Justice)and at that time the band didn’t really exist. Ryan recognized me from playing out and we started talked about George Jones.  Ryan said that he wrote songs too. I wound up giving Ryan my next gig since he couldn’t find a place to play and Maria (McKee) showed up with him. They did two-part harmonies, hillbilly songs. I went up and said “I love you both and we need to work on original material”. In helping to cultivate the Lone Justice sound I was more like a producer and mentor at that time. They lost their bass player and couldn’t find musicians who could play that kind of music. They bought me a bass and said ‘you do it’.

It is clarity and precision, that dedication to simple details that binds the diversity of Marvin Country! and fits the songs together like puzzle pieces. Darkness presides over “You Possess Me”, as it enters on a bright chord that has a shadow cast across its surface by the joining of Marvin and Maria McKee’s locked duet. Recording effects make the vocal and playing shared with Steve Earle in “Ain’t No Work in Mississippi” sound like vinyl that has taken a beating in its grooves. Fellow Los Angeles Roots resurrecter, John Doe drops in for “Grapes of Wrath”, The Dixie Hummingbirds gather around the microphone to send spirits and voices skyward on “You Are the Light” and Lucinda Williams pointedly lets Marvin know the depths their four minutes relationship has weathered and how they can go forward as they “Lay It on the Table”.

Marvin Etzioni, armed with his mandolin, added guitar, tambourine, porchboard and casio to the songs make-up. His duets bring marquee status to the double dose of discs found for Marvin Country! Marvin and his sounds balance the power of two with one life that can be is immersed in the song, letting the playing and vocals gain added impact with the use of sounds and loops that create hiss, static and white noise that works out great to keep the edge sharp.

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