Jim Chesnut creates Americana country music with both melody and story.
I found a malignant tumor at the base of my tongue in June of 2017. I stopped performing for several months during treatment and watched several hundred hours of NCIS reruns. I love that show.
During that time I wondered if I would ever be able to produce another album; but, as I slowly began to regain my strength, I began to tire of the sofa and started writing songs again; and here are a few of them.
I would like to thank and recognize three talented musicians for their invaluable contributions to this collection. First, my feisty friend, Jerry Blanton, played pedal steel and lead nylon guitar. Second, A-list studio player, Alan Kolby, played lead electric guitar, and third, Don McRee (who never quits ’till he gets it right) played harmonica.
I would be remiss if I did not recognize my muse and wife, Christine, for her unwavering love and support through this ordeal. I have included a newly recorded version of I’ll Love You Forever (our wedding song) on this album to express my undying gratitude to her for her presence in my life. She inspired two other songs, Just in the Nick of Time and Before I Met You, which are also included in the album. It ain’t easy being married to mercurial me!
This CD would not be possible if not for the San Antonio medical professionals who treated and cared for me during this uncertain time. Dr. Richard Newman (an ENT specialist) referred me to Dr. Lon Smith (an oncologist) at the START Center, which is staffed by an incredible group of people—so caring and proficient. Dr. Mark Weinstein (a dermatologist) took care of some chemo-caused lesions on my scalp and neck.
Finally, I wish to thank my friends Daniel Laser, Jim Hartwell and Rick Dryden who drove and/or accompanied me to a variety of appointments during the treatment months. I could not have done this without your help.
I really have to tell you all about our new album, “That Hot And Blue Guitar”. We’ll release it on Friday, February 23, 2018. It’ll almost coincide with Johnny Cash’s birthday on February 26, but that is not intentional. It just so happens, even though this is an album about Johnny Cash. But let’s start at the beginning.
“There’s this great studio around the corner from where I live. I’d like to record a band there. How about it, Bernd?” These may have not been the exact words, but that’s how it all started. My friend Danny Hendriks, now formerly frontman and lead singer of the Music Road Pilots, started talking to me about “this studio”. De Moor Studios in Wijchen in the Netherlands, that’s what he was talking about. Texas Heat hadn’t recorded anything in years, and all our old CDs were long sold out, and I wasn’t allowed to have them repressed or use the recordings in any form. Since these were all my songs, though, songs I had written, I could always go back and record them again. This was the time. I thought we needed a PureCASH album to sell at our shows, and get this Johnny Cash theme done and settled to be able to move forward. So, with a lot of planning and checking different schedules, we went to Wijchen in November. It hurt to not be able to see my son Dean on his birthday, the first time ever in 17 years, but it was the only weekend that worked. So Elli, Jens, Gunnar and myself hit the road and drove to Wijchen. We checked into our B&B somewhere in the vicinity, and with great excitement, we drove over to the studio. Danny greeted us and introduced us to the studio owner, Jules Peters. What a nice guy! And looking around the recording room, I knew this was gonna be great if we managed to play well. Three days… well, two and a half, actually, of hard work lay ahead. Sunday at around 6pm, we stopped the session. We had recorded all eleven songs with the full band, worked on individual tracks here and there, recorded some extra guitars and left the rest for another weekend. We had to record the vocals and record some more guitars. We went home tired and happy, knowing there was more hard work waiting in the future. There was one moment on this weekend where I knew that the album was going to be great. Danny and I listened to “Etta’s Tune”, a song written by Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal about Etta and Marshall Grant that we recorded for this album, when Elli came into the control room and said, “Is this us? Really? Cool!” From the very first note on that we recorded, I knew Danny was the right guy to record us.
Two months later, in January 2018, Elli and I drove out to that area again to record the remaining guitars and all the vocals (we had recorded scratch vocals while recording the band, of course). Saturday morning, we started the second round of recordings in the attic of Danny’s house. The guitars came in great, a little editing here and there, and then it was time to start singing. Danny had a number of great studio mics. We tested them all, recorded some lines and compared, then made a decision as to who would sing through which microphone. The fun we had recording the band in November was at least repeated, if not doubled. Three singers… three Country singers, that is, supporting each other to get the timings, the phasings, the notes, the sound and, most importantly, the emotions down on tape… ah, excuse me, hard disc. If I hadn’t experienced it in November, it would have become more than obvious here what a hard worker with great ears Danny is. What a pleasure to work with him! We ended up getting everything recorded by Sunday night. Erwin Van De Ven, a supernice guy, great Bluegrass picker and great repairsman, dropped by on Sunday to bring Danny a guitar he had worked on. And since he brought his mandolin, we thought there certainly was room on our record for a Gibson F5. You can hear him beautify “Redemption Day”, a Sheryl Crow song that we arranged the Texas Heat way. It now has a certain Bluegrass touch. A Gibson F5 and a Fender Tele on the same song, that’s as close as I could come to also salute my other hero, Marty Stuart.
Going home that night, I knew I could have recorded the one or other extra guitar here and there, but the album was really done. Mixing was next, and sending tracks back and forth by Whatsapp sure is a modern way of working together. And I was yet to get in touch with the last person missing in this puzzle, and to say the best was saved for last would not be fair towards Danny and Erwin and my band, but Dion Vermaes sure was worth the wait. Dion mastered our album at De Moor Studios, and, once again, what a supernice and super talented guy he is! Make no mistakes about all this – it was our good, no… our dear friend Danny Hendriks who coordinated all these people and the whole timeline. About a week ago, after two weeks of mixing and talking back and forth, making some suttle and some not so suttle changes, adding reverb here and there, talking about differences in sounds, moving instruments in the mix from the right to the left and back again, finding a guitar missing I wanted to record but forgot to, making a change that makes up for that missing guitar, I had to make a decision in what order I’d want the songs. Elli and I found the right order, I guess. There is no other possible order.
So, finally, three days ago, I received the masters, and I’m happy. The album sounds great! It is way about time to thank Danny Hendriks for his hard work, patience, know-how, his perfect coordination, his friendship and all the fun we had! If you want to record a great record, you should go and contact Danny and his company For The Record Music. More thanks go out to Jessie, Danny’s wonderful wife, for her great hospitality. To Jules Peters at De Moor Studios: I hope YOU are satisfied with our results! Your studio is a great place, my friend! Thanks for inviting us and letting us put some serious boom-chicka-boom through your facility! To Erwin Van De Ven: thanks for stopping by and putting some of your talent into our record! And thanks for taking care of my boxes. Finally, to Dion Vermaes: Thanks for your talent and for putting the right finishing touches to our record! To you all: We’ll be back!
One last word: These songs, at least eight of them, are a piece of my heart. I’m proud of these songs, I’m proud of these recordings, I’m proud of my band! Please support us and everybody involved in this project by buying this record. Support independent musicians and all these extremely talented people involved in their projects!
An album filled with traditional and contemporary bluegrass/country music.
Drakesville features Minnesota musician, Heath Loy, on the banjo. Stellar cover tunes along with fresh originals make this album a must have… played and sung by some of the finest bluegrass musicians around. Recorded at Slack Key Studio in Nashville TN.
The reservoir of talent on the current acoustic-folk-bluegrass scene seems nigh bottomless!… Those cheeky Carrivick Sisters Charlotte and Laura seem to crop up everywhere these days, notably in newgrass-contemporary-flavoured quartet Cardboard Fox (who’ve just released their second album Topspin), and this fresh-sounding all-female quintet is yet another string to their bows (so to speak).
Here in this sparky new “girl-power bluegrass” outfit Laura and Charlotte are teamed up with virtuoso banjoist Tabitha Agnew and mandolinist Leanne Thorose – both of whom also sing (and how!) – and double bass player Eleanor Wilkie (who doesn’t sing, but as it turns out has also written some of the songs for this debut Midnight Skyracer album).
High-energy playing, characterful and strongly individual solo and harmony singing, high-class original songwriting, and a real talent for cutting through to the core of old-time bluegrass standards like Hazel Dickens’ Working Girl Blues (and that one’s a blinder!) – well what more could you want? Just get the opening track, Leanne’s Fuel To My Fire, slotted into the player, and feel the hard, tough, gritty energy she voices, set to one of the most driven, motoring rhythms you can imagine, not a beat or note missed – wow!
Leanne’s gutsy, commanding voice takes the lead on five tracks; Tabitha’s altogether gentler vocal presence (equally effective in its own way) leads on three, and Laura on just one (an impeccably-harmonised, true-hearted cover of the gorgeous Bill Monroe number Sitting Alone In The Moonlight). As for the remaining track, well you can tell by its title that Spinous Shark, is gonna be an edgy instrumental tour-de-force – and so it proves. In fact, it’s a surprise not to find at least a couple more instrumental cuts here, given the superlative chops on display (but then again, you could say that the lasses’ proficiency isn’t strictly On Display but just part of their furniture and the air that they breathe!).
The disc’s menu and careful sequencing both celebrate and showcase the expressive variety and individuality of the participants. But even so, you can’t fail to sit there open-mouthed at the astounding dexterity of the playing, which is brilliant even by championship-standard bluegrass standards – for there’s sensitivity in shading and dynamic balance too alongside and inside the high-octane note-spinning virtuosity. You just can’t believe the band’s been together barely a year! Yeah, I gotta say it, this CD is tremendous.
5TH MAY • CROSSOVER FESTIVAL • CONGLETON, CHESHIRE
8TH MAY • SUDHAUS • TÜBINGEN, GERMANY
9TH MAY • FABRIKBEITZ • WÄDENSWIL, SWITZERLAND
11TH MAY • JENAER FRÜHLINGSMARKT • JENA, GERMANY
12TH MAY • PRIVATE CONCERT • BÖLLENBORN, GERMANY
13TH MAY • WODAN HALLE • FREIBURG, GERMANY
14TH MAY • KAUFMÄNNISCHE SCHULE – NEUBAU • BAD URACH, GERMANY
15TH MAY • NEUE WELT • INGOLSTADT, GERMANY
16TH MAY • RATTLESNAKE SALOON • MÜNCHEN, GERMANY
17TH MAY • CLUBHEIM • VÖHRINGEN-ILLERBERG, GERMANY
18TH MAY • SCHWIIZER PÖSCHTLI • RIFFERSWIL, SWITZERLAND
19TH MAY • SPRING BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL • WILLISAU, SWITZERLAND
27TH JUNE • BURNETT’S HILL CHAPEL • MARTLETWY, PEMBROKESHIRE
28TH JUNE • LYCEUM FOLK CLUB • NEWPORT, GWENT
29TH JUNE • SPARC THEATRE • BISHOPS CASTLE, SHROPSHIRE
30TH JUNE • MUSIC AT THE BUILDINGS • ASHINGTON, WEST SUSSEX
1ST JULY • WHITSTABLE SESSIONS • WHISTSTABLE, KENT
2ND JULY • THE HARRISON • KINGS CROSS, LONDON
3RD JULY • DARTFORD FOLK CLUB • DARTFORD, KENT
4TH JULY • THE MUSICIAN • LEICESTER, LEICESTERSHIRE
6TH JULY • PRIDDY FOLK FESTIVAL • PRIDDY, SOMERSET
7TH JULY • ABBOTSBURY FESTIVAL • ABBOTSBURY, DORSET
9TH JULY • THE BELL INN • BATH, SOMERSET
15TH JULY • FOLK BY THE OAK • HATFIELD HOUSE, HERTFORDSHIRE
27TH JULY • BEER AND BLUEGRASS • POOLE, DORSET
10TH AUGUST • CROPREDY FESTIVAL • CROPREDY, OXFORDSHIRE
19TH AUGUST • PURBECK VALLEY FOLK FESTIVAL • HARMAN’S CROSS, DORSET
24TH AUGUST • SHREWSBURY FOLK FESTIVAL • SHREWSBURY, SHROPSHIRE
25TH AUGUST • TWINWOOD FESTIVAL • TWINWOOD. BEDFORDSHIRE
30TH AUGUST • UPWOOD VILLAGE HALL • UPWOOD, CAMBRIDGESHIRE
6TH OCTOBER • DERBY FOLK FESTIVAL • DERBY, DERBYSHIRE
It took a long time for Scotty McCreery to get to his third record, Seasons Change. Five years to be precise, a half-decade that saw the American Idol finalist undergo some major life changes, chief among them a departure from his post-Idol record label Mercury Nashville. The imprint dropped him following “Southern Belle” — a 2015 single that didn’t crack the Top 40 — and he resurfaced in 2018 on Triple Tigers with Seasons Change, a record whose very title acknowledges that he’s no longer the eager, bright-eyed kid he was at the dawn of the decade.
The change isn’t just superficial. For the first time, McCreery co-writes every one of the songs on an album, teaming with a host of professional Nashville songwriters, including Jessi Alexander, who co-wrote Lee Brice‘s tear-jerker “I Drive Your Truck” and David Lee Murphy, who had a hit back in 1994 with “Dust on the Bottle.” Many other writers are involved on Seasons Change, but those two indicate the tenor and tone of the album: It’s an album whose heart belongs in a different era, one that feels much older than McCreery‘s 24 years. Despite a few surface affectations, such as the faintest hint of a drum loop on the ballad “This Is It,” the retro-soul groove of “Barefootin’,” and a feint toward hip-hop cadence on “Move It on Out,” there’s nary a trace of the R&B influence that’s so fashionable in the late 2010s, nor is there anything resembling the bro-country of the early 2010s. This is an album firmly and proudly rooted in the tuneful mainstream country of the ’90s. Frankly, this is a good fit for McCreery. A singer who always sounded a fair bit older than his years, he feels comfortable with the throwback sensibility of Seasons Change, as if he’s finally found a home. There’s a charm to his light touch, but that wouldn’t be enough to make Seasons Change as ingratiating as it is. That’s all down to all the smartly constructed commercial cuts, given a handsome polish by producers Frank Rogers, Derek Wells, and Aaron Eshuis. When combined with the singer’s ease, these elements turn Seasons Change into McCreery‘s best album yet.
Lest anyone dare forget, bluegrass music has a soul of its own. Granted, it differs from what’s normally associated with the standard rhythm n’ blues, although the same fervor can be found in the sweep and strum of banjos, fiddles and mandolin, along with the high harmonies that wail above the fray.
Tennessee Jed knows that all too well, and on Pimpgrass, his fifth album to date, he shares those sentiments in ways that are both expected and beyond the norm. The soaring sentiments of the album opener, Over the Mountain, offers the initial indication, a wistful ballad expressing the draw of home and the weariness of the road. The heartfelt lament, Can’t Get There From Here, continues on that tack, fully affirming Jed’s genuine sense of longing for those things that often lie just beyond our reach, just as the gritty work song, Sunup ‘Til Sundown,emphasizes the struggles of everyday existence. Despite his unruly-looking demeanor — the back photo of the CD cover shows him about to smash his guitar against an abandoned bus — his soulful spirit is never in doubt.
If that was the only hint of sentiment, it would definitely be enough. Yet along with the ramble and rumble of high lonesome ballads like The Train for to Carry Me Home, the driving sounds of Soul-Country Pimpgrass, and the astute and assertive instrumental, Opie’s Intermezzo, Jed adds some surprising cover songs that further assert his soulful stance. One wouldn’t expect to hear the Isley Brothers classic Shout parlayed by a group of professional pickers, but here it isn’t out of place, its exuberant exhortations fully fleshed out by bluegrass regalia. Likewise, when Jed and company tackle Kiss, the remarkable barnburner from Prince, the fusion of two genres stays surprisingly in sync. To his credit however, Jed doesn’t feel inclined to share his soul merely through the efforts of others; when he sings in his upper register on his own original offering, Cells, he soars like a man well able to rely on a faithful falsetto.
Credit too a reliable backing band that’s easily able to navigate those shifts in style. By now, Tennessee Jed’s reputation is such that he’s able to attract an exceptional group of players, among them Scott Vestal on banjo, Todd Parks on bass, fiddler and backing vocalist Luke Bulla, Josh Shilling of Mountain Heart playing keys, Andy Hall of the Infamous Stringdusters contributing dobro, and three members of the Daily & Vincent band fleshing out the rest. It’s an exceptional ensemble, and one well equipped to operate in Jed’s jurisdiction.
Now more than ever, breaking down barriers is of prime importance. Credit Tennessee Jed with journeying to those unlikely realms and finding a fit once he arrives.