Gillian Welch and partner David Rawlings have begun working with producer T Bone Burnett in Los Angeles on a new record. Burnett also produced Revival, Welch’s acclaimed 1996 debut on Almo Sounds. The singer-songwriter says she expects the next album to have even more of a rustic, old-time feel than her unadorned debut.
“This album is going to be even more traditional,” Welch says. “I’ve taken up the banjoI play in the old clawhammer styleand I’ve been writing songs on the banjo. That’s probably affected the songs somewhat. More of them are in minor keys, and they’re more modal. I’d also say the stuff is a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more driving, but less blues-based.”
Although Welch’s album received largely positive reviews, she was also criticized for appropriating an older musical form that didn’t fit her background. She was surprised by the comments, she says, and disagrees with that line of thinking. “I’m just trying to make the music I love,” she says. “It’s not autobiography. It’s not a documentary. It’s my art.”
Just as the Rolling Stones looked to the music of Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters for inspiration, and just as Chuck Berry wrote about white high school kids, Welch figures she has a right to draw upon the folk music of Appalachia if that’s where she finds the most inspiration; it doesn’t matter if she was born in Los Angeles. When she plays folk music festivals in North Carolina or Virginia, old-time musical enthusiasts and heirs of the tradition praise her and tell her how much they enjoy what she’s doing. “You’d think if anyone would have been critical, it would have been [them],” she says. Instead, the criticism has largely come from music journalists in New York and Los Angeles, who “don’t know what they’re talking about,” she says flatly.
A release date for the album has yet to be scheduled. (MM)
Nine years ago, when For Kate’s Sake first began playing in Nashville clubs, the group often consisted only of singer-songwriter Kris Wilkinson backed by a lone bassist or maybe a second vocalist. At a time when Nashville had few women indie-rockers, Wilkinson used her limited but effective guitar playing to set off introspective, sometimes confessional songs in a way that impressed both punks and folkies. Tunes such as “The Mop Song” and “Little Red Riding Hood” became call-in staples on the 91 Rock local show, and even though the band went through numerous incarnationsacoustic, chamber-pop, post-grungeWilkinson’s wry, bookish stage presence remained a constant.
The winning humor Wilkinson demonstrates live is in short supply on Goodiebag, the new For Kate’s Sake compilation CD. Evenly divided between new and old material, the collection spans nine years of countless band changes, but the songs are short on melody and variety, and they’re long on morose vocals and self-absorption. (“If I cut you with a knife, would you bleed like me?/Do you ever think of life as a lock and I’m your key?”) Wilkinson fares best when she wields a sneaky wit, as in “Meantime,” in which she tells a departing lover, “Maybe in a year or two/You’ll be ready for a girl like me/And I won’t meet a guy like you in the meantime.” But you still wish she wouldn’t deliver every song with such dire importance, like Fiona Apple on a Nyquil bender.
Wilkinson in person is engaging, lively, and funny, and her record-release party at Douglas Corner Thursday night should be the best way to experience her songswhich predate Lisa Loeb, Jewel, and other navel-gazing Gen X thrushes. (If you like them, by all means check out Goodiebag.) The evening will be hosted by fellow singer-songwriter Don Henry, and the show kicks off at 9 p.m. In the meantime, Goodiebag can be purchased at Lucy’s Record Shop, and you can hear songs from the CD on KDF, Lightning 100, and Thunder 94.
Miracle Mile, the first LP by singer/songwriter Dana Cooper on the Compass Records label, arrives in stores Tuesday. Cooper wrote all 11 songs on the new album, which sports a dense, sprightly pop-folk sound that’s something of a departure from his earlier records. Produced by hit country producer Josh Leo, who gets to indulge his own penchant for Beatles-esque guitar licks, the album courses from the somber balladry of the title cut to the new wave bounce of the snide “Sleep of the Innocent.”
The record features guest appearances by Lyle Lovett and Maura O’Connell, along with such reliable Nashville talents as Kent Agee, Kate Wallace, Tom Kimmel, Buddy Mondlock, Michael Lille, guitarist George Marinelli, and keyboardist Mark T. Jordan. Cooper will host a record-release party later this summer. (JR)
Caffé Milano, which just finished an unprecedented four-day run by vocalist Nancy Wilson, has considerably beefed up its commitment to jazz and instrumental music in coming months. Latin jazz great Tito Puente will begin a three-night, six-performance stay on Sept. 11, and Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval has scheduled two shows for Aug. 28. Guitarist Thom Bresh appears July 9, followed by Preston Reed on July 10. Spyrogyra returns July 17, while other upcoming dates will feature guitarist Lee Ritenour and contemporary jazz stars The Rippingtons.
Other interesting changes and local bookings are coming up as well. Beginning July 21 and continuing through August, Ronnie Milsap will take over Monday nights from club regular Chet Atkins. And on July 14, the Charlie Daniels Band will make a rare local nightclub appearance. In addition, singer Toni Wine will host a tribute to the late Laura Nyro on July 16, and Fleming & John and Farmer Not So John will combine forces for a benefit for the Mockingbird Public Theatre on July 20.
Local rock band Stella had its MTV debut June 29 on the 120 Minutes program. The band hopes the video airing leads to wider exposure for its Ascension LP, released earlier this year on Beggars Banquet Records. Elsewhere on the album front, two Nashville nightclub favorites have debuts scheduled for release in the coming weeks: Greg Garing’s folk-flavored rock album, Alone, will be out on Paladin/Revolution July 15, while Kami Lyle will release Blue Cinderella, her MCA Records debut, on Aug. 12. As for locally based stars, John Hiatt’s Little Head came out last week, and Amy Grant surfaces Sept. 9 with Behind the Eyes, which is being touted as her return to introspective songwriting. Also, Victor Wooten’s second solo album, this one featuring full-band instrumentation, will be out on Compass Records in August. (MM)
It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy Dept.: After a knockout last-minute showcase at the Exit/In a couple of weekends ago, gifted roots-rocker Tim Carroll is expected to sign with the reactivated Sire label, which launched the careers of such artists as Madonna and The Ramones. Label head Seymour Stein and producer Andy Paley both flew to Nashville for the private showcase, which was attended by a hastily arranged audience of Carroll’s friends, collaborators, and well-wishers, among them Duane Jarvis, Lonesome Bob, Steve Allen, Alex Sniderman, Doug Hoekstra, Dub Cornett, Buck 50 manager Danny Basehart, and members of Who Hit John. “It didn’t seem like a big bullshit schmooze thing,” said one attendee, “just a nice guy finally getting attention.” About damn time. (JR)
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