Skip to main content

American Back Roads reviews the latest from Jamestown Revival, Dana Cooper, Terry Klein, Eric Sommer and more

Travelin' down the American Back Roads this month to review the latest albums from Jamestown Revival, Dana Cooper, Terry Klein and Eric Sommer, Plus, a Hank Williams compilation and a book from punk rocker Jean Beauvoir.

By Bruce Sylvester

Let's have a roundup of cool new stuff – mostly, but not entirely, Americana CDs.

young_man_final

Less is indeed more on Jamestown Revival's Young Man (Thirty Tigers), the Texas duo's first album to bring in producers, forgo electric guitars, and use a recording studio. Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance's sublime harmonies recall bygone country brother duets like the Monroes, the Louvins, and the Everlys not to mention Simon and Garfunkel. Taken together, their 10 wistful ballads seem like a suite on the passage of time. Discreet guitar and pedal steel notes envision wide open spaces on “Slow It Down.” (“Mother Nature's picture show – Take a seat and breathe it in.”) It's easy to imagine Don and Phil Everly doing some of these numbers.

  

HankWilliams_I_mGonnaSing_TheMother_sBestGospelRadioRecordings_Packshot_4050538693072 (1)

Hank Williams' 2-CD I'm Gonna Sing: The Mother's Best Gospel Radio Recordings (BMG) comes from advance pretapes of his 15-minute early-morning 1951 radio show sponsored by Mother's Best flour, each ending with a religious number. Recorded on acetate, they capture the human spirit much better than the magnetic tape used in most studio sessions back then. Hank's joviality (and MC Louie Buck's) is found on none of his other sessions. Mother's Best's were his sole sessions where his band, the Drifting Cowboys, sang backup. Their driving counterpoint peaks on “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies” and “I'll Have a New Life” — a perfect song for the pain-wracked spina bifida victim who hadn't long to live. The 40 songs' annotations in the accompanying booklet are excellent.

  

image0

The subtlety on Dana Cooper's I Can Face the Truth (Dog Eared) appears even before we've heard any of it – the cover shows him facing away from the camera. Time's passage is a recurring theme here too, starting with the opener's candid elegy to a long-time friend. A Summer of Love veteran, Cooper looks with concern at the present (“I loved you and you loved me. … I fear you and you fear me.”) in “Summer in America.” Are you ready for another strong song titled “Bluebird”? The one track he neither wrote nor cowrote — a taut blues-rock take on Hank Williams's “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” — is among the best covers of the classic I've ever heard.

  

image1

Weather-beaten in both voice and – at times – instrumentation, Terry Klein's Good Luck, Take Care (self-release) confronts life's tough stuff over a vivid spectrum of characters. Building from a four-year-old's questions, “Does the Fish Feel the Knife” calls to mind Greg Brown's long-ago “Daughters.” “The Ballad of Dick Trickle” takes a “John Henry” approach to the late NASCAR driver. Klein's women can be in extreme situations. “The Woman Who Was Lost in the Flood” parallels Julia Roberts' character in Sleeping with the Enemy. Boston-born and Austin-based Klein's pedal-steel-draped homage to his hometown hits nails smack on their heads. Thomm Jutz's understated production enhances our close listening to lyrics that don't spell out too much to us.

  

turningpointBW3000

With Americana-rap, off-the-wall whimsy, car songs, and even a space ship, singer/writer/guitarist Eric Sommer's wide-ranging and imaginatively produced Turning Point (Clyde Is Thinking) might remind you of Todd Snider and NRBQ songs as well as Lewis Carroll's character Alice's observation “Curiouser and curiouser.”

  

Bet My Soul on Rock n Roll

And finally, for something completely different, Jean Beauvoir's good-hearted Bet My Soul on Rock n Roll: Diary of a Black Punk Icon (Chicago Review Press), written with John Ostrosky, is a fast-paced nuts-and-bolts account of singing, writing, bass and keyboards playing, producing, and business managing across R&B, punk, pop, rock, and k-pop. The Plasmatics invited him in to add musicality to their theatrics. His bleached blond mohawk came soon. We read of long-term relationships with Paul Stanley of Kiss and Steven Van Zandt. After years of struggle for a solo career led nowhere, he hit a jackpot as a writer when John Waite got numero-uno “Missing You” from a Beauvoir demo tape.

He was born into Haiti's elite. Each parent descended from a president. On Jean's visits to Paris, a high-achieving uncle's voodoo ceremonies were exciting.. Way into adulthood, he was able to bond with his rigid, disapproving father, who'd thrown him out of the house. He describes experiences with racial discrimination and the devastation of his homeland's 2020 earthquake. A devoted family man, he introduces us to his children, Swedish wife, and dogs. What's his basic philosophy? “ Just do you.”