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Roots News & Notes: Robert Gordon, Suzy Boggus, Duke Robillard and more!

Find out what's new on the blues, rockabilly and country fronts from columnist Ken Burke.

Rockabilly: Down-home twang courtesy of Italy’s DiMaggio Brothers makes When I Hit My Stride (Area Pirata) an authentic bass-slappin’ delight.

Robert Gordon reunited with guitarist Chris Spedding for It’s Now or Never (Rykodisc), an occasionally inspired tribute to Elvis Presley featuring the Jordanaires. (Read more about Robert Gordon at our Web site,, in an interview with the artist.)

Shawn Camp and Billy Burnette have issued The Bluegrass Elvises, Vol. 1 (American Roots Publishing) wherein Elvis’ greatest hits are given the Bill Monroe-Ralph Stanley treatment.

Historically minded various-artist releases don’t come better than The Rockin’ South (Ace), which featured long-dormant NRC and Judd recordings by such regional stars as Ray Smith, Paul Peek, Wayne Cochran, Tommy Roe and Joe South.


Blues: The excellent Big Maybelle — I’ve Got A Feelin’: Okeh & Savoy Recordings 1952-56 and Wynonie Harris — Mr. Blues: The King & Atco Recordings 1949-1956 (Rev-Ola) are jam-packed with salacious pre-rock ’n’ roll.

Best new stuff? Duke Robillard’s World Full of Blues (Stony Plain), a diverse two-disc set that genuinely swings.

Sounding like Howlin’ Wolf-meets-Eddie Taylor, Omar Kent Dykes and Jimmie Vaughan pay tribute to Jimmy Reed with On the Jimmy Reed Highway (Ruf). (Turn to page 41 for an inside peek at the project with the dynamic blues duo.)

Club blues and soul meld quite saucily on Toni Price’s Talk Memphis (TMG/Antone’s). An eccentric-yet-catchy mix of blues-rock and Americana, Jake LaBotz’ Graveyard Jones (Charnel Ground Records) is being promoted with a tour of tattoo parlors.

No one conjures pain or pride more vividly than Bettye LaVette on The Scene of the Crime (Anti-), a modern-sounding collection sporting an old-school emotional kick.


Country: From the last true country hit maker, Alan Jackson’s 16 Biggest Hits (BMG/Legacy) is a perfect disc for the car.

Remember American Idol finalist Carman Rasmussen? Her catchy, upbeat debut, Nothin’ Like the Summer (Lofton Creek), is clearly equal to Carrie Underwood’s Martina McBride-influenced triumphs.

Hot on the heels of Wagonmaster (Anti-) comes Porter Wagoner Sings His Hits (Time-Life), a refreshing entry in the label’s “Legends of the Grand Ole Opry” series.

Early ’90s hit maker Suzy Boggus returns with Sweet Danger (LDR), a collection of beautifully sung country/adult contemporary tunes.

Old-time archival compilations don’t come more thrilling than People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913-1938 (Tomkins Square), a well-annotated three-CD set featuring the Skillet Lickers, Cliff Carlisle, Furry Lewis, Charlie Patton, Son House, Uncle Dave Macon, Vernon Dahlhart, Ernest Stoneman and more.

The Essential Waylon Jennings (RLG Nashville/Legacy) is a well-chosen two-disc set of RCA recordings for those who don’t own recent boxed sets. However, completists will revel in “Never Say Die— The Final Concert Film” (Columbia/Legacy), a smartly-annotated 2-CD + DVD commemorative set that boasts eight previously unreleased tunes and guest appearances by Jessi Colter (Jennings’ wife), John Anderson, Montgomery Gentry and Travis Tritt. Although wracked with pain, Jennings imbues hits and concert favorites alike with trademark humor and defiance.


Country-folk-jazz fusion:
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