Saturday, August 31, 2013

Album Review: Possumdiva by Heather Luttrell

There are many divas in the world of pop music, maybe even too many. But there is only one Possumdiva, and that’s Heather Luttrell. While the divas smile for the camera and wait for someone else to write their next hit song, Heather Luttrell is busy writing her own lyrics, arranging the music, playing guitar and bringing it all to life with a killer southern fried voice (and did I mention she also designs the album covers!) All of Heather’s talents are on full display on her latest album, Possumdiva. Backed by her sparse, but talented Possum Den band, Heather creates a sonic American Southern Gothic. Dancing a little on the dark side, Heather is not afraid to do things her way; but unlike other “outlaw” acts, she’s not afraid to admit that she might be wrong in doing it. Maybe that’s why she bills her music as “Outlaw Americana for the Thinking Drunk.”

She brings her drinking and thinking to the forefront on the album’s first song, “Road Home to Hell.”  Like the old Drivin’ N Cryin’ song, “I’m Going Straight to Hell,” Heather gives up on trying to please her mama and decides to live life on her terms no matter what the outcome. She sings, “you can lead this horse to water, it don’t mean it’s still not wild,” That “don’t give a damn” attitude plays throughout the entire album, but her voice and lyrics are so compelling you just can’t stop listening, even if it might be you that she’s telling off. She swaggers unrepentantly through songs like “Perfect Day,” (“Then the sidewalk punched my face when I got back to my place. And somehow my drinking still ainʼt done.”) “More Fun To Sin,” and “He’ll Do Till He Quits Doin.”

Her voice brims with confidence showing influences from Bonnie Raitt, Patty Griffin, Marcia Ball and even a touch of Aretha Franklin, whom she does justice to with her cover of Dr. Feelgood. There are also a few moments of tenderness here. “Broken Covnersation” and “What is Wanting” are both touching love songs. But with Heather being Heather, these love songs do not have happy endings. Perhaps the most intense moment of the album is the song “Redemption.” Like a gospel song for the damned, “Redemption” tells a burning bed type story of a woman pushed too far; and now “Hell’s coming home in a gingham dress.” Unwilling to play dead, this Possum Diva stands and fights by her own rules. I could go on all day about this album, but as Heather rightly sings on the album’s last song, “Well Done Is Better Than Well Said,” so go listen for yourself and you’ll see how well done this album really is!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Album Review: Old Fashion Gal by The Carper Family

Believe it or not, there was a time when Country artists didn't feel the need to open their live shows with a Guns 'n Roses cover. They didn't feel the need to try to be a rock star or a movie star or a reality TV star. They were comfortable to just be themselves and to let their music do the talking. The Carper Family is a nice reminder that there are still a few Country artists who care more about the music than the image.

Their first album, 2011's Back When received tons of critical praise and I'm happy to say they pick up right where they left off with this year's Old Fashion Gal. With beautiful three part harmonies and an abundance of fiddle and mandolin, The Carper Family continues to deliver vibrant Country music that sounds authentic, but not dated. "Box Car Blues" is a fun footstomper that rates with the best of the Dixie Chicks in their prime. "Bad Attitude" is a sassy Texas swing that packs as much attitude as any of today's "outlaws." With tongue in cheek, they sing, "When I pack a bag, I've gotta pack two: one for me and one for my bad attitude."

Of course there's also great stories of love, loss and lament like "Precious Jewel," "Foolish Ramblin' Man," "Dollar Bill," and "I've Tried;" all of which combine Emmylou Harris - depth lyrics with Pistol Annies harmonies. In "Dollar Bill" for example they lament, "I'm outside on the road so far from home wishin I could be there again. But your love disappeared, strangled by fear and a broken heart you couldn't mend. The Carpers even add a few slow burning jazz songs in "Gotta Have My Baby Back," and "Ooh Baby."

But for me the theme of the album (and perhaps the era) crystallizes in the song, "City Folks." Singing, "Honeysuckle smells just like sweet perfume, hound dogs lying over by the door, watermelon rind mama puts up in a jar - and city folks call us poor." Taking joy in life's simple pleasures, The Carper Family reminds us that we don't need big city advertisers or executives to tell us what's important. Family, good friends and good music are about all any of us really need to be truly happy. And these old fashion gals deliver all three!