Sunday, May 27, 2007
Review: Country Music is Alive and Well in Tokyo!
Howdy Country Music Fans,
Gran'pa knows a few people as you might reckon and several of them were taking an overseas trip to Tokyo in Japan. Naturally, ole Gran'pa prodded them a bit to find a country music venue to hear that good old sound.
It took my friends a try or two, but they did manage to find a nightspot where one could hear some good ole true country music. They found a gal named Miya Ishida performing with the Citylites, which was led by her steel guitar playing father. They must have liked what they heard because they brought back a copy of her latest CD, Himawari; backing her up was her father's band, The Citylites.
Just the song titles alone would got my curiosity up a bit to hear their tunes. Blue Moon of Kentucky; Hobo's Meditation (the old Jimmie Rodgers tune); Roly Poly; (Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I; I Do My Crying At Night; You Don't Know How Lucky You Are and on it goes. A few golden oldies, some others of a later era.
Two of the tunes are in Japanese, the title song of the album, Himawari and Love Song. Miya co-wrote those two tunes with Katsuki Okayama. The CD includes the lyrics to the tunes, including the Japanese tunes. But you'll have to listen to the tunes she co-wrote as the lyrics included were only provided in Japanese. Perhaps forcing one to listen to the melodies, the instrumental backing and her voice.
To me, one of the tests is whether you would play the CD again after hearing it. This one I've listened to several times. My mode is to not necessarily play the songs in order, but use the car's or home stereo's shuffle feature. There are some nice country songs and arrangements on this one that Nashville today would be hard pressed to duplicate.
Hobo's Meditation got my attention. The instrumental intro to this tune seems to cause a person to think of the Far East then there's no mistaking the old tune - nicely done. Gran'pa may be fussing a bit, but Jimmie always yodeled on his recordings - every one of them. But that's hardly a minus on this CD, just reminding the folks out there to do your homework and know what Jimmie was about. No one's passed a law against yodeling that I'm aware of.
You Don't Know How Lucky You Are is another keeper and one I came back to more than a few times. She does ballads quite well, they seem to give Miya a chance to be a bit more expressive in her vocal inflections. Then like the old country recordings, her dad Shintaro Ishida kicks in with a nice steel guitar interlude between verses.
Miya sings tunes like Roly Poly and I Do My Crying At Night that will get your feet tapping in no time.
A couple of more modern tunes were "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and "Jolene" - tunes made famous by Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton. Not quite classical country but probably crowd pleasers with the rhythms those tunes provide.
Miya began singing with her father's group around 1992 or 1993 according to the notes sent to us by Mr. Ishida. He appeared at the International Steel Guitar Convention back in 1987, appeared onstage with Buddy Emmons and got himself a standing ovation as well. Shintaro has been playing country music since he was a teen-ager in high school.
Miya Ishida's Official Web Site is at: http://www.jah.ne.jp/~networld/country/
Til next time, keep it country and don't be afraid to hear some good steel guitar licks on a record once in a while. Thanks to some good friends, we got to listen to some great sounds that show that good country music crosses the borders and demographics. This one stays in my collection. Meanwhile, you folks traveling over to Tokyo - have no excuse for not finding some good country music while you're on the road.
Gran'pa H.M. Crittick
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Review: Darrell McCall - Old Memories and Wine
Howdy Country Music Fans,
Well, old Gran'pa took a while to get the keyboard oiled up to start reviewing the musical CD's that get sent to our post office box out yonder. Luckily I got a fella that drives down there every now and then to pick up the mail. 'Nuf said about that.
I imagine there's one or two of you out there that is out on the road somewhere away from home in some strange town, having to sleep in some place other than your own home. You ask around to the local folks you meet where you might here some country music. Work for the day is done, it's time to unwind a bit, relax, have a cold one - iced tea or whatever and a decent meal even. You're just getting ready to sip that cold one when you hear a twin fiddle or hard steel guitar kick off a tune ... and then the voice of that singer kicks in ... and suddenly, you're not so tired. You know you've come to the right place. You found the real deal.
Ole Gran'pa felt just like that when he started spinning this CD by Darrell McCall. There is no mistaking the sounds you hear on this CD. Darrell's voice is as strong and powerful as you knew it back then. The twin fiddles, steel guitar, rhythms - you can tell Darrell has a good handle on what "his" sound is. And his producer Justin Trevino was smart enough to not try to pop-i-fy it like today's conglomerate country music media radio outlets seem to play. You want to know what country music sounds like - this would be a good place to start.
You get a good mix of new and old songs on this CD. Darrell also introduces you to his family on this CD as well - his wife Mona sang two tunes, his son Cody sang harmony and his daughter wrote the title song. The album does not lose any of its appeal with those inclusions.
Remember the tunes "I Miss You Already" written by Faron Young? Or the classic "Divorce Me C.O.D."? A great showcase of Darrell's style - the Werly Fairburn tune, "I Feel Like Crying"? Then there's the old Roger Miller tune, "When Your House Is Not A Home" that ole Gran'pa recalls Connie Smith did. In fact, ole Gran'pa was thinking - Darrell and Connie would probably be an interesting duet on that tune. There's even an old Ernest Tubb tune written by Cindy Walker - "Answer the Phone".
I enjoyed the fiddle playing in the background on this CD (attributed to Bobby Flores) - the style, the sound level, the weaving in and out with Darrell's renditions - are what you enjoy hearing. The steel guitar sound by Dickie Overby and Rick Price - ole Gran'pa mutters - sounds great. Today's so-called country music radio seems to have put the steel guitar on the 'missing' picture you see on a milk carton sometimes. Once in a while it's almost too loud, but then, that sound and rawness is what gives the music its edge, makes you feel like you're listening to country music the way it was meant to be and many folks still enjoy.
We need more CD's like this.
Til next time, keep it country, will ya!?!
Gran'pa H.M. Crittick