Traveling the Americana music highway with Sturgill Simpson, John Fullbright, & Jason Isbell

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Every generation talks about the dearth of genuine, good music being made by “real musicians” as compared to days gone by. However, I find that premise a fallacy. When I was a kid, I just had to dig a little deeper to hear some great music being made (usually being played way left of the dial on college radio), and I escaped the vapid pop of the day. Today is no different. I present to you some talented, soulful, creative, real-deal musicians making real-deal music. Hailing from Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Alabama respectively, Sturgill Simpson, John Fullbright, and Jason Isbell are some of the most lauded roots musicians making music today.

Sturgill Simpson has been gaining a lot of popularly lately with his old-school country sounds and soulful vocals. He recently played an NPR Tiny Desk concert and was nominated for a Grammy Awards for best Americana album for his Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. His sound harkens back to the likes of Waylon Jennings while still sounding new and original. (I found out that I am not the only one that makes that comparison). Here he is with “Life of Sin”:

 

John Fullbright was born and raised on a 80-acre farm in Oklahoma. His debut album, From the Ground Up, was an homage to the farm house he grew up in and it was nominated for a Grammy in 2013. He was a critical success. And his latest album, Songs has also been well-received. Here is “Gawd Above” from the first album:

 

Jason Isbell, a former band member of southern rock band Drive-By Truckers, made one of the most acclaimed albums of 2013. After several solo albums, Jason Isbell hit big with his fourth solo album, Southeastern. This song really choked me up. Here is “Traveling alone”:

My reintroduction to dancehall reggae

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When I first heard dancehall reggae as I understood the sound, it was the early 1990s and every club was playing “Murder She Wrote” by Chaka Demus & Pliers. I hit the dance floor every time a DJ played it. Because that was the sound I was used to when I heard dancehall, I associated it with loud shouting vocals and heavy beats. Recently, I’ve was given a lesson on the true history of dancehall and it sounds much different than I realized, much more soulful and mellow with some echo or reverb, I would almost mistake it for roots reggae. When it comes to Jamaican music and musical history, there is so much variety, from rocksteady, ska, roots reggae, dancehall, dub, etc. It really is quite incredible. Forgive me for those who are steeped in this music, as I am just a beginner. I already did a post on ska and another post is in the works about an enlightening documentary I saw called The Legends of Ska. The following songs are just a small sampling, but please add your favorites in the comments. Some other notable artists are Yellowman, Tenor Saw, Brigadier Jerry, Charlie Chaplin, Beenie Man, among many others.

The following song immediately grabbed my attention. If I heard this and wasn’t told, I would have thought it was some type of roots reggae, but this is an original dancehall classic by well-known singer Sister Nancy. “Bam Bam” was released in 1982 and has been featured in movies, video games, and sampled by other artists:

A mellow and soulful classic dancehall tune by the prolific Barrington Levy is “Murderer” released in 1984:

I heard the following song in the clubs and on the radio in the early 1990s, but had no idea it was a dancehall tune. Dawn Penn’s “You Don’t Love Me”:

One of the most famous dancehall artists is none other than Eek-A-Mouse. Here he is with the classic “Wa-Do-Dem”:

Beyond the super bowl: revisiting the prolific talent of Missy Elliott

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I’m a couple weeks late on this blog post, but I had to add my voice to the chorus of people who were so happy to see Missy Elliot back in the spotlight at this year’s super bowl with Katy Perry. Considering that her songwriting, production, and performing was the soundtrack of my twenties, I owe it to her to express my admiration here. Not only is she a talented songwriter and rapper/performer, she also is a uber-talented producer. According to Wikipedia, Missy Elliott:

“…is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, and record producer. Her first major success came as a songwriter with childhood friend and producer Timbaland on projects for Aaliyah, 702, Total, and SWV. As a record producer and songwriter, she has worked with Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Janet_Jackson, as well as contemporary artists Keyshia Cole, G Dragon, Tamia, Monica, and Ciara…In the late 1990s, Elliott expanded her career as a solo artist and rapper, eventually winning five Grammy Awards and selling over 30 million records in the United States. Elliott is the only female rapper to have six albums certified platinum…including one double platinum for her 2002 album Under Construction.”

My first introduction to her was in 1996 for her songwriting on Aaliyah’s classic album, One in a Million, though I did not know I was being introduced to her. When I first became aware of Missy, it was through her own song “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” on her album Supa Dupa Fly, released in 1998. I cannot tell you how many times I played that song:

Here are some other songs she produced or wrote and/or performed. God bless the super bowl for bringing her back to the spotlight where she deserves to be. Let’s take a trip down memory lane from the late 1990s through the mid 2000s. We want more Missy!

She produced this song “Trippin'” off of Total’s 1998 album Kima, Keisha & Pam:

She wrote this Aaliyah song, “Are U Feeling Me?” from the 2000 Soundtrack to Romeo Must Die:

Elliott produced this modern version of “Lady Marmalade” in 2001, from the Soundtrack to Moulin Rouge:

Missy wrote, produced and performed this song from her 2003 album This is Not a Test, “Pass That Dutchie”:

Another stellar tune written, produced, and performed by Missy, “We Run This”, on her 2005 album The Cookbook: