SoundStage! Music Online Editor's Pick Archives
September/October 2000

Johnny Cash at San Quentin
Columbia/Legacy CK 66017, 2000

SnapShot! Rating:
****

If you think the music Nashville churns out nowadays is mindless, soulless, commercial dreck (do you know where I stand?), then Columbia/Legacy's American Milestones series will be a milestone for you. Classic country albums remastered and repackaged, some with previously unreleased tracks, will disappoint only the hardest-core haters of country music. And even these people may open their ears to a live recording of The Man in Black at The Big House on which "A Boy Named Sue," "Big River," and "Wreck of the Old 97" are done for appreciative and raucous inmates, and "Folsom Prison Blues," "Ring of Fire" and a closing medley are included as bonus tracks. This is American music done by an American icon to perhaps his most sympathetic audience, and Columbia/Legacy has done its level best to improve it. Unfortunately for sonics, there's not much to work with in terms of the circa-1969 diffuse and dynamically compressed master tapes, but the music carries this CD -- and the other recent American Milestones releases. Collect 'em all.....Marc Mickelson


Dave Stuckey and The Rhythm Gang - Get a Load of This
HighTone/HMG 3010, 2000

SnapShot! Rating:
****

A musical orgy attended by an abundance of like-minded pickers and players, Get a Load of This is sweet roots/rockabilly/western-swing candy. Dave Stuckey, formerly of Dave & Deke, fronts a cast from other CDs I've reviewed over the last year or so: The Hot Guitars of Biller and Wakefield, Kim Lenz and her Jaguars' The One and Only, The Hot Club of Cowtown's Tall Tales. Collectively they are referred to as The Rhythm Gang, and they display their rhythm and lead chops on a collection of covers and Stuckey originals that intertwine perfectly. There's a lot of soloing -- on steel guitar, fiddle, piano, clarinet, and trombone -- but the entirety of this disc is toe-tapping and addictive. The sound is closed in, even monophonic, but this gives it some old-timey charm. There's really nothing I can criticize here, and if you've bought and enjoyed any of other the discs I mention above, you'll want this one too....Marc Mickelson


David Wilcox - What You Whispered
Vanguard 79564-2, 2000

SnapShot! Rating:
***1/2

In the acute and heartfelt observations of his songs, David Wilcox brings James Taylor to mind. And like Taylor, Wilcox proves that being, ahem, emotionally literate, even almost to the point of melodrama, can be cool. "This Tattoo" begins with some plinkly banjo, then goes on to tell the under-the-skin story of choices and actions. "Rule Number One" explains the critical first rule of dating: "better to run, get away clean" instead of overlooking or accepting less-than-ideal traits in others. Thus it's small observations that are bedrock on What You Whispered and perhaps the reason why most of the songs hover around three minutes in length. Why belabor the point? Wilcox's voice and enunciation are so clear that you won't need the non-existent liner notes to understand his words or delivery, and this makes these songs of heart and soul all the more attention-grabbing, even vital....Marc Mickelson


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