Decade of Difference

Decade of Difference: Soundgarden

Soundgarden was able to carve a niche for hard rock in the evolving genre of alternative rock, drawing on influences from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath combined with intelligence and humor pulled from the underground rock movement.

One of the first bands released on Seattle’s iconic Sub Pop label, they looked to be the first band to break through commercially from the alt rock world, but it was not the case as Nirvana eclipsed them in 1991. Itv was not until 1994 that Soundgarden would have a major successful release with Superunknown. Leading the album was Black Hole Sun, a major international hit that was one of two singles from the album to win a Grammy. After their following album Down on the Upside also delivered multiple hit singles, the band broke up, suffering from internal strife.

After their breakup in 1997, the band members from Soundgarden spent a decade working on other projects. In 2010 Chris Cornell announced that the band was reforming. The band first released a compilation album, before recording new material in 2012.

There was to be no more new material from the band. In 2016 the band announced that they had several songs written for a new record, but in 2017 Chris Cornell was discovered dead in a Detroit hotel room, victim of an apparent suicide. Soundgarden cancelled the remainder of their tour.

After two years of debating the future of the band guitarist Kim Thayil announced that the band name Soundgarden would be retired. Other than appearing at a tribute concert for Cornell, the surviving band members have not played together.

2021-09-15T22:35:15-04:00September 16th, 2021|

Decade of Difference: Jerry Douglas

Jerry Douglas came into playing the dobro through his father who was a bluegrass musician. As a teen he played with his father’s band, when a member of the bluegrass group The Country Gentlemen heard him. They took Douglas on tour with them for the rest of the summer and then later brought him into a recording studio. Douglas established himself as an in-demand studio musician, a position he has maintained over the years. To date, Jerry Douglas has appeared on over 1500 records and received 32 Grammy nominations, winning 14.

On his own, Douglas has 14 albums crossing a range of genres. His first two albums in the 70s stuck to traditional folk and bluegrass but with a jazz influenced spin. Later albums drew on the skills of artists that he encountered through his studio work, with collaborations on his records with Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, Peter Rowan and others.

Jerry Douglas has paid tribute to his biggest influence, the bluegrass band Flatt and Scruggs by playing in the tribute group Earls of Leicester. The tribute band won a Grammy in 2015 for their debut album.

With more than 1500 albums to his credit, you would think there would be no one left that Douglas would like to play with – but there was at least one. Douglas had wanted to record with John Hiatt. Despite their both appearing on the second Circle record from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, they did not actually meet.

Finally they met up backstage at the Newport Folk Festival and later Hiatt’s manager suggested that Douglas should produce his next album. When both agreed, the recording was scheduled – unfortunately during the pandemic – but it worked out.

According to Douglas, “So we went in and the pandemic hit. We were supposed to do this in April of 2020. So that wasn’t happening as the studios were closed but we finally got into RCA B that belongs to the Country Music Hall Of Fame. It’s where Chet Atkins made all the records with Elvis and the Everly Brothers and Dolly Parton and everybody recorded in that studio. So because covid had hit Nashville, they couldn’t do tours through the studio so we all masked up and went in there and separated ourselves in the room and made this record in about four days.”

2021-09-13T08:30:28-04:00September 14th, 2021|

Decade of Difference: Tom T. Hall

One of America’s most successful songwriters, Tom T. Hall passed away in mid August. Known as “the Storyteller”, Hall wrote 12 number one songs with an additional 26 that reached the top 10.

Born in Kentucky, Hall organized his first band to play between movies for a traveling theater. While in the Army he performed on the Armed Forces Radio Network and after discharge enrolled at Roanoke College. It was there he began working as a radio DJ, with stops at several stations in the mid atlantic. A song written about his experiences, DJ for a Day was his break into music when country singer Jimmy C. Newman recorded it.

Going to work for Newman, Hall became a $50 a week songwriter, composing up to six country songs a day.

Tom T. Hall wrote one of the first pro Vietnam War songs during a time when most music was aimed at opposing views. After Johnnie Wright took the song Hello Vietnam to number one on the country charts, Hall was encouraged to begin recording some of his songs himself. His first record came in 1967 and in 1969, when Jeannie C. Riley took his Harper Valley PTA to number one interest in his recordings increased. Hall was a fixture on the country charts through the mid 70s. He aided this through regular TV appearances on the widely popular “Hee Haw”country variety show.

Hall’s production slowed by the early 80s, and in 1986 he stopped writing songs. In 1994 retired from performing in 1994 and appeared on stage only one more time in 2011. Among his many awards, Hall was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and won the IBMA Songwriter of the Year award twelve times.

2021-09-09T14:39:00-04:00September 13th, 2021|

Decade of Difference: Dave Edmunds

Welshman Dave Edmunds played in his first band as a ten year old with his brother Geoff. Initially Dave played piano but quickly moved on to guitar in a series of bands that formed and split in the late 50’s and early 60’s. After working in a Parlophone Records house band for a couple of years, Edmunds joined blues rock band Love Sculpture, which had some low level hits in the UK. That band folded by the end of the 60’s.

It was in 1970 that Dave Edmunds had his biggest solo hit. I Hear you Knockin’ was certified Gold in the US and the UK. At this point Dave Edmunds was focused primarily on the art of producing music Phil Spector style. He spent much of his time in studios re-creating an oldies sound by meticulously laying down track upon track – mostly recordings of himself. It was not unusual for Edmunds to use 40 tracks on a single, and he became proficient at generating records with the sound of old Sun and Chess classics.

Dave Edmunds applied his production skills to artists emerging from the70’s pub rock scene in the UK, including Shakin’ Stevens and Brinsley Schwartz. It was through the latter that Edmunds met Nick Lowe and the pair began a long term creative collaboration through the band Rockpile.

Rockpile amassed a string of hits in the 70s and toured constantly. The band released five complete records with three others appearing under Dave Edmunds’ name and one more under Nick Lowe’s name. 1979 was a busy year for the band, recording solo records from both Lowe and Edmunds. The group finally split up in 1981 citing displeasure with their manager. Lowe and Edmunds did not work together again until 1988.

2021-09-09T07:55:19-04:00September 10th, 2021|

Decade of Difference: Madeleine Peyroux

Madeleine Peyroux is known for her reinterpretation of classic jazz, blues and folk songs. Her initial album, 1996’s Dreamland demonstrated this using a group of seasoned jazz performers and song list of classics. Growing up the daughter of hippies in Athens, Georgia, Peyroux began performing as a busker on the streets of Paris after she and her mother moved there when she was 13 and for several years toured Europe with the Wandering Blues and Jazz Band covering jazz standards.

It took eight years for Peyroux to complete her second album with Careless Love appearing in 2004. Although it also was an album primarily featuring covers, it was a more contemporary and diverse set. The album was certified Gold in several countries including the United States.

After another well received album of covers reached the Billboard charts in 2006, Madeleine Peyroux further developed her sound with a 2009 album of original material. It was a creative gamble that paid off with the album debuting at number one on the jazz charts.

Since then Peyroux has managed to broaden her sound while remaining true to her musical roots, sticking primarily to material from iconic musicians she has treasured through the years like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Carole King.

‘I am a singer first, and always have been,’ she says. ‘So lyrics are incredibly important to the way that I approach any song. Therefore, I cannot deny that my songwriting heroes are the great lyricists.

2021-09-08T12:25:26-04:00September 9th, 2021|

Decade of Difference: Alison Krauss

At five Alison Krauss began violin lessons and after tiring of classical music she turned her attention to country and bluegrass. By eight she was competing in talent contests, at ten she had her own band and at twelve she won the Illinois State Fiddle Championship.

She played on her first record as a fourteen year old and signed a recording contract that same year. Krauss and her band recorded their first record in 1987 and the group went on to win the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America’s National Band Championship contest.

Completing her whirlwind introduction to the music industry, Krauss was nominated for a Grammy in 1989 and then won her first one in 1990.

Alison Krauss continued her eclectic recording mix in the 90s, finding her music appearing on the country, bluegrass and pop charts. 1995’s Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection appeared in the top 10 on both the country and pop charts. In 2002 her contribution to the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack and a following tour caused her popularity to soar.

Krauss has built on her successful vocal and fiddle playing through many collaborations – none more successful than her Grammy winning album with Robert Plant Raising Sand. The pair have just announced a second record together coming later this year, twelve years after the original collaboration.

2021-09-05T20:58:53-04:00September 7th, 2021|

Decade of Difference: Chuck E. Weiss

There really was a ‘Chuck E’ – the focus of Ricki Lee Jones’s hit Chuck E’s in Love’. The song rose to number 4 on the charts in 1979 and remains Jones’s biggest hit. At the time, Jones and her lover, singer/songwriter Tom Waits spent a lot of time with Weiss in LA, until one day he disappeared. Later Weiss called to explain he was in Denver and had fallen in love. When Waits told Jones ‘Chuck E’s in Love, a song was born.

Chuck E. Weiss grew up in Denver where his parents owned a record store. Hanging around local music venues, Weiss met Lightnin’ Hopkins who was impressed with his drumming, and took him along on tour. After settling in LA, Weiss released his first record in 1981 with a long gap, a second record in 2000.

Weiss was associated with the LA music scene for decades – an association he explained as a fear of flying that limited his ability to travel. After eleven years playing Monday nights at a local club called The Central, it closed. Weiss and friend Johnny Depp bought the club and reopened it as The Viper. The most notable event at the Viper was it’s being the site of River Phoenix’s death in 1993.

Weiss’s music ranged across almost every genre. He was noted for including beat poetry and blues in his songs which could also feature nursery rhymes and zydeco. Chuck E. Weiss died in July at the age of 76.

2021-09-05T20:56:11-04:00September 6th, 2021|

Decade of Difference: Hank Thompson

For seven decades, Hank Thompson performed his style of western swing, popularizing the genre with his version, lighter and less instrumental heavy than his contemporary Bob Wills. Growing up in Waco, Texas Thompson was interested in music and won contests with his harmonica playing.

After entering the Navy during World War II, Thompson began studying electrical engineering at Princeton University. He expected to continue in that discipline after discharge, but music remained a draw. After his records became regional hits, Thompson abandoned engineering to pursue music full time.

Initially a honky tonk singer, Thompson reconfigured his band for western swing in an effort to obtain more dance hall jobs. It worked as Thompson and his band, the Brazos Valley Boys were voted best Country Western Band by Billboard magazine for fourteen straight years.

In the 1950s Hank Thompson had 21 top 20 songs with five of those reaching the top 10 in 1954. His biggest hit The Wild Side of Life stuck at number one for three months and inspired Kitty Wells to record a response, It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, Her song became the first number one country song by a female artist.

Thompson was an innovative promoter. Along with his distinctive wardrobe he traveled with a sound and lighting crew – the first country artist to do so. His variety show, airing from Oklahoma, was the first to be broadcast in color.

His career began to decline in the mid 60s when country tastes moved towards the Bakersfield sound. Thompson remained on the charts through the mid 70s and toured into the 2000s. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

2021-09-02T08:06:25-04:00September 3rd, 2021|

Decade of Difference: Sturgill Simpson

Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson appeared seemingly out of nowhere to earn a Grammy nomination with his 2014 release Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. In fact Simpson had been performing since 2004 and had released three earlier albums.

Growing up in eastern Kentucky’s coal mining region, Simpson and family moved to Versailles where he would become the first male member on his mothers side not to end up as a coal miner. Simpson entered the Navy and settled back in Kentucky after discharge.

An initial attempt to become a star in Nashville ended in 2004 and Simpson gave up, focusing on making a career for himself on the railroad. Playing music was a side gig until 2012, when Simpson moved again to Nashville. 2013’s self-funded High Top Mountain set the stage for his successful album in 2014.

Sturgill Simpson took over production on his 2016 album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Drawing on non-traditional influences for a country album, Simpson covered one Nirvana song and also used The Dap-Kings on the record. Earning Simpson two more Grammy nominations, the album won in the best country album category. Planning to take a break from touring, Simpson reconsidered after the Grammy win. On tour he suffered a relapse into substance abuse.

His following album, Sound & Fury was born from this experience and was what he described as a “Sleazy, Steamy rock’n’roll record”. For his past three records, Simpson has focused on bluegrass, with two volumes of his own earlier works revisited with an all star bluegrass band. Those are now followed by The Ballad of Dood and Juanita. Simpson says this will be the last record he releases under his own name – choosing now to focus on assembling a band.

2021-09-01T08:36:15-04:00September 2nd, 2021|

Decade of Difference: INXS

INXS had its beginnings in a family act, the Fariss Brothers. The three boys broke out into two separate bands with one of those including vocalist Michael Hutchence. Eventually, they merged the two and in 1979 renamed themselves INXS after the youngest Fariss graduated high school.

After playing Australian pubs, the band landed a record contract and had an instant impact in their home country. Their US debut came with 1983’s Shabooh Shoobah and this began their fast rise to US stardom, culminating in 1987’s Kick. The album featured four top 10 singles and was a multi-platinum seller. With his fusion of rock and synth, Hutchence was hailed by some as the heir to Mick Jagger’s rock vocalist throne and the band was as popular on tour as U2.

In 1990, INXS released their followup to Kick. X slowed the band’s momentum with only one successful single and lots of negative reviews. The emergence of alternative rock made the band’s new wave sound seem out of date.

Michael Hutchence lived a jet-setter’s lifestyle which began to crash down on him in the mid 90’s through a series of tabloid scandals. After an affair with British TV personality Paula Yates ended her marriage to Bob Geldof, Hutchence hinted at a solo record.

The last album from INXS featuring Hutchence was 1997’s Elegantly Wasted and the band had adapted their sound to have a final hit with the album becoming their most popular release of the 90s.

On November 22 , 1997 Michael Hutchence was found dead in his Sydney hotel room, the victim of an apparent hanging. His long-in-the-works solo debut was posthumously issued in late 1999.

2021-09-01T09:39:56-04:00September 1st, 2021|