Having taken time out to work with Mary Karr and Emmylou Harris on Kin and Old Yellow Moon respectively, Rodney Crowell returns with a brand new album that finds him working again with Steuart Smith and a band that were an integral part of his sound in the late-1980s and were responsible for his breakthrough album Diamonds And Dirt.

    Long before the term Americana was coined as a genre Rodney Crowell had pushed the boundaries of country and rock, made a name for himself and gained respect as a singer and songwriter.

    Tarpaper Sky proves, once again, that the Houston Kid remains as important as ever and finds him mixing ballads and rock and roll rhythms with his characteristic autobiographical detail. It is an album that would sit well between 1988s Diamonds And Dirty and 1992s Life Is Messy.

    Opening with The Long Journey Home, with its ageless theme of wanderlust, the album moves into the cajun charm of Fever On The Bayou, featuring mandolin and accordion, which finds Crowell singing to a Louisiana belle. The rampaging rock and roll rhythms of Frankie Please follows and leaves you in no doubt that you want to meet her! 

    The band, Steuart Smith (guitar), Michael Rhodes (bass), John Hobbs (piano), Eddie Bayers (drums/piano) and Crowell (guitar) along with the guest musicians really rock on Frankie Please and are excellent throughout the whole album.

    He revisits life's lessons with Jesus Talk To Mama, in which he celebrates his mother's faith and pays tribute to his mentor Guy Clark with The Flyboy And The Kid. Other highlights include the poignant country waltz I Wouldn't Be Me Without You, Famous Last Words Of A Fool In Love and the closing track Oh What A Beautiful World.

    However, the highlight for me has to be the sparse and intimate God, I'm Missing You performed with an ache in his heart and you would have to be made of stone for the mournful lyrics not to tug at your heart. Co-written with Mary Karr this song, as performed by Lucinda Williams, had appeared on the album Kin although Crowell's own reading of the lyrics is far superior.

    Talking about the songs on the album Crowell said, "…they are mostly pastorals – pictures from an imaginary countryside that tell unadorned stories with straightforward language and energetic musicianship."

    I saw Rodney Crowell back in the seventies with Emmylou Harris and bought his first album, Ain't Living Long Like This, in 1978 on the day of release. Since then I have purchased every album including Street Language (1986), Diamonds And Dirt (1988), Jewel Of The South (1995), The Houston Kid (2001) and Sex And Gasoline (2008). Crowell's remarkable career continues with Tarpaper Sky and as the Los Angeles Times commented, "Along with peers such as Emmylou Harris and John Hiatt, who also launched their careers in the '70s, Crowell seems to have found the fuel to just keep getting better."

    Tarpaper Sky is available from the 'Other Artists' category at the Johnny Cash Fanzine Store.
    I received a copy of David Roberts excellent book Rock Atlas back in early 2013 and have just been sent a copy of the follow-up, Rock Atlas USA. My review covers both volumes and many of the comments apply to both.

    Each book gives the reader a guide to 650 music locations with fascinating details and stories along with hundreds of rare photos in colour and black & white.
    All the well-known locations are listed – Abbey Road Studios and the famous zebra crossing, The Cavern Club, Tin Pan Alley, Strawberry Fields, Sun Studio, Elvis Presley's Graceland, The Capitol Tower, Woodstock, Bob Dylan's birthplace and many more. Likewise all the major stars are featured – The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and  The Rolling Stones.

    However, it is the wealth of information on the less-well known locations and other artists that make both of these books such a fascinating read. The entries cover graves, plaques, memorials, locations of album cover and video shoots, record stores, venues and recording studios and artists including The Jam, Duffy, Linda Ronstadt, The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix…the list just goes on and on!

    It would be impossible to list them all but, in the United Kingdom edition, it was interesting to read about where Joe Meek recorded hits like Telstar, the site of Elvis Presley's only visit to the UK (Prestwick Airport in Scotland), Regent Sounds Studio in Denmark Street and the BBC's Maida Vale Studios.

    Across the pond you can read about Gram Parsons shrine in Joshua Tree, the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem, the monument to The Beach Boys in their hometown of Hawthorne and where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper lost their lives in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.

    Do you know where the cover photo of Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds Of Silence was taken, the location of Johnny Cash's two famous prison concerts or the history of Doug Weston's famous club The Troubadour…you'll find it all in the USA edition which  also includes information about my favourite (musically speaking) areas of Tennesee, Mississippi and Louisiana.

    Roberts has done an incredible job of bringing all these facts together and, as a music journalist, avid collector and despite having visited many of the places listed there were still hundreds of facts and hidden gems that I did not know about before. My only minor complaint is the lack of an index in the United Kingdom & Ireland edition. Both books are worthy additions to any music fans library and indispensable guides to anyone who wants to take a road trip and visit many of the locations listed. Highly recommended!

    Both books can be ordered from the Other Artists category here - http://www.johnnycashfanzine.com/store.html

    Elvis opened his longest tour since 1955 with shows at the Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma on 1st and 2nd March 1974. Other dates on the tour included Houston (Astrodome), Montgomery (Garrett Coliseum), Monroe (Civic Center),  Roanoke (Civic Center),  Murfreesboro (Middle Tennessee State University), Richmond (Coliseum) and the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. 

    The four Memphis shows, at 2:30pm and 8:30pm on both the 16th and 17th March, were Elvis' first appearances in his hometown since 1961 when he played two charity shows at the Ellis Auditorium. Originally just three concerts were planned but the high demand for tickets resulted in an additional show being added on the 17th. Apparently 4,000 tickets were being sold each day, an amazing record when you consider the average was between 400-500 for other artists. All four concerts were sold out with an estimated 12,300 attending each performance.

    Reviewing one of the shows Jane Sanderson, entertainment correspondent for the Press-Scimitar, wrote, "Like a streak of white lightning, Preslet darts on stage. He is dramatically clad in  all-whitewhich sparkles with jewels and nailheads with a jacket slit to the waist and a diamond cross hanging from his neck." Concentrating on his actual performance she went on to say, "He rolls his eyes, jerks his head, thrusts his shoulder forward, points to pretty girls, slaps his guitar, and, of course, shakes his hips. They scream, yell, cry, clap and do their best to drown out what they came to hear."

    The tour closed on 20th March with a fifth show in Memphis. Once again a sold out crowd of 12,300 were in attendance. The gross for all five Memphis shows was reported as exceeding $586,000 with $50,000 going to the Coliseum…not bad for three days and five shows work!

    This final date on the tour was recorded for album release. The Commercial Appeal, dated 21 March, mentioned that Elvis had turned down requests from other cities on his current tour to record in order to save the recorded show for his hometown fans. Looking forward to the show Elvis said, "Man, I'm ready and prepared for this recording session. I was a little worried for the first show last Saturday, but the audience knocked me out. They were great and I appreciated it."

    Elvis Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis was released in July and sold better than most of his recent studio offerings when it passed the 500,000 mark. To avoid duplication with the recently released Aloha From Hawaii album several songs were left off including Steamroller Blues, Fever and Suspicious Minds. Although nobody seemed to notice or worry about it at the time the album suffered from additional applause being added in certain places to increase the excitement.

    Unlike most of Elvis's album covers in the seventies this did not feature a photo of Elvis on the cover. Instead there was a lovely image of Graceland on the front while the rear sleeve sported a shot of the famous Graceland gates. Ironic when you consider that almost every studio album released in the seventies featured a live photo!

    In 2004 the Follow That Dream (FTD) label issued the 'almost' complete concert in a deluxe edition which included a colour booklet with photographs, albeit slightly blurry, from the actual concert. Once again there were issues with the sound with the the addition of extra reverb. The false start on Help Me and some of the dialogue was also omitted.

    The original album has now been issued under the Legacy Edition series along with another concert from the tour. (Note: I was sent an advance/promo copy of this set which had a number of errors with missing and duplicated tracks but I have been assured that these errors will not appear on the finished product.)

    Disc 1 features the complete concert and it features some great performances. There are many highlights including Trying To Get To You, Steamroller Blues which is far superior to the Aloha performance, the rock and roll medley, a powerful version of How Great Thou Art which won Elvis his third and final Grammy, Blueberry Hill/I Can't Stop Loving YouMy Baby Left Me and Lawdy Miss Clawdy. The only disappointments are J. D. Sumners awful 'dive-bomb' routine, the sloppy performance of Fever and the endless introductions but, overall, it is still a great concert. It is just a shame that following on from the 1973 sessions that he didn't add some of the songs from the Good Times and Promised Land albums to the set list.

    Disc 2 features a concert recorded two days earlier in Richmond which has previously been issued by the FTD label as 48 Hours From Memphis. The show, which is almost identical to the Memphis show, was recorded by RCA but the tapes have long-since vanished and here we are presented with a mono recording. This show was probably recorded as a test prior to recording the Memphis show and could also have been considered as a back-up should problems arise with the later recording.

    The final five tracks are taken from an August 1974 rehearsal prior to opening yet another Vegas engagement. All have been released before and suffer from poor quality recording. However, they are interesting to listen to especially as it includes one of my favourite 1970s Elvis studio recordings, Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues.

    The Richmond show is identical to the FTD release but it is the Memphis concert that is the highlight. Although it is a matter of personal taste, for me they have at last sorted out the earlier issues with no added reverb or applause, and it sounds so much better. The missing dialogue is also reinstated as is the false start on Help Me.

    As Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis was always and still is one of my favourite Elvis live albums and far superior to Aloha From Hawaii. OK, it can't match the excitement and commitment of On StageFrom Memphis To Vegas or That's The Way It is but proves that, even in 1974, Elvis could still pack a punch and deliver the goods when he put his mind to it.
    'It's always been said that a person cannot return to their hometown but you have disproven that theory completely and you really made it worthwhile.' — Elvis Presley (March 1974)
    The River & The Thread is Rosanne Cash’s first new album for four years since the release of The List. In fact Cash considers this latest release as part of a trilogy following Black Cadillac (mourning and loss) with The List (a celebration of her family’s musical legacy) and now The River & The Thread which ties past and present together through all the people and places in the South which she knew and thought she had left behind. 
    The journey towards the album began when the Arkansas State University contacted her about purchasing her father’s home in Dyess. This led to a series of benefit concerts and then Cash and her husband John Leventhal took several trips to the South visiting various locations including Dockery Farms (the plantation where Charlie Patton and Howlin’ Wolf worked and sang), William Faulkner’s home and Natchez and the blues trail. They also travelled to Memphis and the Mississippi Delta where they sought out the Tallahatchie Bridge, made famous in the Bobbie Gentry song Ode To Billie Joe.

    These were just a few of the influences that led to the writing of the album for which Cash and Leventhal wrote all the songs. Leventhal also produced and played many of the instruments. The album evokes images of the Southern landscape and captures a wide cast of characters - a New Deal farmer from Arkansas, a soldier off to fight in the Civil War and a couple from Mobile, Alabama.

    The musical styles on the album reflect the South ranging from Appalachian folk, country, gospel and delta blues. It is hard to pick highlights as there is not a bad track on the album but I particularly liked The Sunken Lands, Etta’s Tune, Tell Heaven, World Of Strange Design and When The Master Calls The Roll. The latter features a choir of Amy Helm, Kris Kristofferson, Tony Joe White, John Prine and Rodney Crowell. It was Crowell, along with Leventhal, who wrote the original lyrics intending to give it to Emmylou Harris. With Cash’s son researching the Civil War she approached Crowell about rewriting the lyrics to craft a Civil War ballad.

    The Deluxe Edition contains three bonus tracks – Two Girls, Biloxi and Your Southern Heart all of which are worthy additions to her tour of the South. The CD is housed in a 36-page book full of photos and mementos from or inspired by her journey through the South along with lyrics and notes about each song from both Rosanne and John Leventhal.

    The River & The Thread is a beautiful and haunting collection of songs and is one of her finest works, which is saying something when you consider the quality of her previous albums.

    The standard CD, Deluxe Edition and vinyl issue are all available from the 'Other Artists' category at the Johnny Cash Fanzine Store.
    "I went back to where I was born, and these songs started arriving in me. All these things happened that made me feel a deeper connection to the South than I ever had. We started finding these great stories, and the melodies that went with those experiences." — Rosanne Cash
    I had visited both Nashville and Memphis with my wife Carole back in 1998 and we both hoped to return one day, especially to Nashville. When the news came through that a Johnny Cash Memorial Tribute would be held at the Ryman in November of 2003 I was very keen to attend although, due to other commitments, felt that it would be impossible. It was Carole who encouraged me to make the trip and, although she couldn’t come with me, I started making plans.
    Ryman Auditorium, Legends Corner and Tootsies
    I was fortunate to get a ticket for the show from Cash's manager Lou Robin and made plans that would include attending the show, some research at the Country Music Hall of Fame and hopefully some interviews for the fanzine.

    In the weeks approaching the trip Bill Miller, from the official website, had made arrangements for a special price at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Nashville. It would be good that so many people from the forum would be staying in one place. Each day seemed to get better as plans were then announced for a party at the hotel after the Memorial Show. Just a few days before I was due to leave the really exciting news came through that members of Johnny Cash’s band would be playing at the party! Andy Novak would be playing lead guitar and handling the vocals with Cash band members  Earl Poole Ball, W. S. ‘Fluke’ Holland and Dave Roe backing him.

    Leaving Gatwick Airport on Friday 7 November I arrived in Nashville and my hotel early in the evening. A bite to eat, a drink and an early night prepared me for the busy time ahead.

    On the Saturday I paid a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and took the opportunity to visit the world famous RCA Studio B, where Elvis recorded many of his hits. I had been there with Carole back in 1998 but it was fun to go again.

    I also had the opportunity to meet up with Lou Robin and his lovely wife Karen for about half an hour at his hotel. It was the first time I had met Lou although we had spoken on the phone many times. They were both so friendly and complementary about my work. Lou gave me my ticket for the Memorial Show to save having to sort it out on the night.
    On the Sunday people from the forum started arriving and in the afternoon I travelled out to the Cemetery, Cash’s home and the House of Cash with Jim Pearson, his daughter Missy and Kelli Bodenheimer. We had organised all this via email before I left home and it was so kind of Jim to do all the driving. I was shocked a few years ago to learn that Jim had passed away and will always be grateful that I had the opportunity to know him, he was a great guy.
    The visit to the cemetery was very emotional but I am pleased I had the opportunity to visit both John and June’s graves and pay my respects. Although I had visited Hendersonville and the House of Cash back in 1998 it was nice to make a return visit and this time I also managed to see Cash’s home.

    Sunday evening I at last met up with Bill and Shannon Miller. Along with other forum members we sat around and chatted till late in the evening. It was a pleasant surprise when Kathy Cash joined us and spent time chatting to us all.

    On Monday morning I was booked into the Country Music Hall of Fame Library and managed to find loads of information about John that I used in future issues of the fanzine and in my updated book. I also spent time researching for my book on Linda Ronstadt which has since been published in ebook format.

    Before the Memorial Show I had the opportunity to attend the Press Call held at Tootsies, a bar in Nashville, and also the Sony Music Party. It was there that I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Rosanne, Kathy, John Carter, Reba Hancock, Amy Willis from Sony Music and also Jimmy Tittle. They all made me feel so welcome and I thank them all. I enjoy the work I do on the Fanzine and realised how much the family appeciated it when Reba came over, hugged me and thanked me for all the work I do in keeping John’s music alive. It was at the party that the family were presented with a special plaque commemorating the event.
    I had a few hours rest before heading to the Ryman Auditorium for the highlight of my trip. The Memorial Show was something else. I was amazed when I realised my ticket meant I was sitting only a couple of rows from the stage and close to all the family members. It would take too many pages to review the show but every artist and performance was exceptional and displayed their love and affection for Johnny Cash and June.
    Memorial Tribute Ticket, Programme and my Media Pass
    As the show was being filmed by CMT, and at several times during the show they stopped to re-set microphones or re-do certain introductions,  it didn’t finish till 11:50 (running for just over four hours). There are so many highlights but Rosanne Cash’s version of I Still Miss Someone and her introduction to Tennessee Flat-Top-Box brought me close to tears. However, the most emotional moment, was when all the family were invited on stage and, led by John Carter, performed a touching version of We’ll Meet Again. The whole audience joined in and by the end of the song there couldn’t have been many dry eyes in the Ryman.

    These were just a few of the other great performances -  Ain’t No Grave (Fisk Jubilee Singers), Understand Your Man (Rodney Crowell), What Is Truth (Kid Rock), Guess Things Happen That Way (Cowboy Jack Clement), Rock Island Line (Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives), Hurt (Sheryl Crow), The Rebel -Johnny Yuma (Johnny Western), Tennessee Flat Top Box (Rosanne Cash), There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang (Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr.), If I Were A Carpenter (Willie Nelson & Sheryl Crow), Sunday Morning Coming Down (Kris Kristofferson) and  See You Again (Jimmy Tittle & Sheryl Crow).

    By the time I made it back to the hotel the party was well underway with the band really rockin’. Although I missed some of the songs I still caught performances by Andy Novak, his 12-year old daughter who sang Tennessee Flat Top Box, Johnny Counterfit, who had the audience in stitches with his impersonations and Earl Poole-Ball. All the band took time out to chat and have their photos taken.
    Everybody was so friendly and we all had a great time.  It was 3am in the morning by the time we all headed back to our rooms but it was hard to sleep with everything that had happened that day. Needless to say I overslept and missed my opportunity to interview Jimmy Tittle (we had arranged it the previous day at the Sony Music Party), although I found out later that he had overslept too, so I didn’t feel so bad!

    When I returned to my room there was one more surprise waiting. I had a telephone message to say that if I went to the offices of MCA Records in Music Row they would have an advance copy of the Unearthed box set for me. This was organised by Lou Robin and I was so grateful. It was a fantastic end to a wonderful day.

    Before Calling it a day (or night) I gave Carole a call to tell her how the trip was going. I was quite upset that she hadn’t been able to make the trip as it would have been so much better sharing the whole experience with her.

    On Tuesday Mike Horan gave me a lift out to Music Row where I picked up my copy of Unearthed and then and dropped me off in Music Valley where I spent the afternoon shopping and visiting the Opryland Hotel, where Carole and I stayed during our 1998 trip.

    Wednesday came round too quick and it was time to leave. I said my goodbyes to the forum members and also Bill and Shannon and left for the airport.  I had a long flight ahead and was glad to get home but I will never forget my trip, the kindness shown to me and all the new friends I made. Thank you everybody.

    There were so many people who made trip to Nashville such an enjoyable and unforgettable experience and I apologise for anybody who I may have left out: Lou & Karen Robin, Bill & Shannon Miller, Jim Pearson, Missy Pearson, Mike and Mary Ann Horan, Andy Novak, Kathy Cash, Rosanne Cash, John Carter Cash, Jimmy Tittle, Reba Hancock, Earl Poole Ball, W. S. Holland, Burl Boykin, Amy Willis (Sony Music), Sarah Brosmer (MCA/Lost Highway). Also the forum members Pat, Kelli, Birgit, Brandon & Christy, Bill, Jason, Debbie, John, Susan, Tom, Kay, Dan H, Nancie, Dan S, Tony, Matthew, Michael, Ernie.

    Last but certainly not least my wife Carole.
    Jeannie C. Riley was born Jeanne Carolyn Stephenson on 19 October 1945 in Stamford, Texas and raised in Anson, a small town in West Texas. She developed a love of country music as a young girl and would make regular appearances at the nearby Jones County Jamboree. 

    After graduating from high-school she married Mickey Riley and, with amitions to become a professional musician, she moved to Nashville. It was there that she recorded a few demos that led to her first single You Write The Music/What About Them. However, it was a meeting with producer Shelby Singleton that would take her career to a whole new level. Singleton had a song he had wanted to record but had spent months looking for the right singer and then he met Jeannie C. Riley. The result, Harper Valley P.T.A., written by Tom T. Hall and released on Plantation Records, became an instant hit, reaching number one on both the pop and country charts.

    The song told the story of Mrs Johnson, a widow who confronts a group of P.T.A. members after her daughter had brought home a note from the school criticising her habit of wearing mini-skirts and going out with men. The climax of the song comes when Johnson turns the tables on them and exposes, one at a time, their hypocrisy.

    The song became an overnight sensation and would go on to earn her the Grammy Award for ‘Best Female Country Vocal Performance’ and the Country Music Association ‘Single of the Year.’ Riley was also nominated in two of the major Grammy pop categories – ‘Best New Artist’ and ‘Record of the Year.’  Harper Valley P.T.A. would go on to sell over five and a half million copies and was awarded a gold disc less than four weeks after its release.

    With the single still riding high the record company were quick to issue an album, Harper Valley P.T.A.,  to capitalise on its success. With songs about characters in the original single (Widow Jones, Mr Harper and Sippin’ Shirley Thompson) it could be seen as a concept album and went on to sell over a million copies in its first few weeks and would top the country charts.

    More hits followed including The Girl Most Likely, There Never Was A Time, The Back Side of Dallas, Country Girl and Good Enough to Be Your Wife. During the late-1960s and early-1970s Riley was ranked as one of the most popular female vocalists in country music.

    She became well-known for her sex appeal and beauty as well as her music. At a time when many country girls were keeping a wholesome image Riley was keeping in touch with the typical sixties fashion  by wearing mini-skirts and boots, on and off-stage.

    She left Plantation for MGM Records in 1972 and the albums she recorded for Plantation have become hard-to-find. Thanks to Charly Records, her first five albums, released between 1968 and 1970, have now been collected in a 2-CD package with 58 tracks – Harper Valley P.T.A - The Plantation Recordings 1968-1970. The five albums are Harper Valley P.T.A., Yearbooks And Yesterdays, Things Go Better With Love, Country Girl and The Generation Gap along with a rare non-album B-Side.

    As we have come to expect the sound is excellent while the sixteen-page booklet features comprehensive liner notes by Roger Dopson, detailed track listings and images including album/single artwork and some lovely photos of the lady herself. A great release at a very reasonable price which will hopefully bring Jeannie C. Riley’s music to a wider audience. Highly recommended.

    Friday 12 September 2003 is a day I will not forget in a hurry. With the latest issue of the fanzine published a few days earlier I had starting thinking about the next issue. It was mid-morning when I received a telephone call to say Johnny Cash had died and within an hour I received over eight calls from radio stations in the UK and USA for comment. Having followed Cash’s career since 1970, when I was given a copy of At San Quentin for Christmas, I could not believe he was no longer with us. It was the same way I felt when I heard about the death of Elvis Presley in 1977.

    I have some great memories of the past 43 years of being a Johnny Cash fan. I remember the first time I saw him. It was 1979 and I almost left it too late to get tickets for his concert in Brighton. Since then I have been fortunate to see him in concert many times. The first concert Carole and I ever went to together was Johnny Cash (Portsmouth Country Music Festival in 1980) and with the exception of one concert (London in 1994) she has always been there with me. Until late-1994 I felt I was in a minority as a Cash fan but this was set to change with an idea I came up with one day on my way to work.

    And so it was that in December 1994 I published the first issue of Johnny Cash-The Man in Black, never expecting to still be running it almost twenty years later or to have a readership that spread across the world. I set up a website to complement the fanzine and was amazed and honoured, when it won the Music Lover Category at the NTL Best of British Broadband Awards in 2004. I was presented with my award by Neil Fox at an awards dinner held at The Ivy in London. My interest in Johnny Cash led to me writing a book about his career, a day-by-day chronicle which was also nominated for an award (unfortunately I did not win this one).

    I have so many great memories from the past twenty years and have made so many friends through my work. Here are just a few memories - my working association with Lou Robin and Sony Music Entertainment who have supported the fanzine, the respect and help I have received from Cash’s family including Rosanne and Kathy, the invitation from Lou Robin to attend the Memorial Concert in Nashville and all the people I met during my trip (I will always regret that Carole could not come with me), the thrill of receiving advance copies of new CDs, books and DVDs, the many Cash projects I have worked on… the list goes on and on.

    It is so difficult to pick out any particular event for special mention but one does come to mind. Johnny Cash made his last concert appearance in the UK in May 1997. A meeting had been arranged by Joe O’Neil, the UK representative of American Records at the time, and before the show Carole and I were taken backstage at the Royal Albert Hall to meet Cash and have our photo taken. I gave him a copy of the fanzine and he thanked me for all my work. He also signed a photo which he dedicated to Carole and I. Both photos take pride of place in my office. While backstage we also met June Carter-Cash, John Carter-Cash, Bob Wootton and Earl Poole Ball. It is a day I will never forget.

    In closing I’d like to thank all those who have supported my efforts including Lou Robin, Rosanne Cash, Kathy Cash, Mark Stielper, Tom Burleigh, Tom Cording and, of course, all the subscribers and friends I have met over the years. Last but certainly not least I must thank Carole for all her support. Without her there would be no fanzine. Here’s to the next twenty years!

    In 1973 Mercury Records made an attempt to broaden Jerry Lee Lewis' appeal away from the country market. The plan was to team him with another wild man from down south in Louisiana, Huey Meaux, and over three days in September they recorded the album Southern Roots. Recorded at Trans Maximus Studios in Memphis he was backed by members of the MGs, the Memphis Horns and solo artists icluding Tony Joe White and Carl Perkins. The album has been referred to as his 'comeback album' and featured some great tracks including Meat Man, Just A Little Bit, Haunted House and covers of classics like Blueberry Hill, Hold On I'm Coming and even the Percy Sledge hit When A Man Loves A Woman. More material was recorded and the plan was to issue a a second volume but only ten tracks appeared with the remaining tracks consigned to the vaults. 
    Bear Family have released several of these previously unreleased tracks on other releases but this new two-CD set brings together the original album, the additional tracks along with alternate versions and studio chatter.

    Listen as Lewis and Meaux, two fiery and free-spirited souls, are turned loose in the studio. Meaux described the sessions later commenting, "I knew Jerry and I would fight, but in the end we'd come out with the record. We fought, but we delivered."

    The bonus material includes alternate takes of Cry, Margie, Born To Be A Loser, Meat Man and Silver Threads Among The Gold, all minus the overdubs and showcasing Lewis' vocals and piano.

    The two CDs are accompanied by a 32-page booklet with detailed liner notes written by Hank Davis, rare photos and a comprehensive session listing. As we have come to expect from Bear Family this is an impressive package.
    Throughout a long and varied career Willie Nelson, who turned 80 this year,  has recorded albums with many artists including Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Asleep At The Wheel and Johnny Cash. His latest release  is another collection of duets with a difference. A new deal with Legacy Recordings  saw the release of Heroes in May 2012 and in April 2013 he released Let's Face The Music And Dance. Less than six months later comes the release of a brand new collection of duets titled To All The Girls… which finds him working with eighteen of the top country music and contemporary pop female singers.  He had hinted at the project earlier in the year when he said, "I am looking forward to singing with all the girls in Nashville." 
    Unlike other duet projects Nelson hasn't relied entirely on his past hits preferring to pick songs from a variety of sources. However, he does cover two of his well-known songs with a great version of Bloody Mary Morning with Wynonna Judd and a beautiful heartfelt rendition of Always On My Mind performed with Carrie Underwood.

    Other artists sharing the spotlight with Nelson's iconic voice are Loretta Lynn (Somewhere Between), Secret Sisters (It Won't Be Very Long), Norah Jones (Walkin'), Brandi Carlile (Making Believe) and Alison Krauss (No Mas Amor). 

    Highlights include the opening track, an emotional performance of From Here To The Moon And Back performed with Dolly Parton and a song that she wrote for the 2012 film Joyful Noise, a cover of the 1948 popular song Far Away Places on which Nelson duets with Sheryl Crow, She Was No Good For Me with Miranda Lambert, Will You Remember Mine featuring Lily Meola and a cover of Kris Kristofferson's Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends performed with Rosanne Cash. He even covers Bruce Springsteen's Dry Lightning, with Emmylou Harris, a track that first appeared on Springsteen's The Ghost Of Tom Joad album. Making it a family affair Nelson's daughter Paula joins him for a cover of the old Creedence Clearwater Revival track Have You Ever Seen The Rain.

    Fans of Willie Nelson have much to look forward to as Legacy are planning several archival releases, overseen by Nelson, which will include previously unreleased tracks on new compilations as well as bonus material on new editions of existing titles. In the meantime pick up To All The Girls… you won't be disappointed.

    In July and December 1973 Elvis Presley held his last major studio recording sessions. Having recorded in Memphis at American Studios back in 1969, he returned to Nashville for future sessions in 1970 and 1971. RCA Records were putting pressure on Elvis for new recordings and, as per the terms of his contract, he was required to provide them with enough material for at least two albums and two singles. Not wanting to leave town it was decided to record at the famous Stax Studios in Memphis, located at 926 E. McLemore Avenue. This decision was not down to the history of the studio or the major successes that the studio and house band had achieved. The major reason was Elvis' lack of interest in recording and reluctance to go into a studio and the only reason why Stax was chosen was its close proximity to Graceland!
    Sessions were booked for July but the results highlighted Elvis' lack of interest with only three or four of the tracks recorded showing any real commitment from Elvis. The result of these session were one album, Raised On Rock, and a couple of singles. One of which (Take Good Care Of Her/I've Got A Thing About You Baby) was not included on the album and would be held over for Elvis' next album. Fortunately the sessions held in December found Elvis in a much better frame of mind and willing to put effort into the recordings. The two albums that came out of these sessions, Good Times and Promised Land, may not have been Presley at his best but were still a hundred times better than the July material. In the UK Elvis had two of his biggest hits of the period when My Boy reached an impressive #5 and Promised Land scraped into the top ten, peaking at #9. Over the years all the material has been issued on CD with the FTD label issuing the most comprehensive releases with their 2-CD classic album releases of all three Stax albums. These included numerous outtakes and actually shed a new light on the sessions.

    The material recorded during these sessions has never been recognised by the general public and in an effort to show the historical significance of his work at Stax a new comprehensive package has been put together by Sony Music. Elvis At Stax (Deluxe Edition) brings together all the masters along with a selection of outtakes on three discs. CD #1 is titled The R&B and Country Sessions-The Outtakes, CD#2 includes The Pop Sessions-The Outtakes and the July 1973 Masters while CD#3 brings together all the December 1973 Masters.

    Among the track included were I've Got A Thing About You Baby and For Ol' Times Sake, both written by Tony Joe White and it is a shame he didn't record more of White's songs as both performances are excellent. Other highlights include I Got A Feelin' In My Body, Talk About The Good Times, If You Talk In Your Sleep, It's Midnight and a blistering version of Chuck Berry's Promised Land. The latter ranks as one of the greatest recordings of Elvis' seventies output. Tracks like If You Don't Come Back, Find Out What's Happening and Just A Little Bit all show promise and the band cannot be faulted. However, being from the July sessions, Elvis does not give the songs one-hundred percent. It would have been interesting to hear how these would have sounded had they been re-recorded in December.
    Reflecting his current state of mind, separation from Priscilla and his ongoing health problems, are the many ballads featured. Some are very good. The above mentioned For Ol' Times Sake, Good Times Charlie's Got The Blues (along with Promised Land this is my personal favourite from these sessions), Loving Arms and It's Midnight all stand out. Unfortunately there are also a few that he should never have recorded - Girl Of Mine and Mr Songman being the worst. The only tracks missing from this set, and that were on the original Raised On Rock album, are I Miss You and Are You Sincere both of which were recorded at Elvis' Palm Springs home in September 1973. At this 'home' session he also added his vocal to Sweet Angeline, as only the backing track had been recorded at Stax. Elvis had walked out of the studio on the last day of the July sessions and the band laid down the backing tracks for this and three other songs - Good, Bad But Beautiful, Colour My Rainbow and The Wonders You Perform. Elvis never added a vocal to the last three although the instrumental tracks were finally issued on the FTD release of Raised On Rock.

    The sound is very good throughout with the outtakes remixed for this release although personally I prefer the sound on the FTD releases. Although I have not compared every track I am sure there is some additional studio chat included on some of the outtakes.

    My only real criticism is the running order of the CDs. I cannot understand why they put the outtakes first especially as the idea is to bring the music to a wider audience. If that was the case then it would have been better to have the masters first followed by the outtakes. This is just my opinion though. Presented in a slip-case (which must have the worst cover ever seen on an Elvis Presley release and one of which the Colonel would be proud) includes a booklet with comprehensive liner notes from respected author Robert Gordon who presents a day-by-day (night-by-night) overview of the sessions.

    Despite my minor criticism of the running order and cover I really like this release having always enjoyed the material, even if it could never match the quality of his earlier work. A single 'Best Of' CD is also available along with a two-album vinyl set.

    My Johnny Cash Fanzine Store has an 'Other Artists' category and all three Elvis At Stax releases can be purchased at the store.


      About me

      I am a British-born author with several books to my credit, including the prize-nominated Johnny Cash Chronicle-I’ve Been Everywhere. 

      A leading authority on the country music legend I started the Johnny Cash fanzine in 1994. 

      In their review of our website MOJO magazine wrote, 'Peter Lewry, who is to Johnny Cash what Mark Lewisohn is to The Beatles, runs an award-winning website dedicated to the Man in Black. A well-constructed, information-led affair, it acts as an on-line supplement to Lewry's fanzine. For anyone seriously getting involved in a Cash project, it's definitely the place to start.'

      I have also worked on a number of Cash projects including CD compilations, liner notes and various magazine articles.

      My passion for music spreads far wider than just country music and I have written many articles including in-depth studies on Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons and French singer/actress Vanessa Paradis for the UK music magazine Record Collector and am a regular contributor to Vintage Rock magazine.

      My biography Linda Ronstadt-A Life In Music and the updated edition of Johnny Cash-I've Been Everywhere are available in e-book format.


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