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No Depression (09/01/2000) Write to CD Shakedown
Steve ForbertSteve Forbert, Evergreen Boy (Koch Records 1999) - Evergreen Boy is the ninth studio album from Southern-based folk rocker Steve Forbert. Recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Evergreen Boy has an organic feel, tied to Forbert's idiosyncratic voice. Put it this way: If you like John Prine or Fred Eaglesmith, then Steve Forbert will charm you.

Born in 1955, Forbert moved from Meridian, Mississippi to New York City in 1976 where he moved from busking to audition nights. Forbert's early albums met with critical acclaim, including Alive on Arrival (1978) and Jackrabbit Slim (1979), which landed the top 20 single, "Romeo's Tune."

Steve ForbertForbert's career hit a bump in the road during the 80s, before he resurfaced in Nashville, and landed on Geffen Records. Forbert returned in a big way with 1995's Mission of the Crossroad Palms, which stands as one of the best singer/songwriter albums of the last ten years. Evergreen Boy finds Forbert continuing in a similar vein.

The real delights of the album are "It Doesn't Matter Much," a blues-based number that reaches straight into late night hopes and dreams, and the concluding track, "Trusting Old Soul," with a swinging Hammond organ in the background.

Steve ForbertThe musicians on Evergreen Boy include Memphis natives Greg Morrow (drums) and Dave Smith (bass), together with Jim Dickinson on keyboards, Clay Barnes on electric guitar and keyboards and Forbert on vocals, acoustic guitars and harmonica. Also appearing are Jim Spake on saxophone and Scott Thompson on trumpet.

The new album was produced by Jim Dickinson, who has guided the works of Big Star and the Replacements. In choosing Dickinson as producer, Forbert explains, "Half of what you pay him for is the graduate course in rock and roll history and record-making."

Forbert adds that, "The album was actually made under a bit of duress . . . I just wanted to make something that was no-apologies-me. Personally, I left a lot of things on there that were imperfect."

Steve ForbertWhere Evergreen Boy has its faults are on such slow ballads as "Rose Marie" and "Late Winter Song." Yet the tempo picks up on "Now You Come Back" and the title track.

Steve Forbert has been around the block and back. Says Forbert, "The music business is like a moving train, and if you are not on that train, it's a bitch to catch it. If I happen to round the bend and there is a train and I get on it, great, but I'm just going to run at my own pace."

Fans of Americana and smart folk will dig Evergreen Boy.

Jesus' SonSoundtrack to Jesus' Son (Mammoth Records 2000) - That's what you get for living in a backwater. The new film, "Jesus' Son," never played in Fresno, though it received critical acclaim in Los Angeles. The film starred Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton, and Dennis Hopper, and was based on a collection of short stories by author Denis Johnson.

Having not seen the movie, my impressions are based entirely on the soundtrack. And if you're into No Depression country with a strong influence of 60s soul, then Jesus' Son will light your fuse.

Joe HenryThe soundtrack was produced by Joe Henry, the mood rocker whose albums are dripping with reverb and atmosphere. Henry acquits himself to a tee with his strong reading of "Unchain My Heart" (originally recorded by Ray Charles originally recorded), together with his instrumental title track, which sounds like it stepped straight from the production work on Fuse.

No depression country stars Wilco also deliver two songs, including the concluding "Airline to Heaven," with its Dylan-esque feel.

Samantha MortonThe rest of the album is solid pone, including Floyd Cramer's instrumental, "Last Date," Joe Tex on "The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)," and Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson on "Lover's Holiday."

The album also contains a couple of detours with "Indian Reservation" by the Raiders and "The Ballad of the Green Berets" by Staff Sgt. Berry Sadler. (I think you have to see the film to make sense of these selections (although Sadler's song holds up surprisingly well)).

For a slice of Southern depression, circa the mid to late 60s, try Jesus' Son.

I-10 ChroniclesVarious artists, I-10 Chronicles (Virgin/Backporch Records 2000) - The I-10 Chronicles is a roots/Americana collection, gathering like-minded artists for a collection of songs that track U.S. Interstate 10. Connecting Los Angeles with Texas, this interesting collection is held together by its skilled performers.

Bill HearneThe album opens in the west, with Bill Hearne on lead vocals for "L.A. Freeway" (written by Guy Clark). (Hearne handles lead vocals on four songs.)

The album heads out-of-town with a strong version of "Carmelita" (the Warren Zevon song), as performed by Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows on lead vocals, David Hildalgo from Los Lobos on dobro, and David Immergluck on slide guitar.

Willie Nelson Next up is Willie Nelson on "Everybody's Talkin'" (written by Fred Neil), with Mickey Raphael on harp, followed by one of three Joe Ely songs, "Saint Valentine," which starts the trip into the Southwest with the great Flaco Jimenez on accordion.

Cherokee RoseThe album also introduces three female vocalists: Sarah Nicole, Cherokee Rose, and Meredith Marshall who delivers a head-turning version of "Across the Borderline" (written by Ry Cooder and John Hiatt). Emmylou Harris also appears on backing vocals on one track.

Charlie MusselwhiteBy midway through, the album takes a serious south-of-the-border trip on "Black Magic Woman" (by Peter Green), with vocals by Charlie Musselwhite and a scorching trumpet solo by Anibal Cesar Avila.

With leadership by producers John Wooler and Randy Jacobs, The I-10 Chronicles has a cohesive sense. Jam onto this authentic slice of Americana.

- Randy Krbechek © 2000

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