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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

December 25, 1996

Happy Holidays

EvitaSoundtrack to Evita (Warner 1996) -- The movie "Evita" is slated to open today. Judging by the soundtrack, it should be a dazzler.

Madonna stars as Evita, who meteoric career and early death are chronicled in this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical. The double-disc soundtrack shows why Madonna fought so hard for the role; it's made for her.

From showstoppers like "Oh What a Circus" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" through the newly-added "I'd Be Surprisingly Good for You" and the poignant, "Your Little Body's Slowly Breaking Down," Evita is a complete musical, and deserving of its famous reputation. Enjoy this rich soundtrack; it's more than a mere memento of the film.

Carlene CarterCarlene Carter, Hindsight 20/20 (Giant 1996) - Having turned 40 this year, Carlene Carter (stepdaughter of Johnny Cash and member of the Carter Family) can look back on a 20-year career. Gathering 20 tracks for Hindsight 20/20, Carlene reveals her many charms - part rocker, part cow-punk, part country, all original.

Now closely aligned with Howie Epstein (from the Heartbreakers), Hindsight 20/20 is slanted towards Carlene's more recent recordings with Howie, such as the lovely, "Unbreakable Heart." Showing her Nashville roots, the album includes a delicious (and previously unreleased) cover of "Easy From Now On," a song first made famous by Emmylou Harris. Carlene's version is more up-tempo than Emmylou's more breathless heartbreaker, and really grows on you.

Says Carlene, "I really feel my mortality now, turning 40 and seeing my daughter six feet tall and on stage at the Roxy at the same age that I was. But I really like being a young old lady. I can't wait to be a grandma."

Which was probably the last thing that crossed Carlene's mind during her 20s, a wild period that included a well-publicized marriage to English rock icon Nick Lowe. A well-liked part of the English rock scene, Carlene's antics caused an uproar in Nashville. But Carlene just wanted to be her own woman.

A complete package, Hindsight 20/20 also includes the first CD pressings for tracks from Carlene's three Warner Bros. albums, including 1980's, Musical Shapes. These cuts include three songs recorded with Rockpile (Nick Lowe's band), including "Cry" and "I'm So Cruel," as well as "Never Together But Close Sometimes," a Rodney Crowell song recorded with Graham Parker's band, Rumour.

Carlene has released several charming albums in recent years, including Little Love Letters (1992). Many of the tracks on Hindsight 20/20 are gems, and hopefully point the way toward a more settled future for this songstress.

Tammy RogersTammy Rogers, Tammy Rogers (Dead Reckoning/Rounder 1996) - Well, hell, who said life's fair? Gillian Welch gets tons of media attention for a series of somber, stripped-down bluegrass numbers, while the multi-talented Tammy Rogers gets almost no attention. And that's a real shame, as Tammy's easy-going style sparks warmth and energy on this bluegrass/country collection.

In addition to her skills as a singer and songwriter, Rogers is a first-rate fiddle player, having recorded with such acts as Maria McKee, The Jayhawks, and Patti Loveless. Tammy also co-founded Dead Reckoning Records with buddies Harry Stinson, Mike Henderson, Kevin Welch, and Kieran Kane. This group represents some of Nashville's hottest session musicians - players whose spirit cannot be broken by the corporate mentality that sometimes pervades Memphis.

Tammy RogersThe 13 songs on Tammy Rogers are more pop-oriented than last year's In the Red (recorded with percussionist Don Heffington). Tammy provided vocals, guitar, and violin, and wrote most of the songs: her bass player, Allison Prestwood, penned two numbers ("Come Out And Play" and "On A Night Like Tonight"). Guest artists include Emmylou Harris, Victoria Williams, Kim Richey, and the Dead Reckoning Band.

The album opens in a traditional vein with the instrumental "Coming Home" (featuring Tammy's fiddle playing) and the bluegrass, "Never Far Away," before sliding into a gentle love song ("Nothing At All").

However, Tammy opens the throttle on the second half of the album (if there is such a thing on a CD). "You Can't Buy a Ticket To Heaven" is a lively, foot-stomping number that crosses gospel with pop/bluegrass, built around the great live sound of the Dead Reckoning Band (which I had the pleasure of seeing last year in Dallas).

In the Red's full-tilt boogie assault continues with the up-tempo country rocker, "On a Night Like Tonight," before slowing for the gloriously melancholy, "There Is a Fountain," also framed by Tammy's violin playing.

I don't care for the photo on the front cover, which depicts Tammy as a neurotic guitar player; the back cover photo (which shows her reclining on a sofa) represents the freer, more fun-loving Tammy Rogers. Tammy Rogers is a real talent, and her Dead Reckoning Band deserves to be heard.

Liquor GiantsLiquor Giants, Ole 181 and a Half (Matador 1996) - Liquor Giants are the brainchild of Ward Datson, who provides all of the instrumentation on Ole 181 and a Half (except for drums, which are supplied by Matt Simon). Datson has been in the business for 15 years, and has recorded albums with Gun Club and Pontiac Bros., as well as two prior Liquor Giants releases. His studio assurance shows through on such chugging rockers as "Awful Good" and the surf-guitar oriented, "Copy Cat." Ole 181 and a Half might help this cult favorite break through.

-- Randy Krbechek

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