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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

February 18, 1998

Movin' On

Terry BinionTerri Binion, Leavin' This Town (Daemon Records 1997) - Leavin' This Town is a labor of love from 38-year-old Terri Binion, who lives in Orlando, Florida (where she works for Disney in the Creative Costume Department). Originally released on Terri's own indie label, Shinola Records, the album has a warm feeling that is reminiscent of artists like Nancy Griffith and Michelle Shocked.

Terri has been making music for years, yet Leavin' This Town is her first CD. The album was co-produced by Liberty DeVitto (drummer for twenty-one years with Billy Joel), and includes friends Tommy Malone and John Magnie (both of the now-disbanded Subdudes) and pedal steel guitarist Wally Murphy (who has recorded with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings).

This cast of supporting characters sets the stage for Leavin' This Town. Thus, "Abilene" is an uptempo country charmer, while the title track brings to mind the sweet vocal stylings of Alison Krauss. Another fun cut is "One More Number," which has a jaunty roots flavor, complete with backing accordion.

Levin' This Town is a labor of love and deserves support (particularly the charming "Abilene"). Further, Daemon Records is the rarest of labels: A non-for-profit enterprise in which all the money goes back to the artists in the form of royalties or to sign new acts. Buying from Daemon is good for you.

Leavin' This Town is the kind of album that takes a couple of listenings to sink it. But once you connect with its blend of roots, folk and pop, you'll have a new friend.

Jimmie RodgersSongs of Jimmie Rodgers: A Tribute (Egyptian/Columbia 1997) - Though his recording career only spanned six years (from 1927 until his death in 1933), Jimmie Rodgers (also known as the "Singing Brakeman" and "America's Blue Yodeler") cast a huge shadow. Taking what was then called "hillbilly music" and making it accessible to the general public, Rodgers created an influential new style that merged folk and blues in a precursor to today's popular country music.

On Songs of Jimmie Rodgers (the inaugural release on Bob Dylan's "Egyptian Records"), fourteen contemporary artists have gathered to pay homage to this milestone artist. The results are uneven: for example, Van Morrison ("Mule Skinner Blues"), Bono ("Dreaming with Tears in My Eyes"), and John Mellencamp ("Gambling Bar Room Blues") don't connect.

But the country stars shine with an old timey feel. Thus, Alison Krauss delivers a sweet version of "Any Old Time," and Iris DeMent provides a riveting, "Hobo Bill's Last Ride." Other solid cuts include Willie Nelson ("Peach Pickin' Time Down in Georgia"), Mary Chapin-Carpenter ("Somewhere Down Below the Mason-Dixon Line"), and the fitting conclusion, "T for Texas" by Dwight Yoakam.

Released to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his birth, Songs of Jimmie Rodgers is an understated collection that lets the songs take center stage. (Rodgers died of tuberculosis at age 36 in New York City.) The album is a worthy attempt, though probably not the best place to begin seeking an appreciation of Jimmie Rodgers.

Burton CummingsBurton Cummings, Up Close and Alone (Hip-O 1997) - Winnipeg's favorite son, Burton Cummings (former lead singer for the Guess Who), still makes a living on the concert circuit. Up Close and Alone captures an unplugged performance (just Cummings and his piano) before an appreciative hometown crowd.

Cummings has a pleasing voice, and a refreshing wit. The hits are here, including "Laughing," "Clap for the Wolfman," and "Share the Land." (For younger readers, those are peace-and-love rockers from the early 70's.) The acoustic reading of "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature" (co-written with Randy Bachman, who later founded Bachman-Turner Overdrive) loses something: the rocking studio cut is a better song.

One of the highlights of the album is "Gordon Lightfoot Does Maggie May," in which Cummings does a hilarious sendup (and more than passable imitation) of fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot singing the Rod Stewart hit.

If you were a fan of the Guess Who, you'll enjoy Up Close and Alone.

-- Randy Krbechek

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