Tag Archives: Proper

Cowboy Junkies: Demons

Cowboy Junkies

Proper Records UK
February 15, 2011

“Demons makes it clear that Chesnutt’s dark and solemn songwriting is naturally suited for a band like Cowboy Junkies, and should go a long way toward furthering Chesnutt’s own legacy. – PopMatters

“This album more than does him [Vic Chesnutt] justice.” – Mojo

A collection of songs by the late Vic Chesnutt, Demons is described by Michael Timmins as “a labour of love” that explores Chesnutt’s deep and much overlooked catalogue (see track listing below). Demons follows the critically acclaimed first volume of the Cowboy Junkies’ Nomad series, Renmin Park, which The Boston Herald called “their most ambitious album yet.”

With Demons, the Cowboy Junkies approach Chesnutt’s music with the same sense of adventure that Chesnutt approached his own recordings. Timmins says, “We let happy accidents happen and tried to invest his songs with the same spirit in which they were written, but at the same time adding our own Northern spin. Exploring his songs and delving deeper and deeper into them has been an intense, moving and joyous experience. I don’t think Vic would have wanted it any other way.”

Track listing: Wrong Piano / Flirted With You All My Life / See You Around / Betty Lonely / Square Room / Ladle / Supernatural / West of Rome / Strange Language / We Hovered With Short Wings / When the Bottom Fell Out.

Joan Baez: Play Me Backwards

Joan Baez
Play Me Backwards

Proper Records UK
April 12, 2011

First released in 1992, Play Me Backwards holds a very special place in the rich 50-year recording history of Joan Baez.  The album’s sessions brought her back to Nashville for the first time since the series of four albums she had recorded in Music City between 1968 and 1971.  Returning to Nashville’s familiar environment two decades later and collaborating with producers Wally Wilson and Kenny Greenberg proved to be a perfect fit.  Joan reaffirmed her unique ability to identify and interpret successive generations of songwriters whose music had the ability to speak to her: Mary Chapin Carpenter (“Stones In the Road”), John Stewart (“Strange Rivers”), John Hiatt (“Through Your Hands”), the duo of Janis Ian and Buddy Mondlock (“Amsterdam”), and Ron Davies (“Steal Across the Border” and “The Dream Song,” co-written with Joan).  Play Me Backwards also contains four songs that Joan co-wrote with her two producers (“Play Me Backwards,” “Isaac and Abraham,” “I’m With You,” and “Edge Of Glory,” one of the last occasions on which she contributed to an album as a songwriter.

Adding historic provenance to this reissue is a second disc containing previously unreleased demos of 10 songs which were contemplated by Joan and her producers, heard here for the first time.  Some of the songwriters are not widely known, such as the late Mark Heard (“Rise From the Ruins,” “Lonely Moon”), or John Hadley (“The Last Day”) or Gary Nicholson (“Trouble With the Truth”); and one writer is not known at all (“Medicine Wheel”).  On the other hand, there are additional songs from Janis Ian (“We Endure”) and Ron Davies (“Dark Eyed Man,” originally recorded by Kevin Welch as “Dark Eyed Gal”); and one that Joan wrote with Greenberg’s wife, the respected Christian artist Ashley Cleveland (“In My Day”). Fans will be immediately drawn to Joan’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Seven Curses” (his adaptation of the traditional Child ballad “The Maid Freed From the Gallows” aka “Anathea”), the only one of these songs previously recorded by Joan (on the live album Bowery Songs in 2005).

By all accounts, Play Me Backwards is said to be the album that began the renaissance of Joan Baez’s career that has continued through 2008’s Grammy-nominated Day After Tomorrow. Play Me Backwards is an album whose impact will continue to reverberate for decades to come.

Richard Thompson: Dream Attic

Richard Thompson
Dream Attic

Proper Records
August 31, 2010

“Dream Attic has the brio that matches any of Thompson’s past few studio albums.” – Uncut

“Almost impossible to replicate in the studio, this is the level of energy and conviction which drives the album as newly buoyant Thompson discovers his second wind. Scintillating.” Mojo

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No artist to emerge in the second half of the ’60s has gone on to have a more productive and vital career than Richard Thompson. The England-born, L.A.-based artist has amassed an astounding body of work comprising more than 40 albums, containing artfully shaped material that seamlessly and expressively integrates traditional and contemporary modes. And Thompson is among the most distinctive of guitar virtuosos, capable of breathtaking drama and sublime delicacy, prompting Rolling Stone to hail him as “a perennial dark-horse contender for the title of greatest living rock guitarist.”

While still a teenager, Thompson founded and led Fairport Convention, which was to British folk-rock what the Byrds were to the idiom’s American equivalent. Thompson’s solo albums, beginning with 1972’s Henry the Human Fly, reveal an artist of unparalleled dimension who has followed his muse as boldly as fellow iconoclast Neil Young. The series of albums Thompson recorded during the 1970s and early ’80s with his then-wife Linda, culminating in the devastating Shoot Out the Lights (1982), charted the arc of a relationship with unstinting candor. During the last two decades, he’s fired off a steady stream of critically acclaimed electric and acoustic solo albums, most recently 2007’s Sweet Warrior, whose centerpiece was “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me,” an unsettlingly vivid narrative using the actual language of soldiers in the Iraq War, which stands as the mother of all modern-day protest songs.

Instead of recording new songs in a studio, Thompson made demo recordings, rehearsed the songs with his band and then recorded the new material live on a two week tour of the Western USA.

The album was assembled from these live recordings. No studio overdubs were done. Each track on the finished album is an entire, unedited live performance of the song.

On its release, Dream Attic entered the British top 20 for album sales.

Los Lobos: Tin Can Trust

Los Lobos
Tin Can Trust

Proper Records
August 3, 2010

Tin Can Trust is a masterful album from an undeniably great American band, at the peak of its considerable powers.” – Uncut

Listening to a Los Lobos album is a bit like walking down the streets of a neighborhood, with a different kind of music spilling out of every doorway.” PopMatters

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Over the past 35 years, this East L.A. five-piece band has assembled a body of work diverse enough to cripple most bands and to captivate fans worldwide. Along the way, they’ve redefined how a rock band–and rock music–can sound.

Many musical groups are eclectic, but few are both as unpredictable and successful as Los Lobos. The band has notched a number one single, won three Grammys, and sold millions of records. They’ve shared the stage with acts as varied as Dylan, The Clash, and U2–and they’ve received tremendous critical acclaim.

Los Lobos’ own journey started in 1973, when David Hidalgo (vocals, guitar, and pretty much anything with strings), Louie Perez (drums, vocals, guitar), Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar), and Conrad Lozano (bass, vocals, guitarrn) were still roaming the halls of East L.A.’s Garfield High. After graduation they made their bones playing souped-up Mexican folk music in restaurants and at parties. By the early eighties, however, they’d tapped into L.A.’s burgeoning punk and college rock scenes, landing on bills with bands like the Circle Jerks, Public Image Ltd., and the Blasters, whose saxophonist, Steve Berlin, would eventually leave the group to join Los Lobos, cementing the current line-up.

In 1984, having recently signed with a division of Warner Bros., they brought home a Grammy for Best Mexican-American performance. That year also saw the release of How Will the Wolf Survive? Co-produced by Berlin and T. Bone Burnett, it was a college rock sensation and Los Lobos tied with Bruce Springsteen as Rolling Stone’s Artist of the Year.  How Will the Wolf Survive? remains one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The band was a hit with the critics, but in 1987 with the release of the Ritchie Valens bio-pic La Bamba, Los Lobos would achieve massive commercial success. Their version of Valens’ signature song climbed to the top of Billboard singles chart, and suddenly five guys who saw themselves as “just another band from East L.A.” were superstars. But instead of staying in safe, commercial waters and risking being type-cast as “that band from the Ritchie Valens movie,” Los Lobos followed the pop-oriented (and double platinum-selling) La Bamba soundtrack with a collection of Mexican folk songs, La Pistola Y El Corazn. Such musical about-faces have defined the band’s creative vitality and kept fans interested in seeing what would come next.

Great artists challenge themselves to make the record they cannot, or should not, make. For Los Lobos, that record was 1992’s Kiko. Produced by Mitchell Froom, it sounds lush, atmospheric, and ethereal–a long way from the dirt-under-the-nails rawness typically associated with rock and blues. Writers called Kiko the band’s masterpiece, and the album dominated the “Best of the Year” lists. Nearly twenty years after their formation, Los Lobos had reached a creative apex.

Amazingly they’ve been able to hold fast to that hard won ground. As Rolling Stone writes, “With the exception of U2, no other band has stayed on top of its game as long as Los Lobos.” In the sixteen years since Kiko, the band has won two more Grammys, released six studio albums, a box-set, a greatest hits package, and a live CD/DVD. Many of their peers have called it quits, but Los Lobos have continued to write and record and tour like a band that’s got 35 more years in them. In 2007, after supporting The Town and The City, they headed out on a semi-acoustic tour, playing traditional Latin American folk songs. After that sixteen-city jaunt, they fired up their amps and joined John Mellencamp on tour.

More recently, Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys hit the road together on the nationally acclaimed and aptly named “Brotherhood Tour”, while The Town and The City went on to draw four-star reviews in Rolling Stone, Mojo, The Independent and many others.

Los Lobos Goes Disney
(featuring 13 all-time classics from Disney films and theme parks, each given the raw and raucous Los Lobos treatment) was released in Fall 2009 on Disney Sound.

In 2010, Tin Can Trust moves Los Lobos into yet another new dimension. Los Lobos’ unified vision and strong work ethic are evident throughout the self-produced album, but so is something even greater: “an intuitiveness,” says Los Lobos songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Louie Pérez, “that happens only from being in a band for so long.” As Rolling Stone once wrote, “This is what happens when five guys create a magical sound, then stick together for 30 years to see how far it can take them.”

Joan Baez: How Sweet The Sound

Joan Baez
How Sweet The Sound

Proper Records
October 13, 2009

In the first comprehensive documentary to chronicle the private life and public career of Joan Baez, the documentary examines her history as a recording artist and performer as well as her remarkable journey as the conscience of a generation.

This DVD/CD will feature the film with bonus content and an audio CD of music from the film. The audio CD contains rare live performances and studio recordings that span her career.

2008 was a landmark year for Joan Baez, marking 50 years since she began her legendary residency at Boston’s famed Club 47. She remains a musical force of nature whose influence is incalculable – marching on the front line of the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King, inspiring Vaclav Havel in his fight for a Czech Republic, singing on the first Amnesty International tour and just this year, standing alongside Nelson Mandela when the world celebrated his 90th birthday in London’s Hyde Park. She brought the Free Speech Movement into the spotlight, took to the fields with Cesar Chavez, organized resistance to the war in Southeast Asia, then forty years later saluted the Dixie Chicks for their courage to protest war. Her earliest recordings fed a host of traditional ballads into the rock vernacular, before she unselfconsciously introduced Bob Dylan to the world in 1963 and focused awareness on songwriters ranging from Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Phil Ochs, Richard Fariña, and Tim Hardin, to Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury, to Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, Steve Earle and many more. If ever a new collection of songs reflects the momentous times in which Joan finds herself these days, and in her own words, “speaks to the essence of who I am in the same way as the songs that have been the enduring backbone of my repertoire for the past 50 years,”
Day After Tomorrow is that record, her first new studio album in five years (released September 9, 2008).

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