Roger McGuinn's Thunderbyrd (DVD)
After the Byrds disbanded in 1973 Roger McGuinn put out a solo album every year for five years including Thunderbyrd, the album that he was touring behind when this film was shot at the Rockpalast Festival in Germany in July of '77. This was not an especially happy time for McGuinn---the solo albums were not particularly well-received---but still here he puts on a good show. The fifteen-song set begins with a lengthy take on "Lover of the Bayou," a stand-out track from the 1976 album Cardiff Rose before moving into a cut written by Tom Petty, "American Girl." McGuinn doesn't say so in his introduction but the cover of "American Girl" is a bit of a returned compliment to Tom since Petty has made no secret of the fact that his sound is patterned after McGuinn's and later in the set you can really hear that connection in songs like "Feel a Whole Lot Better." McGuinn practically invented the jangle pop sound and he plays his beloved 12-string Rickenbacker on every song here including Byrds hits "Mr. Spaceman," "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Eight Miles High" and the heartstring-tugging "Chestnut Mare." Guitar slinger extraordinaire Rick Vito plays fiery lead throughout the show, never missing a note, even when he's singing "Juice Head," a humorous tune about a boozy floozy. Sam Clayton of Little Feat plays on several songs but his conga work is mostly overpowered by the four-member Thunderbyrd who play with high energy from start to finish. Not essential viewing but a good snapshot of the times, this film should please most Byrds and McGuinn fans.
The Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Concert - Live in Vancouver (DVD)
Guitar player (and head of the Black Hen label) Steve Dawson is the mastermind behind this exquisite tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks, a family of performers who were very popular recording artists in the 1930s and '40s. Dawson and four other players are the backing band for the show, playing behind a host of heavy-hitters like John Hammond, Bob Brozman, Geoff Muldaur and vocal trio the Sojourners. The Sheiks worked in the blues idiom but lots of their tunes are suitable for interpretation in other Americana genres and the show is instrumentally overflowing with more than the expected slide guitar; fiddle, banjo, dobro, cornet and upright bass accompaniment affords the performers a chance to bend some of the original arrangements and put their own touch on things. Standouts include Van Dyke Park's reworking of the humorous "It's Backfirin' Now," Alvin Youngblood Hart's cover of "Livin' in a Strain," Oh Susanna's take on "Things About Comin' My Way" and with everybody on stage, the set-closing jam of the Mississippi Sheiks signature tune "Sitting on Top of the World."
The Lucky Tomblin Band
Honky Tonk Merry Go Round
The fourth album from this Austin-based band is once again filled with western swing music and the kind of country music that flourished in the mid-to-late '50s. Tomblin is the group's lead singer but almost everyone in this big band takes a turn at the mic including Johnny Cash's longtime piano player Earl Poole Ball who shines on the self-penned "The Train Always Runs on Time" and a cover of Hank Cochran's "Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me." Other band members include guitarist Redd Volkaert who honed his chops playing with the likes of Merle Haggard and Ray Price, bassist Sarah Brown who's played with everyone from Dr. John to Albert Collins and guitar player John Reed who's played with Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the legendary Doug Sahm. Here they all have one thing in common---a deep affection for old-style country western. Standouts include Volkaert's "She Loves Anything That Swings" and a cover of Bill Anderson's "I'll Go Down Swinging."