Bentley’s Bandstand: Waylon Jennings, Jason Yates, Arthur Adams

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billbentley110BY BILL BENTLEY

www.sonicboomers.com

Waylon Jennings, Folk Country-Waylon Sings Ol’ Harlan, Collectors’ Choice Music
waylon-jenningsWaylon Jennings wasn’t an outlaw, he was an original. He looked at life from the outside and didn’t bother to try and figure out why. He knew he was different and would eventually find the freedom to make music his own way. Folk Country is a tentative step in that direction. Released in 1966, it gave the slightest of nods in the direction of the coming youth movement, but stayed fairly squarely in the Nashville bag. Except, of course, no way could Jennings play it completely square and his always haunting vocals pierce through everything he sings. And on one song, “Stop the World,” he flat out gives a peek at the sound he really heard in his head, with burning guitar strings and an eerie edge in his voice. Notice had been served that things would be different someday. Waylon Sings Ol’ Harlan came out a year later, but not much was different. The master Harlan Howard had a strong hand in writing all these songs but Nashville had not really let Jennings cut free just yet. His voice had all the character it was always known for, but the lines were still drawn about how things should sound. It’s almost like we’re listening to a glimpse at the way one of country’s true originals wanted to sound but hadn’t quite found the key to unlock the kingdom. That was still a half-dozen years off and a whole movement away. No worry. There is still enough greatness to go around here for us all, and Ol’ Hoss knew exactly where he was headed.

Jason Yates, Jason Yates, Vapor Records
jason-yatesIf there were awards for overlooked albums, Jason Yates’ recent sophomore set would surely be in the winner’s circle. He has played keyboards with a wide range of great artists, including Ben Harper for several years, and has a range of styles that flows out of him with total ease. For his second release, Yates plays to his strongest suit, which is an irresistible blend of sweet Memphis soul, crunchy California rock and a deep love of classic Steve Wonder. The way he takes each element and stirs them together so seamlessly reflects his many years of playing and searching for what works in that dedicated pursuit of finding a way to push his sound forward. New songs like “My Way Out,” “To Reason” and “Sing for You” let Yates demonstrate how quickly this group of musicians gel from note one. Recorded live in a studio in East L.A., the idea was to make sure the recording process never took over from the musical passion. The players click from the git and are in the glow of those who know they’re in on a very good thing. Yates’ voice is warm and real, which is more than enough to make the album feel like a buried treasure. Before 2009 fades too far into the history books, find this disc. It will make the new year feel friendlier right away, and spread some real joy in January.

Arthur Adams, Stomp The Floor, Delta Groove Records
arthur-adamsSometimes only the vets can get the job done. In rhythm & blues, that would be someone like Arthur Adams, who has been playing that funkiest of music longer than the life of most electric guitars. Adams stands next to life with his heart wide open, taking in the wide range of human emotions like an explorer out to cover the waterfront. On Stomp The Floor, the man with a voice that resides just this side of heaven wades into the topsy-turvy modern world, and the songs he has created tap into a soul deep understanding of our sharpest feelings and fears. It’s almost unsettling the way Adams can zero in on all these conflicts without turning preachy. Rather, he gets us to understand just how tough the times are today and the kind of spirit it will take to get through them. There are very few recent releases that turn such an illuminating light on where we are headed, or give such hope there is a high road to get us to the other side.

Bill Bentley is a writer, musician, publicist, record producer and A&R director. He once played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins. For more reviews and music news, go to www.sonicboomers.com

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