Ter­rell’s Tune Up

Steve Ter­rell’s fa­vorite new al­bums by fe­male artists

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Steve Ter­rell

Here are three of my fa­vorite al­bums by fe­male singers to cross my re­al­ity in re­cent weeks.

Side­long by Sarah Shook & the Dis­arm­ers. I don’t say this very of­ten these days, es­pe­cially when talk­ing about emerg­ing mu­si­cians, but Rolling Stone was right. Last sum­mer, the mag­a­zine de­clared that this North Carolina out­fit was one of the “10 New Coun­try Artists You Need to Know.” On my very first lis­ten, I was a fan by the end of the first two tracks, “Keep the Home Fires Burnin’ ” (which has a be­yond-catchy melody sim­i­lar to the blue­grass clas­sic “Rocky Top”) and “The Nail” (a love­g­one-wrong honky-tonker with some fine gui­tar and lap steel in which Shook makes the wry ob­ser­va­tion, “Well, I ain’t your last, you ain’t my first/You can’t de­cide which fact is worse”).

With a fresh face like a young Jodie Foster and a voice with more than a hint of a whiskey rasp, Shook sounds as if she were born in an out­law coun­try song — or per­haps she’s the punk-rock grand­daugh­ter of Hazel Dick­ens. In the coun­try weeper ti­tled “Dwight Yoakam” (which isn’t re­ally about the singer by that name), Shook sings mourn­fully, “I’m drink­ing wa­ter tonight be­cause I drank all the whiskey this morn­ing.” Then in “Make It Up to Mama,” she play­fully takes the per­sona of a bad hom­bre: “Well, I killed a man for lookin’ at me wrong … and I wasted my in­her­i­tance on hook­ers and booze/But I’m gonna make it up to Mama with this mother’s heart tat­too.” I’m hop­ing that last one isn’t au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal, but I have a feel­ing that the pre­ced­ing song — with a ti­tle that can­not be named in a re­spectable fam­ily news­pa­per like this one — might be based on per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence: “I can’t cry my­self to sleep, so I drink my­self to death/I got co­caine in my blood­stream and whiskey on my breath/Ain’t a thing that I can change to get my luck up/I guess I’m just too much of a …” Ap­par­ently

Side­long, orig­i­nally self-re­leased, has been out since late 2015, though Blood­shot Records is rere­leas­ing it for na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion at the end of this month. For more in­for­ma­tion, check out www.blood­shotrecords.com/artist/sarah-shook-dis­arm­ers.

Traces by Stephanie Hatfield. Santa Fe’s Stephanie Hatfield just re­leased her third and what I be­lieve to be her strong­est al­bum to date. This is mu­sic for late-night lis­ten­ing — with her sul­try voice and heart­felt lyrics of love and long­ing. Sev­eral tunes here, most no­tably “Stay Lover Strong,” “Wrap My Limbs,” “Sea­son Too Soon” and “Ex­posed,” have a dis­cernible Latin fla­vor. Aided by two mem­bers of a lo­cal group, Mari­achi Sonidos del Monte (Eric Or­tiz on trum­pet and gui­tarist San­ti­ago Romero), Hatfield cre­ates a sound in­flu­enced by the band Calex­ico. And it works. On most of the songs the mari­achi is more of a sug­ges­tion than the driv­ing force. The driv­ing force, as it should be, is Hatfield’s voice.

Some of my fa­vorites on Traces are the mys­te­ri­ous, smoky “Talk­ing to the Dead” and the soul­ful, gospel-in­formed “Sold and Stolen.” On the lat­ter, Hatfield’s voice soars on the bridge while pi­anist R. Bruce Phillips of­fers sweet, sub­tle touches. But even more sat­is­fy­ing is the mi­nor-key slow-burner called “Con­fes­sion.” At five and a half min­utes, it’s the long­est song on the al­bum, but it’s time well spent. With her hus­band and co-pro­ducer Bill Palmer on gui­tar, the song builds and builds un­til the lis­tener is vir­tu­ally on the edge of his seat. And the lyrics are even more in­tense than the mu­sic: “So I walk, I run, I hide in a bath­room down the hall/Sink to my knees and hold my head as if some­how I can stop the fall/ He was gone and so I car­ried on, but I left most of me be­hind.”

My only dis­ap­point­ment is that this al­bum doesn’t in­clude Hatfield’s “Wish You Back,” her col­lab­o­ra­tion with the full Mari­achi Sonidos del Monte. But don’t worry. You can down­load that one for a buck at Hatfield’s Band­camp page. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.stephaniehat­field­mu­sic.com.

High­way Queen by Nikki Lane. Like Margo Price and Sturgill Simp­son, Nikki Lane is a ma­jor voice in a loose-knit move­ment that I call “new coun­try mu­sic that doesn’t suck.” And like Sarah Shook, she’s also got a punk-rock heart. In fact, the first time I ever heard of Lane was when I saw her open for So­cial Dis­tor­tion in Austin a cou­ple of years ago. I walked away from that show with two songs ring­ing in my head: So­cial D’s cover of Hank Wil­liams’ “Alone and For­saken” and Lane’s “Sleep With a Stranger.” Re­leased ear­lier this year,

High­way Queen shows I wasn’t wrong in my ini­tial im­pres­sion of Lane as a strong, spunky, and im­por­tant coun­try artist. But some of the tunes seem to be hint­ing that the non­stop tour­ing might be get­ting to her. On the open­ing track, “700,000 Red­necks,” Lane sings, “Well, I travel around from town to town/I do the best I can ev­ery­day/I drive long hours and I don’t get to shower and I ain’t gonna brag about the pay.” Then, on the al­bum’s ti­tle song, she sings, “Sixty thou­sand miles of black­top/Count­less bro­ken hearts be­tween/Wind­ing lines of white that don’t stop/ Liv­ing the life of the high­way queen.”

But it’s not all com­plaints about the road. “Jack­pot,” a snappy lit­tle coun­try rocker, is raw joy, as is “Big Mouth,” an up­beat tune about small-town gos­sip. And like all great coun­try artists, Lane knows how to write a heartache song. “For­ever Lasts For­ever” is just stun­ning. In the re­frain she sings, “We swore for bet­ter or for worse/And it was bet­ter at first, and worse at the end/But they say, for­ever lasts for­ever/’til for­ever be­comes never again.” Lane is sched­uled to ap­pear at Launch­pad in Al­bu­querque on Mon­day, May 1. Tick­ets are $13. Check out www.nikki­lane.com.

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