Music Review
If It’s Got Wheels
Carey Murdock

iigw_cvrThe title song is the opener and I’ll admit I found myself wondering if that was a good thing. “If It’s Got Wheels”, the song, is a V8-powered rocker that heads straight for the horizon like something Springsteen or the Eagles might drive. But then what? Did Murdock pick this tune to lead off and supply the name for his latest album because that’s all there is? The quickly apparent answer is a very loud NO. If It’s Got Wheels, the album, is filled with powerful songs performed by a collection of talented musicians.

On my first listen, I found myself truly paying attention to those musicians as things kept right on rocking into the second track. I’ve seen Carey a few times. Always solo and always acoustic. I’ve heard other recordings with a band but, in hindsight, it seems I must have thought of the others only as accompanists for Murdock’s distinctive vocals. As “Go On and Leave Me” played, I heard Nigel Lawrence’s keyboard work and Mark Sieister’s saxophone as important and integrated parts of the song and I started to realize just how much Lawrence and guitarist Steven Bryant had contributed to the opening cut. Drums and bass, John Henry and Warren Brown respectively, had also been important and solid and masterful. I don’t know if this is officially the Carey Murdock Band but whatever the group is called, it’s a good one.

Two tracks into the album, I was enjoying Murdock’s writing and singing just as I expected but I was also enjoying and appreciating all the other players on the album, too. Despite the name, the next tune, “Don’t Want to Slow It Down”, slows it down but continues to show off the backing musicians Everyone is present, in a subdued sort of way, from the beginning but it’s Henry who initially carries things with a slow snare only cadence. Before the song is over, the whole group is wailing and Henry’s full kit is in on the action. For the moment, this is my favorite song on the album and the drum work is certainly one of the reasons but so, too, are lyrics, vocals, and the band’s performance

I was loving this full team “wall of sound” approach but I was also concerned that it might have become a necessary part of Murdock’s music. Track four, “Messy Love”, straightened me out. With an acoustic guitar and his harmonica, Carey delivers this one all by himself. It reminded me that a good song can be performed in a variety of ways and will remain a good song. These are good songs and Murdock does what many musicians do not and includes a booklet with lyrics and other details for each of them..

With one exception, the full band appears on the remaining tracks. One of those, however, is missing Murdock. It’s a one minute instrumental called “Interlude” that lets everybody showboat a little and which just might be used as a break song. I can almost hear “Short pause for the cause. Don’t be rash with your cash. We’ll be back in a flash” but, when it ends, there’s Murdock singing the opening line of “Never Like This Before”. Murdock’s voice has been compared to Springsteen’s and that’s not a bad reference point. However, I’ve also heard him do a pretty fair job crooning Frank Sinatra tunes and there’s a gravely end of his range that’s more like the older Tom Waits. For this song, Carey uses his Tom Waits voice.

The full band exception I mentioned is the last song on the album, “In This Together”. The only instrumentation is Murdoc’s acoustic guitar with Steven Bryant supplying both bass and drums. The song was co-written with former Taylor Swift fiddler and backup vocalist Caitlin Evanson and she joins Carey in singing it here. Murdock’s voice touches on the gravely Waits-ish sound in a few places. Evanson’s decidedly does not. It’s a beautiful way to end the album.

CareyMurdock.com

American Songline in Hayesville

Cece Otto - AmericanSonglineThis is another short Lincoln Highway related trip that begins with music. Actually, it’s all about music. The reason for the trip is this afternoon’s Cece Otto American Songline concert in Hayesville, Ohio, and it started yesterday with a Carey Murdock concert in Van Wert. The journal for the trip is here. This will be the only blog entry related to the trip and will serve to hold any and all comments.

Roads, Women, and Cars

Dayton Road MeetI’d have probably been overpowered if they had all been present at the same time, but, over the course of the weekend, I managed a “road meet”, an all female concert, and a gathering of killer cars. The photo at the right is of the “road geeks” who participated in the “road meet” which was in Dayton, Ohio.

“Road geeks” are different from “roadies”. “Roadies” are attracted to old roads and the culture around them. “Road geeks” are attracted to newer roads and to their design and construction. Neither definition is perfect and the groups certainly overlap. I’m a mainstream “roadie” and a fringe “road geek”. Most in the picture tend to be the other way ’round.

The difference is illustrated by a couple of events from Saturday. One of the participants is planning a drive to and from California in the near future. It was one of the things we chatted about over lunch. He mentioned that the return trip would be more leisurely and relaxed since they would be covering only 500-600 miles instead of the 700-800 of some of the west bound days. My target range is something like 150-200 miles a day. The other event was the “clinching” of a road. “Clinching” means traveling the full length of a road. I’ve clinched a few; Route 66, Lincoln Highway, US-62. I-675 is a quarter-circle expressway on the south east edge of Dayton that the whole group “clinched” on Saturday. I believe that’s the first interstate I’ve ever “clinched” and am certain it’s the first I’ve done intentionally.

Dayton Road MeetDayton Road MeetFor the most part, though, the differences are a matter of degree and both “roadies” and “road geeks” are very friendly people who enjoy roads and each other. There are certainly some “roadies” who would cringe at the thought of looking over the recently reworked I-70 & I-75 interchange from a park bench but I’ve now seen members of both groups roaming around the former Dixie Highway & National Road intersection with cameras clicking. The sign being photographed is the “Crossroads of America” sign. The title has no shortage of claimants but both of these intersections are legitimate contenders. The DH and the NR, clearly major highways of their day, morphed into US-25 and US-40 respectively. I-75 is the interstate era successor to US-25 and I-70 is the successor to US-40.


EG Kight at Big Song Music HouseFrom Dayton I headed over to Oxford, Ohio, for another show at the Big Song Music House. This one featured “The Georgia Songbird”, EG Kight. As she has for the other shows I’ve attended here, Lisa Biales, who owns Big Song Music House with her husband Marc, opened with a few tunes. Then EG  took the stage and, in the intimate setting that seemed to fit her perfectly, entertained us with both music and conversation that triggered many smiles and several chuckles. Of course, smiles were not restricted to the time between tunes. EGs humor frequently shows up in her songs, too.

EG Kight at Big Song Music HouseEG Kight at Big Song Music HouseLisa is close friends with both acts, Ricky Nye and Ronstadt Generations, that I’ve seen here in the past and she joined each of them a few times during their performances. EG and Lisa are certainly friends and EG produced and contributed to Lisa’s most recent CD, Just Like Honey, but it’s probably the musical similarities that makes their performing together something special. Both have powerful and clear voices, they both know their way around a guitar, and both are capable of delivering both real and lyrical winks. Lisa joined EG several times, both with and without her guitar, and the two powerful voices combined to produce some pow-pow-powerful harmonies.


Ault Park Concours d’EleganceI took an overnight break before heading out to my third event of the weekend, the 35th Ault Park Concours d’Elegance in Cincinnati. In years past, I’ve parked as close as I could (which never seemed to be very close) and trudged up the hills to the Concours. This year a friend and I took advantage of the free offsite parking and shuttle. Not a bit of trudging and the fact that the shuttle buses were air-conditioned was deeply appreciated after we had walked all over the grounds and were heading back to the car.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceAult Park Concours d’EleganceThere were plenty of “normal” concours vehicles like Duesenburgs, and Hudsons and brass era cars such as the 1914 Packard above, but the title of this year’s event was A Century of American Power so there were also some cars on display that you might not immediately think of when you hear Concours d’Elegance. Prominent among these were 1960s & ’70s muscle cars and dragsters from the same period.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceAult Park Concours d’EleganceAult Park Concours d’Elegance

 

 

 

Prime examples of Detroit muscle are the 427 CI 425 HP V8 in a 1964 Ford Galaxy and the 426 CI 425 HP (for insurance purposes) V8 in a 1963 Dodge Polara. That’s Cincinnati muscle in the third picture. The 44 CI 26.5 HP I4 in a 1951 Crosley Hotshot might not seem like a symbol of …American Power but it was a Hotshot that won, through handicapping, the first Sebring Endurance Race in 1950.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceThis picture might make you think that texting while driving was encouraged back when the  alphabet was smaller but it is actually the push-button transmission controls in a 1958 Edsel Citation.


Carey Murdock Mansion Hill TavernThis is something of a bonus. Carey Murdock is another singer-songwriter I learned of through Josh Hisle. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. I came close to connecting with him there last Christmas but missed and actually met him for the first time tonight as we both walked across the street to Mansion Hill Tavern. Carey had prearranged a stop at Mansion Hill as a “featured guest” which essentially means a half hour slot at a regularly scheduled blues jam with lots of musicians waiting to form groups and get some stage time. This is obviously not the best showcase situation but Carey handled it well and the crowd seemed to like him. I definitely did.