Sign up for our mailing list Real artists creating records on their own terms

Sign up for our mailing list


Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 Review of Porter Wagoner One of the major problems with modern country revolves around the fact that--save George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn--almost all the characters who poured the foundation for post-World War II hillbilly culture are dead or no longer recording. Which brings us to the miracle of Porter Wagoner's new album, Wagonmaster, produced by Marty Stuart. Wagoner, who kept his corn-yellow pompadour piled high, wide, and handsome, was as wild as Johnny Cash in his prime, but hid most of his sins behind his smooth, pitch-man persona. You can hear it in the music all along the way, though, particularly in the weird "Rubber Room" era of the '60s and '70s. Now nearly 80, Wagoner--the man who brought James Brown to the Grand Ole Opry--is still as theatrical and out-there as ever, even if his once-strong and well-modulated baritone has crumbled to a husk. Stuart, who loved Porter's old syndicated TV show, frames the album with an opening and close that recalls those halcyon days, a Mac Magaha-style fiddle dancing behind it all. In between, the thin man from West Plains, Missouri, moves through a riveting collection of Southern Gothic numbers, starting with "Be a Little Quieter," in which a man is so haunted by memories of his lover that he imagines her walking the halls, taking a bath, ratting the pots and pans. But that's kids' stuff compared to "Committed to Parkview," which Cash sent to Wagoner nearly 25 years ago on learning they'd both spent time in the Nashville mental hospital/drug treatment center. Wagoner opens his spoken-word introduction as if he's playing for laughs, but quickly turns poignant, and the bloodletting hardly lets up: Running through the album are a couple of Bible beaters ("Brother Harold Dee," "Satan's River"), a reprise of "My Many Hurried Southern Trips" (a song about a bus driver's slice-of-life that Wagoner wrote with former singing partner Dolly Parton), and an affecting word portrait of a man from Wagoner's childhood ("Albert Erving") who was so isolated and loveless that he conjured an imaginary companion. Wagoner takes time for a quickie instrumental tribute to his old banjo sidekick Buck Trent, but he's too mired in pathos to highlight the humor in Shawn Camp's "Hotwired." Yet who's to quibble? Much of this is wonderfully creepy ("The Late Love of Mine") and underscored with the kind of weepy pedal steel that fell out of favor when Nashville set its sights on crossover gold. Stuart, his own generation's premier hillbilly throwback, deserves kudos for getting this to the marketplace. And Wagoner, virtually forgotten after Dolly moved on, is to be revered for hanging in there when so many rhinestoned rednecks who put the "path" in Music City's patented brand of pathology chose to check out. --Alanna Nash

Facebook | Twitter

Browse by Artist

1664All Artists 97Tom Waits 69Mavis Staples 57Neko Case 51Lost In The Trees 50Sean Rowe 48Dr. Dog 44The Milk Carton Kids
41Jolie Holland 40Bettye LaVette 37Man Man 35Tinariwen 33Tim Fite 33DeVotchKa 31Islands 31Grinderman 30Son Little 27Galactic 27Wilco 27Saintseneca 24Michael Franti and Spe... 23Glen Hansard 22Bob Mould 22William Elliott Whitmo... 22Doe Paoro 21Nick Cave & The Bad Se... 21The Frames 20Joe Henry 19Booker T. Jones 19Sage Francis 18Christopher Paul Stell... 17John K. Samson 17Yann Tiersen 17Deafheaven 16Ramblin Jack Elliott 16Jason Lytle 14Xenia Rubinos 14Prism Tats 14Delicate Steve 13Daniel Lanois 13Billy Bragg 13Andy Shauf 13The Drums 12Xavier Rudd 12Peter Silberman 11The Weakerthans 11Lyrics Born 11Rain Machine 11Mose Allison 11Roky Erickson 11The Antlers 11Calexico 10The Swell Season 10The Melodic 10So Much Light 10Cass McCombs 10Jade Jackson 10The Dream Syndicate 9Marianne Faithfull 9N.A.S.A. 9Cameron Avery 9Ryan Pollie 8Solillaquists of Sound 8Greg Graffin 8Cadence Weapon 8The Coup 7Elliott Smith 7Eddie Izzard 7Dead Man's Bones 7Alec Ounsworth 7Beth Orton 7Kelly Hogan 7Title Fight 7Ben Harper and Charlie... 7Richard Reed Parry 6A Girl Called Eddy 6Busdriver 6Os Mutantes 6Kate Bush 6Broken Twin 6Girlpool 6Yves Jarvis 5One Day As A Lion 5The Field 5Keaton Henson 5Beat Connection 5Japandroids 5Foxwarren 5Jeremy Ivey 4Ersi Arvizu 4Marketa Irglova 4Pops Staples 4Curtis Harding 4Rafiq Bhatia 4Combo Chimbita 4Boy Scouts 3Danny Cohen 3Sierra Leones Refugee... 3Petra Haden 3Walter Wolfman Washing... 3Mothers 3Marc Ribot 3Wynonna 3Darrin Bradbury 2Various Artists: RANGO 2Jeff Tweedy 2Glitterer 2The Good Ones 1Tricky 1Joe Strummer And The M... 1Youth Group 1Blackalicious 1Antibalas 1Porter Wagoner 1Various Artists: ROGUE... 1The Locust 1Rogue's Gallery 1Kronos Quartet with Br... 1Simian Mobile Disco 1case/lang/veirs 1Merle Haggard 1Lido Pimienta 1Ben Harper 1Purr
See Full List+