Album & Artist Reviews

Do y’all remember country music? I’m talking about REAL country music. The kind some of us (older folks) listened to back in the 50s, 60s, 70s, even the 80s… the kind of country music we watched as it changed from what it was then, to what it is now. Recently, I listened to a new CD by Tim Culpepper. The music is unquestionably country.
If you were to meet Tim Culpepper, and ask him what his genre’ is – he could answer with one word. COUNTRY. Most artists today can’t do that. When you ask them what their genre’ is, they tell you it’s country/rock. Or, it’s country/pop, soulful/country or some other kind of country. But for most, it isn’t country music.
Tim records for HonkyTone Records, and they have got themselves quite a singer. I only wish that today’s Top 40 stations would go back to their country roots, and get music like this back on the radio. I think it’s a good thing that we have satellite and Internet radio stations out there. Because people who can sing like Tim Culpepper need to be heard somewhere.
For one thing – he’s got songs on here that are more than four minutes long. And when you listen to them, you are happy that they are more than four minutes long! And, you wouldn’t even care if they were longer! The first song I heard was Ghost. It’s one of those “Listen up, guys, I have a story to tell you” kind of songs. ‘You’re just a ghost of a love that’s dead and gone…a memory that keeps turning around to watch my tear drops fall.’. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Oh, wait – yes it does. Because when that one is done – we’ve gone “One More for the Road.” Then comes “Toss and Turn”, and then we get “Getting’ On with Getting’ Over You.” And by now – you want to put your boots on and go to a concert, or a honky tonk, or even the bar on the corner to drop a few dollars in the juke box and hope THIS is what comes out!
I really want to share two paragraphs from the “about” section of his facebook page. I think these two paragraphs pretty much tell you who Tim Culpepper is, and why Tim does what he does. “Tim’s journey began as kind of a love story, with the marriage of his Mother Judy, to his father, country entertainer/musician, Forrest Culpepper, or “Curly”, as he had come to be known by those who frequented the honkytonk scene in and around Montgomery, Alabama. The birth of Tim, soon after, would complete an already accomplished family of singers and musicians that, at the time, included such close friends as Hank Williams, Sr. (who had passed, before Tim’s birth), and Marty Robbins.
While most children began life experiencing a mostly subdued environment, young Culpepper was backstage with the likes of Hank, Jr., Marty and Johnny Cash, or in the audience with his Mother, while his father was performing. On one occasion, while sharing stories of her son’s early childhood, Judy fondly recalled one particular night during a Hank Jr. performance, when songwriter and manager, Merle Kilgore, was charged with babysitting Tim while she got up to 2 step, “It wasn’t the ‘Brady Bunch!’” she laughs. “But we sure were a family!”

I’m excited about this kid. His music is everything country music is supposed to be, and he sings great, too. I hope he wasn’t born 40 years too late for his music to find a place within the genre’ it was intended.
I hope everyone will take a minute to visit his website www.timculpeppermusic.com, and follow him on Twitter @TCulpepperMusic.
To say I’m impressed would be a huge understatement. I need to find a thesaurus, because my limited vocabulary just doesn’t have enough adjectives in it to accurately describe what this man does with a song. He’s my new ‘obsession’. And I think I’m going to spend the next week… or two… or three… listening to the music of Tim Culpepper. If you want to find something that takes you back – back to what country music is supposed to be. Tim Culpepper is just what you’re looking for.

Artist: Art Pepper

Genre: Jazz

Title: Sankei Hall—Osaka, Japan: Unreleased Art Pepper, Vol. VII

Record Company: Widow’s Taste

            Laurie Pepper, the saxophonist’s widow (hence, the name of the label), continues issuing previously unreleased material by her husband.  Because Art Pepper’s career is well documented on record, one might wonder if additional releases are warranted.  Yes, they are, primarily because Pepper was a major figure.  He must have played some forgettable music along the way, but Widow’s Taste has so far released only music than enhances his considerable legacy.

          This new two-CD set documents a 1980 concert that the audience obviously enjoyed.  Backed by pianist George Cables, bassist Tony Dumas, and drummer Carl Burnett, Pepper plays magnificently throughout, whether the tempo is blistering (“Straight Life”), deliberate (“Over the Rainbow”), or medium (“Landscape”).  Always lyrical, his playing occasionally reflects the oft-noted influence of John Coltrane, especially on up-temp pieces.  This is true on “Cherokee,” for example: he distorts notes and plays notes at the upper limit of the alto saxophone, thereby adding intensity to his already impassioned music.

            This release disappoints only because “Straight Life” ends abruptly, without resolution, probably because of an inadequate supply of tape at the concert.  Laurie Pepper explains that she had to decide whether to include this incomplete performance on this CD.  I believe she decided correctly.

            A few extra-musical issues deserve comment.  Pepper introduces “Ophelia” by saying that it constitutes his attempt to describe women.  Does he mean that it is a programmatic composition?  Whether he succeeds in musically describing women strikes me as irrelevant. It’s a lovely performance.  Laurie Pepper proclaims that “George Cables’s character shines through every note he plays.”  I do not know Cables, but, from hearing him play, I have no sense of his character.  Perhaps this is my fault.  Finally, Laurie Pepper seems to settle scores with Milcho Leviev, Art Pepper’s previous pianist, and Tony Dumas.  While frankness is often admirable, her comments seem inappropriate in the context of this statement she makes about her husband:  “He emphasized the importance of being courteous and compassionate.”

            These are quibbles.  What matters is Art Pepper’s music, which is masterful.

Benjamin Franklin V

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