Baltimore City Paper

Strum und Twang: Jenny Scheinman, Dwight Yoakam, David Allan Coe, more

  • A few months back, a friend gave me Jenny Scheinman’s latest album, “The Littlest Prisoner,” and on top of listening to it every day since then, I placed it on my year-end top 10 list (“Strum un Twang: Top 10 in country,” Dec. 17). I was only vaguely aware of her before then, mainly from hearing her cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Was Young When I Left Home’ often playing at the bar in Bertha’s. Scheinman is a well-known violinist in the jazz world (she’s collaborated with Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, and others), but this album is the first of her singing her own songs. She also occasionally collaborates with the great Robbie Fulks, who I recently saw at a house concert in Baltimore (one of the best country shows I’ve seen in a while). Find Scheinman’s performance of ‘Just A Child’ on WNYC’S Soundcheck on YouTube; she’s the real deal. If only somehow we could get her and Fulks to record an album of duets!
  • One of the best living country singers, Dwight Yoakam, is getting the band back together. He’s coming to the Lyric Opera House on April 24 and also releasing a new album sometime in 2015. A Creedence Clearwater Revival cover (‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’) appeared a few months ago, but I haven’t heard anything else about it since then. Johnny Cash once cited Yoakam as his favorite country artist, and look no further than Yoakam’s horribly titled 2000 solo acoustic album, “,” for 25 reasons why.
  • David Allan Coe’s entire output on Columbia is finally being reissued one CD at a time. Previously only available on pricey Bear Family “two-fers” (which I highly recommend for the extended liner notes and bonus tracks), his trajectory as an artist is one of the least understood and most interesting among all country music artists. Start with 1974’s “Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy” and work your way to the end (1987’s “A Matter of Life . . . and Death”), and you will find that Coe was a visionary artist who, besides being a great singer and songwriter, was one of the best interpreters of other people’s songs. His choice of covers was as eclectic as his personality: a fiery apocalyptic take on Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man,’ the definitive version of Hoyt Axton’s junkie lament ‘Snowblind Friend,’ and his ‘Pledging My Love’ rivals the Johnny Ace original. A series of bad business decisions and a reputation for racism and sexism helped contribute to Coe’s marginalization, but there is no denying he’s one of the greats.
  • Caleb Stine and his band, The Brakemen, hold a January residency at the 1919 bar in Fells Point every Thursday of the month. Country music will be in no short supply, as Stine is an aficionado. He might even sell you a copy of his new CD, “Maybe God Is Lonely Too,” if you ask, and you will have to if you want it, because it’s not available online. It’s one of those albums you listen to on headphones while laying on the couch after a few strong bong rips.
  • Kentucky’s Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers have reformed after a nearly three-year hiatus and are back in the studio recording the follow-up to 2010’s “AgriDustrial.” Their leader, J.D. Wilkes, stands apart from the herd of tattooed retro-rockabilly bands by writing intelligent and literary songs inspired by hillbilly folklore, regional tall tales, and backwoods weirdos. Spiritually, they are equal parts Johnny Rotten and Jerry Lee Lewis, with a dash of Uncle Dave Macon for good measure. I’ve been listening to “Cockadoodledon’t” for the past 10 years and I’m still not sick of it. I’ve got a feeling 2015 is going to be a revival of good country music.