All The Trouble Tour
Lee Ann Womack
777 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA, 94110
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
Lee Ann Womack
Artists don’t really make albums like Lee Ann Womack’s THE LONELY, THE LONESOME AND THE GONE anymore. Albums that seem to exist separate and apart from any external pressures. Albums that possess both a profound sense of history and a clear-eyed vision for the future. Albums that transcend genres while embracing their roots. Albums that evoke a sense of place and of personality so vivid they make listeners feel more like participants in the songs than simply admirers of them.
Anybody who has paid attention to Womack for the past decade or so could see she was headed in this direction. THE LONELY, THE LONESOME AND THE GONE (ATO Records) — a breathtaking hybrid of country, soul, gospel and blues — comes from Womack’s core. “I could never shake my center of who I was,” says the East Texas native. “I’m drawn to rootsy music. It’s what moves me.”
Recorded at Houston’s historic SugarHill Recording Studios and produced by Womack’s husband and fellow Texan, Frank Liddell (fresh off a 2017 ACM Album of the Year win for Miranda Lambert’s ‘The Weight of These Wings’), THE LONELY, THE LONESOME AND THE GONE marks the culmination of a journey that began with Womack’s 2005 CMA Album of the Year ‘There’s More Where That Come From,’ moving her toward an authentic American music that celebrates her roots and adds to the canon. It also underscores the emergence of Womack’s songwriting voice: She has more writing credits among this album’s 14 tracks than on all her previous albums combined.
Womack had made the majority of her previous albums in Nashville, where the studio system is so entrenched it’s almost impossible to avoid. Seeking to free herself of that mindset, Womack says, “I wanted to get out of Nashville and tap into what deep East Texas offers musically and vibe-wise.”
So Womack and Liddell took a band to SugarHill, one of the country’s oldest continually operating studio spaces. In an earlier incarnation, the studio had given birth to George Jones’ earliest hits, as well as Roy Head’s mid-‘60s smash “Treat Her Right”; Freddy Fender’s ‘70s chart-topping crossovers “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”; and recordings from Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Sir Douglas Quintet, the 13th Floor Elevators and Willie Nelson.
Womack found the lure of East Texas irresistible. "I love local things, and I missed local music,” she says. “I grew up in Jacksonville. It was small, so I spent a lot of time dreaming, and about getting out.” It required only a short leap of logic to view Houston, and specifically SugarHill, as the place to record.
Womack and Liddell found a perfect complement of musicians, players who clicked right away and became a one-headed band. Bassist Glenn Worf (Alan Jackson, Bob Seger, Tammy Wynette, Mark Knopfler and others), drummer Jerry Roe (numerous Nashville sessions and his band Friendship Commanders), guitarists Ethan Ballinger, Adam Wright (Alan Jackson, Solomon Burke and others), and Waylon Payne (son of singer Sammi Smith and Willie Nelson's longtime guitarist Jody Payne) formed the SugarHill gang. Engineer and co-producer Michael McCarthy, known for his production work with Spoon, brought vintage gear from his Austin studio and help capture a sharper sound for sessions recorded entirely to analog tape.
“I got everybody out of their comfort zone and into a new element,” says Womack. “And it was funky there. This place was not in the least bit slick. Everybody there, all they think about is making music for the love of making music. Everyone comes in with huge smiles and positive attitudes. It was much different than what we were used to."
Womack had brought a handful of songs to record, including the gospel-inspired original “All the Trouble”; the poignant “Mama Lost Her Smile,” in which a daughter sorts through her family’s photographic history looking for clues to a long-secret sorrow; and the love-triangle conversation “Talking Behind Your Back,” which she penned with Dale Dodson and Dean Dillon, the writer of several George Strait classics. To make the final cut, Womack and the band had to be able to get to the heart of the songs and shine their light from the inside out.
A trio of long-time favorites found their way onto the album, too. Womack joined a long list of legendary voices irresistibly drawn to Harlan Howard’s “He Called Me Baby,” putting a sultry Southern groove underneath its mix of sensuality and sorrow. On “Long Black Veil,” a tale of betrayal and closely held secrets that became a ‘50s classic as recorded by Lefty Frizzell, she taps into a ballad tradition that runs centuries deep. Womack recorded the album’s final track, a haunting version of George Jones’ “Please Take the Devil Out of Me,” standing on the same gold-star linoleum floor where Jones cut the 1959 original.
Capturing the reality of East Texas music isn't always easy. Being in Houston and at SugarHill helped make that happen, inspiring an approach to the recording process that everyone embraced from the first note played. "Music down there — including Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and all the way through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama — is this huge melting pot,” Womack says. “I love that, and I wanted that in this record. I wanted to make sure it had a lot of soul in it, because real country music has soul, and I wanted to remind people of that."
“When you make albums, and aren’t just going for singles, you really have to treat them with respect,” Liddell adds. “We did that at SugarHill, taking a bunch of like-minded lunatics and seeing what happened."
In Houston — with all its history, its eccentricity, its diversity and its lack of pretense — those like-minded lunatics found a place where they could flourish.
“We all felt we weren’t going someplace just to make a record,” Womack says. “We were going someplace to make a great record.” Don’t just take her word for it, though. Listen. And when Womack and the music take you there, you’ll find you want to stay.
The title of singer-songwriter Eddie Berman’s new album, Before the Bridge, refers to the period of time in the LA-based musician’s life between getting married and the birth of his first child. It was that span, spent mulling the decision (and consequences) of creating a life, that also inspired this crowning musical work. The album was written and recorded during that one-year interim, as Berman was coming down from the crest of his lauded 2014 self-released debut LP, Polyhymnia. The songs on Before the Bridge draw, more than ever before, from Berman’s own life experiences, resulting in a rich, evocative, and moving collection.
“My wife and I were being confronted with the somewhat unknowable complexities of trying to bring a life into the world—and specifically into the little sphere of our lives, living in Los Angeles in 2016,” Berman says. “My writing falls between being autobiographical, narrative, and a bit obtuse—but each of these songs were certainly informed by my own life.”
Berman grew up in Southern California and taught himself guitar and piano. He fell in love with the troubadour styles of Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk as a teenager and learned to fingerpick on his father’s 1950s Martin guitar, first writing his own songs as a college student at Berkeley. He made waves in the acoustic music world half a decade ago when his bedroom demos were given significant airplay on influential LA radio station KCRW. In 2013 his EP Blood & Rust, featuring duets with British artist Laura Marling, along with his subsequent international tours, connected him to an even bigger audience. All the while, Berman steadily developed his craft while staying true to a familiar formula.
Despite an open-tuning change and adding a bit more percussion and harmony, the sound of Before the Bridge retains the stark, elemental power of Berman’s former work. “I love the sound of just a person with their instrument and their voice,” Berman says. “That’s always been what’s spoken to me the most.” In addition to that foremost calling card, the album was recorded with his same crew of expert musicians from Polyhymnia: Gabe Feenberg, Gabe Davis, Sarah Pigion, and Polly Hall, with engineer/mixer Pierre De Reeder—and in the same manner: tracked live, together in a single room, in only two days.
The first song Berman wrote and completed for the album is the stark and lovely “Joann,” with its lilting harmonies and melodic, reverberating finger-picking. In addition to being the first release from the album, the track also represents for Berman the core of what Bridge is all about, as the song shares its name with his wife—well, almost. “When I was writing the chorus, the three-syllable ‘Joanna’ just didn’t quite work. So I feel like: glass half-full I wrote a song for my wife, glass half-empty: I got her name wrong.”
Another standout track, “Untamed,” is a soft and slow-burning number led by Berman’s guitar and confident, quiet vocal delivery, and accented by piano notes and low, stirring strings. In Berman’s finger-picking style, the song ends with the delicate delivery of the line “We’ll know we were alive once and at least for a moment untamed.” Like “Joann” before it, he identifies the sentiment as one examining the notion of modernity closing in on them.
“It’s about the strange isolation of a metropolis, which is only getting intensified by people being sucked further and further into this dystopian obsession with media, paired with the feelings of wanting to escape it, but not knowing how or where or if that’s even possible anymore.”
“Easy Rider” is a toe-tapping, steady strum through some of Berman’s most assured vocals to date. Piano rolls trickle throughout and as Berman’s smoky voice is joined by his backing crowd in the “Come on, you easy rider” refrain, it’s easy to imagine the song filling some lamplit cabin in deep woods or floating out of your car stereo as you drive up the coast.
Steeped among its moments of direct beauty and questioning laments, Bridge is filled with sly nods and thoughtful references—take the minor keyed, yet upbeat, cautionary track “Tarmac Blues,” the title itself an anagram for a favorite philosopher/writer. Berman allows that his songwriting is quite dense, and he relishes the chance to inject his wit and thoughtful observations into his lines. By the time the album ends with the gorgeous, fiddle-laden “My Will Be Done” and its farewell delivery (“So love me just enough to miss me, but not enough to track me down”), it’s clear that there is as much to enjoy in Berman’s well-crafted lyrics as there is in his instrumental prowess.
And so we have Before the Bridge, a triumphant take on a familiar foray from an accomplished singer-songwriter encouraged by a decision to rise to the challenges of creation.
$28 adv / $32 door / $50 VIP Add On (does not include GA ticket)
Fri, July 20
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