Archive for the Artist of the Week Category

Run, Don’t Walk to get Jimmy LaFave’s newest album – Depending on the Distance

Posted in Americana, Artist of the Week, new release, Recommended Music, Upcoming Release with tags , , on September 19, 2012 by takecountryback


CONTEST: Win a copy of Lucinda Williams’ Little Honey

Posted in Artist of the Week, contest, Upcoming Release on October 16, 2008 by takecountryback

Thanks to the good folks at Big Honcho Media and Lost Highway, TCB has FIVE copies of Lucinda’s latest album Little Honey to giveaway to five lucky TCB readers.

You may enter once a day by clicking “here” from now until midnight on October 31st, 2008.

Lucinda Williams has always been adept at painting landscapes of the soul, illuminating the spirit’s shadowy nooks and shimmering crannies — but she’s never captured the sun breaking through the clouds as purely as on her new Lost Highway release, Little Honey

The album features a duet with Elvis Costello “Jailhouse Tears” Other guest vocalists include Matthew Sweet, Susanna Hoffs, Jim Lauderdale, Tim Easton and Charlie Louvin.

Official Website

Song of the Day – Dec. 6 2007

Posted in Artist of the Week, Artists, Song of the Day with tags , , , on December 6, 2007 by takecountryback

If I had a honkytonk band I would have loved a name like this…

 Here’s Madison Wisc.’s Jim James and the Damn Shames with “Fast Freightrain”

Woke up on a New Year’s Day, Michael Gruber’s garage futon after a “Swank at the Bank” party and there’s the first verse.

Driving a delivery truck full of hardware and cheap Chinese baubels around south central Wisco, a trip to Denver, and the last wrong turn on a long ride home. That’s the rest of the story.

This version was recorded live at the Oshkosh Sawdust Days “Honky Tonk Party” in July, 2007.

Artist of the Week – Seth Walker

Posted in Artist of the Week, Video, YouTube with tags on November 14, 2007 by takecountryback

I had the good fortune of being able to catch Seth live at Gruene Hall this past weekend. I’m hooked! Here’s a stellar cover of a Cindy Walker classic!

Indie Video: Kevin Deal – What I’m Fighting For

Posted in Artist of the Week, Video, YouTube with tags on September 15, 2007 by takecountryback

Kevin’s one of the best singer/songwriter’s in Texas.  Here’s a good reason why…

Indie Artist of the Week – Two Tons of Steel

Posted in Artist of the Week, Video, YouTube with tags on August 12, 2007 by takecountryback

Two Tons of Steel Live at KSYM

Artist of the Week – Claude Diamond

Posted in Artist of the Week with tags on August 3, 2007 by takecountryback

Over the past 8 years here at TCB we’ve gathered together a few special people as real life friends. Claude Diamond and his wife Pollye are two of our most cherished ones. When good things started to happen for Claude career-wise we were thrilled because not only should his music be heard and now it is, but its refreshing to see good things happen to good people.

Claude dropped me a note yesterday. He’s returned from Europe (Rounder Europe had picked up his two previous albums a while back) and Claude informed me that he’ll be returning to the UK and Netherlands in October to be open a few shows for Dale Watson!

 Here are the dates:

When The Right Time Comes Along, It’s Never Too Late

Claude Diamond was born in Mississippi, spent time in Louisiana and after graduating college, moved his wife and family to Georgia, where he still lives today in the Atlanta area. He played in a band during his high school and college years, taught guitar and won first place in songwriting contests. In 2004, he released his debut album, “Diamond Dust,” which garnered critical acclaim and reached #21 on the Roots Country Radio Airplay Chart, #51 on the Americana Chart, and has received airplay throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. In addition to the fact that “Diamond Dust” is a gem of an album full of songs filled with deep insight and humor in the vein of Billy Joe Shaver, John Prine and Kris Kristofferson, it’s also notable for the fact that Claude Diamond released his debut album at the age of 65. When I caught up with him, Claude was in the process of finishing up his sophomore album, “Highway Of Life” (scheduled for a fall release), and kindly took time out to talk about his rather unconventional journey and somewhat belated arrival on the music scene. 

TCB: You started playing music back in the 50s in high school and college. What kind of music did you primarily play back then?  Mostly covers or did you do any original music? Did you do any songwriting back then?

Claude: The radio stations I listened to in the 50s in Roxie, Mississippi played a variety of music but mostly country or as it was known back then, hillbilly music. That was the background music in my life and those three chord country songs were the first ones I learned to play. I listened to Hank Williams 78 rpm records and played along on my guitar. I still have those records today.

During college I met a couple of guys, John Whitt and Dewey Kilgore, and we started a band. It was 1956 and Elvis’s had been around a while and had changed everything. We started playing rockabilly and blues. We didn’t write lyrics in those days so we covered the songs of artists such as Jimmy Reed, Lonesome Sundown, Lightning Slim, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

TCB: When did you start songwriting, and what, or who, prompted you to start?

Claude: I started writing country songs in 1982. I’ve always had an on again off again love affair with country music and I wasn’t too impressed with what I was hearing on big radio at that time. I decided to see if I could write something better.  I cassette recorded the 5th song I had written and entered it in the WPLO/Kentucky Fried Chicken songwriting contest in Atlanta and won first place.  It was just me singing and picking on a guitar.  The radio station gave me an award signed by Colonel Sanders and Ms. Barbara Mandrell.  Since then my songwriting switch has been stuck in the on position.

TCB: Did you find it came naturally to you, or was it something that took some work to get the hang of? 

Claude: I believe it came natural, but developing natural ability doesn’t come easy.  I think listening to a variety of music since the late 40’s combined with playing the guitar made it easier to get the hang of it.  I already knew the basic structure of a song so it wasn’t a giant leap for me to start writing lyrics. It just took practice learning how to set those short stories to music and stay off the top of existing melodies.

TCB: Do you consciously sit down to write a song, or do they kind of pop out unexpectedly, out of the blue?

Claude: I never sit down with the intention of writing a song.  Most of my thoughts for lyrics are unexpected. I’m not an organized songwriter with a notebook and rhyming dictionary. I have a short attention span and write in short flashes with words I use in normal conversation. The best time for me is in the morning while wandering around the house drinking coffee. I’ll think of a line and write it down on something handy and over time add lines to it if I can remember where I wrote the first line. I usually think of my best lines while driving in heavy traffic and can’t find a pencil.  After I get some good lines I start singing them while playing the guitar. The melody and lyrics evolve at the same time and I resort to using a yellow legal pad.  Within three to four days I usually have the lyrics, tempo, melody and a good idea about the style of music I want to hear.  I set them aside at this point and edit later. I have one song I’ve worked on for over two years. On days when I’m really feeling creative I drag it out and try to finish it.  I’m still trying.  It’s sorter like that stump in the movie “Shane.”

TCB: Would you consider yourself prolific…do you have a drawer full you’ve written over the years?

Claude: Early on I was more prolific than I am today. Nowadays I complete about 12 keepers a year.  I could write more but for me 12 is a gracious plenty.  It’s become more difficult to find subjects that inspire me to write a song. The trick to being a prolific writer is finding fresh ways to talk about some of the same stuff Hank and many others have so brilliantly described.  You’ve got to approach it from a new angle. One way I try to do this is with clever lines. Not clever for the sake of being clever but to provide the listener with words and thoughts they will remember.  A lot of what I hear on big radio today is just cannon fodder and it doesn’t stay with me for long.  You know, in one ear and out the other. On the other hand my head is jammed full of lyrics sung by greats such as Haggard and Jones.  I’ll carry those lyrics to my grave. 

TCB: From where do you draw your inspiration?  Would you say more from personal experience, more from ‘observing’ life around you, or a little of both?

Claude: I’d say a mix of personal experience, observation, imagination and exaggeration.  To observe life and describe it with lyrics is for me no more difficult than writing personal stories. I observe and write about a lot of things that fall outside my personal experiences. For example I’ve written some That TV Stays With Me songs but I’ve been married 50 years and never had to rent a U-Haul.

On the personal side I had to overcome a reluctance to reveal some things about my life in lyrics.  That took awhile but now I write almost anything that comes to mind. There are a few doors I keep closed with the lights turned off.

Another barrier was my desire to have every song I wrote sit on top of the latest Nashville rage. Naturally, songwriters want Nashville to like and record their songs, but that shouldn’t be the North Star that songwriters follow. After clearing that hurdle, I began to develop faster as a songwriter.

I also get a lot of ideas reading novels and listening to the music of other artists. Great songwriters keep me humble and force me to check my compass.  My favorite author, James Lee Burke, writes a lot about south Louisiana and his books are a gold mine of inspiration.

TCB: I find like most great songwriters (Shaver, Kristofferson, Prine, etc.), many of your songs are equal parts wit and wisdom. You seem to have a gift for finding some measure of humor or irony and cleverly infuse that viewpoint into songs that touch on even the darker aspects of life. Does that come from ‘living and learning’, or are you naturally an upbeat person who tries to find something positive in something negative?

Claude: I do consider myself an upbeat person and try to write hope into my songs. I was employed for over thirty years with programs that provide services to persons with disabilities.  I witnessed many great victories by those individuals because they never lost hope. Despair isn’t a great theme for songwriters.

I’ve always been a fan of off center humor starting with the first Mad comic book and more recently cartoonist Gary Larson and the South Park TV program. Humor seems to come natural to me and I enjoy writing funny songs.  I sometimes use humor to help make a point or add some relief to dark material. Humorous lyrics are difficult to write and risky to use in a sad song but worth the risk if you can make it work.

I’ve been living and learning for 66 years and while I haven’t seen it all I’ve seen and felt a lot. Some of that finds its way into my songs.  One good thing about getting older is that it cuts down on the need to do research.

TCB: Early on, were you personally drawn to any particular style of music? Has that changed over the years?

Claude: Country music was the first music I enjoyed but the first music that knocked me silly was blues and rockabilly.  I remember going to juke joints when I was a kid and playing blues music on the jukebox.  I was also around for the beginning of rock and roll.  The first time I saw and heard Elvis was on a summer replacement TV show for Jackie Gleason.  Elvis came on wearing a sports jacket with a black shirt and white tie.  Looking cool!! This seemed odd because in those days national TV loved to show southern singers wearing overalls. You can imagine the impact that image and sound of Elvis had on a teenager guitar player wannabe like me.

During the 60’s as rhythm and blues and rock and roll changed I returned to country music and other cowboy hat genres.

TCB: Who were the first performers you heard who knocked your socks off?  Are there any current performers today (either mainstream or non-mainstream) who particularly impress you?

Claude: The first to knock my little boy socks off was my childhood idol Roy Rogers. The first performers to knock my big boy socks off were Hank Williams and bluesman Jimmy Reed.

I mentioned earlier that I was impressed by Elvis, but I was equally impressed by Jerry Lee. As time went by the music of Elvis changed but Jerry Lee just kept rockin’ on. To my ears he’s always played rock and roll / country. He has that special piano sound that dominates a track. I have several Carl Perkins songs with Jerry Lee playing piano and it sounds like Carl is singing on a Jerry Lee cut.

The first time I saw Jerry Lee he was playing drums at the Wagon Wheel in Natchez, Mississippi. He was playing with one drumstick and banging on the cymbal with a wire coat hanger.  It sounded good. The piano player that night, as I recall his name, was Blind Paul. This was during the early years before Jerry Lee went to Memphis and signed with Sam Phillips.

Waylon Jennings is my all time favorite country recording artist. Like the early Elvis he had everything just right; the visual image, the cool guitar, the voice, the songs and the performance. Good as it gets! A couple of current favorites are Dwight Yoakam and The Mavericks.

TCB: Who would you consider to be your strongest musical influences and in what ways did they influence you? 

Claude: There’s a long line of artists from many genres who influence the songs I write. I’ve been listening for a long time and a lot of artists have come and gone but I think it’s the song lyrics that influence me most. I remember lines from songs and I have no idea who wrote or performed many of them.

Several songwriters whose work I really enjoy are Billy Joe Shaver, Kristofferson, John Prine, Guy Clark, Mickey Newberry and Willie Nelson. They set a very high standard.

TCB: Does that explain your own stylistic diversity?  You incorporate a lot of different sounds and styles in your songs- bluegrass, honky tonk, rockabilly- there’s even some surf-guitar licks mixed in with the Tex-Mex beat in the haunting “Land Of Zydeco.”

My stylistic diversity can be attributed in part to the first radio stations I heard. In those days they would play a country song and follow it with a bluegrass or rockabilly and then switch to Cajun music, gospel or popular music. I grew up listening to and expecting variety.

Since I’m not defined by one music genre, Cajun music for example, I tend to let the lyrics I write lead to a time and place. If the lyrics go into south Louisiana with crayfish and bayous we got us a Cajun song.  If I wind up amongst neon beer signs and a country juke box then I’m honky tonkin’. My home base is always country with field trips in different directions.

When I did my CD I never thought twice about putting on a variety of sounds and styles because that’s what I like to hear.  I wanted every track to be a nice surprise and contrast for the listener, just like the programming on those radio stations. The common threads that I hope links the music together is my voice singing all the songs and my style of writing lyrics.  My producer J David Leonard is well versed in many genres of music and makes sure we get things right.

TCB: After college, you got married and started a family. You didn’t pursue a career in music, and instead moved to Georgia and took a government job to support your family.

Claude: That’s right. Actually, when I graduated from college in 1960 I was married and we had two children so I accepted a teaching position and moved to Georgia.  That switched off the amp. In the 60s you couldn’t be a honky tonkin’ school teacher.

TCB: Did you miss giving up the ‘music’ part of your life at all while raising your family?  Outside the time you taught guitar lessons, did you continue to dabble in music (playing, writing, etc.) during that period in your life? When did you decide to start pursuing music again?

Claude: I missed it, but we eventually had five children so the music dream had to wait. I kept the spark alive by playing guitar around the house and for friends. Playing a guitar is a habit that’s hard to put down so I never stopped. I got interested in music again when I started writing in the 80s.

TCB: How did you come to start entering your songs in songwriting competitions? What does that entail? I mean you won a Dallas Songwriters Association award, and Dallas is a ways from Georgia.

Claude: There are songwriting organizations around the country and many of them are on the web and have songwriting contests. That’s where I found out about the Dallas contest.  Contests provide one of the few opportunities for aspiring songwriters to have their songs heard and judged by music industry professionals.

More of our interview with Claude: