I will always marvel that amid the comings and goings and doings of Americans who fix cars, teach math, drive trucks, try cases, fill cavities, etc. etc. there’s this slice of the population who feel the calling of music more than anything. They are the family bands, the touring twentysomethings and the 60-year old cult figures who pound away year after year, sharing their souls with others and stoically putting up with bad gigs, endless miles and an uncertain livelihood and legacy.
James Intveld, who plays Roots this week, is a lifer for sure. You can tell by the way he carries himself and inhabits his rich blend of country and rockabilly. The California native began playing shows and clubs in the Los Angeles area and was a major force in the Palomino Club country awakening of the 1980s – a very special movement that put Dwight Yoakam, Rosie Flores and the Desert Rose Band on the national map. And then at a critical time, his life, if not his career, was jolted by tragedy when his brother/drummer Rick and another former bandmate were killed in the plane crash that ended Rick Nelson’s life. We’ll never know if that shifted the fate of a singer whom most attentive listeners say fills the gulf left by Elvis Presley and Marty Robbins. I mean you know it’s serious when an artist’s debut album comes out on Germany’s Bear Family Records, a label most famous for its complete and stunningly annotated box sets of the greatest country and rockabilly ever made. James has also been an actor and video director, which may count as his “day job,” but ever since I tuned into Americana, Intveld has been one of the stalwarts of real country, defying fashion and the largely bogus directions of FM radio. Still in his early 50s, he may well be poised for a kind of re-discovery by the growing army of folks turning on to authentic roots music. We’ll be there to support him because he’s fabulous.
It remains to be seen whether David Mayfield is in it for the very long haul, but his intensity on stage and his stage tutelage as a member of a touring family band suggests it’s likely. In his own way, Mayfield is a country artist as well, but one more attuned to the sensibility of college radio and grungy music halls than the swinging door honky tonk. That said, Mayfield, who has released on album since parting ways with out-there bluegrass band Cadillac Sky, can croon like Jim Reeves if he wants to. He knows his way around bluegrass because of that family band upbringing. And yet with his current band, the David Mayfield Parade, he’s found a sweet spot there between roots and rock and roll that brims with energy and wildly appealing melodies. Other fun facts include his close ties to the Avett Brothers, with whom he plays a bunch, and his brother-hood to sister Jessica Lea Mayfield, who is herself a new star of the Americana world. We were all knocked out when David brought his band to the Barn a year and a half ago, so his set this week should be a shockingly cool way to open the show.
In between Mr. Mayfield’s opener and Mr. Intveld’s closer, we’ve got a cool trio of acts from across the spectrum. Red June is a trio from good old Asheville, North Carolina that’s simmered for some years and stepped it up recently with a fine album called Remember Me Well. The disc took #1 in a listener survey for best regional release by legendary tastemaker WNCW and it’s been praised to the skies by folk music lovers and critics. I love it too, and I’m happy to say that I tipped Todd our booking guy to this one. Making a repeat appearance this week will be our friends Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade. She and they were on Roots Show Number Two way back in 2009, so it’s fitting they should be on Show #102 this week. And finally, we’ll be hearing from L.A. duo Ladies Gun Club, who have enough buzz that they’ve also lined up Nashville gigs at the Basement and the Five Spot just around our show. I’m thinking that we’ll love em.
Most of our artists are lifers. It’s just the way they’re wired, and their music wouldn’t be as convincing if they weren’t. For their sacrifices and generosity, we say thanks a lot.