promise

Anne McCue's new CD, 'Broken Promise Land,' returns to raw sound

Anne McCue describes her new album, Broken Promise Land, due out on May 18, 2010 on Flying Machine Records Records, as “a bit dirty, a bit rockin’, a bit swampy and a bit bluesy, with a touch of mysteriousness to it.”

What isn’t mysterious is McCue’s musical talent and range. She was voted the Roots Music Association’s Folk Artist of the Year in 2008, performed in a Jimi Hendrix tribute at the 2007 International Guitar Festival and was included in the Four Decades of Folk Rock box set alongside the likes of Bob Dylan and Wilco. Heart’s Nancy Wilson has described her as “my Aussie clone,” while Americana icon Lucinda Williams had this to say: “Initially, her stunning voice hooked me in. Then I got inside the songs. The first chance I got, I went to see her perform . . . I was floored! The combination of her tomboyish beauty mixed with the precision and assertiveness with which she approached the guitar, her surrounding languid and earthy vocals created an intoxicating blend.”

The new, self-produced album is one that she has long wanted to make. Combining heartfelt songwriting with gritty guitar playing, the record harkens back to McCue’s breakout Roll release, although she says that the new disc’s sound is even more raw than its predecessor. While earlier albums covered a range of roots-rock styles, Broken Promise Land focuses on McCue’s hard-charging “cosmic biker rock” sound.

The new disc lets McCue showcase her rockin’ ways and six-string virtuosity. The title track cuts loose with a blistering Hendrix-like bluesy guitar solo. The first single, “Don’t Go To Texas (Without Me),” boasts the dirty guitar sound of late ’60s English bands like the Yardbirds and the Rolling Stones, while “The Old Man Talkin’” exudes a slinky J.J. Cale vibe.

The music’s strong, visceral energy results from a strategy to record as much as possible live. “I didn’t want to have a lot of layers. I wanted it to be pretty much what I can do on stage,” McCue asserts. She sought to capture the vibe of the old Albert King albums that she loves, which were recorded in only a few days, and she included a brass section in the sessions. By recording to tape, McCue also created the textures and dimension that she admires in T-Bone Burnett’s work.

On Broken Promise Land, McCue utilized the veteran rhythm section of Bones Hillman (Midnight Oil) and drummer Ken Coomer (Uncle Tupelo/Wilco). “Bones and Ken are very developed as musicians,” she says. “It’s great to have that type of depth to the musicianship.” This powerful trio demonstrates their musical breadth throughout this disc, whether it’s building “The Lonely One” into a surging rock ballad, conjuring a spooky atmosphere in Amelia White’s “Motorcycle Dream” or roaring through a cover of Rose Tattoo’s “Rock ’n’ Roll Outlaw.”

McCue’s love for music was nurtured in Sydney, Australia, where she grew up in a house filled with music. Her father, while not a professional musician, played a variety of instruments and her mother sang in the church choir. All of her seven older siblings were heavily into music too, and sounds ranging from Billie Holiday to Led Zeppelin filled the McCue home. “Every type of music except hardcore blues,” the blues-loving McCue admits, “so I definitely didn’t get burned out on it as a child.”

Although McCue played guitar growing up, she wasn’t encouraged to be a musician. A longtime film buff, she got a degree in film studies at Sydney’s University of Technology. Her cinema studies are an influence. “To me, my songs are like short films,” she reveals, “I try to be very visual and cinematic with my music and now I am making videos for the songs too.”

After college, McCue joined an all-female band, Girl Monstar, which was very popular in the Australian indie rock scene. She later became a part of the folk-rock trio Eden AKA that performed on the Lilith Fair tour and recorded a never-released album for Columbia Records. Her ill-fated Columbia experience landed her in America, where she set up shop in Los Angeles and became a vital part of the city’s roots music scene. During her time in Southern California, she recorded two attention-grabbing albums — 2004’s Roll and 2006’s Koala Motel.
Both releases accumulated a bevy of critical accolades. Entertainment Weekly exclaimed that McCue “represents a new generation of hard-bitten, country-inflected singer-songsmiths,” while Billboard heralded her as  “the virtual definition of ‘triple threat.’ A potent singer, thoughtful songwriter and tough guitarist.” Austin Chronicle critic Jim Caligiuri noted that “these days, there are very few women working the same territory as McCue, who can combine tough and vulnerable. That she does it with poise and a self-deprecating sense of humor makes her an artist worth seeing again.”
A few years ago, McCue moved to Nashville, a place she finds quite fertile for making music. “There’s more room to think, more creative space,” she explains, “but there are so many great musicians that it really raises the bar and makes you want to get better.” Last year, she self-produced a limited-distribution acoustic album, East of Electric, on which she played a variety of instruments. A terrific example of her folkier side, it stands as a quiet side-trip to the full-bodied rock ferocity that Broken Promise Land delivers.
“This is the kind of music I love playing,” says McCue talking enthusiastically about her Broken Promise Land songs. “There’s nothing I could look more forward to than playing a whole set of bluesy, rocky, swampy music.”
See the video for McCue’s “Don’t Go to Texas (Without Me)” right here.

Jim McPherson: A Promise Kept

The story of Jim McPherson is the story of what might have been – a legendarily gifted musician whose untimely passing robbed us of an unknowable wealth of music. He earned considerable recognition for the Jefferson Starship’s hit “Jane,” which he co-wrote with David Freiberg, but that was only a tiny bit of his creative outpouring.   Against all odds, a fine collection of his songs has been preserved and now assembled.  It’s a message in a bottle, a fragment of an artist’s life from twenty years ago, with performances by some of the Bay Area’s finest musicians - -

 

jimJim grew up on the West Side of Chicago in the 1950s, the golden era of the urban blues, and they became a part of his musical DNA, passing from the radio into his bones.  He got “the fever,” as the saying had it.  As a young boy he played violin, attending the Mozart School of Music, but soon moved on to drums, bass, keyboards and guitar: he mastered them all.  After attending college in Idaho, Jim transferred to San Jose State in California, which put him right in the Bay Area music scene of 1964.  There he met up with Dennis Carrasco, Bob Rominger, and Roger Hedge, his musical collaborators for the next several years.  Their first band was the Trolls, which morphed into the popular and respected Stained Glass, with several singles on RCA Records, including “My Buddy Sin” and “A Scene In-Between.”   The Glass recorded two albums for Capitol, Crazy Horse Roads and Aurora; Tom Bryant joined the group as Rominger and Hedge left. The band later evolved into Christian Rapid. Though he was always a team player – and one of the finest bass players around – Jim was most definitely the musical leader of all these outfits, contributing the vast majority of their material.

 

Jim left San Jose in 1971 and moved to Marin County along with many other like-minded exiles from the era of San Francisco in the ‘60s.  He’d been working with Frank Werber (who’d managed the Kingston Trio to fame and fortune), but Frank was retiring, and sent him to the manager of the Quicksilver Messenger Service, Ron PoltePolte recalled that Jim came by one day, pulled out an acoustic guitar, and “charmed me in 15 minutes…he was accomplished, like a terrific magician.  I was completely taken.”  So Ron sent him to John Cipollina.

 

Jim met up with John Cipollina and joined John’s first post-Quicksilver Messenger Service venture, a band called Copperhead.  David Weber, Gary Phillipet and Pete Sears had already been recruited. Pete later went on to join the Jefferson Starship and was replaced by Hutch Hutchinson. Gary Philippet and Kent Housman wrote the single “Roller Derby Star” for the Copperhead album, and Jim’s ‘Chameleon’ was on the flip side.   Though his visibility was not as high as in the past, Jim was actually Copperhead’s main songwriter, his talents as quirky and notable as before.

 

He recorded with various other groups in the Bay Area and began work on a solo album at The Barn, on Mickey Hart’s ranch in Novato, California, laying down a considerable amount of strong material before his rapidly failing health ultimately hindered his ability to complete it.

 

Hart was so impressed with Jim’s songwriting and performance skills that he put together a band to showcase it – one of the fond memories of early-80s Bay Area music, High Noon, which featured Jim on vocals, keyboards, and rhythm guitar, Mickey Hart on drums, Bobby Vega on bass, Merl Saunders on vocals and keys, Vicki Randle on vocals, percussion, and rhythm guitar (lots of switching around in this band!), Michael Hinton on lead guitar, and Norton Buffalo on harp and vocals.  Two of he songs on this CD, “Left Out in the Cold,” which was co-written with Merl, and Jim’s “Cross the Bridge,” are performed here by High Noon and were graciously earmarked for it.  Also during this era, Jim’s friendship with bass player Bobby Vega solidified in, and they wrote several tunes together, one of which, “The Real Deal,” is included in this project.

 

Jim performed frequently with Merl Saunders, and together they also wrote the song “Play the Paris Blues,” which was heard on the television series “Simon and Simon.”  Merl recorded the tune with Dr. John and it was Dr. John’s part that found its way onto the San Francisco-based show “Nash Bridges.”

 

The years passed, but interest in these songs has remained high – mostly from musicians in the know.  Finally, the right elements fell into place.  Twenty-four years after she promised her husband Jim to complete his legacy, Executive Producer Evy McPherson explained, “This CD celebrates a completed life, and that changes its scope.  If Jim had been around, this CD might have been very different.  But in these circumstances, I felt it had to represent all of his many dimensions – so there are blues songs, country songs, love songs, even a funk song…Because he could do anything.”

 

We can speculate on what might have been – but here in A Promise Kept you have what he was able to do – and it is genuine treasure, the work of a truly superlative songwriter.  Your ears will tell you so.