Robert Earl Keen has been playing the Texas singer/songwriter circuit for over three decades, and as a guy who often favors the acoustic side of the country and Americana music scenes, it's no kind of surprise that he's crossed paths with the bluegrass music community, and it certainly makes sense that he's a fan. What is a bit of a surprise is not that Keen has decided to cut a bluegrass album, but that the respected tunesmith has chosen to make it a collection of covers rather than writing a new set of songs.
Happy Secret collects a number of recordings made by Australia's Lucksmiths in 1998, a year during which they toured Europe with Belle & Sebastian and evidently fine-tuned certain elements of their sound, as well. The recordings are certainly the band's best work to that point, dropping the goofy, whimsical attitudes that occasionally hampered A Good Kind of Nervous and concentrating instead on evocative acoustic pop. This move is a very, very good thing. Many of the songs on Happy Secret recall Billy Bragg's best late-'80s work (the lighter side of Don't Try This at Home), or some of the songwriting on the Smiths' self-titled debut, and the record's avoidance of cheekily clever lyrics or overly bouncy song constructions calls for the band's music to be taken as seriously as it probably deserves. The Lucksmiths' intimate, organic sound (acoustic guitars, lightly brushed drums, and plenty of tasteful vocal harmonies) assures their appeal to Belle & Sebastian's many fans, but the giant leap Happy Secret makes from A Good Kind of Nervous should prove the band to be much more than some sort of Belle & Sebastian replacement.
"With the title track, Ben Sidran delivers one of the most insightful songs in a career full of them; in it, he rearranges the paradigm to suggest how we might buck up against situations that seem hopeless. His timing couldn't be better. His stylistic mentor, the late Mose Allison, would be proud." - Neil Tesser, Grammy winning author and Host of the syndicated program 'Jazz With Neil Tesser'. PICTURE HIM HAPPY is a response to the saying that our music is made by and for people who have chosen to feel good in spite of conditions: you often can’t affect what happens but you can determine how you respond to it. It’s a record that’s right on time.
‘I Could Be Happy‘, the band’s fifth studio album and also an original track by Altered Images, does just that showcasing 6 more handpicked and carefully crafted reworkings of tracks from the likes of Brian Eno, The Ramones and The Cure to name a few. In contrast with previous releases ‘I Could Be Happy‘ is the first release to feature original material from Nouvelle Vague themselves and while these tracks don’t have the same “damn, I know this track, but do I…” feeling that their previous repertoire offered they remain accomplished and enjoyable within their own right.
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection
Entry into the exclusive club of “professional musicians” is often a gradual and painful process. Based on recorded documents, such was not the case with Horslips, who came to the game fully formed and ready to rock n reel. I’m sure they paid their dues in a live setting for years, even if that included weddings, funerals, and christenings, as off the cuff performing is often part and parcel of Irish culture. Whatever the case, “Happy to Meet…Sorry to Part” is a landmark celtic rock recording and a stunning debut, and this applies whether you are a celtic music fan, a progressive fan, a rocker, or any combination thereof.