Review and Photos by William Wayland
A lot has been written about Melissa Carper recently. In the world of queer alt-country new-nostalgia Americana, Melissa Carper is hot.
When I caught Carper, she was a few dates into her Ramblin’ Soul tour supporting the November release of her third solo album of the same name.
Ramblin’ Soul (Mae Music, Thirty Tigers) is her newest release but less than two years ago, she self-released Daddy’s Country Gold, another hit-filled treasure.
Carper played a sold-out show at LAs’ Hotel Cafe and then drove up the coast accompanied by guitarist Doug Strahan (Strahan and the Good Neighbors), to another sold-out performance at Amado’s in San Francisco’s Mission. As the tour’s momentum builds, I’m sure there will be more capacity shows across the West.
If you haven’t heard Melissa Carper yet, you’re probably just looking in the wrong place. Go to any record store with a great country music section. Now dig into the classics, where they keep the old records. Grab a couple Hank Williams LPs, anything they’ve got. Now some Jimmy Rodgers, Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline. Carper’s music feels like an homage to the golden age of country music.
Put this mix in a blender and set to puree. Any reputable record store will let you do this.
This is where a lot of people mess up because they think they’re done.
You can’t help feeling Carper’s deeply personal connection to her songs and their subjects. She articulates and stretches out the lyrics in a way that is instantly reminiscent of Billie Holiday. Sprinkle in some Lady Day. Not too much. A dash of 45s will do. Maybe “Solitude” and “Gloomy Sunday.”
Pour onto a cookie sheet and press flat until your LP is about 180 grams.
Set the oven to 400 and bake for forty minutes. When the vinyl is a beautiful translucent red they’re ready to take out of the oven.
Let cool and play at 33 1/3 RPM.
This recipe makes about six Ramblin’ Soul LPs, enough to share with friends and family.
If you can’t get to the store right away and want to listen to Melissa Carper now, start with the title track off the new album, “Ramblin’ Soul”. A native Nebraskan, Carper’s wanderlust dominates many of her songs about moving from place to place, but especially Arkansas and Texas.
Next, move on to “Back When” from Daddy’s Country Gold, another tune she played on Saturday. Memories are inseparable from Carper’s music. Places she’s been. People she’s met. Vans she’s owned. Better times.
For a slightly deeper track and for the full Melissa Carper experience, have a listen to “Christian Girlfriend” off her first solo record, Arkansas Bound. Here, Carper sings comedically, and given her roaming ways, paradoxically, about her desire to live in open LGBTQ+ bliss, if only she could find a Christian girlfriend to settle down with.
Kassi Valazza’s performance was a surprise for me because I’m so used to listening to her pure voice over a bed of Cary Sigler’s psychedelic Spaghetti Western guitar vibes. It was especially interesting to hear a solo acoustic version of one of her most recognizable tunes, “Johnny Dear.”
Valazza told the audience that her new album will be coming out in April. I can’t wait to hear it and I hope to see her then with the richness and backing of a full band.
It’s also important to note here that Valazza has the most diminutive setlist of any performer. Even if she has perfect handwriting, I refuse to believe she can read a tiny scrap of paper from that tall stool. There’s absolutely no way.
Update: It was just announced that Kassi Valazza’s upcoming album, Knows Nothing, will be released on April 20th. As of this writing, there are 14 limited edition orange marble vinyl LPs available (if you’re into that.)