- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 17, 2001

Producer and musician Peter Fox, a one-time familiar face on the local music scene, is getting some of the best Americana artists in the area to reinterpret one another's works.

The result, "Americana Motel" (named for the Arlington, Va., landmark), is an 18-track compilation that flows from the soul of America, with songs by the Kennedys, Bill and Louise Kirchen, Ruthie and the Wranglers, and others.

An album release party, featuring most of the same performers (including Last Train Home, Mr. Kirchen, the Grandsons and a half-dozen others), comes tomorrow to the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria.

"I was really impressed by the level of talent and the quality of the musicianship," Mr. Fox says of the D.C. roots scene. "I thought it would be fun to do a project where people get to do things they don't normally do."

Mr. Fox now lives in Los Angeles, but his close association with many D.C. musicians and his love of the roots scene helped "Americana Motel" materialize. The group of more than a dozen artists picked favorite works from other collaborators and from classic singer-songwriters who inspired them, such as Vernon Taylor and Buddy Holly.

"Americana is a genre that is kind of thrown around a lot in the music business these days," Mr. Fox says. "It's the feeling of the music, the spookiness of all the stuff that tends to get sanitized out of music these days."

His main requirement in picking artists was to find those who were "informed by traditional roots music those who are working in those traditions and make them their own."

Like the Americana and alt-country movements, the album prefers to play fast and loose with genre. Everything from bluegrass and classic country to psychedelic rock and 1950s-style soul is represented. The record moves smoothly between these, from the gentle bluegrass of John Starling, Mike Auldridge and Jimmy Gaudreau, to the honky-tonk of the Fieldhands (Alan MacEwen, who is a full-time member of the Grandsons; Jack O'Dell; and Moe Nelson) and the soulful country crooning of Mr. and Mrs. Kirchen.

The finale is a hilarious, heartfelt rendition of the Graverobbers tune "Don't Take Advice," which includes most of the artists on "Americana Motel" singing lines such as "Don't apologize if you don't mean it/Don't take the chicken out way before it's done. Don't give a baby a Zippo lighter" and "Whatever you do, don't be like me." It recalls the self-deprecating nature of early country and shows that while many of the artists sing of dour times, they still keep a sense of humor.

One of the highlights for Mr. Fox was watching Ruth Logsdon and her band, Ruthie and the Wranglers, cover Mr. Taylor's classic 1950s ballad "Why Must You Leave Me?" Miss Logsdon nailed her vocals on the first take and was able to later play her version of the song for Mr. Taylor, who lives in rural Maryland.

"There was just magic in the air," Mr. Fox says of the session.


WHAT: "Americana Motel" CD release party show

WHERE: Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow

TICKETS: $17.50

PHONE: 202/432-SEAT


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