Tennessee-to-Texas transplant Lew Card is determined for you to have a good time. The spirited tone of his third album contrasts with the acoustic style of last year’s Low Country Hi-Fi, substituting keyboards and brass (the latter from the superb Tijuana TrainWreck Horns) for fiddle and dobro. The opening “Walkin’ Shoes Blues” brings to mind the daydream of Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime,” with a tempo that beckons the listener to strut down the street. Josh Vernier’s backbeat will have you bopping your head to “Baby Won’t Ya,” as Card beseeches a prospective mate, accompanied by fingerpicked acoustic guitar, electric piano and Doug Strahan’s tastefully rugged guitar solo.
The album’s themes span intimate pleasures (“Paradise” “Come On Up”) to broad social criticism (“Condo Town Rag”), stopping off at a claim for independence, “Do My Own Thing,” that brings to mind Charlie Robison. The horns add a moody touch to “30 Pieces,” with a dragging beat, dripping guitar and bird chirps that nod to the Beatles’ “Blue Jay Way.” The album’s ten originals are joined by a full throttle cover of Norman Blake’s “Southern Railroad Blues” stoked by Earl Poole Ball’s boogie-woogie piano and Strahan’s electric guitar. Fans of The Band, Commander Cody, the Neville Brothers,, Dr. John, Little Feat and Creedence Clearwater will certainly cotton to this album. [©2016 Hyperbolium]
In the past, Lew Card's tunes were workmanlike at best. Follow Me Down ups his game to the point of comparisons to names like John Prine and Hayes Carll. Along with producer James Stevens (of Moonlight Towers), Card works the Texas side of roots-rock by combining the easygoing and the gritty. That results in a sonic throwback to the Seventies, with horns and harmonica adding flavor while Card sings of Austin gentrification ("Condo Town Rag") and the meaning of liberty ("Do My Own Thing"). Originally from Tennessee, Card's all Texan now.
Veteran Austin sideman Lew Card has spent a good chunk of this decade exploring what it’d sound like to just sing and write his own songs. So far, so good. With Follow Me Down, he’s kept all of the good things about his full-length debut (2014’s subtly engaging Low Country Hi-Fi) and made them better. His sly, bluesy phrasing and hard-luck narratives have sharpened in the light of slightly higher-fi production, with a bigger-band feel augmented notably by the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns (Mark Wilson and Tiger Anyaya, to their friends). At its best, it grooves like New Orleans by way of Austin, cracks wise like John Prine by way of Randy Newman, and moves like a bayou boogie by way of a landlocked Central Texan who gets it. Although some ambitious pieces like “30 Pieces” bust out of the bluesy mold, Card isn’t typically breaking new ground here, but he’s making the most of his piece of it with soul and wit. — MIKE ETHAN MESSICK
Lew Card makes an impressive third outing with the invitingly titled Follow Me Down, an album immersed in tradition and a kind of backwoods sway. It’s a knowing approach, one that’s gleaned from the many years of lending his talents to various bands in his native Austin. It’s paid off in other ways as well, because those lending their lending their talents include such notables as the legendary venerable piano player and veteran of hundreds of sessions Earle Poole Ball (The Byrds/Johnny Cash/Heybale), Doug Strahan (The Good Neighbors), and The Tijuana Trainwreck Horn Section (Uncle Lucius/Shinyribs).
Unlike his two earlier efforts, Card elevates the arrangements and creates a far more populated sound that brings his rambling melodies further to the fore. The songs are all of a backwoods variety and are mostly good natured, be it the jaunty “Walkin’ Shoes Blues,” the easy and amiable “Baby Won’t Ya,” the sprightly “Condo Town Rag,” the supple but joyful “Paradise,” and the infectiously energized “Southern Railroad Blues.” Card, generally known as a mandolin player, forsakes that instrument entirely, trading it in for acoustic guitar and allowing his backing musicians to take on the bulk of the instrumental duties. The result is a happy mix of unassuming songs and a congenial vibe that permeates the album throughout.
“I wanna do my own thing” Card sings on “Do My Own Thing,” and that’s clearly evident in a set of songs that pay heed to Americana authenticity, but still manages to convey a sense of assurance and individuality. While Card may not have been known outside his hometown environs before, Follow Me Down ought to be the effort that gives admirers reasons to trail him from hereon in.
January has been an unusually good month for twangy Austin releases, with Rooney Pitchford’s Familiar Places flanked by Lew Card’s new album Follow Me Down. Less baroque than Pitchford, Card’s music emphasizes the rootsier end of country and folk, with “Paradise” serving as the sweet centerpiece of the album. Vocally, Card is somewhere between John Prine and Randy Newman, and “Paradise” smartly dresses up his rougher vocal with accompaniment by female backing vocals. The track is smartly arranged, with finger picked guitar serving as the only instrument mixed to the same level as Card’s vocal, while light percussion and spare piano dress up the background. Card’s approach might be more traditionalist than most of the current crop of Austin country devotees, but it’s done so well that it is all the more refreshing for it.
Review- Lone Star Music Magazine July/Aug 2014
If you count Jason Eady and Sturgill Simpson amongst your favorite songwriters of the moment, go ahead and make room on that list for Austin’s Lew Card. Card, originally from Tennessee, fits right in with the best of the neo-traditional country movement in Americana music; his style is all stroll, lemonade afternoons, and songs that cover Ulyssian distances in small steps. His first full-length release, Low Country Hi-Fi, is a brief venture of nine songs that play like a garage carpenter’s project: rustic and simple, but brimming with personality and pride. His songwriting chops are admirable, even when traveling well-worn paths in songs like “Let’s Tie One On” (“My hearts on fire and yours is blue,” he sings, “so let’s tie one on baby tonight, just me and you.”) “Dreaming of Josephine” could’ve been penned or recorded by any of the legendary artists your parents recommended to you, with even Card’s vocals evoking Bob Dylan as he catalogues his dreams: “I had the one about a winning streak/ picking pedal steel with Sneaky Pete ... but tonight I’m dreaming of my Josephine.” The album closer, “Nothing to Prove,” channels The Band’s “Ophelia,” with twang worthy of Levon Helm himself. The instrumentation throughout is also top-notch, as is to be expected with players the caliber of Cindy Cashdollar on hand. And even if Low Country Hi-Fi could have used a little more “pick up the tempo” energy here or there — it’s a bit slow overall and leaves you hanging in places for anthemic fiddle breakdowns that never come — it passes the river float/road trip play-the-whole-way-through test with flying colors. — CODY OXLEY
Review- Wild American Radio (wildamericanradio.com)
Lew Card writes simple songs. The kind of songs you swear you've heard before, though--unless you regularly frequent the Austin, Texas dives he plays in--you haven't. More accurately, Lew Card writes simple sounding songs; drawing from Blaze Foley blues, a bit of Townes Van Zandt folk, and plenty of his own personality. But Card's songs, like a Robert Frost poem, are only simple on the surface; underneath is a delicate mastery that only reveals itself to readers (or, in this case, listeners) who attune themselves with the writer.
Have a listen to Card's "Same Old Blues," in which the narrator cites the observations of himself by his "woman", buddies, mama, and brother, with none of the descriptions being related, much less consistent. Meanwhile, chameleon-like, Card saunters off singing his song with the upbeat abandon thatonly the most accomplished loner is capable of achieving. It's a sleight of hand confession: like a criminal admitting to lesser crimes than he's actually committed.
I'll argue that the most "honest" songs on Low Country Hi-Fi appear in the form of the two songs he covers on the record, Townes Van Zandt's "Turnstyled, Junkpiled" and Randy Newman's "Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong". That's not to suggest that Card is blowing smoke with his own compositions, rather he's just manipulating mirrors.
The laconic piano and dobro of "Down That Line" deceptively hides the paranoia and anger of a waning relationship, and ends up being less wistful than defiant. "Dreams of Josephine," a dreamscape falling somewhere between "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and the Book of Revelations, follows suit, with dark and comical imagery swimming under the surface of a rolling acoustic stream. These odd juxtapositions, though, only serve to accentuate the music and the lyrics--even if each resides on a separate plane.
Lew Card's approach is soft enough to appeal to the casual listener, but audiences willing to peer into the long shadows he casts will find where he shines brightest, and will discover a talent that's as undeniable as it is understated.
Review-The Alternate Root Magazine
Lew Card’s latest release, Low Country Hi-Fi has a healthy pulse monitoring a shuffle that sticks to step in an unwavering line. The songs amble onto the album staying true to the beat that brought them, heading “Down the Line” on album opener and riding evenly throughout until they finds themselves hanging on a street corner with the album closer, proudly claiming “Nothing to Prove”. Low Country Hi-Fi could find a soul-mate rhythm from north of Lew’s Austin, TX-base in the Tulsa Sound of Oklahoma native J.J. Cale. The grooves are mildly similar but their true linking comes from both styles ability to remain set and locked from song to song without ever becoming predictable. The album taps it toe to a fine selection of Lew Card originals alongside tracks by Townes Van Zandt (“Turnstyled, Junkpiled”) and Randy Newman “Maybe I’m Doing It Wrong”).
Stepping to his own branded rhythm Lew Card makes his peace in “Low Country High”, crisscrossing the U.S. from California to Tennesseecalmly waiting for the water to rise as he shakes off ‘big city blues I don’t need you no more’. Lew takes a moment to listen to advice in “Same Old Blues” but does not budge from the judgment that nothing really changes all that much and he offers his hand for a moonlight spin from the honky tonk floor and around the town in “Let’s Tie One On’. The music seems to come from different starting points on Low Country Hi-Fi, though subtle touches are built in to create a common ground, such as Jonny ‘Keys’ Grossman’s way of stringing organ chords out as a bridge so the music can easily cross between jug band and country blues.