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Monday, September 29, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 27, 2014
Scott Foley

Two of my favorite KRFC guys in studio with me this Episode for our Fall 2014 Membership Drive.  Big Thanks to Andy from Tarnation and Charles from Ajax Diner Book Club (give 'em a listen, won't you) for keeping me company and speaking truth about the value of community radio.  You'll have another chance to make it right next Saturday, by calling 970-221-5075 or pledging online at

Just call him "Tom V", if like me  you're uncertain where to put the accent on Vandenavond. Larry & His Flask, that's an easier name to pronounce.  Together, they've released a wonderfully low-key collaboration on Hillgrass Bluebilly Records, Endtimes.  As I've mentioned in the past, despite my overriding allergies to much of the genre, I began my radio existence as a sub for a folk music program.  At the time, the folk airwaves were crowded with what was called "contemporary folk music", a subgenre largely defined by confessional, earnest Boston types with a thing for strummy acoustic guitars.  For my part, I sought to skew the program towards the messier side of folk, the dark side that champions rough hewn edges and playing like one might hear on the new Tom V / Larry set.  This isn't to damn  Endtimes as a folk record, though there is a definite throwback spirit to the sessions, a'la John Prine as backed by the Gourds.  If Tom Vandenavond were a train, I would be bouncing behind the caboose, having discovered his music only last year with his visit to the Choice City Stomp.  Given his last solo record, 2012's Wreck of a Fine Man, I was drawn to some of his deceptively simple lyrics and workmanlike approach to the unadorned music.  On Endtimes, those words are showcased atop the sweet and shambling accompaniment from Portland's Larry & His Flask.  The pairing serves to bring out the best from both parties, perfectly framing Tom V's music and allowing the band's acoustic prowess to shine. 

*  Townes Van Zandt, "Why She's Acting This Way"  Our Mother the Mountain  (Tomato, 69)
*  Shinyribs, "Dollar Bill Blues"  More Townes Van Zandt  (forthesakeofthesong, 10)
*  Lucinda Williams, "Temporary Nature (of any precious thing)"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Lucero, "Breathless Love (live)"  Live From Atlanta  (Liberty + Lament, 14)
*  Drag the River, "Medicine"  Closed  (Upland, 02)  C
*  Luke Winslow-King, "Cadillac Slim"  Everlasting Arms  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Band of Heathens, "Carry Your Love"  single  (BoH, 14)  D
*  Sons of Bill, "Arms of the Landslide"  Love & Logic  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Maggie Bjorklund w/Kurt Wagner, "Fro Fro Heart"  Shaken  (Bloodshot, 14)  D
*  Steelism, "Landlocked Surfer"  915 to Fame  (Single Lock, 14)
*  Shakey Graves, "Hard Wired"  And the War Came  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Son Volt, "Mystifies Me"  Trace  (Warner, 95)
*  Hiss Golden Messenger, "Lucia"  Lateness of Dancers  (Merge, 14)
*  Lee Ann Womack, "Chances Are"  The Way I'm Livin'  (Sugar Hill, 14)
*  Matt Hillyer, "Home Is Where the Heartache Is"  If These Old Bones Could Talk  (Run Up Tree, 14)
*  Ben Miller Band, "Prettiest Girl"  Any Way Shape or Form  (New West, 14)
*  Tweedy, "Summer Noon"  Sukierae  (dbPm, 14)
*  Patterson Hood, "After It's Gone"  single  (Protect Downtown Athens, 12)
*  Sarah Borges, "Start Again"  Radio Sweetheart  (Lonesome Day, 14)
*  JD McPherson, "I Wish You Would"  single  (Concord, 14)  D
^  Tom Vandenavond w/Larry & His Flask, "Jackrabbit, Arizona"  Endtimes  (Hillgrass Bluebilly, 14)  D
*  Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, "I'm Blue I'm Lonesome"  Saturday Night / Sunday Morning  (Superlatone, 14)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 20, 2014
Scott Foley

The songs that "bookend" Lucinda Williams' new Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone are telling.  Her 10th studio album since 1979's Ramblin' On My Mind launches with "Compassion", a poem from her father, Miller Williams, adapted by daughter Lucinda.  Never a traditionally strong singer, Williams sounds unusually worn and tired:  "You do not know what wars are going on / Down there where the spirit meets the bone".  Nobody has even accused Lucinda Williams of being a pollyanna, and most of the tunes on Disc 1 unspool from this darkness.  "You're the saddest story that's ever been told" she sings on the relatively upbeat "Burning Bridges".  It's not until the sweet Memphis country-soul of "Stand Right By Each Other" that she allows a degree of light to shine through. Like her poet father, Williams' lyrics are plainspoken.  They frequently apply the blues practice of repetition, sometimes generating a mantra-like effect. 

Especially in her blues mode, Lucinda Williams is never in a hurry to reach the far side of a song.  Disc 2 drawls to a halt with a beautifully languid 10 minute take on the late J.J. Cale's signature song, "Magnolia".  While it's far from a pick-me-up, Williams is at her best during such country-soul moments.  Her leathered voice folds perfectly into the so-sad country of "It's Gonna Rain", or Disc 2's "This Old Heartache", which might not sound out of place on '92's Sweet Old World.  Lyrically and musically, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone achieves its zenith with "Temporary Nature (of Any Precious Thing)".  The song thrills at the point where Memphis meets Austin and Nashville:  "Love can never, never live / Without the pain, the pain of loss."  As listeners, sad music is never depressing when it's well made. 

Next Episode, I'll be joined in studio by Tarnation's Andy D.  This time, the "D" stands for "donation", as KRFC launches fearlessly into our Fall 2014 Membership Drive.  If you're a follower of this blog, or a regular listener to R&B, please step forward and let your appreciation be heard. Call 970-221-5075, or pledge online like the kids do at 

*  Carbon Leaf, "One Prairie Outpost"  Indian Summer Revisited  (Constant Ivy, 14)  D
*  Sons of Bill, "Big Unknown"  Love & Logic  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Fire Mountain, "Factory Line"  All Dies Down  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Robert Plant, "Little Maggie"  Lullaby and ... the Ceaseless Roar  (Nonesuch, 14)  D
*  Rachel Brooke, "Mean Kind of Blues"  Down in the Barnyard  (Self, 11)
*  Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer, "Hobbled & Grazing"  Flower of Muscle Shoals  (Free Dirt, 14)
*  Cory Branan, "You Make Me"  No Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Reed Foehl, "Steal Away"  Lost In the West  (NeverFoehl, 14)  C
*  Dave Alvin & Syd Straw, "What Am I Worth"  King of California  (Hightone, 94)
*  David Mayfield, "In Your Eyes"  Strangers  (Compass, 14)
^  Lucinda Williams, "Protection"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Lucinda Williams, "This Old Heartache"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone   (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Luke Winslow-King, "Crystal Water Springs"  Everlasting Arms  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Ryan Adams, "Trouble"  Ryan Adams  (PaxAm, 14)
*  Ryan Adams, "Jacksonville"  Jacksonville  (PaxAm, 14)  D
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Wanna Be a Stranger"  Single Mothers  (Vagrant, 14)
*  Benjamin Booker, "Slow Coming"  Benjamin Booker  (ATO, 14)
*  Drew Kennedy, "Poet at 33 (live)"  Sad Songs Happily Played  (Self, 14)
*  Micky & the Motorcars, "Sister Lost Soul"  Hearts From Above  (Self, 14)
*  Fauntleroys, "Take You Far Away"  Below the Pink Pony  (Plowboy, 14)
*  NQ Arbuckle, "Back to Earth"  The Future Happens Anyway  (Six Shooter, 14)
*  Ronnie Fauss w/Rhett Miller, "Eighteen Wheels"  Built to Break  (New West, 14)
*  Jason Isbell, "Cover Me Up"  Southeastern  (12th St, 13)
*  Sturgill Simpson, "Panbowl"  Metamodern Sounds in Country Music  (High Top Mt, 14)
*  Hard Working Americans w/Rosanne Cash, "Come From the Heart"  First Waltz  (Melvin, 14)
*  Old Crow Medicine Show, "Sweet Home"  Remedy  (ATO, 14)
*  Greensky Bluegrass, "Forget Everything"  If Sorrows Swim  (Thirty Tigers, 14)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 13, 2014
Scott Foley

A couple years ago, Sons of Bill garnered some prime R&B attention with their Sirens release.  Even further back (remember 2009?), the Virginia band’s “Broken Bottles” landed near the top of my yearly countdown of favorite songs.  Fronted by the titular Wilson brothers, Sons of Bill has evolved over the years from Reckless Kelly-esque red dirt roots rockers to a smart, contemporary Americana act that could be comfortable in both bars and arenas.  SOB have traditionally had great luck with their producers, tagging both Jim Scott and David Lowery for previous albums, and that streak continues here.  As producer, former Uncle Tupelo/Wilco drummer Ken Coomer ably eases this transition on the band’s mature and relevant new Love and Logic release.  Whereas early Sons songs rarely made it out of the roadhouse, there’s a real life existential element to these new tunes.  Still firmly rooted in Southern tradition, they’ve chosen to leave the bars ‘n broads stereotypes to less capable bands.  Once Southern boys they all loved RE Lee / Once Southern girls loved REM / Were they all in confederacy against you / Or were you just like them”.  Even more traditional faire like the bucolic “Fishing Song” makes less obvious choices:  I want to go fishing. I want to feel the sunshine / And I want Heaven and Hell to disappear as I cast a line”.  Thoughtfulness and adult uncertainty dictate the spirit of Love and Logic.   There’s no romantic, Springsteen-like “Santa Ana Winds” driven by youthful optimism.  Instead, “Hymnsong” gives us, “We're convinced that there's a cadence to the murmurs in the dark / Rapt in patient arbitration between our weary head and heart”.  While some bands never escape the stereotype and others try hard to become something they’re not, Sons of Bill find great success in exploring the boundaries of who they are.  

Also on this Episode, Ronnie Fauss bravely and ably covers on of my favorite songs of the decade.   Lucinda further cements my assertion that this year marks the return of soul to americana, and I entertain the dawning realization that Lee Ann Womack's new covers record is way more than just a grasping for attention by an expired mainstream country artist. 

*  Lambchop, "Sharing a Gibson With Martin Luther King Jr."  OH (Ohio)  (Merge, 08)
*  Yawpers, "Rock Bottom"  Capon Crusade  (Self, 2012)  C
*  Reed Foehl, "Rodeo Clown"  Lost In the West  (NeverFoehl, 14)  C
*  Puss N Boots, "Jesus, Etc"  No Fools No Fun  (Blue Note, 14)
*  Steelism, "Marfa Lights"  915 To Fame  (Single Lock, 14)
*  Robert Earl Keen, "Shades of Gray"  Picnic  (Sugar Hill, 97)
*  Sid Griffin, "Elvis Presley Calls His Mother After the Ed Sullivan Show"  Trick Is To Breathe  (Prima, 14)  D
*  Lee Ann Womack, "All His Saints"  Way I'm Livin'  (Sugar Hill, 14)
*  Marty Stuart w/Mavis Staples, "Uncloudy Day"  Saturday Night / Sunday Morning  (Superlatone, 14)  D
*  Nikki Lane, "Seein' Double"  All Or Nothin'  (New West, 14)
*  Hard Pans, "What's Coming"  Budget Cuts  (High Plains Film, 14)
*  Gourds, "Moon Gone Down"  Noble Creatures  (Yep Roc, 07)
*  Psycho Sisters, "Fun To Lie"  Up On the Chair Beatrice  (Rockbeat, 14)  D
*  Arliss Nancy, "Saint Forgot"  Simple Machines  (Suburban Home, 12)  C
*  Lucinda Williams, "Stand Right By Each Other"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Shakey Graves, "Big Time Nashville Star"  And the War Came  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Los Straitjackets w/Deke Dickerson, "Honky Tonk"  Sings the Instrumental Hits  (Yep Roc, 14)  D
*  Untamed Youth, "Angel Face"  Untamed Melodies  (Norton, 96)
*  Luke Winslow-King, "Cadillac Slim"  Everlasting Arms  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Larkin Poe, "Crown of Fire"  KIN  (RH, 14)  D
*  Israel Nash, "Myer Canyon"  Israel Nash's Rain Plains  (Loose, 14)
*  Hard Working Americans, "Play a Train Song (live)"  First Waltz  (Melvin, 14)
*  Ronnie Fauss, "Song For Zula"  Built To Break  (New West, 14)  D
*  Lydia Loveless, "Bad Way To Go"  Indestructible Machine  (Bloodshot, 11)
*  Pieta Brown, "Before Gas & TV"  Paradise Outlaw  (Red House, 14)
^  Sons of Bill, "Arms of the Landslide"  Love & Logic  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Otis Gibbs, "No Rust On My Spade"  Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth  (Wanamaker, 14)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 6, 2014
Scott Foley

Last year, I received a no-frills package in the mail, containing a plain sleeved CD copy of Israel Nash's new album.  This lack of fanfare struck me as odd, given his superb 2011 album, Barn Doors
& Concrete Floors (which boasted one of my favorite songs of the year in "Drown", along with that song's perfectly fine video which featured a cameo from Bigfoot ... or perhaps Sasquatch).  Turns out, he was restricting the initial release of Israel Nash's Rain Plans to Europe.  In the wake of a strong overseas reception, the Dripping Springs, Texas resident (gateway to the Hill Country) has finally orchestrated a formal release for his new music here at home.  I'm sure there's a good story behind dropping the "Gripka" from the end of his name; perhaps it was tied in to his move from New York in the time since Barn Doors.  No matter, Rain Plans is quite a different beast, a heavy country-rock monster that recalls the classics of the 70s.  Nash has commented that he sought to create an album that sounded like what he saw in his new home.  Apparently, Dripping Springs looks a bit like Laurel Canyon.  I don't think I've come across a review of Nash's third release that refrains from making the Neil Young comparison.  While there is a similar keen to his voice, Nash is a far stronger vocalist.  A more accurate comparison might be to Young's Crazy Horse, who play with a similar wall of sound as Nash's touring band.  Electric guitars compete with pedal steel and vocals in a thick production that emphasizes the neo-psychedelic roots of his songs.  The seven-plus minute title track is especially evocative, a heavy country-rock number that wouldn't have been out of place revolving on a 70s LP.   I would even throw in Marshall Tucker or the Band as touchstones, especially on pieces with a lighter touch, like "Myer Canyon".  In the end, it's a lovely, shambling masterpiece - the portrait of a haunted man wandering through the Texas Hill Country. 

This Episode also marks the debut of Colorado singer-songwriter Reed Foehl's long awaited new record.  Lost In the West is a step in the americana direction for Foehl, after the more folk oriented Once a River.  "Four Lanes" sounds like the dream collaboration between early Neil Young and late Ryan Adams, as arranged by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon.  The desert-dry pedal steel alone is worth the price of admission on this one.  My guess is that programmers will gravitate towards the more standard cuts like the upbeat "Caroline" (I could do an entire R&B Episode playing only songs with "Caroline" in the title), but I've certainly found my favorite track elsewhere.  See also:  "The Kill", where Foehl gets his falsetto on:  "I came in for the happiness / I came in for the Kill / But I walked out with nothing left to spill".  Not to mention the epic guitar on "Rodeo Clown" ...  

^  Israel Nash, "Rexanimarum"  Israel Nash's Rain Plans  (Loose, 14)
*  Elliott BROOD, "Jigsaw Heart"  Work and Love  (Paper Bag, 14)
*  Ben Miller Band, "The Outsider"  Any Way Shape or Form  (New West, 14)
*  Greensky Bluegrass, "Forget Everything"  If Sorrows Swim  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Laura Cantrell, "Way It Is"  Not the Tremblin' Kind  (Diesel Only, 00)
*  Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer, "Over and Over and Over Again"  Flower of Muscle Shoals  (Free Dirt, 14)
*  Jim Lauderdale, "Neon Hearts"  I'm a Song  (Sky Crunch, 14)
*  Hard Working Americans w/Rosanne Cash, "Come From the Heart"  First Waltz  (Melvin, 14)  D
^  Reed Foehl, "Four Lanes"  Lost In the West  (NeverFoehl, 14)  C, D
*  Lee Ann Womack, "When I Come Around"  The Way I'm Livin'  (Sugar Hill, 14)  D
*  Waco Brothers, "How Fast the Time"  Freedom & Weep  (Bloodshot, 05)
*  Billy Joe Shaver, "Sunbeam Special"  Long In the Tooth  (Lightning Rod, 14)
*  Kill County, "Beat Up Iron"  Broken Glass In the Sun  (Self, 14) D
*  Somebody's Darling, "Bad Bad"  Adult Roommates  (Self, 14)  D
*  Lucero, "It May Be Too Late (live)"  Live From Atlanta  (Liberty + Lament, 14)
*  Ryan Adams, "My Wrecking Ball"  Ryan Adams  (PaxAm, 14)
*  Walter Salas-Humara, "Hoping For a Comeback"  Curve and Shake  (Sonic Pyramid, 14)
*  Silos, "Tennessee Fire"  Cuba  (Dualtone, 87)
*  David Mayfield, "Rain On My Parade"  Strangers  (Compass, 14)  D
*  Goodnight Texas, "I Just Can't Stop Leaving Town"  Uncle John Farquhar  (Tallest Man, 14)
*  Joe Pug, "Downbound Train"  Dead Man's Town  (Lightning Rod, 14)
*  Caitlin Rose, "That's Alright"  Own Side Now  (Theory 8, 11)
*  Hiss Golden Messenger, "Mahogany Dread"  Lateness of Dancers  (Merge, 14)
*  Tweedy, "Flowering"  Sukierae  (dbPm, 14)
*  New Basement Tapes, "Nothing To It"  Lost On the River  (Harvest, 14)
*  Quiet Life, "Housebroken Man"  Housebroken Man  (Mama Bird, 14)
*  Loudermilks, "Broken Record"  Loudermilks  (You Know What, 14)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
August 30, 2014
Scott Foley

This Episode marks possibly the first time in my radio history that I didn't debut a new CD.  Lots of forthcoming stuff we're just getting to know (Lucinda Williams, Pine Hill Haints, Holy Ghost Electric Show), but nothing I've not at least dipped into before.  Still, I stand back and admire it, like a man who has just mowed his lawn might admire his fresh cut grass, and I like what I see.  This week, I moved my entire collection of americana music onto some roomier new shelves in the basement.  Just being able to alphabetize everything, to touch every CD, I came across some great stuff I'll be sharing over the next couple weeks. 

In the meantime, let's talk Ryan Adams, probably the patron saint of Routes & Branches, at least in terms of contemporary artists.  Since his unsurpassable 2000 solo debut,  Heartbreaker, it seems he has spent his career trying on new personae.  From Gold's blue jean rocker to his Grateful Dead period with the Cardinals, most notably on the double CD Cold Roses.  He's been an enfant terrible, a punk, a casualty and Pitchfork's favorite whipping boy.  Finally, with his new self titled album, Ryan Adams might be settling down to be ... Ryan Adams.  To be fair, this period probably began with 2011's Ashes & Fire, a record that came across as so effortless, so unpretentious some wrongly wrote it off as simply a dull collection.  A notoriously prolific writer, Adams can be a peerless lyricist at his best moments.  Remarkably, however, both Ashes and this new CD abandon any verbal dazzle and simply embrace the vernacular.  "Nothing much left in the tank / Somehow this thing still drives / Like it forgot what it needed."  A+ for imagery, but a far cry from Be my winding wheel.  Which isn't by any means to complain, but rather to celebrate a Ryan Adams who is seemingly comfortable and confident in his musical skin.  Songs like "Tired of Giving Up" simmer, but even the roots pop gem "Gimme Something Good" takes its sweet time rising to an indelible chorus.  Who knows if reported domestic bliss or relative health have brought Adams happiness:  "There ain't no one inside / Staring through the screen / Looking back at my fucking life"  Who knows.  Lines can be drawn between distinct stages in his career.  For now, this stuff is sweet.  Like Ashes & Fire, it is effortless. 

*  Jolie Holland, "Love You Save"  Wine Dark Sea  (Anti, 14)
*  Frazey Ford, "You Got Religion"  Indian Ocean  (Nettwerk, 14)
*  Be Good Tanyas, "In Spite of All the Damage"  Chinatown  (Nettwerk, 03)
*  Jonah Tolchin, "Midnight Rain"  Clover Lane  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Whiskey Shivers, "Pray For Me"  Whiskey Shivers  (Self, 14)
*  Pine Hill Haints, "Galaxy Buffalo"  Magick Sounds of ...  (K, 14)
*  Greensky Bluegrass, "Burn Them"  If Sorrow Swim  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Caroline Rose, "Time Spent Money Grow"  I Will Not Be Afraid  (Little Hi!, 14)
*  Ryan Adams, "Tired of Giving Up"  Ryan Adams  (PaxAm, 14)
*  Mando Saenz, "Pocket Change"  Studebaker  (Carnival, 13)
*  Cory Branan, "No Hit Wonder"  No Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Lucinda Williams, "Stowaway In Your Heart"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Pieta Brown, "Painter's Hands"  Paradise Outlaw  (Red House, 14)
*  John Hiatt, "Marlene"  Terms of My Surrender  (New West, 14)
*  Paul Thorn, "I Backslide On Friday"  Too Blessed To Be Stressed  (Perpetual Obscurity, 14)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Time Shows Fools"  Single Mothers  (Vagrant, 14)
*  Hurray For the Riff Raff, "Body Electric"  Small Town Heroes  (ATO, 14)
*  Holy Ghost Electric Show, "Tin Man"  Great American HGES  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Hearts of Oak, "New England"  New England  (Deer Lodge, 14)
*  Sons of Bill, "Bad Dancer"  Love & Logic  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Shovels & Rope, "Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan"  Swimmin' Time  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Tim Barry, "Bozeman"  28th & Stonewall  (Suburban Home, 10)
*  Blitzen Trapper, "Working On the Highway"  Dead Man's Town  (Lightning Rod, 14)
*  Israel Nash, "Rain Plans"  Israel Nash's Rain Plans  (Loose, 14)
*  Christopher Denny, "Radio"  If the Roses Don't Kill Us  (Partisan, 14)
*  Shelby Lynne, "Gotta Get Back"  I Am Shelby Lynne  (Island, 00)
*  Matt Hillyer, "Dancing With the Moon"  If These Old Bones Could Talk  (Run Up Tree, 14)
*  Denver, "Rowdy Love"  Rowdy Love  (Mama Bird, 14)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
August 23, 2014
Scott Foley

In all of americana, is there a more distinct, beautifully alien sound than the blended voices of Be Good Tanyas? In the span of three studio records, Trish Klein, Samantha Parton and Frazey Ford trademarked a sound that has yet to be replicated.  Plus, they performed one of my favorite covers of all time on "When Doves Cry", a hidden track on 2006's Hello Love

While Jolie Holland officially departed the group she helped to found early on, her influence carries throughout all three records as a writer, a vocalist and instrumentalist.  Holland's solo debut came via a curious assemblage of lo-fi demos in 2003's Catalpa.  Subsequent records have proven her to be a multifaceted talent, with music ranging from early folk to experimental jazz depending on where the needle drops.  I've been playing Holland's most recent album since its May release.  Wine Dark Sea launches into the dark and fractured soundscape of "Dark Days".  To foster the adventurous spirit of the collection, Holland gathered two drummers, a trio of guitarists, as well as bass and woodwinds, with most of the players hailing from New York City's experimental music scene.  To her immense credit, rather than being buried by the musical ambition, Holland seems fully in charge of the proceedings.   Even on a seemingly straightforward cut like the parlor folk of "Route 30", the touch of electric guitar distortion and the somewhat rude baritone sax lift Holland's arrangement beyond the obvious.  "All the Love" is pure soul (replete with a clarinet solo broadcast via a dysfunctional amp). 

A current Tanya, Frazey Ford, has just issued her second solo record.  For her part, Ford collaborates
with Al Green's legendary Hi Rhythm Section:  Charles, Leroy and the late Teenie Hodges.  The presence of the Hodges could easily overshadow a lesser artist, though here the brothers seem fully at the service of Ford's idiosyncratic vocals. Having become so familiar at the helm of the Be Good Tanyas, the originality of her voice and her vocal choices remain at center stage.  While she chooses to remain more musically grounded than Holland, there is still so much soul in tracks like "Runnin'" or "You Got Religion" that anything added would seem inappropriate.   Even the relatively contemporary groove on "Done", with its epithets and broiling resentment, comes across as smoothly swinging. 

Aside from their respective roots, much of what binds these releases is their pervasive soul, a quality so frequently lacking in our kind of music.  I would argue, however, that it's actually been quite a year for soulful americana, between Christopher Denny's gospel tinged numbers and Justin Townes Earle's easy country-soul on Single Mothers.  And then there's Benjamin Booker.  While the presence of horns and keys certainly doesn't hurt, it takes more than instrumentation to generate the genuine soul evident in both Holland and Ford.  As writers, arrangers and vocalists, both present a fuller picture of the range of American music, from jazz to blues, country to gospel and folk. 

*  Sadies, "Walking Boss"  Pure Diamond Gold  (Bloodshot, 99)
*  Cory Branan, "Daddy Was a Skywriter"  No-Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Matt Woods, "Lucero Song"  With Love From Brushy Mountain  (Lonely Ones, 14)
*  Lucero, "What Else Would You Have Me Be (live)"  Live From Atlanta  (Liberty & Lament, 14)
*  Deadwood Saints, "My Irene"  6th Street and Trinity  (Self, 14)  C
*  Lucinda Williams, "Burning Bridges"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)   D
*  Emmylou Harris & Milk Carton Kids, "Apache Tears"  Look Again To the Wind  (Sony, 14)
*  Ray Charles, "Ring of Fire"  Ray Charles Forever  (Concord, 13)
*  Benjamin Booker, "Wicked Waters"  Benjamin Booker  (ATO, 14)
*  Sturgill Simpson, "Life of Sin"  Metamodern Sounds in Country Music  (High Top Mt, 14)
*  Pieta Brown, "Before Gas & TV"  Paradise Outlaw  (Red House, 14)  D
*  Hiss Golden Messenger, "I'm a Raven"  Lateness of Dancers  (Merge, 14)
*  Court & Spark, "Denver Annie"  Witch Season  (Absolutely Kosher, 04)
^  Frazey Ford, "Done"  Indian Ocean  (Nettwerk, 14)
*  Tweedy, "High as Hello"  Sukierae  (dbPm, 14)
*  Steelism, "Landlocked Surfer"  915 to Fame  (Single Lock, 14)
*  Caroline Rose, "Blood On Your Bootheels"   I Will Not Be Afraid  (Little Hi!, 14)  D
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Worried Bout the Weather"  Single Mothers  (Vagrant, 14)
*  Elliott BROOD, "Jigsaw Heart"  Work and Love  (Paper Bag, 14)  D
*  Drew Kennedy, "Cold Goodnight (live)"  Sad Songs Happily Played  (Self, 14)
*  Josh Grider, "One Night Taco Stand"  Luck & Desire  (Amp, 14)  D
*  Greensky Bluegrass, "Windshield"  If Sorrows Swim  (Thirty Tigers, 14)   D
*  Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer, "Sorrow Lines the Highway of Regret"  Flower of Muscle Shoals  (Free Dirt, 14)
*  New Basement Tapes, "Nothing To It"  Lost On the River  (Harvest, 14)   D
*  Ryan Adams, "My Wrecking Ball"  Ryan Adams  (PaxAm, 14)
*  Chuck Prophet, "Lonely Desolation"  Night Surfer  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Walter Salas-Humara, "Satellite"  Curve and Shake  (Sonic Pyramid, 14)  D
*  Sons of Bill, "Brand New Paradigm"  Love & Logic  (Thirty Tigers, 14)  D
*  Ben Miller Band, "Ghosts"  Any Way Shape or Form  (New West, 14)
*  Holy Ghost Electric Show, "Kerosene Heater Blues"  Great American Holy Ghost Electric Show  (This is American Music, 14)  D

Sunday, August 17, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
August 16, 2014
Scott Foley

She was beautiful / It was circumstance / Watch the boat on the water / Learn to dance

This weekend, while KRFC was proudly broadcasting acts from the Bohemian Nights lineup, I was walking across shallow, cold rivers.  I climbed up mossy rocks reaching towards a high waterfall.  I walked gingerly across a field of "alpine tundra" along the continental divide, and maneuvered through driving rain and hail, a precipitous drop to my right.  I went to restaurants based solely on their Yelp! ratings ... 

One morning / One morning / Like a beggar I went roving  / With no clear sense of direction / and no coin in my cup

I also accidentally left my constant companion behind, my sack of music to preview.  Fortunately, I did pack my laptop, along with a digital copy of Hiss Golden Messenger's "major label breakthrough", The Lateness of Dancers.  My initial impression is that this is a much more commercial record than MC Taylor's previous work with the Paradise of Bachelors label. 

Girl of mine with silver in your hair / I still want you / It's getting hard to be easy now / A couple of kids / Mahogany dread / But happy days are still ahead

Returning to Haw and to Poor Moon, and even to Taylor's work with California's The Court & Spark, my suspicions were confirmed.  The new HGM material take a more direct route to the ears.  Whereas previous tunes meandered towards a general musical statement, the new songs often launch right into a hook.  Even more "impressionistic" moments like "Chapter & Verse (Ione's Song)" float atop an organ drone, or they punctuate a line with a reverse guitar loop. 

One day I tried to kneel / I tried to kneel but could not / They said, "Go ye to the holy house" / And I took the long way around

But tunes like "Drum" or the single that heralded the record, "Brother Do You Know the Road" remind us that beneath his more immediate sound, MC Taylor remains a folk singer.  As a lyricist, he falls firmly in that gospel/folk/country tradition, while adding impressionistic touches that make Lateness of Dancers a disarmingly personal statement. 

But at the moment the sun is shining right on me / And the road is shimmering in the haze / Oh Ione, your daddy's just as dark as can be / But I can be your little rainbow too

It's a jewel of a record that comes at the perfect time in our collective discovery of Hiss Golden Messenger.  It's a wandering through the wilderness that will eventually lead back home.  A plunge into a chilly creek that heightens the senses and makes us feel more alive. 

We'll be back to a full Routes & Branches Episode next Saturday, featuring the first sounds from Lucinda Williams' forthcoming double CD, as well as a second single from Ryan Adams' self titled record.  Expect new Pieta Brown, and whatever else has landed upon my desk.  While I'm always curious, we're anticipating a full day through the mountains tomorrow, so I'm not necessarily in a great hurry to find out.