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Monday, July 28, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 26, 2014
Scott Foley

Why isn't Chuck Prophet more of a household name?  Like Alejandro Escovedo (or, I'd argue, Lou Reed or Steve Wynn), Prophet's music is distinctly urban, telling stories about his beloved San Francisco that strike a perfect balance between grit and glam. Since his days in Green On Red with Dan Stuart, through his stints with Lucinda Williams, Warren Zevon and as a longtime collaborator with Escovedo, he's written songs to rival more celebrated acts like Peter Case or even Alex Chilton.  My life is an experiment / That doesn't prove a thing.  On his thirteenth solo record, Night Surfer, Prophet is joined on guitar by Peter Buck on 14 more songs that so skillfully incorporate just the right amount of twang with his perfect garage pop.  "You could be my savior / I could be yours too".  "Laughing On the Inside" could be the perfect lovechild of Big Star and Springsteen, while Richard Thompson might've written "Ford Econoline" if Prophet hadn't reached it first. "Sing a broken melody / Bring all your troubles home to me / You can tell me anything at all".  At this point in the game, I don't expect Night Surfer's little masterpieces to show up on my Sirius XM feed.  I certainly wouldn't mind seeing a couple other bloggers throwing praise Prophet's way. 

Also on this Episode of R&B, the first glimpse at Jerry Lee Lewis' October album is unexpectedly relevant (I look forward as well to his October memoir, cowritten with Rick Bragg).  With their long beards and penchant for Appalachian punk, I've taken an immediate liking to the New West debut of Joplin, Missouri's Ben Miller Band.  And have I gushed yet about Otis Gibbs' remarkable new collection?  Oh, and here's one for your calendar:  We'll be visiting instudio with Drew Kennedy on Aug 9, celebrating the release of his double live record. 

*  Hearts of Oak, "Lovers Ain't Easy"  New England  (Deer Lodge, 14)
*  Brown Bird, "Blood of Angels"  Salt For Salt  (Supply and Demand, 12)
*  Barr Brothers, "Half Crazy"  Sleeping Operator  (Secret City, 14)
*  Frontier Ruckus, "Sad Modernity"  Sitcom Afterlife  (Quite Scientific, 14)  D
*  Trampled By Turtles, "Hollow"  Wild Animals  (Banjodad, 14)
*  Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray, "Drifter's Compass"  Lean Into the Wind  (Seven Dead Arson, 14)
*  Big Shoals, "12 Step"  Still Go On  (Self, 14)
*  Band of Heathens, "LA County Blues"  One Foot In the Ether  (BoH, 09)
*  Shovels & Rope, "Evil"  Swimmin' Time  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Pine Hill Haints, "Ms Pacman"  Magik Sounds Of ...   (K, 14)  D
*  Ben Miller Band, "The Outsider"  Any Way Shape or Form  (New West, 14)   D
*  Secret Sisters, "If I Don't"  Put Your Needle Down  (Republic, 14)
*  Johnny Cash, "I Came To Believe"  Out Among the Stars  (Columbia, 14)
*  John Fullbright, "Never Cry Again"  Songs  (Blue Dirt, 14)
*  Otis Gibbs, "Nancy Barnett"  Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth  (Wanamaker, 14)
*  Malcolm Holcombe, "Another Despair"  Pitiful Blues  (Gypsyeyes, 14)
*  Townes Van Zandt, "Hunger Child Blues"  In the Beginning  (Compadre, 03)
*  Andrew Bird, "Sad Milkman"  Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of ...  (E1, 14)
*  Delines, "Oil Rigs at Night"  Colfax  (El Cortez, 14)
*  Jerry Lee Lewis, "Rock & Roll Time"  Rock & Roll Time  (Vanguard, 14)  D
*  Jayhawks, "False Eyelashes (Blue-Eyed Soul)"  Rainy Day Music reissue  (American, 14)
*  Mastersons, "Nobody Knows"  Good Luck Charm  (New West, 14)
*  Old Crow Medicine Show, "Firewater"  Revival  (ATO, 14)
*  Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Burnpiles & Swimming Holes"  Dereconstructed  (Sub Pop, 14)
*  Sir Douglas Quintet, "A Nice Song"  Complete Mercury Masters  (Mercury, 05)
*  Steelism, "Blind Beggar"  615 To Fame  (Single Lock, 14)  D
^  Chuck Prophet, "Ford Econoline"  Night Surfer  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Hard Pans, "Wallace"  Budget Cuts  (High Plains Films, 14)

Monday, July 21, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 19, 2014
Scott Foley

Is the music forest big enough to encompass both Strand of Oaks and Hearts of Oak?  I believe so.  As Strand of Oaks, Timothy Showalter released Heal last month, one of my favorite records of the year.  The album established a watermark in Showalter's career, a decided lane change from lo-fi indie-folk to an increasingly electric sound that owes more to 80s new wave (as processed thru a contemporary indie lens).  There was a time, however, when Strand of Oaks sounded more like Nate Wallace's Hearts of Oak, whose New England boasts some buzzy electric moments, but remains firmly in the lo-fi lane.  Wallace calls it "shoegazer country", a mix that ranges from acoustic voice and guitar pieces seemingly recorded beside a crackling campfire ("Lovers Ain't Easy") to the spaced out of New England's  later tracks.  He triangulates his location referencing acts like
Crazy Horse, Spiritualized and St. Jason Molina as musical compass points.  The record itself establishes a logical progression, from folk to a full band crunch, all behind Nate Wallace's understated slacker drawl.   Those vocals are sometimes buried in feedback, extraneous noise leaks into the mix, and that guitar occasionally threatens to engulf the entire sonic mess.  But it's an occasionally beautiful and sometimes daring tangle that takes Hearts of Oak's 3rd release in a direction that early adapters might not immediately embrace, but which establishes a new maturity in a similiar vein as Showalter's project.  By my judgement, you'd be on the right track to follow either of these careers. 

Also on this Episode of R&B, we pay a return visit to another Portland, OR act in Sassparilla's impressive double CD.  There's also a double helping of Justin Townes Earle debuts, and our first taste of what promises to be a superb Otis Gibbs collection.  Finally, it's increasingly obvious that Robyn Ludwick is not only the most attractive member of the Robison clan, she can also stand up to Bruce and Charlie as a songwriter of note. 

*  Goodnight Texas, "Bank Robber's Nursery Rhyme"  Uncle John Farquhar  (Self, 14)
*  Sassparilla, "Wicked Take Care of Their Own"  Pasajero/Hullabaloo  (Fluff & Gravy, 14)
*  Jim Lauderdale, "Neon Hearts"  I'm a Song  (Sky Crunch, 14)
*  Lucinda Williams, "Bus To Baton Rouge"  Essence  (Lost Hwy, 01)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "White Gardenias"  Single Mothers  (Vagrant, 14)  D
*  Cory Branan, "You Make Me"  No Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Josh Nolan, "Come Mornin'"  Fair City Lights  (Self, 14)
*  Caleb Caudle, "Bottles & Cans"  Paint Another Layer On My Heart  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Otis Gibbs, "Darker Side of Me"  Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth  (Wannamaker, 14)  D
*  Michael Dean Damron, "Tornado Song"  Father's Day  (In Music We Trust, 09)
*  Graham Lindsey, "Hard Life"  Digging Up Birds  (Self, 14)  D, C
*  Andy Thomas' Dust Heart, "Except Nebraska"  Blood & Sunshine  (Self, 14)  D, C
*  Sarah Borges, "Start Again"  Radio Sweetheart  (Lonesome Day, 14)
*  Shovels & Rope, "Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan"  Swimmin' Time  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Jerry Jeff Walker, "Northeast Texas Women"  Too Old to Change  (Elektra, 79)
*  Billy Joe Shaver, "Hard To Be An Outlaw"  Long In the Tooth  (Lightning Rod, 14)
*  Loudermilks, "Everybody Knows You"  Loudermilks  (You Know What, 14)
^  Hearts of Oak, "Goldmine"  New England  (Deer Lodge, 14)  D
*  Deadwood Saints, "6th Street and Trinity"  6th Street and Trinity  (Self, 14)  C
*  John Hiatt, "Terms of My Surrender"  Terms of My Surrender  (New West, 14)
*  Be Good Tanyas, "A Little Blues"  Hello Love  (Nettwerk, 06)
*  Dwight Yoakam, "Who'll Stop the Rain"  single  (Reprise, 14)  D
*  Drag the River, "Hey Tonight"  Bother Me Tomorrow: Indie Tribute to CCR  (Tan & Blue, 14)  C
*  Chuck Prophet, "Countryfied Inner-City Technological Man"  Night Surfer  (Yep Roc, 14)  D
*  Hayes Carll, "It's a Shame"  Trouble In Mind  (Lost Hwy, 08)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Glory Days"  Dead Man's Town  (Lightning Rod, 14)
*  Jason Isbell, "Now That Your Dollar Bills Have Sprouted Wings"  Song Reader  (Capitol, 14)  D
*  Robyn Ludwick, "Longbow, OK"  Little Rain  (Self, 14)  D

Sunday, July 13, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 12, 2014
Scott Foley

The service went the way it shoulda gone
No one talked to loud or cried too long
'Cept your momma's new boyfriend, he went on and on
While they laid you in the ground.
Right about then a truck backfired and all the boys they flinched their heads
Yeah, that shook me up I guess
I been home a month now and I still can't get no rest
I'm standing by the grave of a dearly departed friend
Nothing much to say except sorry it turned out like it did

My soul is fed by lyrics like these, from Old Crow Medicine Show's "Dearly Departed Friend".  Ketch Secor uses real words here and applies them conversationally, but in a manner that still manages to surprise.   There are countless attempts at this kind of song out there, putting a face on this generation's war casualties.  Secor's offering stands apart, however, if simply for the final line, "Nothing much to say except sorry it turned out like it did".  The song is boldly divorced from jingoistic cliche, painting an honest picture of small town America that could've been drawn from a Larry McMurtry novel.  "So go on and tie another yellow ribbon round the old hackberry tree / and tamp the dirt down. / Y'all go on home now, there ain't nothin' here to see."  There are still moments on OCMS's Remedy record where the group falls back on their string-band-on-fire shtick, and reviews I've read largely overlook "Dearly Departed Friend" for more obvious choices like the more typical "Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer" (which is still a great song).  Songs like this one, however, offer moments of deeper songwriting maturity. 

Also on this episode, Shovels & Rope and Kasey Chambers both surprise with the aggression of their new music, boasting guitar buzz and spit.  We return to A. A. Bondy's debut solo record, which is way stronger than I recall.  Indie folk acts the Barr Brothers and Angus & Julia Stone bring subtle new offerings to the table on what proves to be a darker, more introspective second hour. 

*   Lou Ford, "How Does It Feel"  Sad But Familiar  (You Know What, 97)
*  Loudermilks, "Georgia Pines"  The Loudermilks  (You Know What, 14)
*  Deadwood Saints, "My Irene"  6th Street and Trinity  (Self, 14)  C
*  Malcolm Holcombe, "Pitiful Blues"  Pitiful Blues  (Gypsyeyes, 14)  D
*  Zoe Muth, "Too Shiny"  World of Strangers  (Signature Sounds, 14)
*  Denver, "Bound to Lose"  Rowdy Love  (Mama Bird, 14)
*  AA Bondy, "Killed Myself When I Was Young"  American Hearts  (Superphonic, 07)
*  Kasey Chambers, "Wheelbarrow"  Bittersweet  (Essence, 14)  D
*  Howlin' Brothers, "Pour It Down"  Trouble  (Readymade, 14)
>  Old Crow Medicine Show, "Dearly Departed Friend"  Remedy  (ATO, 14)
*  Trampled By Turtles, "Wild Animals"  Wild Animals  (Banjodad, 14)
*  Shovels & Rope, "Coping Mechanism"  Swimmin' Time  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Sturgill Simpson, "Living the Dream"  Metamodern Sounds In Country Music  (High Top Mt, 14)
*  Billy Joe Shaver, "Sunbeam Special"  Long In the Tooth  (Lightning Rod, 14)  D
*  Donkeys, "Shines"  Ride the Black Wave  (Self, 14)
*  Felice Brothers, "Bird On a Broken Wing"  Favorite Waitress  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Sarah Borges, "Record On Repeat"  Radio Sweetheart  (Lonesome Day, 14)
*  Dave & Phil Alvin, "Tomorrow"  Common Ground  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Barr Brothers, "Even the Darkness Has Arms"  Sleeping Operator  (Secret City, 14)  D
*  Angus & Julia Stone, "Death Defying Acts"  Angus & Julia Stone  (Republic, 14)  D
*  Joe Henry, "Grave Angels"  Invisible Hour  (Worksong, 14)
*  Jayhawks, "Five Cornered Blues (demo)"  Smile (reissue)  (American, 14)
*  Collin Herring, "Psycopaths"  Some Knives  (Self, 14)  D
*  Centro-Matic, "Every Mission"  Take Pride In Your Long Odds  (Self,  14)
*  Anders Parker, "Silver Yonder"  There's a Bluebird In My Soul  (Recorded & Freed, 14)
*  Ryan Adams, "Gimme Something Good"  Ryan Adams  (PaxAm, 14)
*  Christopher Denny, "Watch Me Shine"  If the Roses Don't Kill Us  (Partisan, 14)
*  Jim Lauderdale, "End of the World Rag"  I'm a Song  (Sky Crunch, 14)  D

Sunday, July 06, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 5, 2014
Scott Foley

So so many quality songs on this Episode:  Old, new and otherwise.  Here's a classic line from last year's "Coley", by Left Lane Cruiser (if I'm hearing them correctly ... ):  Remember the time we took a ride in my long 1987 Chevy / Free Fallin' playin' on the radio got you talkin' 'bout how much you hate Tom Petty / I said girl now look right here you know that's some goddamn classic american rock 'n roll / There's just certain kinda things you need to understand before we can move on ...  We also gave some radio love to a fantastic single by Cory Branan, and heard Mr and Mrs Isbell give Springsteen's "Born In the USA" the treatment it's always merited.  The proverbial cherry topper happened when Jeremy Grant stopped by unannounced with a copy of Deadwood Saints' excellent full length debut.  To quote Natalie Merchant for not the first time in my life, "These are the days you'll remember ..." 

I'd like to finish by focusing on another surprise from the week.  Namely, the arrival of the Loudermilks' debut CD.  Fronted by brothers Alan and Chad Edwards, the North Carolina band takes their name from another renowned pair of sibs, Charlie and Ira Louvin (nee Charlie and Ira Loudermilk).  Nobody here is new to the scene.  For years, the Brothers Edwards dispensed attitude under the name Lou Ford.  While not so edgy as that previous band, the Loudermilks' musical reach proves to be more generous, encompassing rural pop moments as well as darker, moodier elements and pure country, too.  The band itself stakes claim to the sprawling musical acreage between the Louvins and Big Star.  This allows the Loudermilks to embrace the best of both worlds, the spirit and structure of early trad country, gospel and grass and the pure pop and punk roots of the latter.  Free of stereotypes, their talent appeals as equally to the heart and the head (as evidenced by their CD jacket, a flat black field encompassing a stark white heart on one side and a brain on the reverse).  Like the best brother songs, Alan and Chad thrive equally on harmony and dis-harmony.  This barbed spirit is especially evident in tunes like "The Plan":  You always said we were gonna get what we deserve / But you never meant a word ... / What about the plan / Could've been us instead of them.  The bitterness that might have been off-putting is tempered by the sweetness of the brothers' pop harmonies.  For me, it's the Loudermilks' most endearing quality, the pervasive darkness flawed just enough to allow for the possibility of redemptive light.  After years of near misses and sabotaged opportunities with Lou Ford, perhaps this new project will garner the Edwards their long deserved attention. 

*  Giant Sand, "Every Grain of Sand"  Swerve  (Fire, 90)
*  John Hiatt, "Long Time Comin'"  Terms of My Surrender  (New West, 14)
*  Corb Lund, "Counterfeiters' Blues"  Counterfeiters' Blues  (New West, 14)
*  Hard Pans, "Ain't Gonna Have It"  Budget Cuts  (High Plains Films, 14)
*  Left Lane Cruiser, "Coley"  Rock Them Back To Hell  (Alive NaturalSound, 13)
*  Cory Branan, "No Hit Wonder"  No Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 14)  D
*  Sarah Borges, "Waiting and the Worry"  Radio Sweetheart  (Lonesome Day, 14)
*  Old 97s, "Let's Get Drunk and Get It On"  Most Messed Up  (ATO, 14)
*  Caleb Caudle, "Come On October"  Paint Another Layer On My Heart  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, "Born In the USA"  Dead Man's Town  (Lightning Rod, 14)  D
*  Drag the River, "Hey Tonight"  Bother Me Tomorrow: Indie Tribute to CCR  (Tan & Blue, 14)  D, C
*  Fire Mountain, "Wired and Dying"  All Dies Down  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Blue Mountain, "Special Rider Blues"  Dog Days  (Roadrunner, 95)
*  Mastersons, "Anywhere But Here"  Good Luck Charm  (New West, 14)
^  Loudermilks, "Quite Honestly"  Loudermilks  (You Know What ... 14)  D
*  First Aid Kit, "Heaven Knows"  Stay Gold  (Columbia, 14)
*  Jonah Tolchin, "Hybrid Automobile"  Clover Lane  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Goodnight Texas, "Bank Robber's Nursery Rhyme"  Uncle John Farquhar  (Self, 14)  D
*  Puss N Boots, "GTO"  No Fools No Fun  (Blue Note, 14)
*  Hurray For the Riff Raff, "Just a Heart"  My Dearest Darkest Neighbor  (This is Amer Music, 13)
*  Denver, "Carry On"  Rowdy Love  (Mama Bird, 14)  D
*  Son Volt, "Back Into Your World"  Straightaways  (Warner, 97)
*  NQ Arbuckle, "Sleepy Wife"  Future Happens Anyway  (Six Shooter, 14)
*  Deadwood Saints, "6th Street and Trinity"  6th Street and Trinity  (Self, 14)  D, C
*  Jayhawks, "Waiting For Salvation"  Rainy Day Music (reissue)  (American, 14)  D

Monday, June 30, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
June 28, 2014
Scott Foley

Yep.  I'm gonna write about Norah Jones.  Throw some John Hiatt in there, too. 

Of course, Norah Jones burst on the music scene with a pair of massively successful piano lite-jazz records, Come Away With Me and Feels Like Home.  At that point, she could've very easily ridden the Adult Contemporary wave into great success, issuing album after album of perfectly safe stuff for grown ups drinking decaf after church on Sunday.  What she ended up doing was dabbling in the Great Musical Sandbox, and I admire her for it.  Her next pair of solo records, Not Too Late and The Fall failed to meet the expectations set by her early releases, evolving competently in a singer-songwriterly direction.  It was around this time that Jones released the first of her two Little Willies CDs, collaborating with her band of studio professionals on some light-hearted trad country covers.  2012 brought the better of the two Willies records, For the Good Times, as well as her most adventurous solo project, the relatively edgy pop of the underrated Little Broken Hearts.  Early this year, Norah Jones took the unusual step of collaborating with Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong on a full record of Everly Brothers covers.  Today, we debut a fine project with Cardinals bassist Catherine Popper and songwriter Sasha Dobson, a country/americana collection under the moniker Puss N Boots. She has temporarily shelved the piano, favoring instead her guitar and the occasional fiddle. Arrangements are refreshingly spartan for such a high profile affair, and a handful of cuts are drawn from live concert recordings. 

My point here is not necessarily to refute Norah Jones' rep as the most vanilla of artists (still, she's not) nor to hold her up as a cutting edge artist (cuz she's not).  What I admire most about Jones is that throughout her career she's treated the music industry as a sandbox for her flitting musical attentions.  I can name dozens of artists who are much more readily favored by music snobs (think John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, Bonnie Raitt for starters) who have successfully released the same album year after year after year.  And true, it's all Perfectly Fine Music.  I've actually enjoyed Hiatt's new Terms of My Surrender.  After several stabs at blues-ish roots music, he's slowly turned in somewhat of a more rock orientation, though to the surprise of absolutely nobody.  It's still immediately recognizable as Hiatt/Slingblade, almost to the point where we're tempted to overlook the fact that he's been writing some stellar songs since dinosaurs roamed the earth.  But Jones' welcome edge is in her refusal to take herself too seriously and coasting on her own coattails.  

There. I talked about Norah Jones.  Also on this Episode, we celebrate the return of the Broken Singles-less Sarah Borges, and begin to poke at the polished new offering from Delta Spirit.  We take the new Ryan Adams single for a spin, and find out what's become of some Gourds following the departure of Kev Russell.  And then there's Alejandro Escovedo's new supergroup composed of fellow music industry vets of which your average listener hasn't heard. 

*  Hollis Brown, "Train Round the Bend"  Gets Loaded  (Alive NaturalSound, 14)
*  Hard Working Americans, "Blackland Farmer"  Hard Working Americans  (Melvin, 14)
*  Old Crow Medicine Show, "Mean Enough World"  Remedy  (ATO, 14)
*  Buddy Miller, "Draggin' the River"  Poison Love  (Hightone, 97)
*  Sarah Borges, "Record On Repeat"  Radio Sweetheart  (Lonesome Day, 14)  D
*  Gun Street Ghost, "Factory"  Gun Street Ghost  (Self, 14)  C
*  Caleb Caudle, "Trade All the Lights"  Paint Another Layer On My Heart  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Edward David Anderson, "Lost & Found"  Lies & Wishes (Royal Potato Family, 14)
*  John Hiatt, "Face of God"  Terms of My Surrender  (New West, 14)  D
*  Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Company Man"  Dereconstructed  (Sub Pop, 14)
*  Delta Spirit, "Patriarch"  Into the Wide  (Dualtone, 14)  D
*  Centro-Matic, "Cross Path"  Take Pride In Your Long Odds  (Self, 14)
*  Joseph LeMay, "Crazy Woman"  Seventeen Acres  (Self, 14)
*  Pete Stein, "Another New Town Blues"  Sleeping Giant  (Self, 13)  C
*  Kasey Chambers, "Still Feeling Blue"  Barricades & Brick Walls  (EMI, 02)
*  Gram Parsons, "In My Hour of Darkness"  Grievous Angel  (Reprise, 74)
*  Hiss Golden Messenger, "Saturday's Song"  Lateness of Dancers  (Merge, 14)  D
*  Mastersons, "Easy By Your Side"  Good Luck Charm  (New West, 14)
*  Hard Pans, "Wallace"  Budget Cuts  (High Plains Films, 14)  D
*  Lucero, "Sweet Little Thing (live)"  Live From Atlanta  (Liberty + Lament, 14)
*  Ryan Adams, "Gimme Something Good"  single  (PaxAm, 14)  D
*  Jolie Holland, "All the Love"  Wine Dark Sea  (Anti, 14)
*  Chris Thile, "Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground"  How To Build a Woman  (Sugar Hill, 06)
*  Trampled By Turtles, "Nobody Knows"  Wild Animals  (Banjodad, 14)
*  Little Willies, "For the Good Times"  For the Good Times  (Milking Bull, 12)
^  Puss N Boots, "Jesus, Etc"  No Fools No Fun  (Blue Note, 14)  D
*  Christopher Denny, "Our Kind of Love"  If the Roses Don't Kill Us  (Partisan, 14)
*  Fauntleroys, "I'm In Love With Everything"  Below the Pink Pony  (Plowboy, 14)  D

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
June 21, 2014
Scott Foley

Commandeered the airwaves for a full three hours of R&B this week.  Along the way, we touched down on some eclectic new offerings from Colorado's own Calder's Revolvers and Gasoline Lollipops.  We gave ear service to a pair of new records released by Portland's Fluff & Gravy Records.  And did I tell you how much I appreciate the Delines' Colfax?  Thought so ...

But at the risk of giving two straight weeks of blog love to one lil' record label, I'll shine my brightest light upon Caleb Caudle's Paint Another Layer On My Heart (out on This Is American Music, natch).  These days, my habit is to preview an album from back to front, owning to a friend's remark that I tend to heavily favor songs from the first third of a CD.  In Caleb Caudle's case, this assured that I landed upon the beautiful ballad, "Come On October":  Come on October, make me a believer / Prove me wrong, take away my fear / Take me out back and throw me in the gravel / Ask me how did I end up here.  A heartrending arrangement of acoustic guitar, piano and just the perfect amount of pedal steel, with a fitting vocal performance by the songwriter.  It's a hard act to follow (which is probably why Caudle scheduled it for the finale of his collection).  This is apparently his sixth record, though it serves as my intro to the man's work.  I wasn't even fully aware of him before John Moreland passed thru Fort Collins with Caudle in tow.  I pay a good deal of attention to opening acts.  Like Moreland, Caudle's voice is expressive beyond expectations, thick with Southern tradition and capable of communicating grand emotion - insert "Missing Holidays" here:  Now I'm missing holidays / I'm leaving at all the wrong times / I'll make it up to you someday / Just give me some time.  Because of my upside-down listening, more upbeat stuff like "Bottles and Cans" and "Countdown" draw the record to a close on a relatively optimistic note.  These roots rockers swagger with a middle American charm to which the mainstream country types might want to pay attention. 

I'm a sucker for a good label.  I expect great things upon opening a package from Bloodshot or Partisan or Secretly Canadian - a trust that leaves me open to real disappointment.  As previously affirmed, on the basis of a stellar run of releases, This Is American Music deserves to be counted as among the best:  Bonnie Whitmore, Hurray For the Riff Raff, Doc Feldman, Have Gun Will Travel, Fire Mountain.  And Caleb Caudle, however you chose to listen to him.  

*  Elvis Costello, "There's a Story in Your Voice"  Delivery Man  (Lost Hwy, 04)
*  Anders Parker, "Animal"  There's a Bluebird in My Heart  (Recorded & Freed, 14)
*  Matt Woods, "Liberty Bell"  With Love From Brushy Mt  (Lonely Ones, 14)
*  Joseph Huber, "Hanging Road"  Hanging Road  (Muddy Roots, 14)
*  Sarah Borges, "Glory Be (live)"  Live Singles  (Suck a Bag of Discs, 10)
^  Caleb Caudle, "Countdown"  Paint Another Layer On My Heart  (This is Amer Music, 14)  D
*  Zoe Muth, "Make Me Change My Mind"  World of Strangers  (Signature Sounds, 14)
*  Calder's Revolvers, "I Gotta Know"  Sunday Morning  (Self, 14)  C, D
*  St Paul & the Broken Bones, "Sugar Dyed"  Half the City  (Single Lock, 14)
*  Fire Mountain, "Be Your Eyes"  All Dies Down  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Mary Gauthier, "Another Train"  Trouble & Love  (In the Black, 14)
*  Lucero, "Texas & Tennessee (live)"  Live From Atlanta  (Liberty & Lament, 14)
*  Tweedy, "I'll Sing It"  Sukierae  (dbPm, 14)  D
*  Tift Merritt, "Wayward & Weary"  Please Break the Silence  (Self, 08)
*  Joe Henry, "Swayed"  Invisible Hour  (Worksong, 14)
*  Delines, "He Told Her the City Was Killing Him"  Colfax  (el Cortez, 14)
*  Trampled By Turtles, "Are You Behind the Shining Star"  Wild Animals  (Banjodad, 14)
*  Chatham County Line, "Tightrope of Love"  Tightrope  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Turnpike Troubadours, "Shreveport"  Diamonds & Gasoline  (Onward, 10)
*  Willie Nelson, "Band of Brothers"  Band of Brothers  (Columbia, 14)
*  Corb Lund, "(Gonna) Shine Up My Boots"  Counterfeiters' Blues  (New West, 14)
*  Backsliders, "Night Falls"  Raleighwood  (Self, 14)  D
*  Drive-by Truckers, "Primer Coat"  English Oceans  (ATO, 14)
*  Amy LaVere, "Lousy Pretender"  Runaway's Diary  (Archer, 14)
*  Christopher Denny, "God's Height"  If the Roses Don't Kill Us  (Partisan, 14)
*  Big Shoals, "Tumbleweed Towns"  Still Go On  (Self, 14)
*  Blitzen Trapper, "Wild Mt Nation"  Wild Mt Nation  (LidKerCow, 07)
*  Mastersons, "Closer To You"  Good Luck Charm  (New West, 14)  D
*  Shovels & Rope, "Devil Is All Around"  Swimmin' Time  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, "Lonely For You"  Our Year  (Premium, 14)
*  Sassparilla, "What the Devil Don't Know"  Pasajero/Hullabaloo  (Fluff & Gravy, 14)  D
*  Anna Tivel, "Five Dollar Bill"  Before Machines  (Fluff & Gravy, 14)  D
*  Joe Purdy, "Waiting For Loretta Too Long"  Eagle Rock Fire  (Mud Town Crier, 14)
*  Richard Buckner, "Six Years"  Bloomed  (Ryko, 94)
*  Jonah Tolchin, "Mockingbird"  Clover Lane  (Yep Roc, 14)  D
*  John Doe, "Beat Up World"  Best of John Doe: This Far  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Nikki Lane, "Love's On Fire"  All or Nothin'  (New West, 14)
*  Greyhounds, "Soul Navigator"  Accumulator  (Ardent, 14)
*  Robbie Fulks, "Can't Win For Losing You"  Let's Kill Saturday Night  (Geffen, 98)
*  Gasoline Lollipops, "Nashville"  Death  (Self, 14)  C, D

Monday, June 16, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, & roots music
June 14, 2014
Scott Foley

I dunno.  Maybe it just takes me longer to come around to something as good as Fire Mountain's All Dies Down.  I have to admit that I was surprised with the bloggers who were so quick with their praise for the latest from Corey Flegel and his This is American Music label. My own musical proclivities typically draw me towards music that is noisy, a bit messy and frayed at the edges.  It's part of what I appreciate about acts like Centro-Matic or Heartless Bastards.  From Troy, Alabama, Fire Mountain's debut full-length comes across as real clean, boasting a big, full sound with strong melodic turns and even the occasional synth.  Some of the songs recalled Whiskeytown's Stranger's Almanac:  certainly a classic record, but such a different beast compared to that act's humble beginnings.  Don't get me wrong, songs like "Doing Fine" and the opener, "Be Your Eyes" caught me right away.  Frontguy Perry Brown is a more than capable vocalist.  His Jason Isbell-esque soul serves as the music's most obvious connection to the Southern soil from which Fire Mountain springs.  It's just that some of the bloggers who featured All Dies Down are more likely to err on the side of the messy and dirt-caked.  With repeated listens, however, I developed an increased appreciation for the straightforward songs, the lack of pretense, and the rootsy elements still present beneath the sheen.  Heck, even if a friend responded to one tune with, "Is this Bryan Adams?" a song like "Wired and Dying" is simply classic  Think Ryan, rather than Bryan.  This is American Music reportedly picked up Fire Mountain in the wake of a Kickstarter campaign that fell short of the band's goal.  I should know better than to question TIAM by now, one of the most reliable little labels in our kind of music.  As their website boasts, "Nobody gives a bigger shit than us." 

I vacillated a bit with regards to what to write about this week.  I'd still like to give some quality blogtime to Colorado's Gun Street Ghost, whose self titled sophomore release has provided me with some remarkably diverse listening of late.  Trampled by Turtles continues to mature in admirable directions while still honoring their speedgrass roots.  I've also flirted shamelessly with providing some reflection about the strongest release in years from Will Johnson and Centro-Matic.  And this week's biggest news stoked a fanboy fire in my heart for a double CD of live Lucero for August. 

*  Gurf Morlix, "Clay Pigeons"  Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream  (Rootball, 10)
*  Zoe Muth, "Little Piece of History"  World of Strangers  (Signature Sounds, 14)
*  John Howie Jr & Rosewood Bluff, "Why You Been Gone So Long"  Everything Except Goodbye  (Self, 14)
*  Willie Nelson w/Jamey Johnson, "The Git Go"  Band of Brothers  (Legacy, 14)  D
*  Gun Street Ghost, "Why We Drink"  Gun Street Ghost  (Self, 14)  C
*  Jolie Holland, "All the Love"  Wine Dark Sea  (Anti, 14)
*  Heartless Bastards, "Done Got Old"  Stairs & Elevators  (Fat Possum, 05)
*  Rodney  Crowell, "Jesus Talk To Mama"  Tarpaper Sky  (New West, 14)
*  Corb Lund, "Counterfeiters' Blues"  Counterfeiters' Blues  (New West, 14)  D
*  Centro-Matic, "Cross Paths"  Take Pride In Your Long Odds  (Self, 14)
*  Ryan Adams, "Rescue Blues"  Gold  (Lost Hwy, 01)
*  Secret Sisters, "Iuka"  Put Your Needle Down  (Republic, 14)
*  First Aid Kit, "Heaven Knows"  Stay Gold  (Columbia, 14)
*  Donkeys, "Sunny Daze"  Ride the Black Wave  (Easy Sound, 14)  D
*  Dave & Phil Alvin, "Saturday Night Rub"  Common Ground  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  JC Brooks & Uptown Sound, "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart"  Want More  (Bloodshot, 11)
*  Lucero, "Tears Don't Matter Much (live)"  Live From Atlanta  (Liberty & Lament, 14)  D
*  Jon Snodgrass, "Long Way Found"  Visitor's Band  (Suburban Home, 09)  C
*  Hiss Golden Messenger, "Brother Do You Know the Road"  single  (Merge, 14)
*  Fire Mountain, "Wired and Dying"  All Dies Down  (This Is American Music, 14)
*  Joseph LeMay, "Seventeen Acres"  Seventeen Acres  (Self, 14)
*  John Fullbright, "Happy"  Songs  (Blue Dirt, 14)
*  Trampled By Turtles, "Come Back Home"  Wild Animals  (Banjodad, 14)  D
*  American Aquarium, "Bones"  Bones  (Self, 08)
*  Eric Lindell, "Sentimental Lover"  West County Drifter  (MC, 11)
*  Far West, "Leonard"  Any Day Now  (Medina River, 14)