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Monday, October 27, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 25, 2014
Scott Foley

This Episode features some awesome glimpses into forthcoming records, including Cracker's double CD - one disc country and the other rock.  There's also an unexpectedly raucous cut from Jim White, joined by the Packway Handle Band.  After a rocky trip thru Tomorrowland in 2012, Ryan Bingham's "Broken Heart Tattoos" lands like a sweet trip home.  Best of all, Tim Barry ... "Lost & Rootless" heralds the arrival of what could be a late charting favorites contender for the year.

Since we're speaking of favorites:  My first pass thru the year's playlists has generated a reassuringly solid longlist of around 40 records (for what is typically a 25-spot favorites list).  I can't recall having an easier time this early in the process.  I'm thinking of revealing my albums list a bit early this year - thinking Saturday, December 13 ...

Some songs are just too short.  Take Joe Fletcher's "Haint Blue Cadillac" f'rinstance.  It's a story-song that reads like the first chapter of what should be a novel:  Man meets the ghost of Hank Williams, man 'n Hank visit the tavern, Hank departs with a pretty lady.  And then ... ?  It's 2:04 of sloppy perfection, just Fletcher and his electric, part of You've Got the Wrong Man, a record whose raw and unproduced songs harken back to a time of field recordings.  Having produced two strong but more standard recordings with his East Nashville band, the Wrong Reasons, Fletcher taped his stark new songs in a mobile recording unit, finding a true intimacy that is rare in contemporary recordings.  "Florence, Alabama" is a gem:  "I was sick to death of fighting for a cause that's just a shill / Bring down the stars 'n stripes and raise a fifty dollar bill ..."  It's one sharp line among many, recalling Joe Pug's auspicious 2008 debut, Nation of Heat.  Songs flit between country-blues, folk and americana, with a couple tunes flirting with stories of the sea.  I'm not an immediate fan of sea chanteys, but when I do listen I prefer them to sound like drunken pirates.  "Mabel Grey," borrowed from Brown Bird, fits that bill just fine, a tipsy singalong that would make the late David Lamb proud.  And speaking of intoxication, Deer Tick's John McCauley also shows up for an unhinged chorus of another maritime related song, "I Never (Reprise)":  "I'd never gotten on this ship if I'd known / It was gonna take me home."  Fact is, there's a reason God made record producers, and I'm not necessarily the type that thinks any song would sound better if it were taped on a recorder made out of an oatmeal box.  Nevertheless, the unadorned sound of Joe Fletcher's new collection serves his songs well, allowing listeners to focus on the man's connection to a timeless craft. 

*  Milk Carton Kids, "No Hammer To Hold"  Prologue  (Self, 11)
*  Aoife O'Donovan, "Fire Engine"  Fossils  (Yep Roc, 13)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Today and a Lonely Night"  Single Mothers  (Vagrant, 14)
*  Maggie Bjorklund, "Bottom of the Well"  Shaken  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Steelism, "Marfa Lights"  915 To Fame  (Single Lock, 14)
*  Handsome Family, "Winnebago Skeletons"  Milk & Scissors  (Carrot Top, 96)
*  Pine Hill Haints, "Shattered Waltz"  Magick Sounds of ...   (K, 14)
*  Horse Feathers, "Dead End Thanks"  So It Is With Us  (Kill Rock Stars, 14)
*  Sam Amidon, "Won't Turn Back"  Lily-O  (Nonesuch, 14)  D
*  Lucero, "It May Be Too Late (live)"  Live From Atlanta  (Liberty & Lament, 14)
*  JP Harris & Tough Choices, "Truckstop Amphetamines"  Home Is Where the Hurt Is  (Cow Island, 14)
*  Doug Seegers, "Angie's Song"  Going Down To the River  (Rounder, 14)  D
*  Cracker, "Almond Grove"  Berkeley To Bakersfield  (Pavement, 15)  D
*  Lucinda Williams, "This Old Heartache"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Tim Barry, "Lost & Rootless"  Lost & Rootless  (Chunksaah, 14)  D
*  Ronnie Fauss, "Song For Zula"  Built To Break  (Normaltown, 14)
*  Elliott  BROOD, "Tired"  Work and Love  (Paper Bag, 14)
^  Joe Fletcher, "Haint Blue Cadillac"  You've Got the Wrong Man  (Self, 14)
*  Jim White vs Packway Handle Band, "Not a Song"  Take It Like a Man  (Yep Roc, 15)  D
*  Terry Allen, "Do They Dream of Hell In Heaven"  Bottom of the World  (Self, 13)
*  Chris Knight, "Oil Patch Town"  Pretty Good Guy  (Dualtone, 01)
*  Ryan Bingham, "Broken Heart Tattoos"  Fear and Saturday Night  (Axster Bingham, 15)  D
*  Goodnight Texas, "I Just Can't Stop Leaving Town"  Uncle John Farquhar  (Tallest Man, 14)
*  Andrew Bird & Nora O'Connor, "I'll Trade You Money For Wine"  While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records  (Bloodshot, 14)  D
*  Tift Merritt, "Broken"  Another Country  (Concord, 08)
*  Micky & the Motorcars, "Southbound Street"  Hearts From Above  (Self, 14)
*  Fauntleroys, "I'm In Love With Everything"  Below the Pink Pony  (Plowboy, 14)
*  Barr Brothers, "Even the Darkness Has Arms"  Sleeping Operator  (Secret City, 14)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 18, 2014
Scott Foley

The first promo I ever recorded for Routes & Branches when it was reborn at KRFC featured a rollicking backing track from Elliott BROOD's "Valley Town" - I still get remarks from listeners about the cut's infectious mandolin.  The trio from Ontario are all growed up now, busy generating offspring, contemplating mortality and making radio friendly music on their fifth LP, Work and Love.  It's true that "We should all stay little ones" doesn't exactly put the "alt" in, but by the close of the first track, the heavy guitars and horns set the tone for a fuller, more mature sounding album addressing "the ends of relationships and the tests of adulthood."  As a card-carrying adult, I have been to the little bar sited "where everybody knows who everybody is. / They drink and raise each others' kids" (because it truly does take a village ...).  To be fair, only a couple tunes directly address the blessings of Snuggies and a childproofed home.  The angst that drives "Nothing Left" ("These late night calls don't do anybody good") probably isn't addressing midnight feedings.  Musically, songs like "Tired" still feature the band's alluring vocal buzz, and while the equation is steadily tipping more towards rock than roots, their trademark mando/banjo strums continue to shine through.  It's those extras that tend to lift Work and Love above your average Elliott BROOD record:  The electric guitar/piano/drum crescendo that drives "Taken", or the unexpected trumpet heralding pieces like "Mission Bell", the most band oriented sound on the record.  Fans of the trio's earlier work will welcome the catchy-as-hell single, "Jigsaw Heart", which recalls the mando-centric strumming and suitcase drums of an earlier time.  File this one alongside other bands like Sons of Bill or Delta Spirit, rare artists who have answered a call to allow their sound to grow, evolve and mature over the years.  The bonus 5-song acoustic sampler will serve to appease those remaining traditionalists who still pine for "that house by the hill / How I long for her still / My home sweet home."

*  Tony Joe White, "Saturday Night In Oak Grove, Louisiana"  Homemade Ice Cream  (Warner, 73)
*  Dave and Phil Alvin, "Southern Flood Blues"  Common Ground  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Cory Branan, "Meantime Blues"  No Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Hollis Brown, "Wait For Me Virginia"  single  (Alive NaturalSound, 14)  D
*  Shelby Lynne, "Thought It Would Be Easier"  I Am Shelby Lynne (remaster)  (Rounder, 14)
*  David Childers, "Jesus Gonna Make It Alright"  Serpents of Reformation  (Ramseur, 14)
*  Hard Working Americans, "Stomp & Holler (live)"  First Waltz  (Melvin, 14)
*  Slim Cessna's Auto Club, "Fifteen Years"  Slim Cessna's Auto Club  (Self, 95)  C
*  Lee Ann Womack, "All His Saints"  Way I'm Livin'  (Sugar Hill, 14)
*  JP Harris & Tough Choices, "Young Women & Old Guitars"  Home Is Where the Hurt Is  (Cow Island, 14)
*  Reckless Kelly, "Everything I Could Do Wrong"  Somewhere In Time  (Blue Rose, 10)
*  Sons of Bill, "Big Unknown"  Love & Logic  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Chuck Ragan, "Bedroll Lullaby"  Till Midnight  (SideOneDummy, 14)
*  Ronnie Fauss, "Never Gonna Last"  Built to Break  (Normaltown, 14)
*  Kelly Pardekooper, "Tell Me (You're the One)"  Milk in Sunshine  (Leisure Time, 14)  D
*  Shakey Graves, "Pansy Waltz"  And the War Came  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Angaleena Presley, "Pain Pills"  American Middle Class  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Old 97s, "Dancing With Tears"  Hitchhike To Rhome  (Big Iron, 94)
^  Elliott BROOD, "Mission Bell"  Work & Love  (Paper Bag, 14)
*  NQ Arbuckle, "Red Wine"  Future Happens Anyway  (Six Shooter, 14)
*  Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, "Born In the USA"  Dead Man's Town  (Lightning Rod, 14)
*  Eliot Bronson, "Baltimore"  Eliot Bronson  (Saturn 5, 14)
*  Reed Foehl, "Four Lanes"  Lost in the West  (NeverFoehl, 14)  C
*  Laura Cantrell, "Barely Said a Thing"  No Where There From Here  (Thrift Shop, 14)
*  Secret Sisters, "Rattle My Bones"  Put Your Needle Down  (Republic, 14)
*  JD McPherson, "I Wish You Would"  Warm Covers EP  (Rounder, 14)
*  Patty Griffin, "Moses"  Living With Ghosts  (A&M, 96)
*  Trampled By Turtles, "Hollow"  Wild Animals  (Banjodad, 14)

Monday, October 13, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 11, 2014
Scott Foley

On any given day, if you go around the 'nets looking at record reviews you'll find at least a dozen bloggers summing up artists by saying, "They're the real deal."  This is a shortcut for, "I really don't know what else to say, but I like what I hear."  The term tends to be lazily applied to dedicated souls like Dale Watson or Wayne Hancock.  Is Nashville's JP Harris "the real deal"?  Who am I to say ... he certainly has an impressive beard, though.  The music from Harris' sophomore record, Home Is Where the Hurt Is, comes across as unpretentious and unadorned as your favorite plaid shirt.  The album kicks open the barn doors with "Give a Little Lovin'," a piece whose galloping rhythms sound so immediately familiar that first I mistook it for a trad country cover.  As we learned on his 2012 debut, I'll Keep Calling, that's Harris' pocket, that classic country stuff that has no patience for any qualifiers.  JP himself has said he doesn't play americana, or folk - it's just country music, plain and simple.  The CD's title track bears that timeless stamp, with his band, the Tough Choices, laying down the pedal steel, guitar, bass and drums, while vocal guests Nikki Lane, Ashley Wilcoxson and Shelly Colvin lay down the "oohs" and "aah" like they were in the shadow of George Jones.  "Maria" could've flown from the songwriting pen of Marty Robbins if the credits didn't bear JP Harris' name.  "Truckstop Amphetamines," however, well that's just pure JP Harris.  The song is my favorite on Home Is Where the Hurt Is, depositing him firmly in the lineage of Guy Clark or Butch Hancock:  "Pass the time counting hours / With warm beer and BC Powders / And emptiness that fills me up just right."  Maybe you can fake this stuff, but so far Harris at least seems to be a dedicated study.  So, I suppose you could say that JP Harris and the Tough Choices are "the real deal," but give the guys some due credit and show your damn work. 

As mentioned on this week's Episode of R&B, we've just about finished setting the proverbial table for a November visit with one of my musical cornerstones.  Alejandro Escovedo's "Castanets" was the very first song I ever played during Routes & Branches, and I've always put him at the top of the list of folks who I'd love to interview.  Mr Escovedo is splitting a bill with Peter Buck, passing thru Fort Collins on November 8 (Hodi's).  If I don't screw this up by coming across like too much of a fanboy, we'll have AE in studio during the 4:00 hour.  Now where did I put that bucket list ...  

*  Felice Brothers, "Wonderful Life"  Felice Brothers  (Team Love, 08)
*  Felice Brothers, "Frankie's Gun!"  Felice Brothers  (Team Love, 08)
*  Ronnie Fauss, "I'm Sorry Baby (That's Just the Way It Goes)"  (Normaltown, 14)
*  Eliot Bronson, "Comin' For Ya North Georgia Blues"  Eliot Bronson  (Saturn, 14)  D
^  JP Harris & Tough Choices, "Truckstop Amphetamines"  Home Is Where the Hurt Is  (Cow Island, 14)
*  Joe Fletcher & Wrong Reasons, "Florence, Alabama"  You've Got the Wrong Man  (Self, 14)
*  Tom Vandenavond w/Larry & His Flask, "Jackrabbit, Arizona"  Endtimes  (Hillgrass Bluebilly, 14)
*  Cary Ann Hearst, "Forsaken Blues"  Lions and Lambs  (Self, 11)
*  6 String Drive, "Drive Around Town"  Roots Rock 'n Roll  (Royal Potato Family, 15)  D
*  Otis Gibbs, "Back In My Day Blues"  Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth  (Wanamaker, 14)
*  Luke Winslow-King, "Crystal Water Springs"  Everlasting Arms  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Angaleena Presley, "American Middle Class"  American Middle Class  (Thirty Tigers, 14)  D
*  Lucinda Williams, "When I Look At the World"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Elliott BROOD, "Nothing Left"  Work and Love  (Paper Bag, 14)
*  Jayhawks, "Waiting For Salvation"  Rainy Day Music (reissue)  (American, 14)
*  Maggie Bjorklund w/Kurt Wagner, "Fro Fro Heart"  Shaken  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Kill County, "Broken Glass in the  Sun"  Broken Glass in the Sun  (Self, 14)
*  David Childers, "First Mile"  Serpents of Reformation  (Ramseur, 14)  D
*  Luke Bell, "Glory and the Grace"  Don't Mind If I Do  (Self, 14)  D
*  Bonnie "Prince" Billly, "Night Noises"  Singer's Grave a Sea of Tongues  (Drag City, 14)  D
*  Halden Wofford & Hi-Beams, "Till Night is Through"  Sinners & Saints  (Self, 10)  C
*  Whiskey Shivers, "Long Low Down"  Whiskey Shivers  (Self, 14)
*  Frazey Ford, "You're Not Free"  Indian Ocean  (Nettwerk, 14)
*  Mavis Staples, "Down in Mississippi"  We'll Never Turn Back  (Anti, 07)
*  Delines, "State Line"  Colfax  (El Cortez, 14)
*  Minus 5, "Big Beat Up Moon"  Killingsworth  (Yep Roc, 09)
*  Catherine MacLellan, "Don't Call Me a Stranger"  Raven's Sun  (Self, 14)  D
*  Hearts of Oak, "Goldmine"  New England  (Deer Lodge, 14) 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 4, 2014
Scott Foley

Got a chance to catch up with Nicest Guy in Americana Ronnie Fauss this Episode, as we wrapped up KRFC's Fall 2014 Membership Drive in classy fashion.  The Dallas resident debuted a couple tunes from his forthcomer, Built To Break live instudio. Thanks to all whose contributions will allow me to maintain my Saturday afternoon habits into the foreseeable future. 

Last week's post got me in a bit of hot water.  Specifically, the revelation regarding  my ongoing allergy to folk music.  For this Episode, I sought to remedy any hurt feelings by showcasing two newly released recordings that feature a strain of folk that is more palatable to me.  Granted, both offer a more "hybridized" approach, with Montreal's Barr Brothers adding exotic percussion to their indie-folk.  Those rhythms were present to a lesser degree in their autumnal debut, whose pastoral harmonies caught my ear back in 2011. Sleeping Operator extrapolates the spirit of songs like "Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying" and "Give the Devil Back His Heart" into their new compositions.  Tuneful percussion drives the songs, alongside the folky harp (which can sometimes come across like an mbira in the right settings) and fuzzy electric guitar.  "Come In the Water" pairs that harp with church organ for a bluesy recitation, while "Half Crazy" lets loose the African percussion and soulful guitar.  Operator is a darker, more lush expression for the Barr Brothers, a frequently gorgeous collection that showcases the good that can come of folk based music. 

My other concession to folk hails from Portland, in the form of Justin Ringle and his Horse Feathers.  No stranger to R&B, I've admired Ringle's first four records for their smart arrangements and spirit of introversion.  Ringle himself admits that he'd considered packing up his guitar after touring behind 2012's Cynic's New Year.  Turns out, while Horse Feathers' songs were praised for their thoughtfulness, it was never the kind of music you wanted to play to raise your spirits.  So, So It Is With Us is the band's good-time record. The change in approach is evident from the outset, with "Violently Wild" and "Thousand", which are still heady, but which are lifted by drums and upbeat arrangements.  The fiddle remains prominent, and Ringle will probably never ask that you raise your hands in the air, but this is what passes for abandon in  Horse Feathers.  "Old Media" fairly rocks in comparison to previous records, and songs like "Middle Testament" are allowed to unspool like a song from the Band's midperiod.  Like Sam Beam's Iron & Wine or Calexico's innovative hybrids, it's well rooted in folk, but it's worlds away from the hyper-earnest strumfest that defines much of the genre.  Both Horse Feathers and Barr Brothers provide a suitable soundtrack as late summer marches into fall. 

*  Avett Brothers, "I Would Be Sad"  Emotionalism  (Ramseur, 07)
*  Barr Brothers, "Half Crazy"  Sleeping Operator  (Secret City, 14)
*  Horse Feathers, "Violently Wild"  So It Is With Us  (Kill Rock Stars, 14)  D
*  Blitzen Trapper, "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad Is To Be High)"  While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records  (Bloodshot, 14)  D
*  Ryan Adams, "I Just Might"  Ryan Adams  (PaxAm, 14)
*  Lone Justice, "Working Man Blues"  This is Lone Justice: the Vaught Sessions  (Omnivore, 13)
*  Luke Winslow-King, "Domino Sugar"  Everlasting Arms  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Kill County, "Beat Up Iron"  Broken Glass In the Sun  (Self, 14)
*  Magnolia Electric Co., "Talk To Me Devil Again"  Sojourner Box Set  (Secretly Canadian, 07)
*  Tom Vandenavond w/Larry & His Flask, "Losing Time"  Endtimes  (Hillgrass Bluebilly, 14)
*  JP Harris & the Tough Choices, "Maria"  Home Is Where the Hurt Is  (Cow Island, 14)  D
*  Pieta Brown, "Letter In Hand"  Paradise Outlaw  (Red House, 14)
*  Joe Pug, "Downbound Train"  Dead Man's Town: Tribute to Born in the USA  (Lightning Rod, 14)
*  Long Ryders, "Prairie Fire"  Two Fisted Tales  (Island, 87)
*  Sid Griffin, "Ode To Bobbie Gentry"  Trick Is To Breathe  (Prima, 14)
*  Tweedy, "World Away"  Sukierae  (dbPm, 14)
*  Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons, "Life of the Party"  You've Got the Wrong Man  (Self, 14)  D
*  Caleb Caudle, "Come On October"  Paint Another Layer On My Heart  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Alejandro Escovedo, "Castanets (live)"  Por Vida Live  (Junketboy, 12)
*  Centro-Matic, "Salty Disciple"  Take Pride In Your Long Odds  (Self, 14)
*  Rocky Votolato,  "Tennessee Train Tracks"  Makers  (Barsuk, 05)
*  Pine Hill Haints, "Galaxy Buffalo"  Magick Sounds of ...  (K, 14)
*  Elliott BROOD, "Little Ones"  Work and Love  (Paper Bag, 14)
*  Ronnie Fauss, "Another Town"  live in studio
*  Ronnie Fauss, "Big Catch"  live in studio
*  Israel Nash, "Rexanimarum"  Israel Nash's Rain Plans  (Loose, 14)

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)