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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

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

Crowd funding is the way to go these days.  Why didn't we think of this earlier:  Ask the hordes of fans who are eagerly awaiting your next album to pay in advance.  Lexington, KY's Josh Nolan thought so.  Problem is, what happens when your loyal hordes fail to come through on their side of the deal?  If you head to Nolan's Indiegogo page, you'll see he raised just over $1,100 of his $5,000 goal.  Josh Nolan just worked harder, finally releasing Fair City Lights last week.  Seems like a good idea for a song ...

Sure, Josh Nolan's songs bring to mind "heartland" rockers like J.C. Mellencamp as much as small town prophets like early Springsteen.  In his own words, "It's that working to get off work, up all night in the parking lot, trying , but only kinda, to get out of this 4 light town kind of rock and roll.  With a little bit of country".  Influences and comparisons only get you so far if they're not backed by the brand of genuine rock and roll talent possessed by Nolan. Like Hold Steady's Craig Finn, he's blessed with a decidedly anti-rock face and build.  He's like your high school science teacher who can also write some cool lyrics: 
There's something pretty down by the river / that keeps bringing me back to this place / the sun cracked crosses the flat top prophets / it's a polaroid of small town grace ...
While he's presently working with a regular band, Josh Nolan handles most instrumental duties on Fair City Lights, from memorable, cutting guitar lines to more subtle acoustic touches that lend the record its "little bit of country".  There are the more immediate tracks like "Waitin' On the Night" and "Til the Words Run Out" that grab you right off with their bravado and poetry.  The cuts that interest me more as a lover of words are "East KY Skyline" and "Do It Right", both of which are strong ballads that favor the Springsteen side of Nolan's equation.  Thing is, it's been a lifetime since Bruce could write about "singin' take it to the limit by the dairy queen" and sound as genuine as Nolan does.  

*  Alabama Shakes, "Heavy Chevy"  Boys & Girls  (ATO, 12)
*  Musketeer Gripweed, "Sin Eater"  Floods & Fires  (Self, 14)  C,D
*  Far West, "On the Road"  Any Day Now  (Medina River, 14)
*  Hillstomp, "Henry Oh My Henry"  Portland, Ore  (Fluff & Gravy, 14)
*  Secret Sisters, "Iuka"  Put Your Needle Down  (Republic, 14)
*  Joe Henry, "I Flew Over Our House Last Night"  Kindness of the World  (Polydor, 98)
*  Drive-by Truckers, "Natural Light"  English Oceans  (ATO, 14)
*  Casper Allen, "Scratch-Off Blues"  Wayfair'd  (Self, 14)  C, D
*  First Aid Kit, "My Silver Lining"  Stay Gold  (Columbia, 14)  D
*  Parker Millsap, "When I Leave"  Parker Millsap  (Okrahoma, 14)
*  Von Stomper, "Train Train"  Von Stomper  (Self, 14)  C, D
*  Andre Williams & the Sadies, "I'm An Old Old Man"  Red Dirt  (Bloodshot, 99)
*  Gord Downie & the Sadies, "It Didn't Start To Break My Heart Until This Afternoon"  Gord Downie, the Sadies & the Conquering Sun  (Arts & Crafts, 14)
*  Simone Felice, "Molly O!"  Strangers  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Nikki Lane, "Right Time"  All or Nothin'  (New West, 14)
^  Josh Nolan, "East Ky Skyline"  Fair City Lights  (Self, 14)  D
*  St Paul & the Broken Bones, "Half the City"  Half the City  (Single Lock, 14)
*  Deer Tick, "Night After Night"  Bob Dylan in the 80s  (ATO, 14)
*  My Darling Clementine, "No Matter What Tammy Said (I Won't Stand By Him)"  Reconciliation  (Five Head, 13)
*  Bobby Bare Jr, "Blame Everybody (But Yourself)"  Undefeated  (Bloodshot, 14)  D
*  John Doe, "Poor Girl"  Best of John Doe: This Far  (Yep Roc, 14)  D
*  Rodney Crowell, "Jesus Talk To Mama"  Tarpaper Sky  (New West, 14)
*  Dawn Landes, "Bloodhound"  Bluebird  (Western Vinyl, 14)
*  Bobby Charles, "I Spent All My Money Lovin' You"  Last Train to Memphis  (Proper, 04)
*   Brigitte DeMeyer, "Boy's Got Soul"  Savannah Road  (Self, 14) D
*  Will Kimbrough, "Dance Like Grownups Dance"  Sideshow Love  (Daphne, 14)
*  Stone Jack Jones, "Way Gone Wrong"  Ancestor  (Western Vinyl, 14)
*  Delines, "I Won't Slip Up"  Colfax  (Self, 14)

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
March 29, 2014
Scott Foley

I discovered the Grateful Dead via Touch of Grey.  The Stones became real to me with the purchase of Emotional Rescue.  My first Dylan record was Infidels.  You can't blame a guy for when he was born.  I knew better, of course, but my Dylan education took me through "Jokerman" and "Congratulations", into "I Believe In You" and even "Wiggle Wiggle".  In retrospect, Dylan's born-again period isn't regarded as an especially high point by critics, though the songs sound great on Bob Dylan in the 80s: Volume One.  From Jonathan Lethem's liner notes, "They were gestures of freedom as well as confusion, gestures of self-possession and self-reinvention, explorations of what exactly it meant to be an Icarus who'd survived and now had to become part of a small tribe inventing what it was to be an aging rock 'n' roller."  From my perspective, I can't imagine Dylan without the 80s (or "We Are the World" without his brief moment of self-imitation).  Contributors nearly all rise to the occasion, including Built To Spill's tremendous "Jokerman", Craig Finn's perfect "Sweetheart Like You" and Langhorne Slim's "Got My Mind Made Up", each of which have the advantage of covering Dylan without sounding like they're covering Dylan.  Face it, even the best Dylan covers are immediately recognizable as such (my favorite, Drive-by Truckers' excellent "Like a Rolling Stone"), coming across as derivative. 

It's been a relatively busy week at the R&B Household, including a truly enjoyable Live@Lunch interview with Charlie Parr.  Mr Parr came shambling down the alley behind KRFC looking like a man who had spent the night there.  Typically, we think twice before letting those folks into the studios, but with Charlie we made a fortunate exception.  In all honesty, he not only played like a master, he gave a generous and engaging interview as well.  An 11 year old volunteer listening from the lobby opined afterwards that Charlie Parr might be his favorite artist.  I don't blame him.  I only wish that I had been such a cool and wise child, avoiding my early flirtation with Neil Sedaka and the DeFranco Family ...  Saturday's Episode featured a comfy chat with Oregon's David Jacobs-Strain and Michelle McAfee, the highlight of which was Mr Jacobs-Strain allowing me to be the first in the country to share'n'air his raw new recordings with Jim Keltner, Greg Leisz, Viktor Krauss and others. 

*   Roadside Graves, "Far and Wide"  My Son's Home  (Autumn Tone, 09)
*  Charlie Parr, "1922"  1922  (House of Mercy, 03)
*  Leo Welch, "His Holy Name"   Sabougla Voices  (Big Legal Mess, 13)  D
*  Birch Street, "Take Me Home"  Birch Street  (Self, 14)  C
*  Arc Iris, "Whiskey Man"  Arc Iris  (Anti, 14)  D
*  Kill County, "Maggie"  Dust in Wire  (Self, 13)
*  Bear Antler, "Never Gonna Make It Out Alive"  Bear Antler EP  (Self, 14)  C,D
^  Michelle McAfee w/David Jacobs-Strain, "101"  live in studio
*  David Jacobs-Strain w/Michelle McAfee, "Treetop Flyer"  live in studio
*  David Jacobs-Strain, "Josephine"  unreleased recording
*  Michelle McAfee w/David Jacobs-Strain, "Going Home"  live in studio
*  Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray, "Long Way Home"  Lean Into the Wind  (7 Dead Arson, 14)
*  Hillstomp, "Meet Me At the Bottom"  Portland, Ore  (Fluff & Gravy, 14)  D
*  Sturgill Simpson, "A Little Light"  Metamodern Sounds of Country Music  (High Top Mt, 14)
*  Candi Staton, "I Ain't Easy To Love"  Life Happens  (MRI, 14)  D
*  Mofro, "Dirtfloorcracker"  Lochloosa  (Fog City, 04)
*  Rodney Crowell, "Flyboy & the Kid"  Tarpaper Sky  (New West, 14)
*  Bob Dylan & the Band, "Yazoo St Scandal"  Basement Tapes  (Columbia, 75)
*  Chuck Ragan, "Bedroll Lullaby"  Till Midnight  (SideOneDummy, 14)
*  Wovenhand, "Hiss"  Refractory Obdurate  (Glitterhouse, 14)  C,D
*  RJV & Hell County Revival, "Ain't You Something"  Three Ways From Sunday  (Lucky Buck, 14)  D
*  White Buffalo, "Love Song #2"  Prepare For Black & Blue  (Ruff Shod, 10)

Monday, March 24, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
March 22, 2014
Scott Foley

I first discovered Sturgill Simpson during his time as frontman for Sunday Valley. On the heels of the release of 2011's celebrated To the Wind and On To Heaven, Simpson announced that the ever evolving band would heretofore be going by the name Sturgill Simpson and High Top Mountain. Last year's High Top Mountain proved to be a high point for 2013, a refreshing breath of trad country in a world drawn to hybrids. Less than a year later, Sturgill Simpson dials down the honky tonk and blurs the focus on Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Simpson is still in superb vocal form, one of the finest country singers since the dawn of Dwight Yoakam. His new record loosely explores the psychedelics and strings favored by late 60s and 70s country. The album opener establishes the mood with a curious tale of drugs and reptile abduction, "Turtles All the Way Down".
There's a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane / Where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain / Tell me how you make illegal something that we all make in our brain / Some say you might go crazy but then again it might make you go sane

It's hardly Harlan Howard.  "Life of Sin" paints a picture of a paranoid Simpson "smoking my brain hazy", though offering a more traditional honky tonk spirit.  The most trad moment arrives with a standard take on "Long White Line", though the im-balance is quickly restored with the record's most curious cut, a cover of When In Rome's "The Promise", distilled into a country ballad and given a seriously moving vocal turn.  "Just Let Go" advocates for "Taking a 49 divine day vacation from reality", floating upon echoing steel guitars that drift from speaker to speaker.  It's really a dark and distorted statement, especially following a collection that seemed more directed towards simply having a good time.  Still, Metamodern Sounds makes more of a personal artistic declaration that assures Simpson's place at the forefront of artists.  Make sure you stick around for the hidden track that follows the aural freakout of "It Ain't All Flowers". 

*  Railbenders, "I-70 Westbound"  Showdown  (Self, 06)  C
*  Ryan Adams, "Shakedown on 9th Street"  Heartbreaker  (Bloodshot, 00)
*  Gord Downie, the Sadies & the Conquering Sun, "Crater"  self-titled  (Arts + Crafts, 14)  D
*  Johnny Cash, "Out Among the Stars"  Out Among the Stars  (Capitol, 14)
*  Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray, "Election Year Blues"  Lean Into the Wind  (Seven Dead Arson, 14)
*  Shouting Matches, "I'll Be True"  Grownass Men  (BDC, 13)
*  Holmes Brothers, "You've Got To Lose"  Brotherhood  (Alligator, 14)  D
*  Esme Patterson, "Never Chase a Man"  Woman to Woman  (Greater Than Collective, 14)  C
*  Lucero, "From the Git Go"  Songs For Slim  (New West, 13)
*  Old 97s, "Let's Get Drunk & Get It On"  Most Messed Up  (ATO, 14)
*  Carlene Carter, "Poor Old Heartsick Me"  Carter Girl  (Rounder, 14)
*  Rodney Crowell, "Frankie Please"  Tarpaper Sky  (New West, 14)
^  Sturgill Simpson, "Turtles All the Way Down"  Metamodern Sounds in Country Music  (High Top Mt, 14)
*  Luke Doucet, "Dirty Dirty Blonde"  Steel City Trawler  (Six Shooter, 10)
*  Hurray For the Riff Raff, "End of the Line"  Small Town Heroes  (ATO, 14)
*  Eric Church, "Man Who Was Gonna Die Young"  Outsiders  (EMI, 14)
*  Chad Sullins & Last Call, "Might Leave In the Fall"  Wicked Spell  (Self, 14)  D
*  Flying Burrito Bros, "Close Up the Honky Tonks"  Hot Burritos  (A&M, 00)
*  Birch Street, "Mama"  Birch Street  (Self, 14) C,D
*  Hard Working Americans, "Mountain Song"  Hard Working Americans  (Melvin, 14)
*  Charlie Parr, "Where You Gonna Be"  When the Devil Goes Blind  (Nero's Neptune, 10)
*  Jon Langford, "Summer Stars"  Here Be Monsters  (In de Goot, 14)
*  Secret Sisters, "Rattle My Bones"  Put Your Needle Down  (Republic, 14)  D
*  Stone Jack Jones, "O Child"  Ancestor  (Western Vinyl, 14)  D
*  4H Royalty, "Shape of Karaoke To Come"  Liars & Outliers  (m12, 13)  C
*  Nikki Lane, "All or Nothin'"  All or Nothin'  (New West, 14)
*  Levon Helm, "Back To Memphis (live)"  Ramble At the Ryman  (Vanguard, 11)
*  Promised Land Sound, "Empty Vase"  Promised Land Sound  (Paradise of Bachelors, 13)
*  Songs: Ohia, "Soul"  Journey On: Collected Singles  (Secretly Canadian, 14)  D
*  Jolie Holland, "Waiting For the Sun"  Wine Dark Sea  (Anti, 14)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
March 15, 2014
Scott Foley

John Moreland drove nine hours from Kansas to swing by the studios for a quick chat with me and Charles Hale of Nine Bullets and the Ajax Diner Book Club.  He's big man with a big voice.  The hair that's surrendering from the top of his head seems to be magically reenlisting between his chin and chest.  And when John Moreland opens his mouth to sing, he has a way with a lyric like no other.  I know I've touted his 2013 record, In the Throes, at least a couple times in my blog, and I'm not the only one.  Despite all the online attention, he still has concerts like the recent one in New Orleans, in which his audience was composed of "one dude". A friend told me about a Wayne "the Train" Hancock show in Albany, OR for which he and his wife were the only fans in attendance.  After waiting a spell just in case, he proceeded to perform an entire passionate set for his audience of two.  I find it fascinating that an artist like Moreland with such an obvious gift suffers from issues of anxiety and confidence.  As a former concert promoter behind at least a couple "one dude" shows, it's always a competition who feels worse about the turnout - the artist, the promoter or the fan.  But when a performer simply carries on from venue to venue making lifechanging music for whomever chooses to listen, you can't help but be impressed with that sort of commitment. 

*  John the Conqueror, "Waking Up To You"  Good Life  (Alive NaturalSound, 14)  D
*  John Moreland, "Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore"  In the Throes  (Last Chance, 13)
*  John Moreland, "I Need You To Tell Me"  live in studio
*  John Moreland, "God's Medicine"  live in studio
*  John Moreland, "Cataclysm Blues No. 4"  single  (Wax Packs, 14)
*  Parker Millsap, "Old Time Religion"  Parker Millsap  (Self, 14)
*  Austin Lucas, "Small Town Heart"  Stay Reckless  (New West, 13)
*  Andy Thomas' Dust Heart, "Poor You"  Wicked Dark  (Self, 13)  C
*  Dawn Landes, "Heel Toe"  Bluebird  (Western Vinyl, 14)  D
*  Jon Langford, "Lil' Ray o' Light"  Here Be Monsters  (In de Goot, 14)
*  Danny & the Champions of the World, "Other Days"  Stay True  (Loose, 13)
*  Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires, "Company Man"  Dereconstructed  (Sub Pop, 14)
*  Shonna Tucker & Eye Candy, "Family Dinner"  A Tell All  (Sweet Nectar, 13)
*  Slim Cessna's Auto Club, "Fifteen Years"  Slim Cessna's Auto Club  (Auto Club, 95)  C
*  Adam Carroll, "Spoken For"  Let It Choose You  (Gypsy Shuffler, 14)  D
*  Howlin' Brothers, "Sing a Sad Song"  Trouble  (Readymade, 14)  D
*   Delines, "I Won't Slip Up"  Colfax  (Delines, 14)  D
*  Luther Dickinson, "Mojo Mojo"  Rock 'n Roll Blues  (New West, 14)
*  Larry & His Flask, "Log Hearth & Ash"  By the Lamplight  (Xtra Mile, 13)
*  Simone Felice, "Gettysburg"  Strangers  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Tallgrass, "Dirt Farm"  Better Than Medicine (Self, 14) C,D
*  Lucinda Williams, "Nothing In Rambling (live)"  Lucinda Williams  (Self, 14)
*  RootJack, "Dead Man's Hand"  Oasis Motel  (Self, 14)
*  Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, "New Old Story"  New Old Story  (Randm, 14)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
March 8, 2014
Scott Foley

Interesting guy, Otis Taylor.  He revels in his outsider status, his music incorporating elements of
folk, blues, jazz and americana, though truly embraced by and embracing none.  What's more, Taylor proved to be a fascinating, soft spoken interview.  Sometimes I feel like I spend an entire interview reaching for traction or searching for a way out.  With Mr Taylor, I could've gone on all afternoon.  Stay tuned for John Moreland on Sat 3/15!

Glimpses into some quality forthcoming releases on this week's Episode, including a very satisfying taste of Lee Bains III's Sub Pop debut.  New West provided a look at what promise to be worthy records from Nikki Lane (produced by Dan Auerbach) and Rodney Crowell (reaching back to his career defining 1980's sound). 

Also on New West, North Mississippi Allstar Luther Dickinson makes his label proud.  The last couple years have seen Dickinson pairing with Mato Nanji and David Hidalgo on a dirty rockin' electric blues record, going solo with an understated collection of acoustic instrumentals, not to mention collaborations with Black Crowes, the Wandering, South Memphis String Band and, oh yeah, that NMAS outfit.  Maybe I'll also mention here that he's presently on tour with Marc Broussard, Anders Osborne and JJ Grey as the Southern Soul Assembly.  Rock 'n Roll Blues finds him trying on the singer-songwriter hat.  While Dickinson won't win any prizes as a lyricist, he definitely knows his way around a groove.  This is why many of my favorite NMAS pieces seem more like ideas for songs rather than complete statements.  He is joined in the studio by Amy LaVere and Sharde Thomas, both of whom he worked with in his Wandering project.  Like his legendary father, Jim Dickinson, Luther seems poised to try his hand on a bit of everything. 

*  Lydia Loveless, "They Don't Know"  Somewhere Else  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Band of Heathens, "Shotgun"  Sunday Morning Record  (BoH, 13)
*  Otis Taylor, "Lost My Horse"  My World Is Gone  (Telarc, 13)  C
*  Otis Taylor, "Blue Rain In Africa"  My World Is Gone
*  Otis Taylor, "Huckleberry Blues"  My World Is Gone
^  Luther Dickinson, "Blood 'n Guts"  Rock 'n Roll Blues  (New West, 14)  D
*  Drive-by Truckers, "When It's Gone"  English Oceans  (ATO, 14)
*  Lone Justice, "Grapes of Wrath"  This Is Lone Justice  (Omnivore, 13)
*  Jerry Lee Lewis, "Before the Night is Over (live)"  Live At Third Man Records  (Third Man, 12)
*  Amelia White, "Ghetto"  Old Postcard  (White Wolf, 14)
*  Jimbo Mathus, "Casey Caught the Canonball"  Dark Night of the Soul  (Fat Possum, 14)
*  Carlene Carter, "Blackie's Gunman"  Carter Girl  (Rounder, 14)
*  Peter Case, "Travellin' Light"  Man With the Blue Postmodern ...  (Geffen, 89)
*  Matt Skinner Band, "I'll Keep Loving"  Native Stranger  (Tapadero, 13)  C
*  John Moreland, "Oh Julia"  In the Throes  (Last Chance, 13)
*  Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Company Man"  Dereconstructed  (Sub Pop, 14)  D
*  Hurray for the Riff Raff, "Crash On the Highway"  Small Town Heroes  (ATO, 14)
*  Parker Millsap, "Land of the Red Man"  Parker Millsap  (Okrahoma, 14)
*  Rodney Crowell, "Frankie Please"  Tarpaper Sky  (New West, 14)  D
*  Far West, "Words From a Letter"  Any Day Now  (Medina River, 14)
*  Emmylou Harris w/Low Anthem, "To Ohio"  Smart Flesh  (Nonesuch, 11)
*  Dex Romweber Duo, "So Sad About Us"  Image 13  (Bloodshot, 14)  D
*  Doug Paisley, "Radio Girl"  Strong Feelings  (No Quarter, 14)
*  Nikki Lane, "All or Nothin'"  All or Nothin'  (New West, 14)  D
*  Supersuckers, "Pushin' Through"  Get the Hell  (Acetate, 14)
*  Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, "Sinner Come Home"  I'll Swing My Hammer  (Self, 14)

Friday, March 07, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
March 1, 2014
Scott Foley

One-half of Denver's Paper Bird is certainly better than no Paper Bird.  Thanks to Caleb, Sarah and Genevieve for their visit on this week's R&B Episode.  On Saturday, March 8, be sure to tune in for a chat and some live music from iconic bluesman Otis Taylor.  Then, on our 3/15 show we'll welcome Oklahoma's John Moreland.  Oh, then on Thursday, March 27, I'll be spending a full hour Charlie Parr for Live@Lunch. 

Among the many artists who probably won't be joining me in the studios is Carlene Carter.  Her career began as part of the Carter Sisters with her mother, June Carter Cash.  A series of rather successful solo records established her reputation in the world of mainstream country.  A series of unsuccessful marriages, unflattering media moments and stabs at new musical directions assured a difficult second act.  After close to fifteen years of downtime, Carter released 2008's Stronger, which confirmed that she had lose none of her songwriter chops, visible even through some thick production and vocal correction.  Which brings us to Carter Girl.  Produced by Don Was, Carlene Carter's new record strikes a graceful balance between all aspects of her career, blending takes on her family's legendary classics with originals, duets with family friends Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson with a collaboration with Elizabeth Cook and a stellar backing band throughout.  Don Was gives even the traditional songs a contemporary relevance, without overproducing or adding too much studio sheen.  Carter's vocals speak of her experience, worn here and there, but as genuine and sweet as those of her mother (who she greatly resembles). 

Um ... incidentally, I also had the opportunity to chat this week with John Carter Cash, Carlene's half brother and producer for Johnny Cash's forthcoming Out Among the Stars.  We'll air that chat a bit closer to the record's release date, at the request of the label. 

*  Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, "Folsom Prison Blues"  Johnny's Blues  (Northern Blues, 03)
*  Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, "No Honky-Tonks"  New Old Story  (Randm, 14)
*  Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash, "Baby Ride Easy"  Out Among the Stars  (Columbia, 14)
*  Paper Bird, "As I Am"  Rooms  (Self, 13)  C
*  Paper Bird, "Blood & Bones"  Rooms  (Self, 13)  C
*  Paper Bird, "Hold It Down"  Rooms  (Self, 13)  C
*  Jolie Holland, "Waiting For the Sun"  Wine Dark Sea  (Anti, 14)  D
*  Drive-by Truckers, "Natural Light"  English Oceans  (ATO, 14)
*  Hayes Carll, "Love Like You"  Trouble In Mind  (Lost Hwy, 08)
*  Jon Langford, "Mars"  Here There Be Monsters  (Bloodshot, 14)  D
*  Girls Guns & Glory, "All the Way Up To Heaven"  Good Luck  (Lonesome Day, 14)
*  Mavericks, "There Goes My Heart"  What a Cryin' Shame  (MCA, 94)
*  Laura Cantrell, "Starry Skies"  No Way There From Here  (Thrift Shop, 14)
*  Denver Broncos UK, "Top Yourself"  Rockin' Legends Pay Tribute to Jack White  (Cleopatra, 13)  D
*  Rod Picott, "65 Falcon"  Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail  (Welding Rod, 14)
*  Scott H Biram, "Jack of Diamonds"  Nothin' But Blood  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Kelly Hogan, "Haunted"  I Like To Keep Myself In Pain  (Anti, 12)
*  Chuck Ragan, "Non Typical"  Till Midnight  (SideOneDummy, 14)
*  Walt Wilkins & the Mystiqueros, "If I Had a Little Truck"  Wildcat Pie & the Great Walapateya  (Self, 13)  D
*  Chuck Mead, "Evil Wind"  Free State Serenade  (Plowboy, 14)
*  Eric Church, "Man Who Was Gonna Die Young"  Outsiders  (EMI, 14)  D
*  Charlie Parr, "Cheap Wine (live)"  I Dreamed I Saw Paul Bunyan Last Night  (Chaperone, 13)
^  Carlene Carter, "Little Black Train"  Carter Girl  (Rounder, 14)
*  Robert Ellis, "Pride"  Lights From the Chemical Plant  (New West, 14)
*  Reverend Horton Heat, "My Hat"  REV  (Victory, 14)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 22, 2014
Scott Foley

Yeah, it's only approaching March, and I don't tend to do this sort of thing on an official level for another 8 or 9 months, but I thought it might be interesting to collect my thoughts on my favorite releases for the first sixth of 2014.  No reason to hold me to these musings, since time will tell which enthusiasms settle and which slow burners might rise to the top.  Nevertheless ...

Last week I heaped my praises atop the new release from Hurray for the Riff Raff, and I'll continue in that general direction today.  Alynda Lee Segarra is one of the most interesting artists in our sort of music.  From another captivating woman, Lydia Loveless' Somewhere Else might boast one of the year's most boring titles, but her collection of acid tongued rockers strikes me as more mature and assured than her 2011 classic.  Laura Cantrell followed up a six year silence (not counting a stellar Kitty Wells tribute record) with a typically satisfying No Way There From Here.

From the crunchier side of the musical shelf, Water Liars didn't take long at all to follow up last year's underappreciated Wyoming.  Their self titled album proved to be another step forward for the rocking Mississippi trio.   Since their '98 debut, the ever evolving Marah have alternated between brilliant and frustrating.  Apparently, it took disappearing into a Pennsylvania Mountain town and updating a hundred year old song collection to put Dave Bielanko back on track.  Far West's 2011 debut seemed promising enough, albeit a derivative slice of SoCal  This year's rocking, tuneful Any Day Now shatters that mold.  A definite statement that deserves consideration for the year's best. 

My lists always balance the familiar with the obscure.  Among the former would be Rosanne Cash's remarkable River & the Thread.  More often than not, repeated listenings to these Big Americana Releases can dull their appeal.  Cash's last couple collections of original songs have escaped this trap.  Likewise, Todd Snider's new sandbox, Hard Working Americans, deserves its place atop the americana radio charts.  Never let the fact that it's a covers album blind you to the energy and punch behind the band's interpretations.  Snider seems temporarily reborn. 

Robert Ellis and Doug Paisley are hardly "from out of nowhere" candidates, though their respective CDs are great examples of established artists who are continuing to develop.  Ellis' Lights From the Chemical Plant has gradually grown on me for its idiosyncratic lyrics and interesting arrangments.  Doug Paisley's Strong Feelings is an understated masterpiece.  Contributions from Garth Hudson and Mary Margaret O'Hara only add to the Canadian's songwriting mystique.  

Parker Millsap's self titled record would qualify as my unexpected pleasure for the year to date.  He manages to balance the storytelling chops of Slaid Cleaves with the edge of an early Jimmy LaFave and some skewed humor by way of John Prine. 

Incidentally, speaking of great things happening in 2014, my host station, KRFC, turns 11 this year.  It's an awkward time for a preteen, but a wonderful age for a radio station.  We'll celebrate the increasingly influential Northern Colorado cultural presence with our Steel Anniversary Birthday Bash on Saturday, March 29  at the Lincoln Center's Canyon West Ballroom.  While we draw from the state's deep pool of talent every year, this year's slate might be our best yet.  Slim Cessna's Auto Club will headline, with Young Ancients opening the show.  Tickets may be greedily consumed here

*  Possessed By Paul James, "Sweet But Bitter Life"  There Will Be Nights ...  (Hillgrass Bluebilly, 13)
*  Tom Vanden Avond, "Meet Me At Weber's Deck"  Wreck of a Fine Man  (Hillgrass Bluebilly, 12)
*  Far West, "Bright Side"  Any Day Now  (Medina River, 14)
*  Hurray For the Riff Raff, "No One Else"  Small Town Heroes  (ATO, 14)
*  Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Righteous Ragged Songs"  There is a Bomb In Gilead  (Alive Naturalsound, 12)
*  Parker Millsap, "Truck Stop Gospel"  Parker Millsap  (Okrahoma, 14)
*  Brett Detar, "Tried To Hate the Angels"  Too Free To Live  (Self, 13)
*  Dave & Phil Alvin, "All By Myself"  Common Ground  (Yep Roc, 14)  D
*  Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers, "Hard Luck Love"  Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers  (Self, 09)
*  Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, "Parker Valley PTA"  single  (Self, 14)  D
*  Reverend Horton Heat, "Hardscrabble Woman"  Rev  (Victory, 14)
*  Bottle Rockets, "Manhattan Countryside"  Bottle Rockets/Brooklyn Side  (Bloodshot, 14)
^  Slim Cessna's Auto Club, "Viceroy Filter King"  Always Say Please & Thank You  (Alt.Tentacles, 00)  C
*  Amelia White, "Ghetto"  Old Postcard  (White-Wolf, 14)
*  Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs, "Can't Pretend"  All Her Fault  (Transdreamer, 14)  D
*  Chris Knight, "Love & a .45"  Chris Knight  (MCA, 98)
*  Lydia Loveless, "Verlaine Shot Rimbaud"  Somewhere Else  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Jamestown Revival, "California (Cast Iron Soul)"  Utah  (INGrooves, 14)
*  Nickel Creek, "Destination"  A Dotted Line  (Nonesuch, 14)  D
*  Chuck Mead, "Devil By Their Side"  Free State Serenade  (Plowboy, 14)  D
*  Sturgill Simpson, "Living the Dream"  Metamodern Sounds In Country Music  (High Top Mt, 14)  D
*  American Aquarium, "Ain't Going To the Bar Tonight"  Dances For the Lonely  (Last Chance, 05)
*  Blake Brown & American Dust Choir, "Life Lines"  We Believers  (Self, 13)  C
*  Jimbo Mathus, "Shine Like a Diamond"  Dark Night of the Soul  (Fat Possum, 14)
*  Pony Boy, "One Man Show"  The Devil In Me  (Odd Man Out, 14)
*  Jon Dee Graham, "Tie a Knot (live)"  Swept Away  (Freedom, 08)
*  Esme Patterson, "Tumbleweed"  Woman to Woman  (Greater Than Collective, 14)  C,D

February 15, 2014
Scott Foley

Last year, Hurray for the Riff Raff caught my attention with an album of covers called My Dearest Darkest Neighbor.  You can tell a lot about a person by the songs they cover.  Alynda Lee Segarra (who is, for all purposes, Hurray) doesn't reach too far into her songbag, opting for tunes originally by Gillian Welch, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, etc.  It's her approach to them that makes this album one I've returned to repeatedly, recommending Segarra for a deeper lineage than one might've imagined given the fact her age.  In all honesty, I still haven't heard the outfit's first three records. 

Largely on the strength of a strong internet buzz, Segarra's new CD Small Town Heroes was released on the high profile ATO Records.  Whereas much of Darkest Neighbor featured little more than the artist and her guitar, the new songs offer deeper, full band arrangements.  Songs like "I Know It's Wrong (But That's Alright)" or "Blue Ridge Mountain" remind me of last year's excellent but overlooked Mount Moriah collection.  By far the more revealing selections are the "blues" tracks, which harken back to those spartan acoustic settings.  "Good Time Blues" and "New SF Bay Blues" bring to mind Polly Jean Harvey with an acoustic blues bent.  "St. Roch Blues" stands out as the record's masterpiece, an ode to Segarra's adopted New Orleans  home that slinks from an intimately strummed electric guitar to brief band eruptions and back.  It's a piece that encompasses the promising range of a fascinating artist, one of the best parts of the early year. 

*  Townes Van Zandt, "Waitin' 'Round To Die"  Heartworn Highways  (Hacktone, 06)
*  Slim Cessna's Auto Club, "Smashing Indictment of Character"  Unentitled  (Alt.Tentacles, 11)  C
*  Lewi Longmire, "Still Doing Time"  Deer Lodge - George Jones  (Deer Lodge, 13)
*  Simone Felice, "Running Through My Head"  Strangers  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Laura Cantrell, "Driving Down Your Street"  No Way There From Here  (Thrift Shop, 14)
*  Emmylou Harris, "Waltz Across Texas Tonight"  Wrecking Ball  (Elektra, 95)
*  Farewell Drifters, "Tennessee Girl"  Tomorrow Forever  (Compass, 14)  D
*  Benmont Tench, "Veronica Said"  You Should Be So Lucky  (Concord, 14)  D
*  Dexateens, "Neil Armstrong"  Hardwire Healing  (Skybucket, 06)
*  Cowboy Dave, "Honky Tonk Me"  Driven Man  (Self, 14)  C
*  Pony Boy, "If Only He Were You"  Devil In Me  (Odd Man Out, 14)  D
*  Johnny Cash, "I'm Movin' On"  Out Among the Stars  (Columbia, 14)
*  Carlene Carter, "Little Black Train"  Carter Girl  (Rounder, 14)  D
*  Gourds, "Pick and Roll"  Heavy Ornamentals  (Eleven Thirty, 06)
*  Parker Millsap, "Quite Contrary"  Parker Millsap  (Okrahoma, 14)
*  Halden Wofford & the Hi Beams, "Only Thing I Like"  Rocky Mt Honky Tonk  (Self, 13)  C
*  Marah, "Falling Of the Pine"  Mountain Minstrelsy  (Dalley Farm Songs, 14)
*  Paul Thorn, "Doctor My Eyes"  Looking Into You: Tribute to Jackson Browne  (Music Road, 14)  D
*  Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Ray, "Drifter's Compass"  Lean Into the Wind  (Seven Dead Arson, 14)  D
*  Guy Clark, "Uncertain TX"  Better Days  (DBK Works, 83)
*  RootJack, "Dead Man's Hand"  Oasis Motel  (Self, 14)  D
*  Jamestown Revival, "Revival"  Utah  (INGrooves, 14)
*  Will Kimbrough, "All We Can Do Is Love"  Sideshow Love  (Daphne, 14)
*  Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, "Livin' in America"  I'll Swing My Hammer With Both Hands  (Self, 14)
*  Amelia White, "Daddy Run"  Old Postcard  (White-Wolf, 14)
*  Fred Eaglesmith, "Train Wreck"  Tambourine  (Self, 13)
*  Uncle Tupelo, "Sin City (B-Side)"  No Depression (Legacy Edition)  (Columbia, 14)
*  New Mendicants, "Sarasota"  Into the Lime  (Ashmont, 14)  D
*  Haden Triplets, "My Baby's Gone"  Haden Triplets  (Third Man, 14)