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Sunday, December 21, 2014

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

So this is Christmas ...  

A lot of people who like a lot of music don't much care for holiday music, and I get it.  I'll admit that there's a trainload of bad seasonal stuff out there, and that's what we're most subject to on radio, tv and in stores.  I see it as my mandate to take a left turn at "All I Want For Christmas Is You" (still a great Christmas original from a sweet scene in a generally fine picture) and trip thru the kudzu of the internets to find the worthy bits.  As with my non-holiday fare, it's not enough to be obscure, but the mistletunes with which I emerge also must earn their keep as good music.

This year brought a frequently fine compilation from the folks at Amazon, All Is Bright, and New West's holiday blend of the old and new in An Americana Christmas.  Frequent tourmates Blind Boys of Alabama and Taj Mahal exceeded expectations with a collection that is both original and meaningful.  And Over the Rhine continues their streak of peerless winter (re: depressing) song - I can't recall the last year I didn't play one of their tracks on my Holiday Show.  Clinging to the runners of my musical sleigh, as they have for years, are the former Mr and Mrs Steve Earle with their unrivaled statement of seasonal purpose, "Nothing But a Child".   I'll actually features new tunes from both their 2015 releases on next week's R&B Episode.   

More than any other holiday, on Christmas we are asked to feel warm and fulfilled on demand, and ofttimes that's just not possible.  There's a great deal of clutter and noise to distract us from this kernel of meaning at the heart of it all - but for me it's there.  I spent the great majority of my vocational life in the retail sector, reminded that Christmas was a'comin' by the increasing lines and the mounting frustration of the shoppers.  For all it was, that hubbub served as an Advent calendar of sorts for me.  Now that I've departed that realm, it's not necessarily as easy to tell the time, but it's also a far more relaxing season. 

Sometimes we cast judgment on the season, mistaking all that sparkle and crowding for the point of it all.  It's my experience that the noise of Christmas can serve as both a door and a wall - capable of either blocking you from that kernel of peace or ushering you towards its warmth.  With my weekly two hours of airtime, it's never my intention to do the former, to be part of the Noise.  On the contrary, my hope is that the musical choices I've made will at least serve as a quality soundtrack to another Saturday afternoon.  At best, I hope to be part of the ceremony that ushers you into the best that the season has to offer. 

"I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. 'Cause I'm the real article. What you see is what you get."  ~  Del Griffith 

*  Jamey Johnson w/Secret Sisters, "Mele Kalikimaka"  Christmas Song EP  (Bag Gassed, 14)  D
*  Dwight Yoakam, "Santa Can't Stay"  Come On Christmas  (Reprise, 97)
*  Corb Lund, "Just Me and These Ponies"  An Americana Christmas  (New West, 14)
*  Mother Merey & Black Dirt, "Run Rudolph Run"  Noise To the World  (Converse, 13)
*  Xmas-Men, "Have a Holly Jolly Xmas"  Santa Is Real  (Rosetta, 14)
*  Walt Wilkins, Josh Grider & Drew Kennedy, "If We Make It Through December"  single  (3 Amigos, 14)  D
*  Love Tractor, "Linus and Lucy"  Before and After Christmas  (Fundamental, 06)
*  Jimmy Reed, "Christmas Present Blues"  In the Christmas Groove  (Strut, 09)
*  JJ Grey & Mofro, "Santa Claus, True Love and Freedom"  Ol' Glory  (Provogue, 15)  D
*  Mavericks, "Santa Claus Is Back In Town"  Christmas Cookies  (MCA, 01)
*  Over the Rhine, "First Snowfall"  Blood Oranges In the Snow  (Great Speckled Dog, 14)
*  Eleven Hundred Springs, "Christmas Is a Time To Say I Love You"  Light Connected  (Kirtland, 12)
*  Houndmouth, "Blue Christmas"  All Is Bright  (Amazon, 14)
*  Nick Lowe, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day"  Quality Street  (Yep Roc, 13)
*  JD McPherson, "Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights)"  single  (Rounder, 12)
*  Tom VandenAvond, "South Texas Christmas"  Tom VandenAvond  (Hillgrass Bluebilly, 05)
*  Norah Jones, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"  single  (Blue Note, 12)
*  Blue Rodeo, "Jesus Christ"  A Merrie Christmas To You  (Warner, 14)  D
*  Grant Farm, "Christmas Time's a-Coming"  An East Nashville Christmas  (PhBalanced, 12)  C
*  Laura Gibson, "Silver Bells"  Walker In a Winter Wonderland  (Pink Smoke, 13)
*  Mark Kozelek, "2,000 Miles"  Sings Christmas Carols  (Caldo Verde, 14)  D
*  Vic Chesnutt & Liz Durrett, "Somewhere"  Somewhere Compilation  (Liz Durrett, ??)
*  Blind Boys of Alabama & Taj Mahal, "Do You Hear What I Hear"  Talkin' Christmas  (Sony, 14)  D
*  Bobby Womack, "White Christmas"  Tradition  (Capitol, 99)
*  Anthony Hamilton w/ZZ Ward, "Away In a Manger"  Home For the Holidays  (RCA, 14)  D
*  Nikki Lane, "FaLaLaLaLove Ya"  An Americana Christmas  (New West, 14)
*  Vintage Trouble, "Soul Noel"  single  (Ty Taylor, 13)
*  Ron Sexsmith, "Maybe This Christmas"  Winter's Night Vol 2  (Nettwerk, 03)
*  Marc Cohn, "Coldest Corner in the World"  single  (Marc Cohn, 14)  D
*  Lucinda Williams, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"  All Is Bright  (Amazon, 14)
*  Steve Earle & Alison Moorer, "Nothing But a Child"  to: Kate  (Western Beast, 05)

Finally, please join me on Monday, 12/22 as I share some of my favorite songs of 2014, from the americana world and beyond.  And if we don't cross paths until next Saturday, have yourself a merry little Christmas, however you're able to define it.

Ho  ~

Sunday, December 14, 2014

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


Every year is a good year for music.  You just have to know where to look.  As with past years, my Favorites for 2014 are a mix of stuff that's been given a good deal of radio attention nationally and stuff that has flown under all but the most discerning radars.  There are artists whose releases have perennially shown up on my lists and others who were unknown to me in January.  As always, I'm blessed and honored to be able to continue broadcasting R&B from the KRFC studios, where I also serve as Music Director (that's right, I'm paid to juggle music).  Over the past couple years, this blog has become an essential part of Routes & Branches, inseparable for me from the broadcast itself.  One of my musical resolutions for 2015 is to include a podcast for those who are unable to tune in on Saturdays.  Watch this space, as they say. 

1.  Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music  (Hilltop Mt, 5/13)
Despite my Routes & Branches tagline, looking down my list there is a lot that is only tangentially linked to country music, if at all.  Sturgill Simpson, however, stands for all that I love about the genre.  If you're not paying attention to the lyrics of "Turtles All the Way Down," it's as classic and traditional a vocal delivery as you're bound to find.  "Long White Line" is pure honky tonk.  But then there's the incredible instrumental freakout which closes "It Ain't All Flowers," or the left-field cover of When In Rome's 1980s hit "The Promise".  Metamodern Sounds is not only firmly rooted in the immediately recognizable traditions, it has arguably preserved the genre during a time when what passes for mainstream country has largely unmoored it from its past. 
2.  Delines, Colfax  (El Cortez, 4/29)
My initial taste of the Delines created a desperate feeling in me.  The melancholy country-soul of  "I Won't Slip Up" announced the arrival of something that would change my year.  A longtime fan of Richmond Fontaine, I also happened to be reading Willy Vlautin's most recent novel, The Free.  Vlautin teamed with members of the Damnations, Decemberists and his day band to create this subtly moving monster.  As sung by Amy Boone, Vlautin's hard luck stories take on a new beauty.  Between his two bands and his writing career, I lose sleep these days worrying that Vlautin can't keep this up for long ... 
3.  Hiss Golden Messenger, Lateness of Dancers  (Merge, 9/09)
MC Taylor's work has never been as accessible, or as eloquent as it is on Lateness.  It is a deeply personal record, both for me and for Taylor, I imagine.  Like Joe Henry's Invisible Hour (celebrated below), it seems such a carefully arranged document, with lyrics so poetic that they stand on their own.  It's no coincidence that Taylor borrowed/stole the title of the album from Southern laureate Eudory Welty.  The looseness of HGM's November appearance on Letterman was revelatory (and, incidentally, proved that nobody supports worthy music like Dave).  
4.  Hurray For the Riff Raff, Small Town Heroes  (ATO, 2/11)
I'm far from the first to note that Hurray's Alynda Lee Segarra is one of the most interesting figures in roots based music. Segarra set the stage for Heroes by paying tribute to her predecessors on 2013's understated My Dearest Darkest NeighborHeroes wouldn't have been the same without that earlier touchstone.  While the record's moments are engaging, I would argue that the more defining moments come with less direct pieces like "St. Roche Blues" or "Body Electric". 
5.  Benjamin Booker, s/t  (ATO, 8/19)
Booker landed in my CD player with a bang.  I played it over and over, knowing that I had found something that could largely define my 2014 musical experience.  Why not connect the dots between blues and gospel?!  Then let's shred it up by dragging it through the garage with a good dose of punk!  
6.  Old 97s, Most Messed Up  (ATO, 4/29)
Here's a vote for vulgarity.  Hooray for profanity, for immaturity and good loud fun!  After so many years on the scene, I don't think that anyone would have argued that Old 97s every really fully lost the youthful thread that runs from their earliest music.  Nevertheless, the abandon on Most Messed Up is so refreshing, and it's simply reassuring that the guys can still rock out like college idiots when needed. 
7.  Christopher Denny, If the Roses Don't Kill Us  (Partisan, 8/05)
Christopher Denny's voice is the most unique sound on this year's list.  I've jokingly compared it to "Jiminy Cricket as crossed with Jimmie Dale Gilmore," though the truth is that Denny's soulful croon serves his songs well.  The personal struggles that defined the seven years between his debut and this sophomore album serve to strengthen the urgency of his work.  There's a deep romanticism here as well, grounded in country and soul, as well as gospel.  
8.  Nikki Lane, All Or Nothin'  (New West, 5/06)
This is The One That Stuck Around for 2014.  Of course, the immediate impression was strong and positive.  With edge and appeal aplenty, producer Dan Auerbach has helped Lane come into her own.  As the year progressed, repeated plays revealed new depths and nuances to Lane's songs.  Front to back, there are more unforgettable tunes on All Or Nothin' than on any other collection on this list.  
9.  Justin Townes Earle, Single Mothers  (Vagrant, 9/09)
There's nothing showy to Single Mothers, nothing as catchy as "Harlem River".  Instead, Earle goes for the slow burn, the more subtle approach, putting his retro stuff on the back burner in favor of a more contemporary, soulful sound.  I look forward to the January release of Earle's companion piece, Absent Fathers 
10. Shakey Graves, And the War Came  (Dualtone, 10/06)
Yes.  Me and everyone else.  After two low key self-releases, I eagerly anticipated Alejandro Rose-Garcia's full fledged debut.  With contributions from Colorado's Esme Patterson, its long awaited arrival exceeds expectations.  Songs add new shades to the Shakey Graves sound, proving that he's more than a one dimensional busker.  Having said that, my hope is that future records remain well rooted in his lo-fi past.  
11. Caleb Caudle, Paint Another Layer On My Heart  (This Is American Music, 6/24)
I put North Carolina's Caudle in a similar category as John Moreland, with whom he toured in 2014.  Brilliant with a turn of phrase, he's a songwriter in the classic tradition who deserves a breakout moment about now.   "Come On October" and "Missing Holidays" are songs for the ages. 
12. Tweedy, Sukierae  (dbPm, 9/19)
With two Wilco retrospectives and this double solo record, Jeff Tweedy is apparently responsible for no fewer than 8 CDs worth of music in 2014.  The revelation here is how natural it all sounds, freed from the studio trickery and more experimental noise of his day band.  Tweedy has long been an excellent writer, but it's never sounded so basic, personal and direct as on Sukierae.  
13. Lucinda Williams, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 9/30)
With Lucinda, Justin Townes Earle and Delines, 2014 was a year I was thirsty for country-soul.  Like the late JJ Cale (whom Williams honors here with a patient cover of "Magnolia"), her music can be Memphis incarnate.  Especially on the country numbers, she demonstrates that her worn and ragged voice is still capable of such expression.  Down Where the Spirit is a generous record, but never indulgent, with every cut earning its place.  
14. Ryan Adams, s/t  (PaxAm, 9/09)
As much as the mainstream media rides Adams for some of his more ill advised public moments, I can never seem to shake his music.  While he remains elusive and overly prolific, he's also reached such a consistent level of songcraft on his "official" releases.  Most impressively, Adams does it all without straining to achieve the Big Statement.  Songs like "Gimme Something Good" are immediate and seemingly effortless.  
15. Cory Branan, No Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 9/19)
Let's hope this self-deprecating gem doesn't mark the end of Branan's attempts at being taken seriously as a writer.  Shot through with both humor and classic storytelling, Wonder stands as Branan's most consistent collection to date.  More focused than Todd Snider (but who's not?), with hooks almost as sharp as Rhett Miller.  
16. Joe Henry, Invisible Hour  (Worksong, 6/03)
 Such beautiful and evocative work, self-produced and pared to its essence.  It's almost as though Henry has drifted into a genre all his own over the past decade.  More than any other album on this list, Invisible Hour is pure poetry.  
17. Robert Ellis, Lights From the Chemical Plant  (New West, 2/07)
I've pegged Ellis as a potential game changer for records to come.  A bright songwriter, he makes unexpected choices, and adds textures to his music uncommon to most americana.  My hope is that he'll continue to evolve in challenging directions.  Ellis also branched out as producer in 2014, behind the boards for Whiskey Shivers' new release.  
18. Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy  (ATO, 7/01)
"Dearly Departed Friend" will compete for my Favorite Song of 2014.  It's OCMS' strongest record since their debut a decade ago.  Always sharp musicians, here they buckle down and prove themselves to be worthy writers as well.  
19. Elliott BROOD, Work and Love  (Paper Bag, 10/20)
Once fond of incorporating bits of Canadian history in their songs, the BROOD boys keep things closer to home on this one, with tunes about getting older and raising kids.  While that doesn't immediately say "good time record",  the trio's tuneful blend of roots pop has matured in a great direction. 
20. Bloodhounds, Let Loose!  (Alive Naturalsound, 11/04)
Another band from East L.A.  This one seems to make more noise, do more drugs and have more fun.  It's garage music at its finest, with echoes of blues, pop and punk.  One of my favorite surprises of the year.  
21. JP Harris & Tough Choices, Home Is Where the Hurt Is  (Cow Island, 9/23)
22. Fire Mountain, All Dies Down  (This Is American Music, 5/20)
23. Hard Working Americans,  s/t  (Melvin, 1/21)
24. Sons of Bill, Love and Logic  (Thirty Tigers, 9/30)
25. Parker Millsap, s/t  (Okrahoma, 2/04)
26. Otis Gibbs, Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth  (Wanamaker, 8/19)
27. Rosanne Cash, River and the Thread  (Blue Note, 1/14)
28. John Fullbright, Songs  (Blue Dirt, 5/27)
29. Whiskey Shivers, Whiskey Shivers  (Self, 9/23)
30. Joe Fletcher, You've Got the Wrong Man  (Wrong Reasons, 10/06)

Next Saturday, please join me for my annual R&B holiday show - music that's both seasonally and musically relevant.  Looking forward, I think I'll actually be airing a wide selection of my favorite songs on KRFC's Monday Mix on December 22 (8-10am Mountain Times), and my Colorado favorites on Monday, January 5 during those same hours.  I'll post both my Songs and Colorado lists on this blog soon after they air. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

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

This morning I finalized my Favorite Albums list for 2014.  I think.  Next Saturday's Episode, I'll unveil the results.  The list will show up online soon thereafter.  As part of this process, I looked back to lists from years passed, reminded of #1s gone by:

2013:  Jason Isbell / Southeastern
2012:  Arliss Nancy / Simple Machines
2011:  Lydia Loveless / Indestructible Machine
2010:  Robert Plant / Band of Joy
2009:  Son Volt / American Central Dust
2008:  Alejandro Escovedo / Real Animal

Not bad company, really.

Also coming up, I'll be airing my annual Holiday Episode on 12/20 - time will tell if any of my kids will be in tow this year.  I'll be presenting a Favorite Songs list 12/29 on my Monday Morning Mix 8-10am (mt), and my Colorado artists list during a weekday Mix sometime early in 2015.  I'll also be publishing these on my site, though both will messily overflow the americana genre. 

Time and again on R&B, we ask:  What becomes of the angry young punk?  In cases like Chuck Ragan, Jon Snodgrass, Michael Dean Damron and others, there's a relatively graceful evolution that follows: punk - protest - folk.  Half a lifetime ago, Virginia's Tim Barry switched trains.  Once the frontman for Richmond's Avail, Barry's solo music retains much of the honesty, the emotion and the earnest commitment of punk, but channels them through the vehicle of folk and americana.  In a very DIY punk move, he recorded his 6th album, Lost & Rootless, in a cold, jerry-rigged backyard shed,  "I wanted to make a wooden record."  That rough hewn spirit shines through on "Poppa's Porch":  Pull up a seat and ice them knuckles / Poppa's front porch has got plenty of open chairs

As punks age, they put pictures of their wife and newborn on the front of their record.  They invite their family to play on their songs, and even write their children into a couple tunes.  Barry's sister Caitlin Hunt adds a sweet violin to a handful of pieces, most notably a stirring re-recording of "No News From North," an early song from the songwriter's first album of demos.  The song highlights a dichotomy which serves as a thread running through much of the record.  Despite the hominess and prevailing hearth/friends/family vibe, there's an undeniable nomadic yearning to Lost & Rootless (note the title).   Home's just a distraction I invent / When I can't make rent.  "Older and Poorer" tells the story of his wedding, and on "All My Friends" he sings You are all welcome here / You are welcome here / You're welcome here / It's safe.  Contrast this with pieces like "I'm Only Passing Through" or the tremendous title track, songs that reflect a road weary restlessness:  I'm feelin' lost and rootless this fall / Just countin' birds and wastin' time / and prayin' this ain't all.   One of the year's strongest cuts. 

Despite all these fine Tim Barry originals, on this Episode I chose to highlight the record's sole cover, a take on Blaze Foley's classic "Clay Pigeons".  No relation, but a big fan, it's a song whose big hearted spirit fits perfectly on Lost & Rootless

*  Wooden Wand, "Winter In Kentucky"  Briarwood  (Fire, 11)
*  Crane Wives, "White Winter Hymnal"  Very Crane Wives Christmas  (Crane Wives, 14)  D
*  Rosanne Cash, "Etta's Tune"  River & the Thread  (Blue Note, 14)
*  M Ward, "Just the Other Side of Nowhere"  Transistor Radio (reissue)  (Merge, 05)
*  Lisa LeBlanc, "Katie Cruel"  Highways Heartaches & Time Well Wasted  (Bonsound, 14)
*  Dead Volts, "Ain't Dead Yet"  We Are Already Dead  (Twang N Bang, 14)
*  Whiskey Shivers, "Give Me a Reason"  Whiskey Shivers  (Whiskey Shivers, 14)
*  Steve Earle, "You're the Best Lover I Ever Had"  Terraplane Blues  (New West, 14)
*  Shelby Lynne, "Old #7"  Tears Lies & Alibis  (Everso, 10)
*  Ben Weaver, "Littleman"  I Would Rather Be a Buffalo  (Hymie's Record Label, 14)
^  Tim Barry, "Clay Pigeons"  Lost & Rootless  (Chunksaah, 14)
*  John Statz, "Amsterdam in Autumn"  Tulsa  (John Statz, 15)
*  Whitey Morgan, "Grandpa's Guitar"  Grandpa's Guitar  (Whitey Morgan, 14)
*  Hillstomp, "Don't Come Down"  Portland, Ore  (Fluff & Gravy, 14)
*  JP Harris & Tough Choices, "South Oklahoma"  Home Is Where the Hurt Is  (Cow Island, 14)
*  Chuck Berry, "Christmas"  Back Home  (Chess, 70)
*  Xmas-Men  "Little Drummer Boy / Linus & Lucy"  Santa Is Real  (Rosetta, 14)  D
*  Kathleen Edwards, "Mint"  Voyageur  (Rounder, 12)
*  Wilco, "Burned"  Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks  (Nonesuch, 14)
*  Centro-Matic, "Through the Fog Then Down"  Take Pride In Your Long Odds  (Centro-Matic, 14)
*  Sons of Bill, "Brand New Paradigm"  Love & Logic  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Longest Day of the Year, "Black Horse Canyon"  Carapace  (Mulewax, 14)  C, D
*  New Basement Tapes, "Stranger"  Lost On the River  (Harvest, 14)
*  Bonnie "Prince" Billy & Dawn McCarthy, "Christmas Eve Can Kill You"  single  (Drag City, 12)
*  Ryan Bingham, "Radio"  Fear and Saturday Night  (Axster Bingham, 15)
*  Scruffy the Cat, "One Bad Apple"  Time Never Forgets: The Anthology '86-'88  (Sony, 14)  D
*  Whitehorse, "Downtown"  Leave No Bridge Unburned  (Six Shooter, 15)
*  Cale Tyson, "Fool Of the Year"  Cheater's Wine  (Cale Tyson, 14)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

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

I was a listmaking kid.  Every Sunday for years, to a degree of obsession, I would write down my 25 favorite songs.  I recall with a certain amount of chagrin that Chicago's "Color My World" held the top spot for more than its fair share of charts ...  More recently, I'm fond of generating year end lists for my little radio program.  I was talking yesterday to another programmer, wondering aloud what artist I've played more than any other during my radio years.  It would probably be easier for me to compile a list of Artists Most Essential To Scott's Lifelong Musical Development than a list of my current favorite acts.  I'm just that sort of beast.

Were I to attempt such a list, I imagine Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist would merit careful consideration.  As Over the Rhine, the Ohio-based pair have consistently charmed me to temporarily dismiss my innate folk music prejudice (which I'm increasingly convinced is not really a thing).  Every record that hits my stereo sticks like glue, held fast by soulful vocals, thoughtful arrangements and smart lyrics.  Over the Rhine have just released their third collection of "reality Christmas" originals, Blood Oranges In the Snow. By my count, there are zero "ho-ho-ho's" and just as many Frosty sightings on Blood Oranges.  Instead, there is intimacy, solitude and darkness.  There is, "I've committed every sin / And each one leaves a different scar / It's just the world I'm livin' in / And I could use a guiding star."  It's really more a "winter" album than a holiday collection, per se.  I can't imagine "My Father's Body" on the stereo as my kids open their Christmas morning presents.  Nevertheless, it's a frequently gorgeous collection, one that appeals to the part of me that welcomes the bittersweet melancholy that arrives hand-in-glove with the season.  Detweiler writes on his blog:  "Once upon a time we sent our first Christmas record to Byron House, an upright bass player who would join us for several of our December tours.  Byron put it on the stereo during his family's evening meal, and after several tracks his wife asked, 'Do they like Christmas?'" 

While most artists toss together their holiday singles or albums as a novelty or a lark, Over the Rhine's Blood Oranges is as thoughtful, painstaking and as brazenly honest as any other recent album the duo has produced.  It's been only about a year since they released the terrific double CD, Meet Me At the Edge of the World, and this one makes a fine companion piece.  It's music to play after the kids have gone to bed and the Christmas tree lights "tease the stars outside."  The world's noise has receded just enough so that it's just you and your thoughts and the music.  "Let's stay home and play old records / Our future's bright our past is checkered / What do you say we lift a glass / Toast the ghost of another year past ... "  Indeed, this is the Christmas I love. 

And speaking of lists, don't forget to join me on air December 15 for my announcement of my Favorite Records for 2014.  It might just color your holidays ...

*  Will Quinlan, "Plastic Rosary (Winter 1970)" Navasota  (Ironweed, 08)
*  Parlor Pickers, "Miss American Beauty"  Joliet Street Shakedown  (Self, 14)  C
*  William Elliott Whitmore, "I Wish I Was the Moon"  While No One Was Looking  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Neko Case, "Magpie To the Morning"  The Worse Things Get ...  (Anti, 13)
*  Frontier Ruckus, "Darling Anonymity"  Sitcom Afterlife  (Quite Scientific, 14)
*  Hiss Golden Messenger, "Drum"  Lateness of Dancers  (Merge, 14)
^  Over the Rhine, "Blood Oranges In the Snow"  Blood Oranges In the Snow  (Great Speckled Dog, 14)
*  Cale Tyson, "Honky Tonk Moan"  High On Lonesome  (Self, 13)
*  Marty Stuart, "Sad House Big Party"  Saturday Night / Sunday Morning  (Superlatone, 14)
*  Eilen Jewell, "Where They Never Say Your Name"  Letters From Sinners & Strangers  (Signature Sounds, 07)
*  James McMurtry, "How'm I Gonna Find You Now"  Complicated Game  (Complicated Game, 15)
*  Lisa LeBlanc, "You Look Like Trouble"  Highways Heartaches and Time Well Wasted  (Bonsound, 14)  D
*  Dirty River Boys, "Highway Love"  Dirty River Boys  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Dead Volts, "California"  We Are Already Dead  (Twang N Bang, 14)  D
*  Joe Fletcher, "Highway Roulette"  You've Got the Wrong Guy  (Self, 14)
*  John Statz, "Home At Last"  Tulsa  (Self, 15)  C, D
*  Jeffrey Foucault, "Battle Hymn (of the College Dropout Farmhand)"  Miles From the Lightning  (Marrowbone, 01)
*  Chatham County Line, "Sixteen Years"  Tightrope  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Annie Keating, "I Want To Believe"  Make Believing  (Self, 15)  D
*  Lydia Lovless, "Hurts So Bad"  Somewhere Else  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Devil Makes Three, "Draggin' Chains"  Draggin' Chains EP  (Self, 14)  D
*  Old 97s, "Eyes For You"  Hitchhike to Rhome (Reissue)  (Omnivore, 14)
*  Whitey Morgan, "Just To Satisfy You"  Grandpa's Gutiar  (Self, 14)  D
*  Heartless Bastards, "White Christmas"  All Is Bright  (Amazon, 14)  D
*  Silos, "Drunken Moon"  Laser Beam Next Door  (Self, 01)
*  Jim White vs Packway Handle Band, "Sorrow's Shine"  Take It Like a Man  (Yep Roc, 15)
*  Scruffy the Cat, "Oldest Fire In the World"  Good Goodbye  (Omnivore, 14)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Call Ya Momma"  Absent Fathers  (Vagrant, 15)

Monday, November 24, 2014

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

Saturday, December 15:  Routes & Branches Favorite Albums of 2014 Show  

So much this Episode from major forthcoming 2015 releases:  Steve Earle's blues influenced record with his Dukes, Robert Earl Keen's bluegrass sessions, JD McPherson's long awaited sophomore record.  Justin Townes Earle's companion piece to September's Single Mothers, Absent Fathers.  And, as I always say, the very best is the stuff we never expect. 

Speaking of which, who would've guessed that I'd be writing this week about a band that hasn't released a proper album since 1988?  At the time, I was a young man working as the "import buyer" for a record store in Salem, Oregon.  It was the sort of record store that's hard to find outside of metro areas these days, with a head shop conveniently attached and the pervasive smell of incense chasing away the faint of constitution.  I'm certain that everything ever purchased from Rising Sun/Paramount Records still smells like Rising Sun/Paramount Records to this day.  Boasting a precarious balance of old hippies and young punks, it was where I first fell for Dwight Yoakam, Cocteau Twins, REM and Scruffy the Cat.  Like their contemporaries, Camper Van Beethoven, Boston's Scruffy could get away with adding a jangly roots element to their college friendly pop.  Frontman Charlie Chesterman and co. have been partially blamed for the birth of the cowpunk/ movement.  

Big Thanks to Sony for releasing a digital-only collection of all 38 official Scruffy songs in August (Time Never Forgets), and especially to Omnivore Recordings, who have managed to pull together two dozen more rarities, b-sides and unreleased recordings on the glorious The Good Goodbye: Unreleased Recordings 1984-1990. I've played and replayed Good Goodbye over the past week, behind the wheel awash in nostalgia for music I'd never heard before.  The jaw dropping revelation here is just how consistently great these unheard gems are, and how well they fare alongside Sony's remastered "official" tracks.   The power pop of a track like "Life Is Fun" or "Mybabyshe'sallright" can be heard in the unreleased "Love Song #9".  The adrenaline fueled "Upside Down" fits snugly beside "I Knew That You Would", and the gleeful punk of the live "Shadow Boy" is echoed in Goodbye's "Oldest Fire in the World".  It's remarkable that these tracks weren't released earlier. 

I lost track of Chesterman after I was dismissed from Paramount (good story:  I refused to toe the company line when a news crew came in to talk about some state challenges to classy head shops like ours).  Apparently, he continued as a regionally successful solo artist, and collaborated here and there with other short lived acts.  2011 marked a partial reunion for Scruffy the Cat, in the shadow of Chesterman's ongoing battle with cancer.   His passing last summer likely provided impetus for this pair of underappreciated records.  While the band served as a midwife of sorts for the birth of our kind of music, I would argue that as a pure lineage, Scruffy's branch has largely been lost.  Nobody makes music like this anymore:  So good humored, loose and charming.  Brilliant in its unpretentiousness,  their music is once more discoverable, like walking into an old fashioned record store and hearing music that opens your eyes and changes your life.

*  Bloodhounds, "Bottle Cap Blues"  Let Loose!  (Alive Naturalsound, 14)
^  Scruffy the Cat, "Love Song #9"  Good  Goodbye: Unreleased Recordings  (Omnivore, 14)  D
*  Drive-by Truckers, "First Air of Autumn (live)"  English Oceans (deluxe)  (ATO, 14)
*  Whitey Morgan & the 78s, "Prove It All To You (live)"  Born Raised & Live From Flint  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Wilco, "TB Is Whipping Me"  Alpha Mike Foxtrot  (Nonesuch, 14)
*  Jerry Jeff Walker, "Backsliders Wine"  Viva Terlingua  (MCA, 73)
*  Lee Ann Womack, "Tomorrow Night In Baltimore"  Way I'm Livin'  (Sugar Hill, 14)
*  Lucero, "Like Lightning (live)"  Live From Atlanta  (Liberty & Lament, 14)
*  JD McPherson, "Bossy"  Let the Good Times Roll  (Rounder, 15)  D
*  Cracker, "San Bernardino Boy"  Berkeley  To Bakersfield  (429, 14)
*  Two Gallants, "Truck Driver"  While No One Was Looking  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Two Gallants, "We Are Undone"  We Are Undone  (ATO, 15)  D
*  Kelly Willis, "Don't Know Why"  Translated From Love  (Ryko, 07)
*  Steve Earle, "You're the Best Lover I Ever Had"  Terraplane  Blues  (New West, 15)  D
*  Ronnie Fauss, "Another Town"  Built To Break  (Normaltown, 14)
*  Elliott BROOD, "Better Times"  Work and Love  (Paper Bag, 14)
*  Gravel Kings, "Buffalo"  Arrows & Maps  (Self, 14)
*  Freakwater, "Queen Bee"  End Time  (Thrill Jockey, 99)
*  Cale Tyson, "Fool Of the Year"  Cheater's Wine  (Self, 14)  D
*  Rhiannon Giddens, "Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind"  Tomorrow Is My Turn  (Nonesuch, 15)  D
*  Old Crow Medicine Show, "Dearly Departed Friend"  Remedy  (ATO, 14)
*  Horse Feathers, "Violently Wild"  So It Is With Us  (Kill Rock Stars, 14)
*  Tom Vandenavond w/Larry & His Flask, "Dance Me Around"  Endtimes  (Hillgrass Bluebilly, 14)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Call Ya Momma"  Absent Fathers  (Vagrant, 15)  D
*  Sara Watkins, "Late John Garfield Blues"  Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows  (Oh Boy, 10)
*  Robert Earl Keen, "Hot Corn Cold Corn"  Happy Prisoner: Bluegrass Session  (Dualtone, 15)  D
*  Shane Nicholson, "God and Elvis"  Familiar Ghosts  (Liberation, 08)
*  Whitehorse, "Sweet Disaster"  Leave No Bridge Unburned  (Six Shooter, 15)  D

Sunday, November 16, 2014

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

I'm a lucky man to do what I do - paying the bills in part by previewing new music for KRFC and sharing it with fellow programmers and friendly listeners.  Then there are times when I'm able to sit just feet away from a great band like Whiskey Shivers as they fling their wonderful trashgrass.  I was a concert promoter years ago, and that has largely made me immune to the charms of enjoying live music in the midst of a drunken and disrespectful horde.  Nevertheless, I'm always game for the sort of command performance, audience-of-one deal that Whiskey Shivers brought from Austin.  This is a 5-piece where the talent of the individual members is almost obscured by the wild abandon with which they can play.  Bobby's a goofy, barefoot guy with a cheese-worthy mustache and a mullet, but he's also a charismatic frontman and singer, and a truly skilled fiddle player.  The same can be said for the rest of the band, each of whom grabs the occasional vocal and mixes onstage shenanigans with musicianship which could compete with most standard issue bluegrass bands.  While the 'Shivers are typically tossed in the 'grass bucket, their whirlwind also picks up strains of punk, gospel, country and Louisiana music.  Don't take Whiskey Shivers for granted - join the mosh at the foot of the stage, but enjoy the room while you can, 'cause their grimy star is on the rise. 

Also on this Episode, I make a point of never playing something simply because a label or promoter or artist has asked me to.  I'll entertain requests, but never solicit them.  More often than not, it's the artist or friends of the artist that calls in the request.  Still, today as I was typing up my playlist I realized that it looks like an ad for Bloodshot Records ...  Two tunes from their deep and satisfying new compilation, as well as cuts from recent records by Branan, Winslow-King and Bjorklund.  And some brandnew live Whitey Morgan.  When asked yesterday by a new volunteer at the station what sort of music I like, I replied (wittily) with, "Good music."  True, though.  Every Episode I just reach for what's working with me at the moment, and sometimes it just so happens that the cards fall like this. 

^  Whiskey Shivers, "Friends"  live in studio  
*  Whiskey Shivers, "Angel In the Snow"  live in studio 
*  Whiskey Shivers, "Free"  live in studio
*  Pine Hill Haints, "Rattle Them Bones"  Magick Sounds of ...  (K, 14)
*  Luke Bell, "Glory & the Grace"  Don't Mind If I Do  (Self, 14)
*  Jim White vs. Packway Handle Band, "Corn Pone Refugee"  Take It Like a Man  (Yep Roc, 15)
*  Ben Weaver, "Frank's Getaway Car"  I Would Rather Be a Buffalo  (Hymie's Record Label, 14)
*  Dirty River Boys, "Teenage Renegade"  Dirty River Boys  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Victoria Willams, "Train Song (Demise of the Caboose)"  Musings of a Creekdipper  (Atlantic, 98)
*  Cory Branan, "No Hit Wonder"  No Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Longest Day of the Year, "Anywhere a Raindrop Falls"  Carapace  (Mulewax, 14)  C
*  William Elliott Whitmore, "I Wish I Was the Moon"  While No One Was Looking  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Luke Winslow-King, "Swing That Thing"  Everlasting Arms  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  T Bone Burnett, "Anything I Say Can and Will Be Used Against You"  Tooth of Crime  (Nonesuch, 08)
*  Old Gray Mule, "Kimbro Style"  Have Mercy  (Cotton Patch Disco, 14)
*  Bloodhounds, "Dusty Bibles & Silver Spoons"  Let Loose!  (Alive Naturalsound, 14)
*  James Leg, "Is That You In the Blue"  While No One Was Looking  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Joe Fletcher, "Haint Blue Cadillac"  You've Got the Wrong Man  (Self, 14)
*  Kasey Chambers, "Bittersweet"  Bittersweet  (Self, 14)
*  New Basement Tapes, "Kansas City"  Lost On the River  (Harvest, 14)
*  Promised Land Sound, "Make It Through the Fall"  Promised Land Sound  (Paradise of Bachelors, 13)
*  Tweedy, "Desert Bell"  Sukierae  (dbPm, 14)
*  Maggie Bjorklund, "Missing At Sea"  Shaken  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Lyle Lovett, "In My Own Mind"  My Baby Don't Tolerate  (Lost Hwy, 03)
*  Whitey Morgan & the 78s, "Where Do You Want It (live)"  Born Raised & Live From Flint  (Bloodshot, 14)  D
*  Two Tons of Steel, "Crazy Heart"  Unraveled  (Smith, 13)
*  Doug Seegers, "Angie's Song"  Going Down to the River  (Rounder, 14)
*  Tres Chicas, "Drop Me Down"  Bloom Red & the Ordinary Girl  (Yep Roc, 06)

Monday, November 10, 2014

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

I got a cup of black coffee so I don't get lazy
I got a rattle in the dashboard, driving my crazy
And if I hit it with a fist it'll quit for a little while

Welcome back, James McMurtry.  The banjos-n-beatz  sound of his new CC Adcock-produced single isn't quite what I'd expected from him, but the smart, quickfire lyrical stream is pure McMurtry.  

Also on this Episode, nobody assembles a compilation like Bloodshot Records.  On the occasion of their 20th anniversary, the always interesting Chicago label releases While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records.  Where less adventurous labels might issue a retrospective of their "hits", Bloodshot instead invited non-label acts to interpret songs from the label's catalog.  Like a Bizzaro World of, it wasn't Ryan Adams who brought us "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)," but Blitzen Trapper.  Likewise, "My Winding Wheel" comes from Ivan & Alyosha, and Adams' "Come Pick Me Up" from Superchunk.  You get the game.  As a man who likes nothing better than an out-of-left-field cover, there is material here for months of R&B Episodes.  Over the space of two discs, you'll find gems like Chuck Ragan tearing into Cory Branan's "Survivor's Blues".  Two Gallants punking up Scott H. Biram's "Truck Driver,"  while Shakey Graves turns Wayne Hancock's "Happy Birthday Julie" into another beast entirely.  Forced at gunpoint to select the collection's two most unexpected pleasures, I'd have to tag William Elliott Whitmore's graceful take on Neko Case's "I Wish I Was the Moon" and a heartbreaking run through Dex Romweber's "Is That You In the Blue" by Black Diamond Heavies' James Leg (just piano and Leg's tender slur).  There's nothing cheap here, no wacky throwaways.  Just artists giving a nod to their peers, paying tribute to a label that's been operating on integrity for two decades.  God bless Bloodshot. 

*  Richard Buckner, "Ariel Ramirez"  Since  (MCA, 98)
*  Richard Buckner, "Jewelbomb"  Since  (MCA, 98)
*  Jerry Lee Lewis, "Here Comes That Rainbow Again"  Rock & Roll Time  (Vanguard, 14)
*  Longest Day of the Year, "Last Gray Day"  Carapace  (Mulewax, 14)  C
*  John Moreland, "Holy Ghost Haunted"  Everything the Hard Way  (Okie Tone, 11)
*  Bloodhounds, "Bottle Cap Blues"  Let Loose!  (Alive Naturalsound, 14)
*  Texas Tornadoes, "Rosalita"  4 Aces  (Reprise, 96)
*  Sir Douglas Quintet, "I Don't Want To Go Home"  Complete Mercury Masters  (Mercury, 05)
*  Ryan Bingham, "Broken Heart Tattoos"  Fear and Saturday Night  (Axster Bingham, 15)
^  Samantha Crain, "Cold Forgiver"  While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Cracker, "California Country Boy"  Berkeley To Bakersfield  (Pavement, 15)
*  Reed Foehl, "Steal Away"  Lost In the West  (NeverFoehl, 14)  C
*  Ronnie Fauss, "Eighteen Wheels"  Built To Break  (Normaltown, 14)
*  James McMurtry, "How'm I Gonna Find You Now"  Complicated Game  (Complicated Game, 15) D
*  JP Harris & Tough Choices, "Maria"  Home Is Where the Hurt Is  (Cow Island, 14)
*  Lucinda Williams, "Temporary Nature (of Any Precious Thing)"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Shakey Graves, "Hard Wired"  And the War Came  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Benjamin Booker, "Always Waiting"  Benjamin Booker  (ATO, 14)
*  Middle Brother, "Someday"  Middle Brother  (Partisan, 11)
*  Those Darlins, "Waste Away"  Screws Get Loose  (Oh Wow Dang, 11)
*  Parlor Pickers, "Nebraska"  Joliet Street Shakedown  (Self, 14)  C
*  Dirty River Boys, "Highway Love"  Dirty River Boys  (Thirty Tigers, 14)  D
*  Pine Hill Haints, "Shattered Waltz"  Magick Sounds of ...  (K, 14)
*  Shovels & Rope, "Coping Mechanism"  Swimmin' Time  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Emmylou Harris, "Rhythm Guitar"  Ballad of Sally Rose  (Warner, 85)
*  Whitehorse, "Baby What's Wrong"  Leave No Bridge Unburned  (Six Shooter, 15)  D
*  Greensky Bluegrass, "Demons"  If Sorrows Swim  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Ben Weaver, "Ramblin' Bones"  I Would Rather Be a Buffalo  (Hymie's Record Label, 14)
*  Pegi Young, "Lonely Women Make Good Lovers"  Lonely In a Crowded Room  (New West, 14)  D