Friday, September 22, 2017

Ranky Tanky -- Ranky Tanky

This album is really something. It would be enough to feature an ensemble of world-class musicians at the top of their game -- which Ranky Tanky exhibits in spades. But this music runs deep through the band's souls, making Ranky Tanky a truly majestic album. Ranky Tanky is a compilation of Gullah compositions as interpreted through the band's lens. If you're unfamiliar with the term, Gullah is both a proud language and a culture transmitted by descendants of free black people throughout the Carolinas and parts of Georgia. (Justice Clarence Thomas didn't speak English until grade school.) The band's name, Ranky Tanky, means "get funky."

Many of the songs will be familiar to folk music aficionados, but Ranky Tanky's approach will help you hear them anew. The band is grounded in jazz, so these arrangements play fast and loose in the best possible ways. But the main accomplishment here is Ranky Tanky's ability to communicate their ferocious pride in their heritage. Especially in these times, lifting voices to celebrate a proud history of resistance and resilience is the music we need.

Ranky Tanky -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hollow River -- Spider Web Eyes

Hollow River's Spider Web Eyes has a whole lot of heart. It's a charming collection of folk songs that lean heavily on pop punk without straying into gimmicks. Spider Web Eyes paints a portrait of an earnest and self-critical artist who is consumed with making things right for the people around him.

That doesn't mean that the EP is bogged down with guilt or masochism. It just shows Hollow River's pure conscientiousness towards the rest of the world. Above all, these songs are actually pretty peaceful, as if these moments are just a few random snapshots in a habitual train of thought rather than deep emotional crises. It helps, I think, as a reminder about how important it is to be kind to ourselves all the time, and not just when that noonday demon appears in full force.

Hollow River -- Official, Facebook, Spotify, iTunes

PREMIERE: American Darling Valve -- "Another Year or Two"

Miami might not be the first place you think of when discussing singer-songwriters, but American Darling Valve is about to put it on the map. "Another Year or Two" plays along the border between jazz and folk. It's an airy song that is redolent in melancholy but, more importantly, hopefulness.

American Darling Valve -- Facebook, Soundcloud

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mike Meehan and the Lucky Ones -- Better Angels

There is a lot of innovation and stuff in folk music these days but there is always, always, always a need for some straight-from-the-heart and straight-to-the-gut songwriting. Mike Meehan and the Lucky Ones know the way to gain an audience is to earn it, one well-penned heartbreak at a time.

Joining labelmates Butcher's Blind, the band churns out earnest bar rock that leans heavily on nostalgia in the best way possible. Kicking off with "Man on a Wire," a Johnny Cash-inflected ballad of tough knocks, Better Angels barrels through Dylan and Springsteen (of course) but Meehan's own voice is the start of the show here. Not just vocally, though it's clear he's logged some serious miles. Meehan's delivery cuts straight to the core of the song, whether he's freewheeling in "Man on a Wire" or cutting himself loose on "Mirabel." Better Angels is the kind of balm we all can use.

Mike Meehan and the Lucky Ones -- Official, ReverbNation, Blogger, Bandcamp

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rust Dust -- Diviners and Shivs

Rust Dust is a one-man folk mystery. His twangy blues guitars give his songs a veneer of vintage with some modern mystery. Armed with his his century-old National Resonator guitars, Rust Dust feels a bit timeless. His gentle picking of "Amazing Grace" to open and close the album signals Rust Dust's reverence and respect for his source material. The body of the album, however, is a dirge-like swirl of blues, punk, and spoken word that are mired in alienation.

But maybe I'm overselling the blues stuff. It's the resonators that give merge collapse the temporal distance between Rust Dust's thoroughly modern preoccupations with casual sex, drugs, and the twin pressures of isolation and competition caused by social media with the similar concerns of our predecessors across generations. You get the sense that Rust Dust is resurrecting former bluesmen's demons with his reedy voice, tinny guitars, and thunderous pronouncements.

The album is officially out on Friday, the 22nd. If you're in New York you can catch the record release show at Freddy's Bar and Back Room at 9.

Rust Dust -- Facebook, Omad Records, CDBaby, iTunes

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Morning Music!

So few of the songs I wanted to share today were available on Spotify, I decided to embed all ten of 'em as Soundcloud files.

1. Henry Black -- "Weeping Willow" is a strident tune that turns one of life's greatest quests into something appropriately epic.

2.  Jax Street -- "A Place Just For Us" was a song that came at just the right time for me.

3. The Tokes -- "No Sir(dropout)" is an exuberant song that brings back the joyousness and mess of 70s Brit rock.

4. Fan Fiqtion -- "Give Me Color" celebrates the little things in life.

5. Vile Bodies -- "Dream Girl" is a fun romp through folk music and 70s pop rock.

6. Megaweapon. -- "Behind Glass Walls" is a fuzzed out, 90s-tastic endictment of cyberbullying. (But trust me on this one, it's amazing.)

7. ian terry -- "tracks" is terry's second song here on Adobe & Teardrops. It's a much bigger sound and showcases terry's flare for the dramatic.

8. Of Jones -- "Atropa Belladona" is named for the nightshade plant. The band's new album, Herbariaum is a concept album that pulls in all kinds of plant lore. Here, the singer learns firsthand about all the kinds of poisons there are out there.

9. Eli Winter -- "Take No Notice" is a gorgeous, skillfully wrought instrumental guitar piece.

10. Vermicious Kind -- "Warmer Weather" is my greatest weakness: a yearning pop punk song about a breakup. I don't understand what draws me to this specific subgenre, but I fully embrace it.

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Lee N. Sage -- Lee N. Sage

The Michigan Woods, where Lee N. Sage (nee Bobby LeSage) wrote his EP makes its presence felt in these four songs. Sage infuses all four songs with a lush guitar stream that fills his sonic spaces. Like sunlight through a forest, the smaller details filter through to create a dense, blues-inspired soundscape.

The songs on the album are remarkably similar -- same strum pattern, and melodic. I'm unsure if this was by design. Based on the lyrics, which portray a man on a quest to understanding, it seems to evoke the cyclical nature of journeys. The overall effect, though, is one of seeing the forest for the trees -- while they might all seem similar, each tree (or song) has a distinct identity that makes up the whole.

Lee N. Sage -- Facebook, Bandcamp

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