Friday, August 30, 2013

Hezekiah Goode -- Two Billion Acres of Salt

It's not hard to imagine Hezekiah Goode riding along the plain, running down a stray bull with a lasso in hand.

Or whatever.

He just sounds so much like what a cowboy should that I feel like that's just where he should be out on the ranch, not in a recording booth. But we're all better for it.

Two Billion Acres of Salt deserves a much more careful listening than I've been able to give it, what with preparing for school in two weeks and all. But even the first song, "A Fence of Colorado Stone," is rich with amazing lyrics and careful storytelling (I never thought I'd hear the word "circumvent" in a song, much less one about a lustful heifer who is often found far afield.)

Goode is a songwriter with a commanding presence, one we don't often see anymore. He's a mighty storyteller who can just as easily tease a laugh from you as he can a tear. His music pays homage to the original country greats without mimicking or sounding derivative. His voice is his own, and it's pretty great to listen to you.

A Fence of Colorado Stone

Two Billion Acres of Salt

Go Easy On the Ethanol

Hezekiah Goode -- Official, Buy Two Billion Acres of Salt on CD Baby

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Butchers Blind -- Destination Blues

I post a lot of music that I like up here, but there are some bands that make me happy that I'm a music blogger. Otherwise, I wouldn't have heard about a band like Butchers Blind.

If bands like The Gin Blossoms and The Refreshments captured the ennui of rust belt America during the first wave of the '90s, then Butchers Blind presents us the apathetic melancholy (see what I did there?) of the urban twenty-something. Minimal to no prospects, mounting debt, and environmental catastrophe.

But at least they use a lot of the same riffs as the other guys.

Really, this album is fucking bleak. I was listening to it while putting together my course about activism in history and this little number came on:

Guess hope doesn't matter much
Mostly drink at home
Sit around and end up angry
Talk about other people's problems
Drink and look at ways we can solve them
But there's nothing we can do

I wanted to head-desk right there, but I was in the middle of a coffee shop.

Destination Blues follows in the footsteps of the alt-country greats. I have a feeling that, pretty soon, Butchers Blind will be able to count themselves on that list.

If you're in the NYC area, check out Butchers Blind's release party at the Mercury Lounge. I'm looking forward to seeing you there!


Burn Up Bright (Lower East Side)

Destination Blues

Butchers Blind -- Official, Facebook, Amazon, CDBaby, Bandcamp, iTunes, Preorder Destination Blues on Paradiddle Records

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers -- Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers

Nicki Bluhm's polished folk pop grabs you by the ear and doesn't let go.

The Gramblers' self-titles album may not be for you more rugged readers. But it holds a place in my heart.

Bluhm's sunny voice and the Gramblers' tasteful accompaniments lend themselves to a multi-layered confection. The San Francisco-based band pours their heart into every note, beat, and word. "Little too Late" and "Hey Stranger" are highlights of the album. These two toe-tappers combine the band's folk sensibility with some California hustle-and-flow. Simply put, Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers' brand of folk pop is irresistible.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Will Schwartz -- New Haircut

Will Schwartz is a lyrical ninja.

I actually listened to New Haircut a few months ago and took a pass on it. I didn't really need to listen to another sad Brooklyn boy play his guitar. But that was stupid of me. A few months later, by chance and circumstance, New Haircut landed in my Inbox again. And Will Schwartz took out a garrote and slit my throat.

Figuratively, of course.

But with lyrics like "I held her/With the best part of me" and "I dream of Jesus/With a neck tattoo" embedded in trie-and-true folk melodies, how could you not get taken off guard?

Schwartz is destined for big things. You better hop on board. Or he'll take you out next.

Will Schwartz -- Facebook, Profile on Monkfish Records, Profile on the HuffPo (???), Buy New Haircut on Bandcamp, Monkfish Records

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Tillers -- Hand on the Plow

It's been a while since I've had an album make me smile, then completely gut me, then make me smile again.

Bravo, Tillers.

The Tillers may owe their style to traditional Appalachian music, but unlike most of the folkies I've been listening to these last few years, there's an energy and urgency to this music that makes it seem like these boys made it up themselves, rather than walking in the footsteps of their ancestors.

It's not that their irreverent. It's not that they're too clever by half. It's not that they're trying to innovate when some things are just best alone. Through the band's political work, The Tillers' music has a stridency and urgency that demands you to concede that their music is still interesting and valid. Hand on the Plow is certainly one of the stronger albums this year.

The Tillers -- Official, Facebook, Buy Hand on the Plow on CD, Vinyl, Digital

Thursday, August 22, 2013

FREE MUSIC: Company Calls

Company Calls is on to something big.

As you can see from the lack of a bass guitar, Sleater-Kinney is clearly one of their influences. And it's easy to find both Bikini Kill and Le Tigre-era Kathleen Hannah in there as well. The DC-based band revels in riot grrl and, to a much lesser extent, pop-punk.The hook-y riffs bring to mind other '90s queens of rock: Kim Deal and that dog.

Company Calls softens the edges of their '90s counterparts, but that doesn't mean they've dialed down the intensity or power at all.

I'm looking forward to seeing where Company Calls goes. Right now, they're sticking pretty close to their source material. But go back and listen to the first Two Cow Garage album -- it all sounds like Old 97s with a little distortion. But you knew they were going to blast off once they found their stride.

That's how I feel about Company Calls. Get some of their cheap-as-free music over at Soundcloud (there's more than what I embedded here.)

Company Calls -- ReverbNation, Facebook, Soundcloud

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House -- Mayberry

It took me a long time to jump on the I Can Lick Any SOB bandwagon. I though the few songs of theirs I'd heard a little crude (although "Westboro Baptist Church" holds a special place in my heart) and just a bit screamy. I changed my mind when I stumbled across Suburban Home Records' Bandcamp page. I spent the last two weeks of the school year blasting The Sounds of Dying in the photocopy room, coworkers be damned. I got there first.

So I jumped at the change to get Mayberry in my sticky little paws. Mayberry feels a little more laid-back than their previous work. But that doesn't mean anything to you if you haven't heard these guys before, so I'll put it this way: instead of ripping your heart out and stomping on it, Mayberry tears you open and gives you an Epi-pen straight to the aorta.

romeosidvicious over at Ninebullets described the album as bleak. (PS, you should read the review as it's a great piece of writing. It's changed my approach to writing about music.) I don't think that's necessarily true. I see the foregone, romantic, defiance that draws me to bands like Two Cow Garage. Life is a battle, sure, but at least Michael Dean Damron is going to go down with a fight.

Dead By Christmas Time
King James

I Can Lick Any SOB In The House Official Site, I Can Lick Any SOB In The House on Facebook, Buy Mayberry

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hollis Brown -- Ride on the Train

In case you haven't been paying attention, Alive Naturalsound is a really cool record label. If you're into fuzzy guitars and '70s rock, they've got your number.

Today's entry, Hollis Brown, hails from a place that is close to my heart. New York City. But they're, like, actually New Yorkers. They were born here. Like your Dear Writer.

So what, right? But here's my take: if you're going to be a bunch of 20-something white dudes appropriating black music by playing the blues, at least you aren't also fleeing the suburbs to gentrify Bushwick (although I assume that's where these guys live anyway.) 

Musically, I don't know if being from NYC really means anything anymore -- at least with respect to rock music. Really, our "indigenous" forms of music have always originated above 96th street: jazz, hip-hop, reggaeton (we can quibble about that last one.) But it's safe to say that there are a million people constantly passing through here, and they bring about a metric billion tons of various cultural influences with them.

That does mean we get the best of the best here, even if it's eclectic. Ride on the Train embraces these multiple influences. There's a little bit of blues and Southern rock, but mostly the strong pop melodies will be what grabs you. At the end of the day, Hollis Brown's distortion-drenched blues is as satisfying as a 2 Bros dollar slice when you're about four drinks in: exactly what you need when you need it. And it doesn't get more Noo Yawk than that.

Ride on the Train
Gypsy Black Cat
Faith & Love

Hollis Brown -- Official, Facebook, Buy Ride on the Train on digital download, CD, and vinyl

Monday, August 19, 2013

Heather Luttrell -- PossumDiva

Usually when I talk about music, I talk about honesty and soul-baring and blah blah blah. I don't know if Heather Luttrell is as much of a whiskey-slinging femme fatale as she portrays herself to be in her music. But that woman sure sounds like a helluva lot of fun.

Heather Luttrell's actual self-portrayal.
Luttrell's country swing evokes a backwoods roadhouse, found somewhere in the depths of the bayou. The Atlanta-based singer can belt it out as good as Brittany Howard (the Alabama Shakes) but with her tongue firmly in her cheek the entire time. Luttrell's charisma is pouring out of my speakers as I write this. PossumDiva is a charmer, and it's one of the better albums I've heard this year.

Heather Luttrell -- Official, Facebook, Buy PossumDiva

Friday, August 16, 2013

Betse Ellis -- High Moon Order

Betse Ellis is a bad-ass motherfucker.

You probably wouldn't have guess she played fiddle from my telling you that. But you're going to have to listen to believe it.

She plays fiddle like a fury and her backing band is there like no tomorrow. But there was something else that stood out that took me a while to put my finger on. And I'm going to get into a lot of trouble for saying it.

Betse Ellis sings like a man.

I'm not talking about her voice -- it's as ladylike as can be. I'm talking about her delivery. I've written a few times about the differences between men and women in music. I think it stems from men and women being socialized to express themselves in different ways. For one, women aren't really supposed to demonstrative -- even in this day and age. So when most women sing, it can come off (to me) as whiny or apologetic or overly earnest, because, dammit, they're going to tell you how they feel. To me, even young Kathlee Hannah and young Ani DiFranco falls in that camp.

The obverse of this is that men are expected to be open and frank and even explosive, but they're not usually expected to process their emotions -- they're supposed to feel them and then move on. Obviously, writing -- and especially writing music -- requires you to reflect on your thoughts. So when a man sings, it can be a liberating experience. (Or they can come off as whiny or apologetic or overly earnest, because the whole thing is uncomfortable. See Linkin Park, Dashboard Confessional.)

Basically what I'm saying is that in our culture, we're not really supposed to show our feelings so it's complicated when we do. But, like many aspects of our culture, it's a generally more positive experience for men than for women.

And really what I'm saying is, Betse Ellis doesn't give a shit about what you think. She's going to tell you how she feels, whether she's singing or playing lead in an instrumental piece.

And you're going to like it, dammit.

Betse Ellis -- Official, Buy High Moon Order

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Darlingford -- Cara Luft

I took a trip overseas a few weeks ago. I often get CDs from various PR companies, so I figured there'd be no better time to go through my stack than being stuck on a transatlantic flight. I know I looked like some kind of sociopathic Luddite, sitting there with a goddamn CD player (because who uses those anymore?) and a stack of 6 CDs. That I kept knocking over.

I ended up listening to Darlingford three times in a row on the same flight. And then again when I was waiting at baggage claim.

Darlingford really is that excellent. After all, I had to listen to it a few more times to make sure my impressions weren't formed by sleep deprivation and dehydration. It wasn't a burden. Luft's voice absolutely soars. It doesn't matter if she's joyously moving on after a bad breakup, calling for populist action, or picking up the pieces when things go bad -- this is an album that makes you Feel Things. My only complaint is that Cara Luft is Canadian. It means we can't claim her as a national treasure.

Look for Darlingford again in December. It's certainly one of the best albums I've heard this year.

Cara Luft -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, iTunes, CD Baby

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Carrie Shepard -- The Woodshed Session

There's something to be said for simplicity. After all, folk music is for folk to play -- not just backwoods ramblers who have nothing better to do than learn how to fingerpick (I'm looking at you, bluegrass.) The 9 songs on Carrie Shepard's debut solo album, The Woodshed Session, are easy enough for me to play -- I don't exactly have a dextrous right hand (ladies.) But nobody can imitate Shepard's voice.

While Shepard may look like she's doing her best not to crack up on the cover photo, the songs on the album are winningly earnest -- sincere, but with a light touch. Whether she's crooning gentle regret on "Warnings" or slinging sassy double entendres in "Train Wreck," Shepard's having a great time, and you will, too.

Carrie Shepard -- Official, Buy The Woodshed Session on CDBaby

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Frank Turner -- Tapedeck Heart

Tapedeck Heart completely escaped my notice when it came out earlier this year. The blogs I follow barely mentioned it (if it all.) I only found it when I was having an ironic suburban weekend with my hipster friends and we were ironically hanging out at the mall. I not-so-ironically explored the CD section at Best Buy because I still buy those, and lo and behold, Frank Turner's latest effort was on the New Release/We Put These Here Because Nobody Cares About Shelving These Properly rack. (It came out in February.)

I adore Frank Turner's previous album, England Keep My Bones. It was a love song to the things he loves: politics, punk, literature. But listening to him sing songs about love on Tapedeck Heart? I wasn't sold.

According to Wikipedia, Turner expressed some concern that recording in a bigger-budget studio with a fancy-pants producer would make it seem like he had sold out. He's not entirely wrong. The first three songs on the album aren't terrible -- they're just not great. And all because the production values and fancy producer's choices make Turner and the Sleeping Souls sound like late-stage Better Than Ezra (not a compliment.)

But Turner recovers his voice for the fourth song, "Plain Sailing Weather." It's scrappy and low-fi and it's the one song that gives the album its Parental Advisory Warning. Other standouts include "Four Simple Words," which Punknews hated but I adore. A real crowd-pleaser, and it's enough to remind you why you love rock'n'roll. "The Fisher King Blues" is an impressive American Gothic tale for the ages.

There are four tracks on Spotify that you won't get on the physical album. (Why are they punishing slow adapters like me? :( :( :( ) They're better than most of what made it to the final cut.

Overall, Tapedeck Heart would be great for anyone else. But don't let it be your introduction to Frank Turner.

And here's a video since I'm too lazy to find mp3s to link:

Frank Turner -- Official, Facebook, Google+, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Mother Corn Shuckers -- Beergrass

It's an album called Beergrass by a band called The Mother Corn Shuckers. It's pretty much what you'd expect.

That's not a bad thing. Repeat offenders here on A&T, this surferbilly collective is all about having a grand old time. This album is much more a statement of the Corn Shuckers' mission, as evidenced with songs like "Dunegrass" ("Ain't got no bluegrass/Beneath my feet/I just got that dunegrass/And the deep blue sea".)

So much of Americana is so fucking depressing. Take a shot of something refreshing and imbibe Beergrass.

The Mother Corn Shuckers -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Cerny Brothers -- The Cerny Brothers

The Cerny Brothers' debut album is as close to perfection as it gets.

Since the Cerny Brothers actually are brothers, I could speak to the intimacy of their performances or the way they seem to instinctively complement each other and blah blah blah but it's not that. There are lots of bands that achieve that sixth sense -- otherwise, what would be the point?

The Cerny Brothers' music is genuinely warm. It may be a little indie for your tastes -- think the Lumineers, but fun. While these songs may sound insubstantial, they're built to last. These guys were born to make music, and it shows on this album.

The Mountain Song

The Cerny Brothers -- Official, Facebook, Buy The Cerny Brothers, Amazon, iTunes

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Morning River Band -- To Suzie

It's a gorgeous summer day. I woke up with every intention of getting stuff done and going to the gym. And now I'm sitting here defrosting the water reservoir I didn't know I had in my refrigerator. Fortunately, I have the Morning River Band to keep me company.

Yet another magnificent alt-country band from Philly, Morning River Band approaches their music with joy and warmth, even during their saddest songs. An extended breakup song (perhaps even a song cycle?), To Suzie will help you float through your day.

Morning River Band -- Official, Facebook, Google+, Bandcamp, CDBaby, iTunes

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Meg Olsen -- Deal From the Bottom

Meg Olsen's debut EP, Deal From the Bottom, is an impressive start.

A former film industry grunt and current fashion writer, Olsen saw the light and began to make music. We should be glad she did.

In case the cover art is not worth a thousand words to you, Olsen's brand of folk pop is an ethereal affair, evidenced by her cover of Morrisey's "Suedehead." But this is not more whimsical hipster fare. Even without knowing her back story, you get the impression that Olsen fucking worked on this music -- everything is purposeful, never lazy or apathetic.

Olsen recently raised enough money through Kickstarter to record a full album. I am sure she'll be coming soon to an NPR affiliate near you.

Meg Olsen -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Kent Goolsby -- Trophies of Youth

Kent Goolsby comes out swinging on his third album, Trophies of Youth. If his warm, raspy voice sounds familiar, it's because you heard him front the unfortunately defunct The Only Sons.

Goolsby is really excellent at creating moods. All three of his recordings create a warm, sun-drenched feel thanks to his dreamy cadence and liberal use of distorted guitars. Where The Only Sons' previous album felt like a celebration of slackerdom, Trophies of Youth takes a more thoughtful, melancholy turn.

The album isn't humorless -- "Jesus Is My Landlord" is a great track. But Trophies is at heart about growing up, and Goolsby shows that the inconsistencies that are sad but funny at 20 start to get a little desperate as you approach 30.

Jesus Is My Landlord
Pleased (You Can't Be)
Two By Two

Kent Goolsby -- Official, Facebook, Buy Trophies of Youth from This Is American Music, Bandcamp, Amazon

Monday, August 5, 2013

Rick Adams -- No Cover At the Door

Unfortunately, we don't have time machines (yet.) So the closest you're going to get to an old timey roadhouse is going to have to be Rick Adams's new solo album, No Cover at the Door.

This is a really fun album. I was in a slightly sour mood when I listened to it and No Cover at the Door quickly cured me of it. Adams' love for Americana is hard to miss. His songs sound so much like the old stuff, I thought for sure some of these songs were covers. No Cover at the Door is an exuberant tribute to old-timey music.

She Got Caboose
I'm Gonna Buy You a Shrimp Boat
Liberer L'amour (Bust the Lock)

Rick Adams -- Facebook, CDBaby, Amazon, CD Universe, iTunes

Friday, August 2, 2013

Danni Nicholls -- A Little Redemption

I'm afraid I've had a bit of writers' block lately, but I didn't want that to stop me from telling you about Danni Nicholls' debut album.

A Little Redemption showcases a truly unique artist's work. Nicholls moves from nightclub jazz, sunny country, and everything in between with effortless grace.  Nicholls is going to be a force to be reckoned with. You should get in on the ground floor.

You can't stream the whole album on Bandcamp, but you'll definitely want to after you hear a few of the samples.

Danni Nicholls --ReverbNation, Facebook, Bandcamp

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Smooth Hound Smith -- Smooth Hound Smith

I cannot begin to explain how cool Smooth Hound Smith is.

A duet comprised of multi-instrumentalist Zach Smith and singer Caitlyn Doyle, Smooth Hound Smith brings it like any full band.

Everything on this album is so effortless. The hooks, the complex arrangements (and bear in mind that Smith is playing all of those instruments at the same time), Doyle's smoky lounge act vocals, the quietly devastating lyrics. This is the summer jam you didn't know you were waiting for. Snag it now.

Smooth Hound Smith --Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, iTunes