Friday, May 30, 2014

Melaena Cadiz on BTR Live

Brooklyn-based folk singer Melaena Cadiz recently released her new album, Far Below Heaven. I already reviewed the album, but here's an interive with Cadiz in case you still need convincing.

Melaena Cadiz -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Interview -- Turchi

I've already clued you in to Turchi's hard-driving Americana. Here's what the man himself has to say.

What's your songwriting process like?
There are two approaches I generally take, from opposite ends of the spectrum. Many of my songs are narrative or character based, and so I keep a notebook of people, places, snippets of stories---particular phrases that strike me---and piece them together. Recently, I've been working my way through a fantastic book which explores the history of the world in objects, and only what can be learned from those objects directly, a great lesson in interpretation. Simultaneously, I keep a batch of musical ideas on hand, guitar riffs, melodies, rhythms, and try to fill those out or piece them together. The final step, of course, is pairing them together, or adjusting. For instance, I may have a certain melody in mind, but then when placed with a certain lyrical idea, it will shift around slights, or the instrumentation will change drastically, to better fit. Stories and sounds, sounds and scenes.  

What or who do you see as your most important influences?

In terms of music, most of my slide work is heavily influenced by Hill Country blues---a very unique style that has its own way of sliding all around. For songwriting, artists like Randy Newman and JJ Cale always impress me with their clever turns and lyrical fills. It's always vital to depict a scene or moment specifically, and avoid generalizations---and that holds true for both lyrical content and the sounds of the instruments on the song. For instance, all of the sounds on Sheryl Crow's first album are incredible, no two songs sound the same, and the guitar sounds (or percussion sounds) used for hooks, from the opening track, are unique and ear catching. Production at its finest. 

I noticed that you've worked with kids as a music educator. How did you get involved with that? What do you see as your greatest successes and challenges as in educator? (I'm a teacher...couldn't resist.)

I always play a three string cigar box guitar and four string oil-can guitar during our sets, and I was invited to take part as an Artist-in-Residence at Liberty Arts Magnet in Lima, Ohio, teaching students how to play cigar box guitars that they built themselves. That whole organization is incredible, and should be copied everywhere---each year they bring in an artist (not just music---visual arts, sculpting, the rotate), to work with students a week in the fall and a week in the spring. All of the funding for the program comes from the blues festival in Lima, Pickle's Blues Extravaganza---all organized and dreamed up by the one and only Pickle himself. Working with students, the most important thing for me is always to gauge what level of playing their comfortable with, and base my instruction on that. The best moments are when they grasp a concept at a certain level, and then intuitively jump to the next thing before I even expect them to (or faster than I myself would!). Cheers to trying new things. 
Where did the inspiration for the "Mind's Eye" music video come from?

Low-budget necessity, what else! No, there's a funny story behind that--I was hoping to do some kind of barroom brawl scene, but that was looking a little unreasonable to pull off, I thought using some kind of stock footage would be one option. My girlfriend (much to her credit, she's usually a step ahead of me) suggested a samurai version (which would have been cool), but, it turns out there's somewhat of a shortage in public domain samurai movies. So, a western seemed like a logical branch off of that idea and then...a western featuring midgets? Suits the song perfectly. I watched "Tiny Town" a few times in its entirety and took notes on what scenes might fit where in the song, but boy, I never imagined it would work out so perfectly, once edited.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Melaena Cadiz -- Deep Below Heaven

I was entranced by Melaena Cadiz's first release, Rattle the Windows. The spell hasn't been broken, though Deep Below Heaven comes from a decidedly more punchier place than her quiet, measured debut album.

The only time I've seen Cadiz play live was -- gosh -- three years ago at a free concert in a basement bar on one of the first nice days of spring. The band played to an empty room but they so didn't care. Deep Below Heaven is decidedly more of a group effort, even if Cadiz's name is on the album cover. That's not to say she shouldn't be the main attraction here; her curiously Dylan-esque delivery on "Neon Drag" would be a stand-out performance on its own. But combine that with the torch song "Dreams" and you'll find a singer with amazing breadth, in addition to the depth of her lyrics.

The gentlemen standing behind Cadiz certainly deserve their share of their limelight. These songs were written to feature Cadiz's chops but the band brings a uniquely contemporary sensibility to the Americana featured on Deep Below Heaven. For the raw talent, outstanding growth, and adventurous push Deep Below Heaven takes, I am willing to put this album in as a contender for best of 2014.

Melaena Cadiz -- Official, Facebook, Wild Kindness Records, Bandcamp

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Karen and the Sorrows -- The Names of Things

The New York country scene just wouldn't be the same without Karen and the Sorrows. They organize Queer Country Monthly, a truly magical musical showcase for cowpokes of all genders and orientations. That's the first reason I'm glad The Names of Things is done -- it means the series can start up again.

The other reason I'm glad is that The Names of Things is beautiful. Release just shy of Pride Month, the Sorrows fly their colors proudly, if with a tinge of Southern melancholy.

As befitting the band's name, most of the songs tell tales of heartache and loss. "Star," (which, spoiler alert, will be featured on a few exciting album comps in the near future) brings us home with some hope and dogged determination. As we all know from experience, the darkest times always come to an end. I'm hoping the Sorrows' follow-ups will continue in this vein.

Karen and the Sorrows -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, May 26, 2014

Princess Reason -- We Are Splitting

In what is the first reader submission to Adobe & Teardrops, Curtis tipped me off to this haunting music video by Los Angeles-based band Princess Reason. The most haunting question the video left us with was why are these people squatting in crack shacks when they can afford brand new Clark's?

We Are Splitting - Princess Reason from Saxon Richardson on Vimeo.

Thanks, Curtis!

Princess Reason -- Bandcamp

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Bergamot -- "Tones"

Brooklyn-based The Bergamot recently released their latest single, "Tones." They remind me of a more up-to-date version of Elastica. Be prepared to hear more from the duo in the coming weeks!

If you like what you hear, help fund their upcoming album!

The Bergamot -- Official, Facebook

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kendl Winter and the Summer Gold -- It Can Be Done!

My pure, unadulterated initial reaction to Kendl Winter was:

Holy Moses this is good.

Mike Ostrov at Ninebullets did a pretty great job of praising Ms. Winters' greatness. A top-notch songwriter and a breathtaking banjo player. It's a rare bird indeed who can use A) "Centrifugal forces" in a song lyric and B) rhyme it with "magical horses" in C) a song about feeling down and out in Berlin.

But it takes a musician of quite a higher caliber to make "It's hard to rub your tummy" sound woeful and lonesome, but Winter pulls it off in "It Can Be Done." Winter glides between twee, indie pop in songs like "Rosie" and her down-home roots like in "Rocking Chair."

In addition to Winter's skilled musicianship, Austin Coopers percussion is a force of nature. His work on "Rosie," "Black Hole," and "Dreaming of Babylon" is otherworldly.

This album is absolutely one of the best of the year. I can't do enough to tell you how much I'm in love with it.

Rocking Chair
It Can Be Done
Black Hole

In Snow -- ef.fort

Holy wow.

In Snow's EP is difficult to describe, though I know that's kind of the point of you reading this. They describe themselves as an instrumental orchestral rock and that's pretty much what you get, just minus the pretension (I heard you rolling your eyes.) The majestic opening track, "Hajj," is just a foretaste of what's to come.

Recorded in the sleepy lull of December 26, 2013, ef.fort washes over you. In Snow never drifts into jam band territory. These compositions are melodic and compact, though suddenly you realize the song you're listening to is actually 9 minutes long. Take a few minutes out of your day to experience this album, and then pluck down a fiver and two George Washingtons so you can take it home.

In Snow -- Bandcamp

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fire Mountain -- All Dies Down

I'm glad that Fire Mountain found a home for its latest record, All Dies Down. You may remember I tried to get you guys to throw some money at the band a few weeks back. I was unsuccessful and the campaign didn't reach its goal. Fortunately, This Is American Music has released the record and I simply can't think of a better pairing.

All Dies Down is everything I've come to expect from Fire Mountain. Passion, a good dose of mystery, and some moody Appalachian roots. However, the band stretches itself on songs like "Factory Line" and the angular "Fortress." Fire Mountain does a beautiful job of blending indie pop elements into its roots music. This isn't gimmicky at all -- it's just a band continuing to grow. I know I'll be humming "Fortress" for quite some time to come.

Fire Mountain -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Sometime Boys -- Riverbed

It's easy to understand why the Sometime Boys don't have the reputation they so justly deserve. They're just kinda weird, yaknow? Is anyone else writing pseudo-reggae roots songs like "Pharaoh"? Or the meandering ballad "Fake Girlfriend?"

Last time around I praised the Sometime Boys for their inventiveness and the same holds true here. This isn't music you drink to, commute to, work out to, or have on in the background. These songs are too complex to nod your head to. You really have to listen to it. I'm writing this while I'm listening to Riverbed for the first time and I know I'm not doing it nearly enough justice. The long and the short of it is that The Sometimes Boys are an amazing roots band, but they're unlike anything you've heard before or will hear afterwards.

You can download the lead single from the album, "The Great Escape," directly from Soundcloud. If you like what you hear, you can download the details for tonight's album launch party below:

Who/What: Urban Roots Band, The Sometime Boys Launch Third Studio Album ‘Riverbed’

When: Monday, May 19, 7 PM - 11 PM

7-8 PM Honky Tonk Happy Hour w/ Erik James 
8-9:30 PM The Sometime Boys live (w/ special guests) 
9:30-11 PM DJ Panos Mitos

Where: The Slipper Room, 167 Orchard Street, Manhattan

The Sometime Boys -- Official, Facebook, Soundcloud

Friday, May 16, 2014

EdTang and the Chops -- EdTang and the Chops

Ed Tang has all the right ingredients for a fantastic album: raspy voice, just the right mix of distortion and acoustic guitars, and some choice literary references (Catch-22 and Death of a Salesman are two of my favorite 20th century works. How'd ya know, Ed?) Fellow Jersey natives Bruce Springsteen and Brian Fallon (the Gaslight Anthem) are clearly influences on Tang's music.

This is Tang and the chops' first EP and it's a promising start to be sure. However, the above list doesn't necessarily make for a fantastic album (though goodness knows it helps.) The Chops are missing a certain urgency that's much more tangible in their heroes' work. (A quick listen of Tang's previous album has that quality. Perhaps this EP is just overproduced.) But even with that, this EP is worth your time. I'm confident we'll see (and hear) great things as the band continues to develop its voice. Ed Tang and the Chops are on the edge of greatness, so get in on the ground floor while you can.

EdTang and the Chops -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Porter Draw -- The Porter Draw

The Porter Draw has got to stop hiding in New Mexico and make themselves known to the world. This is good stuff.

I have a confession to make: I've been taking a songwriting class. I didn't mention it before now because I didn't want to seem all prissy and overanalytical (I mean, more than usual.) For now I'm pretty terrible at it and I'll leave it to the pros, but one idea that we keep getting hit over the head with is the idea of detail -- that specificity actually makes a song stronger than leaving things open to the listener's imagination.

The Porter Draw is a great example of that principle. The first two songs, "Judgement Day" and "Softened Soil" are solid and certainly show off The Porter Draw's street cred. They are all over the map in terms of alt-country and they do each sub genre justice. But the rest of the songs on the album tell real stories: about farm life in the midst of urbanization and Monsanto, rust belt decay, murder ballads, playing rock shows, Bruce Springsteen covers...yannow, the usual. But The Porter Draw has an unsual ability to tell those stories. This verse from "This Town" pulls at my gut and I've never lived anywhere but in thriving cultural capitals:

There’s not much to do in this town,
Just a bar on the corner where we drink our sorrows down
There’s church here every Sunday and a few folks go to pray
But most of us think God has moved away.
If I was to be born again, and Jesus came on down,
He wouldn’t find anything in this town
There’s not much to do in this town


And there's seven other songs like it.

The Porter Draw -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Benny No-Good -- I Am You

Benny No-Good, like many of the gents on this blog, started his music career as a punk rocker. If you're from the Midwest, you may know him as the frontman for Indiana hardcore band The Enders. If not, you'll enjoy Benny's debut solo EP.

With all due respect to Benny, I see some room for extra polish here. Some of the songs, like "I Am You," seem like they'd be more at home with a hard-driving post-grunge bass line than with an acoustic guitar. Other songs like "Children of the Gael" showcase Benny's departure from punk. It's fast-paced and forceful but it doesn't sound like just another folk song. Or rock song. It exists on its own and I look forward to seeing Benny continue to follow that impulse as he grows as a songwriter.

Benny No-Good --Facebook, ReverbNation, Bandcamp

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Matt Woods -- With Love From Brushy Mountain

The dog chewed up my earbuds the other day. You'd think that'd be enough to make me decide to just shell out for a pair of studio headphones. I didn't want to because I feel like attaching those giant bulky things to a teeny tiny device makes you look like a jackass.

I will gladly look like a jackass for Matt Woods. Especially if it means getting to his latest album everywhere I go.

Brushy Mountain hits the pavement exactly where The Matt Woods Manifesto left off. Oddly, the music is more jubilant even though the subject matter is more somber. Here we see Matt (or maybe just the narrator) questioning his decision to live the rock'n'roll life. There are also more commonplace stories of fading love ("Tiny Anchors") and dying towns ("Snack Bar Mary & The Ten Pin Priest.") The title track is yet another murder ballad, which Woods is disturbingly good at writing. This time we hear from a man explaining why he did the deed to his child.

Debauchery, self-reproach, defiance, and celebration -- that's the stuff I love in this kind of music and Matt has them all in spades on this album. This is truly one of the best of 2014.

West Texas Wind

Tiny Anchors

With Love From Brushy Mountain

Matt Woods -- Official, Facebook, Spotify

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nettie Rose -- People I Know

Nettie Rose has quite a pedigree. Her grandfather, Alan Freed, created the term "rock'n'roll." Both her parents were involved in the backstage end of the business. But Rose isn't some dilettante with an acoustic guitar. Her voice has a helluva lot of character, and her songwriting matches.

Rose has proven herself as an honest-to-goodness folk singer with her debut album. There's no resting on her laurels (or industry connections) here. My particular favorite is "Freedom Trotter," certainly apropos for the recent Kentucky Derby. Rose's distinctive voice croons encouragement to Freedom Trotter and writes pure poetry in "For My Young Lord Drake."Based on Rose's sheer originality, I'd be willing to submit this as one of the better albums of 2014.

Nettie Rose -- Official, Facebook, iTunes, SoundCloud

Friday, May 9, 2014

Never Grow Old -- The Rivergods

I haven't been to New London. Really, it's just a place that you go through. It's a convenient halfway point between New York and Boston and it had some kind of industry (submarines?) there back in the day. Like most of Connecticut, it's languished thanks to outsourcing. I didn't think it had much going for it (and I even dated someone who lived in its suburbs) until I encountered The Rivergods.

The band, led by husband/wife duo Ben and Nancy Parent, has been around the block a few times. Their catalog stretches back to 1997 and we'll all have to investigate it. That being said, their most recent 4-song EP packs a punch. This is the alt-country of the '90s: sun-faded, nostalgic, wistful, and a little sad. My favorite is "Rush Hour," but don't take my word for it. Choose for yourself.

The Rivergods -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Morgan Manifacier -- Hues and Calm

I brought Morgan Manifacier to your attention a few days ago. He recently released an album full of more singer-songwriter goodness.

Hues and Calm is a completely different experience than Manifacier by himself, though. Manifacier showed off his guitar chops in the video, but this album is full of ambient, experimental folk. The mournful dirge of "Cold Countries" sets the marching orders. "Mother, Mother" is a heartbreaking ode to one of the most important figures in our lives. "Busy Boy" and "Ourselves" adds some warmth to the proceedings, and the French-language closers "The Bridge" and "Oh Joie" give us insight into Manifacier's breadth and depth.

Well this is not the straightforward shoot-from-the-hip folk most of you are into, it should be noted that Manifacier will be playing with John Moreland and M. Lockwood Porter this coming Sunday the 11th at Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg. Good musicians connect with good musicians, and there's truly no higher endorsement than John Moreland. While they're not sonically similar, all three musicians know how to reach past your brain and into your heart. You can find more info for the concert here. Looking forward to seeing you all there.

Morgan Manifacier -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Music Video -- This, The Silent War

Kick-ass country singer Garrison Starr (one of the first ladies of country to come out in the '90s) has started a new side project called This, The Silent War.

I'm not a fan of lyric videos, but I do rather enjoy the song.

Garrison Starr -- Official, Facebook

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The River Has Many Voices -- Division

Division is a thoughtful album by Austin-based musician The River Has Many Voices. It's best enjoyed several times (possibly consecutively) in a meditative state.

Dylan is an ever-present influence on singer-songwriter Matthew Payne, but Payne avoids sounding like someone to fill larger shoes. While his vocal stylings are similar, the lyrics are more transparent and get to the point. There's a warmth and down-home sensibility to the songs that you just don't get from hanging out in the East Village. The standout track is the closer, "Go With Me," which I'll be humming for a good long time.

The River Has Many Voices-- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, May 5, 2014

The End Men -- Odds and Ends

The End Men are back (thankfully) with a few little items.

Odds and Ends is a little grab bag of the garage blues duo's songs, some of which have been rescued from the cutting room floor and some of which are brand new. Hendershot's guttural, raspy vocals are clearly channeling Tom Waits and Livia Ranalli's drumming clearly channels a vengeful demon. The songs range from the whimsical ("Salute," about a toast gone wrong) to the political ("War") but they're all united by the joy the End Men have in their music. There are any number of guitar/drum duos out there but none are as energetic, intense, or original as the End Men.

The End Men -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, Spotify

Friday, May 2, 2014

Music Video -- Todd Kessler

Chicago alt-pop singer Todd Kessler has just released a new music video. It's pretty and it's animated by Sara Lim.

Todd Kessler -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Turchi -- Can't Bury Your Past

If you're in the market for something rough-and-tumble, here's Turchi's new album Can't Bury Your Past.

I finished listening to this album and found dirty underneath my nails. Guitarist Drew Turchi describes his band's music as "kudzu boogie" and I can't think of a more apt description. Turchi's growling vocals are matched in intensity by a backing band that sounds like it's hit every blues bar south of the Mason-Dixon. This is blues on a visceral level that calls to mind early Black Keys. The opening riff on "Your Ex, He's Next" is pure honeyed goodness.Turchi's signature fuzzy, mellow guitar will save your soul as soon as send it straight to hell. And maybe you deserve it.

Turchi -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, ReverbNation, Soundcloud, Devil Down Records