Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Paisley Fields -- Oh These Urban Fences

Is it considered payola if the Paisley Fields' lead singer, James Wilson, gave me a lift to Riis Park? Sometimes you hang out after shows at Queer Country Monthly, and sometimes somebody and his band shows up even though they're not playing, and then you start talking about music and the summer. Then he mentions he has a car and you mention you can use your dad's childhood home as a free parking spot. Next thing you know, you're staring slack-jawed at topless lesbians making out in the surf (really.)

Even if James didn't have an album coming out, I could say that he's objectively a great driver and looks cute in a bathing suit (but sorry, boys, he's taken.) But the Paisley Fields do have a new EP and even if I hadn't seen most 15-year-olds' fantasies come to life, I'd say that Oh These Urban Fences is amazing.

On the drive back to the city, James told me that Oh These Urban Fences would have a totally different sound and that he was really proud of the band's work. While the Paisley Fields' first EP, Dixie Queen, was pop with hints of country, Oh These Urban Fences (a reference to Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In") fully embraces cowboy boots and Stetsons. "My Best Years" is a torch song for the best of them, and "Brooklyn Rodeo" is a swinging two-step with a gentle nudge against New York's frenetic culture. James embraced his Midwestern roots for these songs, and the songs shine with those complicated emotions: nostalgia, happiness, heartbreak, isolation. Oh These Urban Fences  is a labor of love that demands your attention.

If you're in Gomorrah (ie Brooklyn), you can join the Paisley Fields at queer country ground zero (Branded Saloon) on Thursday, October 1 for a listening/release party. Everyone else can wait til Friday, the 2nd, to get their paws on this important collection of music. And if you'd like more reading material, James writes an intelligent blog about being a queer musician in the big city.

The Paisley Fields -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

The Paisley Fields --

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Pollies -- Not Here

I'm about to spill 200 - 300 words on Not Here, but there's only one word that matters: majestic.

Few reviews of Not Here will fail to mention the Pollies' Alabama roots, so I suppose I should do my journalistic due diligence. There's been a lot made about whatever's in the water in Alabama -- spawning artists like Jason Isbell, Lee Baines III, and, of course the Alabama Shakes (with which the Pollies share fewer than six degrees of separation.) But I think the secret is less that there's gold in thar hills as that when you make music because it feels good, instead of wanting to get famous, and if you're then bolstered by a community that feels the same way, you get the "phenomenon" that we're seeing in Muscle Shoals. These people are artists, and they don't need to move to Brooklyn or Nashville to make that art. Now that we have the Internet, it almost doesn't matter where your home base is.

The Pollies absolutely belong in the company mentioned above. While they've been known for their sloppily experimental approach to alt-country, Not Here, carries an emotional weight that didn't come through on Where the Lies Begin. The opening song, "Jackson," begins with a triumphant orchestral arrangement that clashes with the violent lyrics. As it turns out, Jackson is a tribute to a clergyman who was shot to death in front of his mother at a precursor to the march on Selma. His death in part inspired further actions.

There are also more intimate dramas, such as the album's linchpin "She..." an almost apologetic song that relates a relationship that couldn't sustain the tensions of an itinerant lifestyle. Jay Burgess' impassioned vocals are matched only by the band's intensity. (I'll also never complain about an engineer who puts the bass fairly prominently in the mix -- it serves to make all of these songs sound distinctive without being too out of left field.)

Not Here can't help me thinking about peaks. While it's only their third recording and second album of a band, I feel like if this were my best artistic output, I'd feel pretty great about that. Realistically, everyone's got their one best work in them. I don't think this means the Pollies are incapable of doing better -- I never thought that an album like this would follow on the heels of Where the Lies Begin -- but it would be hard for anyone to top Not Here. This is absolutely album-of-the-year material.

The Pollies -- Official, Facebook, Purchase Not Here from Single Lock

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dead Professional -- Young Hardware

Dead Professional's third EP sees a shift in direction. Young Hardware starts off with one of Dead Pro's signature Tom Petty-inflected rock with "Downtown and Sundown" and "You Heard What You Wanted." Dead Professional is notable for making catchy rock'n'roll out of loops and drum machines -- typically cold music. He puts himself to the test in the latter three songs of the EP.

The digital presence makes itself felt with the heavy drumbeats in "Call Me a Doctor." We've seen hipster indie acts use electronics to make music that is ethereal, even beautiful (looking at you, James Vincent McMorrow) but even when it's exquisite, it always leaves me feeling cold. Dead Professional bridges that gap for me, at least. I believe it's because, as a vocalist, he's not afraid to let himself feel The Feels necessary to get a song across. Which is the most human act of all, no matter who or what is backing you.

Dead Professional -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ali Holder -- From My Veins Will Fall

From the strange, discordant opening strum on Ali Holder's sophomore release, From My Veins Will Fall is a short but powerful piece. Holder's first album, In Preparation for Saturn's Return, was a bit whimsical. Whatever's happened in the last two years -- Saturn's return hitting her pretty hard, I'd expect -- it's stamped that right out of Holder, but she seems to be stronger for it.

"Feel Alive"'s world-weary tone reminds me of Lucinda Williams, though Holder is hard to pin down throughout these songs. Holder glides between country, pop, rock, and Southern Gothic. It speaks to the power of her vision that all of these songs are so united in spirit. It's a sort of weariness and sadness that comes from learning the hard way and the strength that comes afterwards. "Elastic Time" will surely be on rotation for me as a reminder that this too shall pass, and it'll have a great soundtrack when it does.

Ali Holder -- Official, Facebook, iTunes, Bandcamp

Correction: I originally wrote that the album was called From My Veins Will Flow. Sorry for botching a great title, Ali!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

VIDEO: The Holy Gasp -- A Daily Affirmation

Need some good vibes? I've had The Holy Gasps' daily affirmation in my head since this landed in my inbox in February. I hope it makes your day as great as it made mine!

The rest of the album is similarly fun, invigorating, and though-provoking. 
The Holy Gasp -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Animal City -- Bump Head Go Home

As much as I love Bump Head Go Home, it would be a stretch to call it the album of my generation. However, if I were a historian 100 years from now trying to figure out what the fuck us weirdos were thinking, I'd be really happy to have this as a primary source. It's not because Animal City litters its songs with references to Snapchat and Drake (maybe it's because I'm a lesbian but seriously, people, why do you think he's hot?) It's that they capture what (I feel) is the millenial emotional core of optimism, sadness, hopelessness, and frustration. Like their label mates State Champion, Animal City captures some very complex emotions in driving punk rock.

Bump Head Go Home could function as a party album, and I can imagine that Animal City shows get pretty raucous. But the album itself seems to be carefully organized. The songs on the A side are about drugs: how they're great, how love is better than drugs (I got to learn a bunch of new street terms on "Drugs With You"), and songs that are sublime and sublimely weird that they must have been the product of a trip -- specifically, the not-so-enigmatically titled "A Song About a Priest That Gets Stung By a Bee" (one of the best songs on the album) and "Lounda." But "Still High Still" calls attention to the emptiness of that lifestyle: sure, it's fun, but at the end of the day it's pretty empty and you don't get to fix those feelings you're trying to hide away. But you still do it anyway.

That's my take on it, at least. I related more to Side B, which was about the fruitless pursuit of love when nobody around you knows what they want (and neither do you)! I go to therapy, Animal City writes a rad song called "Lover of Ex" that summarizes my feels about dating concisely and crassly!

She loves her ex
And I must accept
What else can I say?
She thinks it's fine to make out sometimes
Just not with me every day

So I disconnect my heart
And use my funny parts
I disconnect and I pray that the next
Will hold me every day

 The song also helped me understand the "apathetic melancholy" (as Two Cow Garage put it) of the indie music of the 2000s, and it also helps me understand why punk is getting popular again. Speaking on behalf of my cohort, we not only feel impotent against the system, but we feel powerless to create any real change. What's the point of getting angry about politics if it's not going to get us anywhere? Might as well get mad about the stuff that's closer to hand -- hence so many punk love songs, but so little socially conscious music.

Or maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill.

It's not all bad news from Animal City, though. "Bow County Dirt" is an enjoyable dance number that manages to be erotic and tender simultaneously. "Sarah So Bad" should be everyone's imaginary girlfriend.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite albums so far and you should empty your pockets of every last cent to get a hold of it.

Animal City -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hamell on Trial -- The Happiest Man in the World

I was first introduced to Ed Hamell's music during my pilgrimage to Nashville this summer. And really, there's nothing like seeing this guy live. Hamell has the ability to sear right to your core like the best gospel preacher, the panache of an old-time Broadway star, and the aggressive fireball energy of Danny DeVito. Truth be told, I avoided listening to the album for a long time -- how could anything match the near-religious experience of watching this guy shout, stomp, joke, and bust equipment through his sets on a lonely, rainy Nashville night?

To promote his tour, Hamell had his friends from his anti-folk years -- Kimya Dawson, Ani DiFranco, Henry Rollins -- talk him up in a promotional video. I felt a little suspicious of this marketing technique -- shouldn't the emphasis be on the  music? -- but it just speaks to the vicissitudes of the music industry that all of these other people got famous when Hamell could very much give them a run for his money. The Happiest Man in the World finds Hamell after the end of his 20+-year marriage, all but financially ruined by the Great Recession but the proud father of an amazing 12-year-old. (I met him and he is teacher-approved.) The title track is not ironic, and that's the thing that makes Hamell special.

There are lots of songs about feelings -- love, breakups, being strung out, etc. etc. But it takes a truly gifted artist to write a song that could only come from the special confluence of his/her/their brain and make those observations not only into words, but music, and music that's good to listen to. The songs are so full of individuality that the artist is nothing less than a force of personality. This is rare. He's able to take his unique experiences and universalize them, which is pretty much everybody on earth's goal, much less an artist's. As much as I love the twenty or so artists I write about regularly on here, there are only a few whom I'd put in that elite category, and Ed Hamell is a the top of the list.

Hamell on Trial -- Official, Facebook, Spotify, Purchase from New West Records, Amazon, iTunes

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

INTERVIEW: Three Questions for Frog

In case you missed it, frog released a sublime album earlier this year. The gents were kind enough to respond to some of my questions about Kind of Blah and I learned some new stuff about Judy Garland!

Credit: Andrew Piccone

1) What's your deal with tragic lady celebrities? First Nancy Kerrigan and then Judy Garland?

I’m not really sure!  Nancy Kerrigan was a personal thing; if you’re my age and you grew up in the US, it was a very intense media event when she was attacked and then won silver.  The song was a reflection on how a huge news blitz like that becomes warped by your memory until it becomes something very personal, very tender, mixed in with all your crushes and family vacations.

I wrote Judy because I learned about her connection with the stonewall riots and her status as a gay icon in the 50’s and early 60’s, when I only knew her from Wizard of Oz and Meet me in St Louis.  Something about it was very moving!  She’s also one of my favorite all time singers.  I was thinking a lot about Fred Astaire, Hollywood, Judy in the 40s-60s, what they meant to the country as a whole; Also who knows what was really going through my head?  I try not to think too much about what I’m writing about, if it feels right then it goes on the record.  If I overthink it I end up throwing it out.  

In answer to your question,  I think the country in general has an obsession with tragic lady celebrities, including my mom, so my songs about them are more because the environment I was brought up in had them splayed across every magazine cover, poster, etc. than any ingrained quality of my own.  It just felt right to sing about them.

2) Your music is extremely layered in its approach. How do you construct the music in your compositions? How do you two generally approach your songwriting?

The songs come about in lots of different ways.  Sometimes they come to me fully-formed, other times I’m forced to squeeze them out like juice from a lemon.  I write most of the songs, and all the melodies, lyrics and so forth with Tom arranging them, and sort of molding them and helping grow them into frog songs.  Sometimes the songs are written in 30 seconds with me just playing some chords and singing some melodies with Tom in the practice space, sometimes it takes many, many months/years.  
Kind of Blah went through a lot of revisions, but what it became was an dark, minimalist record that we tried to keep as bare as possible in arrangement, instrumentation, and theme.  Lots of songs were written before we decided to do that, and most thrown out, but some were reworked to make sense in the album.   My favorite song on the record is the final, secret track, and it was actually the catalyst for me to make the record so dark because it came out so good.
I think that part of having a long career in songwriting and record crafting is keeping your process fluid and not falling into any pattern or routine with it.  If you keep making songs in the same way, you’re gonna come out with the same songs again.  You should pick a different route to work every day,  you should run in a different place every time,  you should keep finding ways to be surprised by yourself and your environment, otherwise you’ll lose the ability to look at anything in a new way.  All great artists constantly strive to innovate, not just to be further ahead of other artists, but to be further ahead of their old work.  It’s gotta be fun, otherwise why not get a job in a Manhattan tech company 40 hours a week.  (full disclosure: Me and Tom both work at the same Manhattan tech company 40+ hours a week)

3) I was genuinely struck by how "New York" this album is. Was this conscious on your part?

I think this was probably the first time I’ve been able to write good songs about NYC, because I’ve been here so long that my impressions of it have settled in my mind and subconscious enough for me to be able to draw on these kind of images.  To me, New York records always have a dark edge to them, sort of like the noir feel that many films about the city have.  Its very easy to paint your characters in between the girders and post apocalyptic elevated trains because with a little imagination, things that are infuriating and depressing about living here become evocative backdrops for story lines and characters to develop.  

Mostly, I think the period of my life where I was most melancholy was when I was single and living in Astoria and working in midtown, and for some reason most of this records’ songs draw on this part of my life.  There is a special kind of loneliness that I’ve only really experienced here and that seems very particular to the city, and all the songs are firmly rooted in this feeling.  Just like Sinatra, in the wee small hours, schmaltzy type stuff.  To be honest, the record is mostly about my life struggling to make music here, and trying to find meaning in a life where you have no money, no success, and no time to work on what you want to do.  This goes out to Manhattan, the island of Staten, Brooklyn and Queens they livin’ fat and the boogie down, enough props enough clout, ill will r.i.p. yo I'm out.
frog -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, September 14, 2015

FREE MUSIC: Various Artists -- We're All Criminals Here

Recorded music makes standards a funny thing. Songs themselves don't really need to stand the test of time anymore -- until we reach that point of technological no return like Zion in The Matrix, it's safe to assume that we can listen to any song we could ever want to hear forever and always. But folk music is the antithesis to that: these are songs that resonate so deeply that they've been sung across space and time. Even if their names are lost to us (or perhaps having a name attached to a song like that was simply not something that occurred to the songwriter), having a song "go viral" was probably a songwriter's goal back in the day. The point was to take a song that everyone knew and add your own spin to it.

Now, writers don't necessarily write a song that's meant to be played by others. The whole point is to express that writer's individuality. So where does that leave the last 100 years of popular music? Will covers ever morph into standards?

We're All Criminals Here seeks to bridge that gap. Without Uncle Tupelo there'd be no Adobe & Teardrops. Cornelius Chapel Records of Alabama has retooled its lineup and to celebrate they've brought four of alt-country's best bands (and four of this writer's favorite bands) together: Two Cow Garage; Empty Orchestra; Have Gun, Will Travel; and Drag the River. Each band puts their unique spin on these songs, but Farrahr and Tweedy didn't necessarily want these songs to belong to anyone else. There's a tell-tale chord progression that always marks these songs as purely Uncle Tupelo. While they clearly have their own life beyond their creators, they bear a special stamp from some of the founders of some of the most powerful music this side of the Reagan administration.

Download the album for free here!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Legendary Shack Shakers -- The Southern Surreal

A few weeks ago, I shared my Legendary Shack Shakers workout routine with you. I won't walk you through the recipe I used while listening to the album*, but The Southern Surreal isn't exactly a dance party. If Cockadoodledon't brings to mind what the meanest backwoods roadhouse was like in the 50s, then Southern Surreal is a rural beatnik coffeehouse that spikes everything with moonshine.

The Southern Surreal continues in the direction that my favorite song on Cockadoodledon't began on: a bent towards Southern Gothic that manages to be earthy enough to avoid novelty. Songs like "Let the Dead (Bury the Dead)" meshes perfectly with the crooner "The One That Got Away" and the politically charged "MisAmerica." This is an album that needs to be experienced with a good old sit-and-listen, though I suspect you'd have a hard time sitting still during a live performance.

I don't know much about the Shack Shakers but I know the two albums I've heard sit at different ends of their career. In terms of energy and self-assurance, you'd never know they were made almost 12 years apart. As should be expected, the songs are tighter and leaner -- there's no resting on their laurels for these guys. 

The Legendary Shack Shakers -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

*Why yes, ladies, I do go to the gym regularly and make up my own recipes. And I have great taste in music and I'm single.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Bellfuries -- Workingman's Bell Furies

When JD McPherson gives you a nod, you're definitely doing something right. The Bellfuries are taking those Austin cool kids to task with their slick rock-a-billy. Ignore Pitchfork -- the Bellfuries are the coolest cats in that town. Like their label-mate McPherson, the Bellfuries are by no means slavishly dedicated to an image, nor are they anachronistic. These songs transcend the decade they sound they should come from. Lead singer Joey Simeone brings a contemporary delivery to these tunes; he'd be right at home in an indie-folk band, to be sure, but this is clearly the music he and his bandmates are supposed to be making.

The kickoff song, "Loving Arms," is a fitting example of the Bellfuries' ease with the art form. Full of winking references to World War II terms, Simeone's initial blasts feel more like a neo-soul singer before launching into his tale of love and detente. Though Simeone may insist that they're just a rock'n'roll band, the Bellfuries are full of a sense of fun and sincerity that has long left the genre.

You can stream the album here on Soundcloud and if you live on the Northeast, you can see the Bellfuries in a juke joint near you:

Sept 22   DC9, Washington, DC
Sept 23   Milk Boy, Philadelphia, PA
Sept 24   Mercury Lounge, New York, NY
Sept 25   New England Shake Up! Sturbridge, MA
Sept 26   Union Hall, Brooklyn, NY
Sept 27   Ale House, Troy, NY
Sept 28   Pittsburgh Winery, Pittsburgh, PA
Sept 30   The Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH
Oct 01    Magic Bag, Detroit, MI
Oct 02    Schuba's, Chicago, IL
Oct 03    Knuckleheads, Kansas City, MO

The Bellfuries -- Official (purchase link on website), Facebook

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Joe Kaplow -- EP

Joe Kaplow's debut EP is a propulsive force. It's not loud. It's not raucous. It's not rowdy. But Kaplow's raspy bluesman vocals and delicate lyrics produce an effect that lies somewhere between punk and folk.

Though Kaplow's been making music for years, this is the first time he's recorded many of these songs. That forceful feelings comes from the potential energy released as these songs get to be transmitted to more than a bar room of people for he first time. The starter track, "Bookshop Blues," establishes Kaplow's blues cred, but it's the quieter songs like "How Old is My Soul?" and "Give My Eyes" that work best, balancing Kaplow's reformed-punk delivery and his tenderness on a precarious edge. With this EP Kaplow's only given us a hint of the wealth of music he's sitting on, but here's hoping we get to hear more.

Joe Kaplow -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, Store

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Butchers Blind -- A Place in America

I first wrote about Butchers Blind two years ago but I only just managed to see them play live, where they completely crushed it. Lead singer Pete Mancini tends to be softspoken on his recordings, but there's a real power to these songs if you get to see them live. A Place in America, which will be released on October 23rd, is a continuing testament to the band's mastery of bar band country ennui.

It's important to note that Butchers Blind is a country band from Long Island. This matters. First of all, I think us Northeasterns are just morose in a different way than the Southerners or Midwesterners who tend to live in my headphones. We're more densely packed and the divide between the wealthy and the normals are simply starker. Especially in Long Island. The songs on A Place in America confront this disparity with careful imagery -- decaying suburbs and aging boomers. Then there's "Ghosts," a classic take on lost teenage love that suggests disappointment that a nice childhood in the suburbs didn't produce the life that was promised to them.

The common saying goes that folk music is sad because the folk are sad. But this is a sadness that's closer to my native language. A Place in America may be sixsongs, but it packs a huge punch.

If you're in the area, Butchers Blind will be playing a release show on 10/24 (a Sunday) at the HiFi Bar in the jewel of America (New York City, that is).


Butchers Blind -- Official, Facebook, Amazon, Spotify, CDBaby, iTunes

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ona AND Them Vibes

Here are a couple of sweet odds and ends...

As the school year looms on the horizon, I, too, am beginning to thin about the other side of June -- 2016, that is. I kid, but Ona's "Cassingle" already makes me feel nostalgia for washed-out summers and idle porch hangouts, even in the midst of a heatwave and with a week left until students arrive in NYC.

Ona will release the full album soon, but you can buy these two songs on Bandcamp for $3 (a steal!) or if you're one of Those People, on cassette for $4.

Ona -- Facebook, Bandcamp

If you're looking for something a bit more aggressive, Mama's got a secret and Them Vibes want to tell you all about it. If you dig it, there's more where that came from when they release their EP, TV, which drops tomorrow. Personally, I can't get enough of the swagger on this song, and machismo posturing is generally not something I enjoy. These guys definitely have "it" for sure.

Them Vibes -- Official, Facebook, iTunes

Friday, September 4, 2015

Liam Corcoran -- ROM-DROM

In spite of the title, Liam Corcoran's solo EP is anything but cold. In fact, Corcoran gives us a heavily pop-tinged EP that is laced with casual lyrical brilliance. "July-eh, July-oh" sets the tone with a sunny song expressing the wistful yearning of a long-distance relationship. As the EP continues, Corcoran explores the different ways we can be lonely, even if we're actually in a relationship.

The high point of the album is the artful "Let It Be Now," a pure, 500% piece of power pop joy. But pay attention to the lyrics, kids. Corcoran makes the combination of a catchy song and lyrics that could be poetry seem effortless. ROM-DROM doesn't necessarily break new ground, but Corcoran sure knows how to dig an effective (and deeply affecting) hole.

Liam Corcoran -- Facebook, Stream on Spotify, Stream on CBC FirstPlay, Read liner notes here, Purchase on iTunes (link not available as of this writing)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

J Kutchma and the Five Fifths -- Blue Highways

J Kutchma doesn't make albums. He makes installation pieces -- multi-media experiments. Blue Highways explores new space in so many ways. As a middle finger to our Spotify playlist culture, Kutchma made Blue Highways a single, 39:39 track. (This isn't a coincidence -- the last song cuts out abruptly.) If you want to support an artist, pay for the whole album, dammit. And if you're an artist, make an album, dammit -- not a few good songs and a bunch of filler. Kutchma makes it worth your while -- each of the nine tracks hit it out of the park.

As the name (borrowed from an excellent road trip memoir written by William Least Heat Moon) this album is about the liminal space of a journey: you have time to think and reflect, even though you're constantly on the move. It's fitting, then, that the album picks us up at the dawn of an auspicious day -- graduation -- and drops us off at night and, possibly, the end of the narrator's life. The album itself was recorded between sunset and sunrise. The first track embodies these feelings: you can hear the sunrise. Kutchma wanted his band as little-rehearsed as possible. It shows how much trust they put in him -- you'd never be able to tell that they had never played together.

If you like song titles and lyrics, it's worth kicking in the extra $13 for the book and accompanying movie. You don't need either of these things to appreciate the sadness, confusion, boldness, and courage in Kutchma's voice. But it helps you appreciate how difficult the life of a touring musician is and the exhilaration that comes with it. The movie is comprised of an intriguing array of found footage from the '70s. It's an interesting portal to the past, when people were actually private and visibly uncomfortable around some weirdo tourist running around with an 8 mm. (I'll never understand people who record their vacations on their phones and GoPros. Are you ever going to watch it again?)

While some of the clips clearly illustrate the songs, others are more subtle. My favorite was the juxtaposition of "Durham Bull" -- which has lines like "What am I becoming?/ Who the hell am I again? ... "I'm not yet what I'm meant to be"For me it helped to have the book open -- with some kind of anniversary parade in Detroit. While the song by itself could be interpreted as a personal struggle, the video slyly hints at a more political meaning.

Blue Highways would be required listening on its own. Drummer Evan Rowe describes it as "where Elvis might have headed if he'd just kept on with the gospel stuff" and he's on the nose. But Kutchma's experimentation has resulted in something even bigger and more rewarding than the album itself.

J Kutchma -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"Backwash" -- Dan and the Wildfire

Beach Day for me and James of the Paisely Fields = a short post for you. I caught this single a while back from Boston's Dan and the Wildfire. Look out for their album Bull Moose, which was released in March. Dan and the Wildfire have go down smooth with just a hint of edge -- just like I like my own backwash bourbon.

Dan and the Wildfire -- Official, Facebook, iTunes

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Stephen Chopek -- Things Moving On Their Own Together

Stephen Chopek's debut album has an impressive story behind it. Chopek is a trained jazz drummer who has toured with a wide variety of acts, including John Mayer, Jesse Malin, Marc Broussard, the Alternate Routes, and the Pimps of Joytime. About six years ago he decided to learn how to play guitar...by busking in the subway for 7 hours a day. If that's not enough risk-taking for you, Chopek wrote the songs on these recordings as he played them.

This technique gives the songs a loose quality, but sometimes that translates into a rough quality. For example, on "Slower You Go," Chopek rhymes "years" with "peers" on the one hand (I'm not a fan of rhyming for rhyming's sake, but that's just me.) On the other hand, seconds later, he busts out with

Every season has a right to life
In spite of suffering
Turmoil and strife
Devil put god in exile
And hungry, poor huddled masses out of style

The ultimate effect is a Dylan-esque stream-of-consciousness style and -- let's be honest -- Bob didn't always hit it out of the park. While Chopek's exuberance is a big part of the album, he's at his best when his pace is more measured, as on "Only Here," or when the urgency best fits the song, like on "Staying." Nevertheless, Chopeks' zest for experimentation will take him far.

Stephen Chopek -- Facebook, Twitter