Thursday, May 31, 2007

Christmas in June: New Releases in June

John Doe - A Year in the Wilderness
June 12th
This album has John Doe Rocking out with a little help from his friends.

The Cherryholmes - Black and White
This multi-generational Bluegrass band follows up their last album which made them the festival circuit phenomenon.

The White Stripes - Icky Thump
June 19th
See my previous post and video link

Rocky Votolato - The Brag & Cuss
June 19th
See Review and MP3 link below

Kelly Willis - Translated from Love
June 26th
Willis expands her musical palette as she teams up with Chuck Prophet who produces the album.

Ryan Adams
Easy Tiger
June 26th
Free MP3s from the Album on Spinner

King Wilkie - Low Country Suite
Charlottesville, Va. natives veer from the more traditional music styles while still keeping it real.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Rocky Votolato - "The Brag & Cuss"

Rocky Votolato has come full circle. Prior to going solo he was in a post-punk/emo band called Waxwing. On his new album Brag & Cuss, set to be released on June 19th by Barsuk, the influences of his Texas childhood are more apparent. Votolato was born in and spent his early childhood in rural Texas. His father was a member of a motorcycle gang called the Scorpions, who at the time were rivals of Hell’s Angels. The songs on Brag and Cuss involve characters that could just as easily appear in the songs of fellow Texans like Guy Clark, Joe Ely or Robert Earl Keen. Lyrically the songs could also easily fit in a Texas roadhouse. Musically though instead of roadhouse rockers the songs on Brag and Cuss are well crafted low to mid-tempo songs that mix his Texas influences with a mature singer-songwriter style.

The connection Votolato feels to his own personal history show lyrically as in “Red Dragon Wishes” where the protagonist laments “There’s some demon way down South some kind of confederate ghost. It holds me close and shows me where to go until I’m sure I’m lost…but some mistakes can’t be undone it’ll never be like it was and wishing for it only makes it worse.” Votolato hooked up with a group of talented friends on this album. Brag and Cuss features James McAlister (Sufjan Stevens) on drums, Bill Herzog (Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter) on bass, Case Foubert (Pedro the Lion) on Electric Guitar and Rick Steff (Hank Williams Jr.) on Hammond B3 and keyboards. The result is a collection of songs that together make a unified body of work.

I originally published this review on:

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Best of 2007

This is My updated Best of 2007. I expanded the list to 25 this time and will keep on expanding it to the end of the year. There is a lot of good music being created these days and my tastes are just too eclectic, so there is no way to predict how long the list will be by year end. Note that Patty Griffin was knocked out of the number one spot by Wilco. That was a tough call. Forgive me St. Patty. The artists with the highest debuts other than Wilco were Willy Mason at #5, Dale Watson at #8 and Feist at #9. Enjoy the list and fill free to tell me how you agree or disagree. Also, make no hesitation to trash me or my intelligence in any way you see fit. I'm used to it.

1) Wilco - "Sky Blue Sky"

2) Patty Griffin - "Children Running Through"

3) Assembly of Dust - "Recollection"

4) Willy Mason - "If the Ocean Gets Rough"

5) The Broken West - "I Can't Go on I'll Go on"

6) The Shins - "Wincing the Night Away"

7) Son Volt - "The Search"

8) Dale Watson - "From the Cradle to the Grave"

9) Feist - "The Reminder"

10) Charlie Louvin - "Charlie Louvin"

11) Modest Mouse - "We Were Dead Before the Ship Ever Sank"

12) Infamous Stringdusters - "Fork in the Road"

13) Nathan - "Key Principles"

14) Adam Hood - "Different Groove"

15) Elizabeth Cook - "Balls"

16) The Greencards - "Viridian"

17) Pela - "Anytown Graffiti"

18) Joe Ely - "Happy Song from Rattlesnake Gulch"

19) Cadillac Sky - "Blind Man Walking"

20) Martin Sexton - "Seeds"

21) Two Cow Garage - "Three"

22) Bill Kirchen - "Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods"

23) Norah Jones - "Not Too Late"

24) The Dexateens - "Hardwire Healing"

25) Tommy Womack - "There I said it"

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Willy Mason's Rough Seas

For those of you reading this post in Birmingham make a note to "self" not to miss Willy Mason at City Stages on June 15th. He is playing atr City Stages unplugged Friday afternoon and opening for Bruce Cockburn at 8pm. I personally find it ironic he is opening for Cockburn since my first impression of If the Ocean Gets Rough was reminiscent of a young Cockburn. He has a deep compelling voice and writes lyrics that connect to your soul. Check out the video link to "We can be Strong" in which a man checking himself out of a mental institution declares "in the end they couldn't sell me grace." This is certainly a realization many people in our culture have discovered as they have tried many ways to acquire grace and failed. Indeed many of the characters on this album seem to be navigating rough waters.

Mason is a Martha's Vineyard resident. While he is a great young songwriter, he is more than just a folky troubador with a six string. He is influenced by a variety of traditional Americana music styles and crafts catchy melodies that make his songs grab hold. At 22 years old I have a feeling we will be hearing his melodies for a long time to come.

Nathan - "Key Principles"

“I feel a podium under my feet” says Keri Latimer on “Scarecrow” from the new album Key Principles by the Winnipeg based Americana quartet Nathan. With a voice as enthralling and Charming as hers, she can stand on the podium and say whatever she has to say. The album starts with “John Paul’s Deliveries” about teenagers sneaking out at night. Another song, “Let Them Look” focuses on a woman ready to let go of the pain she has been hiding in spite of the neighbors’ stares. Indeed, the hidden lives of people is a recurring theme on Key Principles. Although many songs on the album have a dark side, the serene vocals of Latimer and backup vocalist and musician Shelley Marshall provide a sense of comfort. They also have a lighthearted side. For instance, “You Win” in which the mind games that too often cause lovers to battle are referred to as “a festival of lousy aim.”

The album was produced by Howard Redekopp (New Pornographers), who did a great job of mixing country instrumentation and tunes with pop style vocals. He got the mix just right making both a memorable country album and an infectious pop album. Amazingly enough, Keri Latimer was seven months pregnant during the recording of this album, according their Label’s (Nettwerk) website. That in itself is worthy of recognition. It is fitting that Latimer and Marshall both enjoy quilt making and hang their work as backdrops in their live shows. Just like a grandmother’s quilt can pass through generations of family, Nathan has given us something that is also timeless and appealing to anyone who listens to the tapestry of music woven into Key Principles. This post also was contributed to Twangville

Friday, May 18, 2007

Blogging on the Radio

Although I am an XM subscriber, I reccommend you Sirius f0lks check out this blogger (My Old Kentucky Blog) on "Left of Center." on Thursday nights. For those of you who don't have Sirius, you can listen to the songs played on his website. My Old Kentucky Blog is one of my "Favorite Llinks"

You can also listen to past shows such as the Broken West featured previously here on AWT.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Adam Hood Tour Guide of the South

Opelila, AL native Adam Hood's new album "Different Groove" has been released on Little Dog Records. The album was produced by Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam, K.D. Lang, Roy Orbison, Buck Owens, Michelle Shocked). Since he reportedly tours almost 300 days a year, you would think that Hood would be little road weary by now. Just listen to his complaints about the monotony of the interstate highway system on "Cars and Trucks and Me," and you know he has logged his share of miles.

Road weariness is not evident on "Different Groove." To the contrary, the album takes the listener on a Southern road trip of its own. Beginning with a roadhouse rocker that sounds straight out of the heart of Texas, "22 Days Too Long." The album also stops in Louisiana with the song "Varnado." "Fool of an Honest Man" sounds as if it could have been recorded in Muscle Shoals. It goes without saying that this musical tour also stops in Nashville, with several of the songs having a country flair. It is important to note that this is no limousine tour with champagne. It is a bus tour with a case of beer. What makes the "Different Groove" tour so memorable is the fact that the tour guide is a Helluva Songwriter. (P.S. A note to Birmingham fans, Hood will be playing City Stages in June.)

Here is video made by a musical kindred spirit of Adam's Justin Johnson. It is set to a previously released song:

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pela Releases First Full Length Album

Encroaching on the territory already occupied this year by The Shins and Modest Mouse is the debut full length release by Brooklyn based band Pela, Anytown Graffiti. However, they are not making the territory crowded. In fact, they are definitely expanding the neighborhood, and it seems they have moved in to stay.

It is certainly nice to see an Indie Rock band that doesn’t feel the need for constant shoe gazing melancholy when shining a light on the human condition. The anthems on Anytown Graffiti rock with a dramatic flare comparable to the Decemberists (although Pela is less literary). Fronted by the earnest vocals of Billy McCarthy, the sound of Pela catches on and won’t let go. Paste Magazine compares their dramatics and style to U2, which is an unfair burden to put on them and not unlike comparing a young quarterback to John Elway. I don’t want to over-hype this band, especially since the future of any band is always hard to predict. However, these young guys are doing it the right way.

Listen to songs like “Lost to the Lonesome,” “Drop Me Off” and “Your Desert's Not a Desert at All” to make up your own mind.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

More Honky less Tonky

Dale Watson has just released his new album “From the Cradle to the Grave.” In a related story, the world is coming to an end. That is no misprint. I know this because CMT is playing the video “Justice for All.” What next? Will country radio stations start playing country music? Probably not before the world ends but I can still hope. In fairness, CMT has often mixed in some good with the standard soccer mom fluff played on country radio. “Justice for All” is a great song that reflects on the dichotomy between justice and victims who long for revenge. The justice theme comes up again on the slow lament of a death row inmate, “Big Yellow Mama.” The title to this song refers to the nickname of the electric chair in my home state of Alabama.

The rest of the album explores the variety of country music influences that Watson has acquired over his illustrious career. In fact, there is more diversity on this album than any Album in his career and that is saying a mouthful. There may not be a better voice in country music right now. His voice really shines on songs like “You always get what you always got.” This album is certainly one to own. There is not a throw away song on the entire album. Dale Watson has expanded his repertoire a lot since his early trucker themed honky tonk songs and become one of the best country crooners around.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Hold Steady on the Cover of Paste Magazine

It is about time this band got the recognition it deserves. My first listen to "Boys and Girls in America" I was blown away. This Brooklyn quintet has created pure rock and roll at its finest. "Paste" focused on them in their summer festival preview because they are playing at Bonnaroo and several other festivals this Summer. If you get a chance to see them, don't miss it they are gaining a reputation as a great live band. Check out this YouTube link to their Letterman appearance.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"Feisty" New Release

Canadian songstress Leslie Feist, who simply goes by Feist, has released an excellent new album, “The Reminder”. Her background is varied and she is probably best known for recordings with Broken Social Scene. She started out as a punk singer and has worked with hip-hop musicians as well. However, “The Reminder” focuses on her songwriting skills. It has an airy Jazz/Pop feel. It is very mellow without being Melancholy. One of the highlights of the album is a cover of Nina Simone’s “See Line Woman.” It has ballads like “So Sorry” and more Jazzy tunes like "1234." The real strength of the album is its balance, mixing the use of electronics with acoustic instrumentation, including the banjo.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

If you haven't heard The Dexateens you should. They are the best thing to come out of Tuscaloosa, AL since Will and the Bushmen. OK they aren't better than Shaun Alexander but Football is king on the Capstone so that isn't a fair comparison. The album "Hardwire Healing" was produced by Drive-By-Truckers frontman Patterson Hood. The vibe is similar to the Truckers but they are not imitators by any means.

Top New Releases of 2007... So Far

This is shaping up early to be a good year in music. So I decided to highlight my favorites. It was hard enough to make my selections. Ranking them is even harder. However, I did it just for fun and to create controversy. So Here goes...

1) Patty Griffin - "Children Running Through"

2) Assembly of Dust - "Recollection"

3) The Broken West - "I Can't Go on I'll Go on"

4) The Shins - "Wincing the Night Away"

5) Son Volt - "The Search"

6) Charlie Louvin - "Charlie Louvin"

7) Modest Mouse - "We Were Dead Before the Ship Ever Sank"

8) The Greencards - "Viridian"

9) Joe Ely - "Happy Song from Rattlesnake Gulch"

10) Bill Kirchen - "Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods"

11) Norah Jones - "Not Too Late"

12) Martin Sexton - "Seeds"

13) Don Rigsby - "Hillbilly Heartache"

14) Two Cow Garage - "Three"

15) The Dexateens - "Hardwire Healing"

Notably Left off was Lucinda Williams new album. Admittedly, a dispassionate review would easily put this album in the top 10. Some of the songs on "West" are classics. However, lyrically some of the songs on this album are so depressing and dark that I would need Xanax just to listen to them more than a few times. So I just can't put it on "My" list. (Maybe a few sessions with a therapist will allow me to put it on my year end list.)

Another great album I hated to leave off was Tommy Womack's "There I said it." Oh well, I had to end the list somewhere and 15 seemed like a good number.

Assembly of Dust

My surprise CD of the year so far is Assembly of Dust “Recollection.” This is their first studio release but they are not newbies. Lead singer Reid Genauer is the former front man for Strangefolk. Additionally, keyboardist Nate Wilson is about to graduate from the New England Conservatory of Music. They have apparently been popular on the live circuit for a couple of years and will be hitting the festival circuit hard this summer with appearances at the Newport Folk Festival, All Good and Mountain Jam among others.

AOD are accomplished musicians and great song writing craftsmen. They are getting a lot of reaction beyond their core jam band fan base. Emusic did a special advance promotion of “reconciliation” and Paste Magazine (see my links) put them on their March sampler. Check out the review on Jam Base

The Broken West

This has been a real favorite of mine this year. I first read about this great indie pop band on Miles of Music. (see my links) This album is full of great hooks that sound both vintage and current. These songs could have been cut any time from about 1965 until this year and still be relevent. Plus you can dance to it, though I will refrain. Why? Ask anyone who has seen me dance. It is not a pretty sight.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Scott Register on the Decemberists

Check out Reg's discussion of the Decemberists. I love that band. However, Reg also talks about the music he plays and loves. I would like echo what he says about how music can cut a cross section out of society.