Monday, September 27, 2010
Do Wrong Right opens with the puckish title track and "All Hail" to set the backwoods dive-bar tone and brackish theme. "All Hail" is a dark and worldly commentary made into a jolly little ragtime ditty: "Laugh if you want to, really it is kind of funny/The world is a car/And you're the crash test dummy." The title track is basically an up-tempo public disservice announcement ("You wanna make a little mess, you wanna make a little crime/If you're going to do wrong, buddy, do wrong right.") with a plucking banjo and strumming guitar to drive the rhythm. Despite the fact that they don't have a drummer, they created an interesting cover of the Allman Brothers song, "Statesboro Blues," using a banjo and harmonica. The humorous country tinged drinkin' song, "Gracefully Facedown," is terrifically tawdry. And, the avaricious tune, "Help Yourself," is another banjo-centric song that benefits from an electric guitar. Finally, the timeworn "Workin' Man Blues" has the dusty sound of Depression-era radio.
The Devil Makes Three have perfected their simple style and honest playing on Do Wrong Right. It is a refreshingly hedonistic break from the stereotypical songs about love, life and religion usually found in the country/folk genre. The Devil Makes Three's concoction of whiskey soaked lyrics, foot-stompin' music, great harmonies and scrappy vocals have a sordid appeal that keeps Do Wrong Right a guilty pleasure that isn't so guilty.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
North Hills is wonderfully vintage so it seems almost unreal that this album was released last year. It's a record that oozes a cool and relaxed Cali vibe with eleven strong roots rock offerings. The simplistic beauty of North Hills is demonstrated in the musical composition of each song - the near flawless harmonies, the great melodies, and the authentic instrumentation. But, what make these tracks compelling and enduring are the lyrics that provide narratives and the lead singer, Taylor Goldsmith's competent vocals.
North Hills opens with the gospel influenced, "That Western Skyline", which features cool drumming and a soft organ. The song tells the story of a man who fell in love with a preacher's daughter but the love did not last. Goldsmith's wistful vocals propel the song to a more heavenly plane. The next song, "Love is All I Am", is a candid confession of not completely understanding love and its deceptive and confusing nature. The country rocker, "When You Call My Name", Goldsmith's annoyed lyrics narrate a struggle with feelings for a lover who expects too much from him. The next track, "Give Me Time", features awesome four-part harmonies and an emotional acoustic guitar solo. Oddly, the mid-tempo "When My Time Comes" reminds me of Mumford and Sons with their harmonies and spiritual subject matter. Finally, North Hills finishes strongly with my personal favorite, "Peace in the Valley". Its composed beginning slowly builds into a fervent instrumental with noodling guitars and a dramatic yet soft organ.
North Hills is the start of something rare and wonderful. All of the songs on it are intimate and heartfelt with a natural ease and flow that will make this album stand the tests of time.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Cloak and Cipher falls into the category of bombastic Canadian indie pop with sonically lush songs and sweeping strings, twisting guitar riffs, and orchestral horns. But, not only is Powell experimenting with these new instrumental elements, she has also called upon the help of fellow indie pop bands such as Stars, Arcade Fire, Thee Sliver Mt. Zion and Wintersleep. The songs on Cloak and Cipher are long and unwinding but none of this seems to matter because of their rising choruses, and the instrumental and mechanical textures overlaying with Powell's soft and sweet voice keep the tracks interesting.
The song, "Goaltime Exposure" escalates with soft verses then unleashes on the chorus with powerful yet soft vocals and dramatic guitar, strings and horns. On the track, "Quarry Hymns," the restraint of the rhythm section compliments Powell's gentle vocals and keeps the song light despite its sad story. "Swift Coin" is rich with buzzing guitar riffs and solos that contrast but never overpowers the lead vocals. And, "Color Me Badd," (yes, the same title as the regrettable 90's pop group) is another dramatic track with soft verses building to a powerful chorus with languishing vocals and sweeping instrumentals. The next song, "The Hate I Won't Commit," has a mechanical, techno character with bass riffs and guitar solos that make the song interesting without losing a pop appeal. Lastly, in "Hamburg ,Noon" Powell's sweet and longing vocals contrast nicely with the electric arrangement.
On Cloak and Cipher, Land of Talk has shown their potential. It is a grandiose sound that borders on indulgent, yet the group shows enough restraint to maintain a tasteful and compelling album.
Land of Talk - Cloak and Cipher by METRO Magazine
Parsons was a former member of The International Submarine Band, The Bryds and The Flying Burrito Brothers as well as one of the founding fathers of alt-country. After being fired from The Flying Burrito Brothers he signed with A&M Records, but cancelled his solo debut in 1971 and moved to Paris with Keith Richards. When he returned to the States, he met Emmylou Harris and recorded his first solo album, GP, which was released in 1973. The album received great reviews but never made it onto the charts. In 1974, Grievous Angel was released and and only reached #195 on Billboard. It wasn't until after his death when he gained the recognition that he deserved. In 2003, the Americana Music Awards honored him with the "President's Award" and Rolling Stone listed Parsons as one of the 100 Most Influential Artists of All Time.
Sadly, the circumstances of Parsons' death and the controversy surrounding his death have made him infamous. Before his death, Parsons told his friend, Phil Kaufman, that when he died he wanted his friends to have a drink and cremate his body at the Joshua Tree National Monument. However, his stepfather wanted the body shipped to Louisiana to strengthen his chances to receive Parsons' estate. Knowing that Parsons was not close with his stepfather and that this was not his wish, Kaufman and a few others stole his body from LAX, took it to Joshua Tree and burnt it.
Despite the mythic story of his death, Parsons should be remembered for his work in country music and the unique sound he called "Cosmic American Music" which combined blues, country and folk. Gram Parsons had a sincere and emotional voice that enhanced his songs about life, love, and the spiritual. His music varied with a honky-tonk quality, rock character, and a gospel feel, but, yet, it was one distinct style.
Today, Gram Parsons has yet to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. On September 19, 2009, a petition for his induction was presented to the Country Music Association and the Hall of Fame by the Gram Parsons Petition Project (G3P). However, his induction and nomination is hotly contested by those who feel that he has impacted rock music more than country, which obviously isn't true. He has greatly influenced many different genres and countless musicians from all over the world.
Read more on his outrageous death at "The Strange Death of Gram Parsons: 1973"
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Daniel Romano released his solo album, Workin' for the Music Man, on June 1 under a small upstart label he help found, You've Changed Records. This record is basically a scathing yet subtle "F*** you!" to the mainstream music community and the record label executives who suck the life and soul out of the art just for a buck. And, Romao's sentiments are warranted given that his band, Attack in Black, had to re-record their debut album, Marriage (2007, Dine Alone Records), to meet the record labels demands. Of course, an experience like that would leave any talented musician a little jaded, hence Workin' for the Music Man. On this album, Romano's style is completely different from Attack in Black's punk origins.
Workin' for the Music Man has an authentic country/folk style that sounds like it has yellowed with time. The title track, "Workin' for the Music Man," is about the misery of making music for the industry instead of the soul, but maintains a lightheartedness with a chuckle. Similarly, the music industry and the fans expect artists to write "hit" songs, but Romano sings that it's easier to write a sad song in "Losing Song." The melancholy duet in "Missing Wind" evokes Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. And, the forlorn and emotional vocals and arrangement on "She Was the World to Me" proves Romano's musicianship.
Romano really shines as an artist on Workin' for the Music Man. This album shows that a true musician doesn't have to compromise the artistry to be successful. All of the songs on the record aren't intended to cater to the industry nor the fans for that matter, but instead, to fulfill a void in Romano's heart. And, since the music business deadened his soul, Romano needed Workin' for the Music Man to revive and enrich it once again. But, not only did Romano need this record to feed his soul, the world needed it for the same reason.
Daniel Romano - A Losing Song by Pigeon-Row
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Earle, Jr. has only been singing and recording his solo work for three years and has already received awards and accolades from the industry. In 2008, he was nominated for an Americana Music Award for "Emerging Artist of the Year." Then the following year he won the AMA award for "Emerging Artsist of the Year" and received nominations for "Album of the Year" with Midnight at the Movies, and for "Artist of the Year."
Earle's third album, Harlem River Blues, was released on September 14 under Bloodshot Records. And the only way I can describe the record is, if Roy Oribson and Hank Williams had a baby and the babysitter was Bruce Springsteen and that baby made a record, that record would be Harlem River Blues. It is a record with narrative-based songs and a harmonious blend of Southern gospel, Memphis rock, country, and blues. The musical composition on Harlem River Blues features the upright bass, piano, guitar, horns, and steel guitar, which makes each instrument standout without standing alone. And, even though, the songs deal with sad subjects like suicide and loneliness, the tracks still have a warm, upbeat, and somewhat humorous character.
The irony isn't lost on the anti-baptismal, title track, "Harlem River Blues," which is about committing suicide in the dirty waters of the Harlem River. The Southern Gospel quality with an upbeat tempo and enthusiastic handclaps makes the song almost joyous and celebratory. The rockabilly tune, "Move Over Mama," tells of the difficulties when dating a touring musician. The featured upright bass and dancehall piano puts the "fun" in dysfunctional and the humor is hard to miss with a giddy giggle toward the end of the song. The same giddy giggle in "Christchurch Woman" breaks the tension of the loneliness and pain while waiting on a good Christian woman. And, the upbeat rhythm of a simple guitar, fiddle, and harmonica in "Wanderin'" is evocative of an old gospel tune one would hear at a tent revival.
The slower tempo tracks on Harlem River Blues take shape in various genres. "Workin' for the MTA" takes form in the country and folk customs where the railroad is king. The song tells the story of working for the subway system instead a of traditional railroad. It's a modern day folk song that would make Woody Gutherie proud. The slippery electric guitar and the sliding horns match the lowdown feeling of Earle's vocals in the bluesy "Slippin' and Slidin'". And, finally, the Springsteen-esque piano ballad, "Rogers Park," shows the Big Apple's influence on Earle.
Harlem River Blues is an engaging blend of rusticity and sophistication only a country boy living in the big city can provide. It is a balanced album where the upbeat songs aren't too happy and irreverent, nor are the slower tempo tracks too sad and tired.
"Harlem River Blues" - Justin Townes Earle by crawdaddy
03 Move Over Mama by Stayloose
04 Working For The MTA by Stayloose
07 Christchurch Woman by Stayloose
10 Rogers Park by Stayloose
Monday, September 13, 2010
Her Southern upbringing has greatly influenced her musical style on Ask the Night. The simple and primitive music showcased on the album is clearly indicative of the South and Appalachia. The instrumental components -- banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitars -- are rooted in the same traditions. The uncomplicated musical arrangements on the album clearly exhibit Fink's emotive, haunting, and vulnerable voice. Her vocals are at their best when she sings in her lower register, which is definitely apparent in the album's strongest track, "High Ground". It's brooding and foreboding lyrics of an oncoming storm is used to describe and tell a story of a man who has done her wrong. The song becomes more interesting in the middle when Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse adds his echoing, twangy vocals to the already sharp mandolin in the background.
The opening track, "Why Is the Night Sad?", perfectly sets the tone and theme for the entirety of Ask the Night. It is a melancholy lullaby that demonstrates Fink's vulnerability. The sparse musical composition of the song gives it a cold and lonely quality. "Sister" is a simple and pleasant waltz that doesn't add much to the album. One of the most haunting songs on Ask the Night is "That Certain-Something Spring". Its instrumentation gives the song a restless feel while Fink's voice lends a mournful longing to the reflective lyrics. The middle track, "Wind", follows in the old folk tradition of love, whiskey and travelling: "So we will hold our thumbs up to the wind/And see which way she blows/Here we go." Then Fink follows with homage to her home state in the swampy, Southern backwoods tune aptly named, "Alabama".
Ask the Night is an ideal mixture of the idyllic beauty of the South and the austere darkness of Appalachia. It is a great example of Southern Gothic, and Orenda Fink does a wonderful job infusing the old folk traditions with a dreamy and ethereal style.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
U2 hasn't made an album that I've truly loved since Achtung Baby, but yet, being the faithful and adamant fan that I am, I continue to buy and support their albums. Despite their sellout after Rattle and Hum, I have consoled myself with the fact that there will never be another Joshua Tree. Then again, they haven't steered away from their spiritual and political songwriting roots either. But, I digress...
Anyway, since Rattle Hum, they have been more active in movies, more prominently action/superhero genres. There is no denying that their Achtung Baby sound and music from All That You Can't Leave Behind and beyond are more conducive to this film subset. But, a Spider-Man stage production? I'm skeptical that a Broadway musical about a comic book superhero could even work. It seems a bit odd and cheesy to me. But, what do I know about musicals? I don't even like them.
Recently, Bono, The Edge, Reeve Carney (Peter Parker), and Julie Taymor (director and co-author of the book) have been promoting the musical. Upon hearing a performance of "Boy Falls from the Sky", I am reminded of U2. The song sounds like it could have been on All That You Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. U2's style is prominent with the chiming, sonic, reverbing guitar that The Edge is known for, however the vocals are a little lackluster. This being a musical and all, one would think that there would be a powerful vocal performance. Reeve Carney's voice is inadequate and falls short of Bono's larger-than-life-and-ego vocals.
Although the musical is one of the most anticipated, I for one am not excited. I just wish Bono, The Edge, and U2 would go back to what made them who they are: good songs with great music and powerful lyrics. Why must they lend themselves to such productions? The better question, why must be the ubber popular, and iconic Marvel comic be made into a Broadway musical? Who's next? Incredible Hulk?
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark opens on November 14 at the Foxwoods Theatre.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I know what you're thinking. You're probably thinking another Phil Collins with the super indulgent drum solos, but you're wrong. Instead, Carey gives an extremely mellow and gentle performance. Some of the songs sound like they were recorded for For Emma, Forever Ago with their subtle percussion and soft vocals. However, Carey's voice doesn't have the same power or range like Vernon's, but the music does have a similar wintry solitude and sparseness. And, despite some of these similarities, there are two major differences: All We Grow is more instrumental, and secondly, the album is more experimental, whereas For Emma, Forever Ago is more folksy.
Carey uses only a piano, guitar, and drums on All We Grow. By using these instrumental elements the composition of the music seems stark yet lush. Carey's musical arrangements make the songs interesting, but the least compelling is his voice which is almost a whisper. His lack of vocal range causes the songs to become more atmospheric and less meaningful. Also, at times, the piano seems mechanical giving the songs a cold and unemotional quality. Although some of the songs lack an emotional quality and blend into the background, the instrumental arrangements and the breathy texture of Carey's voice gives All We Grow beauty and integrity. And what little emotion that is felt on the album is that of melancholy.
As a whole, All We Grow is a good debut album for the drummer. It's instrumental elements, hushed vocals, and ambient quality makes this album great for a cold, rainy day.
S. Carey - all we grow by goethay
S. Carey - In The Dirt by CDXcloud
S. Carey - "In the Stream" (from All We Grow) by METRO Magazine
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The Weepies released their new album, Be My Thrill, August 31st on Nettwerk Records. It's a new sound for Steve Tannen and Deb Talan, who have been singing, playing and writing folk-pop songs and albums for nearly 10 years. Their last album, Hideaway, wasn't as chipper because most of it was written while the duo was trying to have a baby. They finally became parents between the time they made Hideaway and released it, so the songs on the album didn't quite fit their mood hence Be My Thrill.
The record opens with "Please Speak Well Of Me" which sounds as if it could have been on Say I Am You with its reflective lyrics and Talan's sweet voice. Then, the album takes an unexpected twist with sugary, sunny, and happy songs - tracks that sound as if they have been recorded for a children's album. The second track, "When You Go Away," is the first of several that mention sunshine: "When you go away it's like you hide the sun/... When you go away it's an unfinished song." The third song, "I Was Made For Sunny Days," is ridiculously cheerful and the first single released from the album. "I was made for sunny days/I made do with gray, but I didn't stay/I was made for sunny days/And I was made for you." Toward the end of the record is "Hope Tomorrow" which is extremely fun with its hooks and lyrics like "We hold hands while we work and play/And hope tomorrow is a sunny day."
However, Be My Thrill does provide some surprises. The bluesy rock track, "How Do You Get High?", has Tannen on the lead and Talan singing an electrifying background vocal. It's the only song with any grit on the record. "They're In Love, Where Am I?" is hopeful yet forlorn with a sad but sweet guitar and piano. The song might be the saddest track on the album. "Add My Effort" is a sullen soft-pop song with clumsy lyrics: "And I know how dark you get late in the night/...I'm gonna add my effort to you/Try and love you/...Oh don't take it away."
Be My Thrill is definitely not for everyone. It's definitely not an album I expected to hear from The Weepies, but then again, they didn't have a little boy when they wrote and recorded their previous albums. Be My Thrill is the kind of album that seeps into your mind, body and soul. It's one of those rare records that has the ability to make me sing along and dance like a "Peanuts" character. Needless to say, Be My Thrill just makes a person feel a little bit happier.
The Weepies - Please Speak Well of Me by nettwerkmusicgroup
The Weepies - When You Go Away by Nettwerk Albums
The Weepies - I Was Made For Sunny Days by nettwerkmusicgroup
The Weepies - They're In Love, Where Am I? by Nettwerk Albums
The Weepies - Add My Effort by Nettwerk Albums