It has been an exceptional week for disc listening this week; late nights of reading and thinking along with a few days of work-motivation challenges has allowed me to have the music machines spinning more than usual. What has marked the week has been I haven’t listened to anything that I didn’t end up enjoying, and a few- like Angel Band- really surprised me. Almost got to Carstairs for the Mountain View fest on Saturday afternoon, but didn’t make it; Fred was in province for the best part of a month and I didn’t catch him. Shame on me! Here’s what I listened to this past week- some real gems; I hope you’re inspired to seek out some of these sounds. Best, Donald
The Mountains & The Trees- I Made This For You An incredible new release out of Newfoundland. I’m not familiar with Jon Janes but I keep listening to this album. Pop and folk working together, lyrics that dig in under the skin to explore the usual subject matter but in ways that maintain interest. A powerful voice that isn’t over-extended. Lovely fiddle touches. Quite moody, but warm. A wonderful find.
The Grateful Dead- In the Dark I saw a used copy of this album for $14 the other day; not sure why it was so expensive. My iTunes version sufficed, giving me the fix I was craving.
Dala- Angels & Thieves Pulled out as a result of hearing them in Canmore last weekend. I enjoyed the live presentation a bit more than this collection of original and cover material, but this album is still impressive. The original material isn’t as strong as they would deliver on later albums, but their covers of songs from Donovan, Blur, Neil Young and The Cure are spot on in their creativity. Lovely blending of voices.
Jesse Malin- Glitter in the Gutter Picked up for the Springsteen track. A fine semi-modern rock album but I don’t think I’ll listen to it again any time soon.
Evie Ladin- Float Downstream Produced by Mike Marshall, from the Stairwell Sisters. An album that has been sitting, ignored, in the pile for awhile. Lots of harmony and banjo, neo-old tyme. I need to listen more, but it is quite appealing.
Brian Dunn- Examining the Fallout Created with Nathan Lawr, whom I’ve been hearing a lot about recently. Interesting noises. Again, a pleasant surprise but not sure if it is really my kind of thing.
Amos Garrett, Doug Sahm, and Gene Taylor Band- The Return of the Formerly Brothers A nice set of tunes, some of which are pretty familiar. More roots than blues, which is the way I most enjoy Amos Garrett. Doug Sahm does much of the singing and is in good voice. It is folk festival season and that is why this one came up for a listen.
The Duhks- Fast Paced World I stopped listening to The Duhks when Jessica Havey left, and for no good reason, apparently. I guess I figured the ‘new’ singer wouldn’t be as impressive. I started exploring them again this week and am finding much that is appealing. A fine album.
Darrell Scott- A Crooked Road Bought this from Amazon when it was released a few months ago but was saving it for a night when it seemed right. That finally came up on Friday. I’ll need to listen more; first impressions are positive.
Various Artists- Private Radio Soundtrack Borrowed from the library.
Woodbend- Hank’s Old Mandolin My father-in-law saw them at Blueberry and spoke quite positively about them so I thought I’d give it another listen. I’ll need to give it another go. They make some interesting cover choices- Corb Lund, for one.
Will White- Rise Above An excellent acoustiblue album from a Calgary songwriter. Great original material with southern roots.
Zachary Richard- Last Kiss Outstanding in every way although I could do without the contributions from She Whose Name Will Not Be Typed Within Fervor Coulee on “Acadian Driftwood;” that being said, the voice on the album doesn’t sound anything like her to my ears- without the liner notes, I would never have known who was singing with Richard and it sounds very good. Still, his version sans accompaniment at Canmore was even more intense. One can feel his pain when he sings, “Somebody call out a warning, Somebody come to my rescue” in “The Levee Broke.” This is more than just another Cajun album- this is folk songwriting at its highest level. A deep fellow- read his postings at www.zacharyrichard.com
Zachary Richard- Snake Bite Love I could listen to him all day, I do believe. More directly ‘Cajun’ in sound than Last Kiss, the songs still draw you in.
John Boutté- Jambalaya A nice album, not essential like Good Neighbor but covers much of the Boutté repertoire. Live at Jazz Fest 2007 A brilliant set featuring a version of “Louisiana 1927.”
The Drive-By Truckers- The Big To-Do Another one that has sat in the pile for too long; I bought this one back in May. The only two DBT albums (not including The Fine Print) that hit me hard on first listen were Southern Rock Opera and Brighter Than Creation’s Dark so I’ll need to spend more time with this one. If nothing else, they have great song titles.
Shearwater- Shearwater Acoustiblue from the left coast. Gentle. Nice background music, but still holds the attention.
Jerry Castle- Don’t Even Ask Country rock from Nashville. Review is up at Lonesome Standard Time.
Delhi 2 Dublin- Planet Electric Not my normal thing as it is both quite noisy and very young. But appealing, meant to be played loud. I love the blending of East Indian music with elements of electronica and Celtic sounds.
James Alan Shelton- Where I’m Bound One of my favourite bluegrass guitarists. I’m reviewing it for the Lonesome Road Review.
Tom Russell- Cowboy’d All to Hell The more time I spend with this one, the more I appreciate it. There is only one new song on the collection, but several new recordings of classic songs. He has such a command of language and can generate vivid portraits in just a line or two of astutely chosen words.
My home office is a mess, with piles of magazines going back a few years and discs that haven’t made it to the alphabetical stacks. This week I decided to start working my way through the piles that have been alphabetized but aren’t yet ready to be permanently filed- these are things I’ve acquired over the last year and a half but haven’t had a chance to give them my full attention, so they’ve been sitting in the Shelves of Purgatory. I started with the ‘A’ discs, and actually worked my way through them in three extended sessions.
The Action- Action Packed Mid-60s mod rock. Nothing essential and nothing The Small Faces didn’t do better, despite the Paul Weller endorsement. Still, “Something Has Hit Me” and “Shadows and Reflections” are cracking songs.
Africa- Music from ’Lil Brown Since I found this recording, I’ve listened to it four or five times. You can find more expansive discussions of this band and album on the ‘net- look around a bit. Quite magical, if only for the medley of “Louie, Louie” and “Ode to Billy Joe.” One of those albums I wish I had found years ago.
Akido- Akido A beautiful album with engaging percussion.
Dave Alvin- Blue Blvd. I found this CD for $3 so decided to replace my cassette copy. One of my favourite Alvin releases.
Kasey Anderson- Nowhere Nights and Dead Roses Reminds me of James McMurtry. I think one has to take the time to listen to his words in order to really appreciate what Anderson has to offer. “Out on this road all the miles feel the same,” he sings in “The Borderline.” There is desperation here, shades of talent all over the place, Crowell, Russell, etc but also lesser known folks like LeeRoy Stagger, Steve Pineo, and Dave McCann- sill original, still dynamic and personal. Good stuff.
Doug Andrews & The Circus in Flames- A Little Bit of Gasoline I downloaded this from eMusic a couple years back but found a used copy for a couple bucks several months ago. If you like The Sadies, this one might appeal, capped by the epic “When Christ was a Cowboy.”
Angel Band- With Roots & Wings I apologize to the three ladies that make up this vocal combo. I apologize to Appleseed Records. I apologize to Lloyd Maines who produced the album. They sent it, I think I listened to it. I did nothing with it because, quite obviously, I’m an idiot. The entire time it was playing this past week I kept shaking my head and exclaiming, “Dang, that’s good.” Sometimes it was after a particularly beautiful lead vocal segment, more often when an instrument came in with a fill to support the harmonies. Like a Tex-Mex Wailin’ Jennys, these gals have it- terrific songs, a killer studio outfit, wonderful harmonies and arrangements- and I’m a sucker for Emmylou references. Some of it is lonesome- “The saddest bird I ever saw lives on a branch in Arkansas, Perched alone with nothing to do waits all his life for a rendezvous”- from “Cold Lonesome Down in Blackbird Creek”- but more often the pain and reflection is disguised in breathless liveliness. A beautiful recording project. I am so glad I rediscovered it with fresh ears.
Any Trouble- Where Are All the Nice Girls? and Wheels in Motion Elvis Costello meets The Jags. Folk meets power-pop. The first album has some of the finest songs to come out of new wave- “Second Choice,” “Playing Bogart,” and “Girls Are Always Right.” Thirty years ago, covers of Springsteen songs were not a penny a pair as they are today, so when I heard their version of “Growing Up” on late night radio, I bought Where Are All the Nice Girls? and an official live bootleg containing a version of “Growing Up” at the next opportunity.
Joseph Arthur- Daytrotter Session Okay, so this was the only thing I listened to in the last week that didn’t work for me. On one track, “Dead Savior” he sounds engaged and vital- sort of sounding like Jim Carroll. The rest though appear to be outtakes from a Foreigner reunion album.
Audrey Auld- Losing Faith, Texas, and The Billabong Song e.p. with “Poverty Line” and “Bread & Roses” singles “I got California debt on a Tennessee income…” “He’s more generous than handsome…” “Once I thought I would be a big star…looking at myself on T.V.” More than great lines, Audrey Auld- not sure what happened to the Mezera- has great songs, a great sense of the world and how she can reflect it in songs, and not just her own. Slim Dusty songs, an Eric Bogle classic, and lots of Tazmania’s great vocal export. I spent an afternoon with Audrey this week- well, with her music- and remembered again why I went on a bit of a download jag last winter. She is something special. Comes with the Fred Eaglesmith endorsement. Listening to Audrey sing “Harmony” with Kieran Kane is just magic. Classic country sounds with a contemporary bent.
Hoyt Axton- And His Guitar Recordings from the 60s that have been packaged and repacked any number of ways. “Greenback Dollar.” “500 Miles.” “John Henry.” He had such a terrific voice and easy-going approach to songs. While listening to this, I made a little list of singers I never got to see live but wished I had. John Stewart. Johnny Cash. Bill Monroe. Kirsty MacColl. Hoyt Axton is another one.
Okay, now I can move all those ‘A’ listers to the archive shelf and move a wee pile onto the bottom shelves until I get through the ‘B’s this week. Or not…
I also listened to James McMurtry’s first Sugar Hill album It Had to Happen. Another one of those performers I love whenever I listen, but I don’t listen to enough to call them a favourite.
Broken Social Scene- Forgiveness Rock Record and Broken Social Scene How have a missed falling for his band? Reenergized me with an unavoidably catchy blend of sounds- a real mess that works.