Archive for the ‘Zoe Muth’ Tag

Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters- review   1 comment

Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters
Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters
Organic Records

By Donald Teplyske

AMANDA-ANNE-PLATT-HONEYCUTTERS-ON-WALLHaving recorded four impressive albums as The Honeycutters, including the masterpiece that was 2016’s On The Ropes, Asheville, NC’s outstanding roots outfit has re-branded themselves as Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters.

Featuring the consistent Honeycutters line-up of Matthew Smith (pedal steel and electric guitar), Rick Cooper (bass), Josh Milligan (drums and percussion), and Platt (lead and harmony vocals and acoustic guitar), with the addition of Evan Martin (keyboard including Hammond B3), the group’s approach to music has continued to evolve, becoming increasingly mainstream while retaining the appealing and authentic qualities that have made them one of the most satisfying Americana outfits recording.

Platt is a strong songwriter and an impressive and memorable vocalist. She has that important capability to write in a variety of voices, making each genuine and authentic to the experiences conveyed.

Again co-produced with roots and bluegrass veteran Tim Surrett, Platt gently establishes the group as a vehicle under her control launching into “Birthday Song” as the self-titled album’s lead track, a song that brings to the fore Platt’s command of writing, singing, and song arrangement. Deceptively languid in atmosphere, and sounding like no one as much as Natalie Maines, the introspective Appalachian honky tonk singer observes that with the passage of years and the compounding of commitments, “some days the answers just get farther.” Similarly, one observes initial forays toward adulthood with “Late Summer’s Child.” The group could do worse than to seek inspiration from the likes of the Dixie Chicks.

One of the most acutely realized examples of country-based Americana recently released, Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters comes in at a generous 54-minutes, and doesn’t waver in focus or intensity. Utilizing a focus on lyrical rhythm similarly to Zoe Muth’s modern classic “If I Can’t Trust You With A Quarter,” “The Guitar Case,” with an impressive guitar and keys instrumental foundation, finds our road warrior focusing on the positives of the chosen life. Platt doesn’t take the easy way and bask on the weary harshness of life, preferring to find positives when possible. A relationship has crumbled amicably within “The Road,” and “Diamonds in the Rough” looks at various observed circumstances through warmly colored lenses.

Consistently across the album, The Honeycutters demonstrate their ability to ideally frame songs to complement Platt. As she’s the group’s songwriter, this is obviously by design but that doesn’t detract from its effectiveness. Intriguing and timely progressions of notes highlight songs at just the right moment, as when Platt is contemplating the last five years of a relationship (“Brand New Start”) and with a bit of Don Rich-inspired flavor on “The Things We Call Home.”

Another welcome offering from Amanda Anne Platt and her group; as always true, country music is in fine hands.

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Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers- Old Gold   Leave a comment

My review of Zoe Muth’s new EP Old Gold has been posted to the Lonesome Road Review.

A covers disc, Muth performs one original among songs from the McGarrigles, Dock Boggs, Janis Joplin, John Prine, and Charlie Feathers. A good listen worth seeking out.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers
Old Gold
Signature Sound
4 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

Through the efforts of an area radio host, I’ve been following the music and career of Seattle’s Zoe Muth for a couple years. Favourably reminiscent of early Emmylou, Muth also has elements of Iris DeMent and Kelly Hogan in her voice, as well as Heather Myles, minus a bit of the tonk.

I fall in love with voices easily if infrequently. That means I’m selective in what I truly embrace, but once I’m in, I’m in. That’s how I’ve felt about Muth since day one, and nothing I’ve heard since has caused me to reconsider that position.

First came the eponymous album of 2009 or thereabouts. Songs like “You Only Believe Me
When I’m Lying,” as strong a career kick-off as one could hope for, and the more evocative “The Last Bus” with its tale of a guy who hasn’t really thought out the next step, only that it isn’t going to be taken in Harlan, served as solid foundations for a career that has slowly built momentum.

Last year’s Starlight Hotel had a bit more of the south mixed into its mood, but maintained the presence of the steel guitar. Muth’s voice only gained from the assurance that comes from having a bit of success, however that is measured. The album sported one of the finest song titles a High Fidelity fan could ask for: “If I Can’t Trust You With a Quarter (How Can I Trust You With My Heart)”; that the song lived up to the billing was entirely a bonus: “When I heard that jukebox start / I knew that Cupid’s dart had missed its mark.” As the second product, the album may have been unfairly taken for granted, not given the due granted of its predecessor.

Now comes the release of an EP with five covers and a single original. Given that Muth 
has released two albums of very strong original material, one may be a bit surprised that she has gone to the well of covers this early; it took Steve Earle a dozen albums and twenty years before he ran to ground with Townes. Still, covers seem to be a comfortable and popular position of fallback of late so one isn’t going to judge Muth harshly, especially considering the quality of the music contained on the 22-minute Old Gold.

The disc opens with a beautiful rendition of Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s “Heart Like a Wheel” that does nothing to lessen the Emmylou Harris comparables. Listening to this up-tempo, spritely take, one realizes that Muth has reinvented the mood of this melancholy piece into something approaching classic country; she has turned the unthinkable into a radio sing-a-long: “They say that death is a tragedy, it comes once and it’s over / But my only wish is for that deep dark abyss, ’cause what’s the use of living with no true lover.” Quite lovely, given the circumstance.

For contrast, Muth gets positively maudlin with a tremendous reading of “I’ve Been Deceived,” Charlie Feathers’ first single from 1955. Pure-country, that. Her own “Walking the Line” complements the selected offerings and includes one of those lyrical combinations that just lingers: “Sometimes when I can’t find the truth / I just have to make believe.” It is a country narrative that again evokes the use of the word “classic,” only this time it isn’t the sound or the approach under consideration, it is the performance.

The second side of the EP (because I still picture an EP as an extended vinyl 12″) kicks off with John Prine’s (who Muth had name-checked in the previously mentioned “If I Can’t Trust You With a Quarter…”) “Maureen, Maureen,” and does her hero proud, I’m sure. She again picks up the tempo with a splendid “Country Blues,” though she brings plenty of uptown to the Dock Boggs tune. The disc closes with Muth taking on Janis Joplin on “Get It While You Can,” but as elsewhere the song is more reinvented than interpreted.

The mini-album ends too soon, leaving the listener longing for more—where would Muth had
gone next given another six songs? Satisfying still and completely enjoyable, Old Gold allows listeners another opportunity to find a gateway to the magical voice and music of Zoe Muth.

Given that I’ve always bought Muth’s music via download, I don’t know if the line-up of the Lost High Rollers has changed since their debut, but things sound consistent when compared to Starlight Hotel. There is pedal steel from Dave Harmonson everywhere, and that is of benefit.

The drumming (Greg Nies) is for the most part unobtrusive, and Ethan Lawton lays out some
nice mandolin, especially on the closing number. (There is a reason I don’t read press clippings and one-sheets before listening and starting to write—they take the best lines, including my comparisons to Emmylou and Iris DeMent—not that
those were a huge stretch or anything, but still….)

Walkin’ Talkin’ Dancin’ Singin’- May 10, 2010   Leave a comment

I did a lot of whole album listening this week; I believe all are listed below. You may notice more non-roots music this week as I have been feeling quite retro and dug old favourites. As always, shuffle and radio selections are not included.

The album I enjoyed most this week.

Jackie Leven- Gothic Road Leven cops from Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen making familiar phrases sound all his own. What I love about this album is that I can listen to it while working and still be drawn into its tales and images. Who is Cornelius Whalen? Google the answer. Tilda Swinton? Oh, her. Yes, Patsy Cline may have been a bit crazy. “Island” is a gem of a song. Beautiful , poetic stuff.

Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers- Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers I heard Zoe several weeks ago on Allison Brock’s Wide Cut Country CKUA program and followed up by searching out this album. If Zoe had the spirit of Appalachia coursing through her veins, one might compare her to Iris Dement. It would be generous to label most of these songs as mid-tempo and Muth sings of topics that wouldn’t be surprising coming from Dement. Tears in her beers, Muth confesses all while punctuations of sparse instruments provide depth. Perhaps Nanci Griffith is as good a reference point as any.

The Schramms- Road to Delphi This album was recorded 20 years ago. I found the East Side Digital reissue on Friday in a used shop for two dollars. I think I have another of their albums around here somewhere.  I like this one. Makes me wish I hadn’t missed so much great music from 1987 to 1993. Still playing catch-up, it appears.

Stephen Simmons- Live at Blue Highways The first of four artists discovered on the East Nashville Vol 3 disc and followed up with on eMusic last weekend. A short set from overseas, I believe, and serves as further evidence that I’m onto something here. “Drink Ring Jesus” and “Shirley’s Stables” are terrific. I’m going to enjoy pursuing his catalogue.

Amelia White- Motorcycle Dream I’m going to have to spend more time with this one; I think I got distracted listening. Listening to it again- as I finish some editing and revising, I realize that the songs seem to run together a bit. An occasional line or hook will attract me, but it isn’t sustained.

Matt Urmy- New Season Comin’ My new favourite. Like a hillbilly Gil Scott-Heron, Urmy tells it like he sees it. I listened to it a few times this week and found much to enjoy.

Jon Byrd- Byrd’s Auto Parts Concluding our hike through East Nashville. A voice that holds history. Straight-up, David Ball country.

The Violet Femmes- Hallowed Ground “Country Death Song” is obviously the classic, but this often-overlooked album worked its way back this week. Truly original.

The Cooper Brothers- In From the Cold I’m not sure why I downloaded this. My brother had their first two albums and I knew the singles from radio. Reflecting, I owe a lot to my oldest brother- he unknowingly introduced me to bands like Rainbow and Wings, and in doing so taught me about what I liked and didn’t. Anyway, I had a hankering for “The Dream Never Dies” and “Rock and Roll Cowboys” and when I found this new one on eMusic, I thought I’d take a chance while I was at it. “Jukebox” with Delbert McClinton is brilliant, name-checking dozens of songs in 4:40 of swampy, backroom rocking blues. This one appears to have legs and I am quite enjoying the album.

Mogwai- The Hawk is Howling One of three artists I’ve learned about/been encouraged to explore through Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. I bought this one on a flier several months back and only got around to unsealing this week. The song structures are challenging but I found it quite accessible. I don’t think I need another Mogwai album, at least right now, but I’m going to enjoy spending time with this one.

The Rainmakers- Skin I don’t remember listening to this one before- must have uncovered it during a busy time. More of the same, and I don’t mean anything negative by that.

Mike Gouchie- Shattered Glass Arena country without the arena. Rather indistinct from all the other guys currently on the charts. The back-story is good and the songs hold some promise, but even the songs with the most hope (“Don’t Touch the Radio,” “Shattered Glass,” “Dust”) rely too much on easy rhymes and obvious sentiment. An unnecessary rendering of “Heart of Gold” serves as filler. Obviously, not intended for me. It’ll probably go Gold.

Scotty Campbell- Damned If I Recall Another $2 find. This ten-year old album is solid Canadian honky-tonk. Strong songs, great performance, and a killer voice. Glad I picked it up.

The Waves- Shock Horror  I bought this album in university after listening to their first Attic album and interviewing Katrina Leskanich. I don’t know if these recordings were ever intended to be much more than demos, but the songs and performances of “Liverpool” and “Brown-Eyed Son”, while raw, hold up to the more familiar versions released elsewhere. All over the place, the remaining songs are pub- and glam-rock infused sketches that display Kimberley Rew’s (and the bands’) emerging talents.

Kimberley Rew- The Safest Place I didn’t realize this was out until, while listening to the previously mentioned Shock Horror album this weekend, I explored Rew’s site. I love his music and truly believe he should be held in esteem similar to that afforded Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. His last two albums are masterworks, and on first listen this one maintains the streak. I’ll spend more time with it. The title track could have been written by Lowe, and the intro to “Happy Anniversary” has a bit of “I Love the Sound of Broken Glass” to it. Deliberate, I hope. The third song, “Put A Little Sunshine,” could have been on the lost Partridge Family album. The hits (and the pop music allusions) just keep on coming! Pure pop for now people, says me.

Billy Joe Royal- Down in the Boondocks/Cherry Hill Park A two-fer. Atmospheric, southern sounding pop. Great songs. A timeless voice.

Carolina Chocolate Drops- Genuine Negro Jig Not bad, but not something I’m likely to pull of the shelf again.

Dead Men’s Hollow- Death Must Be a Woman I downloaded this one from eMusic based on a couple song samples. I quite enjoyed listening to it, but am not sure I am completely enamoured. DC area favourites according to their website, this stringband have a similar vocal sound to The Good Lovelies minus the Andrews Sister influences. “John Doe’s Bones”, the albums closer, is especially sharp.

The Go-Go’s- Vacation and Talk Show I likely haven’t put these two on the turntable in fifteen years. Everything I loved about the band came back in a flash- the spunk of Jane Wiedlin, Belinda’s voice, Gina’s drive. I remember reviewing Talk Show when it was released and being surprised to find so few positive words written about it elsewhere. I thought it was brilliant. Still do.

Blaze Foley & the Beaver Valley Boys- Cold, Cold World When Gurf Morlix was through town, he did a couple songs from this album. I couldn’t afford to buy the disc that evening but did purchase a download sometime later. The story of the album is at least as interesting as the music.

Ray Materick- Neon Rain “Linda, Put the Coffee On.” ‘Nuff said.

Various Artists- Best Loved Bluegrass I listened to this Rebel set on the mp3 player while doing housework on Friday afternoon. A terribly complete collection of standards (warhorses) performed in the class manner expected. I never realized how exceptionally well The Boys from Indiana arranged “Atlanta is Burning.” Great performance. What was it about willow trees? A must have collection.

Mary Gauthier- The Foundling The album holds together even more strongly the more I absorb. Listening, I feel I am about five seconds from tears.

Various Artists- WDVX: 10 Years Ray Benson explained, speaking of Townes Van Zandt in a recent edition of American Songwriter, that there is “something very honourable and necessary to really write the truth.” Those words came back to me listening to this incredible collection of cuts recorded in the camper and elsewhere from 1997 to 2007. James McMurtry starts things off with Irene Kelly, David Olney, Darrell Scott and others lending their songs and voices to a most inspired radio station. As many times as I’ve listened to this set, I find I am left with a new favourite each time; this time out, it is the closer from the Red Stick Ramblers- “Katrina.”

Frank Turner- First Three Years I’m missing something here. After reading some favourable reviews and comments, I downloaded this album months ago. I’m guessing Turner, who is a bit like Billy Bragg without the obvious substance, would appeal to some in brief, thirty minute folk fest sets. A whole album of him fights the listener and wins. Much caterwauling about nothing, as far as I’m concerned. It has taken me since December to listen to this one all-the-way-through, in one sitting. I’m thinking today will also be the only time.

Various Artists & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band- Preservation– My latest Sunday evening ritual; I’m enjoying it a bit more each time. Even the Del track is starting to work for me.