The last few years have been mighty good for string bands. There has an been an outbreak of younger, progressive bands mining the rich vein of bluegrass and a renaissance of traditional legends releasing some of the best albums of their long, rich careers. This has all combined to create a great time to be into bluegrass, string-band, and old-timey music. Continue reading Mountain Ride: Time to Roll
Keller Williams KWahtro – SYNC
Writer: Josh Mintz
There’s not a lot Keller Williams hasn’t done from a sonic standpoint. For a guy who mostly made his bones as a solo artist, he’s done bluegrass, he’s done dub, he’s done a children’s album, and he’s had lord knows however many iterations of bands throughout his career. Each project generally includes a new cast of characters, and SYNC is the first album from a 2015 project, KWahtro, a band that features longtime Williams collaborator Gibb Droll (guitar), Rodney Holmes (drums) and Danton Boller (bass).
Williams bills KWahtro as “acoustic dance music,” which is an apt description – SYNC listens like an extension of what Williams does on his own. However, the additional players on the record allow the music to bridge out a little more than possible with pre-recorded loops; there’s just more freedom with a human being driving the ship.
“Hategreedlove” is a standout track on the recording. Holmes provides a dark, brooding bass line that’s augmented by a string section (provided by The Accidentals).
Fans of Williams’ token lyrical silliness won’t be disappointed, as the album includes tracks like “Missing Remote” and “Ripped 6-Pack,” the former providing one of the stronger musical performances from Droll and Holmes.
KWahtro really stretches out, though, on “In the Middle.” It showcases the musical depth of the group, and the places that they can go when all four players are speaking the same musical language.
SYNC doesn’t exactly break any new musical ground. For a guy like Williams, who’s had his fingers in so many musical pies, that’s hard to do at this point. But, those who like what Williams has been doing for decades are going to dig this – there are just a few more faces on stage.
Piano man Jimmy Landry had a novel problem when adding his new release, Sing Your Own Song, to iTunes. What genre is fitting for a record with such a wide berth of styles and influences?
It’s not a bad problem to have, and it is validated given just one spin through the album’s 10 accessible, piano-driven tracks that tap into a world where heart and soul are on full display. Kicking off with “Where the Love Is,” Landry demonstrates a fine-tuned approach and a deft ear for textured orchestration, particularly when the track’s funky keys give way to a reggae groove. He assumes Todd Snider-like spoken word above an achingly upbeat piano melody on “Let’s Get Together,” and takes a lounge-y approach to the heartbreak of “Proved Me Wrong.” Regardless of the lyrical subject matter, the compositions roll with a playfulness that is kissed by the sun and salt air of his coastal South Carolina home.
Sing Your Own Song marks Landry’s first release since his 2008 debut, New Day, and he delivers in spades when it comes to both style and execution. And about that genre problem? Who really cares. Sing Your Own Song is truly difficult to categorize, and that is its strength.
Sing Your Own Song is self-released and out now. Buy it here!
It would be perfectly understandable for those not in the know to believe that country music is dead. In the mainstream, it has felt this way for the better part of the last three decades. But the sparks of a few real songwriters – with influences like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard – are building to a full-blown fire. And while Jamey Johnson, Sturgill Simpson, and Chris Stapleton, are leading the charge, there are upstarts in cities around the country who are kicking up true country songs filled with the sweat and grit of yesterday. One of them is The Travelin’ Kine.
These troubadours from Charleston, South Carolina, have now delivered their first album, entitled Change in the Wind, and although the title and title track don’t necessarily allude to the current state of country music, it seems apropos given the emergence of musicians that harken back to the good old days of the genre. And the band delivers an eight-song set that is straight-talking, compositionally adept, and soaked in spirits from some backwoods still.
“Change in the Wind,” written on the day frontman Slaton Glover’s divorce papers were signed and he dedicated his life to music, rides the brisk rhythm section of bassist Brent Poulson and drummer Jim Donnelly, giving momentum to his yearning. “I’m Not As Smart As You Look” spotlights Glover’s clever wordplay with sinewy lead guitar from Scottie Frier, “I Hate You” is a scornful wish for a former lover, and “Bad Bad Man” is a roadhouse rally cry accented by flourishes of harmonica and mandolin, courtesy of Mark Davis and David Vaughan, respectively.
At the heart of the album’s eight tracks is Glover’s adept songwriting. There are no frills here, and that is just right.
The Travelin’ Kine are yet another new voice in a country music chorus that is growing louder, and if there is such a thing as “real” country music today, it can be found on Change in the Wind.
Change in the Wind is independently released and out now.
The time for talking about how much Jason Isbell has changed since his Drive-By Truckers days is long past. Yes, gone are the whiskey-soaked, carousals from his time in the seminal Southern band. Also in the past is the triumphant story of his hard-won sobriety and newfound life as a successful solo artist.
In their place, a shelf-full of all the hardware the 2014 Americana Music Awards had to offer, in addition to numerous critical accolades and a new life as happy family man. Also: a new album called Something More Than Free.
His 2013 breakout album Southeastern set the bar extremely high, and the follow-up, Something More Than Free, manages to reach, and perhaps hurdle, it.
Thematically, the album is a bit lighter than its predecessor, but it shares a tonal similarity. Isbell has hit a comfortable creative stride that gives the impression he and his listeners are in the midst of a fertile stage of artistic output akin to Neil Young’s early 1970s oeuvre.
Throughout Something More Than Free, Isbell constructs a now-trademark rustic realm, a world inhabited by people yearning, searching and hoping for something better, and a few who think they have it figured out. These are hardscrabble folks living with regrets and seeking redemption.
He creates such vividly imagined characters that at the conclusion of nearly every track, you feel like you’ve just finished a novel or movie, or stepped out of someone else’s dream. These characters—the guy who feels fortunate to have lost three fingers in an accident so he could get a court settlement (“The Life You Chose”), the teenage parents who can’t tell the difference between the “sacred and profane” (“Children of Children”), the guy who just wants to leave town because there’s “nothing here that can’t be left behind” (“Speed Trap Town”) and others—are instant intimates. Isbell’s craft allows these characters to come to life and for you to step into it.
Isbell is a singular voice, but it’s hard not to hear his forbearers living through him. Hints of Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer” (a song he’s performed live) live inside of “Flagship” in more ways that one. John Prine’s wit suffuses “If It Takes A Lifetime.” And so on. Neil Young’s work informs here, his contemporary Ryan Adams there.
Sonically, Isbell and his band, including wife Amanda Shires on fiddle, are in a comfortable zone, shifting easily from melancholic ruminations to rowdy rockers and country swing.
“Children of Children,” with a string section that floats eerily over Isbell’s slide guitar and soaring solo, is one of many standout tracks on Something More Than Free. Elsewhere, he adopts old-time, bluegrass-tinged country stomp with “If It Takes a Lifetime” and raunchy rock with “Palmetto Rose.” Throughout, his melodies seem like they’ve been there forever, pulled from the heavens by his pen.
Something More Than Free is continuation of the songwriting maturity found on Southeastern, so much so that Isbell might be wise to make some room on that shelf.
Something More Than Free will be released July 17 on Southeastern Records.
When veterans of the music industry get together in the studio you know that something special is going to occur. Growing up with a deep appreciation for the delta blues and rock, Anders Osborne and The North Mississippi All-Stars (Luther and Cody Dickinson) are the perfect fit to work together and create an album. Freedom & Dreams is a powerful statement from the Osborne/ All-Stars collaboration (NMO – North Mississippi Osborne) and brings out a wealth of emotions that listeners can relate to in their lives. With decades of live performances and studio releases under their belts this is the first time that Anders Osborne and The North Mississippi All-Stars have had the opportunity to come together as one on an album.
Opening with “Away for Too Long,” Osborne’s soulful voice rings through brightly, as Luther Dickinson’s recognizable guitar and his Brother Cody’s drums provide a steady juke-joint style swing. “Back Together,” the second track follows with a nice slow groove that is an emotional journey as Osborne sings of a long-lost love that has been rekindled. Guitarist Dickinson adds an absolutely flawless solo that highlights Osborne’s heartfelt lyrics and reminds why Dickinson is quite simply one of the most inventive guitarists around today.
On “Shining (Spacedust)” the inter-play between the three musicians is at the forefront and it is easy to hear how the trio compliments each other so well. With Osborne’s lead vocals on this slowed down tune you can hear the Swedish born singer/songwriter speak from his heart with the lyrics, “You’re shining and you’re beautiful today/ You’re radiant right now in every way.” The Dickinson brothers accentuate Osborne’s heartfelt lyrics with a subtle taste of guitar and shimmering dose of tambourine and brushes on the drums.
The addition of the classic Osborne track “Katrina,” is the definition of the blues. Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans and the surrounding area bringing sorrow to millions. Many musicians at the time, including Osborne and the Dickinson’s, came together to lend a helping hand by playing benefits to help people get back on their feet. With the lyrics “You pushed me and you pulled me/ You tore my heart apart,” the powerful lyrics are near and dear to trio who saw so much of the destruction up close in their New Orleans and Mississippi homes.
Freedom & Dreams shows the wide-range of this multi-talented trio. One of the many highlights is “Many Wise Men,” an acoustically-driven tune that finds the band switching gears to a slower-mellow paced groove that is like floating on a cloud. Multi-instrumentalist Cody Dickinson, on washboard and drums, leads the way, while Osborne and Luther trade sweet, lilting guitar licks back and forth.
The album concludes with the long-time blues and New Orleans staple “Junco Pardna,” which proves the perfect capstone to this collaboration of southern-blues-rockers.
The eight-piece band is a wild mix of banjo, horns, fiddle, and acoustic guitar that eschews much of the modern flair associated with current music. Instead they create a sound that is all strings and old-timey soul at its core, yet still fresh and relevant sounding at the same time. It is this attention to the music that came before them that gives Green Rock River Band’s music its power.
On their debut album, Rhinoceros, Green Rock River Band deliver a rollicking, rambunctious ride which storms across the musical landscape, blasting out songs that sound like a piss-drunk Tom Waits bashing away on a banjo while his mates from New Orleans provide a boozy, horn-laden atmosphere over which to play. Flourishes of jazzy trombones and clacking washboards color that sound and only add to the musical party that is Green Rock River Band.
And all of that is a good thing, a real good thing.
Rhinoceros finds that fine line between the old and the new and uses that area as the canvas upon which they paint their aural soundscapes. The album veers from the sing-a-long working-man anthem “Drinking ‘Till I Die,” to the foot-stomping high-energy galloping thrash of “Angry Ferret,” to the inventive “Rosie Ann” which takes the concept of mixing the old and the modern to a whole new level with its collaboration with DJ Walde. Walde weaves in subtle percussive lines of dub-step beat box into the rhythm of the song which results in a wholly original take on folk-music.
With their English roots and clear influence of traditional British folk and fiddle tunes, Green Rock River Band also help subtly expose the close – but not always noticed – relationship between those traditional British folk-tunes and mountain-bred Appalachian bluegrass.
This ability to move through a variety of sounds can sound clumsy for so many bands, but for Green Rock River Band they pull this off effortlessly through the strength of their songwriting. This strength is shown best on the sorrow-laden lament “Seasons,” a powerful rumination about the passing of time, whose deeply passionate lyrics are balanced against the deep-groove of a Chuck Mangione-esque trumpet line.
This meshing of such diverse influences and styles is what drives the band, and gives Rhinoceros its unique, infectious sound. As singer and banjo-picker Jeremy Sachs says, “We couldn’t create songs like these by sticking with the same formula that has come before, we needed to find a new way of doing things, a new approach to get people excited and thinking about alternative ways of looking at folk, but that is still respectful of old musical tradtions.”
Rhinoceros is out now.
The notably divergent bluegrass band, Greensky Bluegrass is set to release their fifth studio album, “If Sorrows Swim” on September 9th. For the excited fan base who wish to purchase the album early they may due so on iTunes via the presale that started August 28th. To purchase presale packages via Greensky Bluegrass click HERE and to order early through iTunes click HERE!
For an Honest Tune review by Tim Newby of the new album, click HERE.
For the past decade or so, Mississippian Jimbo Mathus has all-too-quietly been cranking out some of the finest roots rock around, each successive album delving deeper into southern roots music and melding it together in complementary concoctions that gratify the heart, hips and head.
His latest, Dark Night of the Soul, is his second for the Oxford-based Fat Possum records and follows nicely with last yearâ€™s White Buffalo.Â Assistance from then-producer, now-guitarist Eric â€œRoscoeâ€ Ambel (Del Lords, Bottlerockets) is one common thread. But another is Mathusâ€™ constant maturation as a songwriter and sonic alchemist. After all those years of chewing up the roots of southern music, the resultant product of that mastication is a fiery, spitting stream of pure rock â€˜n roll.
Mathus shows here again that he is perhaps our greatest modern practitioner of such fusion. He shifts effortlessly from the deeply grooving, Metersesque funk of â€œFire In the Canebrakeâ€ to the honky-tonk Americana of â€œWriting Spider.â€ There are touches of soul, blues and country everywhereâ€” the raw ingredients for pure, primal rock â€˜n roll.
As someone starting with ingredients fresh from the source, itâ€™s not surprising that Mathus reaches a conclusion that other legendary followers have, though often with even more profound results. The relentless boogie of â€œRock & Roll Trashâ€ out-Stones the Rolling Stones, the crushing feedback of â€œBurn The Shipsâ€ is crazier than Crazy Horse, and the sweeping, majestic title track is an epic that finds Mathus holding forth like a southern Springsteen. Seriously.
Elsewhere, the mash-ups transcend their constituent ingredients. For instance, the soul shouting of â€œWhite Angelâ€ drifts into atmospheric hypnogogic asides while being straddled by muscular guitar heroics. He achieves elusive melancholy ache with â€œMedicineâ€ and ghostly pleading on â€œButcher Bird.â€
Behind this alchemy is a penchant for storytellingÂ The namesake of â€œHawkeye Jordanâ€ is a richly drawn character that goes beyond the moonshiner clichÃ©s a lazier observer might rely on. â€œCasey Caught The Cannonballâ€ is a worthy update to the folk legend. The tender â€œShine Like A Diamondâ€ began as the wedding vows he wrote to his wife. Throughout, thereâ€™s wrenching over absolution, redemption and past troubles.
Recorded at Dial Back Studios in Water Valley, Miss., Mathus is again backed by the excellent Tri-State Coalition (Eric Carlton, keyboards; Matt Pierce, guitar and drummer Ryan Rogers). He also welcomes guest players Ambel (guitar), bassist Matt Patton (Dexateens, Drive-By Truckers) and pedal steel player Kell Kellum.
Together, they whoop up a ruckus and conjure real rock â€˜n roll straight from the source, the kind of gut-punching, hip-shaking record that is a real gem because it carries with it a kind of depth and soul all too rare in a landscape that seems to value such authenticity less and less.
Dark Night Of The Soul is out now on Fat Possum Records.
This past October, the Oxford, Miss. band Dead Gaze released its first studio album, Brain Holiday.Â Jackson, Miss. native Cole Furlow is the mastermind behind Dead Gaze, a band that has been churning out homemade acid garage pop in Oxford since 2009.Â Â Furlow struck gold when a friend of his who worked at Oxfordâ€™s Sweet Tea Studio was offered eleven days of free studio time, and the friend immediately thought of Furlow.Â Sweet Tea Studio is owned and operated by famed producer Dennis Herring, and has attracted the likes of such well-known artists as Animal Collective, Modest Mouse, The Walkmen, and Elvis Costello.Â Furlow jumped at the chance to work at such a great studio, and the result was Brain Holiday.
The music of Dead Gaze is sometimes classified as â€œLo-Fi Psych Pop,â€ and while this term adequately describes Furlowâ€™s previously released work, the term does not fully apply to Brain Holiday.Â There is a definite â€œHi-Fiâ€ quality to this album that is all at once intergalactic, tropical, aquatic and air-like.Â Furlow uses â€œLo-Fiâ€ tricks, such as a low-end synthesizer and circuit bending, to produce â€œHi-Fiâ€ results.Â Circuit bending is the customization of circuits in electronic devices to produce unexpected, creative, and chance-based sounds.Â Furlow utilizes tools such as reconfigured childrenâ€™s toys, synthesizers, guitars, wires and amps to produce â€œHi Fiâ€â€“sounding effects out of this â€œLo-Fiâ€ technique.Â The result is a much more polished, crystal-clear, definite sound.Â Furlow proves himself to have mastered the art of â€œLo-Fiâ€ in a â€œHi-Fiâ€ world.
Brain Holiday comes out only seven months after the self-titled Dead Gaze, which was released in the U.S. on May 21, 2013.Â Â Dead Gaze was met with critical acclaim, however there were problems with the album that seem to be directly addressed on Brain Holiday, such as the lessening of the compression on the vocals that frankly made Coleâ€™s lyrics on some of the tracks from Dead Gaze indecipherable. Here Furlow delivers vocals that are clear and crisp, becoming more sophisticated not only in style, but also in meaning.Â Furlow is obviously going deeper with this album.
The first track, â€œYuppies are Flowersâ€, is a catchy pop song on the surface.Â But the lyrics tell a story of youth today trying to deal with the Yuppie generation being the ruling class, and how they have screwed things up for the generations to come.Â â€œRowdy Jungleâ€ is another pop chart dream, sounding pleasantly like Weezer, but with some Mississippi mud thrown in to grunge things up a bit.
Overall, Brain Holiday is a pop album, but there are some indie-inspired surprises like â€œRunnin On The Moonâ€ and â€œBreathing Creaturesâ€ which are so unique, they each seem to be creating a genre of their own. The self-titled track, â€œBrain Holidayâ€ ends the album with poetic perfection because of its carefree sound and message, adequately fulfilling Cole Furlowâ€™s wish for this album:Â â€œI just want people to listen to the jams when they need something to get their brain off whatever it is that’s making them go to the music in the first place.”
Dead Gaze is huge in Great Britain and has just finished a European tour that started November 26, 2013, in Belgium, Brusselsâ€”seeing France, Italy, Switzerland, and then back to France for two shows (one in Paris), with the last four shows of the tour ending in the UKâ€”the finale being in London (their biggest draw) at the Windmill.
Brain Holiday is available now on vinyl, cd and MP3 from FatCat Records.Â