Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mailbox Music....

For the first time my blog writing has paid off in a tangible form - other than the simple satisfaction i get out of completing a post and feeling like i've accomplished something. This payoff is as good as free money, maybe better: Free Music.


i mentioned the other day how an artist out of Brooklyn contacted me and wanted to send me some of her music to see if i liked it. Well, her name is Sharon Van Etten, and i do like it. Sharon hand makes each cd and she definitely puts some effort into them. With mine, i got a personalized note from Sharon, the cd (with a handmade label), and a very rustic-looking insert with song lyrics that looked to be printed off a typewriter. Pretty cool.

My first impression was that Sharon sounded like a contemporary Joan Baez - Folk music with simple instrumentation that allows haunting vocals to carry the song. Maybe simple instrumentation isn't the right choice of words. It is just her and a guitar, but by no means is it simple guitar work. With each listen, i feel transported to some damp, dark basement coffee house in The Village in the 60's. i wish i had half the confidence that Sharon does - to put yourself out there uncovered and unaided. That's the biggest problem with commercial music these days. No one knows what anyone really sounds like. Well i now know what Sharon Van Etten sounds like.

The bad news is that, although i dig what she's doing, and she may very well make a name for herself in circles of people that enjoy real music, there just isn't a market for this kind of style today. And that's a shame. i feel like we're making progress getting the music out to the general public, and then i go out a have a conversation with someone about what music they like. i'm consistently disgusted by, not people's tastes, but people's musical ignorance. i overheard a friend of mine saying that there is absolutely no good new music out there today. Of course you would think that if you only listen to the radio or watch MTV. Jesus, just give me like a 6 hr road trip with you and my toolbox of CD's and i'll change your mind, i promise.

Sorry. i had to let that out - but heres Sharon Van Etten:

mp3: Sharon Van Etten - Damn Right
mp3: Sharon Van Etten - It's Not Like
mp3: Sharon Van Etten - For You

If you like what you hear, be sure to let me know. Or better yet, let Sharon know by way of her page or MySpace.

If you're in the NYC area, check out Sharon in April and tell her i sent you.....
April 10 - Galapagos w/ Darren Weiss and She Keeps Bees - Brooklyn, NY
April 11 -
Silent Barn w/ Nickyboy, Gatling Gun, Psycho Thriller, & DJ Nikolai - Brooklyn, NY
April 14 -
Union Hall w/ Marla Hansen (from Sufjan Stevens/Jens Lekman) and Cat Martino - Brooklyn, NY
April 15 -
The Cake Shop w/ Naked Hearts, Hologram, and Werewolves - NY, NY
April 21 -
Monkeytown w/ Forest Fire and Shilpa Ray (of Beat the Devil) - Brooklyn, NY
April 25 -
Parkside Lounge w/ Johanna and the Dusty Floor - Brooklyn, NY
April 26 -
Collision Machine - Brooklyn, NY
April 29 -
Pianos w/ Jae and Jessica Larrabee (of She Keeps Bees) - NY, NY


My second piece of free music came from the PR rep of the South Austin Jug Band. She said she saw my post about the band's newest album Strange Invitation and would like to send me a copy so i could review it. This is really cool, cause not only do i get free music, but this means that bands (or at least their people) realize the emerging importance of the Music Blog. They obviously think that the attention generated from people reading this will outweigh the $15 or so bucks they gave up by sending me a copy.

Strange Invitation definitely has a mellow-er feel than previous work from band. While they retain a sort of bluegrass feel (James plays a resonator guitar, Brian and Dennis trade off on both fiddle and mandolin), the breathy, comforting vocals from James Hyland make you wanna sit back and enjoy - rather than dance a jig. For the record's purposes, they added stand up bass and drums.

To prepare for the new album, the three guys left the comforting confines of Austin and put themselves up in NYC at the famed Chelsea Hotel. They were seeking a new kind of inspiration and an escape from the Bluegrass stigma they held in Texas.

"New York's such a great place, because if you're stale,
you just go outside. You can find inspiration anywhere
in that city. If you can't, you just cut your head off." -

mp3: Avenue of The Americas

SAJB's influences, at least for this record, are all over the map. From the understandable Todd Snider to surprises like Nine Inch Nails, Stevie Wonder, and Beck. The only cover on the album is Beck's Jack Ass. I would never have guessed that with the amazing mandolin/fiddle combo on the tune:
mp3: Jack Ass

So where is the South Austin Jug Band headed from here? It all depends on how far from their traditional sound they want to go, and from where they draw their next batch of inspiration. The description the band most readily accepts is 'Progressive Acoustic', and i think it fits well.
mp3: Come To Me

Buy Strange Invitation here, or find out more from their site or MySpace.


Send me a line if you want to be part of the next installment of Mailbox Music.

1 comment:

  1. sharon is amazing! i wanna see her live so bad. but im stuck here in japan, its not gonna happen anytime soon...:[

    anyway, your blog is awesome.