Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cover/Uncovered: Slaid Cleaves.....

In addition to his latest, all covers release Unsung, Slaid Cleaves has been known to mix in his version of someone else's tune from time to time. But just as on that last album, Slaid absolutely owns the songs he covers and always adds his own flavor. In fact, i was going to post these two songs simply because of how good they are before i realized they weren't his.

Slaid Cleaves - I Feel The Blues Moving In

buy Broke Down (2000)

Slaid has always had just a hint of bluegrass in his music - whether it be from the big stand-up bass, his epic story-telling, or his occasional yodel. Although he takes the bluegrass tempo out of the song, the haunting 3-piece harmony is true to the version from the bluegrass legend.

Del McCoury - I Feel The Blues Moving In

buy High, Lonesome, and Blue (2004)

Slaid Cleaves - White Rose
from Mearlefest

One of the reasons i had no idea this song was a cover is that Slaid has often told his own versions of small towns that have met their end due to impending industrialization. Like many of Fred's songs, they're great stories but i would almost always rather hear someone else do them. The highlight from Slaid's version is when his band mates imitate the wailing wind spinning the sign from the disappearing filling station in the chorus.

Uncovered: Fred Eaglesmith - White Rose
buy The Official Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 (2006)

Check out another song from Slaid i posted over at SMM.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ryan Adams: 48 Hours

In June of 2001, just after finishing Gold, Ryan hooked back up with multi-instrumentalist/producer Ethan Johns to create the most cohesive of his 'unreleased' albums.

With the help of said Ethan Johns, as well as Chris Stills, Julianna Raye, Greg Leitz, and Sheldon Gomberg, this session is a veritable greatest-hits of his post-Gold solo work. Walls sounds like an early precursor to the sound of Jacksonville City Nights. A live staple of his solo shows, Like The Twilight (aka Drunk and Fucked Up) makes its unofficial appearance on this collection - simply gorgeous. The painful Blue was released as the b-side on the Nuclear single in September of 2002.

48 Hours
was the second step in creating the songs that would become Demolition. Hallelujah, Desire, and Chin Up, Cheer Up - arguably the best few tracks from that release - were recorded during this session in Hollywood, CA. i will do some sort of review for that album after i post the last of the unreleased sessions - The Second Pinkheart - very soon.

48 Hours
1. Hallelujah
2. Walls
3. Desire
4. Angelina
5. Like The Twilight
6. Chin Up, Cheer Up
7. Born Yesterday
8. Blue
9. One For The Rose
10. Karina (false start)
11. Karina
12. Little Moon

Check out more Ryan Adams:
show all

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Summer Album Round-up....

As promised, i've sorted through my recent album purchases to bring you a Late Summer/Early Fall Album Round-up.

Most of the albums considered came from Volume 3 of my Album Release Forecast. One album, Punch, was released back in March, but because of the different billing from Chris Thile's previous releases, i was unaware of the album until recently. Also, Todd Snider's Peace Queer release date was pushed back to October. Not sure yet if i'll do another Album Release Forecast for Fall/Winter, so here are some noteworthy upcoming releases:

Okkervil River ~ The Stand-Ins
This is an album by a veteran band who is obviously very comfortable in their skin, although their dark lyrics may not express the same sentiment. Will Sheff is a pro at taking a deep, personal situation and creating a candid, incredibly catchy tune. While this disc may not contain as many 'hits' as its predecessor, it is by no means any less enjoyable. The only lulls within The Stand-Ins are the three short instrumental 'title tracks' that disconnect the disc from what would be a smooth-flowing narrative.

Okkervil River - Singer Songwriter

Conor Oberst ~ Conor Oberst
Conor proves that even without his longtime musical partner Mike Mogis and the shield of the Bright Eyes moniker, he's still this young generation's most inventive, fearless troubadour. He may even be better without the two - this disc is currently the best album to be released this year. From the start, Conor Oberst is a captivating album filled with original melodies accented with pointed spurts of alliteration. The aggressive acoustic solos are evident of his previous work with Dave Rawlings. While the subject of his songs continue to be spiritually driven, there's none of the religious cult undertones that impaired Casadaga. The first couple tracks i came across from this one seemed only to be a continuation of that last album, but when you hear them in the context of the other stellar tunes, they become a perfect fit. Buy this one.

Conor Oberst - Get-Well-Cards
Conor Oberst - Moab

Old Crow Medicine Show ~ Tennessee Pusher
i heard someone else call this a 'concept album' centered around booze, drugs, partying, etc. While there are many nods to this kind of living (Alabama High-Test, Methamphetamine, and Humdinger are some track names), i don't think The Show had a specific concept in mind. Just look at their previous albums and see if there is any less debauchery in the themes. You already know how i feel about the re-make of Caroline, and the sour-taste that Highway Halo left me with. Old Crow's appeal is their imperfect, whiskey-fueled energy, and Don Was simply tried to harness this into an over-produced, radio-ready album. To sand down the sounds coming from the strings of this band is a crime. The good news is that, while most of the songs Ketch fronts were deeply affected from the heavy hand of Was, no one can make Willie Watson's tenor wail sound anything less than pure backwoods emotion. It's not completely a miss, but i'm already anxious to see what The Show does next.

Old Crow Medicine Show - The Greatest Hustler of All
Old Crow Medicine Show - Crazy Eyes

Carrie Rodriguez ~ She Ain't Me
With her second solo effort, Carrie moved even further away from the Texas dancehall stigma she acquired while playing with Chip Taylor. She leans further toward contemporary jazz with fiddle highlights on this disc. Carrie also took the writing reins here, and proves she can be a successful solo artist. While i don't think she's found her exact sound yet, She Ain't Me will be a stepping-stone she can proudly look back on.

Carrie Rodriguez - El Salvador

Rodney Crowell ~ Sex and Gasoline
Although he's been making music since the 70's, i've only really become a fan of Rodney through his last three records. Political tunes usually turn me off, but something about Rodney's unbiased, regular-joe perspective coupled with unforgettable guitar riffs and melodies made much of his material very pleasing. On Sex and Gasoline, his subject matter remains the same, only none of the instrumentation is as catchy. i just can't get into this one. An occasional political/social commentary song is a good idea, just don't let it be all you do.

Rodney Crowell - I Want You #35

Punch Brothers ~ Punch
Had the pleasure of catching Chris Thile and his band live in Austin a few weeks ago. i went expecting a good bluegrass show but was blown away with not only their combined talent, but also the overall show experience. i knew his years in the spotlight with Nickel Creek would've taught Chris how to play big shows, but the way he handled a crowded room of less than 100 fans was impressive. As far a mandolin players go, Chris is no doubt one of the best around, but i was shown that each of the other players in the Punch Brothers rules their instrument just as well. The album contains four 'songs' in the traditional sense as well as a four-movement piece entitled The Blind Leaving The Blind. Who does movements these days? Real musicians.

Punch Brothers - Punch Bowl
Punch Brothers - The Blind Leaving The Blind: Fourth Movement

These United States ~ Crimes
The biggest surprise and dark-horse for album of the year goes to These United States and their second album of 2008. Jesse Elliot has finally found the right lineup and sound direction for this ever-changing band, and let's hope he keeps it that way. Read more here.

The United States - Susie at the Seashore

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson ~ Rattlin' Bones
This album is everything i expected from reading reviews and from hearing the title track: Kasey and her new husband going back to their musical roots. It's a groovy, folky, uplifting album that centers around themes of heaven and hell. The most surprising aspect is how much i enjoy the inclusion of Shane Nicholson. This album will receive a high place on my Best Of '08 list, and Rattlin' Bones will be a strong contender for Best Song.

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - The House That Never Was
Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Sleeping Cold

Click the Album Covers to purchase.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Digs: Crimes

Wow. i don't think i've ever been more excited about the direction that music is moving than i have been over the last couple weeks. With the end of the year nearing, i've been goin' through the albums i've picked up in '08 (somewhere around 30), and deciding where they might fit into a best of the year list. i can tell you right now, i'm gonna have a hell of time finalizing that list. Lately, my yearning for new music has led me to lose my former obsession with owning an actual hard copy of the albums, so i've been keeping my digital music accounts filled with money to dish out in favor of instant-gratification. eMusic, PayPlay.fm, and most recently Amie Street are the sites i've found with the best deals for finding new music - and between the three, you can find nearly anyone you're looking for.

i picked up Old Crow Medicine Show's new one at Amie Street for only 5 bucks the other day and as a bonus, was able to download the tracks a day before the actual album release. The discount price was only available as a pre-order, but the album is a mere $8.98 now. Amie Street prices their music on a demand basis - that is, each time an album is downloaded, the price goes up - albums cap out at $8.98. The beauty of this system is that if you're quick to jump on an album shortly after it's added, you can get for nearly nothing. i'm talkin' like 18 cents a song... but don't tell anybody.

These United States ~ Crimes (Sept 23)

"if the thing that drives you onward is your heart, you must not let that engine die"

After my first purchase, i still had some money in my account so i went a-browsin'. One of the featured albums on the site was a brand new one from Lexington, KY band These United States. i came across a couple of the band's tunes from their previous release, A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden, earlier this year and posted one here. Both songs were very interesting, musically, but i didn't really think the band fit my preferred style quite right. Regardless, i began previewing the songs on their new one, Crimes. Before the 2nd track preview had ended, the album was in my library - and for only 5 bucks. By now i've had time to hear the whole thing a couple times through.... and it's flawless. Not one song on the disc can be considered skippable or superfluous.

The greatest appeal of Crimes is that the album is pure fun. Jangly power-pop with country/folk undertones - especially lyrically. Well-formed verses, often historically tinted, that lead into huge sing-along choruses. The album begins with a groovy, acoustic-led tune mentioning Cain & Abel and Dionysus and their respective vices. The next two tracks - full-on, energetic rockers - don't even allow you to completely realize the beauty of what you just heard. Sometime during Pleasure & Pain & Pride & Me you become aware that you're in the midst of a great album. Perfectly mixed tempos scatter throughout the rest of the disc - from soulful ballads to near honky-tonk anthems. Will Sheff-like driving melodies are accented with barroom pianos, shakers, tambourines, and even a banjo. Jesse Elliot, the voice of These United States, leads you through this journey of Crimes - "the Good kinds, the Bad kinds, the Meaningless, the Historic."

These United States - West Won
These United States - Heaven Can Wait

Go to Amie Street to buy this album ($5)
These United States: MySpace/Website

Sunday, September 21, 2008


October 28th folks!
Cardinology is just a few short weeks away from my ears.
i like the fact that minus a few rumors here and there, Ryan and gang managed to keep a lot of the details in-house and drop a release date with only a month to prepare.

Be the first kid on your block to get it on Vinyl (with goodies).

i could tell you every detail about the album, the tour, and even his book deal, but this person did a pretty good job.

1. Born Into A Light
2. Go Easy
3. Fix It
4. Magick
5. Cobwebs
6. Let Us Down Easy
7. Crossed Out Name
8. Natural Ghost
9. Sink Ships
10. Evergreen
11. Like Yesterday
12. Stop

Catch yet another Letterman appearance on October 29th.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Playlist Pulse: Raawwk.....

Self-explanatory. Turn it up.

  1. The Kooks - See The World
    buy Inside In/Inside Out (2006)
  2. Cross Canadian Ragweed - Don't Need You
    buy Purple (2002)
  3. The Black Keys - Thickfreakness
    buy Thickfreakness (2003)
  4. Deer Tick - Standing At The Threshold
    from War Elephant (2007)
  5. Ryan Adams - Shallow
    buy Rock N Roll (2003)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mixtape I: Surviving Ike.....

i mentioned back here that i had a good mix of Storm Songs saved for the next time one rolled through. Well, Ike has arrived.

All last night, from the safety of Austin - just west of Ike's path, we were glued to the various news channels comparing coverage, satellite image technology, and marveling at Geraldo's brave stupidity. i grew up just SW of Houston, so the 4th largest city in the nation still feels like home. Galveston, where the storm made direct landfall, was only about a 40 minute drive from where i was raised, so this hurricane hit a little closer to home (both literally and metaphorically). To people from other places in the country, the storm coverage in the various suburbs and cities between Galveston and Houston may seem repetitive and indiscernible, but knowing the area and people that live/own homes in it reveals the somber reality in it all.

It is funny, however, that a couple hundred miles can spell the difference in total disaster and anxious celebration. Thankfully, my mom and many friends back home only received some strong winds and a little rain. They spent most of the night boozin' in anticipation of the biggest storm to hit Houston/Galveston in at least 100 years. i remember reading somewhere an analysis of the human psyche during a natural disaster. It explained that although tragedy is all around, there is a unique, mutual sense of community and a 'we're all in this together' kind of feeling that makes the situation strangely exciting. Katrina and 9/11 are a couple recent examples that we all can relate to in this aspect.


This is my first attempt at a so-called Mixtape. The only real difference in this and a post with a bunch of songs is that these are ordered in what i feel like is the best layout for an album - and there's a link to a zipfile for quicker access. It was difficult to arrange the songs in a cohesive way because the genres/tempos are pretty varied, but i did my best.

Originally i made burned CD entitled Surviving Rita (for Hurricane Rita that followed Katrina a few years back). i removed a couple songs and added a few others to create Surviving Ike:

Side A:
1. Hurricane - Bob Dylan
2. Stormy Weather - The Kooks
3. Mighty Storm - The Duhks
4. Floodwater - Reckless Kelly
5. Rayne, Louisiana - Bruce Robison
6. Down in the Flood - Bob Dylan
7. Floods - The Great Divide
8. Buckets of Rain - The Wood Brothers
9. Shelter from the Storm - Bob Dylan
10. Have Mercy On Me - The Black Keys

Side B:
1. Hurricane - Golden Smog
2. Skies Are Turning Red - The Mike McClure Band
3. We're All In This Together - Old Crow Medicine Show
4. Waterbound - Carrie Rodriguez
5. The Levee's Gonna Break - Bob Dylan
6. Wind and Rain - Crooked Still
7. Bliding Sheet of Rain - Old 97's
8. High Water - Bob Dylan
9. Ridin' Out the Storm - Rodney Crowell
10. None But The Rain - Townes Van Zandt

Download Surviving Ike (zip)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Ok, I would be happy to help you out with that today"

My file host has decided to misplace all my uploaded songs. Apparently, my userfiles are not CHMODed correctly? Plus, in order to get support, you have to register with a third-party support service. To register, you have to enter one of those 'captcha' words. Only thing is, the 'captcha' picture is a red X - after numerous refreshes.

Please stay on the line while the issue is resolved.

Press # to speak to a customer service representative.

Press * to end this call (or just hang up, like a normal person).

**Update (9/11): My filehost is back up, but i have to re-upload all the songs. The last month or so should be back up by the end of the day.

Cover/Uncovered: Dead Leaves.....

This edition of C/U will not follow the general form - originally, this feature post was designed to highlight those cover songs in which i heard the cover first, and later investigated the original. But that limits the songs i can feature - so i'm scrappin' the formalities.

September is fall, right?

Either way, this is great song. i've never been real big into Jack White - i like his full band more that his duo, but in both, he can crawl over to the crazy side a little much. There's no denying his place in Rock History - he singlehandedly brought indie-rock to the masses (Does it then remain indie?? That's for another discussion....).

Cover: Chris Thile - Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
i haven't said much about Chris here. The most creative force in Nickel Creek - another band to bring a sub-genre into the mainstream - Chris constantly abuses his mandolin and always takes his vocals to their upper-reaches. His '06 solo release remains one of my favorite albums. Chris compiled an all-star Bluegrass band to back him on it, and it came together perfectly. The band played the entire album live, sitting around 2 vintage mics hooked to the exact same 2-track machine The Beatles used on The White Album. The record also includes a Welch/Rawlings cover, Wayside (Back In Time), a few bluegrass instrumentals, and a handful of originals. He's got a new one that came out in February (billed as The Punch Brothers). i haven't picked it up yet, but it's on my list - Check some of it out on his MySpace.

Uncovered: The White Stripes - Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

Ryan Adams - Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (live)
As always, Ryan adds his own flare to a cover song - with some original verses about Meg and Jack.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Digs: Daytrotter's My Record Store

Haven't picked up anything new recently. Okkervil River's new one came out today, but i never left my house, so.... for now enjoy a few splendid, new Daytrotter sessions.

To this day, i haven't found anything from these guys that i don't think is amazing. This session is no exception.

Speaking of.... i'm gonna get to catch the brothers (along with Deer Tick) in about a month in the crescent city - if it makes through the storm season.....

Check out the venue:
Looks like it'll be a regular ol' shin-dig down in 'Nawlins.

Justin Townes Earle
Although i didn't completely enjoy his debut The Good Life - a few good songs, but a little too much of a hoe-down, swing-country feel - i did like his EP Yuma, his HearYa Live Session, and this one. Highlight: cover of The Replacements' Can't Hardly Wait.

i've kinda been diggin' on Bon Iver and For Emma, Forever Ago. It's a vocally-driven album with sparse and interesting instrumentation - perfect for a rainy day. The sound on this session is even more meager, but i dig it none the less.

Friday, September 5, 2008

In The Toolbox: John Prine (1971)

Well, Nelson’s three-for-three for his Essential Albums over at A Fifty Cent Lighter..., so i figured i better get a move on. My second installment of In The Toolbox comes from a 1971 debut disc from one the most respected songwriters alive.

John Prine's self-titled album is a collection of songs, all of which - every artist that plays music even vaguely resembling ‘folk’ or ‘country’ is secretly jealous of. A perfect example of this is shown in my first experience with John Prine. In 2001, Pat Green & Cory Morrow paid tribute to some of their heroes (and a few contemporaries) with Songs We Wish We’d Written. They included John’s Paradise on the disc – along with their versions of some classic tunes from people like Darrell Scott, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Waylon, Merle, and Townes. So many artists today that value songwriting list John as a major influence: Deer Tick, The Roadside Graves, Todd Snider, Hayes Carll, Kasey Chambers, Lucinda Williams, Rodney Crowell, Randy Newman, Johnny Cash - just to name a few.

John Prine - John Prine
Atlantic (1971)

This introduction to John Prine continually reminds us of the simple elegance of lightheartedness and brevity in music. He begins with an acoustic-driven tune about that glorious "escape from reality" that's just a puff away. Halfway through, John gives us a political number poking fun at those obsessed with puttin' the American Flag anywhere it'll stick - and even admits that he's guilty of it. Scattered throughout the disc are perfectly written lines ("i knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve") that make us wish we could all look at life with the same loving flippancy as John.

Helping to frame these lyrical gems, and possibly his greatest appeal, is John's ability to turn a phrase. No one, not even Dylan, has better melodic timing or syllabic choices in their songs. He often goes the less intellectual route in his word choice in order to get that timing just right, and in doing so, shows us just how smart he is.

i'll leave you with the great advice John gives in Spanish Pipedream: "Blow up your TV. Throw away your paper. Go to the country. Build you a home. Plant a little garden. Eat a lot of peaches. Try and find Jesus on your own."

John Prine - Illegal Smile
John Prine - Hello In There
John Prine - Sam Stone

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Free Old Crow: Highway Halo....

Head over to OCMS's MySpace page to get a copy of Highway Halo off their new album, Tennessee Pusher. As i mentioned back here, the first single to leak, Caroline, left me unimpressed. Unfortunately, this new song also lacks their trademark bare-bones sound, and possesses a highly produced, bubble-gum feel. On the plus side, it's quite groovy, and the boys' harmonies have only strengthened.

Here's a stellar tune off Eutaw, from back in '01, for a little comparison.
Old Crow Medicine Show - The Silver Dagger

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Float Down Memory River....

Made a much-needed labor day weekend trip down to the river in New Braunfels. i can't quite explain it, but that part of Texas has a way of life all its own. Laid back folks, great food, lots of beer, and there's a beautiful river that maintains a year-round 72 degree temperature.

Music, specifically Texas Music, lies at the heart of the Texas hill-country culture, helping to reinforce that everyone's family, buy me a beer feeling. Though i'm not into the scene like i once was, being back there surrounded by other floaters blasting Texas anthems on their ice-chest radios and nightly concerts up and down River Road and from San Marcos to Austin, you can't help but appreciate the music and what it stands for.

i've been a little hesitant to post songs that were once considered musical gold to me back in high school. But hearing this music all weekend got me thinking about it once again. Sure, the lyrics are often childish, the themes a little exhausted, but it does represent a part of my past. It was this genre of music that got me interested in original songwriting and the live show experience - two of the most important aspects of good music.
Nearly all of the bands pooled into the Texas Music scene are still making records (many have '08 releases), and some are more successful now than back when i followed them. But somehow, i simply can't get into the music like i used to.

So this question came up throughout the weekend: Has the actual music changed, or is it my perception, having matured and broadened my musical predilection, that has skewed my views?
Either way, as Texas Music playlists rang out night and day, the occasional song from the past retained its appeal. Here's a sampling of some Texas highlights from back in the day:

Bleu Edmondson - Little Bit Crazy
Brandon Rhyder - Up In Flames
Cory Morrow - Runnin' Around On Me
Cross Canadian Ragweed - Run To Me
Honeybrowne - Annie In The Moonlight
Jack Ingram - Work This Out
Jason Boland & The Stragglers - Somewhere Down In Texas
Owen Temple - Dry Creek Bar
Pat Green - One For The Road
Randy Rogers - Tommy Jackson
Reckless Kelly - Black & White
Roger Creager - Things Look Good Around Here
Wade Bowen - Not Finished Yet

All these artists' music can be found at LoneStarMusic.com, whose home base just happens to be situated on the Guadalupe in Grunene, TX.

As musical scenes have forever emerged, flourished, and burned out, i'm sure some of my readers from across the country have experienced similar cases. Let me know about them.