Saturday, October 31, 2009

black cats and fallen trees, under ladders always walkin'...

Ryan Adams - Halloweenhead (acoustic)

Here's my festive Halloween post for you this year. Boo.

Check out last year's post - also featuring Ryan Adams - with re-upped song links.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Digs, Vol. 25: JET....

Esquire magazine named Kate Beckinsale the Sexiest Woman Alive, and I can't argue with that. But don't worry, we're still here for the music. The magazine filmed a photoshoot with Ms. Beckinsale and put some music to it. Some good music.

JET - Goodbye Hollywood
from Shaka Rock (2009)

I looked up the band and learned that this wasn't the first time their music has been used in conjunction with moving pictures to grab your attention. JET's song 'Are You Gonna Be My Girl' from their 2003 debut album has been blasted all over TV, most notably in one of Apple's first dancing silhouette ads. Get Born was a huge success for the Australian rock band, selling 3.5 million copies thanks to their lead single, 'Cold Hard Bitch,' which reached #1 on Billboard's Modern Rock chart.

While those songs are good, the way in which I heard them (radio) stalled my interest, and I figured them to be your usual one (or two) hit wonder sure to be embraced by MTV. But I recently picked up their 2009 disc, Shaka Rock, and was pleasantly surprised. So I went out and found Get Born. These guys are not the one-trick mainstream act you expect them to be. Sure, they shine when they rock with energy on par with The Kooks, but JET is equally impressive when they lay off the guitars and symbols a bit and throttle down to a mid-tempo song.

JET - Look What You've Done
JET - Radio Song
from Get Born (2003)

The two blockbuster songs from JET's debut may still be their marquee songs, but this year's release is tells us so much more about the band. The songs on Shaka Rock have more substance - and let's face it... what Apple ad song has really meant something? They are chosen for their ability to immediately wedge themselves in your frontal lobe and stay there. These new songs, however, have a stronger lyrical focus and, in doing so, the band has expanded their sound.

JET - Seventeen
from Shaka Rock (2009)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dave Rawlings Readies Debut....

I mentioned the other day that the long-awaited Gillian Welch follow-up to 2003's Soul Journey is finally coming, albeit in the form of The Dave Rawlings Machine. Now that we have full details including track list, release date, album art, and pre-order, I thought I outta give this release its own post.A Friend of a Friend is the first solo album from Dave Rawlings, although he has collaborated (and played alongside) Gillian Welch throughout her career. In addition, the duo has been instrumental in helping a couple of my favorite artists get their recording feet on the ground. Dave pays homage to these friends on his album, due out November 17th on Acony Records, by re-recording songs co-written with Ryan Adams ('To Be Young') and Old Crow Medicine Show ('I Hear Them All').

Those co-writes, along with five other original songs make up with bulk of the album, with an interesting cover medley of Conor Oberst's 'Method Acting' and Neil Young's 'Cortez The Killer' thrown in the mix. I'm most looking forward to the lead-track 'Ruby' and 'Sweet Tooth,' both of which I vividly remember from The Big Surprise Tour. As expected, Gillian lends her siren vocals throughout the album, and Old Crow Medicine Show will help fill out arrangements.

1. Ruby
2. To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)
3. I Hear Them All
4. Method Acting/Cortez The Killer

5. Sweet Tooth *

6. How's About You

7. It's Too Easy

8. Monkey And The Engineer

9. Bells of Harlem

Pre-order now at Amazon - $11.99

I wish I had a promo track to offer, but until then, enjoy this rip of 'Sweet Tooth' from the No Depression Music Festival in July:
*Dave Rawlings Machine - Sweet Tooth (live)

Here are some notes and quotes I found regarding the recording process:

Making A Friend of a Friend, Rawlings discovered that different considerations applied when recording himself singing melody instead of harmony. “When I listen to a Gillian record there’s a particular place and feeling in it that has an awful lot to do with the sound of her voice,” Rawlings says. “A lot of things change from track to track, but that has always been the constant. And a lot of the arrangements we’d worked out over the years---the way we put chords, the way we sing together---I was shocked at how little they worked for my voice or my record. We had learned to make records in a particular way because we were always framing her voice, which is this large, takes-up-a-lot-of-space, very intimate, very good sounding thing, a beautiful tone, so you can frame it in a skeletal way. It almost seems to me that the less you put on her records, the more powerful they are, but when we started working that way with my voice, which is so different, it turned out that nothing from that approach was valid, so we had to find different sounds and treatments that we were happy with. I was really surprised when we started that we were in territory as uncharted as we were. We broke new ground from necessity.”

Spontaneity was an important part of the recording. “I've learned over time that as a lead singer, I do my best singing live and on early takes, so it was essential that we capture the band quickly and in an organic way. So when we stood in a circle to rehearse the first song I thought, ‘Well, I guess we better put a mic in the center and be done with it.’ It tied my hands as far as mixing the vocals went, but it helped us capture something in the air. I knew that Gillian and I would be at the core of the recordings, but I became interested in a particular acoustic sound with more vocal parts that I knew the Crows could conjure up. Karl, Benmont and Nate were the icing on the cake.”

A Friend of a Friend has more lavish arrangements than songs from the Gillian Welch catalog typically do. They are more boisterous, but they are built on the same careful spine that Welch songs are. Rawlings’s sly and succinct guitar playing is embedded within ensemble play as opposed to carrying the bulk of the arrangement. The songs are exuberant, sturdy, and carefully constructed, but they also reverberate poetically. The music on A Friend of a Friend is cousin to the deftly modern and haunting music that Welch and Rawlings are known for, but it has here been expanded; the crowd is larger, the party more robust, but the room is the same room.

I already got my tickets to The Dave Rawlings Machine at The Parish Room in Austin and found out that the machine (which will include Rawlings, Welch, Secor, Watson, and Jahnig) will be doing an in-store performance at Waterloo Records earlier that day. Check 'em out if they are heading your way.

Nov 28 2009 8:00P
The Melting Point Athens, Georgia
Nov 29 2009 8:00P
The Orange Peel Asheville, North Carolina
Nov 30 2009 8:00P
Cat’s Cradle Carrboro, North Carolina
Dec 1 2009 8:00P
Bijou Theatre Knoxville, Tennessee
Dec 3 2009 8:15P
Exit / In Nashville, Tennessee
Dec 4 2009 9:00P
Headliners Music Hall Louisville, Kentucky
Dec 5 2009 8:00P
Bluebird Nightclub Bloomington, Indiana
Dec 6 2009 7:30P
Abbey Pub Chicago, Illinois
Dec 7 2009 8:00P
High Noon Saloon Madison, Wisconsin
Dec 9 2009 8:00P
Cedar Cultural Center Minneapolis, Minnesota
Dec 10 2009 8:00P
The Waiting Room Omaha, Nebraska
Dec 11 2009 8:00P
Granada Theatre Lawrence, Kansas
Dec 13 2009 7:30P
The Parish Austin, Texas
Dec 14 2009 7:30P
The Parish Austin, Texas

New Lyle Lovett on the Cheap...

Go pick up Lyle's new album, Natural Forces, at Amazon today only for $3.99.

Here's on of my favorite tunes of his:
Lyle Lovett - Step Inside This House
buy Step Inside This House (1998)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Links & (new album) News for October...

First, the New Album news:
  • The much anticipated new Gillian Welch album isn't coming anytime soon... but a David Rawlings Machine album is! Heather at Fuel/Friends reported that Dave's album, A Friend of A Friend, is due November 17th and will apparently feature his version of 'To Be Young,' a Ryan Adams co-write. Gillian will appear on 8 of the 9 tracks.
  • The Felice Brothers got directly back to work after Yonder Is The Clock dropped earlier this year. They readied a 9-track demo with the intention of selling at shows - specifically The Big Surprise Tour. But the demand was such that their management wanted to make it an official release. No word on a release date or format for the The Mixtape yet.
**Update** Pre-order is available now. $10 - Ships Monday 10/12.

And the rest:
  • Our old friend BoyHowdy from Cover Lay Down was inspired by my recent Slaid Cleaves post to dig deeper into the world of Slaid's coverfolk. As always, it's well-written and informing.
  • ThisMornin' favorite Bombadil recently stopped off at the Daytrotter studios to record some songs. It's a great set with 3 tracks off the new one and a revisited song from their debut. Check it out.
  • Thanks to a link to my previous post on the Bob Dylan fansite, ThisMornin' received at record number of hits today (700 and counting...). Maybe I should talk about 'ol Bobby D more - people seem to like him.
  • I took some time to calm down and re-read my I And Love And You review the other day and realized it came off much more negative than I intended. This isn't any sort of recant, but maybe I was sizing it up next to Emotionalism a little too much. I'm just saying, don't call me a hypocrite if it shows up on a list here at the end of the year. Maybe my faith in The Avett Brothers was a little re-instilled when I caught their performance on Ferguson last night - a complete 180 from the direction they took on Letterman. See for yourself:

Pick up the mp3 here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Low Anthem Covers Dylan

If you haven't yet checked out Providence's The Low Anthem, what's wrong with you? I had the pleasure of catching an intimate live show of theirs in Nashville not long after discovering their 2009 disc, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. Both the album and their live set are mesmerizing. Read my show review - with updated song links for a couple days.

The Low Anthem is making their way back from a European tour and preparing for some Fall /Winter US dates, including some with Josh Ritter. Check 'em out when they come your way:

October 15 Providence, RI Avon Cinema
October 17 Seattle, WA Chop Suey

October 18 Portland, OR Lola's Room at the Crystal Ballroom

October 19 Eugene, OR WOW Hall*

October 21 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall*

October 23 Los Angeles, CA Troubadour*

October 24 San Diego, CA Casbah*

October 25 Tucson, AZ Plush*

October 27 Austin, TX The Parish*

October 28 Dallas, TX Granada Theater*

October 29 Houston, TX Bronze Peacock at HOB*

October 30 Baton Rouge, LA Spanish Moon*

See the rest here

* with Blind Pilot

Right now, simply by joining The Low Anthem's mailing list (at the bottom, on the right), you'll get a free download of the band covering Dylan's Dignity. It's done very simply and with the tone to make it sound like one of their own.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Evolution of Song: What Sin Replaces Love

What Sin Replaces Love?
Love is gone. There's a hole where it used to be. What is the quickest way to fill it?

That's what Ryan Adams asks in one of his most epic songs. And he wants to know RIGHT fucking NOW. The answer he inevitably settles on seems to be murder. He wants to "kick love right in its gut; beat it and leave it for dead." It shouldn't come as a surprise that 'What Sin...' was never officially included on an album. But since its inception around 2000, the song has been a live staple. While it hasn't changed lyrically in 9 years, it has evolved from a dark, acoustic tune into a full-on electric blues jam. Let's explore.

Tell me what sin replaces love
I wanna know, right now

Tell me what sin replaces love

I wanna know, right now

Imagine yourself on a mountain

A mountain discolored with flowers

Flowers discolored with horses

Horses distracted by stones

Stone distrusting and mean

Then you might know what I mean

I want to kick love right in its gut

Beat it and leave it for dead

Go and wash my hands in the river

Lie down and die in your bed

The voice on the receiver

Baby cry howlin' in the wind

I don't wanna beg for your mercy

I wanna know right know, what sin

Tell me what sin replaces love

I wanna know, right now

2000: Live @ The Boardwalk
Sheffield, UK - 11.19.00

This isn't the first time Ryan played this song - that was in February of 2000, the same night he claims to have written and first performed 'Come Pick Me Up' - but it's still in its original form here. Get the whole show for a great mix of his early solo stuff.

2001: Live @ The Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA - 2.17.01

Not much different than the introductory version but still amazing in its quiet tenebrosity. Full show.

Ryan nearly shelved the song after 2001, playing it just a handful of times in 2002, and once each in '03 and '04. But in 2005, 'What Sin Replaces Love' was given its proper credit, showing up as a bonus track in the Japanese release of The Cardinals' Jacksonville City Nights in all its electric glory. Included in a hard-to-find JCN 3-track promo was a studio recording of the acoustic version of 'What Sin.' I'll post these on my Jacksonville City Nights review.

2005: Live - The Loft Sessions
XM Radio Studios - 4.19.05
Full-Band Electric

Here, the original Cardinals lineup doles out the jam version of 'What Sin.' This one is pretty true to the electric bonus track, with an extra helping of extended solos.

2006: Live @ the Borderline
London, UK - 9.19.06
3-Piece Acousitc

Around this time, The Cardinals were changing form - in fact, every element except Brad on the drums. Ryan, Neal Casal, and Jon Graboff play an amazing set in London - with Jon on mandolin - giving the setlist made up of a good mix of JCN, Cold Roses, and Easy Tiger a fresh sound. I suggest downloading the whole thing.

2007: Live on The Henry Rollins Show
IFC - 4.20.07
Full-Band Electric

The latest version may prove to be the best. Here, 'What Sin' is fully formed and extended with powerful solos. An 8+ minute jam version delivered with the same spitting anger it was written with.
One word: SICK. See video.

Check out more Evolution of Song at

Ryan Adams: These Girls 8.9.2008
Wagon Wheel 6.5.2008

Thursday, October 1, 2009

In The Toolbox: Double Feature....

You could say this about all my feature posts, but it's been way too long since I've done an In The Toolbox. This is the recurring post theme that explores an 'essential' album chosen from my handy toolbox full of CD's. I've extended this privilege to any of my vinyls that I keep in my sturdy Eurolite carrying case (both seen above).

To get things going again with this feature, I'm offering up two gems today. These discs come from a couple of Texas' best songwriters and both were the album that turned me on to the artist. Also linking these albums together is the fact that they both feature a cut of the namesake song for this blog. This Mornin' I Am Born Again was originally a Woody Guthrie poem that Slaid Cleaves got his hands on put to music. Slaid included his version on his career-making album Broke Down. A few years later, Ray Wylie Hubbard recorded a cut of the song for my favorite album of his, Delirium Tremolos.

Slaid Cleaves - Broke Down
Philo (2000)

One of my first orders of business back when I started this blog was to get Slaid's name out into the blogosphere. My first post following the introductory Best of 2007 lists was an Artist Spotlight on Slaid. There, I expressed my admiration for Broke Down, his 5th album, but only the 2nd originally released on CD. The disc contains 10 tracks, not one of which can be considered weak.

'Broke Down' leads off, introducing the listener to Slaid's unmatched ability to tell a story. If this album had a hand in jump-starting Slaid's career, then the title track gets most of the credit. He continues this trend with 'Breakfast in Hell,' a John Henry-esque story of the tragic death of a Canadian logger. The most powerful track on the album is a well-chosen Karen Poston cover, 'Lydia' - a captivating story of a weathered widow twice-scarred by coal mine tragedy. The tune fits Slaid and the album so well, you would never guess it wasn't his. While his narratives are generally of the brokenhearted and last-leggers, there is an air of optimism in Slaid's voice that hints at a happy ending - even if it may not occur during the span of the song.

Slaid does offer some hope on the album, even if a little veiled. One Good Year hits upon that familiar feeling of the forced optimism that comes with a new year's resolution. 'Horseshoe Lounge' lifts the spirits some, offering a shoutout to a welcoming bar in Slaid's adopted home of Austin. 'Key Chain' shows Slaid's songwriting wit, breaking down a bad divorce into the happy fact that he now has en empty key ring with which to start over again.

Broke Down shows the versatility, both lyrically and musically, that Slaid had gathered throughout his first few albums. Tempos shift throughout, the vocals/harmonies keep the melodies fresh, and the genres jump effortlessly between simple singer-songwriter, to bluegrass and blues. See 'Cold and Lonely' and his Del McCoury tribute, 'I Feel the Blues Moving In.' I wrote about the latter in a Cover/Uncovered some time back.

Slaid Cleaves - Broke Down

Slaid Cleaves - Lydia

Buy Broke Down: [Direct][Amazon][iTunes]

Ray Wylie Hubbard - Delirium Tremolos
Rounder/Philo (2005)

Ray Wylie Hubbard may have gotten his start back in the 'Outlaw Country' days in the 70's, but he's found his groove (literally) since the turn of the century. Hubbard is in his element with a foot-tapping tune accented with ample amounts of dobro and slide guitar. Bookended by dirty, bluesy records, 2005's Delirium Tremolos finds RWH taking a reflective look at the roots of his music. Almost completely composed of covers, the album cements Hubbard's title as the Dark Prince of Texas Music.

The album begins medium-paced and mellow, with an Eliza Gilkyson cover (with vocal help from her) and a version of Roger Tillison's 'Rock and Roll Gypsies'. Two of the darkest songs are that of Hubbard's own. 'Dallas after Midnight,' a Jack Ingram duet and 'Dust of the Chase,' a dustblown ballad of a bordertown outlaw.

The aforementioned 'This Mornin' I Am Born Again' is one of the most haunting recordings I've ever come across. Full a capella, except for a constant, creaking percussion, the song features a choir of Texas vocalists gradually joining the hymnal chant. The song begins a 5 track string of tunes that makes Delirium Tremolos a masterpiece. The delta-blues, traditional 'Roll and I Tumble' features expert guitarwork. Co-written with Cody Canada, 'Cooler-N-Hell' is an electric groove that roll-calls everything that makes a man glad he's a man. The album is capped-off with an 8-minute romp through James McMurtry's backwoods family reunion recount, 'Choctaw Bingo.' Hubbard's epic version may be even better than McMurtry's original.

Ray Wylie Hubbard - Roll and I Tumble
Ray Wylie Hubbard - Choctaw Bingo

Buy Delirium Tremolos: [Direct][Amazon][iTunes]

See the sidebar to download both artists' versions of This Mornin' I Am Born Again.

Check out more In The Toolbox at