Posts Tagged ‘Alt-Country’

Little Gold

Sometimes the best records come when a band is broken and beat. While Christian DeRoeck’s Little Gold had rather robust run over the past few years, putting out records on Let’s Pretend, Adagio830, Loud Baby Sounds, and Security Blanket, the feeling between Deroeck and the band was that they’d run their course. It seemed that a breakup was in order, but not all things end because you think they should. Sometimes inspiration just takes its course. Instead of abating, the songs for Wake Up & Die Right swam to the surface, tracing lines around nostalgia for former years — both good and bad — in the songwriter’s life. There’s a weariness to the record, but one that comes with a cocked smile. While the record deals with loss and addictions, it also explores a period of friendship that seems to flourish in the glow of youth.

DeRoeck explores his days in bands past, with the opener netting its title from the Jarvis Taveniere’s studio Rear House where DeRoeck no doubt spent some time with Woods. The bands share a bit of Venn diagram overlap, but on Wake Up & Die Right the sounds skew much further towards the light lap of twang and sunset sighs of slide guitar that swaddle alt-country than the bucolic folk of his former outfit. Along with the trappings of country, DeRoeck brings a soft-heated humor to the record, poking holes in his own ego as he lays bare his soul about rock bottom years. He traces his scars with a gentle jangle, connecting each one with a smile and a sigh. For an album that might never have seen light had the band dissolved, it takes a welcome place high in the ranks of their catalog as one of Little Gold’s best.




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Anti-Westerns

Had this one in the dock a little while, but the end of year onslaught always gets in the reviews backed up. No time like the new year to shed a bit of light here. Anti-Westerns are a side project, or more succinctly, an alter-ego of Plates of Cake. The foundations of the band are built on the same solid footing of rivet-tight indie, but his time they trade Brooklyn bars for Nashville skies, adding a large dose of twang to their sound and letting the tempos lope a bit more than they used to. While the dust-plastered settings are pulled into frame behind a rusted pickup truck, the bulk of the album finds the songwriters waxing nostalgic about aging, drinking, and settling into love for the long haul. Quite a few of the songs hit like a hangover after years of moderation, the lacquered taste of whiskey in the gums and regret hanging hard in the stomach.

The band wears country fairly well, though, feeling just a bit like their western collars might be a bit too under-rumpled for the rest of the regulars of the bars they’re frequenting, but the homage rings sincere. They eschew the cosmic vein, swinging slightly more First National Band than New Riders, opting for more of a bumpy road pacing and coordinated guitar dips to the crowd. But just like Mike Nesmith setting himself off from his own past, Anti-Westerns have done their homework, seeming to revel in imagining themselves waking up outside of Townes’ trailer with a head full of half-truths and one liners from the night before. They hang a tale of creaking knees and doctor’s chiding with a crooked smile and a tip of the hat then turn around and rave up a shout-along love letter to rough edged gals with the kind of hook that hits like a bottle against chicken wire. No clue if this one is a one off or the start of the next chapter, but its a winter warmer that starts the year off right.




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Supreme Joy – “Julie b/w Sofa”

No matter how hard I try, there’s always a few gems that slip through the cracks and this lovely EP from Supreme Joy almost slid away in the tail end of last year. Boasting songwriting from Could Ghouls’ Ryan Wong and a bass assist from Empty Cellar head Arvel Hernandez, the two tracks are a nice waft of the Ghouls in the absence of new material from that camp. Though, to be fair Wong carves out a bit of his own cosmic country foxhole here and I quite like the shift. There’s a scent of the Ghouls’ jangle, coming across at their most Byrdsian, and the trio flesh this double-shot out with some nice lap steel from Wong and drums from his CG bandmate Alex Fleshman. The A-side is a laconic drift down calm waters. It’s hammock-swung and easy on the ears, with a nice tempo shift that keeps ya on yer toes. The flip spreads out a bit more and showcases what the band has to offer — letting that lap steel shine amid a leathered jangle and bittersweet vocals. Hoping this one isn’t just a lark and there’s more in the pipe, but even if this is all the joy they bring, its a pretty solid offering.



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Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn – “On Our Way”

The latest from Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn is an amber-hued country slide that sits along nicely with his recent run of solo records. Full of cool breezes and long afternoons, the album sat perfectly in the last days of fall, feeling every bit the kind of ennui coated vision that helps usher out the last vestiges of warmth. He adds on another nice touch with a second homespun video from the LP for “On Our Way.” The song aches in the chest perhaps more than some of the others and this faded memory video only makes the ache glow harder. Rain, Rain, Rain is out now on Cosmic Range.



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Cory Hanson – “Paper Fog”

Looks like Wand frontman Cory Hanson is taking another trek down the solo troubadour route and while the first taste of the album, “Paper Fog,” sounds a bit sunnier than his last outing, its still a more delicate side of Hanson. This one slides a bit closer to what Wand were laying down on their last album proper, though Cory has shaded in the edges with a nice dose of country-psych trappings bolstering a melancholy strummer with some amber slide work, fuzz breakdowns, and yearning synths. The new album Pale Hose Rider arrives in hand March 12th, though I’m sure we’ll hear a bit more from this one before then. Check out the desert delirium video for the track above.

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Trevor Beld Jimenez

Country-psych veteran Trevor Beld Jimenez has been a name kicking around rosters for years — popping up on Fruit Bats, Kacey Johansing, and DIOS recordings. He was found hunkering down with Neal Casal and Brent Rademaker in GospelbeacH, and with his songwriting partner Tim Ramsey in Parting Lines and Tall Tales & The Silver Lining. For his solo debut on Rademaker’s Curation Records, the songwriter digs deeper into the tie that seems to bind them all – the salt-flecked sundown shimmer of California calm. Rooted in ‘70s songwriter hallmarks, the songs here are swinging from wounded Petty and Nilsson to the AM gold of Bread and America. The album shares a lot of ground with the musical foxholes of his past, feeling like many of the songs wouldn’t be out of place in any of the bands that bear his name, though it might hew closest to the feeling of Parting Lines. Like the songs on the Lines’ debut, there’s a porch-at-dusk feeling to I Like It Here and its hard not to give in to the familiarity.

More AOR than cosmic country, though, Jimenez is steeped in the well-shined pop that’s hovering a bit above the usual twang-flecked purveyors that populate Raven of late. That he’s been around the Fruit Bats crew isn’t surprising, Jimenez shares a lot of pop impulses with Eric, D. Johnson, and its not unexpected that the Bats songwriter lends a hand to the record. Also finding their way into the mix are contemporaries and cohorts, Clay Finch (Mapache) and Pearl Charles along with studio heavy players like Nelson Bragg and Bob Glaub. While Jimenez can sometimes kick up a bit of dust, the record’s speed is often found sinking into the horizon, heavy with a sigh of the past and a drink at half mast. It’s not always a bad place to be. It’s certainly comfortable while it lasts and when the alcohol wears off, the head swim of melancholy lingers for the night.



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David Nance

November just keeps giving musically and the new release from David Nance is hard proof. The Omaha artist switched his setup towards full band and knocked the gears to heavy on his last LP, but he’s back to basics for Staunch Honey and while I miss the UV burn of Peaced and Slightly Pulverized I appreciate the unfettered and unfiltered version of Nance all the more this time around. A ragged county blues that’s ripped out of some alt-American version of a national songbook, the record is the sound of dust storms whipping through vacant cul-de-sacs abandoned after the housing crisis hollowed them out. It’s the sound of scarred lots in Detroit built with blight but hosting an outdoor noise show. Its the sound of catharsis, sweet and simple — the rumble of mufflers over the horizon harmonizing with the amplifiers to create a grit-ground vision of Americana if there were no longer pretensions attached to the term.

Nance has tapped down deep into something singular, secular, and universal. The dust in his veins is pure, and it’s beat down into every note of Staunch Honey. The shift between Peaced and this record is palpable. Everything has slowed to an amber glow that gives the titular substance weight on the record. The riffs are run through finest local batch, then countrified and clarified until they’re something ragged, raw, and unmistakable. If we were in need of a cleanse in 2020, Nance has stepped up to the challenge and brought the blacklight backbeat that douses the masses in a deluge of blues — enough to buff out the buildup from a half decade of bad vibes. Nance brings the lights low, lets the bar crowd die down and then lays out the 2AM shakes like an old aficionado. Make no mistake, Staunch Honey is rarefied air and you’d do well to breath it in deep.




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Pearl Charles – “Imposter”

The new LP from Pearl Charles keeps giving with a third single out this week that’s splashed with just a touch more AM gold than on the past two. Still weathered with the California cool that permeates her new album, the new song bounces on a sunny beat but gets caught the heartsick swirl of keys, a vertigo tug of guitars, and Pearl’s sighed vocals that betray a lostness that’s easy to relate to. The song’s based in feeling like a fraud, sure to be found out at anytime by peers and friends at any moment. The harsh self-reflection and knowing doubt bump against the song’s seeming calm with a slight tension, though this still fits nicely into the album’s wood paneled wonderland.

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Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears – “Sun’s Hiding”

Oh, quite nice. This is something a bit different from Sean Thompson. The Nashville songwriter has been clamoring up the cosmic vine lately, but the second volume of Weird Ears For Weird Times offers a narcotic, nocturne vision of slinking pop with ice in the veins. The song’s anchored by Thompson’s reedy delivery, roughed at the edges but with a feeling of road wear seeping in between the sighs. Anchored by a slouched organ exhale and boasting some nervy guitar lines that are as far from the silvered cosmic vein he’s been harboring than could ever have been expected. The single is paired with a slightly more straightforward ramble under the name “Distraction,” but the songs make for a nice pair from a songwriter who has only been getting better these days. New LP is reportedly on the way soon, but this should tide ya over until then.




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Trevor Beld Jimenez – “Comeback Kid”

The past few years have been a blessing of cosmic country, often leaning towards an embrace of the past — landing between the Burritos’ blurred swagger and Crazy Horse’s toughened wander into the rough hills. Veteran songwriter Trevor Beld Jimenez slips between the salt-scrubbed breezes to bring a vision that’s pulled away from this Kodachrome prism of ‘70s country rock. He’s still reaching into the auburn arms of the California sun, but this is steeped in a more AOR, AM radio softness. “Comeback Kid” turns away from the glare that others embrace to find itself aligning with an unlikely love of Bread and America. The former’s Baby I’m-A Want You feels like it’s left a particular impression on Jimenez. As a contributor to several RSTB faves (GospelbeacH, Dios, Fruit Bats) Trevor’s no novice when it comes to the sounds that touch the wavy end of the country spectrum, but the clarity and care he imparts to the song gives a new life to the rock radio staples that sometimes wind up maligned in hindsight.

The song appears on the upcoming I Like It Here which ropes in a large roster of impressive talent Clay Finch, Pearl Charles, Nelson Bragg, Bob Glaub, Kacey Johansing, and Eric D. Johnson. The record lands November 13th on Curation Records.



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