Posts Tagged ‘Alt-Country’

David Lerner of Trummors on Cowboy – Reach For The Sky

I’ve been particularly excited for the upcoming Trummors LP, Dropout City. The LP sees David Lerner and Anne Cunningham perfecting their wide-skied country-folk approach with an album that’s sunburned and bittersweet. The album slides in on buttery leads, breezy harmonies, and a sense of ease that’s hard to resist. The band’s been building up to a record that sounds this effortless and lived-in over the past few years, but it’s hard to deny that this is a high-water mark for their brand of alt-country saunter. I asked David to lock in a pick for the Hidden Gems series and it sidles in nicely alongside their new LP. I love it when artists pick an album I’m unfamiliar with, but his one’s gonna be an album to get acquainted with pretty quick. Check out Lerner’s take on Cowboy’s 1970 debut below.

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Cut Worms – “Sold My Soul”

With a nice string of singles trickling out, Cut Worms’ Max Clarke finally announces an upcoming LP to collect them all in one place. With a delicate slide into the auburn arms of country, Clarke aims to release the bittersweet Nobody Lives Here Anymore on October 9th. The latest single doubles down on the cool air country swoon that he’s been courting over the last couple of months. “Sold My Soul” is a quicksilver slide slung chapter of storyteller country-folk and he wears the mantle well. His Everlys harmonies have begun to fold behind the horizon, but there’s still a nice warm glow about Clarke’s songwriting. Echoing fellow Clark’s (minus the ‘e’) Gene and Guy, Cut Worms aims to let us all deal with sadness and loneliness on our own terms. The video is a nice piece of surreal pulp that lends itself well to Clarke’s sunburned saunter.

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Pearl Charles – “Night Tides (Alternate Version)”

Oh this one came out a few weeks back, but timelines has never been my strong suit. Pearl Charles has been capturing a cross-section of ‘70s pop, folk, and country for the past few years and it feels like a new album is on the air soon, but this is a nice treat to tide ya over. While she had a standalone single that played up the country angle last year, this alternate cut from her 2018 album Sleepless Dreamer does the shift better, eschewing any sense of sleek appeal for a more hip-slung approach. The original version of the song clips along with an almost disco beat, just slipping this side of the genre into ‘70s AOR — but here “Night Tides” is recast as a late-night country come on, full of humid air, clove smoke, and dim lights. The rougher delivery fits her, and here’s hoping that wherever Charles goes next this kind of tousled delivery follows her. The new version appears alongside a few other demo and outtake cuts as Between Dreams and is out now.




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Le Ren – “If I Had Wings”

Been easing into the upcoming EP from Montreal’s Lauren Spear under the name Le Ren. The EP is draped in a bittersweet soul, informed by loss and the lingering regrets that lead on the road to resolution. “If I Had Wings” is a slow saunter into the summer air, flecked with a mournful slide, laconic strums and Spear’s heartbreaking delivery. The song ebbs into the strands of downcast country that have been working their way into constant rotation around here. While the release is only four songs strong, each is a universe of quiet despair and newfound hope. The EP lands on Secretly Canadian July 31st.



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Best of 2020 (so far)

2020’s been a hell of a year, and one that doesn’t feel like definitive statements do it justice. Still, no matter how many seismic changes have occurred during the year, the music has been a source of solace and inspiration. The fact that so many artists have had their livelihoods upended gives it a slightly sour note, especially for some that may have been working years to let these statements out into the world. Keep hitting the Bandcamp revenue shares to support artists and labels directly. If you need some suggestions there’s quite a few below. Keep in mind that ‘best’ is by no means definitive, but these are some of my favorites. We all know that Run The Jewels hits hard, but someone else is gonna tell you about it better than I ever could. Still lots to look forward to musically in the second half, but the first part of the year has been a bounty to be sure.

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Cut Worms – “Castle In The Clouds”

On his last album Max Clarke paid a visit to the 50’s harmonies of the Everlys, cut with a touch of twang that gave them a faded pastiche of Western Fringe and ’60s California neon humming through the night. From the sounds of “Castle In The Clouds” he’s taking the that touch of twang and turning it up a notch. The song pushes him away from those Everly Brothers swoons and into a lonesome territory that’s skewing more Gene Clark as he worked his way from The Godsins to Doug Dillard. I’ve been smitten by the current sweep of indie and folk towards an adoption of the Cosmic Americana and Country corners and Clarke has been doing it as well as most. This one leaves a lot of anticipation for his upcoming LP, which seems to have full details forthcoming. Either way, get it on the watch list and in the meantime spend a few minutes replaying “Castle In The Clouds” on repeat.

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Rose City Band – “Real Long Gone”

Another shaker from the upcoming sophomore LP by Rose City Band. While the band’s debut slipped out quietly under the shadow of anonymity, leaving a few aural clues as to who was behind it, now Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips) has taken his rightful place in the sun for the follow-up. The band’s been blending down the private press folk loner linger with the faded country swagger of deep bench ‘70s presses and nowhere does it coalesce better than on “Real Long Gone.” The song’s got a sunburnt soul, beaten by road dust and winding down the same turns that Turnquist Remedy, Country Funk, and Mighty Baby tracked before them. In the past the heat-curl of psych has obscured the twang-tipped wrangle, but here the country careen is on full display and feeling like just the thing to ease into summer. Warmer days have a good companion in the grooves of Summerlong.


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Half Stack – “Wings of Love”

Adding to the Autumn shivers of the country-rock groundswell of late, Oakland’s Half Stack have been building steam for the past few years, with an EP release last year and their sorely underusing 2018 LP, Quitting Time in the rearview. They announce a proper follow-up this week and release the title track “Wings of Love” out onto the breeze — unfurling an easy sway, a tangle of guitar twang, and three-part harmonies that melt like butter in the pan. The song’s got a wandering heart and travel in its bones, but its also got a melancholy soul that’s not ready to leave easy. The band employs a looseness that never sounds over-fussed, letting a little rumple work its way into the sound despite an obvious aptitude for songcraft. The record’s on the way from Forged Artifacts, and as with many soon to be platters, the digital will land mid-summer with physical dates stretching into the fall. Get this one on your wishlist now, though. Its gonna be a good one.



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Mapache

The sophomore LP from West Coast duo Mapache doesn’t knock the wheel too far from the road they set down in 2017. While the temper (and tempo) doesn’t rise from the comfort of that first LP, the colors do deepen. From Liberty Street is rife with shades of earthen ochre and dust-kicked sandalwood. There are more than a few pale blues that stretch far and wide as the skies that tie Los Angeles to the Baja. There are deep set oranges and amber golds that bake in the sun and seep into the copper rimmed strings of their guitars. Moving against any and all prevailing winds at the moment, the record is full of an endless summer bliss — capturing the kind of lost weekend aimlessness that feels either blissfully ignorant of its own innate good fortune or imbued with the charm to talk its way into those good graces with gambler’s finesse.

The pair swaps seamlessly between Spanish and English as if border hopping between small towns in an era less locked with tension. With the kind of stubbled yet square jawed vocal harmonies that made Fleet Foxes a household name, the band reaches back to a Canyon croon that’s embroidered over every inch of this record. There’s a bygone feeling beat into the bones of this album — patched and faded like a thrift store Nudie suit jacket missing its presentational partner but pulling the outfit together all the same. There are tales of hammock swung afternoons that feel flush with melodies traded back and forth like pot-luck parcels. Half-hewn notes of Gene Clark, The Fist National Band, David Crosby, and a much less Anglophile Heron seem to flutter through the speakers in patchwork perfection. While the band haven’t really shaken the roots that took hole from their beginning, the combination of calm winds across a few different eras all seem to blow this one in the right direction. Seems like if you’re looking for a bit of relief right about now, this is a damn sure bet.



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Rose City Band – “Only Lonely”

After last year’s stunner of a private press presentation on Ripley and Sanae’s Jean Sandwich Records, Rose City Band wafts out of the morning haze with a renewed focus on its principle songwriter (Ripley Johnson) and an even greater glint of late afternoon sun between its bars. The band signs to Thrill Jockey for a sophomore LP, Summerlong, and fades even further into the dusted dirt and sun-ripple rock of ‘70s country-psych and private press folk. Rip seems to have mastered the melancholy moments of clarity that cropped up on long lost singer-songwriter sojourns destined for dollar bin rescue by collector’s with keen ears. “Only Lonely” starts off the LP with a hip-swung jaunt — lofted high on late afternoon jangles, the buttery bliss of slide, and Johnson’s vocals dipping in and out of the smoke curls rising to the rafters. While the debut snagged the attention of the jam diggers and new-country creepers, this one’s poised to let everyone in on the secret sway that Rose City Band holds over a room. It’s only March, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t already one of 2020’s essential offerings right here.



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