Posts Tagged ‘Cosmic Americana’

Trummors – “Silver City Blues”

A sun-streaked new track slips out today in advance of the new Trummors LP, Dropout City on Ernest Jenning Record Co. The song is a faded-denim dose of cosmic country that ambles in on auburn strums and swooning harmonies. David Lerner and Ann Cunningham left the city steel for New Mexico’s grand expanses a few years back and the desert dust makes its presence felt on the low-light simmer of “Silver City Blues.” The song 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 release 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. Keep an ear out for more from Dropout City as this is only a taste of what the band’s put together for 2020. Move it to the top of the watchlist.




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Rose City Band

Its been no secret around here that the sophomore LP from Rose City Band has hit hard. Expanding on the debut’s humble roots in private press psych, country, and Americana, the second offering from Ripley Johnson’s solo outfit refines his vision and takes a light dusting to the dollar-bin veneer. The scrub up doesn’t degrade the charms though, and the more refined RCB doesn’t lose a single ounce of the endearing value of Rip’s sound. Largely, RCB leans further into the streaked skies of Cosmic Country this time around, with a good dose of twang and ramble seeping into the strings underneath a blanket of heat-wave warble that seals in the saunter. Johnson forgoes a long psychedelic excursion like the debut’s “Fear Song,” this time around, instead focussing on set of songs that build to a simmer with just enough time to froth without foaming over. I

ts a tighter record, but that doesn’t mean he’s not interested in letting those liquid silver guitar lines shine. The hallmark sound of lysergic licks still graces the record, leaving Johnson’s unique stamp on it. While still paying homage to his original crop of past masters — Relatively Clean Rivers, Jim Sullivan, KAK, and Curt Newbury, — the vibes on Summerlong seem to be swinging full well into Western nodes of The First National Band, Timbercreek, or Country Funk. The shift is subtle but fits Ripley well. His honey n’ dust croon lays low like a fog over the horizons of these songs, which amble slow and choogle slightly less than he has in the past, but what they give up in rollick they make up in melt. Though, as the album wafts into its second half, the temperature heats up just a bit and the breeze dies down.

“Morning Light” picks up the pace, but not the urgency, still laying back into sunshine ease, but “Reno Shuffle” lets the night in and a bit of heat lightning, hinting at a bit of danger in the distance. For the most part it lounges in languid moments and spot-on shimmer. The album is a perfect companion to hazy summer days as they turn into warm summer nights. There’s been a wealth of entries to the Cosmic Americana canon over the last few years and this one’s standing near the top. While it was on constant rotation here, its possible that the debut from Rose City Band got lost among the releases last year. Hoping that same fate doesn’t befall this, because its definitely edging its way towards the top of the list of albums for 2020. Don’t sleep on this one.



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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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Pacific Range

It’s hard to know what type of tone to strike these days — whether a bath of anger is what’s called for or the cleansing spirit of solace is in order. Maybe the answer is that there are days for both. I’d like to think that the angst of 2020 was far, far from the minds that made High Up On The Mountain, when it was written and recorded. The debut LP from West Coast Cosmic comrades Pacific Range captures a certain strain of calm that’s been sorely missing from my life of late. The album is awash in the salt-scrubbed tones of California and ingrained with the unblemished invigoration of mountain air. While it might not be a West Coast concept, the band captures the aural equivalent of that perfect pitch of blue that comes through in Spring sky — the kind that chases away the clouds of winter, hung with the first tinge of warmth and the the promise of a break from the crushing despair of winter months. The current wave of Cosmic Americana that’s rolled through has oddly favored the East Coast (aside from Howlin’ Rain I suppose) and the bands inclusion in the sunshine sway of the sound feels like it fills a particular gap.

While many of the others are heavily dependent on the Crazy Horse and Little Feat axis, Pacific Range seem to be falling into a more Allman descendent strain, and in many occasions the works of Dicky solo. Sure, they pick up quite a few of the tangential vibes as well — the lesser knowns that found their way in the wake of the Dead, The Allmans and post-Caravanserai Santana. There’s shades of Help Yourself, Mountain Bus, and Turnquist Remedy all threaded through the album. The band trickles down the same tributaries that cut through the canyons and make them their own. There’s a boogie that drives High Up, but there’s something more at play here.

While there’s the familiar deep-seated sway that offers itself up to extended jams in the live setting, there is a tenderness that’s not as present in some of their contemporaries. “Boulevard Indigo,” has a mournful country-folk strain that hangs on the air like dew. “Guiding the Mast” sounds like its was sliced off of either of the last couple of Mapache albums, and its not surprising that the band’s Clay Finch does indeed show up as a guest player among the tracks offered up here. Pacific Range complicate the cosmic winds with their own dusting of bittersweet heartache. There’s plenty here that gives in to the groove but just as much that lets it linger down to a halt, letting the soft breeze suffice as just the right amount of movement. This one seems to have been lost in terms of deserving fanfare, especially out East, but its a necessary pickup in times needing a respite for sure.





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Arbouretum

While Arbouretum has undoubtedly been on the RSTB radar over the years, I have to admit that attention to them has wavered here and there. The band knocked down a couple of heavy catalog necessities with 2007’s Rites of Uncovering and 2009’s Song of the Pearl. The former bears the scars of songwriter Dave Heumann’s time with the brothers Oldham, and dips into the well of road-worn Americana with the best of ‘em. The latter grips a bit harder and finds its way towards the spirt of Crazy Horse. That’s not to say that the rest of the catalog isn’t worth your time (it certainly is) but these were the times I remember them grabbing me. They return with seat another instance of excellence on this year’s Let It All In, an album that arrives perhaps almost serendipitously in a wave of Cosmic Americana that the band’s Heumann has long been riding.

That others’ are just now catching up to his cracked leather vision of road-beaten folk rock proves that it wasn’t that the band was out of step, they were just waiting for the world to come back around to their senses again. With a double drummer setup, seasoned session players like Hans Chew popping in for some keys, and some of the most adventurous arrangements in their discography, this is the band bringing to a head a lot of the qualities that have made Arbouretum such stalwart travelers. The touching, spiritual melancholy remains in Heumann’s vocals. The slight singe of jam in the arrangements pushes through to breaking, which it finally does within the sprawling grandeur of the title track. In a solid catalog it stands out as a peak, garnering attention that was long overdue. If, perhaps like myself, Arbouretum has existed on the periphery of your ‘to play’ pile, let this one push it to the top. This is a welcome highlight among 2020’s Americana interests.



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Pacific Range – “High Upon The Mountain”

West Coast psych searchers Pacific Range have been cooling themselves on the Cosmic Americana winds for a few years yet, but their first proper LP is just now landing at Curation Records. The band’s shared the title track to High Up On The Mountain today and its radiating with silver shivers of country psych bliss. The band is bred on a cocktail of Allman Brothers sunshower shakedowns, Mountain Bus low-gear choogle, shimmers of Help Yourself and, naturally, a requisite dose of The Dead in their veins. The band’s debut, wrapped in an eye-popping Brian Blomberth cover, features Duane Betts (son of Dicky), Sam & Clay from Mapache, and Jade Castrinos among others. “High Upon The Mountain” opens up the LP, and there aren’t many better introductions to the band’s canyon cradled brand of West Coast breeze than this right here. Built on a low-slung guitar line and sweetly stung harmonies, tuck into this one and get prepped for the LP on 3/27.



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One Eleven Heavy – “Hot Potato Soup (live at Jam Castle)”

There have been a rash of insanely good live recordings getting the official treatment lately (see also: Chris Forsyth, Garcia Peoples, Howling Rain, Walker/Gunn/Jewell), making it a bit of a renaissance for the ‘official’ bootleg. The latest to join the fray are RSTB faves One Eleven Heavy, who stunned over the past two years with back to back heavy hitters. Their ensuing US tour from last year was one not to be missed and anyone who was in the room could attest to the band’s ability to spin a jam out into cosmic heights on the stage. If you missed it, now you don’t have to imagine, or even take to the Archive(.org) for proof as the band’s set from Plymouth, WI house party hotspot Jam Castle.

The band wasn’t sure about what to expect from the invite-only private spot, but were pleasantly surprised at the “high-end, above-garage, home studio set-up with Rhodes piano and soundboard recording facilities, truck parked in the driveway giving away free hog roast, and a crowd of mellow suburban Wisconsinites” in attendance. Thankfully the spot also came equipped with recording capabilities and the set was laid down to tape. The band’s gnarled stretcher “Hot Potato Soup” gets some room to take root here, sprawling out to about nineteen minutes of cosmic interplay. It’s a definite highlight of the set, as it has been at most shows recently. The album is headed out May 1st on Phoenix label Was Ist Das? and its one you should grab and alternate in the ol’ Walkman with that Garcia Peeps tape that just landed.

Lucky you, the band’s also headed back out on the road for another short US stint, this time favoring the West Coast. Let this be an inspiration to get out and catch the show. Dates below and you can see video of the Jam Castle set here as well. If anyone in SF misses that date at The Chapel with Howlin’ Rain, I’ll by a plane ticket to come slap some sense into you myself.

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Arbouretum – “Let It All In”

Arbouretum cross lines of country, psych, and folk on their new LP for Thrill Jockey — a position that they’ve long occupied, but while much of Let It All In graces the grander schemes of folk and only touches the psych shores, the title track makes its home there. The song, pushing well past the eleven-minute mark, works a nugget of groove into a gnarled, smoldering pile of riff and rumble. The track unfurls over the expanse of its timeframe, pushing into the kind of ribbon of groove that’s locked into a seance sweat and looking to work the rhythm section to the bone. Over a hammered lock-step beat the guitar grit of Dave Heumann finds its wings, stretching into the embrace of volume with little regard for where the winds might take him. The band’s been at it for some time, and at a point when many can write off a release as just another album in the chain, this alone proves that Arbouretum still have a nail to crush into the coffin of their contenders.




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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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