Posts Tagged ‘Country’

Sam Burton

This year has seen plenty of artists dig back into the past for inspiration, embedding themselves into the ‘70s like wood paneling with macrame accents. From the faded desert high of Rose City Band to the wrinkled postcards of Cut Worms and the upcoming pre-dawn sighs of Pearl Charles, there’s a pervasive sway of West Coast calm from another time. The debut from Sam Burton falls in-between the time-traversed radio waves of those offerings. Burton’s voice, as the good folks over at Tompkins Square point out, evokes a bit of Roy Orbison’s wearier moments, away from the lights and upswung soul of his more pop works. In the same respect, there’s a touch of Glen Campbell in Sam’s delivery, and much of I Can Go With You sounds like Bobby Gentry might show up for a duet at any point.

That might paint Burton into a sort of turtle-necked pop corner, but that’s not entirely accurate. While he could easily slip in and out of time with that sound vocally, musically the record has a more lost highway country stamp on it. With a wounded countenance at the forefront of his songwriting, Sam sets himself up rifling through a smoke-curled pile of private press casualties — limping like Bob Desper, staring off into the distance like Jim Sullivan, or waiting for the sunrise with Dave Bixby. It’s the kind of record that would have (and still just might) wind up a collector’s treasured find. Burton’s guitars don’t come with flash, there are no psychedelics to obscure the pain, but there’s an innate companionship in his songs. If last call lands like a crushing blow, Sam’s songs help heal the ache that’s left untouched by substance or sobriety alike. This album’s been rolling around my ears for a few weeks, but it pairs quite well with a cold night with morning feeling like it’s taking its time to come.

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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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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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Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn

The last few years have seen Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn kick out an enviable catalog of works on his own Cosmic Range Records and 2020 shows no sign of flagging with the arrival of Rain, Rain, Rain. Dunn’s name might ring familiar with a few folks around here — he’s been a longtime MV&EE collaborator in addition to showing up on records from fellow Canadians U.S. Girls, James Matthew VII, and Jennifer Castle. Not to rest easy he also heads up RSTB faves Sacred Lamp, The Cosmic Range, and Stonegrass. While his sidework tends to toe heavily into the psychedelic, on his own works he’s cultivated a bar-beaten singer songwriter countenance that’s washed in last call whiskey and delivered with a heart-heavy sigh.

As with his impeccable run from the last few years, Dunn’s songwriting here is touched a slight echo of ‘70s Van Morrison and Open Road era of Donovan. He’s soaked his records in the honeyed AM air that infected folk rock with a taste of cosmic croon and country-tumbled tangents as ’72 tumbled off of the calendar. That feeling runs heavy as ever over Rain, Rain, Rain. “Cold Wind” sways with jukebox twang and a lover’s embrace that’s only deepened on “Chance.” “Last Goodbye” brings a touch of Southern Soul in the background vocals, feeling like the tape might have run through Muscle Shoals before making its way back across the border to mellow in the Northern sun. As he dips into the distance on closer “Listen To The Rain” he lets the fog overtake the album, fading guitar cries into the soft patter rising on the wind.

There’s been a long kinship with his collaborator James Matthew VII. The artists have often graced each other’s records and Matthew shows up here once more to add in a good dose of buttered slide and tremolo ache. While JMVII lifts into the shimmer of ozone in his own works, here the pair ground Dunn’s record in the feeling of long-paced pavement, late-night lamentations, and last looks over a town before its left behind for good. The mark of a true country-folk gem is how much ache it can hang on a heart, and in that regard, this one’s as gold as they come. With each new solo work Dunn’s building a reputation as a Northern troubadour that shouldn’t be missed.




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Anatomy of Design: Cut Worms

If it’s escaped your radar, the new Cut Worms is something of a heart-worn gem — an album that’s rooted in the lonesome cowboy strain that infected the West Coast rock songwriters from Gene Clark to Michael Nesmith. There’s an earnest nature to the record that’s bittersweet but able to walk into the wind and wilds with determination. Now while most know Max Clarke for his songwriting he is, in fact, an accomplished visual artist as well and his works have graced Cut Worms covers in the past, including the sculpture from 2018’s Hollow Ground. For the latest release, he’s created a series of inspired illustrations that mark each single on Nobody Lives Here Anymore. I spoke with Max about the ideas behind this new series and some of the design inspiration that drives him and his work.

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Leon III – “Fly Migrator”

A new single slips out under the radar from Houston’s Leon III and the band embraces extended lengths on the winding, almost ten minute “Fly Migrator.” Again produced by Mark Nevers (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Silver Jews) as was their debut LP, the cut boasts William Tyler on guitar among the nebulous, dawn-light mists. The band rises slow setting into a sauntered grooved before wide vistas of vocal harmonies, misted synths, and shuffling beat. The band never loses cool and while the song feels like it might want to break into fiery guitar, the band keep things simmering just below the boiling point. It’s a nice opening salvo, and I’m interested to see how it might tie into any other new material. No word if this is a standalone offering or if there’s a new LP on the way, but for now, this is a decent amount to chew on.




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Ethan Daniel Davidson – “Leaving Cheyenne”

I played this one on last month’s radio show, but the more I listen, the deeper it digs. The new LP by songwriter Ethan Daniel Davidson is a wonderfully woolly affair that pulls up close like a knit sweater on cold nights. The LP explores Americana with covers of Blind Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Bob Dylan, and Cowboy Joe Babcock alongside some of his own works that spread out just as comfortably under the stars. One of the best moments on the LP is this cover of the traditional cowboy song “Goodbye Old Paint (I’m Leaving Cheyenne).” Davidson keeps the wistful, rambling delivery but compliments the sentiment with a sing-along chorus that feel wonderfully campfire ready and an undercurrent of drone that sounds like it might be didgeridoo or throat singing or some digital approximation of either. Its a nice song to hunker down on the porch as the light dips over the horizon and a damn good argument for Davidson’s LP in general. This is one I haven’t been able to shake. Here’s hoping the same for you.




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Daniel Romano’s Outfit – “Green Eye Shade”

A second offering from the upcoming LP out of the ever prolific enclave of Daniel Romano’s Outfit. The songwriter’s put out a cool 9-10 record just since the beginning of the year and its both a wealth of great earworms and an intimidating barrage that leaves one wondering where to begin. However, his next official release for You’ve Changed is a slick, huge pop record with a classic tilt. “Green Eye Shade” sees Romano employ full brass, handclaps, charming backup vocals and a hook that’s hard to get out of your system. The song swells to brimming, oozing a multi-colored pop perfection that’s part classic Petty, part My Morning Jacket with a crossover feeling of the last King Tuff record — another artist who embraced larger vistas with open arms and nailed the delivery. It’s an ambitious move from his low-key country past, but then again, if you’ve been listening over the last year, that should come as no surprise. The new LP is out September 18th.





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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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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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