Posts Tagged ‘Folk’

House and Land

Sarah Louise, fresh from the opalescent vision of her solo LP earlier in the year, is back in league with her folk foil Sally Anne Morgan for a new album under the House and Land banner. As with their last album, the duo makes a sizeable impression with a palette of sparse folk on Across The Field. They exhume traditional folk songs from another time, but much like fellow traveler Jake Xerxes Fussell, their delivery doesn’t feel antiquated. There’s a timelessness inherit in their work, blending their more experimental sensibilities with the weathered and worn material to soothe the heartache of the modern music listener. They’re running Elizabeth Cotton through a Loren Connors filter – finding the starkest kernel of folk and blues and baking it in the sun.

The album leans directly into sorrow, choosing songs that are steeped in a sadness that resonates across eras. Morgan’s fiddle is strident, holding court without showing a shred of lost love, but the pair’s voices can’t help but hang with a delicate dourness. The weight of years pulls heavy on these songs and House and Land etch them straight into the skin, turning the soul to scrimshaw and laying out the burden of decades in intricate detail. The songs on Across The Field seep into every pore on first listen, but they don’t suffocate. They may be achingly sad, but they never seem to wallow. Instead, as the album comes to a close the listener is purged, washed clean of longing and lowness – each rinsed away in the stream of strings and song that the pair have poured out through the album. Their sophomore release proves the pair are brilliant interpreters of song, and you’d do well to get acquainted with them.



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Jake Xerxes Fussell

In some circles there are cover artists creating cheap imitations of originals, plastic pieces of history shellacked with camp, cliche, and winking charms that fade soon after the last note disputes on the air. Then, there are the artists who ingest songs and transmute them from barbed metal into spun gold. Jake Xerxes Fussell is one such artist. Long a purveyor of traditional folk songs, he’s picked from sources that run far and wide, but largely root deep in history, away from the moors of modern mentalities. What makes Fussell such a magician is how he shapes folk songs that hang heavy with factory foremen, deckhands, fieldhands, murderers, and spiritual seekers into the song you need to get through the end of the night. He’s found the through line from history and used it to string his guitar, playing a honeyed harmony for those whose wounds run too deep for these times.

For some a Lomax archive is balm for the soul, but others can’t get past the scratched exterior and rusted ruts time’s left cursed on the spools. Fussell bridges the parched fields and cracked eaves of the church meeting room with a sense of modern woe, fleshing out his versions full of lush guitars, pert keys, weeping fiddle, and tamble of drums. He finds the DNA of traditional songs and brings them springing to life in the modern world, making ramble down blues turn to verdant country saunters and plaintive folk meditations. The material he combs is, more often than not, full of misfortune, depression, hardship, and pain but he makes each song feel like the break of a storm. The bad times are behind and the earthen smell of fresh growth is on the breeze. Even without words, he’s massaging the heart to break easy, like fellow alchemist William Tyler.

There were a few singles floated before this release hit the shelves, but I couldn’t bring myself to parcel praise. Its a songbook, like all of Jake’s albums. Somehow Fussell’s bound the songs on Out of Sight together for all time as a collection of small tragedies and bittersweet sighs, rubbed with the sent of rusted soil, factory grease, wildflowers, and reclaimed wood. The songs are as at home cascading over a small mountain town porch as they are whispering out of headphones on a morning commute. Fussell gives us all some strength to face the day, knowing that our sadness is universal and that with time all wounds will heal. Its hard not to fall under Fussell’s charms, I say why fight it.



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Padang Food Tigers

Its been a few long years since London duo Padang Food Tigers’ last outing, the sorely underrated album Bumblin’ Creed on Northern Spy in 2016, but they’re wafting back into view with a new record for Texan enclave Blue Hole Recordings. As ever, the works of PFT are hushed and delicate, built on their patient acoustic assemblages and the soft lap of field recordings nipping at the elbows of each track. Spencer Grady and Stephen Lewis are steeped in the traditions of Takoma, while showing equal reverence for the Jewelled Antler Collective’s crumbling vision of four track folk. The songs ache with life, cracking awake, wincing and weaving through the background buzz of life until the gorgeous moments peek through. For the rushed and ragged, these moments are likely lost. No time to wait through full minutes of hiss and hum, the harried listener would miss out on the slow opening of Padang’s songs. They lie in wait, as if so connected to the fragility of nature that they show themselves only to the gentle warming of the sun’s rays.

The band blends the wisdom of predecessors like Scott Tuma, Steven R. Smith, Kemialliset Ystävät, and the Blithe Sons into a record that’s spun like silk. It feels like even the gentlest nudge might upset these songs but breathing in the the rarified air around them bolsters the spirit and reaffirms the rightness of life. Each of the duo’s songs works like a vignette of bittersweet simplicity brought to sparkling life—like the whole-hearted whims of children presented in innocence but laid heavy with the promise of age, angst, and the alchemical loss of that whimsy. There’s sadness here, but also joy and in many moments they’re one and the same. Much of the befuddlingly titled Wake Up, Mr. Pancake feels like smiling and crying all at once—a heart breaking and mending on an endless loop, but the pair pull it off like the most accomplished aural artists. They paint delicate strokes on a complimentary field, but finding joy among the ridges and textures is endlessly engrossing. The album was worth the wait, but don’t let it slip by. This one won’t kick up a lot of dust, but once found it doesn’t let go.




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Village of Spaces – “The Night is Long”

Another lovely song tumbles in today from Village of Spaces. Following on the great LP they’ve had out this year on Feeding Tube, the band is taking part in SPINSTER’s Quilt of the Universe compilation. The comp seeks to cross pollinate the concept of NASA’s “Gold Record,” sent out to the cosmos as an example of worthwhile culture on Earth, with the solar system quilt stitched by a rural Iowan teacher in the late nineteenth century. As the label puts it, the record is an “assemblage of artists sharing earthly experience, or translating planetary knowledge, or both.” The tape, out June 21st, also features contributions from Jake Xerxes Fussell, Ilyas Ahmed, Ami Dang, among others.

Village of Spaces’ contribution is as hushed and hymnal as any of their works, presenting a sweet and low vision of sun-kissed folk with a plea for peace, harmony, and unity. Lilting and loving, even through the darkness, its a nice sentiment in the constant end times static of daily life in 2019. Anxiety is currency these days (and with good reason) but Village of Spaces give reason to feel one another’s pain once in a while. Check out the track below and breath a sigh of relief, at least for the next three minutes.



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Doug Tuttle

Not a bad little title for Doug Tuttle’s latest, Dream Road wraps up the gauzy take on folk that the songwriter spins on the new LP. Born out of a buttery brick of folk-rock that’s not entirely removed from the itch of Americana going ‘round these days, Tuttle’s vision is given an airiness, as if the better part of the record evaporated and filled the listener’s lungs with a sunny vitality. As for the remainder, Tuttle’s dream isn’t without clouds either. There’s a bittersweet bite to tracks like “Twilight,” and “In This World Alone,” and they drag their fingers in a watery weariness that’s ultimately as comforting as the sun.

Tuttle keeps things deceptively simple, with the sound remarkably full, despite relying mostly on layers of guitar, a scratch of drums, and vocals that bounce around the room attempting to coat the corners in a melancholy miasma. A touch of country slide here, a web of jangle n’ strum, a shock of effects now and then- but at heart this is folk-rock inherited from Fairport, Gary Higgins, and Roger Rodier. What sets him apart is coating those folk bones with the pop polish of Jeff Lynn or Gene Clark. Peace Potato hinted at bigger things in store for Tuttle, and with Dream Road he’s making good on those promises.

I’ve long held Tuttle in regard as a fine songwriter who’s been destined to make a bigger splash. This seems to be the moment for him, or perhaps the beginning of a bigger journey. He’s toeing the line between pushing his sound to new widths, heights, and lengths without spilling over into excesses, as can sometimes happen. Its an album that’s grown without pains, stretching to fill the room with a blissful sigh. There are a lot of sunny days on the way and Tuttle’s crafted a companion piece to each and every hazed beam that breaks through the trees.



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Caity and Shane of Olden Yolk on Tucker Zimmerman – Song Poet

Just last week Olden Yolk released their sophomore LP, a stunning mix of folk and subtle, blushing psychedelia. Its already pushing up the list of favorites for 2019, so naturally I jumped at getting a chance to look at one of the influences locked on the band’s own turntable. Caity and Shane give some background on finding, and constantly returning to, Tucker Zimmerman’s own sophomore stunner, his “Black Album,” originally issued with no title, and eventually rechristened Song Poet following a proper reissue in 2016. Check out how this record came into the band’s life and what makes it particularly special to them.

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Frank Hurricane and the Hurricanes of Love

Nestled in among the oddities, noise freaks, and psychedelic travelers on the Feeding Tube Roster rests a few releases from Frank Hurricane. The persona once held sway over Frank’s duffle-bag beats and scattershot flow, but he’s long since embraced his soulful side, melding rambling folk with a strain of small town Southern spiritual blues. The swap in sound’s done Frank good over the years, but nowhere more so than on his latest LP (splitting release between Feeding Tube and Crash Symbols). Along with a band dubbed The Hurricanes of Love, Frank fleshes out his sound adding in a few more voices to the mix, the occasional parade of horns, and the slow swing of drums behind his marmalade croons. Of course, bare-bones Frank tracks still abound, with Hurricane testifying his own brand of mud-caked gospel over the sunny tangle of strings.

Now at first blush, I might’ve balked on an album that goes so far as to include a Juggalo logo on the front cover. While I’m nestled in the Catskills these days, growing up in Michigan, on the backporch of Juggalo country in the ’90s, that was a totem that could often conjure trouble. However, Frank’s a seer and a singer, a poet laureate of the rusted underbelly of America, rust I often found myself scratched on growing up. He finds transcendence in the asphalt of Tennessee’s most scorched country – giving a reverent Americana profundity to PCP warnings, haunted devil towns, pimpin’, Shrympin (sic), and yeah lonely Juggalos at the local Burger King. Its all spiritual to Frank and he lets it flow through him and sow him like the soil piled behind a local gas station.

With a countenance that recalls Wooden Wand (albeit with a heavier howl) brushing up against Robbie Basho and boiled down in Charlie Patton’s American Gothic updated for 2019, the record is warm and inviting. Frank’s stories are peppered with characters and its clear each one has rubbed off on him and in turn, they likely took a bit of Frank’s hubris with them. This is a record for the porch, the tape deck on the tailgate, or anywhere that the sun can crack in and the mountain air fills the lungs. Damn fine summer songs, and just in time too.



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VA – Sad About The Times

A truly good compilation is hard to craft. At best most wind up an assorted repository of likeminded mementos, acting as a primer for a deep dive into a neglected segment of the past. The scholarly route is the sure-fire setup and one that’s been at the heart of everything from Nuggets to the top comps from Light in the Attic to Numero. So, when a compilation like Sad About The Times comes along, it stands apart. Acting as a follow-up of sorts to the Mikey Young/Keith Abramsson compiled Follow The Sun, which sought to compile lesser known Australian folk-rock, Sad About The Times is a collection more about mood than documentation. Though the songs here are all from the ‘70s, that’s about the only time-stamp or geographic qualifier that ties them from an academic standpoint.

They range from psych to folk, country to gloss-dipped rock. The artists dot the map from Canada to NY, but hover mostly around California, whether physically or just from a mental standpoint. What truly ties this collection together is its sense of melancholy and the feeling that each track could just as easily soundtrack transcendence or tidal breath. The songs hang on to the edge of ache, waiting to crash the dam of tears or simply let the veil of narcotics wash away the pain. The ‘70s held sway over many tropes, but somewhere the coke-damaged cowboy persists – strung through the songs of Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, Gene Clark, Townes Van Zandt and quite a few others – and this compilation seems to find footing somewhere in their orbit. If not always a musical match, the songs here remain spiritual kinfolk to those haunted souls.

The compilation acts more as a mixtape than a document. It’s the kind of collection that would be lovingly pored over and passed to a friend in need, and perhaps that’s what Anthology’s done for us all. In the darkest hours music can be the candle that lights the path out of the cave. Sad About The Times is a flicker in the dark and a damn good one too. If you’re looking for a shoulder to lean on, SATT has got you, man. The label’s wrapped it all up in the storybook lysergia of Brian Blomerth, making this a package that’s almost too tempting for its own good. Can’t recommend this one highly enough.



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Modern Nature – “Peradam”

Jack Cooper’s (Ultimate Painting, Mazes) new haunt Modern Nature announces an album to follow up their stellar 12” from earlier this year. First offering “Peradam” isn’t quite as rooted in the motorik mindset that held sway on “Nature,” but its still got rhythm on its mind and a sweeping sense of motion beneath the autumnal croon of Cooper and the soft scuttle of sax. How To Live is being billed as a halfway hideaway between Neu and Can’s German Progressive patter and the more lilting folk of Caravan. Honestly, I’m all in on the prog-folk permutations that Cooper’s tumbling through, and while this track has some fine charms, I have a feeling the key’s going to be locking the whole album together into a tapestry of propulsion and strum. The record employs some fine extended bench, with Cooper collaborating mainly with Will Young of BEAK> with contributions from Aaron Nevue (Woods) and Jeff obias (Sunwatchers). Check out the first video above and look out for the new LP August 23rd on Bella Union.



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Olden Yolk

On their sophomore album Olden Yolk solidify their folk-pop sound, edging in a touch more of the soft-focus psychedelia that graced their first while embracing the rhythmic pulse pounding under their gauzy glow. The band shares a great deal in common with Shane Butler’s former haunt in Quilt, but they’re drawing deeper into the damp depths of ‘60s psych than Quilt’s sunny veneer ever let on. With this new album they’re picking up similarities to Sunforest, Euhoria, and Sapphire Thinkers giving their sound a lushness that’s even more present than the last outing. Like bygone autumnal strummers Ultimate Painting, they’re burrowing into melancholy with a wholeheartedness that reverberates throughout Living Theater. This doesn’t land them in the bell jar, but perhaps perches them just adjacent, making charcoal sketches of said jar to send to pen pals who sigh like they sigh.

In fact, autumnal is the wrong word, if anything Olden Yolk are vernal and all the better for the May release of their latest record. They oscillate between streaks of rain and scattered beams of sun in mercurial moments between the album’s ten tracks. The best songs here (and its hard to choose) embrace both halves of their split souls. “Grand Palais” is a particular stunner, edging into the light on tip-toes but heading into its skid spinning ‘round and ‘round until the air becomes dizzy. “Cotton and Cane” is the band at their most pop, pinning poetry on loss to a careening crackle and a perfect vocal dance between the leads.

The songs take on their heaviest cloak when Caity Shaffer steps up to the microphone, though. Soft flutes and a gentle nudge of bass huddle behind her while she croons contemplatively on “Distant Episode,” the song palpably drizzling with tenderness. She’s equally heartbreaking on “Castor and Pollux,” a haunting tale of indecision and loss. The air of duality remains a glorious constant on Living Theater the singers’ intertwined voices and the bittersweet vibes following the tides between joy and sadness like the soft quiver of a diaphragm before weeping. The debut was an excellent introduction, but with album number two, Olden Yolk plead to be on your list of 2019 essentials.



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