Posts Tagged ‘Folk’

Rusell Hoke

There’s an air of borrowed time about Russel Hoke’s The Melancholy Traveller. Not that Hoke has passed or is about to, but that he’d seemingly hung his instruments for good by 2016. Not merely hung them up, but sold them outright. That seems like shutting a door on the idea, but thankfully Hoke wasn’t quite finished with us just yet. He borrowed a guitar and banjo, and in an Alan Lomax meets modern times approach, recorded some material he’d hidden away to an outdated cell phone at home. As such, there’s a welcome roughness to the songs here, a private press film that can’t quite help but settle onto the unvarnished recordings. Considering he filled a double cassette anthology before hanging it up last time, this absolute trove of new material is so much more than leftovers from his cut out pile.

The songs are filled with pain, simple pleasures, emptiness, and hope. Hoke has an inimitable hold on the qualities that sent oral traditions from family to family, filling songbooks with the kind of universal truths that somehow became more ingrained with the barrel bare pluck of banjo or the oaken caress of guitar strings. Each song on The Melancholy Traveler seems both set for sunset rounds with family and friends and equally set for the solace of a back porch, filling the silence and loneliness before they grows too large and consume the heart once and for all. Hoke’s name might not yet be etched into the canon of American songwriters just yet, but this collection wedded to his previous compendium might just give the name the nudge it deserves.


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Satomimagae – “Numa”

I’ve been letting this one soak in today. An excellent new offering set up a split release between Gurugurubrain and RVNG, Intl. Satomimagae trades in a deeply furrowed strain of folk – immediate, yet resonating through time in all directions. A resonant hum anchors the listener to “Numa,” but Satomi descends through the emotional strata dragging us on the tether with her. A scarred blues play out with notes of the nature of struggle. Fights that cannot be won because the forces are too large, too alchemical, too ingrained in the nature of the rot of the world. Its cyclic. Any perceived win lands us right back at the starting point, bewildered and needing to relived the moment all over again. The accompanying video from Soh Ideuchi is fraught with a reckless energy, that comes crashing down in waves of futility by the end. Satomimagae’s Hanazono is out April 23rd.

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Bill MacKay & Nathan Bowles – “I See God”

The new collab LP from Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles already hit out string with the instrumental romp “Joy Ride,” but that’s only one shade of their new album. While the last cut loped along on the players pushing each other down a sunny hillside, the new tune, “I See God” explores their more somber side. The song is equally pulling from bluegrass and gospel to form a county square dance closer that’s quiet and contemplative. The song, originally by husband and wife duo E.C. and Orna Ball is given a more choral feel with the two male voices replacing the original give and take between the couple. Though they match E.C.’s sprightly fingerpicking, fleshing the song out a bit with a bit of organ orchestration. Its a tender old time slice of the past that’s given a new life sighing out of the strings of Bowles and MacKay. 2021 has no lack of guitar greats on the way, but this one should be pretty high on the list. Keys is out April 9th from Drag City.

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Jeffrey Silverstein – “River Running By”

One of the joys of last year was the ambient country-flecked album, You Become The Mountain from Jeffrey Silverstein and he’s returned just a few months later with an EP that continues to carve out a calm respite from the world. Atop a loping click of drums, Silverstein lays out a measured piece, sanded with his purred vocal and dipped in the sunset glow of Barry Walker’s pedal steel. Walker’s slides are matched by Silverstein’s patient amble on the strings as the song wears away the rough patches of the soul. The song was inspired by the concept of “blue mind” — the meditative state of consciousness brought on by proximity to water. Silverstein sought to replicate the serenity that engulfs the mind in this state with the song’s sanguine lilt. Like Silverstein’s previous album, “River Running By” injects a cosmic sense of ambient float to country and folk, a song silently slipping into the upper atmosphere with each passing moment. The EP, Torii Gates is out April 16th, again at Silverstein’s previous home Arrowhawk Records.

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Ryley Walker – “Rang Dizzy”

Right off the release of his live collaboration with Kikagaku Moyo, Ryley Walker announces a new solo LP and it’s preceded by the heavy-hearted sway of “Rang Dizzy.” The song is hung with a sense of world-weariness that soaks every line that Walker utters. The cut is burnt out on the bleary day to day — recalling the dizzying fall before Walker’s sobriety. The record moves from the post-rock punch of Deafman’s Glance to an elegiac, prog-dipped folk that touches through Buckley and Harper territory, produced by Tortoise’s John McEntire and featuring a cast of excellent collaborators. This may be a solo LP, but its not solitary — Bill MacKay, Ryan Jewell, McEntire, Andrew Scott Young and others form the backbone of the record, pushing this towards Ryley’s best yet. The new LP lands on his own Husky Pants label, marking the first solo record he’s put out on the imprint. Course In Fable arrives April 2nd.




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Emily Rodgers – “I Will Be Gone”

There’s palpable sadness at the heart of Emily Rodgers’ new song “I Will Be Gone.” The track ruminates on the loss of Emily’s brother who died fifteen years previous as a casualty of schizophrenia-related suicide. The song vibrates inside a cocoon of grief — feelings of machinations out of one’s control, a lump in the throat that never quite leaves, even though the loved one has left a permanent shadow on life. She ruminates on the phrase “I knew him when he was well,” rolling the memory of the man she knew through the obfuscating mists of memory’s hold. Imprints of sweetness attempting to keep hold over the final scars. The record was produced by Kramer (Galaxie 500, Low) and finds itself landing on the roster of a newly reinvigorated Shimmy-Disc. The album, which shares its title with the track, will be out April 16th.


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Black Twig Pickers – “Roan Mountain Sally Ann”

Really great to see this one coming through today. It’s been since 2015 that we’ve had a release from the great Black Twig Pickers and the band have let loose the news that a new LP is on the way from VHF. In the interim, the profiles of the players have risen, at least in the folk circles that seem the most potent. With Sally Anne Morgan just off an excellent debut LP last year, Bowles constantly surpassing any expectation with his recent releases and Gangloff building out the Spiral Joy Band. With the assembled players back in place they resume their exploration of traditional songs, finding a weather-beaten beauty in the old-time temperament that never seems to truly leave the American consciousness. The impression of these songs is made more apparent with the air of isolation hanging overhead. Made for community and built upon the joy in gathered celebration, the songs here are imbued with a raw emotive quality that’s as hard to pin down and document, but the band lifts these songs up out of the town squares and open-air markets and threads them into tape, making us all a part of the gathered mass.

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Al Riggs – “America’s Pencil”

I’d caught a hint of the earth Al Riggs was turning on their last album, Bile and Bone, but right from the first hints of the follow-up, I Got A Big Electric Fan To Keep Me Cool While I Sleep, the split soil creeps up to meet the listener and refuses to be washed away. “America’s Pencil” growls into earshot, fuzz corroding the guitars and a piano aching down the hallway. As we draw closer the sounds fill every pore, while Al lacerates the ego with a biting song that’s toppling the self-interests of youth and the self-flagellation of age. With the barren honesty of Will Oldham or Bill Callahan, Riggs recalls the grandiose self-import of the artist’s self-ruse. “This is a song about being delusional and in your twenties and thinking you’re discovering poetic bitterness for the very first time,” Al notes. “You sort of make every single thing in your life interesting for the sake of hopefully putting it in a song one day. Eventually some people learn that no one really cares about the sandwich you ate or the girl at the bookstore with the cool hair, and then some people just write “Universal Themes”. 

Whether or not this reverberates your own personal marrow, the song refuses to let go quietly and it stands well with the rest of Al’s upcoming odes on the forthcoming I Got A Big Electric Fan To Keep Me Cool While I Sleep. The album arrives April 2nd on Horse Complex Records.




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Rob Noyes

A month in and already 2021 has been a banner year for instrumental guitar. While the year might not get another voice as singular as Yasmin Williams, this sophomore LP from Rob Noyes is certainly doing its best to keep pace. Built around an affinity for texture and dynamics aside from virtuosity, Noyes is admittedly working more through the Kottke style than either of the other usual suspects — shunning an overly blues base or overt raga dependence. Noyes’ playing is full of life and delightfully shy of an antiseptic studio feel. The room around him seems as much a part of the record as the strings and fingers. Even through the speakers its almost as if the sun can bee felt streaking through swirls of dust, imprinting itself on the listener. An audible sigh and creak of a chair just add coloration to the pieces, as natural as the bend of a string.

The tempos run rampant, built less on theory than on nature and feel. It’s easy to get swept up in the feelings that course through Noyes’ pieces, always seeming to need a catch of breath by the time a song skids to a stop. Like his muse in Kotke, Noyes channels the sun, scattering notes where they lie and letting the sparkle set the tone. For that, despite Rob’s heavy intonation, the temperament is quite gentle, spinning through the speakers in resplendent hues. When Noyes does let the sunshower of strums die down his picking is patient and delicate, webs woven in the moments just after the clouds part. With Arc Minutes Noyes has created a hopeful respite for all of us. It’s most appreciated, for that alone.




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Bill MacKay & Nathan Bowles – “Joy Ride”

Yesterday was a bit nuts and so its only today that I’m getting a chance to absorb this lovely new single from two site favorites — Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles. The song is, as the title makes plain, an absolute joy. The pair tumbles through the most verdant valleys of folk and bluegrass to find a mid point that rambles with a honeyed ease. Bowles’ banjo work is never without a soft touch and a bright countenance and it shines through here playing off of Bill’s guitar runs like two friends tumbling down a hill and working their best to keep momentum without running into one another. It’s no hyperbole to say that within one month of popping the tab on ’21, Drag City has already set themselves up as one’s to keep pace on this year. This song just sets up one more highly anticipated high watermark for them when Keys comes out April 9th.

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