Posts Tagged ‘Folk’

The Babe Rainbow – “Many Moons of Love”

The third album from Aussie surf-folk combo The Babe Rainbow is shaping up to be a sun streaked summer comfort album. The band has a knack for pairing joyful harmonies with just the right pang of bittersweet shade, rolling in touches of jazz and lounge to their folk backbone. They’ve come up downstream in the Flightless crew and have begun taking a larger foothold here in the States over the past couple of albums. “Many Moons of Love” sees the band wistful strummin’ with the best of them atop some home footage that feels like a vacation reel pitch for an endless summer in the hills. Check the video above and look out for the LP in September.



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Wooden Wand – The Thump Sessions

Well I suppose the sad news first. James Toth is putting up the possibility that these may be the final Wooden Wand recordings. I suppose everything comes to an end and over fifteen years we’ve all gotten a good fill of great music from Toth’s alter ego. Though its hard to think of a guiding light of the site going dim. This year’s hard enough. The good news is that these final recordings were made with Jarvis Taveniere at Thump Studios and feature a backing band that included Jeremy Earl, Kyle Forester, and John Andrews of Woods, and singer Katie Von Schleicher. So, in a way this is Woods(en) Wand and that’s, quite honestly something I fully support.

The four songs on offer are sweeping and lush, probably on par with James’ work during the Ecstatic Peace to Ryko transition – tender melodies that streak the windows in just the right ways. There’s a reworking of his song “Don’t Let Love Make A Liar Out of You,” that first appeared on the one-off Carlos The Second, a song he recorded with Langhorne Slim originally. Here he’s alone here, but no less bittersweet. The set is essential for any longtime fans of WW and up now on his Bandcamp. Stop by and say a heartfelt goodbye to an old friend.



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Pelt – Pearls From The River

VHF records has a wealth of greatness in their roster, but quite a few have never been under the needle due to timing. They’re kicking out a couple of new reissues this year and one of the best up is Pearls From The River by Pelt. Featuring the classic lineup of Jack Rose, Mike Gangloff, and Patrick Best, the record is a sister album of sorts to their LP . The record never made it onto LP at the time of its release in 2003. It’s a proper Pelt drone-out, exploring Indian ragas, drones and clangourous fingerpicked guitar. Around the same time the members began to splinter in various directions, with Jack beginning to work solo more often, The Black Twig Pickers emerging, Gangloff and Best both working with Dredd Foole, etc. Still the band gives this record their all, haunting the strings with a spiritual sobriety that’s meditative, engulfing the listener in a womb of sound. Its a record that’s not quite gotten its due, but deserves a second look.

The band would take a year off before issuing another album, but this would more than holdover fans. The new issue is a deluxe gatefold by VHF, with an expansive run of liner notes from Byron Coley (who else?). Any later term fans of Rose that haven’t spun through the Pelt catalog would be wise to take a listen to this and work their way backwards. Lots of greats in that discography to be sure.



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Bill MacKay – “Birds of May”

Bill MacKay has been a singular voice in folk for the better part of two decades and a staple of Chicago’s vibrant traditions, though he’s often sounded like he’s been dropped from the UK fresh off a Bert Jansch session. His latest LP, Fountain Fire is one of his strongest to date, a grey-skied folk journey into the heart of humanity. As he embarks on a run of dates, which include some key Hudson Valley hits for those of you’re in my area (Huichicha, Tubby’s, The Half Moon), he’s released a video for the standout track “Birds of May.” The visuals are understated but that lets the music shine through, humble and stately. If you get a chance hop on over to a show – he’s touring with fellow Drag City stabler Mike Donovan, so there’s just that much more incentive.

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Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn

Canadian psych keystone Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn has a seemingly infinite reserve of boundless energy, already lending his talents to two solid releases for 2019 (The Cosmic Range, Sacred Lamp). Add in touring duties with U.S. Girls and this would stretch most songwriters thin, but this month he’s following up on his two(!) excellent solo albums from last year with another bout of faded singer-songwriter gems. Lightbourne made the biggest impression in the press, but it was swiftly followed by the equally sun-streaked Some Horses Run, which tumbled out just a few months later, and might rightfully get chalked up as one of 2018’s most overlooked record. Continuing to mine his country-flecked, rambling pop predilections on Upper Canada Blues Dunn douses the speakers in a honeyed drawl and low simmering arrangements that pull back from his more psychedelic output.

Dunn’s solo records tend to run the early ‘70s ambitions of Van Morrison through a denim wash that dries deep on the line in the Laurel Canyon sun. Dunn’s versatility as a sideman (tightening the turns for U.S. Girls, lending airy atmosphere to MV & EE) come crashing through on Upper Canada Blues. The arrangements are lush to the point of quenching an invisible itch. As the slides saunter in on “Ribbons” there’s a smell of wet grass, hot coals, and rain on the air. Dunn has an ability to instantly feel familiar, like an artist you’d grown up with – crackling from the AM speakers on an uncle’s truck, humming on the hi-fi of an older sibling, somehow always around and waiting to be found when your ears aged to the proper temper.

That familiarity never rubs off as stagnant, though. The easy entry to Dunn’s work is only further rewarded by its richness. The leather lounge of “Save Our Grace,” the hip-swing wink of “The Beast,” the exhale ease of “Running Right Out” – Dunn’s crafted another afternoon sipper of an album. This is the kind of record that slips off a hard day every time and its likely you’ll be thankful for Dunn’s gravitas. The last couple seemed to slip away from folks, I’d warn not to let this one fly under cover as well. Its too good to miss.



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Joseph Allred

Feeding Tube resumes its breakneck schedule of underground gems with a new release from Boston picker Joseph Allred. The guitarist has been knocking out great tapes for some time, including a few this year on the quietly endearing new imprint Garden Portal recs, but this marks the man’s third LP proper, following up 2016’s Fire & Earth for Scissor Tail. In his tape travels Allred has explored the persona of Poor Faulkner, a lonesome middle-aged man with an inner sadness and outer problem with ghosts of the non-metaphorical variety. Though his works are instrumental, this character’s narrative informs the tangle of strings that Allred weaves over the course of O Meadowlark. The titles tell of a man visted by a bird, coaxed to a wooded cabin in search of an Angel who brings a vision to Poor Faulkner. The album only plays out through his ascension with the promise of that vision to come in a later album.

While the narrative adds a nice color and emotional heft to the stringwork, even without the tale the album is an engrossing listen. Following in the Takoma tradition, Allred’s phrasing knocks between the river rambles of Basho and the Eastern sun salutations that Richard Bishop prefers. He swaps between guitar and banjo with ease, using the latter to rise like the sun in his vignette. Allred’s style is absorbing and it’s hard to escape the web of notes that he weaves. They surround the listener, dancing, dizzying, taunting, coaxing. He pulls the album back from the brink of technical showmanship, careful not to let it become just a flex of talent. Rather he imparts every note with the proper emotional heft to make the tempest of sound a heartbreaking aural journey. If you’re new to Allred’s catalog, this is a nice entry point and here’s hoping that Faulkner’s epiphany warrants a sequel to this stunner.



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Daughter of Swords

Dawnbreaker eases in spare and stark, just Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and a guitar, with just a crackle of static in the background. It was originally how she intended the rest of the album, a simple emotional connection with little artifice. The rest of the album did wind up more fleshed out, adding in the voices of her former Mountain Man bandmates Amelia Meath and Molly Sarlé, the stringwork of Ryan Gustafson, and arranging from Phil Cook, but the record still reverberates with the spirit of Sauser-Monnig on a road trip with her guitar. The fuller sound pulls her away from pining folk and into a country ramble that’s dipped in evening sunlight – awash in amber hues and a dousing of verdant cool that battles the slight heat-ripple ramble of summer. The record is full of quenchers straight through. Though her songs are about loss and transition, there’s no woe in sight. The songs are comforting and resilient, the kind of songs that comfort without cradling. Each one is an exhale of strength, the resolution to get up and move on confidently, no matter how many butterflies of uncertainty have housed themselves in one’s restless soul.

There’s a theme of breakup throughout the album, but its not a breakup album. Those tend to wallow and pick at the hurt. This is not the kind of album that let you know its ok to cry, one that lets the burning ball of hurt come rising to the surface. Rather, Sauser-Monnig faces loss with a fresh dawn determination. Her songs sparkle with the sun-dappled brilliance that Mountain Main wove between every harmony. As much as they’re the soundtrack to a new life they’re also the wind outside the window as a hand skims through the cool air in sine-wave sweeps. They’re the rumble of the seat lulling the pain away with each mile. They’re the horizon line ever receding but always promising. With Dawnbreaker on the speakers it feels like that next hill’s going to be the one that lets you cross over the threshold.



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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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