Posts Tagged ‘Folk’

Zachary Hay

Zachary Hay’s the latest to join up with the excellent Scissor Tail stable and his debut is a case study in American Primitive full of vulnerability, patience, and careful contemplation. Where some fingerpickers dash through runs and flash a virtuoso’s brand, Hay’s a more restrained player. His songs pick out a path through the forest that’s purposeful and meditative. He doesn’t ripple n’ run so much as saunter, eyes on the grey skies and a hint of rain already in the air. With the muted hiss of tape spooling in the background, Hay’s eponymous long player gives the feeling of having been recorded in the field, the soft wisp of wind bringing smells of autumn decay flooding to the senses. His dissonance gives a sense of unease, a quality of feeling lost that rings anxious through the records, perhaps feeding into that need to slow down and weigh the options lest doom befall the listener. There is joy too, but, again, Hay keeps the emotions close to his chest with each new offering as the needle winds its way around the plate.

There are plenty of touchstones that Hay hits upon with this record, his first fully under his name after years spent playing as Bronze Age and The Dove Azima. Hay maps out the same doomed terrain as Steven R. Smith (albeit more with a more barebones approach). There are touches of Tashi Dorji, Bill Orcutt, and Scott Tuma filtering through the stringwork. Hangovers from the Tacoma class, of course, but Hay seems to reflect them off of the more modern players’ continuations of its legacy. Hay finds footing in Roy Montgomery’s sense of wonder in the face of foreboding odds. Over the top of all of these touches there’s more than a slight shadow of Loren Connors’ tectonic pacing. More than any other, this seems to be Hay’s rudder, building atmospheres of ash and letting them slowly wind away on the wind. While this is certainly not Hay’s debut, it’s a great new chapter in his work and one that fits well among the vaunted stringwork at Scissor Tail.



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Lake Mary & Ranch Family Band

A hushed and tempered new record arrives from Chaz Prymek’s Lake Mary, this time adding in the “Ranch Family Band” to the fold. The record is sun-dappled and full of spring air — a verdant addition to his growing catalog of releases. Rooted in a rambling fingerpick that recalls contemporaries William Tyler and Nathan Salsburg, Sun Dogs‘ prowess lies in deploying buttered slides throughout the entire record that yearn for a perennial peace. The record seamlessly folds in psych-touches on the album’s title track, finding the common crannies between fingerpicked folk and Kosmiche float. The standout track engulfs Prymek’s strings in an early morning fog that bends the light in every direction before burning off into crisp golds and greens that flood the rest of the record. The songs are heavy with the scent of earth, humid in the way that mornings hold onto the last night’s rainfall before stretching into the perfect yawn of midday.

Pinned on the languorous and lingering title track and closer, “Blue Spruce,” which opts for more entrancing and classic vision of fingerpicked fodder, the album is almost gone too soon. It certainly leaves the listener wanting more, hoping to hang forever in between the vibrating air of Lake Mary’s strings. The album is a gorgeous, late 2019 addition, so don’t go tallying up the best of the year just yet. The album is easy to return to time and again as a respite, a rejuvenation, a true gem peeking out from the folk pile at the end of the decade. I’d definitely recommend letting this one sink in and grow roots.




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Bill Fay – “Filled With Wonder Once Again”

Bill Fay announces an upcoming LP for Dead Oceans and its great to hear his voice again. Countless Branches is culled from forty years’ worth of material that the songwriter has been amassing, leaning on his years of growth and experience, and at the forefront is the spare, sweet “Filled With Wonder Once Again.” The song breezes in on gentle strums and the veteran artists’ voice sounds as strong as ever. The LP follows on his two previous outings for the label, again produced by Joshua Henry and arrives January 17th. Check out the soft touch of the Emily Scaife-directed video above.

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Gabriel Birnbaum – “Not Alone”

Taking a solo tangent after years spent with the likes of Wilder Maker (Northern Spy), Violence Jazz and Debo Band, Gabriel Birnbaum sets himself up in the vein of road weary troubadour and it looks good on him. The title track from his upcoming LP Not Alone is a loose, untucked and heart-heavy song that spins in lyrical circles. The track plays Gabe’s sandpapered vocals to great effect. Over a loping guitar line, he turns the rather modern medium of texting into something more timeless, soaking the song in a Townes / Fred Neil grit that grounds itself in the idea of connecting with long distance love through small moments.

Inspired by albums like Jim Sullivan’s UFO and some of the more immediate entries to the Neil Young catalog, the song has a looseness to it while remaining clear that the crew behind the record is on the highest order. No stranger to session work himself, having appeared on records from Lady Lamb to Eli “Paperboy” Reed over the years, Birnbaum gathered a group culled from members of Okkervill River, Sam Evian, and avant jazz circles for his own recording and they give the song a live in the room quality that’s buoyed by Birnbaum’s intimate delivery. The record is out 11/22 on Arrowhawk Records.


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Charles Rumback & Ryley Walker

Following up on their 2016 collaboration for Dead Oceans, Chicago drummer Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker head over to Thrill Jockey for a second set of skitter and strum. Again, tacking away from Ryley’s singer-songwriter impulses and into instrument folk that pushes beyond the boundaries that the genre might entail, the pair prove perfect foils for one another. Walker has ensconced himself in two forms over the last few years and his collaborations with Bill MacKay, Running, Rumback and most recently Steve Gunn have proven the artist’s prowess in mapping the more experimental mores of the improv terrain. Here, the set starts out warm and sunny, beset by fingerpicked runs and jazz sweeps through the kit. Opener “Half Joking” yawns with an early morning saunter, a song fit for the porch before the day takes shape.

As their work wears on the duo introduce a darker tone, replacing the burble of strings with more sawed and sore drones on “Idiot Parade” and letting the cloud cover choke out their earlier ease. The following, “And You, These Sang,” brings and air of consternation, a pang of hurt that’s moth eaten in places by fuzz and smeared with the handprints of white-knuckle tension trying not to seep its way to the surface. They toggle back and forth between air and void before tumbling completely into the latter on “If You’re Around and Down” a meditative respite that rolls with Rumback’s slow-motion heat-lightning patterns before the stormbreak relief of “Worn and Held” washes over the listener in liquid bliss. In some ways Walker’s dedication to the Chicago post-rock set that underpinned his last record rears its head here, feeling like the ghosts of Tortoise have inhabited the American Primitive. Walker’s been having a hell of a year live and Little Common Twist seeks to translate that energy into the studio setting as well.



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Jim Sullivan – If The Evening Were Dawn

Light In The Attic has done much to preserve the legacy of Jim Sullivan. The artist has a storied past. He hung with a counterculture crowd – had a bit part in Easy Rider, spent time crawling bars with Harry Dean Stanton and disappeared from mysterious circumstances in New Mexico in 1975. He recorded two albums, though neither did well to carry him forward at the time. His debut was a haunted folk record dotted with extra-terrestrials, lonesome nights, and endless stretches of road. It featured the legendary Wrecking Crew as his backing band. His second, eponymous album was picked up by Playboy’s fledgling record label but their inept promotion mechanisms let it down. That along with the connotations associated with Playboy at the time scared off quite a few listeners who would have sunk deep into its mahogany rich grooves and evening air. It stands as a true shame, because both albums are well worth a listen. LITA is thankfully bringing both of these record back to life, but they’ve included on more bit for good measure.

The collection of songs on If The Evening Were Dawn strips away any backing band that fleshed out Jim’s songs. There’s no embellishment, just the barest of essentials and it casts his songs in a spare, but blissfully austere light. The album is culled from a 1969 session with just Sullivan alone, giving some inklings of his work around L.A. bars at the time. It captures exactly what’s magic about Sullivan. His voice is weathered but hopeful. There’s still that lonesome resolve in his songs, but they’re given an unfussed elegance with this cap on his career. There’s crossover between this and the other two albums, but the collection works well as neither a live trinket or a scratch demo. The songs feel like they take on a new life here and this comes into its own as Sullvan’s final album – part retrospective, part document of a moment in time that may have dispersed like smoke from the end of an unattended cigarette were it not for the forgiving souls at LITA. This is an essential companion piece for any fan of Sullivan’s works, and a damn fine inroads for the uninitiated.



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Andy Cabic on Jane Getz – “No Ordinary Child”

Andy Cabic’s been a mainstay here at RSTB and his latest LP captures a new dose of mountain air in his sails. As I mentioned last week in my review, “Themes of wanderlust, lost love and new beginnings have (rightly) earned the album comparisons to Tom Petty’s mid-life high water mark Wildflowers. Shades of R.E.M. jangle up and there’s a rootsy honesty that knocks at Crazy Horse’s door.” It’s one of Cabic’s most unfussed, and yet one of his most affecting works. The Gems column always offers a chance to look behind the curtain on what an artist finds dear and Cabic shines a proper light on a country treasure that’s certainly in line with the amber hues and cool breezes thrumming through the wires of his own recent songwriting. Check out Andy’s take on an early ’70s forgotten treasure from Jane Getz below.

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Richard Youngs & Raül Refree

Soft Abuse is kicking out the quality this week, with the announcement of a long awaited album from Donovan Quinn earlier this week and now inklings of one of Richard Youngs’ best yet. The Glaswegian guitarist teams with Raül Refre on an album of long, winding, hypnotic pieces that work together the artists’ interest in chamber music, liturgical song, and the heavy-hearted folk of Tim Buckley. “Nil To Mind” swirls ‘round the listener, built on a circular guitar form but aching with overwhelming sadness from Refre’s string accents. Youngs is prolific, to say the least, and you’d be forgiven for becoming overwhelmed by his outpouring of collaborations, solo works and experimental output under the “Foot Guitar” heading. That said, this album exemplifies why Youngs is such a vital force in folk and composition. This marks the duo’s first collaboration, but with such staggering work at hand, I hope this winds up the beginning of something big. The LP is out December 6th.



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Vetiver

While Vetiver has always had a preternaturally calm demeanor, there’s something inherently broken-in, yet endearingly comfortable about Andy Cabic’s latest LP under the name. Vetiver captures the worn and weathered valley between ennui and ease and the album is marked by a familiarity that’s hard to shake, but mostly because Cabic’s able to synthesize his influences into a faded denim delivery that couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than Vetiver. His past catalog obviously speaks to the same feelings, but there seems to be a particular abundance of warm amber waves and cool blue ripples that slip off of the ends of Up On High. He’s dug into a secret stash of country touches and folk flecks that coalesce into an album built on hurt, but also built to heal.

Themes of wanderlust, lost love and new beginnings have (rightly) earned the album comparisons to Tom Petty’s mid-life high water mark Wildflowers. Shades of R.E.M. jangle up and there’s a rootsy honesty that knocks at Crazy Horse’s door, but it’s Petty’s ode to the dissolution of routine that hangs its head over the album the heaviest. Cabic similarly seems to embody a sense of loss and loneliness and packs the record with an ideal of finding oneself beyond the horizon no matter how many times you have to cross it. The record is one of his best since 2009’s Tight Knit, reinvigorating Vetiver even while technically mellowing. The record is a comfort for the soul in troubled times, and honestly that’s something we could all use time and again.



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Kayla Cohen of Itasca on The Groundhogs – Solid

The new record from Kayla Cohen’s Itasca is full of crisp mountain air and rivulets of gorgeous folk guitar. Its the culmination of her many years as an artist welling her writing into a soft breeze of folk that places her in ranks with Linda Perhacs, Vashti Bunyan, and Jackson C. Frank. The record is full of isolation and loneliness, an absolute treasure of meditative bliss. Naturally I was curious to see what Cohen might pick as a hidden gem, delving back into her own influences. She went not towards the delicate side, or into the garden of fingerpicked folk, but to a source of power from T.S. McPhee and company’s later years as The Groundhogs. Check out how Kayla found Solid and what effect it’s had on her own works over the years.

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