Posts Tagged ‘Folk’

Farmer Dave Scher – “Ocean Eyes”

Been a while since ‘Farmer’ Dave Scher popped up on my radar, but for a good swath of time he was a constant around here from Beachwood Sparks and All Night Radio to The Tyde for a stretch. He’s lent instrumentation to a good couple of dozen more than I can count and he’s swept back into view with The Violators and The Skiffle Players lately, but now he’s back with his first solo songwriter works since his ’09 LP and 7” for Kemado/Mex Sum. While the cosmic folk, gauzy psych, and earthen country remains, there’s a renewed focus on breathing life back into a dying planet its all swept into a dizzying whirlwind of reverberating sound on “Ocean Eyes.” The song’s got a heart that has one hand in the glorious cacophony of Akron/Family and another cradled around his compatriots in Mystic Chords of Memory. Though the tethers don’t keep this one locked anywhere for long — a chorus of voices rises and falls, waves crash, and circular piano swims around and around the song with a comforting cadence. The EP features drop-ins from friends Kurt Vile, Cars McCombs and Dan Horne and it arrives October 2nd on Spiritual Pajamas.



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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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Elkhorn – “Acoustic Storm Sessions (exerpt)”

Earlier in the year Elkhorn released an album of pent-up psychedelic darkness and desperation that was forged in an unintentional lock-in during a snowstorm that caused them to miss a pivotal Brooklyn gig last year. The album, made with friend and collaborator Turner Williams, showed the band at their improvisational peak, exploring their psych-folk prowess by turning an environment of disappointment into something extraordinary. Seems that the album, which found them in a configuration with Jesse on acoustic, Drew on Electric, and Turner shifting between electric bouzouki on one side, shahi baaja on the next, spawned a sister album that’s just now seeing the light of day.

This time Elkhorn eschew the plugs to release their first completely acoustic album, letting three guitars entwine in the ice-ensconced studio to create something that’s both meditative and mercurial. Not quite born of the Basho/Fahey axis, not quite beholden to the kind of ambient plains dusters that spawned Barn Owl, this is is a more tempered vision of Elkhorn’s apocalyptic folk. On the sample below, you can feel just a small fraction of the scope of these acoustic sessions, stripped bare of the ozone-crackle of their psychedelic fry, but no less devastating in their barren burn. If anything, the austerity only enhances the permafrost isolation of the band’s stranded situation during the recording. The LP is out October 2nd on Centripetal Force and Cardinal Fuzz.




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Grace Sings Sludge – “The Pledge”

was always a fan of The Sandwitches and this hammock swung strummer from the band’s Grace Cooper is a good taste of her latest LP and a bit of an extension of their charms. There’s a loose feeling to “The Pledge,” dangling its feet in the breeze and hardly taking itself too seriously. Cooper has a way of making the ordinary, lackadaisical musings on love feel slightly profound, though. While the song’s themes of self-improvement to serve the ends of a relationship seem both relatable and at their heart, doomed, Cooper’s sighed delivery gives them some weight that makes the hollow promises thud even harder. The song flits by in a haze that takes full advantage of Grace’s dreamy style of folk-pop. It’s hard not to feel the room instantly fill with incense the moment her guitar begins to strum and by the end, even though the words ring false, we’re all calmer somehow anyway. The LP is out now on Empty Cellar.




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Sally Anne Morgan

Anyone who has followed The Black Twig Pickers or House and Land over the past couple of years might be familiar with the prowess of Sally Anne Morgan, but on her solo LP for Thrill Jockey, she’s truly letting her own voice shine through in a record rooted in the traditions of Appalachian and English Folk. With her fiddle, banjo, and guitar at the ready, Morgan is a band in her own right, compiling in the studio the kind of loose, pub-slung singalongs that wouldn’t feel out of place on a rainy day in the English countryside nor on a porch in the wooded confines of deep set East Coast mountains. She’s a traditionalist, but not constrained by tradition. The songs could well enter the traditional canon, but they take flight in ways that are more progressive than they first let on. There’s a carful tenderness to her songs too — peeking through in verdant strains on wistful compositions like “Garden Song,” which tracks its melody like water seeping into soil and blooms unfolding into an late spring sunlight.

As Sally noted in her Hidden Gems piece for the site, she has a particular fascination with UK folk rock, stemming from the Fairport tradition that caught her ear in her 20s, and that comes through nicely with the help of Nathan Bowles (Black Twig Pickers, Pelt, Pigeons) who adds percussion to several tracks here, elevating them from loose sketches to something more stridently propulsive. Whether with a full band or by herself, though Morgan fills the room with a sound that’s almost impossible to ignore. Fiddle lines weave bittersweet curls through the air, banjos pluck out a ramble that’s as insistent as the nearest creek, and above the instruments Sally’s vocals peek around the bends with a heartbreaking delivery that’s somewhere between hope and lament, both are perfect for these days. This record is a companion piece to a hard year — a comfort, a companion, a consolation in the night.



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Sally Anne Morgan on Mr Fox – S/T

Before she embarked on this solo LP for Thrill Jockey the works of Sally Anne Morgan have found their way onto Raven in many forms. Her work with Black Twig Pickers has long been a favorite around here and both of her albums with Sarah Louise under the name House and Land are underung gems. So, when this solo LP arose I’d thought it was a perfect time to see if Morgan had a gem of her own in mind, given the she’s got such a beguiling handle on the whiles of folk, both modern and traditional. She has not disappointed, turning in a ‘70s Brit Folk gem that’s not often uttered in too many roundups of the form. Check out her take on the eponymous LP from Mr Fox below.

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Grace Cummings on Buffy Sainte-Marie – It’s My Way!

Hands down one of the most engrossing records that I came across last year was the Flightless debut from Australian songwriter Grace Cummings. Her scarred and furrowed songs were only rendered more so by her sonorous voice. She has the kind of stop you in your tracks delivery that would leave most listeners agape until the last note left the air. She’s followed the album up with an entry to the Looking Glass series for Mexican Summer that’s serves as a proper epilogue to the record and naturally that had me thinking that Grace might have a gem in her collection that she looks to. Shoulda thought of this when I was writing up the album, but of course Cummings is a natural fit for the storyteller power of Buffy Sainte-Marie. She recounts the impact of the songwriter’s essential ’64 debut on her own works.

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Sally Anne Morgan – “Garden Song”

Another peek inside the beautiful new album Thread from Sally Anne Morgan (Black Twig Pickers, House and Land). Accompanying the verdant pluck of her “Garden Song,” Morgan has crafted an animated video from her own drawings and prints that captures the soft lilt of the song. Its been a brutal summer in so many ways, but “Garden Song” celebrates the moments when the heat’s beneath peak and the flowers seem to engulf every corner of view. I can’t grow for crap, plants shy away at my touch, but the song sure makes me wish I could. I’ll have to settle for some time in Morgan’s animated garden. Its not a bad compromise. The album is out September 11th on Thrill Jockey.



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Mike Polizze

With slight exceptions, the prior works of Mike Polizze have tended to center on volume, gnawing at the air until the oxygen is burnt and a char lays over the scene. His first entry to the amplified atmosphere came via Birds of Maya — blistering paint and eroding eardrums through releases on Holy Mountain and Richie. A left turn towards the garage with a touch of pop as Purling Hiss didn’t turn down the turmoil in the early years, letting feedback fight the tape hiss for prominence on initial releases before beginning to edge towards a classic rock sound that’s been more refined. In a lot of ways Polizze’s been following the same trajectory as Ethan Miller’s slide from Comets on Fire to the slipstream sheen of Howlin’ Rain. With a new run under his own name Mike’s stripping away the electric grit altogether, though, and letting the warm amber glow of late October firelight color his folk-pop with a particular nod to his Philadelphia surroundings.

Hunkering down with fellow Philadelphiles Kurt Vile and producer Jeff Zeigler, and letting the results out on Paradise of Bachelors, this is the sound of Philly transplants growing easy into their next phase. The pure joy of it comes through in every fiber. The stamp of Vile is particularly present on the album and he lends vocals to quite a few of the tracks here, with Polizze stepping up and delivering on his own version of Vile’s hammock-swung porch vibes. The record cools the swamp of summer into the sweater-hugged nights of fall from the moment the needle hits the platter. In fact those feeling an ache for a new Vile LP would be wise to see this as a stop-gap gift from the songwriter as it feels almost like an even collab between the two at times. Even hidden in the haze, Polizze had a handle on songwriting that made it stick, but here with the volume twisted down, he’s proving that he’s got hooks and grace to spare. The record is a departure for the songwriter, but it feels like a natural shift that could spawn the next phase rather than an outlier among the fuzz.





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Lloyd Thayer and Jerome Deupree

Always happy when the Feeding Tube mailers arrive with something that hits outside of my consciousness but well within the site’s wheelhouse. Since that crew is constantly tilling the best musical soil, this happens pretty regularly to say the least. While plenty of Eastern and American Primitive guitarists happen through the halls here, I’ve not found an entry point into the work of Lloyd Thayer previously, despite his roster of 30+ CDs and cassettes. The Boston string-slinger is working in the earthen thrum blues styles that pulls from Basho and Bull while making a stop around Hamza El Din for good measure. The artist employs a Weissenborn-style lap guitar and a 22 stringed instrument called a Chaturangui, and he winds the album into a headspace that’s entrancing, soothing, yet dipped in a mild poison that brings about strange dreams.

Thayer’s playing is masterful but restrained, a quality I’ve begun to enjoy greatly in instrumental string albums. White-knuckle string runs come and go, but its worth an album’s weight to let the songs sink into skin-ripple tension and slo-motion slide visions. Thayer delivers the dose, but doesn’t come to the task alone. He brings with him the percussion work of Jerome Deupree — a session regular and immensely versatile player who’s resume boasts time with The Humans, Joe Morris, and a co-founding credit in Morphine as the band’s original drummer. His rhythms don’t drive so much as urge the record forward. Deupree plays off of Thayer’s work with a flexibility and grace that’s palpable. His playing sways with the slides of Thayer’s stings, giving the album an even greater tie to the tumble of the winds and the hum of the Earth.

With title nods to blues legends Al Wilson and Melvyn Marshall, shouts to hip-hop pioneer Ramelzee and the boats of Apocalypse Now the record’s certainly not hitting the usual notes for this kind of vibe, but that all adds too the charm and hypnotic hold that Duets brings to the turntable. The more I listen, the more this one latches on.





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