Posts Tagged ‘Sean Thompson’

Spencer Cullum

It’s always nice to see the sidemen get their due and 2020 has been a year of session players stepping up, especially within the realm of pedal steel — from Barry Walker to Luke Schneider, and now we can add Spencer Cullum to the list as well. Though unlike the others, Cullum isn’t bringing pedal steel to the forefront, rather he’s gathered his circle of Nashville players for an album that’s shot through with ‘70s Canyon AOR, UK prog, psych folk, and even a surprising touch of German Progressive coursing through its veins. Cullum slips from behind the bandstand to wind up an amiable, if subdued leader. Where others have tucked into Cosmic Americana and UK prog-folk with a flash, he’s ever the master of balance and shading, letting tracks simmer in their ambitions.

The impulses here swing from simple folk strains into lush works buoyed by strings, clarinet, sax and mellotron and pencer taps quite a few friends to add those touches. Sean Thompson, Luke Reynolds, Andrew Combs, Erin Rae, Annie Williams and James “Skyway Man” Wallace all pop up among the credits and their contributions help give the record definition. While he’s aiming for Matching Mole, Roy Harper, Caravan, and early Soft Machine, with so many local friends on board, the native Englishman can’t help inject just a touch of Nashville’s honeyed charms to the record as well. As the LP progresses he wanders further afield from the wooded confines of folk, letting a motorik murmur enter into view on “Dieterich Buxtehude,” and a soft jazz gauze fall over “Tombre En Morceaux.” The record does its best to embrace an out-of-time feeling, evoking an era of experimental folk that’s still reverberating today while bearing a few teethmarks of the kind of players who are pulled in for their perfectionism. It’s high concept prog from the best hired guns and while that means none of the ends are particularly frayed, I certainly enjoy its grand design.




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Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears – “Sun’s Hiding”

Oh, quite nice. This is something a bit different from Sean Thompson. The Nashville songwriter has been clamoring up the cosmic vine lately, but the second volume of Weird Ears For Weird Times offers a narcotic, nocturne vision of slinking pop with ice in the veins. The song’s anchored by Thompson’s reedy delivery, roughed at the edges but with a feeling of road wear seeping in between the sighs. Anchored by a slouched organ exhale and boasting some nervy guitar lines that are as far from the silvered cosmic vein he’s been harboring than could ever have been expected. The single is paired with a slightly more straightforward ramble under the name “Distraction,” but the songs make for a nice pair from a songwriter who has only been getting better these days. New LP is reportedly on the way soon, but this should tide ya over until then.




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Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears – “Never Wrote A Love Song”

A nice little surprise this week knocks out of Nashville from Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears. The solo/collaborative project of Sean Thompson hasn’t released all that much, but like fellow country-rock killers Teddy and the Rough Riders, its worth keeping an ear to the rail for the bits that surface. This EP in question is a three-song recording of a house party, backed by longtime collaborators Ornament. The band and Thompson find an unshakeable groove on two new songs and give a bit of a live once over to an old fave from the Time Has Grown A Raspberry EP from last year. Thompson admits that while the instrumentals are live in the room he gave the vocals a “Europe ’72” studio treatment after not getting the results on the tape. The combo makes these click. The harmonies are crisp and melancholy and they pair well with the ripple rollicked run-through that the band lays down. There’s a dearth of live energy going ‘round these days so I’d recommend getting in on it when it hits. Let your ears get weird.




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Teddy and the Rough Riders

Missed out on this one, sadly due to the announcement running through Instagram and me looking the other way. I live for Bandcamp notifications, get it up there Rough Riders! Now, to the record. I’ve been keeping the band’s TRR EP in pretty heavy rotation on the RSTB radio show and it only grows better with age. The band, which shares members with Natural Child and The Paperhead and has backed up Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears, has been steadily carving out a mellow alt-country crevice from Nashville’s underbelly. The band captures a melancholy wind that tousles the hair of the standard country crowd – ably picking at traditional tropes and applying requisite studio shine, while fitting in with the sunburst strums and pedal-steel melters of Mapache, James Matthew VII, and Tobacco City. The record’s bootlegger stomp and backporch ramble let it sink in and simmer without falling fate to any stereotypes that might befall a band with less inclusive tastes.

While not as compact and consistent as their seamless EP, the room to experiment lets the band play with form. Songs like “Too Drunk” are build on the sing-song lilt of English folk, but dressed in Nudie Suits all the same. They make it work before tumbling back into river-ramble tales of mischief and summer sun fitted with psych’s rosey-hued spectacles. The record breezes by with a smile and a sigh, as if it already knows that the carefree days are bound to end. As I mentioned the real problem stems from an availability for those outside the streaming-system (guilty). I’d love a proper physical issue, so labels worth your weight, help ‘em get a run going. Sometimes you gotta dig the gold out, though, and The Congress of Teddy and The Rough Riders shines up real pretty. Find it where you can and enjoy!




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Sean Thompson’s Weird Ears

Nashville’s a town of strata, and while the country royalty and Third Man a-teams might split the coverage, there’s a whole broiling underground full of indie country slingers that aren’t quite popping to the surface on a daily basis. Quite a few of these have been graced with the stringwork of Sean Thompson. He’s played alongside Teddy & The Rough Riders, Skyway Man, Ornament, and Promised Land Sound and since last fall he’s been striking out on his own for a series of EPs that capture his own songwriting. The first of these, Weird Ears Part 1 featured the members of Ornament backing up Thompson’s songs, mostly swimming through the indie-twang waters that snake through his former ouptposts. For the second offering under the Weird Ears banner, Thompson’s stretched for concept and struck gold in the process.

Still backed largely by the members of Ornament, but also adds in the vocals of fellow Nashville local Annie Williams and the Pedal Steel work of scene stalwart Spencer Cullum (Miranda Lambert, Lambchop). The album’s concept revolves around a resident who gets fed up with gentrification and heads to the country to live on a raspberry farm. Seems pretty much like the average resume of every third person I meet here in the Hudson Valley, but the results work out nicely. Thompson’s songwriting has solidified over the last year, and this second EP is vibrant, lush, and bittersweet – sliding easily between barstool blues, instrumental blushes, and a reprise that touches the more storm-torn psychedelia of Dire Wolves.

Williamson’s work on the title track(s) is perfectly hued and Cullum gives the record a great touch of shading. The concept never gets in the way of Thompson simply putting together a great run of songs that open deeper on each listen. Plus, the artist is donating half the sales from each purchase to the Nashville Food Project, so you can do a bit of good while listening. Hoping that this progression from Thompson only continues to shine brighter with each new offering.



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