Archive for December, 2005

The Nation Is Wrong

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

Luis Francesco is another in a rather long line of artists leaving hard music behind, at least temporarily, for something more rooted in folk traditions (yet as always slightly skewed folk). Luis comes from France and will release his debut record sometime in December in Italy on Another Records and then in the rest of Europe and Japan in early 2006.

Originally leader of the French noisey pop band

The Headcases, now Luis is focusing on music inspired by Nick Drake and Tim Buckely. The themes of his songs are sometimes highly personal and at other times slighlty whimsical (dragons and such). They also delve into the polical like with the song “The Nation Is Wrong”. Here’s two from his solo debut.The Nation Is WrongWaterlilies and Creatures [Download]

If you like your music a little louder here’s one from his band Headcases 2004 release

Hands Up Corporal! [Download]

Ray Rumours lofi bedroom pop (Stitch Stitch Records)

Friday, December 30th, 2005

I’m on a swedish/british lofi music jag at the moment, hope that’s ok with all you guys/gals. Ray Rumours is a girl who writes short lofi pop songs in her bedroom using ukelele, guitars and keyboards. That’s just about all she has to say for herself on her two websites. I won’t add too much more. Her new record, Hemulen, is out now on Stitch Stitch.

Dance Of TheStuck In My Ways [Download]

Casey Ryder’s "Here"! (self released, Dec 15, 2005)

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Casey Ryder is a friend of Matt Masters from yesterday’s post. They have toured together and have complimentary but by no means similar sounds. While Matt mines the western honkey tonk sound of Bakersfield and points North, Casey explores vaudvillian music from the 20′s and 30′s with a touch of Tom Waits and swing thrown in for good measure.

Casey’s new record, Here, can be pre-ordered here. I’ve got two tracks to sample below.

Big Jim and The TwinsGolddigger [Download]

Honky tonk from Matt Masters

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

Alright I think I’m back from vacation so it should be all new posts from here on out.

Here’s a treat. I mean how many real honky-tonkers are stil out there anyway. Dale Watkins, Earl Scruggs, a handful of others. Add Matt Masters to that list and put him near the top. He’s a Canadian who actually really looks the part of a cowpoke.

Here’s a new song that’ll hopefully be on a record due out in early 2006. It’s called “Centennial Swell” and is a good update on the trusty old flood as metaphor song.

Centennial Swell [Download]

PS Check out today’s post about The Second Band at Swedesplease, it should really be posted here as well it’s that good.

**Repost** Michael Holland’s "Crystal Meth Freak From California" (Sit-N-Spin)

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

I’m always on the lookout for someone taking the traditional music of America, be it blues, bluegrass or country and turning it on it’s head, repeatedly the name Michael Holland had been mentioned as an artist who truly expands on the mountain music of Appalachia. With a song called “Crystal Meth Freak From California” you know this is not your dad’s bluegrass.

Michael Holland records for NC’s Sit-N-Spin Records. He was in an influential band called Jennyandkind (recorded records with Electra and Yep Roc) that you may have heard of in the mid 90′s. Now he’s on his own and this is his second solo record of modern mountain music. His mix of accessible pop rooted in the traditional music of the Carolina’s is a joy to behold. Modern themes like drugs, hunger and politics are surrounded by fiddle, banjo, violin and Michael’s rich vocals and the occasional electonic touches. Pick up his new record, Tomorrows American Treasures, now from Sit-N-Spin here.

Crystal Meth Freak From California **Standout Track**Look Out For King HeartacheHungry Days [Download]

**Repost** Sam Winch’s the Lullabadeer (combine lullaby and balladeer and you get lullabadeer)

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

Even before I saw Sam Winch’s website I had picked up on his circus/carney theme and sound. It wasn’t hard since the second song on his debut disc, The Lullabadeer, drops as many circus references as any song in recent memory. The website with it’s big top theme confirms it.

I’m not sure what to believe in Sam’s bio as he claims to have been lost for a week when he was 9 only to be found at the circus (I’m guessing that’s not true), it also says he took a hammer blow to the head to protect a baby (I’m not sure about that one either), and it goes on to say that this record is up for the Nobel Prize (improbable but deserving).


If Tom Waits still had a sense of humor, would stop suing everybody and singing through megaphone he might just put out a record of this caliber. If Jack Johnson would wake up and snap out of his perpetual stoner-surfer-dude stupor, on his best day he might be able to match the energy and dynamic swings of The Lullabadeer. If Paul Simon could drag himself off of the Broadway stage he might be able to recreate the magic of his hit “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” but for now Sam Winch’s “Julio” will have to do.

I really like this record and if any of the above makes sense to you than you will too. Buy it here through cdbaby.


the LullabadeerOneTwoThreeJulio [Download]

**Repost** C. Gibbs’ Parade Of Small Horses (June 2005, Rubric)

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

Well I’ll be backing to blogging full time in another day or so. In the meantime a couple more reposts from 2005.

C. Gibbs is a man of many hats, literally. He’s got a stenson, old rancher hats and a prized fedora in his Brooklyn apartment. The man with many hats analogy covers his career in music as well. At the ripe old age of twenty he moved to London and soon took up guitar with a 4AD Band (?). He later went on to form Morning Glories in NY who released some records on Heradhunter/Cargo. He later released two solo records on Atlantic. Now he’s on his own (with the Brooklyn label Rubric/TeePee) and has just released his fourth cd titled Parade Of Small Horses.
You can see C. Gibbs at the cosy Chicago venue The Hideout on Friday Sept. 9. Should be a great show based on the assortment of styles and sounds present on the new record. They range from the Neil Youngish “Honeywell” to the rural-stomp blues of “Tenhorse”. You’re goin’ like this. If you don’t trust me, read the customer raves at Amazon (buy it here).

HoneywellTenHorseParade Of Small Horses [Download]

The Envelopes from Sweden and France by way of Yorkshire release their Christmas single

Tuesday, December 27th, 2005

I lied about the end of Christmas songs on Songs:Illinois and Swedesplease cause even though the day has past (although my kids are still opening their presents-spoiled brats!) the music keeps on coming. The Envelopes are some kind of two continent Swedish-French concoction, while members come from these two countries the band evidently resides in a third on a farm in York, GB.

Makes some sense then that their music is a mix of many styles with bits of electro-pop, XTC influenced trippiness and Swedish twee. Their “Christmas song” became available on the 25th so you’ve got to cut me some slack for only being one day late. “Pink Christmas” is a truly bizarre mix of modern electronics and traditional songcraft. I hear no mention of Christmas in the lyrics of “Pink Christmas” I only hear about the lack of spices and something about May 25!?

Pink Christmas [Download]

The Envelopes newish record Demon is available on Rough Trad while their most recent release is the single “Sister In Love” available through their site. Buy all their music here or in your better independent cd stores.

Sister In Love [Download]

One last Christmas song…the biting, social commentary "They Say It’s Christmas" by Anne McCue

Monday, December 26th, 2005

Anne McCue is an Austrailian singer/guitarist who seems to be patterning herself after Lucinda Williams. She’s gotten a lot of nice press in the last year or so, particularly for her new record Roll on Messenger Records (Chris Whitley, Dan Bern).

This holiday season she did put up on her site a rather biting Christmas song that takes pokes at the current president and his domestic and foreign policy. Here it is.

They Say It’s Christmas [Download]

Here’s a couple from Roll.

StupidCrazy Beautiful Child [Download]

Bonus Chris Whitley’s “Dirt Floor”

Dirt Floor [Download]

**Repost** There Is A War in Almost Every Corner

Monday, December 26th, 2005

I think that all those people “supporting the troops” with those yellow ribbon stickers on their SUV’s should instead put one red ribbon for every man, woman and child killed in Iraq. I’d like to see them navigate the road with thousands of those on their windshields. Whatever the real cause was for the war it’s clearly gone on long enough. Every Marine that is killed is either someone’s child or someone’s parent. It’s hard to even comprehend the damage to that country’s psyche with all of the innocent iraqi civilians killed, detained or maimed by this war.

The peace song “There Is A War In Almost Every Corner” is the first track released as an mp3 off of Blood Music’s upcoming debut full-length Sing A Song, Fighter (October, Make It Happen Records). The song is more of a metaphor for not harming one another, than a full fledged anti-war protest song but I’m going to read a litle deeper into it and assume Karl Jonas of Blood Music is as fed up as I am with the war in Iraq. I’ll have links to buy the new record up as soon as the label/band put them online but for now just listen and enjoy.

There Is A War In almost Every Corner [Download]

Blood Music is encouraging people to freely download and spread this song. It’s a positive way to take a stance for peace.

**Repost** Ramona Cordova-The Boy Who Floated Freely (ECA Records, August 9)

Sunday, December 25th, 2005

More great music from earlier this year. This is a repeat but well worth the return visit.
I may need some help on this one. Ramona Cordova is a band? or a person from the Philadelphia area, whose debut record came out on ECA Records on August 9th. The record is called The Boy Who Floated Freely and is a concept record about a boy named Giver who washes up on an island and is taken in by a band of gypsies and falls in love with the girl who is put in charge of taking care of him. There’s slightly more detailed information at Ramano Cordova’s website.

Ramona Cordova describes it’s music as being “influenced by Snow White, Pinnochio and and Oliver Twist”. But it’s more like opera for a new generation, a generation brought up on Antony and The Johnsons and Captain Beefheart. Instrumentation includes organ, closely miked drums and various odd and sundry percussion.

When the song “Into The Gypsy Bar” begins you hear a door opening and the Gypsy band playing and you are literally transported into the song. I’m sure something as interesting and groundbreaking has been done before but I’m hardpressed to think of it. The band is playing in Philadelphia with Seu George (from the Life Aquatic) on Sept 13 at At Beyond Nightclub. Buy tickets here through R5 Productions.

IntroOne Day SomedayGivers ReplyInto The Gypsy Bar [Download]

Ok here’s the punchline, the kicker, the grand finale. This 11 track disc is available now (as of August 9) for $7 post paid from ECA Records here.

Ok if that’s not enough here are a couple of songs by Brazilian artist and movie star Seu Jorge.

Starman (Bowie)Fiore de la Citta [Download]

PS You guys bought up all the copies of Ramona Cordova’s new record, ECA Records is now sold out although you can still get copies from the tour. And you can still get it in it’s digital form through iTunes on August 23rd

**Repost** Ox’s Dustbowl Revival – Best Record of 2005 (and 2004) (Second Nature Recordings, July 26 2005)

Sunday, December 25th, 2005

A few weeks ago there was some talk of half year “best of” lists. I didn’t get my act together then and don’t have it together now but I will tell you this…the best record of 2004 and now 2005 is Dustbowl Revival by Ox. It qualifies for both years because it was originally released in 2004 by the band themselves and now has been reissued with two bonus tracks by Second Nature Recordings.

I can’t say it much better than the pros:

“This remarkable debut is a collection of sunshine`n’ sorrow-soaked songs to swell the heart and chafe the soul.” Time Out

But what I will add is that this Canadian outfit creates the most serene alt-country landscape and somehow fills it with a cast of characters that would make John Irving blush. These Canadians get the isolation and desolation of the American west (and modern American society) better than any of the bands in the U.S. This is the record I wish I could wake up to in the morning and go to bed with at night.

L.A. CityCarolina [Download]

Bonus track from Ox’s split ep Internatinal Pop Exchange

Miss Idaho [Download]

**Repost** Richard Shindell – Vuelta

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

More reposts of some of my favorite music from 2005 or so!

Richard Shindell is one of the great singer-songwriters. Richard Shindell has left the safety of the minor leagues (Sugar Hill and Signature Sounds) and signed with Koch (“The Major Alternative”).

I’m afraid that for his career this was a mistake, especially when the first release of his on Koch was the beautiful but bilingual and challenging record called Vuelta. I hope he didn’t get too lost in the shuffle at Koch, a label that is the epitome of the “let’s through it on the wall and see what sticks” label philosopy.

Richard’s voice is amazing in any language and this new cd, recorded in Buenos Aires, proves that in any language Richard Shindell is an amazing singer-songwriter.

Here’s three songs off Vuelta, buy it here (and get a cool Che Guevara t-shirt).

Waist Deep In The Big MuddyChe GueveraCancion Sancilla [Download]

**Repost** Rachel Ries’ "For You Only" (Waterbug, August 2nd)

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

I always try to have a quick little post on Saturday and Sunday. I hate to put up one of my heavily researched, painfully detailed and stunningly creative weekday posts (some irony there just so you know). But nonetheless weekend posts are shorter due to the falloff in readers. That’s not to say these aren’t gems.

Take for instance Rachel Ries whose new record, For You Only, comes out August 2nd on Waterbug (Anais Mitchell, Bob Franke). I’m loving the music from her website including “You Only” from this new record and the demo version of “Dearest Man”. I’ve compared everyone and their sister to Sylvie Lewis but Rachel Ries will be the last and closest comparison. Her jaunty folk songs feature her lilting irish (?) vocals and perfect acoustic accompaniement. She’s classically trained on a number of intruments but it is her crystal clear voice (and songs) that are the showstopper. She lives in Chicago so you can send your checks and hard earned money to her address on the music page if you’d like to purchase something. Come out and see her at Schubas in Chicago on August 27th opening for Erin McKeown (wrote about her here).

You OnlyDearest Man [Download]

Demos, B-sides and live

Lonely SpiresClevelandDorieMuch Too Much In Love [Download]

A last minute gift idea

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

Just an fyi Songs:Illinois Plus is up and running (with PayPal now). This is the pay subscription extension of Songs:Illinois/Swedesplease. There’s lots more info here but the gist of it is I send lots of great music to your email inbox each day. It’s like Songs:Illinois/Swedesplease but just more of it and delivered to your mailbox daily. There’s a fee of course; nothings free. But for $50 a year or $.16 a day you get a ton of legal music delivered right to your virtual doorstep.

It’d make a great last minute christmas gift btw. Anyway I don’t want to give you the hard sell, it’s more an experiment than a business model.

A Christmas gift from Kris Kristofferson (you guessed it a new song!) (New West, March 7, 2006)

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

I had sworn off posting for the holidays but what can I asy if you get a nugget you’ve got to share. I’m not going to write much though. Firstly it’s Kris Kristofferson so there’s not much to say and second it is the holidays and I should really be socializing with my in-laws.

I will say this as these country/folk singers get older their voice always drops a register or two and in some ways they all start to sound the same. It’s a pretty glorious sound shared by John Prine, Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Johnny Cash (RIP). Now you can add Kris Kristofferson to that list as his new record has the tradmark vocals comparable to any of the greats above. His new record This Old Road comes out March 6 but New West has released this song for us. It’s the title track. More info on the new release here.

This Old Road [Download]

**REPOST** Steve Dawson’s Sweet Is The Anchor (Dolly Varden) (Undertow Records, August 28)

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

I admit to not being a big Dolly Varden fan but it’s not becasue of a dislike of their music. Mostly it’s just been laziness. While living in Chicago for the past decade I’ve had a multitude of opportunities to see them or Steve Dawson’s prior band Stump The Host. It’s inexplicable that I’ve never sought them out.Now that I hear Steve Dawson’s (of Dolly Varden) solo record I see at least part of what I’ve been missing out on.

Steve Dawson recorded this album in just about every room of his house, he enlisted wife and Dolly Varden member Diane Christiansen to sing along. With multitracking and a host of excellent musicians Steve Dawson has made an exquisite blue-eyed soul record. It’s not the copycat soul of Jamie Lidell (although there’s nothing wrong with that) or the authentic soul of Soloman Burke. But it works nonetheless; think Van Morrison or the Finn Brothers.

Here’s a couple of standout tracks from Steve Dawson’s solo debut Sweet Is The Anchor out in August on Undertow. I can’t find a pre-order link just yet but will keep you posted.

Sweet Is The AnchorLove Is A Blessing [Download]

New feature – Occasionally when time and space permit I will put up mp3′s by the bands that I feel influence, compare to or are the roots of the music I post about above. I’m kinda proud of this first little subset – enjoy!!

Solomon Burke –

None of Us Are FreeDolly Varden – Forgiven NowJamie Lidell – MultiplyFinn Brothers – Won’t Give In [Download]

Viarosa’s "Where The Killers Run" (British alt-country post 7)

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

Viarosa have greater ambitions than being simply best British alt-country band and it shows. In fact although it seems that they are at times labeled as alt-country it’s not that accurate a description. The band does use some traditional instruments (fiddle, acoustic guitars, mandolin and acoustic bass) and the songs do touch on some of the despair and haunting melancholy of early country music but the sound that emanates is a creepy, spooky amalgram of folk influences and British alternative rock.

A perusal of the bands press section finds these adjectives: “country death songs, Nick Cavesque vocals, haunting, spellbliding and bleak”. The new record, Where The Killers Run (Pronoia, Sept. 12) has been receiving outstanding reviews including nods for record of the year. The band has allowed me to share acouple songs from the new record. Enjoy and buy it here now.

Poor Man’s PrayerOnly Child [Download]

PS This will be my last new post for a couple of days. But don’t worry I’ll be putting up reposts of some of the best music of 2005 so keep checking back.

Low Skies (Flameshovel, Feb. 21)

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Low Skies are a Chicago area band who record for Flameshovel Records (Bound Stems, Lying In States, Chin Up Chin Up). Their new cd, All The Love I Could Find, is out in February and I think normally I wouldn’t write about them (or the label) except that I saw the lead singer of Low Skies join another band onstage at Schubas a few weeks back and was impressed with just this quick glipmse.

Their music is very much amercian gothic even down the lyrics to the song “Cousin” with it’s implied incestuous relationship. You can’t buy thei record yet but if you live in Chicago you can see the band at Schubas on January 7.

Sweet Young GirlsCousin [Download]

Treecreeper (English folk/country/americana post 6)

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Treecreeper is both a type of English bird and a band that’s patterned it’s sound on Uncle Tupelo, SunVolt and REM. Treecreeper is partially the remains of Brighton based americana band Hart Crane and partially new members. Will Burns is the chief singer/songwriter and he is joined by his brother Greg Burns, a cousin and a friend.

Treecreeper is “one of the rising stars of British alt-country” and you can hear why on the two songs below (one a finished song from a forthcoming release and one a demo recorded at home) More info at their MySpace page or get in touch with the band here – Another fine addition to this weeks English alt-country feature.

Holding OnWorth Living [Download]
(home recording – demo)