Archive for February, 2007

Pt. 4 of S:I approved SxSW showcases – New music from Alina Simone (54 40 or Fight, July 3)

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Got a nice email from Alina Simone (here) the other day with news of her new album on a new label. It included links to two songs that I wasn’t supposed to publish. However I think I’ve successfully gotten around that with a song linked from Alina’s SxSW page. Here’s a song off her debut record, Placelessness, due out this summer on 54 40 Or Fight.

The song “Saw Edged Grass” from Placelessness has upped the ante with a more aggressive, dynamic sound. Catch Alina at SxSW on March 14 at The Hilton.

Saw Edged Grass [Download]


Loch Lomond (I told you so!)

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

I hate to be all like “I told you so” but in this case I told you so! Loch Lomond’s record Lament For Children has just been picked up by Hush Records. And by all rights it will be all over any blog worth it’s salt in the next week or so.

Repost plus a new song:

Loch Lomond is from Portland and travels in the same circles as Laura Gibson who I wrote about last week. Their new record, Lament For Children, is out now. Lead singer Ritchie Young shares some of the odd vocal eccenctricities as Colin Meloy from The Decemberists. There’s a slight lilting English accent in the song “Bird and a Bear” as well as references to “porcelin spoons”. Instruments include saw, mandolin, banjo and cello so you know that I’d like it. How `bout you?

Buy it here for $10. Or it should be available anyday here.

Tic (new song) (video for Tic [Download]


Bird And A Bear ( I Am The Bird) [Download]


Chris O’Brien’s "Lighthouse" (Riyl Ellis Paul, John Gorka, Vance Gilbert)

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Ok let’s just say you wanted to be get into the folk singer-songwriter circuit. One good way to start is to have Dar Williams teach you the chords to Shawn Colvin’s songs (when you’re 14), or how about having your stepmother be the booker at the most revered folk club on the east coast or how about you just pal around with all the rising stars on the circuit like Rose Polenzani, Antje Duvekot and Mark Erelli. This is what Chris O’Brien has done. It would all sound a little calculating if it weren’t for the fact that joining the new-folk circuit is a quick way to go hungry or broke or both.

Chris O’Brien’s new disc and his full-length debut has just been released and is called Lighthouse. His bio and subsequent press for his first ep dropped a lot of names to try to get at his sound but the one they missed is probably the most importnat and that’s Ellis Paul. “Rosa” is another in a long line of falling in love with the waitress song but since this has happened often in real life (I’m thinking Matt Damon marrying that bartender) I still think it’s a ripe topic for songs. Buy Lighthouse here.

RosaLighthouse [Download]


Pt. 3 of S:I approved SxSW Showcases – Elana James (ex-Hot Club of Cowtown) – New song off self-titled debut (Snarf Records, Feb. 27)

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Call me stange but I have loved what I’ve heard from the now defunct western swing meets hot jazz trio The Hotclub of Cowtown. Elana James is the bands ex-violinest and co-singer-songwriter. She’s a fabulous fiddle player and an excellent singer and I’ve always been amazed at her beauty (esp. considering the band tours hard; hitting every county fair and rodeo between San Fran and NYC).

Anyway it’s kind of a no brainer that she’d step out on her own eventually. But no matter how much I love this, I wonder what the market is for a project like this in the year 2007. However if anyone can make it work it’s prbably Elana. She’s played with Dylan as an opening act and then was called to be in his band on the last couple of tours. When Hotclub dissolved it was the experience touring with Dylan that gave her the impetus to start her own thing. Her self titled debut is out on February 27 on Snarf Records. Buy it here. Catch her at SxSW March 16 at Momo’s.

Oh Baby [Download]

with Cowtown:

I never, ever, link to streams; I think it’s bad news. If mp3 bloggers get satisfied with streams the music industry (or at least what remains of it) will pull the rug out from under us and limit promotional mp3′s. With that said, I think what Josh Rouse is doing online with his Backstage Recordings is brilliant. A perfect use of the internet and the collaborative nature of artists. Here’s the link to watch Josh duet backstage with various opening acts including Dawn Landes, Stephen Kellog, and Jill Barber.


Darren Hayman’s "Caravan Songs" outtake plus a video from his new ep Eastbourne Lights (Feb. 12) and a live video from Hefner recorded for John Peel

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

I’m kinda crazy about the defunct band Hefner and it’s leader Darren Hayman. Between his band The French, Hefner, his new bluegrass band and his solo projects and his t-shirts and all he’s got about a 100 products for sale on his wbsite. It’s kinda cute. One thing that is not for sale is “Victim Song”, which was left off his recent Caravan Songs ep. The Caravan Songs ep was recorded in his caravan (British term for small camper) with basically Darren on vocals and ukelele.

It’s mostly creepy/crazy lofi stuff but Darren says this song didn’t fit and was left off the cd because “the subject matter was a bit too worthy” for him. The song begins with a tragic sigh or two and only gets more morose from there. It’s the story of a missing girl and the “pure evil that walks among us.” I’ve linked to this song before but I just love it but the videos below are both new. Enjoy.

Victim Song [Download]

Bonus videos compatible with iPod (I think)

Video for “Eastbourn Lights” from the new ep Eastbourn Lights.
Video of “Ugly People” from Maida Vale Hefner Live recorded for John Peel


The shockingly great alt-country of Norway’s Olav Larsen & The Alabama Rodeo Stars (Hyena, March 13)

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Olav Larsen & The Alabama Rodeo Stars are a happy aberration. First off the name is absurd. Olav is from Norway and his band has probably never set foot within Alabama. Secondly Olav is black, which probably doesn’t matter in Norway but sadly I’m not sure how he’d fare in the deep south playing this music. Finally and most obviously, most music fans and critics would never put the words Norway and alt-country in the same sentence let alone the same hemisphere.

Oddly enough before I was emailed about the band by their US label Hyena, I had encountered them before and each time it was related in some way to my Swedish mp3 blog Swedesplease. Each time I’d stumble anew over the band I desperately tried to shoehorn them into Swedesplease figuring one Scandinavian country is just like any other. Love’s Come To Town is the new disc. You can preorder this March 13 release here now. Olav and band recently impressed in the opening slot for Jason Molina and Magnolia Electric Company. And while they may be slightly derivative of bands like Sun Volt, Giant Sand and even someone like Neil Young, there is a youth and vigor and a celebratory nature to these songs that doesn’t go unnoticed and separates them from their contemporaries.

We’ll Never Lose Our Mind [Download]

Really cool YouTube video for “Unhappy/Dreamer” from the new record:


New song/video from Richmond Fontaine’s "Thirteen Cities" (Feb. 7, Decor; early May in the US)

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Can we all agree that with seven albums under their belt and at least one masterpiece in Fitzgerald (video for “Making It Back” from Fitzgerald) that Richmond Fontaine is on the short list of great American bands regardless of genre (in this case a rootsy alt-country)? Richmond Fonataine’s new record, Thirteen Cities, is out now in Europe but won’t be released in the US til May. The record sounds like a slight departure for the band as they left the comfy confines of Portland for the rustic desert of Arizona. Of course if you’re a band that is cearly fond of Ginat Sand it’d make sense to look up Howe Gelb when you’re down there, which is just what Richmond Fontaine did. They also collaborated with Joey Burns and Craig Schumaker (who runs Wavlab Studios).

The result is a more southwestern feel for the record. Their sound has been enhanced by the addition of Howe and Joey on piano, as well as by the addition of mournful mariachi horns on a number of tracks. The band has one song from this record up on their site. Buy the import here.

Moving Back Home #2 [Download]

Plus a You Tube video for the song “Capsized”:


New "Key Principles" from the Canadian band Nathan – Pt. 2 of S:I approved SxSW showcases

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Damn the Canadian band OX, if it weren’t for them I could safely declare Nathan my favorite Canadian roots band. Nathan’s new record, Key Principles, is out now on Nettwerk. On “The Wind” you can hear some of the same naturalistic themes present on other Nathan songs. Nathan turns the wind into an anthropomorphic creature that can deliver both ill and good. Musically, Nathan continues on the road it’s paved on prior releases; this consists of banjo, acoustic bass and other traditionally americana instruments.

Catch Nathan’s Canadiana set live at SxSW on March 16th at either the NXNE BBQ or The Light Bar.

The Wind [Download]

I was just sent this link to a new You Tube video by The Bobby McGees. Their song “I Don’t Want To Be Jar Jar Binks” has become one of Songs Illinois’ all time most popular posts. Here’s the video they made that is a response to the “Candylion” video by Gruff Rhys. The song is called “A Dog At All Things” and reminds me of this Children’s book we have about English explorers in Egypt being killed one at a time in a number of particularly grizzly ways (highly recommended if you can find it).


New song (?) from Peter Case – Pt. 1 of S:I approved SxSW shows

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Peter Case appears to have a new song out. I did a quick seach of AllMusic and Peter’s catalog and can’t find this song anywhere. While it may be a demo, the song “Shot Through”, is simple enough musically and lyrically to succeed as a stripped down affair.

Anyway I like my Peter Case as unencumbered as possible, so “Shot Through” is right up my alley. The song comes courtesy of the SxSW site. Peter Case will be performing on March 17 at the Hilton Garden Inn as part of SxSW

Shot Through [Download]


New music from P.W. Long (Wig, Mule) – "God Bless The Drunken Dog" (Southern Records)

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

P.W. Long is the reason they invented Wikipedia. The guy has a long history that is not very linear. The Wiki sorts it all out though. He was a founder of the band Wig, Mule, and Reelfoot. He’s recorded mostly for Touch and Go, but his new record (lp only) is coming out in Europe on Southern Records. P.W. has been championed by Steve Albini and has shared stages with The Wire and The Fall. He currently lives in Texas. His current sound is a blend of sludge rock, heavy blues and a kind of a Nick Cave pentecoastal preacher thang. Buy God Bless the Drunken Dog here.

Nogales Rose [Download]


She’s Gone [Download]
(courtesy of SXSW 2006)

P.S. – P.W. is also one third of Young James Long. Their record You Ain’t The Man is coming out in February and features the drummer from Polyphonic Spree and Kirkland James from Tenderloin. Click here for “Her Jammies”.


Gina Villalobos’ "Miles Away" (Face West Records, April 3)

Monday, February 19th, 2007

(Editor’s note: Gina Villalobos’ 2006 record Miles Away is being released in the states for the first time on the new alt-country LA imprint Face West Records (distributed by parasol). Here’s a composite of two older posts I did surrounding the European release of Miles Away. I know it’s a repost but give me a break it is a holiday after all!)

What’s the world going to be like when they outright ban cigarrettes and hard liquor? How will we get artists that sound like Tow Waits, Nick Cave, Lucinda Williams and now Gina Villalobos. Gina’s not exactly a new commodotity to me as I’ve been waiting for her next release, exploring her brother’s music and rifling through all the band links on her site/MySpace page.

But if this is the first time you’ve heard of her don’t worry, you’re still early enough to say you knew her when. Miles Away was originally released on May 20, 2006 in the UK (Laughing Outlaw). I refuse to compare her to other artists (think L.W. or K.E.) but her sound is rooted in the godforsaken desert of the Southwest. The electric guitars and her raspy, well-worn voice are right up front in the mix while the traditional sounding pedal steel is used to supplement her sound. “Somebody Save Me” continues the path she took on her debut record a few years ago. Nothing new but still exemplary.

Somebody Save Me [Download]

Gina Villalobos (referring to the post above) has been kind enough to get in touch and provide one of her favorite songs off the new album, Miles Away, exclusively to Songs:Illinois.

“Hard Enough” shows the other side of Gina’s musical coin (the other track “Somebody Save Me” is a lot more ballsy). “Hard Enough” is a rough-hewn ballad that explores the struggle against the hardening of a person’s heart. Pre-order Miles Away here.

Hard Enough [Download]


"The Ugliest, Bitterest, Coldest, Dreary Place I’ve Ever Seen"

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

I don’t get a ton of audience suggestions, but the ones I do get I’m always a little cynical about. When someone writes in to suggest a band I always wonder if it’s an honest tip or just a friend of the band or the band’s mother. But if the music is good then I’ll try to relay it. So several months ago I was sent the link to the music of Petunia, a one man band/street performer type thing.

But instead of staightahead singer-songwriter stuff you get this yodeling, kazooy, cowpokey stuff. I like title track to Petunia’s first record, “The Ugliest, Bitterest, Coldest Dreary Place I’ve Ever Seen”.

The Ugliest… [Download]


Sally Spring’s "Mockingbird"

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

(what make/model/year do you think that car interior is from?)

I’ve been pestering Sally Spring for a while now for a song off her new record Mockingbird. But she’s an artist and not a computer type, so there was considerable delay. Now the problem’s been solved; thanks Sally. Here’s “Old Man As He Walks Out The Door”.

Like Tom Mitchell who I wrote about in a post a few days ago, Sally was there at the start of the 60′s folk movement. Her bio mentions hanging out with The Beach Boys, Mama Cass and Jim Morrison. This record seems like a comeback of sorts after several years of musical inactivity.

You can buy her new record, Mockingbird, here.

Old Man As He Walks Out The Door [Download]


The Late Gray Ed Great

Friday, February 16th, 2007

I was going to write about Ed Gray from Iowa City, and astound you with this unheard of lofi alt-country noisemaker, then while I was getting my post together I stumbled upon his name on at least three other MySpace pages of notable musicians. So let’s forget the unheard of part and just try to astound you with his music.

“Drink” is a mess of distorted guitar parts, out of tune vocals, violin, and heavy bass. Ed Gray’s late 2006 release, The Late Grey Ed Great, can be purchased from Cd Baby. Ed has a split 7″ coming out in the spring with William Elliott Whitmore.

Drink [Download]


Honky-tonk Friday Threefer – Mic Harrison (V-Roys, Superdrag), Elizabeth Ames and the Countrypolitans, and Johnny Berry

Friday, February 16th, 2007

Mic Harrison And The High Score‘s new record, Push Me On Home, has just come out on Lynn Point Records. Mic is best known as a member of the V-Roys and Superdrag but lately it’s been his solo stuff that’s drawing all the attention. The band likes to think they have one foot in honky-tonk and one in rock-n-roll. They seem like unassuming folks who would just as soon play the local Elks lodge as they would Bonaroo (they played last year).

As opposed to previous solo outings, Push Me On Home was recorded with Harrison’s touring band The High Scores. “Long Time” seems pretty representative of the whole cd, with it’s feel good lyrics, multiple allusions to drinking, having fun, and the hope that somehow hangovers will be cured by modern medical science. Buy it here.

Long Time [Download]


Elizabeth Ames And The Countrypolitans new Lloyd Maines produced cd Anytime is due out sometime in February. The songs I’ve heard from the record are mainly mid-tempo country ballads and not the hard hony-tonk of previous entries from this Friday country series. But nonetheless I thought I’d include these upstarts in the mix.

Anytime [Download]


An editorial by one of the head honchos of No Depression turned me on to the music of
Johnny Berry for honky-tonk Friday. His last record, Fegenbush Farm, came out sometime in 2005. The two songs below are the honky tonk equivelent of Tom Cruise’s mission statement from Jerry McGuire. “Last of a Dying Breed” gives shout outs to bottles of Coke, Kentucky bourbon, and Harley’s. Get er done, Johnny! – [sorry about that;)]

Last Of A Dying BreedDon’t You Worry About Me [Download]


Your favorite XTC song covered by The Skip Heller Trio (Ropedope Digital, Feb. 13)

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Alright. Quick. Favorite XTC song? Yeah, you got it. “Dear God”. Here’s jazz guitarist Skip Heller’s take on it. Mean Things Happening In This Land now available on the newly all digital Ropeadope Records. (mp3 courtesy of Promonet).

Dear God [Download]

Bonus track

Beautiful Bright Blues Skye EyesMP3, Music [Download]

At Swim With Two Birds, Destroyer, Edwin Moses at Southpop Fest

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

I’m sure Bonaroo’s got something going for it (but I’m not sure what with all that heat and dust), maybe Siren’s fun once you get over the smog and Coney Island dogs, not so sure about P4k fest though since it’s in my backyard and that’s not so exotic. But how about a festival in Seville, Spain called Southpop? Do you think they have blogger press passes for that one, plus meals and airfare? The lineup is a revelation compared to the BlocPartyPoliceCatPowerTool of all the other big name festivals in the US that purport to be “indie”. At Swim With Two Birds, Destroyer, Mark Eitzel, Bonnie Prince Billy, Edwin Moses, Tender Forever and a small cavalcade of great Spanish bands will appear over four days and nights from March 28-31.

All of the above is just an excuse to post this video from At Swim With Two Birds (lead singer from Montgolfier Bothers) (wrote about them first here) of the song “In Bed With Your Best Friend”. This video, combined with the two songs below, give a stark overview of this unceasingly morose yet lyrically brilliant pair of English artists.

Bonus track from ASWTB’s debut Quigley’s Point. Plus the first single off the Montgolfier Brothers’ 2006 release All My Bad Thoughts. Both of these releases available here.

DarlingJourney’s End [Download]


US release of Willard Grant Conspiracy’s "Let It Roll" released in the us (finally!)

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

The American release of Willard Grant Conspiracy’s 2006 record Let It Roll is finally upon us. I wrote about the European release back in February of 2006. Here’s a repost and a new song:

After 18 months (edit: now 40 months) or so of doing this little project called Songs:Illinois the time I’ve put in is starting to pay off. My visibility is just at the point where I can post the cream of the crop. For instance I just got this new song from the upcoming Willard Grant Conspiracy cd out in March on Loose Records (now in the Us on Reincarnate) called Let It Roll. Now if I can just get something from the upcoming Giant Sand gospel record on Thrill Jockey.

This is just one song from a very diverse record. Everything from folk country to mariachi to raging rock are included on this their 6th album. This song combines all of the trademark WGC sounds in one place; vocals like a weary, disgruntled Steve Earl, music like a loose Calexico and tempo shifts like something from Spoon. Guests include members of Lambchop and Dream Syndicate and Mary Lorson of Madder Rose. There’s a video for another song off the new record here (it’s as sad and depressing as the mp3 below). Look for this one towards the end of March.

SkeletonFlying Low [Download]


Maia Hirasawa’s debut single – "And I Found A Boy" plus a little Swedish Valentine’s surprise

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Sometimes you get a special song that you want to scream about from the rooftops. But you can’t. I wish there was some way to take a regular blog post and somehow broadcast it to the wortld, instead of just to one a little corner of it. I hope other bloggers pick up on this song and this artist. You probably think I’m going to go off the deep end about Hello Saferide again but you’re wrong. Oh, ok you’re partly right. The artist I’d like to spread the word about is Maia Hirasawa. Maia is one of the members of Annika Norlin’s band Hello Saferide but her solo music has always stood on it’s on.

“And I Found This Boy” is the first single from her debut lp for Razzia entitled though, i’m just me. The single is the story of a one-night-stand love affair gone wrong between members of two Swedish bands. “And I Found This Boy” is a refreshing look at desire and it’s consequences from a female perspective. The fact that the song plays out on a musical bed of horns, piano and drums that sounds like a classic tune by The Jam is a very nice bonus. The single will be available March 7 with the album to follow in Scandanavia on April 4. More info at Maia’s label Razzia Records. Spread the word!

And I Found This Boy [Download]

It’s A Trap has Maia’s song “Roselin” while the fine site Getecho has “My New Friend” [Download]
both songs are from her first self released (sold out) ep. Here’s my favorite from that ep:

Parking Lot [Download]

Oh alright here’s Hello Saferide’s “Valentine’s Day”

Valentine’s Day [Download]


Dawn Landes’ new video for "Twilight"

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Two of the groups that I’ve been writing about on Songs:Illinois have recently been picked up for European distribution, in particular by Fargo Records and Loose Records. Dawn Landes is the latest signing by Fargo, they’ve picked up her 2006 record Fireproof which I wrote about here and here.

She’s just posted the link to her new video for the song “Twilight”. The song is beautiful and the romantic video is perfect for Valentines Day. Buy Fireproof here. Tomorrow I’ll revisit The Felice Brothers who have just been signed to Loose.