I’ll be writing more about Chris Bathgate (already here and here) over the coming months leading up to the release of his new record, A Cork Tale Wake, on June 26. There are two reasons for this:
#1 is that Chris is one of my favorite new artists. #2 is that on June 22 he’ll be playing the Songs:Illinois House Concert Series (past performers include Rachel Ries, Anais Mitchell, Ox, Steve Dawson, The Cankickers and Otis Gibbs).
Here’s another song off of A Cork Tale Wake. This one comes complete with a small horn section and some ominous guitar feedback.
Sylvie Lewis is one of Songs:Illinois’ earliest and best finds. Her 2005 self-released debut, Tangos and Tantroms, would have easily made my top 5 list that year (had I done one!). Her literate yet highly personal songs combined with her soft vocals and romantic music (think Rufus Wainwright) make her an artist not to be missed. If Starbucks ever got a hold of this Sylvie would be the next Norah Jones, Amos Lee and Aimee Mann all rolled up into one. Sylvie’s new record, Translations, is due out this summer on LA imprint Cheap Lullaby (Gus Black, Tobias Frorberg). A recurring theme of this record is Sylvie’s uneasiness about either her own beauty or the pervasive culture of beauty (particularly in Sylvie’s LA home). Here’s “Just You” from Translations.
The Feelies were one of the most important bands of the 80′s. I count myself as lucky to have seen them at Maxwells in Hoboken. There was a discussion recently on the Elbo.ws blogger forum about bands from the 80′s/90′s like Sonic Youth, Fugazi and Minutemen that younger music bloggers hadn’t really ever listened to. If that’s the case I’m sure these same bloggers have never really listened to The Feelies and can’t know that they inspired countless bands on the indie circuit today. Here’s a couple of great videos from that era.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water here I am back with another installment of honky tonk friday. Today’s band is from the East Coast (although the lead singer grew up in the mid-west) and as you know that’s not an area of the country typically not known for country acts but Boston has a good `un with Nate Gibson and the Gashouse Gang (Cow Island Music).
It’s clear from the juke joint jump, 50′s rock and early rockabilly country sounds on the new record that Nate has a good grasp of Country music’s storied past. In fact this new record is a tribute to the Starday Record label; Nate’s completed a history of the label as well with co-founder Don Pierce. Buy it here.
Richard Thompson’s done it all. In fact my college roommate had his guitar instruction cassettes of him teaching elaborate traditional folk fingerpicking. These pieces were amazing and should have been released on their own merit.
The only problem with Richard Thompson is whether or not his producer is going to muck it all up. His new record, Sweet Warrior, is co-produced by himself so I think he’s got the sound he was hoping for. On the first song released, the prog-folk “Needle and Thread”, the mix is layered, yet simple enough to let the song’s lyrics come though and still highlight the truly incredible musianship.
I went off the deep end for Sonny Smith about a month ago and now I want to do it all over again. Sonny’s new record, Fruitvale, is a concept record that takes place in Sonny’s Oakland neighborhood. The fact that these stories are either real or at least base on real characters make them all the more effective. In the song “Mr. Low”, Sonny’s need to save Celeste from life on the corner (and from Mr. Low) is a human emotion that we all have but one rarely put into song (let alone prose). Buy it here from (((Belle Sound))).
Btw, as I said in the last post (((BelleSound))) is Chuck Prophet’s new label and Fruitvale is his inaugural release. There’s a pretty good little piece in Harp about this new endeavor from former Green On Red frontman. Here’s a quote:
“The characters in Sonny’s songs are so real, don’t be surprised if they crawl out of your speakers and bum your last smoke off you,” says Prophet. “I wouldn’t wish running a label on my worst enemy. Sonny is so good I had no choice.”
Hawk And A Hacksaw has a new collaborative disc/dvd out on May 7 (Leaf Label). It’s been reviewed/previewed quite elegantly here. But still I’d like to second their judgement and continue to attempt to corner the mp3 blog market on all things slavic/gypsy/polka/brass band.
Sean Hayes‘ music may remind you of Jack Johnson’s and on the surface you’d be correct but from what I’ve heard this is on a wholly different emotional plane. This is not content to be background music for a dinner party or the soundtrack to a kid’s movie. While quiet these songs are still busting out at the seams. They’re the type that are hard to ignore and harder still turn off.
Sean Hayes has been building a rabid and loyal fanbase for several years in and around San Francisco. When I had artists report back to me from SXSW for Songs:Illinois I got the most/best feedback about Sean Hayes. He’s had several full length releases but the upcoming June release of Flowering Spade may be his most accomplished and well produced outing to date. That said, for my tastes, it may have veered too heavily towards well produced pop. I like the stripped down earlier work of “Same God” and the hotel video of “All That I Have”. Here’s one of my favorite songs from the new record, the breathtaking “All For Love”, expect to hear more from Sean Hayes over the coming months.
Video of possible song off upcoming record, working title – “All That I Have”:
————— P.S. I’m kinda curious about the music of Canadian singer songwriter Nathan Wiley. I’m still on the fence from what I’ve heard from him. But he’s undeniably a new young talent from the tundra up North. His upcoming record is titled The City Destroyed Me and will be released in Canada on May 29. These are the first two songs you can preview:
————— P.P.S. Speaking of Canada, Dante DeCaro (a former member of Hot Hot Heat and present member of Wolf Parade) is releasing a crazy backwoods folk record under the moniker Johnny And The Moon. Already released last year in Canada, this self titled debut will get the full Red Eye U.S. distribution this sping. I haven’t absorbed all of this yet but the first song on the record is ideal for Songs:Illinois.
I don’t even want to do a google search for “Songs:Illinois” and “Jayhawks”. I think it would be a depressing look at the cop-out that is comparing one band to another. If I’m ever at a loss for words describing a band that even remotely shares the sound of Gram Parsons, The Eagles or Wilco then I usually resort to comparing them to The Jayhawks. Ironically I discovered the band in 1992 in a crappy Scotti’s Record store in the small New Jersey town of Madison (in the cut out section no less!). At the time I’d never heard of them, but was drawn to the cover art, the title of the record (Hollywood Town Hall), the “look of the band” and the producer – George Drakoulias.
I was suitably blown away by the sound and the songs inside. No record by The Jayhawks (or for that matter anyone else since) has held up over time like Hollywood Town Hall has for me. When the band broke up I was already starting to lose interest; a sameness had crept over the sound and the need to produce a hit had affected the band’s trademark sound. So the band split in two, with Mark Olson going his seperate way to form Creekdippers with Victoria Williams. Years later it is pretty clear from the direction the band went in under Gary Louris (Golden Smog) that the split was at least partially over the demands to write poopy stuff vs. the emotio-laden-tearjerker-soul-ballads favored by Olson. Meanwhile I think some of the latter day Jayhawks material is some of the best pop you’ll hear on the radio and conversely some of the Creekdrippers material is loose to the point of being dishevelled.
So the good news is that Garly Louris joins Mark Olson on three songs on his upcoming solo debut – The Salvation Blues (Hacktone Records). The record has been produced by former cult favorite and now Hollywood soundtrack big shot Ben Vaughn. The three songs streaming on MySpace show that both Mark and Gary have returned to form. This sounds like a record that will appeal to all those who loved The Jayhawks early records. You can pre-order this June release now through amazon here. I’ll have more from this record as we get closer to release date for now here’s “Poor Michael’s Boat”:
John Prine should need no introduction, he shouldn’t need someone to put him in some kind of context, and he certainly shouldn’t be compared to any other singer-songwriter working today. The fact that this Grammy winning artist isn’t top of the Nashville pop charts is a cause for consternation. His new record won’t win him any more new converts but it (along with the DVD release of “Live On Soundstage 1980″) will cement his place in the pantheon of great American singer-songwriters.
Country great Mac Wiseman joins John Prine on this new record of standards performed as duets cleverly titled Standard Songs For Average People. Under Mac’s influence this may be as close to pure honky tonk as the genre blurring John Prine has ever come. The folks at John’s label, Oh Boy Records, are notoriously stingy when it comes to new media and that’s why I’m kinda proud to bring you this free and legal promo mp3 from the new record courtesy of the label and it’s pr company. You can preorder this April 24th release here.
Pistol Packin’ Mama (sorry I take it back, the Prine folks just changed their minds)
Apparently Josh Ritter is a big John Prine fan (what singer and writer wouldn’t be?). Thanks to the mp3 blog Born By the River here’s Josh covering “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin”.
Here’s one of John Prine’s best songs, “Lake Marie”, performed in 2004 just after he had a good chuck of his neck removed along with a a small tumor followed by nine months of chemo. It’s one of the most “heroic” performances of any song you’ll ever see (all nine minutes of it!).
“Let’s Invite Them Over” (w/Iris Dement)
And for all the hipsters who still occasionally check in here. Bright Eyes covering the John Prine classic “Crazy As a Loon”. Listen for the amusing young hipster dialog at about the two minute mark, it’s classic. Hipster #1: “Crazy as a what?”, Hipster #2: “A loon.”, Hipster #1: “What’s that?”, Hipster #2: “I think it’s a person.”
John Prine explains the genesis of and performs “Angel From Montgomery” in front of an idyllic pastoral backdrop.
Look alive! This is the first in what will be an indefinite Saturday feature. YouTube Saturday. I’ll highlight some of the best videos from some of my favorite artists. First up, for no particular reason , is Iris Dement. There’s not a lot of performances to choose from on YouTube, but the ones they have are pretty fine.
How serious are the folks behind The Cave Singers (featuring former members of Pretty Girls Make Graves)? Deadly serious as the photo above illustrates. The band is still in demo form but has been flirting with Matador and creating sizablebuzz in Seattle, especially for a band with such a downer sound. I’ve probably posted real freaky folk-blues only a handful of times on Songs:Illinois. After today it’s a handful + 1.
The Cave Singers inhabit the same world as the east coast band MV & EE and Bummer Road yet the peacefulness of the Northwest seems to inform their music. And if you haven’t experienced the laid back attitude of the entire NW than you probably can’t relate to this perspective. This could be the soundtrack to any number of dreary days in Seattle, Portland or Walla Walla. Here’s a demo (four more streaming tracks on their MySpace page).
So far I’ve loved what I’ve heard from T. Griffin (here), so when I read he was involved in the band The Quavers I was already committed to posting this song off their forthcoming record titled Lit By Your Phone. This is in pretty stark contrast to the solo music of T. Griffin. At least on “Green Plastic Soldiers” there is an eeriness and ghostly aspect to the sound that is downright spooky. More info on where to buy this upcoming release.
Truckstop Honeymoon has been kicked around the past couple years. First their home and studio were destroyed by Katrina, next their move to Wichita didn’t quite work out (no offense, I’m sure) and finally they wound up in Lawrence, Kansas. This is their final resting place for now, though this group of weary travellers (they have 3 kids now) will surely not be content to stay in one place for long.
Lucky for them I’m on a little bit of a Lawrence, Kansas kick this week though. The new record is called Diamonds in the Asphalt, I was reading an interview with the band on the essential, all-things-Lawrence website, Lawrence.com, in which they said that leaving New Orleans has only led them to gravitate even further to old school funk and r`n’b. You can hear the New Orleans influence on “Bad Attitude”. And then you can hear the more bluegrass meets rockabilly sound the band is known for on “Wichita”. Buy any of Truckstop Honeymoon records here.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Canadiana band Nathan. Their new record, Key Principles, came out in the states on April 10 and while I did write about it way back when, I just recently found this free download of the song “Trans Am” on their new Nettwerk ECard. What is it about Canadian bands and the “Trans Am” anyway?
The Only Children is the Lawrence, KS band that got me on this little Lawrence jag. I was sent their new disc, Keeper Of Youth, and while I’d never heard of leader Josh Berwanger’s previous group, The Anniversary, I was compelled to listen by this description of the sound of the new disc from the bio:
“I wanted the songs to be fun, rock ‘n’ roll and back to the basics,” he says. “Something that drives me nuts about today’s music is how everything has to be so perfect. I wanted to do the opposite of that and do it how they did from where my influences came from, in the earlier days of the music.”
“It’s kind of a risk doing that because everyone’s used to everything being so polished,” Berwanger adds. “But emotion to me isn’t some guy singing perfect pitch, having recorded the same part 70 times.”
That’s the Songs:Illinois moto in a nutshell. The results on disc are fresh sounding, rough, balls-to-the-wall, 70′s rock `n’ roll. It’s a little bit like what the Deadstring Brothers are doing in Detroit or The Damnwells are doing out of NYC. It’s a sound that’s been perfected by musician/producer Eric Ambel and one that The Only Children got right. More info about this May release here.
Two years ago I (andothers) was all gungho for the Lawrence band OK Jones. Their album Push/Pull was unpretentious and well produced heartland rock. The song “Portable Heart” in particular was a great holdover `til the next Wilco album was released.
Now they’re back with their follow-up Elephantoms. The song “Electric Bed” goes in a slightly different direction with a few changes of pace, some serious dynamic changes and an off the wall chorus that’s more in line with the new breed of eclectic indie rock. Here it is:
The Hype Machine Radio launched today. Imagine trolling through hundreds of blogs and streaming the best songs – that’s what it does. There’s an element of chance involved but assuming mp3blogs don’t suddenly start posting pop crap (which is a big assumption since the trend on some of the bigger blogs seems to be going towards stuff like the Kelly Clarkson, Avril, Timberland, Timeberlake et al).
I wrote about Chicago indie pop outfit Fireflies over on Transmission today. I highly recommend the two tunes over there.
Louis Ledford is a member of Tin Pan Caravan, that’s how I was introduced to his music but I’ve always wanted to write up his solo material. Now I get my chance with his new record, Adios King, out now on Waterbug.
On Adios King it’s just Louis and his guitar and his stories. “Porchlight” is a linear tale, sans comforting chorus, of a man’s trip to the other world. he leaves the porchlight on and the keys somewhere his companion can find them and prepares for the voyage. It sounds at times like a wonderful experience but there is a also a cloud of darkness and loneliness hovering above the pearly gates. On “When You Fall” (streaming on MySpace) the narrator laments that his love is only there for him because he’s always there for her when she falls. “I Never Said” (streaming on MySpace) has a more rolling acoustic (piedmont?) blues sound, the guitar is crisp and the vocals punchy; I’m guessing this is the most upbeat song on the record and even still half the images are of death and darkness.
Here’s “Porchlight”. Buy Adios Kinghere from Waterbug Records.
I took my own advice and saw Dana Falconberry at Cal’s Bar last night. Cal’s is a hole in the wall, a shot and beer joint and proud of it. But around the edges music paraphernalia is starting to creep it’s way in. Tour posters, broken guitars, band stickers and assorted musical nicknacks adorn the walls. The stage is the cold barren cement floor. But the place is small, cozy, laid back and the sound is good (beers are cheap – $2.50).
I was surprised that Dana turned up as a trio for the night. Dana’s guitar and vocals were accompanied by beautiful harmonies and assorted percussion from two fellow Austinites (Erica and Gina). By percussion I mean stolen children’s toys, foot stomps and old battered coke cans squished along to the beat. Dana played songs from her new ep Paper Sailboat and newer songs she’s still working the kinks out of. After the band resolved some distortion/feedback issues they quickly found a grove. One of the standouts was the gypsy flavored “Leave In The Middle Of The Night”. Fan favorite “Sadie” was the closer. Anyway just wanted to let you know that a good time was had by all.
Also in a few months you’re going to be hearing a lot about Hallelujah The Hills’ new record on Misra/Absolutely Kosher. Try not to tune it out and pick up the record if you can. Misra has really hit it’s stride and found it’s niche with bands like Evangelicals, Shearwater, Flotation toy Warning and now Hallelujah. On many of the songs cello battles with guitar which are overtaken by soaring trumpets. Samples and electronic noise are added to the mix. And then Ryan Walsh’s lead vocals break though the clutter. I’m really impressed by this record. Their “fight song” is the one available download from the record, although their are some nice live and demo tracks up at their site. Here’s the self-titled fight song – “Hallelujah the Hills”.
Glad you found me at my new url. Songs:Illinois is committed to writing about music that is under-appreciated and unique. I've found that the music I write about shares a couple of traits. And they are: lyrical integrity, musically diverse, and written/performed by compelling characters.
Most songs found here are free and legal and have been provided by either the artist or label. If for some reason you'd like to have a song removed, please email me at cbonnell (at) gmail.com.