Archive for May, 2007

The Wildbirds rawk 70′s style

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

I’ve spread some ink talking about bands that revitalize that classic Stones sound of the 70′s. I think the Deadstring Brothers do it the best, but bands like The Other Ones and now the Wisconsin band The Wildbirds are hot on their heals.

One thing you need if you’re going to take a page out of the Rolling Stones’ book of rawk is to have a little swagger, The Wildbirds have that in spades. I was about to ask these guys to play a little show I’m putting together in Chicago when they got added to Jess Malin’s summer tour. Oh well, maybe next time (if they don’t explode/implode).

421 [Download]


Way Down Low [Download]

P.S. I just figured out the lead singer sounds a bit like the dude from Dramarama.
P.P.S. It’s my birthday
P.P.S.S. That Chicago show I refer to is July 6th at Cal’ Bar and will feature The Gunshy from Chicago, Ann Arbor’s Frontier Ruckus and Satellite 66.


M Shanghai String Band’s From The Air (Red Parlor Records, May 29)

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

The Brooklyn based string band M Shanghai String Band has a new record out called From The Air. The new record’s on Red Parlor Records (Chris Whitely, David Olney) and features banjo, violin, and guitar. The sound is equal part bluegrass vocal harmonies, combined with Eastern European string band, mixed with Appalachian storytelling folk. It’s an odd and compelling combination that has made this band a must see live event.

Buy the new one here.

Devil You and Me [Download]

Bonus outtake off of From the Air

Bella [Download]

Bonus from the debut record

I Wish I Was A Single GirlMoney Up [Download]


Carolina Chocolate Drops (and assorted blues from Cootie Stark, Etta Baker, Adolphus Bell and Freddie King)

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

In my never ending quest for new music that fits the Songs:Illinois bill I came across the band Carolina Chocolate Drops. The name itself was enough for me to want to poke around and learn more. The fact that The Music Maker Relief Foundation is involved solidified things for me. Music Maker is a not for profit organization that helps blues musicians deal with some of their everyday problems and strife; be it health insurance, paying the bills, etc.

Carolina Chocolate Drops are a bridge back in time to the African-American Piedmont stringband groups. Their style of stringband traditionally puts more emphasis on the banjo than the fiddle. It’s said that it’s the banjo that drives the song forward. Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind is the new record that initially may have been self-released, but has now been re-released with a little better packaging and more distribution muscle by Music Maker.

Starry CrownRicketts HornpipeShort Life Of Trouble [Download]

Bonus back catalog blues courtesy of Music Maker

Cat Squall Blues – Freddie KingThe Things that I Used To Do – Adolphus BellLiquor Still – Cora Mae BryantDrinkin The Wine – Drink Small And Cootie StarkPiece Behind The Bridge – Etta BakerMy Wife Left Me [Download]
– Lee Gates


Eilen Jewell’s "Letter From Sinners & Strangers" (Signature Sounds, July 17)

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

I’ve been sitting on the new Eilen Jewell record for what seems like months. It’s release date is still a ways off (July 17 on Signature Sounds), but I can’t hold my peace any longer. Eilen Jewell’s self released debut literally stopped me in my tracks. Her new record Letters From Sinners & Strangers is a mix of smoky ballads and up tempo, nearly western-swing country.

“Where They Never Say Your Name” is a good mix of these two styles, it shows the strength of Eilen’s voice and the sureness of her band. This record should be a wake-up call to Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle etc, etc; that they somehow need to get back to their roots, get back to when they were hungry, back to when they were doing it all themselves without high priced producers and impeccable session players; basically back to when they gave a damn. This just became available as a preorder from today, so get in line here.

Where they Never Say Your Name [Download]

And the standout track from her self-released debut:

Back To Dallas [Download]


MySpace Whore Holly O’Reilly

Monday, May 28th, 2007

(I wrote this post and then for varying reasons almost didn’t post it. I think it’ll work as an abbreviated post for this holiday day off.)

Holly O’Reilly is a MySpace whore or else she just happens to be friends with each and every comparable/compatible artist found on that site. I don’t fault her for trying to get her name out there, considering her songs and her voice are deserving of more notice.

Gifts and Burdens is her new release (available at CDBaby now).

One More Time [Download]


You Tube Saturday – The Call

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

The Call were the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures of the 80′s. Their simple John Mellencamp rock with it’s overly anthemic choruses and near emo-like, heart-on-a-sleeve lyrics were almost to much to bear. But bear them I did. Looking back I still love these songs today.

The Call “Everywhere I Go”

“Let The Day Begin”


Honky-Tonk Friday – New music from Two Dollar Pistols (8th House Records, June)

Friday, May 25th, 2007

Two Dollar Pistols are not that different from country artists like Dwight Yoakum and The Mavericks. Their brand of country music has that Bakersfield sound and would have been warmly welcomed by Nashville once upon a time. Not anymore.

Their new album, Here Tomorrow, Gone Today, is out soon on the fledgling, but apparently quite serious label, 8th House Records. Here’s two paint-by-numbers country songs; songs that are a dime a dozen, yet songs that need to keep being written/played/dreamed.

Here Tomorrow Gone Today [Download]

Stranger Things Have Happened [Download]

Cover of Chuck Berry’s “Nadine”


Sera Cahoone’s "Nowhere To Be Found" from Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (Fargo Records)

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

(Sera Cahoone’s boots)

Ok, so I’ve got the women’s country-folk, import-only cd compilation market all sewn up. Last month it was a giveaway of Loose Record’s women’s-only comp Country Girl (New Sounds Of The Old West Vol. 5) and now it’s an mp3 off of Fargo Record’s brand new compilation Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.

This compilation has some overlap with Loose’s but also throws Sera Cahoone, Liz Durrett and Kelly McRae into the mix. I’ve written about Sera in the past but not since she was signed to Sub Pop (congrats!), so here’s her contribution to Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.

Nowhere To Be Found [Download]

P.S. Designer/Artist Wanted!

The Swedesplease t-shirt is actually selling pretty well (although mostly to places like Belgium, Holland, Sweden and the UK) so I thought I’d give Songs:Illinois fans an opportunity to wear their love of this site on their chests. However I’m crap at designing things. Would anyone like to have a go at a Songs:Illinois shirt? The only idea I’ve had is something like this: the word “Songs:” and then a picture of the map of Illinois. Or song notes and then a map of Illinois. I’d like it to have a “rootsy” or “antique” feel if possible but beggars can’t be choosers, I’ll take any and all comers. Email designs to me at If I choose your design I can get you a copy of the shirt once it’s produced, my eternal thanks and some free promo cds. Thanks!


New song from Marcellus Hall plus songs from his band White Hassle and something from the Shivers)

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

If I was a courtin’ and needed a killer track for a nab-the-girl mixtape it’d be close call between White Hassle’s “Life Is Still Sweet” and The Shiver’s “Beauty”. In fact if you couldn’t find “Life Is Still Sweet” you could substitute the White Hassle song “Star Position” and still probably get the girl. So needless to say, on the basis of those two songs alone, it’s safe to say I loved White Hassle. They’re on a “hiatus” at the moment but lead singer Marcellus Hall is working on his own solo record.

Here’s a demo of “Laughing With You”:

Laughing With You [Download]

oh yeah…go get `um stud:

Beauty [Download]
– The Shivers

Life Is Still Sweet [Download]
– White Hassle

White Hassle’s “I Will Be Thine”


"Kurt Cobain" off the new record by TJ McFarland

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

If you came of age in the 80′s, and were a serious music fan, chances are you have a Kurt Cobain/Nirvana story. The band was not instantly successful despite what the myth of the band has become. Like any other band starting out, they played their share of dive bars and college frat parties. It wasn’t until “Smells Like…” hit that the band’s notoriety really grew out of control. Like TJ McFarland and his song “Kurt Cobain”, friends of mine have similar stories of seeing the band in it’s earliest incarnation and like TJ they recognized that something special would happen to this band.

While this song may perpetuate his Christ-like, mythic, larger than life figure, I do like the image of Kurt Cobain as a hobo playing boxcars among the lowest of the lows. Howlin’ Wind is the new record from Oklahoma troubadour TJ McFarland. It’s been picked up and singled out by Miles Of Music, the great online roots music store. You can hear more tracks over at MySpace or just take a chance and get the full length

here.Kurt Cobain [Download]


A bunch of (awesome) back catalog from Blitzen Trapper

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

I’m rarely out front about a band, let alone a hip band that the cool kids are loving. More often then not I’m out front and then nobody else seems to care. But with Blitzen Trapper I was early and right. I ‘m not going to be writing up their new one, since everyone from Stereogum to Pitchfork are falling all over the it (and rightfully so) but I would like to revisit their earlier work. See where they came from….so to speak.

In the songs below, recorded between 2003-2005, you’ll hear blissed out country rags (“Texaco”), noisy, fucked-up, brain-melding funk (“Love I Exclaim”) and perfect pop (“Pink Padded Slippers”). These songs are mostly courtesy of the French label – Dead Bee’s and some are courtesy of a secret page on the Blitzen Trapper website. Go nuts!

Pink Padded SlippersCunning RevolutionLove I Exclaim!40 StripesTexacoSummer TwinCold Gold Diamond [Download]


"Simply Spaulding Gray" by Steve Forbert

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

It was a little embarrassing discovering Steve Forbert in 1988. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Steve Forbert was one of the most acclaimed singer songwriters of his generation. His debut solo record (which I’ve since tracked down) is one of the truly great American records of the last century.

As his voice gets older, wiser, deeper and gruffer, and his writing gets more introspective I think Steve Forbert’s only getting better. “Simply Spaulding Gray” is a song that tries to come to grip with an artist whose demons couldn’t be tamed. Preorder Strange Names and New Sensations here.

Simply Spaulding Gray [Download]

Steve Forbert talking about his country-folk influences.


BC Camplight’s "Blink Of A Nihlist" (One Little Indian UK)(plus a new song from Anni Rossi)

Monday, May 21st, 2007

BC Camplight’s new record, Blink Of A Nihlist, is out now on One Little Indian in the UK. I made a big stink about BC Camplight’s debut record, Hide Run Away, which came out in 2005. The guy is a pop music genius just waiting to be discovered. It’s no surprise the the English label One Little Indian continues to release his music, since he wears his Beatles, XTC, and Soft Boys influences on his sleeve.

That this native Philadelphian’s new record is only available as an import is absurd. Here’s two songs from it:

Lord I’ve BeenScare Me Sweetly [Download]

PS I’m in the middle of a weekly feature at Transmission called “Random (Great) MySpace Bands”. I just put up my post on Anni Rossi. Check it out if you’re a fan or Regina Spector, Tori Amos or Ani DiFranco.


You Tube Saturday – Game Theory (plus mp3′s from The Loud Family)

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

Scott Miller’s voice is one of a kind. I can’t think of any other artist/band to compare him too. At the time that Game Theory was most popular, it was assumed that he was making some of the best pop to be found anywhere. It’s been two decades since the last Game Theory album and Scott has since formed the band The Loud Family which still records to this day. Here’s a couple mp3′s from the Loud Family archives:

Songs About “Rocks Off” [Download]

Backwards Century [Download]

Game Theory “Erica’s World”

Game Theory “Look Away”

Game Theory “24″ live with slideshow


Austin’s Li’l Cap’n Travis prepare new cd for Glurp

Friday, May 18th, 2007

With all of the talk of the upcoming Mendoza Line cd you’d hardly know that before Glurp Records unleashes that one on a now suspecting world they’ve got another trick up their sleeve. July will see the release of the new one from Austin’s Li’l Cap’n Travis. “Sugar Buzz” is as onomatopoeiatic as they come; the song just oozes sweet. The hanclapping, the buzzing and ringing guitars, and the line “your bubblegum lips make my eyes pop out like the eyes of a five year old kid in a candy store” create the aura of a near Wonka like experience.

Twilight On Sometimes Island will be released inJuly. More info here.

Sugar Buzz [Download]


Honky Tonk Friday – Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles (Sugar Hill, June 12)

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Sarah Borges is making a big stink in the Boston area. Her debut, Diamonds In The Dark, is due out on Sugar Hill on June 12. And while her music and her lyrics are a little on the shallow side and her voice is a little rough around the edges, this song is the reason Honky-Tonk Friday exists.

The Day We Met [Download]


Weird (but beautiful) anti-folk from Andrew Phillip Tipton

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

(Editor’s note: this was meant to be a late night throw-away post. Then something happened. “Bunny Boroughs” kept popping up in a mix I created and I discovered that it’s a really great song.)

Andrew Phillip Tipton’s second group of anti-folk songs should hit the street some time in 2007. There was no pun intended because these songs do literally hit the streets (and sidewalks and subway tiles) since Andrew is a busker in NYC. His strange ideas about bunnies, reptiles and pumpkins are well suited to his odd strummings, silly little beats and the occasional cello or toy piano and his beyond humble manner (and I quote “I released a really bad record about a year ago, aptly titled, I’m A Mess…You can buy my last load of really crappy songs at CDBaby. They make really good coasters…”)

A.P.T. has two records planned for 2007. “Bunny Boroughs” will be one of the standout tracks from Champion of Love.

Bunny Boroughs [Download]

From last year’s cd I’m A Mess

Turn The Lights OnWaste [Download]


Soy Un Caballo with Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

I’m far from being the leading Bonnie “Prince” Billy scholar on the web, but since apparently no one’s going to mention it, he appears (singing in French) on the song “La Chambre” on the new record by the Belgian group Soy Un Caballo. Their debut record, Les heures de raison, also features some other highly talented individuals including members of The High Llamas, This Is the Kit and Morning Star.

Of course (and like much of the music on sister site Swedesplease) I have little idea what these songs are about. But the vocals are awash in chill beats and surrounded by such unique instrumentation that I don’t think the meaning of the song is as important as the overall effect the voices have in conjunction with the music. This just came out May 9th on Matamore Records, you can/should buy it here.

Au RalentiLa BibliothequeBut Will Our Tears [Download]


Beaver Nelson’s Exciting Opportunity

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Beaver Nelson has self-released more great records than comparable artists have on major labels and that’s a fact! When his first couple of records arrived it was as if they came out of nowhere. They were a revelation for all who heard them. There was nothing particularly new to be found inside them, but the execution of the style and the near perfect songs were a wonder. Despite poor sales and a cult like following, Beaver continues to soldier on. He has stayed positive and even named his new record Exciting Opportunity, named in part because of a new job painting houses and in part from the sarcastic line he fed his label.

Beaver provides all the song insights needed with this description of the song “Overnight Sensation”:

Anytime you hear about an “overnight sensation” in pop culture, that person worked very hard for a very long time doing something, and then all of a sudden—bam!—they’re an overnight sensation. This is a play on that, but it’s about a relationship, and the way that, over time, you come to see new evidence of love in ways you’ve never seen before. There are some facets of love, like the sacrifices the other person takes, that you don’t see on a first date or even when you’re falling in love—you only see it after years of hard work. But when you do see it, it’s miraculous.

You can buy Beaver Nelson’s Exciting Opportunity here.

Overnight Sensation [Download]

Bonus from 2004′s Motion:

Minute Man [Download]

“If You Name A Thing” (Video was shot at the lake house Beaver was painting when/where he recorded these new songs, video courtesy of the Austin documentary Something In The Water by Joel Melton)


Jenny McCormick’s "The Fisherboy" (Import)

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

(Editor’s note: Because this is a little quiet and very unassuming it keeps getting bumped from being posted. But since this is the only place online you can freely and legally download a song from this rising star of the British folk music scene, I’ve got to get to it today. I hope it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.)

Jenny McCormick’s English Country Garden is garnering the type of praise overseas that is usually reserved for older, wiser and more polished artists. But perhaps it’s her original take on or re-take on traditional English folk music that is so appealing. Her childlike vocals on “The Fisherboy” are perfect for this tale of a boy torn between the sea and his one great love.

There’s a great little interview done by the BBC with Jenny here and you can buy English Country Garden here, directly from the artist.

The Fisherboy [Download]