Archive for July, 2007

Gregory Alan Isakov – "That Sea, The Gambler"

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Gregory Alan Isakov’s name sounds like an undiscovered Russian novelist and perhaps he is, but for now he’s an under-discovered singer-songwriter from Boulder, Co. His new album, his debut, That Sea, The Gambler was self-released this past May.

The songs below, and I expect all the songs on the new record, are shades of muted indie folk. There’s a gauzy layer of slight reverb that gives the songs below a hint of both mystery and maudlin sadness. Gregory’s voice reminds me of any number of singers from Denison Witmer to Luke Temple but that puts him in pretty good company.

All There IsUnwritable Girl [Download]

Buy the new record below at my SnoCap store


Arcadio’s new ep (riyl Tom Waits, Gogol Bordello, Gypsy folk)

Monday, July 30th, 2007

“When a jovial, drunken, swooning sailor fell inlove with a southern-belle gospel beauty they birthed Arcadio – music that gets ya right in the junk.”

In the middle of a post I was writing for Swedesplease about the find of the century (a full album download of Billie The Vision and Dancers’s new cd) I stumbled upon my own find of the century. It’s the new ep from San Francisco based carnival side show folk-rock band Arcadio. The new ep, Jodie, their first, is available in a limited run by emailing here –

The title track, “Jodie”, with it’s gypsy violin intro and raspy pirate vocals is an instant classic in the yet unrecognized genre of “noirish-circus-gypsy-folk”.

JodieStory Of Randy Lebree [Download]


You Tube Saturday – The Posies

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The Posies were my introduction to power pop. They added slightly psychedelic effects and chugging guitars (that sounded a bit like Urge Overkill) but overall their sound was defined by the search for the perfect hook filled song. 1993′s Frosting On the Beater was their “piece de resistance” and they never really strayed from that sound. Members of The Posies now have solo records, production credits and appear in bands like REM and Big Star.

“Dream All Day”

“Golden Blunder”

“Definite Door”

“Solar Sister” (Acoustic)

“Thirteen” (Big Star Cover)


"Wired Up" by The Lolligags (HHBTM, July 17)

Friday, July 27th, 2007

This disco-vintage sounding Athens based indie pop duo should be from Sweden. I should be writing about them on Swedesplease. But somehow, impossibly, this duo is from the deep South of all places. Their debut ep, Wired, is out now on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records, but why don’t you pick it up from lead singer Dallion Lollihag’s “scented dessert charms” (and buttons) website – Pancake Meow (here for $5).

If you’re still up tonight then “Wired Up” is the perfect insomniac’s musical companion piece. And if you, like me, just finished watching Zodiac (or any other terrifying true crime film/novella) then “Creepy Things” off their MySpace page is the next best thing.

Wired Up [Download]

This bizarre YouTube video is from the band’s Uncle Lew wishing them well with their “good time RnR”; nice selection of 45′s at the end of the vid, btw.


Vince Bell’s new record "Recado" (plus songs from his back catalog)

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Vince Bell’s new record, Recado, was released with very little fanfare in early May. That’s about par for the course with a cult artist like Vince Bell. Vince Bell’s been around the block and you can hear it in his gruff singing voice (he sounds a bit like his contemporary – Guy Clark). He barely lived through a major traffic accident that derailed his promising career in the early 80′s (he was broadsided while leaving a recording session with Stevie Ray Vaughn). He’s had multiple comeback albums, including the masterful Phoenix and the equally adept Texas Plates. It’s been close to ten years since a new studio album and now we have Recado.

“Isla” is a simple guitar and violin ode to love. Buy Recado here (and copies of the two out of print records mentioned above).

Isla [Download]

Older songs by Vince Bell:

Late Night CrowdGuacamole SaladEven Cowboys Get The Blues [Download]


New song from The Broken Family Band (plus a funny Spinal Tap(y) video from the band)(Track And Field Organization, July 2)

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

(Editor’s note – Hello again. My site was hacked yesterday and replaced with a spam site. I have it back now but it seems the url for the feed has changed. As far as I know this is one feed that works well although there may be others:

So just plug that into your rss reader or subscription service and you should get the updates to Songs:Illinois right on your homepage.)

I’ve written about Broken Family Band and it’s offshoots (the lead singer has a project called The Singing Adams) at every chance I get. Now in 2007 there’s a new record. Hello Love is said to be a big departure from the bands early americana influenced sounds, but that change has been taking place for several records now as far as I can tell. “You Get Me” is a powerful love ballad and one of those sounds that only sounds great sung with a British accent. Why is that?

Hello Love (Track And Field Organization, July 2) is just that, a record that is unified by the topic of love. This too is a departure for the band. It’s the first time a record of theirs has been tied together lyrically by a concept. It’s a fairly serious record from this band of English misfits (as evidenced by their spoofy, Spinal Tap type band documentary “At Home With The Broken Family Band Pt.1 and Pt.2“. The band would like you to buy Hello Love here.

You Get Me [Download]
(duet w/Eddi Reader)

You can also hear the musical change of direction on “I’m Thirsty” from the band’s 2006 release Balls.

I’m Thirsty [Download]

“It’s All Over” from Balls


OMG I’M Back (Plus a foray back to 2006 and Chris Pureka’s record "Dryland")

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Editors note – A multi-day long battle with spammers over this blog has ended just now (I hope). I’m back in charge of this blog and the spammers who stole it are now being held at bay. Thanks to the whole blogger team for fixing this mess in a timely manner.

I was just telling a publicist for a decent sized label that I won’t review anything that’s been out for awhile as I’m trying to focus on new music that people may not have heard yet. Well, today I’m going to break that rule with a record by Chris Pureka called Dryland that came out in October of 2006.

Chris Pureka is a 27 year old singer songwriter from Northampton, Ma (a folk music hotbed located near a half dozen colleges and universities). She has some dates opening up for Dar Williams which is certainly a good sign that someone else besdies just me holds her music in high esteem. With her husky, low voice and tomboy appearance, Chris Pureka’s music comes across a little like how the music of Josh Rouse and Ron Sexsmith can at times seem androgynous or at least gender neutral. “31 And Falling” doesn’t kick in for earnest `til about the halfway point but when it does it’s a pretty cathartic moment. Buy Dryland here.

31 And FallingSwann Song [Download]


AA Bondy (ex-Verbena) – "American Hearts" (Superphonic, Sept. 4)

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007


AA Bondy used to be in Verbena. That’s a band that I somehow missed out on, but apparently was Dave Grohl’s favorite band. From that description I’m guessing they were quite a bit heavier than the “devil-at-the-crossroads” acoustic blues and roots music of AA Bondy.

“Vice Rag” is the song off the new record, American Hearts, that caught and has held my attention. It contains a litany of vices (cocaine, heroine and whiskey) accompanied by fingerpicked steel stringed guitar. American Hearts comes out September 4th on Superphonic Records but it can be preorded here now and will be shipped to you after August 1st.

Vice RagThere’s A Reason [Download]


Covers of Tom Wait’s "Coney Island Baby" and Silver Jews’ "Dallas"

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

I wrote about The Quavers here. I like their style. They just released a couple covers online. Here’s their take on and rationale behind their covers of the Silver Jews’ “Dallas” and Tom Wait’s “Coney Island Baby”

“I love the Silver Jews because David Berman reminds me of R. Kelly. And it’s not just their silky voices. It’s because whenever I hear the lyrics for the first time I always think: ‘you can’t be serious”. But he is. And a day later you’re singing along. Admit it. This one’s from the record The Natural Bridge. It’s got the line “how’d you turn a billion steers into buildings made of mirrors?” which pretty much sums up Dallas.”

Dallas [Download]

“Speaking of weddings, and New York, and Coney Island and buildings made of mirrors, here’s a song by Tom Waits that Catherine and I learned for friends of ours who were getting married last summer. They asked us to sing it at their wedding, so we did, and we recorded it too. I found it the other day and liked it, even though I sing like I’m wearing a suit. (In my defense, I was.) We dedicate this to Coney Island, which needs our help right now.”

Coney Island Baby [Download]


Lee Bob Watson – aficiondo! (Grass roots Recording Co., August 24)(plus a new recording from Alela Diane)

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Grass Roots Record Company is Californian, they’re a little like a coop I think. They do things differently; like together, as a family. It’s kind of weird. The new record, Aficiondo!, from Jackpot member Lee Bob Watson is coming out soon. “Living In the Past” is a song that blends a lot of different musical styles from the 60′s and 70′s and winds up sounding like the dusty euro-country rock of Chuck Prophet’s solo records. Apparently the whole record is about one character, a country singer, navigating his way though the vagaries of pop culture and hipsters and self-styled outcasts (sounds like the crowd at p4k Fest).

Here’s a taste from this August release. Pre-order it or the Grass Roots Family Album record here.

Living In the Past [Download]

Dry Grass and Shadows – Alela DianeLet The Hate In (I Won’t) [Download]
– Lee Bob Watson


YouTube Saturday – The Beautiful south

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

I fell hard for the British band The Beautiful South (they rose from the ashes of that other great British band – The Housemartins). They mixed smart pop, orchestral and jazzy sounds with bitter lyrics. Sometimes their songs were so poppy sounding but also so laced with incredibly dour images and stories that it was a shock to the system. Here’s my Saturday YouTube finds for this now defunct British band.

“One Last Love Song”

“Perfect 10″


“Dream A Little Dream”

“This Old Skin”

Cover of ELO’s “Livin’ Thing”


Honky-Tonk Friday – Starline Rhythm Boys

Friday, July 20th, 2007

Starline Rhythm Boys are the toast of Vermont. They seem to be the hardest workingest hardcore country band on that side of the Mississippi. Red’s Place is both the name of the new record and a song that’s an homage to Billy Bratcher’s hometown saloon. “No Gal Cooks Like Mine” is a song that addresses that other essential human need: fresh cooked food and the gal doing the cooking.

Buy the new release, Red’s Place, from CDBaby here.

No Gal Cooks Like Mine [Download]


"Pink Pocketbook" Is A Euphemism for What?! – Madame Pamita’s Strange Ukele-Powered Folk

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Only in LA could you have a singer-songwriter (Madame Pamita) who hands out tarot cards to the audience that represent each of her songs and then have them select the songs and the order for that night’s show. On top of that everyone gets their fortune read.

“Pink Pocketbook” is chock full of innuendos, code words and euphemisms about the true meaning of the term (use your overly sexed imagination to divine that phrase’s true import). “Love Is Good” is a simpler little song about love. Both songs clock in at only about 1:40 so don’t tell me you don’t have the time.

I guess there is a performance art aspect to her live show (and that’s all well and good) but on record these songs don’t suffer from the lack of costumes, tarot cards and medicine show variety acts.

Pink Pocketbook [Download]

Love Is Good [Download]


New song from Nana Grizol (Orange Twin Records, sometime in 2007)

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Some time in 2007 Orange Twin has promised (threatened) to release the debut record by the indie pop, anti-folk group Nana Grizol. The band has upwards of seven members and plays instruments as eclectic as the glockenspiel, trumpet, clarinet, and guitar. Their tour schedule is full of basement shows, house parties, and underground clubs. It’s also full of question marks in dozens of markets, so if you live in a town or city somewhere in the world and want to put on a show give these guys/gals a holler.

“Tambourine In Time” refers to how and why the lead singer’s heart beats like a tambourine that plays along in time. The line “we ignore those body parts that get so wet and get so hard and focus on our beating hearts” from “Tamborine In Time” is like the epitome of lyrics in the twee scene and very nicely put.

Tambourine In Time [Download]

Stripped down (just Theo Hilton) Nana Grizol in Bloomington, Indiana


Dan Bryk’s new song/ep "Discount Store" (plus "Chunky Girl" from Dan Bryk’s beloved CD "Lover’s Leap")

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

I’m not one of the members of the press (Christgau, et al) who are listed in Dan Bryk’s promotional material as people who fell all over themselves writing great stuff about this Canadian’s brilliant pop. But fall all over myself I did. The evidence is here and here. I’m actually late to the party and since I don’t have any particularly strong attachment to Dan Bryk (haven’t seen the live show, don’t have the debut record or all the songs that have been leaked over the years while Dan was in record label limbo) you can trust me when I say this stuff is awesome. I only need to hear one jangly strum, or those high-pitched, perfect-pop vocals or his clever lyrics (I dare you to tell me this doesn’t sound like some lost Chris Stamey nugget from 1986) to know I’m hooked.

“Discount Store” is the title track from an ep that precedes the release of the long rumored long player Pop Psychology. You can buy the ep (gatefold sleeve and all) here.

Discount Store [Download]

Bonus song from Pop Psychology:

The Next Best Thing [Download]

“Chunky Girl” from Lover’s Leap


Chris And Thomas – "Land Of Sea" (Defend Music, July 17)(plus labelmate Kate Walsh)

Monday, July 16th, 2007

Here’s one of those “the picture’s worth a thousand words” type moments. Land Of Sea is Chris And Thomas’ new record and it’s already getting tons of support from Nic Harcourt at KCRW. That means it’ll be a hit of minor proportions with the NPR crowd, and if you’re like me you generally follow that crowd (it’s either that or FOX News).

“Take These Thoughts” is from their upcoming debut release Land Of Sea. It’s been out in their home country (England) for over a year but is only now seeing release in the US through Defend Music. I guess the most interesting thing about this duu is how they appropriate our traditional folk instruments (banjo, mandolin, steel guitar) and add a slightly British feel to their otherwise southwestern roots music.

Take These Thoughts [Download]

I’m also impressed with but have no time to properly cover Kate Walsh (also on Defend Music and also from the UK). Here’s her song “Your Song” from her June release Tim’s House.

Your Song [Download]


YouTube Saturday – Townes Van Zandt (covers by Devendra Banhart, Redbird w/Jeffrey Focault and Peter Mulvey, and Nancy Griffith)

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Townes Van Zandt. What can you say about good ol’ Townes? He’s one of the most tragic figures in the history of music. So much talent wasted by booze and such a young life snuffed out. His songs may well go down as some of the best ever written. “Poncho and Lefty” has been covered dozens of times and is considered his signature tune.

Townes’ first song he ever wrote “Waitin’ Around To Die”

Townes w/Blaze Foley – “Snowin’ on Raton”

“Pancho and Lefty”

“Colorado Girl” by Devendra Banhart

“White Freightliner Blues” by Redbird (Peter Mulvey, Jeffrey Foucault, David Goodrich and Kris Delmhorst)

“Tecumseh Valley” by Nancy Griffith


Honky-Tonk Friday (sort of) – Carolyn Mark (Mint Records, July 3)(Plus The Corn Sisters feat. Neko Case)

Friday, July 13th, 2007

I don’t think Carolyn Mark would want to be part of some honky-tonk feature. Her music jumps around to so many other country sub-genre’s that the term honky-tonk would be too restrictive for her. But for the sake of continuity and to keep this weekly theme post going that’s where I’m going to put her. Carolyn is a West Coast (Canadian) goddess of roots music, she prefers to be called “lovely and talented” by the press but I don’t think she’ll quibble with goddess.

Carolyn is a pivotal part of the West Coast’s alt-country scene. She has performed in groups with Neko Case (The Corn Sisters), with the Sadies, and has been on tour with or opened up for too many luminaries to mention. Her recording career is going just fine, thank you very much, with a new record out on Mint Records right now. Unfortunately, despite being a fixture at every saloon, roadhouse and 300 seat opera house up North, it’s been tough for her to break into the American touring racket. Hopefully that’ll change when Nothing Is Free gets a US release this fall. “The 1 That Got Away (With It)” has just the right amount of reverb and sustain on Carolyn’s vocals to give it that old country (opry) sound. And lyrically the song is in right in line with the hundreds of cheating, lying, and thieving songs that make up the genre’s oeuvre. In other word it’s a classic. Buy Nothing Is Free here now or be lame and wait until the fall when it’s released in the States.

The 1 That Got Away (With It) [Download]

Bonus song by The Corn Sisters (Carolyn Mark with Neko Case):

Oh These Troubled Times [Download]

PS It’s the last part of the “New Faces Of Swedish Indie Pop” today on Swedesplease. Check it out and the 4 previous posts as well. Also I still have every size of the Swedesplease T-Shirt although I won’t be able to say that for long. Order yours today.

Spencer Moore’s debut (at age 88!) for Tompkins Square (July 31)

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Spencer Moore should be added to the small list of country artists that are having a resurgence, namely Porter Wagoner, Charlie Louvin and Cast King. His new record, his self-titled debut at age 88, comes out July 31st on Tompkins Square.

Spencer’s played with the Carter Family at a tent show in the 30′s and was recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959. “May I Sleep In Your Barn Mister” sounds just about like what you’d expect from an 88 year old country singer. This version of a “Dear John” song is as sad as they come and his vocal delivery (warts and all) is perfect for the song. Of course this is more like rural country blues than anything even remotely influenced by Nashville, Austin or even Bakersfield. I’ve never written this (or linked here before) before, but am glad to say you can buy Spencer Moore’s self-titled debut from that great West Coast musicical emporium Elderly Instruments here.

May I Sleep In Your Barn Mister [Download]

Bonus video of Charlie Louvin’s song “Ira”


Nathaniel Mayer’s "Why Don’t You Give It To Me?" (w/members of The Black Keys, Outrageous Cherry and The Dirtbombs)(Alive Records, Aug. 21)

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

There are two things that you may not know about me. The first is that I love garage rock although I don’t spend any time on it here at Songs:Illinois. One of my favorite retro garage bands were The Original Sins. Had they arrived a decade or two later (they were prominent on the east coast in `86) they would probably be duking it out with The White Stripes and the current crop of Detroit garage acts. The second thing you may not know about me is that my 5 year old son’s name is Nathaniel. So for those reasons and more it was easy to write up today’s post about Nathaniel Mayer’s (Wiki) upcoming debut Alive Record’s release Why Don’t You Give It To Me?.

“I’m A Lonely Man” leans as heavily on electric Chicago blues as it does on the murky, heaving sounds of Detroit garage rock. The backing band on this record (recorded entirely on 8 track) consist of members of The Black Keys, Outrageous Cherry, The Dirtbombs and SSM. Look for it August 21.

I’m A Lonely Man [Download]

Here’s a couple videos of older 45′s from Nathaniel Mayer.

Plus Nathaniel Mayer live: