Archive for November, 2007

Sunshone Still’s “Ten Cent American Novels”

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Sunshone Still is really just Chris Smith, a Nashville native whose debut record of eerie Americana caught the ears of NPR and PBS. His work has a strong historical bent and the new record is no different. In fact to explain it the best thing to do is just cut and paste from the bio.

“Now, Sunshone Still returns with an ambitious 17-track concept album titled Ten Cent American Novels on Potato Eater Records. Inspired by Hampton Sides’ non-fiction book, Blood and Thunder, this historical character study centers around Manifest Destiny and the complex life of Kit Carson: his beautiful Arapaho Indian wife, his heroic trapping and scouting days, his brave military service, and his ruthless part in rounding up the Navajo Indians for the fatal Long Walk. Written in the form of a novel (complete with prologue, chapters, and epilogue), the big ideas are expressed with big, eclectic musical ideas and arrangements – horns, strings, bells, organ and more. Contrastingly, the story’s denouement is expressed in a quiet, sunset-on-the-open-range style – acoustic guitar leading the way.

Buy the new record, Ten Cent American Novels, here. Hear more songs at MySpace.

Ten Cent Theme Outro (Instrumental) [Download]

Songs:Illinois Exclusive – New Song From Gary Louris of Jayhawks Fame (Rykodisc, Feb. 19)

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

As a follow-up and a continuation of my recent posts about The Jayhawks and Mark Olson’s solo disc here is the first song to preview off the February `08 Rykodisc release of Gary Louris’ solo debut Vagabonds. I could get all philosophical about the lyrical intent behind this song, or do the back story injustice by rehashing the history of the band, or I could compare this to classic Jayhawks’ stuff to prove what a big fan I am. But I have no intention of doing any of that. Instead I just want to say what a wonderful thing it is to have Gary Louris’ voice once again on disc (or file or mp3…whatever).

It’s obvious from the start of the first single, “True Blue”, that this will be the Gary Louris record fans have been hoping for, but it’s not until about one minute in, when Gary’s voice starts to hit those magnificent high notes, that it becomes clear how excited we should truly be. Gary likes things loose and you can hear that in this first song. He commented in the bio for Vagabonds that he likes the interplay among and between a group of musicians and doing a take mistakes and all. With the talented group he’s assembled I’m guessing there aren’t that many foibles. Gary has assembled a crack team on Vagabonds including a backing group called The Laurel Canyon Family Choir that consists of Jenny Lewis, Susanna Hoffs, and The Chapin Sisters (wrote about them here).

I know it may seem crazy/impossible but until there’s a proper US pre-order link available you could try to get your groove on by pre-ordering the 180 gram vinyl from Amazon UK. Or just wait it out `til there’s more info about the US pre-order. Here’s “True Blue”.

True Blue [Download]

The song “Every Word” from the documentary Wordplay:

Gary Louris interview courtesy of “Corporate Country Sucks”:

A Songs:Illinois Christmas Mix (W/New Songs from Chris Garneau and Benji Cossa plus favorites from Dan Byrk, Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, John Prine, Neko Case, etc. etc.)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

I usually don’t just throw a bunch of songs up at random, but Christmas mixes are the one good reason to do such a thing. So here’s my Songs:Illinois Christmas Mix. The two newer songs are both slow burners; one by perenial S:I fave Chris Garneau and the other by S:I overlooked Benji Cossa.

P.S. If you have any of the Christmas songs I’ve posted in the past from Antsy McClain can you please send them to so I can add it to this mix. Sorry for lack of a .zip, I’m surprisingly inept with computers.

P.P.S. As new songs are released by artists I like (or marginally dislike) I will add them to this post.

P.P.S.S. Swedesplease has it’s annual Swedish Christmas Mix up as well with songs by El Perro Del Mare, The Knife, Hello Saferide, Montt Mardie and Parker Lewis.

Here Comes Christmas [Download]
– Bill Kelly
Santa Loves To Boogie [Download]
– Asleep At The Wheel
You’re a mean One Mr. Grinch [Download]
– Asylum Street Spankers
Christmas Is For Losers [Download]
– Mike Nicolai
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas [Download]
– Hem
Christmas or Columbus [Download]
– Drew O’Doherty
Merry Christmas Not Xmas [Download]
– Arrah and the Ferns
Christmas Past [Download]
– Mike Ireland
Oh What A Christmas [Download]
El Perro Del Mare
Christmas Song [Download]
– Chis Garneau
O Holy Night [Download]
– Benji Cossa
Christmas Time [Download]
– Nourallah Brothers
That Was The Worst Christmas Ever [Download]
– Sufjan Stevens
Cozy Evening [Download]
– Dan Byrk
Christmas In Vermont [Download]
– Ed’s Redeeming Qualities
Christmas Eve [Download]
– Salim Nourallah
Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis [Download]
– Neko Case
Merry Christmas From The Family [Download]
– Robert Earl Keen
Christmas In Prison [Download]
– John Prine
X-Mas Song For Holland [Download]
– Hefner
Rock-A-Billy Christmas [Download]
– Michael Bishop


Red Eyed SantaDick Smith
Gold Front ToothDick Smith

Kiss Me Beneath The Christmas Tree – Casper and the Cookies via YANP [Download]

Christmas In London – Krista Detour [Download]

Be My Valentine On Christmas [Download]
– Glenna Bell
Christmas At The Trailer Park – Antsy McClain [Download]

She’s Underneath The Mistletoe – Antsy McClain [Download]

All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue [Download]
– Over The Rhine
Darlin’ (Christmas Is Coming) [Download]
– Over The Rhine
X-Mas Song [Download]
– Fireflies

The Devil Makes Three Walk “The Plank” (Milan Entertainment, Nov. 20)

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

A week or two back a random selection of music blogs received a track from Milan Entertainment and the band The Devil Makes Three. As I usually immediately delete any bulk email sent my way it was an anomoly that I opened the email at all, but the band name and the song “Old Number Seven” rang a bell. All the other blogs ran with whatever information was included in the email or threw the song up with only a cursory “this showed up in my inbox so what the hell.” Not that blogs should be held to the same standard as other, more serious, online publications or even certain print publications, but it’d be nice if they got the story even partially straight.

A little bit of research would have shown them that this “new” record is actually a remastered version of the band’s 2002 self-titled debut. I have no idea why a forgotten release that’s 5 years old from a band that is unknown even in blues-folk circles is suddenly due the re-issue treatment. And I wonder why I’m throwing my hat into the ring to help promote it. I guess the easy answer is the record’s pretty great. Since it came out originally in 2002 it predates all the hoopla about Beirut, Devotchka and Gogol Bordello; three bands that share the same aesthetic if not the same cultish following. Did its release or the band’s west coast touring help inspire any of these other bands? I’m sure not, but the gypsy-folk, pirate-camp and whiskey-whore sound of The Devil Makes Three is a welcome addition to this under-appreciated sub-genre. Here’s another song from the 2007 re-issue of the 2002 self-titled record from San Francisco’s The Devil Makes Three.

The Plank [Download]

The Devil Makes Three

Glenna Bell – The Road Less Traveled (Sugar Hill, January 22)

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I’d like to kill two birds with one stone this morning. I’ll accomplish this feat by linking to an mp3 off the new record by Glenna Bell called The Road Less Traveled and at the same time sharing her Christmas song from the same record with you. Thus filling my quota of classic country and Christmas music.

Glenna Bell is a real throwback to the most classic country sounds of years past. In this way she is nearly unclassifiable in today’s music world ( I wrote about her first here). Her voice has a limited range, but an honest sound. While her songs speak volumes about being a quirky southerner in a world full of northerners. She’s like the singer that time forgot. But meanwhile on “How I Found Out I’m Insane” she runs down a list of reasons she’s probably crazy and it’s pretty modern stuff – check out the background male vocals and the odd little synth sounds midway through.

Buy this January release on Sugar Hill now through Cd Baby here.

How I Found Out I’m Insane [Download]

Be My Valentine On Christmas [Download]

“Hoping I Could Be Wrong” (2005)

What Everyone Else Was Saying – Weekly Blog roundup

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

(Art by Ramis Kim)

Here Comes The Flood has a new song off of Levon Helm’s record Dirt Farmer.

UK blogger Nothing But Green Lights has a couple from Ray Rumours (riyl Emmy The Great).

Jana hunter is profiled on You Crazy Dreamers.

Aquarium Drunkard has a b-side from Frankel’s excellent 2007 disc Lullabye From the Passerby.

Indie Waves discovers one of my favorite Chicagoans – Ezra Furman (and the Harpoons).

YouTube Saturday – Highlights From Schubas (Sufjan Stevens, Brett Dennen, Tim Easton, Jeff Tweedy)

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Instead of featuring one artist, as usual, I’m going to focus on one venue. Schubas is located in Chicago, it’s one of the best clubs in the city and thus one of the best in the Country. Acts range from singer-songwriters to twee to full fledged indie rock. No matter who has booked the club over the last decade the acts brought in remain the cream of the crop. And no matter where you stand in the club you’re no greater than 25 feet away from the stage. Here’s a selection of memorable shows from the last year or so.

Brett Dennen “There Is so Much More”

Tim Easton

Great Lakes Swimmer “Your Rocky Spine”

Rhett Miller

Murder By Death “Brother”

Bowerbirds “In Our Talons”

Chris Mills “Everything About the Heart”

Bottle Rockets w/Jeff Tweedy “Passenger Side”

Sufjan Stevens (pre-histrionics, angel wings and enormous ego) “To Be Alone With You”

Bakelite 78 And Their New Song Anti-Bush Song “The President Can’t Be Reached”

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Bakelight 78 is practically the house band over at Chicago’s Hideout. They, along with Devil In a Woodpile, have found a second home in this out of the way hole in the wall. It’s somewhat fitting that the bands name comes from an early form of plastic used to make records since they strive to emulate that early jazz/folk/blues sound.

Bakelite 78 has been recording their new album in Como, Mississippi with Jimbo Mathus of Squirrel Nut Zippers fame. In interviews with the band it’s clear that they see themselves as a punk rock type entity and on “President Can’t Be Reached” you can hear some of that fire and brimstone anti-Bush rhetoric shining through. This song will be on the new record, due sometime this winter. The band plays tomorrow, Friday, at Old Town School Of Folk Music.

President Can’t Be Reached [Download]

The Sideshow Tramps

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

(Editors note: I know I said I was on vactation for Thanksgiving and wouldn’t be back til Monday but I missed you guys already so I’m back and I may post intermittently through the holiday weekend.)

Hayes Carll is perhaps the best Americana/roots rock/alt-country A&R man in the country. I say this because his lineup for his upcoming Stingaree Music Festival is superb. One act on the lineup I hadn’t heard is The Sideshow Tramps.

Here’s yet another “train” song from Songs:Illinois. I don’t sicken of them, I hope you don’t either.

New Train [Download]

The Rosewood Thieves (I May Be Late But Goddamnit I’m Right!)

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Unless you are a regular patient of the good Doctor Mooney you may not have heard of NYC’s other great roots band (other than the Felice Brothers of course). Their name is The Rosewood Thieves and until now Doctor Mooney’s pretty much had The Rosewood Theives market cornered. From now on I’d like to help spread the news.

The Rosewood Thieves mine the same fertile organic soil as The Felice Brothers and The Damnwells. They clearly love the sound of analog; combining a cornucopia of stringed instruments with organs and depending on the song a slightly chill 60′s psychedelia. The new EP, Lonesome, is a slight departure from the first EP. It’s got a more stripped down sound to compliment it’s title I guess. The songs sound a bit like outtakes from The Violent Femme’s classic LP Hallowed Ground. “Murder Ballad In G-Minor” in particular reminds one of “Country Death Song” but the lineage of the song probably goes back much further, past Johnny Cash’s murder ballads and all the way back to something like the blues of Howlin’ Wolf or Charlie Patton.

Again the best place to catch up with the band’s work is over at Doctor Mooney’s 115th Dream. But for now here’s “Murder Ballad…” and a video of a song from their first EP.

Murder Ballad In G-Minor [Download]

“Los Angeles”
Los Angeles

P.S. I’ll be on Thanksgiving break for the next week or so. See you next Monday.

What Everyone Else Was Saying – Weekly Blog Roundup

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

(“Judgement” by Ryan Sanchez)

Heart On a Stick discovers the John Darniele inspired vocals and punk folk of Andrew Jackson Jihad.

I’ve been back for repeat visits to Indie Surfer Blog, the most recent visit brought me the music of RF Maston. Thanks ISB!

Raised On Indie tries to explain the success of Zookeeper and almost succeeds.

I’d always meant to write about the new record from Backyard Tire Fire but just never got around to it. Though I probably would have came to the same conclusions as Visions and Revisions.

Captain Obvious brings you the lofi country tinged rock of Beaten Awake.

I’ve never seen so much written about so little. Mainstream Isn’t So Bad…Is It? (YES IT IS!) adds to the din about this, at best, mediocre band.

YouTube Saturday – Urge Overkill

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Sometimes when you’re known as a fan of “good” music you get some flack when something like Urge Overkill comes up on shuffle or you pull out the vinyl copy of Saturation. It’s hard to explain the appeal of a band like Urge Overkill unless you lived in Chicago at the time and experienced the Nash Kato phenomena first hand. The band was legend; they had the swagger, the major label deal, the sunglasses and the power chords to go all the way. They came damn close, too (or did they make it for a millisecond?).

Their music is power pop on steroids and that’s why I like it. Simple chords, huge choruses and smashing drums; it’s not that far removed from critic’s darlings like The Posies or Mathew Sweet. Just amplified a thousand times. Here’s their two biggest singles, plus a live video from 2004 (apparently this was their fat/bloated period but the Europeans still loved them).

Sister Havana [Download]

“Positive Bleeeding”

“Sister Havana”

“The Break” (live)

A Nels Cline Freakout

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Everyone now knows Nels Cline from his work as lead guitarist for Wilco. But for years before he got that primo gig he toiled away as one of the premier free jazz/experimental/improvizational guitarists in the world. To his credit he continues to release free jazz and improv pieces instead of resting on his laurels.

He’s got a number of new records out (these noise guys are prolific) but the song below is from his new one on Strange Attractors called Suite: Bittersweet.

Floored [Download]

“White Out” Nels Cline live at Tonic

Salim Nourallah’s “Snowing In My Heart” (Tapete Records, Dec. 4) plus a podcast about the new record, bonus songs and a video for “1978″)

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Why the hell does the Dallas, Texas native Salim Nourallah have to release his records on the German label Tapete Records. It’s a good label, but it’s in Germany for Christ’s sake. Can’t some great local label (yes I’m talking to you New West, Compadre, Peek-A-Boo and Idol) sign Salim so he doesn’t have to have his records available at import prices. Between Faris, Salim and The Nourallah Brothers I’ve shed a lot of ink on these guys. But I love their work, it reminds me (if I would have been alive at the time) of classic 70′s AOR radio.

Anyway, starting December 4 you can pick up his new record, Snowing In My Heart, from

Tapete Records. Here’s a podcast [Download]
from Salim all about the new record.

Don’t Be Afraid [Download]

Bonus songs in case you missed them in the past plus a great video of the song “1978″

All Waste The Days [Download]

1978 [Download]

A Way To Your Heart [Download]


san kazakgascar and a rant

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

San Kazakgascar is really more the domain of someone like Raven Sings The Blues but I’ll try to tackle the band as a challenge. But first a rant.

When mp3 blogs started out it seemed like a great moment for the music industry; with radio all screwed up, retail going down the drain, and the major label system a fraud, it seemed for a moment at least that mp3 blogs could be the outlet for creative and original music.

Then ads started popping up on certain sites, soon the big boys entered the fray and simply tried to outpost everyone else thinking that pure volume might catapult them to the top of some irrelevant blog chart, then second and third generation music bloggers made the scene more of an all-boy, testosterone-fueled, indierock-frat party by mixing sports and sex with the music and posting lowest common denominator type stuff with a sure beat and simple repetitive lyrics. Songs had to be instantly catchy to become blog darlings and bloggers had to abandon the experimental side of things to keep advertisers and readers happy.

Now it seems like the big blogs are just copying and pasting one press release onto another, scurrying to get to songs first, and even fighting over minor band announcements and concert updates. How did it get so bad so quick? Rant over.

And this relates to the San Kazakgascar how? Point being: a band like San Kazakgasar has no hope of being supported by a medium that was originally intended to be a voice for the marginalized music of the world, but instead is now completely beholden to it’s advertisers, pr teams and corporate partners. The band’s music is challenging, bizarre and experimental; as a college radio station in Boston used to say it has “no commercial potential”. It’d be just right for the music blog world too, if everyone would stop checking their in-boxes, their rss feeds and the pr machine updates long enough to search out something original.

Here’s a song from the new record and an awesome (disturbing) video by Sarah Wissenback. More info about the new record at Lather Records.

Dallas Via Damascas [Download]

Malaria fueled video for “Mosquitos and Gnats”

“You Sure Hank Done It This Way” – Chuck Prophet Covers Classic Waylon Jennings (the whole damn album!)

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

I’ve written a couple times about the new Chuck Prophet record but was unaware of the tour-only CD he’s been selling on the road. The record is a re-recording of the entire Waylon Jennings album Dreaming My Dreams With You and comes with a funny story. Apparently Chuck and friends got locked in Tim Mooney’s (Red House Painters) studio with a jar of peanut butter, some stale beer and that album. They listened to it a couple of times and having nothing better to do decided to re-record it. The whole story can be found here.

What’s interesting about the Chuck Prophet version is that it sounds just like Chuck Prophet (surprise, surprise!). The ringing guitars, the ever present reverb and Chuck’s unusual phrasing and cadence are all there. Also it’s interesting to note how the song “You Sure Hank done It This Way”, with it’s feeling of despair and tales of too many one nighters on the road with the band, could easily have been written by and applies so well to Chuck Prophet. More info here at Evangeline Records. This record is a limited edition and there are only so many copies left.

Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way [Download]

P.S. RSS Feeds:

The number of people subscribed to the Songs:Illinois rss feed continues to grow. If you use one of the rss feed reader services (Google Reader, Bloglines etc) just add this rss feed to your reader. Swedesplease, the Songs:Illinois sister site, has it’s feed here. Add both sites to your reader to get the daily full posts delivered to you.

P.P.S. Radio Player:

The Songs:Illinois radio widget is back. This time it’s being brought to you by this cool Facebook app that let’s you stream your favorite mp3 blogs right from your Facebook page. Here’s the homepage and be sure to add Songs:Illinois or Swedesplease to your favorites. Btw the player is accessing old tracks because of our url change but should be up to date later this week so keep an eye on it.

New songs from Emmy The Great

Monday, November 12th, 2007

(with Jeremy Warmsely)

I don’t want to be all I got to her first, but I did. I don’t want to be possessive but I am. Search and you won’t even find my post from 2005 on Emmy the Great (or the follow-up post for that matter) since it predates it’s search function. I will admit to letting her fall out of my life for a bit. But Emmy’s back and I’d like to add to all the internet noise that’s being whipped up about her. Her newest songs are part of a singles club by the British “magazine” Kruger, they’re toss-offs that continue her lofi winning streak.

“Paper Trails” is of the relationship gone sour song genre, and it might as well be a capella given how low the guitar and occasional tambourines are in the mix. This sounds like Ani Difranco meets Dar Williams, minus Ani’s pretension and Dar’s preciousness. Don’t you just love pop!

Visit Kruger and sign up for their singles club to download the one other new Emmy The Great track. Her new official single comes out in the UK on Nov. 19.

Paper Trails [Download]
(Give it a few seconds to load, there’s about 7 seconds of dead air at the start of “Paper Trails”)

What Everyone Else Was Saying – Weekly Music Blog Round-up

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

(“Rustic Fields” by Maxwell Loren Holyoke-Hirsch)

The Rising Storm looks back to 1971 and the UK band McGuiness Flint (they’ve got a sort of Band-like vibe).

Pasta Primavera has a new song off the January release by Thau Nguyen.

Everyone Could Be Light Green has got the traditional sounding English folk of Ruby Throat (not sure if they’re actually British though).

Some Velvet Blog has some demo (?) tracks from The Golden Animals to keep us satiated until they deliver their debut record.

Hear Ya has a couple new songs from O Death.

Everyone’s (here’s T-Sides impression) talking about Hello, Blue Roses (the duo of Dan Bejar and Syndney Vermont), I find them banal and already tiresome but then again I’m a big grump.

A Special YouTube Saturday (Jolie Holland, Elliott Smith, Ora Cogan, Sean Hayes, Joseph Childress)

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Usually these “YouTube Saturdays” are based around one artist or a constellation of related artists. However today’s post is unlike the ones I’ve done in the past. These artists have little in common besides being captured live by the same cinematographer from San Francisco. So instead of linking to all the artists page all credit for this post goes out to Chris of The American Opry.

Jolie Holland “Mule On The Mountain”

Elliot Smith “No Confidence Man”

Ora Cogan

Sean Hayes “Same God”

Joseph Childress “Red River”

The Gougers – “A Long Day For The Weathervane” (Oct. 16)

Friday, November 9th, 2007

The Gougers are an Austin, Tx. based roots rock group. Their new record, A Long Day For The Weathervane, was just released and is available on Lone Star Music. I haven’t heard the whole record but from the sound of these two songs, the solid nature of the band’s music, the dual vocalists and cascading duets make it a pretty sure bet.

“Everybody Knows” is not that “Everybody Knows”, but it does feature the vocals of Jamie Wilson who is one of the great strengths of the band. Be sure to catch the YouTube video of the song “Do You Love Texas?” below. It’s classic.

Everybody Knows [Download]

Old Scarecrow [Download]

“Do You Love Texas”