Archive for January, 2008

Danny Schmidt’s “Grey Sheep” (One of the best records of the new year…there I said it!) (Waterbug Records, Feb. 19)

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

For me, and with my particular tastes, I’m comfortable saying that the new record by Austin-based singer-songwriter Danny Schmidt is the best of the new year. By now Danny’s got a recognizable and distinctive vocal delivery and I love it. His songs are as literate, and can be as funny and clever, as anyone else in the songwriting racket today.

I’ve written about his upcoming record, Grey Sheep, here, but frankly I did so too early. His record has a Feb. 19 release date and at the time of my initial mention there was nowhere to pick up this great CD. But now there is. Buy it here via his label, Waterbug, now.

Danny Schmidt’s description of “Cliff Song” is better than anything I can come up with.

“This song was the letter back to my first love, assuaging her fears that the cliffside path I was proposing was ripe with astonishing sights more than it was riddled with trepidation.”

Joia Wood is the featured female vocal on this song. Paul Curreri (aka Mr. Devon Sproule) did wonders with a production job that at times is simple and lets the playing come through, and at other times is a little bit more atmospheric, which is well suited to the lyrics.

Cliff Song [Download]

Bonus “cover” song from Paul Curreri and Devon Sproule from the free online ep – Valentine Duets

All The Best [Download]
(John Prine “cover”)

Steve Poltz’ new record “Traveling”

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

OK, I’m not really in the mood to do the whole bio recanting, name-dropping and discography overhaul that is your typical mp3 blog post. You either know Steve Poltz or you don’t. You either like clever lyrics or you don’t. You either…you get my point.

Steve Poltz has just self-released his new record – Traveling. The song “Hater’s Union” is a self-loathing, auto-biographical piece about Steve’s past with his old band The Rugburns. I don’t think one listen to this slightly (oh alright, down-right depressing) song will be the catalyst to get you to buy this record, but if you’re a fan (and you know who you are) you’ll be picking this one up here ASAP.

Hater’s Union [Download]

“Haters Union” (with intro discussion of The Rugburns)

Sid Griffin’s (Ex-Long Ryder) new group The Coal Porters – “Turn the Water on, Boy!” (Prima Records, Jan. 20)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Sid Griffin, he of the 80′s country-punk group The Long Ryders, keeps pretty busy with all his musical projects, but it’s his latest group’s release, Turn the Water On, Boy!, by The Coal Porters that should get him the most attention since the late 80′s. The Coal Porters is the group that Sid formed in England with fellow Long Ryder alumns and Chris Hillman from The Byrds on mandolin. They are a pretty traditional sounding bluegrass group, but with both his and Chris Hillman’s musical history they have been attracting a diverse following. The band is pretty content to stay in the UK where they have a bunch of spring dates up on their site, but it sure would be a treat to get them to the states.

Below is a Sid Griffin original about Woody Gutherie that’s kinda cool and a cover of the Gene Clark classic “Silver Raven”. You can also hear what their live show sounds like below and don’t miss the wacky bluegrass cover of “My Generation”.

You can buy the digital release here through Amazon.

Mr. Guthrie [Download]

Silver Raven [Download]

and live:

Final Wild Sun [Download]
(The Coal Porters covering The Long Ryders)
My Generation [Download]
(yes, this is a bluegrass version of The Who’s classic)
Just Like Tom Thumb Blues [Download]
(The Long Ryders live from their reunion tour with opening act Greg Trooper handling the vocals)

New songs from Tift Merritt’s “Another Country”

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Tift Merritt is not going to blow up in the blog world (despite recent profiles by Chromewaves and To the Dogs or Whoever). She lacks the angst of a Kathleen Edwards, the road-weary, cigarrete and whiskey voice of a Lucinda Williams, or the sexual allure of a Cat Power. But her new record, Another Country, may well be the culmination and the grand achievement after years of singing, songwriting and performing live.

The songs I’ve heard have that intangible quality where they are not easily classifiable as alt-country, Americana or soul. On a song like “Morning Is My Destination” the organ, powerful guitar solos and Tift’s lovely voice make the song seem timeless (production credit once again goes to Jayhawks producer George Drakoulias).

Pre-order here through Amazon.

Morning Is My Destination [Download]

Broken [Download]

What Everyone Else Was Saying – Weekly Blog Roundup

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

(Alien World by Bjorn Copeland)

Maybe it’s an acquired taste but I acquired it the moment I heard it. Song By Toad has poetic new music from Gerry Mitchell and Little Sparta.

Obscure Sound once again does a in-depth profile of an under-appreciated performer – this time Nick Jaina and his forthcoming record on Hush.

To The Dogs or Whoever is on a mission (something I can relate to – Jon Jackson anyone?) to get the word out about the English folk singer Andy Whitler with a repost of his music from 2007 and a contest.

Here Comes The Flood has the bluesy singer-songwriter Ernie Hendrickson; he’s got the song “Bad Mixed Up Woman” from the forthcoming album.

Mainstream Isn’t So Bad, Is It has a couple of songs from the Weinland – a record I’m guilty that I passes on.

From the “see I told you so” dept: PopMatters has a nice piece on Songs:Illinois fave Eilen Jewell.

Speaking of Jon Jackson, I’m glad to say my little post about him has created a bit of a snowballing effect. Now You Crazy Dreamers has posted a couple of songs and conducted a great interview with this up and coming singer-songwriter.

(Video) AA Bondy w/ The Pines and featuring The Felice Brothers

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

The reason I have a blog is to post shit like this whenever I want and whyever I feel like. This is AA Bondy with The Pines and featuring The Felice Brothers. Wow!

YouTube Saturday – Maxwell’s In Hoboken (Nirvana, Game Theory, Yo La Tengo, Alex Chilton, The db’s, The Feelies, Richard Butler, The Replacements and Big Star)

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

I did a YouTube Saturday post a couple months back that focused on one venue instead of any particular band. At that time I featured Schubas in Chicago, the club I truly believe is the best in the Midwest.

Now it’s off to the East coast and the club I feel may be one of the best period – Maxwells in Hoboken. Like all the great venues it’s small and long. The sound tunnels down the tube-like building creating excellent sightlines and in the case of the Nirvana show from `89 and aural assault like none other.

Nirvana @ Maxwell’s `89

Game Theory @ Maxwell’s `86

Yo La Tengo w/Alex Chilton @ Maxwell’s `07

The DB’s @ Maxwell’s `86

The Feelies “Crazy Rythms” @ Maxwell’s

Richard Butler “Love My Way” @ Maxwell’s

Bonus clips

Alex Chilton w/Box Tops “Cry Like A Baby”

The Replacements “Alex Chilton”

Big Star “Ballad of El Goodo” `93

Scary Mansion – “Every Joke Is Half The truth” (Zum Records, Jan. 22)

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I don’t think this is ever going to become a full fledged post so instead I’ll keep it brief. There’s a new record, actually the debut, from Scary Mansion. Some are calling Every Joke Is Half The Truth anti-folk but actually it’s much weirder and more somber. I get a decidedly more fim-noir impression from these songs.

Others have written up the new album including Music For Robots, Shake Your Fist, and Getecho (RIP). So check those posts out for bio info and more sublime ruminations (esp. SYF).

We’re all sharing different songs, however the two I have below are guilt-free and legal courtesy of the pr company behind the record. Enjoy!

Sharkish Sea [Download]

Yer Mom [Download]

Michael Holland’s (former leader of Jennyandkind) new record “Simple Truths and Pleasures”

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I’m a big fan of Michael Holland. I’m not conversant on all of his releases (or those of his former band Jennyandkind) or on his different musical influences but when I hear his music I’m immediately impressed. His song 2005 song “Crystal Meth Freak From California” somehow married a topical story of a life gone bad via drugs with bluegrass-inspired, modern mountain music. It’s not such a stretch really if you acknowledge that in the south Meth is the new moonshine.

I don’t hear anything as shockingly immediate as “Crystal Meth Freak” in the songs from the new record, Simple Truths and Pleasures, but the songs I’ve heard are in a way more immediate. Some of the musical backing is provided once again by The Big Fat Gap Bluegrass Band from NC and the bulk of the record was recorded live in the studio. “Life of Ease” is a personal take on the desire for a simpler, better life. A life that, with the oncoming recession, just isn’t possible for many people anymore.

Find out more about the new record and buy it here through Forced Exposure.

Life Of Ease [Download]

Well OK, since you asked so nicely…here’s “Crystal Meth Freak From California” from 2005′s Tomorrows American Treasures on Sit-N-Spin records.

Crystal Meth Freak

Bonus song from Tomorrows American Treasure

Hungry Days [Download]

Mars Arizona’s Hello Cruel World (Big Barn, January 22) (plus the guitar duets of Don Ross and Andy McKee

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Mars Arizona

(Mars Arizona)

I don’t take too kindly to reader recommendations. You just never know who’s on the up and up and who is simply plugging a friend/client/bandmate. But in the case of Don Ross/Andy McKee (available here on CandyRat Records) and Mars Arizona I can’t possibly not post their stuff since they have been haunting my sleep (and email inbox) of late.

Everywhere I turn I see news about these bands. These are both folk-based releases, but they are wildly divergent. Don Ross’ and Andy McKee’s new record is acoustic fingerpicked duets sans vocals, while Mars Arizona is some sort of bluegrass and country mash-up by the duo of Paul Michael Knowles and Nicole Storto. I particularly like the old timey sound of “Dirty Town” and the way Nicole’s vocals seem to come out of an earlier age (I think it’s the reverb and decay that does that).

I haven’t come to any firm conclusion about either of these two bands; except that they’re ones to watch.

Don Ross and Andy McKee:

Rylynn [Download]

Mars Arizona:

Dirty Town [Download]
(w/David Grisham)

New song from award winning Canadian folk singer David Francey (plus, and completely unrelated, the indie-pop sensation “I Heart Labrador Records” by Jam On Bread)

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Keep the Coffee Coming
has a virtual stranglehold on all the music blog coverage of Canadian folk artist David Francey.

But I’m not sure if, even with all her support over the past three years, she’s posted anything yet from David’s 2007 release Right Of Passage. So I’ll take this sliver of a crack that she’s given me and add my two cents to the discussion of David Francey (I added my other cent back in back in November of 2006 here). A record that may be as much about the sea and a “passage” upon it than any myriad of specific life-changing events that the album title may hint at.

Ballad Of Browser MacRae [Download]


Completely unrelated – here’s a song I posted on Swedesplease this morning called “I Heart Labrador Records” by the English band Jam On Bread. It’s for all you jangly, indie-pop, c86 fans out there. Read the full post here on how this song wound up in my hands.

I Heart Labrador Records [Download]

Eric Lindell – “Low On Cash, Rich In Love” (Alligator, Jan. 15)

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I can’t get with all of the electric guitar bravado that is Alligator Records, but from the good press surrounding recent signee Eric Lindell, and the song below, with all it’s Boz Scaggs circa 1969 soul, Muscle Shoal type horns, and sex-fueled delivery I’m very open to hearing more from him.

Eric Lindell is a New Orleans native and that comes through on the mix of styles present in even this one song. If NYC is the melting pot, than New Orleans must be the gumbo stew that gets cooked up in that pot. You can hear traces of blues, Van Morrison’s blue-eyed soul and even the surf-jamband-lite of contemporaries like Jack Johnson. The new record, Low On Cash, Rich In Love, came out this past Tuesday and is available to be ordered directly through Alligator Records here.

Lay Back Down [Download]

P.S. Is there a great blues blog that I’m not aware of, cause I’ve never found it.


Monday, January 21st, 2008

What Everyone Else Was Saying – Weekly Blog Roundup

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

(Untitled by Neil Farber)

Neiles Life has some nice indie folk from Austrailia and the duo Angus and Julia Stone.

The now famous (there was a nice interview with Heather on NPR) I Am Fuel, You Are Friends discovers the amazing roots music of The Felice Brothers.

Bruce over at Some Velvet Blog has a new tune from Kate Maki – a Songs:Illinois favorite.

Idolator takes on No Depression and generalizes all to hell about this worthwhile publication

The un-aptly named mp3 blog Pasta Primavera has a couple new songs from Finian Mckean’s new record.

Midwest Record has news of Bo Ramsey’s upcoming record and Minneapolis Fucking Rocks has something from his son’s band The Pines.

YouTube Saturday – Gil Scott Heron

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Look, you could probably do your doctoral thesis on the effect Gil Scott Heron’s music did/did not have on the music world and whether it was/was not the precursor of hip hop and rap. There’s no way I’m going to add anything meaningful to that conversation, but I will say that when I first heard Gil Scott Heron (and his frequent musical partner Brian Jackson) it was a revelation.

Listening to the music, reading along with the lyrics and studying the gatefold sleeve photos was like a mini course in the history of black power and the struggles of people all over the world to free themselves of oppression (most often caused by policies of the US government). I hope this post will inspire someone new to explore the music, politics, and tragic life of Gil Scott Heron.

“The Bottle”

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

“Is That Jazz”

“No Knock”


“Winter In America & Whitey On The Moon”

New single from Chuck Prophet (plus Letterman appearance, contribution to “27 Dresses” and a great video for the song “Freckles”)

Friday, January 18th, 2008

I rarely regurgitate press releases I receive in the mail. The bulk of them I delete without opening, the rest I check out of curiosity and reject. But it’s a rare instance when the stars align for a songwriter that I’ve written about, love and respect. In this case Chuck Prophet has all cylinders working in overdrive as his new record is getting radio play, a song is featured in the new Katherine Hagel vehicle 27 Dresses and a recent appearance on David Letterman.

For 27 Dresses the producers have chosen the song “Freckles” which I wrote about and linked to here (and sort of here as well) a few months back. The movie may be a bit of a stinker but I just ready that Hagel almost saves it with a radiant performance (she was great in Knocked Up, no?).

Anyway I’m going to link to the newish video for “Freckles” and the mp3 of what must be the next single “All Over you (Doubter Out Of Jesus)”. “All Over You” continues the Chuck Prophet tradition of somehow combining euroglam rock with soulful textured singer/songwriter fare. Also, below is the video of last weeks performance of the same song on Letterman.

Stream it or buy it here via Yep Roc.

P.S. Setting The Woods On Fire has a nice little encapsulation of Prophet’s former band’s career (Green On Red).

All Over You (Make A Doubter Out Of Jesus) [Download]


“All Over You”

Organ Wolf – “I Didn’t Come Here And I’m not Leaving (So You Can Just Kiss My Ass That’s What You Are)”

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Band: Organ Wolf

Moto: “Take an old Hammond organ, soak it in beer, throw it in a truck and back it into the swamp.”

Members: Grassy, Lassie, Wheelie & Skid

Record Title: I Didn’t Come Here And I’m not Leaving (So You Can Just Kiss My Ass That’s What You Are)

Sounds Like: Greasy food, sweaty sex, the south if it were overrun with Ghettotech idiot savants from Chicago.

Professionalism (Scale of 1-10): 0

Soul (Scale of 1-10): 10

Drug Use: Probable

For Sale: Yes

Demon E [Download]

3D Heavy Duty [Download]

The new face of Americana? – Stephen Simmons’ new record “Something In Between” (Americana Records, Jan. 15)

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Stephen Simmons is back. I wrote about his song “Drink Ring Jesus” last year and was just agag over it’s lyrical content. Since then Stephen’s become the talk of the americana world and become an important part of it’s immediate future.

“All The Time I’ve Got” is one of the slower, less brawny, songs I’ve heard from the new album Something In Between. It’s a beautiful example of all that this genre is capable of. Pick the new record up here at Village Records.

All The Time I’ve Got [Download]

In case you missed it from 2 years ago – there’s no excuse not to have it! Here’s “Drink Ring Jesus”:

Drink Ring Jesus [Download]

Honest to goodness American rock `n’ roll from The Cartridge Family (plus the new ep from Patty Hurst Shifter)

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

You’ve got to be either pretty ballsy or just plain great as a band to compare yourself to The Rolling Stones, Big Star, The Faces or current bands like Drive-By Truckers and Wilco. But that’s just what the The Cartridge Family has done with the description of the band on their homepage. The band’s new record, Shine Like a Bottle, was released yesterday and is being distributed nationally by Burnside Distribution and is for sale now on CDBaby here.

The song “American West” fulfills the promise of the description above by combining big bruising power chords with an anthemic chorus of “there’s a hole in the soul of rock `n’ roll and you know it just ain’t right”.

I can’t say yet if they live up to their idols, but I wonder once these idols are gone who is going to fill the American rock `n’ roll vacuum? Who can possibly replace the likes of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, NRBQ, Bruce Springsteen, Levon Helm or even the gigantic, iconic artists like The Eagles or John Cougar Mellencamp? No matter how much you despise these last two, they at least spoke to the American population’s need for simple rock `n’ roll, performed with a modicum of humility, and a great deal of gung-ho American hutzpa.

While I love Wilco, I think their music is too obtuse for the general population and let’s face it groups like Drive-By Truckers, The Bottle Rockets or The Damnwells will never cross over, no matter how hard we wish they would. I don’t have an answer, do you? Maybe this idea of American rock `n’ roll is just another part of a history that is doomed not to be repeated.

The Cartridge Family give it their best though; I wish that were enough. Don’t blame the band or the music for it’s (relative) commercial failings, but instead blame the American populous grown complacent and fat on the likes of American Idol and Hannah Montana, blame the radio programmers whose hands are tied by corporate policies and blame the media who are more concerned with the dating habits/drug problems/sex appeal of modern rock stars than with the actual music they produce. Rant over. Buy the record. Make a difference.

American West [Download]


I was always impressed with Bishop Allen’s ability to release an ep a month (btw I was also impressed with the music blogs that kept up with and updated us each and every month). Patty Hurst Shifter is not attempting anything as grandiose as an ep a month but they are in the middle of releasing a trilogy of ep’s. Their second ep release will be Coma La Grava and will be released Feb. 15. Here’s one song from it that hints at it’s possibly poppier sound.

Promiscuous [Download]

The Durds and I’m a little embarrassed t give you the album title but it’s “Cucumber Mosaic Virus Rampages Through My Field” (Banazan Records, Jan. 15) plus the Black Hollies

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I haven’t heard anything from Julian Cope in a long time. I miss his psychotic babblings about mother earth, Stonehenge and the little people living under the ground. The Durds are not exactly a perfect substitute, but they do mine the same, very odd, ground.

The Durds have a new record out this week on Banazan Records. The record is a called Cucumber Mosaic Virus Rampages Through My Field. The title track rambles along at a slow folky pace and mostly concerns itself with a banana subspecies called plantains (which btw are great, there’s a Cuban grocery store with a deli in the back on Devon that serves up especially juicy fired plantains and rice). While “Sultry Summer Nights” has an electronic beat and appears to be exactly what the title suggests (making it almost the weirder of the two tracks).

Order the record here.

Cucumber Mosaic Virus Rampage [Download]


Sultry Summer Nights (at the European Court of Human Rights) [Download]


(Editor’s note: I woke up this morning intending to post this piece about The Black Hollies but Some Velvet Blog Beat me to the punch. Still loving the track though, so I thought I’d just add it on to the bottom of this post instead or relegating it to the stack of throwaway posts.)

You’ve probably heard your fair share of 60′s influenced garage rock here on Songs:Illinois. We’ve kicked it old style from the beginning of the site with the likes of The Original Sins to The Fleshtones. Here’s a new one for me – The Black Hollies. I could be wrong; maybe it’s late/lack of sleep/delirium caused by too much computer time but I’m bopping my head and tapping my feet to this little nugget.

You can pre-order this Feb. 12 release called Casting Shadows from Ernest Jennings Record Co. here now.

Paisley Pattern Ground [Download]