Archive for March, 2008

Two Fingers Of Firewater travel the same “Endless Highway” as The Byrds, Gram Parsons and Wilco (Self-released, May 26)

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Someone wrote the other day that Songs:Illinois is the defacto blog for Americana. I liked that, but I’m not sure if it’s quite true. The songs I post and artists I review don’t all fit into the neat and tidy definition of Americana (at least how it’s defined by radio and magazines like No Depression RIP).

I’m really more on the hunt for music that seems genuine, honest and unpretentious and not music that fits into any one category. Two Fingers of Firewater fit the bill. They’re a UK based band that cites The Byrds, The Band, Kings Of Leon, Yo La Tengo and Wilco as influences. So that’s a pretty diverse bunch. And since the UK has brought us two of the best roots rock bands of the last few years (The Broken Family Band and The Tailors) I’m pretty excited by this find.

The band has a new album, their debut, that has leaked out prior to its May 26 release date. You can buy it here in the states from CD Baby.

The song “Endless Highway” does have that classic Americana sound especially with its heavy use of pedal steel and the classic imagery of a highway, beer, and a setting sun.

Endless Highway [Download]

What Everyone Else Was Saying – Music Blog Roundup (Laura Cantrell, David Dondero, Jim Ward, Samamidon etc.)

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

MOKB has the new video for David Dondero’s song “Rothko Chapel”

Obscure Sound has a nice review of the upcoming record by Phoebe Killdeer & The Short Straws.

Indie Muse has a couple songs off the new EP from Jim Ward (ex-Sparta).

BBQ Chicken Robot has three songs from the new Laura Cantrell cd of cover songs.

The Scope Of The Scene (and Songs:Illinois for that matter) wrote about Samamidon way back when, here they revisit this slightly puzzling new folk artist.

The bookmarkworthy site Ick Music introduces us to Canadian dream poppers Kensington Prairie.

Honky-Tonk Friday – David Serby’s Incredible Story And His New Song “Permanent Position”

Friday, March 28th, 2008

(David Serby with his biological father Peter Canton)

David Serby’s had quite a week but it’s no match for the life he’s already lived. See, Serby’s life story became page one news in the L.A. Times this week and then the story was syndicated throughout the country as well ( I read it in the Chicago Tribune). It’s a story that will bring a tear to your eye about a son in search of his biological parents and long lost brother. To sum up: David’s parents gave him and his brother up for adoption. Although his parents were not married at the time, they eventually did marry. David began his quest to find his parents when his adopted father passed away. During the quest to find his parents he learned for the first time that he had a brother. He eventually found his brother and his biological parents and the reunion happened. Click on the link to read the story in greater detail and by a writer with actual skill.

The twist, and how it relates to Songs:Illinois, is that David Serby is an acclaimed singer-songwriter of the California school of alt-country (heavily influenced by the Bakersfield sound)(he’s got friends like Mike Stinson and Dave Gleason). Turns out that he’s always been musically inclined, despite his adoptive parents lack of musical talent. Stranger still, once he found his father he learned that he’d been playing country music in juke joints and VFW halls for decades.

I’m thrilled to be the first to share with you this new song from David Serby which will appear on a forthcoming record due out in July. The song is called “Permanent Position” and basically describes Norm Peterson’s character (played by George Wendt) in the 80′s comedy Cheers and Norm’s attitude on life. Which in a nutshell is: if only you could get paid to sit on a barstool, drink beer, and shoot the shit.

You can purchase either of David Serby’s available records here or here through Miles Of Music.

Permanent Position [Download]

“The Grass Is Always Bluer”

Miscellaneous Thursday (Chris Mills, Kris Delmhorst, Hayes Carll)

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Former Chicagoan and all around good guy Chris Mills has a new record coming out on April 22 on Ernest Jennings called Living In the Aftermath. I wrote a little about it here on Transmission. Here’s the link to the new song. Much like the record title this song is a little darker than material on Living The Dream but the power pop quotient is still very high.

Atom Smasher [Download]

Bonus song from Living the Dream:

Living The Dream [Download]


Hayes Carll (wrote about the new record here) somehow wrangled (perfect word for this Texan, don’t ya think?) the free iTunes song of the week. The song they chose makes sense too since it’s the slightly funny, slightly novelty tune “She Left Me For Jesus”. Link to the free mp3 on iTunes here.

I Got A Gig [Download]
from Trouble In Mind

Kris Delmhorst has a new record called Shotgun Singer out on April 22 on Signature Sounds. From what I’ve heard it’s a great disappointment to me. I don’t blame Kris though, as I think her producer, Sam Kassirer from the Josh Ritter band, added too much to the mix. The elements they’ve added to her once pure voice and guitar style are distracting and obfuscating. Her voice has been put through the ringer with overdubs, layering and compression nearly ruining it’s once pure clarity. Musically they’ve added lots of bells and whistles as well, but these sounds don’t seem organic or even necessary.

Hear it for yourself though here or here.

Here’s the title track “Shotgun Singer” performed with Redbird without all the muss and fuss:

Matt The Electrician’s “Got Your Back” (exclusive preview of upcoming album)

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Want to hear a music blogger’s wet dream? Here it is:

An artist that you love emails you out of the blue announcing a new song from an as yet unnamed new release. They kind of like your blog and would like you to have an exclusive. If that’s OK with you. Um….yeah.

This is what happened recently when I received an email from Austin singer-songwriter Matt The Electrician. That said, it’d all be irrelevant if the song didn’t cut it but “Got Your Back” does.

Matt played all the instruments on the new record including the horns, ukulele and I assume the whistling on “Got Your Back”. “Got Your Back” is a simple but powerful love song about two people who are there for each other. I hear it as a song about about fidelity and faithfulness; two traits that we’re learning are harder to come by in this sexed-up, post spitzer-hooker world.

Matt’s got some other good news (kind of along the Music 3.0 lines) he’s had a song placed in an upcoming episode of Eli Stone. So tune in Thursday April 10th and listen for the song “Valedictorian”. I’d recommend picking up Matt’s last record One Thing Right here in the interim.

Got Your Back

LoFi country-punk from Tony Wain And The Payne – “Hump The Drum”

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Hey there, here’s some straight talk for ya. I’ve got solicitations to write about every minor and major release out at the moment (and then on up through May), but I’m bored with each and every overproduced one of them (no offense…sorry pr folks). Luckily somehow last night in a very odd case of six degrees of separation I came across Tony Wain And The Payne.

Tony Wain and co. walk the fine line between being quaint hobo’s and outright hoodlums. Their MySpace page says they met in the local Ashville, N.C. drunk tank and I don’t think there is an once of irony to be found in that statement.

The songs below are rough demos, but I expect the finished product will sound very similar to this. This is lofi country performed by a generation that missed out on the punk movement but is still willing to fly the freak flag high. Impossibly these guys have a live date on their docket this week – so if you’re down in Ashville catch the band at Harvest Records at 8pm on March 27.

Vine Street Rag [Download]

Hump The Drum [Download]

New song from Rachel Ries (plus a great gig with Vandaveer and These United States in April)(Plus another new song from Langhorne Slim)

Monday, March 24th, 2008

On the new song “Adrian” Rachel Ries proves that her goofing off in her Chicago apartment is better than most artists overdubbed studio B.S. This song is called “Adrian” and according to Rachel’s MySpace is just her singing in her living room.

Somehow Rachel has managed to imprint her voice in some unused corner of my brain. Now every time I hear her I have to stop dead in my tracks and listen, really listen, as her voice dips, soars and then dives like a rollercoaster nearly coming unhinged. Despite this being a home recording from Dec. 2007 you can still clearly hear into every nook and cranny of the song and also hear every nuance of Rachel’s phrasing and delivery.

Rachel Ries and her full band are part of a great lineup at The Hideout on April 3. She’ll be appearing with Vandaveer and These United States.


P.S. I was supposed to write a preview and maybe hook up with Langhorne Slim tonight at The Hideout. Put unfortunately the show was canceled. The good news is that the reason for the cancellation was a sudden invite by David Letterman for Langhorne to play this Wednesday on Late Night With Letterman.

While we wait for that let’s hear another from his upcoming Kemado debut. Here’s the rave-up “Rebel Side Of Heaven”:

Rebel Side Of Heaven [Download]

What Everyone Else Was Saying – Music Blog Roundup

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

(“fat bat man” by Anthony Lister)

Wow someone else has written about Old Man Luedecke, imagine that! In this case it’s the newish canadian mp3 blog A Limerick Ox.

To The Dogs Or Whoever has the lovely, enchanting English folk of Karine Polwart.

Another very new blog (with a very clean layout – I’m jealous) called A Free Man (with the subtitle “Simply Music”) has another song from that Sarah Borges and The Broken Singles record I wrote about a while back.

Bring Me Up has the overly polished, but catchy piano pop of Justin Hopkins.

Blue Friday – Moreland & Arbuckle’s “1861″ (Northern Blues, March 18)

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Sometimes I think the blues genre is just completely played out. There doesn’t seem to be anything new that’s being attempted. But sometimes you can hear something that has that little spark of energy that gives you hope. Track 1 of the new cd by Moreland & Arbuckle has that spark. From the wild slide intro reminiscent of Hound Dog Taylor to the multiple cliches found in the lyrics, this song breaks no new ground but it does so with such enthusiasm and verve that it’s hard not to sit back, tap your foot and smile.

1861 is out now and can be purchased here.

Gonna Send Ya Back To Georgia [Download]

P.S. The fine music blogs Hero Hill and Nine Bullets jumped right on these guys. So to get even more perspective (and a couple more songs) check out the links above.

Kathie Mattea’s “Coal”

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Kathy Mattea is the type/kind/caliber of country star that I usually wouldn’t write about on Songs:Illinois. But as the recording industry collapses all around us some country artists seem to have eschewed the Nashville sound and embraced the sound of real country; country rooted in the sounds of bluegrass, the Appalachian Mountains, and the hills of Virginia. I’m sure there are plenty of examples of this, but what comes to mind first is Patty Loveless’ excellent 1991 record Mountain Soul.

On Coal, Kathy Mattea’s new concept record written about both the personal and environmental costs of the rise and now fall of the coal mining industry, she embraces her bluegrass and celtic music roots. These songs about a destructive and dangerous industry are balanced by the fact that so many generations of families worked in and in some cases prospered from working the mines. There’s a bittersweet tug of war going on here, between the modern sense that this industry destroyed the environment (and the lungs of it’s workers) and the fact that the coal mines were a huge part of many people’s lives.

I think the song “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” is both a good example of this theme, as well as a great bluegrass inspired workout. Kathy Mattea will be playing the Old Town School Of Folk Music on April 19. Her new record is available as a pre-order here.

The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore [Download]

The Great White Jenkins return with new songs/tour

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

The Great White Jenkins are back (wrote about `em here three years ago). I’m sure that’s solace to only a few of you out there but I hope with each successive release and tour that these guys will broaden their appeal. Catbird Seat was the first to mention their new EP the other day.

“Wind”, from the new EP Mussel Souls, starts simply enough with images of geese taking flight, but once the muted horns start to blare and the band revs up it’s engine with it’s chorus of “cast that shit to the wind” you realize you’re in for a treat. I had a hard time describing this band’s music three years ago and the passing of time hasn’t made it any easier to sum up their sound. Vaudvillian punk perhaps, but the band likes soul-folk…I don’t know….

Buy the new EP here, catch the band at their Chicago show April 16 at The Hideout.

Wind [Download]
from Mussel Souls

Fishing Trawler [Download]
from the band’s debut LP

Mathew Barber’s “Ghost Notes” (Outside Music, March 4)

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Why is it that one family can produce multiple talents (be it writers, actors, or musicians) and others (mine in particular) don’t produce any. Is their a type of child rearing that can stimulate those little minds or is it all in the genes? Is a stable home life better or does chaos somehow create little musical prodigies?

Mathew Barber got me thinking these thoughts today. He’s the brother of Canadian chanteuse Jill Barber and now has a new record out called Ghost Notes on the Canadian label Outside Music.

“Easily Bruised” stands out due to the effortless and confident delivery of Mathew’s vocals and the simple, catchy chorus. You can buy Ghost Notes here.

Easily Bruised (the Canadian blog Chromewaves has a demo of this song here [Download]

Jim Stanson’s solo rock `n roll debut “Heart Full Of Fire” (with guests Gurf Morlix and “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb)

Monday, March 17th, 2008

So I’m still recovering from SXSW. I got into Chicago late last night. My SXSW was kind of an anti-SXSW experience. I didn’t see any of the hyped or buzzed bands. Not Duffy, or She and Him, or any band with the word “Fuck” in the name (that one was difficult – they were everywhere). I didn’t make it to any blogger parties (although I did peak in to the Stereogum/Paste/NPR event to see Emmy the Great play with Lightspeed Champion).

What I did do/see was wonderful. The list of artists includes Danny Schmidt, Sam Baker, Walt Wilkins, Anna Egge, Caroline Herring, The Pines, Gurf Morlix, Carrie Elkin, The Theater Fire, Chuck Prophet, Nels Andrews, AJ Schultz and David Dondero. Many of these I saw on Saturday at a marathon house concert outside of town. I have photo’s that I may upload today or tomorrow.

But today’s a new day and a new day means a new artist to write (and get excited) about. I came across Jim Stanson’s new record on a European Americana chart. His new record Heart Full of Fire was the only one on the list by a self-released artist. I think you know I have a fondness for rock `n roll. Simple, straightforward rock shaped by decades of exposure to The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and The Faces. And that’s what you get with Jim.

You’ll hear all of those influences on the title track. Purchase Jim Stanson’s new record here. The new record also features the above mentioned Gurf Morlix and Austinite “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb.

Heart Full Of Fire [Download]

My SXSW schedule courtesy of

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

So a couple of guys came up with the ultimate online SXSW scheduling tool. You can even sync your schedule with iCal!

I know it’s kind of geeky to post this but here’s where I’ll attempt to be for my three days at SXSW. Visit the site here to make your own personal printable schedule. Alright I’ve shown you mine; now you show me yours!

“Yo Yo Blues” from Charlie Parr’s 2002 release “1922″ (reissued by Chairkickers Union)

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Shit…no one told me someone re-released Charlie Parr’s 2002 record entitled 1922 last year. Isn’t that why we have all these mp3 blogs? Come on guys, I can’t do it all by myself.

“Yo Yo Blues” is a classic blues tune with a clever play on words at the expense of Yo Yo Ma.

As best as I can figure the re-release is being handled by Low’s in-house Label Chairkickers Union but it’s digital-only so check with iTunes.

YoYo Blues [Download]

1922 Blues [Download]

Jesus At The Kenmore [Download]

P.S. This is a truncated post on account I’m off to SXSW. A day late and at least a dollar short but I’m looking forward to checking out about 300 bands.

A song off of Shelley Short’s upcoming record “Water For The Day” (Hush Records, April 22)

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

I find that Shelly Short’s near inaccessibility is one of the things that draws me to her music. She has a wonderful voice and very good ear for creating both the lyrics and the music to compliment it. But she’s not content to create something that is easily digestible. On the surface her music is very listenable but just under the surface there are subversions and distractions that lend it an air of mystery or an ethereal quality.

On her forthcoming record Water For The Day the pedal steel languishes just a little bit longer than usual, her voice flutters and swoons in unusual manner and her repeated use of phrases or portions of phrases toys with the traditional notion of verse, chorus, verse.

The song “Swimming” below is one of the most straightforward and most beautiful songs on the record (but still listen for the odd guitar plucking). The new record is due out April 22 on the always excellent Portland based label Hush Records.

Swimming [Download]

SXSW Preview Pt. 7 – (Exclusive) New song from David Karsten Daniels’ upcoming record “Fear Of Flying” (FatCat, April 29)

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

The new single from David Karsten Daniels continues the recent trend of solo artists beefing up their sound and making it more diverse. “Martha Ann” is the first single from Fear Of Flying; it’s only a little over 2 minutes but is full to the brim with clever ideas – both musically and lyrically.

David had this to say about the new record, “I set out to make a classic rock album, and I’m not sure where I ended up, but I don’t think it’s in the 70s.” You can preorder Fear of Flying here. David’s playing multiple showcases at SXSW but perhaps the best place to see him is at Central Presbyterian Church with Bowerbirds, Peter and the Wolf, and Ola Podriga on March 12.

Martha Ann [Download]

SXSW Preview Pt. 6 – A new song from Langhorne Slim’s self titled Kemado debut (April 29)(Plus Dawn Landes with The Earlies)

Monday, March 10th, 2008

In my mind I may have already typecast Langhorne Slim’s music as crazed-one-man-band-rebel-folk-blues. So it was a slight surprise to hear songs from his new record that are fleshed out with cello, piano and pop melodies I wasn’t even sure he was capable of. Langhorne has one of those horrible major label stories I’m sure. He was signed by V2 in a move that could only be called mystifying. Sure, it was clear he was a major talent, but it was also clear that this was not a guy that they could change and meld into a safe bet like a Damien Rice or Ray LaMontagne. Of course he was promptly dropped by V2 and has now reappeared on the respected indie label Kemado.

His new self titled record is out on April 29th and features the song “Restless” from his V2 EP Engine along with 12 other new tracks. Picking out a song was pretty easy as Langhorne has chosen “Diamonds And Gold” as one of his favorites from the record. Like the others from the record it’s virtually abandoned the frantically strummed guitar of his previous records and notorious live shows.

Bonus song:

Diamonds and Gold [Download]

Restless [Download]


It’s a bit absurd how often I’ve written about Dawn Landes. I’ve been talking about her newly re-released record Fireproof for what seems like two years. But she’s deserving of such high praise. This song is the A-side to a 7″ she did with The Earlies. You can buy it here; Dawn’s off on a European tour supporting Josh Ritter on March 20th. But first you can catch her at SXSW at St. David’s Church on Thursday the 13th.

Caroline [Download]

YouTube Saturday honors Beantown (Dogmatics, Del Fuegos, The Neighborhood, The Neats, Digny Fignus, Scruffy The Cat, Gigolo Aunts, The Detours and an ode to the Boston video channel V66)

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

This may be my second, even third, YouTube Saturday with Boston bands. But, hey, who’s counting?! This time it’s mostly bands from the 80′s and early 90′s and features a historical perspective with video of a Del Fuegos Miller beer commercial and a trailer from a documentary about local video channel V66.

“Thayer Street” Dogmatics

“Stuck In My Car” The Detours

“My Baby’s, She’s Alright” Scruffy The Cat

“Monday Morning” The Neighborhoods

“Tear My Soul” The Neats

“The Girl With The Curious Hand” Digny Fignus

“Bloom” Gigolo Aunts

Trailer for upcoming documentary on V66 – Boston’s video channel

The Del Fuegos – Miller Beer Commercial

Bob Schneider’s new record “When The Sun Breaks Down On The Moon” (plus pictures from Mexico)

Friday, March 7th, 2008

(Editor’s note: Hey I’m back from Mexico. Did you miss me? My inbox is full with invitations and comeons to countless day/evening parties down in Austin for SXSW. So today’s post will continue to honor that fine music city with new music from favorite (adopted?) son Bob Schneider. Pictures from Mexico after the jump.)

Like Frank Orrall in Chicago, David Byrne in NYC or Prince In Detroit; Bob Schneider used to be the king of Austin. His band Ugly Americans were once the toast of the town and any band or solo project he was affiliated with was sure to be a popular success (but usually a flop with the critics).

His new record is a complete DIY affair that may confound his mass appeal but improve his stead with the critics. From what I’ve heard it’s a hodge-podge of styles incorporating numerous instruments, a range of styles and some studio gimmickery. The title song however is just Bob and guitar doing a droning blues.

When the Sun Breaks Down On the Moon

Mexico vacation pictures: