Archive for May, 2008

Stairwell Sisters – “Get Off Your Money” (riyl The Duhks, Crooked Still, Infamous Stringdusters etc)

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Stairwell Sisters
are an all woman acoustic bluegrassy juggernaut from San Francisco. This, their third recording, has been produced by the great Lloyd Maines. The band’s name comes from the fact the two founders perfected their harmonies by practicing in a stairwell (great reverb in there dont’ cha know!?).

“Shuffle And Shine” chronicles the hard times of a shoe shiner the band recently encountered. With lines like “Landlord’s back at my front door…what I wouldn’t do for a steady paycheck…” and its depression era string band sound in this age of near or full-on recession, when a shortage of “good” jobs looms, and the housing crisis just keeps getting worse and worse it’s as topical as anything Woody et al composed.

The new record, Get Off Your Money, is available here now.

Shuffle And Shine [Download]

Hangman Tree [Download]

Sonny Landreth’s “From The Reach” (Landfall Records, May 20)

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

There’s a few classic roots/rock artists that I have never posted about. Part of the reason is based in my quest for something new and part is the fact that some of these artists don’t jell with my personal taste. Sonny Landreth is in the latter camp. I can appreciate his slide guitar playing (he’s one of the best), his swamp blues (ditto) and his songwriting ability but much like John Hiatt or Warren Zevon or even Graham Parker I never quite jumped on the bandwagon.

“When I Still Had You” is from Sonny’s newest record From The Reach and it’s classic Landreth and classic swamp blues-rock. Eric Clapton contributes both guitar and vocals on this one. The new record features a smorgasbord of a-list guest stars including Dr. John, Jimmy Buffett, Robben Ford and Mark Knopfler. Buy it here from Amazon or Village Records here. Anyone want to convince me that I’m missing out than I’ll meet you in the comments.

When I Still Had You [Download]

Last of the Blacksmiths – “Young Family Song”

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

It’s been nearly three years since The Last Of The Blacksmith’s unleashed their self-titled debut on the world. I loved that first record. And now as I work my way through several of the new songs on Young Family Song, I’m beginning to realize that the new record is a late night slow jam soul record with languid beats, otherworldly organ fills, bluesy guitar solos and sleepy vocals. In other words it’s a perfect late night summer record.

The new record is called Young Family Song and is available here.

What You Been Saying [Download]

Giving Up [Download]

Peter Cooper’s “Mission Door” (Red Beet, April 1)

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Last time I wrote about Peter Cooper it was on a Honky Tonk Friday, he didn’t quite fit then and he doesn’t fit now. But this time I can’t wait `til Friday to write about his new record Mission Door on Red Beet Records. Mission Door is a re-release of his debut record Cautionary Tales. But as is the case with most self released records this one initially didn’t make a dent with the public despite awing critics and fellow musicians. So a re-do is in order.

Here’s two liquor soaked tunes from Mission Door. Buy it here now.

Wine [Download]

All The Way To Heaven [Download]

R.I.P. Utah Phillips

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

One of the great hobos, labor organizers, union men and singer/writer/mentor Utah Phillips passed away on Friday night. He was 73 years old and I suspect any reader of Songs:Illinois will be well aware of the work of Utah. Newer fans may have heard of him first though his work with Ani DiFranco. In fact it’s this association that has always kept Ani in my good graces despite her uneven output. If you’ve never heard of him, think of him as an older, saltier, American version of Billy Bragg.

He was loved by the hundreds of performers he encountered, tutored, befriended and mentored. He’ll be sorely missed. And impossible to replace.

Talkin’ NPR Blues [Download]

Moose Turd Pie [Download]

Railroading On The Great Divide [Download]

Hallelujah I’m a Bum [Download]

Stupid’s Pledge [Download]

Weekly Blog Roundup

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

(Art by Jorge Mascarenhas)

I really like what I hear from UK singer-songwriter Laura Marling. Treble agrees and has the video for her new single.

Hard To Find a Friend
has a song from Cheyenne lead singer Beau Jennings solo debut record.

3Hive has something new from Daniel Ahearn, he’s the guy behind the band Ill Lit.

Consequence of Sound has the rambling folk of English singer-songwriter Nathan Clarke.

Filles Sourires, the Netherlands based blog of French chick singers, comes up big again with songs from Loane’s new record.

New Tim Lee (ex Windbreakers) (riyl Drive By Truckers, Drivin’ N Cryin’, Uncle Tupelo)

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Tim Lee (as part of the Windbreakers) was one of the founders of southern indie rock alongside folks like The db’s and REM. Tim Lee has had a resurgence of late and presently records with his wife, and drummer Rodney C. Cash in the trio TimLee3. The band mines the fertile southern rock territory. The song “Mile Long Midway” with it’s memories of the 80′s, hanging out at the county fair, KISS t-shirts, and selecting songs from the jukebox at the local after-school hangout encapsulates everything the band is working towards.

I can’t say it much better than the Paisley Pop website:

Striking the perfect balance between stomp and shimmer, longtime rocker, Tim Lee’s new band TimLee3, steps out with a rousing rocker that recalls the roar of vintage Smithereens, the twang of Uncle Tupelo, and the straight out rock n’ roll of the Sonics. This is indie southern rock that will appeal to fans of The Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt, and Whiskeytown.

The new record is called 2good2b3 and came out on May 20th, you can order it here now.

Mile Long Midway [Download]


The Bridge [Download]

Carrie Rodriguez – “She Ain’t Me” (Back Porch, Aug. 5)

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

At some point Carrie Rodriguez must want to step up and grab the brass ring and step out of the shadows of Lucinda Williams, Mary Gauthier and every other female singer songwriter orbiting on the fringe of Nashville fame and fortune. She’s played second fiddle (literally) to a number of great artists and is presently on tour with Alejandro Escovedo, she has also collaborated a number of times with Chip Taylor (“Wild Thing” and Jon Voight’s brother). But it’s her solo career that is her new focus. Her new record, She Ain’t Me, with it’s ample hooks and her beautiful voice and fiddle playing may be the one to put her over the top.

“She Ain’t Me” is a sassy little track about a confident girl who knows she’s the best thing her lucky sap has or will ever meet. Here’s the title track for this August 5th release on Back Porch.

She Ain’t Me [Download]

New song/record from Ron Sexsmith – “Exit Strategy For The Soul” (Yep Roc, July 8) (plus Trailer Star from England)

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Ron Sexsmith’s voice is sublime, his songs are consistently great, and he’s the consummate live performer, but he’s been jumping from sub genre to sub genre over the past couple of albums. And with nine albums under his belt you can hardly blame him. The new record is titled Exit Strategy of the Soul and features horns on every single song and a blend of soul and gospel influences. This is a far cry from the americana records that hint at alt-country that he’s done of late and I think it’s a welcome one

“This Is How I Know” is the first song Ron wrote for the new record. Here’s what Ron says about that one:

The album finds Sexsmith at his most soulful—not that he sounds like Al Green. “I don’t have that kind of voice,” he acknowledges, unnecessarily. “’This Is How I Know’ was the first song I wrote for the record,” says Sexsmith, “and it felt to me kind of like a gospel tune. As I continued writing, I started getting this vibe that there was a spiritual element to them.

Pre-order this July 8th release now here. Or to find out more about the record visit the Yep Roc eCard here.

This Is How I Know [Download]


I’m always talking the talk about over-produced records and how something lofi is usually ultimately more satisfying. Well today we walk the walk with the new record from Trailer Star aka Shaun Belcher. This arrived unannounced in my inbox by way of England. Shaun Belcher is a singer songwriter along the lines of our own Jim White. That means he’s concerned with sin and salvation and creates folk music that has a southern gothic feel to it. To go along with the music Shaun creates original artwork that is clearly influenced by the folk art of the deep south. Here’s his song “Firework Factory” and the artwork that goes with it.

Suit of Nettles is the new record and the limited edition cd can be purchased here.

Firework Factory [Download]

Bluegrass/Newgrass/Jamgrass Tuesday – Railroad Earth’s new record – “Amen Corner” (Sci Fidelity, June 10)(riyl The Band, Grateful Dead, Felice Brothers)

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

They don’t call NJ “The Garden State” for nothing. Parts of the state are as beautiful, green and lush as the famed blue grass of Kentucky. So then it should come as no surprise that one of the rising stars of newgrass (for want of a better term) is Railroad Earth from Stillwater, NJ.

Amen Corner is the new record out June 10 on Sci Fidelity (their previous two records were on the revered roots label Sugar Hill). The single is the jam band friendly tune “Hard Livin’” and while the song is certainly catchy enough and is probably indicitive of their energetic live show, it’s the more subdued song “Been Down This Road” that caught my ear. Pre-order the new record here.

Been Down This Road [Download]

Hard Livin’ [Download]

P.S. Video commenting is now enabled. It’s easy to do but no one’s given it a try yet. I’d love to see a couple comments just to see if it works and if it’s worth keeping.

New Record from Scott Kempner (ex-Dictators/ex-Del Lords)(plus video comments enabled!)

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Scott Kempner of Dictators and Del-Lords fame has a new record coming out soon on … I’ve got mixed feelings about the record as a whole but it’s nice to hear his voice again and it’s especially nice to hear it singing a song from the perenially under rated singer-songwriter Tommy Womack.

The new record is called Saving Grace and as I said I’m still listening and forming an opinion but Tommy Womack’s “I’ll Give you Needles” as sung by Scott Kempner is a real gem. Saving Grace is due soon from 02:59 Records.

I’ll Give You Needles [Download]

PS I just enabled video commenting on Songs:Illinois. And while I’m a little worried about seeing all yer scruffy faces, I would like to hear your comments on this development and/or anything loosely related to roots music.

Two new videos from Jon “Trailerpark” Jackson

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Jon Jackson wrote the other day with news of more uploaded video’s. And I swear him sitting in his trailer somewhere on the outkirts of Nashville is somehow better that each and every overproduced video I’ve seen on the web or CMT for God’s sake. I’m thrilled he put up “Green Apples” but also excited to hear his ode to the Waffle House girl song, “Excuse Me”, for the first time.

His debut record Green Apples is a Songs:Illinois must-buy recommendation here (do we even have that!?).

P.S. John will be playing the latest incarnation of the Songs:Illinois House Concert series on June 6 along with Joe Pug from Chicago and Michael Fracasso all the way from Austin, Tx. If you’d like to come email me here –

“Excuse Me”

“Green Apples”

Rock `N’ Roll Thursday – Fred Prellberg’s “Ten Pennies Make A Dime”

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Fred Prellberg’s new record Ten Pennies Make A Dime is unapolagetically retro. Each song can be traced back to it’s influences which extend to rockabilly, Springsteen or the 6 minutes of hard rock of the track below. Ten Pennies is the follow up to Fred’s much lauded (in Europe anyway) debut Last Of The Rock Stars.

This record seems only to be available at Village Records here.

No Man’s Land [Download]

Dao Strom – “Everything That Blooms Wrecks Me” (Self-released, April 30)

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Not to toot my own horn, but what the heck, I was one of the few bloggers that picked up on the atmospheric roots music of Dao Strom a few years back. Now that she’s back with a new record I’ll be glad to get out in front again. Everything That Blooms Wrecks Me is out now after a recent cd release party in Alaska. It’s a more accomplished record than her first, or at least it seems that way, since it’s a little more fleshed out with a variety of instruments and a slightly more full sound.

Dao is more well known for her critically acclaimed fiction than for her earthy, unusual, and heady music. Her first two books were well received, as was her 2005 debut record Send Me Home. Musically Dao is firmly planted in the indie folk/out-there alt-country genres. It’s clear that her music is informed by her life experiences and her diverse cultural and ethnic background (Dao is Vietnamese but grew up in the mountains of Northern California and now lives in Juneau, Alaska).

This new record has a very rural feel to it. It oozes modern hippie. Not in a bad way of course, but more along the lines of the freak folkers like Devandra, Alela Diane and Marie Sioux. The title track is a beautiful cello and piano based number with Dao’s vocals front and center.

You can buy Everything That Blooms Wrecks Me or Send Me Home or her novels for that matter all here.

Buy the new record here.

Everything That Blooms Wrecks Me

Bonus track:

Send Me Home [Download]

Sad News: Asaurus Records Goes Down Fighting With Upcoming Release By The Mathletes – V.U. And B&S Covers By The Mathletes

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

There’s a bit of sad record label news this morning. Asaurus Records has announced it’s taking a permanent vacation. Asaurus is/was one of the coolest little lofi records on the planet. Their catalog consists of seminal recordings by Colin Clary, the Mathletes, Pants Yell!, Red Pony Clock and Capstan Shafts.

The last threatened release should be something new from The Mathletes in June. It may or may not include these cover songs released this year as a free download. Here’s “What Goes On” by VU and “Seeing Other People” by Belle and Sebastian. In the meantime head over to the Asaurus store before it closes for handmade, cdr releases from all of the above plus many more.

What Goes On [Download]

Seeing Other People [Download]

And impossibly – The Mathletes on PBS

Two songs From Murry Hammond’s (Old 97′s) New Record – “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way”

Monday, May 12th, 2008

The Old 97′s long awaited record Blame It On The Gravity will suck the oxygen from every other Americana release over the next month or so. Which is a shame because from the songs I’ve heard from Old 97′s bassist Murry Hammond’s new record I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way deserve to be heard. Murry Hammond is the bassist in Old 97′s but he’s also connected to the new folk movement though his marriage to Grey Delisle.

The track “Lost At Sea” has a Paul Simon circa The Graduate feel. While “I Believe, I Believe” is more of an old country gospel song along the lines of something you might hear on Johnny Cash’s Hymns record. The new disc was recorded in analog which makes the slight reverb and uncompressed layering of instruments a wondeful byproduct of this technique. These songs were written during a period of time when Murry lost his parents, got married, had a child and was a leader at the Burbank Christian Church. So thematically the songs are a bit heavy, but musically they’re rather refined and quietly somber.

Rhett Miller will surely have that last laugh with the new Old 97′s record, but Murry may have made the better record. Ain’t that always the way of things.

You can buy it now here through Amazon.

Lost At Sea [Download]

I Believe, I Believe [Download]

What Everyone Else Was Saying – Weekly Music Blog Roundup (Landon Pigg, Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez, Chris Denny, Brooke Miller and Hayes Carll)

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

(b better in the morning by David Choe)

Carry You Away has the coffe house and advertising friendly folk rock of Landon Pigg.

Above The Fold has news about Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez.

There’s a raging debate over at Song By Toad as to whether Chris Denny is ace or the bullocks (not sure what that all means but it sounds funny).

Good Rockin’ Toinight (possibly one of the oddest mp3 blogs) has two songs from Hayes Carll and that’s never a bad thing.

Muruch has two songs from Canadian alt folk singer Brooke Miller.

Beggars Banquet Promo Dude Called Me A Douchebag (Read Why)

Friday, May 9th, 2008

There was an interesting possibility of a serious discussion about the state of internet music piracy, royalties, and copyright issues cut short by Adam from Beggars Banquet this morning on the forum. The issue came up when Adam linked to a mix containing songs by Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Arthur Russell, Mose Allison and many more. The mix is being used to promote a for profit event in Philadelphia. I know for a fact that these artists and their estates do not allow posting of their copyrighted material. So the question is: at this point in the music/internet game is it fair to illegally link to mp3′s?

Ironically, Beggars is a big proponent of using Web Sheriff to shut down music bloggers who dare link to mp3′s from their own stable of artists. The implication is that fresh young talent needs it’s material protected but for an artist that has passed away or is past his prime they’re fair game to rip off.

Here’s the brief discussion. I didn’t feel like my question was off base but apparently it ruffled a feather or two.

Adam From Beggars Banquet –

Philebrity Belle & Sebastian Dance Party Pre-Game Mixtape

‘You Are Not Needed Now’ by Townes Van Zandt
‘Did I Say’ by Teenage Fanclub
‘Downtown Sundown’ by Thin Lizzy
‘Manchester’ by The Times
‘A Little Lost’ by Arthur Russell
‘I Just Want A Little Bit’ by Magic Sam
etc etc

Songs:Illinois -

That’s a funny yayblog coming from someone who works at a label that often complains about copyright infringement. Who’s paying the Van Zandt estate for rights to that song or Mose or Magic Sam for that matter? Or doesn’t it matter as long as they’re not on Beggars?

Adam From Beggars Banquet -

yup – i’m a conundrum!!!!

and often complain? hardly. i have issues, but it’s generally just with douchebags like you.

Songs:Illinois -


Does anyone have any thought about this? Songs:Illinois has been a free and legal mp3 blog for 4 years. All of that legality makes the blog harder to run but I think in the end it is the right thing to do.

Honky-Tonk Friday – Rancho Deluxe’s upcoming record “True Freedom” (Self released, July)

Friday, May 9th, 2008

This new record from Rancho Deluxe should go a long way in separating the band from their Californian alt-country brethren. True Freedom is the band’s second album and features a sterling cast of supporting characters including Don Heffington on drums and Skip Edwards on piano.

“Maintenance Man” may be the first time in song that the lonely janitor get his due. It’s an odd litle ode to the working man but it works due in part to the layers of guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, bass and drums.

You can order this July release a little early here now.

Maintenance Man

Misc. Thursday – New records from Joshua James, Annie Keating, and Matt Bauer)

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

These are a couple half-written posts from the last month. I never had the gumption or the wherewithal to fine tune them individually. So I added them altogether for a nice little group post. Enjoy.

This record, The Sun Is always Brighter, by Joshua James has been kicking around for a year or so. Due to his popularity, tour dates opening for some pretty fine artists (Justin Townes Earle, Lex Land and The Swell Season) and great press it will be be remixed and reissued on CD and vinyl in June.

FM Radio [Download]


Soul and The Sea [Download]


Annie Keating is a NYC based Americana artist who has been compared to Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch. But her slow tempo, often langorious alt-country is more in the realm of Mary Gauthier. Her vocal delivery always traverses the same range as well…it’s like a low growl. Her new record is called Belmont and is available here.

The title track shows why this genre is perfectly suited to nostalgic songs about growing up, growing old and remembering it all like it was just yesterday.

Belmont [Download]

For The Taking [Download]


Matt Bauer is prepping a new record for Crossbill Records. It’s called The Island Moved In The Storm and is a co-production with the label La Societe Expeditionnaire. I’ve written about Matt’s introspective indie folk before here and here.

Matt’s recently moved from the West coast to NYC and I wonder if that move has influenced this new batch of songs. On “Don’t Let Me Out” there’s a bit more to the production (including a dissonant accordion) than just the acoustic guitar of the past. I’m really looking forward to this new record from Matt Bauer.

Don’t Let Me Out [Download]

From the stripped down Hinah session recorded on April 10 in France

Sea Lion Woman [Download]

Carve It Out