Archive for June, 2008

Crunchy Power Pop From Parker Bros – “Your California” (Middle Slot Records, July 8)

Monday, June 30th, 2008

I know I may seem like a wimpy fan of folk and singer-songwriters, but I’ve always had plenty of room in my heart for power chords and power pop. I was an early fan of Sloan, The Posies, and even Urge Overkill, let alone Mathew Sweet and Big Star. So this new record from San Francisco “supergroup” Parker Bros with it’s huge electric guitar strums, references to summer, drugs, and the California coast is a wonderful retreat from the such serious music.

The new record is called First. Best. Last. and is out on July 8. More info at the band’s MySpace page here.

Your California [Download]

The (Real) Honky-Tonk Friday – Ruby Dee And The Snake Handlers

Friday, June 27th, 2008

How can you go wrong on “Honky-Tonk Friday” with a band named Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers? This duo adds a bit of rockabilly and sass to the mix making them a unique example of this peculiarly American genre.

The band’s new record was released this past Tuesday and is titled Miles From Home. “Don’t Need A Man” joins that long list of songs that eschews men completely while comping some of the attitude and swagger of Elvis Presley (the consummate man’s man!).

Buy the new record here.

Don’t Need A Man [Download]

Carrie Elkin’s “The Jeopardy of Circumstance”

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I met Carrie Elkin down at SXSW, she’s a friend of Danny Schmidt and often performs with him. That’s about all the recommendation you or I should need. She’s got a great big voice which is kind of shocking coming from this pixie-like woman.

Carrie’s releasing her new album, The Jeopardy of Circumstance, this month. You can buy the new record here.

Question About Angels [Download]

Gospel Song [Download]

Honky-Tonk Friday (Two Days Early!) – Chris “Sugarball” Sprague And His 18 Wheelers’ “Diesel Made For Two”

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

It’s been so long that I’m not sure I trust my memories. But how great was the movie “Convoy”? From what I remember it was Oscar material, at least for a small kid with an infatuation for trucks and truckers. The only thing better than a movie about trucks is an entire CD and that’s where Chris Sprague’s new record Diesel Made For Two comes into play. It may rate up with some of the all time great “trucker” albums.

Like all honky-tonk posts this one should really reside over at Big Rock Candy Mountain (in fact you should really scroll down a post or two for his excellent train mix). I’m just an amateur honky-tonker compared to Big Rock but nonetheless here’s some great truck drivin’ country music from Chris Sprague.

Buy it here now.

What’s Your 20 [Download]

Diesel Made For Two [Download]

Francois Virot – “Say Fiesta” from the new album Yes Or No (Frenetic Records, June 16) plus Forest Fire from Catbird Records

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Francois Virot has a new record that just came out on Frenetic Records on June 16. This psychedelic freak folk singer is probably an odd choice to follow yesterdays post on the band Embarrassed Fruits, but if you’re open minded and like weirdo rock like Animal collective, early Robyn Hitchcock and even something like Herman Dune you should fare OK.

“Say Fiesta” has moments that share a lineage with the artists mentioned above but it also clearly channels David Bowie and Captain Beefheart. This is probably only the third time I’ve mentioned a French artist on S:I, what that says about the French or me is up in the air. But Francois I like.

Say Fiesta [Download]

Pretty cool video of “Cascade Kisses”


P.S. Catbird Records is back with a new release and this time Ryan’s gone all Web 3.0 on us. The new record from the Brooklyn band Forest Fire is available for $5 as a cd, but for free or as pay as much as you’d like for the download. The band’s been joined by Nathan from Shaky Hands (my favorite “indie rock” band from last year).

I’m listening to the record as we talk and at least on the title track the band is all scattershot with screechy horns, guitar feedback and scruffy acoustic guitar and vocals. It’s just the kind of loose, ramshackle rock I can get behind. Here’s the title track “Survival”:

Survival [Download]

Embarrassing Fruits’ “First Time” EP captures the essence of Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Superchunk…

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

The other night I was wondering to myself how all those indie rock music blogs do it. How do they manage to write about what could be the most boring, lyrically dull, and musically naive rock music day in and day out. I rarely side with uber intellectual rock critics like Sasha Freer Jones, but when he came out with his anti-indie rock polemic a year ago (responses here) I nodded in knowing approval.

With that said it may come as a surprise that I’m linking to a song from the Greensboro based indie rock group Embarassing Fruits. “First Time” is taken from their upcoming 5 song EP that will be out August 5 on Trekky Records. It’s hard to put a finger on why this is different from mp3 blog darlings like The Ting Tings, Fleet Foxes or Wolf Parade. But for me it harkens back to an earlier sound that I’ve yet been able to get over. It’s the sound of early Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Big Dipper, Galaxie 500, Superchunk, Meat Puppets and on and on. Man I love that sound…what ever happened to it?

First Time [Download]

Bonus track from the band’s split debut album Sumr Stupid Drunk Fun

Wizbomb [Download]

YouTube Label Feature – Bar-None Records (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Freddy Johnston, The Spinto Band, etc.)

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

was one of the first labels I identified with and trusted implicitly. They very rarely let me down and except for a spell in the late 90′s have been one of my favorite labels. Here’s a couple of their key artists as well as an interview with label founder Glenn Morrow.

Glenn Morrow interview

Freddy Johnston “The Lucky One”

They Might Be Giants “Don’t Lets Start”

Yo La Tengo “The Summer”

The Embarrassment “Beautiful Day”

Bob Wiseman “We Got Time”

The Spinto Band – “Mountains”

Here’s a couple Bar-none mp3′s:


Straight Out Of Comp’in’ [Download]

The Individuals

Walk By Your House [Download]

Birdie Busch
Go go Gadget Heart

Mystical [Download]

Music Blog Roundup

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Anyone’s Guess has new music from Daniel Clay – a young “folk” singer from Atlanta.

Lonesome Music looks to have another Karen Dalton on their hands with once lost female folk singer Shelagh McDonald.

DC9 at Night (a Dallas Observer music blog) has music from singer-songwriter Lisa Mickelsen, who they compare to the equally unknown but deserving singer-songwriter Kristy Kruger.

We Like It Indie has some alt-country stars from North of the border – The John Henry’s arrive in the States any moment.

Sammy Walker – “Misfit Scarecrow” (Ramseur Records, July 22)

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Songs:Illinois is really only possible because of all the great folk music that came before. It’s too easy to recite names like Bob Dylan, Steve Forbert and Dave Van Ronk the big influences since it’s really all the lost artists that came before that is its basis. Sammy Walker is one such artist. Although he recorded for Folkways and then Warner his name is not known to me. It’s been twelve years since his last record and now the great Carolina label Ramseur Records will release his new record Misfit Scarecrow on July 22.

“Mississippi Delta Cried” is the story of Emmet Till put to music and folk lyrics. There’s also two demo recordings of songs from the new record.

Mississippi Delta Cried [Download]


Crazy Billy [Download]

When You Miss Me When I’m Gone [Download]

ben weaver – “the ax in the oak” (Bloodshot Records, Aug. 12)

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

I used to think of Ben Weaver as just another guy with an acoustic guitar. I’d put him in the upper echelon of that group, but in that group none the less. Now with the collaboration on the last two records between him and Brian Deck I’ve got to take him out of that category. And put him I don’t know where.

His upcoming record on Bloodshot is called The Ax In The Oak. Producer and artist made a conscious effort to make a more experimental record than any of Ben Weaver’s past records. That means the songs are full of odd noises and found sounds but the dramatic imagery of Ben’s songs and his deep rich baritone is still in tact. Here’s two songs from the new record as well as a couple from an earlier self-released record called Stories Under Nails.

Alligator and Owls [Download]

White Snow [Download]

To hear where he’s come from check out these songs from Stories Under Nails

Ragged Words [Download]

Grieve All You Want [Download]

Daniel Norgren’s Waits-ian blues

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

(Editor’s note: This is a cop out post since the same thing went up on Swedesplease this morning. But Daniel Norgren’s bizarre take on tradional blues is too perfect for Songs:Illinois for me to resist. Also I’m dead tired and unprepared since returning from Sweden. Anyway enjoy!)


This past week in Sweden I was often asked why do I write about Swedish music. I never had a very good answer. But it went something like this: the Swedish music I’ve heard since I started this blog is often as good as anything else I’ve heard by any other band. Take a look at this picture and you’ll get the other answer: there are so many talented musicians toiling away and not getting enough credit.

I came across Daniel Norgren’s record in Stockholm’s Pet Sounds. It was the one new release in the store I hadn’t heard. It’s an unheralded release that is based in the blues but encompasses Tom Waitesque vocals and an assortment of acoustic and electric instruments. The new record is called Outskirts and is on Super Puma Records.

If you liked what you’ve heard from Sweden’s The Tallest Man On Earth or basically any of the new blues from the likes of someone like Moreland & Arbuckle or anything on Fat Possum than you’ll love this. Buy it here through CDON.

Who’s Knocking [Download]

The Comedian [Download]

Hang Jones – “The Ballad Of Carlsbad County” (Self-released, Fall `08)

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Since I’ve created this little niche in the music blog world a few years back I’ve been encouraged to see independent artists embrace the digital age. Typically the types of artists I write about are not exactly computer savvy. So it’s nice to see artists like Hang Jones from San Francisco jumping on the digital bandwagon to promote their new music. Here’s bandleader Stephen Grillos on the new music marketing realities:

“Traditional music distribution is failing, and the record companies are having a tough time finding a business model that works,” said Grillos. Direct digital marketing using the internet has worked for bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, and Grillos believes it can work for indie artists too. “In this internet world, the fans, not the record labels, decide what they want to listen to. But, with so many bands trying to cut through the static, you’ve got to give the people something worth noticing.”

Hang Jones’ new record chronicles the Outlaw William Bishop; it’s called The Ballad Of Carlsbad County. The songs I’ve heard are rooted in this fictional character and the music of the american frontier. Each week the band will release one song (each one a “chapter” in the story) on their website. Here’s the first, “Caroline”, which sets up the story with a woman named Caroline in the middle of it.

The record’s not scheduled to be released until the fall but you can sign up here to be on a mailing list to receive news of when it is available.

Chapter 1: Caroline [Download]

“Brandy Alexander” by Ron Sexsmith (co-written by Feist)(Yep Roc, July 8)

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

I’ve been writing about Canadian singer songwriter Ron Sexsmith since I started this blog. He, along with Rufus Wainwright and Josh Rouse (and what the heck – Josh Ritter), is at the very pinnacle of his songwriting prowess and his music (which is a mix of folk, rock, soul and pop) has reached its zenith.

I wrote about and linked to a song off of Ron’s new record back on May 21st and now I’m back with the much ballyhoed song “Brandy Alexander” co-written by Feist and inspired by a story of John Lennon and Harry Nilsson getting kicked out of the LA Troubadour. This song is taken from the July 8th release Exit Strategy of the Soul which can be pre-ordered signed here.

Brandy Alexander [Download]

Honky Tonk Friday – “The Last (Great) Country Album” from Heybale (South Austin’s Finest!)(plus Teddy Thompson’s latest)

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Usually I’m totally above board here on S:I. All the songs are cleared and free and legal with an occasional exception. Heybale is one of these exceptions, they’re a country supergroup of sorts from Austin, Texas. I haven’t exactly been given permission to post this but as soon as several dozen of you crash their website with cd orders I think they’ll come around.

Look, I’m generally a humble guy but where else are you going to be able to find out about honky tonk with this much dirt and grit attached. These guys are nearly of the living legend status especially Redd Volkaert but the whole band has played with folks like Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Dale Watson, Junior Brown and Merle Haggard. Help me prove to the band that free mp3′s sell music and visit their website and buy their new cd, The Last Country Album, here (they’ve got it in all the standard formats) if you like what you hear.

Honky Tonk Mood

(Sorry about the free hosting company but .Mac is upgrading to MobileMe at the moment)


Teddy Thompson is an S:I approved artist and he would be regardless of who his famous parents are. He simply has a knack for making polished pop that is neither here nor there.

The new record is called A Piece Of What You Need and it’s out June 17 on Verve Forecast.

In My Arms [Download]

Another new song from Matt Bauer (La Societe Expeditionnaire)

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

I’m now in Hultsfred in Sweden. You can keep up with my travels on my Swedish site Swedesplease. It’s been a great time and now that we’re out in the countryside it’s been tough to find either time or a connection to post anything on Songs:Illinois. But here’s a little gem to help you pass the time.

I wrote about Matt Bauer several times over the past few years. Just recently I announced his upcoming record. I’d like to now say that the record has a release date of Sept. 2. The Island Moved In The Storm is stark, forboding folk music. Even though the music on here is at times a little dark, it’s this very music that Matt Bauer says saved his life when he had hit a rough patch.

Listen for yourself as Matt plays one of the new songs stripped down to its core live at the French collective known as Hinah.

As She Came Out Of The Water [Download]

Bluegrass Tuesday – Mason Porter

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

At least someone is paying attention to this site and its idiosyncrasies as just this morning I got an email suggesting a band for Bluegrass Tuesday (only one of the occasional features I run here- check back later this week for a great Honky-Tonk Friday). The band is called Mason Porter and they are just preparing to release their debut EP.

The band hails from Westchester, Pa. and has already played with local faves Hoots and Hellmouth and Wissahicken Chicken Shack. Check out this song from the upcoming ep and befriend them on Myspace.

Cold Rain [Download]

Andrew Phillip Tipton – “The Champion Of Love (Big No One Records, June 13)

Monday, June 9th, 2008

I wrote about Andrew Phillip Tipton way back when. He’s an anti-folk superstar (on the nyc subway platforms at least). His new record is called the Champion of Love and features a bit more robust sound as Phillip’s simple guitar strums have been supplemented with cello, percussion and electric guitar.

These songs combine the drug addled delusional rock of Daniel Johnston with the simple mindedness of Jonathan Richman. And if that’s not something you can get behind than I don’t know what else to say. The new record comes out June 13 on Big No One Records.

Love Champ [Download]

P.S. I’ll be posting infrequently this week as I leave for Sweden in a few hours. Any posts I do throw up will be more travelogue than mp3 blog. But I will be attending Hultsfred Festival where I hope to catch Kathleen Edwards and Rufus Wainwright. So perhaps I’ll be reviewing those. Wish me luck!?

Songs:Illinois House Concert Tonight (Joe Pug, Jon Jackson, Michael Fracasso)

Friday, June 6th, 2008

The big songs:illinois house concert’s tonight and I’m fully psyched about it. The “show” is sold out. But if you beg and plead and live in the Chicagoland area I just might squeeze you in ( for more info).

So no official post today but instead a Muxtape with the three artists performing tonight. They are Joe Pug from Chicago, Jon Jackson from Nashville and Michael Fracasso from Austin. It should be a great night of music.

The bizarre (charming) anti-folk of Jenny Jenkins (Bicycle Records)

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I may not be the go to place for all things uke on the web, but hell I’m damn close. The new record from Jenny Jenkins is called Oventoucher and it’s just a little weird. Anti-folk tends to be that. I mean the instruments are barely played and often out of tune, vocals are gloriously out of key, and emotions are lain bare for all to see.

You can buy her new record here though Bicycle Records (at the moment the site is down but by the time you read this maybe it’ll be back up).

Buy Oventoucher here from Bicycle Records.

Chance [Download]

River [Download]

Lucas Stagg – “Great Big Gone” (Busted Flat Records, June)

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

I had a post all prepared for today, but the band’s label’s website went caput. So here’s a quick post about a Canadian roots rocker who has a new record out in June On Busted Flat Records. Lucas Stagg has myspace friends like Paul Kelly (whose song he covers on the new record), Townes Van Zandt and Peter Case. So you can see he’s right up my ally.

The upcoming record is called Great Big Gone and is a mostly acoustic affair with help from label mates Tanya Philpovich (who you can hear on “Great Big Gone”), Dan Walsh and Duane Rutter. Here’s the title track and a song called “Kensington Girl”.

Great Big Gone

Kensington Girl [Download]