Archive for October, 2008

Honky-Tonk Friday – Charlie Louvin’s “Darling Corey”

Friday, October 31st, 2008

What’s more honky-tonk than death and taxes? Combine the two and you get the story of “Darling Corey”. Charlie Louvin is following up his country gospel record Steps To Heaven album with some darker material on his Dec. 9 release Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs. Look for the new record out soon on Tompkins Square. More here and here.

Darling Cory [Download]

James McMurtry releases a live version of “We Can’t Make It Here”

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

On the brink of the election and (hopefully) the tail end of the economic crisis James McMurtry has released a brand new live take on his now nearly classic song “We Can’t Make It Here”.

We Can’t Make It Here [Download]

Lost Discs of 2008 – Rose Polenzani’s “When The River Meets The Sea”

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I love Rose Polenzani. I love her goofy YouTube video’s. I love her songs. I love the fact that she’s got so many friends in the folk community. I love the fact that she’s from Boston (my hometown).

This new record has barely had time to be a “Lost Disc of 2008″ as it was just released nationally on Oct. 1. But even from the start it’s an under-the-radar record from and under-the-radar artist. This record has not appeared on any of the various release lists I peruse, yet it is one that I would value above many of the records that do make those lists.

Rose is joined by my favorite rag tag group of Boston musicians, Session Americana, on this record. They recorded it live in ex-Morphine leader Mark Sandman’s studio. Special guests include Jennifer Kimball and Anna Egge. When The River Meets The Sea is available now from Rose’s site here. Rose will support the release of this record with a mini tour in November. She’ll be stopping in Evanston on Nov. 16 to play a club called Space.

Queen Anne’s Lace [Download]

Bonus songs from Rose Polenzani

Book Of Love [Download]

Session Americana bonus mp3′s

Leather Winged Bat [Download]
(from their “family” record)
Caterpillar [Download]
(from their “family” record

Cigarettes and Whiskey [Download]

Sail Away Ladies [Download]

Rose on YouTube

“The Park”

“The Book Of Love” (Magnetic Field’s cover) (blooper reel)

Where Your Scar Is (With Anne Heaton)

New song from Jon Jackson

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I’m surprised more singer-songwriters don’t use YouTube to their advantage. As Jon “Trailerpark” Jackson proves in his continuing series of homemade videos all you need is a video camera, a guitar, a song and in this case a trailer. “Mona Lisa” has a couple clever lines and nicely continues Jon’s “searching for love” series of songs. Jon recorded this last night in the “wee hours of the morning”.

Here’s a couple more you may have missed:

“Excuse Me”

“Green Apples”

Leonard Cohen cover – “Tower Of Song”

“Being A Robot”

Lost Discs of 2008 – Jenny Reynolds’ “Next To You”

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Jenny Reynolds’ 2008 release Next To You could be one of the many forgettable releases of the year. That is it could have been if it weren’t so damned good. Part of the credit probably goes to Scappy Jud Newcomb as producer and guests Ruthie Foster, Warren Hood of the Waybacks and Ian McLagen of Faces fame.

But as you can hear on “One Red Light Town” it’s Jenny’s voice, lyrics and guitar that seal the deal. Buy Next To You here.

One Red Light Town [Download]

Lost Discs of 2008 – Drew Emmitt’s “Long Road” (Leftover Salmon lead vocalist)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I struggled with what to call this post and the similar ones to follow this week. These are bands and records I missed out on in 2008. By and large they’re undiscovered and unheralded gems. They may have made a mark in their individual genres but they had nary a mention on the mp3 blog circuit (at least according to

Drew Emmitt’s Long Road should have appeared in these virtual pages sometime in early 2008. There’s no excuse for the delay given that this is a sterling, and crystal clear example of the new grass hybrid that I’m so fond of. Doubly so given that Drew is the lead singer/mandolinist of popular jamgrass band Leftover Salmon.

Buy it here.

Long Road [Download]

Charlie Burst – “Bars” (Ernest Jenning Record Company, 2009)

Monday, October 27th, 2008

I like Ernest Jenning’s taste. They’ve signed my homeboy Chris Mills, are pushing O’death onto an unsuspecting public and now they’ve signed and will soon release the solo record from ex-Occasion drummer Charlie Burst. His brawny singer-songwriter style is usually not my style, but I’ll take EJ’s word that this will be a good release. The new record and Charlie’s debut doesn’t have a release date yet but is titled Come Home and Feast.

The first song released is called “Bars”. Charlie Burst has a strange vocal presence (almost spooky, like Bela Lugosi in Dracula or something), the organ helps cement the ghoulish sound and the ambivalent lyrics leave the song open for repeat listens.

Bars [Download]

Otis Gibbs’ New Record – “Grandpa Walked A Picket Line”

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

(Otis Gibbs is also an excellent photographer, visit his website for more of the same)

Otis Gibbs is one of the best things to come out of Indiana (and don’t give me John Cougar Mellencamp or Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s). His brand of protest song is a lost and dying art. In fact there are only a handful of modern singer-songwriters crafting such songs (Billy Bragg, Steve Earle and Neil Young come to mind). Otis’ new record is officially released in early 2009 but since it’s been quietly put up for sale on CD Baby Otis agreed to share one song with you (provided you immediately purchase the whole thing!).

“Caroline” is the story of a daughter of a miner who falls in love at 16 then marries an older man and her life spirals downward from there. It’s not overtly political like many of Otis Gibbs songs but it does portray life in a small town (one of these pro-America small towns I imagine). Otis Gibbs’ new record Grandpa Walked A Picketline is available now through CD Baby here.

Caroline [Download]

Graham Lindsey – “We Are All In This Togther” (Nov. 22, Spacebar Recordings)

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Graham Lindsey’s (ex Old Skull) new record We Are All Alone In This Together is as somber and questioning as the title implies. It’s a thoughtful and atmospheric work made up of Graham’s haunted vocals, banjo and eerie pedal steel. It’s fitting that it’s release date comes just a few weeks after Halloween on Nov. 22. I wrote about Graham here first.

The new record is available on SpaceBar Records.

If I Ever Make It Home [Download]

Rachel Ries and Anais Mitchell come together for “the country e.p.”

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Rachel Ries is an F.O.B. (friend of blog). She’s attained that status not by hiring one of the hundreds of PR folks that barrage my inbox daily or by being signed to one of the top indie labels. She’s done it quite simply by releasing some of the best music over the past 4 years that I’ve written about on S:I.

Her newest project is a split e.p. with friend (and S:I favorite) Anais Mitchell called the country e.p.. The e.p. has two songs written by each woman and then a cover of their friend Louis Ledford’s song . On each song they create lovely harmonies together, something they’ve been perfecting on tour with each other for the last few years. If you like either of these two artists than this e.p. is an essential buy. You can get it now from Anais’ label Righteous Babe here (and you can hear one more song streaming here).

When You Fall [Download]

Wintersleep Vs. Winterpills Smackdown!

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Both bands have new records out.




Winterpills –

You Don’t Love Me Yet [Download]

Wintersleep –

Weighty Ghost [Download]

P.S. I’m really loving the music from the Swedish one man orchestra Tvärvägen. They just released an amazing video of their song “September”. Check it out below.

Tvärvägen – September from Henrik Ohberg on Vimeo.

Charlie Haden Family & Friends – “Ramblin’ Boy”

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Charlie Haden may well be the best living bass player. But like Bill Frisell or Yo Yo Man he hasn’t ever settled to be simply the best at his instrument. Instead he’s explored different genre’s, textures and styles of music. He has used his music as both a personal and at times political platform. His new project is Charlie Haden Family & Friends’ Ramblin’ Boy.

If this note perfect rendition of the Carter Family song “Single Girl, Married Girl” is any indication Ramblin’ Boy sounds like a real gem. If you’re a fan of guests than you’ll be happy to know this one features the Haden triplets, Jack Black, Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby and Roseanne Cash. Amazon has a seven minute “making of” video here. And you can buy the record from Amazon here.

Single Girl, Married Girl [Download]

Petra Haden – “Single Girl, Married Girl”

R.I.P. Mom

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Miles Of Music (MOM) threw in the towel today. I had hoped they were immune to both the economic conditions and the music business downturns but unfortunately that’s not the case.

digital reissue of colin clary and the magogs’ “Her Life Of Crime”

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

When it comes to indie pop Scatterbrain and IndieMP3 have everything pretty well covered. But still it’s sometimes a surprise that with the explosion of music blogs this sincere and charming genre doesn’t have more blogs devoted to it. So, although I’m not an expert, I do like to chime in now and then.

One artist that I’ve chimed in on a bunch is Colin Clary. I like that he adds a little crunch to his indie pop and is not afraid of a little musical dynamic to go along with his indie pop worldview. On “Moped Rally” he and the band add a perfect 60′s sheen to the proceedings. As of Oct. 8 the digital reissue of 2004′s excellent Her Life Of Crime is available digitally at all the usual outlets.

Moped Rally [Download]

MPFree – Free album downloads from Todd Snider and Ramona cordova

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Todd Snider’s new record, Peace Queer, is available for a limited time as a free download here. Here’s his new cover of “Fortunate Son”.

Fortunate Son [Download]


Also Ramona Cordova’s brilliant record The Boy Who Floated Freely has just been made available as a free download along with the demo versions of certain songs here.

Inside the Gypsy Bar [Download]

Gypsy Lounge demo [Download]

Gary Heffern (friends with Mark Lanegan, Alejandro Escoveda, Eddie Vedder, Victoria Williams, The Walkabouts, etc etc)

Monday, October 13th, 2008

I didn’t know a thing about Gary Heffern before I started this post. Not one single thing. And even after doing some research I’m still in the dark. He seems to have been the lead singer of the 80′s group The Penetrators. He may have played with The Walkabouts but maybe not. He may have released a few solo records in Europe but maybe not. This may be a new song or not. Consolation may be the new record or maybe not (it was released in some other form earlier). The guy’s practically ungoogleable.

However I did find these vague liner notes for this new (?) record Consolation:

There’s an Elvis Costello song called “Man Out of Time” and that title is always one I’ve thought applicable to Gary Heffern. His voice, his pensive songs, and his outsized personality suggest a simpler and earlier era. Like the struggling men and women in the short stories of Raymond Carver, or the figures sitting at diner stools in the paintings of Edward Hopper, the characters in Heffern’s songs exist in a noir-ish netherworld of an uncertain time but one that surely is not ours. They drift and struggle in a place where the simple concept of consolation exists as a salvation.

Heffern is a songwriter’s songwriter, which is one of the reasons his work has always commanded so much respect from other musicians. Many stellar names contribute to Consolation including musicians from such noteworthy bands as the Screaming Trees, Young Fresh Fellows, Love Battery, Walkabouts, Built to Spill, Motels, Mad Season, and Tuatara, among others. Even when Heffern is singing with Alejandro Escovedo or Mark Lanegan, both of whom take vocal turns here, these collaborations come off as a further explorations of the Heffern’s worldview.

Nine of the thirteen songs here are Heffern originals but even the four covers have a melancholy. On “All His Children” Heffern takes a forgotten song from the over-looked film “Sometimes a Great Notion,” and turns it into an anthem of longing. Considering that Heffern’s voice is at times reminiscent of both Johnny Cash and Nick Cave, it is no surprise to see him take on a Merle Travis song, or to take a refrain from Gram Parsons. Still, Heffern’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Growin’ Up” is such a re-imagining that it now sounds like it came off Nebraska rather than Springsteen’s 1973 debut.

In Heffern’s own songs there is a constant struggle between darkness and light, between failed dreams and reckless prayer, between a world where all hope is lost and one where a consoling friend offers a sliver of deliverance. Even on a song as haunting as (I Am Your) Destroyer,” which sounds like Iggy Pop could have written it, there is still a core of sweetness among the ruins. “That’s the Beauty (Of the Little Things in Life)” truly rings with a ghost: It was written in Seattle’s Comet Tavern on the very night that Gits’ singer Mia Zapata went missing (and later turned up murdered). Not only a remarkable time piece, “That’s the Beauty” demonstrates Heffern’s skill at creating a story arc that celebrates the fragility of life at the same time it bemoans it. It’s the kind of re-framing that is uniquely Gary Heffern and part of what makes Consolation a career-defining album.

Weird post, I know. But I heard this song and I really wanted to share it despite my lack of first hand knowledge. Btw I did find a way to buy the new record – paypal Gary Heffern here –

(I Am Your) Destroyer [Download]

K.C. Mckanzie (Berlin’s answer to Gillian Welch) and her new record “Hammer & Nails”

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Starting every fall the release schedule for both major and minor releases starts to dry up. There’s a huge drop off as major labels get positioned for Christmas sales of their biggest titles and indie labels lick their wounds and prepare for a cold, dark winter. So I traditionally do a best of re-post kind of thing. A little like a best of but in no particular order and unlike any best of list you’re likely to see elsewhere. I’ll probably do that again this year, but I also will continue to search high and low, near and far, for new music to share with you. I searched far for the German singer-songwriter K.C. Mckanzie. And I’m glad I did.

K.C. Mckanzie’s new record is called Hammer & Nails. Her music can be traced back to the story of the first time she heard The Band and thought this is the sound. While still in her teens she discovered bluegrass and the rest is history. Here’s the lead off track from Hammer & Nails:

Adam [Download]

Blues Thursday – Avi And Celia’s “Let It Rise” (Self-released, Sept. 26)

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

If you were really paying attention to the Americana music scene and truly had your ear to the ground you might have heard some rumblings about the band Avi And Celia. I know I’ve heard a thing or two – so I looked them up and got permission to share the lead off track from their new record Let It Rise.

“Rollin’ and Tumblin’” is a traditional song that’s been reworked by this duo. They’ve kept in tact that southern blues feel and added a few new lyrics to the tune. I suspect the new additions are the ones that make the song a little more about world peace and a little less about internal peace (of mind). The new record came out September 26 and is available now at Dig Station here.

Rollin’ and Tumblin’ [Download]

Chicago singer-songwriter Martha Berner added to House Concert Lineup

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

I went through a very bad Martha Berner stage about two years ago. It bordered on obsession. But I’ve got it under control now (the restraining order helps). But like an alcoholic revisiting his favorite corner saloon I am going to face my problem head on when Martha plays our “Songs:Illinois Presents” house concert on Oct. 16. She’ll join Theater Fire in our living room for a semi private show. It’s like one of those secret MySpace shows where you don’t know the location til the last minute. This one’s invite only; although local readers of Songs:Illinois can attend (just email me at for more info).

Martha is one of those few singer-songwriters who is a triple threat – she’s got a great voice, is a tremendous songwriter, and knows her way around a guitar (and a good melody). Her song “Wait for Me” was recently featured on an episode of MTV’s Real World and she recently played several shows in Thailand including a “Sing For Free Burma” concert. She has traveled the world, most recently returning to St. Thomas (where she had lived for two years on a boat in her twenties) to play shows in and around the islands. We’re rather blessed that she’s based in Chicago and can play our little show.

Here’s just one of her memorable songs:

Down and Out In San Francisco [Download]

Martha Berner in St. Thomas

New song and fan-funded record from Greg Trooper

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Greg Trooper is going to attempt one of these fan-funded cd’s. The general idea is that fans “invest” in the recording process and then reap the rewards once the disc is released (special signed copies, exclusive concerts). In the end it winds up as a nothing more than a glorified donation, but I can’t think of many better places to donate to the arts than directly to the artists.

This is a new unreleased song that may appear on that new record. It continues to mine the soulful blues sound that Greg has been up to of late. Greg Trooper is relatively unsung despite the amazing catalog of music he’s recorded over the last three decades. I’ve written about him before here and here. Don’t take my word for it though, sample some of his music and then rest assured that what you hear is what you’ll get from his entire catalog.

Nobody In The Whole Wide World [Download]

Bonus back catalog tracks:

This I’d Do [Download]

Lucky That Way [Download]