Archive for September, 2009

Wingdale Community Singers – “Spirit Duplicator” (Scarlet Shame Records, Nov. 17)

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

From the moment I heard of The Wingdale Community Singers I was intrigued. The band was “put together” by novelist Rick Moody and features Hannah Marcus and David Grubbs (Squirrel Bait). They set out to celebrate old time Appalachian music as well as the written word.

I’ve written about the band here and you can read a first person account of the band by Rick Moody in the Guardian here. So I don’t have much more to say, except that their blend of secular dance music (Appalachian folk) with gospel and strains of rock is just so good. Their new record is called Spirit Duplicator and is out on Scarlet Shame Records (purchase now here or here).

Here’s the one cover on the record, the Carter Family’s “Death Is Only A Dream”.

Death Is Only A Dream [Download]

Star And Micey – “So Much Pain” (feat. Luther Dickinson) (Ardent Music, Oct 20)

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Ardent Music is the home of Big Star. So anything that Ardent is involved with gets serious consideration at Songs:Illinois. The band Star And Micey have a new record (their debut) coming out on Oct 20 on Ardent and it features guests like Jody Stephens, Luther Dickinson, and Rick Steff.

Tour dates and preorder info here. The band mixes soul, rock, and pop in a very peculiarly Memphis kind of way. On the song “So Much Pain” you can hear a bit of that odd combination when Luther’s electric guitar part starts to kick in over the lead singers sweet but sorrowful vocals. This might be one of the pleasant surprises of 2009!

So Much Pain [Download]

Greg Trooper – “The Williamsburg Affair”

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Greg Tropper is a throwback artist. Like those throwback jerseys the NFL is peddling, Greg Trooper’s music is a mix of the classic sounds from the past and a modern sensibility. His mix of folk, blues, and soul make his music nearly unclassifiable.

Greg’s “new” record was recorded in 1995 and produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel. It never saw the light of day for whatever reason and now it is available as a pre-order digital download from Greg Trooper here. Here’s one of the blue eyed soul numbers from the new album The Williamsburg Affair.

Stronger All The Time [Download]

Honky-Tonk Friday – The Emmitt-Nershi Band (members of Leftover Salmon and The String Cheese Incident)(Sci-Fidelity, Sept 29)

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Of course this song by the Emmitt Nershi Band is not honky-tonk. But I’m being pretty loosey goosey with that term. The band gets it’s name from some real kings of the newgrass/jamgrass movement. Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon) is on mandolin & vocals and Bill Nershi (the String Cheese Incident) is on acoustic guitar and vocals.

On the title track “New Country Blues” the musical performances are near virtuosic and the lyrics hit all the key country themes (corn whiskey, country life vs. city life, and holding your best girl in your arms).

Preorder New Country Blues here.

New Country Blues [Download]

Exclusive first listen – Curtis Harvey – “Box Of Stones” (Fat Cat, Nov. 3) (plus something new from Michael Hurley)

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

I like these older punkish guys who leave the noise behind and embrace the folk and roots of their parents. I’m thinking of AA Bondy, William Elliott Whitmore and Tim Barry. And now Curtis Harvey (Pullman, Rex).

Curtis Harvey’s debut release Box Of Stones comes out on Fat Cat on November 3. The record was recorded in his basement studio and you can hear the warmth that setting helped create on the song “Older Too”.

Older Too [Download]

P.S. 60′s folkie and subversive artist Michael Hurley has a new record coming out on Gnomosong. It’s called Ida Con Snock. The record was recorded with the band Ida in Levon Helm’s studio. Here’s “Wildgeeses”. Buy it here.

Wildgeeses [Download]

Lee Barber – “Thief and Rescue” (featuring Will Sheff)

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Lee Barber
is a 52 year old singer songwriter who has just released his solo debut record. How’s that for late bloomer? Actually Lee was a member of the band The Barbers. He’s an Austinite who was born in New Orleans. Hhow’s that for a musical heritage? Enough with the questions already!

The new record is called Thief and Rescue and was produced by Brian Beattie. Will Sheff from Okervil River and Matt Sever of Matt The Electrician fame both guest on the record. “Mosquito” is the first track and one that is adapted from a poem by Peter Everwine. It’s a dark tale that is sung with such straightforwardness that it is offputting.

In true DIY fashion Lee has done the painting for the cover art (above). Buy it here.

Mosquito [Download]

Honky-Tonk Friday – McCabe & Mrs Miller (Victor from Camper Van Beethoven)

Friday, September 18th, 2009

There was a time when I religiously followed Camper Van Beethoven. I liked their sound more when it was frantic folk based rather than punky. I also followed all the spinoff bands and solo records. That time has passed though and I no longer am up to date on all the goings on in the old Camper Van clique. Enter McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

However, when I heard about this record by Victor Krummenacher and Alison Faith Levy of The Sippy Cups I was intrigued. From Victor’s past recordings I knew he leaned more folk/country than punk. Together Victor and Alison have that kind of California americana sound. A sound that is dusty but at the same time refined. I think of Chuck Prophet and Dave Alvin being in that same mold as well. Here’s a sample from their new debut record Time For Leaving. Pick it up now at the newly redesigned CD Baby here.

Fare Thee Well [Download]

Mark Stepakoff – “Some Assembly Required”

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Here’s a charmingly off key country folk number from Mark Stepakoff. This is an outtake from the new record Some Assembly Required. If you like this there are 11 better tracks that actually made the record for sale here.

Cutting Room Floor [Download]

Katie Mullins – “Pastoral” (Self-released, Nov. 3)

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I had a partial idea of what Katie Mullins upcoming release Pastoral might sound like just from viewing the top friends section of her MySpace page. With friends like C. Gibbs, Clare Burson, Lucinda Black Bear, and Fulton Lights I suspected that her sound would not be typical chick with guitar alt-rock. Happily I was right.

A good place to start is the title track “Pastoral”. The song begins with a line about Tom Waits with the only accompaniment being a kalimba, but soon enough an ominous sounding bass enters and the song begins to unfold.

Pastoral comes out November 3 but can pre-ordered now through Katie Mullin’s website here.

Pastoral [Download]

Roots Music from Dutch Singer/Songwriter Signe Tollefsen

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Signe Tolefsen is a half Dutch, half American singer/songwriter with a tremendous vocal range and an interesting musical sensibility that combines elements of classical, folk and rock music.

“Where You Been” from Signe Tollefsen’s new record is a startlingly good minimalist blues/soul/gospel number. About halfway through, when Signe really stretches out when singing the chorus, you’ll hear as much emotion as you’re likely to hear in a song. The new record is her debut for the Dutch roots label Corazong.

Where You Been [Download]


You, Me & The Brewers [Download]

Andrew Phillip Tipton’s Lofi Nautical Opera – “Admiral of the Narrow Sea”

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Andrew Phillip Tipton is an anti-folk artist of the finest caliber. His previous albums combine the strangeness of Daniel Johnston with the occasional tunefulness of Jonathan Richman. It’s an odd mixture and now that the new record is a nautical concept record of lofi sea shanties it only gets weirder. Admiral of the Narrow Sea is the name of this new project.

I believe music blogs should be the point of entry for music like this and not a place where remixers, big releases, and pr heavy bands constantly overwhelm the aggregators like and Hype shutting out any truly new and unusual music.

“Looking For You” has all the charm you’d expect from a song recorded entirely in Andrew’s bedroom on Ukelele and what sounds like toy instruments.

Looking For You [Download]

Michigan through the eyes (and songs) of Sam Corbin

Friday, September 11th, 2009

While I do live in the Midwest, that fact doesn’t inform much of who I am or how I think. With artists though it seems their locale is a very important part of their art. I think about Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens and others who have written so knowledgeably and passionately about their home. Recently I discovered the music of Sam Corbin. His portrait of life in Michigan on his latest record Michigan’s Waltz is very personal and at times very political. It’s clearly a record by someone who loves Michigan.

“Michigan’s Waltz” is the title track. It deals with the comforts of home, as well as some of the problems that Michigan faces. Sam’s acoustic guitar playing is joined on this track by some choice pedal steel work and beautiful harmony vocals by Jen Sygit and Tahmineh Gueramy (?). You can purchase Sam’s new record here through Elderly Instruments.

Michigan’s Waltz [Download]

PS Don’t forget to inquire about the upcoming Songs:Illinois House concert with Peter Mulvey and Matt Jones (another of Michigan’s favorite sons). Email me at

House concert announcement – Peter Mulvey/Matt Jones Oct. 11 (plus something new from Bob Schneider)

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I’ve been busy lately with some non music related stuff (sad, I know). But I’ve also been working on and off trying to set up the next Songs:Illinois presents house concert and yesterday I finalized it.

On Oct. 11 we welcome Peter Mulvey and Matt Jones into our living room. I’m excited about the lineup as Peter Mulvey is known for his songs, stories and good humor. Matt Jones is a Ypsilanti based artist that has been labeled indie folk. But on his debut his music veers in several directions at once so he’s not a guy to be pigeonholed.

The show is semi-private. I can’t advertise or make a big commotion for contractual reasons but if you are interested in attending and live in the Chicago area then email me at Here’s a song from Peter’s new record Letters from a Flying Machine and from Matt Jones’ debut The Black Path.

Some People [Download]
– Peter Mulvey

Threadlines – Matt Jones (via I Am Janet [Download]

P.S. Here’s something new from Austinite Bob Schneider. Bob Schneider’s Lovely Creatures is out on Kirtland Records on September 29. This may be the first single. It’s too polished for me but if you are a fan of early 90′s Matthew Sweet era power pop this might be for you (plus by linking to this I’ll get picked up by Hype Machine and and maybe get the two artists above a little more attention)

Trash [Download]

Red Rooster – “Walk” (Self-released, Sept. 22)

Friday, September 4th, 2009

I almost had no post today. Luckily an email from the New York based folk collective Red Rooster came to the rescue. I wrote about the band here. Their new record comes out September 22 and is called Walk. The band takes the tag Americana very loosely. They’re a big group comprised of various horn, string and percussive instruments. With the horns and the harmony vocals at times the band leans more soul, and then at other times when the mandolins and banjos kick in they are more folk based, and with the occasional samples and electronics they practically invent their own unique genre at times. Sometimes all of that is present in one song like in “Bluebird” below. It’s this diversity of sound that sets the band apart.

The band has chosen the Radiohead model of pay what you like. They’ve done a great job setting up a page that explains their reasoning here.

Bluebird [Download]

Live tracks

Linda Lu [Download]

One More Round [Download]

Vikta Fagler aka Folded Bird

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

There’s usually very little overlap between my two music blogs Songs:Illinois and Swedesplease. But sometimes one of the Swedish groups I write about so embodies the Songs:Illinois coda that I have to cut and paste and present it here as well. That’s the case with the all woman group Vikta Fagler (Folded Bird).

Vikta Fagler literally means “folded bird” in English. Loosely I think it translates into the term origami. That’s important because these seven women use an origami like technique to compose the lyrics to their songs:

The text to the song is written in the same way as when children write stories together. We sit in a ring and write a few phrases each on a piece of paper, we fold back what we have written so there is just one or two words for the next person to see as we pass the paper along and they continue the story. The lyric is then created together by all members of the band, sometimes it becomes a bit strange and sometimes just really beautiful words shaped together to even more beautiful phrases.

Musically the band combines elements of the Swedish folk tradition with some classical and even some experimental noise (like when the cymbals come crashing in towards the end of “Walkalong”). Together they play 25 different instruments including tuba, cello and typewriter. On “Walkalong” the result is a combination of magical snippets of lyrics combined with music you’d expect to hear from a gypsy caravan.

Walkalong [Download]

“Kick” video

Malcolm Holcombe – “For The Mission Baby” (Echo Mountain, Sept. 29)

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Here’s my modus operandi: find something I like that no one else has written about and share it with you. It’s a pretty hard and fast rule for the site. With exceptions. Malcolm Holcombe is one such exception. See the new record has already been mentioned by The Velvet Rut, 9B, and on Hero Hill but that’s not going to stop me.

I chose the title track to share since it clearly struck a chord with Holcolmbe and it’s also got more of an old timey sound than some of the more blues influenced tracks on the new record. Guests include Mary Gauthier and Tim O’Brien.

For The Mission Baby [Download]