Archive for October, 2009

Brotherhood of the Jugband Blues

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Today’s post is a lesson in ironic serendipity. Yesterday I posted on the new jug band, string and blues record by Geoff Muldaur & The Texas Sheiks and now today I have something from the NYC based jug band Brotherhood of the Jugband Blues. Two jugbands in two days, how strange.

Buy the new record Word To Mother here.

Brother of the Jug Band Blues [Download]

Geoff Muldaur & The Texas Sheiks

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

There’s been one hard to find record I’ve been dying to write about. I wanted to write about it for a number of reasons but foremost of these was the fact that it featured Stephen Bruton. Stephen died of cancer in 2009 and aside from the one last project he recorded with T-Bone Burnett this was his last recording. He was sick with cancer at the time Texas Sheiks leader Geoff Muldaur proposed doing the session. I can just imagine the fun they had all getting together in Austin to record these old timey jug band, string band, blues and western swing songs.

In fact here’s a quote from the Boston Herald on exactly what the sessions were like:

“The recording sessions were originally set up to give Stephen something to do,” Muldaur said. “He was fighting cancer, and we got a bunch of people down in Texas just to have some fun and get his mind off it. Stephen was going through chemo torture. He’d come in, laughing, just hours after treatment. Bruton put all that slippery Texas stuff in there. Is there any in the current crop of guitar luminaries to compare?”

Coming in a close second of reasons I wanted to highlight this record is the fact that it features the aforementioned Geoff Muldaur of the famous Muldaur musical family (Maria et al). I’ve loved Mr. Muldaur’s solo work. In fact I would count his two records for Hightone as among the best the genre has ever seen (Password and The Secret Handshake).

I’m not going to plead with you to go and and buy every record I mention but if you are a fan of either contemporary roots music or old timey string bands than you really must purchase Texas Sheiks here through Amazon or in Europe here through the band’s label Tradition-Moderne.

The World Is Going Wrong [Download]

Cam Penner – “Trouble & Mercy”

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

When I was making my internet rounds of all things roots music there was one name on the Americana charts that I didn’t recognize. Mixed in with Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Roseanne Cash and Guy Clark was Cam Penner. Cam Penner is from Southern Manitoba, his bio describes a rich life spent traveling the country performing with some of the greats (Flatlanders, John Prine, Glen Cambell). He’s a completely indie artist putting out his own records and booking his own tours. In that way he’s like many of the artists featured on Songs:Illinois. That he’s had so much success is testament to the quality of his songs. Here’s the track “13″ from his brand new record Trouble & Mercy. Buy it here.

13 [Download]

PS Here are the album notes from Trouble & Mercy:

“I found these songs in the alleys and streets. Under a dumpster. In the remains of discarded trash. Faded phone numbers and addresses on cigarettes packs. In empty clubs, gas station pumps and front page headlines. On the bottom of a styrofoam cup. In the last drag, stuffed in the glove compartment. Between sofa cushions. On the side of the interstate. Waking up beside her, watching two worlds collide. In the dives and diners. At cheap no tell motel rooms where you sleep in your clothes, shoes on. Stopping when I saw something shiny. Walking through the ditch, kicking at the tall grass, searching for a dime. Living hand to mouth and waking up to stove top coffee. In the madness of a rich man’s town, where the poor and elite collide. There in the midnight hours, I’d sometimes peel back the gauze and poke it to see if still hurt.”

Canadian folk supergroup Bop Ensemble – “Between Trains”

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Bop Ensemble
is a Canadian folk supergroup of some sort. I’m honestly not familiar with all (any!?) of the members of the group. But I like the sound of the band I hear on “Flash Around the Globe” from their new record Between Trains.

Today is one of those posts when you have to listen for yourself and see what you think.

Buy the new record here.

Flash Around The Globe [Download]

Chris Scruggs – “Anthem” (Cogent Records, Oct 24)

Monday, October 26th, 2009

The new song by Chris Scruggs threw me for a loop. It wasn’t at all what I expected. In the past I had Chris (who is the former frontman of BR549) pegged as a neo traditionalist content to put out twangy honky-tonk and nothing more. But the guy is young and talented and is setting off in new directions on his new record Anthem. He’s enlisted the help of folks like Howe Gelb (Giant Sand), Nick Luca and Paul Niehaus (Calexico), Don Herron and Harvey Brooks (Bob Dylan), BR549 and Kelly Hogan.

I’m still undecided on this one song from Anthem. But I appreciate what Chris Scruggs is trying to do in his attempt to redefine the sound of roots rock. Buy it here directly from Chris Scruggs.

Josephine [Download]

Asylum Street Spankers – “God’s Favorite Band”

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Yesterday’s post was from forty years ago. The music for today’s post is from this year but sounds like it was recorded a hundred years ago. Go figure! The Asylum Street Spankers’ new record God’s Favorite Band is a live concert recording of mostly gospel inspired music. But as you can see from the photo above this is not your grandpa’s gospel group.

To celebrate the new record the band is going out on a tour called Salvation and Sin. The first half of the show will feature the stomping gospel sounds of the new album while the second half will deal with more earthly, secular songs of lust, love and other important topics. Check their website for tour dates.

Last Mile Of The Day [Download]

Jay Bolotin (Locust Music, Oct. 27)

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Usually everything we review is so brand new it’s barely available to purchase. It’s very rare that we take a look back at some lost or forgotten artist. It took the combination of a Chicago label and an artist that never gained the recognition he deserved to break our pattern. The artist in question is Jay Bolotin and the record in particular is his eponymous debut. While aspects of the song “It’s All In That” may sound dated the recording quality is rich (as would be expected of something put down on tape rather than disc). And it’s his heartfelt lyrics of love for his wife and newborn child that still resonate today.

I usually don’t cut and paste but here is Locust Music’s bio info on Jay Bolotin:

Jay Bolotin’s musical awakening hearkens back to his youth in Kentucky learning songs from old timers and songsmiths of the region – among them John Jacob Niles. 18 years on, he found himself on the east coast with a record deal and cut two albums. Only the first would find some form of release in the late 60s before Jay dropped out of the music scene – however temporarily – for an abandoned boys camp in New Hampshire before reemerging two years later in Nashville’s fertile music scene. Here, Jay cut his teeth as a songwriter, befriended and worked with a veritable who’s who of Nashville country and folk musicians before retreating yet again – this time into the depths of Kentucky through the rest of his 20s.

Jay has called Cincinnati home for the last three decades. He is recognized today as a prolific artist, writer, composer, musician, and filmmaker. He has composed and performed scores for dance productions, films, and television. His woodcuts are represented in many major collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Here’s the song “It’s All In That”, you can purchase a 180 gram vinyl or trifold digipack cd here through Locust Music.

It’s All In That [Download]

Exclusive preview of Orpheum Bell’s new record “Pearl”

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Imagine for a second Gogol Bordello but slowed down to a crawl. Imagine each of their songs but not fueled by rampant punk energy. Instead imagine slow rich ballads and duets but still inspired by the gypsy music of the Balkans and points East. If you’ve got that picture in your mind’s eye than you have an approximation of the lush sound of the Ann Arbor band Orpheum Bell whose music coined the phrase “Country & Eastern”.

The band celebrates the release of its sophomore release, Pearls, over the next couple of months. If you live in the Midwest you should try to check out one of these shows:

Oct 10 2009 White Crow Conservatory of Music Saginaw, Michigan
Oct 17 2009 Freshwater Studio (CD Release) Boyne City, Michigan
Nov 6 2009 The Howmet Playhouse Whitehall, Michigan
Nov 14 2009 Crooked Tree Arts Center Petoskey, Michigan
Dec 4 2009 The Ark (CD Release Show) Ann Arbor, Michigan

Here’s a preview track from the upcoming record. The song is called “Money From Another Town” and features all the eclectic instruments (bowed double bass, accordion, trumpets, and various percusion) the band is known to use as well as lead singer Aaron Klein gothic (in the truest sense of the word) vocals, chanting choruses, Serge van der Voo’s double bass and slightly morbid lyrics.

Pick up their debut record Pretty As You here and keep an eye out for the followup Pearls in the coming months.

Money From Another Town [Download]

Two of the finest music blogs one the web wrote about the band’s first record. Links to those reviews – You Crazy Dreamers, Setting The Woods on Fire.

New song off of Dropkick’s new record “Abelay Hotel” (Sound Asleep Records, Sept 12)

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I looked near and far for today’s entry. My search took me all the way to Scotland. And what did I find you ask? Jangly power pop from the band Dropkick and their new record Abelay Hotel. The band has received plenty of accolades and some of them are quite funny. For instance the BBC called them “Scotland’s finest alt-country power pop band” (like there are dozens of them roaming the countryside!!) and the Scotsman said they were “Scotland’s 3rd best band for 2009 … fabulous melodies a-plenty and more hooks than Bob Nudd’s fishing bag” (I just find that bit about “3rd best” kinda funny). Astonishingly enough I wrote about the band here first.

If you’re going to write a power pop song with the word “California” in the title you had better give it a little bit of those wonderful sunny Beach Boy harmonies. The band accomplished that and even added a little Smithereens-like ruggedness. Buy the new record here in the states here at CD Baby.

Don’t Dream Of California [Download]

Exclusive mp3 from Boo Hewerdine’s (former The Bible frontman) new record “God Bless The Pretty Things” (Navigator, Oct 26)

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

If Boo Hewerdine is known nowadays it’s for being the former lead singer of the English band The Bible. But for me I’ll always associate him (even though I loved some of the stuff The Bible put out) with one record he did with Darden Smith in 1989 called Evidence. It was a strange collaboration since Boo was known for gorgeous indie rock and Darden for southwestern rootsy folk. But they pulled it off and in fact it was those contrasting approaches to music that did it.

Boo Hewerdine’s first record in almost a decade is out Oct 26. It’s called God Bless The Pretty Things. As you can hear from the song “Muddy Water” Boo has one of the most beautiful male voices in music. Buy it here.

Muddy Water [Download]

Bonus: Boo Hewerdine is very generous on his website with mp3′s from his discography available for sampling. Here are a couple I like.

Love Thieves [Download]

Mapping the Human Heart [Download]

Bell Book and Candle [Download]

From The Bible

Crystal Palace [Download]

Piney Gir – “The Yearling” (Greyday Records, Oct 13)

Monday, October 12th, 2009

I haven’t exactly been following Piney Gir’s career. And I think I’m glad for that. She has experimented with the nearly incompatible genres of electronica and country in the past. I fear I wouldn’t like her takes on either. But I think with her new record she’s found her way. On The Yearling she mixes up all her musical influences and comes up with her own unique sound.

More info and to buy The Yearling here.

Say I’m Sorry [Download]

Miss Havisham [Download]

Honky-Tonk Friday (A day early!) – Arty Hill & the Long Gone Daddys

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Our occasional Honky-Tonk Friday feature had to arrive a day early when I heard the new ep from Arty Hill & the Long Gone Daddys. Arty Hill is pure country and this record is a trip back in time to and about the earliest country legends. The EP is called Montgomery On My Mind; The Hank EP and is available on the great real country label Cow Island Music.

Church On Saturday Night [Download]

Matt the Electrician – “Animal Boy” (Available now)

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Matt The Electrician is an all around great dude. You’ll hear that from his friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. He’s also a pretty great songwriter and instrumentalist. Unlike some artists that release dozens of records but never show you their true face, on Animal Boy, Matt leaves no personal or autobiographical stone unturned. It’s all in there for the good of the song and I suppose Matt’s sanity.

Even the cover songs are used to relay Matt’s heartfelt emotions and made his own like on “Faithfully” where he pledges lifelong fidelity to his lover. Or on his own song “Got Your Back” where he pleads his case once again for staying together forever through thick and thin. But it’s this song about a letter he actually wrote to the Walmart customer complaint department about a worker who helps him in his time of need that is both autobiographical and hilarious that I share with you today (listen as he rhymes “garage” and “assuage” and name drops Miley Cyrus amidst other literary feats of heavy lifting).

Animal Boy just became available on CD Baby, I suggest you scoot over there and get yerself a copy.

For Angela [Download]

Inara George (The Bird & The Bee) – “Accidental Experimental” (Everloving, Oct. 20)

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

On Accidental Experimental the new album from Inara George (The Bird and The Bee) Inara revisits some of the songs from her last record (w/Van Dyke Parks). The mix of Inara’s near perfect voice with mildly odd and experimental instrumentation is a great update on the sound of Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Aimee Mann, et al.

Here’s her song “Accidental” from Accidental Experimental. More On This Album

Accidental [Download]

Jess Klein – “Bound To Love”

Monday, October 5th, 2009

I don’ have much time so please don’t hold the length of this post against me or more importantly against Jess Klein. Jess hits three of my musical pressure points: she’s originally from Boston (so am I), she recently relocated to Austin (I love Austin!), and she’s cute (shouldn’t matter, but it does). Her new record Bound To Love is influenced by the rootsy nature of that Texas town. And this song, “Postcard”, is dusty and nostalgic in just the right amounts. It sounds like very early Lucinda Williams (which is a very good thing).

Order the new record here.

Postcard [Download]

Peter Mulvey – “Letter From a Flying Machine” (Signature Sounds)

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Here’s another song from the excellent new Peter Mulvey record on Signature Sounds. If you’d like an invite to the Oct. 11 Chicago area house concert email me at

Buy Letters From A flying Machine here or here.

Kids In The Square [Download]