Archive for December, 2009

**Best Of 2009 Repost Series** Salim Nourallah’s “Constellation”

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

It’s Sunday and I usually don’t post on Sunday but I found a bit of time during this busy holiday season so here goes. I’m anything if not predictable so if there’s a new Salim Nourrallah record you can bet it’s going to make my “best of” repost series. His latest record Constellation was released in Germany which is really an affront to my National pride. Can’t we release music like this in the states first?! Here’s two songs off the new record plus a nice sampling of his earlier work.


I was first introduced to Salim Nourallah by way of his group Nourallah Brothers that he had with his brother Faris. Ever since hearing that record I’ve tried to keep up with the output from both brothers. But it’s become increasingly difficult as Salim’s records become harder to find and Faris’ recording output continues to slow. Take for instance Salim Nourallah’s new record Constellation (produced by Austin based singer-songwriter Billy Harvey). There’s no mention of it on his website (which actually hasn’t been updated since 2007). And only a cursory mention on his blog and is only widely available on the German label Tapate Records. The record, like other stuff from Salim, is very personal pop music. It deals with the struggles of his childhood, his feelings of alienation, and a little bit of his life in Texas (as an outsider).

I’m drawn to the song “Western Hills” as it’s a completely autobiographical tale of growing up with his dysfunctional family. Listen to the lyrics and enjoy the sumptious pop sounds Salim surrounds them with. Buy Constellation here from Dallas’ Good Records.

Western Hills [Download]
(highly recommended)

Bonus track

It’s Not Enough [Download]

P.S. Btw there’s an excellent YouTube video bio of Salim here.

P.P.S Whenever I do a Salim post I always link to his back catalog songs since they’re timeless and to encourage you to track down all of his solo records. They are a joy to behold.

Don’t Be Afraid [Download]

All Waste [Download]

1978 [Download]

A Way To Your Heart [Download]

W/Nourallah Brothers

Missing You [Download]

I’ll Be Around [Download]

Those Days Are Gone [Download]


**Best if 2009 Repost Series** The Moore Brothers – “Aptos”

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Wow it’s crazy around here. I won’t be updating Songs:Illinois (or Swedesplease for that matter) much over the next wee or so. But I did carve out a little time to update both today. Here’s a record from back in March that would make a Songs:Illinois “best of” the year list (if I bothered to do one). And this one gets extra points for being so stealth. I mean, really, have you heard or read about this record anywhere else? I thought not.


The Moore Brothers’ new record Aptos has been out since the beginning of March. That’s a very short time, except for music bloggers that are now covering releases that are coming out in June and July. Clearly The Moore Brothers didn’t hire any of the seemingly hundreds of pr companies cropping up to promote to music blogs or they would have been all over and Hype by now whether they deserved it or not.

Deserve it they do. The new record has received great reviews from a few high profile online outlets that tend to delve deeper into these sorts of things than your generic pr driven indie rock music blog. This is the band’s fifth record (wrote about them here, here) and to my ears it’s their most accomplished yet. On the surface the songs seem simple but they are not. Some songs pulsate with a stop and go rhythm that propels the songs forward almost dangerously (those are the odd numbered songs) and some are quieter but no less forceful (those are the even numbered songs). The band has hooked up with friend Joanna Newsom who sings and play harp on a song or two and producer/artist Kelley Stoltz for production duties. Each brother (there are two) takes turns by composing/writing alternating songs; one doing the even numbers and one doing the odds.

Aptos is a modern day classic, that had it been released by the Beach Boys or CSNY or even The Beatles would have fit within their catalog of songs. Here’s an odd numbered song written by Thom Moore. “Variety” features upper register vocals that reminds me of prime Game Theory with vocal harmonies that recall the best of the Beach Boys. It’s a short little pop song of the highest order.

But Aptos here.

Variety [Download]

**Best Of 2009 Repost Series** Charlie Parr “Roustabout” (A Rant)

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

The last post I did about Charlie Parr started like this:

Shit…no one told me someone re-released Charlie Parr’s 2002 record entitled 1922 last year. Isn’t that why we have all these mp3 blogs? Come on guys, I can’t do it all by myself.

The new post I’m writing about Charlie Parr starts like this:

Shit…no one told me there’s a new (ish) Charlie Parr record out called Roustabout. Seriously why the hell do we have thousands of mp3 blogs and not one post about a new Charlie Parr record. It’s not like the guy isn’t cooler and more outback than Bon Iver. It’s not like he’s not hairier than Band Of Horses. And for God’s sake he’s a 100% more “authentic” than Devendra and Bonnie Prince Billy.

The new post about the new (ish) Charlie Parr record that you’ve never heard about because bloggers are worthless PR hoes ends like this: buy the goddamn record and quit being such a little bitch.

(Comments are turned off from now on – I got too annoyed with the amount of spam slipping through – email or follow me at

Don’t Send Your Child To War [Download]

God Moves On The Water [Download]

**Best Of 2009 Repost Series** Steve Earle – “Townes”

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Between the two Earle boys (Steve and Justin) they pretty much ruled the roost this year. In fact Justin Townes Earle’s record made it to the top of the inaugural “Bird List Chart”. Here are my semi-coherent ramblings about Steve Earle’s Van Zandt tribute record.


I don’t think I ever had any doubt that Steve Earle could pull off a Townes Van Zandt cover project. He’s got too much invested in the project to fail artistically; the vagaries of the market for tribute CD’s will determine if it’s successful commercially. The four reasons he couldn’t fail are: 1) he named his son after Townes 2)Townes was a great friend and early mentor 3) Steve’s gone though some of the same problems that killed Townes, and 4) Steve has a way with interpreting other people’s material. By and large when Steve Earle records fail it’s due to overt political themes in the songs but not in his style, his musical choices, or his vocals. So with this project the songs were guaranteed to be killer and all other variables mentioned above are accounted for.

The one flaw I can find is that of omission. I would have loved to hear Steve’s take on “Snowing on Raton” but still songs like “Pancho and Lefty”, “White Freight Liner Blues” and “Brand New Companion” are all represented. In fact, here’s “Poncho and Lefty”, arguably Townes’ most famous song due to the version by Willie Nelson.

Pre-order Townes here.

Poncho And Lefty [Download]

**Best Of 2009 Repost Series** Slaid Cleaves – “Everything You Love Will Get Taken Away”

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Much of March 2009 was taken up with SXSW previews and reviews. This review mentions a Slaid Cleaves show at the Cactus Cafe and it also mentions his 2009 release Everything You Love Will Get Taken Away.


Slaid Cleaves may not be the king of Austin singer-songwriters, that title still belongs to Willie Nelson, but he is certainly one of it’s Princes. Thus it was important for me to pay my respects on my last night in Austin. Slaid was the headliner at the famed Cactus Cafe on a night filled with the cream of the crop from Austin and beyond (Sam Baker, Rod Picot and Amanda Shire, Gurf Morlix, Matt the Electrician, and Graham Weber). He was there touting a bunch of new songs from his upcoming self released record Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away.

“Cry” is the title track and according to Slaid’s bio sets the tempo/theme for the record, “Whether it’s your loved ones, your way of life, or even just your sense of innocence and hope, every song in some way is about how it all gets taken away.” Slaid has left the comfy confines of the Rounder Records behomoth and joined the co-op label Music Road Records founded by friend and musician Jimmy LaFave. Slaid now has his destiny in his own hands with this new diy route, ““I’m in on all the decisions,” says Cleaves. “It feels good to have so much more control over my fate now. I figured, I cut my own hair, I fix my own car — so why shouldn’t I be the one responsible for getting this work of mine out into the world?”

“Cry” is relentlessly down with lines like “every blue sky fades to gray”, “watch your little heart get crushed” and of course “everything you love will get taken away”. But it’s cathartic as well. I’m still listening to the entire record but this song and the others Slaid played live bode well.

You can (and should) pre-order this April 21st release here though Amazon.

Cry [Download]

“One Good Year”

Stream more songs here:


**Best of 2009 Repost Series** Richard Shindell – “Not Far Now”

Monday, December 14th, 2009

March of `09 is ripe for the picking when it comes to some of the best releases of the year. I’ll start out with a track from Richard Shindell’s record Not Far Now also plenty of greqat bonus tracks at the end of the post.

P.S. I just added a Danny Barnes Christmas song to the now huge S:I Christmas Mix.


Sometimes I labor over a post wondering if the music is good enough, if the artist is “legit” enough or simply if I care enough. That’s not the case with a Richard Shindell post. The man is clearly in the upper echelon of the folk world. And his stature and music has only grown since his move to Argentina. With each new release he continues to blend the culture of Buenos Aires with his original homeland of New Jersey, it’s an odd, beguiling combination.

It’s been too long since his last record of original songs though. His covers record South Of Delia tided us over for a time with it’s reinterpretations of classics from Bob Dylan, Woody Gutherie and Bruce Springsteen (and new classics from Josh Ritter and Jeffrey Foucault). The new record is called Not Far Now (Signature Sounds) and Richard describes how he knew it was time to record a new album below:

“There are various subtle indications that it is time to make a new album,” he explains from his adopted hometown of Buenos Aires. “Like when my fans start looking at me funny, when I’ve run through every puzzle at every level in the sudoku book, or when my children start to ask me what I do for a living…”

The song I linked to is about a mule. Apparently it’s a song that Richard has been performing live and that people respond to for the obvious reasons:

“Of the eleven songs on this record,” Shindell reflects, “there are three that have shown up pretty regularly in my live sets during the past year or two. People seem to like ‘Clara’ the most, as do I. This is perhaps explained by the fact that Clara is a mule, and people generally like songs about mules.”

Buy it here.

Get Up Clara [Download]

Bonus mp3′s

Che Guevera T-Shirt [Download]

The Last Fare Of The Day [Download]

Arrowhead [Download]
The Courier [Download]
Abuelita [Download]

You Stay Here [Download]

State Champion – “Stale Champagne” (Sophomore Lounge Records, Jan. 10)

Monday, December 14th, 2009

It was my intention to post one of my “best of 2009″ repost series this morning but these guys have pre-empted that with their excellent 2010 album Stale Champagne.

State Champion is a band that personifies the mid-western work ethic; musically that translates to blue collar rock and rugged, sloppy garage-country. The band has spent some time in Chicago but are now based out of Louisville, KY. The sound on Stale Champagne is loose and the recording of is rough and ramshackle in all the right places. The band’s one sheet does a surprisingly good job of describing their ethos:

Having created a sound that is a product of its upbringing, with Sweetheart of the Rodeo on the radio, Bleach in the tape deck, and a Smog song stuck in its head, State Champion drives through forty minutes of sincerely howled, sloppily executed, stripped down garage-country on its full-length debut.

To make that paragraph perfect I’d just throw in a line about sitting on the porch and listening to Uncle Tupelo and/or driving down a dirt road listening to Big Star. But that paragraph pretty much sums up the band. The new album is available in early 2010 but I bet you can get it now if you send a nice email to Ryan at

Keeping Time [Download]


Thanks Given [Download]

**Best Of 2009 Repost Series** Diana Jones “Better Times Will Come” (+ Patrick Bloom’s “Minnesota”)

Friday, December 11th, 2009

It was a no brainer which post to pick from February for this year end wrapup series. The Diana Jones record “Better Times Will Come” was all that I hoped it would be and should be on any/all year end lists.

P.S. I posted a track from Patrick Bloom’s 2009 release Ghosts Of Radio to Twitter yesterday. A day late and a dollar short here’s that song now on S:I:

Minnesota [Download]


OK. Forget what I said yesterday about having two women artists in a row. Because today’s post makes three. Also I was going to throw an exclusive tag up on this post but why bother since every one of the songs from this week are exclusives to Songs:Illinois. So why signal this one out. As I said back in January, Diana Jones‘ new record Better Times Will Come is one of my most anticipated records of the year. I’ve raved about Diana’s music before and I’m just in love with her voice (more so than any other singer I think her voice expresses so much angst and yearning), her deft instrumentation, and of course her songs. And I’m not the only one in such a tizzy as she’s won multiple awards since her groundbreaking 2006 release My Remembrance of You. She’s toured with some of the best, her songs have been recorded and praised by the elite in the folk world (most notable were covers by Joan Baez and Gretchen Peters) and she’s got some pretty serious friends at radio (BBC, Mountainstage, WXPN) and press.

Diana Jones’ new record is called Better Times Will Come and that’s also the track I have for you today. Considering she must have written this song long before the markets collapsed, before people lost their jobs en masse and before the trillion dollar bailout was proposed it is a pretty prescient. The message of hope and change in this song is strong but it’s Diana jopnes’ world weary voice that makes it seem like having such hope is a pipe dream.

To add to the appeal of the album are guest appearances by Mary Gauthier, Nancy Griffith and Betty Elders. You can order this as an import here or wait for it to hit the states in April. I’ll do an update once this is for sale here.

Better Times Will Come [Download]

Here’s the song that literally floored me from Remembrances of You – “Pony” live at the Folk Alley studios

**Best of 2009 Repost Series** – Phil Lee’s “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You”

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

There are a bunch of other posts from January 2009 that I could repost. Good stuff from Justin Townes Earle, Ben Kweller, and even Sarah Borges. But you’ve all heard of those so I’ll continue doing what I’m good at and that is highlighting undersung performers. So today’s “best of 2009″ repost is reserved for Phil Lee and his record So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You.


“25 Mexicans” is a song of border crossings, illegal immigration, and the living conditions of Mexican Nationals that strikes up thoughts of Woody Guthrie, John Prine and Tom Russell. As performed by Phil Lee it shares both the cadence and the lyrical themes of some of those great singer-songwriters. It’s a pretty amazing song and one that adds to the great week of music we’ve had already on Songs:Illinois (here and here).

Phil Lee is an unsung “real” country artist from Nashville. He’s had two previous critically acclaimed records. The new one, So Long, Its Been Good To Know You, was released towards the end of 2008 and rocketed to #1 on the Euro Americana Charts where it sits to this day. From the two songs below you can hear how he effectively mixes folk, rhythm and blues, blue-eyed soul and country.

You can order the new record right from Phil Lee’s homepage.

25 Mexicans [Download]


Neon Tombstone [Download]

Double bonus: (and a belated Christmas song)

I Wanna Spend My Christmas Time With You [Download]

P.S. Kudos to The Late Greats for having the only other post on about Phil Lee.

{MP3} Something new from The Family Band and their 2009 EP “Small Boat”

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

December can be a good time for looking back over the year that has past. Traditionally I’m well into my “best of 2009″ repost series. But this year I keep stumbling upon new music to share with you. Here’s a release from April of 2009 that I missed on the first time round. It’s by a Canadian (natch!) band called The Family Band. The band is a motley collection of songwriters and musicians from St Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada. But it’s exactly that loose feeling, communal structure of the band and its music that is so entrancing

There’s a lot going on in the song “Le Beau Risque”. For one thing it’s a bi-lingual debut, secondly the music with it’s crashing cymbals, rolling accordian, and strummed mandolin is magical, and finally the female lead singer has a golden voice. The new EP is called Small Boat and is available through Bandcamp (man, I really like that service!) here.

Le Beau Risque [Download]

{MP3} New music from Buffalo Death Beam

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

I’ve got to interrupt my year-end “best of” roundup before it really got started with some new music from a band called Buffalo Death Beam. The band is categorized on all the relevant sites as “folk” but it’s hard to take that at face value since the band is big (seven members), eclectic, occasionally loud, and the songs are more eerie and obtuse than traditional folk. But if you like your folk along the lines of bands like Stand of Oaks, Frontier Ruckus, Ah Holy Fam’ly and Band Of Horses than you will like Buffalo Death Beam.

Here’s the band’s song “Yuma” from their debut EP released just this month. Buy it here.

Yuma [Download]

**Best Of 2009 Repost Series** Willie Nelson/Asleep At The Wheel

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Every year at about this time I look back on the year that was. I’m not much for lists but I do like to go back and see what I was excited about throughout the year. There were a number of post from January that I will repost to start off this years “best of 2009″ series. Here’s one I did about a Willie Nelson/Asleep At The Wheel collaboration:


It’d be sooo great if other established artists used some of their pull to expose people to deserving, but less popular, bands. Willie Nelson has always been very gracious that way sharing the spotlight any number of different ways. Now he has collaborated with the great trad band Asleep At The Wheel on his upcoming record Willie and the Wheel.

Now I haven’t followed Willie Nelson’s career very closely of late. Still I’m guessing I would have gotten a kick out of all his recent genre jumping. But don’t you think that his return to the music of his childhood sounds just great? Isn’t this where and when he truly belongs. His voice sounds very strong and is a perfect accompaniment to Asleep At The Wheel’s jazzy western swing.

Pre-order here.

Hesitation Blues [Download]

“Blue Monday” – New music from T-Model Ford

Monday, December 7th, 2009

On Jan 12 the new record from T-Model Ford arrives on Alive Records entitled Ladies Man. T-Model is hailed as the real deal by those in the know. And I tend to agree; this is not some tame, polished, overproduced schlock. Instead it’s all rough around the edges and alive (no pun intended).

Pre-order it here.

Two Trains [Download]

Freedy Johnston – Rain On the City (Bar/None, Jan 12, 2010)

Friday, December 4th, 2009

I’d like to start this review with a recent comment found at Freedy Johnston’s home page:

Hello Freedy.

I want to tell you that I own more than 6000 pop CD’s. Perfect Day and Come Fly Away are one of the best pop CD’s I’ve ever heard. I hereby thank you for this great music. I hope that your new Cd is of the same quality! Good luck and maybe you come to Holland once.


How much else needs to be said? Freedy Johnston is one of the fine under appreciated songsmiths and underground pop icons in the world (I clearly agree with Charley from Holland!). The new record Rain On The City is due out on the label where Freddy Johnston started – Bar/None – in January of 2010. This is his first record of original tunes in eight years and from the sound of “Don’t Fall In Love With A Lonely Girl” he is at the top of his game.

Preorder Rain On The City here.

Don’t Fall In Love With A Lonely Girl [Download]

Songs:Illinois Does Christmas (Hayes Carll, Danny Barnes, Steve Poltz, Antje Duvekot, Laura Marling, Felice Brothers, Frontier Ruckus, Robert Earl Keen…you know the drill)

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Hey There,

Merry Christmas. It’s that time again, time to spread a little holiday cheer (I’m even getting requests for this mix). Here’s my (anti) Christmas mix. A bunch of these songs are borderline sacrilegious and others are only just a little bitter (and who can blame them this time of year). There are some real gems in here though and I hope you enjoy them with your family sitting around the fire while decorating your tree.


P.S. I’ll usually update this mix as new songs come in.

P.P.S. I know I should really have a link to a zip file but I don’t have the energy to do it. If you want to help and throw that together email me the link at

Update #1

The Holidays Are Here (And We’re Still At War) [Download]
– Brett Dennen


Update #2

I Wanna Spend My Xmas Time With You [Download]


Update #3

Christmastime Blues – Jaimi Shuey [Download]
(her 2007 debut release Wrong Girl is a must have!)

Bastard Brothers [Download]
– Chip Taylor


Update #4

All Alone For Christmas [Download]
– Danny Barnes


Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) – Laura Marling (Via Direct Current [Download]

Christmas In Paradise [Download]
– Mary Gauthier

Thanks for the Roses (Merry Christmas) [Download]
– Antje Duvekot

She’s Underneath the Mistletoe [Download]
– Antsy McClain

Here comes Christmas [Download]
– Bill Kelly

Crazy Cool Christmas [Download]
– Kermit Ruffins

Cold White Christmas [Download]
– Casiotone For The Painfully Alone

Great Adventure [Download]
– Dan Byrk

I Want a Hippopotomus For Christmas [Download]
– Paul Vickers And Leg

Christmas Is Coming Soon [Download]
– Blitzen Trapper

Christmas Doesn’t Have To Be So Bad [Download]
– The Backsliders

Christmas Or Columbus (Andy Hong’s Kitchen) [Download]
– Drew O’Doherty

Christmas Is For Losers – Mike Nicolai

I’m All Alone For Christmas [Download]
(live) – Danny Barnes

Cosy Evenings [Download]
– Dan Byrk

All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue [Download]
– Over The Rhine

O Holy Night [Download]
– Benji Cossa

Blue Christmas [Download]
(live) – Martin Sexton

Darling Christmas Is Coming [Download]
– Over The Rhine

The Christmas Song [Download]
– Nourallah Brothers

You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch [Download]
– Asylum Street Spankers

Christmas At The Trailer Park [Download]
– Antsy McClain

I Hate Fucking Christmas [Download]
(live) – Steve Poltz

The Little Baby [Download]
– Hefner

So this Is Christmas [Download]
– ? (lost in the shuffle – extra points if you leave the answer in the comments)

Christmas In Vermont [Download]
– Ed’s Redeeming Qualities

God Rest You Merry Gentlemen [Download]
– Hoax Funeral

Be My Valentine On Christmas – Glenna Bell

The Christmas Song [Download]
– Mark Jungers

Red Eyed Santa [Download]
– Dick Smith

Gold Front Tooth [Download]
– Dick Smith

That Was The Worst Christmas Ever [Download]
– Sufjan Stevens

Christmas Past – Mike Ireland and Holler

Christmas In London [Download]
– Krista Detour

Christmas In Prison – Emmy the Great and Lightspeed Champion

Christmas In Prison Live – Will Kimbrough

Christmas Eve – Salim Nourallah

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear [Download]
– Laura Gibson

It’s Almost Christmas [Download]
– Chris Garneau

Just Like Christmas [Download]
– Low

Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis [Download]
– Neko Case

Christmas Island – Leon Redbone

X-Mas Song [Download]
– Fireflies

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas [Download]
– Rose Polenzani

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas [Download]
– Hem

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause – John Prine

Merry Christmas From The Family – Robert Earl Keen

Merry Christmas From The Family [Download]
– Jill Sobule

Christmas On Ward #7 – Chris Flew [Download]

Driving Home, Christmas Eve [Download]
– Frontier Ruckus

Jewish For Christmas [Download]
– Coconut and The Duke (from former blogger Duke Of Straw)

What Do You Give A Wookie For Christmas? -Savanteous Q Malmsteen [Download]

Christmas Vision [Download]
– Beau Jennings

Murder By Mistletoe [Download]
– The Felice Brothers

It Never Snows [Download]
– The Parson Red Heads

Don’t Want Another Christmas Like Last Christmas [Download]
– Gentleman Auction House

Christmas Time [Download]
– The Krayolas With Augie Meyers

Christmas Song [Download]
– Detroit Junior

It’s Christmas Time Again [Download]
– Harley Poe

RockABilly Christmas [Download]
– Michael Bishop

So Much Wine [Download]
– The Handsome Family

I’m Grateful for Christmas This Year [Download]
– Hayes Carll

River [Download]
– Lex Land

{MP3} Jonny Burke – “The Long Haul” EP

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Whether you’re a fan of Pettyesque rockers or Townes influenced gently fingerpicked tales of inner turmoil and torment there is something for you in the 5 song free EP by Austin based singer-songwriter Jonny Burke.

Catch Jonny in the new year opening up for James McMurtry. Get the EP free here or pay for it here. Here’s that Petty like tune but with an overtly bitter political tone (btw it features fellow Austinites The Band Of Heathens):

Ship Come In [Download]

And one for Townes:

El Paso [Download]