Archive for February, 2011

SXSW Preview – Charlie Shafter

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Charlie Shafter has a record coming out produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard. That and the fact that Ray has had some nice things to say about Charlie is enough to pay heed. Charlie has a bunch of SXSW showcases. I like the lineup on Friday at the Lone Star Music Stage the best (Gurf Morlix, Band Of Heathens, and possible Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines). Here’s the song Jesus and James Dean from that forthcoming album. More info here.

Jesus And James Dean [Download]

Honky-Tonk Friday and SXSW preview with Austin singer-songwriter Owen Temple – “Mountain Home” (April 26)

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Owen Temple has announced the release of his new record Mountain Home. It was recorded in and is clearly influenced by Austin, Texas. Players and co-writers include folks like Charlie Sexton, Rick Richards, Gabe Rhodes, Gordy Quist, Jamie Wilson, Adam Carroll, Bukka Allen, Brian Standefer, and Tommy Spurlock. Owen is honest and forthright in his stated love and goal of continuing the storytelling songwriting of folks like Willie Nelson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Delbert McClinton, Billy Joe Shaver, the Vaughan Brothers, and the Sexton Brothers. This record will go a long way to making that happen.

Here’s the title track from Mountain Home. Lots of exciting pre-order packages available here.

Mountain Home [Download]

P.S. I don’t think Owen Temple will officially be showcasing at SXSW but I plan to look him up, as well as all the folks who contributed to this recording.

Rum Drum Ramblers play Chicago (new record and upcoming Daytrotter session)

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

I was walking into my trusty 7/11 for a gallon of milk when I saw a poster for an upcoming show by Rum Drum Ramblers at Fitzgerald’s. Something about the artwork and the band’s names had me stop and take note. It was a two band bill with both bands coming up from St Louis. The headliner is Rum Drum Ramblers, a jump blues trio from St Louis. They claim to have been punks before they discovered the blues. I like their stuff, of course they remind me of Pokey LaFarge, but I guess they hear that all the time.

The band has just released it’s new record, Mean Scene, I’m guessing they’ll have some at the show on Feb. 26. That same day they’ll be recording a Daytrotter session.

I Feel It Too [Download]

Ain’t Mad At You [Download]

P.S. The other band that night is Kentucky Knife Fight.

The New Los Angeles Folk Festival (songs from Mia Doi Todd, Emily Lacy, and Amanda Jo Williams)

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I’m not much for promoting events, either locally (Chicago) or globally. But occasionally there is an event that is musically adventurous and unique enough for me to mention. One such event is the upcoming The New LA Folk Festival (scramble the words and you get a more accurate description of The L.A. “New Folk” Festival). It’ll be held near Joshua Tree and there are a slew of interesting acts to see and hear.

Here’s a couple songs from artists appearing at the fest. The song from Emily Lacy is off her just released cd. The Mia Doi Todd song was written on and for her birthday this summer. It’s a beautiful song from an artist that I had been avoiding for some reason. Amanda Jo Williams flies the freak folk flag; in fact it’s more like freak americana/alt-country. Her naturalistic songs and her unusual vocal delivery make it seem like she is heavily influenced by Victoria Williams.

My Time On this Earth [Download]
– Emily Lacy
Um Girassol da Cor de Seu Cabelo [Download]
– Mia Doi Todd
Up The Mountain Going [Download]
– Amanda Williams

Honky-Tonk Friday – Eleven Hundred Springs and their new record “Eight The Hard Way” (Feb 15)

Friday, February 18th, 2011

I’m going to continue my Austin SXSW inspired posts as well as my Friday Honky-Tonk feature with new music from Eleven Hundred Springs. This band is a hard working, Texas-tough outfit. They aren’t exactly the most sensitive song writers, they deal more with beer, broads, and Texas living.

It’s that last theme that the song “We’re From Texas” deals with. You can order this record via the band’s website for only 10 bucks.

We’re From Texas [Download]


Honky Tonk Angels [Download]

Rebecca Pronsky – “Viewfinder”

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Something new from Rebecca Pronsky coming in April. This song “Mercury News” is a soaring, slightly twangy, sad tale of a woman who accepts her role as neither someone’s wife nor someone’s daughter. Rebecca is continueing the fine tradition of rootsy music coming out of unusual locales – namely Brooklyn. It’s that metropolitan location that makes her songs stand a bit apart from her Nashville cohorts.

Listen for Rebecca on World Cafe on March 11.

Mercury News [Download]

Johnny Burke – “Distance and Fortune” (Feb. 22)

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Johnny Burke is a tough nut to crack. The new record Distance and Fortune is a little all over the map. There are loud rockers like the first track “Broke Again” that remind me of the louder Big Star screamers. And then there are tracks like “Little Girl of the World” which has a feel both musically and lyrically like something a young Buddy Holly might have written and performed. There’s also a song that Johnny Burke co-wrote with Hayes Carll called “Don’t Let Me Fall” that is slow and sedate with lyrics that explore the theme of failing at art (and life).

I’m a little torn personally but I’m guessing my readers will like this dichotomy and will appreciate the fervor and energy on display here on Johnny Burke’s debut full length. You can stream the whole thing at Johnny’s homepage and pre-order this Feb 22 release over at Lonestar Music.

Lil Girl of The World [Download]

Nathan Bell – “Black Crow Blue” (riyl James McMurtry, Greg Brown, John Prine)

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I’m a little intimidated by Nathan Bell. He’s had a long musical history (records released by Flying Fish – where I worked briefly years ago), his a father is a renowned poet, he writes seriously deep songs, and just exudes many of the elements of the artist’s life. It’s these elements or facets of character that I am missing most in my daily grind writing about music that touches me. But this is the only way I know how to at least capture a bit of that spirit.

Nathan Bell has been gone from the music world for a few decades. He’s back resoundingly with a new record called Black Crow Blue. The songs I’ve heard are powerful in their simplicity and their barren sound. Nathan has an Iowa City connection in his bio and I have to begin to wonder what it is about that town that produces such great songwriters (if it was only Greg Brown that alone would be impressive). I’m linking to the song “Rust”. It’s a song about aging, about the rust that starts to cling to all of us as we stay in one place literally and figuratively. As an aside one of the few artists I’d feel confident in mentioning in comparison to Nathan Bell would be James McMurtry.

The new record can be purchased directly through Nathan Bell’s website here.

Rust [Download]

P.S. As a bit of an amateur hockey player myself I was pleased to find this video and song from Nathan Bell about Bill “Goldie” Goldthorpe one of old time hockey legends.

“Goldie Goldthorpe”

Jumping on The Leadership bandwagon

Monday, February 14th, 2011

I’m going to jump on the mini bandwagon for the Urbana based band The Leadership. The reasons are that they are semi-local for me (at least they’re from Illinois), they play straight up rock with an edge, and they’re not afraid to mess with convention. Most notably in the song “Bring It Back” from the new album Frontiers, in that song and others, errant noise plays a surprisingly large role. Word is the band is pretty great live and aside from their own upcoming shows they will soon be opening for Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, Plants And Animals, and the Cold War Kids.

The 8 track album is available from Bandcamp for the wonderful price of free here. They’re playing Chicago Feb 25 at the Viaduct Theater. If I wasn’t such an old wuss I’d be there!

Little Black Book [Download]


Bring It Back [Download]

Malcolm Holcombe – “Drink The Rain” (Music Road Records, Feb 15)

Friday, February 11th, 2011

I know there’s a lot of music out there. Lots of different genre’s, sub genre’s, and micro sub genre’s. I know we’re all inundated with pr mailings, email submission requests and a stack of cds to plow through. And then we have our favorites that we champion. I have mine and you have yours. But I can’t believe there’s not more consensus on the music of Malcolm Holcombe. The guy is a major talent. Blogs like Nine Bullets, Herohill, Slowcoustic, Here Comes The Flood, and You Crazy Dreamers have all sung his praises and while that’s great I’d like think he could get out of our little rootsy music blog grotto.

Part of the blame rests at the feet of his label that although small, should have the resources to reach out to the music blogs and I think part of the blame rests at the feet of the premier music blog sites who are not open to blues and folk based music (unless it comes in a pre-approved hipster wrapper – Bon Iver, The Tallest Man On Earth). The new record Drink The Rain doesn’t break any new ground. The same could be said for nearly every classic record by Guy Clark, Greg Brown, John Prine, or Ray Willie Hubbard and like those artists Malcombe Holcombe has his own distinctive sound that combines amazing songwriting, a gutteral vocal delivery and a mastery of blues and folk based idioms.

I could link to any of the 12 song on the new record and you’d get my drift. But I think “One Man Singing” expresses some of the feelings I have about the artists we follow and love.

One Man Singin’ [Download]

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Thursday, February 10th, 2011

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Drew Smith and his new project TED SONGS

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Drew Smith is an Austin based singer-songwriter who is eclectic and prolific. His music is not easily classifiable. You might hear a little americana, a little power pop, a little experimental indie rock, and hints of cabaret inspired folk. His new project is called Ted Songs and features members of his Lonely Choir and the South Austin Jug Band. I’d like to tell you who Drew Smith reminds me of but you’ll probably just shrug and say who. Nonetheless, I think his music reminds me a bit of either Chris Mills and/or Dan Byrk. I like that Drew Smith doesn’t mumble, whisper, or speak his vocals; he enthusiastically belts them out.

Here’s the song “Squeezing The Elephants” from the new 5 song ep called Ted Songs; you can purchase it here through Bandcamp.

Squeezing The Elephants [Download]

Dan Baker – “Sad Song Junkie” plus JD McPherson and Chicago’s HiSTYLE Records

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

There’s nothing like a tale of life in the big house to put your life in better perspective. Dan Baker’s song “365 Days” owes a bit of a debt to Tom Waits but who doesn’t really. The instrumentation on this song (accordion, restrained percussion and some type of horn) is eclectic and fits with the exotic/terrifying theme.

“365 Days” is off a new album from Dan Baker titled Sad Song Junkie. It came out at the end of 2010 but is just now being played on folk stations across the country. It’s an impressive 2nd record from this up and coming Boston based folkie. Buy it here.

365 Days [Download]


Yesterday Nine Bullets randomly tweeted about a fellow named JD McPherson. Then I saw him charting on non commercial radio and then I see his label is based out of Chicago. SO I couldn’t resist this plug. I’m sure Nine Bullets will have a full post up soon but in the meantime here’s a surprisingly well produced video of the song “North Side Gal” from his HiSTYLE Records debut Signs & Signifiers.

Rachel Harrington – “Celilo Falls”

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Rachel Harrington has a lovely new record out. I have been impressed with Rachel since I first heard her debut record back in 2007. I wrote up her sophomore effort City of Refuge here. On the advice of Lori McKenna for the new record Rachel has looked inward for inspiration for her songs. Her life has had it’s ups and downs like anyone but by harnessing her pain she has created a document of her life that is more real than simply a record of invented characters and fictional stories.

The new record is called Celilo Falls and has been out in Europe for a few months, but only becomes available in the US on Feb. 15. You can order it here via CDBaby.

He Started Building My Mansion In Heaven Today [Download]

House Concert Announcement – Jonathan Byrd & Corin Raymond (Chicago, Feb 22)

Friday, February 4th, 2011

I just had this excellent concert lineup land in my lap. No work for me to do except say yes (and invite you). Jonathan Byrd from North Carolina and Corin Raymond from Toronto are on an improbable tour of the US together. Improbable because Corin Raymond rarely gets out of Canada and because together they are an astounding lineup. They come to Chicago to play our living room at _____________ in Oak Park on Tuesday, Feb 22nd at 7pm. We’ll pass the proverbial hat and will ask for a $15 donation per person. Please rsvp to cbonnell (at) and I’ll provide you with the address. We’ll get started on time and get you in and out at a reasonable hour since it’s a school/work night.

Jonathan Byrd has been around the scene since his debut record in 2001 but it wasn’t `til his followup two years later called The Waitress that his music started to create a stir. In fact he won the prestigious New Folk competition in Kerrville, TX soon after the release of The Waitress. Seven years later, with a bunch of records in between, Jonathan has just released Cackalack (which I guess is a term of endearment for someone from the Carolina’s). Over the past decade he has explored genres as diverse as bluegrass and folk, honky-tonk and blues. He can sing a song that is very personal and then follow it up with a historical narrative based on civil war manuscripts. Plus I’ve got it on good authority that he doesn’t and won’t wear Birkenstocks. So there’s that too.

Press for Jonathan:

‘Sing Out!’ magazine says Byrd is, “a songwriter of exceptional talent… with the stark storytelling of the finest traditional balladeers.”

Tom Paxton said “What a treat to hear someone so deeply rooted in tradition, yet growing in his own beautiful way.”

“Jonathan Byrd is one of the Top 50 songwriters of the last 50 years.” – Rich Warren of WFTM in the Chicago Tribune.

“This rootsy North Carolinian may be the most buzzed-about new songwriter in folkdom. He displays John Prine’s gift for stark little songs that tell big, complex stories, Guy Clark’s lean melodicism, Lyle Lovett’s wry mischief, and Bill Morrissey’s knack for the revealing image.” Scott Alarik in the Boston Globe

Corin Raymond has been a more recent discovery for me, but ever since I heard his song “There Will Always Be A Small Time” from his 2009 release of the same name I’ve been hooked. I’ve told numerous people and all who will listen on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog that I think it’s the song of the year, as well as a veritable anthem for a whole segment of the music industry. The song one ups “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham from the film Crazy Heart by going into glorious detail about how, despite apparent commercial success, a singer songwriter can thrive by writing songs of such grace and intellect and performing them with passion in every roadhouse and parlor. It’s the idea that music in and of itself is a powerful force. I know that sounds a little over the top, but listen carefully below and see if you agree.

Press for Corin Raymond:

From Exclaim!: “His second solo album, There Will Always Be A Small Time, has a more direct country/folk approach, and it’s an impressive work. Raymond has a robust and serviceable voice (John Prine comparisons often come his way) but his true strength is as a songwriter. Within Canadian roots music circles word of that is quickly spreading, as other artists have begun covering his tunes.”

From The Basement Rug: “Corin’s magic appeal comes from a unique blend of vulnerability with a high energy personality. It’s something you see sometimes in comedians, but rarely in musicians. Comparisons to John Prine are worthy, but I also hear Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and the Canadian flare of Stompin’ Tom Connors. One thing is for sure, he aims to entertain and he succeeds. He writes and sings about things everyone knows about – the things you see and hear every day.”

From Teenage Kicks: “There Will Always Be A Small Time” celebrates shared moments in small rooms, a million stars of varying brightness shining “when the nine-to-fivers go to bed”. Raymond sees a rising star (“Nearly everywhere I go I hear you on the radio”) and while sending well wishes, also leaves out the welcome mat for a return “now and then”. He’s ready for his big break (should it come), but if it doesn’t come he can still play the local every Thursday night. It’s a woe-is-me tale without the woe, just the belief that the song will always endure, no matter when and where it is sung.

Songs (right click and save as):

The Waitress [Download]
– Jonathan Byrd
The Cocaine Kid [Download]
– Jonathan Byrd

There Will Always Be A Small Time [Download]
– Corin Raymond
Blue Mermaid Dress [Download]
– Corin Raymond

Nick Everett – “old adventures/love songs”

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

What with an upcoming house concert at chez moi by Toronto native Corin Raymond I am suddenly very receptive of music from the great white north. But it took something pretty great to get me motivated to write something today. That greatness came in the form of Halifax native Nick Everett.

And his music hit me like a ton of bricks and reminded me of people like Luke Temple (before he started that band and got unlistenable), Sean Hayes and, yes, even Sufjan Stevens. On the surface the songs on his new ep old adventures/love songs are simple tales of love and loss, but bubbling underneath at times are strange found sounds, unusual orchestration, and enough of an indie vibe to appeal to fans of any of the aforementioned artists.

The new ep is available at Bandcamp here for $2.50 cad; which is a pretty great deal for readers south of the border.

St Augustine [Download]

Nick Everett – “Liar”

NICK EVERETT – Liar from Mitch Fillion ( on Vimeo.