Archive for May, 2011

Moody and Atmospheric Canadiana from Mark Davis (ex Old Reliable) – “Eliminate The Toxins” (June 7)

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

To me Mark Davis’ 2 cd release from 2007 was a revelation. In part because of it’s breadth and depth and in part because of its very existence outside of the major label system. It foreshadowed an era when artists would return to their diy roots. Mark Davis is back with another cd that puts his mark on the burgeoning Canadiana genre. The new disc, his third as a solo artist, is called Eliminate The Toxins and is due out on June 7.

The record, while essentially subdued and moody, is no wallflower. Mark plays most instruments and doesn’t always play them straight up. You’ll hear guitars, bass and drums but also feedback, drum loops, distorted vocals and synths. This is not your father’s roots music but it is mine.

Eliminate The Toxins [Download]

Indie folk from English co-op Boat To Row

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

This song from the English indie folk outfit Boat To Row fits the Songs:Illinois aesthetic so well I had to share it with you. The song is called “A Boat To Row, Row To You”; it’s just been released as a single through the label istartedafire records.

This is an early version of the song. The band is from England and on the single version (video below) there is a greater interplay between the male and female vocals and a richer sound. But here on the demo version you get a more intimate sound and a little more directness.


A Boat To Row, To Row To You [Download]
(demo version)


Exclusive first listen to gypsy-circus-folk from Vladimirska (June 6)

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Sometimes you’ve got to go pretty far afield to find music that is new and exciting. Today I wound up in Krakow, Poland. If you immediately thought polka you aren’t too far off. Vladimirska plays a blend of traditional Polish music and gypsy/circus folk. It’s a little like Gogol Bordello but without the hyperbole and the punk influences.

The band is releasing their first studio recording called Night Train on June 6 in Poland and June 22 everywhere else. “Werewolf” is the first track on Night Train. It’s representative of what the band does best with rollicking accordion, muted trumpet, umpa lumpa baritone saxophone and guitar. The vocals are dreamy which is fitting since the song retells a dream encounter with a werewolf.

Werewolf [Download]

New record “Friend” from Elam Blackman

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

It’s been 5 years since I last wrote about music by Elam Blackman. That’s astounding for a number of reasons. For one it’s a miracle that I’ve written this blog for that long, secondly it’s crazy that I haven’t followed up on that first post about Elam. In the meantime Elam has recorded and released a couple of records, formed his own label, and was instrumental in putting together a compilation fundraiser for New Orleans and their Gulf Spill Fund.

Elam’s new record is out on vinyl through his label Constant Clip and as a download through Bandcamp. The new record is called Friend and was assisted by Paul Curreri and features backing vocals by Devon Sproule. But mostly it’s Elam, his guitar (or banjo), and his songs. I’m going to let the liner notes for Friend do most of the work for me. You can buy the new record on vinyl through Constant Clip here or download the whole thing on Bandcamp here. It’s a great listen.

My good friend Elam Blackman dropped in from cyberspace the other day. It’d been a while, so he couldn’t have known that I was living in a country of sadness, my dear mother having died but two days since. Elam hailed me with that lovely, summer’s-evening, fireflies-in-the-clearing kind way he has about him, and he asked me if I wouldn’t mind waxing a bit for the purposes of an album cover—the very one, in fact, that you’re now clutching in your covetous paws. When he got wind of my circs, Elam offered to dig up another sap for the task, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I readily accepted the honor. But bidding my darling Ma farewell naturally pushed everything else aside for a time. When I’d finally delivered the last of my clan to their respective departure gates I was in what you might call a fragile state. I shut the driver’s side door and the lonely sound echoed through the short-term parking deck. I’d been tending to Ma during the last years of her decline, and I wasn’t looking forward to seeing her recliner sitting empty when I got home. The drive south on I-91 had been a dreary one, and I was hoping the fog would lift. I took a deep breath, jockeyed up Elam’s new record, and turned over the ignition. The first train-track-clickity-clack bars of Railroad Folk kicked in, and then Elam’s thoughtful crooning: “Border town…we are leanin’ against trees…” I smiled. A few bars later, to my delight, a lap-steel floated in on the whistle of a night train. The mindset of my journey ahead was being jostled out of its rut by my friend’s familiar voice.

I’ve long admired Elam’s talents. He has the quality of a mythical creature—a woodland spirit perhaps—whose job it is to go about catching lyrical fragments in a butterfly net. This would explain Elam’s peripheral vision, which I’ve often marveled at being the best around. I mean this figuratively, as I have no idea how he fares at the optometrist’s – all I know is he has magic eyes, blinking his way from Boston to Texas, then Knoxville, everywhere catching the images that will find their way into his songs.

Friend marks Elam’s arrival into maturity. From the wistful, sparse clarity of It “Ain’t No Thing” to the guttural thrum of the rhythmic “The Murder Rides Again”, the cuts on this disk are equal parts sky and earth, flight and furrow. In all this, Elam has found a fine collaborator in Paul Curreri whose “everything else” is done with the refined judgment of a first class accompanist. Curreri is a kind of clothesline where Elam hangs out his tattered linens and holy jeans. The wind comes up and they dance, and they are beautiful without even trying to be. Something in “Caroline” (the red PJ’s or the bent down grass?) released me. Something in the clarity of Elam’s lilt let me in on the sweet suspicion that it—the whole thing—must really be about love after all. The sun began clearing the fog and I relaxed, aware that
there was a way out of the country of grief.

~Mark Small Mountain

Caroline [Download]

Honky Tonk Friday from Athens based The Welfare Liners (feat. members of Six String Drag, Sunbrain, The Burning Angels)

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Why is it that punk rockers grow up and become bluegrass players? I’m not sure if all the guys in the group The Welfare Liners were punk rockers coming up but I suspect they were fans of Black Flag more than they were of Bill Monroe. I think there’s something about the directness of bluegrass and folk and the fact that folk music is of the people much like punk.

The band is a bit of an Athens roots music supergroup with guys in the band also performing with the likes of Six String Drag, Sunbrain and The Burning Angels. “I’ve Seen The Love” is from the brand new EP and has some great one liners and some wonderful banjo and fiddle (I particularly like the lines “driving around this country, pretending that we’re famous” and “have you lost your passion, here take some of mine”). You can pick the EP up from the band here.

I’ve Seen The Love [Download]

Indie folkster’s Little Sur release self-titled EP

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

I think because of this blogs longevity and doggone stubborness it inevitably pops up near the top of any Google search for any roots music genre term combined with the words “music blog”. For example type in “americana” and “music blog” and you guessed it #1. But type in “indie folk” and “music blog” and we’re way down at #2 (ironically my other music blog Swedesplease is #1). So in an attempt to move up to # 1 in the all important “indie folk” music blog google search here is another post about an indie folk band with a charming new record.

Little Sur is a trio from NYC but they are all transplants and this music is delicate in a way I don’t think is representative of a band hailing from the city. Speaking of fragile, delicate things here is the band’s song “A Fragile Thing”. On this song the band relies on delicate finger plucked guitar and banjo and Jesse Aicher’s beautiful soaring vocals. The whole 5 song EP is available here.

A Fragile Thing [Download]

Tara Nevins (from Donna The Buffalo) new record “Wood And Stone (Sugarhill Records)

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Donna the Buffalo is a group I am aware of but to the best of my knowledge I have never heard. Although I’ve heard good things and I suspect I’d be a fan if I had ever been exposed to them. So for me to say this is the new record from Donna The Buffalo frontwoman Tara Nevins means very little to me (and maybe less to you). But let’s see what happens when I drop the names Levon Helm, Allison Moorer and Jim Lauderdale. There…that’s better.

The new record is called Wood and Stone. It features mostly her original compositions and the guests mentioned above. In Donna the Buffalo Tara plays fiddle and occasional washboard so you can imagine the sound she and producer Larry Campbell have created on Wood and Stone.

“Snowbird” features all of the elements you’d expect from someone with Tara’s background; namely fiddle, guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, and beautiful vocals and harmony vocals with Jim Lauderdale.

Snowbird [Download]

PS The quite good music blog Hyperbolium has another song and a better writeup here.

Debut album from Arkansas “bluesman” Brian Martin – “No Rider”

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

It’s exciting to write about a debut record. For some reason it’s hard to get the blood flowing for an independent artist who has released dozens of albums. If during that time he or she hasn’t gotten at least some recognition I figure there is little my site can do to help. But the sky is the limit on a debut. And the debut record from Arkansas based roots music artist Brian Martin is no exception.

No Rider is the name of the record and it borrows liberally from past masters like Leon Redbone, Dr John, and early jazz and blues and even jug band styles. The stories on here range from the timeless tales of jumping trains, drinking whiskey, and a troubled life to more modern songs about modern life and love (particularly the song “Memphis”). Although “Memphis” is not representative of many of the songs on “No Rider” it was the first song I heard from Brian Martin and it’s the one that is destined to stick and stay.

You can purchase this self-released debut record from Brian Martin here or here (digital).

Memphis [Download]

Video of “Mama Don’t Cook It”

Video for “New Revolution”

Diana Jones – “High Atmosphere”

Friday, May 6th, 2011

I’ve said my piece on Diana Jones (here, here, and here). So let’s keep this simple; here’s the title track from her new record High Atmosphere. Buy it here and catch Diana Jones on tour if you can.

High Atmosphere [Download]

Water Tower Bucket Boys – “Crooked Road”

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

I guess this new record Sole Kitchen from Water Tower Bucket Boys may have come out locally in 2010 but it seems it’s getting a larger, National release this month. “Crooked Road” is a song about moonshine that if translated to the present day could just as easily be about the scourge of meta-amphetamines. The song fluctuates between simple banjo and voice to an all out orgy of appalachian string music bordering on punk.

Crooked Road [Download]

“Let’s Dance” from Shed Sessions

Oh Susanna – “Drunk As A Sailor” from her new album “Soon The Birds”

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

I often talk about the surprising number of times I’ve posted on an artist over the years. This time it’s the opposite. I’m surprised I haven’t written about Oh Susanna sooner. Her new album, her fifth, is called Soon The Birds. This Canadian songstress has a truly haunting voice. While the musicians on the new album are the cream of the crop of the Canadian scene (folks who have played with Kathleen Edwards, Ron Sexsmith, and Blue Rodeo). On the bonus track “1941″ Van Dyke Parks even adds the string arrangement.

Soon The Birds
is available now here.

Drunk As A Sailor [Download]

Stephen Simmons – “The Big Show” (July 19)

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

This is my fourth post about Nashville based singer-songwriter Stephen Simmons. It seems I am single-handedly trying to make him a household name in the americana world (here, here, here). From my perspective he’s got all the elements needed: a rich baritone voice, stellar songwriting, and excellent musicianship (bandmembers include folks who play with The Jayhawks, John Prine, kd lang etc etc). The Big Show is Stephen’s sixth release and is due out on July 19 but can be purchased now through Bandcamp here or at a show.

“Spark” is another story of life on the road from a true road tested troubadour. It’s more than that though, it’s also about the search for love on the road.

Spark [Download]