Archive for September, 2011

Anna Coogan – “The Wasted Ocean”

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

I wrote about Anna Coogan’s record The Nocturnal In Us a little more than one year ago (here). At the time I commented on the very hushed sound of that record. The songs were like soothing lullabies. Now don’t expect Metallica, but the songs on the new record are fuller and louder. On the new record The Wasted Ocean Anna added a full band sound. The band consists of Colby Sander (banjo, dobro, mandolin), Brooks Miner (hammond), Eyvind Kang (viola, violin), Edie Carey (backing vocals) and Daniele Fiaschi (electric guitar). So while these are not exactly rollicking sea shanties the band is able to embellish Anna’s folk tunes and make them a little more nautical in nature – matching the themes of many of the songs.

You can hear all the textures Anna coaxes out of the band on the song “The Sons Will Join Their Fathers”. You can also get a feel for the seaworthy nature of the record. It seems the bulk of the songs have a relationship to the sea. The Sheffield Star said it best in their recent review: “The result is a truly beautiful collection of plaintive, langorous songs so evocatively maritime you can practically smell the salt in the air when you listen to them. Album of the year from a class act.” There are already a few reviews popping up here in the states and overseas for this record (here, here, and here); so take my word or theirs and buy the new record here now.

The Sons Will Join Their Fathers [Download]

Things I missed: Theodore and Nathan Moore (first in a series of posts of music I discovered via Turntable.FM)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on Turntable. In between all the Mumford and Sons, Avett Brothers, and Ryan Adams that is being played in the folk rooms occasionally there will be a track or an artist played that I haven’t heard of and that deserves to be featured on Songs:Illinois. If I’d been paying more attention here and here I may have not needed Turntable.FM.

But in any case one day in one of the folk rooms Theodore was played back to back with an artist named Nathan Moore. Days later I remembered liking what I heard and I looked them both up. Here are two songs from Theodore and Nathan Moore respectively – they’re both sad tales of lost love and unhappy endings; in the case of “Back From The War the unhappiest ending…

Back From The War [Download]

Hollow [Download]

New music from State Champion from their upcoming 12″ record “Deep Shit” (playing Chicago this Thursday at The Hideout)

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Everything about State Champion screams loose. From the messed up photos on their site, to the cover art of the new record, to the music contained therein – a raucous blend of punk fueled rock and experimental folk. I wrote about the band here way back when and still remember and return to their music. The new record is just that, a 12″ slab of vinyl that comes out Oct 4 and is distributed by the fine folks at Drag City. For some reason this band and in fact the whole roster at the their label Sophomore Lounge is fairly unknown. I think it’s because they aren’t trying to follow any of the hot genre’s like dubstep or witch house or any of that crap.

So did I say the new record is called Deep Shit. Here’s a track from it. The band is in the middle of a pretty nice tour which has them playing in Chicago this week at the Empty Bottle W/ ANIMAL CITY + HOSPITAL SHIPS.

Red Dog and Black Brick [Download]

Classic country duets from Nicki And Tim Bluhm (Mother Hips) from new EP “Duets”

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Nicki Bluhm and Tim Bluhm are best known as members of the rootsy jam band Mother Hips but for me it’s their solo work and now their work together on an EP of lofi country duets that is most interesting. As people, these two are quintessential Californians. They are surfers, lovers, environmentalists and do-gooders (I say that in only the most loving way). A good example of their ethos is a line from their upcoming Duets ep: “turn off the phone, put some Alan Watts on and just lay low” from the song “Think About The Two Of Us”.

But it’s the song “Unforgetaboutble” that I will share with you today. It sounds like a classic track from the 70′s; think Kris Kristofferson or vintage Willie Nelson. Not that there’s a lot of twang on it but it’s essence resides in the country music of the 60′s and 70′s. While I haven’t heard all the songs on the new ep you can safely bet that a good percentage are love songs – it’s only natural when you have a boy and a girl singing duets. So if you are a fan of the great country duets’ records like Prine/Dement on In Spite Of Ourselves or Johnny Cash and June Carter, or even Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn then you’re going to want to search this one out when it is released on Oct. 4.

Bonus song from Nicki Bluhm’s 2011 release Driftwood:

Jetplane [Download]

Circus-gypsy indie folk from Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Minneapolis based Lucy Michelle and the The Velvet Lapelles have three full length records to their credit. But it’s this new 3 song ep that has just introduced me to the band. Besides posts about singer-songwriters and folk artists you should know by now that I also post any gypsy/circus music I can get my hands on. This qualifies as that.

“Monsters” is an indie folk orchestrated tune with ukelele, cello and accordion. Lucy Michelle’s vocals are just the right combination of restrained coy and lustful yearning; the song really picks up at the end with her pleading vocals and swirling/building instrumentation. Lots more info at the band’s site here.

Given the bands location and style I’m not surprised that Lucy and co. are playing a bunch of shows with Jeremy Messersmith including a Nov. 19 show at Schubas in Chicago. Check `em out!

Monsters [Download]

Rev. Peyton’s take on the music of Charlie Patton – “Peyton On Patton”

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Peyton on Patton is Reverend Peyton from Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s take on the music of Charlie Patton. It’s mostly just him and either his resonator guitar or banjo. The session was recorded in mono with one microphone. And it has that earthy sound you can only get from such a setup. This came out in the summer but didn’t get a lot of play (probably because it’s different from what people came to expect from the full band).

Green River Blues [Download]

John Paul Keith brings his brand retro rock `n’ roll to the Hideout

Monday, September 19th, 2011

I’m not much of a show plugger. I don’t get out much myself so I figure why bother. Plus I figure since this is the internet half of you are reading this from the Ozarks while the other half are in the Ukraine. But if you are in the Chicago area this Thursday and want to get out I think John Paul Keith at the Hideout is your best bet. His new record title will give you an inkling of his sound and sensibilities. The Man That Time Forgot is a record that’s from another time. It’s a warm, analog sounding, reverb soaked, whisky instilled rock record from a time gone by. Check out one song below, buy the whole thing, listen on repeat for three days and enjoy the show!

Never Could Say No [Download]

New music from Caleb Groh (aka Happiest Lion) – full length “Down, Dakota” out soon

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Caleb Groh (once upon a time known as Happiest Lion and if it’s Christmas time Caroling Caravan) has some new music coming out. While I’m no indie folk expert I would put him on top of the current crop of folks working in that medium. His voice aches and breaks like Sufjan or Luke Temple. His lyrics are often personal or at other times poetic; simple or inscrutable depending on the song. I get the feeling (one I get from others like Nathan K., Jeff Pianki) that there’s a strong but conflicted element of faith behind his songs. Musically there are certainly elements of folk and country, a banjo plucks here or a mandolin strums there, but don’t expect searing pedal steel or songs about drinking at the honky-tonk or cheating, star-crossed lovers.

The new record was recorded this summer in Cincinnati and Nashville with members of the band Pomegranates and Sam Cowan on drums. The record will be called Down, Dakota and should be out soon. I’ve heard a couple songs and as always am impressed with Caleb’s music. Here’s the first song he’s sharing from the new record. Hopefully I’ll have more to share in the weeks to come.

Tegucigalpa by Caleb Groh

Bonus video “Lo in the Leaves”

Lo in the Leaves from Caleb on Vimeo.

New EP from Boston based folk ensemble The Gallerist – “A Falling Waltz”

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

The Gallerist is basically Mike Collins production with a little help from some friends. The band is based out of Boston and this is their first ep. Titled A Falling Waltz the ep swings from straight-up folk to the more full band sounds of The Avett Brothers or Frontier Ruckus. Not surprisingly the band mentions contemporaries like Bowerbirds, the David Wax Museum, Cotton Jones, The Tallest Man on Earth, and the Low Anthem as influences.

I’ll link to the two free songs from the band’s Bandcamp page. But for now it’s the first one, “Songbirds” that is stuck in my subconscious after only a few listens.

Songbirds [Download]

A Parent Apology [Download]

Nathan K.

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

I’m on a bit of Michigan tear of late. What is it about Michigan that brings out the folk singer-songwriter in a guy/gal. I live near Chicago and follow the local scene as best I can but I swear Michigan has such a better folk and indie folk scene than Chicago has ever had (save the period when John Prine and Steve Goodman were hanging out in Old Town together in the 70′s). I’m thinking specifically of Chris Bathgate, Jeff Pianki, Hayward Williams, Drew Nelson, Matt Jones and that’s just the dudes – there are just as many fine women performers.

Add to that list Nathan K. I’ve been hearing hints and whispers about Nathan K. for a year now but just never got around to exploring his music. Now that I have done so I am impressed with his stuff. His latest record is called Newspapers and Prayers. There are a number of songs on here that are absolute clinchers. The one I linked to is called “The Leper & The Saint” a beautiful song that equates a careless saint with a remorseful poet. This record has been free on Bandcamp for a bit but now you can order yourself a limited edition cd here.

The Leper & The Saint [Download]

Me or Jesus or That Guy In Space

Honky-Tonk Friday – Roy sludge – “Too Drunk To Truck”

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Roy Sludge looks to be a man about town in Boston. He’s in a number of country and rockabilly bands and is opening for J. Geils frontman Peter Wolf this fall. This is the title track from his debut full length which he describes as a “truckin’ and drinkin’ manifesto”. If you are looking for truckin’ and drinkin’ songs this is a good place to start.

Too Drunk To Truck [Download]

Exclusive first listen – Amber Rubarth – “Letter From My Lonelier Self” from A Common Case of Disappearing (Sept. 22)

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I’m a bit afraid for Amber Rubarth. I’m afraid of what the industry will do to her. The problem is she’s good, really good. Her songs are great (as evidence of her win at Mountain Stage NewSong competition) and the music is high quality (she can play guitar and has access to top studio players). The problem is she’s also beautiful (and marketable) and I’m worried they will try to make her into a folkier version of Norah Jones. Instead she should have a long prolific, creative career like Joan Baez, Dar Williams, or Shawn Colvin.

Here’s what we’ve got in our favor. Radio is done, kaput. Television is a wasteland of big voiced starlets covering other artists songs on the myriad of competition shows out there. The internet is so vast no one can get a foothold or any significant traction. So even if they wanted to try cram this down our throats they wouldn’t be able to. Plus her music and songs are too clever to be crazy popular. This isn’t Sheryl Crow we’re talking about but more like Lisa Loeb or Jill Sobule.

I love the first line of this song and how it’s delivered. The instrumentation is rich and the production is polished (a little too rich and too polished for me but that’s another story). The theme of acting on your feelings and not waiting `til it’s too late is something we’ve heard before but this time it’s wrapped in such an appealing package and with a couple interesting turn of phrases that it just works.

Pre-order the new record A Common Case of Disappearing out on NewSong Recordings here.

Letter From My Lonelier Self [Download]

Bonus live track

Full Moon In Paris [Download]

Northern English “folk” from Harp and a Monkey

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Harp And a Monkey are a rather strange little folktronica trio from Northern England. This is their debut record out in September on Folk Police Records. While they want to be recognized as traditional British folk artists they pervert that wish with their strange brand of folk. I like that dichotomy.

Katy’s Twinkly Band [Download]

Willow And The Ghost

Friday Country Music Hodgepodge (Clay Parker, Roe Family Singers, and Hank Hall)

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

I’ve got a couple things that may not get a full post so I’ll combine them into one. Common element is country music; be it honky-tonk, old-timey or americana.


First up is a song off the new record from Minneapolis based bluegrass/jugband group Roe Family Singers. The record is called The Owl and the Bat and the Bumblebee and features the large band playing a vast repertoire of American bluegrass and jugband music.

Happy Girl [Download]


Next up is some pretty righteous and reverb drenched retro honky-tonk from Knock Galley West stand up bassist Hank Hall. His new record is called I’m Only Leavin’ and came out in July of this past year. It is chock full with traditional country sounds a la Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, and George Jones.

NYC [Download]


Finally here is something from the debut record from Clay Parker. Clay is a Louisiana based folk musician with a debut record called The Wind & The Warble due out on Sept. 9. It’s an impressive debut that I hope to hear more of in the near future.

Neither One Of Us Should Be Alone Tonight [Download]

Debut record “The Country” from Austin’s HalleyAnna

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

There’s not a lot of info on the interwebs yet about HalleyAnna. From what little I can find she is based in Austin and has been singing in honky-tonks and churchs for the last decade or so. You can expect clear and concise songs from her as she just finished her creative writing degree. Her debut record is due out this fall and is titled The Country.

“Tonight!” features saxophone, barrelhouse piano, stinging guitar, and a full compliment of instruments provided by her band the Tennessee Volunteers.

Tonight! [Download]