Archive for November, 2011

Songs:Illinois Christmas Mixtape (2011 Edition)(Frontier Ruckus, Hayes Carll, Felice Brothers, Neko Case, + 80 more)

Monday, November 28th, 2011

**Dec. 16 Update**

Here’s a couple additions to the ever evolving Christmas mix. First up is something from Michigan indie folker Carter Moulton (friend of Jeff Pianki, Caleb Groh). These two songs are off a free 8 song EP called Scarves and Sweaters.

We Need A Little Christmas [Download]

Together On Christmas [Download]

Somehow I missed these two songs from S:I favorite Steve Poltz. While both are great, the first one recorded in 2008 is a near classic, talking blues a la Todd Snider that name drops Walmart, Captain Kirk, and Barak Obama.

Christmas 2008 [Download]

Santa Claus and Prison [Download]

**Dec. 6 Update**

If you came of age in the 80′s and listened to college radio than you are probably aware of the band The Windbreakers. They were a Mississippi based duo comprised of Bobbi Sutilff and Time Lee. They had several influential releases produced by Mitch Easter and toured with the likes of the db’s and REM. I’ve tried to keep track of their solo work and as a result just stumbled upon this Tim Lee original Christmas song called “Shiny Red Suit”. It’s a glorious slab of power pop.

Shiny Red Suit [Download]

**Dec 5 Update**

Here’s a song off the new For Folk’s Sake Christmas comp. I like this one from Caitlin Rose and Keegan Dewitt. Its downbeat message of loneliness and abandonement fits in nicely with the rest of the tunes on this list. And it beats out that Christmas record from M. Ward and Zoey every day of the week in my book.

You Never Come Home For Christmas [Download]

Here it is the now famous Songs:Illinois Christmas mix for 2011. I’ll be updating this often so just check back or follow me on Twitter for updates.

**Dec. 1, 2011 Update**

I’ve got some great additions to the mix today. The first song is from Josh T. Pearson, who if all was right in the world, would have been nominated for a Grammy last night. It’s courtesy of Aquarium Drunkard (at least that’s where I found it). The second song is from WXPN favorite and Philly native Ben Smith. It’s a bit of a downer so perfect for this mix of increasingly anti-Christmas songs. I’ve also got a song from last year which I didn’t post at the time by the Branches that will get you out of the funk that Josh T Pearson and Ben Smith put you in. Finally there’s a Weepies cover by Americana artist Vanessa Peters.

O Holy Night [Download]
– Josh T. Pearson
Same Old New Year’s [Download]
– Ben Smith
Go Tell It On The Mountain [Download]
– Branches
All That I Want [Download]
– Vanessa Peters

**Nov. 30, 2011 Update**

Kind of excited about this first update of the year. Here’s two songs from Massachusetts’ based country band Salvation Alley String Band. The first is a cover of “Little Saint Nick” done to perfection and the second is a cover of the Willie Nelson tune “Pretty Paper” The band shows it’s terrific range on these two songs; look for a new album from them some time in 2012.

Little Saint Nick [Download]

Pretty Paper [Download]


Here’s the first new stuff I’d like to share. Beta Radio are a Wilmington, NC based duo who excel at vocal harmonies and kind of eclectic americana instrumentation. Here’s their song “The Song The Season Brings”

The Song The Season Brings [Download]

Also Inara George and her little duo project The Bird and The Bee have released this little xmas nugget – “Wishes”


2010 Additions to the mix:

“I’d Like You For Christmas” is an overlooked classic that this Knoxville based roots/swing band takes and makes their own. Order the new album here.

I’d Like You For Christmas [Download]


“Christmas Song” by Adam Remnant of the band Southeast Engine. Its mixture of sad nostalgia, childish wonder and naivite, and the slight hope and “reprieve” that comes from more a adult version of the holiday. This song is part of a compilation called A Very Ohio Christmas put together by the guys at Each Note Secure and Donewaiting with the proceeds going to Gracehaven – “an organization that raises awareness about the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking and also seeks to provide shelter and rehabilitation to girls who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation.” Featured on the disc are original Christmas songs by Megan Palmer, Moviola, You, You’re Awesome and many more. Buy it here via Bandcamp.

Christmas Song [Download]


Here’s a cover of Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from The Family” from the Nashville based band Lindley Ruth and Her Tipsy String Band (with Jordan Hull).

Merry Christmas From The Family [Download]
(that morphs into “Blue Christmas” at the end)

I’m a big fan of Boston’s Caleb Groh. Whether it’s as a part of his lofi indie pop band Happiest Lion or his Christmas music project Caleb and the Caroling Caravan. So I was thrilled when he sent me a link to his new release – Vol. II of his Christmas music series. It’s available in its entirety on Bandcamp here. But for now check out his original “Christmas is Best” and the cover of the carol “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”.

Christmas Is Best [Download]

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day [Download]


Here’s a little indie folk from Nashville via the band Haunting Party (essentially Nathanael Mehrens and Aimee Romero). I like the juxtaposition of vocals on “Baby It’s Cold Out There”. That and the fact that this song, in all it’s variations, has been stuck in my head for the last week makes this an easy pick. There are 5 more songs on their Christmas ep here via Bandcamp.

Baby It’s Cold Outside [Download]


I’ve written about Lisa Cerbone in the past (here). It seems she and I both have kids about the same age. I’m guessing her daughter had at least something to do with this song selection. Here’s “The Chipmunk Song” (or The Chipmunk Christmas song as it’s know in my house).

The Chipmunk Song [Download]


We’ve got an update with songs from two bands that are mining the same territory but searching for different minerals. The west coast folk collective Branches uses traditional Appalachian instruments in their brand of indie folk. You can hear tyhis more on their two eps but a slight presence is present in these two Chrtistmas songs as well (mandolin, banjo).

O Come All Ye Faithful [Download]

Silent Night [Download]

Travel By Sea play a sleepy version of americana with weepy pedal steel and drowsy Neil Young inclined vocals.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas [Download]

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day [Download]


Pleased as punch to add this Memphis themed Christmas tune from Star And Micey.

Memphis Christmas [Download]


You might think this is disingenuous but I’m also pleased as punch to offer up this Christmas song from American Gun (love the Social D undertones). This song and the compilation it comes from is available here via the record label Rose and Arrow.

Little Manger [Download]


Slowcoustic and the Yer Bird record label provided me with this gorgeous cover of “Let It Snow” by Greater Pacific. The band has an EP coming out at the end of January. For now enjoy this languid take on “Let It Snow”.

Let It Snow [Download]


Fuzzy garage rock Christmas song from Buffalo Killers.

Secret Santa [Download]
– Buffalo Killers

Hard not to add the song “Whore For The Holidays” since I sometimes call this mix the anti-Christmas mix. This is a good slab of piano based pop from The Davenports (who I just wrote about here).

Whore For The Holidays [Download]
– The Davenports

Here’s something I missed when it came out in 2009. Don’t blame me though as the artist is as obscure and, in parts, as talented as you can get. I’ve written about his oddball lofi folk before (he performs under the name Happiest Lion). Here he goes by Caleb and Caroling Caravan and his 2009 Christmas release is available here free.

Christmas Don’t Be Late [Download]


Thanks to Herohill for pointint us in the direction of the new Christmas song from OX. I had these guys play a house concert a couple of years back as they were driving through on the way to SXSW. Great guys – great band – great songs!

Xmas in the Jailhouse (via Herohill [Download]

Here’s a reader’s suggestion of a little more sacrilegious Christmas music; this time from Las Vegas’ best and only Irish folk-punk-rock band. I can’t help but like the line “and Santa Claus and Jesus Christ can kiss my Irish ass”.

Whiskey Christmas – Darby O’Gill and the Little People [Download]


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

I Wanna Spend My Xmas Time With You [Download]
– Phil Lee

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

Bastard Brothers [Download]
– Chip Taylor

All Alone For Christmas [Download]
– Danny Barnes

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

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

Cosy Evenings [Download]
– Dan Byrk

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

O Holy Night [Download]
– Benji Cossa

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

The Little Baby [Download]
– Hefner

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

Santa’s Hungover [Download]
– Santa’s Hungover

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

I Hate Fucking Christmas [Download]
– The Rugburns (live)

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 In Prison [Download]
– Cristabel and the Jons

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

Colin Linden produced record from British Columbia based Kim McMechan

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Women are outnumbered 5 to 1 on Songs:Illinois. I’m not sure why that exactly is. But I suspect it has something to do with the ratio of male to female singer songwriters, as well as to my very high standards for what constitutes a good song/artist/album. Kim McMechan passes that test. Her new album is called Paper Sun and was produced by Colin Linden. The song “You Sent Me A Letter” features her lovely vocals and lyrics that tell a story and paint a picture (“doesn’t it seem like a lifetime ago when I crashed your car after that show”).

The new record Paper Sun is available now here.

You Sent Me A Letter [Download]

Fiona Sally Miller’s new EP “The Whale’s Love Life”

Friday, November 18th, 2011

I wrote about Fiona Sally Miller earlier this past summer. I was struck by the beauty of what seemed to be her debut EP. At the time I didn’t really appreciate the artistry of her music though. With her new ep out now I see that Fiona is more than just another pretty voice. Fiona has just released a new EP which she recorded, produced, and performed by herself. It’s a conceptual record called The Whale’s Love Life that in lieu of synthesizers, uses found sounds and hydrophone recordings that Fiona made to flesh out the songs. Thematically the songs seem loosely based on the theme of deep sea adventures and “the worlds found beneath the tide, and the riverbed floor, the motion of a wind turbine, the depths of a swimming pool and underneath the covers.”

I’ve linked to the song “I Wade Out” which seems to use the image of wading out into water as a metaphor for trepidation here on land with our everyday lives. Fiona Sally Miller’s new EP is available via Bandcamp here or can be found on iTunes. I highly recommend it.

I Wade Out [Download]

New EP from Old Man Luedecke and Lake of Stew – “Sing All About It”

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Old Man Luedecke has a new collaborative ep with the Canadian string band Lake Of Stew called Sing All About It. The song “Delia and Wilhelmina” is a Luedecke original but it’s a song that you can hear all the various group members in either the harmony vocals or the instrumentation. For now this EP is available free via Noisetrade here.

Delia and Wilhelmina [Download]

Indie folk from Vancouver’s “Wake! Owl”

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Close your eyes and you’ll hear a bit of The Tallest Man On Earth, Bright Eyes and maybe even Ray Lamontagne from the Canadian singer songwriter who goes by the name Wake! Owl. Wake Owl’s debut ep is called Wild Country and is available in its entirety here.

Seaside [Download]

Gold [Download]

Debut record from NYC (by way of Stone Moutain, Ga.) singer-songwriter Phil Pickens

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Debut records are exciting. Anything could happen. By the time an artist releases a 4th or 5th record you kinda know what you’ve got. It might be great but chances are it’s going to do what it was meant to do. Very few bands are able to reinvent themselves and be relevant and have new things to say ten or twenty years into their career. So that’s why I’m excited about the debut from NYC based singer-songwriter Phil Pickens. His debut record is out today and is titled Sweet Tea Circus.

“My Way” may sound familiar – it’s hard to do too much different with acoustic guitar and voice – but I really like Phil’s confident vocals, his pained lyrics and the accompanying music. It’s a good place to start; even better though is to buy Sweet Tea Circus here or to see Phil Pickens’ next show on Nov 22 at Southpaw.

My Way [Download]

New album from Jeff Black (feat. Sam Bush, Gretchen Peters, Jerry Douglas)

Monday, November 14th, 2011

While I usually only post mp3 downloads I couldn’t be bothered to wait for the pr company to get their act together to send me an mp3 from the new record from Jeff Black. So here is an embed of a song from his new record Plow Through The Mystic. I’ve been a fan of his ever since I heard his debut record Birmingham Road. I’m not the only fan that Jeff Black has accumulated so far – on this new record he is joined by Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Matraca Berg, Gretchen Peters, and Kim Richey. Despite this allstar “country” cast Plow Through The Mystic is not your standard issue americana release. For one Jeff’s delivery at times has grown so deep as to resemble early Tom Waits, also musically Jeff plays most of the instruments and creates a sound that is more varied and more cinematic than your run-of-the-mill, paint-by-numbers americana.

Penny Blacks new album “Harbour”

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

I’ve got some feelers out to a couple different bands for new music to share with you on Songs:Illinois. But if it was a race to get back to me quickest than the Penny Blacks have won the medal. Penny Blacks are a band from Saint John, New Brunswick who straddle a couple different genres. On a song with cello and acoustic guitar (like “Only Good Enough”) you’ll hear a bit of americana, but on others (“Bitter Bruisers Society”) you might hear hints of Joe Jackson (hey, I liked Joe Jackson!) in the power pop arrangements and lush strings (“She’s Losing Herself”).

The new album is called Harbour and is available here through Bandcamp.

Only Good Enough [Download]

Indie folk from Wisconsin native Paul Otteson – New EP “Fall Where They May”

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Here’s a little indie folk a la Chris Bathgate, The Tallest Man On Earth, and Sufjan Stevens. Paul Otteson’s new 4 song EP Fall Where They May is a followup to his critically acclaimed debut release February Fables. This ep comes out in CD from in December but you can get the digital copy now here via Bandcamp.

On “Never Knight” Paul’s upper register vocals are accompanied by piano, violin, various stringed instruments and what sounds like a Xylophone. It’s an eclectic mix of instruments that suit his voice and the structure of the song.

Never Knight [Download]

Drew Kennedy releases new album/novel simultaneously – “Fresh Water In The Salton Sea”

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

I should have written about each and every one of Drew Kennedy’s prior releases. And I’m not sure why I didn’t. Drew hits all my sweet spots. He’s a troubadour from New Braunfels, Tx. who combines straight ahead country with bruising rock and sensitive folk. As you can imagine I’m a sucker for the songs on the folkier edge of this spectrum so I’ve linked to the song “The Captain And The Highway” from the new record Fresh Water In The Salton Sea.

Not content to just release a new album, Drew has also put out a companion novel of the same name (buy the ebook here). On top of this he has a busy touring schedule (here’s the next couple of weeks):

11/02/11 Austin, TX Saxon Pub
11/03/11 San Angelo, TX Blaine’s Pub
11/04/11 Dallas, TX Poor David’s Pub
11/05/11 Fort Worth, TX Woody’s Tavern
11/08/11 Lubbock, TX The Blue Light

On “The Captain and The Highway” Drew sings in a deep resonant voice accompanied primarily by acoustic guitar. This along with the world weary nature of the song, the lonely and sad imagery, and the foreboding cello (?) combine to produce a beautiful song that is a standout on an album full of standouts. Buy the brand new album here directly from Drew Kennedy.

The Captain and the Highway [Download]

Bonus video of “The Captain And The Highway”

Ottoman Turks – “Juarez” (prod. by Salim Nourallah)

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

While Ottoman Turks may list influences like Tom Waits, Hank Williams, Sr., and Bob Dylan I hear other stuff in their music. On I “Should Have Been Warned” I hear Moe Tucker fronting Jad Fair. And on “You’re Only Pretty When You’re Sad” I hear a touch of deranged Doug Sahm garage rock. The song “Steel And Song” has me stumped but I do hear a pinch of modern gypsy-cabaret by the likes of O’ Death or The Devil Makes Three.

This Dallas based band formed in 2010 and has been gigging around town ever since. They are shopping the new record Juarez now to interested labels. The record was produced by Songs:Illinois favorite Salim Nourallah at his Pleasantry Lane Studios. You can give a listen to Juarez on Bandcamp; it’s an eclectic and fun listen with Nathan and Lydia Wells taking turns on lead vocals amid a diverse array of instruments and textures.

Buy the new record Juarez on Bandcamp now.

You’re Only Pretty When You’re Sad [Download]