There used to be a time in college radio in the late 80′s and early nineties that a Golden Palominos record was a big deal. REM were usually involved in some way and of course so was drummer Anton Fier – also folks like Syd Straw, Richard Thompson, Peter Holsapple, Bob Mould, and NYC improvers like John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Arto Lindsey and Fred Firth. The Palomino records that were produced with varying guests over a decade were eclectic ranging from rock to industrial.
It’s been awhile since I heard from the group but I just learned Anton Fier has teamed up with Drivin n Cryin alum Kevn Kinney to record a new Palomino record called A Good Country Mile. In fact there is a song called “A Good Country Mile” on here and it’s one of my favorite Kinney tunes. But here is “Challenge” from the new record. It’s more muscular than a typical Kinney solo outing but this is no ordinary Kinney solo outing. This will appeal to fans of Drivin n Cryin.
I started this review with a little trepidation. While I love Anaïs Mitchell and am practically an Anaïs completest/stalker, I was worried that this record might be a letdown. See I’ve been disappointed before when my hopes were so high. Sometimes it’s that 5th (or 4th or 6th) record where you might notice a dropoff. Maybe an artist has said all she needs to say, or becomes musically stagnant or unnecessarily experimental. That’s often the time an artist puts out the special guest record or the duets record or the inevitable children’s lullabies record or the covers project (I could go on and on). But I worried for naught.
That faint bit of anxiety was probably silly really, especially considering Anais broke the mold of what a folk artist can accomplish on her last record: the folk-rock opera Hadestown. The new record is called Young Man In America and is due out on Feb 21. This is a more independent release than past records (the last couple cds were released on Ani DiFrancos’ label Righteous Babe) but the production gives no indication of any expense being spared. There are orchestral moments, experimental jazz sounds, ambient echos, and dischordant fractured guitars. All these sounds fit in the context of each song and rarely overshadow Anaïs voice and her lyrics.
One of the songs with the most soaring, epic instrumentation is “Ships”; on it Anaïs matches the dynamics of the music with her powerful voice. On the standout track “Tailor” (performed here live on YouTube) Anais describes a character who goes through a litany of changes both physical and mental brought about by a lover’s remarks. The song is performed on a bed of accordion giving it a bit of a ramshackle, gypsy sound. Every nuance of Anais’ voice is present, every whispered phrase, every sigh, all the resentment and all the disappointment. On the song “Shepherd” Anaïs explores a relationship between a shepherd and his wife pregnant with child. Both have their wants and needs and responsibilities and even in the moments before an imminent birth the work of the shepherd takes precedent leading to a tragic result.
“Shepherd” is being given away free to those who sign up for Anaïs’ newsletter so you can go here (scroll down to the bottom of the page) to sign up for the newsletter. Or you can preview the song below (plus there’s a nice live video of it here).
Anaïs has an extensive touring schedule with a April 20 release show here in Chicago at SPACE. Here’s some important upcoming dates:
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 Westminster, London, UK – SOLD OUT @ Westminster Reference Library
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 Newmarket, NH @ The Stone Church on Zion Hill
Thursday, February 23, 2012 Cambridge, MA @ Club Passim
Friday, February 24, 2012 Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
Saturday, February 25, 2012 Peacedale, RI @ Music at Lily Pads
Monday, February 27, 2012 Northampton, MA @ Iron Horse Music Hall
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 New York, NYC @ Joe’s Pub
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 Annapolis, MD @ Rams Head On Stage
Thursday, March 1, 2012 Philadelphia, PA @ Tin Angel
Young Man In America can be preordered now through Amazon here. This is a great chance to support independent music and come away with what will surely be one of the great records of 2012.
Cooper Thompson sounds a bit like someone from an earlier time. You don’t have to go back too far though. He get’s compared to Springsteen, Waits, and I’d add Buddy Holly to the list. His recording process is simple, organic and analog. As a result his songs are warm and have a glow about them.
The new record is called Outlaw For A Year and was produced by Kevin Augunas. The songs were recorded over 8 days and nights with the help of Richard Swift at his studio.
You can pick up the cd or the digital download here or through iTunes:
This is a pretty apt record cover for the band Mad Buffalo’s new release wilderness since the record is a throwback both lyrically and musically to an earlier time. Nowhere is this more evident than in the song “Big Joe Walker” which recounts some of the tall tails about this western mountain man.
While I haven’t heard the whole record it also addresses contemporary American problems.
I stumbled upon the upcoming record by James Low a couple of times in the last few weeks. The latest time was on an indie radio country chart. This Portland based artist has a low key country sound that borders on folk. If you are a fan of artists that straddle those two genres than you should check The James Low Western Front out. You can pre-order the album now here. Catch James Low tonight in Portland with Lewi Longmire (wrote about him here) at the Press Club or tomorrow at Al’s Den with Matt Brown.
Here’s the song “Words” from the new record; it’s got the most lovely pedal steel on it…
PS I’m a sucker for songs about states of the union. Particularly songs about California. Here’s a video off the new record for a song called “Thinking California”.
Marlowe and The Sea is basically one dude from Jackson, Ms. His label and bio claim he plays folk music with bite. That might be catchy but I don’t think it’s true. However the failure to market Marlowe and the Sea as anything but sad sack indie folk doesn’t have any effect on the quality of the tunes and the performances. And in this case both are high.
The production is a bit rough on this ep – the hiss is almost distracting. But the roughness works and the tune “A Second-Chance Love Song” is better for it – makes it seem more intimate like he was burned by some girl and retreated right to the attic to record this take. There’s plans for a debut lp out in 2012 on Elegant Trainwreck Records but until then you can stream/download this ep here via Bandcamp.
Walter Spencer is best known as the bassist of the Water Towert Bucket Boys. While I like the hard country/string band sounds of the bucket boys, I really like the odd timey blend of folk, string band, and country that Walter Spencer brings to his solo efforts (wrote about his debut here). The new record is called Red Romance and is available at iTunes and Amazon.
“Weed” is just what you expect, a song extolling the virtues of pot. It’s funny and surprisingly convincing on the medicinal and psychological benefits of marijuana.
Finding a record like Josiennne Clarke’sThe Seas Are Deep makes me realize I should continue this music blog. Here is something (and someone) that is completely breathtaking and yet is not all over the blogosphere and deserves to be. This new record is a collection of covers of traditional folk songs. She is once again accompanied by Ben Walker on guitar.
Glad you found me at my new url. Songs:Illinois is committed to writing about music that is under-appreciated and unique. I've found that the music I write about shares a couple of traits. And they are: lyrical integrity, musically diverse, and written/performed by compelling characters.
Most songs found here are free and legal and have been provided by either the artist or label. If for some reason you'd like to have a song removed, please email me at cbonnell (at) gmail.com.