these are some more new things you should listen to and stuff
EMMYLOU HARRIS – ALL I INTENDED TO BE
Emmylou’s about as acclaimed as singers get – a sought-after duet partnet. Personally, wading through an album’s worth of strummy, hookless, midtempo numbers dressed with her slooow smoky vocals does not appeal. There are certain tunes this woman cannot carry. The best tracks are mostly duets and collaborations.
RECOMMENDED: 13*** lovely country gospel with background vocals, 10** cover of Merle Haggard classic, 5* Duet with Ms. Dolly Parton, 9* Classic Billy Joe Shaver tune and another duet, 12 & 16 are co-written and sung with the McGarrigle sisters.
THE HORSE FLIES – INTO THE OCEAN
These guys are on some World Fusion shit. RIYD trancey, droney, raga & tabla-inflected renditions of traditional folk tunes, soaked in cold reverb… Otherwise? (yeah these guys have been around for awhile, promoting themselves with vague notions of redefining and and recontextualizing tradition music, so if that’s your bag, be my guest)
RECOMMENDED: 11**, 4*, 5, 7, 10 (with absolutely terrible anti-war lyrics)
THE GORDONS – OUR TIME
Couple-duo straight outta the 60’s/70’s folk revival. All of the conservative traditionalism of bluegrass with none of the emphasis on flair, technique and vituosity (oh, and that’s a good thing, fwiw). Sterility of the arrangements can prove a bore on the slowest of the slow tracks, but mostly these are simple, beautiful (even v.v. beautiful) songs on a fine album.
RECOMMENDED: 2***, 4*** (play any, really)
TWILIGHT HOTEL – HIGHWAY PRAYER
I like this! Canadian duo sing weepy, rootsy ballads, bluesy torch songs and some surf/lounge pastiche – all with real purty, close, country-harmonizin’! Some melodramatic, meandering, half-baked story songs as well, which only makes them more endearing.
RECOMMENDED : 1 – goofy rockabilly romp, ode to vinyl (aww), 3*** beautiful C%W love song, 2 & 11 are weepy chick blues belters, 4* lovely highway romance ode, 7* super weird ballad about immigrant migrant workers in SoCal and also: heartbreak, 10* most upbeat and catchy
JAMES CURLEY – MANUFACTURED MEANING
This fella is clearly impressed with his own ability to turn phrases. These songs are all overwritten and over-clever. Sometimes it is cute but also sometimes is is obnoxious. He also apparently feels the need to infuse all of his songs with his convoluted politics. However, I enjoyed some of these songs and maybe you will too? Avoid if you hate cheese.
RECOMMENDED: 2** – the best song, about Shakespeare and TV culture, 4* – over the top in a perhaps unintentional way but also pretty, 9 – mariachi horns. AVOID: 1 & 3 (about 9-11, Katrina…)
THE JUGGERNAUTS – YOU MEAN WE GET PAID FOR THIS?
These guys sound like they’re having lots of fun. They play a mix of jug band numbers, Western Swing classics (3 Bob Wills songs), plus early jazz and blues nuggets. They take a lighthearted and friendly approach to these songs, but that’s certainly no crime. These are all classic songs and these fellas sound like very capable musicians. Two originals (1 & 10) but I think anyone would prefer the classics they cover. I like ’em all, pretty much.
RECOMMENDED: honestly, play any of these (and seek out original or at least older versions of these songs)
WIDOW MAKER – THE AWFUL TRUTH
I wish we got sent more CD’s like this one – contemporary songwriting consistent with traditional music, but not too concerned with aping it or “reviving” it. These folks mostly play some particularly tuneful (not just precise and austere) bluegrass, with some bluesy numbers and slower, more trad. country-oriented stuff. Close Country harmonies, tight bluegrass musicianship and actual cleverly written songs!
RECOMMENDED: most are bluegrassy (1*, 7***, 12*), 2*** is bluesier (so is 5), 3 & 6 & 10 are more country, 13 – weird rockabilly with delay vox
VARIOUS ARTISTS – MONEYLAND
Bluegrass and Country compilation organized by blegrass legend Del McCoury – featuring old and new songs about the evils of big government and big money and the crimes they commit against poor rural folk. Equally moving, earnest, cloying and heavyhanded.
RECOMMENDED: 2****, 13**, 10***, 6***
RY COODER – I, FLATHEAD
Ry Cooder is a legendary blues/rock/ethno-theft slide guitarist. He’s done a million things and you can easily look those up (played in Beefheart’s band circa Safe As Milk, made that silly Buena Vista Social Club movie, et cetera). This album is the companion piece to a novella he wrote about a fictional rocker/salt flat drag racer… and it’s really, really awesome and really, really weird – a mix of country, rockabilly, blues, and tex-mex, full of references to midcentury SoCal/Hollywood Americana and Classic Country Music. It’s also fun and catchy and accesible, so don’t be scared by the surface weirdness. This is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, so far.
MIKE DOUGHERTY – SOUTHERN COMFORT
This is a lovely, simple collection of instrumental country and blues acoustic guitar tunes. Primarily in the finger-picking tradition of Piedmont bluesmen (and John Hurt) and country pickers like Merle Travis. He doesn’t specifically copy any of these guys, though, and also doesn’t try to revolutionize the style with some cheesy new schtick (ala John Fahey, Leo Kottke and whatever other pickers enshrined by indie fandom) – and these are both good things. Anyway, this is a really lovely album.
LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III – RECOVERY
OK. LWIII is one of my favorite songwriters so I am totally biased in his favor and I always give him the benefit of the doubt. he’s had a long, confusing career. Even though his fame peaked decades ago, he’s still a vital writer and performer (the album he released alst year is one of his best). he he revists songs from his early career in the first half of the 1970s. Where the twentysomething boy whined over spare strumming, the sixtysomething man howls over lush, rootsy arrangements. His voice is a little worse for the wear so I still prefer the originals versions, but these are all still really good – a collection of wonderful songs – clever, but honest and direct.