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Oct 172014
 

BarrBros

There’s quite a fair bit of country music out there that’s popular but sadly, it’s mostly Top 40 mainstream pop fare that never challenges the mind and instead panders to the lowest common denominator. For something more cutting edge in the country music sphere, we need to continue to look at Alt-Country. Thankfully, that aspect of country music is still thriving (creatively, if not commercially) and one prime example can be found in Sleeping Operator, the sophomore effort from the Montreal-based Barr Brothers (viz. Brad Barr, Andrew Barr, Sarah Page, Andres Vial).

It’s always a wondrous experience when an artistically-minded band blends country with rock ‘n’ roll to produce soulful music that leaves the listener satisfied. To these ears, songs like “Wolves”, “Even the Darkness Has Arms” and “Half Crazy” recalls the likes of Steve Earle, The Jayhawks and even early WILCO – a wonderful evocation of Gram Parsons’ Cosmic American Music. The melodies glide effortlessly and the exotic instrumentation complements the same perfectly to send sympathetic listeners into country-folk-pop-rock bliss!

Official Site

Thanks to Nick Whitcomb for the recommendation!

Mar 222013
 

Australian based Dancing Heals has just releasing the gorgeous track, “Always on My Mind”, and are currently finishing up their second album, that captures more of their live sound and draws from longtime influences such as Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac. The band loves to wave the nostalgia flag and “Always On My Mind” is no different. A sonically raw reflection on the confusing emotions of letting someone go… and never forgetting.

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Mar 222013
 

Pony Boy, aka Marchelle Bradanini, puts a seductive, modern twist on the Americana sound with sultry vocals atop twangy, buzzing guitars. “Greatest Unknown” is simultaneously beautiful and eerie, sounding as though it belongs on a Twin Peaks soundtrack. Catch her live show in March and April as she opens for Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rockettes:

3/23: Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco
4/8: Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
4/9: Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour

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Dec 242012
 

The late great Gram Parsons

Country music mixed with rock n’ roll seemed like a logical conclusion as the roots of the latter was intertwined with the weight of inspiration of the former. The Flying Burrito Brothers, led by two former Byrds viz. Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, lit the touchpaper for the likes of The Eagles and Poco. Not only that, in-between his time with The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, Parsons provided the Rolling Stones with much know-how for the legendary country-folk-blues classics that followed. In the late 80s/early 90s, Parsons (who passed away from a drug overdose in 1973, aged 27) become the godfather of a new movement which brought elements of punk and alternative rock to Parsons’ self-styled Cosmic American Music.

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Christine’s Tune (Devil in Disguise)

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Nov 102012
 

So digging this new discovery. Tom Shaner is a singer-songwriter whose music (according to his bio) has been described many different ways, but there is usually a very rooted quality to it. Shaner is readying the release of his new album Ghost Songs, Waltzes and Rock and Roll produced by Charles Newman (Magnetic Fields) for Mother West Records. This is the official video for the first single, “Unstoppable Hipster” – am loving its Bob Dylan/Elvis Costello vibe. Review to come!

 

Oct 272012
 

For the first half of this wonderful album, Portland-based outfit Sassparilla (Kevin Blackwell, Colin Macdonald, Ross Macdonald, Naima Muntal, Justin Burkhart and Ben Stewart) parlays the fundamental influences (country, folk, blues and rock n’ roll) into a potent mix. Armed with banjos, harmonicas, slide guitars and decent pop tunes – Magpie lives up to its promise of delivering authentic Beatlesque Americana and channeling the likes of The Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, Steve Earle, Tom Petty, (early) Wilco, The Jayhawks and more.

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Apr 092012
 

“Another Circle of Fifths” (Off upcoming new album, Are’s and Els)

Okay, I clicked on this link because of the following –

Michael The Blind is Michael Levasseur, a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist living in Portland, Oregon. Think Leonard Cohen, but not so low. Elliott Smith, but not so high. Suzanne Vega, but not so female. John Fahey when acoustic, Paul Westerberg when electric. A lyrical style that is both e.e. cummings and Mother Goose.

Now that’s winning copy! And what about that song title – which only music geeks will get? Priceless. The song itself, nasal high register voice, rockabilly rhythms, sawing violins and twang up to the wazoo. WIN WIN WIN WIN!

 

Mar 112012
 

Tiger Talk

Country + Rock n’ Roll is still one of the most potent music out there in the modern rock wasteland. Thankfully, bands like Yukon Blonde is smart enough to eschew current obsessions with 80s post-punk/synth-pop and deal exclusively good old fashioned alt-country magic. For one week only, PoP visitors get to check out the upcoming new album – Tiger Talk – streaming in its entirety at Soundcloud. The album is due for released on 20th March. Can hardly wait!

Official Site

WINFRED E. EYE

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Feb 172012
 

 

TAKE IT EASY

What I really like about Winfred E Eye and its latest LP – Today Was Another Day – is that the band does not sound like it’s really trying too hard to please anyone. Except maybe themselves. There’s a casual, laidback vibe on this collection of songs that is both charming and daring. In some ways, songs like the ethereal “Void” and “Sentimental Junk” might come across like something off Bon Iver’s sophomore effort but it does not take itself as seriously. Know what I mean?

No? Well simply put although there are elements of ‘indie cred’ in Winfred E. Eye’s songwriting, overall the sound is so rustic and homespun, it seems that the band is taking the piss! It’s all very 70s Laurel Canyon most of the time, equal parts Neil Young and James Taylor in approach especially in songs like “Hard Time Comin'” and “Burnin’ Alone”. In fact, on the latter track, the discerning music lover may also find traces of Giant Sand’s so-called Desert Rock agenda. It is spare and uncomplicated, letting the plain folk melody and emotive words carry the power.

All said and done, Today Was Another Day is Americana at its very best – in whatever era you might be listening from, this arcane country-folk-blues-rock transcends mere ‘genre’ to deliver a potent magical strange brew. For want of a better word, this is magnificent alternative country.

Official Site

 

 

PoPTV – CROOKED FINGERS

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Feb 112012
 

Our New Favorite

Crooked Fingers – Eric Bachmann’s country-folk vehicle is back with another collection of warm rustic songs. The new album is called Breaks in the Armor and was released in late 2011. The wistful tone found on “Our New Favorite” is emblematic of Crooked Fingers‘ overall tone and style – heartfelt without mawkish sentimentality. There is a certain dissonance about the way the verse moves into chorus without interrupting the flow of the song (the angelic backing vocals smoothens things up nicely) that makes “Our New Favorite” particularly appealing.

According to label Merge Records‘ emailer – the video below was “directed and edited by James Fleischel” and “beautifully illustrates the feelings of impermanence and connectedness suggested by the song by capturing and slowing down the fleeting moments of everyday life.” No argument there! Expect a review soon. In the meantime…

Official Site

 

PoPTV – YUKON BLONDE

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Dec 082011
 

Water

Nothing quite like arcane americana even if it’s made north of the US border. This Canuck alt-country outfit revels in all things twangy and you can easily put their music side by side with Fleet Foxes, Jayhawks and Band of Horses. Quite brilliant.

While ah have your attention – check out Fire here.

New album from Yukon Blonde due in 2012. Stoked!

Official Site

PoPTV – CAITLIN ROSE

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Dec 022011
 

SPARE ME (LIVE)

I love alt-country/roots music/Americana (whatever) but you knew that. Here’s another country-folk chanteuse that will go all rustic on your ass. 24 year old Caitlin Rose has released her debut album – Own Side Now – and this live video of Spare Me finds Caitlin in conversational mood and performing with a crack band on the rooftop. And it’s a breezy number which will chase all your blues away. Don’t forget to check out the little story that Caitlin shares right at the end – worth the wait as well!

Caitlin Rose – “Spare Me” – Le Loft Rooftop from DUKE STREET on Vimeo.

Official Site

Sep 172011
 

PARSON RED HEADS – BURNING UP THE SKY (LIVE)

By now, regular PoP visitors will know what a band needs to do to be featured here! Psychedelic-country-folk-rock-blues is the ‘genre’ of choice and Parson Red Head fits the bill with two acoustic guitars, harmonica, percussion and gorgeous 4-part harmonies in this ‘live’ video. Burning Up the Sky is a song off new album, Yearling. Sweet! A PoP recommendation!

Official Site

 

Jul 032011
 

Star Anna – Alone In This Together

Regular PoP visitors will know that I am an absolute sucker for good old fashioned honest-to-goodness country-folk-soul music. Add a spine-tingling female vox into the equation and the result is obsession! So here’s Star Anna, who at 25 has established musicians raving over her vocal abilities. Listen to this glorious track off her debut album of the same name and understand why…

Alone In This Together (Radio Edit) – Star Anna by grammy mammy

Official Site

PoPTV – ROBYN G SHIELS

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Mar 182011
 

(Press release)

April 10th sees the highly anticipated release of Robyn G Shiels new EP. The Great Depression is released through No Dancing records and is the follow up to Shiels critically acclaimed debut album A Lifetime Of Midnights. The Great Depression focuses on the retrospective, bleak side of Robyn’s catalogue; this isn’t the time for screaming choruses. It is night time and it is dark, after all.

There’s an honesty and truth laid out amongst the sparse percussion, piano and guitars. These are songs of reflection and regret but all the while a melody, suggesting that although things may have been better not occurring, we’ve at least forged a good story along the way.

Release date: 10/4/11 | Format: CD/DD

The Great Depression features 5 tracks and is available as a digital download from iTunes and every main digital retailer, over 60 outlets worldwide. Physical copies are available from select outlets and through robyngshiels.bandcamp.com & www.nodancing.co.uk.

Check out the video for Look What You’ve Done below

 

MY COUSIN, THE EMPEROR

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Mar 122011
 

MY COUSIN, THE EMPEROR The Subway EPs (Self-released)

“Instead of recording a full album, we decided to record 2 EPs, but to give them entirely different personalities, volume 1 is more folky, country, singer- songwriter music.  Volume 2 is more rock, upbeat, and energetic.  This band does both of them very well, so I wanted to showcase it’s different personalities across the two EPs.” Jason Reischel

Serious doubts about the concept behind the presentation of one album as two EPs and the mannered self-categorizations BUT no denying that Brooklyn’s My Cousin, The Emperor parlays the perfect mix of country-folk-blues and rock ‘n’ roll music that Gram Parsons envisaged for his Cosmic American Music. I have always maintained that when done right, country-folk-blues can be some of the most soulful music on the planet and thankfully, Reischel and company provide ample evidence of this assertion.

On the 1st volume, Prospect Park West, there are luscious vocal harmonies, lush acoustic guitars and lusty evocations of rustic beauty in songs like Lies End and Burly, Old Coach. A dash of rockabilly informs Southern Nights whilst mournful strings will touch the heart on Annie (The Leevee Song). Volume II, Broadway-Lafayette, ups the tempo ever so slightly – Down N Out is white-knuckled barroom blues, Nothing Left For Us To Find is unapologetically rollicking and Early Morning Show channels The Band and Neil Young with slow burning intensity.

An excellent addition to the country-folk-blues-rock canon. File next to your Wilco, Uncle Tupelo and Jayhawks LPs.

Official Site

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THE DECEMBERISTS

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Jan 142011
 

THE DECEMBERISTS The King Is Dead (Capitol)

I am sorely tempted to declare The King Is Dead – Portland’s The Decemberists’ sixth album – as the album of 2011. After the steady move into progressive rock territory in the last two albums, critics have described The King Is Dead’s change in direction as “accessible”. Well, not unless it was released in the 80s, I daresay! Is an album that sees Colin Meloy and company basically go country on us a commercial commodity in 2011? In the age of auto-tuned prefabricated pop and groin-directed hip hop?

Lead single, Down By the Water, makes the band’s intentions clear with a harmonica intro, not to mention guest performances from Peter Buck (REM) and Gillian Welch. Commentators have already noticed the songs’s resemblance to REM’s The One I Love (especially the chord progression). Buck also plays on The Calamity Song and is immediately recognizable in the guitar appregios – the track sounds like an outtake of an 80s REM album but it’s a welcome relief to hear such classic songwriting in the new year!

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ATLANTIC/PACIFIC

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Jan 132011
 

ATLANTIC/PACIFIC Meet Your New Love (No Sleep)

NY-based duo Atlantic/Pacific, aka Garrett Klahn (Texas is the Reason) and John Herguth (House & Parish, The Love Scene) has been likened to the old world charms of Fleet Foxes and post-punk cool of The Smiths. Meaning of course, warm melodies/harmonies and sophisticated arrangements. Songs like the jazzy Patterns, the epic Shore to Shore and the U2-channeling faux-anthemic Let Me Into Your Light provide a counterpoint to the largely rustic country-folk-pop repertoire.

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BLURB-O-RAMA

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Jan 112011
 

With the Decemberists’ new album – The King is Dead – adopting a clearcut country-folk-blues direction (review to come) and the UK music scene spawning it’s own dedicated 70s retro-country-folk scene (Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Noah & the Whale, Bombay Bicycle Club et al), it’s almost tempting fate to suggest that there is a neo-country wave coming in 2011. There’s nothing particularly new of course about all this, as we’ve had country-rock bands since Gram Parsons joined the Byrds and convinced to play the Grand Ole Opry and the Band got out from behind Dylan and began making its own brand of wild alchemy at the Big Pink but… I for one will be over the moon if this all comes to pass. In the meantime, here’s a few country-folk-blues gems you may have missed in 2010.

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THE REDEMPTION CENTER

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Jan 102011
 

THE REDEMPTION CENTER Land of Plenty (Blind)

Regular PoP visitors will be aware of my weakness for the gorgeous hybrid of country music and pop-rock that may be variously referred to as country-rock, alt-country, roots-rock, Americana or as the late great Gram Parsons defined it, “Cosmic American Music”. I personally believe that at its best, this country-rock hybrid is at its core, soul music. It’s basic and heartfelt, with words and music that tug at your heartstrings. What more could anyone want from good old fashioned popular rock music?

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ALEX LEVINE

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Jan 072011
 

Originally published at ReviewYou.com

ALEX LEVINE Falling Back Again (Self-released)

The cover of Alex Levine’s new album will remind Jayhawks fans of the seminal alt-country outfit’s third album – Hollywood Town Hall. Granted, Levine is posing in front of a church building rather than a town hall but the structures are uncannily similar. Not only that but the music on Falling Back Again will cement that particular comparison and reference point firmly in the minds of all right-thinking alt-rock enthusiasts. Basically, the continued alchemical quality of combining country and rock music. Simply put, Levine’s Falling Back Again is one of the more impressive alt-rock albums released in 2010.

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BAND OF HORSES

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Aug 142010
 

BAND OF HORSES Infinite Arms (Brown/Fat Possum/Columbia)

Band of Horses is your quintessential modern day indie rock band. In possession of its own indie record label (with major label distribution), with songs inserted into cutting edge TV shows and a top 20 album on both sides of the Atlantic. Welcome to 2010!

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CHEATING SONS

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Jul 022010
 

I must confess that nowadays, it takes quite a lot to get me down to a Singapore rock gig. But of late, I have heard some good things about Cheating Sons over the grapevine. Checking out their Myspace page, I was rather surprised to hear country-folk-blues-rock from this new band! Now that is something you don’t often hear coming from a Singapore band. So definitely, this is a band I need to check out!

And you and I can tonight! Over at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, Cheating Sons will be playing two sets –

7.30pm to 8.15pm and then 10pm to 10.45pm.

See ya’ll there, y’hear?! Hee-haw!

Listen to the Cheating Sons at www.myspace.com/cheatingsons.