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Sunday, October 14, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 14, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Stop me if you've heard this one before:  A young and fiery punk band matures, gradually adapting a more roots-oriented groove.  Lessons are learned.  Beards ensue.

It's almost the Genesis for our kind of music, the prevailing creation mythos.  Born just to the east of the Cascade Range in Bend, Oregon, Larry & His Flask were launched from that same primordial ooze.  The past fifteen years have seen the band change and morph from pure punk to what they call post-americana, from a couple brothers and their friends to a sprawling collective and back to an economical five-piece.  Call it the Roots Music Theory of Evolution.  The survival of the fittest.

Not counting an excellent, overlooked Endtimes recorded with Tom Vandenavond, it's been half a decade since Larry & His Flask issued a proper full-length record.  It's a hiatus that saw members alternately retreating to the Tropics, taking on side projects, working on families and considering the band's role in their lives (and vice versa).  Reckon / Repent / Rebirth.

Here at R&B, we've been monitoring the work of LaHF at least since 2011's All That We Know.  Through 2012's Hobo's Lament ep and 2013's By the Lamplight, the band earned their stripes as tireless and dedicated road dogs, a reckless and energetic act that left their crowded stages spattered with bodily fluids and their fans wanting more.  There was a time when listening to one of their albums could prove exhausting for the sheer energy and drive that leaped from the speakers.  With time, the scratching and clawing that garnered them their following began to wear away at their lives behind the scenes.

To our benefit, however, the Bat-signal for Larry & His Flask has been shone into the skies.  The members have assembled, acoustic instruments at hand ready once again to conquer the stages of America and the world.  As long as they can get home to the wife and kids before too long.  It's not just the individual members of the Flask that have changed, you see.  This Remedy  (Xtra Mile) has channeled that legendary energy in rewarding new musical directions, resulting in the outfit's most multifaceted and praiseworthy product to date.

More than most bands of their ilk (think Squirrel Nut Zippers, Legendary Shack Shakers, Trampled by Turtles), the Flask have always been a punk band that just happens to play with acoustic instruments.  They've also proven fearless in their eclecticism, granting space in their manic mix for elements of jazz, 'grass and folk.  On This Remedy, those diverse parts are given more room to unspool, leading to a clearer and less muddied musical statement.

Good news is that the collection still sounds very much like Larry & His Flask.  Diehard fans will thrill to that familiar fire-fueled sound on songs like "Dearly Departed", "You Won't" and "Atonement".  There's still a focus on mortality, on boldly staring down death:  And in your wake, dearly departed / Broken bottles, battered and bloody, broken-hearted / Do you feel better now? Just look at what you started.  "Atonement" is bright with those blatting brass that have always added to the party.  But even in the midst of the noise and fury, you might catch glimpse of positivity, light, warmth.

Those new qualities shine through in the band's embrace of a degree of melody and brightness, in a greater focus on songcraft.  There's always been a strong sense of theatricality in the Flask's stage presence, and especially in Ian Cook's vocal performance.  "Never All the Times" is perhaps the singer's strongest moment, a piano-based number that also showcases the quintet's underappreciated harmonies.  Cook also shines on "Doin' Fine", a road-vs-home reflection that bounces along like a fractured rag:  Peace and quiet take some getting used to / Was always moving forth and back, never could keep track.

The surprises on This Remedy come from the pieces that depart the furthest from the act's proven formula.  While eclecticism has always been part of the Larry & His Flask® brand, listeners might still not be prepared for "Hoping Again", which boasts a real live guitar solo.  It's as close to country as you're bound to get, reining in all that energy and aggression for a more measured, introspective number:  If there's a maker above they'll be happy to know / That I did my best in the big show.  "The Place That It Belongs" introduces bits of bluegrass, and you'll even hear touches of Latin rhythms and guitars on "Behind the Curtain".

This Remedy ain't the group's desperate grasp for the golden ladder of fame 'n fortune.  Even with its unexpected bits, it's still very much a Larry record.  But tunes like the title track and "Ellipsis" remind listeners of the band's skill as musicians and showmen.  "This Remedy" gallops on heavenly harmonies, mandolin and banjo playing for the angels:  I will find the bridge to this melody called love, the final minute of the song fades to an otherworldly overheard whisper.  Offering the best of old and new Flask, "Ellipsis" is my personal favorite, a driving anthem crossed with a grammar lesson.  Both give lead to melody without compromise, boasting singalong moments that will fuel live shows for years.  This is the welcome rebirth of an underground roots music legend:  So bid farewell to the ones you knew / Like a drunk old sinner born anew / And say hello to the sweeping winds of change ...

- Ryan Culwell, "Can You Hear Me" Last American  (Culwell, 18)
- Southern Culture on the Skids, "Nitty Gritty" Bootlegger's Choice  (Kudzu, 18)
- Jason Isbell & 400 Unit, "Wooden Ships (feat. David Crosby)" single  (Southeastern, 18)  D
- Adam Hood, "Real Small Town" Somewhere in Between  (Soundly, 18)
- My Darling Clementine, "Two Lane Texaco" Still Testifying  (Continental Song City, 17)
- Lauren Morrow, "Mess Around" Lauren Morrow  (Morrow, 18)
- Will Courtney, "Crazy Love" Crazy Love  (Super Secret, 18)
- Whitey Morgan & 78s, "Just Got Paid" Hard Times & White Lines  (Morgan, 18)
- Kevin Welch, "Millionaire" Dead Reckoning Years  (Dead Reckoning, 18)  D
- One Eleven Heavy, "Old Hope Chest" Everything's Better  (Kith & Kin, 18)
- Pistol Annies, "Stop Drop & Roll One" Interstate Gospel  (Sony, 18)
- Flesh Eaters, "Cinderella" I Used to Be Pretty  (Yep Roc, 19)  D
^ Larry & His Flask, "Atonement" This Remedy  (Xtra Mile, 18)
- Grady Spencer & the Work, "Things To Do" Sleep  (Spencer, 13)
- Dirty River Boys, "I'll Be There" Mesa Starlight  (DRB, 18)
- Sarah Borges & Broken Singles, "Let Me Try It" Love's Middle Name  (Blue Corn, 18)
- John Howie Jr, "Happy" Not Tonight  (Suah, 18)
- Bottle Rockets, "Lo-Fi" Bit Logic  (Bloodshot, 18)
- John R Miller, "Lights of the City" Trouble You Follow  (Emperor, 18)
- Alejandro Escovedo, "Fury and Fire" The Crossing  (Yep Roc, 18)
- Deer Tick, "Hey! Yeah!" Mayonnaise  (Partisan, 19)  D
- GospebeacH, "Freeway To the Canyon" Another Winter Alive  (Alive Naturalsound, 18)  D
- Colter Wall, "Wild Dogs" Songs of the Plains  (Young Mary's, 18)
- Anna St Louis, "Mean Love" If Only There Was a River  (Woodsist, 18)
- Philipe Bronchtein, "Mountain Cadence" Me & the Moon  (Bronchtein, 18)
- Rosanne Cash, "Not Many Miles to Go" She Remembers Everything  (Blue Note, 18)
- Adam Faucett, "Ancient Chord" It Took the Shape of a Bird  (Last Chance, 18)
- Kristin Murray, "Tell Me" Southern Ambrosia  (Loud Magnolia, 18)
- Ben Pirani, "Not One More Tear" How Do I Talk To My Brother  (Colemine, 18)
- Brent Best, "Robert Cole" Your Dog Champ  (Best, 16)

With this Episode we catch our first glimpse into releases for the first couple weeks of 2019. We share an unexpected stand-alone single featuring Jason Isbell's Newport Folk collaboration with David Crosby.  There is a spoonful of yummy Mayonnaise on behalf of Deer Tick.  And we offer the opening salvo from the return of the Flesh Eaters, featuring Dave Alvin and John Doe.  Ladies and gentlefriends, this week's ROUTES-cast:

Monday, October 08, 2018

photo by Will Byington
featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 7, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

I harbor political opinions as much as the next guy, though I've never seen R&B as the best place to disseminate them.  I'm not trying to hide anything.  You shouldn't turn to the Nation for your music news any more than you should look to your favorite music blog (ie, R&B) for your socio-political bearings.  Between you and me, if I were to oversimplify my political stance, however, it might distill to respect, communication and decency.  Bumper stickers should be issued.

While I'm at it, I'll remind folks that I'm not a fan of "protest" music, per se.  Most of it is overly time-bound, and it tends to serve lyrics at the expense of music.  On the other hand, I do want the music I share to be relevant, however you choose to define that.  About a year ago I tacked Lee Bains III & Glory Fires' Youth Detention atop my favorites list for 2017, a record that is largely political opinion pieces set to music.  But it's relevant, as it is a pure and natural extension of our immediate cultural milieu.  I would place Will Hoge's new My American Dream collection atop that same high shelf.

A couple months ago, a Rolling Stone interview with Eric Church set the country genre's mainstream audience ablaze when the superstar hinted at a more reasoned approach to dealing with the NRA.  Will Hoge won't be wooing any of that crowd back into the fold with his new collection, one which points fingers and names names.  It's true that he's earned a reputation as a bard of the working class (the small town thing), but Hoge has been no stranger to crossing lines of controversy (see esp. 2004's America EP or 2012's Modern American Protest Music).

There are demons haunting the opening cut, "Gilded Walls".  Beneath the steady stomp sirens wail, thunder rolls and otherworldly growls push back against the thick gale of guitar feedback.  The storm heralds the arrival of what is as angry a record as we're bound to hear this year.  Will Hoge shouts his lyrics, recognizing that sometimes it's just good for the soul to incite rather than to invite.  Sometimes we just need a good, cleansing primal scream.

Hoge's first volley was launched about a year ago with the caustic "Thoughts & Prayers", a deceptively acoustic onslaught that takes to task public figures who respond to mass shootings with little more than warm feelings:  As long as you can keep your re-election bills paid / You're just a whore to the guild that's called the NRA.

My American Dream is a relatively brief eight tracks, pairing a couple formerly released numbers with a handful of new cuts.  "Still a Southern Man" first hit the shelves as a self-standing single in 2015, appearing later as a highlight of Hoge's standout Solo & Live.  Like Lee Bains III, he struggles to embrace his identity while damning the legacy of abuse that plagues the South:  I'm looking away now Dixie / Cause I've seen all I can stand / But I'm still a Southern man.  It's a song and a sentiment that could destroy the careers of most country artists who refuse to step into the fray.  But it seems Hoge has long abandoned any fear of offending the masses.

With the release of last year's Anchors CD, Will Hoge spoke of a crisis of soul searching that led to the sessions.  While recent records had inched him nearer to mainstream success, he sought a more personal grounding for continuing his work.  That rekindling was reportedly inspired in part from watching his kids banging around making their own music in the garage.  With this collection, the writer gives full rein to a thread of conscience that has always run through his career.  There is almost a punk ethos to songs like "Stupid Kids", featuring guitars played with fists and machine gun lyrics as much spat as sung.  It's the album's most positive a call-to-arms:  Turn your music up / Make your own damn songs / You'll know you got it right when all the old white men don't sing along ... Keep doing what you're doing / Keep being stupid kids.

As you might have figured, anger is the pervading sentiment of My American Dream, an unfiltered frustration delivered through powerful vocals and rage-fueled guitars.  Hoge even channels his inner Elvis Costello on "Oh Mr Barnum":  The ringmaster is gone / It's just a clown down here all alone / Oh Mr Barnum won't you please take your circus back home.  Recorded with his touring band, the CD is also sonically solid, far more rock than roll, with any sense of country twang left at the studio door.  Blast "Nikki's a Republican Now" next time you want to clear the honky-tonk.

While Will Hoge presents more problems than solutions, he's not making a case for dismissing the systems upon which our country was built.  The record's packaging includes a copy of the US Constitution.  And while so much rage and fury can risk becoming impersonal, Hoge's American Dream is very much a product of his identity as a father and as a Southern man.  It's not just the most important, personal album of Will Hoge's career.  It might just be the very record we all need to hear this year.  I'm sure at some level he still wants to preach to a larger congregation, but something tells me he'll continue making this music and afflicting the comfortable until the walls come down.

- Elliott BROOD, "Valley Town" Mountain Meadows  (Six Shooter, 08)
- Rev Peyton's Big Damn Band, "Church Clothes" Poor Until Payday  (Family Owned, 18)
- JP Harris, "Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing" Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing  (Free Dirt, 18)
- Bottle Rockets, "Bit Logic" Bit Logic  (Bloodshot, 18)
- Jason Isbell & 400 Unit, "Cover Me Up (live)" Live From the Ryman  (Southeastern, 18)
- Jamie Lin Wilson, "Run" Jumping Over Rocks  (JLW, 18)
- New Mexican, "Sold it Back" Take It On Our Shoulders  (Hoffman, 18)
- Phosphorescent, "Around the Horn" C'est la Vie  (Dead Oceans, 18)
- Southern Culture on the Skids, "Whole Lotta Things 2018 BC" Bootleggers Choice  (Kudzu, 18)  D
- One Eleven Heavy, "Valley Bottom Fever" Everything's Better  (Kith & Kin, 18)  D
- Hillstomp, "Angels" Monster Receiver  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)
- Ural Thomas & the Pain, "Slow Down" The Right Time  (Tender Loving Empire, 18)  D
^ Will Hoge, "Still a Southern Man" My American Dream  (Edlo, 18)
- Uncle Tupelo, "Fifteen Keys" Anodyne  (Reprise, 93)
- Band of Heathens, "Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong" Message From the People Revisited  (BoH, 18)
- Pistol Annies, "Got My Name Changed Back" Interstate Gospel  (Sony, 18)
- Adam's House Cat, "Town Burned Down" Town Burned Down  (ATO, 18)
- Nathan Bowles, "Elk River Blues" Plainly Mistaken  (Paradise of Bachelors, 18)
- Philippe Bronchtein, "Home Again" Me & the Moon  (Bronchtein, 18)
- Grace Potter, "I'd Rather Go Blind" Muscle Shoals: Small Town Big Sound  (
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "Heart & Mind" single  (Fat Possum, 18)
- Hayes Carll, "Beaumont" Trouble in Mind  (UMG, 07)
- Larry & His Flask, "Three Manhattans" This Remedy  (Xtra Mile, 18)
- Daniel Romano, "Empty Husk" Finally Free  (New West, 18)  D
- William Matheny, "Christian Name" single  (Misra, 18)
- Neilson Hubbard, "Cumberland Island" Cumberland Island  (Proper, 18)
- Laura Gibson, "Domestication" Goners  (Barsuk, 18)
- Marissa Nadler, "Said Goodbye to That Car" For My Crimes  (Sacred Bones, 18)
- Gillian Welch, "Wayside/Back in Time" Soul Journey  (Acony, 03)

This Episode finds us continuing to embrace Jamie Lin Wilson's star-making turn - one of the year's strongest country statements to date.  We explore One Eleven Heavy, an outfit which brings together Wooden Wand's James Toth with members of Royal Trux and Hiss Golden Messenger.  We also discover Ural Thomas & the Pain, one of those classic soul artists who have spent a career in relative obscurity, despite having shared a stage with James Brown, Merry Clayton and Otis Redding.  And we celebrate the quiet, alluring poetry of Marissa Nadler. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 30, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

You know when you run into an old acquaintance, and there's that awkward moment when you're not really sure if you should hug them or just keep your arms to yourself?  But if you had your druthers you'd just let loose with the hug?  That's how I'm feeling about October.  But before we fully commit to the month of pumpkins and leaves and sweater vests, I'd like to pound a nail in September's coffin by summing up my favorite things from the month passed.

Ruston Kelly, Dying Star  (Rounder, Sep 7)
William Elliott Whitmore, Kilonova  (Bloodshot, Sep 7)
Alejandro Escovedo, The Crossing  (Yep Roc, Sep 14)
Kristina Murray, Southern Ambrosia  (Loud Magnolia, Sep 21)
The Pollies, Transmissions  (This is American Music, Sep 28)

I couldn't live with myself if I didn't fudge a bit to allow John R Miller's first-rate Trouble You Follow, which was actually released on August 31st.  Regarding October, we're especially looking forward to full records from Will Hoge, Larry & His Flask, Becky Warren and Jamie Lin Wilson.  Bring it/them on.

There's been a lot of talk lately about what americana is and isn't.  Between you and me, I don't care.  I choose to defend my own lane, to play music that makes sense to me, and to knock down silly walls rather than to build them.  Having said this, I'll also admit that there's a certain early sound that I'll always point to as the pure, distilled spirit of what we do at Routes & Branches.

Turns out John Howie Jr was around quite a bit during those formative days, contributing to acts that helped define and delineate what I refer to as "our kind of music".  Two Dollars Pistols brought us a trio of essential documents, including '98's Step Right Up, '02's You Ruined Everything, and a personal favorite collection with fellow North Carolina artist Tift Merritt in '99.  Once his work with the Pistols had played itself out, Howie created Rosewood Bluff, which drew his music beyond its early country-tonk roots.

Now comes John Howie Jr's first proper solo record, Not Tonight (Suah Sounds), largely written during a little known relationship with Sarah Shook for whom he played drums for a spell.  It can be said that the eleven new songs document heartbreak as opposed to serving as just another breakup album, granting listeners a front-row seat to the raw and real turmoil of a middle-aged single father and twice-divorced romantic.

I find Howie's voice to be one of the true treasures of, a tried-and-true baritone that carries all the gravitas and soul of John Doe or Dave Alvin.  On Not Tonight it's brought to the front of the stage in all its resonance and its vulnerability.  Howie's delivery is never perfect on songs like "Happy", which allows for emotion and humanity to shine through the cracks.  His performance on the album's opener, "Wish My Heart", is earnest classic country:  She stays out late most every night these days / And I can't say that I fault her for her ways / If I had some place to go then I'd leave too / I just wish my heart would tell me what to do.  It's not the sound of a man drowning his sorrows in drink or generating a fiery grudge, a refreshing trend that winds throughout these songs.

Not Tonight is produced by Southern Culture on the Skids' Rick Miller, who helps create a lot of space around Howie's voice.  And these songs are not necessarily what we've become accustomed to with the Pistols or Rosewood Bluff, offering more confessional ballads than barfights.  The band boasts members of Howie's current act, as well as folks from the Disarmers and other denizens of the North Carolina roots scene, with Howie himself behind the drum kit.  On songs like "Back When I Cared", he lays down a steady groove that serves his stuff well, even as it overflows what we usually think of as country percussion.  It's one of the real appeals of Howie's music, which is fully rooted in country even as it branches confidently into early rock and rhythm & blues.  While there's a sturdy line between his own music and that of the country masters, Howie also claims inspiration for the sound of these songs from Nikki Sudden and Scott Walker.

You'll hear him apply his own touch to "When I'm Not There With You", which finds Howie fronting Two Dollar Pistols once again.  It's a song that portrays the writer climbing the walls at home while his girlfriend is out on the road or on the town, a scenario that recurs throughout the collection.  Matter of fact, Howie almost comes across as a homebody on "Underground", or at least a man who can no longer see himself as part of her scene:  You're hangin' out with kids and I haven't felt so old in so long.  I analyze music more than men, but that brand of self-awareness is rare in both instances.

Howie and Shook share cowriting credits on the record's most vulnerable moment.  With just his own acoustic and a cello accompanying, that baritone is showcased to its full effect on "She'll Lose My Heart":  I drove up to that man's apartment at 6:15 last Sunday morning / Hit the lot as I parked it I saw my baby's car I let the storm begin.

Have to admit that I never read about the Howie/Shook romance in TMZ, and based on these saaaaad lyrics the thing was probably never meant to be.  To our benefit, however, it all fueled the foundry that produced this new music.  I've always appreciated that Howie's bands were genuine purveyors of country-based music, never driven by irony or embracing the exaggerated posturing of a costumed tribute band.  The stark recordings on Not Tonight seem to be fired by real emotions, which tend to produce real music.  Real good music.  Our kind of music.

- Daniel Romano, "If I've Only One Time Askin'" If I've Only One Time Askin'  (New West, 15)
^ John Howie Jr, "Wish My Heart" Not Tonight  (Suah, 18)
- Kristina Murray, "Made in America" Southern Ambrosia  (Loud Magnolia, 18)
- Stryker Brothers, "The Bottle" Burn Band  (Scriptorium Rex, 18)
- Backsliders, "Throwin' Rocks at the Moon" Throwin' Rocks at the Moon  (Mammoth, 97)
- Nick Dittmeier & Sawdusters, "Walking On Water" All Damn Day  (Eastwood, 18)  D
- Town Mountain, "Down Low (feat. Tyler Childers)" New Freedom Blues  (Tone Tree, 18)
- Nathan Bowles, "Fresh & Fairly So" Plainly Mistaken  (Paradise of Bachelors, 18)
- Lucinda Williams, "Jailhouse Tears" Little Honey  (UMG, 08)
- John Hiatt, "Poor Imitation of God" Eclipse Sessions  (New West, 18)
- Pistol Annies, "Interstate Gospel" Interstate Gospel  (Sony, 18)  D
- Jerry David Decicca, "Burning Daylight" Burning Daylight  (Super Secret, 18)
- William Matheny, "Flashes & Cables" single  (Misra, 18)  D
- Golden Smog, "Corvette" Another Fine Day  (UMG, 06)
- Pollies, "You Want It" Transmissions  (This is American Music, 18)
- Goshen Electric Co, "Gray Tower" single  (Secretly Canadian, 18)
- First Aid Kit, "All That We Get" Tender Offerings EP  (Columbia, 18)
- Adam Faucett, "Sober and Stoned" It Took the Shape of a Bird  (Last Chance, 18)
- Adam Hood, "Easy Way" Somewhere in Between  (Soundly, 18)
- Candi Staton, John Paul White & Jason Isbell, "I Ain't Easy to Love" Muscle Shoals: Small Town Big Sound  (Dreamlined, 18)  D
- Ben Pirani, "Try Love" How Do I Talk to My Brother  (Colemine, 18)  D
- Sarah Borges & Broken Singles, "Lucky Rocks" Love's Middle Name  (Blue Corn, 18)
- Dirty River Boys, "Wild of Her Eyes" Mesa Starlight  (DRB, 18)
- Will Courtney, "Drunk On Your Songs Again" Crazy Love  (Super Secret, 18)  D
- Jamie Lin Wilson, "Death & Life" Jumping Over Rocks  (JLW, 18)
- Neilson Hubbard, "That Was Then" Cumberland Island  (Proper, 18)  D
- Rosanne Cash, "Everyone But Me" She Remembers Everything  (Blue Note, 18)
- Chuck Prophet, "Pin a Rose On Me" Age of Miracles  (New West, 04)
- Anna St Louis, "Desert" If Only There Was a River  (Woodsist, 18)
- Marissa Nadler, "Are You Really Gonna Move to the South" For My Crimes  (Sacred Bones, 18)

The country music supergroup Pistol Annies resurfaced with three new songs after a long period of hint and rumor.  And William Matheny releases a terrific cover of a standard from his Centro-Matic labelmates.  In 2014, Candi Staton included a glorious cover of a little-known song by James LeBlanc on her Life Happens album.  Now she reprises that performance with some help from John Paul White and Jason Isbell.  And as a contributor and a producer, Neilson Hubbard has become a fixture in the roots music world.  It's hard to believe he'll be releasing his first new solo collection in about a decade.

Monday, September 24, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 23, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

There's a whole lot of pretty good music out there.  From week to week, I'll come across mention of new stuff from unfamiliar artists that's perfectly adequate.  I pay it a quick listen, just in case, then plow it under and move on to the next blog.  Despite the fact that we're 100% committed to the spirit of musical discovery, we're just as dedicated to making sure that the music we feature holds up with regards to quality.   It only makes sense.

Bells and whistles go off when we find a new artist who checks all the right boxes.  I believe I first became aware of Kristina Murray when she handed me her Unravelin' CD back in 2013.  Something in the originality of her delivery or the maturity of her writing spoke to me.  Back then, Murray was a Colorado resident and her debut record landed near the top of my square state favorites for the year.  I eagerly anticipated her inevitable star-turn, the follow-up when the remainder of the world would catch up with me in my appreciation.

But many cold and cruel winters would follow before she resurfaced, this time as a Nashvillian.  Murray was tagged by JP Harris in 2017 as a duet partner on "Golden Ring", and hopes were kindled with the release of an excellent single, "How Tall the Glass" later last year.  Finally, several weeks ago a new full-length was announced, along with the release of her first single from the project, "Lovers & Liars".  Five years after we drew your attention her way, I can finally say, "See?!  I told ya!"

Kristina Murray's Southern Ambrosia fully lives up to expectations.  I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't let a guy who was born in New Jersey (me), raised in Oregon (me) and settled in Colorado (yes, me) define the South for you.  Nevertheless, I hear a confidence and authenticity in songs like that debut single.  There's a fair amount of attitude as well, spit through a bluesy harmonica solo and lyrics that leave little doubt: "I saw a three-legged dog two times in one week / And I'm tellin' you brother that's some kinda sign / At this point it's too late to start again / So I'll just keep catchin' up and stayin' a little behind".

Unravelin' spoke primarily in a country vernacular, and there are many such moments on this new collection as well.  "Made in America" paints a picture of the artist forged out of red clay and Georgia rain, striking a satisfying balance between acoustic and electric, especially when those guitars growl to life.  In less skillful hands the song could've been just another simplistic flag-waving anthem.  Kristina Murray was raised in Atlanta, however, and can speak of her affection for the place without giving the South a pass for its less palatable features.

Southern Ambrosia, per the artist, focuses on "the duality of the Southern thing".  Murray's new songs alternate between more personal stories and truths about other people.  She commits fully to the country-rock story-song of "Ballad of Angel and Donnie", fueled by slippery pedal steel and nitro guitars: Three can keep a secret if two are in the ground / That's how you keep a secret from comin' back around / He threw his 44 mag on the seat in the back.  One of the CD's strongest moments, the roots rocking "Slow Kill" strikes out against an American dream that never seems to come true.

Much of what sets this new collection apart from Murray's debut is her emerging confidence as a songwriter, especially as heard on some of the album's more measured tracks such as "Strong Blood".  She lets the humidity of the South seep into her delivery on the inventory of life as seen from the kitchen window:  Eatin' a cling peach / Over the kitchen sink / Southern ambrosia.  It's a lovely work that brings to mind the eloquent drawl of Gillian Welch, fully embracing her inheritance.  "Pink Azaleas" completes this picture of home, from Amazing Grace from a hymnal page / Taped to the fridgerator door to Sunday drink of vodka and tomato juice with salt on the rim.  Like a calling card reminding us of her deep roots, Murray also dives into the true-to-trad "Tell Me", sounding not unlike a long lost Patsy Cline cut.

It's a collection that's driven by that intangible something that's missing from all those other "pretty good" records.  Perhaps it's an uncommon depth of feeling, or an ease of movement across a range of roots music.  Whatever the reason, it seems Kristina Murray has done her homework over the past five years.  She's put her heart on vinyl in a bold and vulnerable way that few more experienced artists can, and established herself as a voice to trust in the years to come.

- Adam's House Cat, "6 O'Clock Train" Town Burned Down  (ATO, 18)
- Larry & His Flask, "This Remedy" This Remedy  (Xtra Mile, 18)
- New Mexican, "Broken Horse" Take It On Our Shoulders  (Hoffman, 18)
- John Howie Jr, "I Don't Feel Like Holdin' You Tonight" Not Tonight  (Howie, 18)
- Dawn Landes, "Why They Name Whiskey After Men" Meet Me at the River  (Yep Roc, 18)
- JP Harris, "Hard Road" Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing  (Free Dirt, 18)
^ Kristina Murray, "Slow Kill" Southern Ambrosia  (Loud Magnolia, 18)
- Rev Horton Heat, "Whole New Life" Whole New Life  (Victory, 18)  D
- Those Darlins, "Red Light Love" Those Darlins  (Oh Wow Dang, 09)
- William Elliott Whitmore, "Bat Chain Puller" Kilonova  (Bloodshot, 18)
- John R Miller, "Whale Party" Trouble You Follow  (Emperor, 18)
- Philippe Bronchtein, "Me & the Moon" Me & the Moon  (Bronchtein, 18)  D
- Malcolm Holcombe, "New Damnation Alley" Come Hell or High Water  (Gypsy Eyes, 18)
- Kasey Musgraves, "Kansas City Star" King of the Road: Tribute to Roger Miller  (BMG, 18)
- Black Joe Lewis & Honeybears, "Some Conversations You Just Don't Need to Have" Difference Between Me & You  (BJL, 18)
- Cat Power, "Stay" Wanderer  (Domino, 18)
- Cedric Burnside, "Death Bell Blues" Benton County Relic  (Single Lock, 18)
- Tom Waits, "Take It With Me" Mule Variations  (Anti, 99)
- Goshen Electric Co, "The Gray Tower" single  (Secretly Canadian, 18)  D
- Iron & Wine, "Autumn Town Leaves" Weed Garden EP  (Sub Pop, 18)
- Shemekia Copeland, "Wrong Idea" America's Child  (Alligator, 18)
- Billy Bragg, "Levi Stubbs' Tears" Talking With the Taxman About Poetry  (Cooking Vinyl, 86)
- Dirty River Boys, "Mesa" Mesa Starlight  (DRB, 18)
- Colter Wall, "Thinkin' on a Woman" Songs of the Plains  (Young Mary's, 18)
- Rhett Miller, "Total Disaster" The Messenger  (ATO, 18)  D
- Calexico, "Trigger" Black Light  (Quarterstick, 98)
- Rosanne Cash, "She Remembers Everything" She Remembers Everything  (Blue Note, 18)  D
- Jeff Tweedy, "Some Birds" WARM  (dBpm, 18)  D
- Gregory Alan Isakov, "Dark Dark Dark" Evening Machines  (Dualtone, 18)
- Rev Peyton's Big Damn Band, "Steal My Shine" Poor Until Payday  (Family Owned, 18)

This week we finally get to scratch around a bit further with Adam's House Cat.  Patterson Hood recorded new vocals for these archival pre-DbT tracks.  Rhett Miller drops his first single from a "less safe" solo CD.  Cat Power performs a very sweet piano take on a Rihanna smash.  And you might remember Philippe Bronchtein as the man behind Hip Hatchet.  Most of all, Goshen Electric Co. finds Strand of Oaks' frontguy Tim Showalter pairing with the remaining members of Magnolia Electric Co. to record a couple 2002 Jason Molina cuts.  A tour will reportedly ensue. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 16, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of fuzz

Just give it a couple listens and it'll sneak up on you.  Give The Pollies' Transmissions (This is American Music, Sept 28) a few turns, and you'll agree that they've been underestimated.  It's time for us to move The Pollies from the dusty shadows of americana into the light of day.

The band's website reminds us that The Pollies have never fit too snugly into the usual "roots rock 'n soul" that we associate with their Muscle Shoals area homebase.  That said, over the space of two full-length records and a quality EP with the late Chris Porter, The Pollies have never sounded quite like this.  Maybe we caught hints in "Something New" or "Ashes of Burned Out Stars" from 2012's Where the Lies Begin, or perhaps "Paperback Books" and "Games" from 2015's Not Here drew our gaze in a new direction.  But The Pollies have never so fully and confidently embraced the magic mix of garage pop and soul as heard on Big Star, or the radical free-range departures into noise a'la Wilco.

Transmissions is the sound of a band stretching beyond expectations, having served most recently behind singer-songwriter Dylan LeBlanc, and playing previously with Nicole Atkins and John Paul White.  There's a confidence and an ease beneath songs like the opener, "You Want It".  It serves as the in-your-face wake up call, a wall of thick noise and garage pop, with tumbling Keith Moon-worthy drum abuse and a swarm of fuzzed out guitars.  It's all come and gone in about two minutes, but it's enough to remind us that we're not entirely in Alabama anymore.

 Or maybe we've just never given the Yellowhammer State its due credit for birthing genre-crunching acts like Phosphorescent, Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires, and Alabama Shakes.   It's not that frontman Jay Burgess and company have fully shed their familiar skin.  But even in the roots-facing cuts like "Hold On My Heart" and "Love's to Fault" there's a healthy evolution in The Pollies' groove.  The former offers lovely jangled guitars and a pop-perfect chorus, rivaling Gary Louris and The Jayhawks for their way with a hook. Likewise, "Fell in Love" has been bouncing around between my ears for days now.  "Love's to Fault" adds otherworldly wah-wah backing vocals for a 60's Nuggets touch.

That certain psychedelic sheen overlays nearly all of Transmissions, lending the album a much bigger sound than we'd hear in a barn's worth of roots music releases.  It effectively turns The Pollies inside-out on songs like "Summertime Suicide".  There's even a touch of glammy sneer to Burgess' vocal that reaches through to the lyrics:  Johnny sits back in the corner / While I'm shaking my head / His mouth is moving, but I ain't heard a word that he said / I know how he feels / He's just looking for a thrill / And I could care less why.

We become fully aware of The Pollies' transition when that beautiful noise kicks in on "Postcard Symphony".  The song eases in on a minute-long breeze of melodic synth, before coasting into a lazy So-Cal acoustic strummer about a factory-working father who dreams of jaunts in the country with his boys.  Around the three-minute mark, it all deconstructs into a far less rustic mess of feedback and electronic studio gabble, taking us on a trip of our own before coming together again for the song's idyllic conclusion:  Summertime postcard lays on the road / Son says "Dad I want to go".  "Knocking At My Door" begins with that noise, as a thumping drum beat leads an army of guitars into a cloud of bash and pop and the sound of a piano falling down a flight of stairs.

Don't like all that noise?  Want to go back to the garden?  I'll stay behind with The Pollies.  Sure, there's plenty of music that matters that plays it far more safe and straight.  But it's bands like The Pollies that hone the edge of Routes & Branches, and set us apart from countless other roots music outlets.  With their short sharp melodic glances and their disregard in the face of less traveled musical paths, we're just fine following them into the frontiers of roots music.

The other story behind the release of Transmissions is the rebirth of This is American Music, the "Southern indie record label" that brought us Caleb Caudle, Have Gun Will Travel, Great Peacock, Hurray for the Riff Raff and more.  In a day when our playlist can be fat with stuff from larger less discerning operations, we feel closer to our mission when we're able to share music from TiAM.  It's even better when those more carefully curated labels bring us superb stuff like The Pollies.

- Todd Snider, "Crooked Piece of Time" New Connection  (Aimless, 02)
- Band of Heathens, "Every Saturday Night" Message From the People Revisited  (BoH, 18)
- Kevin Galloway, "The Change" The Change  (Nine Mile, 18)
- Rosie Flores, "Drive Drive Drive" Simple Case of the Blues  (Flores, 19)  D
- Richard Thompson, "The Rattle Within" 13 Rivers  (New West, 18)
- Jason Isbell & 400 Unit, "Flagship (live)" Live From the Ryman  (Southeastern, 18)
- Hawks & Doves, "Chasing the Sky" From a White Hotel  (Julian, 18)
- Bottle Rockets, "Highway 70 Blues" Bit Logic  (Bloodshot, 18)
- Elizabeth Cook, "Broke Down in London on the M25" Exodus of Venus  (Agent Love, 16)
- Adam Hood, "Downturn" Somewhere in Between  (Soundly, 18)
- First Aid Kit, "Tender Offerings" Tender Offerings EP  (Columbia, 18)  D
- Eric Bachmann, "Murmuration Song" No Recover  (Merge, 18)
- Nathan Bowles, "Now If You Remember" Plainly Mistaken  (Paradise of Bachelors, 18)
- Fred Eaglesmith, "Trucker Speed" 6 Volts  (Sweetwater, 12)
- Marissa Nadler, "I Can't Listen to Gene Clark Anymore" For My Crimes  (Sacred Bones, 18)  D
- Hillstomp, "Hagler" Monster Receiver  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)  D
- Alejandro Escovedo, "Teenage Luggage" The Crossing  (Yep Roc, 18)
- James McMurtry, "Lights of Cheyenne (live)" Live in Ought-Three  (Compadre, 04)
- Jamie Lin Wilson, "Oklahoma Stars (feat. Evan Felker)" Jumping Over Rocks  (JLW, 18)
- Ben Danaher, "Fred & Jonell" Sill Feel Lucky  (Soundly, 18)
- Ruston Kelly, "Son of a Highway Daughter" Dying Star  (Rounder, 18)
- Black Lillies, "Snakes and Telephones" Stranger to Me  (Attack Monkey, 18)
- Israel Nash, "Spiritfalls" Lifted  (Desert Folklore, 18)
- Aaron Lee Tasjan, "End of the Day" Karma for Cheap  (New West, 18)
- Lauren Morrow, "Viki Lynn" Lauren Morrow EP  (Morrow, 18)  D
- Ryan Culwell, "Last American" Last American  (Culwell, 18)
- Adam Faucett, "Central Avenue" It Took the Shape of a Bird  (Last Chance, 18)
- Dead Horses, "A Petal Here a Petal There" My Mother the Moon  (DH, 18)
- Stryker Brothers, "Blue Today Baby" Burn Band  (Scriptorium Rex, 18)
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "Rock Holy" Virgo Fool  (Merge, 18)  D

This week brings that new Hillstomp I've been hearing about.  We also celebrate the return of  Rosie Flores to the fray - her single marks our first look at a 2019 release.  And First Aid Kit releases a couple unheard songs that didn't really fit on their really fine January Ruins record.  Plus, this week it was announced that Hiss Golden Messenger will be unleashing Devotion: Songs About Rivers and Spirit and Children, a 4-CD package that includes remasters of their earliest records as well as a copy of their pretty hard-to-come-by Virgo Fool collection.  On a related note, my birthday is coming up in December. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 9, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Back in my radio days when we paid closer attention to the Colorado music scene, Matt Hoffman and Strange Americans were among my favorite square state artists.  Even when Matt's supportive father began calling the radio station daily to request his son's music - wouldn't we all like a father with that kind of dedication to Junior's career?  Last fall, Hoffman began releasing his music under the New Mexican moniker, hearkening back to the days when his grandfather served as proprietor of Hoffman's Melody Shop in Alomogordo.  Now he's looking to make some bigger noise with the national debut of Take It On Our Shoulders (Sep 28).

Hoffman himself is responsible for most of the sounds on his new collection, collaborating with pedal steelist Jeff Rady and a couple studio wizards who lend the songs a spirit that is both intimate and wide-open as the vistas of the Southwest. Like much of what we share here on R&B, the New Mexican songs bear the warm fingerprints of characters looking to make an honest life in light of our present circumstances.  Tell me now / When it's over / Are the broken hearts gonna fix each other.

"Sold It Back" sets the tone for Take It On Our Shoulders, establishing that warm electro-acoustic groove with dusty strings and high-soaring pedal steel.  Consider the close-in immediacy of Hiss Golden Messenger triangulated with the cinematic scope of Calexico - a space on the smudged and torn map that's well-removed from the noise of the nearest city.

Rady's pedal steel gleams brilliantly across the surface of "Two Hearted", a nod to Hemingway's Michigan wilderness.  In contrast to his work with Strange Americans, these New Mexican songs bring Hoffman's voice to the front of the mix, adding the static of a sandy shuffle beneath it all.

Don't overlook a couple of the quieter bits towards the latter half of the CD.  "Half Empty" and "Letters" remind me of fellow Coloradan Nathaniel Rateliff, during his introverted singer-songwriter days.  The former is mesmerizing in its build, a keening drone underlying Hoffman's acoustic strum until the song briefly erupts.  "Letters" features the record's strongest vocal, along with a beautifully lilting refrain punctuated by the fuzz of electric guitars and sleighbells.

A generation from now (if that's what it takes), we may glance back at these times and decide that it wasn't our strong stances or our arguments and opinions that saw us through to the calmer waters.  Instead, I imagine it'll be the stories like those Matt Hoffman tells on his new album, accounts of decent people navigating the rough spots because it's all they could do.  New Mexican offers the antidote of good music about real people, a moving account of life during wartime.

- Charlie Parr, "Where You Gonna Be" When the Devil Goes Blind  (Level Two, 10)
- Shemekia Copeland, "Smoked Ham and Peaches" American Child  (Alligator, 18)
- John Hiatt, "Over the Hill" Eclipse Sessions  (New West, 18)
- Kevin Gordon, "One Road Out (Angola Rodeo Blues)"  Tilt & Shine  (Crowville, 18)
- Ben Dickey, "Let Me Ride In Your Big Cadillac" Blaze: Original Cast Recording  (Light in the Attic, 18)
- Kristina Murray, "Strong Blood" Southern Ambrosia  (Loud Magnolia, 18)
- Devil Makes Three, "Deep Down" Chains Are Broken  (New West, 18)
- Whitey Morgan & the 78s, "What Am I Supposed to Do" Hard Times & White Lines  (Morgan, 18)
- Pontiac Brothers, "Big Black River" Big Black River  (Lolita, 85)
- Cake, "Reincarnation" King of the Road: Tribute to Roger Miller  (BMG, 18)
- Sarah Borges & Broken Singles, "Get As Gone Can Get" Love's Middle Name  (Blue Corn, 18)
- Will Hoge, "Stupid Kids" My American Dream  (Edlo, 18)
- Stryker Brothers, "Fort Worth Was a Fabulous Waste of Time" Burn Band  (Scriptorium Rex, 18)
- Jamie Lin Wilson, "Being Gone" Jumping Over Rocks  (JLW, 18)
- Gibson Brothers, "Lay Your Body Down" Mockingbird  (Easy Eye, 18)  D
- Adam Remnant, "Sourwood" Sourwood  (Anyway 18)
- John R Miller, "Holy Dirt" Trouble You Follow  (Emperor, 18)
- Joe Purdy, "Brown Suits and Cadillacs" Last Clock on the Wall  (Mudtown Crier, 09)
- Scott H Biram, "Chickens" Messenger: Tribute to Ray Wylie Hubbard  (Eight 30, 18)  D
- Larry & His Flask, "Ellipsis" This Remedy  (Xtra Mile, 18)
- Becky Warren, "We're All We Got" Undesirable  (Warren, 18)
- Hillstomp, "Cardiac Arrest in D" single  (Fuzzmonster, 09)
- Rev Peyton's Big Damn Band, "Dirty Swerve" Poor Until Payday  (Family Owned, 18)
- JP Harris, "JP's Florida Blues #1" Sometimes a Dog Barks at Nothing  (Free Dirt, 18)
- Doug Paisley, "Drinking With a Friend" Starter Home  (No Quarter, 18)  D
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "Heart and Mind"  single  (Fat Possum, 18)  D
- Phosphorescent, "Christmas Down Under" C'est la Vie  (Dead Oceans, 18)
- Black Joe Lewis & Honeybears, "Handshake Drugs" Difference Between Me & You  (BJL, 18)  D
- Pollies, "Hold On My Heart" Transmissions  (TiAM, 18)
- Son Volt, "Exurbia" Okemah & the Melody of Riot Reissue (Transmit Sound, 05)  D

This week brings a striking new single from Courtney Marie Andrews, whose May Your Kindness Remain was one of our early year favorites.  Black Joe Lewis presents a dirty take on Wilco's "Handshake Drugs".  And we dig a bit further into forthcoming projects from Kristina Murray, JP Harris, Whitey Morgan and more.  See also, an unexpectedly satisfying single from bluegrass' Gibson Brothers, whose November Mockingbird is produced by Dan Auerbach.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 2, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

We'll start this Episode with a look back at the records that have defined the past 31 days for me.  These are my favorite CDs that were released in August.  Curiously, the list includes two Adams and four artists whose names begin with an "A" (it's pointed observations like this that bring you back to R&B).

Amanda Shires, To the Sunset  (Silver Knife, Aug 3)
Lucero, Among the Ghosts  (Liberty & Lament, Aug 3)
Austin Lucas, Immortal Americans  (Cornelius Chapel, Aug 17)
Adam Remnant, Sourwood  (Anyway, Aug 17)
Adam Faucett, It Took the Shape of a Bird  (Last Chance, Aug 24)

Honorable Mention:  From a White Hotel by Hawks & Doves was officially released in late July, but it didn't come to my attention til this month.  Fronted by Kasey Anderson, it's as good as we're used to from him, but with the added energy and sonic big-ness of a full band.

Ryan Culwell's recent video for "Can You Hear Me" shows the artist doing everyday stuff with his girls (he's got four of them now).  The vignettes are interspersed with shots of Culwell looking appropriately spent and reflective.  The song, from his third full-length CD, The Last American, arrives in a whoosh of guitar and noise.  Where 2015's excellent Flatlands told the stories of the people from his Texas panhandle homeland, the songs from this new collection are broadcast like an SOS from Culwell's own Nashville backyard:  I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe ...

It's hard to write about the American dream without giving ground to sentimentality or stereotype.  Writers learn to crib from the mythology of Seger and Mellencamp and Springsteen, who romanticize where we came from and celebrate the grit and determination that see people through "during these hard times".  With songs like "Dog's Ass" and "Fucked Up Too", Culwell's not missing the point.  The State of our Nation is bleak, and he's focused on reaching through the signal and noise to make a connection to what remains of our country.

Last American is a different album than Flatlands, with songs that are fractured and others that are shot through with anxiety.  Culwell has written of his experience since that last record, "It has become extremely evident that if I am not making music in some form, I may lose my mind".  That might be the sound that we hear in songs like "I Have a Dream" or the unhinged stomp-and-holler of "Dig a Hole".  Both serve as paranoid anthems for our me-first age, soundtracks to the fraying of our middle class fabric:  "well it ain't the promised land / goddang I guess it'll do.

The story has it that Culwell was coaxed back into the studio by collaborators Ethan Ballinger and Megan McCormick, whose guitar largely establishes the textures of Last American.  Joined by coproducer Neilson Hubbard, the ensemble succeeded in capturing and communicating both the claustrophobia and the free-falling nature of these new songs.  Like Sons of Bill's Oh God Ma'am, songs like "Heaven Everywhere I Go" show no fear in ranging beyond the usual territory of roots music.  Pedal effects, electronic click drums and generous echo lay the groundwork for a sinister piece that twice dissolves unexpectedly into a lo-fi late night radio groove.

I cherish the dark honesty of "Fucked Up Too":  "we ain't dreamed for the last ten years / we just laid real still".  That strain of wide-eyed reportage gives Culwell more believability to express hope and longing during the record's more poignant moments.  Despite it's title, "Dog's Ass" seems a very sweet, acoustic restatement of a man's commitment to his family:  "honey the dog's ass could use a little sun / if this old life don't shine / I'mma buy you a better one".  Both "Moon Hangs Low' and "Tie My Pillow to a Tree" began as lullabies to his girls, and while neither steers clear of the shadows they maintain their original tenderness.

The title track for Last American pares back much of the CD's racket for a moving acoustic take on how this American dream stuff is supposed to work:  "I got everything I asked for / on the day I turned sixteen / I got my old man's heart / and a broke down Chevrolet".  It's as close as we get to Flatland's wide-open vistas, daring us to embrace the appealing mythology of those earlier writers.  It's also a gorgeous piece of music.

Most of our parents did their best to bequeath to us their faith in the American dream.  On Last American, Culwell wonders how to do the same with his children.  How do we speak honestly and with love about the world into which they're growing?  The nights that keep us awake with preoccupation tend to outnumber the times when we feel like we're getting it right.  While Ryan Culwell's new songs offer us few comforts, it's at least heartening that he's so able to set our feelings to such rewarding music.

- Band of Heathens, "Take Me Home Country Roads" A Message From the People Revisited  (BoH, 18)
- Dead South, "One Dying and a Burying"  King of the Road: Tribute to Roger Miller  (BMG, 18)
- Kristina Murray, "Strong Blood" Southern Ambrosia  (Loud Magnolia, 18)
- Hawks & Doves, "Bulletproof Heart" From a White Hotel  (Julian, 18)
- Laura Jane Grace & Devouring Mothers, "Apocalypse Now (& Later)" Bought to Bot  (Bloodshot, 18)  D
- Dirty River Boys, "Backside of Uppers" Mesa Starlight  (DRB, 18)  D
- Murder by Death, "Alas"  The Other Shore  (Bloodshot, 18)
- Justin Wells, "A Love Song" single  (10 in 20, 18)  D
- Becky Warren, "Drake Motel"  Undesirable  (Warren, 18)
- Pollies, "Fell in Love" Transmissions  (TiAM, 18)
^ Ryan Culwell, "Dog's Ass"  Last American  (Culwell, 18)
- New Mexican, "Two Hearted" Take it On Our Shoulders  (Hoffman, 18)  D
- John R. Miller, "Red Eyes" Trouble You Follow  (Emperor, 18)  D
- Dave Alvin, "Johnny Ace is Dead" Eleven Eleven  (Yep Roc, 11)
- Sarah Borges & Broken Singles, "House on a Hill" Love's Middle Name  (Blue Corn, 18)  D
- Alejandro Escovedo, "Something Blue" The Crossing  (Yep Roc, 18)
- Juanita Stein, "Fast Lane" Until the Lights Fade  (Nude, 18)
- Adam Faucett, "Pearl" It Took the Shape of a Bird  (Last Chance, 18)
- Iron & Wine, "Last of Your Rock 'n' Roll Heroes" Weed Garden EP  (Sub Pop, 18)
- Laura Gibson, "Tenderness" Goners  (Barsuk, 18)  D
- JP Harris, "When I Quit Drinking" Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing  (Free Dirt, 18)  D
- Stryker Brothers, "Charlie Duke Took Country Music to the Moon" Burn Band  (Scriptorium Rex, 18)  D
- Richard Thompson, "My Rock My Rope" 13 Rivers  (New West, 18)
- Skiffle Players, "Local Boy" Skiff  (Spiritual Pajamas, 18)  D
- Austin Lucas, "Killing Time" Immortal Americans  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Shannen Moser, "Arizona (I Wanna Be Your Man)" I'll Sing  (Lame-O, 18)  D
- Anna St. Louis, "Understand" If Only There Was a River  (Woodsist, 18)  D
- Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Sweet Disorder (live)" Live at the Nick  (Don Giovanni, 18)
- Clutch, "Hot Bottom Feeder" Book of Bad Decisions  (Weathermaker, 18)  D
- Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, "Help These Blues" Damage  (Blues Explosion, 04)

One of the challenges in assembling the Playlist for each week is balancing the familiar with the novel.  We're all about music discovery, but we're also about getting to know a record in a gentlemanly manner, and reminding you all about music that matters from years past.  But then we get a week like this one, where there is so much new stuff that it just throws any kind of moderation to the hounds.  Great new songs this week from Justin Wells, Sarah Borges and JP Harris.  We also let in some Clutch and a new project from Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace.  Looking at possible reviews for the John R. Miller and Matt Hoffman's new project, beneath the marquee of New Mexican.  In all, it's just a mad rush of new music.