Sunday, October 01, 2023


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 1, 2023
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Blink-and-it's-gone September becomes October. Next thing you know, we're beset with end-of-year lists. Which seems odd, since I'm counting over one-hundred records remaining on our Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster release calendar. Nevertheless, we're calendaring our own monthlong Good Riddance to 2023 celebration, which seems to get longer every year. Here's the plan:

Year in Americana - Dec 3
Favorite Songs - Dec 10
Christmas Christmas - Dec 17
Favorite Albums - Dec 24
Covers - Dec 31

We ask that you respond appropriately. For now, let's add another ten strong songs that gave dimension and meaning to our last thirty days. We call it: 


1. Lydia Loveless, "Sex and Money" Nothing's Gonna Stand In My Way Again  (Bloodshot, Sep 22) The digital ink has hardly dried on our appreciation of Loveless' new record, wherein we praised this power pop banger as one of our favorites of the year. With a hot pink Barbie movie hook and a self deprecating humor that carries throughout the collection, it's Lydia Loveless to a new degree. 

2. Maren Morris, "Get the Hell Out of Here" The Bridge EP  (Columbia, Sep 15) Morris released her two-song Bridge EP as a kiss-off to the exclusionary country mainstream, as well as a reckoning of her own role in the dysfunctional relationship. The lovely acoustic track speaks from this place of humility, a full but simple arrangement credited at least in part to Jack Antonoff, it's a sigh of a song: I do the best I can / But the more I hang around here, the less I give a damn / So to all the doubts and demons that I held so dear / Go on, get the hell outta here

^ 3. Abby Hamilton, "#1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo)" #1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo) (Blue Gown, Oct 13) We've bookmarked this debut full-length since catching wind of her earliest singles. As clever as Elizabeth Cook, with the soul and bombast of Margo Price, the Kentucky artist is in a decidedly modern setting for her first single, from the thrumming bass to the Olivia Rodrigo-esque recitative: I bet she's really pretty and really smart / She probably reads the New York Times or went to Harvard / Or won some kind of Nobel Peace Prize. This could be fun. 

4. Low Cut Connie, "Take Me To the Place" Art Dealers  (Contender, Sep 8) A longing ode to a lost place and time, inspired by the New York of Lou Reed and Patty Smith, Adam Weiner's new record is brilliantly evocative. One of the most daringly captivating performers in our kind of music. he and his band draw from a deep well of soul and scum, glamor and façade. With shared vocals by SUSU, "Take Me" casts a spell. 

5. Morgan Wade, "Losers Look Like Me" Psychopath  (Sony, Aug 25) Not everything on her second collection lands as truly as most of the songs from Reckless. That said, at her best Wade remains a fearless artist with a wisdom and melodic sensibility to rival Kasey Musgraves. Here she recognizes herself in the losers following in the footsteps of their failed parents. The midtempo country-rocker shines brighter than Ashley McBryde in a pop sense, but shares the other's first-hand knowledge of small town misgivings: I didn't know the world was so damn mean

6. Jeffrey Martin, "There Is a Treasure" Thank God We Left the Garden  (Fluff & Gravy, Nov 3) Good god, what do Jeffrey Martin and Anna Tivel talk about over dinner?! One-half of folk music's most eloquent pair, Martin has announced his first record in six years. Recorded in a backyard shed with an acoustic guitar and two mics, "Treasure" is an exquisite statement on meaning and mortality, hushed an reverent, gorgeously melodic. Per Martin, it's about the gift of feeling ourselves to be beautifully unimportant.  

7. Big Thief, "Born For Loving You" single  (4AD, Sep 13) You might recall that Big Thief's tangled gesture, Dragon New Warm Mountain, etc ... sat atop our year-end favorites for '22. This unexpectedly straightforward folk-rock track follows September's darker "Vampire Empire", though we've learned by now to eschew expectations for Adrienne Lenker and co. "Born" is as earnestly simple a song as the quartet has shared in recent years, even as Lenker's lyrics loop from the back of your pickup truck into the meaning-full cosmos: After the first stars formed, after the dinos fell / After the first light flickered out of this motel

8. Maria Elena Silva, "Love, If It Is So" Dulce  (Astral Spirits, Sep 29) Silva is a talented Chicago singer-guitarist whose new album careens through rock, jazz, and Latin music, delivered in Spanish as well as English. "Love" sequences bits from each of these, adding additional sparks of guitar from Mark Ribot to Silva's breathy, enigmatic vocal: Perfect angles get bent at the sight of me

9. Margo Cilker, "I Remember Carolina" Valley of Heart's Delight  (Fluff & Gravy, Sep 15) Cilker's second collection addresses concerns of home and place, where and how we belong. "Carolina" is a rollicking travelogue, a loose romp from Carolina to Montana, down through Oregon and into the changing landscapes of her native California coast. The bluegrass cut features Caleb Klauder on mandolin, Jenny Conlee-Drizos at a pub-ready piano, and some reckless fiddle from Annie Staninec. 

10. Sarah Jarosz, "Jealous Moon" Polaroid Lovers  (Rounder, Jan 26) Multi-instrumentalist Jarosz was not yet 20 when she was crowned a bluegrass debutante by NPR. Several bluegrass, folk, and americana crowns later (incl. four Grammys), she announces her seventh record with a pulsing, polished shot of country-pop miles from those 'grass roots. Produced and co-written by Daniel Tashian (who played a hand in Kasey Musgraves' break from country), "Jealous" charges forward on Edge-y guitar spirals and Fred Eltringham's 80's-adjacent wave of drums: Queen bee buzzing round my right arm / Wonder how she keeps her kingdom spinning

ROUTES-cast OCTOBER 1, 2023

- Flatland Cavalry, "Mornings With You (ft Kaitlin Butts)" Wandering Star  (Interscope, Oct 27)  D
- Shane Smith & the Saints, "Greys Between" single  (Geronimo West, 23)  D
- Charlie Crockett, "Black Sedan (live)" Live From the Ryman  (Son of Davy, 23)
- Goodnight Texas, "Runaways (ft Kirk Hammett)" single  (2 Cent Bank Check, 23)  D
- Old Heavy Hands, "Coming Down" Small Fires  (OHH, Jan 19)  D
- Southall, "Scared Money" Southall  (Smoklahoma, 23)  D
- Howdies, "Cry Mercy" Howdies All Around  (Normaltown, 23)
- Lindsay Lou, "Nothing's Working (ft Billy Strings)" Queen of Time  (Kill Rock Stars, 23)
- Buddy & Julie Miller, "I Been Around" In the Throes  (New West, 23)
- Duff Thompson, "Up and Go" Shadow People  (Mashed Potato, Oct 27)
- Owen Temple, "Beautiful Accidents" Rings On a Tree  (El Paisano, 23)
- Van Plating, "Joel Called the Ravens (ft Ottoman Turks)" Orange Blossom Child  (Singular, 23)
- Charles Wesley Godwin, "Soul Like Mine" Family Ties  (Big Loud, 23)
- Zach Bryan, "Sarah's Place (ft Noah Kahan)" Boys of Faith EP  (Belting Bronco, 23)
- Jerry Joseph, "Book Burning" Baby You're the Man Who Would Be King  (Cosmo Sex School, 23)
- Jaime Wyatt, "Althea" Feel Good  (New West, Nov 3)
- William Elliott Whitmore, "Adaptation and Survival" Silently the Mind Breaks  (Whitmore, Jan 26)  D
- John Moreland, "Dim Little Light (live)" Live at Third Man Records  (Third Man, Nov 10)  D
- Bones of JR Jones, "Animals" Slow Lightning  (Bones, Oct 13)
- Jason Isbell, "Stockholm (live)" Southeastern (10th Anniversary Edition)  (Southeastern, 23)  D
- John P Strohm, "This American Lie" Something To Look Forward To  (Propeller Sound, 23)
- Elliott BROOD, "Rose City" Town  (Six Shooter, Nov 3)  D
- Dylan LeBlanc, "Coyote" Coyote  (ATO, Oct 20)
- Connie Lovatt, "Gull" Coconut Mirror  (Enchante, 23)
- Wilco, "Soldier Child" Cousin  (dBpm, 23)
- Sun June, "Mixed Bag" Bad Dream Jaguar  (Run For Cover, Oct 20)
- Iron & Wine, "Thomas County Law (live)" Who Can See Forever Soundtrack  (Sub Pop, Nov 17)  D
- Little Mazarn, "Lake Texoma" Honey Island General Store EP  (Double Yolk, 23)  D
- Yasmin Williams, "Dawning (ft Aoife O'Donovan)" single  (Nonesuch, 23)  D


To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Sunday, September 24, 2023


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 24, 2023
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Diversity and representation matter, and the Americana Music Association are honoring this as well as any music-related organization these days. AMA's Honors & Awards were convened Wednesday evening, and broadcast on NPR Music's YouTube channel. Never the music industry's smoothest running show, it makes up for what it lacks in stage management with sincerity and excellent performance. This year's performers included a fierce Allison Russell, a sweet celebration of the Avett Brothers (who suddenly seem like elder statesmen), and a transcendent exhibition by Bette LaVette, marred only by the fact that she wandered off mic (then off stage) during her song's explosive finale. With appearances by War & Treaty, Adeem the Artist, SG Goodman, and "The Tennessee Three" (the Representatives temporarily expelled for their anti-gun protest, not Johnny Cash's band), the AMAs are embracing diversity unabashedly and without undue awkwardness. Even if their recognition of Bonnie Raitt for Song of the Year was way off base, and even though Billy Strings was the incorrect answer for Artist of the Year, the show was largely a success. We'll share more about our take on what's mattered in the Year in Americana as we close out 2023 in the weeks to come. For now, you can stream the show (and fast forward thru Sarah Silverman's painful celebration of Patty Griffin (Sarah Silverman??!)) as your schedule permits. 

We'll also remind everyone that our own year-end favorites often differ wildly from AMA's party line. Back at the setting of 2019, we declared our favorite albums of the 2010s, standing firmly behind Lydia Loveless' 2011 Indestructible Machine atop the list. Of course, as Loveless' story continued to unfold, their music took a turn to embrace pop, even as records like 2014's Somewhere Else and 2020's Daughter were championed in our subsequent year-end lists. 2016's spiky/sad Real held that year's Number 1 spot. Loveless continued to carry that original element in her voice and in certain sonic shades, though the cartoon character that graced the jacket of Indestructible matured into the flesh-and-blood, fire-and-ice, warts-and-all woman behind the just-released Nothing's Gonna Stand In My Way Again (Bloodshot). 

A lot has happened in Lydia Loveless' word since Daughter, setbacks both personal and professional, not to mention the pandemic that eventually found her returning to her native Ohio and taking part-time work as an engineer at a friend's recording studio. Loveless' accusations against some central figures brought the dissolution of the Bloodshot label, which has since reformed under new ownership. All of this on top of their day-to-day battles with emotional health that led Loveless to call herself the romance novelist of songwriting. The new collection is a victory that juxtaposes emotional turmoil with great humor, communicated through music that throws any remaining genre lines to the wind. 

In interviews, Lydia Loveless has made clear her musical comfort zone, her playlist/security blanket incorporates late 90s and early 2000s pop. With most of the songs on NGSIMWA reportedly composed on piano, and with the generous presence of Wurlitzers, synths and mellotrons from contributors like Jay Gonzales (Drive-by Truckers) and Philippe Bronchtein (Hip Hatchet), this influence is given rein on songs like "Poor Boy". A "Boys Don't Cry" guitar line and Michelle Sullivan's bright Go-Gos backing vocals complete the picture: There's a sign that says keep off the grass / But I wanna cross the line. One of Loveless' most masterful tunes, "Sex and Money" delivers a pop-perfect package, including a genuinely indelible chorus that might bring to mind the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself": Like a faded old paperback / I like to crack you open when I'm feeling sad. Guitars are by no means abandoned, stabbing throughout the mix and anchoring the songs nearer the harder edge that's always been an aspect of their music. 

Loveless' songs have also balanced their hard-ass image with social awkwardness and self-deprecation, flirting with the edges when they're not burrowing beneath the blankets. She is Dissociating down at Bad Daddy's Burger Bar on "Runaway", addressing the songwriter's perpetual self-sabotage on one of the sessions' most country-leaning tracks. NGSIMWA is peppered with lyrics that allow Loveless to boldly express some of her more alarming ideations: Every time I go to the airport / I try to miss my flight / Every time I drive on the highway I wanna jerk the wheel to the right. On the gauzy "Ghost", they're haunting an ex's house, confident that Now that I'm dead nothing's gonna stand in my way again. It's part of Lydia Loveless' package, a barefaced honesty that is impressive and even dangerous in its intimacy. "Toothache" addresses living alone in the wake of a separation: I find myself hyper-focused on the dirty windows / And running out of dish soap / Cuz it's different all on my own

The might be more concerning if her social awkwardness weren't also expressed with such humor, to the point where Loveless has experimented with stand-up comedy. On "Sex and Money": I know I'm not saving the world / But I gotta live in it so I might as well splurge / On two-hundred cotton t-shirts / With my face on the front. Beneath the ambient guitar of "Feel", they drop the threat: If I ever get sober it's really over for you fools. But a strong beat and busy synths break through the haze, Loveless' increasingly confident delivery is almost reassuring. These are great sounding songs, well-built by the artist and their longtime bandmates, beholden only to their whim. As Loveless has pointed out, dismissing the fear of being pegged as an americana artist, they have created the least rootsy record of their career. 

If Lydia Loveless hadn't released Indestructible Machine very early in her career, she might never have been considered in this roots-adjacent lane. Nothing's Gonna Stand In My Way Again merits consideration alongside true peers like Courtney Barnett or Jenny Lewis - you'll want to check out Loveless' one-off duet with Jason Hawk Harris on Rilo Kiley's "Portions For Foxes". With its rolling drums, melodic sensibility, and ooh-la-la backing vocals, "Do the Right Thing" is a pop gem. Elsewhere on the spectrum, the piano and strings of "Summerlong" are gorgeous, the ballad spotlighting Loveless' tremendous vocal gift. She closes one of the year's most impressive albums with a reassurance: These tiny shoulders will grow wings / I'm flying higher than my sense / I've already decided that I'll be alright ...

Wait ... one more thing. Among the forthcoming records we're most looking forward to on A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster are the following recent announcements: One of our favorite singer-songwriters and onetime Water Liar, Andrew Bryant has scheduled his next release. On his own Sentimental Noises label, Prodigal will appear wherever music matters on November 3. Texas legend Jon Dee Graham returns from death's doorstep with his first record in seven years. The aptly titled Only Dead For a Little While will be released via Strolling Bones on November 10. The enigmatic Cat Power's next project features a live run through one of Bob Dylan's iconic shows. The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert lands on digital shelves on November 10 (Domino). After flirting with the spotlight for the last few years, Vincent Neil Emerson will take the next logical step with the release of a Shooter Jennings-produced collection. Golden Crystal Kingdom is also scheduled for a November 10 debut via the La Honda label. Finally, Uncle Lucius has reformed following an eight-year hiatus. They will wrap up the year with the December 8 release of Like It's the Last One Left (Boo Clap). 

ROUTES-cast September 24, 2023

- Slaughter Beach Dog, "My Sister in Jesus Christ" Crying Laughing Waving Smiling  (Lame-O, 23)
^ Lydia Loveless "Poor Boy" Nothing's Gonna Stand In My Way Again  (Bloodshot, 23)
- Jason Hawk Harris, "Bring Out the Lillies" Thin Places  (Bloodshot, Oct 6)
- Jenny Owen Youngs, "Salt" Avalanche  (Yep Roc, 23)
- Ha Ha Tonka, "Just Like That" Blood Red Moon  (Ha Ha Tonka, Oct 20)
- Tre Burt, "Piece of Me" Traffic Fiction  (Oh Boy, Oct 6)
- Andrew Bryant, "Prodigal" Prodigal  (Sentimental Noises, Nov 3)  D
- Margo Price, "Mind Travel" Strays II  (Loma Vista, Oct 12)
- Vincent Neil Emerson, "Little Wolf's Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint" Golden Crystal Kingdom  (La Honda, Nov 10)  D
- Alex Williams, "Something To Prove" single  (Lightning Rod, 23)  D
- Wyatt Flores, "West of Tulsa" single  (Island, 23)  D
- Zach Bryan, "Boys of Faith (ft Bon Iver)" Boys of Faith EP  (Belting Bronco, 23)  D
- Brent Cobb, "Devil Ain't Done" Southern Star  (Ol' Buddy, 23)
- Brandy Clark, "Gulf Coast Highway" More Than a Whisper: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith  (Rounder, 23)
- Buddy & Julie Miller, "Painkillers Ain't Workin'" In the Throes  (New West, 23)
- Charles Wesley Godwin, "Two Weeks Gone" Family Ties  (Big Loud, 23)
- Harvest Thieves, "Gaslighter" As the Sparks Fly Upward  (Harvest Thieves, Oct 20)
- Abby Hamilton, "Whatever Helps You Sleep" #1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo)  (Blue Gown, Oct 13)
- Bella White, "Unknown Legend" single  (Rounder, 23)  D
- Nora Jane Struthers, "I Can Hear the Birds" Back To Cast Iron  (Blue Pig, Oct 27)
- Willy Tea Taylor & Fellership, "Devil's Taxidermy" Great Western Hangover  (Blackwing, Oct 27)
- Jolie Holland, "Orange Blossoms" Haunted Mountain  (Cinquefoil, Oct 6)
- Diane & the Gentle Men, "Hook Up" Bad and the Beautiful  (Velvet Elk, 23)
- Faye Webster, "Lifetime" single  (Secretly Canadian, 23)  D
- Laura Veirs, "Rocks Of Time" Phone Orphans  (Raven Marching Band, Nov 3)  D
- Du Blonde & Samuel T Herring, "Pelican Canyon" single  (Daemon TV, 23)  D
- Johanna Samuels, "Real Emotional Girl" Lagniappe Session EP  (Jealous Butcher, 23)  D
- Skinny Pelembe, "Who By Fire (ft Beth Orton)" single  (Partisan, 23)  D
- Angie McMahon, "Exploding" Light Dark Light Again  (AWAL, Oct 27)
- Daniel Bachman, "Summer's Fingers Sweetly Linger" When the Roses Come Again  (Three Lobed, Nov 17)  D


To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Sunday, September 17, 2023


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 17, 2023
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

And somehow I'm still out here, seeing your faces
In likely and unlikely places
Somewhere playing too loud

Jason Isbell closed his 2015 masterpiece, Something More Than Free, with these words. The song, "To a Band That I Loved", paid loving tribute to Centro-Matic, the essential Denton, TX act fronted by Will Johnson (who led the same lineup under the South San Gabriel moniker on their quieter releases). Nearly ten years after his band formally declared a hiatus, Johnson was invited to tour with Isbell's 400 Unit for their 2023 tour. 

In addition to playing with those Denton bands, Will Johnson's sprawling catalogue includes work alongside Jason Molina, Jay Farrar, Vic Chesnutt, Conor Oberst, and many others, not to mention releasing a handful of excellent solo albums, publishing a novel, and hanging his baseball-themed artwork at a couple dozen galleries. Most recently, Johnson is typically found on a steady string of living room concerts, only his guitar in tow, no doubt playing too loud.

No Ordinary Crown (Keeled Scales) marks his eighth project under his own name, though he has tended to gather many of the same collaborators for the last few collections. Producer Britton Beisenherz has worked with Johnson since 2015's Swan City Vampires. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Lindsey Verrill (Little Mazarn) came on board with 2019's Wire Mountain. Guitarist Ricky Ray Jackson and drummer Roberto Sanchez have been frequent collaborators as well. Johnson demonstrated his familiarity and trust in the outfit by sending them the bare demos for his new songs and challenging them to create their own accompaniment. 

No matter the vehicle, Will Johnson's sound has been consistent from album to album. Electric guitars are thick and churning; the singer's voice a calm and measured presence within the tempest. "Along the Runner (No Ordinary Crown)" adds an atmospheric drone and peals of feedback, sound building on sound towards an extended electric outro a'la Centro-Matic. "Sinker, Sinking" builds a solid wall of static with keyboards and pounding drums supporting the enveloping guitar. It's a pop song for the greater part, Johnson comments, but lyrically zeroes in on its subject hiding out while the storm builds outside. Clocking in under two minutes, "Swine" buries vocals deeper into the relentless fuzz. 

But there's always more to Will Johnson's songs than pummeling noise, as No Ordinary Crown demonstrates. Even at his loudest, he doesn't make music that is ugly or indulgent. The arrangement on "Conduct" is spacious, ratcheting percussion separated from guitar and humming keys: You got a right to be / Unsettled with me Johnson sings, his delivery lifting into an unexpectedly elevated croon. The contributions of his collaborators is essential in ensuring this nuance on songs like the beautiful "Of Passengers and Plight". Verrill's cello and Jackson's pedal steel recall the lighter touch of Richmond Fontaine: I tracked all my footprints / Walking backward through the snow / And I channeled Danny Torrance / Who I always wished I had known

Will Johnson is increasingly a lyrical impressionist, employing fewer, more meaning-heavy words to suggest landscapes, moods, and archetypes. "In Granada" shares glimpses from time in Spain: I taught myself a new kind of patience / I taught myself how to heal a lame man. Cello and banjo give way to tick-tock drums, ambient voices, and a mounting trance. Tuned timpani drums and guttural, almost bluesy electric guitar drive the instrumental "Alta (Warped Kite)". "Tempest Time Again" sets the highpoint for No Ordinary Crown, an alchemy of the band's disparate parts, and a reminder of Johnson's capacity for an evocative vocal. 

As longtime appreciators of Will Johnson's integral body of work, our hope is that his time on huge stages with Jason Isbell's 400 Unit will bring Johnson's music to new ears. Even more interesting will be how his experience adds new shades to his solo songs. Sonically, No Ordinary Crown covers a wider swath than any of Johnson's earlier records, even as the songwriter remains dedicated to his own muse. Isbell's accolade and appreciation remain relevant: May you find what you gave, all that hope / Somewhere down at the end of your rope

ROUTES-cast September 17, 2023

- Cat Power, "Ballad of a Thin Man" Sings Dylan: 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert (Domino, Nov 10)  D
- David Eugene Edwards, "Weaver's Beam" Hyacinth  (Sargent House, Sep 29)
^ Will Johnson, "Tempest Time Again" No Ordinary Crown  (Keeled Scales, 23)
- Big Thief, "Born For Loving You" single  (4AD, 23)  D
- Full Time Men, "I Got Wheels" Part Time Job  (Yep Roc, Oct 27)  D
- Nick Shoulders, "Blue Endless Highway" All Bad  (Gar Hole, 23) 
- Howdies, "Hello Jukebox" Howdies All Around  (Normaltown, Sep 29)
- Briscoe, "Hill Country Baby" West of It All  (ATO, 23)
- Van Plating, "They're Gonna Kill You Anyway (ft Damn Quails)" Orange Blossom Child  (Singular, 23)
- John R Miller, "Basements" Heat Comes Down  (Rounder, Oct 6)
- Uncle Lucius, "Keep Singing Along" Like It's the Last One Left  (Boo Clap, Dec 8)  D
- Jon Dee Graham, "See You By the Fire" Only Dead For a Little While  (Strolling Bones, Nov 10)  D
- Daniel Donato, "Hi-Country" Reflector  (Retrace, Nov 10)
- Margo Cilker, "I Remember Carolina" Valley of Heart's Delight  (Fluff & Gravy, 23)
- Sun June, "Easy Violence" Bad Dream Jaguar  (Run For Cover, Oct 20)
- Viv & Riley, "Flashing Lights" Imaginary People  (Free Dirt, 23)
- Lily & Madeleine, "No Part of Me" Nite Swim  (Lily & Madeleine, Oct 6)
- Margo Price, "Black Wolf Blues" Strays II  (Loma Vista, Oct 12)
- Allison Russell, "Springtime" The Returner  (Fantasy, 23)
- Low Cut Connie, "Call Out My Name" Art Dealers  (Contender, 23)
- Bones of JR Jones, "I'll See You In Hell" Slow Lightning  (Bones, Oct 13)
- Third Mind, "Groovin' Is Easy" Third Mind 2  (Yep Roc, Oct 27)  D
- Shakey Graves, "Lowlife" Movie of the Week  (Dualtone, 23)
- Wilco, "Cousin" Cousin  (dBpm, Sep 29)
- Staves, "You Had It All" single  (Nonesuch, 23)  D
- Connie Lovatt, "Kid" Coconut Mirror  (Enchante, Sep 27)  D
- Molly Burch, "Tattoo" Daydreamer  (Captured Tracks, Sep 29)
- Great Lake Swimmers, "Peacemaker" Said the Firefly to the Hurricane: Celebration of the Oeuvre of Kevn Kinney  (Tasty Goody, Nov 24)
- Maybel, "Rebloom" Gloam  (Idee Fixe, Oct 27)
- Maren Morris, "Get the Hell Out of Here" The Bridge EP  (Columbia, 23)  D


To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Sunday, September 10, 2023


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 10, 2023
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

I remember hearing a saying about how we can never step into the same stream twice. My laptop attributes that idea to Heraclitus. I imagine the Greek philosopher never had the privilege of hearing Woods, but he might have made a similar comment about the cross-country collective's eclectic discography. Depending on where you step in their dozen studio records and plentiful singles and EPs, you're as likely to land on roots or folk as you are Ethiopian jazz or a psychedelic jam. Fuzz guitar, horns, loops, and a closetful of percussion. Extended instrumentals or tight, pop-inflected numbers. It's all a variation on the same river. 

Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere are the reliable constant throughout the Woods discography. For Perennial (Woodsist, Sept 17), Earl began with loops of drum, guitar and keys, sounds he shared with Taveniere and cohort John Andrews to flesh out. These sessions are born from grooves, evolving patiently, spiraling and unfolding rather than following a narrative arc. Earl found a natural equivalent to the approach: perennial plants and flowers are nature's loops. Even when sounds are especially manipulated, pushed to the far end of familiarity, there is always something lovingly organic to the music of Woods. 

Woods have peppered their records with instrumentals, regarding them as much more than filler. "White Winter Melody" sways like a hipster update of Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown soundtrack, replete with melodic bass and peals of Connor Gallaher's eloquent pedal steel. It's as simple and direct a song as you'll find on Perennial, and as satisfying an instrumental as we've heard this year. But this is possibly Woods' most experimental collection to date, and far more typical would be "The Seed", with its warped guitar, Kyle Forester's sax, and a cool breakdown like the sun between clouds. Both pieces find inspiration in jazz and psychedelic pop, and both are imminently listenable. 

But the presence of the studio is as heavy on Perennial as it's been on any of the collective's other full-lengths. "Another Side" features Jeremy Earl's trademark vocals, keening from his high register alongside breathy California harmonies. The hazy, Beatles-inflected cut rides on a thick, hazy arrangement, a pulse of programmed flute recalling "Strawberry Field", while the marching drums of the outro reinforce that connection. The six-minute "Another Side" offers heavy fuzz guitar to match its steady drums, rubbery keys distorting our view. 

Other tracks allow Woods' indie pop sensibilities to shine, such as "Weep" with its racing drums, melodic choral hook, and chiming guitar. "Double Dream" and "Sip of Happiness" are dreamy, Nuggets-ready cuts, Earl's vocal an additional instrument that sighs into the larger mix. "Sip" adds rhythmic tambourine and treated guitars in a midtempo groove. 

With its layer of production and experimentation, Perennial might not be the perfect entry point to the Woods oeuvre - that might be 2016's City Sun Eater in the River of Light or 2020's excellent Strange to Explain. Woods were also recruited to serve alongside David Berman on his final project as Purple Mountains. But even as Earl and Taveniere stretch to explore the further reaches of their sound, Perennial remains another impressive musical gesture with some gorgeously engaging moments. "Day Moving On" delivers some great guitars and keys, while "Little Black Flowers" is a beehive of bright sonic activity, inviting listeners to Wrap your lips around the sun. Like Calexico or Fleet Foxes, Woods is grounded even in their most cosmic moments, familiar and accessible as a flower reaching from the rich soil. 

A quick visit to A Routes & Branches Guide to Feeding Your Monster before we move onto this week's teeming Routes-cast. Add Jason Hawk Harris to the list of artists returning to the newly revised Bloodshot roster. His sophomore record, Thin Places, arrives on October 6. On that same date, Dori Freeman returns with her follow-up to '21s Ten Thousand Roses. Produced by her husband Nicholas Falk (Hiss Golden Messenger, Caamp), Do You Recall appears courtesy of the artist's own Blue Hens label. Been more than five years since Ha Ha Tonka shared a new studio LP. Save some room for Blood Red Moon, planned for an October 20 debut. Willy Tea Taylor returns with The Great Western Hangover. His band on the October 27 release, "the Fellership", features members of TK and the Holy Know-Nothings (Black Wing). Finally, Sarah Jarosz promises new things with the release of her next full-length. Polaroid Lovers lands next year, on January 26, thanks to Rounder. 

ROUTES-cast September 10, 2023

- Sally Anne Morgan, "Diamond Joe" Carrying  (Thrill Jockey, Sep 22)
- Handsome Family, "Two Black Shoes" Hollow  (Milk & Scissors, 23)
- Esme Patterson, "Coming Down" Notes From Nowhere  (Esme, Oct 10)
- Logan Ledger, "Some Misty Morning (ft Erin Rae)" Golden State  (Rounder, 23)
- Jolie Holland, "Highway 72"  Haunted Mountain  (Cinqfoil, Oct 6)
- Ruston Kelly, "Heaven Made the Darkness" single  (Rounder, 23)  D
- Dori Freeman, "Do You Recall" Do You Recall  (Blue Hens, Oct 6)  D
- Lillie Mae, "Safe Place" Festival Eyes  (s||c, 23)
- Sarah Jarosz, "Jealous Moon" Polaroid Lovers  (Rounder, Jan 26)  D
- Cactus Lee, "Caravan" Caravan  (Org Music, Oct 20)  D
- Jobi Riccio, "Relief" Whiplash  (Yep Roc, 23)
- Cruz Contreras, "Stop Giving Your Heart Away" Cosmico  (Cosmico, Sep 15)
- Nora Jane Struthers, "Is It Hope" Back to Cast Iron  (Blue Pig, Oct 27)  D
- Owen Temple, "Days" Rings On a Tree  (El Paisano, Sep 26)  D
- Ashley McBryde, "Women Ain't Whiskey" Devil I Know  (Warner, 23)
- Drayton Farley, "Kudzu Wild" Kudzu Wild EP  (Hargrove, 23)  D
- Van Plating, "Orange Blossom Child" Orange Blossom Child  (Singular, Sep 15)
- Tyler Childers, "Phone Calls and Emails" Rustin' in the Rain  (Hickman Holler, 23)
- Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "Tight Rope" Song For Leon: Tribute to Leon Russell  (Primary Wave, 23)
- Jaime Wyatt, "Love Is a Place" Feel Good  (New West, Nov 3)
- Chris Stapleton, "Think I'm In Love With You" Higher  (Mercury, Nov 10)
- Allison Russell, "Rag Child" The Returner  (Fantasy, 23)
- Low Cut Connie, "Take Me To the Place" Art Dealers  (Contender, 23)
- Jerry Joseph, "Loving Kindness" Baby You're the Man Who Would Be King  (Cosmo Sex School, Sep 29)
- Angel Olsen, "Greenville" single  (something cosmic, 23)  D
- Liza Anne, "Shania Twain is Making Me Cry" Utopian  (AntiFragile, Nov 3)  D
- Slaughter Beach Dog, "Engine" Crying Laughing Waving Smiling  (Lame-O, Sep 22)
- Geese, "Jesse" 4D Country EP  (Partisan, Oct 13)  D
- Sun June, "John Prine" Bad Dream Jaguar  (Run For Cover, Oct 20)
^ Woods, "Day Moving On" Perennial  (Woodsist, Sep 15)
- Houndmouth, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" Discovered & Covered  (Dualtone, Dec 8)


To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Sunday, September 03, 2023


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 3, 2023
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

There was no bidding war for my attentions when it came time for college. Years later, my parents told me they'd considered buying the local record store for me to manage since my success in college was very questionable. I applied to one school - the one my older brother attended - and was unexpectedly accepted. Returning home after that first year (flunked Algebra, convinced my roommate to move out), I remember thinking the house in which I grew up seemed much smaller. This was increasingly true each time I paid a visit. I felt like I no longer belonged there. 

As Covid took hold (remember Spring of 2020?), countless young adults were forced out of school and away from work. They turned towards home, to their childhood bedrooms in a house in which they no longer fit. Having grown up in Morrison, Colorado (home of Red Rocks), songwriter Jobi Riccio enrolled at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston before turning for home. Of course, these late teens and early twenties are typically tumultuous years by default, as we decide who we are outside our family circle, trying on new identities. Riccio documents her navigation of these times on her first widely-released collection, the appropriately titled Whiplash (Yep Roc, Sep 8). 

The basic tracks for the album were recorded with producer Gar Ragland, Riccio's prize for winning 2019's NewSong competition, then were completed with Jesse Timm and Isaiah Beard once pandemic restrictions permitted. Bare acoustic tracks share space with more fleshed out numbers that push tunes alternately in an indie folk or a country direction. With Jobi Riccio's outstanding vocal delivery, the results are as much of a wake-up call as Courtney Marie Andrews' Honest Life in 2017, her own coming-of-age album. 

Beginning with the buzz of cicadas, "Summer" sweeps listeners up in its spiraling breeze, brushing between fond sensory memories and a pervasive melancholy: Something's bound to happen, ain't that summer's guarantee / So how come every summer I get so damn lonely. Josie Toney's fiddle sweeps and flits like a restless dragonfly, as pedal steel shines languidly like sunlight between branches. A similar longing underlies "Homesick", as Riccio wanders a party, admiring all the beautiful people  drinking stars in their champagne while her heart is half a continent away: Heartsick for a life I can never get back. Both tracks build their lovely arrangements around the singer's wide-ranging voice, exploring her lower register before climbing gracefully on a gust of emotion. 

Much of Whiplash alludes to Jobi Riccio's journey of identity, stepping forward as a queer artist, pulling together bits of bluegrass, country, folk, and indie music and making them her own. "Sweet" weds Mike Robinson's pedal steel with the filigree of Riccio's vocal. A product of her Lucinda phase, the song surrounds her with a satisfyingly full country-rock setting: All the guys I meet just lead to dead ends / And all the girls I've wanted never had a clue / And probably don't bat for my team even if they knew / I'm just not that sweet. Channeling the spirits of old school country songwriters, "For Me It's You" prompted Jason Isbell to tweet: Check that shit out, it's solid. The beautifully simple country heartbreak tune drips with sad strings, boasting Riccio's strongest delivery, as she concludes: I'm not who you're achin' for. That juxtaposition between confidence and vulnerability, the balance between youth and adulthood is at the heart of Jobi Riccio's strong appeal. 

I'm somewhere between a woman and a child, Riccio observes on the title cut, possibly the record's most mature musical statement. With Alec Spiegelman's breathy sax and a compliment of tumbling percussion, "Whiplash" creates space for the songwriter to express the crash of emotions and experiences, a knot of longing and dismissal: He's probably downtown drinking up the neon / Pouring his best line into her glass. "Relief" gives lead to her Chicks influence, while "One Last Time" posits the singer in a late-night jazz lounge. There is a taste of jazz as well in "Lonely Tonight", another of the pieces that encourage Whiplash in a more contemporary indie direction with its choice of synthed strings and percussion: I'm feeling sorry for poor little me / Oh what else is new

Jobi Riccio recorded "Trying" in her Morrison bedroom as she settled in for the pandemic surrounded by the whispers of her childhood: Back here in my hometown / My high school graduation gown stares me down. Just her layered vocal and acoustic guitar, the austere song is quietly turbulent, the bedroom a still center amidst swirling questions and demands, the whiplash of young adulthood: I took for granted most years of my life. While the Covid story grinds on to an uncertain resolution for countless young adults, Riccio rode the breakers to Nashville. 

ROUTES-cast September 3, 2023

- Willy Tea Taylor & the Fellership, "National Treasure" Great Western Hangover  (Blackwing, Oct 27)  D
- Tucker Riggleman & the Cheap Dates, "Queen of Diamonds" single  (WarHen, 23)  D
- Zach Bryan, "I Remember Everything (ft Kacey Musgraves)" Zach Bryan  (Belting Bronco, 23)
- Morgan Wade, "27 Club" Psychopath  (Ladylike, 23)
- John Baumann, "Border Radio" Border Radio  (Terlingua Spring, Oct 6)
- Turnpike Troubadours, "The Rut" Cat in the Rain  (Bossier City, 23)
- Steel Woods, "Man From Everywhere" On Your Time  (Woods, Oct 6)
- Restos, "Time" Ain't Dead Yet  (Restos, Sep 29)  D
- Handsome Family, "Oldest Water" Hollow  (Milk & Scissors, Sep 8)
- Nick Shoulders, "All Bad" All Bad  (Gar Hole, Sep 8)
- Lydia Loveless, "Sex and Money" Nothing's Gonna Stand In My Way Again  (Bloodshot, Sep 22)
- Ha Ha Tonka, "Blood Red Moon" Blood Red Moon  (Ha Ha Tonka, Oct 20)  D
- Woods, "Little Black Flowers" Perennial  (Woodsist, Sep 15)
- The Natvral, "Carolina" Summer of No Light  (Dirty Bingo, 23)
- Beirut, "So Many Plans" Hadsel  (Pompeii, Nov 10)  D
- Jerry Leger, "Three Hours Ahead of Midnight" Donlands  (Latent, Oct 27)  D
- Jacob Aranda, "Joshua" War Planes  (Speakeasy, 23)
- Buddy & Julie Miller, "I'll Never Lie It Down" In the Throes  (New West, Sep 22)
- Dylan LeBlanc, "No Promises Broken" Coyote  (ATO, Oct 20)  D
- Blitzen Trapper, "Cheap Fantastical Takedown" single  (Yep Roc, 23)  D
- Margo Price, "Strays" Strays II  (Loma Vista, Oct 13)
- Anna Rose, "Last Girl of the Rodeo" Last Girl of the Rodeo  (White Pony, 23)
- Lindsay Lou, "I Can Help" Queen of Time  (Kill Rock Stars, Sep 29)
- Jason Hawk Harris, "Jordan and the Nile" Thin Places  (Bloodshot, Oct 6)  D
- John P Strohm, "Troubleland (ft Aaron Lee Tasjan)" Something To Look Forward To  (Propeller Sound, Sep 29)  D
- Greyhounds & T Bird and the Breaks, "Hard To Believe" Greybird  (Aftershave, 23)  D
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "Jesus is Bored" Jump For Joy  (Merge, 23)
- Israel Nash, "Can't Stop" Ozarker  (Desert Folklore, Oct 20)
- Billy Strings & Molly Tuttle, "Listen To the Radio" More Than a Whisper: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith  (Rounder, Sep 22)
- Prewn, "But I Want More" Through the Window  (Exploding in Sound, 23)  D


To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview: 

Sunday, August 27, 2023


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
August 27, 2023
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

As of this week, A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster now reaches into the early months of next year.  It's been since 2014 that Jolie Holland has shared a full-length album. Time will tell if it's a good idea to name her forthcoming record Haunted Mountain, the same title as collaborator Buck Meek's new record (Cinquefoil, Oct 6). Speaking of long-time-no-see, former Paper Bird Esme Patterson returns with her fourth original solo endeavor. Relocated from Colorado to Virginia, Notes From Nowhere will drop on October 10. On the heels of a long string of singles and EPs, we've been eagerly awaiting Abby Hamilton's first full-length for many months. She's announced #1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo), set for an October 13 release (Blue Gown). Yet another long-awaited record comes from Jeffrey Martin. Fluff & Gravy has set a November 3 street date for Thank God We Left the Garden. Finally, we've added the very first 2024 release date to the calendar. Blackberry Smoke has announced a February 16 debut for Be Right Here (3 Legged). 

We've reached that time of the year when unnecessarily hot days change from being the rule to the being the exception. We're also approaching a few of the busiest release dates of 2023. Can year-end favorites lists be far behind? We'll take special notice here of Will Hoge's "Can I Be Country Too", a collaborative single that flies in the face of popular songs that seem to restrict the country music banner to a narrow, homogeneous swath of the population. No one single artist, song, or genre represents the entirety of our kind of music. We embrace that fact proudly, and encourage you to champion musical diversity as well. 

Speaking of which, let's celebrate ten of our favorite tracks from the last full month of Summer. The following represent what we regard as the best of our August playlists. We call it: 


1. Roselit Bone, "Ofrenda" Ofrenda  (Get Loud, Aug 25) The closing cut from one of the year's most dynamic and original collections is also the record's most earnest track. Charlotte McCaslin's soaring reflection on grieving and loss delivers with ranchero horns, chimes, strings, and a sweet sigh of an outro: At last, I'll have something I can call the world ...

2. ^Jaime Wyatt, "World Worth Keeping" Feel Good  (New West, Nov 3) The first single from Jaime Wyatt's forthcoming LP gives voice to Mother Earth: Do you feel me? Do you see me? Here I am! The cut channels 60s country-soul, with ripping fuzz guitar and Wyatt leaning further from her country roots than we've heard to date. 

3. Jobi Riccio, "Lonely Tonight" Whiplash  (Yep Roc, Sep 8) With a full three songs landing on our monthly recap lists, we're eager to share our forthcoming review of the singer-songwriter's excellent CD. Built on banjo and acoustic guitar, "Lonely" highlights the versatility of Riccio's vocal. The song also boasts synth strings and a sound that both borrows from and exceeds country-folk tradition. 

4. Suzanne Santo, "Punk Kid" single  (Soozanto, Aug 18) We expect/pray for an announcement soon about Santo's next project. Until such time, the leading singles from the former HoneyHoney member are fire. "Punk Kid" is a beautifully profane mess of a song, pounding drums and spiky guitars beneath the singer's fierce delivery: Oh honey you're a fuck up

5. Lydia Loveless, "Runaway" Nothing's Gonna Stand In My Way Again  (Bloodshot, Sep 22) Loveless' second single from their first release since their return to the reborn Bloodshot label is a heartsick recognition of a doomed relationship. Talk of missing flights and stepping into the path of an oncoming Kia might be alarming for those who haven't followed Loveless through the years. With some 90s synth and Knopfler-adjacent guitar, "Runaway" presents Loveless as an indie force of nature - maybe the fourth member of boygenius?

6. Jolie Holland, "Haunted Mountain" Haunted Mountain  (Cinquefoil, Oct 6) Holland returns with her first collection since 2014's Wine Dark Sea, featuring a handful of cowrites with Buck Meek (who has also just released a record of the same name). One of the most original voices when she was with Be Good Tanyas, Holland's singing has taken on a dusky fog, a great foil for Meek's restless, wandering guitar. 

7. Will Johnson, "Sinker, Sinking" No Ordinary Crown  (Keeled Scales, Sep 15) Johnson recently announced that he's joined Jason Isbell's touring band as a multi-instrumental accompanist. One would hope this might shed light on his rich and varied career as bandleader and solo artist. This first single from Johnson's pending solo effort is a guitar-fueled rocker, heavier than most past releases. With its shadowed imagery, it's almost as close as we'll get to a new project from his former collaborator, the late Jason Molina. 

8. Sun June, "Get Enough" Bad Dream Jaguar  (Run For Cover, Oct 20) I wish the Beatles would get back together sings Laura Colwell on the indie folk act's new single. Dreamy, almost languid, the song builds on the promise of 2021's Somewhere, a perfect vehicle for an early fall reverie. 

9. Margo Cilker, "With the Middle" Valley of Heart's Delight  (Fluff & Gravy, Sep 15) The Oregon singer-songwriter's Pohorylle debut earned her year-end awards and accolades. Valley is fueled by an increased artistic confidence, and a more definite musical vision. "With the Middle" finds Cilker backed by Sera Cahoone, Caleb Klauder, Paul Brainard and more, for a simple but beautiful country-folk bed, and Cilker's delivery is lovely as she muses on the expanse of day between the coffee and the wine

10. Logan Ledger, "All the Wine in California" Golden State (Rounder, Sep 8) With its pedal steel  and twang guitar, Ledger's new single is a blast of Bakersfield heat that might've found a home on a Gene Clark record from a lifetime ago. The Shooter Jennings-produced session leans into Ledger's California country inspirations: At the bottom of each bottle / Is the love I left behind

ROUTES-cast August 27, 2023

- Turnpike Troubadours, "Cat in the Rain" Cat in the Rain  (Bossier City, 23)
- Margo Price, "Malibu (ft Jonathan Wilson, Buck Meek)" Strays II  (Loma Vista, Oct 13)  D
- Blackberry Smoke, "Dig a Hole" Be Right Here  (3 Legged, Feb 16)  D
- Zach Bryan, "Tradesman" Zach Bryan  (Belting Bronco, 23)  D
- Abby Hamilton, "#1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo)" #1 Zookeeper (of the San Diego Zoo)  (Blue Gown, Oct 13)  D
- Bob Lefevre & the Already Gone, "Fremont" Two  (Lefevre, 23)
- Anna Rose, "Whatever Gets You Through the Night" Last Girl of the Rodeo  (White Pony, 23)  D
- Flatland Cavalry, "Oughta See You (the Way I Do)" single  (Flatland, 23)  D
- Kym Register + Meltdown Rodeo, "Traveler's Cross" Meltdown Rodeo  (Don Giovanni, 23)
- Duff Thompson, "Just Like Me" Shadow People  (Mashed Potato, Oct 27)  D
- Morgan Wade, "Losers Like Me" Psychopath  (Sony, 23)
- Sonny & the Sunsets, "How To Make a Ceramic Dog" Self-Awareness Through Macramé  (Rocks in Your Head, 23)
- Nina de Vitry, "History" What You Feel Is Real  (de Vitry, 23)  D
- Charlie Crockett, "Jamestown Ferry (live)" Live From the Ryman  (Son of Davy, Sep 29)  D
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "One Drop (ft Mavis Staples)" Jubilee  (ATO, 23)
- Mipso, "Called Out Loaded" Book of Fools  (Mipso, 23)
- Jeffrey Martin, "There is a Treasure" Thank God We Left the Garden  (Fluff & Gravy, Nov 3)  D
- Buck Meek, "Lagrimas" Haunted Mountain  (4AD, 23)
- Ratboys, "No Way" The Window  (Topshelf, 23)
- Roselit Bone, "Ain't No Right Way To Feel" Ofrenda  (Get Loud, 23)
- Maria Elena Silva, "Love, If It Is So" Dulce  (Astral Spirits, Sep 29)  D
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "California King" Jump For Joy  (Merge, 23)
- Jacob Aranda, "Dream of Mexico" War Planes  (Speakeasy, Sep 1)
- Jenny Owen Youngs, "It's Later Than You Think" Avalanche  (Yep Roc, Sep 22)
- Elliott BROOD, "Rise Up With Fists" Covers Collection EP  (Six Shooter, 23)  D
- Angie McMahon, "Fireball Whiskey" Light Dark Light Again  (AWAL, Oct 27)
- Rosali, "Stuck Inside a Cloud" single  (Merge, 23)  D
- A Savage, "Elvis In the Army" Several Songs About Fire  (Rough Trade, Oct 6)  D
- Drew Baskin & the Sunshine, "It's Hard To Walk Away" Garrett EP  (Super Canoe, 23)  D
- Erin Rae, "California Belongs To You (live)" Lighten Up & Try: Live From the Heart  (Good Memory, 23)  D


To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Sunday, August 20, 2023


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
August 20, 2023
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

There's generally little edge to americana music. Even as artists address politics, disorder, and conflict, listeners rarely experience dis-ease or offense. Early on at R&B HQ, we pledged to live on that edge where we could find it. Which is why we're grateful for acts like Roselit Bone

Publicity material for the Portland eight-piece outfit speak to trying times since 2019's Crisis Actor, years which included a divorce, several family deaths ... gender transition, and the beginning of a new relationship. An especially captivating frontperson since Roselit Bone's inception roughly twelve years ago, Charlotte McCaslin has called the experience making that record fucked - a period when her gender dysphoria was forced onto center stage. Her band's new album, Ofrenda (Get Loud), is the product of that dark night, the resolution of that crucible. 

On stage, Roselit Bone have been branded a nightly conversion ritual, performing on the frontier between gothic country-folk, ranchera, rockabilly, and punk, part Gun Club and part Slim Cessna. Vandoliers for a darker time, or X with a meatier pulse. Charlotte McCaslin's corporeal imagery is a suitable foil for the band's horns, guitars, and garage-born rhythms. A Springsteen-esque drama plays out on "Ain't No Right Way To Feel", a straightforward rock-n-roller riding on low-slung guitar, rattling percussion, and theatrical keys. McCaslin croons and yelps on her electrified delivery, crying There's only so far down I can kneel. A similar spirit possesses "The Sea in Silhouette", clouded by squalls of electric guitar, the bare bones girl / red-faced and rocking. Roselit Bone commit to a large, aggressive sound, and build arrangements that allow the singer to leap acrobatically from note to note, thrilling even when McCaslin only lands in the vicinity of her target: I am a woman you can hit / I am your desire in silhouette

Some of Roselit Bone's most fiery moments as performers happen during their country numbers, taking full advantage of Faith Grossnicklaus' violin and the triple-guitar volley of McCaslin, Victor Franklin, and Brian Crace. McCaslin calls "Crying In the USA", a patriotic anthem for a country that doesn't want to exist anymore. With plenty of alt to their country, little if anything is played straight, from the mocking waah-waah-waah backing vocals to the inarguably unflattering portrayal of Main Street USA: In an empty white room but for a tv and a couch / And their balls hanging out of their boxer shorts

The sound and spirit of Roselit Bone are bright and audacious, like a colorful pulp graphic novel, albeit with poetically dark undertones. The Portland band are at their best when Jordan Vale and John England-Fisher's horns are blazing, and Charlotte McCaslin's songs charge out of the dust of ranchera rhythms. An army of acoustic strumming guitars powers "Truth or Consequences", with the singer's delivery daring new heights as she promises, For four-hundred dollars / I'll buy me some heroin and a gunOfrenda's title cut is also the collection's most heartfelt moment, an ultimately triumphant reflection on grief, guilt, and acceptance. With its sweep of percussion and burst of brass, "Ofrenda" is gorgeous, brash, and bold. 

The pieces with which Roselit Bone builds their sound are too often parroted by lesser artists, leaving behind the real-lived flesh and blood that animates Mexican music. While it's only one aspect of Charlotte McCaslin's arsenal, it's essential to the band's aggressive approach. "Your Gun" is another defining track, one that might've fit into an early Tarantino flick or an even earlier spaghetti western. McCaslin's wild, remarkable vocal barks and postures, while a brazen sax solo bounces between shadowed alley walls. Ofrenda showcases an act that holds nothing back, fully committing to their sound. And Charlotte McCaslin is a vital force, meriting mention as among the most dynamic frontpeople in our kind of music. 

ROUTES-cast AUGUST 20, 2023

- Margaret Glaspy, "Get Back" Echo the Diamond  (ATO, 23)
- Sonny & the Sunsets, "Androids" Self-Awareness Through Macramé  (Rocks in Your Head, Aug 25)
^ Roselit Bone, "Ofrenda" Ofrenda  (Get Loud, Aug 25)
- Suzanne Santo, "Punk Kid" single  (Soozanto, 23)  D
- Nick Shoulders, "Won't Fence Us In" All Bad  (Gar Hole, Sep 8)
- David Dondero, "Wrinkles of Your Mind" Immersion Therapy  (Fluff & Gravy, 23)
- DeYarmond Edison, "The Lake" Epoch  (Jagjaguwar, 23)
- Shakey Graves, "Playing Along" Movie of the Week  (Dualtone, Sep 15)
- Viv & Riley, "Imaginary People" Imaginary People  (Free Dirt, Sep 15)
- Lily & Madeleine, "Rolling Rock" Nite Swim  (Lily & Madeleine, Oct 6)
- Gregory Alan Isakov, "Watchman" Appaloosa Bones  (Dualtone, 23)
- Sun June, "Get Enough" Bad Dream Jaguar  (Run for Cover, Oct 20)  D
- Blind Boys of Alabama, "Heaven Help Us All" Echoes Of the South  (Single Lock, Aug 25)
- Eli Paperboy Reed, "IDKWYCTD (I Came To Play)" Hits and Misses: the Singles  (Yep Roc, Oct 20)  D
- Bones of JR Jones, "Good Life" Slow Lightning  (Bones, Oct 13)
- Buffalo Nichols, "The Difference" The Fatalist  (Fat Possum, Sep 8)
- Grahams, "A Good Man" The Grahams  (3 Sirens, Sep 8)
- Mapache, "Reflecting Everything" Swinging Stars  (Innovative Leisure, 23)
- Jacob Aranda, "My Lovely Friend" War Planes  (Speakeasy, Sep 1)
- Kym Register + Meltdown Rodeo, "Loamlands" Meltdown Rodeo  (Don Giovanni, 23)
- Harvest Thieves, "Friendly Fire" As the Sparks Fly Upward  (Harvest Thieves, Oct 20)
- Ashley Ray, "My Own Place" single  (Warner, 23)  D
- Nathan Mongol Wells, "Taken For a Ride" From a Dark Corner  (State Fair, 23)
- John R Miller, "Conspiracies, Cults & UFOs" Heat Comes Down  (Rounder, Oct 6)
- Howdies, "Buddies" Howdies All Around  (Normaltown, Sep 29)
- Teddy Thompson, "Satisfied Mind" My Love of Country  (Chalky Sounds, 23)
- Van Plating, "Hard Way (ft Reckless Kelly)"  Orange Blossom Child  (Singular, Sep 15)
- Shane Smith & the Saints, "Pancho & Lefty (ft Hayes Carll)" Texas Wild  (Lower Colorado Record Authority, Oct 27)
- Brent Cobb, "When Country Came Back To Town" Southern Star  (Ol' Buddy, Sep 22)
- Will Hoge, "Can I Be Country Too" single  (EDLO, 23)  D


To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview: