featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
November 18, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
Last year we launched a new R&B tradition. As we whittle down our own year-end favorites lists, we turn to artists who have helped define 2018 and ask what's been on their respective turntables over the past twelve months.
One of the reasons I love asking artists for their own favorites is that they'll often introduce me to stuff I've not yet heard. Cue Adam Faucett, whose fiercely beautiful It Took the Shape of a Bird was issued by Last Chance Records this Summer. Faucett starts close enough to home, wisely praising Austin Lucas' Immortal Americans CD. Here's where the new names start for me. Oklahoma's post-rock outfit Ester Drang unleashed an EP called The Appearances just a couple weeks ago. Faucett actually served as producer for Return, by Arkansas poet and songwriter William Blackart. And he sent a last-minute email to add Alienated by The Funs to his list.
Gene Clark, Sings For You (Omnivore) - "I'm not really a fan of singular superlatives, but Gene Clark is one of my favorite songwriters, no two ways about it. The Byrds are def in my top 5 bands, and Gene's solo career eclipses that of the other members, unless you count Gram. Great to have some 'new' stuff from him. A killer album."
Loretta Lynn, Wouldn't It Be Great (Legacy) - "I can only hope that if I'm still making albums - or if I'm still alive! - at 86, I can do something one-tenth as good as this. Her voice sounds great, the songs are great, sympathetic production, just a killer album."
No Love, Choke On It (Sorry State) - "Kick-ass, amazing NC punk rock. If you like that kinda stuff, you'll love this album. I even bought a t-shirt."
Sierra Ferrell, Washington by the Sea single - "I don't know much about her, I guess she lives in Nashville. I've purchased all of the stuff she has on Bandcamp. This is my favorite, but all of her songs are superb. Great, classic honky tonk/country-based, she has her own style. Love it."
Hillbillies in Hell, Vol. 5 (Omni) - "This whole series is fantastic. Back in the late 90s, when the Two Dollar Pistols played in Atlanta, a collector friend of mine who lived there used to give me these insane tapes full of wacky, rare honky tonk and country, and a lot of that stuff is on these LPs. Songs about dyin', cheatin', prayin', drinkin', all the essentials. Great, great stuff."
We'll close out this week's generous offerings by paying a visit to William Matheny. 2018 found the former Southeast Engine contributor sharing an April album of live tracks and outtakes called Moon Over Kenova. More recently, he released a stellar single featuring his cover of Centro-Matic's "Flashes and Cables" and an original, "Christian Name". Here's hoping we'll see another full-length from Matheny in 2019! He also chose to put pen to paper and record some of his own thoughts about his favorites from the past several months:
John R Miller & the Engine Lights, Trouble You Follow (Emperor) - "I might be biased because John plays bass in my band, but I don't think I am. From the stage, I usually introduce John as 'the best songwriter in whatever room he happens to be standing in' and that's not hyperbole. John's released quite a few albums with The Fox Hunt and Prison Book Club (I was something of an auxiliary member in the latter) and he already has one solo record under his belt, but The Trouble You Follow feels like something of a grand arrival. I can't recommend it enough."
Courtney Marie Andrews, May Your Kindness Remain (Mama Bird) - "Her voice is such an incredible instrument and her songs about a life of touring, the thorny nature of relationships and class injustice in America have been a real source of comfort and resolve for me this year."
Daniel Romano, Modern Pressure (New West) - "I don't pay much attention to release dates and as a result, I'll occasionally get into things a couple years after the fact. This album actually come out in 2017, but I didn't hear it until our drummer, Clint Sutton, started touring with us full time in February. I can't get enough of this record. It's addictive."
Adam Remnant, Sourwood (Anyway) - "My old Southeast Engine bandmate released his full length solo debut this year and predictably, it's amazing. Adam's has been huge inspiration for me as a vocalist, songwriter and bandleader. I learned a ton from him during our time together."
Connie Converse, How Sad How Lovely (Squirrel Thing) - "Another one that came out a few years ago, but I'm taking the deep dive now. This just absolutely blew me away. It's a really tragic and interesting story, but I try not to fetishize that kind of thing and just focus on the music. Connie Converse was a true master. Sort of like Bob Dylan did about a decade later, she seemed to have internalized all of American popular music, mastered the form and found a way to push it forward. No one was doing anything remotely close to this at the time."Spoiler, Matheny and I also have a couple common records in our year-end favorites. That's it for this Episode. I've got a couple more artists who are reportedly still polishing up their picks, and I'll make some space for those in the days and weeks to come. As mentioned a couple weeks ago, I'll be covering my own favorite songs for 2018 on November 26. My favorite records for the year will happen on or about December 10. You attendance is requested. And feel free to share your own favorites list(s), either through the Comment option below, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've allowed myself a week without a formal review here. Which doesn't mean my fingers haven't been itchy to share a blast of good ol' fashioned rockandroll from Baltimore's Western Star. Their second full-length, Any Way How (Saustex) is cut through with a brand of flirty swagger you'll rarely find in our kind of music. Also, I've been aware of Chuck Westmoreland's Long Winter Rodeo (Black & Gold) since it was released back in June, but it's been one of those records I've stupidly never pulled the trigger on. I haven't done a "stuff Scott whiffed on" Episode for this year, but if I did ... Now that it's on our playlists, I can start bubbling over about the Oregon's writer's uncommon ear for a lyric and his pure and decent approach to slightly left-of-here alt.country. Between you and me, I've made sure each of these is on my longlist for year-end favorites.
- Elvis Costello & the Impostors, "Suspect My Tears" Look Now (Concord, 18)
- Brown Bird, "Needy Generator" Devil Dancing (Brown Bird, 09)
- Becky Warren, "Sunshine State" Undesirable (Warren, 18)
- Doug Paisley, "Mr Wrong" Starter Home (No Quarter, 18)
- Ryan Adams, "Kiss Before I Go" Jacksonville City Nights (UMG, 05)
- Shonna Tucker, "For You" Dreams of Mine EP (Tucker, 18) D
- Deer Tick, "Strange Awful Feeling" Mayonnaise (Partisan, 19)
- Timber, "Burying Ground" The Family (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Chuck Westmoreland, "Mama Be Eternal" Long Winter Rodeo (Black & Gold, 18) D
- Carson McHone, "Drugs" Carousel (Nine Mile, 18)
- Ryley Walker, "Grace is Gone" Lillywhite Sessions (Dead Oceans, 18)
- State Champions, "When I Come Through" Send Flowers (Sophomore Lounge, 18)
- I Can Lick Any SOB, "Hillbilly Drummer Girl" This One's For the Fellows (Blue Disguise, 04)
- Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, "Way She Looked At You" single (Bloodshot, 18) D
- Quaker City Night Hawks, "Suit in the Back" QCNH (Lightning Rod, 19) D
^ Western Star, "Coast to Coaster" Any Way How (Saustex, 18)
- Foxwarren, "Everything Apart" Foxwarren (Anti, 18) D
- Jeff Tweedy, "Let's Go Rain" Warm (dBpm, 18)
- Delines, "Eddie and Polly" The Imperial (El Cortez, 19) D
- Robert Ellis, "Fucking Crazy" Texas Piano Man (New West, 19) D
- Mercury Rev, "Sermon (feat. Margo Price)" Bobby Gentry's the Delta Sweete Revisited (Partisan, 19) D
- Honeycutters, "All I Got" When Bitter Met Sweet (Honeycutters, 12)
- Nick Dittmeier & Sawdusters, "City of God" All Damn Day (Eastwood, 18)
- Kelly Pardekooper, "Baby" 50-Weight (Pardekooper, 18)
- Greensky Bluegrass, "All For Money" All For Money (Blue Zoo, 19) D
- Great Dying, "Tennessee Song" Bloody Noses & Roses (Dial Back Sound, 18)
- Flesh Eaters, "My Life to Live" I Used to Be Pretty (Yep Roc, 19)
- Halden Wofford & High Beams, "30 Pack" Hard Core Broken Heart (Wofford, 18) D
- Avett Brothers, "Roses & Sacrifice" single (Republic, 18) D
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Don't Ride That Horse" Big Iron World (Nettwerk, 06)
We've added a generous amount of new stuff this week (marked with a "D" above), including an unexpected EP from Shonna Tucker. And an unexpected single from Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. I'm beyond thrilled that Willy Vlautin and the Delines have given us a street date for their next volley (Jan 11), now that Amy Boone is up and about again. The first couple months of the coming year are looking great, with new stuff as well from Robert Ellis. Finally, I'm very curious about Mercury Rev's forthcoming project, reinterpreting the songs of Bobby Gentry with some help from vocalists Margo Price, Beth Orton, Lucinda Williams and more. Here it is, your weekly ROUTES-cast: