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Thursday, October 22, 2020


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 18, 2020
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
Rock 'n roll is messy.  It's rude and sloppy, and if it's done right it probably involves bodily fluids.  You might want to listen to Low Cut Connie's new double-disc release, Private Lives with a roll of paper towels handy.  You're bound to get some on ya.  

Adam Weiner and his rotating crew of accomplices released their debut in 2011.  I knew about it, saw praise for 2012's Call Me Sylvia, managed to avoid the hubbub stirred up by Dirty Pictures, Parts I & II, even as the music was embraced by tastemakers like Elton John and Barack Obama.  It's not that I carefully considered and subsequently dismissed it.  I simply chose to not get any on me.  

My loss.  Three years in the making, Weiner summed up the sprawling seventeen track session saying, Everything with this record was a big mess, but that's what I wanted it to bePrivate Lives is a big-hearted homage to the people we are when we set aside our public mask, when we let go of our manners and give rein to primal desires and raw human need.  A legendarily emotive showman, Weiner typically holds court from his piano, spitting out lyrics and stirring souls like Satan's own hypeman.  Welcome to the gospel according to Adam Weiner.  

Low Cut Connie make known their intentions on the LP's title cut: It sounds cheezy, but these people are the reason I'm alive / The town freaks and the sleazies bring a tear to my eye.  What follows is like a short story collection, with each story/song delivered from the point of view of one of these lesser-thans, the big buzzing city providing the stage from which each acts out their life.  Low-slung sax carries the bottom end of "Private Lives" as the song slithers by on a punk-soul buzz like an early record by fellow Philadephians Marah.  

Adam Weiner earned his notoriety through years of sweat-soaked live performances, renowned for shedding articles of clothing, mounting his piano bench and using the stage as a pulpit to preach the gospel of feeling alright to his enthralled audience.  With its haphazard editing and frantic pace, Private Lives does a masterful job in translating that live experience onto tape.  He begins "What Has Happened To Me" mumbling, Gotta figure out how to start this thing.  Like Velvets-era Lou Reed, Weiner intones over abrasive guitar and car crash drums: Starts to feel like religion / Starts to feel like love.  "If I Die" is a filthy blues with the singer and guitar jockeying for the mic.  Even when there is a bit more order to the proceedings, such as on the gospel-inspired "Help Me", the performance arrives with such urgency and electricity that it brings to mind a stage crowded with horns, guitars and backing singers: When the lord / Lord gets bored / Comes knocking at my door / And he says buddy you're a bad man / You got to work for your reward.  

With a full four album sides to work with, Low Cut Connie could have stretched out their jams, indulged their boogie a little more.  But there's an impressive sense of economy to Private Lives.  Some tunes clock in under two minutes, while very few venture far past the four-minute mark.  Some of the most interesting moments catch Adam Weiner alone at his keyboard.  With its string flourishes and confidently restrained piano, "Quiet Time" provides a glimpse of artistry that adds an unexpected dimension in the midst of the racket.  "Look What They Did" is a heartfelt elegy for Atlantic City, and "Stay As You Like" is an earnest love letter to fans.  

But the heart of this new collection beats in the pieces that speak to Adam Weiner's skill as a songwriter.  "Charyse" is a rock ode replete with a shredding guitar solo and sharp street-level sense of lyrical poetry: Saw this thing on tv about these kids in California / They ended up with each other, they didn't have any family / It scared the shit out of me / I'm still thinking about it six months later.  "Wild Ride" is a spare but moving anthem featuring a deeply satisfying chorus.  

I used to reference albums I whiffed on, stuff that I simply overlooked.  Sometimes this happens with an artist's entire body of work.  I'll find some time to look back on those earlier Low Cut Connie records.  But I would guess that Private Lives isn't a terrible launching point to enter the fray.  It's sprawling without being overindulgent, presenting Adam Weiner as a tightrope-walking showman capable of unexpected depth of feeling and artistry, a frontman in the tradition of Peter Wolf or Paul Westerberg.  More often than not, the appeal is simply in the record's four-minute arguments against perfection and soullessness.  He says it best himself in the two-minute "Nobody Else Will Believe You": Do your shit / Do it well / You've got to boogie for yourself / Because nobody else will believe you.  

- Jerry David DeCicca, "Coffee Black" Unlikely Optimist and His Domestic Adventures  (Super Secret, 20)
- Pearl Charles, "Take Your Time" Magic Mirror  (Kanine, Jan 15)
- Jeremy Ivey, "Paradise Alley" Waiting Out the Storm  (Anti, 20)
- Great Peacock, "Help Me Lord" Forever Worse Better  (Soundly, 20)
- Jackie Greene, "Cold Black Devil / 14 Miles" American Myth  (Verve, 06)
- Bonnie Whitmore, "None of My Business" Last Will & Testament  (Starlet & Dog, 20)
- David Quinn, "Ride On" Letting Go  (Quinn, Oct 23)
- Langhorne Slim, "Mighty Soul" Strawberry Mansion  (Dualtone, Jan 29)  D
- Dave Alvin, "Highway 61 Revisited" From An Old Guitar  (Yep Roc, Nov 20)
- Ward David, "Black Cats and Crows" Black Cats and Crows  (Davis, Nov 20)  D
- Malin Pettersen, "Holding Lonely" Wildhorse  (Die With Your Boots On, 20)
^ Low Cut Connie, "Wild Ride" Private Lives  (Contender, 20) 
- Cut Worms, "All the Roads" Nobody Lives Here Anymore  (Jagjaguwar, 20)
- Weather Station, "Robber" single  (Fat Possum, 20)  D
- Glorietta, "Golden Lonesome" Glorietta  (Nine Mile, 18)
- Sturgill Simpson, "I Don't Mind" Cuttin' Grass Vol 1: Butcher Shoppe Sessions  (High Top Mt, 20)  D
- Robyn Ludwick, "Ace is High" Lake Charles  (Ludwick, 20)
- Wilco, "Candyfloss (demo)" Summerteeth (Deluxe Edition)  (Rhino, Nov 6)
- Dead Tongues, "Sister Ivy" Transmigration Blues (Deluxe Edition)  (Psychic Hotline, 20)
- Kevin Morby, "Valley" Sundowner  (Dead Oceans, 20)
- Cordovas, "Man in My Head" Destiny Hotel  (Anti, 20)
- Sue Foley, "New Used Car" New Used Car  (Stony Plain, 06)
- Woods, "Midnight Moment" Reflections Vol 1 (Bumble Bee Crown King)  (Woodsist, Oct 23)  D
- William Elliott Whitmore, "Black Iowa Dirt" I'm With You  (Bloodshot, 20)
- Parker McCollum, "Hallie Ray Light" Hollywood Gold EP  (MCA Nashville, 20)  D
- Otis Gibbs, "Panhead" Hoosier National  (Wanamaker, 20)
- Dave Hause, "Minimum Wage is a Gateway Drug (feat. Jake Blount)" Paddy EP  (Soundly, Oct 23)
- Austin Lucas, "Drive" Alive in the Hot Zone  (Cornelius Chapel, Oct 30)
- Fleet Foxes, "Quiet Air / Gioia" Shore  (Anti, 20)
- Bill Callahan w/Bonnie Prince Billy, "I've Made Up My Mind (feat. Alasdair Roberts)" single  (Drag City, 20)  D

This week's priority adds to A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster include a rare solo record from former Lone Justice member Marvin Etzioni.  Released on his new Regional Records label, What's the Mood In the Country Now will be available this Friday.  One of Rounder Records' most prominent recent signings, Sierra Ferrell will be sharing a pair of singles that same day.  Dark country writer Ward Davis has revealed details on his next project.  Black Cats and Crows will hit proverbial shelves on November 20.  In a curious development, M Ward's next collection will feature the singer-guitarist's take on classics from the Billie Holiday songbook.  Think of Spring is set for a December 11 street date, courtesy of Anti.  That same day, New West presents a full-length collaboration between Kacy & Clayton and Australian songwriter Marlon Williams, Plastic Bouquet.  Finally, looking into 2021, mark your calendars for the long-awaited sophomore full-length from The StavesGood Woman  is set for a February 5 release, from Nonesuch.  

I'm still trying to figure how to link to our usual weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast.  Until then, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 11, 2020
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Some of what we include in our ROUTES-casts is americana.  But many of the artists we review would prefer alternative country, country-rock, indie folk, Southern rock, or just plain rock 'n roll to the americana moniker.  I'm alright with that.  Genres are so fluid today, and it might be enough to simply lump all this stuff into one dusty bin labeled american-ish ... 

Andrew Nelson of Great Peacock has been successfully engaged in this dance since the band's debut EP.  Across the wide expanses of 2015's Making Ghosts and especially pulling into 2018's Gran Pavo Real, Great Peacock have been deliberately and admirably seeking to expand the reach of their sound.  Think Dawes, or maybe the Pollies, acts with one confident foot in the familiar soil of roots rock and the other tapping restlessly into that well-mapped territory simply called rock 'n roll.  Think Delta Spirit, Fruit Bats, Blitzen Trapper.  Not terrible company, really.  

I might not be the first to inform you that things have changed since 2018.  Great Peacock have changed, paring down to a lean three-piece with Nelson sharing the stage alongside fellow guitarist and singer Blount Floyd, and bassist Frank Keith IV.  The perpetual touring that the band relied upon to attract their fan base is, of course, not a thing for the moment.  But like so many other bands, Nelson and co have chosen to cast their fate to the wind by releasing new music in the form of Forever Worse Better, a full-length that gives expression to the Southern roots-rock side of Great Peacock's musical equation.  

Nelson has mentioned how most of his writing of late has happened in the cab of a truck, as he transports meat from farm to restaurant.  For some, this might result in a record packed with road songs, but for Nelson the long stretches of time between the lines prompted some soul-searching and introspection.  The early songs on Forever Worse Better speak to human connection, a yearning for a woman's companionship.  All I ever do is dream about you, Nelson confesses on the collection's cinematic opener, the singer's double-tracked vocals echoing across ringing guitars and hammered drums.  A similar urgency fuels "Strange Position" until Nelson sings over the fading ghosts of electric guitars, I'm never over you.  

Fact is, nobody is at their strongest when they're in the throes of unrequited desire. Great Peacock invest their songs with a passion and drama that hint at these episodes of desperation.  Sadler Vaden contributes expressive slide guitar to "Heavy Load", a moment of acoustic calm in the eye of the storm.  As a lyricist, Andrew Nelson is a man of relatively few words, never overreaching for an image or an honest emotion: Don't let go / Don't give up / I know how much it hurts.  

Spoiler: the girl gets away.  Great Peacock populates the latter half of Forever Worse Better with songs that address the existential reckoning that fills the void left by our more corporeal desires.  More specifically, as the fever of desire breaks, Nelson directs his attention inward, puzzling out matters of meaning and belonging in a deeper sense.  It's in moments like "Old Man" and "Rock of Ages" that the trio's music takes flight.  On the former, a bluesy guitar grind with a tuneful bridge, the narrator regards his future and fate in the wisdom of experience: Could you tell me a secret, he asks. How do you make love work?  "Rock of Ages" is a lovely highlight reflection balanced between the grace of Adam Kurtz's pedal steel and the grit of another Sadler Vaden solo.  The piece also marks one of Andrew Nelson's most expressive and soulful vocal deliveries, recalling the understated solo work of Will Johnson.  He calls out with an uncertain prayer: Take this weary heart of mine / Mend my weary mind / Give me so much more than wasted time.

While Forever Worse Better is not a religious or proselytizing collection, it's common for a writer to resort to traditionally spiritual language when engaging in this kind of soul mining.  This is especially evident in "Help Me Lord", a moment of vulnerability, or on the drum-driven rocker "High Wind".  With echoes of Springsteen or Isbell, the song epitomizes the reach of Great Peacock's musical aspiration.  Rather than relying solely on guitars to carry the emotional weight of their music, Nelson and his cohorts place a surprising amount of that responsibility on Nick Recio and his percussion, an unusual gesture for a roots band.  And once again, Nelson's deceptively straightforward lyrics speak volumes: I ain't afraid of dying ... I'm afraid of never being alive.  

Since that earliest EP, Great Peacock have sought admirably to set themselves apart from the crowded roots rock field.  On Forever Worse Better, it's not about reinventing the wheel or trying to make noise that other acts haven't made.  Instead, it's about making the most of these familiar tools at their disposal:  Old life / Alcohol and tears / Past life souvenirs.  And what might've begun in the crowded cab of one man's truck speaks volumes about our shared human condition, looking for connection, reaching for identity.  The collection's poignant final tune, "Learning to Say Goodbye" grows from an acoustic strum and a distant breeze of string to the full storm of those guitars and drums.  Andrew Nelson arrives as the lifesaving realization: It's okay to be alone.  

- Shemekia Copeland, "Clotilda's On Fire" Uncivil War  (Alligator, Oct 23)  D
- Drive-by Truckers, "New OK" New OK  (ATO, 20)
- Jon Snodgrass, "Brand New Lands (feat. Stacey Dee, Stephen Egerton)" Tace  (A-F, 20)
- Lydia Loveless, "September (feat. Laura Jane Grace)" Daughter  (Honey You're Gonna Be Late, 20)
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "Rock Holy (live)" School Daze: Fundraiser for Durham Public School Students  (Merge, 20)  D
- Cut Worms, "Heat Is On" Nobody Lives Here Anymore  (Jagjaguwar, 20)
- John Calvin Abney, "When This Blows Over" Familiar Ground  (Black Mesa, Nov 20)
- Blitzen Trapper, "Don't Let Me Run" Holy Smokes Future Jokes  (Yep Roc, 20)
- Angie McMahon, "Born to Die" Piano Salt EP  (Dualtone, 20)
- Buck Meek, "Second Sight" Two Saviors  (Keeled Scales, Jan 15)  D
- Nude Party, "Things Fall Apart" Midnight Manor  (New West, 20)
- Jeff Tweedy, "Gwendolyn" Love Is the King  (dBpm, Oct 23)
^ Great Peacock, "Rock of Ages" Forever Worse Better  (Soundly, 20)
- Tin Horn Prayer, "Stumble" Grapple the Rails  (THP, 13)
- Dave Hause, "When It Don't Come Easy (feat. Laura Stevenson)" Patty EP  (Soundly, Oct 23)
- Yola, "Hold On (feat. Highwomen)" single  (Why Queue, 20)  D
- Jeremy Ivey, "Hands Down In Your Pockets" Waiting Out the Storm  (Anti, 20)
- Michael Dean Damron, "Doll" Plea From a Ghost  (Suburban Home, 11)
- Caroline Spence, "The Choir" single  (Rounder, 20)  D
- Dead South, "This Little Light of Mine" single  (Six Shooter, 20)  D
- Cordovas, "Afraid No More" Destiny Hotel  (Anti, Oct 16)
- Jay Farrar, "Fool King's Crown" Terroir Blues  (Transmit Sound, 12)
- Kevin Morby, "Sundowner" Sundowner  (Dead Oceans, Oct 16)
- Will Kimbrough, "Home Remedy" Spring Break  (Daphne, Oct 23)
- Bonnie Whitmore, "Love Worth Remembering" Last Will & Testament  (Starlet & Dog, 20)
- Brent Cobb, "Soapbox (feat. Nikki Lane)" Keep 'Em On They Toes  (Ol' Buddy, 20)
- Jess Cornelius, "Love and Low Self Esteem" Nothing is Lost EP  (Cornelius, 17)
- Frank Turner & Jon Snodgrass, "Bad Times Good Vibes" Buddies II: Still Buddies  (Xtra Mile, Nov 13)  D
- Elizabeth Cook, "Mary, the Submissing Years" Aftermath  (Agent Love, 20)
- Two Dollar Pistols, "Gettin' Gone" You Ruined Everything  (Yep Roc, 02)

As we face down the last several weeks of 2020: the Plague Year, you could do worse than to rely on A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster to keep you in the know about what's still to come.  Sturgill Simpson has been keeping company with some tremendous talents from the bluegrass field.  Think guitarist Mark Howard, Sierra Hull on vocals and mandolin, the fiddle of Stuart Duncan.  Cuttin' Grass Vol 1: the Butcher Shoppe Sessions will land this Friday.  Keeled Scales will be blessing 2021 with one of its first releases.  Big Thief member Buck Meek will share the New Orelans-born Two Saviors on January 15.  Later than month, Langhorne Slim is planning a January 29 unveiling for Strawberry Mansion (Dualtone).  

I'm still trying to figure how to link to our usual weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast.  Until then, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  

Thursday, October 08, 2020


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
October 4, 2020
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

I listen to a lot of non-roots music.  When I'm not poring over stuff for our weekly Episodes, I'll be keeping an eye on the pop charts, or tuning into blogs that focus on indie music.  All that other music sounds different than what I lovingly term our kind of music.  Sometimes production for roots music is about setting up a microphone or two and pressing Record.  And that's actually the way most listeners like it.  We tend to be more fond of an organic vibe, and we cry foul if something is overproduced.  We want our songs to be well-written, and pretty much everything else is gravy.  

I say this by way of introduction to one of the best sounding albums of 2020, Bonnie Whitmore's Last Will & Testament.  The Austin singer-songwriter and bassist landed on my radar with the release of 2013's There I Go Again.  During our radio years she was a gracious and funny instudio guest during the ensuing tour.  2016's Fuck With Sad Girls was a bold shot across the bow, as much for the record's title as for Whitmore's excellent and evolving songcraft.  While she had been serving as a supporting musician since her teen years, those earlier records hinted at her suitability for a spot at the front of the stage.  

Bonnie Whitmore's earlier songs were firmly in the americana vein, even as Sad Girls began to reveal glints of pop and soul.  As a writer and a performer, she's capable of mining for deeper emotions and delivering lyrics that can sting.  Those glimmers and promises are given full rein on Whitmore's fourth release, a collection that finds her coproducing with guitarist Scott Davis.  The results push the proverbial envelope sonically and artistically.  

Last Will & Testament jolts to life with a title cut that stomps and sparks like Amy Winehouse.  Dripping with drama, layered Beach Boys harmonies give way to an army of blatting horns and sweeping strings.  The wall-of-sound approach serves as a promissory note for the ten songs that follow, each characterized by thoughtful contemporary production and arrangements that compliment Whitmore's increasingly confident writing.  

Whitmore has demonstrated a strong ear for pop melody even as she drew within the americana lines.  That gift is best delivered on "Right/Wrong" and the fierce "Ask for It".  The latter is a smart jab against mistreatment of women, couched in a propulsive pop singalong: So go on and blame the victim / Why should violence have consequence / And each time you silence them / Recreates the same events.  With anthemic horns and Trevor Nealon's throwback keys, "Right/Wrong" is perfect orchestral pop.  

Bonnie Whitmore builds a case throughout Last Will as a phenomenal vocalist, especially as she relaxes into the shades of soul that are cast on songs like "None of My Business".  Her verses are invested with genuine emotion, lingering and soaring over notes at the control of a voice that is as effective in rock or roots as it is in blues or jazz (as in the album's heartfelt closer, "George's Lullaby").  "Fine" and "Love Worth Remembering" return to a more americana sphere, recalling early Roseanne Cash or even Linda Ronstadt at times.  

Most impressively, Whitmore takes some bold risks on her new sessions, adding off-kilter effects and toy piano to the Tom Waits-esque "Imaginary", or hiding a ticking clock beneath the poignant "Time to Shoot".  She is joined by Will Johnson on a no-holds-barred run through Centro-Matic's "Flashes & Cables".  Scott Davis' guitars roar atop bucking and thudding percussion on Whitmore's faithful but revelatory take.  

Bonnie Whitmore can sing pretty, and she's not in danger of being evicted from the roots music sandbox anytime soon.  Like Maria McKee or Nicole Atkins, she carves a refreshing swath through the genre, fiercely crossing borders and solidifying her own musical identity along the way.  Even as Last Will & Testament resets the expectations Whitmore prompted with her first projects, it sets the stage for what might be next.  In light of the eclectic and accomplished nature of her new record, the limits are few.  She sings: Time to shoot, take the shot / Show the world what you got / When it's done, when you're gone / Were you right, or were you wrong?

- Steve Earle, "Times Like These" single  (New West, 20)  D
- SG Goodman, "Which Side Are You On" single  (Verve, 20)  D
- Brent Cobb, "This Side of the River" Keep 'Em On They Toes  (Ol' Buddy, 20)
- Nude Party, "Nashville Record Co" Midnight Manor  (New West, 20)
- Great Lake Swimmers, "Pulling On a Line" Lost Channels  (Nettwerk, 10)
- Laura Veirs, "Another Space and Time" My Echo  (Raven Marching Band, Oct 23)
- Jim White, "Smart-Ass Reply" Misfit's Jamboree  (Fluff & Gravy, Oct 23)
- Lydia Loveless, "Never" Daughter  (Honey You're Gonna Be Late, 20)
- John Doe, "Hotel Ghost" Year in the Wilderness  (Yep Roc, 07)
- 49 Winchester, "Hays, Kansas" III  (49 Winchester, 20)  D
- Drive-by Truckers, "Sarah's Flame" The New OK  (ATO, 20)  D
^ Bonnie Whitmore, "Flashes & Cables" Last Will & Testament  (Starlet & Dog, 20)  
- Dave Hause, "doublewhiskeycokeonice (feat. Lilly Hiatt)" Paddy EP  (Soundly, Oct 23)
- Otis Gibbs, "Nine Foot Problem" Hoosier National  (Wanamaker, 20)
- Amanda Shires, "The Problem (feat. Jason Isbell)" single  (Silver Knife, 20)  D
- Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy, "Blackness of the Night (feat. AZITA)" single  (Drag City, 20)  D
- Andrew Bird, "Andalucia" HARK!  (Loma Vista, Oct 30)  D
- Autumn Defense, "This Thing That I've Found" Fifth  (Yep Roc, 13)
- Strays Don't Sleep, "I Walked Away" A Short Film For a Long Story EP  (Hearts & Smarts, Oct 30)  D
- Lake Street Dive, "Making Do" single  (Nonesuch, 20)  D
- Fleet Foxes, "Jara" Shore  (Anti, 20)
- Sadies, "Walkin' Cane (feat. Catherine Irwin)" Poor Little Knitter On the Road  (Bloodshot, 99)
- Kurt Vile, "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" Speed Sound Lonely KV EP  (Matador, 20)
- Amanda Anne Platt & Honeycutters, "Desert Flowers" single  (Organic, 20)  D
- Mastersons, "Sensitive Souls" Red White & I Love You Too EP  (Red House, Oct 16)  D
- Son Volt, "Sinking Down" Notes of Blue  (Transmit Sound, 17)
- Caitlin Canty, "Where Is the Heart of My Country" single  (Tone Tree, 20)  D
- Becky Warren, "Good Luck (You're Gonna Need It)" Sick Season  (Warren, Oct 23)
- Jon Snodgrass, "Footage (feat. Mikey Erg)" Tace  (A-F Records, Oct 9)
- Deep Dark Woods, "Two Time Loser" Winter Hours  (Black Hen, 09)

Reviews 'n ROUTES-casts are only 2/3 of the deal here at R&BHQ.  In order to obtain the full experience, you'll want to click through to A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster.  That's our lovingly curated record release calendar, where you can keep tabs on albums from the past couple weeks or months, as well as taking a look at what's on your musical event horizon.  This week was one of those Bandcamp Fridays, when the online music site waives the usual artist fees.  Much of the stuff that's shared on the Bandcamp site isn't presently available at other sales or streaming stops.  This week, f'rinstance, there were new offerings from Hiss Golden Messenger, Cary Hudson, Massy Ferguson, and a curious Joe Pernice record of Barry Manilow covers (don't get me wrong:  I love me some "Weekend in New England").  Also dropped unexpectedly this week were new full LPs from Drive-by Truckers and Fruit BatsMic Harrison & High Score will be unleashing Bright Spot on November 6.  And back in 2013, Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass declared themselves Buddies with an album of collaborations.  On November 13, the Xtra Mile label will follow up with Buddies II: Still Buddies, featuring contributions from members of the Descendents, ALL and Lucero.  Finally, add another record to our small but growing list of 2021 releases.  Matt Urmy's South of the Sky appears wherever music matters on January 15 (Tritone).  

I'm still trying to figure how to link to our usual weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast.  Until then, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2020


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 27, 2020
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

I'll venture out on a limb and proclaim to anyone listening that, all things considered, 2020 has been a fine year for new records.  Even with the delays and the distractions, each month manages to satisfy with enough music that matters that I am often challenged to select just five favorites at we stumble from one month to the next.  This is especially true as I scamper to give each release a fair listen.  So, leaves beginning to crunch under our feet, we march boldly into Pumpkin Days.  In order of appearance, here are the handful of records that made the strongest impression over the past thirty days:


- Waylon Payne, Blue Eyes the Harlot the Queer the Pusher & Me  (Carnival, Sep 11)
- Otis Gibbs, Hoosier National  (Wanamaker, Sep 18)
- Fleet Foxes, Shore  (Anti, Sep 22)
- Lydia Loveless, Daughter  (Honey You're Gonna Be Late, Sep 25)
- Blitzen Trapper, Holy Smokes Future Jokes  (Yep Roc, Sep 25)

Lydia Loveless can be pretty funny.  She recently shared a piece with No Depression in which she confessed to finding solace in formulaic late night movies on the Lifetime network.  She has a cat named Catterson Hood.  Since her 2011 widespread debut, Indestructible Machine, the tone and timbre of Loveless' music has changed, but her sharp wit and barbed attitude have proven constant.  

With the exception of a couple turns of phrase, Lydia Loveless' new Daughter collection isn't especially concerned about the funny.  Wed to her bassist as a very young woman, these new sessions are set to tape following the dissolution of her marriage.  It's also the first release since her messy separation from the Bloodshot label.  Not to mention a move from her longtime Ohio home to North Carolina, and this whole pandemic thing that has driven artists to find new means of expression and creativity.  

Loveless opens Daughter with an appropriate gesture:  Welcome to my bachelor pad / I stay here when things get bad.  While that first widely released album laid down a definite scorched earth, little of that spirit remains on "Dead Writer", a downcast number kissed by Jay Gasper's pedal steel.  Loveless will probably never shake the deep twang inherent in her appealing voice, an instrument that she wields with increasing swagger and beauty here.  The song sets a tone for the collection, portraying the singer as a tortured artist, prone to drink and depression:  Like Exley on the davenport / Or Carver fishing off the shore, I just / Know I can write a book.

The singer is adrift on these sessions, drowning in ennui on "Love is Not Enough", one of the CD's strongest tracks.  Things show no sign of looking up, she proclaims, her music more Neko Case or Jenny Lewis than Old 97s.  In addition to Gasper, Loveless is supported on Daughter by a small outfit featuring Todd May on guitar George Hondroulis on percussion and producer Tom Schick.  Guitars ring on "Say My Name", providing the soundtrack as the narrator ventures out alone (Feels like I'll meet every gin in this town), wondering what's left of her on the dying end of a relationship.  

The question of identity echoes throughout Lydia Loveless' new work.  After a keyboard intro, "Never" is driven by a solid drum and bass beat: I'm not a liberated woman / Just a country bumpkin dilettante.  Even from the midst of the cloud of self-doubt and depression, there are flashes of strength and sure signs of awareness that hint at a possible redemption.  The song closes with layered vocals intoning the mantra: I carry around this pain / I live with all the mistakes I've made.  The record's title cut is an especially striking statement, adding keyboards to a strummed electric guitar.  "Daughter" bemoans our culture's habit of defining a woman by her relationship, whether that be wife or sister or mother, slow to recognize her value or identity when she is on her own.  

Though much of her music incorporates elements of pop, Loveless refrains from easy hooks in her compositions, her vocal delivery carrying the melodic weight from song to song.  A restlessly strummed acoustic propels "Wringer":  You give the sweetest kisses dear / But you leave the stinger.  "September" is accompanied only by piano, with Laura Jane Grace adding perfectly complimentary backing vocals.  The closing number, "Don't Bother Mountain", eschews traditional instrumentation for heartbeat percussion and ambient synths.  On one of the collection's most impactful moments, Loveless reflects, I am on the verge of brilliance / Or on the verge of death.  

It's as appropriate a place to close Daughter as the opener, portraying Lydia Loveless on the verge.  From 2014's Something Else through 2016's Real, she's never made easy listening music, never fulfilled the obvious expectations of an artist with her kind of voice.  On Daughter, she chooses to allow herself to be vulnerable, even calling into question her own emotional wellness.  But rather than indulging in performative gestures, Loveless' first new collection in four years is raw and genuine, demonstrating an anger and an edge, a toughness far more real than anything on Indestructible Machine (the cover of which depicted a woman in cut-offs drinking gasoline).  Through these changes, she's not necessarily reinventing herself as much as she's peeling back layers, peeling back any artifice in search of a musical gesture that is true to her circumstance.  

- Fleet Foxes, "Sunblind"  Shore  (Anti, 20)  D
- First Aid Kit, "Come Give Me Love" single  (Columbia, 20)  D
- Blitzen Trapper, "Requiem" Holy Smokes Future Jokes  (Yep Roc, 20)
- Robyn Ludwick, "Greyhound" Lake Charles  (Ludwick, 20)
- Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, "Middle America" Sparkle Hard  (Matador, 18)
^ Lydia Loveless, "Dead Writer" Daughter  (Honey You're Gonna Be Late, 20)
- Kurt Vile, "How Lucky (feat. John Prine)" Speed Sound Lonely KV EP  (Matador, Oct 2)  D
- Dave Hause, "Long Ride Home (feat. Brian Fallon)" Patty EP  (Soundly, Oct 23)  D
- Gillian Welch, "Fair September" Boots No 2: Lost Songs Vol 2  (Acony, 20)
- Chris Stapleton, "Cold" Starting Over  (Mercury Nashville, Nov 13)
- Jarrod Dickenson, "I'm Glad For Your Sake (But Sorry For Mine)" Under a Texas Sky EP  (Dickenson, 20)  D
- Lera Lynn, "Let Me Tell You Something" On My Own  (Lera Lynn, Oct 23)
- Jeff Tweedy, "Love Is the King" Love Is the King  (dBpm, Oct 23)
- Wilco, "Every Little Thing (Alternative)" Summerteeth (Deluxe Edition)  (Rhino, Nov 6)
- Unrighteous Brothers, "Unchained Melody" single  (Lightning Rod, 20)  D
- Band of Heathens, "Asheville, Nashville, Austin" Stranger  (BoH, 20)
- Otis Gibbs, "Fountain Square Stare" Hoosier National  (Wanamaker, 20)
- Dave Alvin, "Peace" From An Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased  (Yep Roc, Nov 20)  D
- Bella White, "Gutted" Just Like Leaving  (Bella White, 20)
- Elliott BROOD, "Out Walkin'" Keeper  (Six Shooter, 20)
- Rachel Brooke, "Loneliness in Me" Loneliness in Me  (Brooke, Oct 23)  D
- Hayes Carll, "Times Like These (Alone Together Sessions)" Alone Together Sessions  (Dualtone, 20)
- Will Kimbrough, "Late Great John Prine Blues" Spring Break  (Soundly, Oct 23)
- Great Peacock, "Dissatisfaction" Forever Worse Better  (Soundly, Oct 9)
- Shannon LaBrie, "One In a Billion" Building  (Moraine, 20)
- Clem Snide, "I'll Be Your Mirror" single  (Zahpwee, 17)
- Kevin Morby, "Don't Underestimate Midwest American Sun" Sundowner  (Dead Oceans, Oct 16)
- Tyler Childers, "Sludge River Stomp" Long Violent History  (Hickman Holler, 20)
- Molly Parden, "Who Are We Kiddin'" Rosemary EP  (Tone Tree, Nov 13)
- Tre Burt, "Under the Devil's Knee (feat. Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell, & Sunny War)" single  (Oh Boy, 20)  D

Just a couple more notable new additions this week to our Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster.  Just six months since they shared a full-length, No Time For Love Songs, The Mastersons will be adding a stark EP to your year on October 16 (Red House).  Red White & I Love You Too offers stripped-down songs reflecting the state of the nation over the past months.  California roots-rocker Rick Shea has announced Love & Desperation, a session due to be released via Tres Pescadores Records on October 23.  Last year, Andrew Bird issued a holiday EP called Hark!  On October 30, he'll be fleshing out those tracks with a handful of others, and making a full LP of seasonal stuff (Loma Vista), including covers of holiday-adjacent songs originally by John Cale, John Prine and others.  Dave Alvin is pulling together a collection of rare and unreleased recordings from throughout his career.  From An Old Guitar lands on shelves via Yep Roc on November 20.  Oh, and Fleet Foxes delivered an Early Fall surprise this week, sharing Shore (Anti), their first new studio project since 2017.  

I'm still trying to figure how to link to our usual weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast.  Until then, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 20, 2020
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Sometimes I'm surprised by the artists for whom I've never devoted a formal review since this thing began more than twelve years ago.  I've certainly included stuff from every Otis Gibbs record in playlists, from earlier folk records to 2014's excellent Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth and 2017's Mount Renraw.   Gibbs has proven to be remarkably consistent since his debut, producing and self-releasing quality collections of homegrown folk 'n americana (from Wanamaker, Indiana and East Nashville) with one bespectacled eye trained on the plight of the working class.  Gibbs' irregular Thanks For Giving a Damn podcast is an unfiltered glimpse behind the man behind the beard as he interviews peers and holds court.  

As Otis Gibbs tells it on his most recent podcast, he crafts each album around a set of groundrules, using limitations as a creative tool, to quote the man himself.  His new collection, Hoosier National, for instance, is built on Gibbs' rediscovery of an old Les Paul electric guitar, equipped with heavy gauge strings and wired to a 1963 Princeton Tuxedo amp.  He restricted himself to alternate tunings, and playing with his fingers as opposed to using a pick.  That rude, thick, imperfect guitar largely and wonderfully defines Hoosier National, a guitar record without guitar solos but with ten great stories to tell.  

And while likens himself to a ten ton dinosaur / Making my way into a tar pit, Gibbs' new songs are often shadowed by the current state of our nation. "Nine Foot Problem" finds him surveying a factory town in decline, a once proud entity that's now faded, leaving workers to turn to bibles, bottles and loans to get us through our sleepless nights: They're just five-inch solutions to a nine-foot problem  / And maybe it's time to move on.  "Faithful Friend" stares down the darkness of our times, laying down a steady groove with organ and drums underlaying that Les Paul.  The song pokes at the place where media messages meet our need for easy answers: It takes most of a lifetime to create anything worthwhile / But I'd rather be the soil than the plow.  

More often than not, Otis Gibbs plays the role of a captivating fireside storyteller, whether he's describing the 1981 murder of a legendary hobo on "Lord Open Road", or sharing his father's dream of building a motorbike around a found engine on the bluesy "Panhead":  When he shut it off, I remember asking why was it leaking oil / He said son that's how you know it's a Harley / 'Cause it marks its territory.  Gibbs' Midwest roots run deep, especially as he evokes a bygone Indianapolis music scene, the spirit of which might be harder to come by today.  I wanna know the swing of tremolo / Swayin' to the reverb springs, he sings on "Fountain Square Stare".  Like a ghost of past glories, the narrator wanders abandoned warehouses and forgotten streets.  

Built on the back of these largely forgotten instruments, Gibbs takes a certain pride in describing his music as beat up and obsolete, just like me.  And while there's nothing revolutionary on Hoosier National, the collection serves his strongest musical statement lyrically and artistically, the portrait of an artist simply pursuing his muse with regard for little more than his own integrity.  A stonesy statement of purpose, "Blood" rides that beautifully busted guitar sound like his father's motorbike, echoing down empty streets and off abandoned buildings:  I'm made of dust and dirt and rage / Lessons learned the hardest ways.  It's most fitting to close this appreciation by quoting another line from a record full of repeatable lyrics:  Hail to the ragged, to the lonesome and the weak / Hail to Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee / Hail to the Union, POW, MIA / May the road fall behind me / As my wheels roll along.  

- Hard Working Americans, "Opening Statement" Rest in Chaos  (Melvin, 16)
- Robyn Ludwick, "Don't Cry Love (feat. Ray Wylie Hubbard)"  Lake Charles  (Ludwick, 20)
^ Otis Gibbs, "Lord Open Road" Hoosier National  (Gibbs, 20)  D
- Elizabeth Cook, "These Days" Aftermath  (Agent Love, 20)
- Dwight Yoakam, "Long Way to Go" Three Pears  (Warner, 12)
- Waylon Payne, "Born to Lose"  Blue Eyes  (Carnival, 20)
- Karen Jonas, "Tuesday" Southwest Sky and Other Dreams  (Yellow Brick, 20)  D
- Low Cut Connie, "Help Me" Private Lives  (Contender, Oct 13)
- Bobby Bare Jr, "Sad Smile" A Storm - A Tree - My Mother's Head  (Bare, 10)
- Shannon LaBrie, "Angels Fall" Building  (Moraine, Sep 25)
- Jeff Tweedy, "Guess Again" Love Is the King  (dBpm, Oct 23)  D
- Lambchop, "Reservations" TRIP  (Merge, Nov 13)  D
- Faye Webster, "Better Distractions" single  (Secretly Canadian, 20)  D
- Elliott BROOD, "Full of Wires" Keeper  (Six Shooter, 20)
- Pokey LaFarge, "Washed In the Blood" single  (Maisie Music, 20)  D
- Nude Party, "What's the Deal" Midnight Manor  (New West, Oct 2)
- Pete Krebs & Gossamer Wings, "All My Friends Are Ghosts" All My Friends Are Ghosts  (Cavity Search, 20)
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Dearly Departed Friend" Remedy  (ATO, 14)
- Old 97s, "This House Got Ghosts" Twelfth  (ATO, 20)
- Angie McMahon, "River (piano)" Piano Salt EP  (Dualtone, Oct 2)
- Elvis Perkins, "See Monkey" Creation Myths  (Petaluma, Oct 2)
- Nathaniel Rateliff, "Look It Here" Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats  (Concord, 15)
- Jon Snodgrass, "boyzIImen (feat. John Moreland)" Tace  (A-F Records, Oct 9)
- Austin Lucas, "The Times" Alive In the Hot Zone!  (Cornelius Chapel, Oct 30)
- Bonnie Whitmore, "Fine" Last Will & Testament  (Starlet & Dog, Oct 2)
- Robert Ellis, "I Must Be In a Good Place Now" single  (Next Waltz, 20)  D
- Malin Pettersen, "Hometown" Wildhorse  (Die With Your Boots On, Oct 16)  D
- David Quinn, "Born to Lose" Letting Go  (Quinn, Oct 23)  D
- Cody Jinks, "Give All You Can" I'm Not the Devil  (Jinks, 16)
- Tyler Childers, "Long Violent History" Long Violent History  (Hickman Holler, 20)  D

This week's adds on A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster include a solo record by Norway's Malin Pettersen, former frontperson for Lucky Lips.  Wildhorse arrives October 16, courtesy of Die With Your Boots On Records.  Indiana-based David Quinn has announced an October 23rd release date for his sophomore record.  Letting Go is the follow-up to his promising debut, last year's Wanderin' Fool.  Just four years after her passing, Daptone Records will be sharing a covers collection from Sharon Jones & the Dap-KingsJust Dropped In is due October 23, and offers the singer's takes on songs originally by Gladys Knight, Prince, Stevie Wonder and more.  Fifteen years ago, singer-songwriters Matthew Ryan and Neilson Hubbard released a collaboration 'neath the moniker Strays Don't Sleep.  The long-awaited sequel arrives with A Short Film for a Long Story, an EP set for an October 30th release.  Lambchop has been making all sorts of interesting choices over the past couple releases.  For TRIP (Merge, Nov 13), Kurt Wagner shares frontman duties with his bandmates on a series of covers from artists like George Jones, Wilco, Steve Wonder and more.  

A behind-the-scenes update:  Blogspot has changed the site editor we use to build and publish these posts.  I'm still trying to figure how to link to our usual weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast.  Until then, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  

Thursday, September 17, 2020


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 13, 2020
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

I can't wait until Waylon Payne's book hits the shelves.  No, to my knowledge he doesn't have a book deal, though you can trip across bits of his writing here and there, and he claims to have spent the first several days of pandemic lockdown tearing through pages and pages of stream-of-consciousness journaling.  And jeez, what a story. 

I wasn't the only fan of his 2004 recording debut, The Drifter, a quality collection that came after he had already begun to establish a reputation for himself, once drugs had begun to sink their teeth into his psyche.  Waylon Payne was born into the industry, the son of Sammi Smith, who sung Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" to the top of the country charts.  The son of Jody Payne, longtime guitarist for Willie Nelson.  Godson to Waylon Jennings himself.  What should've been the opening volley in a lucrative career instead led to sixteen years in the shadows up that upbringing, and in the grips of addiction. 

But sixteen years after The Drifter, Waylon Payne has returned from this often dark night to share the tale on Blue Eyes, the Harlot, the Queer, the Pusher & Me.  He began to tell the story several months ago, releasing one Act every couple weeks, each a fistful of songs that spoke to his family life, his troubled young adulthood, the crucible of addiction, and his fortune to have been able to find eventual redemption.  Sure, it's the prodigal story, but it also happens to be tremendous music from a gifted songwriter who has lived a lifetime of great song material. 

"Sins of the Father" introduces the album on a powerful note, a guitar (Jedd Hughes) and harmonica (Mickey Raphael) driven number reflecting on Payne's experience with his own father.  The sins of the father / It's time for me to lay 'em down and let them go, he sings, fully recognizing the role his father's choices played in his own path, the demons he inherited.  The tune begins with the spirited voice of a young boy, the son of his best friend to whom Payne has credited much of his recovery: I saw my best friend change from a guy into a dad.  He lays his father to rest in "What a High Horse", helping set the tone for a collection that pulls no punches even while demonstrating a certain compassion or forgiveness:  Talk about needing a miracle / Talk about needing a saving grace

Payne's big-heartedness and humility distinguish Blue Eyes from similar records that might be more focused on blame and victimization.  The songwriter reserves the harshest treatment for himself, the most dangerous person I know.  Payne cowrote the scorching "All the Trouble" with Adam Wright and Lee Ann Womack (she included it on an excellent 2017 project).  Urgent strings and wild guitar conspire to create an atmosphere of dark tension.  He sings from the depths of his despair: I need a happy ending / Somebody write me one / If there's a prince that's waiting / Somebody send him on.  Payne pushes his Rodney Crowell-like voice to its limits on the acoustic "Dangerous Criminal". You're always just one push away, Payne sings, recognizing how his illness pushed away his friends and family: Hey boy / Why are you always alone

Blue Eyes is produced by country vets Frank Liddell and Eric Masse, a team responsible for Miranda Lambert's 2016 Weight Of These Wings.  Like that double CD, their work with Waylon Payne strips back much of the artifice of contemporary country in order to focus on the songwriting.  String arrangements are deployed for emotional effect, though they can also serve to anchor the sessions in the sounds of a certain era of country production - thinking Bobbie Gentry, Dusty Springfield or even Kris Kristofferson.  While there are driving moments, the collection is more often defined by Payne's more introspective ballads, confessionals which highlight the beautiful grain in the singer's delivery.  "Shiver" is an aptly-named stunner: It's 4 in the morning, I'm naked / Standing above a sinning town / Wanting now nothing more than just to hold you / And to gently lay you down.  Few singers or writers can communicate such realness, such genuine gravitas in a song, a quality that Payne demonstrates throughout his sophomore album.  Watch as I burn / And watch as you shiver / One heart will live / One now must wither.  Devastating. 

Even more difficult than carrying an honest portrayal of the hell of addiction is exercising taste and restraint when speaking to redemption and recovery.  Waylon Payne incorporates strains of gospel on pieces like "Back From the Grave" or the hymnlike "Precious Thing".  The songwriter never suggests that the great storm is over,  however, as he admits that sobriety and temptation are a daily battle even years after his last fix.  Blue Eyes, the Harlot, the Queer, the Pusher & Me is not necessarily a new story, though Payne is such a phenomenal and a discerning storyteller that I continue to hold out hope for a memoir.  Until such time, this long-awaited sophomore offering serves as a gorgeous reintroduction to an important artist who will hopefully remain on the scene for years to come. 

- Moondoggies, "Bogachiel Rain Blues" Don't Be a Stranger  (Hardly Art, 16)
- Pete Krebs & Gossamer Wings, "Faraway, Blue" All My Friends Are Ghosts  (Cavity Search, 20)  D
- Elizabeth Cook, "Half Hanged Mary" Aftermath  (Agent Love, 20)
- John Murry, "Holocaust" John Murry is Dead EP  (Hibernian Sweatshop, 20)
- Bedouine, Waxahatchee & Hurray for the Riff Raff, "Thirteen" single  (Spacebomb, 20)  D
^ Waylon Payne, "Shiver" Blue Eyes the Harlot the Queer the Pusher & Me  (Carnival, 20)
- Blitzen Trapper, "Hazy Morning" Holy Smokes Future Jokes  (Yep Roc, Sep 25)
- Delta Spirit, "Can You Ever Forgive Me" What is There  (New West, 20)
- Pylon, "Feast On My Heart (remastered)" Pylon Box  (New West, Nov 6)
- Gasoline Lollipops, "Lady Liberty" All the Misery Money Can Buy  (GasPops, 20)
- Robyn Ludwick, "Lake Charles (feat. Shannon McNally)" Lake Charles  (Ludwick, Sep 15)  D
- Tennessee Jet, "Stray Dogs" The Country  (TNJet, 20)
- Rev Horton Heat, "Sunrise Through the Power Lines" Whole New Life  (Victory, 18)
- HC McEntire, "High Rise" Eno Axis  (Merge, 20)
- Will Kimbrough, "My Right Wing Friend" Spring Break  (Daphne, Oct 23)
- Sadler Vaden, "Best Days" single  (Dirty Mag, 20)  D
- Kathleen Edwards, "Feelings Fade" Total Freedom  (Dualtone, 20)
- Shovels & Rope, "Wire (acoustic version)" By Blood: Deluxe Edition (Dualtone, 20)
- Matt Woods, "California Shakes" Mornings After EP  (Lonely Ones, 20)
- Jeremy Ivey, "Things Could Get Much Worse" Waiting Out the Storm  (Anti, Oct 9)
- TK & the Holy Know-Nothings, "Pickle" Pickled Heat EP  (Mama Bird, 20)
- Gillian Welch, "Beautiful Boy" Boots No 2: Lost Songs Vol 2  (Acony, Sep 18)  D
- Margo Price, "Letting Me Down (Downer Version)" single  (Loma Vista, 20)
- Califone, "Needle In the Hay" single  (Jealous Butcher, 20)  D
- Band of Heathens, "Call Me Gilded" Stranger  (BoH, Sep 25)
- Hackensaw Boys, "Happy For Us In the Down" Charismo  (Free Dirt, 16)
- Brent Cowles, "Stumblin' Sober" It's Coals  (2272881 Records, 20)  D
- Lucero, "Time To Go Home" single  (Liberty & Lament, 20)  D
- Juanita Stein, "LOTF" Snapshot  (Nude, Oct 23)
- The Staves, "Trying" single  (Nonesuch, 20)  D

Through the smoke, through the haze, through the blare of all >this<, we find solace in A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster.  It's our frantically updated roots music release calendar.  This week we added Lake Charles, the next release from Robyn Ludwick, landing this week wherever music matters.  Having established a solid reputation for taking an obsessive amount of time to release each of her studio records, the pandemic has brought out the generosity in Gillian Welch.  She'll be releasing her third collection of odds 'n outtakes on Friday, fittingly titled Boots No. 2: Lost Songs Vol. 2  (Acony).  Jeff Tweedy has been keeping busy from home as well.  Love Is the King will be a solo effort, expected on October 23  (dBpm).  Finally, Pearl Charles' 2018 Sleepless Dreamer received some play here at R&B HQ.  We've got our eyes on her follow-up.  Magic Mirror (Kanine, Jan 15) is the first release we've added to our calendar for 2021 (which can't help but be a better year).  But here's your weekly ROUTES-cast:

Wednesday, September 09, 2020


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 6, 2020
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Couple weeks ago, we celebrated the new music and the long career of Portland music legend Jerry Joseph.  This Episode, we're coincidentally shedding light on his fellow Oregon Music Hall of Famer, Pete Krebs.  Krebs' career similarly reaches back to the dawning days of the 1990s, when his band Hazel, signed to Sub Pop, flirted for a time with national renown.  Since those times, Krebs has busied himself alongside acts such as Golden Delicious, Portland Playboys and Gossamer Wings, collaborating with artists such as Elliott Smith, Danny Barnes, David Berman and countless others.  His restless musical attention span has seen him through dabblings with punk, jazz, folk and country.

Nearly twenty years have come and gone since Pete Krebs' last studio recording, a session with Gossamer Wings called I Know It By Heart.  In the meantime, the dedicated instrumentalist traveled through Europe to research disciples of the legendary gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.  He's also faced down his own mortality, being dealt 50-50 odds of staving off a cancer diagnosis.  Now, the trustworthy Cavity Search Records label has shared All My Friends Are Ghosts, a collection that pulls together Krebs' songs from the past twenty years, backed by Gossamer Wings, including members of Decemberists and Richmond Fontaine.

As with Jerry Joseph, you could pass a good afternoon or two developing an appreciation of Krebs' eclectic body of work, a catalog that rarely fits neatly beneath any one genre heading.  His edges and his influences overflow categories, especially when regarded as a whole.  Which makes All My Friends an appropriate way to slide back into public performance.  The sessions are decidedly roots-oriented, but they are restless and eclectic within that basket, sure-footed yet governed by an off-the-cuff spirit.

Make a point of blasting "Faraway, Blue" from an open car window before the close of Summer.  It's the perfect strain of jangle pop for a blue-sky afternoon, with bright guitars and pedal steel glinting off the windshield.  "I'm Just Searching For You" and "Sound + Fury" ring with a similar breezy tinged accent, with electric guitars up front, and a melodic thread delivered effortlessly by Krebs' band.  Krebs himself sings in a comfortable pocket, his slightly drawled delivery suggesting a hybrid of Elliott Smith and Lloyd Cole.

All My Friends boasts some lyrical eloquence as well.  Krebs lays his heart bare on "My True Love Is a Beautiful Bird" with what strikes the listener as an apt admission: These past couple of years / Left me battered and bruised / And I need you more than I'll show.  The simple folksong is starkly presented, a steady acoustic strum warmed by the heartbeat of a bass.  A raw fiddle opens the sweet and rootsy "Brightest Stars".  Like most of the tunes, it sounds as warm and immediate as though producer Jon Neufeld set the recordings to tape with the players arrayed around him.  Leave your windows open to the threat of rain, Krebs advises.  Leave your doors unlocked to charity and pain / It's hard enough to hold yourself / Still harder to be held sometimes.

The pervasive spirit throughout Pete Krebs' first collection in two decades is simplicity, shot through with joy and gratitude.  The record's title track offers a touch of Bakersfield and a hint of early rock:  All my friends are ghosts / They live in a bar across the road / And they're telling me everything will be alright / Now I'm free.  "Blue Horizon" might serve as the album's most engaging moment, a conjunto arrangement haunted by the ghost of Doug Sahm and his Texas Tornados, replete with accordion and pedal steel.

The pieces populating All My Friends Are Ghosts aren't necessarily career-defining.  It might not even prove the richest place to begin to make an acquaintance with Pete Krebs & co (for that, you might want to try Cavity Search's 2016 retrospective, Hey Pete Krebs!).  Instead, the artist's first collection in nearly two decades is nothing less than a signpost, a reminder (or an introduction) to another Northwest music icon whose hard-earned stint in the spotlight is long overdue.  Enjoy yourself.  It would seem that Krebs is doing just that. 

- Zephaniah Ohora, "Living Too Long" Listening To the Music  (Last Roundup, 20)
- Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, "All the Good Times Are Past and Gone" All the Good Times  (Acony, 20)
- Will Johnson, "Goodbye Absecon" El Capitan  (Keeled Scales, 20)
- Bill Callahan, "Mackenzies" Gold Record  (Drag City, 20)
- Wilco, "Summer Teeth (Slow Rhodes Version)" Summer Teeth Deluxe Edition  (Rhino, Nov 6)  D
- Angel Olsen, "(We Are All Mirrors)" Whole New Mess  (Jagjaguwar, 20)
- Kevin Morby, "Campfire" Sundowner  (Dead Oceans, Oct 16)  D
- Cut Worms, "Every Once In a While" Nobody Lives Here Anymore  (Jagjaguwar, Oct 9)
- Jerry David DeCicca, "Texas Toad" Unlikely Optimist & His Domestic Adventures  (DeCicca, Oct 16)
- John Calvin Abney, "Shine Like a Friend" Familiar Ground  (Black Mesa, Nov 20)  D
- Becky Warren, "Me and These Jeans" Sick Season  (Warren, Oct 23)  D
- Nude Party, "Lonely Heather" Midnight Manor  (New West, Oct 2)
- JD McPherson, "Head Over Heels" Let the Good Times Roll  (Rounder, 15)
- Grant-Lee Phillips, "Leave a Light On" Lightning Show Us Your Stuff  (Yep Roc, 20)
- Cordovas, "Rain On the Rail" Destiny Hotel  (Anti, Oct 16)
- Molly Tuttle, "A Little Lost" ... but i'd rather be with you  (Compass, 20)
- William Elliott Whitmore, "My Mind Can Be Cruel To Me" I'm With You  (Bloodshot, Oct 16)  D
- Cave Singers, "Distant Sures" No Witch  (Jagjaguwar, 11)
- Justin Wells, "It'll All Work Out" United State  (Singular, 20)
- Matt Woods, "Sunshine" Mornings After EP  (Lonely Ones, 20)
- Bella White, "Not To Blame" Just Like Leaving  (Bella White, Sep 25)
- Hayes Carll, "Arkansas Blues (Alone Together Sessions)" Alone Together Sessions  (Dualtone, 20)
- Gasoline Lollipops, "Flesh and Bone" All the Misery Money Can Buy  (GasPops, Sep 11)
- Tennessee Jet, "Hands On You" The Country  (TN Jet, 20)
- Arlo McKinley, "Bag of Pills" Die Midwestern  (Oh Boy, 20)
- Elliott BROOD, "Bird Dog" Keeper  (Six Shooter, Sep 18)
- Great Peacock, "Heavy Load" Forever Worse Better  (Soundly, Oct 9)
- Jim White, "Sum Of What We've Been" Misfit's Jamboree  (Fluff & Gravy, Oct 23)  D
- Ruston Kelly, "Clean" Shape & Destroy  (Rounder, 20)
- Fire Mountain, "Be Your Eyes" All Dies Down  (This is American Music, 14)

Pull back the cover of A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster and you'll find a year's worth of roots music releases.  This week, we added Sundowner, an October 16 full-length from Kevin Morby and Dead Oceans.  The enigmatic Jim White has drifted onto Fluff & Gravy Records for his next offering.  Expect Misfit's Jubilee wherever music matters on October 23.  Wilco is planning a sprawling deluxe edition of their Summer Teeth classic via Rhino Records on November 6, and New West is gifting us with a box set celebrating the music of the underappreciated band Pylon that same day.  Finally, one of our favorite singer-songwriters, John Calvin Abney is bringing us Familiar Ground come November 20 (Black Mesa).  Your weekly ROUTES-cast: