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Sunday, October 09, 2011

ROUTES & BRANCHES
October 8, 2011
Scott Foley

I have taught workshops here and there about the "basics of bookselling".  I advise book buyers to meet and exceed customers' expectations.  Of course, a successful store should stock bestsellers and buzz titles.  But a bookstore defines itself by the stuff shelved around those sure things.  Likewise, as a program promising "the best of americana, alt.country and roots music," I'd be silly not to track americana chart-toppers like  Robert Earl Keen, Tom Russell and Ryan Adams, for instance.  But it's what I spin around those listener expectations that defines R&B. 

I always know I'm on the right track when my wife walks into the room and comments in passing, "That doesn't sound like your kind of stuff."  That's where this week's nods to strong new releases by Joe Henry, Megafaun and Wilco come into play.  Let's face it, I'm not the first blogger to recognize the worth of Wilco's new Whole Love album.  If I'm not mistaken, even my father has posted a take on the thing.  Nevertheless, it is a beautiful project, even while it won't necessarily fit on every program airing our kind of music.  For every brain-ripping guitar freakout like the one that closes out the seven-minute "Art of Almost", there is an almost straightforward song like "Open Mind", awash in the echo of steel guitar. Or Tweedy's subtle and spare "Rising Red Sun" or the gorgeous "One Sunday Morning".  

I imagine much of the reason we permit Wilco to remain in our club is in tribute to Tweedy's past work as part of the first wave of alt.country artists twenty years ago.  Joe Henry might qualify for that same exemption, as an artist whose work (even before Uncle Tupelo) hinted at the development of our genre.  Although I would argue that much of his current work at least incorporates elements of roots music. 

I once tripped across the website of a well-respected americana programmer who offered a list of genre basics, artists who belonged on any self-respecting show like mine.  On this list, alongside your Earles and your Lucindas and your McMurtrys was the Beatles.  To each their own, I suppose ...


* Avett Brothers, "When I Drink"  The Gleam  (Ramseur, 06)
* Austin Lucas, "Darkness Out of Me"  New Home In the Old World  (Last Chance, 11)
* Pieta Brown, "Glory To Glory"  Mercury  (Red House, 11)
* Pine Hill Haints, "Desperation Blues"  Welcome To the Midnight Opry  (K, 11)
* Mosey West, "Hell Hounds"  Vaca Money  (Self, 11)
* Joe Henry, "Odetta"  Reverie  (Anti, 11)
* Lucero, "What Else Would You Have Me Be"  Rebels Rogues & Sworn Brothers  (Liberty, 06)
* Ryan Adams, "Invisible Riverside"  Ashes & Fire  (Lost Hwy, 11)
* Lera Lynn, "Good Hearted Man"  Have You Met Lera Lynn  (Slow, 11)
* Great American Taxi, "Gonna Make a Record"  Paradise Lost  (GATR, 11)
* Alejandro Escovedo, "Irene Wilde"  Bourbonitis Blues  (Bloodshot, 99)
* Wood Brothers, "Shoofly Pie"  Smoke Ring Halo  (Self, 11)
* Whitehorse, "Broken"  Whitehorse  (Six Shooter, 11)
* Robert Earl Keen, "I Gotta Go"  Ready For Confetti  (Lost Hwy, 11)
* V-Roys, "No Regrets"  Sooner Or Later  (FAY, 11)
* Star Anna, "Bird Without Wings"  Alone In This Together  (Local 638, 11)
* Kathryn Mostow, "Give Me Something Good"  Rich Girl  (Self, 11)
* South Austin Jug Band, "Jack Ass"  Strange Invitation  (Self, 08)
^ Wilco, "Open Mind"  Whole Love  (DbPM, 11)
* Megafaun, "Resurrection"  Megafaun  (Self, 11)
* Devil Makes Three, "Tow (live)"  Stomp and Smash  (Milan, 11)
* R Mutt, "Beautiful Bad Day"  Leash On Life  (Self, 11)
* Lydia Loveless, "Bad Way To Go"  Indestructible Machine  (Bloodshot, 11)
* M Ward, "Magic Trick"  Post-War  (4AD, 06)
* Southern Culture On the Skids, "Zombified"  Zombified  (Kudzu, 11)
* Blind Pilot, "Keep You Right"  We Are the Tide  (Expunged, 11)
* Jason Boland & the Stragglers, "Down Here In the Middle"  Rancho Alto  (Proud Souls, 11)
* Tom Russell, "Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall"  Mesabi  (Shout Factory, 11)

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