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Thursday, July 26, 2012

ROUTES & BRANCHES
July 21, 2012
Scott Foley

I generally like my music thick, boasting plentiful instrumentation and enough production to keep things sounding professional.  I'll leave the unaccompanied banjo reveries and field hollers to other programs.   Having said that, this week we welcome into the fold two new releases that buck that trend. 

I've been a fan of Kelly Joe Phelps since I was a longhaired young man, watching another longhaired young man play at a small coffeehouse in Oregon.  Years later, we're both sporting less hair and KJP has established himself as a stellar guitarist and vocalist with pans in the blues, gospel and folk fires.  His new release marks a bit of a departure for him, featuring just his voice and his guitar.  Whereas Phelps typically plays in a lap steel style, on Brother Sinner & the Whale, he alternates between bottleneck slide and finger picking.  The album favors a decidedly gospel flavor, with songs inspired by the Bible's Book of Jonah. 

Like the Handsome Family, the Driftwood Singers look and sound like they just wandered out of a rural 1930s church service.  Pearl Charles and Kris Hutson's debut EP from 2010 was actually recorded on a walkman, after the duo encountered studio after studio that wanted to polish up their DIY sound.  While things have progressed on their first full length album, their harmonies are close, but never perfect, like Freakwater on a good day.  They allow room for haunting pedal steel, brushed percussion and other basic instrumentation, but keep the focus on their mesmerizing voices.  The obvious comparison here is Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, though that duo has never sounded so raw, at the same time world-weary and naive. 


* Laura Cantrell, "Kitty Wells' Dresses"  Kitty Wells' Dresses  (Diesel Only, 11)
*  Peter Karp & Sue Foley, "Take Your Time"  Beyond the Crossroads  (Blind Pig, 12)
*  Mavericks, "Back In Your Arms Again"  Suited Up and Ready  (Valory, 12)
*  Lucinda Williams, "Six Blocks Away"  Sweet Old World  (Elektra, 92)
*  Jon Dee Graham, "Unafraid"  Garage Sale  (Freedom, 12)
*  Patterson Hood, "Come Back Little Star"  Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance  (ATO, 12)  D
*  Chris Daniels, "Cabin Fever (live)"  Better Days  (Self, 12)
*  Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers, "Country Blues"  Old Gold  (Signature Sounds, 12)
*  Los Lobos, "Whiskey Trail"  Kiko  (Warner, 92)
*  Willie Nelson, "Every Time He Drinks He Thinks Of Her"  Heroes  (Columbia, 12)
*  Chatham County Line, "Alone in New York (live)"  Sight & Sound  (Yep Roc, 12)  D
*  Ashley Raines, "More of a Man"  Begin  (Idiom, 12)
*  Amanda Shires, "Detroit or Buffalo"  Carrying Lightning  (Silver Knife, 11)
*  Robert Plant, "Cindy (I'll Marry You Someday)"  Band of Joy  (Rounder, 10)
*  Bonnie & the Clydes, "Rocky Mt Town"  Wrong Side Up  (Self, 12)  D
*  Felice Brothers, "Dream On"  God Bless You Amigo  (Self, 12)  D
*  Wilco, "Far Far Away"  Being There  (Reprise, 96)
*  Mindy Smith, "Tin Can"  Mindy Smith  (Giant Leap, 12)
*  Old Crow Medicine Show, "Levi"  Carry Me Back  (ATO, 12)
*  Jon Snodgrass, "More Fun"  More Buddies More Fun  (Paper + Plastick, 12)  D
^  Driftwood Singers, "Come Across the Tracks"  Driftwood Singers  (Trailer Fire, 12)  D
*  Mic Harrison, "Out of the Blue"  Still Wanna Fight  (Self, 12)
*  Amy Cook, "Waiting 4 the World 2 End"  Summer Skin  (Roothouse, 12)  D
*  Uncle Tupelo, "Gun"  Still Feel Gone  (Sony, 91)
*  Kelly Joe Phelps, "Sometimes a Drifter"  Brother Sinner & the Whale  (Black Hen, 12)  D
*  Haunted Windchimes, "Searchin' for the Truth"  Out With the Crow  (Blank Tape, 12)
*  Cory Branan, "The Corner"  Mutt  (Bloodshot, 12)
*  Spirit Family Reunion, "I Am Following the Sound"  No Separation  (Self, 12)

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