ROUTES & BRANCHES
February 9, 2013
It's still Monday morning, and I've already received half a dozen emails and facebook notes about how the Grammys disappointed Sunday evening. I'm certain to find dozens more by day's end as I touch base with blogs and aggregators. I've mentioned in years past how I've been watching the Grammy broadcast since I was young and naive enough to find the show cutting edge. I agree that recent years have proven the selection committee to be sorely out of touch, though there are always at least a couple live performances that continue to make the viewing worthwhile.
This year could be remembered for Taylor Swift's ridiculous stage-crowding sideshow or Hunter Hayes' remarkably brief stature or Frank Ocean's uber-puzzling ode to Forrest Gump (after a justly celebrated year, this is your victory lap?!) ... My take, however, is that 2013's Grammy presentation was the strongest in recent memory. Black Keys absolutely burned through "Lonely Boy" with Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Dr. John propped behind his keyboard. Jack White shamed his competition with a jaw-dropping demonstration of how even in this day it's still possible to simply rock hard. Best of all, Levon Helm was given a suitable sendoff at the hands of T Bone Burnett, Mumford & Sons, Zac Brown, Brittany Howard, Elton John and many more - a party that Mavis Staples apparently did not want to end.
Is my taste becoming more pedestrian, or are the Grammys suddenly relevant again? Yes, I will take advantage of this moment to remind folks that we first heard Mumford & Sons on R&B as an import before the train ever left the depot. Feel free to either thank or blame me as you see fit ...
Back at home, Frontier Ruckus delivers a terrific double concept-album largely addressing coming of age in 1990s Michigan. Writer Matthew Milia crowds his musical memoir with such a catalog of quotidian stuff that a listener might feel claustrophobic upon first listening the the 90+ minute oeuvre. Repeated listenings allow us to parse Milia's poetry, however, to reveal a disarmingly personal statement. Think Okkervil River by way of early Wilco, perhaps. Eternity of Dimming is musically thick as well, boasting song arrangements often going several levels deep. David W. Jones' banjo serves as the musical heart to many of these tunes, beautifully augmented with everything from trumpet to keyboard. The result is a complex but frequently stunning document that stands as Frontier Ruckus' high water mark to date.
Also this Episode, we wade into two new releases from Omnivore Records. The LA based label specializes in pristine, lovingly assembled reissues of rare tracks and forgotten treasures. In addition to the Townes Van Zandt and Gene Clark discoveries, Omnivore's recent victories have included odes to Wanda Jackson, Old 97s and Buck Owens' previously unissued recordings of country classics.
* Jolie Holland, "Mexico City" Living and the Dead (Anti, 08)
* Dirty River Boys, "Lungs" Science of Flight (Thirty Tigers, 12)
* John Driskell Hopkins & Balsam Range, "She Don't Love Me Today" Daylight (JDH, 13)
* Elizabeth Cook, "All We Need Is Love" This Side of the Moon (Hog County, 04)
* Townes Van Zandt, "Dead Flowers" Sunshine Boy (Omnivore, 13) D
* Departed, "Burden" Adventus (Underground, 12)
* Lone Bellow, "You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional" Lone Bellow (Descendant, 13) D
* Dawes, "From a Window Seat" Stories Don't End (Hub, 13) D
* Austin Lucas w/Takers, "Mama Tried" Austin Lucas With the Takers (Suburban Home, 09)
* Parlor Pickers, "Loverboy" Barn Burner (Parlor Pickers, 11)
* Jacob Jones, "My Girl Is Sweeter Than Yours" Good Timin' in Waynetown (Electric Western, 12) D
* Chris King, "Twenty Eight" 1983 (Classic Horse, 13)
* Pat Green, "Jesus On a Greyhound" Songs We Wish We'd Written II (Sugar Hill, 12)
* Holly Williams, "Gone Away From Me" Highway (Georgiana, 13)
^ Frontier Ruckus, "Eyelashes" Eternity of Dimming (Quite Scientific, 13) D
* Sarah Gayle Meech, "Foolish" One Good Thing (Self, 12)
* Wayne Hancock, "Home With My Baby" Ride (Bloodshot, 13) D
* Lucero, "Last Night in Town" Nobody's Darlings (East West, 05)
* Carrie Rodriguez, "Lake Harriet" Give Me All You Got (Ninth St Opus, 13)
* Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, "Hanging Up My Heart" Old Yellow Moon (Nonesuch, 13)
* Wood & Wire, "Rollin' In the Washingtons" Wood & Wire (Self, 13) D
* Arliss Nancy, "Hold It Together" Tour EP (Cats? Aye! 13)
* Jayhawks, "Waiting For the Sun" Hollywood Town Hall (American, 92)
* Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck, "12 Inch Steel" Eden (Tweed River, 13) D
* Gurf Morlix, "Bang Bang Bang" Finds the Present Tense (Rootball, 13)
* Gene Clark, "Please Mr Frued" Here Tonight: White Light Demos (Omnivore, 13) D
* Kris Kristofferson, "Ramblin' Jack" Feeling Mortal (KK, 13)
* Terry Allen, "Angels of the Wind" Bottom of the World (Self, 13) D
* Walt Wilkins, "Trains I Missed" Diamonds In the Sun (Palo Duro, 07)