ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
June 15, 2013
I'm allergic to bandwagons. Even if I'm early to the party, as soon as the room begins to fill I tend to jump ship at the first port. Yes, those three metaphors were mixed on purpose. Really, though, it's difficult for me to rave about something that's already been embraced by a crowd. I'm aware that this is in some ways as disingenuous as someone who waits until there is a chorus to add their voice.
Bandwagons, parties, rooms, ships, crowds, choruses. Fact is, I am here to praise a man whose new album seems to have shown up on most of my favorite blogs over the past two weeks. John Moreland's In the Throes is as big a thing in these circles as an artist like John Moreland can be. And still he deserves more. Even with all these preliminary accolades, a friend told me of a brilliant Moreland show recently in Denver, attended by almost nobody. This might be the nature of our kind of music but, if justice prevails, Moreland will have a good deal more company on his next trip thru the state.
To put it bluntly, In the Throes can be downright heartbreaking at times. "Maybe I don't have it in me / Maybe it doesn't have me in it / And if I don't fly that's fine / Just let me find the place where I fit." It's not great because it shreds instrumentally (not really), or because it rocks (it doesn't). Matter of fact, Throes tends to be quiet enough that it makes you listen closer, catching so many unbelievably good turns of phrase that I found myself jotting them down at first. In the end, John Moreland's new album is great because it is such an open-hearted testimony from "the king of the ignored".
Often I'm so desperate to find good new music that I'll almost forgive lazy or pedestrian lyric writing. With Moreland, his tunes are so sharp it's almost distracting. I tried to listen to In the Throes while making dinner tonight, but actually had to switch to NPR because the songs demanded more of my attention than I could give them. There are a handful of albums like this for me, records that I can't listen to without really listening to the songs. While time will tell, I have a sense that, even if by some act of the angels Moreland ends up on a national stage, the music will still have its claws in me.
Thanks to Portland's Renegade Stringband who played an impressive set of soulful string 'grass on this Episode, too. I hope to see the young quintet pick up steam as they expand their fanbase over the next several months.
* New Country Rehab, "Home To You" Ghost Of Your Charms (Self, 13)
* Hezekiah Goode, "Two Billion Acres of Salt" Two Billions Acres of Salt (Self, 13) C
* Justin Townes Earle, "Ain't Waitin'" Harlem River Blues (Bloodshot, 10)
* Jason Isbell, "Stockholm" Southeastern (12th St, 13)
* Houndmouth, "Penitentiary" From the Hills Below the City (Rough Trade, 13) D
* Renegade Stringband, "Let Your Heart Take You" forthcoming album (Self, 13) D
* Renegade Stringband, "Winter Wind" live in-studio
* Renegade Stringband, "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way" live in-studio
* Mando Saenz, "Break Away Speed" Studebaker (Carnival, 13)
* Andy Thomas' Dust Heart, "Poor You" Wicked Dark (Self, 13) C, D
* Tift Merritt, "Broken" Another Country (Concord, 08)
> John Moreland, "Your Spell" In the Throes (Last Chance, 13) D
* Steve Earle, "Love's Gonna Blow My Way" Low Highway (New West, 13)
* My Darling Clementine, "Gospel According to George" internet single (Five Head, 13) D
* Eddie Spaghetti, "When I Go I'm Gone" Value of Nothing (Bloodshot, 13)
* Kent Goolsby, "Rags To Rags" Trophies of Youth (This is American Music, 13)
* Glossary, "Little Caney" Better Angels of Our Nature (Last Chance, 09)
* Sawmill Joe, "American Dream" JeffCo Ltd (Self, 13)
* Civil Wars, "One That Got Away" Civil Wars (Sensibility, 13) D
* Smooth Hound Smith, "Get Low" Smooth Hound Smith (Self, 13)
* Lucero, "Union Pacific Line" Texas & Tennessee (ATO, 13)
* Rodney Crowell, "Every Night" Let Us In Americana (Reviver, 13)
* Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, "Dreaming My Dreams" Old Yellow Moon (Nonesuch, 13)
* Ethan Johns, "Don't Reach Too Far" If Not Now When (Self, 13) D
* Court Yard Hounds, "Sunshine" Sunshine EP (Columbia, 13) D