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Monday, July 21, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
July 19, 2014
Scott Foley

Is the music forest big enough to encompass both Strand of Oaks and Hearts of Oak?  I believe so.  As Strand of Oaks, Timothy Showalter released Heal last month, one of my favorite records of the year.  The album established a watermark in Showalter's career, a decided lane change from lo-fi indie-folk to an increasingly electric sound that owes more to 80s new wave (as processed thru a contemporary indie lens).  There was a time, however, when Strand of Oaks sounded more like Nate Wallace's Hearts of Oak, whose New England boasts some buzzy electric moments, but remains firmly in the lo-fi lane.  Wallace calls it "shoegazer country", a mix that ranges from acoustic voice and guitar pieces seemingly recorded beside a crackling campfire ("Lovers Ain't Easy") to the spaced out of New England's  later tracks.  He triangulates his location referencing acts like
Crazy Horse, Spiritualized and St. Jason Molina as musical compass points.  The record itself establishes a logical progression, from folk to a full band crunch, all behind Nate Wallace's understated slacker drawl.   Those vocals are sometimes buried in feedback, extraneous noise leaks into the mix, and that guitar occasionally threatens to engulf the entire sonic mess.  But it's an occasionally beautiful and sometimes daring tangle that takes Hearts of Oak's 3rd release in a direction that early adapters might not immediately embrace, but which establishes a new maturity in a similiar vein as Showalter's project.  By my judgement, you'd be on the right track to follow either of these careers. 

Also on this Episode of R&B, we pay a return visit to another Portland, OR act in Sassparilla's impressive double CD.  There's also a double helping of Justin Townes Earle debuts, and our first taste of what promises to be a superb Otis Gibbs collection.  Finally, it's increasingly obvious that Robyn Ludwick is not only the most attractive member of the Robison clan, she can also stand up to Bruce and Charlie as a songwriter of note. 

*  Goodnight Texas, "Bank Robber's Nursery Rhyme"  Uncle John Farquhar  (Self, 14)
*  Sassparilla, "Wicked Take Care of Their Own"  Pasajero/Hullabaloo  (Fluff & Gravy, 14)
*  Jim Lauderdale, "Neon Hearts"  I'm a Song  (Sky Crunch, 14)
*  Lucinda Williams, "Bus To Baton Rouge"  Essence  (Lost Hwy, 01)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "White Gardenias"  Single Mothers  (Vagrant, 14)  D
*  Cory Branan, "You Make Me"  No Hit Wonder  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Josh Nolan, "Come Mornin'"  Fair City Lights  (Self, 14)
*  Caleb Caudle, "Bottles & Cans"  Paint Another Layer On My Heart  (This is Amer Music, 14)
*  Otis Gibbs, "Darker Side of Me"  Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth  (Wannamaker, 14)  D
*  Michael Dean Damron, "Tornado Song"  Father's Day  (In Music We Trust, 09)
*  Graham Lindsey, "Hard Life"  Digging Up Birds  (Self, 14)  D, C
*  Andy Thomas' Dust Heart, "Except Nebraska"  Blood & Sunshine  (Self, 14)  D, C
*  Sarah Borges, "Start Again"  Radio Sweetheart  (Lonesome Day, 14)
*  Shovels & Rope, "Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan"  Swimmin' Time  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Jerry Jeff Walker, "Northeast Texas Women"  Too Old to Change  (Elektra, 79)
*  Billy Joe Shaver, "Hard To Be An Outlaw"  Long In the Tooth  (Lightning Rod, 14)
*  Loudermilks, "Everybody Knows You"  Loudermilks  (You Know What, 14)
^  Hearts of Oak, "Goldmine"  New England  (Deer Lodge, 14)  D
*  Deadwood Saints, "6th Street and Trinity"  6th Street and Trinity  (Self, 14)  C
*  John Hiatt, "Terms of My Surrender"  Terms of My Surrender  (New West, 14)
*  Be Good Tanyas, "A Little Blues"  Hello Love  (Nettwerk, 06)
*  Dwight Yoakam, "Who'll Stop the Rain"  single  (Reprise, 14)  D
*  Drag the River, "Hey Tonight"  Bother Me Tomorrow: Indie Tribute to CCR  (Tan & Blue, 14)  C
*  Chuck Prophet, "Countryfied Inner-City Technological Man"  Night Surfer  (Yep Roc, 14)  D
*  Hayes Carll, "It's a Shame"  Trouble In Mind  (Lost Hwy, 08)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Glory Days"  Dead Man's Town  (Lightning Rod, 14)
*  Jason Isbell, "Now That Your Dollar Bills Have Sprouted Wings"  Song Reader  (Capitol, 14)  D
*  Robyn Ludwick, "Longbow, OK"  Little Rain  (Self, 14)  D

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