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Monday, October 27, 2014

ROUTES &  BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
October 25, 2014
Scott Foley

This Episode features some awesome glimpses into forthcoming records, including Cracker's double CD - one disc country and the other rock.  There's also an unexpectedly raucous cut from Jim White, joined by the Packway Handle Band.  After a rocky trip thru Tomorrowland in 2012, Ryan Bingham's "Broken Heart Tattoos" lands like a sweet trip home.  Best of all, Tim Barry ... "Lost & Rootless" heralds the arrival of what could be a late charting favorites contender for the year.

Since we're speaking of favorites:  My first pass thru the year's playlists has generated a reassuringly solid longlist of around 40 records (for what is typically a 25-spot favorites list).  I can't recall having an easier time this early in the process.  I'm thinking of revealing my albums list a bit early this year - thinking Saturday, December 13 ...

Some songs are just too short.  Take Joe Fletcher's "Haint Blue Cadillac" f'rinstance.  It's a story-song that reads like the first chapter of what should be a novel:  Man meets the ghost of Hank Williams, man 'n Hank visit the tavern, Hank departs with a pretty lady.  And then ... ?  It's 2:04 of sloppy perfection, just Fletcher and his electric, part of You've Got the Wrong Man, a record whose raw and unproduced songs harken back to a time of field recordings.  Having produced two strong but more standard recordings with his East Nashville band, the Wrong Reasons, Fletcher taped his stark new songs in a mobile recording unit, finding a true intimacy that is rare in contemporary recordings.  "Florence, Alabama" is a gem:  "I was sick to death of fighting for a cause that's just a shill / Bring down the stars 'n stripes and raise a fifty dollar bill ..."  It's one sharp line among many, recalling Joe Pug's auspicious 2008 debut, Nation of Heat.  Songs flit between country-blues, folk and americana, with a couple tunes flirting with stories of the sea.  I'm not an immediate fan of sea chanteys, but when I do listen I prefer them to sound like drunken pirates.  "Mabel Grey," borrowed from Brown Bird, fits that bill just fine, a tipsy singalong that would make the late David Lamb proud.  And speaking of intoxication, Deer Tick's John McCauley also shows up for an unhinged chorus of another maritime related song, "I Never (Reprise)":  "I'd never gotten on this ship if I'd known / It was gonna take me home."  Fact is, there's a reason God made record producers, and I'm not necessarily the type that thinks any song would sound better if it were taped on a recorder made out of an oatmeal box.  Nevertheless, the unadorned sound of Joe Fletcher's new collection serves his songs well, allowing listeners to focus on the man's connection to a timeless craft. 


*  Milk Carton Kids, "No Hammer To Hold"  Prologue  (Self, 11)
*  Aoife O'Donovan, "Fire Engine"  Fossils  (Yep Roc, 13)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Today and a Lonely Night"  Single Mothers  (Vagrant, 14)
*  Maggie Bjorklund, "Bottom of the Well"  Shaken  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Steelism, "Marfa Lights"  915 To Fame  (Single Lock, 14)
*  Handsome Family, "Winnebago Skeletons"  Milk & Scissors  (Carrot Top, 96)
*  Pine Hill Haints, "Shattered Waltz"  Magick Sounds of ...   (K, 14)
*  Horse Feathers, "Dead End Thanks"  So It Is With Us  (Kill Rock Stars, 14)
*  Sam Amidon, "Won't Turn Back"  Lily-O  (Nonesuch, 14)  D
*  Lucero, "It May Be Too Late (live)"  Live From Atlanta  (Liberty & Lament, 14)
*  JP Harris & Tough Choices, "Truckstop Amphetamines"  Home Is Where the Hurt Is  (Cow Island, 14)
*  Doug Seegers, "Angie's Song"  Going Down To the River  (Rounder, 14)  D
*  Cracker, "Almond Grove"  Berkeley To Bakersfield  (Pavement, 15)  D
*  Lucinda Williams, "This Old Heartache"  Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone  (Hwy 20, 14)
*  Tim Barry, "Lost & Rootless"  Lost & Rootless  (Chunksaah, 14)  D
*  Ronnie Fauss, "Song For Zula"  Built To Break  (Normaltown, 14)
*  Elliott  BROOD, "Tired"  Work and Love  (Paper Bag, 14)
^  Joe Fletcher, "Haint Blue Cadillac"  You've Got the Wrong Man  (Self, 14)
*  Jim White vs Packway Handle Band, "Not a Song"  Take It Like a Man  (Yep Roc, 15)  D
*  Terry Allen, "Do They Dream of Hell In Heaven"  Bottom of the World  (Self, 13)
*  Chris Knight, "Oil Patch Town"  Pretty Good Guy  (Dualtone, 01)
*  Ryan Bingham, "Broken Heart Tattoos"  Fear and Saturday Night  (Axster Bingham, 15)  D
*  Goodnight Texas, "I Just Can't Stop Leaving Town"  Uncle John Farquhar  (Tallest Man, 14)
*  Andrew Bird & Nora O'Connor, "I'll Trade You Money For Wine"  While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records  (Bloodshot, 14)  D
*  Tift Merritt, "Broken"  Another Country  (Concord, 08)
*  Micky & the Motorcars, "Southbound Street"  Hearts From Above  (Self, 14)
*  Fauntleroys, "I'm In Love With Everything"  Below the Pink Pony  (Plowboy, 14)
*  Barr Brothers, "Even the Darkness Has Arms"  Sleeping Operator  (Secret City, 14)

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