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Sunday, November 30, 2014

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
November 29, 2014
Scott Foley

I was a listmaking kid.  Every Sunday for years, to a degree of obsession, I would write down my 25 favorite songs.  I recall with a certain amount of chagrin that Chicago's "Color My World" held the top spot for more than its fair share of charts ...  More recently, I'm fond of generating year end lists for my little radio program.  I was talking yesterday to another programmer, wondering aloud what artist I've played more than any other during my radio years.  It would probably be easier for me to compile a list of Artists Most Essential To Scott's Lifelong Musical Development than a list of my current favorite acts.  I'm just that sort of beast.


Were I to attempt such a list, I imagine Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist would merit careful consideration.  As Over the Rhine, the Ohio-based pair have consistently charmed me to temporarily dismiss my innate folk music prejudice (which I'm increasingly convinced is not really a thing).  Every record that hits my stereo sticks like glue, held fast by soulful vocals, thoughtful arrangements and smart lyrics.  Over the Rhine have just released their third collection of "reality Christmas" originals, Blood Oranges In the Snow. By my count, there are zero "ho-ho-ho's" and just as many Frosty sightings on Blood Oranges.  Instead, there is intimacy, solitude and darkness.  There is, "I've committed every sin / And each one leaves a different scar / It's just the world I'm livin' in / And I could use a guiding star."  It's really more a "winter" album than a holiday collection, per se.  I can't imagine "My Father's Body" on the stereo as my kids open their Christmas morning presents.  Nevertheless, it's a frequently gorgeous collection, one that appeals to the part of me that welcomes the bittersweet melancholy that arrives hand-in-glove with the season.  Detweiler writes on his blog:  "Once upon a time we sent our first Christmas record to Byron House, an upright bass player who would join us for several of our December tours.  Byron put it on the stereo during his family's evening meal, and after several tracks his wife asked, 'Do they like Christmas?'" 

While most artists toss together their holiday singles or albums as a novelty or a lark, Over the Rhine's Blood Oranges is as thoughtful, painstaking and as brazenly honest as any other recent album the duo has produced.  It's been only about a year since they released the terrific double CD, Meet Me At the Edge of the World, and this one makes a fine companion piece.  It's music to play after the kids have gone to bed and the Christmas tree lights "tease the stars outside."  The world's noise has receded just enough so that it's just you and your thoughts and the music.  "Let's stay home and play old records / Our future's bright our past is checkered / What do you say we lift a glass / Toast the ghost of another year past ... "  Indeed, this is the Christmas I love. 

And speaking of lists, don't forget to join me on air December 15 for my announcement of my Favorite Records for 2014.  It might just color your holidays ...

*  Will Quinlan, "Plastic Rosary (Winter 1970)" Navasota  (Ironweed, 08)
*  Parlor Pickers, "Miss American Beauty"  Joliet Street Shakedown  (Self, 14)  C
*  William Elliott Whitmore, "I Wish I Was the Moon"  While No One Was Looking  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Neko Case, "Magpie To the Morning"  The Worse Things Get ...  (Anti, 13)
*  Frontier Ruckus, "Darling Anonymity"  Sitcom Afterlife  (Quite Scientific, 14)
*  Hiss Golden Messenger, "Drum"  Lateness of Dancers  (Merge, 14)
^  Over the Rhine, "Blood Oranges In the Snow"  Blood Oranges In the Snow  (Great Speckled Dog, 14)
*  Cale Tyson, "Honky Tonk Moan"  High On Lonesome  (Self, 13)
*  Marty Stuart, "Sad House Big Party"  Saturday Night / Sunday Morning  (Superlatone, 14)
*  Eilen Jewell, "Where They Never Say Your Name"  Letters From Sinners & Strangers  (Signature Sounds, 07)
*  James McMurtry, "How'm I Gonna Find You Now"  Complicated Game  (Complicated Game, 15)
*  Lisa LeBlanc, "You Look Like Trouble"  Highways Heartaches and Time Well Wasted  (Bonsound, 14)  D
*  Dirty River Boys, "Highway Love"  Dirty River Boys  (Thirty Tigers, 14)
*  Dead Volts, "California"  We Are Already Dead  (Twang N Bang, 14)  D
*  Joe Fletcher, "Highway Roulette"  You've Got the Wrong Guy  (Self, 14)
*  John Statz, "Home At Last"  Tulsa  (Self, 15)  C, D
*  Jeffrey Foucault, "Battle Hymn (of the College Dropout Farmhand)"  Miles From the Lightning  (Marrowbone, 01)
*  Chatham County Line, "Sixteen Years"  Tightrope  (Yep Roc, 14)
*  Annie Keating, "I Want To Believe"  Make Believing  (Self, 15)  D
*  Lydia Lovless, "Hurts So Bad"  Somewhere Else  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Devil Makes Three, "Draggin' Chains"  Draggin' Chains EP  (Self, 14)  D
*  Old 97s, "Eyes For You"  Hitchhike to Rhome (Reissue)  (Omnivore, 14)
*  Whitey Morgan, "Just To Satisfy You"  Grandpa's Gutiar  (Self, 14)  D
*  Heartless Bastards, "White Christmas"  All Is Bright  (Amazon, 14)  D
*  Silos, "Drunken Moon"  Laser Beam Next Door  (Self, 01)
*  Jim White vs Packway Handle Band, "Sorrow's Shine"  Take It Like a Man  (Yep Roc, 15)
*  Scruffy the Cat, "Oldest Fire In the World"  Good Goodbye  (Omnivore, 14)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Call Ya Momma"  Absent Fathers  (Vagrant, 15)

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