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Thursday, January 08, 2015

ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
January 3, 2015
Scott Foley

Wrapping up my year-end lists, I recently aired my favorite Colorado releases for 2014.   Incidentally, of the Square State stuff on this Episode's playlist, both Todd Adelman and Longest Day of the Year were released a bit too late to be on this year's list. 

1)  Ark Life, Dream of You and Me
2)  You Me & Apollo, Sweet Honey
3)  Tennis, Ritual In Repeat
4)  Strange Americans, That Kind of Luster
5)  Reed Foehl, Lost In the West
6)  Esme Patterson, Woman To Woman
7)  Deadwood Saints, 6th Street and Trinity
8)  Musketeer Gripweed, Floods and Fires
9)  Birch Street, Birch Street
10) Matt Mahern, Test of Time In Music City

While it's a hoot to assemble these lists, it's also great to be on the other side, looking forward to what 2015 might have for us in the wings.  This Episode starts with a piece from the sort of record I hope to find more of in the year to come.  It was largely a surprise when it arrived on my radar back in 2013 and sounded like little else on my CD shelves.  Listening to Murry's Graceless Age on my way to the station, I was reminded of the album's edge, poetry and heart.

Hey, Ryan Bingham is back.  It's not that 2012's Tomorrowland was necessarily a disappointing collection.  It was angry, it was dark and it was loud.  The chorus from the CD's debut single went, "Guess who's knockin' on the door / Guess who's knockin' on the door / Guess who's knockin' on the door / It's me motherfucker, I'm knockin' on the door ... "  Hardly Shakespeare (or even Hag).  It's just that Bingham spent much of his first three records proving that he was a far better lyricist.  "Weary Kind" -  "Southside of Heaven"  - "Depression" -  "Dylan's Hard Rain"  -  some of the strongest americana tunes since the turn of the millennium.  This makes Bingham's 5th record, Fear and Saturday Night, land like a sweet kiss.  Fact is, I'll never blame an artist for trying something new, and there's no grace in making the same safe album over and over.  Strong songs like "Nobody Knows My Trouble" and "Broken Heart Tattoos" fit comfortably alongside earlier offerings from Bingham's catalog:  Mid-tempo country-leaning americana, sung in his worn and phlegmy drawl.  The revelations on Fear fall to either side of these, being either sad bastard ballads or abrasive rockers.  Of the latter, "Top Shelf Drug" stands out as both edgy and eloquent, not coming across as desperate to prove its fire.  "Adventures of You and Me" does an admirable job both echoing and paying homage to the Sahm/Augie/Flaco and Fender lineup, even down to the "Uno/Dos/Tres/Quatro" countdown.  For ballads, the stirring "Snow Falls In June" recalls "Weary Kind" in spirit and melody.  The album's heart beats in the title track, which best illustrates the record's themes:  "I don't fear nothin' except for myself / So I'm gonna go out & raise me some hell ..."  It's a curious sentiment where Bingham acknowledges his demons, but also recognizes that he might be powerless against them.  Reportedly written in an airstream trailer secluded in the California mountains, the songs betray that kind of self examination a settling of accounts in the wake of a rough couple of years.  Partway through nearly every tune on Fear and Saturday Night, an electric guitar leaps into the mix, sounding like the musical equivalent of a match being struck.  The solos stir up the songs' heat and the pervading sense of danger and dis-ease, accomplishing much of what Bigham's previous album sought to do without the desperation. 

Next Episode, we'll set the stage for some of the promising releases of the early year, including a glimpse into new collections by the likes of Legendary Shack Shakers, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Cody Canada and more. 


*  John Murry, "Penny Nails"  Graceless Age  (Evangeline, 13)
*  Shovels & Rope, "After the Storm"  Swimmin' Time  (Dualtone, 14)
*  Joe Pug, "If Still It Can't Be Found"  Windfall  (Lightning Rod, 15)
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Looking For a Place To Land"  Absent Fathers  (Vagrant, 15)
*  Blitzen Trapper, "Shine On (live)"  Live In Portland  (LidKerCow, 14)  D
*  Liz Vice, "Pure Religion"  There's a Light  (Deeper Well, 14)
*  Leon Bridges, "Better Man"  single  (Leon Bridges, 14)
*  Bettye LaVette, "Unbelievable"  Worthy  (Cherry Red, 15)  D
*  Allison Moorer, "Down To Believing"  Down To Believing  (E1, 15)
*  Eliot Bronson, "New Pain"  Eliot Bronson  (Saturn5, 14)
*  Barr Brothers, "Give the Devil Back His Heart"  Barr Brothers  (Secret City, 11)
*  Gillian Welch, "Honey Now"  Hell Among the Yearlings  (Acony, 98)
*  Lachlan Bryan & the Wildes, "Deathwish Country"  Black Coffee  (Lachlan Bryan, 14)  D
*  M Lockwood Porter, "Restless"  27  (M Lockwood Porter, 14)
*  Strange Americans, "Blood Is Gold"  That Kind of Luster  (Strange Americans, 14)  C
*  Todd Adelman, "Ghost Train"  Highways & Lowways  (Porch Lantern, 14)  C
*  Roger Alan Wade, "Yellow House In the Country"  Bad News Knockin'  (Knoxville, 15)
*  Lisa LeBlanc, "You Look Like Trouble"  Highways Heartaches & Time Well Wasted  (Bonsound, 14)
*  Wilco, "I'm the Man Who Loves You (live)"  Alpha Mike Foxtrot  (Nonesuch, 14)
*  Frazey Ford, "You Got Religion"  Indian Ocean  (Nettwerk, 14)
*  Longest Day of the Year, "Last Gray Day"  Carapace  (Mulewax, 15)  C
*  Cale Tyson, "Borrowed Love (To Go)"  Cheater's Wine  (Cale Tyson, 14)
^  Ryan Bingham, "Snow Falls In June"  Fear and Saturday Night  (Axster Bingham, 15)
*  Whitehorse, "Sweet Disaster"  Leave No Bridge Unburned  (Six Shooter, 15)
*  Gretchen Peters, "Blackbirds"  Blackbirds  (Scarlet Letter, 15)  D
*  Deep Dark Woods, "Red Red Rose"  Jubilee  (Sugar Hill, 13)
*  Horse Feathers, "Old Media"  So It Is With Us  (Kill Rock Stars, 14)
*  Cracker, "Get On Down the Road"  Berkeley To Bakersfield  (429, 14)

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