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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
May 16, 2015
Scott Foley

How can a guy who explores such dark recesses be so friendly?  I talked Wendell Berry, Mark Twain and Tom Robbins with William Elliott Whitmore and Mrs Whitmore this week, and got a couple excellent live cuts from WEW as well.  We talked family farms, mortality and radium poisoning, and tried to think of another Iowa artist besides Greg Brown.  Sometimes I go into these interviews a bit reluctant to give up the airspace, but more often than not the artists prove engaging and I go all Terry Gross on them and next thing I know we've eaten up half an hour.  

But there's still good ol' recorded music to be enjoyed, and this week we shed light on new stuff from Willie & Hag, Michael Dean Damron and Dead Confederate and Diamond Rugs contributor T Hardy Morris.  Left Lane Cruiser's Dirty Spliff Blues is becoming more promising with every unleashed cut, and I flirted with the notion of giving this week's review space to a much deserved reflection on Chris Stapleton's solo debut.

Instead, I decided to rejoice in the arrival of the complete Banditos record from our fine friends at Bloodshot. Based upon my theory of the Beards Per Band ratio, the Birmingham-by-way-of-Nashville sextet demanded my attention as soon as I saw the announcement of their debut.  The collection opens like a drunk man falling down some dark stairs, a full-tilt boogie that barely clings to the rail(ing)s.  The Banditos boast a trio of vocalists, including the natural force that is Mary Beth Richardson.  Our kind of music is packed with female vocalists who are soulful, sweet, sexy or slick, but it's the rare frontwoman who crosses over into the "ballsy" territory.  On "Waitin'" or the immeasurably bluesy "No Good" Richardson more than holds her own in that tangle of beards, coming across with all the attitude and ability of Janis.  It takes a capable instrumentalist to sound as reckless as the Banditos do throughout their album.  Guitars are hard and heavy, with drums and organ pounding away like the classic 60s blues-rock outfits.  A closer listen will be rewarded with frequent banjo sightings between all those electric strings.  "Still Sober (After All These Beers)" will compete with "Jesus Would've Let Me Pick the Restaurant" for 2015's best song title, not to mention all the chooglin' and flirtin' with disaster that one would expect from a Southern rock outfit.  More trad types might find relief in tunes like "Blue Mosey #2" or "Ain't It Hard", songs that are reduced to an acoustic simmer.  "Cry Baby Cry" could cure those ills, however, with shared vocals and a boogie piano that belongs in a dusty roadhouse somewhere.  This morning I heard old rockinghorse Roger Daltrey arguing that rock music was not dead, that it could be tracked to bars and small clubs across our country on any given night.  I would agree that acts like the Banditos are part of that underground contingent keeping the garage-born spirit of rock alive.


*  Ryan Adams, "Hardest Part (live)"  Live At Carnegie Hall  (PaxAm, 15)
*  Cat Power, "Willie"  the Greatest  (Matador, 06)
*  Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, "Unfair Weather Friend"  Django and Jimmie  (Columbia, 15)  D
*  Hayes Carll, "(I'm Gonna Start) Living Again If It Kills Me"  Lowe Country  (Fiesta Red, 12)
*  Kill County, "Neighbor Dogs"  Broken Glass In the Sun  (Kill County, 15)
*  T Hardy Morris, "My Me"  Drownin' On a Mountain Top  (Dangerbird, 15)  D
*  Amy Black, "Tighten Up"  Muscle Shoals Sessions  (Reuben, 15)
*  William Elliott Whitmore, "Civilizations"  live in studio
                     "Don't Strike Me Down"  live in studio
                     "Ain't Gone Yet"  live in studio 
*  Left Lane Cruiser, "Whitebread n' Beans"  Dirty Spliff Blues  (Alive Naturalsound, 15)
*  Michael Dean Damron, "20,000 Miles"  When the Darkness Come  (MDD, 15)  D
*  Jason Isbell, "24 Frames"  Something More Than Free  (Southeastern, 15)
*  Shinyribs, "Sacred & the Profane"  Okra Candy  (Mustard Lid, 15)
*  Whitey Morgan & the 78s, "Still Drunk Still Crazy Still Blue"  Sonic Ranch  (Whitey Morgan, 15)
*  Chris Stapleton, "Tennessee Whiskey"  Traveller  (Mercury, 15)
*  Great Peacock, "Desert Lark"  Making Ghosts  (This is American Music, 15)
*  Giant Sand, "Home Sweat Home"  Heartbreak Pass  (New West, 15)
*  Nikki Lane, "Can't Get Enough"  All or Nothin' (deluxe)  (New West, 14)
^  Banditos, "Blue Mosey #2"  Banditos  (Bloodshot, 15)
*  Tallest Man On Earth, "Slow Dance"  Dark Bird Is Home  (Dead Oceans, 15)
*  Houndmouth, "Say It"  Little Neon Limelight  (Rough Trade, 15)
*  John Moreland, "High On Tulsa Heat"  High On Tulsa Heat  (Old Omens, 15)
*  Caroline Spence, "Whiskey Watered Down"  Somehow  (Caroline Spence, 15)

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