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Monday, July 06, 2015

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
July 4, 2015  ('merica!)
Scott Foley

Last week's post took a guess at some of the finest stuff 2015 has had to offer to date.  Did I forget things?  Of course I forgot things.  Houndmouth's second release, Little Neon Limelight strikes a sweet balance between roots and pop elements.  And Honey Honey's aptly titled 3 merits the attention paid to Shovels & Rope as another duo capable of Great and Loud Things.  Plus, why didn't I include Dwight Yoakam's umpteenth near-perfect collection, Second Hand Heart?  Hint: DY is so consistently good that we tend to take him for granted.  We also owe a deep bow of gratitude to Howe Gelb and Giant Sand for assuring that our kind of music remains interesting, eclectic and ... well, good and weird.

As is my tradition, I choose to celebrate July 4th with a set of theme-free music (well, there is that Rev. Peyton thing).  A closer examination of the playlist below will confirm that Dave Alvin's "Fourth of July" does not make an appearance.  There's a fair chance that R&B is the sole american-ish broadcast where this is the case.  You're welcome  (Sure, it's a great song, but I've always prided myself for only being predictable around Christmastime ...).  Instead, this Episode simply celebrates the great diversity that is Routes & Branches - waving the star spangled flag of all things good and gritty.  New material from the uber-soulful Anderson East, as well as more New Orleans music from the Revivalists.  And two (2) cuts from that young Isbell fellow.

It's been a good 6 years since an album by Austinite Lee Barber crossed my proverbial desk.  Thief and Rescue earned some strong spins on R&B back in 2009.  When Barber recently contacted me regarding a followup,  I greeted the album gladly ... then let it rattle around in my Bag of Musical Wonder for a couple weeks.  My bad.  After a reminder email from the artist, I made a point of feeding it into the CD player on my way to the station.  I'm quoted on Barber's site saying that Thief is "understated but excellent" (really a pretty vanilla quote as far as quotes go ...).  Good news is that Lee Barber's Missing Pages finds the artist remaining both "understated" and "excellent" (to quote myself).  With a decidedly light touch on production and arrangement, the new songs are given generous space within which to resonate, similar to a jazz record.  Even on the CD's heaviest cut, the bluesy "Singing Boy Preacher", there is such a separation between the fuzz guitars, sloppy drums and Lou Reed-flat vocals:  "There ain't a lot of conversation / Between a butcher and a hog".  Like Joe Henry, Barber's songs ring with a romanticism and musical confidence more typical of a veteran comfortable in his skin.  "Don't Talk" features a sweet duet with Sahara Smith who, along with Dana Falconberry, provides backing vocals throughout the collection.  The coffeeshop blues of "Fall Away" demonstrates the humor and restraint of Richard Thompson, with an electric guitar on the brink of distortion but brushed with a gentle hand.  "Coffee At Night" is a close backwoods cousin to "Whiter Shade of Pale" (which is itself borrowed from Bach) in its loose recklessness and tuneful progression:  "A matchbook kiss / A telephone number on a grocery list / You didn't call ...".  Once again, it's Lee Barber being both understated and excellent - bringing to mind Austin royalty like Alejandro Escovedo and Jon Dee Graham.  Missing Pages is a an album created by a musical impressionist, a work that is playful and held together by splashes of mood and color.

*  Jason Isbell, "Life You Chose"  Something More Than Free  (Southeastern, 15)
*  Jason Isbell, "How To Forget"  Something More Than Free  (Southeastern, 15)
*  Houndmouth, "15 Years"  Little Neon Limelight  (Rough Trade, 15)
*  Reckless Kelly, "Stayed Up All Night Again"  Good Luck & True Love  (No Big Deal, 11)
*  Deslondes, "I Fought the Blues and Won"  The Deslondes  (New West, 15)
*  Kasey Chambers, "Too Late To Save Me"  Bittersweet  (Sugar Hill, 15)
*  Jackie Greene, "Silver Lining"  Back To Birth  (Yep Roc, 15)
*  Rhett Miller, "My Little Disaster"  the Traveler  (ATO, 15)
*  Avett Brothers, "When I Drink"  the Gleam  (Ramseur, 06)
*  Langhorne Slim & the Law, "Changes"  the Spirit Moves  (Dualtone, 15)
*  Hollis Brown, "Highway 1 (w/Nikki Lane)"  3 Shots  (Hollis Brown, 15)
*  Son Volt, "Roll On"  American Central Dust  (Rounder, 09)
*  Anderson East, "Satisfy Me"  Delilah  (Elektra, 15)  D
*  Honey Honey, "Bad People" 3  (New West, 15)
*  Dwight Yoakam, "Dreams Of Clay"  Second Hand Heart  (Reprise, 15)
*  Drive-by Truckers, "Love Like This"  Pizza Deliverance  (New West, 99)
*  Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band, "St Nick On the 4th In a Fervor"  While No One Was Looking  (Bloodshot, 14)
*  Revivalists, "Keep Going"  Men Amongst Mountains  (Wind-Up, 15)  D
*  John Moreland, "White Flag"  High On Tulsa Heat  (Old Omens, 15)
*  Samantha Crain, "Big Rock"  Under Branch & Thorn & Tree  (Full Time Hobby, 15)
*  Billy Bragg & Wilco, "Hesitating Beauty"  Mermaid Avenue  (Elektra, 98)
*  T Hardy Morris, "Starting Gun"  Drownin' On a Mountaintop  (Dangerbird, 15)
^  Lee Barber, "Singing Boy Preacher"  Missing Pages  (Lee Barber, 15) D
*  Madisons, "So Long West Texas (edit)"  No One's Ever Gonna Know Your Name  (Madisons, 15)  D
*  Daniel Romano, "I'm Gonna Teach You"  If I've Only One Time Askin'  (New West, 15)
*  Iris Dement, "Listening To Singing"  Trackless Woods  (FlariElla, 15)
*  Old Crow Medicine Show, "Hard To Tell"  OCMS  (Nettwerk, 04)
*  Honeycutters, "Me Oh My"  Me Oh My  (Organic Records, 15) D

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