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Sunday, September 06, 2015

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
September 5, 2015
Scott Foley

What does "retro" mean anyway?  And if you've embraced a "retro" sound, how does one make the choice to emulate a band like Dire Straits?  Why doesn't anybody try to sound like Ambrosia?  Who is today's England Dan & John Ford Coley?  I heard somewhere that we'll always think of the music we enjoyed at 17 years old as that time when music was good.  This certainly goes a long way to explain the amount of time I spend listening to the 70s and 80s channels on my Sirius radio ...  And the emotion I invested in listening to KC & the Sunshine Band's "Please Don't Go" on my way to the station today.

It's near impossible to overlook the retro influence of Nashville's Los Colognes on their sophomore record Dos.  Early Dire Straits is all over the sextet's sound, from Jay Rutherford's reedy drawl to those indelible guitar lines. Despite the fact that every review I've found has pointed out that Knopflerian elephant in the room, the appeal of Los Colognes lies more in the cool, removed spirit of their songs.  To quote the band's own assessment: 
" ... it’s an earnest collection of songs centered around where we are at as people in our 30’s in a band. We still work crappy service industry jobs. We still haven’t figured out love.  We still don’t know when the Cubs will win the Series. But we press along, excited for tres, cuatro, cinco and beyond.”
What makes songs like "Baby You Can't Have Both" and "Backseat Driver" so effective, in part, is that there's little these days that draws from that cool, satisfying stream of 70s country rock.  Los Colognes' breezy jam grooves sometimes ring like a younger, more focused Grateful Dead, with slide guitar, keys and rhythms chugging just enough to stay on the tracks.  While Dos features definite, pure americana moments, the overall vibe owes more to the pop and rock side of their musical equation, as evidenced by the bright keyboards of "Take It" or the angular guitars that drive "All That You Know".  Moments like the smooth "Hard To Remember" recall contemporary acts like Dawes, whose retro country draws from a Northern California locale.  But spend some time with the southern boogie of "Cherry" and you'll understand why they've earned a spot in my R&B rotation.  Moments like this, I hear more of a direct line from Los Colognes to seminal stuff like Flying Burrito Brothers than I hear in most of the other bands that I play that deliberately trace their lineage to those roots.  It's also what I think makes R&B unique in the universe of roots leaning radio. 

Also this Episode, we enjoy the return of Los Lobos after an absence of more than five years.  And Donnie Fritts has been missing for longer than some listeners have been alive.  Under the production of John Paul White, our first glimpse of his Oh My Goodness features guitar from Jason Isbell and backing vocals from John Prine.  And a second strong song from Supersuckers' Holdin' the Bag (this one a duet with Lydia Loveless) raises our hopes for a welcome return to form. 

* Patty Griffin, "Gunpowder"  Servant Of Love  (Thirty Tigers, 15)
* Arliss Nancy, "Vonnegut"  Wild American Runners  (Black Numbers, 13)  C
* Drag the River, "Shaky Ground"  We're All Criminals Here: a Tribute To Uncle Tupelo  (Chapel, 15) D, C
* Uncle Tupelo, "Sandusky"  March 16-20, 1992  (Blue Plate, 92)
* White Buffalo, "Chico"  Love & the Death Of Damnation  (Unison, 15)
* Dave & Phil Alvin, "Please Please Please"  Lost Time  (Yep Roc, 15)
* Los Lobos, "Too Small Heart"  Gates Of Gold  (429, 15)  D
* Deslondes, "Time To Believe In"  Deslondes  (New West, 15)
* Ana Egge, "Dreamer"  Bright Shadow  (Parkinsong, 15)
* Corb Lund, "Weight Of the Gun"  Things That Can't Be Undone  (New West, 15)
* Neko Case, "Soulful Shade Of Blue"  Tigers Have Spoken  (Anti, 04)
* Will Johnson, "(Make Us Feel Like) Kings"  Swan City Vampires  (Undertow, 15)
^ Los Colognes, "All That You Know"  Dos  (Theory 8, 15)  D
* Damn Quails, "Oklahoma Blue"  Out Of the Birdcage  (Damn Quails, 15)
* Donnie Fritts, "Tuscaloosa 1962"  Oh My Goodness  (Single Lock, 15) D
* Drunken Prayer, "Echo Of a Heavy Slamming Door"  Devil & the Blues  (Fluff & Gravy, 15)
* Fernando, "Kingdom Come"  Leave the Radio On  (Fluff & Gravy, 15)
* Supersuckers, "I Can't Cry (w/Lydia Loveless)"  Holdin' the Bag  (Acetate, 15)
* Leon Bridges, "River"  Coming Home  (Sony, 15)
* Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, "Full Moon In a Daylight Sky"  Under the Savage Sky  (Bloodshot, 15)
* James Leg, "Dirty South"  Below the Belt  (Alive Naturalsound, 15)
* Benjamin Booker, "Always Waiting"  Benjamin Booker  (ATO, 14)
* Martha Scanlan, "Shape Of Things Gone Missing ..."  Shape Of Things Gone Missing ...  (Up On the Divide, 15)
* Lucero, "I'm In Love With a Girl"  All a Man Should Do  (ATO, 15)
* Turnpike Troubadours, "Bird Hunters"  Turnpike Troubadours  (Bossier City, 15)
* Legendary Shack Shakers, "Down To the Bone"  Southern Surreal  (Alt.Tentacles, 15)
* Joe Fletcher, "Florence Alabama"  You've Got the Wrong Man  (Joe Fletcher, 14)
* Jamie Lin Wilson, "Nighttime Blues"  Holidays & Wedding Rings  (JLW, 15)
* Phil Cook, "Ain't It Sweet"  Southland Mission  (Thirty Tigers, 15)
* Samantha Crain, "Kathleen"  Under Branch & Thorn & Tree  (Full Time Hobby, 15)
* Wilco, "Poor Places (live)"  Kicking Television  (Nonesuch, 06)

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