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Wednesday, October 28, 2015



ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
October 24, 2015
Scott Foley

Something tells me that the Yawpers won't end well.  It's not just the handmade video for "Doing It Right", which features more splattered blood than your average high school Halloween haunted house.  And it's certainly a stroke of great fortune that the Colorado band's new record has been released with big fanfare by Bloodshot Records (which is where it belongs).  Nearly every song sounds like the preamble to a late night rumble. 

The Yawpers largely grew up on KRFC, the radio home for Routes & Branches.  Nate Cook and co. played numerous instudios, concerts and fundraising shows for the station since their 2011 debut EP.  Their 2012 Capon Crusade landed among my favorite albums for the year.  A bunch has happened over the past 3+ years, with the band touring hungrily and tightening up their roots-punk yowl just enough.  Their Bloodshot debut, American Man, is both a remarkable burst of blood fueled energy and the sound of an artist growing into their art.  At least a pint of the praise belongs to Colorado producer Johnny Hickman, who succeeds admirably in taking what can be a brash and crashing sonic mess and teasing out each of the elements for an unexpectedly clean and crisp product that sacrifices none of its fury in the process.

While the trio's reputation was rightly established on the merits of their storm of noise, American Man features a more diverse sound, from the cynical title cut's rootsy blues to the unexpectedly upbeat, acoustic ode to "Beale Street". "Burdens" builds on Jesse Parmet's soulfully picked acoustic blues, driving towards an angry driving stomp against a small town that "eats up your heart / and it spits away your dreams". "Faith and Good Judgment" allows for another moment of quiet introspection.  Granted, the collection never shies from their ratted roots.  The Yawpers' "Deacon Brodie" rolls through like a steamrolled take on your grandpa's traditional folk, run off the rails and through the depot walls.  

The true victory in American Man belongs to frontman Nate Cook.  Aside from his celebrated trachea-shredding vocals, Cook is developing a deceptively nimble touch as a workingman's lyricist.  Back to "Burdens":  "My journey will be endless / My voice will shake your bones / But at least I'll have a story / This world has never known".  Cook can stumble into the kind of self-awareness that is rare for a young tough.  In the midst of the sharp-edged shuffle, "Walter":  "I've never been pretty / I've never had charm / But I go to a place I get by. / If you take my hand friend I'll stay a child / If you don't I'm a full grown man".  Even as I praised the Yawpers' earlier work, I recognized that the band was a step or two away from self-sabotage.  True, punk isn't punk if it's pretty.  Danger and unease are an essential part of the equation in a band like Cook's.  I'm cautiously encouraged by American Man, however, and we should be eager to follow the trio's story as they cope with the bright lights of relative success - ie, landing near the top of the Routes & Branches year-end favorites list ...  

Also in this Episode,  more than your share of Colorado stuff.  We continue our excavation of a couple fine singer-songwriter records from Aaron Lee Tasjan and Willy Tea Taylor.  We get our clammy hands on the new and unexpected Delines disc.  And we enjoy a longago demo from Son Volt's iconic alt.country watermark. 

* Phil Cook, "Belong"  Southland Mission  (Thirty Tigers, 15)
* Staves, "Tongue Behind My Teeth"  Dead & Born & Grown  (Warner, 12)
* James McMurtry, "Big Things"  Cold & Bitter Tears: Songs Of Ted Hawkins  (Eight 30, 15)
* Von Stomper, "Bow Legged Woman"  Americado  (Von Stomper, 15)  C
* Futurebirds, "twentyseven"  Hotel Parties  (Easy Sound, 15)
* Tin Horn Prayer, "Stumble"  Grapple the Rails  (Paper + Plastik, 12)  C
* Mount Moriah, "Calvander"  single  (Merge, 15)
* Israel Nash, "LA Lately"  Silver Season  (Loose, 15)
* Stoney Spring, "Soul Song For Deaf Boy"  Don't Let Me Die At Coco's  (Anthony Lacques, 15)  D
^ Yawpers, "American Man"  American Man  (Bloodshot, 15)  C
* Legendary Shack Shakers, "One That Got Away"  Southern Surreal  (Alt.Tentacles, 15)
* Hailey Whitters, "One More Hell"  Black Sheep  (Carnival, 15)
* Ryan Adams, "I Know Places"  1989  (PaxAm, 15)
* Bottle Rockets, "Something Good"  South Broadway Athletic Club  (Bloodshot, 15)
* Drive-by Truckers, "Women Without Whiskey (live)"  It's Great To Be Alive  (ATO, 15)
* Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "I've Been Failing"  Night Sweats  (Stax, 15)  C
* Noah Gundersen, "Jealous Love"  Carry the Ghost  (Dualtone, 15)
* Patty Griffin, "Snake Charmer"  Servant Of Love  (Thirty Tigers, 15)
* Son Volt, "Windfall (demo)"  Trace: 20th Anniversary Edition  (Rhino, 15)  D
* Aaron Lee Tasjan, "Lucinda's Room"  In the Blazes  (First of 3, 15)
* Todd Snider, "Waco Moon"  New Connection  (Oh Boy, 02)
* Donnie Fritts, "Lay It Down"  Oh My Goodness  (Single Lock, 15)
* Edward David Anderson, "Jimmy & Bob & Jack"  Lower Alabama: the Loxley Sessions  (Royal Potato Family, 15)  D
* Delines, "Sunshine"  Scenic Sessions  (El Cortez, 15)
* Willy Tea Taylor, "Knuckleball Prime"  Knuckleball Prime  (Blackwing, 15)
* Will Johnson, "Multnomah"  Swan City Vampires  (Undertow, 15)
* Whitney Rose, "Devil Borrowed My Boots"  Heartbreaker Of the Year  (Cameron House, 15)
* Elvis Costello, "Lovable"  King Of America  (Ryko, 86)
* Turnpike Troubadours, "Long Drive Home"  Turnpike Troubadours  (Bossier City, 15)

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