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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

a home for the americana diaspora
November 28, 2015
Scott Foley

Perhaps moreso than in other genres, there are proportionately more male/female duos in our kind of music.  Go ahead.  Start a list.  This year alone we've been graced with quality product from mixed duos like Honey Honey, Dave Rawlings Machine, David Wax Museum, Jessica Lea Mayfield and Seth Avett, Emmylou and Rodney, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, Striking Matches and Many Many More.  Just this last week or two, we let in two additional factors to this equation in Cicada Rhythm's self titled studio debut and Shovels & Rope's unexpected Busted Jukebox Vol. 1

Both members of Athens' Cicada Rhythm boast beautifully unusual voices.  Plot Dave Kirslis somewhere between Joe Henry and Oliver Wood, with a croon that can be applied to jazz, blues or country with equally satisfactory results.  Partner Andrea DeMarcus might be more difficult to chart, perhaps akin to Kate Bush, had she grown up steeped in the musical flavors of the American South.  Instrumentally, the sounds of Cicada Rhythm are constructed around Kirslis' confidently eclectic guitar and DeMarcus' acoustic bass.  The product is deceptively more than the sum of its parts, as demonstrated  in "Round Yellow Suitcase".  Beginning like a folk-jazz quartet in a lazy French cafe, the tune evolves into a full out country-soul charmer.  Songs take their own sweet time establishing a groove, typically beginning in a more traditional vein only to spill over into unexpected territory.  "Dirty Hound" and "The Farmer" combine the dangerous looseness of the Felice Brothers with the blues and soul tendencies of the Wood Brothers, maybe as overseen by T Bone Burnett.  Try the sweetly lilting "Walking Late" for a glimpse into the unique vocal gifts of Andrea DeMarcus.  The closing cut, "Ms. Eloise", offers the record's most adventurous moment, with the voices of random ghosts haunting the session for a Southern-gothic spirit.

Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope have built a strong reputation over the space of just a pair of excellent records.  Seemingly out of nowhere, the duo dropped Busted Jukebox Volume 1  this month, featuring a satisfying mix of familiar and left-field covers performed with a saloon full of famous friends.  Neil Young's classic "Unknown Legend" is delivered with Shakey Graves, while Nick Lowe's "Peace Love and Understanding" is given a reverent treatment with some help from the heavenly voices of Lucius.  The real fun that lifts this Jukebox above other star studded tributes comes from the unexpected numbers.  Butch Walker joins S&R for a stomping garage attack on his own "Bullet Belt", while J Roddy Walston fuels a rowdy romp through his "Boys Can Never Tell".  Raise your hand if you were expecting a Shovels & Rope / Milk Carton Kids collab on the Guns & Roses hit, "Patience", or maybe a take on a second-tier Nine Inch Nails song.  What sells this generous mixed bag is the ragged and off-the-cuff nature of the sessions.  The sonic risks Trent and Hearst take on pieces like the haunted New Orleans approach to Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" make Busted Jukebox more than a between  releases lark. 

Let's promise one another to set a date for Saturday, December 12, when I'll be sharing my 2015 favorites list with only my best friends.  I'm presently in the process of finessing my finalists and hosting a deep and abiding guilt about what I've left off.  The final product will have you buzzing for months!  Honest. 

* GospelbeacH, "Sunshine Skyway"  Pacific Surf Line  (Alive Naturalsound, 15)
* Son Volt, "Route"  Trace: 20th Anniversary (Rhino, 15)
* Joey Kneiser, "The Wildness" The Wildness  (This Is American Music, 15)
* Peter Case, "If I Go Crazy" HWY 62  (Omnivore, 15)
* Jonathan Tyler w/Nikki Lane, "To Love Is To Fly"  Holy Smokes (Thirty Tigers, 15)
^ Shovels & Rope w/J Roddy Walston, "Boys Can Never Tell" Busted Jukebox Volume 1  (Dualtone, 15)
* Christopher Paul Stelling, "Hard Work" Labor Against Waste  (Anti, 15)
* Fifth On the Floor, "Angels In the Snow (Shangri-La Version)" & After  (FotF, 15)
* Aaron Lee Tasjan, "Sixty-Six Dollar Blues" In the Blazes  (First of 3, 15)
* Eric Church, "Mr Misunderstood" Mr Misunderstood  (EMI, 15)
* Doug Sahm & Friends, "T for Texas (live)" Austin TX 1972  (Armadillo World HQ, 72)
* Yawpers, "9 to 5" American Man  (Bloodshot, 15)  C
* New Ben Franklins, "Beautiful Queen"  Something Old Something New  (NBF, 15)  C, D
* Mekons w/Robbie Fulks, "Refill" Jura  (Bloodshot, 15)
* Carrie Rodriguez, "Mask Of Moses"  She Ain't Me  (Back Porch, 08)
* Avett Brothers, "Love Like the Movies (live)"  Live Volume 2  (Ramseur, 05)
* Simone Felice, "You & I Belong (live)" From the Violent Banks of the Kaaterskill  (Mighty Hudson, 15)
* Pollies, "Lost" Not Here  (Single Lock, 15)
* Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Down Home Country Blues" A Enlightenment B Endarkenment ... (Bordello, 10)
* Hurray For the Riff Raff, "Little Black Star" Look Out Mama  (Loose, 11)
* Futurebirds, "Hotel Parties"  Hotel Parties  (Easy Sound, 15)
* Promised Land Sound, "Through the Seasons"  For Use and Delight  (Paradise of Bachelors, 15)
* Edward David Anderson, "One At a Timin'"  Lower Alabama: Loxley Sessions  (Royal Potato Family, 15)
* Felice Brothers, "Carriage"  Felice Navidad  (Felice, 15)  D
* Craig Finn, "Saint Peter Upside Down" Faith In the Future  (Partisan, 15)
* Buddy Miller w/Nikki Lane, "Just Someone I Used To Know" Cayamo Sessions At Sea  (New West, 16)  D
* Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "World Of Love"  It's a Holiday Soul Party  (Daptone, 15)  D

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