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Thursday, January 21, 2016

ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
January 16, 2016
Scott Foley

When I am heralded into heaven, I expect my angels will sound like Catherine Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean of Freakwater.  I thought I might have to wait until that glorious moment to hear their otherworldly harmonies again, since the last Freakwater record, Thinking Of You was released a decade ago.  Scheherazade marks only their 8th full length since their 1989 debut, and it's released on Bloodshot Records after a lifelong allegiance to the Thrill Jockey label.  Voices like Bean's and Irwin's only get richer and more interesting with time, as demonstrated on the new record's slower tracks such as the country flavored waltz, "Number One With a Bullet" or the curiously named "Bolshevik and Bollweevil".  What Freakwater has always done better than almost anyone is to draw a splendid line between the Carter Family and punk, incorporating the spirit of both without irony or cliche.  Fuzzy electric guitar is as prominent throughout the collection as the trad fiddle.  Songs like "Asp and the Albatross" or "Velveteen Matador" occupy the album's alt.country lane, while "What the People Want" and "Skinny Knee Bone" are more backroads folk.  For its range and its energy, Scheherazade comes across as Freakwater's strongest release at least since 1999's End Times.  It's the perfectly flawed sound that has fueled Routes & Branches since its inception, embracing both the edge in genuine folk and country music and the possible beauty in the spirit of punk. 

Also here is a brief but stirring Water Liars revival, including a look into Andrew Bryant's solo record that I apparently missed a year ago.  Ever wonder what a Loretta Lynn/Todd Snider/Elvis Costello hybrid might sound like?  Wait no further.  Loretta can apparently still write and sing like an angel.  And it's been 30 years since the Brothers Escovedo collaborated with Jon Dee Graham on the seminal True Believers record.  Of course, Alejandro went on to become one of the key artists in our kind of music, called No Depression's Artist of the Decade for the 1990s and played a whole bunch on Routes & Branches.  Javier struggled with personal demons and releases his second solo effort soon, Kicked Out Of Eden

* Andrew Bryant, "My Own Saving Grace" This Is the Life  (Sleep, 15)
* Water Liars, "Ray Charles Dream" Water Liars  (Fat Possum, 14)
* Water Liars, "Let It Breathe" Water Liars  (Fat Possum, 14)
* Caleb Caudle, "Piedmont Sky" Carolina Ghost  (This Is American Music, 16)
* Joey Kneiser, "For the Good Life" The Wildness  (This Is American Music, 15)
* Marlon Williams, "Hello Miss Lonesome" Marlon Williams  (Dead Oceans, 16)  D
^ Freakwater, "Velveteen Matador" Scheherazade  (Bloodshot, 16)
* John Doe & Exene Cervenka, "Sound Of Coming Down" Singing and Playing  (Moonlight Graham, 12)
* Jeffrey Foucault, "Hurricane Lamp" Salt As Wolves  (Blueblade, 15)
* Tom VandenAvond w/Larry & His Flask, "55 Sullivan Place" Endtimes  (Hillgrass Bluebilly, 14)
* Kelly Hogan & Nora O'Connor are Lady Parts, "Me Myself and Wine" Bloodshot Six Pack To Go  (Bloodshot, 15)
* Waco Brothers, "Had Enough" Going Down In History  (Bloodshot, 16)
* Aubrie Sellers, "Loveless Rolling Stone" New City Blues  (Thirty Tigers, 16)
* Brennen Leigh, "My Baby Is a Tramp" Sings Lefty Frizzell  (Brennen Leigh, 15)
* Luther Dickinson, "Up Over Yonder" Blues & Ballads  (New West, 16)
* Holmes Brothers, "You're Good For Me" Promised Land  (Rounder, 97)
* Drive-by Truckers, "Primer Coat (live)" It's Great To Be Alive!  (ATO, 15)
* Reckless Kelly, "American Blood" Bulletproof  (Yep Roc, 08)
* eXcavators, "World Coming To An End" The eXcavators  (Rusty Knuckles, 16)  D
* Chuck Ragan & the Camaraderie, "Nomad By Fate (live)" Winter Haul Live  (Ten Four, 16)  D
* Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, "Sidelong" Sidelong  (Disarmers, 15)
* Smooth Hound Smith, "Forever Cold" Sweet Tennessee Honey  (SHS, 16)
* Pines, "Aerial Ocean" Above the Prairie  (Red House, 16)
* Chris Knight, "Another Dollar" Heart Of Stone  (Drifter's Church, 08)
* Miranda Lambert, "Sweet By and By" Southern Family  (Low Country Sound, 16)
* Loretta Lynn, "Everything It Takes" Full Circle  (Sony, 16)  D
* Richmond Fontaine, "Wake Up Ray" You Can't Go Back If There's Nothing To Go Back To  (Fluff & Gravy, 16)
* King Mud, "Keep It Out Of Sight" Victory Motel Sessions  (Alive Natural Sound, 15)
* Ron Pope & the Nighthawks, "Hell Or High Water" Ron Pope & the Nighthawks  (Brooklyn Basement, 15)
* Buddy Miller w/Elizabeth Cook, "If Teardrops Were Pennies" Cayamo Sessions At Sea  (New West, 16)
* Javier Escovedo, "It Ain't Easy" Kicked Out Of Eden  (Saustex, 16)  D

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