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Thursday, February 25, 2016

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
a home for the americana diaspora
February 20, 2016
Scott Foley


From Caleb Caudle, Carolina Ghost goes down so smooth, a warm and familiar dose of Southern americana that immediately soothes the ears and stirs the soul.  It's the sort of country rock that once floated effortlessly from 1970s and early 80s radios, with resonant vocals, unforgettable lyrics and pedal steel that sounds like a warm spring Sunday.  2014's Paint Another Layer On My Heart showed a great deal of promise, spreading the word about a Southern writer able to wield words and tell stories in an uncommonly confident voice.  Ghost actually takes a simpler route to the heart, building bridges with simple arrangements of lazy pedal steel and wurlitzer.  "Uphill Battle" is one of the record's more restrained cuts, but it demonstrates some of Caleb Caudle's most appealing qualities, along with a deep romantic streak:  "If you can't make it all the way I will meet you / If there's something you don't understand I'll learn it for you / And if the sadness is overwhelming lay your head on my thighs / I will be there in the morning like I am tonight." "Broken Hallelujah" paints on the same canvas, while boosting the tempo just enough and adding some steel soloing just this side of cheesy.  It's this pared back simplicity that is so appealing, songs that play with the restraint of JJ Cale but with the lyrical prowess of John Moreland or Jason Isbell.  But where Isbell might dive into emotional depths, Caudle's images harken to a simpler day:  "Feathers fall and seasons change / We'll grow old with grace / Red wine stain on a white dove's wing".  Carolina Ghost might not dazzle with its originality, but it quickly establishes the kind of instant rapport that's rare in a contemporary album.  Caudle's release is the newest gem from This Is American Music, a 3-man operation that's already received a disproportionate amount of play on R&B broadcasts:  Joey Kneiser, Have Gun Will Travel, Great Peacock, Fire Mountain.  It doesn't seem fair, and in all honesty there's not a stronger label for this sort of "Southern indie" music.

This week marks another 7 days that we haven't had a chance to formally review Parker Millsap's excellent sophomore release, The Very Last Day.  We'll try to rectify that oversight ...  Also, please know that I'll never (ever) pass up an opportunity to share a rare new Maria McKee track, this one from a stellar collection in praise of Blind Willie Johnson.  Our first glance at Austin Lucas' new record reveals a bit of a different sound, and we wrap it up with some Southern rock 'n soul from Lukas Nelson, The Greyhounds and The Roosevelts (no relation).  On a related note, it's only late February and I'm beginning to worry about a lack of space near the top of my favorites list for 2016 ...

- Heartless Bastards, "Low Low Low" Arrow  (Partisan, 12)
- Mount Moriah, "Baby Blue" How to Dance  (Merge, 16)
- Hollis Brown, "Train Comin' Round" Gets Loaded  (Alive Naturalsound, 14)
- Waco Brothers, "Orphan Song" Going Down In History  (Bloodshot, 16)
- Harvest Thieves, "Bob Dylan's 78th Hangover" Rival  (Holy Mt Sounds, 16)
- Parker Millsap, "Hades Pleads" Very Last Day  (Thirty Tigers, 16)
- Dori Freeman, "Go On Lovin'" Dori Freeman  (Free Dirt, 16)
- Malcolm Holcombe, "Another Black Hole" Another Black Hole  (Gypsy Eyes, 16)
- Left Arm Tan, "Wild Wind" Lorene  (LAT, 16)
- Chuck Ragan w/Jon Snodgrass, "Cover Me Gently" Flame In the Flood  (Ten Four, 16)
- Freakwater, "What the People Want" Scheherazade  (Bloodshot, 16)
- Handsome Family, "Flapping Your Broken Wings" Last Days Of Wonder  (Carrot Top, 06)
- Aubrie Sellers, "Light Of Day" New City Blues  (Thirty Tigers, 16)
- Paul Burch, "Cadillacin'" Meridian Rising  (Plowboy, 16)
- Mavis Staples, "Dedicated" Livin' On a High Note  (Anti, 16)
- Maria McKee, "Let Your Light Shine On Me" God Don't Never Change: Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson  (Alligator, 16)  D
- Brad Armstrong, "Them Old Crows" Empire  (Cornelius Chapel, 16)  D
- Jason Isbell, "Flagship" Something More Than Free  (Southeastern, 15)
- Cody Jinks, "Cast No Stones" Adobe Sessions  (Jinks, 15)
- Austin Lucas, "Unbroken Hearts" Between the Moon and the Midwest  (Last Chance, 16)  D
- Morgane Stapleton w/Chris Stapleton, "You Are My Sunshine" Southern Family  (Elektra, 16)
- Loretta Lynn, "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven" Full Circle  (Sony, 16)
- Lukas Nelson & Promise Of the Real, "Something Real" Something Real  (Royal Potato, 16)  D
- Nick Lowe, "Without Love" Labour Of Lust  (Yep Roc, 79)
- Greyhounds, "Devil's Eyes" Change Of Pace  (Ardent, 16)  D
- Roosevelts, "Peaches" Greatest Thing You'll Ever Learn  (Roosevelts, 16)  D
- Two Gallants, "Ribbons Round My Tongue" Two Gallants  (Saddle Creek, 07)

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