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Friday, June 17, 2016

featuring the very best of americna, and roots music
June 11, 2016
Scott Foley

There was a span of several years when I hosted both Routes & Branches and an eclectic "mix" show.  I drew a pretty sure line between the two, playing almost no americana music on my mix, filling it to the brim with all the roots-free genres I appreciate.  When I pared away my mix responsibilities, I missed flirting with all that stuff that wouldn't fit so neatly into my R&B sandbox.  While I've always carved a much wider musical swath with Routes than any other broadcast of which I'm aware, lately I find myself pushing harder than ever against those boundaries.  It all still holds together well to my ears, though I recognize that it's not  your grampa's americana broadcast.  Lately I've fallen for new stuff from Band of Horses, Diarrhea Planet, Low Anthem, Margaret Glaspy, Daniel Markham, Steve Gunn and too many more to mention.  I've been able to justify airing just a couple things from those releases, but sometimes I fear it may be too much of a musical whiplash to air an Appalachian hymn from Emmylou, Dolly and Linda on the same program I share a cut from Diarrhea Planet ...

Which all brings us to Whitney, fronted by former members of SmithWesterns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and sounding nothing like either of those bands.  Curiously, their debut, Light Upon the Lake, presently owns the top spot of the new Americana UK charts though it is not even on the radar for most americana radio.  Reportedly set to tape during a deep Chicago winter, Light may be the perfect soundtrack for a lazy summer.  While summer actually happens to be among of my four favorite seasons, it is by no means my Number One.  Nevertheless, there is such a distinct spirit to the season’s music that listeners yearly opine about THE song of the summer.  When was the last time you were moved to assemble a similar list for, say, Fall?  For my part, Whitney’s “No Matter Where We Go” is a smart bet for that honor.  Summer songs don’t spend too much time on lyrical brilliance:  I wanna take you out / I wanna drive around / With you with the windows down / And we can run all night.  Like the rest of Light Upon the Lake, it is built on a musical bed of nimble guitar lines, horns and Julien Ehrlich's fragile falsetto.  "The Falls" and "No Woman" are similarly upbeat, more indie pop 'n soul than roots, but you can see it from there.  There is a good natured sweetness to even the quieter cuts.  The title track sets forth in an almost pastoral folk spirit, a lazy day stony vibe lending itself to an introspection that asks, Will life get ahead of me?  "On My Own" favors a jazz driven guitar line, while "Red Moon" is a brief groove that foregoes vocals in favor of a simple jazz trumpet.  There is no keening pedal steel on Whitney's satisfying debut, no weepy violin or songs about whiskey 'n weed.  Very little goes twang, nothing is suitable for a drive around the sawdusted dancefloor, and the men of Whitney would be very out of their element in a honky tonk.  Nevertheless, "Golden Days" is all that I'm currently about.  Those golden days snuck away from us / Lately I've been close but I'm up to trouble / Those golden days keep you hanging on ... na na na na na na ... 

- Danny & the Champions of the World, "Sound of a Train" What Kind of Love  (Loose, 15)
- Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, "Midnight Special" Shine a Light  (Cooking Vinyl, 16)
- Shawn Colvin & Steve Earle, "Raise the Dead" Colvin & Earle  (Fantasy, 16)
- Matt Haeck, "Cotton Dress" Late Bloomer  (Blaster, 16)
- Lucero, "Hey Darlin' Do You Gamble" 1379 Overton Park  (Universal, 09)
- Arliss Nancy, "Finches" Greater Divides  (Arliss Nancy, 16)  C
- Quaker City Night Hawks, "Bible Black Lincoln" Torquila Torquila  (Wizardvision, 11)
- Quaker City Night Hawks, "Duendes" El Astronauta  (Lightning Rod, 16)
- Luke Bell, "Glory and the Grace" Luke Bell  (Thirty Tigers, 16)
- Kalispell, "Windfall" Printer's Son  (Cartouche, 16)
- Haunted Windchimes, "Banjo and the Bottle" Rattle Your Bones  (Blank Tape, 16)  C, D
- Justin Townes Earle, "One More Night In Brooklyn" Harlem River Blues  (Bloodshot, 10)
- Fernando, "Kingdom Come" Leave the Radio On  (Fluff & Gravy, 15)
- Honeycutters, "Back Row" On the Ropes  (Organic, 16)
- Avett Brothers, "Satan Pulls the Strings" True Sadness  (Republic, 16)
- Fruit Bats, "From a Soon-to-Be Ghost Town" Absolute Loser  (Easy Sound, 16)
- Devil Makes Three, "Drunken Hearted Man" Redemption & Ruin  (New West, 16)  D
- Steve Gunn, "Full Moon Tide" Eyes On the Lines  (Merge, 16)
- Sturgill Simpson, "Oh Sarah" Sailor's Guide to Earth  (Atlantic, 16)
- Hard Working Americans, "Roman Candles" Rest in Chaos  (Melvin, 16)
- Deslondes, "Tres Grand Serpent" single  (New West, 16)  D
- Jason Molina, "I'll Be Here In the Morning" Townes Van Zandt Covers  (Secretly Canadian, 16)  D
- Will Johnson, "Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue" Desperate Times: Songs of the Old 97s  (Jeff Neely, 16)  D
^ Whitney, "No Matter Where We Go" Light Upon the Lake  (Secretly Canadian, 16)  D
- Felice Brothers, "Plunder" Life in the Dark  (Yep Roc, 16)
- Wilco, "The Thanks I Get" Alpha Mike Foxtrot  (Nonesuch, 14)
- Bonnie Bishop, "Not Cause I Wanted To" Ain't Who I Was  (Plan BB, 16)

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