a home for the americana diaspora
October 1, 2016
Scott Foley, Purveyor of Dust
When I die, do not mention grace / Don't speak of the sweet by and by / We'll live alone in a quiet place / The dirt the bells and I -- JPKS
As individual songs have become available, I've increasingly entertained the thought that Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster's Constant Stranger might just be a contender for record of the year. Now that the full thing has landed, my suspicions have been largely confirmed. As one-third of Oxford, MS's Water Liars, he's been responsible for three remarkable albums to date. He's recently mentioned a project in the works with Will Johnson, which would possibly fulfill all my musical needs ...
There's such an intimacy to songs like "Brake Dust", from the close and simple production to the lyrics. A fingerpicked acoustic, a descending piano line, and "Sunday morning / Choking on brake dust / Feeling me rust / How will I know / When I am broken and I've had enough". It's music may sound familiar to fans of Water Liars, though the hush is thicker and the sound more introspective.
When I decide what album I'm going to review for a given week, it will live with me in my car and in my office and on my laptop for several days. The songs on Constant Stranger are warm and immediately familiar, bringing to mind the late night yearning of Jason Molina with the folk roots of Joe Pug. Pieces like "Half Broke" twine the acoustic and electric, a moderate echo on the vocals. JPKS is unafraid of embracing a melodic line, though unexpected departures occur throughout in rhythms and musical choices. "Laid Low" features a gorgeous vocal and chiming melody that could've been written in 60s Greenwich Village : "I know it has been said / That man can't live on only bread / But somehow I've survived on smoke and gravel". Kinkel-Schuster's imagery is steeped in the everyday, but is also deeply poetic. From the terrific "Headed South": "Delta moon come hanging / A curving spine / In a sky the color / Of dark melon rind".
My highlight on Constant Stranger arrives with the record's final cut, "The Dirt, the Bells and I". As a fan of worthy lyrics, this is one I could cite at length, a song that achieves peace with, and even embraces the idea of mortality. This secular spirit pervades JPKS's songs, a biblical language that has more to do with the ghosts of the South than with the book on your shelf. "It ain't my place to comfort anyone", he sings on an earlier song. "It ain't my place to say whose will be done". Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster provided a subtly beautiful soundtrack for these first cold days of fall.
Thanks to once and future host of Tarnation! Andy D, who kept me company instudio during KRFC's twice-yearly membership drive. And special gratitude towards everyone who called to support Routes & Branches. If you've still got some change rattling around your cupholder, or if you weren't able to contribute during the show, you may still do so at the station's website.
Not a load of new stuff for this week's Episode. Most notably, Tami Neilson lends her powerhouse voice to a new collection of originals that brings to mind Neko Case as crossed with Linda Ronstadt at a tribute to Patsy Cline. Roughly. And let's agree right here that nobody does what Reckless Kelly do as well as the veteran band do it themselves. Certainly among the pantheon of the most consistently satisfying alt.country acts of the past decade.
And folks sometimes ask what I'm enjoying beyond the roots music borders. Nick Cave's Skeleton Tree is a soul shattering personal hymn of grief. Conor Oberst's captivating new solo record is built solely on guitar, piano and broken voice. Julia Jacklin is following in fellow Aussie Courtney Barnett's footsteps as a capable purveyor of punk-inflected rock. And take a listen to Say Yes! a Tribute to Elliott Smith, which features contributions from Julien Baker, Sun Kil Moon, Waxahatchee and others. Oh, and try the new Wovenhand record, Star Treatment, from hard roots genius David Eugene Edwards.
- Jesse Dayton, "Holy Ghost Rock n' Roller" The Revealer (Blue Elan, 16)
- Southern Culture On the Skids, "Smiley Yeah Yeah Yeah" Mojo Box (Yep Roc, 04)
- Shovels & Rope, "I Know" Little Seeds (New West, 16)
- Massy Ferguson, "Firewater" Run It Right Into the Wall (Proper, 16)
- Cody Jinks, "Give All You Can" I'm Not the Devil (Jinks, 16)
- Golden Smog, "Until You Came Along" Weird Tales (Ryko, 98)
- Drive-by Truckers, "Surrender Under Protest" American Band (ATO, 16)
- Matt Woods, "American Way" How To Survive (Last Chance, 16)
- Dexateens, "Eat Cornbread Raise Hell" Teenage Hallelujah (Cornelius Chapel, 16)
- Big Sandy, "Jumpin' From 6 to 6" Jumpin' From 6 to 6 (Hightone, 94)
- Reckless Kelly, "Radio" Sunset Motel (No Big Deal, 16)
- Tami Neilson, "Holy Moses" Don't Be Afraid (Outside, 16) D
- Luke Winslow-King, "Act Like You Love Me" I'm Glad Trouble Don't Last Always (Bloodshot, 16)
- Dwight Yoakam, "These Arms" Swimmin' Pools Movie Stars (Sugar Hill, 16)
- Amanda Shires, "Way It Dimmed" My Piece of Land (BMG, 16)
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "Biloxi" Heart Like a Levee (Merge, 16)
- Rosie Flores, "Blunderbuss" Rockin' Legends Pay Tribute To Jack White (Cleopatra, 13)
- Southern Culture On the Skids, "Swamp Fox: the Original" Electric Pinecones (Kudzu, 16)
- Tim Easton, "Burning Star" American Fork (Last Chance, 16)
- Yawpers, "Faith and Good Judgment" American Man (Bloodshot, 15)
- Kelsey Waldon, "Travelin' Down This Lonesome Road" I've Got a Way (Monkey's Eyebrow, 16)
- Devil Makes Three, "Drunken Hearted Man" Redemption & Ruin (New West, 16)
- Justin Wells, "Going Down Grinnin'" Dawn In the Distance (August, 16)
- Son Volt, "Down to the Wire" American Central Dust (Rounder, 09)