ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
November 19, 2016
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
It's a song from Tift Merritt's forthcoming Stitch of the World that's lodged in my mind this week. "Love Soldiers On" is a resilient sigh of a song, not so much a rallying cry as a world weary acknowledgement that this sort of work never really ends: "Lock it out and don't return its call / Swear you don't know its face at all / Throw it in the river, lose it in the storm / It'll show up in its bandages tomorrow at your door". Amen and amen.
So, too early for holiday music? Yeah. How 'bout "winter music"?!! Few bands do justice to the interior, cozy, lush sounds of the season like matt pond PA. It's just the thing for this first (late) snowfall of Fall here in sunny CO. Thinking Over the Rhine as the only challenge to that statement. It's chamber roots pop, with a steady orientation towards melody and sentiment.
Curiously, I was initially drawn to Winter Lives by a banjo driven instrumental, "Sunset at the Gas Pump". Turns out the record features a handful of these brief mood setting interludes with titles like "Candle and a Deck of Cards" or "Leggings in the Living Room". Banjo, acoustics, textures and ambiance that I wouldn't mind hearing stretch past the minute mark.
Fact is, the best holiday music is also simply good music; no need to suspend taste or apologize for sentiment just this side of melancholy. matt pond PA's previous winter record, the appropriately monikered Winter Songs, offered some prime covers: Richard Thompson, Neil Young, even a languid take on Linsday Buckingham's iconic "Holiday Road". Composed primarily of originals, Winter Lives presents a fuller, more satisfying musical meal.
"The Glow" is a charming, chiming strummer. Sweet strings and acoustics are woven through with wild electric guitar arpeggios. The ensemble offers a cornucopia of sound, a lushness that drives "Fotzepolitic", a gorgeous run through Cocteau Twins' 1990 record that leaves the listener awash in memories of another time, a'la "2000 Miles" or "I Believe In Father Christmas". From "In Winter": "The cold will bring us close / All filled with firelight / It's not just any snow / It's only you tonight ... The trouble in the world won't find us here".
Plucked banjo and acoustic guitar swell to subtle strings on "Dirty Looks": "Pouring whiskey on the fire / Give you pears and bee stings / Give me dirty looks / Give you knives and pinecones / You give me dirty looks". It a brief but exceedingly warm pastoral moment among many. That intimacy and closeness are driven by necessity, given both the weather and the physical desire. "Whoa (Thirteen and Sledding With Kerry In Northern New Hampshire)" pulls aside that heavy curtain: "Shivers going straight down to my bones / The shakes are stretching all the way to my soul ... Now there's nothing but this length of frosted string". It's one of the sweetest, most indelible hooks of the year; a warm, woven scarf of the acoustic and synthetic. The tubular bells that briefly chime in melt my heart. matt pond PA's Winter Lives fosters a rush of memories and urges, a generous feast for the senses.
Also on this week's playlist, a taste of mutant folk from Adrian + Meredith, and a twisted take on Appalachia from a Pine Hill Haints record that nobody told me was out in July (wtf?!). Also, Chuck Prophet is the coolest person in the room (next to Escovedo). We close with a couple beautiful pieces from Leif Vollebekk and Michael Chapman.
Thanks for your kind words about my departure from your radio. My wife is demanding I present her with a list of my podcast needs so that we can start getting our heads around stuff. It won't be long before the playlist below is interrupted once again by my ramblings, mumbles and esoterica. Until then, love soldiers on.
- Tift Merritt, "Love Soldiers On" Stitch of the World (Yep Roc, 17)
- The Americans, "Gospel Roads" First Recordings EP (632803 Records, 16) D
- Aaron Lee Tasjan, "Memphis Rain" Silver Tears (New West, 16)
- Will Kimbrough, "I Don't Have a Gun" Godsend (Waxy Silver, 03)
- Bonnie Whitmore, "Fuck With Sad Girls" Fuck With Sad Girls (Starlet&Dog, 16)
- Adrian + Meredith, "Take a Boat" More Than a Little (A+M, 16) D
- Pine Hill Haints, "
- Delines, "He Told Her the City Was Killing Him" Colfax (ElCortez, 14)
- Alejandro Escovedo, "Suit of Lights" Burn Something Beautiful (Fantasy, 16)
- Chuck Prophet, "Bad Year For Rock and Roll" Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins (Yep Roc, 17) D
^ matt pond PA, "Whoa (Thirteen and Sledding With Kerry in Northern New Hampshire)" Winter Lives (131 Records, 16) D
- Harmed Brothers, "Bottle to Bottle" A Lovely Conversation (Fluff & Gravy, 16)
- Two Cow Garage, "Continental Distance" Brand New Flag (Last Chance, 16)
- Joe Pug, "Sharpest Crown" Messenger (Lightning Rod, 10)
- Kent Eugene Goolsby, "Loveless Prayers" Temper of the Times (KEG, 16)
- Tami Neilson, "Only Tears" Don't Be Afraid (Outside, 16)
- Girls Guns & Glory, "Reno, NV" Love & Protest (GGG, 16)
- Jamestown Revival, "Company Man" Education of a Wandering Man (Republic, 16)
- Sadies, "Riverview Fog" Northern Passages (Yep Roc, 17) D
- Steve Earle, "Hillbilly Highway (Live in Chicago 1986)" Guitar Town: 30th Anniversary (MCA, 16)
- Band of Heathens, "Trouble Came Early" Duende (BoH, 17) D
- Colter Wall, "Sleeping On the Blacktop" Imaginary Appalachia (Windrow, 15)
- David Dondero, "Take a Left Turn in Boise" w/Love - EP (Total Treble, 16) D
- Leif Vollebekk, "Elegy" Twin Solitude (Secret City, 17) D
- Michael Chapman, "That Time of Night" 50 (Paradise of Bachelors, 17) D