ROUTES & BRANCHES
a home for the americana diaspora
November 12, 2016
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
You'll stumble across few better album launchers this year than "Rock 'n Roll" from Girls Guns & Glory's new Love & Protest record. Listen: "I'm a hunter, a collector of things / I keep holding on to bad memories". Like all the best stuff, it's a simple song, a meeting of alt.country with rockabilly with rhythms that'll move you and a melody that might worm its way into your ear. The Boston based band calls it "authentic American music", equally at home in a honky tonk or one of those fancy joints with a real stage, Ward Hayden and co. have outgrown their humble origins: "Ready to rock 'n roll".
Regular followers of R&B aren't new to Girls Guns & Glory, the easygoing charm of their earlier records that played much closer to tradition. Albums like '11's Sweet Nothings or '14's Good Luck opened up the throttle just a bit, just as last year's live tribute to Hank Williams brought it all home again. The songs on Love & Protest continue to betray those early rock, rockabilly and country influences, but the band is no longer beholden to the tradition that spawned them. "Reno NV" or "Empty Bottles" give us a taste of Bakersfield, with six string guests Duke Levine and Buddy Cage casting just the right shade. "Who Will Love You" powers that electric guitar with a more contemporary spark, given lead as the song unspools. Even their unexpected cover of the Burritos' classic "Hot Burrito #1" is as much soul as it is country, just like Gram would have it. But it's the heavenly voice of frontman Ward Hayden that boosts Love & Protest to special heights. Sure, you'll hear Hank in Hayden's sweet melancholy breaks, but you'll also catch some of Yoakam's smoothness and even a touch of Sturgill's hurt.
Set live to analog tape, Love & Protest doesn't necessarily sound as much like a new band as much as a favorite band re-energized. Girls Guns & Glory are no longer a shadow of a lost time. Hayden's songs like "Memories Don't Die" are contemporary gems, perfect for country radio if country radio knew what was good for it. It's the reason we hold off on unleashing our year-end favorites lists until the dark days of December.
Speaking of which, welcome to that most wonderful time of the year when new releases dwindle down to a meager trickle. We take our first glimpse into Tommy Stinson's rebirth of Bash & Pop, and a quality EP release by the Harmed Brothers from verdant Cottage Grove, Oregon! We remember the late Belfast troubadour Bap Kennedy, and dig deeper into Tift Merritt's January release. Please enjoy the Spotify playlist below.
- Vandoliers, "Bottom Dollar Boy" Ameri-kinda (State Fair, 16)
- Alejandro Escovedo, "Johnny Volume" Burn Something Beautiful (Fantasy, 16)
- Bash & Pop, "On the Rocks" Anything Could Happen (Fat Possum, 17) D
- Nikki Lane, "Down To the Wire" Gone Gone Gone (Iamsound, 11)
- Bap Kennedy, "I Should Have Said" Reckless Heart (Last Chance, 16)
- Tift Merritt, "Love Soldiers On" Stitch of the World (Yep Roc, 17) D
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer" Heart Like a Levee (Merge, 16)
- JJ Cale, "One Step Ahead Of the Blues" Grasshopper (Audigram, 82)
- Jamestown Revival, "Love Is a Burden" Education Of a Wandering Man (Republic, 16)
- Tim Easton, "Burning Star" American Fork (Last Chance, 16)
- Becky Warren, "San Antonio" War Surplus (Warren, 16)
- Band of Heathens, "Oklahoma Gypsy Shuffler" Highway Prayer: Tribute To Adam Carroll (Eight30, 16)
- Adam Carroll, "Low In the Mountains" Far Away Blues (Blue Corn, 05)
- Jonny Fritz, "Happy In Hindsight" Sweet Creep (ATO, 16)
- Jack Grelle, "Heart's For Mine" Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down (Big Muddy, 16)
^ Girls Guns & Glory, "Rock 'n Roll" Love & Protest (GGG, 16)
- John Paul White, "Hate the Way You Love Me" Beulah (Single Lock, 16)
- Margo Price, "Weekender" Midwest Farmer's Daughter (Third Man, 16)
- Whiskey Myers, "Lightning Bugs & Rain" Mud (Wiggy Thump, 16)
- Bonnie Whitmore, "Ain't Waitin' On Tomorrow" Fuck With Sad Girls (Starlet & Dog, 16)
- Drive-by Truckers, "Ever South" American Band (ATO, 16)
- Flat Five, "This Is Your Night" It's a World of Love and Hope (Bloodshot, 16)
- Rod Picott, "Black T Shirt" Welding Burns (Welding Rod, 11)
- Harmed Brothers, "Here Comes the Cadillac" A Lovely Conversation (Fluff & Gravy, 16) D