ROUTES & BRANCHES
a home for the americana diaspora
January 18, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
This week alone found me suddenly in possession of full records by Band of Heathens, Chuck Prophet, Great American Taxi, Nikki Lane, Otis Gibbs, the Sadies, Son Volt, Tift Merritt and more. It's a frustratingly generous influx for a reviewer who likes to give an album its due attention, and these are only the low hangers. Perry Brown of Fire Mountain, Leif Vollebekk, Heath Green & the Makeshifters, Ags Connolly. So who do I talk about first?
Well, let's travel back to the halcyon days of September 2016 and the release of Angelica Garcia's Medicine for Birds. I saw almost no bloglove for this eclectic, original CD, but came across mention of the Virginia artist as a recent tour opener for Lydia Loveless. Her site bows to the "holy trinity of Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Jack White", while I'd place her on the altar of Samantha Crain, Alynda Lee Segarra, Adia Victoria and, yes, Lydia Loveless. But let's be honest that Angelica Garcia's music really sounds like little else: Percussive, playful, aggressive, restless. "My blood speaks Spanish to me" she coos on "Red Moon Rising", an homage to her native East LA and her Latin roots. Beginning with a phone recording of her Salvadoran grandmother, it's a lovesong written from too far across the country, from a young woman coming of age to a temple on a cul-de-sac, where innocence and refuge meet. The rhythms are swept along by a slight Latin undercurrent, Garcia's elastic voice swooping and diving in a vaguely Middle Eastern swoon. Produced by Charlie Peacock, the songs on Medicine for Birds rarely follow a predictable verse-chorus-verse strategy. "Woman I'm Hollerin'" launches as an atmospheric blues, then adds an urgent vocal, an addictive percussion and a rubberband bass for something that pairs tUnE-yArDs' playground rhythms with Kate Bush theatrics for a spellbinding romp.
You'll find Garcia's most straightforward, rootsy moment on the cottony "Call Me Later". Strolling down the sidewalk with your blue shoe shine / How you went and took this little heart of mine. "Loretta Lynn" slows the pulse ever further for a moving reflection on the frustrating unreliability of men. It's the only song I recall that portrays the country legend as a girlfriend and confidante: Among the sinners and the cigarettes -- / the kind of crowd you'd expect him in. / But we're not angry at all the men, no, / just the ones we got tangled with.
Medicine for Birds is the sound of a young woman exploring her own artistic expression and limitation. Angelica Garcia reportedly wrote and set demos to tape in her parents' very rural, very out of the way house, and the lack of an obvious musical compass point shows in all the strongest ways. The charming "Orange Flower" is a messy blues stomper boasting one of the less conventional vocals you'll find on recent records. It's girlish, flirty, barbed and confident: He gave me an orange flower / What ... what in the hell does that mean? It's a high point of an unexpectedly accomplished record that's hopefully just begun to garner the buzz it deserves.
But let's talk about what's awaiting below. It's our first effort at a webcast, like a radio show you can listen to whenever you like. And there's cussin' in the songs, and maybe you can hear the water heater growl to life. But it's a thing, and I'm very happy to have created it for you. My plan is to feature it for one week or so, then to replace it with a new Episode. Everything that's played is done so with the expressed permission of the artists, labels and promoters. The question remains: Does it sound more like I'm broadcasting from within a tin can, or from a cardboard box? O well, at least the music is top notch ...
* Green on Red, "Black River" Gas Food Lodging (Restless, 85)
* Chuck Prophet, "Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins" Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins (Yep Roc, 17)
* Minus 5, "Days of Wine & Booze" Down With Wilco (Yep Roc, 03)
* Son Volt, "Cherokee St" Notes of Blue (Transmit Sound, 17)
* Dead Man Winter, "Red Wing Blue Wing" Destroyer (GNDWire, 17)
^ Angelica Garcia, "Orange Flower" Medicine for Birds (Warner, 16) D
* Lydia Loveless, "Out On Love" Real (Bloodshot, 16)
* Adrian + Meredith, "Southern Call" More Than a Little (A+M, 16)
* James Leg, "I'll Take It" Blood On the Keys (Alive Naturalsound, 16)
* Mark Porkchop Holder, "Disappearing" Let It Slide (Alive Naturalsound, 17)
* Wilco, "Thanks I Get" Alpha Mike Foxtrot (Nonesuch, 14)
* Sadies, "God Bless the Infidels" Northern Passages (Yep Roc, 17)
* Tift Merritt, "Proclamation Bones" Stitch of the World (Yep Roc, 17)
* John Moreland, "Holy Ghost Haunted" Everything the Hard Way (Moreland, 11)
* Nikki Lane, "Muddy Waters" Highway Queen (New West, 17)
* Michael Chapman, "That Time of Night" 50 (Paradise of Bachelors, 17)
* Milk Carton Kids, "Heaven" Ash & Clay (Anti, 13)
* Otis Gibbs, "Great American Roadside" Mount Renraw (Wanamaker, 17) D
* JP Harris w/Kelsey Waldon, "If I Were a Carpenter" Let's Duet In the Road (Demolition & Renewal, 17) D
* Girls Guns & Glory, "Empty Bottles" Love & Protest (GGG, 16)
* Billy Joe Shaver, "When the Word Was Thunderbird" I'm Just An Old Chunk of Coal (Columbia, 81)
* Band of Heathens, "Keys to the Kingdom" Duende (BoH, 17)
* Iron & Wine, "Southern Anthem" Creek Drank the Cradle (Sub Pop, 02)
* Cody Jinks, "Heavy Load" I'm Not the Devil (Jinks, 16)
* Bonnie Whitmore, "Cinderella" Fuck With Sad Girls (Starlet&Dog, 16)
* Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough, "Broken Fences" Mockingbird Soul (BDM, 17) D
* Jaime Wyatt, "Marijuana Man" single (Wyatt, 14)
* Old Crow Medicine Show, "Alabama Hightest" Best of OCMS (Nettwerk, 17) D
* Ags Connolly, "I Hope You're Unhappy" Nothin' Unexpected (At the Helm, 17) D