ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
October 8, 2017
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
Tom Petty is one of those artists who have a great effect on our kind of music, but who aren't necessarily formally embraced by the genre. Thinking others like Springsteen, REM, John(ny Cougar) Mellencamp, etc. I mention in this Episode that I've never played Petty on R&B, and I don't do it here either. Which doesn't mean I'm not a fan. Damn the Torpedoes was a very formative cassette in Young Scott's collection. We observe his passing with a couple covers, in a week that heard countless roots artists demonstrating their reverence with live takes on their favorite Tom Petty track.
Here's a link to Patterson Hood's Petty piece from Bitter Southerner.
Also this Episode, we dig further into what's proving to be a promising Langhorne Slim project. We debut a solid new set from Derek Hoke. And it dawns on me that Deer Tick's ambitious new collection deserves some year-end attention.
Close readers of these pages will recognize my short fuse with regards to shallow appropriation of early rock and rockabilly culture. There's a thin line between deeper authenticity and hollow imitation. I recall coming across JD McPherson's 2015 episode of Amoeba Records' What's In My Bag where the artist reveals an educated reverence for roots icons like Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and the Monks. While his first two LPs presented fairly literal interpretations of this stuff, McPherson's new Undivided Heart & Soul finds him extending those revivalist tendencies in a more personal and creative direction.
I actually love Let the Good Times Roll (2015) and Signs & Signifiers (2010), and still consider "North Side Gal" one of the decade's most indelible singles. McPherson reportedly abandoned a couple earlier approaches to a third record, until a visit with Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme provided the inspiration for the album's direction. Even then, McPherson was uncertain whether fans of his first CDs would follow him into the new sound.
Overall, the new sounds on Undivided Heart & Soul are still retro, but lean more towards the contemporary than the revivalist. "Lucky Penny" might be the best Black Keys song you haven't heard. Driven by stomping drums and dirty dirty guitar, it introduces a claustrophobic production, sounding a bit like the sessions were recorded in a high school locker room. In all the best ways. Pieces like "Desperate Love" pay homage to 60s garage rock 'n soul, but with the same ratio of retro-to-contemporary as Jack White.
Obviously well schooled in the medium, McPherson and his band can hear the punk in Buddy Holly, appreciate the darkness of Link Wray, and the deep and dirty roots of the Cramps. "Crying's Just a Thing You Do" is greasy and primitive, like "Wooly Bully" with a gutbucket blues guitar solo. As a whole, the collection embraces the edgy and jarring, with contributions from McPherson's new East Nashville neighbor, Aaron Lee Tasjan, as well as his former Sooner friend, Parker Millsap.
"Hunting For Sugar", "Under the Spell of City Lights" and the title track speak in a more contemporary pop language, trading in tuneful hooks with at least one foot venturing beyond the garage door. Especially on "Sugar", he shows himself to be a singer capable of a range of voices, from a gentle croon to a barbed howl. Nicole Atkins contributes vocally to the record, a singer whose own new Goodnight Rhonda Lee swims these same waters.
Watching that short Amoeba piece, JD McPherson reveals an impressive knowledge, and depth of appreciation for, stuff that came before. The truest confirmation of this is found on these more contemporary tracks, where the band applies what they've borrowed to create a new product that is more than the sum of its parts. While it's still fun to play "name that influence" with Undivided Heart, the accolades belong fully to McPherson and his band.
- Anna Tivel, "Last Cigarette" Small Believer (Fluff & Gravy, 17)
- Travis Meadows, "First Cigarette" First Cigarette (Blaster, 17)
- Aaron Lee Tasjan & Lilly Hiatt, "The Wall" single (Mark of the Leopard, 17) D
- Langhorne Slim, "Life is Confusing" Lost At Last Vol. 1 (Dualtone, 17)
- Turnpike Troubadours, "Old Time Feeling (Like Before)" Long Way From Your Heart (Bossier, 17)
- Drive-by Truckers, "What It Means (Live)" Live at Newport Folk Fest (ATO, 17) D
- Joana Serrat, "Western Cold Wind" Dripping Springs (Loose, 17) D
- Elliott BROOD, "The Fall" Ghost Gardens (Paper Bag, 17)
- Joe Henry, "River Floor" Thrum (Edel, 17)
- Derek Hoke, "So Tired" Bring the Flood (Little Hollywood, 17) D
- Whitney Rose, "Trucker's Funeral" Rule 62 (Six Shooter, 17)
- Legendary Shack Shakers, "Single Boy" After You've Gone (Last Chance, 17)
- Girls Guns & Glory, "All the Way Up To Heaven" Good Luck (Lonesome Day, 14)
- Hellbound Glory, "Sun Valley Blues #3" Pinball (Black Country Rock, 17)
- Dori Freeman, "Just Say It Now" Letters Never Read (Dori, 17)
- Brent Cobb, "Ain't a Road Too Long" single (Elektra, 17) D
- Hang Rounders, "Burnt Bridges" Outta Beer Outta Here (H'Rounders, 17) C
- Jeremy Pinnell, "Way We See Heaven" Ties of Blood & Affection (Sofaburn, 17)
- Lucero, "Diamond State Heartbreak" Attic Tapes (Liberty & Lament, 00)
- Deer Tick, "Hope is Big" Deer Tick Vol. 1 (Partisan, 17)
- Erin Enderlin, "Hickory Wind" Whiskeytown Crier (Blue Slate, 17)
- Tim Barry, "O & Dp" High on 95 (Chunksaah, 17)
- Blitzen Trapper, "Wild & Reckless" Wild & Reckless (LKC, 17)
- Jeff Tweedy, "I Am Always In Love" Together At Last (dBPM, 17)
- Mavericks, "There Goes My Heart" What a Crying Shame (Geffen, 94)
- Juanita Stein, "Someone Else's Dime" America (Hand Written, 17)
- Vetiver, "I Know No Pardon" To Find Me Gone (Dicristina, 06)
- Reckless Kelly, "Time Bomb" Millican (Rummy, 97)
- Jason Isbell, "Tupelo" Nashville Sound (Southeastern, 17)
... and since you asked, yes I do have Ten Favorite Tom Petty singles. And yes I will put them in alphabetical order as follows: "American Girl", "Don't Come Around Here No More", "Don't Do Me Like That", "Even the Losers", "Here Comes My Girl", "Learning To Fly", "Refugee", "Southern Accents", "The Waiting" and "You Wreck Me". Thanks for asking.