ROUTES & BRANCHES
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
March 4, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust
All of a sudden I'm purchasing vinyl again. When I was a young music lover, I would buy LPs with just about every allowance (plus a few Marvel comics). When I left for college, I took a couple hundred records with me. Demonstrating award-worthy judgment, that year I traded in nearly every album for money to buy cassette tapes. As an absolute dead end investment, I believe most of those cassettes are still boxed in the cold dark garage. As my kids grow older, they've each been fascinated with these big black CDs. My daughter has more John Entwistle and Ringo Starr vinyl than your stoner uncle, and my youngest son is apparently keeping Eminem in business with his LP purchases. Whenever I take him to the local stores (try Twist & Shout in Denver), I'll pick up something. This is stuff for which I already have CDs or MP3s, and I can stream every single one of them online. Just yesterday I invested in a copy of Townes Van Zandt's classic Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas - I wouldn't have spent money for this if it had been available in CD format (or cassette). I don't buy other peoples' used and stinky stuff, albums that bear their teeth marks or gatefold sleeves that are hanging on by a tiny string of cardboard. So each purchase means I'm out around $25 dollars or more for something I can't use for my ROUTES-cast, something I have to get up and turn over after five or six songs. The sound quality is questionable, and I can't listen to it at the coffee shop while I'm preparing my blog. Still, it appeals to the materialist in me, the guy who loves to run his fingernail along the plastic wrap, remove the LP and set the needle to play.
Sometimes the better a band gets the more direct their music becomes. With increased confidence, there is less pressure to earn one's stripes by dancing around a musical point. While Gran Pavo Real (Ropeadope, Mar 30) is only Great Peacock's second full-length, the collection reveals an evolution and a sure-footedness to the songs of Andrew Nelson and Blount Floyd.
2015's Making Ghosts was one of my favorite records for that year. Songs like "Broken Hearted Fool" and the title track struck a perfect chord, working with an americana sound that was decidedly Southern and richly melodic. Those qualities are most readily on display with new tracks like "Hideaway" and "One Way Ticket". The former features both some great guitar and a bit of classic organ thrown in for great measure. "Ticket" offers a quieter ride, built on a fine vocal and a memorable chorus: I'm a rolling stone / Yeah, I can't sit still / I'm a one-way ticket, headed straight down hill / I'm a back row Baptist with stories to tell / Got a one-way ticket to keep me out of hell. This is classic Southern americana, very well played and as praiseworthy as anything else that's been released this year.
Even while striking these familiar notes, Gran Pavo Real finds the Nashville quartet embracing more of the region's blues and gospel influence. "Heartbreak Comin' Down" is a piano-driven blues number, with a blazing Blount Floyd guitar solo. "Rattlesnake" adds a rocking swagger, punctuated by bursts of guitar and a soaring chorus. Both "Take Me Down" and "Oh Deep Water" are darker, gospel tinged tracks.
Rock 'n roll isn't advanced algebra, and artists like Ryan Adams and Justin Townes Earle are masters at pushing aside the pretension and simply playing a good song. On pieces like "Miss You Honey", Great Peacock lean in that direction, taking the shortest line from the song through the ears and into the heart. Gran Pavo Real strengthens the band's game by both paring back and by drawing from a deeper musical well.
We're also looking at a fine surprise EP from rocker Margaret Glaspy, whose 2016 Emotions & Math record merited far more play than I gave it. Kacey Musgraves returns with a couple really good songs, including the superb "Space Cowboy", and I'll listen to just about anything Lake Street Dive releases. Finally, something tells me we'll be spilling some digital ink on John Calvin Abney's new Coyote CD real soon.
- Ruby Boots, "I Am a Woman" Don't Talk About It (Bloodshot, 18)
- Blackberry Smoke, "Best Seat in the House" Find a Light (3 Legged, 18)
- Buffalo Tom, "Lonely Fast & Deep" Quiet & Peace (Schoolkids, 18)
- Charley Crockett, "Lil' Girl's Name" Lonesome as a Shadow (Son of Davy, 18)
- Yawpers, "Replace Me" Capon Crusade (Yawpers, 12)
- Sue Foley, "Gaslight" Ice Queen (Stony Plain, 18)
- Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, "Found the One" No Mercy in This Land (Anti, 18)
- Bonnevilles, "Dirty Photographs" Dirty Photographs (Alive Naturalsound, 18)
- Ry Cooder, "Shrinking Man" Prodigal Son (Perro Verde, 18) D
- Margaret Glaspy, "Before We Were Together" Born Yesterday EP (ATO, 18) D
- John Prine, "Knockin' on Your Screen Door" Tree of Forgiveness (Oh Boy, 18)
- Sonny Smith, "Pictures of You" Rod For Your Love (Easy Eye, 18)
- Laura Veirs, "Watch Fire (w/Sufjan Stevens)" The Lookout (Raven Marching Band, 18)
- Jayhawks, "Settled Down Like Rain" Hollywood Town Hall (American, 92)
- Ryan Adams, "Baby I Love You" single (PaxAm, 18)
^ Great Peacock, "Heartbreak Comin' Down" Gran Pavo Real (Ropeadope, 18)
- Ashley Monroe, "Hands on You" Sparrow (Warner, 18) D
- Tom T Hall, "Spokane Motel Blues" Rhymer & Other Five & Dimers (Mercury, 73)
- Courtney Patton, "Devil's Hand" What it's Like to Fly Alone (Patton, 18)
- Kacey Musgraves, "Space Cowboy" Golden Hour (UMG, 18) D
- William Matheny, "Moon Over Kenova" Moon Over Kenova (Misra, 18) D
- Sons of Bill, "Bad Dancer" Love & Logic (Gray Fox, 14)
- John Calvin Abney, "Every Now & Then" Coyote (Abney, 18) D
- Marlon Williams, "Party Boy" Make Way for Love (Dead Oceans, 18)j
- Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore, "Billy the Kid & Geronimo" Downey to Lubbock (YepRoc, 18) D
- John Doe, "Hotel Ghost" Year in the Wilderness (YepRoc, 07)
- Lake Street Dive, "Good Kisser" Free Yourself Up (Nonesuch, 18) D
- Drivin' & Cryin', "Honeysuckle Blue" Mystery Road (Island, 89)
- Rod Picott, "Coal" Out Past the Wires (Welding Rod, 18)
- Langhorne Slim, "Rebel Side of Heaven" Langhorne Slim (Kemado, 08)