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Sunday, March 11, 2018

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
March 11, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Usually, I'll dedicate this space to a short personal note and an appreciation of one record that I think belongs on your radar.  This Episode, I'm going to spotlight four releases that I've already addressed in one form or another, but that deserve another bout of attention.  For coming weeks, I've got my usual longer reviews in the works for John Calvin Abney, John Paul Keith and Motel Mirrors, and American Aquarium.  I'm starting to get that drinking-from-the-firehose feeling about releases for the coming weeks, with a refreshing calendar of new stuff that verges on the overwhelming.  In addition to the couple mentioned above, I'm especially looking forward to Courtney Marie Andrews, Caitlin Canty, Will Stewart, Sarah Shook and Left Arm Tan.  Of course, for a full list of what's just over our musical horizons, just click on the link to your right: A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding the Monster.

Andrew Bryant, Ain't It Like the Cosmos  (Last Chance, Mar 9)
Andrew Bryant is 1/3 of the Water Liars.  Back in my first post for 2018 I celebrated this new solo record alongside Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster's collab with Will Johnson, Marie/Lepanto.  When I drew the review to his attention, he asked me to hold off on sharing more of the record until closer to the release date which had been pushed back a bit.  Now that release date has arrived, and it's once again time to heap praise upon superb songs like "Practical Man", the hammer-heavy "Robert Downey Jr's Scars" and the lovely Southern ode, "Bittersweet".  With such Southern rock riches, it's not been easy to keep Bryant's record under a bushel for the past several weeks ...

Ags Connolly, Nothin' Unexpected  (Sofaburn, Mar 9)
I made a horrible mistake whilst assembling my favorite CDs for last year.  I mistakenly thought Ags Connolly's uncommonly good trad country collection had been released the previous year.  Had I simply double checked my math, it would've landed among my ten favorites for 2017.  Fortunately, our good friends at Sofaburn Records have seen fit to formally issue Nothin' Unexpected here in the mainland (it was previously available only thru England's At the Helm label (Ags himself hails from Oxfordshire)).  Last year I crowed:  "Ags Connolly sounds as genuine and earnest as Charlie Rich or Marty Robbins ... I've often argued that in the right hands country music can readily cross borders, and that americana music really doesn't belong to the Americans these days.  Connolly has clearly done his homework and seems to take his craft to heart.  It's a project whose talent and appeal run way deeper that pearl snap shirts and shallow Cracker Barrel trappings".  I stand by my crowing.

6 String Drag, Top of the World  (Schoolkids, Mar 9)
This North Carolina band deserves at least as much accolades as Bottle Rockets, though 6 String Drag dissembled before their impact could be appreciated.  I reviewed a 20th anniversary reissue of their nourishing High Hat record back in January, a couple months prior to their brand new set seeing the light of day.  I wrote: "The bottom line here is that Top of the World is more than a simple blast from the genre's past ... Their new record announced that 6 String Drag are a contemporary band, creating relevant music and evolving in interesting ways".  Kenny Roby is too skilled a writer to relegate to the insurgent country museums.

Matthew Ryan, Starlings Unadorned  (bandcamp)
Back in May of last year, I spilled some digital ink rhapsodizing about Matthew Ryan's remarkable Hustle Up Starlings.  During a year that brought a groundswell of notable releases, the record earned the #7 spot on my favorites list.  I fell hard for the collection's noisy grace, and declared it the most worthy thing in Ryan's long and generous catalog.  Now there's this: "A Collection of Acoustic Versions, Demos & Previously Unreleased Songs".  But Starlings Unadorned doesn't simply apply a strummy acoustic guitar to these tremendous songs.  Rather, the recordings reintroduce them by stripping away all that buzz and leaving them stark, bare and wonderfully vulnerable.  Even in the wake of my love for the studio work, these new sessions present the songs in such a warm and human light that it's almost like an entirely different album.  New arrangements reveal hidden nuances to familiar pieces, and the unreleased songs like "Lonesome Flare" and "Oh Despair" are a great extension to the original project.

^ 6 String Drag, "Never Turn My Back on You Again" Top of the World  (Schoolkids, 18)
- Kim Richey, "Chase Wild Horses" Edgeland  (Yep Roc, Mar 30)
- Blackberry Smoke, "Let Me Down Easy (w/Amanda Shires)" Find a Light  (3 Legged, 18)
- Luke Winslow-King, "Leghorn Women" Blue Mesa  (Bloodshot, 18)  D
- John Calvin Abney, "Every Now and Then" Coyote  (Abney, 18)
- Haley Heynderickx, "Drinking Song" I Need to Start a Garden  (Mama Bird, 18)
- Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, "Tall Black & Bitter" Soul Flowers of Titan  (Bloodshot, 18)
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Dixie Avenue" Volunteer  (Sony, 18)
- Joshua Hedley, "I Never (Shed a Tear)" Hey Mr Jukebox  (Third Man, 18)
^ Ags Connolly, "Haunts Like This" Nothin' Unexpected  (Sofaburn, 18)
^ Matthew Ryan, "Lonesome Flare" Starlings Unadorned  (Ryan, 18)  D
- John Paul Keith, "Leave Them Girls Alone" Heart Shaped Shadow  (Last Chance, 18)  D
- Motel Mirrors, "I Wouldn't Dream of It" In the Meantime  (Last Chance, 18)  D
^ Andrew Bryant, "Bittersweet" Ain't It Like the Cosmos  (Last Chance, 18)
- Erika Wennerstrom, "Twisted Highway" Sweet Unknown  (Partisan, 18)
- Kacey Musgraves, "Space Cowboy" Golden Hour  (MCA, 18)
- Ryley Walker, "Telluride Speed" Deafman Glance  (Dead Oceans, 18)  D
- Neko Case, "Hell-on" Hell-on  (Anti, 18)  D
- Caleb Caudle, "Empty Arms" Crushed Coins  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)
- Richmond Fontaine, "Horace & the Trophy" Don't Skip Out on Me  (Fluff & Gravy, 18)
- Horse Feathers, "Without Applause" Appreciation  (Kill Rock Stars, 18)  D
- Courtney Marie Andrews, "I've Hurt Worse" May Your Kindness Remain  (Mama Bird, 18)
- Simone Felice, "The Fawn" The Projector  (New York Pro, 18)
- Greyhounds, "No Other Woman" Cheyenne Valley Drive  (Bud's Recording Service, 18)
- Bettye LaVette, "Do Right to Me Baby (Do Unto Others)" Things Have Changed  (Verve, 18)
- Paul Thorn, "You Got to Move" Don't Let the Devil Ride  (Perpetual Obscurity, 18)
- Brent Cobb, "King of Alabama" Providence Canyon  (Elektra, 18)  D
- Ashley Monroe, "Paying Attention" Sparrow  (Warner, 18)
- Parker Millsap, "Fine Line" Other Arrangements  (Okrahoma, 18)  D
- Will Stewart, "Mine is a Lonely Life" County Seat  (Cornelius Chapel, 18)

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