Sunday, May 15, 2022

ROUTES-cast MAY 15, 2022

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
May 15, 2022
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

So many strong songs have graced our ROUTES-casts lately. Most of these come from forthcoming records, as announced on A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster. This week we added a promising new Nathan Kalish project. Great Big Motel Bed in the Sky (JTM) is available for occupancy beginning July 22. Murder by Death have recovered from their 2020 Christmas album, and are ready for their next project. Spell/Bound is set for a July 29 appearance. Immediately campaigning for Best Tribute Album Ever is Something Borrowed Something New, a celebration of John Anderson courtesy of Easy Eye Sound. In addition to the wonderful Gillian Welch & David Rawlings cover we shared last Episode, the August 5 collection will feature tributes from Nathaniel Rateliff, Sturgill Simpson, Sierra Ferrell and more. That same day, you can expect the full-length follow-up to Will Stewart's excellent 2018 County Seat. Cornelius Chapel will share Slow Life on August 5.  Kelsey Waldon returns to the studio for her next sessions for the Oh Boy label. Expect No Regular Dog wherever music matters on August 12. 


- 49 Winchester, "Second Chance" Fortune Favors the Bold  (New West, 22)
- Greyhounds, "West Texas" Adobe EP  (Nine Mile, 22)  D
- Mama's Broke, "Wreckage Done" Narrow Lines  (Free Dirt, 22)
- Bob Sumner, "Broken Record" single  (Sumner, 22)  D
- Damn Quails, "Peace in the Valley (King of the Hill)" Clouding Up Your City  (Honky Tonk Lab, Jun 17)
- Black Keys, "For the Love of Money" Dropout Boogie  (Nonesuch, 22)
- Night Moves, "Feel Another Day" single  (Domino, 22)  D
- Banditos, "Right On" Right On  (Egghunt, May 20)
- Wilco, "Tired of Taking It Out On You" Cruel Country  (dBpm, May 29)
- Nathan Kalish, "Past the Everglades" Great Big Motel Bed in the Sky  (JTM, Jul 22)
- Joy Oladokun, "Purple Haze" single  (Amigo, 22)  D
- Revelators Sound System, "George the Revelator" Revelators  (37d03d, Jun 17)  D
- Seth Walker, "Why Do I Cry Anymore" I Hope I Know  (Royal Potato Family, May 20)
- Band of Heathens, "Not Mine to Begin With" single  (BoH, 22)  D
- Chris Bathgate, "Sweet Fern" Significance of Peaches  (Quite Scientific, 22)
- Murder by Death, "Never Be" Spell/Bound  (MbD, Jul 29)  D
^ Joseph Huber, "Spirit of Tennessee" Downtowner  (Huber, 22)  D
- Lera Lynn, "Something More Than Love" Something More Than Love  (Lera Lynn, Jul 15)
- Kevin Morby, "Bittersweet, TN (feat. Erin Rae)" This is a Photograph  (Dead Oceans, 22)
- Lyle Lovett, "12th of June" 12th of June  (Verve, 22)
- American Aquarium, "Wildfire" Chicamacomico  (Losing Side, Jun 10)
- Arlo McKinley, "To Die For" This Mess We're In  (Oh Boy, Jul 15)
- Valerie June, "Fade Into You" single  (Fantasy, 22)  D
- Will Stewart, "Bad Memory" Slow Life  (Cornelius Chapel, Aug 5)  D
- M Lockwood Porter, "While We're Here" single  (MLP, 22)  D
- Alex Dupree, "Fake Diamonds False Powers" Thieves  (Keeled Scales, Jul 15)  D
- Amythyst Kiah, "Sugar" single  (Rounder, 22)  D
- Daniel Young, "Water Table Line (feat. Lillie Mae)" single  (Young, 22)  D
- Anais Mitchell, "Morning Glory" Anais Mitchell (Deluxe) (BMG, 22)
- Jose Medeles, "Richness of Peace (feat. M Ward)" Railroad Cadences & Melancholic Anthems  (Jealous Butcher, May 20)  D

To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Saturday, May 14, 2022


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
May 14, 2022
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

If I'm doing this thing right, I've made a case over the past many years for the great diversity possible in roots music. We do cast a vast net here at R&B HQ, hauling in mutations and hybrids of the familiar, stuff that at some point probably traces its heritage back to folk, country, soul or blues, even if you have to squint to hear it. Los Angeles' Americans began by feeding their fascination with rockabilly and country-blues, before gradually extending those influences outwards on a debut EP and on 2017's I'll Be Yours (see standout cuts "Right Stuff" and "Hooky"). Fronted by singer-guitarist Patrick Ferris, the Americans have flirted with the fringes of pop, rock and soul, investing their originals with a live urgency that makes them better than you might have expected. 

The Americans' second full-length collection demonstrates tighter songcraft while also exercising less restraint. Stand True gives rein to Tim Carr's unrestrained drumming, tumbling, chugging or pounding fiercely. "Sore Bones" is an unmannered wallop, not unlike Tom Waits fronting Shovels & Rope: I'm a low-brow, chin-down / Fist-slugging, scuffling kind. Songs like "Orion" set up shop at the far reaches of what was once rockabilly, where Ferris' singing falls to the unhinged, spirit-filled edge.  The song also typifies the dirty, garage guitar that permeates Stand True, shared between Ferris and Zac Sokolow, with Jake Faulkner abusing his bass. 

It's a beautiful noise, a racket that reads like the most primitive moments of Devil Makes Three or Low Cut Connie. But like Connie's Adam Weiner, Patrick Ferris wields a fiercely soulful vocal, shot through with spirit and fervor. That bottled lightning is on display on "Born With a Broken Heart", ranging from a high croon to a gritty growl, inviting us to Let your reckless body lead you astray. The singer's most impressive moments happen with more soulful cuts like "What Would I Do" or "Here With You". "Day I Let You Down" drags listeners through a heavier blues rock: That's how a small town stays small / Folks make up their minds and cross their arms

Stand True finds The Americans experimenting confidently with their songwriting and arrangements, introducing the title track with acoustic picking and slide guitar, before switching gears for a bluesy break: I don't speak your name, but I have not forgotten how. The song's latter half unleashes a shimmering guitar solo (absolutely underappreciated in roots music), the rocking instrumental unspooling into a satisfying outro. "Give Way" and "Farewell" play similarly with evolving dynamics and sudden sonic eruptions. Patrick Ferris' delivery on the latter is a sung/spoken funeral pastiche, a Dylan-esque drawl: A world is gone, but people keep moving / Like nothing was wrong

Please understand that, aside from The The, The Americans might be one of the more difficult acts to track down online, with searches bringing up a myriad of tastefully jingoistic sites with inspiring pics of majestic eagles in mid-flight (none of which have anything to do with our LA outfit). But once you land at your destination your hard work will be rewarded, the boundaries of your roots music world will be widened. Stand True ends by accepting an invitation to drive into the promise of a night that's still young: The cafes are closing / The sky is black and blue / The streets are wide open / The world is brand new

Saturday, May 07, 2022

ROUTES-cast MAY 8, 2022

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
May 8, 2022
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

^ Joan Shelley, "Amberlit Morning (feat. Bill Callahan)" The Spur  (No Quarter, Jun 24)
- Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, "I Just Came Home To Count the Memories" Something Borrowed Something New: Tribute to John Anderson  (Easy Eye, Aug 5)  D
- Steve Earle, "Mr Bojangles" Jerry Jeff  (New West, May 27)
- Mapache, "Tend Your Garden" Roscoe's Dream  (Innovative Leisure, Jan 10)
- Mama's Broke, "How It Ends" Narrow Line  (Free Dirt, May 13)  D
- Caleb Caudle, "Little Reminders" single  (Soundly, 22)  D
- Hackensaw Boys, "My Turn" Hackensaw Boys  (Suns Work, Jun 24)
- Drive-by Truckers, "Every Single Storied Flameout" Welcome 2 Club XIII  (ATO, Jun 3)
- Left Arm Tan, "Cocaine Skinny" Undefeated  (LAT, May 20)
- SG Goodman, "Heart Swell" Teeth Marks  (Verve, Jun 3)
- Field Guides, "Margaret" Ginkgo  (Whatever's Clever, Jun 24)
- Americans, "Farewell" Stand True  (Loose, 22)
- Marlon Williams, "My Boy" single  (Dead Oceans, 22)  D
- Laney Jones, "Secret Weapon" Stories Up High  (Tone Tree, May 20)
- Nathan Kalish, "My Love" Great Big Motel Bed in the Sky  (JTM, Jul 22)  D
- David Newbould, "Power Up!" Power Up!  (Blackbird, Jun 10)
- Fantastic Negrito, "They Go Low" White Jesus Black Problems  (Storefront, Jun 3)
- Luke Winslow-King, "Don't Tell Me I Don't Love You" If These Walls Could Talk  (Ghost River, 22)
- Neal Casal, "No Hard Feelings (feat. Johnny Irion, Jonthan Wilson)" single  (Casal Fndtn, 22)  D
- Kelsey Waldon, "Sweet Little Girl" No Regular Dog  (Oh Boy, Aug 12)  D
- Aaron Raitiere, "Everybody Else" Single Wide Dreamer  (Dinner Time, 22)
- Flatland Cavalry, "Gettin' By" Far Out West Sessions  (Flatland, 22)
- Zach Bryan, "Open the Gate" American Heartbreak  (Belting Bronco, May 20)
- Brennen Leigh, "Riding Off Onto Sunset Boulevard" Obsessed With the West  (Signature Sounds, 22)
- Terry Allen, "Texas Tears" Smokin' the Dummy (Reissue)  (Paradise of Bachelors, 22)
- Blue Dogs, "Good Ones" Big Dreamers  (Kennel Mgmt, Jun 3)
- Jonah Tolchin, "Never Giving Up" Lava Lamp  (Yep Roc, Jul 15)
- Anais Mitchell, "Any Way You Come" Anais Mitchell (Deluxe)  (BMG, 22)
- Delta Spirit, "Villains" One is One  (New West, May 20)
- Mary Gauthier, "Dark Enough to See" Dark Enough to See the Stars  (In the Black, Jun 3)

To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Monday, May 02, 2022


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
May 2, 2022
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

I'll never get to know Maren Morris or Chris Stapleton. There's very little chance I'll ever see Taylor Swift browsing cereal boxes at a grocer near me. While my earlier years as a concert promoter introduced me to saints and to jerks, I've never needed to like the artists I presented, to get to know them as people. That said, I do appreciate when performers grant us at least a glimpse of who they are. Amanda Anne Platt. Lori McKenna. Erin Enderlin. 

Caroline Spence. Spence puts forth her mission statement as a songwriter at the outset of her fourth album, True North (Rounder): I sit down here to work through my fears, she sings. And that's what I end up singing out loud. Beginning with her 2015 debut, through her excellent one-two punch of Spades & Roses and 2019's Mint Condition, she has embraced the role of a heart-on-a-sleeve songwriter, delivering some of the decade's strongest songs including "Southern Accident", "What You Don't Know" and the devastating "Sit Here and Love Me": I'm still someone you know / Please recognize my shadow / This is the same place from where I love you deeply

While Spence operates near the crossroads of folk, country and pop, she identifies influences much further afield: In 2020 I did a nostalgic deep dive and listened to a lot of Nada Surf, Aimee Mann, Oasis - all the teenage mix tape all-stars ... For her new collection, she partnered with producer/instrumentalist Jordan Lehning, who has helmed projects for like-minded artists such as Andrew Combs, Joshua Hedley and Caitlin Rose. The songwriter also acknowledges her allegiance to literary figures on True North. That opening confessional is simply called "Mary Oliver", arriving with the bang of drums and with chiming keys, a larger and more radio-ready sound that permeates the sessions. Spence jabs at her reputation as a confessional writer: Turn off the record if you think I'm getting better / I don't want to let you down

"Clean Getaway" begins with an electric pulse and more big drums, atmospherics that identify True North as not just another contemporary singer-songwriter standing at a mic. Rubbery reverb guitars and bright piano accents propel the song forward as Spence, rushing headlong into her thirtieth year, sings of her Saturn Return. Most days it's hard just to be yourself / But it's impossible to be anybody else, she sings, coming to terms with those elements of our younger selves that serve as an inheritance as we concede to adulthood. With its low-slung guitars and boom-crash percussion, "Walk the Walk" also delivers on Spence's sonic promise for a more rewarding listen.

Beneath the robust drums, the more insistent guitar and the studio touches, Caroline Spence's lyrical gift leaves no doubt about her perennial commitment to songcraft.  Songs like "True North" and "The Gift" shine with acceptance and encouragement, and her cowrite with Lori McKenna, "Next Good Time" could be stitched and hung on a quiet kitchen wall: Grit your teeth / Get through it / And wait for the next good time. Inspired by Mary Oliver and Pema Chodron, "There's Always Room" bursts with these blooms of wisdom: Pain is just love with nowhere to go. These are hardwon perspectives as opposed to flowery Hallmark sentiments, aphorisms that the songwriter shares unabashedly. 

In February, Spence released "I Know You Know Me", a duet with the National's Matt Berninger that raised questions about a possible musical redirection. Any changes simply serve to sharpen the focus on her growing confidence and directness as a writer, not to overlook Spence's increasingly distinct vocal delivery. Look no further than "Scale These Walls", a typically gratifying slice of melodic perfection that finds the singer issuing an invitation to breach her defenses: Come on over here and scale these walls / I built them just for you. True North is Caroline Spence in her element, at her most vulnerable. It's a step towards production and arrangement that bring her closer to the sound of her songwriting hero Taylor Swift, while sacrificing none of her humanity or her accessibility. 


Some good stuff added this week to A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster, our perpetually updated calendar of new and forthcoming roots music releases. Wilco (finally) returns to the days of olde on their new collection. We look forward to Cruel Country on May 27 (dBpm). Patty Griffin dug through boxes of demo tapes for her new project. The lo-fi Tape in due on June 10 (PGM). Rod Picott is one of our most consistently reliable singer-songwriters. His 14th record, Paper Hearts & Broken Arrows lands on shelves on June 10, courtesy of his Welding Rod label. The always interesting Damien Jurado has set June 24 as a release date for Reggae Film Star (Maraqopa). Finally, in the wake of the passing of Dallas Good, the Sadies will release his final album. Produced by Arcade Fire's Richard Redd Parry, expect Colder Streams on July 22 (Yep Roc). 

Sunday, May 01, 2022

ROUTES-cast MAY 1, 2022

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
May 1, 2022
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Writing this week from Southern Virginia, where Spring has placed a stranglehold on everything in sight (as opposed to Colorado where last I checked Spring was little more than a suggestion). As we sneak out of April, and maybe give May a chance, we select just ten standout songs from the past thirty days. 


1. Deau Eyes, "Another One Comes Around" Legacies  (Tone Tree, Jun 10)
2. Caroline Spence, "Scale These Walls" True North  (Rounder, Apr 29)
3. SG Goodman, "All My Love is Coming Back To Me" Teeth Marks  (Verve, Jun 3)
4. Thomas Dollbaum, "All is Well" Wellswood  (Big Legal Mess, May 20)
5. Laney Jones, "One Fine Morning" Stories Up High  (Tone Tree, May 20)
6. Wilco, "Falling Apart (Right Now)" Cruel Country  (dBpm, May 27)
7. Angel Olsen, "Big Time" Big Time  (Jagjaguwar, Jun 3)
8. Hackensaw Boys, "Mary Shelley" Hackensaw Boys  (Suns Work, Jun 24)
9. Aaron Raitiere, "Single Wide Dreamer" Single Wide Dreamer  (Dinner Time, May 6)
10. Kevin Morby, "A Random Act of Kindness" This is a Photograph  (Dead Oceans, May 13)


- Glenn Jones, "Ruthie's Farewell" Vade Mecum  (Thrill Jockey, Jun 24)
^ Caroline Spence, "Mary Oliver" True North  (Rounder, 22)
- Thomas Dollbaum, "Work Hard" Wellswood  (Big Legal Mess, May 20)
- Kevin Morby, "A Random Act of Kindness" This is a Photograph  (Dead Oceans, May 13) 
- Angel Olsen, "Big Time"  Big Time  (Jagjaguwar, Jun 3)
- Cass McCombs, "Belong to Heaven" single (Anti, 22)  D
- Wilco, "Falling Apart (Right Now)" Cruel Country  (dBpm, May 27)  D
- Los Colognes, "Ballad of a Straw Man" New World  (Colognes, May 3)  D
- Mavis Staples & Levon Helm, "I Wish I Know How It Would Feel To Be Free" Carry Me Home  (Anti, May 20)
- Jonny Burke, "I Cut Off My Ankle Monitor to Be Here" Behind the Pine Curtain  (Burke, 22)  D
- Black Keys, "It Ain't Over" Dropout Boogie  (Nonesuch, May 13)
- MJ Lenderman, "Under Control" Boat Songs  (Dear Life, 22)
- Michaela Anne, "Does It Ever Break Your Heart" Oh To Be That Free  (Yep Roc, Jun 10)
- Damien Jurado, "Taped In Front of a Live Studio Audience" Reggae Film Star  (Maraqopa, Jun 24)  D
- Patty Griffin, "Get Lucky" Tape  (PGM, Jun 10)  D
- Sadies, "Cut Up High and Dry" Colder Streams  (Yep Roc, Jul 22)  D
- Joshua Hedley, "River in the Rain" Neon Blue  (New West, 22)
- Damn Quails, "Monsters" Clouding Up Your City  (Honky Tonk Lab, Jun 17)  D
- Margo Price, "Goin' to the Country" That's How Rumors Get Started (Deluxe Edition)  (Loma Vista, 22)
- Corb Lund, "Big American Headliner" Songs My Friends Wrote  (New West, 22)
- 49 Winchester, "All I Need" Fortune Favors the Bold  (New West, May 13)
- Miranda Lambert, "Music City Queen (feat. B-52s)" Palomina  (Vanner, 22)
- Drew Kennedy, "Marathon" Marathon  (Atlas Aurora, Jun 17)  D
- Izaak Opatz, "East of Barstow" Extra Medium  (Mama Bird, 22)
- JD McPherson, "Manta Ray" single  (New West, 22)  D
- Eli Paperboy Reed, "I'm Gonna Break Every Heart I Can" Down Every Road  (Yep Roc, 22)
- Seth Walker, "Remember Me" I Hope I Know  (Royal Potato Family, May 20)
- Nicki Bluhm, "Friends (How to Do It)" Avondale Drive  (Compass, Jun 3)
- Whiskey Myers, "Whole World Gone Crazy" Tornillo  (Wiggy Thump, Jun 29)  
- John Calvin Abney, "Sleepwalkers" Tourist  (Black Mesa, Aug 5)

To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Sunday, April 24, 2022

ROUTES-cast APRiL 24, 2022

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
April 24, 2022
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

It's like the roots music encyclopedia of the internet. A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster will keep you in the know about the year's americana and releases. This week, we added the next full-length project from Andrew Bird. Recorded largely live with his four-piece outfit, Inside Problems will reach us June 3 (Wegawam). Lera Lynn's forthcoming project arrives in the wake of the birth of her first child. Something More Than Love is set for a July 15 appearance. John Moreland has been one of our favorite songwriters for years. Produced by Matt Pence, Birds in the Ceiling will appear wherever music matters on July 22 (Old Omens). Marcus King sticks with Dan Auerbach to produce his sophomore album. Young Blood is due on August 26, courtesy of American. Originally released in 2001, Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot receives a deluxe deluxe treatment. Set for a September 16 release, the very expanded edition boasts eleven LPs, a hardcover book, new packaging and more (Nonesuch). 


- Whitney Rose, "In a Rut (live)" Rodeos Live  (MCG, 22)  D
- Blackberry Smoke, "I Got the Blues" Stoned EP  (3 Legged, 22)  D
- Phosphorescent, "Homecoming" single  (Calldown, 22)  D
- Kristina Murray, "I'm Gonna Hurt Him On the Radio" single  (Loud Magnolia, 22)  D
- Lyle Lovett, "Pants is Overrated" 12th of June  (Verve, May 13)
- Marcus King, "Hard Working Man" Young Blood  (American, Aug 26)  D
- Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder, "What a Beautiful City" Get On Board  (Nonesuch, 22)
- Luke Winslow-King, "If These Walls Could Talk" If These Walls Could Talk  (Ghost River, May 6)
- Margo Price, "Later On (feat. Band of Heathens, Nicki Bluhm)" That's How Rumors Get Started (Deluxe)  (Loma Vista, 22)  D
- Tommy McLain, "I Ran Down Every Dream (feat. Elvis Costello)" I Ran Down Every Dream  (Yep Roc, Aug 26)  D
- Zach Bryan, "Something in the Orange" American Heartbreak  (Belting Bronco, May 20)
- Joshua Hedley, " Found in a Bar" Neon Blue  (New West, 22)
- Charley Crockett, "Where Have All the People Gone" Jukebox Charley  (Son of Davy, 22)
- Lera Lynn, "Illusion" Something More Than Love  (Lera Lynn, Jul 15)  D
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Painkiller" Paint This Town  (ATO, 22)
- Flatland Cavalry, "Tilt Your Chair Back" Far Out West Sessions  (Flatland, May 6)  D
- IV and the Strange Band, "Stand Your Ground" Southern Circus  (Black Country Rock, Jun 17)  
- Grant-Lee Phillips, "All By Heart" All That You Can Dream  (Yep Roc, May 20)
- Laura Viers, "Winter Windows" Found Light  (Raven Marching Band, Jul 8)  D
- Drunken Prayer, "She's a Heart" Name of the Ghost is Home  (Fluff & Gravy, 22)
- Andrew Bird, "Underlands" Inside Problems  (Wegawam, Jun 3)  D
^ John Moreland, "Ugly Faces" Birds in the Ceiling  (Old Omens, Jul 22)  D
- Jo Schornikow, "Plaster" Altar  (Keeled Scales, May 20)
- Craig Finn, "Birthdays" Legacy of Rentals  (Positive Jams, May 20)
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "Still Some Light" single  (Dead Oceans, 22)  D
- Roger Harvey, "Last Prisoner" single  (Harvey, 22)  D
- MJ Lenderman, "Toontown" Boat Songs  (Dear Life, Apr 29)
- Neko Case, "Oh Shadowless" Wild Creatures  (Anti, 22)  D
- Delta Spirit, "One is Hone" One is One  (New West, May 20)  
- Wilco, "Reservations (Live at the Pageant St Louis MO 7/23/02)" Yankee Hotel Foxtrot  (Nonesuch, Sep 16)  D

To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:

Sunday, April 17, 2022

ROUTES-cast APRiL 17, 2022

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
April 17, 2022
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

Just added the last couple days to A Routes & Branches Guide To Feeding Your Monster: Drive-by Truckers have announced a release date for their 14th album. Welcome 2 Club XIII is slated for a June 3 debut, courtesy of the ATO label. After a pair of satisfying country covers collections, American Aquarium are ready for their follow-up to 2020's Lamentations. June 10 will be the street date for Chicamacomico, on the band's Losing Side Records. John Calvin Abney serves as the producer for the return of Damn Quails. Their first project since their 2016 hiatus, Clouding Up Your City will appear wherever music matters on June 17. Hackensaw Boys have set June 24 as the date for their next collection, a self-titled LP (Suns Work). And finally, Arlo McKinley returns with his second record for the Oh Boy label. Expect This Mess We're In on July 15. 


- Chris Bathgate, "Don't Look Back" Significance of Peaches  (Quite Scientific, May 13)
- Jillette Johnson, "Daddy Dopamine" single  (Tone Tree, 22)  D
- MJ Lenderman, "Hangover Game" Boat Songs  (Dear Life, Apr 29)
- Americans, "Stand True" Stand True  (Loose, May 6)
- Leyla McCalla, "Dodinin" Breaking the Thermometer  (Anti, May 6)
- Caamp, "Apple Tree Blues" Lavender Days (Mom + Pop, Jun 24)
- Orville Peck, "All I Can Say" Bronco  (Capitol, 22)
- Caroline Spence, "Scale These Walls" True North  (Rounder, Apr 29)
- Silos, "My Favorite Animal" Family  (Sonic Pyramid, Jun 21)  D
- John Doe, "El Romance-O" Fables in a Foreign Land  (Fat Possum, May 20)
- Brennen Leigh, "Obsessed With the West" Obsessed With the West  (Signature Sounds, May 6)
- Hackensaw Boys, "Mary Shelley" Hackensaw Boys  (Suns Work, Jun 24)  D
- David Quinn, "Boy From Illinois" Country Fresh  (Down Home, Apr 15)
- Mary Gauthier, "Fall Apart World" Dark Enough To See the Stars  (In the Black, Jun 3)
- Ralph White, "Motel 6" It's More in My Body Than in My Mind  (Worried Songs, Jun 24)
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Gloryland" Paint This Town  (ATO, Apr 22)
- Kaitlin Butts, "Jackson" What Else Can She Do  (Soundly, 22)  D
- Paul Cauthen, "Caught Me at a Good Time" Country Coming Down  (Velvet Rose, 22)
- Corb Lund, "That's What Keeps the Rent Down" Songs My Friends Wrote  (New West, Apr 29)
- Banditos, "Waves" Right On  (Egghunt, May 20)
- Drive-by Truckers, "Welcome 2 Club XIII" Welcome 2 Club XIII  (ATO, Jun 3)  D
^ American Aquarium, "All I Needed" Chicamacomico  (Losing Side, Jun 10)  D
- 49 Winchester, "Damn Darlin'" Fortune Favors the Bold  (New West, May 13)
- Marissa Nadler, "Quicksilver Daydreams of Maria" Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol 3  (Neurot, Apr 22)  D
- Daniel Rossen, "It's a Passage" You Belong There  (Warp, 22)
- Mapache, "Love Can't Hold Me" Roscoe's Dream  (Innovative Leisure, Jun 10)
- John Craigie, "Microdose" Mermaid Salt  (Craigie, 22)
- Zach Bryan, "Late July" American Heartbreak  (Belting Bronco, 22)
- Grey DeLisle, "Princess Mike" Princess Mike  (Hummin'bird, Oct 7)  D
- Sylvie, "Hold On Magnolia" single  (Secretly Canadian, 22)  D

To enjoy our weekly Spotify ROUTES-cast, just open Spotify and search for "routesandbranches" to access this most recent playlist, as well as many others from past months.  Or click here for a preview:


featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
April 17, 2022
Scott Foley, purveyor of glitter dust

Last month University of Illinois Press published a book by Shana Goldin-Perschbacher. Queer Country identifies a queer thread that has run through country music for generations. Interested readers will want to spend some time with the excellent Pitchfork interview. The book jacket features the masked and fringed figure of Orville Peck, hands reaching towards the audience like he is weaving a spell. Perhaps bestowing a blessing. 

A self-identified world traveler, Peck (a pseudonym) was born and raised in South Africa. While he prefers to remain a man of mystery, some progress has been made in parsing together the identity of the person behind the fringed mask since the 2019 release of Pony. Much of the response to the debut centered on the novelty of his appearance, the fact that the record was released with the support of the country-averse Sub Pop label, and his sexuality, which was the one part of his identity about which he left no doubt. Not only was Orville Peck messing with gender, he was flirting with the very conservative fabric of country music. On top of his originals, the songwriter released subsequent covers of Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy", Johnny Cash's "Jackson" and genre-fied runs through "Smalltown Boy" and "Born This Way". Add to this his one-off as one-half of The Unrighteous Brothers, working with Paul Cauthen to deconstruct a couple Righteous Brothers standards. 

At heart, these renditions speak to Peck's dedication to his chosen genre, especially those rhinestoned, larger-than-life aspects that have been a part of country music for decades. It's from beneath those stagelights that he delivers Bronco, his second full-length collection. It's the Nash-vegas stage upon which he poses and croons in the video for "C'mon Baby Cry", dodging bottles and boos from onlookers as he catches the eye of his paramour: I can tell you're a sad boy just like me / Baby don't deny what your poor heart needs. Orville Peck stands confidently at the intersection of Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston. 

Where Pony (and the subsequent Show Pony EP) might have been tentative, exploratory gestures, Bronco is bold and blatant, with a confidence and an abandon that fuel the driving title cut. Catch the sun boy / Let 'em say your name Peck sings, riding atop a bucking, galloping rhythm . That same urgency drives songs like "Daytona Sand", a country-surf cut with a racing heartbeat pulse. Always a remarkable vocalist, his trademark baritone hiccups like Dwight Yoakam, soars like kd lang, and cries with an energy and emotion that can only be likened to Roy Orbison. 

Orville Peck relates how the pandemic granted him time to focus on his songccraft, even as it also brought a challenge to his emotional wellbeing. He recalls an early crush on "Kalahari Down": What do I know? Buncha sorrow / Promises of a desperado / Through the rusty sky I feel the breeze. Peck's voice swells, lifted with the dramatic strings. Noam Pikelny's banjo compliments the lovely acoustic "Hexie Mountains" and "Iris Rose", which adds trumpet for a Southwest accent. 

Throughout Bronco, Peck is supported by members of his touring band, an outfit that performs as FRIGS, and in 2021 released a decidedly avant take on the Cuntry Covers Vol 1 EP under the moniker Bria. Bria Salmena and Duncan Hay Jennings contribute a punk esthetic to Bronco's arrangements, though their ability to perform within what is largely a country pocket is impressive. Salmena duets with Peck on "All I Can Say" to revelatory results. 

While not as unexpected as the arrival of Pony, the new project succeeds far less on novelty and more on the merits of its writing and execution. "Curse of the Blackened Eye" and "Trample Out the Days" are among the year's best songs, the former adding a country-exotica vibe to lyrics addressing the emotional struggle or personal history that haunt us: It ain't the letting go, it's more about the things that you take with. Bronco also seems to be a genuinely personal record, setting aside any masquerade for a dive deep into the soul of this costumed performer. Orville Peck masterfully deploys artifice and flash as a vehicle for truth, the kind of honesty on which country music has prided itself since the beginning. The genre would do well to open its doors wide in welcome.