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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Photo by Peter Farrier

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music
July 29, 2018
Scott Foley, purveyor of dust

I'm a bit backed up with stuff to review this week.  Should I focus on Amanda Shires' unexpectedly forward-thinking CD?  While I'm liking Lucero's most adult-sounding record to date, I'm not entirely sure what I can contribute to the conversation.  How about Israel Nash's "modern day hippie-spiritual", or the just-released album that's set to make Cody Jinks a household name?

Nah.  How 'bout a quietly stunning little solo album from one-half of the Lowest Pair?  It's what we're all about here at R&B, shedding new light on stuff you might otherwise overlook.  While each of the above will almost certainly appear on my year-end favorites lists, nobody who frequents our humble online abode is unaware of them.  In some ways, I feel obligated to review those, and I'm really happy to share them.  But I feel positively driven to talk about Kendl Winter's Stumbler's Business (Team Love Records).

It's not necessarily what you think.  Kendl Winter is best known for her recent acoustic collaborations with Palmer T Lee, though she's been a contributor to a variety of bands from punk to folk for years.  She's issued a diversity of solo CDs as well, though Stumbler's Business marks my entree into her musical world. It's folk music, though it's characterized by its departures as much as it is by its allegiances.

"Pretty Saro" has been tackled by a who's who of the Folk Mount Rushmore, including Dylan, Doc Watson, Pete Seeger and Judy Collins.  Winter delivers the standard as a spooky and mournful Appalachian dirge, enveloped in an exquisite quiet.  What separates her from these others is her age-old voice, an instrument made beautiful for its creaks and warm breaks.  The most ready comparison would be to Victoria Williams, though there is also room for Karen Dalton and Gillian Welch.  "Saro" is about as trad as she gets, with most of Stumbler's Business flowing from her own pen.

Audio fidelity is not the point of these recordings.  Songs like "Solitude" and "When She Did" are delivered in lo- or no-fi.  Even at its most polished, Winter's recordings retain the warmth and honesty of a living room session, and that contributes to the appeal.  Kendl Winter is a skilled banjo player and a guitarist, populating her songs with impressive stringwork, both acoustic and electric.  And despite those folk roots, many pieces feature some degree of unexpected accompaniment.

"Artesian Well" pairs her otherworldly voice with that of Pine Hearts' Joe Cappocia, singing the praises of the healing waters of her Pacific Northwest home. Winter's lone frailed banjo is gradually joined by guitar and mandolin, with voices weaving and meeting at the well:  We keep coming back / It's all I know how to do.

"Beauty We Beg" is an inventory of her world, a warning to those who would try to force an artificial order on nature's disorder.  I will not impose my chaos upon those / That would rather walk than to run.  More than any other, the tune shows Winter's gift as a lyricist, capable of poetry and pun.  Driftwood beam to hold up the thing / That smells like the crotch of the ocean / You call it a home / It does look warm, though I wrinkle my nose / From my station.

But Stumbler's Business is at its most rewarding as it strays furthest from expectation, as heard on "Nebraska" or on the title track.  The former is built upon unexpectedly gritty squalls of electric guitar and little more. On a record that reaches us largely through intimacy, "Nebraska" is fierce and dark:  I've been framed / Free to go and then detained / This jury's loaded and deranged / Nothing's changed and everything's changing.

The CD's title cut begins and ends with ambient street noise, which folds into Winter's electric guitar and her voice: I'm looking for a way to fall / Tonight / I hear that record skipping / I feel bodies moving.  Her guitar echoes until it's almost a tidal drone behind her gorgeous and ecstatic phrasing.  We fall forward and we fail, we learn and we fall again:  Floor / Meet the body / Body / Meet the floor.

You might recall some good words I cast a couple months ago upon a record by Haley Heynderickx, I Need to Start a Garden.  Like that refreshing blast of folk-inspired song, Kendl Winter's new collection is so unlike almost anything else on the airwaves that it's inseparable from its creator.  Both work their craft with reverence for tradition, but force those familiar sounds in new directions in a spirit of playfulness and joy.

What's So Great About July?!!

July is the King of Assy Weather.  It's also been an underwhelming month for noteworthy new releases.  Nevertheless, there's always something shiny to distract us.  Here are my five favorite things from the past thirty days, in order of appearance:

Nude Party, Nude Party  (New West, Jul 6)
Jayhawks, Back Roads & Abandoned Motels  (Sony, Jul 13)
Lori McKenna, The Tree  (CN, Jul 20)
Israel Nash, Lifted  (Desert Folklore, Jul 27)
Cody Jinks, Lifers  (Rounder, Jul 27)

Fortunately, our musical horizon is crowded with goodness.  We're staring down new gamechanging stuff from Amanda Shires, Lucero, Jason Eady, Austin Lucas, Ryan Culwell, Aaron Lee Tasjan and more.

- Slobberbone, "Gimme Back My Dog" Everything You Thought Was Right  (New West, 00)
- Nude Party, "Chevrolet Van" Nude Party  (New West, 18)
- Cedric Burnside, "Ain't Gonna Take No Mess" Benton County Relic  (Single Lock, 18)
- John Howie Jr, "When I'm Not There With You" Not Tonight  (Howie, 18)  D
- Rev Peyton's Big Damn Band, "Front Porch Trained" So Delicious  (Shanachie, 15)
- Jason Eady, "That's Alright" I Travel On  (Old Guitar, 18)
- Lucero, "Cover Me" Among the Ghosts  (Liberty + Lament, 18)
^ Kendl Winter, "Nebraska" Stumbler's Business  (Team Love, 18)
- Iron & Wine, "What Hurts Worse" Weed Garden EP  (Sub Pop, 18)  D
- Rayland Baxter, "79 Shiny Revolvers" Wide Awake  (ATO, 18)
- Lori McKenna, "Young & Angry Again" The Tree  (CN, 18)
- Ben Danaher, "Still Feel Lucky" Still Feel Lucky  (Soundly, 18)
- Jerry David Decicca, "Cactus Flower" Burning Daylight  (Super Secret, 18)  D
- Leif Vollebekk, "Southern United States" North Americana  (Missing Piece, 13)
- Kevin Galloway, "Miles and Miles" The Change  (Nine Mile, 18)
- Tom Freund, "Freezer Burn" East of Lincoln  (Surf Road, 18)
- Willy Tea Taylor & River Arkansas, "Leaf Change"  Good Damn Dog  (WTT, 18)
- Damnations (TX), "Steeple Full of Swallows" Where it Lands  (Joy-Ride, 02)
- Richard Thompson, "Bones of Gilead" 13 Rivers  (New West, 18)
- Tyler Childers, "Bottles & Bibles" Live on Red Barn Radio I & II  (Hickman Holler, 18)
- Nathan Bowles, "The Road Reversed" Plainly Mistaken  (Paradise of Bachelors, 18)  D
- Colter Wall, "Plain to See Plainsman" Songs of the Plains  (Young Mary's, 18)  D
- Dawn Landes, "Traveling" Meet Me at the River  (YepRoc, 18)  D
- Jayhawks, "Gonna Be a Darkness" Back Roads & Abandoned Motels  (Sony, 18)
- Ruston Kelly, "Son of a Highway Daughter" Dying Star  (Rounder, 18)
- Bottle Rockets, "I Wanna Come Home" Brooklyn Side  (East Side Digital, 95)
- Cody Jinks, "Colorado" Lifers  (Rounder, 18)
- Andrew Combs, "I Envy the Wind" 5 Covers & a Song  (New West, 18)
- Black Lillies, "Midnight Stranger" Stranger to Me  (Attack Monkey, 18)  D
- Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Weeds Downtown" Dereconstructed  (Sub Pop, 14)

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