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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dispatches from the den...

Rallying from the flu induced fetal position because there is no time to lie back and let these artists pass you by. I jest, but really there is so much interesting music coming out, I don’t want to miss a chance to share any of it with you.

The New Year has quickly gone from a snow flurry to a blizzard; I guess it is the La Nina effect on tunes. Established artists and promising new ones are releasing exciting material every Tuesday. Of course, that’s where I come in to try and capture a little of the storm in my hand and pass it on to you.

Besides the amazing Abigail Washburn’s album City of Refuge, I am excited about some recently released EPs. The first is Love Destroyer from the cello-rock duo Oak and Gorski. It’s a batch of infectious, well written and sung songs soaked in guitar and cello. What’s not to love?

The second EP Two Tired Hearts from the wryly named duo Domestic Crisis Group. Dane Ratliff and Genevieve Blouin come to us via Montreal but easily sound like disenchanted, economy weary Americans in their lamentations.

The third is hard to get your hands on. It is The Unfortunate Sons from the British trio of the same name. The songs are covers of blues/rock classics that the group breathes life into. Lead singer Gavin Conder is being compared to Paul Rodgers but he’ll easily hold his own. His voice is “like butta’ “. This group leaves me begging for more.

Willie Nelson’s boy Lukas Nelson and his band Promise of the Real snuck out an album at the end of December. The boy is gifted and capable offering up a blend of rock country and blues. Lukas has a lethal combination of guitar chops and a voice that sounds eerily like his old man’s. The album contains a couple of gorgeous tunes like “Don’t Lose Your Mind” and “Sound of Your Memory” along with covers and rockers. The promise is real.

Another new release is the soundtrack to Wretches and Jabberers a documentary about two men with autism. The soundtrack is written and produced by J. Ralph mostly known for advertisements and soundtracks which means little on this work other than he has honed his craft well. Each song stands alone as strikingly as a painting that turns your head and begs you to look again. The album is a mellow folk oriented compilation sung by artists like Ben Harper, Norah Jones, Stephen Stills, Bob Weir, Ben Taylor and mom Carly Simon.

There are releases coming down the pike that I am anxiously awaiting. Over The Rhine’s Long Surrender is due February 8, but you can pre-order the album on their site and get the music digitally immediately. Married couple Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist  continue to put out material that has landed them on Paste magazine’s top 100 living songwriters—but it is Bergquist that gives the words and music their voice—the definition of torch.

Amos Lee’s handlers keep releasing tunes from Mission Bell one at a time and each one as nummy as the one before. January 25th  is the day I can finally get the whole thing in my hands. This album is produced and backed by Joey Burns and band mates Calexico. There is a team of other artists lending their skills and voices as well, including Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) and Lucinda Williams. It looks to be the combination that finally delivers what Lee’s other offerings just missed.

Bright Eyes new album People’s Key is due February 15th is supposedly the last record Conor Oberst will release under the moniker of Bright Eyes. The first single "Shell Games" has been released and I’ve included it on the juke box again this week because I love it. Conor is one of those artists like Ryan Adams -- who for me who is so talented, so prolific and so heavily influenced by music and musicians way before his time that a good editor might be required.

Also like Adams, I prefer the Oberst's alt-country material to some of the rock or emo projects. I guess this is where I mention I was not overly enthusiastic about Ryan’s last release—there, I’ve mentioned it. BUT, I am stoked about the new Bright Eyes release and anxiously await the results. Come on Conor, show your brilliance!

Low Anthem's Smart Flesh is coming February 22nd. I've included a version of "Ghost Woman Blues" on the juke box. On the heels of the critically acclaimed Oh My God Charlie Darwin this band is proving that they are in it for the long haul and have the goods to back it up.

I have really saved my favorite for last and it is one that I am getting pretty pissy about having to wait for. Why do we ship our best and brightest off to the UK to reintroduce back to us, like Kings of Leon, Lissie and now Caitlin Rose? I am so revved up about this alt-country/rock child who is talented far beyond her 23 years.

She hails from Nashville but had to go to Ireland for us to notice. Her first full length album Own Side Now was released in the UK last August but state side we don’t get it until mid-March. The buzz is gaining momentum, after listening to her 2008 EP Dead Flowers and the available cuts from her new album it is clear why she is generating attention. I am completely smitten and have included one of my favorites “Shanghai Cigarettes” as the featured video and the title cut from her new album on the juke box with a video link here.

I’m putting out an all alt-country post next week. Who do you think of when you hear the term alt-country? Do you listen to it and who are some of your faves?  Talk amongst yourselves.

I’m headed back to curl up in the den. Listen like you mean it.

I'm adding a note here on 1/23. I will publish a new post on Saturday 1/30. I'm listening to my audience--too much too fast. Also, I will create a running list of featured artists, complete with links, in case you missed a post.


  1. Erin for those of us who procrastinate too much :) you should create a running list of artist that shows up on the front page or a link to it is on the front page. Just a simple list of names for those of us too lazy to go back and dig thru your posts when we decide to make the time.

    Really enjoy your blog!

  2. I can do that. I'm going to an every other week format as well. Apparently, not everyone has time to check in every week and they miss it. A list is good though (with links). I'll add it.

  3. Thanks, Erin...I really love reading your posts and listening to your samples...I listen at work on my Droid and keep a sheet of paper close by to jot down the songs and artists I want to explore more in depth...of course, occassionally I can't hold off and click over to amazon and download the mp3 (for most of them).

    The running list you are going to add will be great...and an every other week blog will give me more time to explore the music.

    Thanks for this!