Posts Tagged ‘Folk Rock’

The Ohio folk-rock band Saintseneca has carved out a nifty discography using unexpected tools in inventive ways. There’s the exotic instrumentation, sure stuff like the balalaika and the bouzouki, to go with more familiar sounds – but the group also has a real gift for matching fatalistic, ruminative rambles to arrangements that sparkle and surprise. In the brightly infectious “Moon Barks at the Dog,” one of many highlights from their new album “Pillar of Na”, Zac Little suggests an M.O. for Saintseneca that fits into just six words: “Weep with me in 4/4 time.”

The Columbus, Ohio group’s latest single, “Beast in the Garden,” uses Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden as a nostalgic discussion point, stopping short of any sermonizing or guilt-tripping. Its intricate finger-plucking bursts joyously into a mix of jubilant horns, anxious violins, and sprawling Zither-based instrumentation. Little’s voice rings with urgency as he sings, “Beast in the garden/Be still guarding the gate,” referencing the couple‘s inability to return to paradise.

Four albums into its career, Saintseneca continues to poke at its sound’s margins, as the new record’s nearly nine-minute title track incorporates fluttering acoustic instruments, a crowd-pleasing folk-rock jam, a stormy crescendo, a verse about Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” a chant of “We all must get stoned” and an a cappella coda that revisits “Circle Hymn,” the track that opens the album.

But Pillar of Na’s artier reaches also liven up more broadly accessible jams like “Frostbiter,” which marries oblique musings on death, dashed hopes and survival to choruses sweet enough to swoon to.

Band Members
Zac Little, Caeleigh Featherstone, Steve Ciolek, Jon Meador, Matthew O’Conke

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Like the wild geese that the Portland-based trio are named after, the members of Greylag have all undertaken amazing journeys, migrating as if by homing instinct from different parts of the US, Greylag rich in melody, mood and detail embracing electric and acoustic with a sound that’s both subtle and forceful.
Andrew Stonestreet (lead vocal, acoustic guitar, originally from West Virginia), Daniel Dixon (lead guitar and other stringed things, keyboards, from Northern California) and Brady Swan (drums, from Texas). The venerated Phil Ek (Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, Modest Mouse, The Shins) produced the album at Seattle’s Avast! Studio, who clearly knows a sublime enterprising combination of roots and rock music when he hears it.
The name Greylag looks and sounds strong but has developed more meaning for the band – It’s a wild goose, from which all domestic geese originate, so it’s the first survivor, and it’s still wild, and doing things its own way – the ‘lag’ part refers to it being the last bird to migrate. It sits back and watches. We love the connotation.”

The influences range wildly – Dixon talks of Swan’s love of house music whilst Stonestreet grew up with folk and bluegrass. Other named influences that can be spied through those lenses are Led Zeppelin and Portland’s most famous son, the late Elliott Smith. Stonestreet also enthuses about Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 classic Then Play On, Bob Dylan, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Dixon says Neil Young more than CS&N, and also, more surprisingly, the other worldy-ness of Sigur Rós.

The new record is their first proper recording as a band. This can be sampled in the dynamic sway of “Mama”, “Kicking” and “One Foot” while “Black Sky” and “Walk The Night” illuminate that “spooky” Led Zep III/Buckley axis. “Yours To Shake” and Burn On”, meanwhile, connect the two poles, building from quiet to loud, as Greylag take flight, gloriously. It’s a selective journey, though: though up to 65 demos were recorded, the album is a modest, yet very complete, nine tracks and 37 minutes in length.

The album artwork is the final touch. It resembles an old hardbound book, with the name pressed into the surface and a symbol above it, roughed up on edges, like something you’d find in a grandfather’s attic, something a little dark and strange and mysterious. It feels modern but it’s inspired by something from an earlier era.

Taken from their forthcoming self titled album “Greylag” released late last year, this Portland trio has a folk Fleet Foxes type sound, the songs are catchy and briskly strummed epics with great vocals

Fairport Convention remain a footnote in the careers of Richard Thompson, who was already growing into one of the most remarkable guitarists in British folk and rock , The band also included Ian Matthews and Ric Grech among others.  Heralded as one of the truly great folk rock British bands of the late ’60s. Initially inspired by American rock and folk  ( the band started out as the U.K.’s response to Jefferson Airplane as you can certainly hear in this song ) , they were immersed in songs by such artists as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, the Everly Brothers and Leonard Cohen. Though their take on “Suzanne” which failed to end up on their debut LP, a version was finally released on “Heyday”, a 1987 collection of BBC recordings. first released in 1987. As its title suggests, it consists of live versions of songs recorded for John Peels’s Top Gear radio programmes. They electrify the song and give it an edge only hinted at in the Leonard Cohen original with the gorgeous vocal of Sandy Denny’s. 

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I think the story goes that Vashti Bunyan recorded this album in 1969 in the midst of some spirit quest to Wales and then moved to a farm to live out the rest of her life in peace. Fast forward to present times and one of her kids found her record on ebay for a gazillion dollars and it ended up she had developed a cult following. For some reason that story makes perfect sense to me. Just Another Diamond Day really does feel like an artifact of both the amazing British folk scene in the late 60’s and Vashti’s own journey trying to find peace.

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Sometimes it can be hard to stand out in the crowd when you’re producing experimental folk rock. Plenty of groups are capable of harmonizing well and turning simplistic rhythms into infectious anthems, but it’s rare to find artists who can evoke as much emotion as River Whyless. This Asheville, N.C.-based quartet crafts songs that immerse the listener into a time and place with well-defined emotional arcs. River Whyless EP is the band’s first release since their 2012 debut, A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door, and the past three years of touring have clearly given the band a powerful sense of self-confidence. River Whyless’ eponymous EP showcases the band’s willingness to shy away from expectations and explore its sonic horizon with compelling results

Different to the sprawling studio affair of her 2014 epic “The Innocents”, Weyes Blood’s newest foray, the track Cardamom Times, alters tropes of classicist folk arrangements with echo chambers, flutes, organ, and manipulated tapes to locate ‘timeless romance’ in the face of digital envelopment and urban decay.

Listen to the lovely title track below which has plenty of echoes of classic British folk, even touch of Jethro Tull and in which her mesmerising vocals grip like a vice.

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Golden Age Of Ballooning is a Brisbane based collective dedicated to creating a unique yet classic blend of Folk & Rock.  This Brisbane collective Golden Age of Ballooning have announced the release of their sophomore EP “We Will Never Let You Go”, and the follow up to debut release Don The Winter Coats”.

With narrative vocals, lush harmonies and evocative arrangements drive  through bursts of tempo and psychedelia. Duelling ebow solos, sea-sick guitars, pitch shifted drums and swirling organs recall influences such as My Bloody Valentine and Broken Social Scene whilst adding the Neil Young-ish folk charm that made their debut so endearing. 
Recorded live in the winter of 2012 shortly after the band formed, Don The Winter Coats is a captivating mix of modern folk, seventies rock and intimate themes; punctuated with blistering guitar solos and visions of snow covered landscapes.
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Richard & Linda Thompson’s Bright Light In Folk-Rock History

With the welcome up-swing in appreciation of Britain’s great history of cutting-edge folk-rock in the 1960s and ‘70s, it might come as a shock for modern converts to learn that the great duo of Richard & Linda Thompson never made the UK charts.

Thankfully, the first album to bill them together, ‘I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight,’ — released exactly 41 years ago on April 30, 1974 — has belatedly achieved the recognition it richly deserves. In 2003, it was listed in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time, chosen by critics and artists, at No. 332, just one place below the Beatles’ ‘Help!’. Last July, the record made its proud return to vinyl, the format in which it was first released, as part of Universal Music Catalogue’s Back 2 Black series.

The album was a superb showcase both for Richard’s spectacularly nimble and inventive guitar work, on songs like ‘When I Get To The Border’; his distinctive vocals, such as on ‘The Calvary Cross’ and the doom-laden ‘The End Of The Rainbow’; and the wonderful, pure voice of his then wife, the former folk singer Linda Peters, on pieces such as ‘Has He Got A Friend For Me,’ ‘Withered & Died’ and the title track. ‘Bright Lights’ was released as a single and seemed set fair for a chart position, but wasn’t able to convert airplay into sales.

The couple had recorded the album almost a year before it was released, in a London studio in May 1973. Just after its belated appearance, Richard Thompson answered the NME’s observation that it was full of world-weary sentiment.

“It is a bit of a down record,” he admitted, “but that was accidental. We tried to balance it, but something obviously went wrong somewhere…there are a lot of slow numbers. But I don’t think that’s bad – it’s still enjoyable, there are some optimistic songs. We’re not a doomy band – we try to cover aspects of our experience.”

As a duo, the Thompsons may never have turned the huge critical acclaim for their albums, and their live shows, to their true commercial benefit, but ‘Bright Lights’ stands today as a real jewel in the English folk-rock crown.

Surviving Members Of Fotheringay For London Show

The surviving members of folk music giants Fotheringay have announced a London concert on June 19th, their first such show for 45 years. Jerry Donahue, Gerry Conway and Pat Donaldson will reunite under the band name for the gig at Under The Bridge.

News of the performance comes on the day March 30th that Universal release the four-disc set ‘Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay,’ by the group formed by vocal legend Sandy Denny, on her departure from Fairport Convention, with her future husband Trevor Lucas. She had named the group after her 1968 composition which was inspired by Fotheringhay Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned. That song became part of Fairport’s landmark 1969 album and Sandy Denny’s debut with the group, ‘What We Did On Our Holidays.’

The new set features their one released album, from 1970, a 1971 follow-up that was abandoned when Denny left the group, plus unseen TV footage, previously unreleased live recordings from August 1970 and seven tracks recorded in session for BBC radio. This 3CD/1DVD set is the most comprehensive compilation yet of the group’s recordings, including hitherto unseen television footage, previously unreleased live recordings from a festival in Rotterdam (both from August 1970) and, for the first time, the official release of the seven existing tracks which Fotheringay recorded in session for BBC radio. The final DVD disc is the real Holy Grail for her fans. The four songs recorded by the group for the German TV show Beat Club effectively double the existing footage of Sandy Denny in performance. Two of these, ‘Nothing More’ and ‘John the Gun’ were never even broadcast at the time. Nothing More comes in hardcover book format complete with rare and previously unseen photographs of the band plus previously unseen original sketches for the Fotheringay cover by Marion Appleton, Trevor Lucas’s sister.

Lucas, Conway and Donahue all went on to join Fairport in 1972; the unfinished second album was finally released in 2008 as ‘Fotheringay 2,’ leading a whole new audience towards the delights of this short-lived but seminal outfit.

Buy ‘Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay’

Ireland’s Villagers have lifted the lid on a his new track from upcoming LP “Darling Arithmetic” called “Hot Scary Summer”. The track follows lead cut “Courage”, and sees bandleader Conor O’Brien sing about lost love destroyed by “all the pretty young homophobes looking out for a fight”. “Darling Arithmetic” is out 13th April on Domino Records. The band are at the  UK, Nottingham, Glee Club on the 26th March

Villagers

Folk singer Conor O’Brien is releasing the third Villagers album, Darling Arithmetic, on April 13th via Domino Records . He recorded and produced the album himself in his home, and the two songs that are out now, “Courage” and “Hot Scary Summer,” certainly have the intimacy of a home-recorded album. In comparison to the collaborator-filled Becoming a Jackal (2010) and Awayland (2013), there’s only minimal backing on this album from piano, mellotron and brushes, all also played by Conor. If these two singles are anything to go by, it’s looking like his most bare-bones album yet.