Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee’

Jack White’s been so commonly associated with rock ‘n’ roll over the years that it’s been easy to overlook the fact that he often works similar to how dance producers do. For starters, there’s nothing more explicitly tied to how dance music operates than running your own label to put out releases from yourself and others — and more broadly, since emerging at the turn of the century with his and Meg White’s beloved, now defunct White Stripes, White’s dipped in and out of various projects that more or less function as monikers under which he explores certain sounds.

White unearths or returns to these projects when the mood suits him, and they often bear their own distinct sonic identity. Besides the White Stripes’ arty blues-punk, he’s unleashed jet-black scuzziness with the Kills’ Alison Mosshart as the Dead Weather, embraced an anything-goes mentality with the music released under his own name, and tilted towards country-rock windmills with power-pop whiz Brendan Benson and members of defunct Detroit garage-rock act the Greenhornes as the Raconteurs.

White’s choosing to unearth this month a new Raconteurs’ album the bands third, “Help Us Stranger”. It’s the first album from the group in 11 years and barring the fact that it’s been nigh impossible to predict the machinations behind White’s own creative internal clock, the timing for him to return to more straightforward rock territory is impeccable.

White has effectively split the difference between his last solo album Boarding House Reach’s adventurousness and the band’s past trad-classic rock trappings, the results coming across as appealingly low-stakes. After a series of solo albums that, even at their strongest moments, possessed a nervy atmosphere not unlike grinding one’s teeth, Help Us Stranger is comparatively loose and limber, making for the most collection of songs White’s released in years.

Credit is due to Benson, who  as with 2006’s Broken Boy Soldiers and the 2008 quick-turnaround Consolers of the Lonely shares writing credits with White on almost every Help Me Stranger track. Just like Consolers, the sole song he doesn’t is a cover; this time around it’s a rollicking take on psych-pop shaman Donovan’s “Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness).” But That’s pretty much the only element that Help Me Stranger shares with Consolers; while the latter sagged from an overlong run time, the Raconteurs’ latest is a comparatively lean and mean 41 minutes, with brisk arrangements and more than a few grin-inducing breakdowns such as the double-time frenzy that closes out the boys-in-the-band opener “Bored And Razed.”

There’s a distinctly stoned silliness to parts of Help Me Stranger, none more evident than on the “Misty Mountain Hop”-ping “Only Child,” in which White sings about a “prodigal son” who’s “come back home again to get his laundry done.” Otherwise, the playfulness streaked across this album is mostly of the musical variety, like the multi-tracked vocals dotting the verse structure on “Don’t Bother Me” or the Tell-tale Heart-esque pulse that courses through “Now That You’re Gone.” There are guitar solos packed into nearly every empty corner of this thing, and plenty of the aggressively hammered piano lines that were so prevalent on Boarding House Reach, the latter playing much more enjoyably to the ears than on that record.

Suffice to say, if none of these sonic elements or the idea of four guys bashing out melodic rock music that nonetheless treads familiar ground — sound appealing to you, then you’re probably better off listening to nearly anything else. But the lack of formal innovation on Help Me Stranger packs its own odd appeal, especially when the old tricks are so capably performed. “Live A Lie” is straight-ahead Motor City garage rock that, ironically, bears some resemblance to once-White nemesis the Von Bondies’ “C’mon C’mon”; the guitar riff that kicks open on “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” recalls Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Happy Gilmore-closing “Tuesday’s Gone,” its midsection breaking into a gooey Beatles-esque breakdown.

Such callbacks to classic rock’s, er, classics inevitably bring to mind Greta Van Fleet, that shaggy-haired band of industry-beloved youngsters who’ve gained equal parts fame and critical consternation for joylessly regurgitating the entire Led Zeppelin catalog But there’s nothing that White and Benson have cooked up on Help Me Stranger that sounds like genre-reliant clock-punching; instead, they make playing around in the classic-rock sandbox sound like so much fun that you have to wonder why it took them eleven years to get back in the habit together. Hopefully, next time around they’ll make a point of getting together again sooner.

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Released June 21st, 2019 ,
2019, 2019 Third Man Records, LLC

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When you are a fan of an artist for a long period of time; consisting of multiple albums; it is natural to have you favorites and albums that you never play. Most people favour the early albums; Justin Townes Earle is one of those artists for me. While I really liked his album, Kids In The Street, I almost always find myself reaching for the older stuff. But I’m here to say that The Saint of Lost Causes is among his best work to date, his voice never sounding better. For his eighth album, Justin turned his gaze out – toward the state of America. Like the excellent,The Seduction of Kansas by Priests, Justin Townes Earle isn’t hitting you over the head with his rage. His imagery is pointed, yet subtle enough to requiring the listener to really listen.

The Saint Of Lost Causes is the 8th album from American roots troubadour, Justin Townes Earle. Earle’s latest album finds a songwriter and artist who is unflinching and unequivocal in his truth. When writing this album, Earle focused on a different America – the disenfranchised and the downtrodden, the oppressed and the oppressors, the hopeful and the hopeless. There’s the drugstore-cowboy-turned-cop-killer praying for forgiveness (Appalachian Nightmare) and the common Michiganders persevering through economic and industrial devastation (Flint City Shake It); the stuck mother dreaming of a better life on the right side of the California tracks (Over Alameda) and the Cuban man in New York City weighed down by a world of regret (Ahi Esta Mi Nina); the used up soul desperate to get to New Orleans (Ain’t Got No Money) and the sons of bitches in West Virginia poisoning the land and sea (Don’t Drink the Water). These are individuals and communities in every corner of the country, struggling through the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary circumstances of everyday life.

Over the course of the dozen tracks, Justin Townes Earle paints little stories of Americans that are getting left behind in this current shitstorm. He isn’t shy in pointing out his targets. It’s a powerful album digging so much deeper than the horrible outcome of a dead policeman.

Releasing such an outward looking album after the deeply personal and inward looking Kids In The Street was a nice touch. And he absolutely nailed it.

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Justin Townes Earle – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Adam Bednarik – Upright Bass, Electric Bass
Joe V. McMahan – Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar, Baritone Guitar, Celeste
Paul Niehaus – Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Pedal Steel
Jon Radford – Drums, Percussion
Cory Younts – Harmonica, Wurlitzer, Piano, Fender Rhodes, Background Vocals

Jack White and Brendan Benson’s group The Raconteurs are hitting the road for the first time in years, and are dropping their first album in over a decade “Help Us Stranger” this coming June. The Grammy-winning Nashville based powerhouse teased fans in December with two tracks from the record, and have now they have unveiled a third cut ‘Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)‘, a punchy reimagining of Scottish psychedelic folk singer Donovan‘s 1965 song. The Raconteurs‘ rendition inserts a heavy dose of garage punk heft into the tune, while retaining the stripped back original’s lusty soul. enjoy their cover of ‘Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)’ version below…

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released April 10th, 2019
2019, 2019 Third Man Records, LLC

Memphis power pop cult hero and Big Star contemporary Van Duren is the subject of the new documentary “Waiting”, and Omnivore has the companion CD soundtrack!  Featuring Van Duren favorites and previously unreleased tracks (including one recorded live at Ardent Studios in 1981 and one with Big Star’s Jody Stephens from 1975), the soundtrack boasts new liner notes from the artist.  All tracks are original masters (no re-recordings).  Look for Waiting – The Van Duren Story is out today on vinyl

“I’m not one of those people who dwells on the past very much” isn’t the first thing you expect to hear from a man whose 1978 debut album is at the center of a new documentary. “That was the strange part to me, to celebrate something that happened 40 years ago,” says Van Duren about Are You Serious?, the record that commands the undying affection of ’70s power pop obsessives, but has otherwise slipped between history’s cracks. Wade Jackson and Greg Carey’s film Waiting: The Van Duren Storyand its soundtrack album, however, aim to right that wrong.

In the first half of the ’70s, Duren was one of the most promising talents on the Memphis rock scene, along with power pop compatriots Big Star. He was even invited by Big Star drummer Jody Stephens to audition for the band after singer/guitarist Chris Bell’s departure, though the match was somewhat star-crossed. “It was a disaster,” Duren rather less diplomatically recalls. “I wasn’t a lead guitar player. Jody thought my vocal abilities and songwriting would really help the band in the direction he wanted to go. Meanwhile, they were cutting [dark, offbeat album] 3rd, which obviously had nothing to do with anything that I’d ever jump in on.”

Nevertheless, Duren seemingly never left Stephens’s mind. “When Big Star was kind of crumbling, he reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to do something,” remembers Duren. At Memphis’ legendary Ardent Studios, the pair cut demos of several Duren tunes. With famous admirers like Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in his corner, Duren eventually cut a deal with a tiny label out of Connecticut and released his debut, Are You Serious?, in 1978.

The record introduced a man with a plaintive voice and an unerring knack for the almighty hook. The stomping riffs of “Chemical Fire,” the yearning piano balladry of “Waiting,” and the McCartney/Rundgren vibe of the pumping pop-rocker “Grow Yourself Up” reveal an artist already fully matured in his mid-20s, bouncing off the same basic musical touchstones as his Big Star buddies but processing his influences in an utterly personal way. Though it earned some great reviews, it pretty much sank into obscurity, and when the follow-up album was scuttled in 1980 due to acrimonious label relations, Duren’s promising career seemed to flame out.

“It was a very dark situation and it was very tough to get through that,” says Duren. At that point, he pretty much dropped below the radar of the wider world. Some three and a half decades later, Sydney singer/songwriter Wade Jackson and his friend Greg Carey discovered Are You Serious? by accident. “It was everything I love about music,” says Jackson. “I was completely hooked; within a week, that was all I was listening to. I heard Big Star in there, I heard Todd Rundgren, and McCartney of course, I also heard that Emitt Rhodes thing, and I just felt like it was exactly what I was looking for. And the delivery of the vocal, I think, is so genuine. There’s something about the desperate delivery that I love. It’s very real, in my opinion.”

Jackson and Carey were so flabbergasted they decided they had to tell Duren’s story in a documentary despite having zero film experience, learning as they went. “Being so naïve about how it all works is probably what got me through it,” Jackson says.

But Duren’s been burned enough to operate from a place of caution when people approach him about his music. “Every now and then people reach out to me on social media,” he says, “and I’m pretty wary of it because many times it doesn’t go well, for whatever reason.” Consequently, he remained guarded when first-time filmmakers Jackson and Carey first emailed him from Australia. “It took a couple of months for Van to want to chat with us on the phone,” confirms Jackson. Over time, though, the well-intentioned Aussies earned Duren’s trust, and came to Memphis to meet him.

They eventually learned that while Duren never earned national attention, he never quit recording and performing. In the ’80s he formed Good Question, earning regional renown. “We started in August of ’82 and the band ran for 17 years,” Duren says. They released two albums and had a local hit with “Jane.” “Good Question almost immediately became one of the most popular live bands around here,” Duren remembers. “We worked all the time. It was the first time in my entire career I worked enough to actually go in the black.”

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After the band’s breakup in 1999, Duren kept working, releasing duo albums with fellow Memphian power pop hero Tommy Hoehn, as well as subsequent solo records and collaborations with others. “It was a real shock, to be honest,” says Jackson about learning of Duren’s post-’70s output. “It was great to hear that he’d never given up on writing tracks and releasing albums. We like to call it the music disease—once you’re struck with it, it’s there to stay.”

Hidden in plain sight, Duren paradoxically wasn’t even well-known enough to really be considered a cult hero. “In my experience,” he explains, “if you can rise to the level of what they call ‘obscure,’ then that’s some level of success. You do it because you feel compelled to do it, and it’s not because you’re trying to please anybody else.”

Jackson and Carey’s film is a compassionate portrait of Duren’s rocky road through the music business, and even the buzz over its first few festival appearances has already brought Duren more attention than he’s had in decades. Equally important is the release of the soundtrack album, containing early Duren gems, Good Question material, and even one of those Duren/Stephens demos.

Boutique reissue label Omnivore, renowned for its Big Star-related releases, turned out to be the perfect home for Duren’s music. “They did such a wonderful job,” Duren enthuses. “The mastering on that soundtrack album is phenomenal. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that those recordings would sound like that.”

Jackson and Carey helped facilitate not only the soundtrack’s release, but a publishing deal for Duren with Australia’s Native Tongue Publishing, as well. “It’s excellent for Greg and I,” says Jackson, “because we were so heads-down in this project we’d sometimes go, ‘Is the music as good as we think, or are we going crazy?’ Having a great label like Omnivore and a great publishing company like Native Tongue get behind it [we feel like], ‘Yeah, we’ve done the right thing.’”

The film’s sold-out premiere at the Indie Memphis Film Festival on November 3rd, 2018—complete with a five-minute standing ovation at the end—was a full-circle moment for Duren. “It was really heartwarming and very surprising to me,” he says. “After the showing we walked across to a different theater where we had set up for a live performance, and we did about a 45-minute set of songs from the film with a band, including my son on drums.”

Full theatrical releases for both Australia and the U.S. are in the works for the film. Duren’s future plans include recording new songs and taking his live show to audiences beyond his hometown. “I’m very grateful to Wade and Greg for finding me,” admits the once-wary songsmith, “because I wasn’t looking for this, I didn’t seek it out. That made it very pure to me, very honest. I’m grateful for that more than anything. Meanwhile, forward. There’s more to come, absolutely.”

Van Duren

Love and hate plus chorus and distortion (aka the “Nirvana guitar tone”) are the defining features of Nashville duo Sad Baxter’s grunge-inflected So Happy EP. Though only 6 songs long, the EP packs a mighty emotional punch thanks to the simmering anger coursing through Deezy Violet’s smart, literate songs. From twisty opener “Love Yew” through fist-pumping highlight “Believe Me,” (with backing vocals from drummer Alex Mojaverian) wherein Violet laments the inability to love a damaged individual in the interests of self-protection, these songs are as catchy as they are scabby, balanced perfectly between both the darkest and lightest of human impulses. It helps that Violet is never anything but real, both with herself and her subject matter. On “Sick Outt,” she excoriates an abuser from her past (“You know what you’ve done to me/I don’t deserve a single memory”), but she’s not immune to finding comfort in life’s sweetest moments. So Happy is true to its title, and final track “Baby” closes out with a sentiment as congenial as the guitars are raw: “I don’t wanna think about anything at all too hard/I just wanna go and lay in my baby’s arms.”

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Sad Baxter is Deezy Violet and Alex Mojaverian
All songs written and performed by Sad Baxter

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If kaleidoscopic psych that blends florid Tropicália with hypnotic drones, churning motorik and gritty garage gives you any kind of thrill, you owe it to your neurotransmitters to roll up for The Psychics. Their last EP 4×3 will work your frontal lobes, too, as its catchy and delightfully disorienting tunes offer insightful looks at everything from drug experiences to the role of art in society. It’s also the first release from the slimmed-down version of the band that relocated to Music City from Bloomington, Ind., last year, trimming down their name in the process — though they are no longer “Jerome and the Psychics,” the enigmatic Jerome X remains the frontman.

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Released August 10th, 2018

Many thanks to Blockhouse Bloomington, Andy Beargie, and David James. We could not have made this without their hard work and many graces.

The Psychics are:
Jerome X – Guitar/Vox/Songwriter
Nick Harley – Guitar/Vox/Songwriter
Jay Smith – Bass Guitar/Keys
Kate Haldrup – Drums

Produced by Jay Smith & The Psychics

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Ron Gallo is delightfully hard to figure out. He takes the free-spirited, anti-capitalist ethos of 60s rock and mixes it with what the Black Keys think they sound like ,His lyrics are incessantly entertaining, making it almost OK that he named his debut LP HEAVY META. On album opener “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me,” Gallo sings, “Let’s get a house, you and me and your 12 cats.” His delivery is sneeringly reminiscent of Dylan, singing such lines with a sincerity and confidence, as if the listener is crazy for smirking at this shack with a dozen cats. He should scan as annoying, but there’s something deliriously charming about this fractured soul spelling out the ills of humanity one song at a time.

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The Philly born, now Nashville-based songwriter first emerged with the modern Americana/folk band, Toy Soldiers, before leaving Pennsylvania for the warm grasp of country music’s capitol, introducing the city to a defiantly unsatisfied debutante, eager to take you out to lunch and then spit in your face because your politics are wack. Gallo has this innate ability—a tremendously tricky skill to hone to dose his songs with humour, all the while lacing them with scathing social commentaries and a level of depth most garage rock acts never reach, let alone aim for. On Heavy Meta, Gallo proved that he’s just a wiser and sharper songwriter than most people doing it. That trend continues on “It’s All Gonna Be OK,” the first single from Gallo’s forthcoming LP, Stardust Birthday Party, out October 5th via New West.

“It’s All Gonna Be OK,” is nervous and twitchy, hallucinatory and repetitive with its scratchy and fidgeting guitar parts, until Gallo, sensing the growing unease, sings, “It’s all gonna be OK.” Good to know. Gallo rattles off all of the shit tearing us apart before easing us with his oddly placating aphorism. Gallo’s philosophy comes as a sort of self-medication, as he tries to convince himself that this broken world can get better, Gallo works his way through insecurities and finds this blind faith to be comforting. He tells us:

it’s all gonna be OK, no matter what it is, because all feeling, thought and experience is temporary. could be in one second or 20 years but, to trust that it’s all going exactly as it should, is true and liberating. i like to remind myself of this often and figured might as well share this thought with others via a mostly one chord song featuring my trumpet debut heard in the outro of the song. it’s all gonna be OK is the main message, and “stardust birthday party” is me explaining WHY? from my own experience looking inside.

Introducing...Lilly Hiatt & The Dropped Ponies.

It took Lilly Hiatt quite sometime to come to terms with her Nashville status. After her initial flee, she came to embrace the fact that home truly is where the heart is, and eventually returned to Tennesssee. Hiatt enjoyed some successes as a solo artist, including a shared stage with Emmylous Harris and Jim Lauderdale, as well as a guest appearance on the Craig Ferguson show. Upon her introduction to North Carolina guitarist, Beth Finney, a new beast began to form. Hiatt’s aching melodies combined with Finney’s tender yet turbulent guitar licks yielded a sound that the two were unable to find prior: women shedding their childhood skin and coming into the unraveled and emotional world of adulthood. Soon after, the girls hooked up with drummer John Radford (Charles Walker and the Dynamites, Drew Holcombe Band) and bass player Jake Bradley (Over the Rhine). The Pony Stampede had began. Since then, The Dropped Ponies have graced the stage of the Ryman, opened for Lyle Lovett, and enjoyed success over seas. They currently reside in Nashville, TN and are working on their debut album, “Let Down”. Produced by Doug Lancio (Patty Griffin, Gretchen Peters), the album is to be released in September.

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Following on from last years compilation “Collection”, Nashville based Sophie Allison aka Soccer Mommy now brings us her debut album proper. Produced by Gabe Wax (Deerhunter, War On Drugs, Beirut), the new album is a huge step up from her earlier bedroom recordings. The fuller sound works perfectly with Sophie’s finely crafted, bitter-sweet pop songs that have a world weary quality beyond her 20 years. Whole record is stellar, new version of Last Girl makes me really happy. A contender for the best record so far in 2018,

Twenty-year-old Sophie Allison, cuts to the core on Soccer Mommy’s Cleanas if she’s already in hurry. Her flat delivery and lack of lyrical pretense lay bare moments of obsession and rejection in a frank, almost detached fashion. Her album takes its title from Taylor Swift’s freedom ballad, but there’s also a sense of the world-burning defiance borrowed from Liz Phair’s ’90s debut. “I don’t want to be your f****** dog,” she snarls in answer to decades of obliviousness. Clean betrays simmering anger, hurt and an ever-present humor and self-deprecation (not surprising for someone with a moniker this silly). The emotions are felt, but Allison revels in none of them. As if to say there’s a lot of life yet to live, she keeps a sense of the absurdity of it all. “She’ll steal your joy like a criminal,” Allison sings in admiration. “I wanna be that cool.”

We love the delicate-yet-fearless vibe of Soccer Mommy’s new songs “Cool,” “Still Clean,” and “Your Dog,” the latter of which she performed for us live in the Paste studio last month. The young Nashville songwriter’s debut full-length, Clean, finally drops today.

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Released March 2nd, 2018
Sophie Allison – Guitar, vocals, bass
Julian Powell – Lead guitar
Nick Brown – Drums
Gabe Wax – Piano, synth, mellotron, bass, guitar, drum programming, percussion

Soccer Mommy is the stage name of Nashville native, 20 year-old Sophie Allison, and today as well as sharing her brand new track ‘Your Dog’ she’s also announced her new album Clean will be out on 2nd March.

We’ve featured Soccer Mommy for a while now and her ability to make relatable and challenging music that hinges on the melodrama of normality has made her one of our ‘ones to watch’ for 2018.

It seems we were right to be keeping an eye on her output as she’s given us a belter of a new track. ‘Your Dog’ has one key line that boils with tension and underlying fury, it’s this “I don’t want to be your fucking dog,” and it sets the tone for the whole track.

The song menaces and meanders across emotions, Allison says “The song comes from a feeling of being paralyzed in a relationship to the point where you feel like you are a pawn in someone else’s world. The song and the video are meant to show someone breaking away and taking action, but at the same time, it’s only a quick burst of motivation. It’s a moment of strength amidst a long period of weakness.”

Speaking of her first full length proper Allison said “I’d never made a full album before, just EPs and random tracks thrown together. I wanted it to be a lot more cohesive than the rest of the stuff that came before,” explains Allison. “I wanted to make something that was a full piece of my life, that addressed similar themes and held together as a whole.”

Sophie Allison – Guitar, vocals, bass
Julian Powell – Lead guitar
Nick Brown – Drums
Gabe Wax – Piano, synth, mellotron, bass, guitar, drum programming, percussion

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The result is Clean, an album that presents Soccer Mommy as a singular artist, wise beyond her years, with an emotional authenticity of her own. Clean will be released on March 2nd via Fat Possum  She’s also due out on a UK tour in the Spring, the dates of which are below.

But for now, take a moment to enjoy ‘Your Dog’

March
2nd – London, UK – Rough Trade East
3rd – Leeds, UK – Headrow House
4th – Manchester UK, The Castle Hotel
6th – London, UK – Moth Club
7th – Brighton, UK – The Hope