Sunday Music Interlude — Lydia Loveless performing “Somewhere Else”

Lydia Loveless, though merely 25 years old, has been on the music scene in a big way for about six years wowing critics and music lovers with her alt-country songs, which fuses elements of trad country, rock, singer/songwriter, and punk, about life and living.  She hails from the town of Coschocton, Ohio where she grew up on a farm and where her father ran a local honky-tonk for a while.  A member of a musical family, she performed in the band “Carson Drew”, which drew its inspiration from the father in the Nancy Drew books series, along with her father, Parker Chandler, and older sisters, Eleanor Sinacola and Jessica.

She released her first album in 2010 entitled The Only Man.  It was greeted by favorable reviews, especially on the alt-country scene.  A little more than a year later she released the album Indestructible Machine on Bloodshot Records.  This album of her original music dealt with issues regarding growing up in an insular rural town, dangerous relationships, and country staples such as isolation, drinking, and depression.  The hard edge of her lyrics which SPIN characterized as “utter lack of bullshit” by the “Ohio hellion” appealed to a wider audience and her music was greeted with rave reviews across the critical music spectrum.

She followed up Indestructible Machine with the EP Boy Crazy, which further solidified her musical cred and which served as a segue to the full album entitled Somewhere Else.  Anyone who doubted that Loveless was a major talent was converted with this album.  This past August she followed that one up with another gem entitled Real.  This album, as her previous efforts, has garnered almost universal praise.

As she has matured her voice, which is led by a Midwest twang, reveals great depth and control.  At the core of her talent, which is multi-faceted, is her ability to exploit an expansive vocal range–one greater than found in most rock and country singers.  Depending on the topic at hand she travels–sometimes in the same song–from a singer who possesses considerable pipes who can belt out a controlled and sustained melody, to verbal intimacy that expresses raw, scratchy emotion like a youthful Patti Smith.  Her lyrics are both mature beyond her years and reveal an openness and emotional vulnerability that only the most talented singers can maintain.  It is a high wire act by someone barely aware of what she is doing–and we can only hope that she continues to eschew any artifice of self-awareness that, even among the most talented, can devolve into self-parody and archness.

Here she is performing “Somewhere Else” on Audiotree Live.

In Between Posts Interlude — The Little Willies performing “Jolene”

As promised, posts are in draft and will be rolling in on a host of project management issues.  For now, however, here is the band The Little Willies, composed of Lee Alexander (bass), Jim Campilongo (guitar), Richard Julian (guitar/vocals), Dan Rieser (drums), and the incomparable Norah Jones.  (And, yes, despite the assertion on the new FX series Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll many of us really do note the names of the rhythm section).  These nouveau New Yorkers started up the band after a gig that was booked at the Living Room on New York’s Lower East Side where they enjoy playing classic country and Americana.  I can’t find a website, but you can view their biographies and discography here and a Facebook page here.  Here they are performing Dolly Parton’s classic song, “Jolene.”

Sunday Music Interlude — Warren Haynes with Railroad Earth performing “Coal Tattoo” and “Blue Maiden’s Tale”

Warren Haynes hails from Asheville, North Carolina and is one of the most sought after–and accomplished–guitarists and songwriters in the world.  Rolling Stone has listed him as one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”  His resume’ is simply phenomenal.  He started out at the age of 20 in David Allan Coe’s band in 1980.  After four years with Coe he played with The Nighthawks and penned, along with Dennis Robbins and Bobby Boyd, the Garth Brooks hit “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House”, which appeared on the album No Fences.  In 1987 he then worked on the Dickey Betts band as backup vocal and guitarist.  He also continued to write, contributing the title song to Gregg Allman‘s Just Before the Bullets Fly.  In 1989, when the Allman Brothers Band decided to get back together, he was picked up there and continued to play with the band until 1997, when he formed Gov’t Mule along with drummer Matt Abts and the late bass guitarist Allen Woody.  After a short hiatus from the Allman Band he has continued to perform with the band, among other projects.  These projects have included performing as guitarist for the Grateful Dead after the death of Jerry Garcia, as well as releasing solo albums and performing with groups as diverse as the Dave Matthews Band to Railroad Earth, heard on these songs.  This last week the XM Satellite station “The Loft” interviewed Haynes, where he talked about his storied career and upcoming album Ashes and Dust, due out on 24 July.

Unfortunately I haven’t found a live version of “Coal Tattoo” but here is the official audio from the album.

Here he is with the band on the PBS program Front & Center performing “Blue Maiden’s Tale”.  You can find additional songs on the site.

 

 

Sunday Early Morning Music — Steve Earle Performing “King of the Blues”

Originally a roots rocker from the mid-1980s Steve Earle has become an American treasure, singing songs that cross genres that include folk, protest, country, rockabilly, Americana, and roots music.  Born in Fort Monroe, Virginia, but raised outside of San Antonio, Texas, independent-minded and rebellious, Steve Earle has always followed his own musical vision.  Since the appearance of Guitar Town in 1986, he has produced one milestone album after another, many of them scorned and ignored when first released.  When I first heard his first album he seemed to possess a combination of the east coast attitude of Bruce Springsteen combined with the mid-west swagger and rebellion of John Mellencamp.  Then came the neo-traditional country that was reminiscent of the songs of Dwight Yoakum, Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, and Randy Crowell.  Then from there he was off on his own and I have followed him and his muse ever since.

This should have been no surprise.  He met and was influenced early by Townes Van Zandt and, after moving to Nashville, was part of Guy Clark’s backup band in the 1970s.  He has since incorporated those influences and pushed the music forward, honoring the tradition, but incorporating new elements.

Steve Earle produces story-songs that trace and record the life of the common man and woman.  His songs embody the hopes, joys, sadness, disappointment, and sometimes anger that is part of American life.  His character role in the TV series Treme’, which itself was an artistic achievement that represents an archive and testimony of our own time: a view of early 21st century America as seen through the lives of the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the indifference, vicissitudes, day-to-day struggles, and political corruption they overcame in its wake.  His song “This City” still rings in my mind.  Aside from music and occasional acting, Earle also is a talented novelist.

His latest album, released last month, is entitled Terraplane.  The song that follows is “King of the Blues.”

Holiday Music Interlude — Trigger Hippy performing “Who Will Wear The Crown”

Trigger Hippy is the roots supergroup out of Nashville. Coming out of the AmericanaFest they were crowned as the Best Supergroup by Rolling Stone in their “20 Best Things We Saw at AmericanaFest”.  The group is made up of singers Jackie Greene and Joan Osborne, Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, bassist Nick Govrik, and guitarist Tom Bukovac.  Most supergroup efforts are hit-or-miss affairs, especially given the conflicting egos and visions of musicians otherwise used to performing with an established set of bandmates or acting as a leader in their own right.  This is not the case here.  These talented individuals have a common feel and passion for the music and it can be heard in their playing.  Their album was just released this past September and has earned raves from critics.  Their musical influences are from the blues, rhythm & blues, soul, folk, and country-rock.  Here they are performing at the XPoNential Music Festival 2014 this past September in Camden, NJ.  WXPN, which is the sponsor of XPoNential is the public radio station of the University of Pennsylvania.  They can be found at XPN.org, and for those who haven’t given them a listen.  If you do I think you will agree that they are also one of the best radio stations in the country.

Saturday Music Interlude — Northern Latitude Update — Thus Owls, First Aid Kit, and Olafur Arnalds

The last few months have seen some interesting music come from our friends of the northern latitudes.  Here is some great music inspired by or from the land of long winters and the midnight sun.

The first group is known as Thus Owls.  It is a Canadian-Swedish duo of vocalist Erika Angell and guitarist husband Simon Angell who mines their inspiration from the small village tales from a Swedish island in the album Turning Rocks.

The next group, First Aid Kit, is a Swedish folk duo consisting of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg.  Their latest album, which was released May 19th of this year is known as Upside Down Mountain.  Their influences are American folk-rock and country-rock.

Finally, I meant to write about him earlier but Olafur Arnalds is always an inspiration.  Hailing from Iceland he composes neo-classical instrumental music inspired by minimalist and dream-like ambient and electronic music that effectively evokes emotions and memories of the subject at hand.  In his most recent album, Now I Am Winter, he collaborated with vocalist Arnór Dan of the Icelandic band Agent Fresco to create moody, atmospheric music that captures the essence of a land of snow, fire, and ice.