Long Holiday Weekend Music Interlude — New Florence + the Machine Music

Florence Welch possesses an amazing vocal instrument: the type of voice that commands your attention and then wends its way into the very center of your psyche. When the lyrics of her songs reach you they capture your emotions and sweep you up into the music with her.

I did a brief entry with some biographical notes of her and her music on an earlier post three years ago, but didn’t give her background the attention it deserved, given the imagery in many of her songs. With the release of her most recent single in advance of her upcoming album in June, which she recently admitted in an interview was both personal and difficult to include in the album, it is time to rectfiy that small oversight. It is entitled “Hunger” and sums up the loneliness, and need for love and affection that all of us need–and the safety that these things provide when we find it.

Florence Welch was raised in a home of academics and writers. But life threw her a few curveballs: she was diagnosed as a young woman with having dyxlexia and dysmetria, she witnessed the suicide of her grandmother when she was only 13 year old, and her parents divorced about the same time. Such chaos at a tender age caused her to turn to alchohol, and to engage in other rebellious and potentially self-destructive behavior. But, armed with the natural gift of her voice and growing from being a self-described short, chubby and shy child into a tall, slender woman, she soon found singing to be a haven for her emotions, finding inspiration from both of her talented parents and growing into the person we see today. She was educated at Camberwell College of Arts, but dropped out before graduation to pursue her musical career. Fame caused her to return to alcohol for a while, but she has been very public about overcoming her substance abuse.

Here is her performance of “Hunger” from her live appearance on The Late Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

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.

Sunday Music Interlude — Adia Victoria, SHEL, and onDeadWaves

I haven’t written about music in a while, so it’s time to catch up on some of the more interesting new acts and new projects that I’ve come across.

Originally out of South Carolina, Adia Victoria now calls Nashville home.  Her interesting bio can be found at Allmusic.com here.  Her original music is a combination of country and electric blues, punk, garage rock, and a modern type of dark Americana roots music borne of the narrative tradition and neo-folk.  Her voice consists of a girlish rasp wrapped in an alto silkiness.  You can learn more about her at her website at www.adiavictoria.com.

She was named WXPN’s Artist to Watch for July 2016, and just performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.  The performance from this last appears below.

 

SHEL is a group of four sisters out of Fort Collins, Colorado.  I wrote about them back in September 2014 as they were just out of the egg, featuring their neo-folk music after an EP and first album.  They have since matured and have come out with a critically hailed album entitled Just Crazy Enough.  They just played live on Echoes.org with John Diliberto.   Here they are performing a couple of selections that reveal both their developing maturity and natural talent informed by that maturity.  The first is “Let Me Do.”  The song begins as a deceptively simplistic song that then changes both tempo and melody, carried by the ethereal combined voice of their harmony vocals in the call and response from narrative to chorus.

Speaking of ethereal, here is SHEL performing “I’m Just a Shadow.”  This is first class neo-noir folk and roots music.  The following Lyric Video highlights the emotional power of the lyrics.

It is probably time for a shout-out to John Diliberto at Echoes.org.  I actually came across John’s taste in music through the program Star’s End, which is still on-going.  There I was introduced to ambient and space music in the 1970s when I split time between visits to my home state of New Jersey and during trips from my job in Washington, D.C.  FM radio waves being as they were, especially in the early morning over weekends, I would occasionally be able to tune into the program, which memory serves was out of Philly, while driving down some deserted highway with the star-streaked night sky above, and wish that the feeling of my movement through time and space, the fresh air from the open windows, the firmament of the night sky, and the music–which seemed to transport me to some other dimension–would never end.  Then, after years traveling and at sea, I was reintroduced to John as music critic through his contributions to the long-missed CD Review magazine.  His thoughtful, eloquent, and informative reviews opened my world to new music and new musical genre’s that I would probably not otherwise have explored.  There are a few critics that fall into this category which, for me, includes Ralph Gleason, Leonard Feather, Ira Gitler, John McDonough, Robert Christgau, Gary Giddins, Orrin Keepnews, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Michael Cuscuna, and David Dye, among a few–all good company.

This serves as introduction to another project to which I was introduced through Echoes.org and Mr. Diliberto.  It is the group onDeadWaves.  The group consists of British singers Polly Scattergood and James Chapman.  Their maiden album is this month’s Echoes CD of the Month.  According to the review by John Diliberto, onDeadWaves’s sound is like “a meeting of Lanterna, driving across the desert in a 57 ‘Chevy, with Leonard Cohen and Lucinda Williams in the backseat.”  Their music, also called “shoegaze west”, seems more varied, especially when confronted by the 60’s Byrd’s-like guitar and unrestrained punk of the song “California.”  Overall, though, I can hear the influence of the moodier neo-noir song-styling of Lana Del Rey through most of the songs.  Perhaps Ms. Del Rey was onto something after all.

Here they are the song “Blue Inside”.  Other videos are also available at the Echoes site linked above.

 

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 Music — KT Tunstall performing “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Invisible Empire”

Talk is that she is in L.A. to pursue a movie career, movie soundtracks, and work on her next album.  For those of you unfamiliar, KT Tunstall hails from St. Andrews, Fife in Scotland.  She hit the music scene in 2004 and took it by storm.  Every album seems to get better than the last.

Here she is on an early performance from the U.K. on the iconic John Dylan cover which became for her a signature song for awhile–let’s hear it for the dustbin!

Before heading to L.A. for a change of career in 2014, she released the excellent Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon album.  Here she is with a live version of the title song from the first half of the album.

Her musical and emotional growth are apparent simply in the juxtaposition of the videos and we are the richer for it: documenting insights for all of us to ponder as we navigate existence.  Let’s hope we hear something again soon from KT.

Saturday Night Music — Whitehorse performing “Sweet Disaster”

Wow.  If some of the licks sound familiar it’s because you remember them from The Zombies’ “Time of the Season.”  Whitehorse consists of husband and wife Canadian singer/songwriters Melissa McClelland and Luke Douset.  Since forming Whitehorse in 2011 they have pursued solo careers, but in their collaborative effort they have established a unique sound of southern and country-and-western influenced North American roots music that feels as if it could be out of a modern western road movie.  Their latest album, Leave No Bridge Unburned, has already garnered rave reviews, following on the heels of their critically acclaimed album The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss.  There is not a weak track on either offering.  Check them out.

Here is the official video release from Six Shooter Records.  You decide which version is better.