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 — The Record Company performing “Off the Ground”

The Record Company consists of lead vocalist and instrumentalist Chris Vos, and multi-instrumentalists Alex Stiff, and Marc Cazoria.  They began as a band in 2011, using old equipment and self-recording in Stiff’s living room in Los Feliz, California.  They name classic blues players as their inspiration, mixed up with the gritty sound of early blues-inspired rock bands of the ’60s and ’70s like the Rolling Stones.  This article from L.A. Weekly from 2012 tells you all you need to know about the personality of the band during their woodshedding days: three talented musicians playing great music inspired by great musicians–the beat goes on.  They have opened for artists as diverse as Mavis Staples, the late B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Grace Potter, and Trombone Shorty.  Their album, Give It Back To You, was released earlier this year on the Concord label.  Given the commitment of Concord to the music of jazz and blues, getting a release under that label is testament to how highly their music is regarded.

The song that follows, “Off the Ground” was recorded live for WXPN’s excellent World Cafe.  Whenever I have the opportunity, I listen avidly to this public radio station out of the University of Pennsylvania.  It’s a national treasure.

Saturday Night Music Interlude — The Arcs performing “Put a Flower in Your Pocket,” “Outta My Mind,” and “Stay In My Corner.”

The Arcs are comprised of Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys), Leon Michels, Richard Swift, Homer Steinweiss, and Nick Movshon, which is a side project of Auerbach while Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney recovers from an injury.  They released an album of bluesy soul, rock, rhythm & blues, and psychedelic rock on the 5th of this month entitled “Yours, Dreamily.”  Also on the album are guitarist Kenny Vaughan and Mariachi Flor de Toloache, a female Mariachi band.


A Saturday Music Midnight Special — Meg Mac performing “Roll up Your Sleeves” and Lucinda Williams performing “Protection”

It’s getting into early Sunday morning here on the east coast.  I’ve been listening to a number of recently released music from both new artists and old favorites and, given both the hour and variety, I began thinking about the old Midnight Special television show.  The talent that appeared on that show was incredible both for the breadth of artists that appeared and the fact the performances were live, at least until near the end.  It’s unfortunate that we don’t have an equivalent today.

While in today’s new media environment instant gratification is achieved through music downloads and music videos, there is a significant missing component to these largely self-reinforcing navel-gazing technologies: the absence of the sense of community that we used to experience through the shared event.  While some may dismiss this observation as being a typical “old guy” perspective in critiquing new-fangled technology, I think it best to pause.  As a geek I have been enamored with new technology and media through all of its iterations–and use them now, hence this blog and the 200+ apps on my smartphone.  I had high hopes during the early days of “I Want My MTV” that the synthesis of visualized media with music would free the artist to communicate in new ways–and some have pushed the envelope in that direction.  Largely, though, it comes down to people trying to look cool in front of the camera, and more than a few pretty people with marginal talent (at best) scooping up a good portion of the rare money that is available on which to make a living through music.  Largely for my own enjoyment and for those of you who have the patience to subscribe to this blog, I’m providing just a little variety in covering two artists: a newcomer in the form of Meg Mac and the musical legend that is Lucinda Williams.

According to Billboard, Meg Mac is the nom de plume of Megan McInerney.  She hails from Melbourne, Australia, and began getting attention from the triple j unearthed site in 2013.  There she uploaded some songs including the video “Every Lie”, which can be viewed at the same link, and won their Falls Festival competition.  Her early songs show a powerful voice with a neo-soul demeanor in the vein in Adele and Amy Winehouse.  She has a website that provides some additional details of her musical influences, as well as her past and current projects.  She was identified as the New Artist to Watch for June 2015 by WXPN.  She released an EP self-titled Meg Mac, and is in the process of putting together her first album.  The following live performance on 89.3 The Current has her performing “Roll Up Your Sleeves.”

At the other end of the spectrum we have Lucinda Williams.  I first came across her unique voice through an album of original songs that I picked up from the Smithsonian Institution store during a visit to D.C. back in the early ’80s entitled Happy Woman Blues.  This was actually her second release and I was so taken by her original vision, voice, and authenticity that I quickly sought out her debut album, which consisted of covers of traditional folk and blues songs that she seemed to make her own through the timbre of her voice and her emotional connection to the songs communicated in a manner that I had never heard before: Ramblin’ On My Mind.  She has had many successes since that time with breakthrough albums that are an essential part of the American songbook.  Late last year she released her first double album: Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone.   Her voice is now a bit worn, raw, and weary-sounding–reminding me of the same metamorphosis that happened to Billy Holiday’s by the time she released Lady in Satin in 1958.  Here she is performing “Protection” for KEXP.


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.

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.”

Saturday Music Interlude — Fly Golden Eagle performing “Stepping Stone”

Fly Golden Eagle

Fly Golden Eagle consists of vocalist/guitarist Ben Trimble, keyboardist Mitch Jones, bass guitarist Matt Shaw, and drummer Richard Harper.  They are out Nashville and are part of a scene from Nashville’s Andrija Tokic’s Bomb Shelter which includes alumni Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff, among others.  Despite the Nashville moniker they are an eclectic group with Trimble coming to Nashville via Detroit, Shaw out of Celeste, Texas, Jones from Knoxville, and Harper from Huntsville, Alabama.  They are in the tradition of the American garage band, playing what the critics are calling psych-funk, though their latest sound seems to transcend that pigeonhole to include rock-and-roll, psychedelic rock, blues, glam–you name it.  Their latest album, their second, just came out in October titled Quartz Bijou, comprises that musical mix.  Here they are performing “Stepping Stone.”