Archive for the ‘Free Download’ Category

Lady: Tell the Truth

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Lady_TellTheTruthAnother great side from the Truth & Soul label, featuring a terrific vocal by Nicole Wray and a throw-back arrangement whose waltz-time creates an easy Southern groove. Fans of the Black Keys may already know Wray from the BlakRoc album. You can download the single (below) through July 26, and you can find the album here.

Roger Knox: Stranger in My Land

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

RogerKnox_StrangerInMyLandMoving and socially significant Australian country music

Though country music is most typically associated with the Southern United States, its impact has been felt all around the world. In addition to Nashville and Texas exports, a strong but little-known strain developed among Australian aboriginals in the second half of the twentieth century. American songs were repurposed to tell stories of harsh conditions in the outback, and lyrics of country-to-city migration, drinking and prison all found resonance in the freewheeling down-under. But Australians also stretched the genre with localized stories, locations and slang, and dark themes of social injustice that had more in common with America’s folk, blues and outlaw movements than country’s mainstream.

Roger Knox, known as both the Koori King of Country and the Black Elvis (check out his early work on Best of Koori Classic), has been an Australian favorite for more than 30 years, but like so many from outside Nashville, his music has always been too country for country. His parallels to other outspoken artists are many, but none more so than Johnny Cash, whose sympathies for the repressed, downtrodden and imprisoned are mirrored in Knox’s work. On this first new record in nine years, Knox revisits the history of aboriginal country music, reworking his own contributions and covering classics of the genre. He’s backed seamlessly by Jon Langford’s Pine Valley Cosmonauts, with guest appearances by Dave Alvin, Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan, Bonnie Prince Billie, The Sadies and Charlie Louvin. The latter, heard on “Ticket to Nowhere,” is thought to have been making his last recorded performance.

The selections profile rough-and-ready cowboys from a frontier that lasted decades longer than the American West, natives imprisoned and stripped of their cultural practices, prejudice expressed openly and in misguided assimilation programs, and homesick emigrants whose delicate memories are like sensory poems. The devastating effects of forced social alienation – broken families, alcoholism, arrest and prison – play similarly to those essayed by Johnny Cash of Native Americans, but amid the privation and heartache are threads of optimism, expressed both in response to hardships and in positive exclamations of place and pride. This is a truly moving collection of songs and performances, and a good introduction to a pocket of country music likely to be unfamiliar to even the most adventurous listener. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

MP3 | Stranger in My Country
Roger Knox’s Facebook Page

Dave Armo: Poets on the Wall

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

DaveArmo_PoetsOnTheWallMesmerizing singer-songwriter pop and rustic Americana

Dave Armo is a Northern California ex-pat practicing law by day in Southern California, and chasing his musical dreams by night. He sings with a fetching uncertainty, and the guitars, mandolins and guitars that back him are played more for notes than chords or strums. There’s a dreamy quality to his tempos and a vulnerability to his alto singing that pull you in slowly and hold you tight. The effect is one of drifting with Armo through his thoughts as he serenades on “Lovers on the Beach” and buoys himself against uncertainty in “Destination Estimation.” He writes of declarations made too late to fulfill their promise, groveling lovers whose affection goes unreturned, emotional attractions weakened by distance, and on the stoner’s diary, “Blacked Out on Broadway,” he suggests a West-coast Paul Simon. Recorded over a two-year period, Amro lavished tremendous attention on his words, tone and expression, and the results are a hypnotic album of original material. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Dave Armo’s Home Page

Queued Up: Queued Up

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Tuneful power-pop from Portland

Some sounds never go out of style – like melodic rock made from two guitars, bass and drums. Hailing from the Northwest, this Portland quartet is reminiscent of the pre-grunge bands that filled the taverns of Seattle in the early ‘80s, as well as critical darlings like Richard X. Heyman, the Real Kids and Dictators, and international acts like the Lemonheads and Squeeze (who’s “Misadventure” they cover here). They are also the rare band whose name starts with ‘Q’ and whose bassist is the lead singer! They’ve got the harmonies, guitar riffs and punchy rhythm section down, and though the lyrics are sometimes hard to pick out, the melodies are filled with agreeable hooks. Their debut EP is available for free on their Bandcamp page, and well worth your downloading time. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Queued Up’s Home Page

The dB’s: Falling Off the Sky

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

An older, wiser dB’s return to canny pop action

Way back in the early 1980s, when only graduate students and industrial researchers had access to the Internet, information about bands spread much more slowly. And so the dB’s first two albums, originally released on the London-based Albion label and imported back to the group’s native U.S. shores, were difficult to learn about, harder to find, and even trickier to put into context. Bits and pieces of the group’s background eventually circulated, with Chris Stamey’s tenure as Alex Chilton’s bassist providing a tantalizingly obscure connection to the ultimate cult pop band, Big Star. Stamey, Gene Holder and Will Rigby’s earlier work as Sneakers also resurfaced, providing a link to Mitch Easter, and thus to REM, and eventually scenes in Georgia, North Carolina, New York and beyond.

A special edition of the group’s second album, Repercussions, was accompanied by a bonus cassette of their debut, but even this promotion couldn’t push the records from great reviews to great sales. Stamey left the band to pursue a solo career, and Peter Holsapple led the band on albums for Bearsville and IRS. College  radio managed to launch REM into the mainstream, but the dB’s (despite an opening tour slot for their Athens-based comrades) couldn’t convert cult popularity into commercial success. The group disbanded in 1988, spinning off solo careers, occasional collaborations (particularly between Stamey and Holsapple) and eventually a new edition of the band for 1994’s IRS-released Paris Avenue.

Thirty years Chris Stamey left the original quartet, they’ve rejoined for Falling off the Sky. Three decades on, their voices are still easily recognized and their musical ideas still combine easily, but the result is something different as fifty-somethings than it was as twenty-somethings. Their fans have aged as well, growing from college students into parents, witnessing the group members’ various pursuits, and seeing what was once considered alternative co-opted by the mainstream. So while the album doesn’t crackle with the reinvention of the group’s original debut, the musical affinities – the interlacing of vocals, the rhythm section’s play against the guitars – are still full of life, and connect strongly to the dB’s origins.

Peter Holsapple’s aptly-titled opener, “That Time is Gone,” suggests the group was acutely aware that a reunion could easily slide into limp nostalgia. With a rhythm guitar that touches on the Gun Club, a twist of Sir Douglas in the organ and a maddeningly insistent guitar figure, the lyric of middle-age awakening is like a weary postard from a well-traveled musician. Holsapple neither celebrates nor laments the passing of time, but notes it as an inexorable fact and moves on. Stamey deploys his nostalgia more abstractly, writing wistfully of lovers whose flame has flickered out, and matching Holsapple’s mood of disappointment without disillusion. The bitterness of the songwriters’ early years has mellowed appreciably, though Holsapple’s “World to Cry” offers some pointedly snarky recrimination.

The album closes with its title song, also the set’s most nostalgic, with vocal harmonies and counterpoints that twine around a lyric full of memories. The band’s off-kilter craft is as fine as ever, with Stamey’s love of psych-era Beatles threaded deeply into “The Adventures of Albatross and Doggerel,” drummer Will Rigby’s “Write Back” offering up his first song on a dB’s record, and Holsapple’s high, yearning vocal on “I Didn’t Mean to Say That” adding a particularly riveting performance. The foursome doesn’t imitate their earlier selves, as many reunions are wont to do, but their current-day selves prove sufficiently vital to carry the legacy, creating in an album that stands nicely alongside their first pair. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | That Time is Gone
The dB’s Home Page

Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives: Nashville Volume 1 – Tear the Woodpile Down

Monday, May 7th, 2012

A masterful country album from Marty Stuart

Marty Stuart is a living, breathing link to the heart and soul of country music. His voice is authentic, his songs weave new threads into the existing historical tapestry, and his band is as sharp as the Buckaroos in their prime. This latest album demonstrates how strongly Stuart connects to the headwaters and multiple tributaries that have flowed in and out of country’s main branch, with music that is possessed by Bakersfield sting, Memphis rockabilly, Nashville steel, Bluegrass harmonies and Appalachian strings. It’s a fitting follow-up to 2010’s Ghost Train, and a nice addition to a string of albums, starting with 1999’s thematic The Pilgrim, that’s included country, gospel, bluegrass and honky-tonk.

It’s no accident that Stuart’s pictured playfully taunting a young lion cub on the album cover, as he was that very cub upon arriving in Nashville in 1972. He may have grown into the role of historian and elder statesmen, but his intellectual knowledge of country music never obscures his first-hand experience. The wide-eyed desire he originally brought to Nashville is still evident as the band blazes through the title track. Their frenetic twin guitar lead, twanging steel and faith-tinged backing vocals are as hot as the song’s beat, and they step it up another notch for the Larry Collins-Joe Maphis styled guitar duet “Hollywood Boogie.” Across electric waltzes, steel ballads and country rockers, Stuart sings of the hard climb, heartbreak, failure and fleeting success that greet Nashville transplants.

Stuart threads his theme through both his originals and a couple of covers. The wizened “A Matter of Time” might have originally been about a lost lover, but here it reads about the loss of a muse, and a solo cover of Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton’s “Holding on to Nothing” suggests a disillusioned singer letting go of his Nashville dream. Stuart characterizes his arrival in Music City as the downbeat of his life’s journey, but that trip hasn’t always been a straight line. Stuart faced down his demons more than a decade ago, but he still carries the pain of wasted years having once turned Nashville into a lonely place. The album closes on a somber note with Stuart and Hank III joining together for Hank Sr.’s “Picture from Life’s Other Side.”

Over the past decade, Stuart’s music has glowed ever brighter with a renewed fealty to country’s roots, the hard-earned perspective of a 40-year career and the gathered knowledge of an historian. He’s surrounded himself with likeminded players who’ve got the background and chops to cut loose without cutting themselves off from tradition. There’s precious little music like this being made anywhere, but particularly little in Nashville’s recording studios. As Stuart writes in his superb liner notes, “Today, the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee is play country music.” The marketing suits on music row may not care, but playing country music is just what Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives do, and do very, very well. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Tear the Woodpile Down
Marty Stuart’s Home Page

Chelle Rose: Ghost of Browder Holler

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Appalachian rock ‘n’ roll, country, blues and soul

More than a decade after her 2000 debut, Nanahally River, singer-songwriter Chelle Rose delivers a sophomore set of gritty country blues and rock. The raw power of her voice brings to mind the early recordings of Lissie, but with a swampy backwoods feel that brings to mind Lucinda Williams, Bobbie Gentry and Holly Golightly. Rose is a child of Appalachia and the Smoky Mountains, but her music is touched more by blues than bluegrass. Her songs are rooted in the rural experience of mountain men, snakes in the road (both literal and figurative), impending doom and haunting memories of untimely death. She adds husk to the addictive desire of Julie Miller’s “I Need You” and tears her ex- a new one as she reestablishes her music career in “Alimony.” Of the latter she’s said “I tried to quit music, but it just wouldn’t quit me.” The album closes with Elizabeth Cook adding a harmony vocal an acoustic song of a mother’s loss and faith, “Wild Violets Pretty.” The last really shows how deeply Rose is willing (and able) to dig into herself for a lyric. Producer Ray Wylie Hubbard provides support with dripping gothic blues, rowdy country rock, atmospheric folk and Memphis soul, a mélange that Rose calls “Appalachian rock ‘n’ roll.” After hearing her out, you’re not likely to argue. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Alimony
Chelle Rose’s Reverb Nation Page

The Hobart Brothers & Lil’ Sis Hobart: At Least We Have Each Other

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

A musical family that grew up in separate homes

The Hobart Brothers & Lil’ Sis Hobart bring together three respected soloists from the Americana scene: Jon Dee Graham, Freedy Johnson and Susan Cowsill. The latter had a large helping of mainstream fame in the 1960s with her family’s group, The Cowsills, but since the 1980s she’s made a name for herself a backing vocalist, a charter member of the Continental Drifters and with a low-key solo career over the past decade. Graham’s first notoriety came with the Skunks and the True Believers, and after years collaborating with others (and briefly dropping out of the industry), he began a solo career with 1999’s exceptional Escape from Monster Island. Johnston began his career as a singer-songwriter in the early ‘90s, starting with rootsy sounds that quickly took in more country flavor.

What’s obvious from the album’s very first track, is that the three musicians’ individual paths led them to a place of tight collaboration. Johnston’s indie roots, Graham’s driving rock and bohemian growl, Cowsill’s hook-filled pop, and all three’s immersion in country, blues and folk, come together easily, as if they’d been a group for years. Those fictional years as a family are turned concrete by the shared experiences brought to their songwriting, populating their lyrics with images from blue roads and bluer hearts. Graham’s “All Things Being Equal” reaches outside his personal experience for a harrowing portrait of a failed cotton market, but his “Almost Dinnertime” and Cowsill’s “Sodapoptree” offer gentler notes of warm nostalgia.

The trio’s music is as diverse as their collected experience, including swampy Americana, Mexicali ballads, quirky power-pop and electric folk-rock. The album’s ten tracks are split between seven recorded as a full band (and funded by a Kickstarter campaign) and three demos recorded previously without a drummer; a separate digital download adds nine more demos. You can hear from the demo sessions that the principals’ mutual affinity was immediate, a gathering of like souls who’d been practicing to play together throughout their independent musical lives. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Ballad of Sis (Didn’t I Love You)
The Hobart Brothers’ Home Page
The Hobart Corporation’s Home Page (Check out the HL662!)

Butchers Blind: Live at Pianos

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Butchers Blind’s two previous releases, 2009’s One More Time and 2011’s Play for Films, showed off a wonderfully melodic form of rock-based Americana. Here they show how well it translates to the stage, recorded in November 2011 at Pianos in New York City.

The Sweet Serenades: Moving On

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Sweden’s Sweet Serenades make pop music that suggests they’ve fallen through a time vortex into the prime of early-80s MTV. In the snappy “Moving On” you can hear shades of the Buggles, Motors, Alarm, Call, Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, and other favorites of music video’s golden age.

MP3 | Moving On
The Sweet Serenades’ Home Page