Goodnight Texas’ sophomore album, Uncle John Farquhar, was just released today and is a top contender for my favorite album of the year. Goodnight Texas have written songs about moonshiners, coal miners, loggers and steel workers, songs about the struggles and comforts of rural life, songs that would make Woody Guthrie proud, songs that are like Steinbeck novels set to music.
Conceptualized as a scrapbook, Uncle John Farquhar was inspired by stories, letters, books and archives from the band members’ respective family histories – particularly Patrick Dyer Wolf’s titular great-great-grandfather.
The followup to their debut, A Long Life of Living, is so magnificent that all of my praise of that album is just as applicable here: “…who is this band and how can anyone make an entire album of music this good?” The new album recaptures and builds on that impressive foundation, this time with a bit more pep akin to Wildflowers-era Tom Petty.
While bands in the Americana/folk revival genre have become a dime a dozen in the post-Mumford era, Goodnight Texas stand out with a brillance and authenticity far above the rest. I adore the dark, ferocious undercurrent to their multi-layered, cross-genre arrangements and especially the rustic poetry of their lyrics.
The exquisite ballad “Dearest Sarah” is written as a letter from a Civil War soldier to his wife. Avi Vinocur perfected the song over a period of 8 years, culling the story and poignant lyric “my love for you is deathless” directly from an actual Civil War letter – written by Major Sullivan Ballou to his “very dear wife” just days before his death. Vinocur expertly mimicked and expounded on the letter’s eloquent, genteel language for the rest of the song’s lyrics and set them atop some truly gorgeous instrumentation. I’m very excited to premiere the song here on Muruch at the end of this review.
Other highlights include the moody backwoods outlaw anthem “Moonshiners,” the heartwarming ode to country life “Uncle John Farquhar,” the rugged finale “Knock Em Stiff” and the album’s jaunty first single “A Bank Robber’s Nursery Rhyme” – the free, legal mp3 of which you can download here.
It’s a shame Goodnight Texas haven’t performed at Mountain Stage yet, it’ll be a crime if they don’t do so within the next year. This is a band destined for greatness.
2012 was a very good year for music. Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with enough albums for my year end list, this year the problem was narrowing down my choices. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, watch videos and/or download mp3s. Then comment with your favorite albums of the year.
“…Dala’s penchant for peppy country-pop harmonies and melodic folk-pop melodies fall somewhere between Lady Antebellum and Sylvie Lewis…sweet vocals, tinkling piano and buoyant strings…a pop culture cornucopia with references to everything from Shakespeare to Annie Hall“
“…I expect Eric McGrath won’t be Ireland’s best kept secret for long…McGrath’s intimate singing style and breezy, multi-instrumental compositions often fall somewhere between Bright Eyes and Xavier Rudd, which is an extremely interesting and unique place to be. But even such grand comparisons are tenuous, because Eric McGrath is definitely blazing a creative trail of his own.“
“…Xavier is one of my all-time favorite artists and his music never fails to amaze, uplift and thoroughly entertain me…Xavier wrote, sang and played every instrument (of which there are many) on this spectacular new collection.“
“…Not only does The 2nd Law continue that grandiose marriage of arena rock and classical music, but its futuristic electronic twist allows the album to stand completely on its alone. Definitely one for the year end list…weaving thunderous rock, classical song structure and instrumentation with operatic backing vocals into a glorious, cross-genre cacophony.“
“…the teenage opera duo were this year’s Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent…Talent like Jonathan & Charlotte’s and an album like this doesn’t come along often, so I hope they have a long, successful career ahead of them.“
“…a very splendid and beautiful collection…elegantly serene…Andsnes and the other musicians do a superb job in their individual performances of each work. Even more noteworthy is their musical coalescescence.“
“…shockingly upbeat sound…Cat Power is still as sultry and mysterious as she always was, but the music is very much uptempo…There’s just something so unique about Cat Power’s voice, lyrics and song structure. That unusual quality makes what could be, should be pop songs something entirely different. It’s unpop.“
“…The album explores pop, New Wave and synth rock in a way that is quite a departure from Palmer’s old punk cabaret band The Dresden Dolls, but it often has the same twisted wit, high energy and frenetic pace…the bombastic Theatre Is Evil is the best argument for fan-funded albums“
“…Have I mentioned I love The Mynabirds? The thumping, catchy, claphappy, fiercely femme indie sound of their new sophomore album, Generals, is somewhere between Lykke Li and Bats for Lashes. Thus the love…the album is deliciously rife with the band’s signature blend of synth-pop, rock, wails, hand claps and stomps.“
“…a tribute to The Mamas & Papas and The Beach Boys…their harmonies are as lovely as ever and very reminiscent of the two bands who spawned them…a sunny, summery, very catchy and surprisingly well orchestrated collection of classic pop covers.“
“…Khatia Buniatishvili’s Chopin is not only my favorite of the Chopin albums released this year, it’s my favorite classical release of 2012…Her nimble fingers are a perfect fit for the classical piano master’s compositions and her selection from his work is superbly diverse. Buniatishvili’s Chopin is an absolutely exquisite collection.“
“…Where did this guy come from?…McPherson’s music is a delicious mix of brassed up retro soul and rumbling vintage blues-rock. It’s been a very long time since I was struck by such an intense sense of awe while listening to an album…sound like classics by Little Richard, Jackie Wilson or The Big Bopper with a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Sun Studios-era Elvis thrown in.“
“…who is this band and how can anyone make an entire album of music this good? Song after song, I would think I’d heard the best of the album only to be even more amazed by the next track. This is music for any band to aspire to and for any music fan to get very excited about.“
“…Norah has finally found a dark, dreamy sound interesting enough to successfully break away from those old coffeehouse categories without losing the mellow charm that made her famous. Produced by Danger Mouse, …Little Broken Hearts spices up pretty post-breakup pop anthems with luscious splashes of noirish electro-rock.“
“…Fiona Apple’s first album in seven years, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, weaves the fierce emotion, poetic lyrics and masterfully constructed compositions of her previous releases with a much more rugged recording style and strong splashes of jazz. The collection is somewhat unexpected and strange, but it’s also exquisitely beautiful and brilliant.“
“…Anaïs Mitchell is like a modern day Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan. Her epic lyrical narratives echo Guthrie’s masterful talent for blending the literary with the ordinary, while her fierce and unique vocal phrasing as well as her intricately multi-layered arrangements take Dylanesque to a whole new realm….Young Man in America is both an ambitious recording project and a beautifully rich tapestry of classic folk songwriting. Anaïs Mitchell just may be my generation’s most talented singer-songwriter.“
Listening to Goodnight Texas’ brilliant forthcoming debut, A Long Life of Living, for the first time was much like when I first heard The Felice Brothers’ debut. I kept thinking: who is this band and how can anyone make an entire album of music this good? Song after song, I would think I’d heard the best of the album only to be even more amazed by the next track. This is music for any band to aspire to and for any music fan to get very excited about.
I worked in her fields and under her trees
I picked all her cotton, it stung me like bees
I shoveled her dirt when no one else would
I gave her way more than I ever should
And I’m still here with nothing whatsoever
But I’m going to work on Maggie’s Farm forever
Goodnight Texas are San Francisco’s Avi Vinocur (formerly of The Stone Foxes) and North Carolina’s Patrick Dyer Wolf. They call A Long Life of Living their “transcontinental garage Appalachian collaboration.” Whatever genre label you slap on it, this is storytelling at its finest.
The opener “I’m Going to Work on Maggie’s Farm Forever” is an exquisite, lush, classic country-influenced folk song. It sounds like Springsteen covering Simon & Garfunkel, it’s that good. You can watch the song’s video below.
“Submarine” is a fiery, hard plucked acoustic ballad.
“Old St. John” is pure, deliciously eerie folk. The song exposes the hypocrisy of a so-called holy man with it’s foreboding refrain “haven’t you ever been lied to?“
“Jesse Got Trapped in a Coal Mine” is a haunting, mesmeric Appalachian folk narrative set in a West Virginian coal mine. If the lyric “my love is somewhere in that mountain” doesn’t break your heart, I question whether you really have one. You can download this gorgeous song by entering your email address below or simply stream it.
Just when you think it can’t get any better, “The Railroad” rumbles in on a freight train of bluesy guitar, clap-and-stomp percussion and chilling chain gang harmony.
A Long Life of Living will be released on October 2nd and is sure to be on my best of the year list in December.