You read that right. The soundtrack to the American hunger documentary, A Place at the Table, is a collaboration by The Civil Wars and T-Bone Burnett. And it’s every bit as magnificent as you want it to be. Especially of note is “Long Time Gone,” which you can hear below. The song beautifully marries The Civil Wars’ melodic country-folk sound with the thunderous Western rumble that has become T-Bone Burnett’s trademark. I do wish there were more vocal tracks like it, but the nature of the soundtrack demanded an overabundance of instrumentals.
If you watched the premiere of ABC’s Nashville last week, you were likely as impressed as I was by Scarlett & Gunnar’s duet at the end of the show. If you missed it, you can watch the episode in its entirety at ABC and the scene in question below. “If I Didn’t Know Better” was written by The Civil Wars, and you can download the original as part of their Live At Eddie’s Attic album on Noisetrade. Meanwhile, the Nashville cover has shot up the iTunes charts and is also available for purchase at Amazon. A soundtrack for the series is apparently in the works. Some of the other music featured on the pilot episode was disappointing, but the inclusion of this song gives me hope that T. Bone Burnett can work his magic in future episodes. The second episode of Nashville, which stars Friday Night Lights’ Connie Britton, will air tonight on ABC at 10pm EST.
This year’s top album list pretty much assembled itself throughout the year. The top 4 in particular are albums I expect to continue to listening to over and over for years to come. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, download mp3s…
“…combine catchy electro-pop with airy dream-pop….What sets The Good Natured’s songs apart is the occasional splash of exotic strings or thunderous, syncopated beats. I’m enjoying this album immensely.“
“…churns the all-female vocal ensemble’s signature Gothic choir sound with even more exotic instrumentation, faster tempos and fiercer wails….brimming with dark drama, intoxicating rhythms and haunting choral harmonies“
“…From the opening blast of harmonica through the finale, The Decemberists have woven layers of delicate instrumentation and poetic lyrics into even the most buoyant and infectious song on this album.“
“…truly a delight…airy pop-folk songs…”Appalachian Hills” is the album’s biggest stunner. The haunting folk ballad explores the beautiful landscape and horrific racism in the Shenandoah valley during and after the Civil War.“
“…marries the electro-pop of his recent releases with the eccentric troubadour style of his early albums, then takes things a step beyond with classical strings, big brass and a newfound lyrical optimism.“
“…Lead singer Genevieve Schatz’ voice is distinctively strong and pretty, and the band’s pop-rock songs are far more catchy and lyrically substantial than anything on the radio…one of those albums I like more with each listen.“
“…The poor kid must be sick of the comparisons, but what else can I say here? This little gem of an album sounds like Edith Piaf singing modern, slightly quirky, jazz and pop tunes. I adore it…There really are no weak tracks on the album, the intricacies and charm of the arrangments are a perfect match for Zaz’ superb and distinctive voice.“
“…grand in scope and beautifully complex, yet one of the most irresistibly accessible collections I’ve ever heard. This magnificent new song cycle finds Sarah taking pop, folk, rock and classical to places they’ve never been before.“
“…more of a American rock musical sound than the seminal Celtic punk band’s previous efforts…a lyrically brilliant and sonically solid effort inspired by the U.S. economic collapse – particularly its harsh effect on Detroit’s factory workers.“
“…gives these brilliant musicians some new opportunities to show off their substantial skills…”You Been Lyin’” is the best, most exciting collaboration any album ever had. The quaking duet with “Dallas gospel funk band” The Relatives sounds like The Staples Singers and George Clinton jamming with The Darkness.“
“…previously unreleased material by the late, great Eva Cassidy…composed entirely of acoustic versions of Eva’s best known recordings. Accompanied only by the soft strum of her guitar, Eva’s extraordinary voice is beautifully displayed in this exquisite collection.“
“…One of the more impressive releases of 2011 so far, Night of the Hunters was an ambitious undertaking for Tori Amos and one that, despite its weaknesses, can be called a success. It’s also a definite step in the right direction for the songstress and has won my loyalty back after a decade of disillusionment.“
“…Sin Palabras has all of the strengths of Night Of Hunters, yet none of the weaknesses…gorgeous instrumental version illuminates all of the intricacies and nuances of the arrangements. The brilliance of Tori’s piano playing, as well as that of her accompanying orchestra musicians, is put on full display.“
“…Heather’s unusually gorgeous voice has always been the driving force in her songs, but her intricate layering of high energy pop-rock instrumentation with haunting folk melodies continues to put her music into a category of its own.“
“…a brassed up brand of eerie indie-rock, melodic pop, delicate folk and the lightest hint of Zydeco…From her first wail in the mesmeric, churning, chill-producing opener, “Leila and the Orange Moon,” I knew I would love this album.“
“…a delightful nod to vintage Western swing, honky tonk and classic Nashville country…the whole album is a toe tappin’, hip shakin’ wonder. I expect it to be on my best of the year list come December.“
“…I don’t recall ever having been so profoundly moved by an album. The lyrics read like classic poetry, full of beautiful, nature-evoking imagery and immense sorrow…Sonya’s broken heart is deeply embedded in the marrow of this spectacular album, as her personal loss intertwines with metaphors depicting the loss of natural habitat and sanctuary for animals in the wild. Such personal and universal themes coupled with lush, intricate arrangements must surely destine It is so to become a folk classic.“
The Civil Wars’ debut full-length album, Barton Hollow, will be released on February 1st and the band will perform live at Mountain Stage on February 13th. After hearing the new album, I expect it’ll be a great concert. The Civil Wars are Nashville-based duo John Paul White and Joy Williams, whose influences include everyone from The Beach Boys to Johnny Cash. The music on Barton Hollow is a gorgeous, intimate blend of pretty pop melodies and sparsely atmospheric folk with an occassional punch of rowdy country-blues.
The first time around, Joy’s honeyed soprano and the indie-pop style of certain tracks reminded me of a countrified Eisley or The Innocence Mission. However, subsequent listens focused my attention on the duo’s haunting harmonies and the delicate folk instrumention intricately woven into each melody.
My favorite songs on the album are the haunting opener “20 years,” the high energy title track and the lovely ballads “Poison & Wine” (recently featured on Grey’s Anatomy) and “Falling.”
Barton Hollow is one of those rare albums that should appeal to fans of pop, country, folk and the various “indie-” genres.