David Luning on American Idol

Americana singer-songwriter David Luning was a standout in last week’s shockingly good season premiere of American Idol (just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in!). His independent album, Just Drop By, sounds as good as his audition. You can download 2 free, legal mp3s by signing up for his email list at his official site and hear samples below…

Buy @ Amazon

The Coal Men: Escalator

The Coal Men’s fourth release, Escalator, is solid Americana album set for release by Todd Snider’s Aimless Records on August 27th. The standout tracks truly standout – particularly the Jack Whitesque blues-rock grind “Stuck” and the panoramic ballad “Tennessee.” You can download a free, legal mp3 of the former and stream the latter below. Also of note are the quirky, laidback blues ditty “Sanity” and the amped up rock riffs of “One Thing At a Time.”

The Coal Men Official Site

Buy @ Amazon (Available Aug. 27th)

Tom Jones: Spirit in the Room

I really wanted to hate this album, or at least feel indifferent enough to ignore it. I tried, really I did. I didn’t even listen to the unrequested advance promo I received. Then a second promo arrived from Jones’ record label, so I thought I’d see how bad it is while I mopped the kitchen floor. I still can’t believe I like a Tom Jones album. The man best known to my generation for his vomit-inducing cover of Prince’s “Kiss” and even more atrocious dance hit “Sexbomb” has recorded what I must admit is a twisted, bluesy and actually quite good Americana album. A collaboration with producer Ethan Johns, the album was recorded in Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio and features covers by such artists as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and The Low Anthem.

The weird, Western noir isn’t quite Nick Cave, the blues wailers aren’t quite Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and the reflective old man country songs aren’t quite Johnny Cash, but you can hear those influences in several songs and they definitely suit Jones’ voice. And there’s no denying the instrumentation on the album is superb.

Highlights are Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song” (the video of which you can watch below), Tom Waits’ “Bad As Me,” Joe Henry’s “All Blues Hail Mary,” “Hit or Miss,” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man.” The album also includes a cover of The Low Anthem’s “Charlie Darwin.”

So yeah, judge me if you must, but I like a Tom Jones album.


Tom Jones Official Site

Amy LaVere & Shannon McNally Join Forces!

Amy LaVere and Shannon McNally have teamed up and will release their debut collaborative EP, Chasing The Ghost Rehearsal Sessions, on October 23rd. Brought together by their mutual mentor to form the band The Wandering, the two female singer-songwriters immediately clicked, jammed and recorded the EP. Says McNally of their chemistry, “We were both instantly struck by our numerous similarities. It’s not your average gal that drinks bourbon neat, walks around with a pocket atlas and a drives a big white gear van. I thought she was charming and awfully funny.” You can stream two songs, “Never Been Sadder” and “If It Were Mine to Keep,” from the EP below. McNally seems to have added some pep to LaVere’s noirish Memphis sound.

Buy @ Amazon (available Oct. 23rd)

Chasing The Ghost Official Site (Buy CD)

Goodnight Texas: A Long Life of Living

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.

Buy @ Amazon (Available in October)

Goodnight Texas Official Site