Sonya Cotton: When I Go Home (Album Review & Exclusive Mp3)

No one so beautifully interprets heartache as Sonya Cotton. Her new album, When I Go Home, continues where her exquisite previous album, It is so, left off. Sonya’s lovely, otherworldly lilt narrates the loss of loved ones and nature over melancholy, multi-instrumental folk melodies in the classic, masterful way of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez.



By the banks of the Yuba river
I received the dreaded call
that began the slow unwinding
of the life that I had known

From the mystery comes beauty
from the mystery comes strife
every moment at the mercy
of a force we cannot describe

The standout track is “Bloodroot.” Sonya says: “‘Bloodroot,’ in addition to being about a polar bear, is also about my mother’s losing fight with cancer. (As you may know, bloodroot is a plant that some claim can be used to pull tumors out of the body. Others believe there is no scientific/medical merit to this.) Though my mom never used Bloodroot, for me it was a symbol of the last strand of hope or last ditch effort in her battle with this illness.

That kind of metaphorical depth is a trademark of Sonya’s lyrics, particularly on this album and its predecessor. Every Sonya Cotton song is like a rich, poetic book.

Other highlights are “Yuba,” “Time Shows No Care,” “Don’t Want to Say Goodbye,” and “My Heart Lives,” but the entire album is truly, extraordinarily beautiful.

Sonya was kind enough to grant Muruch an exclusive mp3 download of “Bloodroot”. If you like what you hear, please support this talented independent artist by purchasing the full album at Bandcamp.

Sonya Cotton – Bloodroot (mp3)*

*posted for limited time w/ artist’s permission

Buy @ Bandcamp

Sxip Shirey: A Bottle of Whiskey & A Handful of Bees (Album Review)

Old Muruch readers may recall my obsession with Luminescent Orchestrii. Since their last album (which I hope wasn’t really their last), Sxip Shirley has gone solo. His new album, A Bottle of Whiskey and a Handful of Bees, was just released. It’s as weird and wonderful as I’ve come to expect from any Sxip project.



The standout track is “Grandpa Charlie,” which dives into that funky churn of genres Sxip perfected with Luminescent Orchestrii.

My other favorite tracks are “Just Drive By, Firefly,” “Woman of Constant Sorrow,” and “Bach, Stevie Wonder & Janelle Monae,” all featuring the exquisite voice of Rhiannon Giddens (formerly of Carolina Chocolate Drops and currently on Nashville). If you like those songs, check out the 2010 Luminescent Orchestration/Carolina Chocolate Drops collaboration.

Buy @ Amazon

Sxip Shirey Official Site

Fantastic Negrito: The Last Days of Oakland (Album Review, Videos & Full Album Stream)

Fantastic Negrito’s debut full-length album, The Last Days of Oakland, churns classic blues, soul, and funk with modern garage rock like somebody spun Lead Belly, Buddy Guy, Otis Redding, and Black Joe Lewis records in a blender.

Fantastic Negrito, led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Xavier Dphrepaulezz, first caught my attention jammin’ with Jamal in a club on Fox’s Empire. At the time they only had a couple of EPs out, so I was very excited for this album’s release. It more than lives up to the anticipation.

The entire album is a nonstop brilliant and bombastic rumination on injustice and inequality of both social and economic natures. My personal favorite tracks…

“Working Poor” has a fiercely catchy guitar riff and twisted refrain of Little Richard’s “Keep on Knockin'” with lyrics about the working class’ struggle to survive despite working as hard as we possibly can.

When I was curating Muruch.com for RAINN, I tried and failed to arrange a worthy cover of the traditional Appalachian folk song “In the Pines” (aka “Black Girl” aka Lead Belly/Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”), so my heart just about exploded when I saw the song title on The Last Days of Oakland‘s tracklist.

Fantastic Negrito not only delivers a magnificently revamped, reverberating rendition of “In the Pines,” they also composed a new, gut-punch verse envisioning the “Black Girl” as the single mother of a son shot by police. It is the most perfect cover, beyond anything I could have imagined.

photo credit: Robbie Welsh

Other highlights are “Hump Through the Winter,” which follows the same theme as “Working Poor,” “Rant on Rushmore,” and the song they jammed with Jamal, “Lost in a Crowd”…

Fantastic Negrito Official Site

Buy @ Amazon

Rufus Wainwright: Take All My Loves (9 Shakespeare Sonnets)

If, like me, you love Rufus Wainwright and Shakespeare, then this album will make you very, very happy. If, however, you like neither Shakespeare nor Rufus, it’s probably not your cup of tea. This unique collection of Shakespearean sonnets set to theatrical rock music features guests Florence Welch, Martha Wainwright, Anna Prohaska, Si├ón Phillips, Helena Bonham Carter, Carrie Fisher and William Shatner. But the true stars are Rufus Wainwright and William Shakespeare.



The first two tracks are okay, but a somewhat lackluster start. The album truly begins with the dazzling title track, which is far more Rufus than the Bard.

The standout track is “Unperfect Actor,” in which Helena Bonham Carter gives brief poetic recitation before the song explodes into rock symphony featuring Martha Wainwright and Fiona Cutler.

Other highlights are “When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes,” which is sang as a lovely ballad by Florence Welch, and Anna Prohaska’s operatic “Farewell.”

The album also features new, alternative versions of three sonnets Rufus originally recorded for his Songs for Lulu album: “When Most I Wink,” “For Shame” and “A Woman’s Face.”

Buy @ Amazon

Rufus Wainwright

Allison Crowe: Heirs + Grievances – Album Review & Mp3s!

I won’t pretend to be unbiased here. Allison Crowe has been Muruch’s musical mascot for over a decade now and we at Muruch are thanked in the liner notes of her new double album, Introducing/Heirs + Grievances. So obviously I was excited and predisposed to love this album before I even listened to it. Still! It’s absolutely fantastic.



The first disc of this 2-CD set is Introducing, a live concert recording with lots of bubbly banter from Allison and a full set of songs performed with her new band.

The second disc, Heirs + Grievances, is a studio-recorded album by Allison and the band. Heirs + Grievances is a gorgeous, full circle showcase of Allison’s growth as a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her extraordinary voice is unrestrained and beautifully accompanied by her bandmates.

Allison and her band’s choral rendition of “Tarry Trousers” is a standout with an almost Medieval folk tone, akin to Medieval Baebes (whom I love).

The final three tracks of the albums are the most capitivating and I’m happy to premiere the free, authorized mp3s below.

This new band rendition of “Words” is even more powerful than the Heavy Graces solo version. I may have cracked a rib gasping in awe when Ally roars “I am so angry!”

Then she split me like a wishbone with the volatile vocal finale of “Lisa’s Song.” It’s Allison at her very best, delving into the rich depths of her lower register then unleashing a banshee wail.

Allison masterfully uses her voice as an agile, spiralling instrument in the finale “Silence.” Her astounding, aerodynamic flourish at the end of the song enters operatic realms.

Allison Crowe & Band – Words (mp3)

Allison Crowe & Band – Lisa’s Song (mp3)

Allison Crowe & Band – Silence (mp3)

Allison Crowe Official Site