The Wailin’ Jennys is spawning some excellent solo albums. First Heather Masse, now Ruth Moody is set to release her sophomore solo album, These Wilder Things, on May 7th. Moody’s angelic, lilting soprano tangles with pop-polished bluegrass and folk. The new album also features guests Mark Knopfler, Jerry Douglas and Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan.
The standout tracks are the old-fashioned, slightly eerie opener “Trouble and Woe” and the spectacular Mark Knopfler duet “Pockets.”
Other highlights include the beautiful title track ballad, “One and Only,” “Trees for Skies” and the exquisite, Celtic-influenced “Life is Long.”
The album also features a pretty, slowed and stripped down cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” You can listen to the track, “One Light Shining,” in the following Soundcloud stream…
SoundCloud Stream Uploaded & Posted w/ Permission of Red House Records
Della Mae’s upcoming album, This World Oft Can Be, is a merry, genteel collection of old-fashioned bluegrass, folk and country that beautifully showcases Della Mae’s all-female harmonies. Highlights include the opener “Letter From Down the Road,” the ballads “Mabeline” and “Heaven’s Gate” and the lilting, string-accented title track. You can download a free, legal mp3 of the track “Empire” by entering your email address into the widget below. This World Oft Can Be will be released on May 28th.
Comedian turned bluegrass musician Steve Martin and singer Edie Brickell have joined forces for the new album, Love Has Come For You. What a delight their collaboration turned out to be! Martin’s deft, delicate banjo playing is the perfect complement for Brickell’s gentle, melodious voice. Love Has Come For You will be released on April 23rd.
Standout tracks are the peppy “Get Along Stray Dog,” the lovely title track ballad, the breakup anthem “Siamese Cat,” “Shawnee” and the genteel finale, “Remember Me This Way.”
American singer-guitarist Eric Bibb and West African singer-guitarist Habib Koité have joined forces for the new album, Brothers in Bamako. The two first met and became friends a decade ago when Putumayo Records invited both musicians to play on Mali to Memphis and they’ve finally gotten around to recording together. More than a simple duet album, Brothers in Bamako is a true collaboration. In addition to singing and playing together, Bibb and Koité co-wrote most of the songs to marry their respective folk-blues and world music styles. Brothers in Bamako will be released on Novemeber 6th.
I’ve been a fan of both artists for so long, I may have been a little too excited to hear their substantial talents unite. I was very disappointed with the two lackluster opening tracks, “On My Way to Bamako” and “L.A.” Perhaps the problem was that Bibb and Koité were divided for those introductory songs. The tracks co-written by and co-starring both artists are much more interesting.
Things greatly improve on their first proper collaboration, “Touma Ni Kelen/Needed Time.” As I’d hoped, Bibb’s gospel-influenced, bluesy folk style and Koité’s fusion of traditional and modern Malian rhythms complement each other perfectly.
The stand out tracks are the multi-instrumental duet “Tombouctou,” a revamped “With My Maker I Am One” (originally featured on Bibb’s Booker’s Guitar album), Koité’s haunting “Foro Bana” (from his Ma Ya album) and a beautifully subtle rendition of Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind.”
Other highlights include “We Don’t Care,” the pretty instrumental “Nani Le” and the banjo-driven “Khafolé.”
The Trishas are an all-female country-folk quartet. None of the band’s four members are named Trisha, rather the name was coined spontaneously for their first performance together – during which they covered a Trisha Yearwood song. That supposedly one-off performance turned into a true career and the haphazardly chosen name stuck. The Trishas’ high lonesome harmonies and catchy country tunes fall somewhere between Dixie Chicks and The Trio.
And I could have told you, darlin’, it would end up like this
When you’re kissed by a fool, you’re fooled by a kiss
And I believed you, baby, and your silver, lying tongue
You were handsome and older, I was foolish and young
The opener “Mother of Invention,” the lyrics of which lend the album its title, showcases The Trishas’ honeyed downhome harmonies and penchant for foot tappin’ Appalachian folk and country.
“Strangers,” “Liars & Fools” and “Looking At Me” are more old-fashioned country ballads with lovely weeping steel, clanging banjo and bittersweet strings.
The standout track “Little Sweet Cigars” is a haunting folk tune with a steady rhythm and a lyrical narrative of Western seduction and betrayal.
With its “set yourself on fire” refrain, “One Down” is a strangely gentle anthem for burning bridges.
“Cold-Blooded Love” is a slinky, sultry torch song by way of Tin Pan Alley.
“Billie Holiday is killing me, like she’s been reading my mind” is a grand way to begin any song, as proven by “Rainin’ Inside.”
The fourteen tracks could’ve done with some trimming, as other songs seem more filler than substance. But it’s a minor gripe about an otherwise excellent recording.
Raul Malo guests on the bonus track “A Far Cry From You,” which comes as an exclusive download with the CD purchase.
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.
New Orleans country-folk band Hurray For the Riff Raff has a unique and exciting sound thanks to their Puerto Rican lead singer, Alynda Lee Segarra. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Alabama Shakes producer Andrija Tokic, their new album, Look Out Mama, gets off to a rollicking start with “Little Black Star.” The title track, already a classic in my mind, follows with a warm, swinging country sound elevated to another level by Segarra’s plaintive, passionate pleas. The Beatles-esque ode to John and Yoko “Born to Win (Part 1)” has an infectious, sing-along chorus. The album concludes with the melancholy lament, “Something’s Wrong.” Segarra’s voice is one for the ages and hopefully one we’ll hear much more of in the future.
Wilson Phillips are back with Dedicated, a tribute to The Mamas & Papas and The Beach Boys. Despite my fondness for all three bands (Wilson Phillips’ self-titled debut is tied to many a childhood memory), I expected this to be a disappointing, overtly sentimental album. Yet this homage to their respective parents – Beach Boy Brian Wilson is father of Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips’ parents were Mamas & Papas’ John and Michelle Phillips – is actually quite good. Wilson Phillips may be better known for their reality show antics now than for their music, but their harmonies are as lovely as ever and very reminiscent of the two bands who spawned them. Dedicated is a pleasant, melodic and fun soundtrack for summer.
Highlights on the album include the uptempo, true-to-original covers of “California Dreamin’,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Monday Monday.”
Other favorites are the pretty ballads “Dedicated To The One I Love” (featuring Cass Elliot’s daughter, Owen) and “God Only Knows” as well as the mellow Mamas & Papas song “Twelve-Thirty.”
The only tracks I find a bit irksome are “I Can Hear Music” and “Fun, Fun, Fun,” but I feel the same about the original songs.
The a capella finale “Good Vibrations” is another standout. The use of multi-layered vocal hums as instrumentation reminds me of a capella groups like Sonos.
Overall, Dedicated is a sunny, summery, very catchy and surprisingly well orchestrated collection of classic pop covers.
I wasn’t granted permission to share an mp3, but you can stream the entire album at AOL.
To celebrate the release of their brilliant new album, The Fourth Wall (click title for my rave review), The Vespers are offering a free, legal EP download. The EP includes three songs from the new album, two from their previous release and one new live track. You can download the mp3s by entering your email address in the Noisetrade widget below.
The Vespers’ sophomore album, The Fourth Wall, will be released on April 3rd. Composed of sisters Callie and Phoebe Cryar and brothers Bruno and Taylor Jones, the Nashville quartet has been described by others as a “‘Southern Folk Pop Family Band” and they call themselves “two sisters, two brothers, four friends, ten instruments, one fun little folk band.” The songs on The Fourth Wall break the barrier between folk and pop and also genre-hop through blues, gospel and rock…all wrapped up in dulcet harmonies and strikingly beautiful instrumentation.
Momma says I can’t be healed, Papa says I’m through
They say I can’t use my eyes, never be good as new
Oh, but I’m better now
Why do you shake head no?
On first listen, the opener “Better Now” struck me as simply a beautiful folk song. It wasn’t until I read the press release that I learned the lyrics were inspired by the Biblical account of the blind man healed by Jesus. However, this is no Gospel song. Rather, it examines the bittersweet relief and frustration felt by a man whose vision has been miraculously restored, but his friends and family don’t believe his story. Lyrics aside, the melody and vocals are gorgeous and set upon a lush, multi-instrumental arrangement.
“Close My Eyes” gradually mingles electric guitar with banjo, culminating in a frenzied multi-instrumental finale worthy of Flogging Molly.
“Got No Friends” is a jaunty little song that is both lonesome and hopeful, while “Lawdy” grows from a haunting folk melody into a robust, bluesy thump.
“Jolly Robber” is a buoyant pop ditty that hints at traditional Jewish folk. “Grinnin’ in Your Face” is another, fiercer blues track flush with howls, claps and stomps.
“Footprints in the Snow” is an ominous strummer perfect for a Western movie soundtrack, and “Winter” is a delicately melancholy and lovely finale for this entirely exquisite album.
The Vespers – Better Now (mp3 expired)*
*mp3 posted w/ permission of band’s PR rep
You can download a free, legal EP with mp3s from this album via this post.
The album is not yet available for purchase, but should be at the links below closer to the release date…