Carsie Blanton: Idiot Heart

Carsie Blanton’s new album, Idiot Heart, will be released on January 31st. Carsie has opened for Paul Simon and also performed in stage productions of Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown. Idiot Heart is an immensely charming collection of catchy jazz- and folk-influenced Americana. You can download two free, legal mp3s from the album below, then I suggest you buy the rest.

Carsie Blanton – Backseat
(mp3) *
Carsie Blanton – Idiot Heart (mp3) *

*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep

The album is not yet available for pre-order, but check the links below on January 31st…


Carsie Blanton Official Site

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

It’s that time again! Following are my Top 25 Albums of 2010. Like ’em or not, these are the albums I’ve personally enjoyed and listened to most often in the past year. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, download mp3s…

*Honorable mention to Florence + the Machine’s Lungs, which would have been #2 on this list had it been released this year.

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

25. Sheila Nicholls: Songs from the Bardo

…I was so excited to see Sheila Nicholls name on a new press release!…genre-hopping…moody experience…Sheila’s lovely vocals drive every song

Sheila Nicholls – Bardo (mp3)*
Sheila Nicholls – Natural Law (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

24. The Concretes: WYWH

…sultry and atmospheric…blends mellow electro-pop melodies with ambient beats beneath new lead singer Lisa Milberg’s whisper soft vocals

The Concretes – All Day (mp3)*
The Concretes – Good Evening (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

23. Heart: Red Velvet Car

…a step back from the pop-rock endeavors of recent decades in favor of a multi-instrumental style…perfect display of Ann’s astounding vocal power and Nancy’s searing guitar riffs.

Buy @ Amazon

22. Warner Nuzova: Russian Music for Cello & Piano

…The deep resonance of Warner’s cello is juxtaposed and intertwined with the emotive peels of Nuzova’s piano, resulting in a sound full of somber beauty and classical romance.

Buy @ Amazon

21. Screaming Females: Castle Talk

…loud, exhilarating, wailing punk rockers…a spectacular cacophony of ferocious growls, frenzied shrieks, scorching guitar licks and tempestuous rhythm

Screaming Females – I Don’t Mind It (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

20. Brooke Fraser: Flags

…a collection of subtle folk-influenced melodies and pretty, infectious pop fleshed out with innovative arrangements and all wrapped up in Brooke’s warm voice

Buy @ Amazon

19. Agent Ribbons: Chateau Crone

…churns atmospheric retro pop-rock with modern rock riffs, handclap percussion, and girl group harmony. The result is somewhere between The Zombies and The Shangri-Las.

Buy @ Amazon

18. Creed Bratton: Bounce Back

…With the help of his backing band The 3DVB’s and his The Office co-star Ed Helms, Creed has made an unusual, funny, funky, and all around awesome album.

Creed Bratton – Rubber Tree (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

17. Robert Plant: Band of Joy

…an almost perfect marriage of Robert Plant’s psychedelic sway and Buddy Miller’s freight train of rocked up Americana

Buy @ Amazon

16. Danielle Ate the Sandwich: Two Bedroom Apartment

…The combination of that kind of sweetly self-deprecating humor and Danielle’s clear, warm voice along with some very pretty acoustic melodies make this album a charmer.

Buy @ Amazon

15. Robert Stallman: The Nightingale in Love

…Whether you’re a classical aficionado or simply enjoy pretty instrumental music, this lovely album is definitely one to try…Simply put, The Nightingale in Love is beautiful. So very beautiful.

Buy @ Amazon

14. Sade: Soldier of Love

…an album everyone should hear…strong artistic integrity combined with an exquisitely exotic voice and elegant melodies give Sade’s music a rare grace and beauty.

Buy @ Amazon

13. Katharine McPhee: Unbroken

…an excellent mix of infectious pop melodies and singer-songwriter acoustics…Her multi-faceted voice effortlessly flows from impressive Divaesque acrobatics to a warmer, relaxed charm reminiscent of classic Carole King.

Buy @ Amazon

12. Loreena McKennitt: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

…brimming with a heady mix of Celtic and folk instrumentation…Loreena’s supernatural soprano is on gorgeous display

Buy @ Amazon

11. The Bird & The Bee: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates

…tribute to 1980s pop icons Hall & Oates is no parody, instead this is a sincere and happy homage to one of my favorite guilty pleasure bands…the perfect soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

10. Sing Me To Sleep: Indie Lullabies

…a wide variety of charming, serene covers by various indie acts…The entire Sing Me To Sleep album flows together to create a lovely, gentle mood.

Dean & Britta – Making Me Smile (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

9. The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang

…one of the most excellent, enjoyable rock albums I’ve heard in years…infectious but substantial rock – settled delciously somewhere between arena and roots.

Buy @ Amazon

8. Allison Crowe: Spiral

…Her voice flawlessly flows between the most pristine soprano and gut-wrenching, full-bodied wails…I hear Allison Crowe sing, and I remember the effect music is supposed to have on you.

Buy @ Amazon

7. The Innocence Mission: My Room in Trees

…pristinely pretty…Sparse arrangements are coupled with poetic lyrics full of scenic imagery and bittersweet emotion – all carried by the lovely soprano of Karen Peris.

The Innocence Mission – God is Love (mp3)*
The Innocence Mission – Happy Mondays (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

6. Moreland & Arbuckle: Flood

…If Moreland & Arbuckle’s upcoming album Flood is any indication, 2010 is gonna be a great year for music…this mix of Delta blues, folk, country, soul, and rock is one wild ride.

Buy @ Amazon

5. She & Him: Volume Two

…another collection of airy, retro-styled pop songs fleshed out with folk instrumenation…a breezy pop soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

4. Kate Miller-Heidke: Curiouser

…like a collaboration between Kate Bush and Lady Gaga. Mainstream pop fans will definitely enjoy this disc, as will those searching for catchy tunes with lyrical substance.

Buy @ Amazon

3. Janelle Monáe: The Archandroid

…Conceptually and musically, this multi-facted, genre-mashing masterpiece has everything you could want in an album and then some. And Janelle’s supernatural vocal range is as chameleonic as the songs she sings.

Buy @ Amazon

2. Xavier Rudd: Koonyum Sun

…Xavier Rudd is my favorite artist, full stop…yet another breathtaking masterpiece that’s sure to land Xavier Rudd at the top of my year end list again.

Buy @ Amazon

1. Anaïs Mitchell: Hadestown

…transforms the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice into a post-apocalyptic American fable with Depression era style and indie-folk sensibility. This gorgeous, exciting project reminds me why I love music so much and why I love writing about music so much.”

Anaïs Mitchell – Flowers (mp3)*
Anaïs Mitchell & Bon Iver – Wait for Me (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

*all mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artists, labels and/or their PR reps

Mountain Stage: Anais Mitchell, Danielle Ate The Sandwich, Horse Feathers, Delta Spirit, Black Dub

I expected Sunday night’s Mountain Stage concert to be good, but even I was suprised at just how fantastic it turned out to be. The lineup was Anaïs Mitchell, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Horse Feathers, Delta Spirit and Black Dub.

Portland, Oregan “chamber folk band” Horse Feathers opened the show with songs from their latest release Thistled Spring.

Led by singer-songwriter Justin Ringle, the band’s current touring lineup is violinist Nathan Crockett, cellist Catherine Odell, and multi-instrumentalist Sam Cooper. After seeing Alex Wong, The Low Anthem and Lost in the Trees at Mountain Stage, I’m not as easily impressed by multi-instrumentalists as I used to. However, Sam Cooper ‘s ability to play the banjo and the drums at the same time was nothing short of extraordinary. Unfortunately, his drum set prevented me from getting a good shot of him in action.

The highlights of Horse Feather’s set were the hypnotically sparse title track from the new album and the beautiful ballad “Cascade.”

Next up was the incomparable Anaïs Mitchell. When I first saw Anaïs perform at Mountain Stage two years ago, she played a captivating song called “Why We Build the Wall” from a “folk opera” she was working on at the time. Since then, her “folk opera” was completed, recorded, and released by Righteous Babe Records. Hadestown is by far my favorite album of 2010, and to say I was excited to hear portions of it live would be a chasmic understatement.

The studio recording of Hadestown featured such well known guest vocalists as Ani Difranco, Greg Brown, Petra Haden, Bon Iver, and Ben Knox Milller of The Low Anthem. Sadly, though, it was impossible to book all of those artists for one Mountain Stage show. Instead, Anaïs was accompanied by her Hadestown co-composer Michael Chorney and “The Hadestown Orchestra.” Fine by me, Anaïs’ superbly nuanced voice has more than enough emotion and inflection to portray the entire cast of characters herself.

Since last winter, I have played the Hadestown album on repeat so many times that I know it by heart from beginning to end and love it with a passion and admiration I usually reserve for great literature. The monumental brilliance of the album was difficult to recreate in a live setting without the extra players, but Anaïs was absolutely resplendent and her backing band did an excellent job.

I wrote all about the inspirations, inner workings, and song descriptions in my rave review of the Hadestown album (click title for review). Long story short: Hadestown resets the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in a fantastical Depression-era walled city with a gold mine. Proving my point that this isn’t your typical concept album, Anaïs provided little background on the songs she performed at Mountain Stage. Yet the audience obviously enjoyed and enthusiastically responded to each song for its own substantial merit without any need for context.

Anaïs began with “Wedding Song,” the Orpheus and Eurydice love duet that opens the album The stage arrangement and Anaïs’ vocals seemed much more buoyant than on the studio recording, which I think added the crowd’s enjoyment of the song. The faster, jubilant tempo didn’t work as well for Hades’ call-and-response “Why We Build The Wall.” The orchestral stage arrangement didn’t have quite the same chilling impact of Greg Brown’s quietly menacing album version or Anaïs’ previous solo acoustic performance. That slight disappointment aside, though, it was still a great performance.

Anaïs was wonderful as Persephone in the swaggering, speakeasy number “Our Lady of the Underground.” As much as I love Ani DiFranco’s version, I think Anaïs’ voice was better suited to the setting and time period. And hearing Anaïs sing Eurydice’s melancholy theme “Flowers (Eurydice’s Song)” live was as moving as expected. She ended her set with “How Long?,” the duet originally recorded as “Hades and Persephone” on The Brightness.

There are several videos on YouTube from the original Hadestown productions, and you can hear Anaïs Mitchell’s solo performance at Mountain Stage of “Why We Build The Wall” at NPR.

Anaïs Mitchell – Flowers (mp3)*
Anaïs Mitchell – Wait for Me (mp3)*

*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep Toolshed Media on behalf of Righteous Babe Records

Buy Hadestown @ Amazon

Anaïs Mitchell Official Site

As I said in my review of her album Two Bedroom Apartment, Danielle Ate the Sandwich is Nebraskan singer-songwriter Danielle Anderson and she describes her sound as “seven minutes in heaven with the most popular girl’s significantly less attractive best friend.”

Let me tell you, Danielle is freakin’ adorable in person. And not just because of her cool horn-rimmed glasses and bright green sweater. Her down to earth demeanor, wry in-between songs banter, heartfelt vocals and pretty acoustic melodies quickly charmed the audience. And that girl sure can pluck the life out of a ukulele.

I was a little worried for her having to step in Anaïs Mitchell’s shadow, but I must say Danielle Ate the Sandwich stole the show. If she ever tires of singing, she could easily have a career in standup comedy. She kept thanking us for being nice to her and alternated between self-deprecating quips and grandiose statements to the radio audience about her “amazing” instruments. After confessing her discomfort among “cool-looking musicians,” she said “I look like I made straight A’s, don’t I?”

Jokes aside, her voice was strong and beautiful. Danielle is a prime example of why I hate the current crop of Auto-tuned, packaged pop and country stars. Truly great singers don’t need any effects to make their voices sound perfect. She played “Bribes,” her funny ode to “El Paso,” the audience favorite “We Are Hot Dogs” and “American Dream.” But it was her lovely tribute to her grandfather, “17 and 53,” that stood out most to me.

You can watch and hear Danielle sing several of her own songs as well as some unusual covers at her YouTube channel.

Buy Two Bedroom Apt @ Amazon

Danielle Ate the Sandwich Official Site

Delta Spirit (which I keep confusing with The Duke Spirit) were formed by bassist Jon Jameson and drummer Brandon Young, both former members of Noise Ratchet . The band played songs from their new sophomore album History From Below, the highlights of which were the small-town boy in the big city anthem “St. Francis” and the love gone wrong ballad “Scarecrow.”

Lead singer Matthew Vasquez’ gritty vocals and the band’s combination of dusty tales and rowdy folk-rock were reminiscent of Felice Brothers. They were so good, I was starting to think it was going to be one of those rare Mountain Stage concerts that I loved from beginning to end. It almost was, but then…

Black Dub featuring guitarist-producer Daniel Lanois, singer Trixie Whitley and drummer Brian Blade ended the show with an extended set of rock, soul and Jamaican dub music. They played tracks from their recently released self-titled debut.

The first half of their set was astonishingly good and I was shocked to hear such a big, formidable voice emit from Trixie’s lil body. That girl can wail with the best of them. The highlights were “Surely” and “Sing.”

But when the band switched from soulful blues-rock to what Lanois called “cinematic” music, the evening took a long and boring turn for me. Longtime readers know how I feel about jam bands, and that is what Black Dub became for the second half of their set. The long instrumentals and repetitive vocals seemed popular with the musicians I glimpsed gathered backstage, but it’s just not my thing.

Anaïs Mitchell, Danielle Ate the Sandwich and members of Horse Feathers joined the Mountain Stage band for the group finale – a cover of the traditional “Sinner You’d Better Get Ready.”

Sometimes on these group sings, the whole isn’t equal to the sum of its parts. But this time all the singers sang in glorious harmony and it was one of the better finales to the show I’ve heard.

Contrast Podcast: Best of 2010 (So Far)

You can hear my voice in the new edition of Contrast Podcast, which has the theme “Best of 2010 (So Far).” My pick was Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown album (click title for my review) and I submitted the 100% legal, label-authorized mp3 “Flowers (Eurydice Song).” Hadestown will almost certainly still be my #1 album of 2010 at the end of the year.

Contrast Podcast – Best of 2010 (So Far)
Anaïs Mitchell – Flowers (Eurydice Song) (mp3) *

*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep on behalf of label

Muruch Hadestown Review

Buy Hadestown @ Amazon


Anaïs Mitchell Official Site

Giveaway: Win Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown CD!

Contest Closed

I’m thrilled to be able to give away 2 copies of Anaïs Mitchell’s magnificent new CD Hadestown (click the album title for my rave review), featuring Ani Difranco, Greg Brown, and Bon Iver. See contest details and download two mp3s from the album below.

The Prize:

2 winners will receive 1 copy of Anaïs Mitchell’s new CD Hadestown

The Rules:

Comment to this entry with the name of your favorite myth or your favorite musical (or both) and your email address. All new comments are moderated to avoid spam, so it may take a day for your comment to appear if you haven’t commented on Muruch before.

Note: This contest is open to everyone, but all contestants must enter with a valid email address in order to qualify. The winners of the contest will also be required to provide me with their full name, phone number, and postal address for shipping purposes.

The Deadline:

The contest will end on Friday, February 26th. The winners will be chosen at random and contacted via email.

Go now go! And tell others.

Anaïs Mitchell – Flowers (mp3) *
Anaïs Mitchell – Wait for Me (mp3) *

*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep

Buy @ Amazon

Anaïs Mitchell Official Site

Contest Closed