Shawn Colvin: All Fall Down

Singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin has made a very welcome return with her eighth studio album, All Fall Down. Collaborations with producer Buddy Miller (who first discovered Shawn three decades ago), Bill Frisell, Allison Krauss, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris add some fresh country flourishes, but overall the new songs stay true to the authentic, heartfelt acoustic folk-pop style of Shawn’s early releases. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

There are those we say are our favorite artists to anyone who asks. For me, they are Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Mahler, Allison Crowe, Anais Mitchell, Xavier Rudd, Florence + The Machine and Flogging Molly. And there are those that our old friends know were once among our favorites. For me, they are The Dresden Dolls, Joan Osborne, Hole, Sarah McLachlan, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.

Then there are those few artists whose music is so important and personal to us, that not even our closest companions can ever truly grasp what they really mean to us. For me, they are Tori Amos, Patti Smith, Fiona Apple, Heather Nova, Holly Cole, Concrete Blonde, Sinead Lohan, and Shawn Colvin.

Shawn Colvin’s 1992 album Fat City and 1994’s Cover Girl affected me in a way I hear older people talk about Bob Dylan or other legendary songwriters. Shawn’s own song “Monopoly” and her covers of “Someday” and “Twilight” were there for me when no one else was, sharing my heartbreak and helping me through some very dark times. Even Shawn herself was a source of comfort with her candid interviews about her ongoing struggles with bipolar disorder and depression – which is why I’m eager to read her new memoir, Diamond in the Rough.

All Fall Down lives up to that substantial legacy of well-crafted, poetic honesty. A collection of post-breakup (possibly post-divorce?) anthems, the album was born from impromptu, live, in-studio jams between Shawn, Miller and her other musician cohorts.

The album opens with its catchy title track, followed by Shawn’s stunning cover of Rod MacDonald’s gritty ode to NYC (or ode to gritty NYC?), “American Jerusalem.”

The heartbroken ballad “Seven Times the Charm,” co-written by Jakob Dylan and featuring backing vocals by Alison Krauss, is another standout track.

“Anne of The Thousand Days” brilliantly uses Henry VIII as a metaphor for a lover with a long list of ex’s.

Patty Griffin lent her pen to “Change is on the Way,” while “I Don’t Know You” was co-written with Allison Krauss.

Emmylou Harris sings harmony on the gorgeous, atmospheric “Up on that Hill.” The song is perfectly paired with a lovely rendition of B.W. Stevenson’s “On My Own” for the album’s finale.

You can stream the entire album on Shawn’s official site.

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Allison Crowe: Exclusive Premiere of 2 New Mp3s!

Muruch has long championed the music of brilliant, incomparable Canadian singer-songwriter, Allison Crowe and she often rewards our loyalty with exclusives such as this one. Allison will soon release a “Double-A Side Single” of her original piano song “Arthur” and a guitar cover of Patty Griffin’s “Up to the Mountain.” This year also marks the tenth anniversary of Allison’s record label, Rubenesque Records Ltd. To celebrate, she is generously allowing us here at Muruch to exclusively premiere the following free, 100% legal mp3s of her two new songs for two weeks. So download the mp3s while you can, enjoy the YouTube Videos, then go buy the digital double single and/or Allison’s other albums – I promise they’re all worth every penny!

Allison Crowe – Arthur (mp3 expired)*
Allison Crowe – Up to the Mountain (mp3 expired)*

*mp3s provided by & posted for 2 weeks w/ permission of artist’s manager – after that purchase the mp3s via Allison’s Bandcamp

Allison Crowe – Arthur (YouTube Video)*
Allison Crowe – Up to the Mountain (YouTube Video)*

*videos uploaded by artist’s manager

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Allison Crowe

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Robert Plant: Band of Joy

Best known as the former frontman of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant’s recent delvings into country and folk may seem an odd choice for the seminal rocker. However, Plant’s genre-crossing experiments will come as no surprise to those familiar with Zep’s affinity for folk-blues – particularly their cover of the traditional “Gallow’s Pole.” Following his successful Raising Sand collaboration with bluegrass darling Allison Krauss, Plant teemed up with folk star turned producer Buddy Miller for his new solo album, Band of Joy.

An almost perfect marriage of Robert Plant’s psychedelic sway and Buddy Miller’s freight train of rocked up Americana, the aptly titled Band of Joy features the backing band of Miller, Patty Griffin, Bekka Bramlett and Darrell Scott.

A rhythmic interpretation of Los Lobos’s “Angel Dance” opens the album with slinky bluegrass instrumentation snaking through a thunderous blues-rock clamor and clang.

The moody wailer “House of Cards” follows and is greatly enhanced by the backing howls of Patty Griffin and Bekka Bramlett.

“Central Two-O-Nine” sounds like an old-fashioned folk ballad, but is a new original Plant co-penned with Buddy Miller.

The new Plant/Miller arrangement of the traditional song “Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday” is spectacular, but Plant’s deadpan vocal delivery lacks the spirit necessary to carry the repetitive chorus.

The retro pop style of “You Can’t Buy My Love” and The Kelly Brothers cover “Falling In Love Again” are also an ill fit for Plant’s voice. Rather than resurrecting the ironic charm of his Honeydrippers era, Plant simply sounds like he’s singing his age and he really shouldn’t. Yet these are the only flaws in this diamond of an album.

The ominous, driving rhythm of “Monkey” and the chillingly sparse rendering of traditional folk ballad “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” are much better settings for his unusual voice.

Overall, Band of Joy is a worthy successor to Raising Sand and I look forward to hearing the wonders Plant has in store for us in the future.

The SoundCloud.com stream of “Angel Dance”, which was uploaded with the explicit permission of Rounder Records, has been removed due to false infringement claim filed with Soundcloud.

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Band of Joy - Robert Plant