Saturday, February 27, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 15 - Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter

The first I heard about what is to follow was just a song.  Three things struck me about it all at once:

  • The vocals - my first thoughts were Melanie and Lindi Ortega.
  • The lyric and attitude - reminiscent of those of Loretta Lynn, not to mention the above.
  • The falling-scale slide guitar arpeggio.
'Desperate and Depressed', for that was clearly its title, is not perhaps the most welcoming of introductions but that wasn't going to evince anything other than an immediate need to find who was singing and what is going on here.  A fourth thing and an assumption, which turned out to be correct, was that it wasn't a cover of a song that I simply hadn't heard before.  If it had been such then it was certainly due some time in the sun anyway...

Let us start with the lyric, if only because I haven't featured them so much of late.

Desperate and Depressed

I'm pissed off at the number of people that I meet
Who go to shake my hand with a viper up their sleeve.
They freeze me out in winter, burn me up all summer.
Try to take my money when I'm desperate and depressed.
Ain't it a mess.

I've played for free and paid for the miles on my truck.
Got no sleep in motels cause the worry keeps me up.
It almost drives me crazy thinking about my baby
And how he's gonna love me if I'm desperate and depressed
Can't get no rest.

Momma never told me that things would be this way.
Daddy tried to warn me that there'd be hell to pay.
If I can't find the money then I can't buy the time.
I'm stuck here making someone else's dime.

We busked in Sarasota. I made twenty-seven bucks.
I wept for Richard Manuel thinking I might have his luck.
You talked behind my back but only stabbed me in the front.
But don't think you can hurt me cause I'm desperate and depressed.
Ain't it a mess.

Please, somebody tell me how to make it stop
This world feels like a roller coaster I just can't get off
Tried rehab and probation, tried self-medication
But none of that can cure you when you're desperate and depressed
Ain't it a mess

Momma never told me that things would be this way.
Daddy tried to warn me that there'd be hell to pay.
But if I can't find the money then I can't buy the lie.
Oh, ten percent of nothing ain't a dime.

So don't you try to sell me back what's mine
I'll be desperate and depressed until I die

This song is the b-side of a vinyl 7".

You can give it a virtual spin here...

...but this track didn't make it on to the LP.*

The a-side is Hurtin' On The Bottle (a co-write with Caitlin Rose and others) and the single was released in late 2015 to promote the soon-to-be-released début LP, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, by East Nashville's Margo Price.

Midwest Farmer's Daughter - Margo Price (Third Man Records, 25 March 2016).
A point that is worthy of note is that this LP was recorded, mixed and mastered before it was presented, fait accompli, to would-be labels. Most of them simply said "no" or, if not exactly that, wished to mould it to the sensibility of their perceived market; in other words suck all the originality out it.
This is the track-listing:

Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
  1. Hands of Time
  2. About to Find Out
  3. Tennessee Song
  4. Since You Put Me Down
  5. Four Years of Chances
  6. This Town Gets Around
  7. How the Mighty Have Fallen
  8. Weekender
  9. Hurtin' On the Bottle
  10. World's Greatest Loser
Taken from it is this, recorded live:

Since You Put Me Down

Note added 8 March 2016:
Margo Price was today confirmed as appearing at End The Road Festival 2016.

Writing in The New Yorker last month, this is what Sarah Larson had to say about Midwest Farmer's Daughter:

Note added 15 April 2016:
* Desperate and Depressed was, in the event, added to the UK release of Midwest Farmer's Daughter. At least on Spotify about five minutes after it's release there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 14 - Paula Ryan - Let Me Fly

New releases and artist confirmations of festival dates are both starting to warm up now, even if the weather isn't. There are certainly exciting things on the horizon but today I've decided to go with a very recently released album.

Paula Ryan - Let Me Fly (self-released, 19 February 2016).

This is certainly an album with strong elements of folk, and Irish folk too for a couple of tracks are sung either in whole or part in Gaelic and some of the instrumentation flows from that. This includes bouzouki so file that influence under 'Planxty' but only for now; it is a subtle indication of the need to look much further than that here.

A number of songs here have distinctly African influences and instrumentation [A Thousand Smiling Faces, Lion In A Cage - in particular] and I have to say that I am drawn as much to these as the more, um, traditionally traditional songs. So what?
It is true that I have fallen for specific examples, particularly when seen and heard live, a few times before... I'm beginning to think that I might need to pay the
 panopoly that is 'World Music' more attention. One thing that I don't like too much, and it has nothing the do with any of the music itself, is the semantic associated with that term itself. There seems something rather dismissive, indeed disparaging, about lumping the vast proportion of all worldwide musical tradition together under a catch-all couplet.

After that serious interlude, for in large part the album is playful (not least the silliness of Honest John), here is the track listing:
  • A Thousand Smiling Faces
  • Let Me Fly
  • Suantraí Donnacha
  • Honest John
  • Lion in a Cage
  • Havin' the Craic!
  • Black Swan
  • Don't Cry
  • Castaway
  • The Funny One
  • Song for Conor
  • Donnacha's Lullaby
The modern side of English folk is here too. The title track is a song-biography of aviatrix Amy Johnson.
Donnacha's Lullaby is Suantraí Donnacha in English.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

New music, Canada and forthcoming festivals...

Only yesterday I was thinking that I hadn't written about new Welsh music for sometime and so I did something about that. I used to write about music from Canada rather often too, indeed it was Arcade Fire that were in large part responsible for my conversion to festival-going, and therefore Latitude Festival, back in 2007.

Here are two Canadian acts that I have never seen live before but are appearing at festivals to which I'm going this coming summer. One thing I am confident about is that nobody could claim that both fall into a single genre. Both have new records to bring to the party, however.

Basia Bulat - Good Advice (Secret City Records, 12 February 2016).

This release is rather more pop-oriented than her earlier acoustic and folk-oriented material that regularly featured hammered dulcimer and autoharp. She is playing End Of The Road Festival, Dorset, UK, and hopefully we will get the best of both worlds.

The Besnard Lakes - A Coliseum Complex Museum (Jagjaguwar Records, 22 January 2016).

The Besnard Lakes is, more or less, the project of  husband-and-wife team Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas. One thing that that they do very well is psych-rock. I have all the earlier LPs too but this is the latest and in any case my liking for this is hardly breaking news. One accusation levelled against the band is that it sticks to the theme too much...  another is that the album is too short; earlier ones were criticised for being too long.
You just can't win!
Any which way, The Besnard Lakes play Green Man Festival 2016
 See what you think. See you there?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 13 - Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog IV

It's been a while since I mentioned any new music from Wales. It has been far longer since I mentioned seeing Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog play live at the only edition of No Direction Home Festival back in June 2012. That was around the time of the release of their album 'Draw Dros Y Mynydd', which I've just been listening to once again. Here is the briefest of summaries - country-inflected rock sung entirely in Welsh.

It's been a while in the making but the new LP - Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog IV - is due 25 March.

Beyond that I know almost nothing at all. I'd love to see the band live at a festival again. Maybe Green Man (away across the mountains but still in their native Wales) or End Of The Road?

Note added June 2016:
Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog is now confirmed to appear at Green Man 2016.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A virtual Sunday roots - Americana - bluegrass road trip.

This was sparked by a comment from a US friend about a band recently seen live (twice) and how good it was. Today I have listened on rotation to these three LPs whilst doing routine jobs around the house. I haven't had the good fortune to see any of these artists live, yet.

It prompted me to think about an artist whose début LP I happened across a couple months back and then never got around to mentioning.  Of the three that is the one that I shall start with and it is the only one that consists largely of traditional tunes and songs; they were both collected and arranged by the artist, Jake Xerxes Fussell. That is indeed his name from birth and splendid it most certainly is. Much of the music here is acoustic singer-with-guitar material but lap-steel and fiddle feature too. 

Released: 26 January 2015 (Paradise of Bachelors)
I could have chosen almost anything here. Not a single song showcases the diversity that is sampled from the original sources. In the end I chose 'Star Girl' as it displays more of the instruments on offer here than some other tracks.

The next that I shall mention is the one recommended to me this morning and therefore the seed from which this conceptual road trip grew. Originally hailing from a slew of places across the US the five members, none were known one to another before they found themselves in Portland, OR in 2014.  In a matter of months they became Crow and The Canyon. From that point on they toured solidly, mostly in the Pacific Northwest, writing what would become their first LP 'Leaving Soon'.
It was released 9 June 2015 (CD Baby).
To a great extent this is their own material and it covers, indeed fuses a wide variety of styles across the folk, country and bluegrass spectrum. As Crow and the Canyon had been recommended to me this was actually where I started this 'road trip' but in terms of story-telling it seems to fit best in the midst of the three. It is invidious to attempt to choose just one track to illustrate this, but I'm going to try anyway.

The final piece in this trilogy is The Lil Smokies from Montana. This is very much led by modern bluegrass.

It was released 28 June 2013 (CD Baby).

'Mending The Fence' live in Missoula, MT, 2013.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 12 - Sunflower Bean - Human Ceremony

I have both an ear open for and an eye on artists that are playing festivals that I'm planning on attending in 2016.
Therefore this three-piece from Brooklyn, NY comes to my attention sooner rather than later. While their neighbourhood is famous for much musically, when thinking about recent years indie-rock possibly isn't the first thing that might have come to mind.
That, however, is what Jacob Faber (drums), Julia Cumming (bass and vocals) and Nick Kivlen (guitar and vocals) do. The last mentioned (front-centre below) looks so like 'Blonde on Blonde' era Dylan that it simply can't be a coincidence.

Human Ceremony is the début LP. Fat Possum Records, 5 February 2016.

To pigeon-hole their music in place or time is tricky but it might be dreamy rock to assuage worrying thoughts and, be that as it may, their reputation for live performance is growing rapidly.  Sunflower Bean is playing End Of The Road Festival 2016.

This is the official video for 'Wallwatcher'.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 11 - Freakwater - Scheherazade

When an LP takes its title from a Persian queen-consort, she was also the storyteller for One Thousand and One Nights, one might conclude that things are not going to be exactly straightforward. You are right but I'll try to keep this post concise.

It is also an example of two points I feel that I often make:
The first is that trying to fit music into little 'genre-boxes' is at best a waste of time that is far better spent finding and listening to music. At worst it is misguided and distracts from the investigation of "new" music by others simply because they may perceive it to be beyond their habitual comfort-zone.
Tied in to this is the second; there is so much music available to find that keeping an open mind and setting out on a voyage simply to find whatever may be out there seems a pretty good option to me. The few useful navigation aids en route are those things
 the judgement of which one has learned to respect. That could be applied to a festival of which the line-up is as yet unknown when one books a ticket or, as in this case, a record label - Bloodshot Records.  This post also adheres to one of the few founding principles of this blog and it is that I don't waste my energy on writing about things that I don't like.

Scheherazade is the first new Freakwater record in over a decade.
It was released in North America 5 February 2016 and will be so in Europe 12 February 2016 on LP, CD and d/l.
The LP cover screams 1970s to me - the interlocked and curvy typeface, the colors and optical-illusory carpet of the motel room both - but that is not what it sounds like.
Not. At. All. 
The vocals are handled, as they always have been for this is Freakwater album #8, by Janet Bean and Caroline Irwin who both hail from Louisville, Kentucky.

This is the track list:

Freakwater - Scheherazade
  • What the People Want
  • The Asp and the Albatross
  • Bolshevik and Bollweevil
  • Down Will Come Baby
  • Falls of Sleep
  • Take Me With You
  • Velveteen Matador
  • Skinny Knee Bone
  • Number One With a Bullet
  • Memory Vendor
  • Missionfield
  • Ghost Song
I reckon that you best go figure what else, if anything, it reminds you of. I haven't decided that myself but I like the whatever-that-it-is and I that's quite good enough for me, at least for now.

Monday, February 08, 2016

What's next?

With this season's festival attendances now more-or-less decided there are a few months in which to consider things other than, as well as, the waves of new and not-so-new music that wash over us.
Maybe a few clues can be found in the side bar of this blog and I'm thinking that it is perhaps time to have a look at songs that have been covered...
That might be the original version (quite impossible in the case of many traditional songs), the most well known version and maybe others too.
I know that there are several songs that I thought were 'original' to a certain artist (if not necessarily composed by that artist, which is another issue) but that I have since discovered most certainly were not.

Quite how I might actually achieve this is something of a mystery right now but I like the idea of attempting it.