Sunday, September 17, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 30 - India Ramey - Snake Handler

It's been a good weekend for happening upon really fine artists and music of which I was until now quite unaware.
We swap the glitter of California of my previous post for the dismal depiction of a childhood lived far away across the continental US. This next artist grew up in a town with the idyllic name of Rome, Georgia. As it happens neither her early life nor the town itself matched up to the name and this is in large measure a chronicle of that. It is also a fine addition to the canon of what for want of a better (maybe even bitter) moniker is often called alt-country.  I'm more inclined to 'outlaw country' but it is certainly something I would include within Americana.  That however is a discussion for another time.

Snake Handler - India Ramey (Little River Records, 4 August 2017).

This is the track-list:

India Ramey - Snake Handler:
  • Snake Handler
  • Devil's Blood
  • The Baby
  • The Trees
  • Drowned Town
  • Devil's Den
  • Stone's Throw
  • Rome to Paris
  • The Charlatan
  • Saying Goodbye
There is a group of artists that is developing a whole thing around this kind of songwriting and production. The album is produced by Mark Petaccia, who was the sound engineer on Jason Isbell's 2013 album 'Southeastern', and the restrained production ethic that allows artist and music to sound very near to live (because it often is) comes through.
One of the highlights for me so far is the song 'Devil's Den'. As well as being lyrically razor-sharp it allowes me to draw parallels. One is with the artist Angaleena Presley (who I have mentioned before and also seen live) and specifically her song 'Dry County Blues' from 2014 LP 'American Middle Class'. The songs sound quite different but the two-faced detail is much the same - poverty, corruption and addiction all disguised behind a respectable facade as presented to the casual observer.
Another point of reference here, particularly when it comes to songs digging into their writer's past experiences, is obviously Margo Price. Her 2016 début 'Midwestern Farmer's Daughter' was released by Green Man Records but only after a couple of years without being able to find any label wishing to do so on her terms not theirs. This album changed the game, not least here in the UK where she toured it extensively and I saw her live at End Of The Road 2016. She releases her second LP 'All American Made', also through Green Man Records, on 20 October 2017.
Another artist in this category is Kashena Sampson and I mentioned her début album 'Wild Heart' a few weeks ago.
The most important thing here is that there is plenty of room for all these artist to co-exist. This is not a major label hunt for "the one", its rather more a community.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 29 - Calico the Band - Under Blue Skies

I spend a considerable amount of time trying to keep up with new music but, be that as it may, one of the greatest delights is to stumble upon something quite unexpected.
Exactly this happened yesterday evening and just how it came about eludes me now. I was feeling somewhat 1970s-nostalgic. I could have listened to all sorts of things. Stevie Nicks, CSNY and even Simon & Garfunkel came to mind, but for some reason I decided to try to find something new, at least to me, that fitted the required specification. By luck or judgement I happened upon a review of this LP. It sounded promising so I listened and it was just what I needed.

Under Blue Skies - Calico The Band (California Country Records, 15 September 2017).

Of course you can hear their influences beyond those mentioned already:  Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and also their predecessors including The Beatles as well as others less well known.  That is not even to mention a cover of John and Michelle Phillips' co-written California Dreamin'. It is one of those songs, and they are numerous, that is recognized by most but the origin of which is known by few. 
With three female vocalists Calico the Band doesn't really sound like any of them. Nor does it sound anything like bands from Texas with the same format but coming from quite different musical bases. The themes are often similar but the treatment very different.
This means that there is a significant population that will hate it and everything it represents. I accept that to be so, but I am not of that mind.

This is indeed the band's second album. In the spirit of research I thought that I should also investigate their first LP too. Why not?

Rancho California - Calico The Band (2 September 2014, California Country Records).


I like it just as much, so that's a win-win situation.  Another way to describe it that came to mind as if in a dream is to imagine that The Pistol Annies came into a bit of money and headed west in search of the dream.



This is the song 'Runaway Cowgirl' from the album 'Rancho California'.


And this is 'The 405' from the LP 'Under Blue Skies'.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 28 - Top Floor Taivers - A Delicate Game

This has nothing directly to do with the festivals I have been to over this summer. It has a great deal to do with the variety of music that garners my attention. It is also a possible pointer towards my change of direction when it comes to festivals that I'm considering visiting in 2018. I'm almost certain that I have never seen any of the four artists that form the core of Top Floor Taivers live in any of their many and various other guises. This is their first album together as such. Their recorded works as individuals or other bands are a however a different matter and I have listened to them.

A Delicate Game, Top Floor Taivers (TFT Records, 28 February 2017).

Recorded it is a slightly different consideration - as a
 trans-Britain-and-Ireland collective this is quite something. It treats traditional songs with grace and pressure, but also includes versions of modern folk songs such as Richard Thompson's '1952 Vincent Black Lightning'. The best 
comes with some new compositions such as 'Jeanie and the Spider' that rate alongside anything else here.
If you want my opinion then it is that this album is under-rated. The version of the traditional Scottish song 'Johnnie of Braidieslee' is as good as it could be. The origin, and age, of the song is anyone's guess; possibly 17th century in approximately current form but it might have origins older than that and have been updated and reconstructed to suit the times. It really doesn't matter that much.
For the curious, here is the track-list:


Top Floor Taivers - A Delicate Game:

  • Johnnie of Braidieslee
  • Princess Rosanna
  • The False Bride
  • Everybody Knows
  • 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
  • Jeannie and the Spider
  • Campfires
  • Ramblin' Rover
  • 10 Little Men
I  don't think that I could leave you hanging, with nothing to listen to, so here are a couple of tunes that are not on the album.


'Captain Ward' (traditional) and 'The Porterhead Reel' (Gráinne Brady).

Monday, September 11, 2017

End Of The Road and all that...

So why have I written nothing since I returned from End Of The Road 2017 a week ago? Well I've been busy at work for a start, catching up on my sleep too and thinking about all the things I saw that weekend. Assisted by, and whilst working through, all the pictures that I took.
I've also been listening to a whole lot of new, some even forthcoming, music and started thinking about those many great albums already released in 2017; equally those still anticipated. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to intertwine my memories of EOTR 2017 with some of these forthcoming things and, also, a few releases the first nine months of 2017 that I have not mentioned up to now for whatever reason. That this will keep me more than busy is something of an understatement.

Le's start with something from last weekend and an artist that I have wished to see live for some years now.

 Lucinda Williams, Garden stage, Friday 1 September.

This stage is unsurpassed in atmosphere in so many ways so I shall stick with it, and a diet of artists from the US, for this post. Of the four artists here this is the only one that I had seen live before at EOTR 2015 but on the Woods stage then. The picture above was taken after nightfall.

Ryley Walker, Garden stage, Friday lunchtime, 1 September.

When the greatest stage light of all, the sun, is in play the Garden stage is unimpeachable. It was to be so again for much of Saturday.

Courtney Marie Andrews, Garden stage, 2 September.

Opening the same stage at lunchtime the same day was an artist from Oklahoma whose recent albums astound me only slightly more than the lack of appreciation that he garners. Yes there was a fair gathering here, certainly a very appreciative and dedicated one as the songs-sung-back attested. It caught a few others by surprise; some of these songs are devastatingly bleak but curiously hopeful rather than depressing.

John Moreland, Garden stage, 2 September.