Album Reviews

Delta Spirit – Into The Wide [album review]

by Woody on September 16, 2014

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Delta Spirit worked their way into our hearts with their passionate brand of Americana via their first two albums – Ode To Sunshine & History From Below. I can still remember the first time I saw them at Buffalo Billiards at SXSW. It was a midnight show on Saturday night and I was flat out exhausted; but wound up skipping down 6th after that set. On their last album, their self-titled third, the band tried to veer away from Americana and shift into a more indie pop sound. To be honest, I had mixed feeling about at first until they came in for a session and their subsequent set at Lolla.

Into The Wide found the band shifting from California to recording in Brooklyn, in what happened to be a Sandy-ravaged space named The Rat Cave. While the last album felt like a transitional album at parts; almost like they were feeling their way through their new sound, they’ve nailed it with Into The Wide. It has this sound that seems made for big venues but with enough grit to keep ‘em honest. It pulses with energy but is a little dark at points.

The album opens with Push It which is some of lead singer’s Matt Vazquez’s best work. It is a track about perseverance. The track pushes forward with only the synths acting in a weigh as to not the let the track cave in on itself. The emotion that Vazquez brings to their live shows is on full display here. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Kelly Winrich’s work on the synth/keys is top-notch here as well and throughout the album. In fact the whole album is a textbook example of how to use synths in a rock album.

The band then delivers a trio of songs that ramp things up with From Now On, Live On and Take Shelter. Live On, in particular, is a great tune about overcoming bullying. Oz (remember him) commented that Take Shelter sounded like a U2 tune, you know before they started force-feeding dreck into your Itunes. William McLaren is getting some sweet tones out of guitar during these tracks.

The album closes with a couple of winners in War Machine and The Wreck. War Machine is defiant and a nod to their folkie origins. It is a perfect blend of the origins of the band with the band they are. The Wreck sounds live a tune that would close a National album with its swirling synths.

There’s a good article about them on Paste where Vazquez makes a comment about being known more as a great live band with good albums. If they made Into The Wide with aspirations of living up to their shows, well then – Mission Accomplished. Into The Wide is the type of album that takes a band to the next level.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Delta Spirit is here

Our session with Delta Spirit can be found here

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Israel Nash Gripka- Rain Plains [album review]

by Woody on September 12, 2014

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I love Jonathan Wilson’s music. Wilson’s take on the 70s Americana and Laurel Canyon is unparalleled. Thus I can’t think of any higher compliment to Nash’s 3rd LP Rain Plains, than to say it reminds me of Wilson’s work. Rain Plains is nine songs long but every tune washes over you in no worry with wandering guitar solos that are in no hurry find their end.

Born in Missouri, he has bounced around the country a bit; settling outside Austin for the time being. There are layers of shimmering guitars buoyed by the bouncing backbeat throughout the album as the steel provides an ethereal feeling. The title track, shown in the video below, is a tune to get lost in. Eight minutes long and full of twists and tempo changes.

Much like Jonathan Wilsons’s Fanfare, Rain Plains is an album written, performed and produced by pros. There is so much shit going on with each tune, yet is all sounds so effortless. The video of the title track below is killer. Everything about just gives us this killer 70′s vibe when bands routinely stretched out tunes in the eight minute range. If that doesn’t win you over, then nothing I write will.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Isreal Nash is here

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When I read that Michael Taylor, the main component of Hiss Golden Messenger, had compiled William Tyler, Megafaun members Phil and Brad Cook, Mountain Man member Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and long-time musical cohort Scott Hirsch for his Merge debut; I was literally giddy with excitement. That is a collection of pros, not making music for any other reason other than love and an undying commitment to their craft. Between that info and the nugget of Brother Do You Know The Road? was enough

In a time where we all seem to celebrate the fresh new kids on the block, it is nice to see persistence being rewarded. While I’ve only discovered Hiss Golden Messenger in the last couple of years, Taylor & Hirsch have been at this for quite some time. I always find it rewarding when a band has toiled around for some time starts to get their due. Like Strand of Oaks signing to Secretly Canadian and Spider Bags joining HGM on Merge. They’ve banged around for years and are now getting the recognition they deserve

Lateness of Dancers continues the brilliance of their prior work, with echoes of soul of Van Morrison & some of the easy-going Grateful Dead funk and R&B jams. Lateness of Dancers eases out of the speakers in a way that’s so familiar that it is easy to lose track of its brilliance. But as you listen repeatedly, the subtle brilliance of Taylor’s songwriting and Hirsch’s production shines.

Take the lead single, Saturday’s Song. At first blush, it’s easy just to get caught up in the anthem for the working man, the bouncing melody of the keys getting you through to the weekend. But my goodness if there is a better jam this year than the end of that song, please let me know. Drum, the closing track, is a remake of the closing track off of Bad Debt. This time it is fleshed out as a back-porch slice of Americana. Sauser-Monnig brings so much goodness to this track that is easy to lose track of Phil Cook plucking away.

I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting of Michael Taylor. But listening to his music and reading his tweets, I find him to be a thoughtful and just man. A man who has such belief that he isn’t afraid to question it. He’s the type of guy you could start talking to over dinner and next thing you know the sun’s coming up; a much better person for your time.

On a related note, you have to here them play Spoon’s The Beast and Dragon, Adored. It is unreal.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Hiss Golden Messenger is here

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Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins

Justin Townes Earle has never been shy about sharing his opinion. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with him a few times. While some can find him or his Twitter outbursts to be caustic; I’ve always found him to be charming. If you could levy any complaint on him, it’s that he wears his heart on his sleeve (I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t like the new Nashville). But I’d counter that without that willingness to open himself up, he wouldn’t be the artist we’ve come to love.

Single Mothers is JTE’s fifth release and first with Vagrant Records. After amicably moving on from Bloodshot, Justin ran into some issues with Communion Records trying to dictate how the album would come to be. As someone who’s fiercely dedicated to his craft and also a true lover of the history of music; that was never going to fly. Justin wasn’t shy about sharing those feelings on his entertaining Twitter account.

I’m happy to say that all of his headaches were worth it. Single Mothers continues his movement away from the rockabilly sound to an R&B sound consistent with his last album, Nothing’s Going To Change The Way You Feel About Me. Single Mothers lacks some the horns that really lent to the Memphis Sound. Single Mothers is sort of like Country R&B, if that even make sense.

Songs like the metaphorical Worried About The Weather are balanced with the upbeat My Baby Drives. A good chunk of the album seems reflective of his youth. Wanna Be A Stranger feels like the older (and newly married) JTE is talking to his younger self. Picture In A Drawer & It’s Cold In This House are JTE at his best. Words slipping out of his mouth with nothing but his acoustic and a steel backing him. These are the tracks that will stop a music hall in its tracks

Single Mothers is another statement from one of great American voices of our generation. He is a music traditionalist and a student of his game. And as proved by the last year, he will never compromise his music for the sake of somebody else.

Our 2008 session with Justin can be found here.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

JTE is here

Joshua Black Wilkins is here

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Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time [album review]

August 24, 2014

There are certain male/female duos where you feel that they were born to sing together. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole. The Everybodyfields is a great example of this. I like Jill Andrews & Sam Quinn’s solo stuff just fine but when they sang together, man that was just pure beauty [...]

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Roadkill Ghost Choir – In Tongues [album review]

August 19, 2014

In 2013, the HearYa crew saw Roadkill Ghost Choir a few times at SXSW, in Chicago and did a HearYa session with them. At every turn, we’d try to disect them. And I think it was during the session, Shirk turned to me and said, “These guys are going to be unreal when they get [...]

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Benjamin Booker – s/t debut [album review]

August 13, 2014

There are acts you see/hear for the first time and you just know. Last time, I felt like this was with Alabama Shakes. Like the Shakes, Booker had booked a set at the excellent club Space in Evanston. And I was determined not to miss that show; solo or with others. In the end, only [...]

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The Spider Bags – Frozen Letter (album review)

August 5, 2014

Garagicana!!! (pat. pend) I just googled that word and it doesn’t exist. Even double-checked on Google’s whiny little brother, Bing, as well. Nope. Garagicana, the exquisite mix of Garage and Americana. Making up utterly useless words is what happens when the family is away and I sit around drinking cool ones listening to new music. [...]

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Christopher Denny – If The Roses Don’t Kill Us [album review]

July 31, 2014

During SXSW ’13, Christopher Denny had the 8PM slot for the Partisan Showcase. A relative unknown, without a new album out, the club was half-full at best. Earlier that day, I got some of the lowdown on Denny’s troubles with addiction that led to many problems, one being the interminable delay in following up 2007′s [...]

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Trampled By Turtles – Wild Animals [album review]

July 18, 2014

For the first time, Trampled By Turtles, stepped outside their comfort zone and spent more than a couple of days recording an album. They brought in Alan Sparhawk of Low to handle the knobs and hit the record button. And while I am not a Low fanatic like some, their ability to meticulously craft beauty [...]

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