Alt-Country

Patterson Hood

Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers is set to release his sophomore solo album called Murdering Oscar on June23rd.‚  Killers and Stars, his solo debut, was an acoustic album that sounded like it was recorded in a bathroom. The lo-fi treatment served the album well. It’s a depressing affair that was recorded at a time when Patterson was going through some tough shit. I was expecting similar slow, acoustic sounds on Murdering Oscar, but that is not what greeted me when I pressed play.

Big, ominous guitar riffs roll in like thunderheads when the title track opens things up. You immediately feel the song’s intensity before a grizzled word is uttered from Patterson’s southern jowls. Then the tale of kill or be killed begins to unfold: “I killed Oscar/Shot him in the head/Put the gun in his mouth/ Watched his brains fly out.” Um, okay. Let me start that song over knowing what I know now. And proceed.

The song reminded me Patterson’s song “The Assasin” from Killers and Stars about a professional killer that loses the taste for his murderous ways. On “Murdering Oscar” it’s as if this same character is confronted from someone he’s wronged and relapses back into blood thirst. While on “The Assassin” the character contemplates quitting for good, he is now remorseless and says “I don’t need forgiveness for my sins/ I don’t need redemption for my sins/ Got the satisfaction of a job well done with my own bare hands.”

After “Murdering Oscar” ends, you’ll need to press pause just to catch your breath. It’s like watching a Quinten Terrintino movie where you can’t quite believe the casual treatment of violence and gore.‚  Once recovered, the rest of the album lowers the intensity level on songs like “Pollyana,” “Pride of the Yankees” about Lou Gherig, “Grandaddy,” a song about growing old, and the whimsical “She’s A Little Randy.”

Drive-by Truckers fans will not be disappointed. Most songs would fit in perfectly on any DBT album, but these are Patterson’s and Murdering Oscar is a great step forward from Killers and Stars. Head over to his MySpace page to hear more tracks and check tour dates. He’ll be in Chicago on June 20th at the Metro with Will Johnson of Centro-matic.

Website | MySpace

Patterson Hood – I Understand Now

Video: Patterson Hood – She’s a Little Randy (Live)

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Roadside Graves

The Roadside Graves, a criminally overlooked New Jersey band, is back with a massively ambitious release. After 2007’s No One Will Know Where You Have Been, the boys have landed on Autumn Tone Records which is also home to J. Tillman and The Henry Clay People. My Son’s Home is 18 tunes strong and, while that usually is a signal that a band needs to trim some fat, this album is brimming with alt-country genius from beginning to end.

Each song is unique in sound with exceptional lyrics that strike you between the eyes. For those unfamiliar with them, I would liken their sound to a blend of Felice Brothers, Trainwreck Riders, Son Volt and The Band with a sprinkling of Gaelic influence in the vein of The Waterboys. The band is fronted by John Gleason and his voice and songwriting will have you believing the man has lived a number of lives.

In a day, where America spends countless time voting on their next plastic wannabe superstar, our time would be well-spent listening to bands like The Roadside Graves who fill their songs with emotion, heart and soul. Oz and I both have the same favorite track, “Ruby.” This is one of the tunes that has that loose, ramshackle Felice Brothers sound as it tells the story of a man back from war and his love, Ruby. Gleason and Jeremy alternate singing verses towards the end of the tune and the interplay is extraordinary.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the title track, “My Son’s Home.” Gleason pours every ounce of his soul into the tune with the barest of instrumentation and backing vocals. It’s absolutely mesmerizing and hasn’t lost an ounce of its impact despite numerous listens.

I could rattle off amazing tune after amazing tune which would make this review about 2,000 words long but instead I will just urge you to purchase this brilliant album. The boys will be doing a tour later this summer and will be making their way through Chicago, hopefully with a stop in Shirk’s studio for a session.

Website | MySpace

The Roadside Graves – Far and Wide

Update: After reading that we loved “Ruby,” we were given permission to also post that mp3.

The Roadside Graves – Ruby

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Golden Boots

Tucson by way of Philly experimental alt-country act, Golden Boots, have released two new tracks from their upcoming album Winter At The Discotheque. It’s due out on January 27th via Park The Van Records.

Their press release has a better description that I could ever come up with:

A seemingly more refined vision of Golden Boots’‚  hook laden, future-as-now confused melancholy pop, this album attempts to walk that fine line between malt liquor and Malbec, between strip malls and malls… a self induced field recording sobriety test.‚  What’s more, this album has moxie. Blending pop-folk with distortion-laden breaks, fuzz guitar, primitive keyboards and the unique clarity of unencumbered experimentation. Golden Boots is deconstructing Americana one curio at a time. Some say “Winter” is like driving a dump-truck up Route 66 with a tankful of $4 gasoline and every light is yellow.

MySpace | Park The Van

Golden Boots – Love Is In The Air

Golden Boots – Country Back High II

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North Twin

A couple of times a year we come across a release that, in addition to the music, has a back story that makes the HearYa staff pull a little bit more for the band. Three days into the recording of their prior album, North Twin bassist/vocalist Rebecca Young was diagnosed with breast cancer. She never missed a beat and met the disease straight on, barely missing any studio time. I am sure we’ve all known someone afflicted by this horrible disease and its always inspiring to read about someone with Rebecca’s fight and resolve.

Inspirational story aside, we wouldn’t posting anything about the Seattle quartet if the music didn’t deliver. The first song, “Hope It All Goes Away,” is a beautiful poignant tune that hits you between the eyes after you hear of Young’s battle. Lead singer Tony Fulgham’s voice does a fantastic job of filling the tune with a perfect amount of emotion to deliver the goods.

“Clear As Day” has a little bit more outlaw alt-country in it, telling the tale of a man who’s made some questionable choices in his life. It peaks with a blistering guitar/trumpet solo that really kicks you in the ass.

Stronger At The Broken Places is a fresh piece of alt-country with a great back story. North Twin are also looking for gigs at SXSW 2009 so if anybody is interested, shoot us an email at hearyablog@yahoo.com and we’ll put you in touch with the band.

Website | MySpace

North Twin – Fool

North Twin – Clear As Day

North Twin – High Low

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Canteen Knockout – Navajo Steel [album review]

December 30, 2008

As my crush with Weewerk Records begins to blossom into a full-fledged affair, they’ve now introduced me to Canteen Knockout out of Toronto. Like many of our favorite artists, Canteen Knockout mix a little bit of alt with a little bit of country. Navajo Steel, the Toronto outfit’s first LP, is best served on a […]

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Will Quinlan and The Diviners – Navasota

November 14, 2008

Will Quinlan and The Diviners hail from Tampa, FL, a town who’s music scene I know nothing about. It’s home to Nine Bullets, a great alt-country blog that first introduced me to Will Quinlan’s music. After first sampling a few tracks, I looked at the usual digital retail suspects and couldn’t find Navasota anywhere. I […]

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HearYa Live Session 33: Tom Schraeder and His Ego

November 12, 2008

Tom Schraeder & His Ego was stuck on the tarmac at LAX as I was setting up for their live session in Chicago. I’d never seen Tom Schraeder perform, but had heard plenty of buzz around Chicago music circles and was excited to see and hear firsthand. Knowing the dependability of both LAX and O’Hare […]

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The Donkeys – Living On The Other Side

October 1, 2008

Speaking of bands that were dealt an unfair hand by Pitchfork, let me introduce you to The Donkeys. I hadn’t heard of them until the Pitchfork review and luckily I was able to read between the lines. This is a loose translation of their review. “I am a self-important music critic” which was followed up […]

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