Phil Cook – Southland Mission [album review]

by Woody on September 9, 2015


I’ve always thought Phil Cook to be freakishly talented during his time with Megafaun. Seeing him in Hiss Golden Messenger’s touring band this year, as well as an opening set at Schuba’s hammered that belief home. So when he made mention of this debut at Schuba’s, I was all sorts of excited.

And I am happy to say Southland Mission is all that and a bag of chips. Ain’t It Sweet sounds like a vintage Jerry Band tune. It opens with a minute intro before opening with the chorus. I can almost feel Melvin Seals working over the keys as Cook tears up a solo midway through the track. It is vintage American rock & soul revue material and it is fucking stellar. He could have done a variation of Ain’t It Sweet for nine more tracks and I would have called this album amazing.

He follows that up with a celebratory cover of friend and influence Charlie Parr. I don’t know who the woman singing background is, but fuck me she is great. Next up is Great Tide which starts slow before erupting with Cook proclaiming, “its going to be a great tide!!!”

The world is seriously fucked up and we all need to try harder to make it better. But you also need times to celebrate the fact that you are alive and that there are beautiful things out there as well. Southland Mission is an album for those times, it is the album to throw your hands in the air, smile from ear to ear and scream, “Its good to be alive.”

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

Phil Cook is here



I came to appreciate Phil Cook’s music during his time with Megafaun. HearYa even had the pleasure of doing a session with the guys back in 2010. Lately Cook has been producing albums and playing on other albums. In fact, the last two night I saw him as part of Hiss Golden Messenger’s band at the Chicago Theatre.

Great Tide is the first track off of Southland Mission. Cook’s debut will be released on 9/11/15 via Thirty Tigers. Here’s some background – While retaining the singular vision of a songwriter, instrumentalist and interpreter asserting his own, Southland Mission is a highly collaborative affair. For the recording of the album, Phil gathered his best friends and players from across the rich North Carolina musical community and beyond to bring his songs to fervorous life. The compositions are Phil’s testament to truth in music, integrity in creativity and reverence for those who paved the way for these sounds to fall on our ears. Southland Mission is certain to compel you to stomp your feet, pump your fist, and sway and spin with reckless abandon.

Follow me on Tuwtter at @WoodyHearYa

Phil Cook is here

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We mentioned that Field Report was one of our favorite new discoveries at SXSW this year. Christopher Porterfield ended his previous Milwaukee-based band, Conrad Plymouth, and emerged with a new one called Field Report, seemingly overnight. They recorded an album at Justin Vernon’s studio in December of last year and more recently, they’ve been touring in support of Megafaun (a perfect pairing).

Field Report’s track “Fergus Falls” is an addiction. It wasn’t a single that leaped out at first, but it begs for repeated listening. It’s a sparse folk ballad that grows in texture and emotion over the course of a brilliant five minutes. An acoustic drives the song in the beginning and is later accompanied by percussion, strings, an electric guitar and horns – all layered in at the right time in all the right places. No one instrument overpowers another and Porterfield’s complex and wordy lyrics fit the arrangement like a glove and feel completely natural. The more I listen to “Fergus Falls,” the more I’m amazed that lines like “I was concealing his kid, under his crew neck state school sweatshirt/While he grinned off in the distance, behind prescription shades” sound completely natural – not a word is rushed and they roll right along with the tempo of the song.

Here are the full lyrics:

This is the one in which I miraculously pulled out
Of a free-fall dive over Fergus Falls, Minnesota
And this is the one like 10 years ago
That I told you about
Where my wings iced up in the fall, as it gets colder

I was concealing his kid, under his crew neck state school sweatshirt
While he grinned off in the distance, behind prescription shades
They were blocking out the clouded out sun
While he was hoping against a daughter
And no one saw my banners, my bruises, my flares, my flags

I could have been an artist, if I had the tools
I could have been a preacher, if I suffered fools
When move into the city, I know I’ll have to pay my dues
And my respects to his sister and his mother too

This is the one in which I miraculously pulled out
Of a free-fall dive over Fergus Falls, Minnesota
And this is the one like 10 years ago
That I told you about
Where my wings iced up in the fall, it gets colder X 2

Spinner recently featured a free download of the song (found below), so I’d recommend downloading it asap. We’ll make sure to keep you abreast of any news relating to the album’s release. In the meantime, I’m interested in hearing any better song selections for best song of the year so far…

If you’d like to visit Fergus Falls, MN, click here.

Field Report – Fergus Falls

Here’s also a performance from SXSW:

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Megafaun – Self-Titled [Album Review]

by Woody on September 28, 2011

Megafaun are one of my favorite bands. Their combination of American Beauty-esque Dead elements, hints of Southern twang and a pinch of Laurel Canyon sound makes for a worthy concoction. Add in their willingness and ability to push the envelope with unique elements makes them a truly special band. With HearYa friend BJ Burton at the helm as producer, Megafaun’s latest self-titled effort is their best yet.

Their sound has always sounded spontaneous – like they picked up instruments and began composing on the fly. We witnessed this feeling in our live session when drummer Joe Westerlund threw a kit together like MacGyver while Phil and Brad Cook plugged in. When asked if they wanted to run one through to warm up, they responded with “Nah, we’ll figure it out.”

The opening tune is aptly named “Real Slow.” After opening with a wandering acoustic, the song gently kicks into gear with Westerlund’s percussion and a guitar lick with shades of Jerry Garcia. I don’t know if “Real Slow” is meant to be truth in advertising or just a coincidence, but it’s these slowed down, gentler moments on Megafaun’s latest that shine.

Another standout track is “Everything” featuring Frazey Ford of The Be Good Tanyas. Her voice is achingly beautiful and it fits in wonderfully with Megafaun’s effortless folk sound. The ballad “Hope You Know” is a gorgeous ballad centered around a simple piano riff as Westerlund keeps a lazy beat – their vocal harmonies floating effortlessly above.

For those not in the know, these guys were in a band with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame. As Vernon was racking up accolades and kicking it with Kanye, I was telling anybody that would listen that Megafaun was better than Bon Iver and that they were missing the boat. Now that I’ve finally come around on Bon Iver (I love his latest release), my hope is that more people will come to know and love Megafaun. For Chicagoans, head out to Schubas tonight to see them in person.

Megafaun – Get Right

Megafaun – State/Meant

Here’s a video from our Live Session with Megafaun. The song “Volunteers” is from their EP, Heretofore.

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Megafaun – Heretofore [Album Review]

September 22, 2010

There are a number of things that I love about Megafaun. I love the way they are able to blend simple folk with  ambitious experimental sounds. The way their music comes off as improvised, yet meticulous. The way that they can stretch tunes out over 5 minutes with minimal effort. Their latest mini-album, Heretofore, combines […]

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Megafaun to release mini-album Heretofore. Give away Carolina Days [new mp3]

September 13, 2010

Megafaun will release their mini-album, Heretofore, tomorrow. To wet our appetites, they’ve also released a free mp3 of “Carolina Days.” Megafaun – Carolina Days You can also hear (and see) another new song called “Volunteers” from the album, recorded live in studio for our HearYa Live Session. Megafaun – Volunteers Megafaun – Volunteers (recorded live […]

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Megafaun, Live Session #72

June 4, 2010

As Shirk and I sat around waiting for Megafaun to arrive to the studio, I thought back to a comment made when we booked the session. What exactly did they mean by “trying an acoustic session.” That question was answered when we met the North Carolina based band outside and offered to help carry up […]

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Megafaun – Gather, Form and Fly [Album Review]

August 10, 2009

The other day, I was driving back a meeting and was listening to Megafaun’s phenomenal new LP, Gather, Form and Fly. I was immediately overwhelmed by its stunning beauty and brilliance. I liked their previous release, Bury The Square, but this is in another league. The songs are tighter, better written and the instrumental interludes […]

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