Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Image credit: Suziemixer

Hot on the heels of an appearance in the SOTR albums of 2008, Castanets have recorded a session for the Indiana based, My Old Kentucky Blog related LaundroMatinee.

Ray Raposa played three songs during the session, Prettiest Chain and two brand new as-yet-untitled songs. Click here to download the session tracks on MP3 and watch the session (an example of which is below).

Castanets~Untitled #1 from LaundroMatinee on Vimeo.

MP3: Castanets - After The Fall

MP3: Castanets - Sway From 'In The Pines' (courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty)
MP3: Castanets - Glory B From 'City Of Refuge' (courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty)

Castanets on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Albums Of The Year 2008
Previously on SOTR: Castanets

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Folk

Image credit: Joanna Pallaris

01. Advice - Super Daughter
02. Brigidine - The Shoreline
03. Heron - Jon Hopkins
04. Pinecone eyes - Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez
05. The Cuckoo - John Renbourn
06. Francesca - Roy Harper
07. The Waltze Of The Tennis Players - Meg Baird
08. Come Sing Me A Happy Song To Prove We All Can Get Along The Lumpy, Bumpy, Long and Dusty Road - Bert Jansch
09. All This Crazy Gift Of Time - Kevin Ayers
10. Pack Up Your Sorrows - Richard & Mimi Farina
11. Endless Evening Light - Fleet Foxes
12. At First She Starts - James Yorkston
13. Hooves - Bowerbirds
14. home - Breathe Owl Breathe
15. Oh Celebrate Your Vague Words and Coquettish Sovereignty - Boduf Songs
16. Love In Ice Crystals - The Sallyangie
17. Willow's Song - Rachel Verney & Magnet
18. Wolves' Pup - Six Organs Of Admittance
19. In A Notebook - Goldmund
20. Famous Blue Raincoat - Marissa Nadler
21. Chimacum Rain - Linda Perhacs
22. Dark Is The Night (In The Wind) - Arborea
23. Migrating Bird - Vashti Bunyan
24. end - The Rural Tradition

Download Winter Folk zip

Thursday, December 18, 2008

David Crosby - If I Could Only Remember My Name

In 1971, David Crosby released his first solo album 'If I Could Only Remember My Name'. It was an album that would artistically break new ground for it's author, with its lush acoustics, layered harmonies and organically sharp production, however it was a record born from extremes in Crosby's life and there is an enduring sense of melancholy pervading the whole piece.

A founding member of Byrds, David Crosby had contributed writing or co-writing credits on a number of the bands best songs including "Everybody's Been Burned", "Eight Miles High", "Renaissance Fair", "Draft Morning" & "Tribal Gathering" and after the formation of Crosby, Still & Nash (/& Young), he found room to grow and such Crosby originals as "Long Time Gone", "Guinnevere", Wooden Ships" & "Deja Vu" became part of the bedrock of the soundtrack for a generation.

Shortly after the release of Déjà Vu, in mid 1970 CSN&Y took time out and Crosby began working on his first solo album with Stephen Barncard, who had just finished work on recording 'American Beauty' with the Grateful Dead. The sessions that followed were the musical embodiment of some incredible extremes in Crosby's life at the time. On the positive side he was experiencing great creative freedom and joy at the artistic, critical and commercial success of CSN&Y, on the negative side he was trying to come to terms with his girlfriend Christine Hilton's sudden death in a car crash only month earlier as well as the death of the sixties embodied by the war in Vietnam, the Manson killings, Altamont and the deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

With the help of a great cast of players including Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, members of both the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, Crosby produced one of the great (but criminally under-appreciated) masterpieces of the era. "If I Could Only Remember My Name" is a free floating record that perfectly encapsulates the late sixties/early seventies California country/folk rock movement, but also transcends the movement completely to almost stand alone, as all great art has the ability to do. Graham Nash summed up the album most succinctly when he described it as "the perfect organic listening experience".

Although the complete magic of "If I Could Only Remember My Name" is fully appreciated when listening to the album as a whole, key tracks include the mantra like album opener of "Music Is Love", the epic shuffle of "Cowboy Movie", the melancholy harmony of "Orleans" and the magical groove of "Tamalpais High (At About 3)".

MP3: David Crosby - Music Is Love
MP3: David Crosby - Cowboy Movie

Link: "If I Could Only Remember My Name" - 1970 Session Outtakes (courtesy of Aquariam Drunkard)

David Crosby on Myspace
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Davy Graham

22nd November, 1940 - 15th December, 2008

MP3: Davy Graham - Anji
MP3: Shirley Collins And Davy Graham - Pretty Saro
MP3: Davy Graham - She Moved Through The Fair

Davy Graham Wiki

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sweetheart Of The Radio: Albums of the year 2008 (5 - 1)

5. Willy Vlautin & Paul Brainard - Northline (Original Soundtrack)

Willy Vlautin & Paul Brainard - The Bus Ride To Reno

Willy Vlautin Website
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4. Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron and Fred Squire - Lost Wisdom

Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron and Fred Squire - You Swan, Go On

Mount Eerie Website
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3. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes - Meadowlark

Fleet Foxes on Myspace
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2. Talons' - Songs For Babes

Talons' - Nicole

Talons' on Myspace
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1. Damien Jurado - Caught In The Trees

Damien Jurado - Predictive Living

Damien Jurado's Caught In The Trees Blog
Damien Jurado on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Sweetheart Of The Radio: Albums of the year 2008 (10 - 6)

Sweetheart Of The Radio: Albums of the year 2008 (10 - 6)

10. Goldmund - The Malady Of Elegance

Goldmund - Finding It There

Goldmund on Myspace
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9. Megapuss - Surfing

Megapuss - Duck People Duck Man

Megapuss on Myspace
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8. Castanets - City Of Refuge

Castanets - Refuge 1

Castanets on Myspace
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7. Horse Feathers - House With No Home

Horse Feathers - Helen

Horse Feathers on Myspace
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6. Karl Blau - Nature's Got Away

Karl Blau - 2 Becomes 1

Karl Blau on Myspace
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Karl Blau

Image credit: Gregory Carafelli

I don't know how Karl Blau managed to stay off my radar for so long, but a few months ago I saw the Microphones/Little Wings tour documentary 'Wise Old Little Boy' and as a result started digging deeper into the musical worlds of both bands. This is where Blau's work finally and thankfully hit my radar.

Karl Blau is a Anacortes, Washington based musician who has collaborated extensively with Phil Elverum (The Microphones/Mount Eerie) in the past, as well as recording with D+ and Young Heart Breaks & touring/recording with Laura Veirs - amongst many more things . His music is eclectic and he has been known to incorporate elements of folk, soul, dub, tropicalia, rock, hiphop and experimental noise. His most recent album 'Nature Got Away' is on the surface a more straightforward affair and the perfect entry point for anyone new to the world of Karl Blau. You can hear the whole of Nature's Got Away courtesy of K Records - here.

This was my entry point, along with a single released as part of the International Pop Underground: The Tom T. Hall song "That's How I Got to Memphis" covered by Mount Analog featuring vocals by Blau - which is one of the tracks posted below.

MP3: Karl Blau - It's The Stars
MP3: Mount Analog featuring Karl Blau - That's How I Got to Memphis

Video: Karl Blau - Mockingbird Diet

Karl Blau on Myspace
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Thursday, December 11, 2008


There is a unique warmth in the softly strummed guitar and voice of Laurel Knapp that draws you in when listening to Privacy. The minimal arrangements blanketed by Knapp's breathy, smokey, sleepy singing produce an almost womb like listening experience and a peaceful simplicity that for me defies direct comparison with any other record released in recent memory.

'Without Mercy' (to date Privacy's only full length release - if you can call it full length... the 8 track album lasts for only 20 minutes) is a special, foggy, late night record that manages to be so much more than the sum of it's parts might on the surface suggest. 'Without Mercy' was released in 2006 on the wonderful Marriage records, a label founded by Laurel Knapp and her husband Curtis, along with Thanksgiving's Adrian Orange.

MP3: Privacy - Goodnight Canyon
MP3: Privacy - Pining (courtesy of Marriage records)

Marriage Records on Myspace
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fleet Foxes / Richard Swift

Beginning my annual 'albums of the the year' review I was reminded of a couple of fantastic releases from 2008 that can't make the final list for one reason or another...well only one reason actually - they aren't albums...

The first, Fleet Foxes 'Sun Giant EP' - recorded after, but released before 'Fleet Foxes', feels like a step forward in the right direction from the bands debut album. Each of the songs easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the best tracks from what many critics (certainly in the UK) are calling the best album of 2008.

The second is 'Ground Trouble Jaw', a five track free digital EP from Richard Swift that authentically references doo wop, 60's bubble gum pop and Prince with a little bit of Beatles White Album thrown in for good measure.

MP3: Fleet Foxes - Innocent Son
MP3: Richard Swift - Would You
MP3: Richard Swift - Lady Luck

Download: Richard Swift - Ground Trouble Jaw

Fleet Foxes on Myspace
Richard Swift on Myspace

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Previously on SOTR: Crayon Angels

Bruce Springsteen 'Working On A Dream' Artwork Revealed

'Working On A Dream' will be released at the end of January.

Bruce Springsteen on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: The Boss Is Back...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Horse Feathers

This past weekend I have been listening to and loving the latest Horse Feathers album 'House With No Home'. The bands blurb reads as follows:

"Justin Ringle moved to Portland, Oregon in 2004, and began to play open mics regularly under the moniker Horse Feathers. In 2005 Peter Broderick heard two songs that Justin had recorded in a friend's basement, and proceeded to track Justin down via the internet. Shortly after that, the two started playing music together. For the most part, Justin writes the songs initially, and then Peter helps to arrange them with varying instrumentation. The resulting sound is music..."

‘House With No Home’ is Horse Feathers second album (The first being 2006's 'Words Are Dead'), but their first since singing to the Kill Rock Stars label.

MP3: Horse Feathers - Blood On The Snow
MP3: Horse Feathers - Father
MP3: Horse Feathers - Curs In The Weeds (courtesy of Kill Rock Stars)

Horse Feathers Daytrotter Session

Horse Feathers on Myspace
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Last week I got a copy of the new Phosphorescent album 'To Willie' and I am pleased to report that it is fantastic! Matthew Houck's voice sounds stronger and more self assured than i have ever heard it and the playing on the record is really tight.

'To Willie' is a covers album featuring eleven Willie Nelson songs, I nice concept, especially when referencing Nelson's own Lefty Frizell covers record from 1975, 'To Lefty From Willie'. Steering clear of "the hits", the album brings to light (for me at least) a number of gems from Nelson's hefty back catalog. I am in no doubt that this release will win Phosphorescent a great number of new fans and critical acclaim.

Below are a couple of previous covers from Phosphorescent. The first a version of Kris kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and the second is a cover of the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds b-side "Right Now I'm-A Roaming" (a great video clip of Matthew Houck performing this song can be found at They Shoot Music - Don't They).

MP3: Phosphorescent - Sunday Morning Coming Down
MP3: Phosphorescent - Right Now I'm-A Roaming

Video: Phosphorescent - A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise (courtesy of Dead Oceans)
Video: Phosphorescent - At Death A Proclomation (courtesy of Dead Oceans)

Phosphorescent on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Phosphorescent: My New Favorite Band

Monday, December 08, 2008

Damien Jurado

Ahead of the almost surefire crowning as winner of my album of 2008 title, a few Damien Jurado bits and pieces that I have been meaning to post for a while.

Firstly the brilliant video for "Caskets". Directed by Matt Daniels, the video features Damien's younger brother Drake in the lead role and is really a great looking piece. You can see it here or below.

Damien Jurado, "Caskets" from Thinklab on Vimeo.

Daytrotter have just posted a Damien Jurado session, which features, amongst other things, a fine reworking of 'Rehearsals For Departure' favorite "Ohio".

Damien has also recently popped up on the new Rosie Thomas Christmas record 'A Very Rosie Christmas'. He can be heard narrating part of the track "Shiela's Christmas Miracle".

Below is Damien's cover of the Dolorean song "Traded For Fire" originally released as a limited split 7" with Dolorean covering "Ghost Of David" on the flip side

MP3: Damien Jurado - Traded For Fire

Damien Jurado's Caught In The Trees Blog
Damien Jurado on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Damien Jurado: Last Rights

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sibylle Baier - Let Us Know

While neglecting to post on here for a while, a whole load of great things crossed my radar...one such thing being the appearance of a new song from Sibylle Baier. "Let Us Know" was written for the new Wim Wenders film "Palermo Shooting".

Wim Wenders is a friend of the Baier family and is a big fan of Sibylle's music, in fact she and her daughter Julia made a brief appearance in the 1974 Wenders movie 'Alice in The Cities', along with some of her songs.

Both the Palermo Shooting score (by Can man Irmin Schmidt) and original soundtrack are available to buy/download now. Apart from "Let Us Know" the soundtrack also features two new songs from Nick Cave's Grinderman ("Dream (Song for Finn)" and "Song for Frank") and one from Bonnie "Prince" Billy ("Torn and Brayed"), as well as tunes from Iron & Wine, The Velvet Underground and Beirut amongst others. The movie also features a cameo from Lou Reed.

MP3: Sibylle Baier - Let Us Know

Stream: Palermo Shooting (Original Soundtrack) (courtesy of QOOB)

Sibylle Baier on Myspace
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Previously On SOTR: Sibylle Baier

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Allen Ginsberg

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness..."
--Allen Ginsberg 'Howl & Other Poems (1956)

Had he still been alive, Allen Ginsberg would have been 82 years old on 3rd Of June this year, he was one of the greatest poets of the beat generation and a leading light in the....ah, you know who he is.

The first song below features Ginsberg and his pal Bob Dylan. Here is the story in Allen Ginsberg's own words:

Vomit Express: "These 1971 sessions came about because Dylan had come to hear a poetry reading at NYU's Loeb Auditorium, standing in the back of the crowded hall with David Amram. We were on stage with a gang of musician friends, and Peter improvised, singing, “You shouldn't write poetry down but carol it in the air, because to use paper you have to cut down trees.” I picked up on that, and we spent a half an hour making up tuneful words on the spot. I didn't know 12-bar blues, it was just a free-form rhyming extravaganza. We packed up, said goodbye to the musicians, thanked them and gave them a little money, went home, and then the phone rang. It was Dylan asking, “Do you always improvise like that?” And I said, “Not always, but I can. I used to do that with Kerouac under the Brooklyn Bridge all the time.”

He came to our apartment with Amram and a guitar, we began inventing something about “Vomit Express,” jamming for quite awhile, but didn't finish it. He said, “Oh, we ought to get together in a studio and do it,” then showed me the three-chord blues pattern on my pump organ. A week later in the studio Dylan actually did the arrangement, told people when to do choruses and when to take breaks, and suggested the musicians cut a few endings on their own to be spliced in.

“Vomit Express” was a phrase I got from my friend Lucien Carr, who talked about going to Puerto Rico, went often, and we were planning to take an overnight plane a couple of weeks later, my first trip there. He spoke of it as the “vomit express” – poor people flying at night for cheap fares, not used to airplanes, throwing up airsick".

The second is a song called 'See you Later, Allen Ginsberg' recorded by Dylan and The Band and can be found on the much bootlegged, but quite indispensable Basement Tapes.

MP3: Allen Ginsberg with Bob Dylan - Vomit Express
MP3: Bob Dylan & The Band - See you Later, Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg on Myspace
The Basement Tapes on Myspace
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Monday, December 01, 2008

The Boss Is Back...

...but I guess he never really went away... Hot on the heels of 'Magic' and the subsequent world tour, January 2009 will see a new Bruce Springsteen album. "Working on a Dream" was recorded with the E Street Band and was produced by Brendan O'Brien.

The album lead up activity is in full swing with last weeks limited time free download 'Working On A Dream', the Halloween appearance of new track 'A Night With The Jersey Devil', new track 'The Wrestler' appearing in the trailer for the film of the same name and now a new video for 'My Lucky Day' appearing on Myspace.

And if that wasn't enough Bruce's transcendent version of the Suicide song 'Dream Baby Dream' has just been released. The limited vinyl edition is now sold out but the track can be downloaded from emusic, iTunes and by a whole bunch of other usual suspects. The released version is seven minutes of perfection; for a limited time see below for a just as perfect eleven and a half minute version of the song recorded in November 2005 on the Devils and Dust tour.

MP3: Bruce Springsteen - Dream Baby Dream (22nd November 2005)

Bruce Springsteen on Myspace
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Little Wings

Sometimes you can have a record for a while and like it, but not love it and suddenly, one day it suddenly clicks and you "get it". This happened once upon a time for me with Jeff Buckley's "Grace" and this has just happened again with Little Wings' "Soft Pow'r" - not to compare the two records in any other way.

Little Wings is the musical baby of Kyle Field, who was once bassist and singer in the band Rodriguez with M. Ward.

Field has released released six albums under the Little Wings moniker. He has also released one of my favorite records of 2008 under the name Be Gulls, played with The Microphones, and makes fantastic drawings.

Loose, laid back, warm and raw, Field's music is held together by it's core which is solid song-craft that reveals itself as the reward for close attention and repeat listens.

MP3: Little Wings - Saturday
MP3: Little Wings - Darkened Car

Little Wings on Myspace
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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Damien Jurado: Last Rights

Damien Jurado recently recorded a Black Cab Session, performing 'Last Rights' from the quite brilliant album 'Caught In The Trees' which is released next week in the USA.

MP3: Damien Jurado - Last Rights

Damien Jurado's Caught In The Trees Blog
Damien Jurado on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Damien Jurado
Previously on SOTR: Damien Jurado: Caught In The Trees
Previously on SOTR: And Now That I'm In Your Shadow
Previously on SOTR: Damien Jurado

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Skygreen Leopards

The Skygreen Leopards are a psych-folk band from San Francisco, whose core members are Glenn Donaldson (co-founder of the experimental folk label Jewelled Antler) and Donovan Quinn. They make is laid back, pastoral, dreamlike music, that floats at you with a foggy coherence that draws you in and lets you get lost in the world it creates. They have released numerous bits and bobs since forming in 2001, much of their early output being small volume, handmade vinyl or CD-R releases - until they signed to the Jagjaguwar label with whom they have release one EP and three LP's including the fantastic "Life And Love In Sparrow's Meadow" (2005) and "Disciples Of California" (2006).

MP3: The Skygreen Leopards - Mother The Sun Makes Me Cry
MP3: The Skygreen Leopards - Hollow Tree

The Skygreen Leopards on Myspace
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Friday, August 15, 2008

Jerry Wexler

January 10, 1917 – August 15, 2008

MP3: Dusty Springfield - I Can't Make It Alone

Jerry Wexler on Wikipedia

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Josh T. Pearson

The son of a Texas preacher, Josh T. Pearson is a troubled man who has spent a major part of the last few years battling with his demons.

Pearson was the chief songwriter, guitar player and singer for the band Lift To Experience whose sole release "The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads" (2001) is a vast, powerful, spiritual, apocalyptic double album. I Imagine this is what "Grace" would have sounded like had Jeff Buckley been born in the deep south, met the devil at the crossroads and had a strong belief that Texas was the promised land and that the end was nigh.

A series of amazing live shows in support of "The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads" followed and the band were in an ascendancy, building an ever expanding cult following on the way. Then things started to go wrong. Bassist Josh ‘The Bear’ Browning’s wife died while the band were away on tour - they immediately took time off to grieve. When they got back together after the break, trouble ensued, culminating in Pearson sacking drummer Andy ‘The Boy’ Young by sending him a boot in the mail (Young later sold the boot on eBay for $210.36, along with a note from Pearson which reportedly read - “I’m cutting you off. You're out of my life. I’m giving The Boy The Boot!”).

After the break up of LTE, Pearson retreated into exile and obscurity, amid rumors of mental breakdowns and the continuing tussle with his demons. He re-emerge as a solo artist, only to disappear again after a number of bizarre live showings. He then reappeared once again seemingly re-invigorated and stronger.

To date his only solo release has been a haunting cover of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", which was released as part of a very limited split 7" with the Dirty Three. He has also appeared with Bat For Lashes on the track "Trophy"on her debut album "Fur & Gold".

A solo album has been in the works for a while now and recording sessions have certainly taken place, but with an artist as unpredictable as this, don't hold your breath for anything soon. A band reunion for two more record is also not entirely out of the question. Pearson has talked in the past about his original mission to record three pieces with Lift To Experience, which he envisages as symphonies.

MP3: Josh T. Pearson - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
MP3: Lift To Experience - Falling From Cloud 9

YouTube: Lift To Experience - These Are The Days

Josh T. Pearson on Myspace
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bill Fay

Bill Fay is a British singer/songwriter who released one single and two albums on the Decca label between 1967 and 1971, before seemingly disappearing into obscurity and a life working at a swimming pool.

Recorded in just two days, his debut album, the eponymous "Bill Fay" (1970) is a very English record. Imagine a much more obviously melancholy Ray Davis with a penchant for lush orchestration, a strange hybrid of Nick Drake, Syd Barrett and Bob Dylan, or perhaps more simply Sgt. Pepper on downers - and you may begins to approach the sound and feel of this sublime and eccentric record.

However, poor sales followed and Fay's subsequent album "Time Of The Last Persecution" (1971) was recorded on a much tighter budget. Gone are the lushly orchestrated arrangements of his debut, in it's place a more straight forward four-piece band setup. Recorded in only one day, most of the record was nailed in just one take, a fact that adds a degree of authenticity to the intense, stripped back beauty of the record. A consistency that remained from the first record was Fay's brilliant, broad and highly original songwriting approach.

After "Time of The Last Persecution" also failed to sell, Bill Fay disappeared for many years. He returned to the studio in the late 1970s to cut a third album "Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow" which eventually emerged in early 2005. This was preceded a year earlier by "From The Bottom Of An Old Grandfather Clock", a collection of demos recorded between 1966 and 1970. With fans including Jim O'Rourke, Ben Chasny of Six Organs Of Admittance and Wilco (with whom he appeared on stage last year in London) interest has never been a great as it is now for this unique and fascinating artist. New material from Fay is reported to be in the pipeline.

MP3: Bill Fay - Be Not So Fearful
MP3: Bill Fay - Plan D

Bill Fay on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Friday Is For Covers

Monday, August 11, 2008

Isaac Hayes

August 20, 1942 – August 10, 2008

Mp3: Isaac Hayes - Something
Mp3: Isaac Hayes - Bumpy's Lament

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Akron/Family are a special band. On record they create harmonic, psychedelic, folk tinged hymns of love and life, visiting philosophical grounds otherwise untrodden in popular music. Live they are a force of nature, breaking down the divide between band and audience, introducing participatory elements and communal chants to the mix.

Last years 'Love Is Simple' LP is the best starting point for newcomers. I would then recommend working backwards chronologically through the bands catalog.

MP3: Akron/Family - Don't Be Afraid, You're Already Dead
MP3: Akron/Family - Love, Love, Love (Everyone)

Akron/Family on Myspace
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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hymns Of Bedlam

One of my favorite albums of last year was 'Turquoise' by Headdress. As is so often the case with many interesting and fantastic bands, the further you dig the more likely you are to be rewarded. And digging is exactly how I found Hymns Of Bedlam, the a solo project of one half of Headdress, Caleb Coy.

Think American folk music. Think tape hiss. Think overgrown beards. Think late nights. Think endless highways. Think sepia. Think red dust. Think whiskey. Think rusty guitar strings. Think winter. Think reel to reel. Think religion....

As far as I can tell Hymns Of Bedlam's debut LP 'Lost Songs & Old Blues' remains unreleased, but if the four or five tracks that I have heard are anything to go by, this is a very special record that deserves to be brought to a much wider audience.

MP3: Hymns Of Bedlam - In Ink and Strings
MP3: Hymns Of Bedlam - The Revelation of Saint John The Divine

Hymns Of Bedlam on Myspace
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire de Melody Nelson

'Histoire de Melody Nelson' is a bona-fide cult classic, this 1971 masterpiece was Serge Gainsbourg's first conceptually conceived album. The concept involves the middle-aged Gainsbourg who accidentally knocks teenage girl Melody Nelson off her bicycle while out driving in his Silver Ghost Rolls Royce and follows the subsequent infatuation, lust, seduction, blossoming romance and loss experienced by Gainsbourg.

At just under twenty-eight minutes, the album works almost as a singular extended musical piece with various movements carrying the central narrative. Gainsbourg's sleezy, spoken word, whispered delivery a constant throughout, intertwined with a mix of breakbeats, psychadelic guitars, funky bass and lush, deep orchestrated string & choral arrangements (by Jean-Claude Vannier). 'Histoire de Melody Nelson' sounds like nothing before it and nothing since, cinematic in scope this is an album that perhaps would not have worked in anyone else's hands, but under Gainsbourg's command stands as a sophisticated epic, unparalleled in popular music.

After the albums release, a music video was made for each song from the album, each one a rare gem and worthy companion piece to the songs themselves:

Ballade De Melody Nelson
Valse De Melody
Ah! Melody
L'Hotel Particulier
En Melody
Cargo Culte

MP3: Serge Gainsbourg - Ballade De Melody Nelson
MP3: Serge Gainsbourg - Ah! Melody

Serge Gainsbourg on Myspace
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Monday, August 04, 2008

Jimmy Scott

Jimmy Scott is probably my favorite singer of all time. Described by New York Times Magazine as "Perhaps the most unjustly ignored American singer of the 20th Century", his story is almost as amazing and heartbreaking as his voice.

Born with Kallmann's syndrome a rare genetic disorder which meant he never went through puberty, but which left him with his distinctive voice - The Jimmy Scott story is littered with one bad luck tale after another, until, after years of bad fortune the story takes a turn for the better when he was 'rediscovered' while singing at the funeral of his friend and fan, the great songwriter Doc Pomus. A tour with Lou Reed, an unforgettable appearance in the final ever episode of Twin Peaks and record deal follow, with Jimmy Scott finally getting the recognition and plaudits that eluded him and his unique voice and approach to song for so many years.

For a more complete (and immeasurably better written!) account of the Jimmy Scott story I cannot recommend David Ritz's brilliant "Faith In Time: The Life Of Jimmy Scott" enough. Also the 2004 documentary "If You Only Knew"is a great starting point to get to know a singer that can not fail to change your life.

MP3: Jimmy Scott - Jealous Guy
MP3: Jimmy Scott - Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child

Jimmy Scott On Myspace
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

James Yorkston

The new James Yorkston album 'When The Haar Rolls In' is out on 1st September.

Yorkston's 4th studio album features guest appearances from Norma & Mike Waterson amongst others and will be available on the usual formats as well as a limited edition (1,000) box set containing the CD Album, a double 10" vinyl version of the album with an extra track, a covers CD, a remix CD, an enamel pin badge and canvas bag all for a reasonable £30.

The covers CD features Yorkston songs played by other artists including Viking Moses, David Thomas Broughton, King Creosote and Adrian Crowley amongst others.

But this is not all... one of the 1,000 box sets will have a "Golden Ticket" inside which will grant the winner their very own James Yorkston composition written just for them, with the promise that should James play a town near the winner, he will perform the song live at the show...nice!

MP3: James Yorkston & The Athletes - Heron
MP3: James Yorkston - Summer Song

James Yorkston on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Just Beyond The River

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Noahjohn were a band from Wisconsin led by Carl Johns (Charlemagne, solo). They released three albums between 1999 and 2003. 'Tadpoles' (lo-fi slacker country), 'Had A Burning' (jangly alt. rock/country) and the beautifully realized 'Water Hymns' (slow americana). They also backed Eugene Chadbourne on a record called 'Country Protest Anew' in 2004. They disbanded shortly after, Johns going on to release records under the name Charlemagne.

Listening to 'Water Hymns' five years on, this really feels to me like a great lost gem of the early "noughties", The Velvet Underground sits as an obvious reference point, but 'Water Hymns'also infuses folk, krautrock, alt. country and slow psychedelia together to produce an atmospheric, melancholic night time record.

MP3: Noahjohn - First Communion (Non-Album Version)
MP3: Noahjohn - Rabbit Is Asleep

Noahjohn on Myspace
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Willy Vlautin

Willy Vlautin is the lead singer and primary songwriter for the band Richmond Fontaine. He has published two novels 'The Motel Life' and 'Northline'.

The original release of 'Northline' came with a CD recorded by Vlautin and Richmond Fontaine's pedal/lap steel player Paul Brainard. Consisting of haunting, low key, melancholic instrumentals recorded as a soundtrack to the book, this is rapidly becoming one of my favourite recordings of 2008.

MP3: Willy Vlautin & Paul Brainard - Confession To T.J. Watson
MP3: Willy Vlautin & Paul Brainard - Northline Main Theme

MP3: Richmond Fontaine - Lost In This World

YouTube: Willy Vlautin - Excerpt From Northline

Richmond Fontaine On Myspace
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brown Bird

Sometimes I like to play a kind of 'six degrees of Kevin Bacon' style game and randomly click on the top friends of a band on myspace, then randomly click on another and so on until I discover a new band I like the sound of. This is how I came across Brown Bird.

Brown Bird is David Lamb, who started making music under that moniker in 2002. Lamb was joined by married couple Jeremy and Jerusha Robinson in 2004. The Robinsons would continue to be a part of the band for the the next 5 years, through the release of two EPs (later compiled on to one CD as 'Tautology') and two long players, 2007's 'Such Unrest' and 2008's 'The Bottom Of The Sea' - each release building on the last, producing a dark folky slice of americana.

Shortly after the release of 'The Bottom Of The Sea', Jeremy and Jerusha departed and are now recording under the name South China. David Lamb is currently on a solo tour of the US in support of the new album .

MP3: Brown Bird - Run The Wire
MP3: Brown Bird - The Ice And Snow Haunt Me Still

Brown Bird on Myspace
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Breathe Owl Breathe

Breathe Owl Breathe is a band from Michigan made up of Micah Middaugh (vocals, guitar, banjo), Andrea Moreno-Beals (vocals, cello, banjo) and most of the time Trevor Hobbs (percussion, drums).

Laying down an organic mix of finger picked acoustic guitar (sometimes banjo), cello and vocal harmonies behind the distinctive voice of Middaugh (not a million miles away from Bill Callahan), Breathe Owl Breathe play subtle, soft, often innocent, heartfelt folk songs about love, loneliness and longing.

MP3: Breathe Owl Breathe - Home
MP3: Breathe Owl Breathe - Quiet Place

Breathe Owl Breathe on Myspace
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Iron & Wine

Although I still have not managed to get into their most recent album 'The Shepherd's Dog', I was reminded on my way to work today, thanks to random shuffle on my ipod, of why (or should that be how?) Iron & Wine became one of my favourite bands of recent years.

The ipod threw up two consecutive songs, the first a cover of The Marshall Tucker Band's 'Ab's Song', which for me feels like a direct ancestor, in both mood and lyric theme of 'Each Coming Night' from Iron & Wines second album 'Our Endless Numbered Days'. The second, my favourite ever Iron & Wine song - 'Carissa's Weird' which was included on a bonus 7" which came with the sublime 'The Creek Drank the Cradle' LP.

MP3: Iron & Wine - Ab's Song
MP3: Iron & Wine - Carissa's Weird

Iron & Wine on Myspace
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Bert Jansch - Bert Jansch

Encouraged by folk singer Anne Briggs, producer and engineer Bill Leader began recording the songs of young guitarist and songwriter Bert Jansch towards the end of 1964. Working in the kitchen of Leader's North London house using borrowed guitars and a reel-to-reel tape recorder, the two periodically gathered to work on committing to tape what would become Jansch's debut long player.

The resulting recordings, sold to Transatlantic Records by Leader for the sum of exactly £100, in a deal which meant that no subsequent royalties made from the recordings would be payable to the artist, ended up becoming one of the most influential, yet arguable underrated and critically undervalued albums of the decade.

'Bert Jansch', a quiet, pure and understated folk masterpiece was released in 1965 and went on to sell around 150,000 copies by 1975 and has been sited as an influence by a great tally of musicians including Nick Drake, Donovan, Neil Young, Jimmy Page and Johnny Marr.

MP3: Bert Jansch - Needle of Death
MP3: Bert Jansch - Courting Blues

Bert Jansch on Myspace
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Saturday, July 19, 2008

James Jackson Toth

The artist formerly known as Wooden Wand, James Jackson Toth's debut solo album 'Waiting In Vain' is out this month. Expanding on the psych-folk of his previous incarnation and continuing on from the more straight forward song focused approach of the last Wooden Wand release 'James and the Quiet', adding touches of country, soul and straight up rock, 'Waiting In Vain' is Toth's most coherent, accessible, fully realized work to date.

Guests on 'Waiting In Vain' include John Dietrich (Deerhoof), Shade Sartin (Giant Skyflower/Sky High Band), Carla Bozulich (Geraldine Fibbers), Nels Cline and both Andy Cabic & Otto Hauser from Vetiver, indeed opening track 'Nothing Hides' would not have sounded out of place on Vetiver's brilliant 'To Find Me Long Gone'.

MP3: James Jackson Toth - Nothing Hides
MP3: James Jackson Toth - Look In On Me

James Jackson Toth on Myspace
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Paz Lenchantin

You may not instantly know the name, but you will undoubtedly have heard at least one of the records Paz Lenchantin (pronounced "paws lay-shawn-tain") has contributed to. She is probably most famous for being the bass player in both A Perfect Circle and Zwan, but her list of credits includes playing on the Queens Of The Stone Age album 'Songs For The Deaf', contributing fiddle to 'Tanglewood Numbers' by Silver Jews, playing bass on Brightblack Morning Light's eponymous 2006 album, as well as touring with Papa M and RTX. You can even buy a signature bass guitar named after her.

However, it was none of these ways that Paz Lenchantin came onto my radar, but rather via her fantastic, largely instrumental, very cinematic, mostly quiet, very self-released folk album 'Songs For Luci' released in 2006, from which the two tracks below are taken.

MP3: Paz Lenchantin - Kentucky Hymn
MP3: Paz Lenchantin - Bloom Like Roses

Paz Lenchantin on Myspace
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Doing a trawl of other blog sites, I was left astounded by how under represented Dolorean seem to be in this community.

Inhabiting a space somewhere between Damien Jurado, Richmond Fontaine, Great Lake Swimmers, 'Sister Lovers' period Big Star and early Elliott Smith, Dolorean's introspective and literate output often transcends the alt. county label it is given.

The band formed in Silverton, OR, in 1999, when guitarist/vocalist and primary songwriter Al James invited friend Jay Clarke to play keyboards on some home recordings he was working on. The two hit it off and began working on material for their first album. Bolstered by the addition of friends Ben Nugent, Jeff Saltzman and Skip Vonkuske to the band, Dolorean released the album 'Sudden Oak' on their own label.

After re-locating to Portland the band started work on their next album 'Not Exotic' with the help of engineer Tony Lash (Heatmiser/Elliott Smith), distributing copies of the finished work locally around Portland around mid-2002. It was around this time that the recordings drew the attention of the record label Yep Roc who gave 'Not Exotic' and official release in November 2003.

After another slight line up change Dolorean made 'Violence in the Snowy Fields', which saw the band take a huge leap forward both sonically and in terms of the fabric of the song Al James was writing. The band sounded more like 'a band' than on previous recordings, the arrangements more dynamic , the production tighter, the songs more complete.

After a three year sabbatical Dolorean released their fourth album 'You Can't Win' in 2007. For the most part recorded over a single weekend, 'You Can't Win' is album of quiet confidence, which saw the band develop their sound further with new attention on harmony work as well as bolder experimentation with instrumentation. The cover art for the album is a partially distorted photograph of Al James taken by filmmaker Gus Van Sant.

MP3: Dolorean - In The Fall (from 'Violence in the Snowy Fields')
MP3: Dolorean - We Winter Wrens (from 'You Can't Win)
MP3: Dolorean - Are You Really Real? (Ricky Nelson Cover)

Dolorean on Myspace
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Damien Jurado

Last month I posted a live version of the track 'Sheets' from the forthcoming Damien Jurado album 'Caught In The Trees', Damien recently performed the track on 'The Daily Habit' on Fuel TV, as well as another new song 'Everything Trying'. Both clips are below along with the original demo of 'Everything Trying' from 2007.

"Sheets" Live on The Daily Habit

"Everything Trying" Live on The Daily Habit

MP3: Damien Jurado - Everything Trying (Demo)

Damien Jurado's Caught In The Trees Blog
Damien Jurado on Myspace
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