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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