Monday, December 28, 2009

Sweetheart Of The Radio: Albums Of The Year 2009 (5 - 1)

5. Richmond Fontaine - We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River

MP3: Richmond Fontaine - We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River

Richmond Fontaine On Myspace
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Previously On SOTR: Willy Vlautin


4. Wilco - Wilco (The Album)

MP3: Wilco - Solitaire

Wilco on Myspace
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3. Phosphorescent - To Willie

MP3: Phosphorescent - It's Not Supposed To Be That Way

Phosphorescent on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Phosphorescent


2. Sharon Van Etten - Because I Was In Love

MP3: Sharon Van Etten - I Wish I Knew

Sharon Van Etten on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Sharon Van Etten


1. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle

MP3: Bill Callahan - Faith/Void

Bill Callahan on Myspace
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Previously On SOTR: Bill Callahan


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sweetheart Of The Radio: Albums Of The Year 2009 (10 - 6)

10. Castanets - Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beats

MP3: Castanets - Down The Line, Love

Castanets on Myspace
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Previously On SOTR: Castanets


9. Espers - III

MP3: Espers -The Road Of Golden Dust

Espers on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Espers


8. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

MP3: Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks

Grizzly Bear On Myspace
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7. Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine

MP3: Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine (courtesy of Secretly Canadian)

Magnolia Electric Co. on Myspace
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Previously On SOTR: Magnolia Electric Co.


6. Alela Diane - To Be Still

MP3: Alela Diane - Age Old Blue

Alela Diane on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Alela Diane


Friday, December 25, 2009

Vic Chesnutt

November 12, 1964 – December 25, 2009

MP3: Vic Chesnutt - Dodge

Vic Chesnutt wiki

Photo Credit: Greg Stewart

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Funeral

Working on whittling down my list of albums of the decade, there are obviously going to be albums that don't make the list, but which contain individual songs that would make my songs of the decade list if I had the inclination and time to make such a list (I don't).

One such song would be "The Funeral" by Band Of Horses. Taken from their 2007 debut album Everything All The Time, "The Funeral", for me, is a perfectly written, perfectly executed song.

Continuing my recent attempts of writing about covers that I like, this is the perfect place to mention Canadian singer Serena Ryder's paired down version of the "The Funeral", a cover that takes the song somewhere else, while maintaining the essence of this fine composition.

MP3: Band Of Horses - The Funeral (Courtesy of Sub Pop)
MP3: Serena Ryder - The Funeral

Band Of Horses on Myspace
Serena Ryder on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: All I Want To Do Is Turn Around...

Mountain Man

My favorite new musical discovery is Mountain Man, which is the the best accompaniment I have found for the onset of winter. The band make intimate, harmony based, sad folk songs that are as fragile as the falling leaves outside my window.

Mountain Man is three girls from Vermont, Amelia Meath, Molly Sarle, and Alex Sauser-Monnig, who recorded their self-titled album over the course of two sessions in 2009, one in January and the other in May. The album is available via Bandcamp with a 7" released promised soon via Open Face Records.

MP3: Mountain Man - White Heron
MP3: Mountain Man - Animal Tracks

Mountain Man on Myspace
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Boduf Songs

Boduf Songs is Mat Sweet, a young man from Southampton, England who makes dark, psych tinged, textured folk music.To my ears he sounds like a moodier version of the Elliott Smith of "Needle In The Hay" or "Roman Candle" crossed perhaps with Charalambides or James Yorkston played at half speed.

Boduf Songs eponymous debut album was released on the Kranky label in 2005 after the label came across a CD-R of home recorded demos made by Sweet and were so blown away, decided to release the demos untouched, without any re-recordings. Two albums have followed 2006's Lion Devours the Sun and How Shadows Chase The Balance released in September of last year.

MP3: Boduf Songs - Oh Celebrate Your Vague Words and Coquettish Sovereignty
MP3: Boduf Songs - I Can't See A Thing In Here

Boduf Songs Website
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Writing a music blog you get whole load of emails from PR companies and bands who want you to write about their stuff. I try and listen to everything I get sent, but if I am to be honest, I like very little of what I hear. Every once in a while, however, I receive some communications about an artist that I do like, who to my ears sound great and who I am really happy to write about.

Case in point: Arborea, the husband and wife duo, Buck and Shanti Curran, from deep in the Western Maine woodlands who make low key, atmospheric folk music. Their latest album latest House of Sticks was released in February this year and builds on their two previous full length releases with a set of authentic and resonant recordings. 

In 2009 Arborea also curated and produced a compilation for the UN World Food Program, entitled Leaves of Life. Highlights of which include contributions form Alela Diane with Mariee Sioux ("The Cuckoo"), Devendra Banhart ("Hotel St. Sebastian (demo)") and Micah Blue Smaldone ("The Clearing").
MP3: Arborea - Beirut
MP3: Arborea - Dark Is The Night (In The Wind)

Arborea on Myspace
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Thursday, October 29, 2009


Recently while set on shuffle, my iPod keeps playing tracks from the Steve Earle album Townes, which in turn keeps reminding me of how much I love the songwriting of Townes Van Zandt.

Earle, who famously proclaimed "Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table, in my cowboy boots, and say that”, recorded Townes as a tribute to his mentor and friend, and the album features fifteen Van Zandt originals and contains some really interesting arrangements of some of the great songwriters best loved songs.

MP3: Townes Van Zandt - Colorado Girl
MP3: Steve Earle - Colorado Girl
MP3: Townes Van Zandt - No Place To Fall
MP3: Steve Earle - No Place To Fall

Townes Van Zandt on Myspace
Steve Earle on Myspace
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Previously On SOTR: Townes Van Zandt
Previously on SOTR: Heartworn Highways

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sufjan Stevens

I have had a problem with Sufjan Stevens music over the past few years. I quite liked Michigan and I loved Seven Swans, but I began to lose interest shortly after. It is not that I thought what he was doing was bad, it's just that what he was doing failed to click with me and my interests waned. Well, now my interest has been rekindled by a chance listen to his new record The BQE.

The BQE, described in the label blurb as "a cinematic suite inspired by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Hula-Hoop" was commissioned by Brooklyn Academy of Music and takes the form as an experimental in multi-media extravaganza. The quite sublime musical piece was conceived as the soundtrack to a 16mm/8mm film by Stevens which is available on DVD as part of the release. The BQE package also includes a 40 page book, a stereoscopic image reel and a comic book.

MP3: Sufjan Stevens - Movement I - In The Countenance Of Kings
MP3: Sufjan Stevens - Movement VI — Isorhythmic Night Dance with Interchanges (Courtesy Of Asthmatic Kitty)

Sufjan Stevens on Myspace
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Little Wings - Sandy Babe

I don't know how I missed this, but I did. Back in July, Marriage Records gave away a new track from Little Wings called "Sandy Babe". Kyle Field from Little Wings is one of my favorite songwriters working today.

Sadly the track seems to be a one off as Little Wings are not on the Marriage Records list of Records That Are On Their Way. Good news though that a new Privacy record is!

MP3: Little Wings - Sandy Babe (Courtesy of Marriage Records)

Little Wings Website
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Previously on SOTR: Little Wings

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nico's Afraid

Drawing a line between my two most recent posts and following on from last weeks look at covers of Donovan's "Colours", it feels like the perfect opportunity to look at the original and cover of one of my favorite songs ever, "Afraid" by Nico.

Originally released on her 1970 album Desertshore, Nico's graceful, tender, piano led ballad always stood out for me on the otherwise experimental avant-garde album. My cover of choice is by Espers and is taken from their 2005 covers record The Weed Tree. Espers' version perfectly re-imagining "Afraid" as a folk song for guitar and cello.

MP3: Nico - Afraid
MP3: Espers - Afraid

Espers on Myspace
Nico Website
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Previously On SOTR: Espers
Previously On SOTR: Nico - Chelsea Girls

Joe Boyd

My recent enjoyment of the new Epsers album got me listening to the first couple of Fairport Convention albums, which in turn got me revisiting many of my favorite albums of the same era, which also constitute much of the production work of Joe Boyd.

For those unfamiliar with Boyd, I cannot recommend highly enough his memoir "White Bicycles: Making Music in the the 1960s" which follows Boyd's journey from tour manager in the early sixties, overseeing tours for the likes of Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, Stan Getz and others; to his work at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 where he supervised Bob Dylan’s electric debut; to him founding the influential UFO club in London in 1966; through to his work as a record producer for Pink Floyd, Nick Drake and Fairport Convention, amongst many.

Under the moniker of his production company Witchseason productions, Boyd was instrumental in launching the careers of Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, and The Incredible String Band. His production credits also include Pink Floyd, Nico, Vashti Bunyan (Just Another Diamond Day), John & Beverley Martyn, Fotheringay and R.E.M.(Fables of the Reconstruction), amongst others.

"White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s" was published in 2006 and was accompanied by a 'soundtrack' with the same name. Both essential reading and listening.

MP3: Nick Drake - Time Has Told Me
MP3: Fairport Convention - Autopsy
MP3: Incredible String Band - Chinese White

Joe Boyd Website
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Previously On SOTR: Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day
Previously On SOTR: Nick Drake

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have recently been enjoying the new album from Philadelphia's premiere psych-folk practitioners Espers.

Since forming in 2002 as a trio consisting of Greg Weeks, Meg Baird and Brooke Sietinsons (and shortly after, expanded to a sextet including Otto Hauser, Helena Espvall and Chris Smith), Espers have created a legacy for themselves as one of the major players in the psych-folk revival or recent years.

Heavily influenced by british folk music of the late sixties and early seventies, including Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Trees and Mellow Candle, the music on Espers' three full length albums (Espers (2004), II (2006) & III (2009)) doesn't hide its debt to these influences, but never falls into the realm of mere pastiche or copy; Espers have their own identity and sound that has grown and expanded with each release, with III perhaps their most fully realized album to date.

MP3: Espers - Cruel Storm (Removed By Request)
MP3: Espers - The Road Of Golden Dust (Removed By Request)
MP3: Espers - Caroline (courtesy of Drag City)

Espers on Myspace
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Devendra Banhart - 'Walillamdzi' Video

Devendra Banhart, Walillamdzi. Directed by Lauren Dukoff

Devendra Banhart on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Lauren Dukoff's Family

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Donovan's Colours

When I first started writing this blog I posted a feature called 'Friday Is For Covers' with a vague hope of starting a regular series highlighting cover versions of various songs that I dig.

For one reason or another this never really took off, but my fascination with covers continues - specifically the different ways that songs are re-interpreted and given new meanings or new directions by different artist.

Donovan's "Colours" is the perfect case in point. Originally released as a single by Donovan in 1965, the songs simple folk style proved popular with the music buying public, reaching #4 in the UK singles charts.

Aside from Donovan's various arrangements of "Colours" recorded throughout his career, two versions of the song spark my imagination and bring something new to this simple yet enduring composition. The first being Van Dyke Parks' 1968 instrumental adaption entitled, appropriately enough, "Donovan's Colours". Available on Park's first album Song Cycle. The second, "Variations on 'Colours'" by Kevin Barker's Currituck Co. Also an instrumental cover, this version relies heavily on finger picked acoustic guitar and what sounds like a xylophone, and sits stylistically somewhere between the Donovan original and Park's version.

MP3: Donovan - Colours
MP3: Van Dyke Parks - Donovan's Colours
MP3: Currituck Co. - Variations on 'Colours'

Donovan on Myspace
Van Dyke Parks on Myspace
Currituck Co. on Myspace

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Previously on SOTR: Donovan

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Magnolia Electric Co.

Photograph by Kyle Johnson

I have always had a degree trouble with the work of Jason Molina. From Songs: Ohia through to Magnolia Electric Co. I have wanted to love his stuff, but aside form the odd track here and there, something has always prevented me form really connecting with his work.

I just seem to have a problem sitting down and listening to his music for sustained periods...until now... Josephine the new album by Magnolia Electric Co. connects with something in me in a more consistent way than anything I have previously heard from Jason Molina. I guess sometimes things just happen that way. Sometimes it takes a while.

is a beautiful record about loss, heartbreak, regret and hope.

MP3: Magnolia Electric Co. - The Rock Of Ages
MP3: Magnolia Electric Co. - Shenandoah

MP3: Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine (courtesy of Secretly Canadian)

Magnolia Electric Co. on Myspace
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day

In the mid sixties, Vashti Bunyan was 'discovered' by the then Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who signed her to a recording contract at Decca records and gave her an original Jagger/Richards composition to record, this led to her recording for both Columbia and Intermediate records, however after little success Bunyan decided to leave the music business and city life behind and head for a remote Scottish island in a horse-drawn wagon in search of an artistic commune established by Donovan.

It was during this journey north that she wrote the beautiful folk lullabies which would later make up Just Another Diamond Day. By the time she'd made it to her destination, she found that the commune had never gotten off the ground, and no one was left. Upon her returned to London, Bunyan was urged by the legendary producer Joe Boyd (who had already produced Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, and The Incredible String Band) to record the songs she had amassed on her journeys and make an album for his Witchseason Productions company.

The recording sessions for Just Another Diamond Day took place in December 1969 in London with the help of string arranger Robert Kirby (who also worked with Nick Drake on his first two albums), Simon Nicol & Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention) and Robin Williamson (The Incredible String Band). The album was released in late 1970 to little attention and feeling like a failure for the second time Bunyan once again abandoned music in favor of other journeys and a life of obscurity.

Over the subsequent decades Just Another Diamond Day started to receive attention from record collectors and music fans, but things really started to change in 2000 when the album was first released on CD and Vashti started to receive the attention that she deserved, most notably from a new generation of musicians including Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and Animal Collective with whom she recorded an EP entitled Prospect Hummer.

In in 2005, Vashti Bunyan recorded and released her second album, Lookaftering, 35 years after Just Another Diamond Day was released. The album was well received by both critics and fans and featured many of her growing army of followers including Banhart, Newsom, Kevin Barker of Currituck Co and Otto Hauser of Espers.

MP3: Vashti Bunyan - Diamond Day
MP3: Vashti Bunyan - Swallow Song

Vashti Bunyan on Myspace
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Sharon Van Etten

I have completely fallen in love with the album Because I Was In Love by Brooklyn based singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. Etten who cites both Vashti Bunyan and Sibylle Baier as influences, lives in musically similar territory characterized by haunting compositions and soft melancholy vocals complemented by slow and spare acoustic guitar playing.

In the past couple of years Etten has opened for a host of fine artists including Great Lake Swimmers, Alela Diane and A Hawk and a Hacksaw, but it was after earning a support slot with Meg Baird that things started to really come together nicely, as this led to an introduction to Baird’s Espers bandmate, Greg Weeks, who ended up producing and helping shape the recordings that would end up becoming Because I Was In Love.

MP3: Sharon Van Etten - I Wish I Knew
MP3: Sharon Van Etten - Consolation Prize

MP3: Sharon Van Etten - For You (courtesy of Language Of Stone)

Sharon Van Etten on Myspace
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Friday, October 09, 2009


Yesterday I read an article on Donovan being given the title of "icon" at an awards ceremony by the US performing rights organisation Broadcast Music, Inc. I am not sure what the 'award' means, but I figured it is a good an excuse as any to post on an artist that I have a continuing appreciation and love for.

For the longest time I just didn't get Donovan. I guess for the most part I just dismissed him as a Dylan wannabe, my enduring image of the artist being the brief appearance in the D.A. Pennebaker film 'Don't Look Back', especially in the scene where Dylan wipes the floor with him in a hotel song swapping session.

I can't pinpoint when all that changed, but I am thankful it did.

There are so many ideas, innovations and fantastic songs in the Donovan cannon. The Dylan likeness of early recordings can be excused by the reality that they had both been influenced by the same sources (Ramblin' Jack, Jesse Fuller, Woody Guthrie, etc), but even without that there is immense quality and craft in his early folk compositions. From late '65 Donovan started incorporation a variety of other influences in his music (Jazz, psychedelic pop, Easter & Blues), and in collaboration with the producer Mickie Most produced a series of weird, wonderful and critically underrated albums including Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman, Barabajagal & The Hurdy Gurdy Man.

Donovan split with the producer in 1969 and his post Most albums are on the whole hit and miss affairs, but not without highlight. Not always the best route to take, but I think for the uninitiated a good entry point in discovering Donovan is with a best of, to work out which period takes your fancy most and go from there.

MP3: Donovan - To Sing For You
MP3: Donovan - Wear Your Love Like Heaven

Donovan on Myspace
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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cheyenne Mize & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

One of the prettiest things I have heard all year is the Cheyenne Mize and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's collaboration, Among the Gold. Released by Karate Body Records initially as a limited edition of just 250 copies and not made available in stores (only via the Karate Body website & at Bonnie 'Prince' Billy live shows), and later made available for sale digitally, sadly this is a record that has possibly missed a lot of peoples radars.

Mize, a music therapist by day and 'by night' singer and fiddler in the Lousiville, Kentucky experimental-folk band Arnett Hollows as well as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's own touring band, and Will Oldham teamed up for Among The Gold, an EP consisting entirely of covers of songs originally recorded between 1873 and 1915. As laid back as it gets, Among The Gold is a timeless collection of intimate, homespun recordings.

MP3: Cheyenne Mize & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Silver Threads Among The Gold
MP3: Cheyenne Mize & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Kiss Me Again

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy on Myspace
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Previously On SOTR: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - 'I Am Goodbye' Video

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Photgraph by Mia Ferm

One of my most eagerly anticipated releases this year was "Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts" by Castanets, and it turned out to be a record that lived up to expectation. The album saw Ray Raposa take a more stripped back and straight forward approach in delivering his songs, with noticeably less glitches and noises than previous efforts and an increased focus on song structure. Still feeling very much like a Castanets record, thanks in no small way to Raposa's distinctive vocal delivery, "Texas Rose..." is a self contained world of love and heartbreak, darkness and light.

MP3: Castanets - Down The Line, Love
MP3: Castanets - Thaw And The Beasts

MP3: Castanets - Worn From The Fight (With Fireworks) (courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty)

Castanets on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts

Monday, October 05, 2009

Glass Cake

There is a beautiful warmth in the low fidelity recordings of Berkeley, California's Glass Cake, also known as the multi-talented Michelle Shofet. The minimal constructions, blanketed by Shofet's simple yet engaging melodies, produce a charming, warm and engaging listening experience with just the right measures of heart, melancholy and artfulness.

Glass Cake's 'Michelle Shofet's Album' is offered as a free download from the bands MySpace, however the link doesn't work due to myspace's archaic security filter, but you should be able to download it here.

Michelle Shofet also plays in the equally lo-fi and equally charming girl band.

MP3: Glass Cake - Blanket
MP3: Glass Cake - Friend Forever

Glass Cake on Myspace
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It's been a while... I guess for long periods of this year there has been little in the way of new music that has really excited me. Much of my time has been invested in some fantastic re-issues, The Beatles re-masters, the Neil Young Archives and the amazing Big Star box 'Keep An Eye On The Sky' to name but three. Anyway, to cut a rather dull and pointless story on the meaninglessness of existance short, I am back and this time I hope to actually deliver a consistent number of posts before I lose faith again.

There has been plenty going on and I hope to post on some exciting new discoveries in the next week or so, but random things that spring to mind include the hit and miss (but more often than not hit rather than miss) Beck Record Club. The concept being that Beck and assorted musician friends go into the studio and re-record a "classic album" in it's entirety in one take. So far 'The Velvet Underground and Nico' and 'Songs Of Leonard Cohen' have been tackled, but with the promise of Skip Spence's 'Oar' recorded with Wilco, still to come, this is a project that it seems worth keeping an eye on. A new album nearly completed from Damien Jurado, produced by Richard Swift and hopefully out before the end of the year. The slow filtering in of various albums of the decade lists (I love lists) as well as new records from Alela Diane, Espers, The Flaming Lips, Hush Arbors and Karl Blau amongst others make the onset of winter quite appealing.

MP3: Leon Russell - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (from the album 'Hank Wilson's Back)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Big Star

As a huge Big Star fan next month promises to be an exciting time, with Rhino releasing two Big Star related records.

The first being 'Keep An Eye On The Sky' a four disc box set collection of album tracks, unreleased songs and live recordings. The collection covers the entire life span of Big Star from 1968 and 1975, including tons of previously unreleased gems. A lot of stuff has been "out there" for a while for those willing to search - but what most excites me is the comprehensive collection of Alex Chilton's demo's for the 'Third/Sister Lovers' record. Some of these appeared a couple of years ago on the collection "Thank You Friends: The Ardent Story" - but as far as I know, this is the first time that they will all be collected in one place.

The second release being the 'deluxe' reissue of Chris Bell's fantastic solo album 'I Am The Cosmos'. A two disc collection - the first disc features the original release of 'I Am The Cosmos', an album made up of recordings Bell made after departing Big Star, before his untimely death in 1978. The second disc will include alternate versions of many previously released Bell songs, as well as music from Bell's pre-Big Star band Icewater.

If you are reading this and do not own any Big Star records... firstly, shame on you. Secondly, their three seventies studio records are essentials for any serious collection: check out '#1 Record', 'Radio City' and 'Third/Sister Lovers' at the earliest opportunity.

MP3: Big Star - Motel Blues (Removed By Request)
MP3: Chris Bell - You & Your Sister (Acoustic Version)
MP3: Alex Chilton - Lovely Day (aka Stroke It Noel)

Big Star On Myspace
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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Gary Higgins

I can't believe I missed this one... at the end of September, Drag City will be releasing Gary Higgins his first album since 1973's 'Red Hash', the appropriately titled 'Seconds'.

After being "found" by Drag City, with help from Six Organs Of Admittance's Ben Chasny and revitalized by the reissuing of his 'lost' masterpiece 'Red Hash', Higgins found himself in a position where he was able to work on new material.

In Higgins own words: "The motivation to do another record was not hard to find. Having a group of new songs I was into and more than a few ‘older’ ones as well, it again seemed like a very logical thing to do. They all needed a place to be and ears, old and new, to listen. Additionally, I can’t tell you how many times I have read - “It’s too bad that Red Hash was the only record he recorded” - I knew I could fix that"

So far one track from 'Seconds', "Demons" has surfaced online - it sounds great. Musically it appears to sit on similar ground from where 'Red Hash' left off and Higgins is sounding like he is in great voice.

MP3: Gary Higgins - Demons

Gary Higgins on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Gary Higgins - Red Hash

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Jim O'Rourke

I am unbelievably excited about the prospect of a new Jim O'Rourke album. 'The Visitor' (possibly a reference to 'The Man Who Fell To Earth', following on his quirk for naming records after Nicolas Roeg Films - see: 'Insignificance', 'Eureka' & 'Bad Timing ' - or possibly not!) is released at the end of this month via Drag City.

I guess I first started paying full attention to O'Rourke's work after watching the flawed, but thoroughly charming film 'Love Liza', the soundbed for which is made up of much of O'Rourkes finest song based material. All of his melody/song based releases, (he has also released a great number of more experimental records), aurally offer something new and fresh, and never disappoint. Add to this his work with "alternative Supergroup" Loose Furs which is, in my mind, faultless and equal to his best solo material, as well as his production/engineering work with Wilco, Sonic Youth, Joanna Newsom & Smog and you have yourself a whole world ready and waiting for you to go and explore.

According to Drag City 'The Visitor' features just one long track (entitled "The Visitor"), and is closest in feel to 'Bad Timing', which itself contains four sections (each approximately 10 minutes long) of slow building, guitar picking, instrumental brilliance. Indeed the new album cover could also be interpreted with reference to the artwork for 'Bad Timing' which itself contains various references to glitter balls.

MP3: Jim O'Rourke - Halfway To A Threeway
MP3: Loose Furs - Answers To Your Questions

Jim O'Rourke on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Friday Is For Covers

Monday, July 13, 2009

Six Organs

Slowly catching up from the time I was away, I am selectively sieving through bits and bobs that came up during that period. A nice (month old) story that made me smile was a message from Ben Chasny posted on the Six Organs Of Admittance Myspace page:

"Hey! I want to thank Jack for making this page. I don't check the mail on it or anything, Jack does that, but I thought I might utilize some of it's features. First, I want to mention that I am currently making a Six Organs guitar TAB book. I'm not really sure how big it is going to end up but I am thinking about 15 songs from the whole catalogue. What I am wondering is, are there any requests for any particular songs for me to TAB? So far I have already done Hallow Light Severed Sun, Words For Two, Elk River and Home. i was thinking i would probably do School of The Flower as well. After that, I am not sure. So basically I am taking requests. Any jams anyone might be interested in having me TAB? If not, it's all gonna be basically what's easiest for me to do!"

If you have a suggestion, head here.

MP3: Six Organs Of Admittance - Torn By Wolves
MP3: Six Organs Of Admittance - Words For Two

Six Organs Of Admittance on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Six Organs Of Admittance

Songs For Babes

One of my favorite bands in the whole wide world Talons' have just announced that their fantastic album 'Songs for Babes' is getting a European release thanks to Own Records. The CD includes new artwork from the original LP (still available at in a "beautifully printed cardstock package".

New Talons' music is also promised soon with the long awaited 'Songs For Boats' almost finished, as well as a new EP recorded in Dubai and an electronic album entitled 'Pandemia' in the bag. The entire Talons' catalog to date is still available from the Bark & Hiss website.

MP3: Talons' - Angela
MP3: Talons' - Sommer
MP3: Talons' - Cole (Courtesy of Own Records)

Download: The "complete" talons' library

talons' on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Talons'

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yim Yames

I have never been a fan of My Morning Jacket, but on the two occasions that I have been exposed to the solo work of front man Jim James (or Yim Yames as he appears in his latest alias) I have been pleasantly surprised. The first time I sat up and took notice was on the Soundtrack to the Dylan "biopic" 'I'm Not There' where James sings "Goin' To Acapulco" accompanied by Calexico, which for me was one of the highlights of a great collection. The second is 'Tribute To', an EP of George Harrison covers.

Recorded in 2001 shortly after George Harrison's death 'Tribute To' contains six wonderful, stripped down, acoustic renditions of Harrison compositions, including versions of "My Sweet Lord", "All Things Must Pass" "Long, Long Long" and "Love To You". The EP is available to listen to in full and download now from the Yim Yames website for a very reasonable price, with a CD and vinyl released following on August 4th.

MP3: Jim James & Calexico - Goin' To Acapulco
MP3: Yim Yames - My Sweet Lord

Yim Yames on Myspace
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts

Gee, it has been so long and so much music has gone under the proverbial bridge since I last wrote, that I am not sure where to start... I guess i'll begin with the new release news that has most excited me since my last post... Castanets have announced the release of a new album entitled "Texas Rose, The Thaw, and The Beasts" (out on Asthmatic Kitty on September 22nd). The press blurb suggests that Ray Raposa has stripped back the noises and glitches focus on well structured and defined songs, which can only be a good thing.

Recorded in April of this year in San Diego, "Texas Rose..." is Castanets' fifth for Asthmatic Kitty. There isn't a Castanets record that I have not fallen in love with and I am sure I will be able to say the same about this one.

MP3: Castanets - This Is The Early Game From 'In The Vines (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: Castanets

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

On The Beach

back in a while

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Jay Bennett

15th November 1963 - 24th May 2009

MP3: Wilco - My Darling

Jay Bennett Myspace

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gary Higgins - Red Hash

Recorded during one forty-hour period in 1973, 'Red Hash' by Gary Higgins is one of the great 'lost' albums of all time. A lovely, sad, wistful folk album, 'Red Hash' was recorded so quickly because Higgins had recently been arrested on drug charges and was facing years in prison.

Shortly after the album was self released on his own Nufusmoon label, Higgins seemed to disappear and seemingly gave up a career in music, firstly serving out his prison sentence and later falling into domestic life marrying and having a child, and 'Red Hash' fell into the abyss.

It was during the mid-1990s, when 'Red Hash' began to get noticed. Partly due to the development of the internet (word spread about the album online and pirated copies began to appear on ebay) and partly down to musicians, such as Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance, who began to cite the album as a major influence. Chasny even covered one of 'Red Hash's' many standout tracks, "Thicker than a Smokey" on the quite brilliant Six Organs of Admittance album 'School of the Flower' (2005). The story took a further turn for the better when A&R man Zach Cowie received a burned copy of the album from Chasny and was so enchanted with what he heard, decided to set out and find Higgins. The search paid off and the album was remastered and released to critical acclaim by Drag City in 2005.

'Red Hash' is a gem of an album that has aged fantastically well, comparisons with Skip Spence's 'Oar' and David Crosby's 'If I Could Only Remember My Name' begin to position this record in the "classic" territory that it deserves to be in.

MP3: Gary Higgins - Thicker Than A Smokey
MP3: Gary Higgins - It Didn't Take Too Long

Gary Higgins on Myspace
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Judee Sill

I am really enjoying the recently released 'Loving Takes This Course: A Tribute to the Songs of Kath Bloom' collection, which features a disc of covers by the likes of Bill Callahan, Devendra Banhart and Meg Baird, alongside a second disc of the wonderful Bloom originals.

So it is with great excitement that I found out about another tribute record for another fantastic American singer. 'Crayon Angel: A Tribute To The Music Of Judee Sill' features new recordings by Bill Callahan ("For a Rainbow"), Ron Sexsmith (“Crayon Angels”), Beth Orton (“Reach for the Sky”), Marisa Nadler & Black Hole Infinity (“The Kiss”), Meg Baird (“When the Bridegroom Comes”), Daniel Rossen from Grizzly Bear (“Waterfall”) and P.G. Six (“Til Dreams Come True”) amongst others.

Sill was the first artist signed to David Geffen's Asylum Records and released two cult albums, 'Judee Sill' (1971) and 'Heart Food' (1973), before seemingly vanishing from the music scene and eventually dying of a drug overdose in 1974.

Before she passed away, Sill recorded demos for a third album in early 1974, which were released, along with other rarities, in a Jim O'Rourke mixed collection in 2005, 'Dreams Come True'.

'Crayon Angel: A Tribute To The Music Of Judee Sill' is released by American Dust later this year.

MP3: Judee Sill - Jesus Was A Crossmaker
MP3: Judee Sill - There's a Rugged Road

Judee Sill on Myspace
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Previously on SOTR: Crayon Angels

Neil Young Archives

I am really excited about the imminent Neil Young Archives Volume 1 release. It seems less and less now that I actually get excited by owning the physical product when it comes to record releases, but this is one case where I am. It seems like Neil Young, who is the driving force behind this long promised release, get's it. He seems to understand what makes something valuable and special enough not to just be content with a digital copy.

This first volume of the Archives series traces Neil Young's career from his first recordings with the Squires at the beginning of the sixties, via Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, right through to the 1972 sessions for 'Harvest'. The Blu-Ray edition features an interactive time-line and a lavish hardback book, each providing a thorough overview of his recordings and performances from this era. Also included on the Blu-Ray edition is Young's first film, the long unavailable 'Journey Through The Past'.

My bank balance might not feel the same, but I really hope that the Neil Young Archive series creates a blueprint for other artists to use to assemble their own music-based multimedia scrapbook in the future.

MP3: Buffalo Springfield - Burned
MP3: Neil Young - Birds

Neil Young Myspace
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Friday, May 08, 2009

Graham Nash

Up until a couple of weeks ago Graham Nash was the only member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young that I had little or no appreciation for the solo work of. That was until I discovered his 1971 masterpiece 'Songs For Beginners'.

A somewhat sentimental and sensitive work (it came on the back of a temporary split with David Crosby and Stephen Stills and a permanent split with his then love, Joni Mitchel), 'Songs For Beginners' lives in a similar orbit to Neil Young's 'Harvest' and is eminently listenable. Accompanied by a star studded cast including CSNY band mates, Neil Young and David Crosby, as well as Rita Coolidge, Jerry Garcia, Dave Mason and P.P. Arnold, this record has really challenged for me the notion of Nash being the 'weak link' in CSNY.

MP3: Graham Nash - Simple Man
MP3: Graham Nash - Chicago

Graham Nash on Myspace
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Townes Van Zandt

Watching Heartworn Highways for the umpteenth time I was reminded of how damn good Townes Van Zandt is. It is unbelievable that someone who has written so many fantastic songs is not more well known or widely appreciated.

The closest that country music came to having a songwriter to compare with Dylan, Townes Van Zandt spent most of his life on the fringes. A cult musician he never had a commercially successful album or single in his lifetime and even had difficulty for many years keeping his recordings in print. Success, of sorts, came in the early eighties when Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard had a number one on the country music charts with a cover of his song "Pancho and Lefty", but achievements like these were too few and far between and Van Zandt, notorious for his drink and drug addictions died on New Years Day 1997 from health problems stemming from his years of substance abuse.

MP3: Townes Van Zandt - Colorado Girl
MP3: Townes Van Zandt - Waitin' Around To Die (Heartworn Highways Version)

Townes Van Zandt Central
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Band

Image Credit: Elliott Landy

The first three albums by the band 'Music From Big Pink'(1968), 'The Band'(1969) and 'Stage Fright'(1970) are three of my favorite albums ever. The first two are essential additions to any serious music collection, the third, an oft neglected companion to the much lauded debut and sophomore efforts.

This list of records would be legacy enough for most, but you can add to this numerous credentials that make The Band one of the most important groups of all time. The most obvious examples being their involvement with Bob Dylan, both as backing band (then The Hawks) on his first "electric" tour of the US and later their work with him on the legendary 'Basement Tapes'. Then being the center piece of the greatest live concert film ever committed to tape 'The Last Waltz', documenting their final show featuring the original Band lineup and a stellar list of guests including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Emmylou Harris and The Staple Singers.

The original line up which spans 1967 to 1976 consisted of four Canadians: Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko, and one American, Levon Helm (There was a reunion of sorts (sans Robbie Robertson) in the eighties, but for now I am going to focus on the original line up).

Aside from the first three gems, the original line up of The Band released four other studio albums. Although none of which live up to the consistency and magnificence of the earlier records, all contain genuine highlights. 'Cahoots'(1971) has the Dylan composition "When I Paint My Masterpiece", as well as "Life Is a Carnival", "The River Hymn" and the Van Morrison collaboration "4% Pantomime". 'Moondog Matinee'(1973) is an eclectic covers album containing versions of originals by Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry and Leiber & Stoller amongst others. 'Northern Lights - Southern Cross'(1975) is a mixed bag, but does include some of The Band's finest recordings, most notably "Acadian Driftwood" and "It Makes No Difference". The Bands final studio album 'Islands'(1977) is probably the least rewarding in the groups cannon, with an apt title, as this is the sound of a group breaking up, not the coherent family heard on previous releases.

MP3: The Band - All La Glory
MP3: The Band - It Makes No Difference

The Band on Myspace
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Monday, April 20, 2009

Gene Clark

There are so many gaps in music I love and things I have never posted on, so I figure I am going to make a concerted effort to plug those gaps.. starting with Gene Clark.

Aside from being a founder member of The Byrds, Gene Clark was a prolific songwriter and singer with an amazing catalog of work, as well as being a pioneer of the country rock sound.

As part of The Byrds he contributed songs including "Set You Free This Time", "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" and "Eight Miles High". After releasing his first solo album, 'Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers' (1967), Clark got together with banjo player Doug Dillard for two pioneering country rock albums 'The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark' and 'Through the Morning Through the Night'. For me, Clarks masterpiece is 1971's 'White Light' a largely introspective affair, this is the record where Clark is most consistently on his game in terms of the quality of the songwriting. Also worth checking out is 1974's 'No Other', but maybe the best place to start for newcomes to Clark's work is the brilliant career spanning anthology 'Flying High'.

MP3: Gene Clark - With Tomorrow
MP3: Dillard & Clark - Don't Let Me Down (Beatles Cover)

Gene Clark on Myspace
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quiet Bears

Quiet Bears is the songwriting/recording project of Johnnie Cluney from Iowa, who since 2002 has led an ever rotating lineup in producing a number of limited lo-fi, home recorded cassette and cd-r releases.

I forgot how much I liked this band, but was reminded to go back and listen to some of their stuff with news of a new release. As the label blurb goes: During a 2007 tour, Doby Watson stopped in Davenport, IA to play a show. That night he stayed at the Quiet Bears home, and at seven the following morning, they, along with A.P. Swearengin and Johnnie’s friend Mark, began to jam into a four track machine in the basement.

The resulting recordings are available on a new EP called 'God/Fate' available now from Orchid Collective for a nominal donation.

MP3: Quiet Bears - Walking In The Rain
MP3: Quiet Bears - Bluejaybody
MP3: Quiet Bears - Creatures (Courtesy Of Asaurus Records)

Quiet Bears on Myspace
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Women & Children

With so much music constantly available all the time, I find I am increasingly acquiring music and then moving on to something else before I have paid much, if any, attention to what I have just acquired. Well, sometimes the forgotten music fights back and keeps rearing its head until I pay attention. This just happened with me for Women & Children. I must have got their record 'Paralyzed Dance, Tonight' on emusic about two years ago. I guess I would have lazily listened to a couple of tracks, probably been perturbed by the varied approach from one track to the next and moved on to something else.

Then a couple of weeks ago the track "Rolly Fingers" came on my ipod and I found myself listening to it on repeat, eventually going back to the album, which had been sitting dormant for two years and I am really happy I did, for it is a record of great depth and varying textures that really rewards upon repeat listens.

Women & Children formed in Paris in 2001 when Canadian-born keyboardist Cheryl June Serwa and California-born guitarist Kevin Lasting got together with multi-instrumentalist Jamie Moon and drummer Olivier Robert. The band began will all members contributing to the writing collaboratively and switching vocal and instrumental roles. A self titled album appeared in 2003, followed by completely different self-titled limited-edition, embossed wooden box release which contained two 10" vinyl EPs and a live performance DVD.

Around 2006 Women & Children reverted to being a two piece with Serwa and Lasting remaining and recording their second album, 'Paralyzed Dance, Tonight'. I'm not particularly partial to comparing one band with other bands, but if pushed I guess i'd describe the sound of Women & Children as the softer side of Velvet Underground & Nico playing in the woods with Robert Wyatt, joined by a hazier, mellower Comus.

Women & Children have recently toured with both Brighblack Morning Light and Sean Lennon and have "many songs that we plan to record , or put out in the near future".

MP3: Women & Children - Rolly Fingers
MP3: Women & Children - A Bigger Graveyard

Women & Children on Myspace
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