REVIEW: Hook & Anchor’s self-titled debut album

 photo hookandanchor_cover_zps3897d48c.jpg During a time when it seems the most of today’s pop artists aren’t telling or even creating stories, it’s nice to hear a set of music that does it and still knows how to. The self-titled debut by Portland’s Hook & Anchor (Jealous Butcher/Woodphone) is storytelling done very well, played in a way that is intricate to what is being said and why it’s being said is all a part of listening, you want to react and listen to more to know more. Kati Claborn is the core, the “Hook” if you will, but along with Erik Clampitt, Gabrielle Macrae, Luke Ydstie and Ryan Dobrowski, the “anchors” of this ship, they all display why this union works perfectly, how they all play an equal role that plays music that’s equally sound and in time, profound. Initially the album begins like a great pop albums from the mid to late 70’s or 1980’s, almost like what Bonnie Raitt is capable of doing, before there are string of country and even the blues. A slight twang of the guitar or a roll of the drums help to decorate the atmosphere but regardless of the coloring involved, it’s the stories that you want to listen and keep to, just so you’ll remember it and find a way to relate to, if they don’t immediately do so upon first listen. Hook & Anchor play music for people of varied tastes, listeners will find something of interest while at the same time finding something new that will eventually be satisfying to the ears and mind. Whether it’s country or the pop sentiments that capture people first, it’s the rest of it that will keep everyone around for a long time.

SOME STUFFS: New Zealand’s Rachel Dawick to make an impact with new double album

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New Zealand singer/songwriter Rachel Dawick will not only be releasing a new album next month, but this effort happens to be a double album. The Boundary Riders will be out on September 19th, just in time for the new season of spring (in the southern hemisphere, that is) and to hear the influence country and Americana music has around the world, look no further than here. The first single from the album is called “‘Biddy Of The Buller”, which will be released next week Monday. You may stream it in full below or purchase it when the 1st of September arrives. As for the topic of the song, Dawick says it refers to Bridget Goodwin, who was “one of the six women who lived in NZ in the 1800s whose journeys are followed through the course of the show album. Biddy was a four-foot, pipe smoking goldminer who lived with two men in a shack near Lyell along the Buller River. She was a tough character working and living alongside two men in water up to her hips, panning for gold every day. She defied the notion of what a woman in Victorian society should be like trying to survive in a newly settled colony in a man’s world. She was a generous, whisky loving, hard working, Irish born woman whose way of life helped paved the way for women in NZ to gain the vote on the 19th September in 1893.

REVIEW: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “CSNY 1974″

 photo CSNY1974_cover_zps99f6e99f.jpg Rhino Records have released three different Crosby, Stills & Nash box sets highlighting each member, as a group, with collaborations, and solo projects. Now there’s a fourth box set, but this time welcoming in Neil Young and highlighting the reunion tour they did in 1974. CSNY 1974 (Rhino) is a way to not only hear again the songs CSN and CSNY did as a group, but to also check out their solo material performed in a group setting. These include “Don’t Be Denied” (from Young’s great live album Time Fades Away), “Military Madness” (from Nash’s Songs For Beginners), “Almost Cut My Hair” (from Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name) and “Love The One You’re With” (from Stills’ debut solo album). Even if you know these songs in their original form or live recordings they may have done on their own tours, it’s nice to hear them in the CSNY setting, especially when the harmonies kick in.

Even if you’ve bought bootlegs or downloaded ROIO’s over the years, it’s nice to hear them nicely mixed, complete with in between dialogue that had often made those shows interesting to listen to along with the songs in question. Then there’s the guitar work from both Young and Stills, each with their own distinct way of playing but when they were together, it worked nicely. Despite the inner bickering they may have had with each other from time to time, CSNY 1974 shows that when it was possible, they were able to work together in beautiful harmony.

REVIEW: The Duhks’ “Beyond The Blue”

 photo DuhksBTB_cover_zps3e268e50.jpg The Duhks were great when they made themselves known in the last decade, with people falling in love with their brand of music, a cross between traditional country and Americana, along with the style, grace, and strength of vocalist Jessee Havey. When she left in order to create music under her own name, it seemed a healthy part of The Duhks’ following left with her, despite the fact she was still making powerful music. After a brief split between one another, Havey rejoined The Duhks and it has lead to their brand new album, Beyond The Blue (Compass).

If anything, the group sound as moving as they’ve always been and hearing how well they sound together, we realize how much we missed them. With tracks like “Banjo Roustabout”, “Suffer No Fools”, and “Black Mountain Lullaby”, we’re also realizing how much we miss hearing songs like this, even if it is the type we enjoy listening to on a regular basis. There was a time when people like Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones could be heard releasing this and having hits but these days, not so much. I think what we enjoy about hearing Havey’s voice is the richness in her tones and the interpretation of the definition of the lyric, whethere there is happiness in the sorrow or a bit of sadness meant to be hidden. Perhaps this is why the album is called Beyond The Blue, as a way to say we must go on and look for something else that is brighter and better, even when it feels as if it doesn’t currently exist. Perhaps this album could be a new hope for everyone who listens to it.

AUDIO: Larkin Poe’s “Crown Of Fire”

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When I was listening to Larkin Poe, what I loved the most was the harmony vocals the two singers shared during the chorus. Upon further research, I discovered they are sisters, which is something you can’t beat. Rebecca and Megan Lovell are from Atlanta and upon hearing their individual voices, you’ll know why they make music. Then they sing together and for me at least, I was taken aback, a very nice “whoa”. They’ve released their debut album, Kin (RH Music). a culmination not only of their many musical interests but also the styles of music they now find themselves comfortable in, so while you may not hear Pink Floyd directly, listen to the harmonies again. In time, you’ll get it, but they have all the time in the world.

REVIEW: Hook & Anchor’s self-titled debut album

 photo HookampAnchor_cover_zpseaa62837.jpg What is American music in 2014? Ask anyone and you’ll get a multitude of answers but regardless of what style it is, it is rooted in the earthiness of the stories and the voices that tell them. This is what Hook & Anchor are about and what they share on their brand new, self-titled debut. Their style of music is a mixture of country and bluegrass, but they also go towards the Americana way of life, which means you may hear a bit of Black Crowes, a pinch of Wilco, maybe even some Black Crowes in how they present their songs and all comparisons would be close-to-accurate. The songs not only tell stories, but you want to be able to figure out the stories not only as they’re told, but how you’ll interpret them into your own life, along with those you’re closely associated with. Maybe this is what would be distinctly Americana music but it is a part of the fabric that partly makes us who we are, a mixture of the happiness, the sorrow, the hopes, dreams, and anticipation of a better tomorrow. These guys very much pull their moniker towards their listeners and hope you’ll stay with them throughout their duration. I look forward to more music from them in the years to come.

VIDEO: Sugarplum Fairies featuring RT Valine’s “Escondite”

Director/cinematographer Roman Jakobi is responsible for creating “Escondite”, the new one from Sugarplug Fairies. If you’ve been keeping track of their latest string of videos, “Escondite” is the third in a trilogy of videos where each one is put together by a different director as part of their latest album, Godspeed & Silver Linings (Starfish).

REVIEW: Sad And French’s self-titled album

 photo SadAndFrench_cover_zps69b48575.jpg The new album by Sad And French is a nice acoustic variation of indie rock and punk by by the middle of the album, I found myself wishing they would do something else. By the 7th song of 12, the novelty wore out a bit and if they were to punk or rock it up in a semi-brilliant manner, maybe it would make me listen. The songwriting is quite nice and makes them to be people who look at the world with bitterness but hope for better as best as they can, but again, do I want to hear it in a folk and country manner for 41 minutes? It just sounds like a novelty band trying to make folk versions of punk songs, and it went stale fairly fast. Within this, they through in a power ballad which sounds like they’re saying “this will be the one that will give us a radio hit” but by then, I didn’t want to listen to the rest of it (but did). Strong songs but weak format. Change the format a bit and I would be willing to listen once more.

(Vinyl pressing can be purchased by clicking here.)

REVIEW: Wooden Wand’s “Farmer’s Corner”

 photo WoodenWand_cover_zps1c71facf.jpg Farmer’s Corner (Fire) could be called a country album, or more closer to the Americana sub-genre than anything, but Wooden Wand does not create music in a stereotypical country manner. Woodden Wand is James Jackson Toth, who writes and records is songs in a solid and precise manner, but that’s only the start of his material and his journey. He writes his stories but then he has more to say than just to put together a beginning, middle, and end. There are a number of different streets and walkways, other people to meet and see, and then he may see something else on the side of his eye and take off in that way. The shortest song on the album is 3:19, the opening “Alpha Dawn”, but before you know it you’ll be within the 8:34 “Port Of Call” or a 7:02 “When The Trail Goes Cold”, which may seem a bit too lengthy upon first glance but they are not at all. He could easily do an Alice’s Restaurant trip a la Arlo Guthrie, but you may see him tell stories in the vein of Bruce Springsteen or Wilco. He wants to tell and examine it, and then find something else you may neglect about the story in front of you. What Farmer’s Corner may be something that is only treasured by those of a select few, but it’s something you’re going to want to sit down to during the entire duration.

REVIEW: Josephine Foster’s “I’m A Dreamer”

 photo JosephineFoster_cover_zps4775b9bf.jpg Josephine Foster is a singer that deserves to be heard, yet has a voice that sounds like she was not of a time long gone. There is a sense of preciousness in her tone, and with that the type of lyrics that sounds like she is of now but also not of this time, a voice that you want everlasting and know it will motivate anyone and everyone who dares to hear her just by her name alone, a name which created an album with an appropriate title: I’m A Dreamer (Fire).

Foster sings a nice range of jazz, blues, folk, and country where it may sound like something you heard from the 1920’s, 1950’s, or a honky tonk movie taking place in the 1970’s. It may easy to tell what she’s trying to achieve but as she sings about the wonderment of the world around us, we’re not sure why she does the way she does, but does it in a way where you’ll go “damn, that tears me up inside.” How her dreams will be able to transform to those in an awake state will be very interesting, but if listeners allow themselves to dream a little dream for a few minutes, they’ll enter their world and perhaps imagine her world, which ends up being the world we all exist in.