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COVERED: John Prine vs. Joey Sweeney

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Released 40 years ago this month, Sweet Revenge (Atlantic) was John Prine’s third album, one that has managed to prove the test of time. It may be a dollar bin gem and one you may be able to find at thrift stores, garage and yard sales, but it’s his type of folk/country, what one might call Americana, alt.country, or No Depression, that has managed to influence a generation or two. He had recorded a new album a year beginning with the start of his Atlantic contract in 1971, but it was Sweet Revenge that brought him to places, and he would end up following with a new release two years later. The cover photo features him on a random country road, kicking back in his back stage without a care in the world.

Philadelphia singer/songwriter/musician will be releasing a new album on La Société Expéditionnaire called Long Hair and early versions of the cover featured a photo of him by a beach, with the photo surrounded by blue, looking very much like Prine’s Sweet Revenge with similar lettering. Are the photos meant to be representative of someone’s sense of solitude, peace and comfort? The latest edition of Sweeney’s cover is now surrounded by a yellow background. Not sure if this is final or why there was a switch but I like the blue background better.

SOME STUFFS: Tom Brosseau to lay something on you all: a new album in 2014

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Tom Brosseau released four albums in the 00′s, and then he seemed to stop. Did he take a time off? Did he need time to rethink or regroup? No matter, Tom Brosseau fans, for he has returned with a brand new album, his first in five years, and it will be called Grass Punks, which you’ll get to hear in full on or around the 21st of January via Crossbill Records. I say “on or around” because you know how it is these days, the album will stream a week or two before its release, everyone will get a chance to hear it as a temptation technique towards wanting to buy it. It’s the world’s greatest listening booth, this internet is.

He has allowed the sharing of a song called “Cradle Your Device”, and what exactly is this device? Is it divine? Is it divided? Brosseau describes it this way:
I don’t think of ideas, I search for them. There’s motion. I know the more my body is stressed the more endorphins are released. This creates a natural high. When my mind is clear I can focus and stay focused longer on my thoughts, problems and the future. There’s humanity. I like to people-watch. I enjoy spotting color patterns, trends; watching interactions, hearing laughs. My inspection, then, switches to the problems of others. I am fortunate to have to depend upon public transportation. There’s plenty of walking, plenty of people, and lots of opportunity for idea plucking.

Gotta love humanity. In the words of Rick Springsteen, we all need the human touch, and I need it too. Maybe you too as well. Get in touch with the human in you again through Brosseau and his songwriting.

You may get in touch with him (but not touch him, unless he approves of it) beginning next week as he begins touring across the land of Midwest and Eastern America:
October 10… Grand Forks, ND (North Dakota Museum of Art) **
October 12… Omaha, NE (O’Leaver’s) **
October 14… Cedar Falls, IA (Cedar Valley House Concert) **
October 15… Rock Island, IL (Daytrotter)
October 16… Madison, WI (House Concert) **
October 17… Indianapolis, IN (Do317 Lounge Presented by MOKB) **
October 18… Chicago, IL (Old Town School) **/☎
October 19… Nashville TN (The Basement) **
October 21… Knoxville, TN (Live on WDVX: Blue Plate Special)
October 22… Charlotte, NC (Snug Harbor) **
October 23… Asheville, NC (The Grey Eagle) **
October 27… Brooklyn, NY (Manhattan Inn)
October 28… Hamden, CT (Outer Space)
November 1…. Burlington, VT (Radio Bean)

** w/ Sean Watkins
☎ w/ Paula Cole

REVIEW: Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2)”

 photo JT2020Two_cover_zpse29f502f.jpg Time seemed to go by fairly fast between the moment the first 20/20 Experience dropped and the second one made itself known. The first volume in this new Justin Timberlake musical saga ran a little over an hour, so to have an extra hour of music seemed awesome, gratifying, and insane. With the first volume, I felt Timberlake had created the perfect definition of an album, a risk in 2013 when most pop fans aren’t flocking to albums as people used to. People have continued to bash Timberlake for whatever reason: being white, being a country boy, and being someone he isn’t so he decided to challenge the naysayers. For The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2) (RCA) he decided to embrace what the naysayers are saying about him and to throw it back at everyone.

I liked the first Experience a lot so as I started listening to the second installment, I thought a few things. At first, I didn’t think these songs were that good, at first. Obviously, by calling the albums a 20/20 Experience, he wants us to get a full vision of what he’s trying to create but I wondered “is this just too many extras? Are these just songs that should’ve been left to be bonus or non-LP tracks?” The one thing that was immediate: Timbaland. His style is great and you know it is his sound that is being heard, and that made up for what I was feeling with the first two tracks. What changed things was the third track, one that featured Drake called “Cabaret”. I’m not what you’d call a Drake fan but I’ll listen, and his performance here is fairly decent. The pairing here works, and that was the moment the album got better and more interesting. While Jay-Z makes an appearance on the Experience with “Murder”, his references to John Lennon and Yoko Ono seemed half-assed and misinformed, and I felt that in a world where anyone and everyone can do a search on Google, he is someone who came off as clueless as J. Lo in the claim that Ono had what it had taken to break-up The Beatles. Incorrect, Mr. Carter, put on a dunce cap for that.

There are three noticeable things on this album that stood out from the rest of the material. “Drink You Away” has a very strong country feel with gospel roots, but it could also be a blues song. To me, it seems that if Timberlake senses his style of soul/pop could lose a following, he could always move over to the country side. It wouldn’t be a problem, and maybe people remember that photo of him with Britney Spears where they both showed off their denim duds. He most likely grow up with a good share of country too and this could easily become a song he performs next year as part of a collaboration with a country artist at next year’s Grammy award ceremonies. Or do a country remix with Lady Antebellum or Little Big Town. I can see it, and he should do it. The other thing is the rock feel of “Only When I Walk Away”, which for some reminded me of Janet Jackson when she did “Black Cat” and how people felt it was a stretch, a challenge, and a risk. One might argue that that can be said for Timberlake, which will lead others to say “well he’s white, he doesn’t have to worry about risk” but still, rock isn’t familiar to most even though he once played bass with the Flaming Lips for a television performance. Why shouldn’t any artist be able to play around with genres and have fun? By the time the album gets to this point, the mood of the album had gone beyond fun.

The third thing I noticed happens in the last third, where lyrically he starts to get more aggressive and swears a bit, as if he’s trying to show a hip-hop edge or by being a rock’n’roll bad boy, but I wondered if it was truly necessary. Timberlake can be whatever he wants in his music, and yet I have always felt he had been reserved and pushed himself to an established limit and never went past it. I’m old enough to full understand what those vulgarities mean, I do not need a parental advisory but I don’t think the songs really needed them, as the attitude he wants to establish is already there. Fortunately, this feeling isn’t something that happens throughout but maybe for Timberlake, this is very much a part of the Experience that he wants to share, that full vision that allows listeners to understand where he is coming from, even if some of those elements are unnecessary.

In comparison, the second Experience is good but not as good as the first. As a whole, both Experiences are masterful and are this generation’s Use Your Illusion, displaying an artist who is willing to share his heart and soul to everyone, and to see how far he can and is willing to go. At the same time, some of the songs here can be considered seeds for where he could find himself next. He doesn’t have to kowtow to anyone, and I feel Timberlake could make any type of music at this point and be a success, and I’m sure he is confident in knowing this. Anything he does could be considered a risk, and yet he is a risk taker doing the tasks by his own rules, within his own limitations, which are probably non-existent. A lot of music today is marked with designer labels, but it’s nice to hear a major label artist pulling off the kind of things today that were once part of the norm in the music industry years ago, while still understanding the standards that once were. To be limitless while holding to the limits shows incredible restraint, and one wonders what would happen if he really let himself go. Maybe that is his full vision, The 20/20 Experience in its grandest form. If we allow ourselves to fully see, imagine what would happen if we allowed ourselves to fully listen.

REVIEW: Loves It’s “All We Are”

 photo LovesIt_cover_zpsa33e4062.jpgLoves It are a Texas duo who understand the roots of rock’n’roll by weaving it with everything from R&B to country and pop, before the music became something else and more mainstream. All We Are is a 13-track album (their second) that goes back to a time when there was a ruthlessness about everything from sex, lust, love, and just mere passion for anything and everything, even the non-sexual. Vaughn Walters and Jenny Parrott both play and sing with a passion, and even that would have lead to arrests decades ago, and they do it with the kind of sensibility that has nothing to do with sensibilities. Or if something like a sensibility didn’t exist. “Dancin’”, “Western Swing Murder”, “Appalachian Ballad”, and “The Angels Sing” all sound like songs that would not fit together, but they fit perfectly here because of how they write and sing their songs, and how they’re each performed. “(Would You Like To Be) My First Divorce” hurts when it should but feels loving because it is. “Scab”? Peel it and find out much of a relief it is. Real country music? Hear the heartbreak of “Flag”. You don’t have to live in a town with a population of less than 500 to feel this, Loves It know how to pull all of the right strings because they truly love what they do, and what they do is with a passion. Fear it, or embrace and love it forever. They are a forever type of group.

SOME STUFFS: A new version of “Folsom Prison Blues” as performed by Chad Kichula

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Singer/songwriter Chad Kichula has a lot of influences and likes, and one of them is the late Johnny Cash. His version of “Folsom Prison Blues” shows how alive and vibrant this song is today, 58 years after it was originally recorded and released, and now you may hear this new take of a country music standard.

Kichula isn’t afraid to say he has to have a day job to make ends meet but the rest of the time, he’s busy singing and writing, and with a new album called The Whale’s Back, where he is joined by Etienne Soulodre, Danny Duperrault, Nat Bowen, Matt Kaip, and Philip Legrand to complete his music, stories, and songs. “Folsom Prison Blues” is one of the ten songs on the album, and Kichula would love for you to listen and perhaps become a fan of his. Welcome.

SOME STUFFS: Things get “Ugly” for British duo Vienna Ditto

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England’s Vienna Ditto released their Liar Liar album awhile back, and now they’re ready to commit themselves to getting their music out to you with a new EP called Ugly, the title track of which can be listened to below. Vocalist Hatty Taylor brings in a number of influences into her style, while multi-instrumentalist Nigel Firth knows how to complete the picture and add in his own colors into the spectrum. The CD version for Ugly also features four live tracks, which you may pre-order below through Bandcamp, which offers a full stream of the EP for your listening consideration.

Vienna Ditto have a small handful of shows lined up in the coming weeks, check them out if you can:

September 28… London, England (O2 Academy 2 Islington)
October 5… Oxford, England (The Jericho)
October 10… Reading, England (Oakford Social Club)
October 19… London, England (The Victoria, Dalston)
October 25… Nottingham, England (Jam Café)
October 27… London, England (The Amersham Arms)
November 23… Oxford, England (O2 Academy 2 Oxford)

VIDEO: Cocos Lovers’ “Emily”

Cocos Lovers‘ “Emily” begins sounding like it could be a nice country song, but then it opens up to something more bluesy before it finds its way into a nice Americana motif. At least that’s how I hear it, and now the song has been turned into a promotional film clip directed and edited by Joseph Russell. The song is from the band’s album Gold Or Dust (Smugglers).

Cocos (“co-coss”) Lovers call Kent, England home, but also bring in African influences into their sound as well. Earlier this year they did a string of shows throughout the country, and they recently posted a video tour diary, which you may view below.

The group are currently on tour right now throughout the UK so if you are in or near these cities, check out them and their sound.

September 25… Cambridge, England (The Portland Arms)
September 26… Manchester, England (The Castle Hotel)
September 27… Norwich, England (Open)
September 28… Winchester, England (The Railway)
September 29… Whitstable, England (The Duke of Cumberland)
October 3… Bristol, England (The Canteen)
October 4… Nottingham, England (Malt Cross)
October 5… Birmingham, England (Ort Café)
November 7… Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales(Blue Sky Café)
November 8… Narbeth, Pembrokeshire, Wales (Span Arts)
November 11… Cardiff, Wales(Fizzi Events)

VIDEO: Elise Davis’ “Make The Kill”

“A Nashville version of Liz Phair”? This had me interested. Elise Davis begins “Make The Kill” sounding more like Johnny Cash, complete with “a whiskey in my hand” before getting deeper into the song on what she wants to get rid of. I then realized that it’s not so much Liz Phair I hear, but I can see the association. It still doesn’t work for me, but what does work is Elise Davis, her voice, and her lyrics. Keep an eye and ear out for her, especially with the release of an EP called Big Ol’ Dreams. She has a small handful of shows coming up so if you want to be moved further with her music, head to these spots:

September 27… Los Angeles, CA (The Bootleg Theater)
October 1… Little Rock, AR (Sticky Fingerz)
October 3… San Antonio, TX (Sam’s Burger Joint)

AUDIO: Lizzie Davis’ “Geography”

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Lizzie Davis is a 19-year old singer/songwriter/musician who will be releasing her second album very soon called Latitudes. Her publicist says Davis reminds her of Zooey Deschanel’s group She & Him, but decide for yourself with the song “Geography”.

AUDIO: The Lonesome Southern Comfort Company’s “When He’s Down”

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While a name like The Lonesome Southern Comfort Company may sound like a group that originated from the south or somewhere above the Mason-Dixon line, this group actually has Swiss origins. As history shows us, Europe have become huge fans of Americana, which for some is considered the music America has forgotten, at least for awhile. It would take another continent to throw back “our” music in order for us to say “hey, we shouldn’t have forgotten this.” Meanwhile, The Lonesome Southern Comfort Company have taken their cue to record some powerful music and will continue to do so with their forthcoming third album, due out on October 28th, called The Big Hunt (On The Camper). To check out how the Swiss do Americana, check out a track called “When He’s Down”, as this will be one of the tunes on the forthcoming release.

The band will be doing a small handful of shows in Europe next month in support of the new record, be sure to see them if you’re able to do so.
October 4… Lugano, Switzerland (Living Room)
October 6… Vic, Spain (Jazzcava)
October 10… Poitiers, France (Le Meteo)
October 11… Thionville, France (Nimby)
October 17… Vienna, Austria (Shelter)
October 18… Mannheim, Germany (Der Bock)
October 20… Nürnberg, Germany (Ludwig)

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