Monthly Archives: February 2010

You should be listening to Josh Ritter!

Josh Ritter is the Idaho born and raised singer/songwriter who is critically praised and commercially hidden from the masses with the exception of Ireland, where he is a star.  His sparse but well crafted songs have drawn comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen which is the equivalent of the holy trilogy in music.

Josh self recorded and released his self titled debut album, which caught the attention of Glen Hasard (The Frames, The Swell Season).  This fortuitous meeting was the catalyst for Ritter’s voyage to Ireland and the genesis of his fervent following of Irish lads and lasses.  Due to his popularity and his ability to hawk his wares (CD’s and merchandise) he was able to quit his day job and devote himself full time to his musical passion.

His follow up, The Golden Age of Radio was recorded and self produced and released in 2000.  He then signed with Signature Sounds and they released the album nationally.  This began the exaltation of critics and the indifference of consumers.  Hello Starling was released in 2003 and Joan Baez covered “Wings” from the album on her release Dark Chords on a Big Guitar.

Josh Ritter Discography:

  • Josh Ritter
  • The Golden Age of Radio
  • Hello Starling
  • The Animal Years
  • In the Dark-Live at Vicar Street
  • The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter’s Top 5 Songs:

  1. Here at the Right Time (The Animal Years)
  2. Wildfires (Released on bonus EP)
  3. Wings (Hello Starling)
  4. Girl in the War (The Animal Years)
  5. Me & Jiggs (The Golden Age of Radio)

Ritter did nothing to lose his critic’s darling status with the release of The Animal Years and 2007’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter.  Over the years, he has built a solid fan base, opened for Bob Dylan, and has had a tribute band in Ireland dedicated to his work. 

Ritter’s latest album, So Runs the World Away will be released in Ireland in April 2010 and the worldwide release will be in May of 2010.

Check out Josh Ritter at www.joshritter.com.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rcUsFatXw4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yrNLLw92F0&feature=related

Great music awaits!


You should be listening to The Jayhawks!

The Jayhawks are the harmonizing alt/country, rootsy, rock, with a touch of pop/folk band that emerged from Minneapolis, Minnesota in the mid 80’s.  Considered by many to be one of the forefathers of the then bourgeoning alt/country scene.

Formed in 1985 and co-helmed by Gary Louris and Mark Olson, The Jayhawks released their self titled debut on the indie label Bunkhouse Records.  In an attempt to snag a major label deal, the band recorded a set of demos, and then due to tragic and unforeseen circumstances, Gary temporarily left the band.  Upon his return, the collection of demos was fashioned into their sophomore release Blue Earth.

In 1992 their musical aspirations came to fruition with the major label signing to American Records and the release of the major label debut Hollywood Town Hall.  The album was well received and spawned the hit single “Waiting for the Sun”.  1995 was a tumultuous year for the band, with expensive production of their finely crafted release Tomorrow the Green Grass, low sales compared to label expectations, and the unforeseen exodus of Mark Olson. 

With the departure of Olson, Louris composed most of the songs on the 1997 release Sound of Lies.  The results were a menagerie of musical styles that polarized the original sound of the band.  The band continued to expand their sound with the 2000 release Smile.  It had a certain pop sensibility to it and the single “I’m Going to Make You Love Me” and was featured in a Ralph Lauren commercial and the T.V. show The O.C. 

The band’s last hurrah was the 2003 release Rainy Day Music. The album seemed to be a homecoming to their musical roots with sparse, acoustic guitars, pedal and lap steel, and banjo. 

The Jayhawks Discography:

  • The Jayhawks
  • Blue Earth
  • Hollywood Town Hall
  • Tomorrow the Green Grass
  • Sound of Lies
  • Smile
  • Rainy Day Music
  • Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology

The Jayhawks Top 5 Songs

  1. What Led Me to this Town (Smile)
  2. Blue (Tomorrow the Green Grass)
  3. I’m Going to Make You Love me (Smile)
  4. Big Star (Sound of Lies)
  5. Waiting for the Sun (Hollywood Town Hall)

Over the years, there has been some reunion talk and speculation based on the occasional Jayhawks gig.  Gary and Mark have occasionally toured together and billed the event “From The Jayhawks: An evening with Mark Olson and Gay Louris, Together Again”.  They also recorded and released an album, 2009’s impressive Ready for the Flood.

 2009 also saw the multi formatted release of Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology.

Check out The Jayhawks at www.thejayhawks.net

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUVVGQjWFg4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FCLqM5dIHk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEVvOATOCGo&feature=related

Great music awaits!


You should be listening to Silversun Pickups!

Silversun Pickups is the alt/rock band from California that broke on to the music scene with the release of their sophomore effort “Swoon”.  The bands genesis can be traced to Los Angeles’s premier club scene, most notably Silverlake Lounge.  The Silverlake scene was also home to such artists as Elliott Smith and Rilo Kiley. 

In 2005, Silversun Pickups released their EP Pikul which contains twenty-three tracks.  Seventeen of those tracks are untitled and 44 sec. long.  Not sure the reasoning behind this but it is not uncommon for artists to get creative with the CD tracks, spacing, and hidden tracks.

In 2006 they released their full length debut Carnavas that spawned two Top 10 hits “Lazy Eye” and Well Thought Out Twinkles”.  The latter made it on the soundtrack for “Tony Hawks Proving Ground” In 2007 they opened for Foo Fighters a few times during their European tour. 

Swoon was their sonically diverse follow up that was released in 2009.  It was a critical and commercial success with their first single “Panic Switch” getting heavy rotation on the radio as well as MTV and VH1.  The success of the album resulted in a five song performance on MTV’s Unplugged as well as some of their songs finding their way in to television shows like The O.C. and The Vampire Diaries.  2009 ended with a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist which elicited some controversy due to the reasonable success of their previous work and their standing in musical realm. 

Silversun Pickups Discography

  • Pikul (EP)
  • Carnavas
  • Swoon

Top 5 Silversun Pickups Songs:

  1. Panic Switch (Swoon)
  2. Well Thought Out Twinkles (Carnavas)
  3. There’s No Secrets This Year (Swoon)
  4. Lazy Eye (Carnavas)
  5. The Royal We (Swoon)

The band has a certain, familiar sound that is likened to the grunge sound of the 90’s but with melody and a sense of structure.  Comparisons to The Smashing Pumpkins seem a bit premature given their comparatively small body of work but are reasonable due to their use of overdub and distortion on guitar. 

Check out Silversun Pickups at www.silversunpickups.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG8fugqFn9Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twL3ms4bjZk

Great Music Awaits


You should be listening to Reckless Kelly!

Reckless Kelly is the rocking alt/country Austin based band via Bend, Oregon, where they originally formed, but moved to Texas as quick as they could.  The band was organized and helmed by Braun brothers, Cody and Willy.  Their father happened to have a western swing band, Muzzie and the Boys, where the boys cut their early musical chops. 

Reckless Kelly’s debut “Millican” was released in 1998 and the title is a reference to Millican Oregon.  The album has one of my favorite songs “Drink Your Whiskey Down”.  In 2000 they released two albums “Acoustic: Live at Stubbs”, a great Austin barbeque joint, and “The Day”.  The live album features covers of Bob Dylan (Subterranean Homesick Blues), AC/DC (You Shook Me All Night Long), and Led Zeppelin (Whole Lotta Love).

In 2003 they switched labels and released “Under the Table and Above the Sun” on Sugar Hill Records who have had such high profile artist as Robert Earl Keen, James McMurtry, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Townes Van Zandt to name a few. They followed up with 2005’s “Wicked Twisted Road” which had three singles “These Tears’, “Stick Around”, and “Baby’s Got a Whole Lot More” that broke the Top 10 on the Texas Music Chart.  In 2006 the live CD/DVD “Reckless Kelly Was Here” was released

In 2008 they again switched labels (Yup Roc Records) and released “Bulletproof” which the band taking umbrage with the current sociopolitical landscape.  The single “Ragged as the Road” peaked at #1 on the Texas Music Chart. 

Reckless Kelly Discography:

  • Millican
  • Acoustic: Live at Stubbs
  • The Day
  • Under the Table and Above the Sun
  • Wicked Twisted Road
  • Reckless Kelly Was Here
  • Best of the Sugar Hill Years
  • Bulletproof
  • Somewhere In Time

Top 5 Reckless Kelly Songs: (in no particular order)

  1. Let’s Just Fall (Under the table and Above the Sun)
  2. Drink Your Whiskey Down (Millican)
  3. Baby’s Got a Whole Lot More (Wicked Twisted Road)
  4. May Peace Find You Tonight (Under the table and Above the Sun)
  5. American Blood (Bulletproof)

Their music is typical alt/country with guitars (acoustic, electric, & occasional steel), bass, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, and drums.  They have a surprising pop sensibility with catchy hooks and well crafted songs.  It is their ability to take tired themes (love, loss, redemption, etc…) and rejuvenate them with a fresh sound that is a combination of their musical prowess and the gruff, weathered vocal styling of Willy Braun.  They are known for their straight forward musical approach, the connectivity and energy of their live shows, and the fierce loyalty of their fans

Check out Reckless Kelly at www.recklesskelly.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpUXrDrUfDM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko2BRa5o_84

Great music awaits!


You should be listening to One Day as a Lion!

One Day as a Lion is the musical collaboration and eponymous debut EP of acid tongue, fire and brimstone, anti politico Zack de la Rocha (Rage Against the Machine) and drummer Jon Theodore (Mars Volta). 

The band’s namesake is homage to a black and white picture taken by photographer George Rodriguez that had the verbiage “It is better to live on day as a lion, than a thousand years as a lamb”.  Zack and Jon have known each other for a few years and have a mutual admiration for the other’s musical work. This led to informal jam sessions at a friend’s studio and culminated in the recording and release of the five song EP. One Day as a Lion was released on Bad Religion guitarist’s label ANTI-.

Tracks:

  • Wild International
  • Ocean View
  • Last Letter
  • If You Fear Dying
  • One Day as a Lion

The overall vibe on the EP is not an exodus sonically or lyrically for either musician.  The lyrics are politically and emotionally charged, the music is in your face antagonistic, and the overall delivery is the equivalent of a sledgehammer.  Bombastic drums and hypnotic keyboards bolster the fiery vocal release of de la Rocha.  The album has urgency to it in both the spirit of the music and the delivery of the lyrics. 

While the five songs seem to play quickly, what the album lacks in length, it more than makes up for with the strength of each song.  It also brings the realization of the potency of de la Rocha’s delivery and the void that was created musically by the disbanding of Rage Against the Machine.

There had been initial discussion/rumors of a follow up full length album in 2009 but it seems that the long overdue reconciliation of Zack and his former band mates from Rage have derailed those plans. 

While I am a fan of reconciliation and Rage Against the Machine, I’m selfishly and momentarily disappointed because there is no new music from either group at this time.

Check out One Day as a Lion at www.onedayasalion.org.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mKtt7F0rPU

Great music awaits!


You should be listening to Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard!

Jay Farrar (Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service) teamed up to write and record an album for the documentary “One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s “Big Sur”.  While originally set to record a few songs, the process and collaboration was so fruitful that it turned into a full length album which is named after the movie.

With Kerouac’s connection to jazz, both Farrar and Gibbard seem to be an odd choice to write and represent the spirit of Jack.  However, given the tragic nature of the book and Kerouac’s immersion into the depths of alcoholism and debilitating depression, Farrar with his naturally dour vocal styling and proclivity to writing deep emotionally damaged lyrics was a competent selection, while Gibbard seemed an awkward fit with his more melodic voice and previous synth heavy work with The Postal Service. 

Any trepidation I had concerning the pairing was quickly assuaged as Gibbard vocals leapt off the first track “California Zephyr”.  I was amazed at how natural he sounded reciting the words of Farrar who wrote eleven of the twelve songs on the album.  Gibbard wrote the title track “One Fast Move or I’m Gone”. 

Given the inspiration for the album it is no surprise that musically, the album is steeped in Americana with acoustic, electric, & steel guitar, lap & pedal steel, harmonica, piano, and percussions.  A majority of the lyrics were taken from Kerouac’s 1962 novel “Big Sur” and Jack gets writing credit on all of the songs except Gibbard’s lyrical contribution on the title track.

The irony of this project is that as dark and damaged as Kerouac was; the album is hopeful with a vulnerable beauty etched in the music and lyrics.

Check out Jay Farrar & Ben and Ben Gibbard:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXfUSmdGa6E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNIWA5esH4o&feature=related

Great music awaits!


You should be listening to The Avett Brothers!

The Avett Brothers are the folksy, rocking, alt/country with a tinge of bluegrass band from North Carolina.  With such a diverse pedigree, is it any wonder the Rick Rubin took notice, signed them to his label, and produced their major label debut “I and Love and You”?

As mentioned, I and Love and You is the major label debut but actually finds The Avett Brothers in the double digits for their release total. They have released numerous albums as well as EP’s and live albums.

Loosely formed in 2000 just prior to be the end of Seth and Scott Avett’s rock band Nemo, the brothers are joined by Bob Crawford on stand up bass.  Their self titled debut was release in 2000 and in 2002 released their first album “Country Was” as a full band.

In 2007 the Avett Brothers won the Americana Music Association Duo/Group of the Year award and 2007 Emerging Artist of the Year.  In 2009 they opened for the Dave Matthews Band’s spring tour across the southern United States as well as an opening spot for Wide Spread Panic.  And, to add to an already great year, Rolling Stone Magazine named The Avett Brothers “The Artist to Watch in 2009”. 

While their major label is not a dramatic musical departure from their previous work, however, there is less reliance on banjo, with the exception of “January Wedding” while the piano plays a prominent role on this ballad heavy album.  The album is sonically rich with harmonies provided by Scott and Seth.  The melodies are tight and the musical arrangement has a certain level of complication but not in an overly dramatic fashion.

The Avett Brothers Discography:

  • The Avett Bros.
  • Country Was
  • Live at the Double Door Inn
  • A Carolina Jubilee
  • Swept Away (EP)
  • Mignonette
  • Live, Vol. 2
  • Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions
  • The Gleam
  • Emotionalism
  • The Second Gleam
  • I and Love and You

 Key tracks form I and Love and You:

  • Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
  • Ten Thousand Words
  • I and Love and You
  • Ill With Want
  • Kick Drum Heart

Check out The Avett Brothers @ www.theavettbrothers.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgnZ0wEi2JU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqZZlL0l5Uk&feature=channel

The Avett Brothers’ music is available at iTunes, record stores, and www.theavettbrothers.com

Great music awaits!