the alphabet project roars back from vacation…there’s a fog upon LA, sitting here in blue J way
Going through the library and sharing things I like, and things you might. If you missed the earlier posts, find them on my page by clicking on my name or avatar, and then find my featured blogs. (To answer the questions as to why I’m not providing links, clips, videos or pictures…it takes too long and I figure if you want to know more, you’ll find it.)
My ears have always enjoyed a certain type of British folk music and of late I’ve started to seek out more and more of it. While Fairport Convention and the work of Sandy Denny were my only guideposts for a long time, I’m just now taking time to read and listen to learn more. The internet makes it easy to explore and the Amazon UK site is a good place to hear samples. One young woman I’ve enjoyed of late is Jackie Oates who was a finalist in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk award in 2003 and won their Horizon award in 2009. She has three solo releases available and the latest is Hyperboreans which was produced by brother Jim Moray ( a multi-instrumentalist, producer and performer who adds visual elements to his folk concerts) and is out in the states on Bjork’s One Little Indian label although it looks like it’s digital-only. It seems that when you read any reviews about female folk singers in the UK they always compare the artist to Denny and that seems hard to get away from as she did set the gold standard. But Jackie, while having those Denny-like moments, is a much more modern take on the old traditional school of Celtic and sea shanties. Like Rachel Unthank, who she played with for several years, Jackie is reinventing and offering up a something very different.
I’ll stay in the UK for a moment while I mention Jane Weaver who combines elements of folk with electronica. She was with Brit-pop band Kill Laura and did the folkier Misty Dixon project. She also runs the label Bird Records. While her work might be a little too left of center for some of you, sometimes it’s a nice break from the twang. I’ve got Seven Day Smile from 2006 and she also has a newer album out this year I have yet to check out.
If you blinked too fast last October you may have missed the project from Jay Ferrar and Benjamin Gibbard, the vocalist from Death Cab for Cutie. A sort of soundtrack for the movie One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur, the lyrics are all Kerouac’s and I’ve read that the whole thing was recorded in just five days. This is a beautiful recording even if you’re not a Kerouac fanatic, and it leans more to Son Volt than to Death Cab.
Jeffrey Foucault is a singer-songwriter I listen to a lot, and he is entwined with a bunch of musicians that seem to take up a big part of my library. Married to singer Kris Delmhorst, his 2006 album Ghost Repeater was produced by Bo Ramsey, who is married to Pieta Brown. And he often works with pedal steel man Eric Heywood (who had a great interview in No Depression…find it in the archives) and who himself is married to a singer named Kristin Mooney whose video I recently posted. But back to Jeffrey…he has recently released a project with Mark Erelli (who is married to…never mind) of murder ballads titled Seven Curses that is only available in Europe so far. I tracked down a copy a couple weeks ago and its really special. Hopefully it’s on a release schedule from their domestic label. I can’t imagine a ND reader who doesn’t know his work but if you haven’t checked him out, almost any CD will do. He’s that good.
An ongoing theme of mine has been that some of the best Americana these days is being made in both Canada and Australia. Jenny Whitely, who started out with Ottawa bluegrass band Heartbreak Hill, has been making some tasty solo releases these past few years and her latest is Forgive or Forget. This 10 song collection is produced by Steve Dawson who lends his pedal steel work to the mix, and it’s for the most part a mellow country endeavor that really showcases Jenny’s vocals.
Jill Andrews who you may know and love from the now broken up everybodyfields, has put out an EP that is just beautiful. Her songs are rich and complex, the voice is strong and instrumentation is excellent. One of the finest vocalists out there, she’s playing in the Tennessee-North Carolina area now and will venture to Seattle-Portland in August.
Another Canadian, another Jill…Jill Barber is someone I don’t know all that much about but I somehow ended up with several tracks in my library that come from 2006 release “For All Time” that are really nice. She is based in Vancouver, tours Canada quite a bit and has four releases available. The tracks I have are what I’d call country-torch-twang. Need to learn more about her.
If like me you are a fan of Tennessee-based band Glossary, you’ll love the solo release from front man Joey Kneiser called The All-Night Bedroom Revival which has been offered up as a free download on the band’s website. I’ve read comparisons to Springsteen, Patterson Hood, Townes…all of which make it hard for anyone to live up to. But he does have a great voice for the songs he writes, and here you get him stripped down. He’s an original with a story to tell for sure.
This country has what seems sometimes like thousands of troubadours who spend their time writing songs, traveling the highways and playing at coffee houses, small festivals during the summer months, friendly churches and house concerts. They record albums to sell at shows, and try to carve a sustainable existence one day at a time. It must be a tough life, one that I envy and imagine to be best left to the younger folks. Jonathan Byrd seems to be such an artist (I’m just sort of guessing here) and he has I think about five albums to his credit and another collaboration with duo Dromedary. The Law and the Lonesome from 2008 is a collection of Americana and folk music to start out with.
If you don’t know Australian Jordie Lane, check out his Fireside Bellows project or his last solo release Sleeping Patterns. A fairly young man in his mid-twenties, I’ve seen him described as a mixture of both Wainwright men and Jeff Tweedy. His music drifts from soft country and folk, to indie or alternative rock. I prefer the more roots oriented stuff he does, but its also nice to hear him stretch out as he figures out which road to take in his musical journey.
Between Us, the Jules Shear duet release from almost a dozen years ago remains one of my most favorite albums of all time. Always a fan of his unique vocal and guitar style (plays it upside down in open G with an E bass), as well as his songwriting skills, this title brought him together with fifteen other artists including Patty Griffin, Susan Cowsill, Freedy Johnson and Margo Timmons to name just a few. Shear has a great catalog starting with the Funky Kings and Jules and the Polar Bears, but it is his latter more acoustic work that began with this release that I like the best. Jules seems to have slipped off the great internet highway, as he doesn’t have an active site or a Facebook presence. Married to artist and musician Pal Shazar, I think they live somewhere in upstate New York and I’m always checking in to see if he is playing or making music somewhere. If you choose to check out some other titles, I also recommend 2006’s Dreams Don’t Count. (I’m proud of myself that I have been able to write something about him here that doesn’t mention Cyndi Lauper or Aimee Mann. Oops.)