Last year was an eventful year for Greg Trooper, he wrote a large flock of new songs and hoped beginning of this year to have a new album. Away Sometimes things do something else, because there happened a few things that the production process severely disrupted. He was forced to move twice, was robbed and then received a visit from Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane left a devastating trail along the northeast coast of the U.S.. In particular, Rockaway Park, where Greg lived at that time, was very hard hit. His house was completely under water and was declared completely uninhabitable. Yet Greg Trooper refused to be put off, finally he is a trooper;-). After a few weeks with his family on spare beds have tarry, he stroked down in Brooklyn. Fortunately, now so close the Willow studios where he (Loudon Wainwright III, Elvis Costello, Sophie B Hawkins) undisturbed started it with his bag full of musical baggage. With his old buddy, producer Stewart Lerman Songs full of human emotions fateful situations, soul-searching, floundering but also with hope and resilience to look to find happiness and better times ahead. Surrounded by some of his favorite musicians as strings virtuoso Larry Campbell (Levon Helm, Willie Nelson) drummer Kenneth Blevins (John Hiatt) and with guest appearances by Lucy Wainwright Roche and son Jack on drums made Greg Trooper again a beautiful and atmospheric album.
A record that is equal parts beauty and venom, Ski Mask percolates with the kind of polymorphous pop and hooky, left-of-center rock songs that have long been the band’s stock and trade. Arguably the most sonically diverse albumP3 320 KBPS Islands has ever made (which is saying something), Ski Mask plays out like Thorburn’s personal frustrations writ large. Songs like “Death Drive” “Nil” and “Of Corpse” balance beautiful melodies against some of the darkest lyrical missives that Thorburn has ever written.
This collaboration of roots pop married couple Guthrie and Irion with Jeff Tweedy and Patrick Sansone continues the bond of the Wilco musicians with the Guthrie family first established with 1998 and 2000’s Mermaid Ave. projects. It was then that Tweedy took Woody Guthrie’s unpublished lyrics and set them to new music. The approach here is different since Guthrie and Irion are more aligned with roots pop than rugged folk. Nowhere is that more clear than on the opening track; the playful, jaunty singalong “Chairman Meow” (not surprisingly the name of a cat), the disc’s first single. The album—the duo’s third– is divided between sunshiny, often West Coast styled strummy pop and a darker, more meditative style, the latter likely heightened by the influence of the Wilco guys’ more eclectic, experimental nature. There isn’t much here musically to connect the dots between the more earthy sound of Guthrie’s dad Arlo or grandfather Woody. But the sheer songwriting quality and the craft of the production that occasionally adds strings, pianos, and extra reverb is clearly the work of musicians who take their jobs seriously, even in the most romantic moments of “Wherever She Is It’s Spring.”
Prolific Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist Craig Duncan’s Blue Suede Bluegrass collection includes 13 spirited instrumental renditions of Elvis Presley hits like “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Love Me Tender,” and more, all performed with textbook precision by some of the area’s finest session players.
Mariee Sioux’s impressive debut album Faces In The Rocks is one of those rare concoctions of beautiful simplicity and haunting intricacies that is absolutely captivating and timeless. Mariee’s sweet voice and poetic folk song structures call to mind Kath Bloom or Marissa Nadler, yet her delicate arrangements mix elements of bluegrass and Native American music. Sioux has shared the stage with kindred spirit Alela Diane.
The beguiling “Wizard Flurry Home” opens the album. Mariee’s voice and the surface melody sound like a crossbreed of Joni Mitchell and Mazzy Star, yet the ghostly flute provided by Native American multi-instrumentalist Gentle Thunder bestows a deeper dimension to the song.
“Buried In Teeth” weaves that chilling flute, militant percussion, the hermit mythos of Jandek, and the angelic trills of Joan Baez into a retro pop-folk melody complete with a cultish backing choir. The Native American flute steals the spotlight on the mesmeric “Wild Eyes”.
The exotic “Two Tongues” is a heady blend of Sioux’s transcendental vocals, sprawling narrative lyrics, Gentle Thunder’s spellbinding flute, and mandolin courtesy of Mariee’s father Gary Sobonya.
The pretty “Bundles” is played in a more traditional folk style, with a gently intricate strum beneath Mariee’s seraphic voice as she susurrates the trance inducing verses.
With American recording studios open to him for the first time, Jesse Winchester traveled to Nashville and enlisted producer Norbert Putnam, who assembled the elements of the Nashville sound, with its strings and horns and backup choruses, to make an album that moved him more toward lush country and especially R&B. Winchester’s flexible voice, capable of gliding into a sweet falsetto, made the latter more successful than might have been expected. What kept the album from being one of his better collections was not the slick production — it was the material. A year after a media blitz had failed to make him a star, Winchester was starting to show signs of strain. He led the album off with the title track, an explicit expression of devotion to his wife, who he mentioned by name. This was followed by a sour on-the-road song, “A Showman’s Life,” and later on there were tributes to driving and drinking. In fact, the most heartfelt song was “Little Glass of Wine,” an alcoholic’s love song. None of this was up to his songwriting standard.
Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty collects 18 cuts from mercurial post-punk/indie pop/garage folk legends Camper Van Beethoven, marking the group’s first foray into the murky world of the “career overview.” Like the band’s nearly 25-year career, Strength and Beauty is built on the CVB holy trinity of endurance, charisma, and attitude, all three of which were put to the test when the band approached Virgin Records about buying back the rights to 1988’s Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and 1989’s Key Lime Pie. In keeping with big-label stereotypes, the answer was no, so CVB re-recorded five tracks for the anthology, doing everything in their power to re-create the magic as faithfully as they could. David Lowery’s voice tries admirably to emulate its ’80s incarnation on classics like Key Lime’s “All Her Favorite Fruit” and “When I Win the Lottery,” and the musicianship and production are top-notch, but fans who held those final two records close to their hearts during the ensuing Cracker years will notice the difference. That said, the rest of the album is top-notch, featuring enough instant classics like “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and “The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon” to turn a whole new generation on to punk-infused, ska-kissed Americana. At best, it’s a tasty sampler on which to judge whether or not a listener is ready to dive into the mammoth five-disc Cigarettes & Carrot Juice: The Santa Cruz Years, and it dutifully doles out all of the quirky charm, genre-bending musicianship, and good-natured invective that infected so many people during the band’s heydays.