TUESDAY: Albert Hammond, Jr.
Many years have passed since the release of his two solo records, 2006’s Yours to Keep and 2008’s ¿Cómo Te Llama?, and truthfully, the person who created those songs is in a very different place now. Back then Hammond Jr. was swept up in a whirlwind, one-fifth of The Strokes, indulging in an intoxicating cocktail of excess and all-consuming romances. When he finally sobered up, getting back into writing music was a daunting challenge. [...] Initial sessions for [2015's] Momentary Masters began as a three-day stint in June 2014, an experimental getaway to test the water with his new band. Having established a solid unit touring the AHJ EP, he was keen to see how Hammarsing Kharhmar (the frontman of Mon Khmer; who’s been playing guitar with Hammond Jr. since 2008), guitarist Mikey Hart (Bleachers), bassist Jordan Brooks, and drummer Jeremy Gustin (Delicate Steve, Marc Ribot), would work together on his new material. Along with Oberg they convened at Hammond Jr.’s home in upstate New York, a converted barn he calls One Way Studios became their HQ. The space is half gearhead heaven, half welcoming living room, with high ceilings and windows that look out onto the woods. [...] For Hammond Jr. there’s an unwavering thrill in creation and completion, and a hunger too for what’s next: he’s excited to get these songs on the road. Momentary Masters may be concerned with the duality of the human condition, and the recognition that life with all its peaks, plateaus, and lows is a mere blip—“enjoy the weirdness, because it’s all so fleeting”—but ultimately, in these succinct rock songs he’s communicated something that will morph in meaning through time, both to himself and to those who are listening.
Sounds like: Julian Casablancas, Nickel Eye, The Virgins
WEDNESDAY: David Wax Museum
"Suz and I started this band as friends," says David Wax, "but now we’re married and have a child and have our family on the road with us. The stakes are different." Those stakes are what lie at the heart of David Wax Museum's fourth and boldest studio album to date, Guesthouse. It's the sound of a band reconciling the accountability of marriage and parenthood with the uncertainty and challenges of life on the road; of coming to terms with the limitations of the "folk" tag that launched their career and pushing past it into uncharted musical territory; of reimagining their entire approach in the studio to capture the magic and the bliss of their live show. In typical David Wax Museum fashion, the songs on Guesthouse are simplistic and sophisticated, elegant and plainspoken all at once. Rather than succumbing to the weight of the newfound responsibilities that landed on their doorstep, the band has leaned into the challenges to capture a brilliant portrait of the messy beauty of it all. The roots of David Wax Museum stretch back nearly a decade, and all the way from New England to Mexico. As a student at Harvard, Wax began traveling south of the border to study and immerse himself in the country's traditional music and culture. Back in Boston, he met fiddler/singer Suz Slezak, whose love of traditional American and Irish folk music fused with Wax's Mexo-Americana into a singular, energetic blend that captivated audiences and critics alike. [...] Written partially in Mexico and partially in western Massachusetts, the lyrics on Guesthouse find Wax writing with more direct, personal honesty than ever before. [...] The title track, which draws on several traditional Mexican songs for musical inspiration, is a tongue-in-cheek reflection on the life of a traveling musician hunting for a free place to crash, while "Lose Touch With The World" faces down the reality of living a life far removed from that of your friends and family, and “Young Man” is an earnest musing on growing older. [...] It's a sentiment brought beautifully to life on "Everything Changes," as Wax and Slezak sing, "Everything changes / when two becomes three." The song was written in response to all of the good-natured warnings about what having a child would mean for the couple, the freedom and sleep and sanity they might lose out on. Instead, they choose to focus on everything they've gained: a beautiful daughter, a stronger bond with their families and fans than ever before, and without a doubt, the most exciting album of their career. For David Wax Museum, the stakes may be higher, but that just means the rewards are even bigger.
Sounds like: Joe Pug, Frontier Ruckus, Mount Moriah
THURSDAY: Promised Land Sound
Promised Land Sound, Nashville’s finest purveyors of febrile root-work psychedelia, chose to begin at the beginning; they named themselves after an immortal road-dogging Chuck Berry jam and proceeded from there. [...] Promised Land Sound emerged from the fertile Nashville garage scene—members have played with PUJOL, Denney and the Jets, and members of JEFF The Brotherhood and Those Darlins, among others—but they have quickly evolved to deploy a more varied country, soul, pop, and psych palette than most of their brethren and sistren. [...] The current lineup also prominently features invaluable Nashville stalwarts Peter Stringer-Hye (The Paperhead) on additional vocals and rhythm guitar and polymath Mitch Jones (Fly Golden Eagle) on keyboards, as well as handling co-production and string arrangements on the record. In 2013 Paradise of Bachelors released Promised Land Sound’s first full-length album, co-produced by Jem Cohen (the Ettes and the Parting Gifts), Andrija Tokic (known for his work with Alabama Shakes), and Nashville guitar wizard (and Hiss Golden Messenger band member) William Tyler, who also guests on the record. In 2014 and 2015, the band toured with Angel Olsen, Alabama Shakes, and Natalie Prass, among others. If the first album resembled, as Uncut enthusiastically described it, “what the Byrds might have sounded had Gram Parsons joined the band a year or two earlier,” then For Use and Delight suggests a heavier, darker potential meeting of Jim Ford and S.F. Sorrow-era Pretty Things (without all the conceptual baggage, but retaining the razor-wire guitars and unabashed ambition.) But that’s all fantasy rock and roll gaming, and lest you think Promised Land Sound is a band that aspires to sound like the sum of their record collections, think again: the fact is that there just aren’t many other bands writing and inhabiting rock and roll songs of this scale and structural and performative sophistication. The Chiltonisms and chiaroscuro of “She Takes Me There” recall Big Star, but not so much in sound as in sentiment—the melancholy dislocation of a Southern band in a Southern city, but existing strangely out of time and pushing beyond geography. Listen to the bittersweet swagger of “Otherwordly Pleasures” or “Oppression”: despite the classic psych and pop influences, Promised Land Sound is in some essential sense a staunchly Southern band, unselfconscious classicists eager to anchor their songs in traditional forms while tearing at the edges of the vernacular.
Sounds like: Reno Bo, Phil Cook, Stone Jack Jones
FRIDAY: Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs
“I think that it’s the jewel in our crown,” Holly Golightly says of Coulda Shoulda Woulda, the eighth Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs album. “I think it’s absolutely amazing, to be released October 16, 2015 on Transdreamer Records. When you do something for a really long time, it stands to reason that you’re gonna become more proficient at it.” Anyone who’s followed the artist during her long and prolific career knows that she’s not prone to braggadocio or self-promotion. So when she expresses such enthusiasm about her own work, one tends to pay attention. Over the course of a career that spans over 25 years and more than 35 albums, the English singer-guitarist has established a singular niche as one of rock ’n’ roll’s fiercest iconoclasts. Having built a powerful and influential body of U.K.-based work that established her as an indie/D.I.Y. icon, she relocated to a farm in rural Georgia to establish a new creative identity as half of Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, a scrappy, resourceful duo with Texas-bred multi-instrumentalist and sometime vocalist Lawyer Dave. Over the course of six albums, the pair has carved out a catalog of elegantly idiosyncratic Americana, drawing from a bottomless well of country, blues, folk, gospel ands rockabilly influences to create music that’s deeply personal and effortlessly accessible. [...] Born in the Kensington section of London, in the same hospital that Jimi Hendrix died in, Holly Golightly grew up in a bohemian household and was drawn to music early in life, embracing punk rock and vintage soul and eventually falling in with the now-legendary Medway rock ’n’ roll scene via her then-boyfriend Bruce Brand, drummer of Billy Childish’s seminal garage-primitive combo Thee Headcoats. Although she’d never sung a note in public previously, an impromptu guest spot singing with Thee Headcoats led to Holly becoming a member of that outfit’s sister group, Thee Headcoatees, with whom she recorded eight albums. [...] After a quarter-century of music-making, Holly Golightly’s creative passion remains as strong as ever. “When I started recording, I had no ambition, and I wasn’t thinking far ahead,” she says. “If somebody had told me when I was 17 that by the time I was 45 I would have done all this stuff, and that I’d still be up in front of people singing songs I’ve written, I would have said that there’s no way I’d have the balls to do that. It still surprises me that I can look back on all of these records like a diary, and that I can see them as part of the process of me learning how to do this and how to plough my own path.
Sounds like: The Greenhornes, The Dirtbombs, The Detroit Cobras
The "alt country" music scene isn't as big as it used to be, but there's still a lot of vintage twang in the Twin Cities, courtesy of the Cactus Blossoms. The Minneapolis group, fronted by a pair of brothers, harkens back to the roots of country with their earnest songs and pristine harmonizing. A Cactus Blossoms song is like a time tunnel, taking you back to when country music first started crackling on the radio in the 1940s and '50s. The band's hand-in-glove harmonies mimic some of the giants of early country, groups like the Louvin Brothers and the Delmore Brothers, and even later on the Everly Brothers. Maybe it's a brotherly thing. The Cactus Blossoms frontmen have different last names, but are 20-something brothers, Page Burkum and Jack Torrey. Even though the band's recreation of the traditional country sound is uncanny, Burkum says it's not intentional. "I'm sure it would seem that way to people," he said. "Like, 'Oh, they're really trying to do this old style.' But I think it's more just not caring that it's old, and liking it." The two brothers didn't inherit their vast knowledge of early country music. It was more like an excavation. Whenever they listened to a more mainstream folk or country star, they'd want to dig out their influences. "You hear an Everly Brothers recording or a Johnny Cash recording, or something that's more popular," Burkum said. Other influences they name are Bob Dylan and American folklorist and enthnomusicologist Alan Lomax. "So then you just end up following the trail, I guess," said Page Burkum. [MPR]
Sounds like: Sturgill Simpson, The Deslondes, Justin Townes Earle
The Foghorn Stringband (composed of local Americana all-stars Caleb Klauder, Stephen “Sammy” Lind, Peter Leone, Nadine Landry and Patrick Lind) features tight intstrumental work and a line-up — fiddle, banjo, mandolin, bass and guitar — reminiscent of early bluegrass, but their powerful approach is whole-heartedly Old Time, centered largely by the fiddle. Devoted to the interpretation and performance of American stringband music, their style encompasses early country music, the fiddle repertoire of the Southern Appalachians and the Midwest, and the stringband sounds of the Piedmont region. They are highly regarded by traditional music lovers, and have recently been tapped by one of the country's most renowned musicians of the genre, Dirk Powell, to perform as the Dirk Powell Band. While they are committed to playing authentic old-time music, the members of Foghorn Stringband are not strict recreationists in costume; yet neither are they experimentalists of the digital age. Whether it's on stage in a rock venue, a bluegrass festival, or at a dance in the Grange Hall, they further this great tradition through a profound belief that old-time music, played in a traditional way, is still relevant and very much alive in the 21st century.
Sounds like: The Crooked Jades, Dirk Powell, Bruce Molsky
Jack Klatt is a singer, a songwriter and a dexterous finger-style guitarist. Combining musical traditions from pre-war blues to the roots of country music, he has been touring the lower 48, spreading his take on American music. He's won recognition from the Minnesota State Arts Board, made it onto Daytrotter's list of best songs for 2014 and has opened up for the likes of Pokey LaFarge and Charlie Parr. In 2009 Klatt settled down in Minneapolis, formed a band and founded the Cat Swingers. Soon enough he found himself performing around 100-150 nights a year perfecting his crafts of performance and songwriting. In 2011 Klatt received a Minnesota State Arts Grant to record a collaborative album with a number Minnesota legends including Spider John Koerner, Dakota Dave Hull, Cornbread Harris and Charlie Parr. Mississippi Roll has since garnered praise all the way from California to the UK. With a solo album, Love Me Lonely, under his belt you can expect to see him on the road, with or without his band, rollin' through a town near you.
Sounds like: The Creak, Gold Dust Lounge, Pete Gold
San Francisco heavy metal cultists Castle released their latest album,Under Siege on May 20, 2015 via Prosthetic Records in North America. Recorded at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, Calif. earlier this year with producer/mixer Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Eyehategod) — who also produced their 2012 Juno-nominated release Blacklands — Under Siege pushes CASTLE‘s unique sound further with the confluence of punishing riffs and melodic passages of haunted, full-blooded madness.Vocalist/bass guitarist Liz Blackwell gave insight on the new material: “We wrote this album in Los Angeles, San Francisco and in the mountains of Northern California. It’s a California record. We drew from the heavy sounds of those places to write electric witch hymns of death and doom.” Castle formed in 2009 and released their debut album, In Witch Order, on the German label Van Records (The Devil’s Blood) in 2011. The album brought light to the newly-formed band and earned them “Album of the Year” honors from Metal Hammer Norway, as well as Roadburn Festival’s “Newcomer of the Year.” Shortly after, the band signed with Prosthetic in North America and released their critically acclaimed sophomore album, Blacklands, which earned a nomination for “metal/hard music album of the year” at the Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammys). The band supported the release playing over 200 shows worldwide alongside acts including The Sword, Intronaut and Witch Mountain in addition to appearing at some of the scene’s largest festivals (Roadburn, London Desertfest).
Sounds like: Occultation, The Skull, Magic Circle
Blog by Gina Reis