Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2012, Part 2

ALBUMS OF THE MONTH

The Great Despiser, by Joe PugThe Great Despiser
If you listen closely to The Great Despiser, Joe Pug’s latest release, you’ll hear a theme carrying through the songs. The songs map a journey in which the protagonist seeks to find his path, generally with clear intent yet often daunted by societal expectations and the roadblocks experienced along the way. Pug views it with a sympathetic eye although he is somewhat ambiguous on whether it is right or wrong.

The title track tells the tale of a guy trying to find his way back to simpler and happier times. “Hey little brother, did you hear I made it back to town? I’m getting sober, there’s some things I got to figure out.” An upbeat melody creates a sense of optimism although Pug leaves the listener guessing as to whether the character successfully finds his way.

Darker clouds appear on “Those Thankless Years.” Against a gentle musical accompaniment he professes:

So if you came here for the accolades,
You’re a foot too short and a lifetime too late
There are no sweet words to wash your face
Or to carry you back home, unless they are your own

“Neither Do I Need a Witness” steers to the middle ground as Pug preaches the virtues of self-reliance. “Nations need children to rise and defend, and statues and pledges and anthems I guess, but neither do I need a witness or a reason to please.”

The album closes with a simple yet moving song of hope. In concert Pug tells the tale of “Deep Dark Wells, written by songwriter Tex Thomas as a poem for his brother who was in jail. The inspirational tone of the song is a rallying cry for all of us, from Thomas’ brother to you and to me:

From deep dark wells comes pure clean water
And the ice will melt as the day gets hotter
And the night grows old as the sun climbs into the sky
When now is then, and tomorrow’s coming
And where you’ve been starts meaning something
As long as you can just keep stumbling ahead

As long as you’re not finished
You can start all over again
As long as you’re not finished
You can start all over again
You can start all over again

Audio Stream: Joe Pug, “The Great Despiser”

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THE PLAYLIST
Bad Man, Cory Branan (from the Bloodshot Records release Mutt)
Branan’s latest, his first on Bloodshot Records, is his most eclectic release. The songs run the gamut from near garage rock to his more typical acoustic fare. The one consistent aspect is Branan’s sharp storytelling. His songs are filled with colorful characters made all the more entertaining via Branan’s pointed, sometimes biting lyrics.

Audio Download: Cory Branan, “Bad Man”

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Bull Mountain Bridge, Paul Thorn (from the Perpetual Obscurity Records release What The Hell Is Goin’ On?)
Taking a break from recording his own songs, Thorn has just released a collection of covers from some of his favorite songwriters. One listen and its clear that Thorn and his crack band had fun with the project. They move seamlessly from a soulful take on Foy Vance’s “Shed a Little Light” to Elvin Bishop’s bluesy “What the Hell is Goin’ On” to Lindsay Buckingham’s glistening “Don’t Let Me Down Again.” I’m partial to this one, the brawny “Bull Mountain Bridge” with guest vocalist Delbert McClinton.

Audio Download: Paul Thorn, “Bull Mountain Bridge”

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Worry About Your Health, The District Attorneys (from the This Is American Music release Slowburner)
I can’t say that I know too much about the District Attorneys, however their affiliation with This Is American Music caught my eye. That label is a home for some great rock and roll and The District Attorneys fit right into the mix. The Georgia natives are clearly rooted in Southern rock yet have an indie rock edge. Watch out for the churning power chords in this track, they will wash over you like a sonic rainstorm.

Audio Download: The District Attorneys, “Worry About Your Health”

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If Raymond Carver Were Born In The 90’s, Library Voices (from the Dine Alone Records release Summer of Lust)
You gotta love a band with intellect and a sense of humor. Canada’s Library Voices name check various authors and literary themes while never taking themselves too seriously. And the songs are damn catchy, too. Here’s one that I will be playing all summer.

All my friends are buying diamonds for their girls
And bringing children into this world
Singing their names to a home on land they captured
Me? I’m still writing songs I’m scared you’ll hear some day

Audio Stream: Library Voices, “If Raymond Carver Were Born In The 90’s”

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Bellar & Bawl, Red Jacket Mine (from the Fin Records single “Bellar & Bawl” b/w “Grow Your Own”)
Imagine if Squeeze and Big Star had recorded some songs together, marrying the glossy sheen of the former with the grit and vitality of the latter. I’m guessing that it would sound something like the songs on this Seattle trio’s latest digital single. Have a listen and decide for yourself.

Audio Download: Red Jacket Mine, “Bellar & Bawl”

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Medinah, Whitejacket (from the self-released Hollows and Rounds)
Former Apples In Stereo keyboardist Chris McDuffie serves up a Beatlesque gem, chock full of classic-sounding pop songs with varied instruments and intricate arrangements.

Audio Download: Whitejacket, “Medinah”

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Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, Justin Townes Earle (from the Bloodshot Records release Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now)
There’s an ebb and a flow to Earle’s latest release, alternating between confessional ballads and country-flavored 1950’s style rockers. Pay close attention to the lyrics, however, and you’ll hear an artist wrestling with some demons and channeling them through song. They say that some of the most powerful music comes from the real emotions and experiences of an artist. Justin Townes Earle’s latest helps prove the point. See Jeff’s take on Earle’s latest release here.

Audio Download: Justin Townes Earle, “Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now”

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Serpents, Sharon Van Etten (from the Jagjaguwar release Tramp)
Van Etten’s glistening voice stands in sharp contrast to the darkness in her songs. The combination can be striking, as it is on this tale of an abusive relationship.

Serpents in my mind
Trying to forgive your crimes
Everyone changes in time.
I hope he changes this time.

Audio Download: Sharon Van Etten, “Serpents”

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View part 1 of my spring playlist here.


About the author:  Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.


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