ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
O’ Be Joyful, by Shovels and Rope
We’re gonna call Shovels & Rope the anti-American Idol or whatever other reality singing show you can name. It is hard to imagine music more authentic in feel, from the songwriting down to the performances, than what emanates from this husband and wife duo. Their sound is a potent mix of southern roadhouse blues, gritty folk and the occasional country hoedown.
“Birmingham” spins the tale of wandering minstrels in search of something, ultimately concluding “It ain’t what you got, it’s what you make.”
“Keeper” is a great foot-tapper with a heavy beat and some grainy guitar while “Kemba” keeps the beat going with a square-dance beat, promising “come to Carolina and your drinks on me.” Any takers?
The duo, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, take on musical stereo-types with “Cavalier” singing “ice cream, soda pop, bourbon on top, some people call it rock and roll and some people call it pop, sounds like country music every time they use a fiddle.“
Enjoy the record but be sure to see ‘em live for the full experience. They are a bundle of energy, jumping from a small drum kit to guitar and back with plenty of harmonica and random percussion thrown in for good measure.
Simply put, Shovels and Rope make a glorious racket.
Audio Download: Shovels and Rope, “Birmingham”
Top of the World, Will Gray featuring Reva Williams and Buddy Miller (from the Broke* Soundtrack)
Perhaps rightfully anticipating that the quest for a career in the music industry would make for a great story, singer-songwriter Will Gray set out to chronicle his journey. The result is Broke*, a movie humorous and emotional, uplifting and heartbreaking. Interspersed along the way are interviews with artists known and unknown, each with their own reflections on striving for success.
Among the film’s highlights is a live spine-tingling performance of Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World,” a song that quietly captures the essence of Gray’s story. One can only imagine what it was like to be in the room that night listening to the impassioned vocals from Gray and collaborator Reva Williams backed by legendary guitarist Buddy Miller. Among the fans that the group earned with their performance? Songwriter Patty Griffin herself.
‘Cause everyone’s singing
We just want to be heard
Disappearing every day
Without so much as a word somehow
I want to grab a hold
Of that little songbird
Take her for a ride
To the top of the world right now
To the top of the world
Audio Stream: Will Gray featuring Reva Williams and Buddy Miller, “Top of the World (live)”
Give Your Love To Me, World Famous Headliners (from the Big Yellow Dog Music release World Famous Headliners)
Guitarist Al Anderson became a cult hero over a 22-year career with NRBQ. After departing that band he released a couple of solo albums while building a substantial reputation as a Nashville songwriter. Fast-forward to 2012 — Anderson has teamed up with fellow Nashville mainstays Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin for a musical romp both playful and accomplished.
Audio Download: World Famous Headliners, “Give Your Love To Me”
Chicago, Don DiLego (from the Velvet Elk Records ep Western & Atlantic)
NYC-based songwriter and producer keeps himself busy, writing and performing with artists like Bree Sharp and Jesse Malin. This release, however, is all DiLego. “Chicago, you’re making me lonely, and I know, you never really loved me,” he sings against a melancholy musical backdrop.
Audio Download: Don DiLego, “Chicago”
Are You Listening, A City on a Lake (from the High Ceilings Music release A City on a Lake)
Brooklyn songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alex Wong has taken a break from working with other artists to create this cinematic soundscape. There is a simplistic complexity to the release, refined melodies awash with vocal harmonies and symphonic arrangements.
In a digital age where liner notes are rarely seen, let alone read, Wong earns bonus points to Wong for finding a creative way to share the album credits – he speaks them against a musical accompaniment at the end of the release.
Audio Download: A City on a Lake, “Are You Listening”
Who Is She, Michael the Blind (from the Alder Street Records release Are’s & Els)
Portland-based Michael the Blind is a musical platform for songwriter Michael Gerard Levassear. Levassear and crew crash through a collection of songs that is equal parts indie and garage rock.
Audio Download: Michael the Blind, “Who Is She”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.