ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
Radiant Land, by Leeroy Stagger
British Columbia singer-songwriter Stagger is a bit of a dichotomy. One minute he is singing an uplifting ode to love, the next minute a seething indictment of economic injustice. He reminds one of Steve Earle in many ways, possessing a restless fervor channeled through no bullshit songwriting.
His latest album kicks off with a rousing “Dirty Windshields,” a musician’s tale of life on the road. Scruffy guitars can’t mask a jubilant melody as Stagger reflects, “it seems like this motorway life is all I ever see, playing out like a giant comedy on this life-sized movie screen.”
“Enough Love To Go Around” finds Stagger looking for the bright side of a failed relationship. “Think I had it, yea I lost it, and I fear it can’t be found,” he decries before declaring, “There’s enough love to go around.”
Stagger’s social conscience begins to show on “Radiant Land.” He recalls purer times with fondness and regret, “there once was a time when this river ran clean and the air didn’t smell of fear and gasoline, and children played barefoot in this radiant land.”
This conscience burns brighter on the blistering “Capitalism Must Die.” While I can’t say that we fully agree, I appreciate his courage of conviction and the fact that he sets it against a solid rock beat.
A smoldering organ and a wailing guitar set the stage for “Summer Storm,” the intense album closer. “I got the gift of songs, some powerful stuff,” he sings, “I’m a restless soul, could never settle down.” Sounds about right.
Audio Download: Leeroy Stagger, “Dirty Windshields”
The Vansaders, by The Vansaders
We at Twangville get a lot — and I mean a lot — of emails from bands, labels and publicists promoting new artists and releases. It’s hard to say what will catch our eyes or ears from among them but occasionally an email randomly does and we are rewarded with a musical discovery. Such was the case with New York City’s The Vansaders.
The ep opens with the raucous “End of the Line.” A ramshackle blast of organ and percussion shoots right out of the gate before a more relaxed electric guitar takes charge. The tone is decidedly punk country as the band rips into the chorus, “it’s the end of the line, boy, end of the line, where all your hopes and dreams they leave you behind.”
“Revelry” revs things up, a fist-pumping anthem awash in harmonized vocals. “Highway to the Sun” plays a bit more to the rock, dare I say even pop, side. The song has the catchiest melody of the lot and is ripe for a sing-along.
“The Ballad of Jeny & Steve” takes a typical tale of two lovers moving in together and introduces a dog into the mix. “You moved in that fall, then came the dog, just two kids playing house, messing around without a care in the world,” croons singer Doug Vansader. Things go south quickly, however, as the dog becomes a menace. “Now the only time we speak is to fight about that beast, I’m telling you for the last time it’s Roxy or me.” Ah, young love.
These guys get to the point. Most of the songs clock in at less than three minutes. They make every second count, though, packing their songs with a whiskey-soaked fervor. Think Green Day if they grew up in the South and were raised on a steady diet of Johnny Cash.
I don’t recall what made me click the link to hear their music but I’m damn glad that I did.
For a limited time the Vansaders are offering the entire ep as a free download. Go here.
Audio Download: The Vansaders, “End of the Line”
Come Back Little Star, Patterson Hood (from the ATO Records release Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance)
Patterson Hood is the consummate Southern storyteller, worthy of a literary award for his ability to capture the nuances of his characters and their surroundings. He deftly uses words to paint a picture, creating a landscape for characters striving for success and happiness but never quite finding it. These songs stand in contrast to the volume-enhanced sound of the Drive-By Truckers and, in that way, are a powerful showcase for the subtlety of his writing.
Audio Download: Patterson Hood, “Come Back Little Star”
There’s No Leaving Now, The Tallest Man on Earth (from the Dead Oceans release There’s No Leaving Now)
I credit Twangville writer Jeff McMahon for introducing me to Swedish singer Kristian Matsson. Jeff has long championed him and I’ve finally paid attention. Matsson mixes earnestness and restraint to captivating effect.
Your fear of the leading light
if they are with you and your heart won’t fail
To see through a fearless eye
and know that danger finally goes away
still you’re trying
but there’s no leaving now
See Jeff’s coverage of The Tallest Man on Earth here.
Audio Stream: The Tallest Man on Earth, “There’s No Leaving Now”
Gettin’ Down on the Mountain, Corb Lund (from the New West Records release Cabin Fever)
One can only imagine Lund’s experience writing songs for his latest release. The album is called Cabin Fever, a reference to the cabin in the woods that he built to escape distractions while writing his latest batch of songs. The results hit the mark, blending the blunt musical style of Johnny Cash with the pointed lyrical prowess of Randy Newman.
Audio Download: Corb Lund, “Gettin’ Down on the Mountain”
All I Need, Steve Forbert (from the Blue Corn Music release Over With You)
Regular Twangville readers will know of my affinity for kiss-off songs. Well legendary troubadour Forbert adds another to the list. “All I need to do is just to find someone who is just like you, all I need to change is the seven letters of your name.”
Audio Download: Steve Forbert, “All I Need”
Stay Away From Downtown, Redd Kross (from the Merge Records release Researching the Blues)
Ah, classic power pop in all its glory. Although Redd Kross have performed periodically in recent years, this is their first album release in nearly 15 years. The good news is that they’ve picked up right where they left off — delivering an album filled with glorious guitars propelling top notch sugared melodies.
Audio Download: Redd Kross, “Stay Away From Downtown”
Sweet Time, The Technicolors (from the Best Media release Listener)
This young quartet from Phoenix serve up power pop with a healthy rock edge that recalls the finer moments of Oasis. A bluesy riff kicks off this particular track, quickly supported by a powerful rock beat and singer Brennan Smiley’s soaring vocals.
Audio Download: The Technicolors, “Sweet Time”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.