Jill Andrews- S/T
Jill Andrews was half of the late-great, under-the-radar band The Everybodyfields. With partner in crime Sam Quinn, Andrews created up beat yet haunting folk music. Their three records together were a sublime synthesis of folk, bluegrass, rock, and indie influences. They grew a fairly devoted cult like fan base before calling it quits in 2009. Fortunately, this led to Andrew’s solo debut, this self-titled EP.
Her voice is still every bit the distinctive southern lilt that made her work with the Everybodyfields immediately identifiable. The ragged edges that so suited her duets with Quinn are absent here, in favor of more direct and tasteful arrangements. Though everything still sounds organic, the sound is crisper, cleaner. Whether it’s a bluesy electric guitar accompaniment or subtle keyboard support, the EP just goes and grows. If Andrews was feeling any pressure to match her former band’s output, it doesn’t show here.
Her full length debut is due out any day now and she has begun touring again. Check out the live video above from her show at the While Mule in Columbia, SC.
Cary Ann Hearst- Are You Ready to Die [EP]
One of Charleston, SC’s best kept secrets, Cary Ann Hearst is a little lady with a big voice. Her Loretta Lynne-styled vocals contain enough menace to make even the bravest Southern dapper intrigued and probably more than a little scared. This time around she brings heavy weight producer (and touring partner) Butch Walker to the helm. Though Walker adds a little shine and a pile of background vocals, this record still sounds pretty close to the excellent Shovels & Rope record that Hearst made with husband Michael Trent a couple years ago.
The increased production value sees its best success in the Specter-girl group sound of the title track and the well built opener “The Thread”. Though Hearst still seems to have the most fun when she’s ripping into a vaudeville lyric like those of “American Made Machine”, the songwriting and styles on this 5 song EP run the wide gamut of Americana music. Simply put, this is another dose of country rock perfection from Hearst. Every lover of country or rock or roll would do well to check her out.
Jon Drake & the Shakes- A Side [EP]
I can’t wait for a full length album from this band. The 4 songs that comprise A Side are all perfect pop songs in the vein of Centro-Matic or the New Pornographers. Drummer/percussionist Dan Dorff handed me a download card for the EP at the Newport Folk Festival this year. I had just seen him perform with the Appalachian Voices band of Ben Sollee, Daniel Martin Moore, and Yim Yames. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I downloaded Side A. Turns out what I was downloading was pop music like you’ve always wanted to hear it: with cello, violin, horns, mandolins, guitars, and exuberant vocals. Highly recommended. Check them out here for a free download.
Hannah Miller- Journey to the Moon [EP]
Miller has been steadily evolving since her debut EP back in 2006. Back then she was a simple folk singer, armed only with her acoustic guitar. That image has given way to continually evolving sound of which Journey to the Moon is the latest incarnation. Lucky for her, it just may be her best artistic expression yet. She doesn’t even play guitar on the record, letting producers Ian Fitchuk and Justin Loucks coat her songs with production and sweeteners.
The record works beautifully and showcases some of Miller’s best compositions to date. There is the exuberant melody of “All My Love”. The standout-track “Way About You” ranks as Miller’s best love song to date. The slow building “Always” evolves into a maelstrom of sounds that never manage to overwhelm Miller’s soulful delivery. Like the lyrics of “I’m the Moon” suggest, I suggest giving Journey to the Moon a try, you’ll be like a moth to the flame.
Interesting Note: Instead of the traditional record release party for this EP, Miller rented out a skating rink and had people skate while the EP played over the PA.
Luke Elliot- Death of A Widow [EP]
Luke Elliot’s music does not sound modern. It sounds like it was recorded in a basement, where the water leaks from the ceiling and smoke stains substitute for wallpaper. In other words, it sounds like it was recorded where every great record ever made was created, i.e. Exile on Main Street, Highway 61 Revisited, and most of Tom Wait’s catalog. Death of a Widow begins with a sinewy guitar-piano romp called “Get ‘Em While They’re Hot” that sounds as close to Tom Waits as you’d want a young singer-songwriter to sound. It’s followed by the Dylan/Tallest Man on Earth sounding “When the Ship Goes Down”, perhaps my favorite song on the sterling EP. The record moves from there continually exploring the dark side of Americana. Fans of Tom Waits, AA Bondy, Tallest Man on Earth would do well to check out this ragged Americana talent out. Props to Side Walk Dave’s Dave Van Witt for capturing the ragged, but right sound (it’s tougher than it sounds).
About the author: Specializes in Dead, Drunk, and Nakedness..... Former College Radio DJ and Current Craft Beer Nerd