ALBUMS OF THE MONTH:
What happens when you take two distinctive singer-songwriters and put them in the studio for a day with a group of talented musicians. Get your hands on a copy of this stellar release and you’ll have your answer.
The collection includes songs from both artists, some new and some old, plus a ew choice covers. Sobule’s “Mexican Wrestler” and Doe’s “Darling Underdog,” both from their impressive back catalogs, are moving ballads on the vagaries of love. Doe takes a melancholy perspective while Sobule spins a heart-wretching tale of love lost.
Doe, who apparently recently discovered the reality show “Hoarders,” cuts lose with a raucous diatribe “Never Enough.” Sobule answers with her own reality tale, the rags-to-riches-to-rags tale of “Baby Doe” Tabor.
Doe shines on a tender cover of Alex Chilton’s “I’m In Love With a Girl,” laced by some brilliant pedal steel guitar. The song is perhaps meant as a companion to Sobule’s boisterous “I Kissed a Girl” (her original, of course, not the Katie Perry song which shares the name), also included here.
Sobule herself sums it up best. “I’m so sorry, this is gonna kick ass right now,” she says at the open of the group’s cover of “Never My Love,” a late 1960’s hit for the Association. And she was right.
Audio Download: Jill Sobule and John Doe, “Darling Underdog”
I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed with this album on first listen. The problem was mine, really, as I was expecting an album heavy on the rock guitars. Instead, I got something better. Here We Rest is a remarkable album, nuanced and reflective of the diversity of Southern music, from Muscle Shoals R&B to Louisiana roots shuffle to back-porch country.
Isbell’s Muscle Shoals influence appears most strongly on “We’ve Met.” The song imagines a conversation between two people — the person who left town and the one who stayed. Although Isbell tells it from a single point-of-view, he leaves deftly leaves the listener wondering which person got it right. Then there’s the band’s take on Candi Staton’s 1970’s soul chestnut “Heart on a String.” Isbell and company nail it, giving it a relaxed swagger that is downright infectious.
“Stopping By” is another great example of Isbell’s songwriting prowess. The lyrics explore the emotions of a child contemplating reconciliation with a parent. What makes the song, however, is the uneasiness in the music. One can feel the tension resulting from the combination of anger and regret.
Of course it wouldn’t be an Isbell record without at least one rock moment. In this case it is “Go It Alone,” which features a signature Isbell riff complimented by keyboardist Derry deBorja’s simmering organ.
And then there’s “Codeine,” the tale of a guy waiting for his lover to come home, knowing that she won’t. “If there”s two things that I hate, it”s having to cook and trying to date,” sings Isbell as the impending return to bachelorhood is realized. It’s a song as addicting as its title.
Here We Rest is an impressive release in its own right, however it stands even taller documenting the musical journey of a truly talented artist.
Audio Download: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “Codeine”
Born to Cry, The Biters (from the Underrated Records release All Chewed Up)
A mighty fine SXSW find, the Biters deliver in-your-face rock and roll with an appropriate attitude. Underneath, however, are sugary power pop riffs that are downright intoxicating. (See John”s take here.)
Audio Download: Biters, “Born To Cry”
Aces & Eights, Ted Russell Kamp (from the Dualtone Records release Get Back to the Land)
Like many artists, Kamp has a “day gig” that pays the bills and supports his musical exploration. Unlike many artists, Kamp’s day gig doesn’t involve an office but instead finds him playing bass with Shooter Jennings. Left to his own devices, however, Kamp is a stand-out songwriter and musician. His latest best online casino release overflows with confidence and swagger, as the Southern boogie of this track clearly demonstrates.
Audio Download: Ted Russell Kamp, “Aces & Eights”
Frustration Train, The Rainmakers (from the release The Good News and the Bad News: Expanded Edition)
Simultaneous with the release of their first album in 15 years, the Rainmakers raid the archives to include some bonus tracks with the re-release of their classic 1989 release. I’ve always been enamored with the sense of yearning that permeates both music and lyrics of this song.
Audio Download: The Rainmakers, “Frustration Train (Acoustic)”
I Love, Patty Griffin (from the Red Beet Records Release I Love: Tom T. Hall”s Songs of Fox Hollow)
Nashville’s Eric Brace and Peter Cooper are on a roll. Last year the duo brought together pedal steel legend Lloyd Green and dobro ace Mike Auldridge for an impressive release. This year the duo have returned with their tribute to the songs of Tom T. Hall. Rather than go it alone, they invited an impressive group of friends and acquaintances – from Buddy Miller to Jim Lauderdale to Bobby Bare to Tom T. Hall himself. This track features Patty Griffin wrapping her beautiful voice around a Tom T. Hall classic. File this under sublime.
Audio Stream: Patty Griffin, “I Love”
Steve Marriott, Poi Dog Pondering (from the self-released Audio Love Letter)
The Chicago band describe their latest ep as “a stack of 7 postcards singing “thank you” to a few random midnight inspirations.” In addition to covers of Van Morrison (“Sweet Thing”) David Bowie (“Win”) and the The (“Uncertain Smile”), the band offer up a quartet of originals that honor other influences, such as this rocking tribute to the late singer-guitarist with the Small Faces and Humble Pie.
Audio Download: Poi Dog Pondering, “Steve Marriott”
Some Things Never Change, Chris Colepaugh (from the Malkin Music release Missed a Page)
Colepaugh first caught my ear at SXSW a few years back with an impressive blast of blues-influenced rock. If you like muscular guitars and melodic rock riffs, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better song, or heck, a better release, this year.
Audio Download: Chris Colepaugh, “Some Things Never Change”
Magic in the Blues, Dave Stewart (from the Razor & Tie/Weapons of Mass Entertainment/Surfdog Records release The Blackbird Diaries)
The legendary Eurythmics songwriter and guitarist returns with his first release in 15 years. While I’ve only heard this one track, an enticing pop-laced blues song, I’m sufficiently intrigued. I particularly
Audio Download: Dave Stewart, “Magic in the Blues”
Everybody”s in a Band, Andy Clockwise (from the Schizo Pop release The Socialite)
So Clockwise makes most of his album”s available for complimentary download via his site. This track caught my ear for its rock-ti-tude, of course, but also for its biting sense of humor. “Do you know my friend Beyonce? She was in a pretty good band but they broke up, internal issues, too many tissues..”
ANDY CLOCKWISE – The Socialite by andyclockwise
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.