Phoebe Hunt & the Gatherers – Walk With Me

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like The Belleville Outfit is becoming sort of like Big Star or Nick Drake.  Which is to say that if everyone who currently claims to have been a huge fan from the beginning had actually bought records or gone to shows when the band existed, they’d have been a hugely successful phenomena.  Instead, the group recorded a couple of albums 5-6 years ago and then split up to pursue other things.  Fortunately, a couple of the band members continue to make music in a similar style.  Phoebe Hunt and Connor Forsyth are playing and recording the genre-bending mix of big band jazz and traditional country music that The Belleville Outfit was known for, and have just released a new album, Walk With Me.

Although she’s certainly an accomplished fiddle player, it’s Hunt’s voice that will stop you in your tracks.  Add to that Forsyth’s keyboards and you have the core sound that’s at home on a wide, wide range of musical styles. Warm Summer’s Evening sounds like an updated 40’s pop song with Hunt’s velvety vocals and some subtle muted trumpet from guest Kevin Flat.  Long Gone adds the horns again along with guitar from Willie Pipkin adding to Gatherer guitarist Marshall Hood to produce a spot-on Muscle Shoals sound.  Forsyth turns to a Stevie Wonder-like organ arrangement to give Darkness a 70’s radio-friendly feel.  You Know By Now also captures a little of that that 70’s deja vu feeling.

My favorite song on the disc is Walk Of Angeline.  It features more of Hunt’s fiddle and is more uptempo and country than anything else on the album.  Although Flee Fly Flow Flum also captures some of that spirit, I’m still left wanting a lot more of that particular sound.

phoebe hunt cover The musicians, both guests and Gatherer members, play a huge role in Phoebe Hunt’s latest release.  But what holds it all together and sets it apart is her voice.  The sum total of those parts is a rich texture of unique sound that, like the sirens of old, leaves you no desire to escape its warm embrace.

Haas Kowert Tice – You Got This

A few years ago I saw Casey Driessen at a music festival down in Austin.  Of the perhaps 100 people backstage at the moment, I’d guess half of them were fiddle players.  Every fiddle player who was performing that day was there.  It was impressive to see all that talent make their way to see someone who was an inspiration for them to improve their art and skill.  Bela Fleck has that effect on banjo players.  Chris Wood for bass players.  There are just a handful of musicians that have that unique combination of physical skill and creative ability that set the bar for the rest of the world.  Listening to the just-released first album from Haas Kowert Tice, You Got This, I wonder if I’m hearing the early career of someone else that will make that exclusive club.

The group is composed of Brittany Haas on fiddle (Darol Anger, Crooked Still), Paul Kowert on bass (Punch Brothers), and Jordon Tice on guitar and seemingly the chief songwriter of the group.  These three have been playing together since college, but careers took them to other groups, only to discover how much they enjoy making their own music.  The album is a completely instrumental work.  Haas and Kowert seem to shine a little more when it comes to specific licks and catchy phrases.  But it’s Tice’s work on the guitar that holds everything together and makes this a band, not a trio of individuals who happen to be playing on the same record.

Without a background in music theory, I’m somewhat challenged to even describe to you the music on this disc.  Grandpa’s Cheesebarn has a combination of staccato solos and flowing melodies in interesting keys that remind me of the first time I heard Igor Stravinsky.  Classical, bluegrass, I don’t know how they’re even remotely related, but it somehow seems that way.  Better Off is like chamber music for bluegrass instruments.  The Switchback Games have a dissonant sound in the intro and segues that really holds your attention.  El Camino has a walking bass and flowing fiddle that just says wanderlust to me.

haas_kowert_tice Although I’m hard pressed to explain exactly why I like You Got This, it’s something I threw in my CD player a couple of weeks ago and have found it really hard to not keep going back to it.  So if you’re interested in some Americana that’s off the beaten path, but still sucks you in, I recommend Haas Kowert Tice.

Katie Glassman & Snapshot – Dream A Little Dream

When I first ran across Katie Glassman a couple of years ago (review here), I noted her album was exploring a lot of genres.  Her latest release, Dream A Little Dream, hit the streets earlier this week featuring her now-permanent band, Snapshot.  She’s taken a significant step forward as a recording artist with this project.  While still dipping into all kinds of music that touch jazz and country, there’s a cohesion to the album that keeps things flowing from one song to the next and lights up the overall effort.

Glassman is perhaps the queen of modern fiddle players, having won just about every fiddle playing championship west of the Mississippi worth winning.  With Snapshot, she’s surrounding herself with musicians of like skill and, perhaps more importantly, mindset.  It just seems the whole band is bent on cutting a new swathe down the western swing musical prairie.  The opening number, Liza Jane, sets the mood appropriately with piano, bass, and fiddle combining with Glassman’s vocals to take the piece to a place Bob Wills never even dreamed of reaching.  My Window Faces the South pursues this as well with some sweet accordion parts and guest Tim O’Brien on vocals.  In case you think a youngster doesn’t realize where their roots come from, there’s a super take on the Duke Ellington number, Jubilee Stomp.

Glassman’s vocals carry some of the other songs on the album, where the sound is a little more traditional.  I could totally hear Patsy Cline in Good Times Gone By, and Sweet Lies is a nice country ballad with just a touch of blues to color it.  Little Dream Of MIne is an accordion accented country waltz.  As you would expect, there are also a few instrumental pieces that showcase the musicianship of all the band members, including Rutland’s Reel and Pampas Envy.

Katie4paneldigipakwtrayDALD2 With spring finally just around the corner, it’s time to think about what’s going to be on your playlist for those first warm nights in the backyard.  You’d be hard pressed to find something more in line with that elevated mood than Dream A Little Dream.

The Twangville 2014 Release Preview, Boston Edition

This is shaping up to be a great year of music in Boston. All the albums below will be unleashed to the world in January and February. Here’s hoping the following ten months are just as fruitful.

Sarah Borges




If there’s such a thing as a rock star quality then Sarah Borges has got it. She has a way of commanding attention, cracking one-liners one minute and cutting loose with a rousing rock song the next minute. Radio Sweetheart, her first release since 2009, was produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and is filled with swagger, attitude and musical punch.

Borges will be celebrating the release with a special co-headlining show with Girls Guns and Glory at Sinclair in Cambridge, MA on 7 February. (Info and Tickets )

Susan Cattaneo




(21 January)

Last month we had the pleasure of previewing the stinging “Lies Between Lovers,” an early favorite from Susan Cattaneo’s forthcoming release. Since then we’ve had time to dig into the full album to enjoy how the singer-songwriter displays a restrained confidence as she shifts effortlessly from country gems to pop standards.

Among the standouts are the trio of songs that take a scorned lover to task. In addition to the aforementioned track, these include the country blues “Worth the Whiskey” (“every time you feel the burn I hope you miss me, ‘cause I’m worth the whiskey”) and the beautiful ballad “Done Better” (“You said you did the best you could, you should have done better.”)

Sacred Shakers




(21 January on Signature Sounds Recordings)

The Shakers are best described as more a collective than a band. Born out of an casual country hootenanny, the group performs old-time country gospel that is authentic and true. Anchored by the Eilen Jewell Band, the collective also includes members of the Tarbox Ramblers and talented friends like Greg Glassman, Daniel Fram and Eric Royer. If you’re hankering for something old school, and I mean truly old school, then the Sacred Shakers have got you covered.

The Curtis Mayflower




(28 January)

What’s not to like about a band that draws its name from the late, great Curtis Mayfield? These guys do the master proud with a collection of songs that are dark, brooding and full of soul. They’ve been generating quite a bit of buzz and their debut release more than lives up to the hype.

The Curtis Mayflower will be celebrating their release at Beatnik’s in Worcester, MA on January 24th. (Info)

Girls Guns and Glory




(4 February on Lonesome Day Records)

Singer-songwriter Ward Hayden has the kind of voice that is made for honky-tonks. In that sense it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he and the band love to pull out Hank Williams songs in their live shows. For their latest release, the quartet traveled to Brooklyn to work with Eric “Roscoe” Ambel. The result is an album that brilliantly straddles the line between classic country and 1950’s rock and roll.

Girls Guns and Glory will be celebrating the release with a special co-headlining show with Sarah Borges at Sinclair in Cambridge, MA on 7 February. (Info and Tickets)

Amy Black




(4 February)

Black teased us last fall with a covers ep that she recorded at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was the perfect prelude to her new full-length release. Black hits stride on This Is Home, injecting her songs with a healthy dose of gospel-tinged soul. The real power of the release comes from Black’s voice, which is as enchanting as ever.

Black will be celebrating the release at Johnny D’s in Somerville, MA on Friday February 7th (Info and Tickets) and Saturday February 8th (Info and Tickets).

Download Black’s Muscle Shoals ep for free here.

Lake Street Dive




(18 February on Signature Sounds Recordings)

It doesn’t seem right to call Lake Street Dive a jazz group even though that is the cornerstone of their sound. Sure, singer Rachael Price’s silky voice and the band’s delicious grooves are undoubtedly the envy of many a jazz ensemble. Yet their music also incorporates folk and pop qualities. The results are mesmerizing.

Macy Blackman & The Mighty Fines – I Didn’t Want To Do It

Macy Blackman’s piano playing is a treat for those who enjoy swampy, down home boogie-woogie. His new album, I Didn’t Want To Do It, takes a page from Dr. John’s playbook, featuring spirited New Orleans style boogie-woogie piano – but without the trippier side of the Dr. John experience.

Macy Blackman

Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, Blackman did not have much exposure to the sounds of New Orleans. But in the mid-1970s, playing with drummer Charles “Hungry” Williams, Blackman was exposed to a new world of music that eventually led to an opportunity to meet and perform with Dr. John. Echoing piano legends like Fats Domino, Huey Smith and Dr. John, Blackman adopted a playing style that colors his music to this day.

Blackman lived in New York City until 2000, working as a performer, music instructor, and piano technician. He moved to the San Francisco Bay area to teach classes at the University of California Berkeley and also recharged his performing career. He recorded his first album with the Mighty Fines, 24 Hours a Day, in 2005.  Their second album, You Just Don’t Know It, was released in 2011.

I Didn’t Want To Do It contains no originals, but it is a strong collection of covers and traditional tunes that is bound to tease a smile from the most relentless curmudgeon.  Blackman’s own colorful vocals are complemented by the saucy lead vocals of Nancy Wright on several numbers.  The Mighty Fines feature Ken “Snakebite” Jacobs, a Hurricane Katrina refugee, and Wright on saxophones, as well as Bing Nathan on bass and Jack Dorsey and Adam Goodhue on drums.