John Moreland is still searching for that which eludes him. I wouldn’t call it happiness, but rather contentment. It’s a quest to find understanding, if not meaning, in the world. Much of his latest release centers on relationships damaged or lost (“East October”, “I’m Learning How To Tell Myself the Truth”, “In Times Between”), yet he also turns his sights to the political-economic machine (album opener “Harder Dreams”). The consistent thread is Moreland’s ability to match poetry with perspective, singing with a wisdom far beyond his years.
Sonically, Moreland expands his musical palate on LP5. Percussion streaked with electronics, pianos both acoustic and electric all add texture to many of the tracks, most notably on the funky “A Thought Is Just a Passing Train”.
Moreland also sprinkles a pair of evocative instrumentals across the album. One is centered around acoustic guitars; the other piano set against a slight electronica soundscape. It’s further evidence that Moreland’s ability to visualize emotion, long recognized in his lyrics, is equally present in his music.
In the interest of full disclosure, Todd Mathis is a friend and Twangville contributor. But that’s the not so surprising and beautiful secret about being a part of Twangville – we sometimes develop friendships with the artists that we encounter in our musical travels.
Mathis has played the major label game and survived with plenty of stories and undoubtedly a few scars. The beauty of his post-label world is that he makes the music that he wants to make and does so on his own timeline. Fortunately, he’s been fairly prolific.
His latest, the result of weekly Monday night music sessions, is a stripped down and generally mellow affair. The songs find him in a reflective mood, lamenting life pressures both personal and societal. While there are moments of optimism (“Tomorrow”, “So Good”), there’s a general weariness simmering within Learning to Do the Harder Things.
He strikes some middle ground with a sense of contentment in this relaxed ode to finding one’s own way in life.
But Momma’s gonna be proud no matter what
Just get out there and give it all you got
Be kind and be happy, and don’t worry about the top.
The combination of Tom Waits’ craggy voice and oft percussive arrangements (certainly in his later years) sometimes masks the genuine beauty of his songs. This collection aims to correct that. From Courtney Marie Andrews’ southern and soulful “Downtown Train” to Joseph’s haunting “Come On Up the the House”, the performances are exquisite. Every artist unlocks the inner melancholy and grace within the Waits catalog.
If you’ve never seen The Last Bandoleros live, you’re missing something special. As fun as the group’s blend of rock, pop, and Tex-Mex is on their studio recordings, the quartet takes it to another level with their live shows. The group offers a taste of the magic via the just released Live from Texas, captured at the legendary Floores Country Store just outside San Antonio, Texas (where ¾ of the band grew up).
I could talk about their four part harmonies and irresistible pop melodies, but what really shines through is the band’s infectious energy. It bursts from every track, from the accordion-laced “Let Me Love You” to the driving “The Sweetest Thing” to the boisterous “Bonnie and Clyde”.
At the ripe young age of 29, Anthony da Costa is an industry veteran. He is perhaps more widely recognized as a guitar-slinger for artists ranging from Sarah Jarosz to Joy Williams to Aoife O’Donovan. Left to his own devices, however, he is an accomplished songwriter. His latest album, produced by Milk Carton Kid Kenneth Pattengale, is by turns rollicking and genteel. Here’s a favorite from the former category.
The latest addition to the Bloodshot Records roster wear their rock on their sleeves. Proudly. Rookie’s self-titled label debut combines classic rock riffs with a youthful energy. The music may sound ramshackle and fun (in a Deer Tick kinda way) but it is sumptuously rich with tight hooks and harmonies. Rookie is the antidote to the isolation blues.
Caleb Caudle recorded his latest album at Cash Cabin, a sanctuary created by the late Johnny Cash outside Nashville. One can hear some of the cabin dustiness permeating the tracks on Better Hurry Up, combined with a subtle funkiness that recalls Leon Russell and the Tulsa, OK sound. Much of the album bristles with a simmering tension, although it’s hard not to break into a smile while listening to this standout that features the legendary Mickey Raphael on harmonica.
See Chip’s take on Caudle’s new album here.
Ron Sexsmith’s latest album establishes him as a worthy heir apparent of the late Harry Nilsson. Hermitage is by turns quirky, catchy, and timeless. Sexsmith brilliantly combines the pop classicism of a bygone era with a modern idiosyncrasy. And, like Nilsson, he’s got a voice that is silken and magical.
Of course we can count on the Waco Brothers to mix political commentary with outrageous fun. One of the world’s great bar bands reaches back into their catalog to unleash a collection of protest songs that they’ve recorded through the years. Only the Wacos can make songs about bad times sound like a good time.
I remember stumbling across an Andy Frasco and the U.N. set at SXSW several years ago. It was one heck of a party. The energy from the crowd nearly equaled that which was emanating from the stage. Fast forward several years and I’m finally catching up with Frasco again, in the form of a new album. In the intervening years, Frasco kicked some destructive rock and roll habits and refocused on his music.
What Keep On Keepin’ On demonstrates is that Frasco didn’t abandon was the feel-good, rock and soul attitude of his music. The lyrics are centered on finding serenity and happiness, but he and the U.N. still deliver an exhilarating musical experience.
In times like these, sometimes you just need some good ol’ rock and roll. Minneapolis quartet High on Stress make a timely return after a nearly ten year hiatus with a heaping helping of ringing guitars and clamorous rhythms. Sure there are a couple of ballads, including the pleasing “Wish This Moment Gone”, but I’m here for the rock. Welcome back, fellas, good to hear ya pick back up right where you left off – with catchy melodies and rousing rock.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.