ALBUMS OF THE MONTH:
I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, by Steve Earle
Steve Earle could perhaps be America’s most honest songwriter. When one listens to his albums there is never a doubt what he is thinking. Whether railing against George W. Bush (“Little Emperor”) or pledging his love (“Every Part of Me”) Earle wears a righteous heart on his sleeve.
One of Earle’s endearing qualities is his connection to Irish folk music, a bond that rings true here. Sometimes subtle (“I Am a Wanderer”) and sometimes overt (“Molly O”), it is a thread that weaves through the release.
It is the ballads that really stand out among this song collection. Earle has a long history of writing brilliant duets and inviting brilliant voices to join him in song. In this case it his wife Allison Moorer who lends her charm to magical end.
Closing the album is “This City,” Earle’s moving ode to New Orleans. “This city won’t ever die, just as long as our heart be strong,” he sings, “Like a second line stepping high, raising hell as we roll along.” The words ring true for songwriter as much as song.
Audio Download: Steve Earle, “Waitin’ on the Sky”
The Man Who Time Forgot, by John Paul Keith
Some might argue that Keith was born 60 years too late but I’d say that he arrived just in time. His music hearkens back to a simpler time in rock and roll, when three chords and a solid back-beat were all that were necessary to get the joint jumping. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for modern instruments and arrangements, but I’m equally enamored with music that has a timeless quality. “Anyone Can Do It” recalls Eddie Cochran while “Never Could Say No” is like a lost Buddy Holly classic. From the shuffle beat of “Songs for Sale” and the Carl Perkins groove of “Dry County,” Keith revives the classics with sincerity and freshness.
Audio Download: John Paul Keith, “Never Could Say No”
Never Lost the Sunshine, The Silos (from the Sonic Pyramid release Florizona)
Walter Salas-Humara has been honing his craft for over 25 years. Guitar-driven hooks abound on his musical palate as this song gloriously demonstrates. The addition of Jason Victor, the best guitarist that you may not know, contributes an additional sonic force to the mix.
Audio Download: The Silos, “Never Lost the Sunshine”
Boxcar, Shovels and Rope (from the Our House Records Shovels and Rope)
Alright, so this song was released in 2008. It was only just recently that I discovered Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent when they opened for Jason Isbell and Hayes Carll in Boston. Heart has one of those potent voices that are simultaneously powerful and intoxicating. Paired with Trent, they make a glorious backporch country noise. (See Eli’s take here.)
Audio Download: Shovels and Rope, “Boxcar”
Get Away, Yuck (from the Fat Possum release Yuck)
We’ll call this shoe-gaze pop. The London-based group serve up hypnotic melodies that claw their way into your head through heavy repetition. What I really like, though, are the indie rock guitar sounds that weave through each song, a fine counterpoint to the melody.
Audio Download: Yuck, “Get Away”
Buckner’s Bolero, The Baseball Project (from the Yep Roc release Volume 2: High and Inside)
“It’s weird that a Yankee fan like me would end up writing more about the Red Sox,” says Steve Wynn, “but tragedy just makes for better songs and stories than a litany of successes.” “Do you really want to go there?” says this Red Sox fan. Nonetheless, I suspect that we can both agree that the latest from the Baseball Project
Audio Stream: The Baseball Project, “Buckner’s Bolero”
So What, Outasight (from the Warner Brothers ep Figure 8)
Richard Andrew, better known as Outasight, fires up some soulful modern R&B on this track from his just-released ep. This is a groove that begs to be heard live in a sweaty dance-hall. (Outasight’s ep is available for free download here.)
Audio Download: Outasight, “So What”
Rider, Okkervil River (from the Jagjaguwar release I Am Very Far)
What begins with a percussive burst reminiscent of Spoon soon blossoms into an orchestral majesty that would delight the Arcade Fire crowd.
Audio Download: Okkervil River, “Rider”
Sorry, The Smithereens (from the eOne Records release Smithereens 2011)
It says a lot for a band to take an 11 year break between studio releases and return with nary a missed beat. Firmly rooted in 1960’s-style power pop, the Smithereens attack their songs with an extra dose of urgency. This track deceives with a quick acoustic intro before the trademark electric guitars and monster rhythm kick into high gear.
Audio Download: The Smithereens, “Sorry”
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.