Friday, December 7, 2012

REVIEW: Mike Cooley - The Fool On Every Corner

In a way, it's nice to have an album from a member of the Truckers extended family that isn't their usual Life-Changing Event. Mike Cooley's new live disc, The Fool On Every Corner, is anything but that - it's a good time, but rather than hollowing you out, it kind of makes you smile. It's well-played, well-sung, and above all, fun.

First of all, Cooley's a terrific acoustic guitar player - and most of the music on here is finger-picked. In addition to the overall high level of the playing on this record, there is some really pretty, almost delicate playing on some of the songs - check out the intro to "Loaded Gun In The Closet".

Second of all, he's (as you already know if you're familiar with the Truckers) a very entertaining country vocalist. Examples on this disc abound - "Marry Me", "Three Dimes Down" (including a detour where Cooley has a little fun with that song's similarity to the Bob Seger standard "Rock And Roll Never Forgets") and a cover of "Behind Closed Doors", just to name a few.

But third, and to me a reason I'd keep coming back to this record, Cooley's a pretty engaging guy. Funny, bright and quick on his feet, he peppers the concert with well-placed commentary as well as responses to audience shout-outs. Describing his trepidation at facing an audience alone, with nothing between him and them but an acoustic guitar and a mike: “When you don’t do it normally, it’s terrifying. I try to relax, but I’ll probably never be able to sit down in a chair on stage as easily as I sit down on a toilet behind a closed door. That’s the goal—somewhere in between,” he deadpans. “I set the bar high.”

The songs that make up The Fool On Every Corner were recorded by longtime Drive-By Truckers’ producer David Barbe during a three-show run last March, beginning with a two-night stand at The Earl in Atlanta and closing at The Melting Point in Athens. In addition to the songs mentioned above and some DBT favorites like "Carl Perkins' Cadillac", there's a new song: "Drinking Coke and Eating Ice".

Self-deprecating, talented and funny, Cooley has added a very enjoyable chapter to the growing legend of the Drive-By Truckers... he'll be on tour, solo acoustic, in 2013. I'd recommend catching him if you get the chance.

The Soul Corner - Clarence Carter "Slip Away"

I saw my man and WYMA favorite Charles Bradley this week, and he and his great band tore it up as usual. Fantastic show.

A highlight was a perfect cover of the 1968 classic "Slip Away":

"Slip Away" was recorded at Rick Hall's FAME studios with the great Muscle Shoals house band shortly before that band left to found its own studio a year later.

I dig the wah wah guitar here and love that the silky smooth sound of the song nicely offset its rather nasty lyrical intentions.

Clarence Carter was one of few soul singers of his time who was a college graduate, earning his degree from Alabama State College in 1960 after studying at the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega.  

Carter performed for decades and never failed to include "Slip Away".  
I can't believe I waited this long to include this one in the Soul Corner - thanks for the suggestion Charles Bradley! And here is the one and only Mr. Bradley performing "Slip Away" earlier this year:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wild Cub - Free download of remix of "Straight No Turns" from Youth

Nashville electro-rock duo Wild Cub has another song for you, a free download of a remix of "Straight No Turns" by Kisses:

We've featured these guys before, including a review of their debut album Youth here. It's full of warm electronic music with lead vocalist Keegan DeWitt's soulful vocals. If you like this cut, the album's well worth checking out. If you already have it, consider this a bonus!

New Power Pop Discovery: Young Rival - Stay Young

Young Rival is a Canadian (Hamilton, Ontario-based) band playing some extremely catchy, but at the same time fairly edgy, guitar rock. I categorize it as power pop, and that's the easiest genre to identify it with, but the stuff really has a different feel to it, in the same way The Strokes and The Raconteurs do. It's guitar pop and enjoyable for all the reasons guitar pop is, but with some edges and angles thrown in for fun.

The first song, "Black Popcorn" is a perfect example - a punked-up take on Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" backbeat with what turns into a very jangly guitar line, and finally some harmony vocals take it all home.

The catchiest song on the record is "Give Me Two Reasons" - channeling Fountains of Wayne, Eric Carmen and old Beatles 45's to make an irresistible little song (and a freaking hilarious video):

Have they got your attention? Here is "Nothing You Know Well":

Also, a free download of that one is available:








And, finally, "Black Is Good"... maybe you will understand why I'm coming up with The Strokes as a touchpoint:

The band consists of Aron D'Alesio on vocals and guitar, Noah Fralick on drums and John Smith on bass, and they make no pretense about their love of British Invasion pop... and they even get a little psychedelic here and there, so I'll go ahead and invoke the Zombies too.

This is a terrific record which has grown on me each time I have listened - catchy from the first time I listened, but revealing itself as more than just a retro garage revival record... Sort of along the lines of Nick Waterhouse and The Allah-La's, a band that is taking great influences and making them its own.

Read more at the Young Rival website.

REVIEW: Parakeet - Shonen Hearts EP

The Shonen Hearts EP is the debut offering from London's Parakeet.  The band is a project of  Mariko Doi, bassist from Yuck, James Thomas, drummer from The History of Apple Pie, and guitarist Jon Jackson.  Those other bands are ongoing, and I don't think that Doi and Thomas have abandoned their mates, but Parakeet gives this trio a chance to explore different musical expressions.  Specifically, Shonen Hearts EP is a scuzzier and punkier take on the noise pop and psychedelia spectrum.  The energy and noise, with Doi's pop vocals riding the aural wave, make for a fun listening and a debut that leaves us interested in the next offering from Parakeet.

Here is the video for the title track --

The intent to provide riffs with harder edge is evident on opening track "Toumono", and "Bananafish" rocks just as hard, albeit with a bit less distortion.  "Shonen Hearts" is the showcase track, in my view, a great bit of psychedelic pop.  Closer, "Darumsanga" is a excellent combination of alternative rock and punk, perhaps like Dinosaur Jr fronted by the Slits.

You can stream the entire EP here:

Twitter (@parakeetband )

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Free EP from The District Attorneys

The spring 2012 LP from Athens/Atlanta band The District Attorneys impressed us quite a bit (our review here).  Drew Beskin, Chris Wilson, T.J. Mimbs, Walker Beard and Frank Keith IV dish out soulful singing, crunchy guitars and hooky melodies that go down just right.  Apparently, the boys are in a seasonal mood, as they have recorded Jr., a four-track EP.  It is good, and it is available free!  You can listen here, and you can download at Bandcamp.  You may also want to go back and investigate Slowburner if you missed it this Spring.  It is out on the This Is American Music label.

This Is American Music

REVIEW: Finn LeMarinel - Violence

Neither acoustic folk nor singer songwriter genres are my primary focus.  But some works just demand space on a blog devoted to helping bring deserving musicians a wider audience.  Violence, by Glasgow's Finn LeMarinel, is such an album.  What makes it special?  Certainly, part of it isFinn's wistful high tenor and distinctive guitar style, with a syncopated tapping that gives some songs a Brazilian feel and generally adds depth to the arrangements.  But the songs themselves, rich in imagery and intimate in feel, are the stars of the show.

Finn's art isn't just what he does with his voice and fingers.  It is what he doesn't do.  Violence has a confident sense of space, and what space can do to emphasize the sound.

You can stream the entire album here.  If you like it, hit the Bandcamp link below.  The label is Ubisano.

Finn also is the frontman for the indie rock band Trapped in Kansas.

Twitter ( @FinnLM )

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Introducing: Paper Boats

A bit of post punk 80s guitar/synth pop and a full measure of dream pop is the appealing recipe for Guilford, UK's Paper Boats.  Only formed in early 2012, they already have a five-track debut EP, Youth Values, available on their Bandcamp site.  There is a bit of The Cure in this lot, and I mean that in a good way.

If you like that, you may be interested to know that the opening track is available to download at the band's Soundcloud page (link below).

The members of Paper Boats are Grant Williams, Tristan Fisher, Jason Wood, Rupert Harvey, and Ellie O'Shea.

Twitter ( @PaperBoatsUK )

Monday, December 3, 2012

REVIEW: Graham Parker and the Rumour - Three Chords Good

Graham Parker has worked steadily since his heyday in the late 1970's, and made some great records along the way (e.g. The Mona Lisa's Sister; Struck By Lightning). But the work he did with his original band the Rumour from 1976-1980 remains among the best of that era - soulful rock with pointed lyrics, big pop hooks and real passion. Comparisons to Bruce Springsteen were frequent and well deserved.  Despite enthusiastic press support and a devoted following, he never quite broke big in the US, perhaps too much the angry British young man for the mainstream Springsteen or Tom Petty crowd, yet far too musical and literate to ride with the punk bands.

Graham Parker and the Rumour then:

Graham Parker and the Rumour now: 

So it is very welcome news that after 31 years apart, Parker has reunited with the Rumour to release Three Chords Good. All original members are on board: guitarists Brinsley Schwartz and Martin Belmont, Andrew Bodnar on bass, keyboardist Bob Andrews, and Steve Goulding on drums. And I'll be damned if they haven't missed a beat. From the reggae influenced first track "Snake Oil Capital of the World" on through, it's a whipsmart, highly skilled set of performances by as good a rock band as there ever was.

Dig this title track, where they lock into a groove and ride it:

You can stream all of Three Chords Good here. It's got it all - bristling rock'n'roll, Motown flavored pop songs, socio-political rants, beautiful melodies, killer melodies.

Graham Parker resides in rock's top tier with his contemporaries Springsteen and Elvis Costello, and his heroes Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.  And Three Chords Good is a very welcome addition to his legend.

Artist page:

A bonus from the way back machine, one of my all time favorite songs:

REVIEW: Flutes - Flutes

The new self-titled album from Flutes is the kind of record that invites you to lose yourself in the music.  You feel the emotions not only from the lyrics and the timbre of the vocals, but also from the arrangements as they wash over you.  At their best, these are large scale, dramatic pop songs capable of getting your blood racing.  And the power comes from sincerity, intensity and attention to detail, not from shouting or thrashing.  Flutes is an album with style and substance in equal measure.

The album's opening track and first single is "Auld Archie", which is the subject of the following video. I love the line "I'm turning into an old man, with the grace of a one-armed archer".

The pace of the album picks up with track two, "It's What's Between That Makes Us Happy".  It is an upbeat, piano-accented tune.  "This Is No Country For Old Men" boasts thundering percussion and dramatic vocals and instrumentation.  "Solo Sleep" starts soft, but the arrangements build as the song unfolds.

"Dolores" and "Kilburn" are, in my view, the beating heart of the album, and fine examples of what Flutes do best.  "Dolores" pulses and jangles as it builds into a wide-angle modern rock anthem.  "Kilburn", which currently is my second favorite track on the album  features pounding percussion as it gathers force.

The seventh song, "This is a Lift", scales the proceedings back down to the soft and intimate level, providing a launching pad for the closing track, second single from the album, and my current favorite, "Sand".  And since this track graces a playlist I've made of my favorite songs of 2012, forfeited any claim to objectivity, so I'll just encourage you to listen to it.

Flutes is Godfrey McFall (vocals/guitar), Andy Bruce (bass/vocals/piano/organ/guitar), Alex Walker (drums/vocals), and Robert Marshall (guitar/piano/vocals).  They are London-based Scots who describe themselves as miserable yet optimistic.  The band formed in 2007, although some members knew each other and played together before that time.

Flutes was produced by Jamie Savage at Chem 19 Studio in Blantyre (outside Glasgow).

Big Cartel link for album purchase
Twitter ( @uptheflutes )

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Folk Rock Discovery: Wake Owl - "Gold"

Wake Owl is Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Colyn Cameron. Now based in Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR, Cameron was originally born and raised in Southern California, and has spent most of the last ten years traveling the world, writing music and playing in various bands - all of which, he indicates, have fueled his desire to create his own thing.

This song, "Gold", is a preview of a 5-song EP, Wild Country, that Wake Owl has coming out in January. It's a really pretty singer/songwriter piece - well-produced, with about a 1:00 acoustic lead-in, and rock instrumentation with well-placed strings and piano.