Thursday, March 14, 2019
You just rolled into town after a long day of driving in the American southwest. Check into the hotel and ask where to get a good meal without getting too fancy, and some music would be a plus. They direct you to the tavern next door. The menu is just what you need, and you notice musicians setting up at a stage at the end of the room. It looks like they will start soon, and you hope that they play what you want, as your day hasn't left you in the mood for hard rock or modern country with the excessive twang and obligatory references to 4x4s and flags. Then they begin, and the tension of the long drive leaves your shoulders, your fatigue evaporates, and you order another beer. Because what you are hearing is just what you needed. Subdued, jazzy arrangements with a lot of piano and acoustic guitar, and lyrics focusing on romance and reflection. A lead singer with a warm baritone named Howe Gelb and a host of talented guest vocalists. You are told that most songs are original creations, but the set list includes Lenard Cohen's "A Thousand Kisses" (a duet with M. Ward) and my new favorite version of "Blue Moon", voiced by Howe's daughter Talula.
It is all over too soon, but you wander to the merch table and discover that the material is available on a 15-track album titled Gathered, which is out now via Fire Records. You recall now that Howe Gelb has been working the stage at roots rocker Giant Sand with various mates over the years, but that his solo recordings are more in line with the late night, low key material on Gathered, and they are justifiably expanding his fan base. You head to bed feeling relaxed, peaceful, and very fortunate. And for tomorrow's drive, you have your road music.
[Note: Certain liberties with respect time, space and reality were taken in drafting this post, but only with the best intentions and with the approval of our legal department.]
Bandcamp for Gathered
Fire Records page for Howe Gelb
Monday, March 11, 2019
Bandcamp for Animal Lovers
Zelle Records page for Animal Lovers
Of course, all regular readers of this blog know that power pop and jangle pop are two of our major musical food groups. So it should come as no surprise that when we heard that the wonderful Norwegian band I Was A King had enlisted Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake to produce their new album, we put the album at the top of our priority list. We are happy to report that our faith and instincts were rewarded -- Slow Century is an absolute delight from beginning to end. The sound is more pop than some of their other albums (other than their 2013 album which also was produced by Blake), and it is perfection to our ears. The hooks and guitars fit comfortably in a channel that includes Big Star, The Byrds, and Teenage Fanclub, but the affecting combined vocals of Frod Stromstad and Anne Lise Frokedal provide a distinctive element that makes the songs all the more memorable. Ole Reidar Gudmestad and Arne K. Mathisen comprise the able rhythm section, and Half Japanese's Jad Fair contributes guitar to standout track 'Hatchet". The result is one of our top albums of the first quarter of 2019.
Bandcamp for Slow Century