Friday, October 24, 2008

Country & western

Image: National Photo Company Collection

The Treehouse Song - Ane Brun

These are days of miracles. I
n less than two weeks -- bar catastrophe -- Barack Obama will become this country's next president. And Tuesday night, I, with a couple hundred other exhausted E6 followers, sang a capella, "we will live forever and you know it's true" as we circled Jeff Mangum on the inauspicious floor of the Bottom Lounge. And he played a song. So I shouldn't be surprised, not at all, to hear a young Scandinavian woman sing with Dolly Parton's self-deprecating coo and hiccup, and perform regret looser, more ambivalent and thus convincing than anything I've heard all year. Ane Brun offers "Wouldn't It Be Nice--10 Years On" as a small, sad smile that nevertheless lights you up inside.

From the lovely Changing of the Seasons (Amazon, eMusic), Myspace

Cowboy - The Rumble Strips

Remember that Depeche Mode video where they dressed up like cowboys and kicked around some dusty desert town (or dusty desert town set)? And how it was totally whack but also kind of sexy? Hmm hmm, that kind of cowboy. Except imagine kids raised on ska and frequent affirmation instead of dance pop and depression. They grew up and started a band.

From Girls and Weather (Amazon, eMusic), Myspace

A Drink - Micah Blue Smaldone

If it were only for Sam Amidon's album, this would be a excellent year for plain-cloth roots performed with wonder and awe and rue. But here is Micah Blue Smaldone -- that former punk reborn as a troubadour in a musty Union Army-issued greatcoat --
with a new record. Songs about drinking -- drinking too much -- can be blunt and facile. But the expository "A Drink" offers no lessons or summaries in its verse upon verse. And when Smaldone sings "Tonight I will drink to coming home/ I've loved your babies as though they were my own," these impulses and actions aren't incompatible.

From The Red River (Amazon), Myspace

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Midnight, sapphire, cerulean, teal

von stenglin
Image: Franziska von Stenglin

Midnight Blues (live at Planet Claire) - Liz Green
Midnight Blues - Liz Green

Thanks to Blogotheque for reminding me (a month ago, things are on a 30-day delay round here) about Liz Green, a Northern English lass with the haunted timbre and cadence of a lost, nameless American Southern blues singer (who scrubbed floors and rubbed her fingers raw by day, lost herself on a tiny stage by night and died at 33 of TB, as those stories go). A British girl with a well-deep, well-dark voice that ripples and ripples and ripples. The first track is live-recorded in Paris; the second is a studio recording. Often -- mostly -- musicians efficiently reproduce their recordings on the road. Not the sonics, the emotional tenor, the meaning to the singer, the sung-about, the sung-to. But these are two utterly different songs. I'm sure you can guess which I prefer.

From Bad Medicine/French Singer (Amazon), Myspace

See My Love - Headless Heroes

See My Love (Song for Greg) - Gentle Soul

Alela Diane and a crew of Nevada City, CA (Newsom country) musicians have made the covers record I wish Vetiver had earlier this year: eccentric, eclectic, electric, ringing with reverb, good cheer and imagination. The original "See My Love" was performed by Gentle Soul -- an obscurish hippie folk duo -- soft, whispery, sideways. But Diane sings it strong and melodramatic against surging and cresting orchestral waves (I never realized she had such powerhouse pipes) like it's a certain girl-group declaration of destiny, romance, true love and affirmation of faith in the power of songs to communicate those things unambiguously.

From The Silence of Love (Amazon),