Country & western
Image: National Photo Company Collection
The Treehouse Song - Ane Brun
These are days of miracles. In 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