YO LA TENGO – Stuff Like That There

Album: Stuff Like That There

Artist: Yo La Tengo

Label: Matador

Release Date: August 28, 2015

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The Upshot: Amazing collection of covers a la 1990 classic Fakebook that tackles Hank Williams, Lovin’ Spoonful, The Cure and loads more.


One of the great things about Yo La Tengo is you’re never quite sure which band you’re going to get either on record or at a show. Is it the feedback-heavy noise rock trio or the smart kid pop band with sweet harmonies and catchy hooks?

So what did they opt for this time? An album of covers – wait. Hear me out before move on. Yes, the covers album is almost always the tangible product of a band throwing its collective arms up in the air and saying, “fuck it. We’ve got nothing else, so let’s just re-record someone else’s stuff.” And, yes, the band did the same thing back in 1990, when they put out Fakebook. But every now and then, and admittedly it’s very rare, but a band will take someone else’s songs and completely re-arrange them in such a way that it seems like the originals were being played wrong from the beginning. Think Johnny Cash and his American Recordings period; think Nirvana covering the Meat Puppets… ok, maybe it’s not as great as those two examples, but it’s a pretty amazing collection nonetheless. Think 1990’s Fakebook.

On Stuff Like That There, this time around the band flawlessly tackles Hank Williams (“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”), The Cure (“Friday I’m in Love”) and The Lovin’ Spoonful (“Butchie’s Tune”), among others. And while the Hank Williams ditty is already arguable the world’s greatest tear-in-my-beer song, the band – re-joined by original guitarist Dave Schramm on this record – brings sweet melancholy to a whole new level with this collection of standards and deep cuts.

Thirty years together and the band is still managing to keep its fans guessing, in the best way possible.

DOWNLOAD: “Friday I’m in Love,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “I Can Feel the Ice Melting”



Album: m

Artist: Myrkur

Label: Relapse

Release Date: August 21, 2015

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The Upshot: Critically acclaimed metal mistress collaborates with Norwegian scene mainstay Garm (not to mention a girl’s choir) for an album simultaneously filled with beauty and grace and some of the most rawest form of gothic black metal.


Myrkur broke out onto the black metal scene back in 2014 with her critically acclaimed self-titled EP, causing much controversy simply for being a one woman black metal band, given that the genre has always been a very male occupied phenomenon, what with the likes of Mayhem, Burzum, and Immortal. A girl entering the forest with nothing but a torch in hand, a pack of wolves, and a very talented vocal range, Myrkur was bound to upset people in the metal community. With tons of backlash on the internet, Myrkur (aka Amalie Bruun) nevertheless stood strong and presented a powerful debut record that definitely took the stance for women making powerful music.

The extremely talented all teenage girl choir Det Norske Jenekor starts off the album with angelic like vocals. Bruun then brings in backing vocals that one could say is jarring and at odds with the girls’. Which in a sense is and is not. Black metal has always had a sense of shock and awe. With Myrkur bringing on a group of girls presenting their sweet vocals throughout the album, it is simultaneously filled with beauty and grace and some of the most rawest form of gothic black metal. Bruun was once the singer for the Brooklyn punk band Ex-Cops. There, she lent her vocals for more of discordant pop style. Very much the complete opposite in a lot of ways.

M continues to come into the light, only to be dragged back into the darkness by the wolves of Garm’s production. Garm is one of the key members of Ulver and the Norwegian music scene, and if you are not familiar with any of his projects (Arcturus, Borknagar, Aethnor, and Head Control System) you are in for a treat. His production credits also are pretty heavy, having helped with many projects such as Sunn O))), Emperor and Mayhem. With his hand in the cauldron, m also has a host of very talented musicians, among them Teloch (live guitarist for Gorgoroth, he additionally plays for Nidingr and, here, lends his blistering guitar tone the record), Teloch on bass guitar and Oyvind Myrvoll on drums (both also in Nidingr), and, on one of the standout tracks, “Mordet,” ex-Arch Enemy/Armageddon guitarist Christopher Amott. “Skadi” is another song that really stuck out for this writer. Its energetic drum patterns filled with rigid but airy vocals (that reminded me of The Knife’s Karin Andersson) left me wanting more as soon as the song finished, leading you into a piano encore.

Overall the album presents a powerful case for the Bruun and Garm being in the studio and collaborating so well. One can only hope that this is the beginning of many projects for the two.

DOWNLOAD: “Mordet” “Skadi”

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Side Effects (4LP box)

Album: Side Effects (4LP box)

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Fruits de Mer

Release Date: August 21, 2015

Side Effects

The Upshot: Mostly unknown artists (with the exception of Bevis Frond) covering well-known artists (Miles Davis, Donna Summer, Yes, Pink Floyd, Byrds, Gordon Lightfoot and more) inna psychedelic stylee.


Fruits de Mer Records hailing from the UK have put together a genuinely brilliant collection of bands doing psychedelic heavy covers that run the gamut from the obligatory Pink Floyd to some way out there Miles Davis and the just plain unexpected Donna Summer track.

Bevis Frond’s reworking of the Electric Sandwich track “China” is a killer rendition of the track. Nick Saloman on this cut has a virtuosic presence and manages to coax all of the subtle intricacies the song demands of players that enter its headspace. I’ve forgotten how much I miss Nick and band wrapping themselves into longer numbers like this that create a vortex of shape shifting sounds that bend and morph while transporting us into interstellar space.

Sendelica’s version of the Donna Summer/ Giorgio Moroder classic “I Feel Love”, is not as odd as you might think. Here the band have blissed the track even further out with some stellar sax, and some Hawkwind like swooshes floating in the background. Could this be the new trend given Tame Impala’s latest record also being disco tinged? If so I’m on board. When you think about it is it really that odd? Both psychedelic music and disco have a drugged out connection and somewhere out in the universe of music they connect with their propulsive elements that fuse with your cells to take you outside your body to get lost in something greater.

Side Effects LPs

Julie’s Haircut’s reworking of the Miles Davis track “Shhh/Peaceful” is a killer rendition of the track. The band slay hard on this late ‘60s number. Many lesser bands might shy away from covering a Miles Davis song from this period, given the intricate mix of jazz and psychedelia. That said, Julie’s Haircut shows they have the chops to make it their own.

The Wreath’s turn in a narcotic doused version of Gordon Lightfoot’s track “Sundown”. The band here brings this song to a much darker conclusion than the original track ever hinted at. The lyric “When I get feelin’ better when I’m feelin’ no pain” takes on new meaning as the band jump off into some hallucinatory soul searching in the second half of the track.

Each track on this set varies in length from 16 minutes to nearly 25, and is sure to satisfy anyone who misses the exploratory/transitory psych symphonies that used to fill whole slab of wax.

Fruits de Mer has managed with this compilation to cast a net into the psychedelic sea, pulling up some really amazing treats for us to enjoy. This limited, heavy vinyl, LP set will keep you submerged even as the tide subsides.

DOWNLOAD: “China,” “I Feel Love,” “Sundown”

TOM DYER’S NEW PAGAN GODS – History of Northwest Rock Vol. 1 1959-1968

Album: History of Northwest Rock Vol. 1 1959-1968

Artist: Tom Dyer's New Pagan Gods

Label: Green Monkey

Release Date: August 07, 2015

Tom Dyer

The Upshot: Exactly as the title announces—an overview of the early NW rock scene as “viewed” through the lens of a kid who was there at the time and was subsequently inspired to become part of it.


When is the clichéd tribute album syndrome not clichéd? When the material being covered isn’t presented as yet another vanity project assembled by managers and A&R hacks aiming for the lowest common denominator consumer demographic (hello, all you Beatles/Stones/Hendrix/Led Zep/Ramones/Bob Marley/Nirvana tribs compilers), but rather a heartfelt celebration of the music that inspired the assembled performers to pick up the damn guitar in the first place!

In the collection at hand, it’s a lone performer, and it’s not a single-artist tribute at that, but rather a look at the collective and proximate music of one man’s childhood and teenage years and how it informed his own subsequent artistry. Tom Dyer, majordomo of long-running NW label Green Monkey, logically takes his initial inspiration from the likes of the Sonics, Kingsmen, Wailers, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Fleetwoods, Frantics and others whose “raw goodness,” as he puts it, “is permanently aligned with my caveman brain.” There was a secondary inspiration for Dyer as well: 1976 regional retrospective The History of Northwest Rock Volume 1, originally issued by Jerry Dennon’s Great Northwest Music Company label (Dennon of course being the man behind legendary NW label Jerden Records) and which here provided the basic tracklisting, Dyer fleshing the CD out with some more of his faves. Assembling some of his likeminded, long-memoried cavemen pals—Green Pajamas’ Joe Ross and Jeff Kelly, Scott Vanderpool and Scott Sutherland of the King County Queens, producer Steve Fisk—Dyer tucked into a remake/remodel/rewire project of meaty proportions.

From start to finish, the record’s a 15-track gas, chock full of familiar gems and obscure nuggets. Among the “likes” you might be thumbs-upping at a social media outlet very soon: the Raiders’ “Hungry,” served up raw and bloody, no medium-cooked meat for Dyer & Co. (there’s also a cover of “Just Like Me”), the Ventures’ timeless surf instro “Walk Don’t Run,” just to remind you that these cats weren’t from SoCal but from Tacoma, Wash.; the Frantics’ “Werewolf,” a freaky, sleazy instro that wouldn’t be out of place on one of those Songs the Cramps Taught Us collections; “Angel of the Morning” by Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts, a sure-to-surprise-you pop classic if you were expecting a straight up garage set from Dyer (and for my money, as one who owns the original 45, far truer to the original Chip Taylor-penned tune than country songstress Juice Newton’s watered-down cover; and of course “Louie Louie,” which in Dyer’s hands takes not only a huge left turn but an unplanned detour down an alley, across the freeway, and off into the hinterlands, so unique is the arrangement.

In his notes Dyer calls this his own “revisionist Northwest history” with “no attempt to duplicate the originals.” Instead, he set out to capture the DIY spirit and the maverick vibe that the songs’ creators represented. Methinks he succeeded.

DOWNLOAD: “Louie Louie,” “Angel Of the Morning,” “Hungry,” “She’s Boss” (by the Dimensions)

BRENT BEST – Your Dog, Champ

Album: Your Dog, Champ

Artist: Brent Best

Label: Last Chance

Release Date: August 07, 2015

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The Upshot: Slobberbone frontman dials it down a bit and gets decidedly folkier for his latest solo outing.


Texas loves its singer/songwriters – from the holy fount of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt and the river of Lubbock mafia to the tributaries spewing forth Alejandro Escovedo, Shakey Graves and the scions of Jimmie Dale Gilmore and James McMurtry. Yet unless that songwriter stands in front of a mic with an acoustic guitar and an otherwise empty stage, at least at some point in his career, s/he ain’t taken seriously. The Reivers’ John Croslin is every bit the equal of his celebrated brethren and sistern, yet has never gotten his due as an author outside of indie rock circles.

So it’s also gone with Denton’s Brent Best. Heavily influenced by Southern literary authors like Larry Brown and Harry Crews, the erstwhile Slobberbone leader has long crafted lyrics that are short stories unto themselves, singing them in a plainspoken ramble and marrying them to engaging roots rock melodies that elevate his tunes beyond the usual Americana drone. Despite plenty of solo acoustic work over the years, he’s still best-known as the frontguy for a loud rock band, which in some folks’ minds seems to foolishly negate any chance he has at inclusion in the pantheon of Great Texas Songwriters.

Not that he likely cares. Undaunted, Best continues his good work with Your Dog, Champ, his first solo album and first new music since 2006’s Jubilee Drive, the sole album by his short-lived Drams project. Joined by, among others, fellow Texans Ralph White (Bad Livers) on fiddle, Grady Don Sandlin (RTB2) on drums, Scott Danbom (centro-matic) on keys and Claude Bernard (the Gourds) on accordion, Best dials down the power chords a bit for a folkier set of tunes that uphold his prior standards. He ranges from the sparse, mostly acoustic “Career Day” and the straight C&W of “You Shouldn’t Worry” to the mournful ballad “Clotine” and the pounding anthem “Tangled.” As with his hero Brown, family snapshots remain his specialty, with the sardonic “Daddy Was a Liar” and bittersweet “Aunt Ramona” capturing his vision clearly. In that regard, the album’s centerpiece is “Robert Cole,” a tale of forced maturity and lost innocence likely to be the most-requested song in Best’s repertoire for as long as his career endures.

Though the record is powered by less voltage than Best requires in Slobberbone, it’s just as effective in its presentation of the songs. And it’s a set that puts Your Dog, Champ right up there with the best of his band, and that’s very, very good indeed.

DOWNLOAD: “Robert Cole,” “Aunt Ramona,” “Daddy Was a Liar”


Album: Under the Savage Sky

Artist: Barrence Whitfield and the Savages

Label: Bloodshot

Release Date: August 21, 2015

Barrence 8-21

The Upshot: Twisted garage rock, Stax-influenced soul, weird skronky blues and even dollops of psychedelia from the Bosstown maestro.


Barrence Whitfield’s latest is a flaming, yowling, sax-blaring R ‘n B revival, with a dance-craze-in-a-box (“The Claw”), a hilarious take on prison-crossed love (“Incarceration Casserole”) and a clutch of late-1960s/early 1970s crate-digger covers. Staking out ground somewhere south of the Sonics (with whom Whitfield has toured), more Stax-influenced than the Dirtbombs and rawer than the Dap-Tones, Whitfield brings enough fire to skirt charges of homage. The first half of the album hews close to soul paradigms, but the second half opens out into psychedelically warped and weird takes on this skronky, blues-fed genre.

Whitfield plays with Peter Greenberg, his guitarist from his 1980s beginnings, who went on to play in Boston garage mainstays the Lyres and DMZ and then dropped out completely. The two of them have been together again since 2013’s Dig That Savage Soul, melding the diesel caked grit of no-frills garage with vamping, horn-blurting soul. That horn, by the way, belongs to one Tom Quartulli, a Berklee grad who fell for 1960s R ‘n B. He sounds, at times, like an entire line of reeds, locked in tight and boxy grooves where the end of the phrase tucks into the beginning of the next for relentless, syncopated motion.

I like the tumult and ferocity of the album’s first half, though I’m not sure the world needs another “Everybody do the [insert dance move here]” song or anything else entitled “Rock and Roll Baby,” ever again. But by its midsection, the album turns sulfurously eccentric with the 12/8 skank of “Adjunct Street,” Whitfield howling like Robert Carr. “Angry Hands” has a surreal, otherworldly grandeur to it, and show stopping “Full Moon in the Daylight Sky” takes its rough blues licks and ragged croons into a hollowed out dream world. This is good strong stuff that sounds like it comes from inside. It makes the earlier tracks seem like entertainment. Which is fine, as far as it goes, but Whitfield can do better.

DOWNLOAD: “Angry Birds” “Full Moon in the Daylight Sky”



Dead Moon + Cynics 7/4/15, Austin

Dates: July 4, 2015

Location: The Mohawk, Austin TX

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Independence Day 2015 and the “American Icon Presents A.I.R. Expo 2” went down in Austin at the Mohawk. Our resident garage fiend Dr. Passman was on hand to click the lens… Go HERE to read or recent interview with the Cynics.


(above and below: Dead Moon)

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(below: The Cynics)

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Hard Working Americans 8/18/15, Raleigh NC

Dates: August 18, 2015

Location: Lincoln Theater, Raleigh NC

Hard Working Americans (Blurt)


By the time Hard Working Americans rolled into Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre on August 18th, they were already living up to their name. Since starting their High Up On It tour in Richmond, VA, this was their fifth show in six days, and they only have one day off before ending the tour on the 30th in Colorado. [Tour itinerary HERE] At that point the members of this ‘jam-band’ supergroup, Todd Snider (singer/songwriter/raconteur), Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Dave Schools and Duane Trucks (both of Widespread Panic), Jesse Aycock (solo artist) and Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi) will return to their ‘real jobs’, some hitting the road again within days of ending this tour. Yes, these are some hard working Americans.

After opening the set with the beautiful Gillian Welch/David Rawlings ballad “Wrecking Ball,” the band set the tone for the rest of the evening with Hayes Carll’s “Stomp and Holler.” Most of HWA’s repertoire consists of the band’s favorite songs by underappreciated songwriters they are fans and friends of (along with a few of Snider’s songs), most also dealing with the plight of the working man. What makes it work is the fact that they all become Hard Working American songs, and they are sounding better and better as the band spends more time together. Casal and Aycock each had plenty of time in the spotlight, with Casal’s clean lines contrasting nicely with Aycock’s dirty lap steel. During the instrumental jams, Snider definitely likes being the singer in a jam band, as evidenced by his barefoot hippie-dancing during the instrumental jams. These guys definitely enjoy their work, there were smiles onstage all night.

Encoring with “Purple Mountain Jamboree,” followed by Kevn Kinney’s Drivin N Cryin classic “Straight to Hell,” complete with the audience singing along on the chorus, they sent us home on a high note with a staple of Todd Snider solo shows, “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.”

In these highly charged days of bad news, protests, and politicians pandering to us a year and a half before an election, it’s worth noting that about 30 minutes into the set, Snider prefaced “Welfare Music” by saying, “We haven’t come here to protest anything… which technically means we’ve come to celebrate every fucking thing.”

Celebrate we did, Tuesday night in Raleigh never sounded so good.

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Todd Gunsher is a Raleigh-based photographer, journalist and musician. Check out more of his HWA photos and other equally fine cultural/musical subjects at his Flickr page. (We especially recommend his Schoolkids Records portfolios…)



Album: Horsehair

Artist: Michael Rank and Stag

Label: Louds Hymn

Release Date: July 11, 2015

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The Upshot: Erstwhile Snatches of Pink frontman continues on an impressive solo roll, this time teaming with Mount Moriah’s Heather McEntire for a Gram-and-Emmylou-inspired gem of roots, rock ‘n’ twang.


The ever-prolific Michael Rank begins Horsehair, his second album of 2015 and fifth since assembling the free-floating Stag, with a tempered ode to the search for meaning. Accompanied by mandolinist Ron Bartholomew and Mount Moriah leader Heather McEntire, the ex-Snatches of Pink/Clarissa frontman/guitarist brings quiet certitude and back porch soul to “Frontiers,” gently letting 30 years of musical experience speak louder than a Marshall stack.

But matters of the heart rarely stray far from Rank’s worldview, as he colors the rest of these outlaw folk tunes with nods to ex-wives, current flames and, of course, son Bowie Ryder, his most consistent muse. The bitterness suffusing “Bluebird” contrasts with the hope winding through “Mexico,” the same way the easygoing country rock of “Husk” leavens the somber chamber folk of “Fire Walkers.” MVP status pins on McEntire, the Emmylou to Rank’s Gram – her country harmonies blend so well with Rank’s low-key twang that one hopes this partnership continues.

Rank’s vision reaches complete fruition, fittingly, on the final track “This Side of Texas,” which puts the “Helpless” chord changes through his distinctive roots rock ringer for an elegiac mini-anthem of love, regret and defiance. It’s a perfect balance of grit and beauty, a noble goal that Rank has successfully pursued for his entire career, up to and including the elegant, expressive Horsehair.

DOWNLOAD: “This Side of Texas,” “Bluebird,” “Husk”





Album: Do It Live

Artist: Sonny Knight and the Lakers

Label: Secret Stash

Release Date: June 23, 2015

Sonny Knight 6-23

The Upshot: Funk ‘n’ soul served up raw and steaming by the premiere Minneapolis artist whose name is not Prince—and it’s a live platter, to boot. Get down!


Not too many artists would have the balls to use as their stage-entrance music Led Zep’s “Heartbreaker”—and by transmogrifying the decidedly metallic tune’s signature opening riff into something significantly more funkified and swinging, also ensuring that a percentage of listeners would scratch their heads and think, hmm, this is kinda familiar, but…. Still, if anyone’s qualified to boast about having an impressive set of musical huevos, it’s Minneapolis brutha Sonny Knight who, on a timely live-in-concert followup to 2014’s smoking I’m Still Here additionally covers icons big (Leadbelly, on an unusual adaptation of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” aka “In the Pines,” which of course was also tackled by Nirvana), huge (The Beatles, via “Day Tripper), and respectively large, if cult-heroish (Rodriguez’s wonderful “Sugar Man,” which earns an uptempo oomph at their hands; Rodriguez is discussed HERE on our site) and pays tribute to some fellow sixties soulmen, among them Maurice McKinnies and the Champions (a rousing, introducing-the-band, JB’s referencing “Sock A Poo Poo”) and The Amazers (the super-silky “It’s You For Me,” penned by one Napoleon Crayton and originally produced by none other than Curtis Mayfield).

All the above name-dropping aside, the sheer power of the 2014 studio album (also issued by the soul survivors at Secret Stash Records) and its resulting high profile for Knight is what made this live ‘un possible, and the December 18-19 homecoming shows at Minneapolis venue the Dakota Jazz. Shows were accordingly riotous. In our original review of I’m Still Here we characterized veteran musician Knight and his young band of funkateers’ work as “a retro-soul blowout of epic proportions that will no doubt please fans of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kinds, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields et al… [doing] their traditional-tilting, seventies-inspired soul/funk with the agility of wizened veterans.” That all holds true, and then some, for Do It Live—just check out the live incarnation of hi-nrg/blues-rock, atavistic dance instructional “Cave Man,” or the positively swinging, horns-centric “Through With You,” or the flat-out stanky all-and-response stomp that is the band’s signature live track, “Sonny’s Boogaloo.”

There’s plenty more on evidence here, from Muscle Shoals and Memphis Stax/Volt to down ‘n’ dusty Lone Star State fonk and modified Afro-beat that’ll strike a chord among Fela fans. It’s all 100% Knight and his Lakers, though, and in 2015 one of the best calling cards for a live act as one can imagine. Who needs a booking agent or a manager when you’ve got a record like this? Shoot, issue it on vinyl, rename it Sonny Comes Alive! and you’ve got a whole new 2-LP live album craze in the making…

DOWNLOAD: “Cave Man,” “Sock A Poo Poo,” “Sonny’s Boogaloo,” “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”