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TUNNG—Songs You Make at Night

Album: Songs You Make at Night

Artist: Tunng

Label: Full Time Hobby

Release Date: August 24, 2018

https://fulltimehobby.co.uk/

The Upshot: The same recognizable magic as Tunng’s best work, in hectically complicated arrangements that melt into simplicity and sleek modern surfaces atop centuries-old modalities. 

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Tunng co-founder Sam Genders has been missing for two albums, as under the sway of Mike Lindsay and Becky Jacobs, the folktronica collective has moved further away from its shadowy melancholic roots towards a brighter, more conventional sound. With Songs You Make at Night, Genders is  back for the first time since 2007’s Good Arrows, adding a soft wistful ache to the band’s percolating rhythms and expansively instrumented grooves. This latest album is still a fair amount bubblier than early works, with the electronic part more prominent than on Mother’s Daughter or Good Arrows, yet it has the same recognizable magic as Tunng’s best work, in hectically complicated arrangements that melt into simplicity and sleek modern surfaces atop centuries-old modalities.

In this way, the single “ABOP” bleeps and burbles with dance elements, its antic syncopated beat banging on amid new wave-y chimes of keyboard. Yet it also works a night time sorcercy with lyrics evoking “A blue moon phosphorescence, ignites around my fall, like chalk around a body, like light inside a storm.”  Some of these songs are relatively folky, though even “Crow” weaves samples and shiny Rhodes and glitch-rhythms into its melody. Sounds are always in flux, one turning into another, electric morphing into acoustic, melancholy into euphoric, introspective into body-celebrating dance. “Dark Heart” is the most synthwave-y of these cuts, its ghost disco trills of “Ah! Ah la la la!” punctuating blatting, burping beats, but even it starts in birdsong and water sound. This is the music of magical realism, where anything might be transmuted into anything else at any moment.

There’s a nocturnal air to many of these songs, which are bookended by “Dream In” and “Dream Out,” two concoctions of electronic aura and wistful confidences. The first one is longer, throwing up flares of keyboard sound and glitch percussion around murmured verse. “It’s a beautiful dream,” observes Genders, in his unadorned way and an altered woman’s voice, fully of eerie vibrato, flickers up in the background. “Dream Out” has no vocals, but it also works in soft, understated textures, where ordinary strums and jangles coalesce into fairy dusted surreality. The album ends with a very Tunng-like spoken word sample of a man asking, “Why are you lying down in the middle of the forest?”  Why indeed, but also why not?

DOWNLOAD: “ABOP,” “Dream In”

 

 

MARK LANEGAN & DUKE GARWOOD—With Animals

Album: With Animals

Artist: Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood

Label: Heavenly

Release Date: August 24, 2018

http://heavenlyrecordings.com

The Upshot: It’s hard to tell where Lanegan leaves off and Garwood steps in, but that’s because the gravelly-voiced singers are so well matched and equally focused on a singular, spooky vibe.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood make a lot of sense together. They’re both gravelly-voiced singers with a ruminative air, both adept at the hallucinatory bends and slides and repetitions of blues guitar, both willing to look into the abyss, and, indeed, hardly able to tear themselves away from it. Both work, at least part of the time, in a smouldering, spectral mode, volume pitched at a murmur, but intensity nevertheless rather high. They have a history together, too. This is their second album as a duo, following 2013’s Black Pudding, and Garwood has played supporting roles on Lanegan’s Blues Funeral as well as last year’s Gargoyle.

With Animals, then, is a bare-bones incantation, recorded both together and separately with a minimal palette of voice (entirely Lanegan’s as far as I can tell), guitar, a few keyboards and programmed drums. The title refers to the fact that Lanegan keeps five pets at home where he recorded, and sharper ears than mine can, reportedly, pick up the occasional bark or meow. The album has a muted, tamped down air, at least compared to the last couple of Lanegan records. Songs run slow and hollowed out and mournfully contemplative; there are no extended instrumental solos, no rock excess, but rather a haunted, phosphorescent atmosphere, where melodies float among rings of smoke and fog. “C’mon now midnight children, sing a dark harmony,” Lanegan urges in the single, “Save Me,” which is as good a summation of With Animals’ nocturnal energies as any.

None of these tracks are overstuffed, but a few have been pared to eerie essence. The sparest, most ghostly cut, “Lonesome Infidel” does away with guitars altogether, running only an oscillating line of keyboard tone under it, notes that blink on and off like landing lights to bring its elliptical verses home. Finally even the words fade away into the murk and a whistler carries the melody, a small point of light moving through the darkest sort of cavern. “Scarlett,” with its thudding kick drum, its wavering tones of slide guitar, is similarly skeletal but lovely, its vocals distilled to basics: longing, sex and memory. Other cuts let the light in, just a little. “Upon Doing Something Wrong” proves again that something interesting happens when Lanegan’s ravaged voice is added to pristine, sun-dappled folk picking, while “Spaceman” moves further into twilight on shuffling, shaken percussion and slanting, note-shifting guitar.

With Animals reminds me of Lanegan’s work with Isobel Campbell, more acoustic, less bombastic, less ready to take you by the throat than his solo albums, but nonetheless quietly revelatory. It’s hard to tell, really, where he leaves off and Garwood steps in, but that’s because they’re so well matched and equally focused on a singular, spooky vibe.

DOWNLOAD: “Save Me” “Scarlett” “Upon Doing Something Wrong”

 

 

WALTER SALAS-HUMARA – Walterio

Album: Walterio

Artist: Walter Salas-Humara

Label: Rhyme and Reason Records

Release Date: August 10, 2018

www.Rhyme-Reason.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Walter Salas-Humara has never been one to dismiss his past, especially as it applies to his Hispanic heritage. The erstwhile leader of the seminal Americana outfit The Silos even opted to name his new album after the nickname given him by his family, and then went several steps further by singing two of its songs in Spanish — the rousing opening track “El Camino De Oro” and the perky yet persistent “Hecho En Galicia.” Granted, that’s not as bold a move as it might once have been in a more Anglo-fied era, but even in today’s multicultural environment, it still shows a certain propensity for expanding his embrace.

After The Silos went on hiatus 20 or so years ago (the band’s history is complicated, to say the least; in 2011 a revamped lineup headed up by Salas-Humara released an album, also touring behind it, and occasional rumblings continue to be heard about the group), Salas-Humara undertook a solo sojourn that has gained him international recognition all on his own. Indeed, his knack for plying rock steady rhythms with a decidedly personal perspective has helped him carve a niche in today’s roots rock firmament. In that regard, Walterio is one of his most personable and pointedly engaging efforts yet, whether it’s the vulnerable plea of “Should I Wait for Tomorrow” to the rockier resolve of “Out of the Band,” a humorous diatribe about the conflict that often erupts out of the usual group dynamic.

With Silos drummer Konrad Meissner in tow, Salas-Humara frequently summons an unabashed rock ‘n’ roll revelry, and the brash swagger powering songs such as “Here We Go” and the steady, seductive “She’s a Caveman” attest to his ability to follow the form. Consider him a populist rocker of sorts, a musician whose live performances frequently find him freely mingling with his audiences while serving up his songs. “I want to be with you,” he declares, in the ebullient song of the same name, and while it may be a romantic entreaty in theory, it also attests to his populist precepts. Even a cursory listen ensures the feeling will remain mutual.

DOWNLOAD: “Should I Wait for Tomorrow,” “Out of the Band,” “Here We Go”

TIM RUTILI & CRAIG ROSS – 10 Seconds to Collapse

Album: 10 Seconds to Collapse

Artist: Tim Rutili & Craig Ross

Label: Jealous Butcher

Release Date: June 22, 2018

https://www.jealousbutcher.com/

The Upshot: There be beautiful monsters here, and the Rutili-Ross team serve up new and unfamiliar sonic mutations to charm and awe us. Watch video, below, and also check the links for additional videos.

BY JOHN SCHACHT

Like the pop art cover collage by artist Shane Swank, the songs on 10 Seconds to Collapse portray all manner of beautiful monsters. For creators Tim Rutili (Califone, Red Red Meat) and Craig Ross (Shearwater, Spoon, Robert Plant), these surreal folk, desert-baked blues and deconstructed pop hybrids bloom brightest where the digital — feedback, tape loops, etc. — and analog worlds collide, and where new and unfamiliar sonic mutations emerge to charm and awe us.

On 2016’s Guitars Tuned to Air Conditioners, the pair vamped off the electricity of the universe in two 16-minute-plus sides of modulated drone airbrushed with guitar parts. On 10 Seconds, that adventurism anchors what are more traditional song structures in the same reference frame; the vocals are really the only hint at authorship. Rutili sings five of the seven tracks, and what emerges here is pretty characteristic of the Califone catalog: streaks of angular feedback, cottony whorls of synths, looped noise and chopped-up percussion melting into — and emerging from — transcendent melodies and harmonies. (Fellow traveler Brian Deck had additional recording/mixing duties.)

The phrase “Ten seconds to collapse” is the warning heard just after an underground nuclear detonation, and here it’s delivered in chilling, military official-monotone to kick things off with a suitably apocalyptic portend to open Ross’ “Like a Rifle.” An explosion of chopped-and-screwed guitars and beats follows, before serrated guitar lines burst through a fuzzy haze of effects and into a loping tempo that’s fitting for a song that passes — lyrically, anyway — through Tucumcari.

The current political nightmare may color song interpretations — particularly given the duo’s penchant for elliptical lyrics — but the atom-splitting here also occurs face-to-face in addition to musically. On the elegiac “The Day Before the Peaches Rot,” Rutili builds around his familiar languid acoustic slide, keyboard drifts and EBow scrawls. The song’s “Sunday table drunks, bellowing too late, too late in the game,” may be bitching about politics or mistakes made or their former glory days (or all three), but “The terror in your smile/in every wedding picture” image that follows suggests dark clouds and future fear as well.

On “Back to the Plow,” Ross’ lyrics work equally well as Luddite warning or future prophecy, as the song alternates between sections of brutal guitar riffs and clouds of Lennon-like mellotron.

It’s not all gloomy cataclysm, though. “Choke” — probably Rutili’s most pop-friendly take since Quicksand/Cradlesnakes’ “Vampiring Again” — is a wizened love song that choogles along behind prominent bass-fuzz while the duo subverts the AM Gold-friendly format, using EBow and feedback to blow up the chorus and elliptical imagery to create a more Burroughsian narrative. Another radio-friendly cut, the Stones-y ballad “Coma Tapes,” has a heart-beat tempo and blissful harmonies from indie film actress Angela Bettis, who whispers in our ears to remind us that “there’s starlight that made you.”

The LP closes with “Little Carnivores,” which laments our habit of self-sabotage and species murder by asking, “Shall we kill something beautiful tonight?” in the slinky choruses. The song is cousin to “Tayzee Nub” from 2000’s Roomsound, including Califone co-founder Ben Massarella’s distinctive percussion touches. The last half of the nine-minute track features a looped piano chord overlaid with synth and guitar squiggles that drift in and out of the frame like microscopic organisms on a slide. “Birds are crashing into picture windows/God’s a hundred-dollar head rush coming down,” Rutili wearily intones as our place in the natural order, well, collapses it.

These days, it’s easy to conflate apocalyptic fare with its most obvious source — the racist trashcan fire atop our political system. But aiming all our disappointment there cheapens us and absolves us of the roles we play in our own personal Armageddons. These sonic explorations of Rutili and Ross may just be a pleasant way to bide time until the inevitable collapse, but you won’t find many lovelier monsters to play the string out with.

DOWNLOAD:Greasing Up the Third Eye,” “Choke,” “Like a Rifle,” “Coma Tapes.”

JUDEE SILL – Judee Sill / Heart Food / Songs of Rapture and Redemption

Album: Judee Sill / Heart Food / Songs of Rapture and Redemption (LPs)

Artist: Judee Sill

Label: Intervention / Run Out Groove

Release Date: July 27, 2018

www.interventionrecords.com / www.runoutgroovevinyl.com

The Upshot: Late songstress gets a welcome reintroduction via deluxe vinyl reissues of her two studio albums plus a new collection of live and rare material.

BY FRED MILLS

As is often the case with artists who have passed on, legacy begets legend. And while 1970s songstress Judee Sill’s impact during her short life was minimal before her death, at 35, of a drug overdose—she was probably better known for being the first signing to David Geffen’s Asylum Records, and for having Graham Nash produce her single ”.Jesus Was a Crossmaker,” than for any measurable commercial inroads—she would go on to inspire subsequent generations of singer-song­writers. A trifecta of new archival releases amply demonstrates why her reputation as an immaculate, gifted songstress has steadily grown over the years.

In 2004, 4 Men With Beards reissued on vinyl both her eponymous debut (1971) and Heart Food (1973), while 2003 and 2005 brought remastered CDs on Rhino Handmade and the Water Music label, respectively. Now comes archival specialist In­tervention, which has recently worked wonders with audiophile reissues of Stealers Wheel, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Everclear, and Joe Jackson, with its own vinyl take on the two records. The results are revelatory. Intervention was granted access to the original analog masters so that Grammy-winning mastering engineer Kevin Gray, of Cohearent Audio, could work his all-­analog magic. They then pressed each album on two 180-gram, 45rpm discs, and printed the original artwork on Stoughton “tip-on” gatefold sleeves.

The new Judee Sill is richly illustrative of both artist and artifact, if a bit of a period piece. It’s reminiscent in places of early Joni Mitchell, particularly in ”Jesus Was a Crossmaker,” a slice of mid-tempo piano pop subtly lined with chamber strings; the straightforward folk of “Crayon Angels,” with its oboe melody; and another of several evoca­tions of Jesus, the strummy “My Man on Love.” Elsewhere are some more fleshed-out compositions, orchestra­tions courtesy Don Bagley and Bob Harris; it’s in lush numbers such as “The Archetypal Man” that Gray’s fresh mastering is showcased, revealing a surround-sound depth to the tune’s almost Bach-like arrangement that I don’t hear on the 2005 CD.

For several reasons, Heart Food is the better album. It clearly benefits from Sill’s presumably being more comfortable in the studio two years on, and boasts an impressive roster of 25 “name” musicians, among them keyboardist Spooner Oldham, guitar­ist Doug Dillard, pedal-steel legend Buddy Emmons, bassist Chris Etheridge, and drummer Jim Gordon. And the complexity of Sill’s composi­tions has taken a quantum leap. For this album she also wrote the orches­trations, allowing for both a diversity of scope and an internal cohesion that suggested that she was going for more than simply getting a collection of disparate songs down on tape. Heart Food glows from the outset, its highlights including the sweet, coun­try-tinged (fiddle and steel), lyrically evocative “There’s a Rugged Road,” in which Sill indulges her familiar passion for Christian themes; the delightfully lush “The Kiss,” with an arrangement worthy of Brian Wilson; and the nine-­minute piano epic ”The Donor,” which is suite-like in structure, breathtaking, like CSN&Y singing gospel.

Gray’s remastering, too, will take your breath away. One example: Listening to ”The Donor” is like sitting in a cathedral, bathing in the enveloping voices of a choir, each piano note’s attack and decay as palpable as if you were seated on the bench beside the pianist. Ultimately, Heart Food is a timeless and deeply nourishing musical feast.

Songs of Rapture and Redemption: Rarities & Live arrives courtesy Run Out Groove, whose specialty is deluxe vinyl reissues (check my review of the Dream Syndicate’ The Complete Live at Raji’s 2LP set, which was released last year) and, in some cases, unique titles such as this one. Sides A and B are made up of live material recorded in Boston in ’71, and the seven tracks originally surfaced as bonus material on the 2003 Rhino Handmade Judee Sill; sides C and D are demos and outtakes originally included as bonus material from the two Sill CDs on Handmade. So while the material itself is not unreleased, this marks the first time it’s ever appeared on vinyl, and Run Out Groove has gone the extra mile by pressing the two LPs on swirly magenta vinyl (180-gram, natch) and housing them in a glossy-textured Stoughton sleeve—each set is individually numbered.

The live tracks are delightful, a beautifully recorded document of Sill in her to-brief prime, just the songwriter and her guitar plus, on the seven-minute “As Enchanted Sky Machines,” piano. The track “The Lamb Ran Away with the Crown” is one obvious standout, the Judee Sill number nearly aglow with passion. Among the demos, “Jesus Was a Cross Maker” is a fascinating early glimpse as a song that would go on to be, arguably, the artist’s most famous song. Equally fascinating: reading the liner notes, which are a transcribed conversation between the album’s co-producer, Pat Thomas, and the late Sill’s best friend and collaborator, Tommy Peltier, in which Peltier offers memories of the singer and observations about each track.

All in all, a must-own for any fan of Judee Sill even if they already own the Handmade CDs.

DOWNLOAD: Judee Sill & Heart Food: ”Jesus Was a Crossmaker,” “The Archetypal Man,” “There’s a Rugged Road,” “The Donor”  

 

Songs of Rapture and Redemption: “Lady-O” and “The Lamb Ran Away with the Cross” (both live), “The Desperado” (outtake), “The Pearl” (demo)

DRIFT MOUTH – Little Patch of Sky

Album: Little Patch of Sky

Artist: Drift Mouth

Label: Wild Frontier Recording Company

Release Date: August 03, 2018

https://www.facebook.com/wildfrontiermusic/

BY JOHN B. MOORE

The son of a third generation West Virginia coal miner, Lou Poster’s latest group, Drift Mouth, comes about their Americana sound naturally. After years of playing in the punk country outfit, Grafton, Poster has jettisoned off the punk influences for Drift Mouth and relies solely on classic country and Americana influences for Little Patch of Sky.

The result is a pretty satisfying collection of often melancholy character sketches. Poster’s deep vocals are foreboding, so when it’s just him and an acoustic guitar, the songs tend to blend into each other, the one exception being the powerful, closing track, “This Part of Town,” a deep nod to Springsteen. Elsewhere the band is at its finest when it mixes in more electric and slide guitar (especially on songs like “West Virginia Hitchhiker” and “Franklin County Nights”).

The genesis of Drift Mouth dates back more than a decade ago when Posner brought in drummer Brad Swiniarski to help him record a song for his father, who was retiring from his job at the coal mine. Over the years, he’s added in players – Drift Mouth now a six-piece – and refined their sound, but the band has managed to keep their authenticity intact.

DOWNLOAD: “Angelene,” “Franklin County Nights” and “West Virginia Hitchhiker”

 

PRIMO!—Amici

Album: Amici

Artist: Primo!

Label: Upset the Rhythm

Release Date: July 20, 2018

http://www.upsettherhythm.co.uk/

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Primo!, out of Melbourne, makes a jittery sweet jangle of post-punk aligned with early 1980s touchstones like Kleenex/Liliput and the Au Pairs though with slightly softer edges. The three women in the band—guitarists Xanthe Waite and Violetta DelConte Race and drummer Suzanne Walker — play at cross-angles, lobbing rubbery stabs of rhythmic anarchy at one another and answering in kind. Yet they also join in unity, mostly in the singing, putting the sweet buzz of harmonized thirds into tossed off lyrics about the modern rush and hassle.

“You’ve Got a Million” tangles silly string spurts of off-kilter guitar around scrambling drum rattles, pushing the pace because that’s how life runs these days. “You’ve got a million things to do, racing all over the town, flights of stairs can’t slow you down, you might as well be flying round,” they sing, and indeed, the song itself palpitates with adrenaline. “Mirage,” the single,  flirts with trance and drone and might sound a little like Wooden Shjips if it were paced at a trudge, rather than an antic trot. There’s a boinging, zinging, rebounding guitar lick that zips through the circular riff, as if just to wake it up periodically. “Closed,” regarding the heartbreak of frustrated consumerism, tends lighter, sweeter, nearly girl group-ish, with glints of shiny keyboard gleaming from its fractious guitar mesh.

Perhaps because there’s no bass (Primo! has added Amy Hill on bass since Amici), Primo!’s sound lacks a certain grind and tumult – it’s more Grass Widow than Good Throb — but it’s sharp and fresh and a lot of fun. Primo! hammers, yammers and judders with post-punk agitation but isn’t afraid of an ingratiating tune.

DOWNLOAD: “Mirage” “You’ve Got a Million”

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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks 7/31/18, Denver

Live at the Gothic Theater – and the drums were a-drummin’…

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY BEN CURNETT

Jake Morris is really, really great at drums.

That’s where a rundown of the recent Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks show at the Gothic Theatre in Denver needs to start. Of course, the band was fun and energetic. The sound was perfect. The song selection was great for die hards and casual fans alike. Joanna Bolme hit deep dark brown notes and did a dead-on impression of Kim Gordon on “Refute.” Mike Clark filled the room with keyboards and guitars. The Malk (I’m not really a nickname guy, but that’s what I’m going with now) was the perfect song and dance man as per usual.

But the drums. The drums were something else. You get that to greater or lesser extents on the SM & t Jx studio albums, even before Morris, and the new release that this tour is supporting, Sparkle Hard, is no exception. Morris was an absolute highlight of the show; he played nothing short of perfect rock drums, a completely next-level performance. The spaces Morris left between beats were as musical and deliberate the beats themselves. His fills were graceful/drunk Dean Martin tumbles into steady but loping time signatures (“Stick Figures In Love,” “Bretheren”). His driving rhythm on longer, ramblier ventures (“Kite,” “Real Emotional Trash”) were riddled with all kinds of subtle flourishes that sprung up everywhere. On stage with a group of very talented musicians, Morris pushed the band higher and farther than their individual art would allow. He was a gift.

Live, the Jicks just get better. Four years is a long time, but 2014’s Wig out at Jagbags (and really, most everything under the SM moniker) bears repeated listening, so at least fans have had that. The live show, though, is what’s really been missing. The Malk (!) doesn’t shy away from his Grateful Dead influences, and it’s easiest/most enjoyable to see and hear on stage. “Middle America” from the new album came about halfway through the set and is the Jerry-est thing they’ve done since “Cinnamon And Lesbians” which they played a few songs earlier. Not to put too fine a point on it, they broke into a “China Cat Sunflower” teaser in the middle of “Shady Lane” during the encore, just in case you weren’t getting the vibe.

The other Pavement tune, “In The Mouth A Desert” closed the show, and was a crowd-pleaser, natch. The woman next to me almost threw herself off the balcony. But are those songs The Malk’s albatross? I hope not. Like everyone else, I love hearing them. Seeing them played live definitely takes me back, which is pretty great in its own right. At the same time, I’d be happy enough if he never played any of them again. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but SM & t Jx have been together for nearly twice as long as The Malk’s other band. It’s entirely its own thing, sans-nostalgia. To me, at this point in my life, that’s miles better, and that’s why I loved the show so much.

Put another way, I count myself lucky to have seen Pavement in Denver during the ‘90s; but I count myself much luckier to have seen Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Gothic last Tuesday.

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SET LIST: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/stephen-malkmus-and-the-jicks/2018/gothic-theatre-englewood-co-63eb0217.html

JAKE WINSTROM – Scared Away the Song LP

Album: Scared Away the Song LP

Artist: Jake Winstrom

Label: self-released

Release Date: May 25, 2018

www.jakewnstrom.bandcamp.com

The Upshot: A gorgeous slice of Americana, rock, baroque pop, and bearing more hard-to-pin-down charms than pretty much any record released this year so far.

BY FRED MILLS

There’s something magical about the erstwhile Tenderhooks frontman’s solo effort, Scared Away the Song, something that’s hard to put one’s finger upon. Because while all the “right” pieces are in place—hooky chord progressions and leads alongside instantly memorable melodies, compelling rhythmic structures across all tempos, plenty of stylistic variety (from Americana to power pop to garagey rock to folkish ballads), emotionally resonant lyrics, and sterling production—there’s definitely a sum-greater-than-the-parts effect going on. And even after multiple spins I’m not sure if I can isolate exactly what’s so special about the LP.

You can apply all those foregoing descriptions and adjectives to pretty much any of the 10 songs here, from the jaunty, anthemic title track and the luminous, McCartneyesque “Lightning Rod,” to the country-rocking “Unglued” and the cello-powered pop of “Big Black Dog” (who is no doubt the one pictured on the sleeve—Winstrom calls his pooch a “big black pollywog” and “a mattress hog” that is, ultimately, “everybody to me,” and the love in those lines was so palpable the first time I heard them I immediately got up and went over to give my own mutt a huge hug). Pair the music with Winstrom’s expressive, sweetly androgynous vocals and you’ve got one charmer of a platter. (A gorgeous red vinyl platter, at that, fellow wax fans.) Winstrom recorded parts of the album in Nashville with Ray Kennedy and the rest in his original home base of Knoxville, where the Tenderhooks had been based. He lives in Brooklyn nowadays, but clearly, the homecoming energized him in the studio.

So perhaps it’s the album’s elusiveness that, ultimately, is the proverbial icing on the cake. A lot of the greatest records are like that, and it’s only in subsequent retrospect that their unique qualities become fully evident. What that translates to, then, is my suggestion that you take a leap of faith and just grab it. My gut feeling is that you won’t have any regrets.

DOWNLOAD: “Big Black Dog,” “Caroline, Ugh,” “Lightning Rod”

 

AMANDA SHIRES – To The Sunset

Album: To The Sunset

Artist: Amanda Shires

Label: Silver Knife Records

Release Date: August 03, 2018

www.amandashiresmusic.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

You have to give Amanda Shires credit. Raising a child, playing with husband Jason Isbell’s band The 400 Unit, and still maintaining a solo career is no easy task. Simply keeping the family bond when both partners are forced to go their separate ways on their respective solo tours is hard enough, but for Shires, who has successfully pried herself out from under the shadow of her famous husband, it was likely even harder still.

Nevertheless, Shires has reaped her rewards on her own terms. Accorded kudos as Emerging Artist of the Year at last year’s Americana Awards, she’s clearly come into her own. An early succession of solo outings proved that she’s more than capable of seizing the spotlight, and so it ought to come as little surprise that To The Sunset fully confirms her prolific prowess. An album that finds her revelling in a series of tangled emotions, it demonstrates not only her versatility, but also a confidence and creativity that takes her to new heights. Its eerie opening track, “Parking Lot Pirouette” sets the scene, but it’s the kinetic “Leave It Alone,” the rowdy pair “Eve’s Daughter” and “Take on the Dark,” and the rousing revelry that enlivens “Break out the Champagne” that offer exacting evidence on Shires’ tone and temperament. She’s clearly unafraid to let her passion show, and indeed, if there’s any lingering doubt about that notion, the determined drive of “White Feather” ought to dispel it entirely.

Ultimately, To The Sunset becomes a new plateau in a career that’s grown steadily and assuredly since the start. Indeed, its importance ought to grow over time given its unabashed enthusiasm and its unabashedly seductive set-up. Her (undoubtedly proud) hubby had better heed this warning; His freewheeling fiddle player may not remain available as a touring bandmember for very long.

DOWNLOAD: “Leave It Alone,” “Eve’s Daughter,” “Take on the Dark”