Monthly Archives: May 2010

Infamous Stringdusters – Things That Fly

January 01, 1970

(Sugar Hill)


It might seem odd to think about the U2 classic
“In God’s Country” performed by a country/bluegrass band. What’s even odder is
that the version on the latest album by the Infamous Stringdusters really
works. With everyone jumping on the bluegrass train these days it would be easy
to become something of a karaoke band just churning out new fangled versions of
old favorites. It sure would be a lot safer. For years, bluegrass purists have
griped that nu-grass has adulterated the format. At the same time, country
artists have said bluegrass is limiting, distinguished by nasal vocals.


The Infamous Stringdusters prove neither assumption
is true while also showing that mixing traditional bluegrass with nugrass and
straight country plus a bit of rock and folk can combine to make various
format-leaning songs into a cohesive whole on an album. Dierks Bentley, who in June will release the
bluegrass album Up On The Ridge, Aoife
O’Donovan, the powerhouse vocalist behind Crooked Still, and Sarah Siskind, a
folks/roots artist championed by Alison Krauss, guest on this lush album.


Moving from the hearty bluegrass of “You Can’t
Stop The Changes,” to the folk tinged “It’ll Be Alright” – co written by
Siskind – to the rocking U2 cover, the Dusters show that like tasty cuisine,
full-flavored music needs various seasonings to make it truly noteworthy. The
Dusters’ album is going to help lead the way as musicians and listeners alike
rethink bluegrass.


Standout Tracks: “You Can’t Stop
The Changes,” “In God’s Country” NANCY


Caleb Caudle & the Bayonets – Snake River Canyon

January 01, 1970



Just under a year ago I reviewed Winston-Salem, NC, upstart
Caleb Caudle’s sophomore release, Stay On,
offering with undisguised enthusiasm, “The 22-year old sounds like he
stepped straight outta Lone Star territory, with jaw-droppingly fine songs
steeped in classic Earle, Ely, Clark, McMurtry and Van Zandt.” Admittedly,
first exposure to a fresh face can often be akin to a teenage crush, netting
breathless, hypercaffeinated praise from even the most jaded scribes. Musical
crushes are what got us started in this business, after all; they’re what we
live for.


Then I got to see Caudle this past December, and within the
space of a few songs I knew my initial hunch wasn’t wrong: this guy’s got the stuff. Backed by a gifted group of musicians (who
don’t so much wield bayonets as stealth daggers in their razor-sharp hooks and
ability to collectively shift rhythmic gears like a long-distance trucker), Caudle
exudes a natural, easy-going stage charisma that tugs the young ladies down
front even as the guys in the audience root for him.


Doesn’t hurt that he’s got some seriously fine tunes in his
back pocket.


On the brand new Snake
River Canyon
, cut at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Studios with engineer Jon
Ashley (Avett Brothers, Band of Horses), Caudle & Co. serve up a ten-song
musical travelogue par excellence, one that hangs together as such thanks to a
setlist-worthy sequencing sense – think how Tom Petty’s albums flow seamlessly,
with midtempo tunes easing into raveups and the intrasong dynamics serving to
keep the brain/ass function of rock ‘n’ roll lit up. Yet it’s perilously easy
to single out songs for the iPod generation, too. First track “So Gone” is a
natural concert-opener, with its incessant throb, twinned guitar/organ melody
and a Clash-styled anthemic vibe that crests and surges towards a killer
finale. Next up is “Heat Lightnin’ Heat,” part twang and part jangle, urgent
with tambourine and passionate with Caudle’s unexpected swoop into falsetto. “I
wanna dream those dreams/ Yes, I do/ That’ve never been dreamt before,”
confesses Caudle, like a young Springsteen fresh onto the streets and just
starting to sense the possibilities that await. Several songs later there’s
“Weightless,” true to its title airy and spacious, suggestive of wide open
landscapes and endless highways, and not long after that there’s “Corners,” a
buoyant, chiming slice of Westerbergian powerpop featuring an extended coda
destined to make the tune a natural concert closer that’ll send concertgoers out into the night, abuzz and still humming along.


And that’s just four songs: there’s an embarrassment of
riches to be found here. To reference my earlier album review – is Caudle the
next big Americana
thing? Just maybe. I know where my bets are getting placed.


Standout Tracks: “So
Gone,” “Corners,” “Weightless” FRED MILLS







Diego Bernal – Besides…

January 01, 1970

(Exponential Records)


Diego Bernal’s sophomore long player went live for
free download
just a month after the release of Madlib Medicine Show No. 3:
Beat Konducta in Africa
. Minus the manic edits and pleasantly corny
one-offs that characterize Madlib’s beat tapes-gone-official albums, “Besides…” bursts with layers of borrowed Latin soul and ceaseless record crackling,
playing almost like a Beat Konducta in ‘60s Spanish Harlem,
if such a treat existed.


Breaking from his day job in civil rights law, the
Texas-based Diego Bernal moonlights at his sampler/sequencer workstation. He
trims snare thwacks and polishes attic-weathered brass samples to charge them
with new oxygen, building drum-heavy stormers from the ground-up. The
individual trips on “Besides…” aren’t markedly lengthier or
all that different from those on last year’s For Corners, but they take
shape in a more tangible manner, and plucking them from the set to stand on
their own is easier this time around. “El Corrido de Chico B” is
representative of the fully realized arrangements that Bernal turns in on “Besides…”.
The dusty congas at the onset provide merely a clever base; “El
Corrido…” is a floor-filler by its third minute, with flutes, chiming
guitar, and fat organ tones piled on top of a punchy snare-kick combo.
Meanwhile, “Blue Neon” creeps like an Illmatic outtake, and
Bernal floods the less linear “A Long Second” with ample mood shifts
and extreme channel-panning trumpets. In its irregular tumble and unfurling
Moogs, it’s a stark contrast to the glitchy “Cumbiatches Brew”, with
the two sharing little more than that bed of cherished, secondhand-vinyl hiss.


An ode to Jay Dee opened Bernal’s tasteful 2009 debut,
and while the producer arguably nods in the direction of Madlib, Cut Chemist,
and other dollar-bin obsessives that laid the groundwork for outings like “Besides…”,
this is his own, distinctive beat music.



Standout Tracks: “A Long Second,” “El Corrido de


Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards

January 01, 1970

(Warner Bros)


Feistier than it predecessor Horehound and muddier than White Stripe-y  Jack White’s other solo outing (The
Raconteurs), this second Dead Weather volume offers a bit of a quandary when it
comes to the drumming guitarist – is too much Jack a bad thing?


From the molten loose and lava-like “Blue Blood Blues” and
“The Difference Between Us”, you’d probably say that loaned-out Kills singer
Alison Mosshart, drummer boy Jack White, Jack Lawrence (bass/drums) and Dean
Fertita (guitar/organ) worked White’s connection to the nu-blues like a rib
dipped in Boss Hog juice. They’re full of bluster and crack in the same way
Royal Trux once was (aw, I actually miss Royal Trux, now?!) yet there’s an
eerier sci-fi psych edge to the proceedings that its debut merely hinted at.
(And lovely creepy harmony between White and Mosshart on “Hustle and Cuss.”) 


Part of the crepuscular menace comes from Fertita’s organ
work – give this guy an Argento film to score. That said, it’s not a perfect
recording, with its religious connotations falling flat on tracks like “Old
Mary.” But congrats for making me pull out those old Drag
City Trux CDs and renting Suspiria.


Standout Tracks:  “Hustle And Cuss,” “I’m Mad,” “Die by the



Christian Prommer – Drumlesson Zwei

January 01, 1970



Formerly a member of the German live electronic band Truby
Trio, drummer Christian Prommer is well-versed in fusing together digital
rhythms with elements of jazz, bossa nova and even Flamenco, helping the group
earn its stripes as one of the most groundbreaking acts in Deutschland’s dance
music scene in the early 00s. As a solo artist, Prommer continues to push his
old crew’s nu jazz agenda with his Drumlesson project, which finds the
in-demand Munich skinsman delivering instrumental jazz versions  of a variety of legendary techno and house


The first volume of series, released in 2008 on Sonar
Kollwktiv, saw highly imaginative reinterpretations of classic jams by the
likes of Kraftwerk, Derrick May and Josh Wink. For his second volume in the Drumlesson series, Prommer expands the
scope of this project to include a full band. And this time, he goes even
deeper into his old house music vinyl crates for inspiration, picking out selected
singles from such underground dance mavens as Carl Craig, Laurent Garnier,
Underground Resistance, Stefan Goldmann and Jean-Michel Jarre and giving them
an organic once-over. Zwei enhances
the repetitive nature of these jams with flourishes of electric guitar, vibes,
Fender Rhodes, grand piano and, of course, Prommer’s masterful drumming,
without losing an ounce of the kinetic nature emanating from these golden
greats of techno.


If Ronnie Scott’s in London
transformed itself but for one night into the location for an underground rave,
this is what it would sound like.


“Sleepy Hollow”, “Acid Eiffel”, “Jaguar Pt. 1”, “Sueno
Latino” RON HART


Sarah Jaffe – Suburban Nature

January 01, 1970

(Kirtland Records)


There must be something about Denton, Texas
that makes wistfulness a precondition for that town’s young songwriters –
probably something to do with being so close to the cultural void of
Dallas-Fort Worth. Joining notables like Centro-Matic’s Will Johnson and
Midlake’s Tim Smith, 23-year-old Sarah Jaffe’s debut, Suburban Nature, plums similarly plangent themes in vignettes
colored by little beyond accent-instruments (cello, keys, or harp), a guitar,
and stream-lined percussion.


That sparseness puts the focus where it belongs, on Jaffe’s
expressive voice, which is comfortable spitting out bluesy accusations or
whispering intimacies. Jaffe’s narratives feature protagonists in various
states of emotional free fall. The best example may be the catchy shuffle
“Vulnerable,” where love’s intensity commingles with the emotional high-wire
act of opening up. Honesty forms the core of these songs, as when Jaffe’s
narrator confesses, over swelling cello lines and vibes-like synth shimmers on
“Wreaking Havoc,” that “we both like pain,” or when she wonders, on the
march-like “Summer Begs,” whether “we can last one more season.” Many of these
songs are hushed confessions, but the thrumming highway beat that drives the
marvelous road trip-chronicle “Clementine” or a twangy rocker like “Watch Me
Fall Apart,” which builds tension to match its title, lifts Jaffe far above the
average café folkie or introspective singer-songwriter.


This is a startlingly assured debut from a young woman who
appears to have much to say.  


“Clementine” “Vulnerable” “Watch Me Fall Apart” JOHN



Madlib – Madlib Medicine Show No. 3 – Beat Konducta in Africa

January 01, 1970

(Madlib Medicine Show/Stones Throw)


Madlib has never been one to shy away
from a challenge. On his previous Beat
voyages, the hip-hop producer has transmogrified soundtrack music,
Indian pop, and Brazilian funk into expansive, immersive, and deeply funky
sound collages. Imagine the output of the Numero Group and Sublime Frequencies
labels churned into beat-heavy butter, and you’d be coming close to nailing the
loose and richly inauthentic vibe Madlib creates on these discs.


With his latest entry into the series,
though, Madlib truly goes for broke, by tackling the sound of an entire continent. Once again, “authenticity” is
not on the menu, as Madlib grabs grooves from all over the place, splicing and
dicing long-lost ‘60s and ‘70s soul and funk tracks from north, south, east,
and west. It’s a weirdly logical recycling: an American producer
recontextualizing the sound made by Africans who were inspired by what
African-Americans were doing. Occasionally, a bit like “Mandingo Swing” pops
up, evoking some sort of exotic sonic version of African “otherness,” but even
then, Madlib riffs on the semantic legerdemain of the track’s title, which is
an explicit reference both to the Abbey Road studio musicians who churned out
faux-African funk in the ‘60s and ‘70s and the infamous Dino De Laurent is


Also satisfying are the hard-hitting
loops of “Obataive” and the slow-burn dizziness of “Jungle Sounds (Part One)”;
however, there are 43 (!) tracks here, and this is a disc best taken in as a
consecutive piece. It won’t give you any more insight into African music, but
it is a rewarding and richly textured reclamation of sounds that have been
plundered all too often.



“The Frontline
(Liberation)”, “African Map Watch” JASON FERGUSON


Painted Hills – Painted Hills

January 01, 1970



you ever wondered what happened to Further/Summer Hits  guy Josh Schwartz
(who was also on the brilliant debut 7″ by Beachwood Sparks but then left the
band) well, aside from doing production work and guesting on other folk’s
records he is the leader of this new Southern California band. From Schwartz’s
previous work you probably already know there is a strong Laurel Canyon
influence here but in addition to that, Painted Hills also delves into the ‘80s
Paisley Underground scene once inhabited by bands like Rain Parade, Dream
Syndicate and Three O’Clock.


on Down” opens things up with a slowly meandering riff and heavily reverbed
vocals while “Kaleidoscope Eyes”, one of the band’s best songs, lifts from the
Roback catalog (lyrics even spew “There is no easy way down”) while those
opening guitars on “Morning Light” could have come off of The Days of Wine
& Roses
. While they know who their influences are the band isn’t simply
aping heroes here, on the contrary, they’re sprinkling doses of said influences
while saving most of the canvas for the big brush that says Painted Hills on
the side of it and with songs this good you’ll want to buy them another brush. Only one record in, they deserve it.


: “Kaleidoscope Eyes”, “Morning Light”, “The Sound & the Fury”,
“Everybody Dreams” TIM HINELY




Caribou – Swim

January 01, 1970



If Dan Snaith’s new indie-electronic record – his third
under the Caribou moniker – initially sounds a little less complex, a little
more superficial than his previous albums, that’s probably by design.  Having shown formidable editing and intuitive
skills from his earliest release in 2000, Snaith’s established himself as a
talented manipulator of beats and melodic progressions.  For Swim,
he seems to be moving inside his own head, inside the clubs.  This is the first Caribou record that would
sound completely at home being spun from the booth over the dance floor – it’s
trancier, dancier, more solidly rooted in loop and repetition than any previous
Caribou release.  That said, for a
clubbish album, it’s got a lot of bright moments, mostly on the tracks where
Snaith indulges his impulse to trick out the music with quick changes and
unique layers which come to the fore in sequence – voice, keys, beats all
taking turns, and the beat occasionally dropping out altogether, as on “Kaili,”
one of Swim‘s most complex and
interesting cuts.


The album’s most interesting, that is, when it stops doing
what it does for most of its length and tries an experiment, which invariably
pays off.  That makes for a fine club
album – an excellent one, really. 
Whether Swim is a fine Caribou
album is another question, since it feels rather like a busman’s holiday for
Dan Snaith, the sort of thing he can do intuitively and easily.  Still, can you bust a genuine talent for
engaging in a stretch-out exercise for his own enjoyment?  Probably not. 
Miles Davis didn’t drop Bitches
every time, after all.  And
anyway, Swim is a solid record on its
own merits.  Oh, to hell with it.  Let’s dance.


Standout Tracks: “Kaili,”


Truth & Salvage Co. – Truth & Salvage Co.

January 01, 1970

(Silver Arrow/Megaforce Recordings)


In the early ‘70s, Elton John recorded “Country Comforts”
and subsequently released an album called Tumbleweed
, a set of songs seeped in classic Americana. The only thing was, Elton was a
Brit whose cultural connection to the material was as far removed as one could


Likewise, Truth & Salvage Co.’s ties to the classic
country rock sound of the early ‘70s, purveyed by bands like Poco, the Flying
Burrito Brothers and the New Riders of the Purple Sage, initially seems just as
unlikely. Several of the members originally hail from the North
Carolina mountains (Asheville/Black Mountain area) where they had
a quirky, jamband-tilting outfit called Scrappy Hamilton, and upon relocating
to L.A. they
gravitated to the Hotel Café conglomerate where the musicians gathered for late
night jams and the T&SC lineup gradually coalesced. Regardless, it’s been a
good 40 years since those aforementioned outfits brewed their classic strains
of rock ‘n’ roll glee and idyllic imagery. While the Truth & Salvage crew’s
songwriting credentials might have them perfectly positioned to craft a similar
sound, their starry-eyed outlook and its
references to mountain vistas, endless highways and down-home designs is rarely
emanated by today’s breed of down trod troubadours. 


Fortunately, although such ramblings may seem out of sync
with today’s stressful environs, the feelings of joy and celebration revived in
such easily enticing entries as “Welcome To LA,” “See Her,” “Old Piano” and
“Jump the Ship” make the band’s self titled debut a tonic for troubled times.
When they harmonize about the ecstasy of basking in true love, as in the old
time revival of “She Really Does It For Me” with its clap-along chorus, the
effusive feelings are all but irresistible. Likewise, “Hail Hail” is a rousing
way to herald their arrival, a most appropriate welcome for this eager young


: “Welcome to LA,” “Old Piano,” “She Really Does It For Me”


You can
hear the entire album streaming at AOL music right now, right here...