Monthly Archives: June 2014

THE FALL – White Lightning (LP)

Album: White Lightning

Artist: The Fall

Label: Secret Records Limited

Release Date: June 03, 2014

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 For those longtime fans of British oddball rockers The Fall who have been a bit disenfranchised by the group’s last few offerings (the line forms behind me, by the way), this latest vinyl release should put a smile on your post-punk face.

 Originally released as a Record Store Day exclusive overseas, White Lightning is pressed on 180 gram transparent vinyl and includes 10 tracks from band spanning the years 1979 –to-2000.Sadly missing from this record though are most of the songs from the ‘80s when The Fall turned in some of its best work (only one included here is 1981’s “Jawbone & the Rifle”.) It does, however, rely heavily on tracks from 1979’s Dragnet and 1990’s Extricate, two great records.

 Founder and frontman Mark E. Smith has been the only constant in the band’s three-decade-plus career, so you can’t blame a guy for wanting to shake things up on later efforts. But listening to the songs on White Lightning are a great reminder of why everyone from Guided By Voices to Sonic Youth have name checked The Fall as a strong musical influence over the years.  

  DOWNLOAD: Before the Moon,” “Jawbone & The Rifle” and “Bill is Dead”


Dates: June 14, 2014

Location: The Soiled Dove, Denver CO

Chatham County Line


This night at Denver’s The Soiled Dove, LA folkster Brad Colerick seemed like a real genuine guy. His acoustic tunes were a little on the light side but he eked out some real nice melodies from his acoustic guitar and had a pleasant enough voice. He spoke of writing jingles for his day job and working alongside the likes of Johnny Cash and many others. The crowd really enjoyed his set,

North Carolina’s Chatham County Line came out dressed to the nines with suits and ties on (I’m guessing their usual garb) [Yes.—NC-centric Ed.] Vocalist/guitarist Dave Wilson kept things rolling with a plethora of funny stories while his supporting cast tugged the crowd right into their whole oeuvre. (Okay, not “supporting cast”—that would be “bandmates” as there is no real leader here given how equally important each man is to the overall sound. The other musicians were mandolin player John Teer, who also played violin; standup bassist Greg Readling; and banjo player Mr. Chandler Holt.

What is their oeuvre, you ask? Doing modern, nontraditional take on bluegrass (I did mention the instruments above). Let’s face it, great songs mixed with hooks and humor played with gobs of energy will bring out the best in any band and these guys have got that in spades.

At it since 1999 with several records under their belt (including their latest, Tightrope for the Yep Roc label), the band has a deep catalog to pull from though it seemed to focus mainly on recent material. From Tightrope we heard gems like “Should Have Known,” “Any Port in Storm” (real heavy violin on this one), “Girl She Used to Be” and “Hawk” (a tribute to the veterans of World War II).

The band left the stage but not to be outdone, the crowd roared with approval and brought the gents back out for some encores including “Chip of a Star,” “Porcelain Doll” and ending it with “Tightrope of Love” from said latest record.  I can honestly say that this was one of the best nights out for live music in a long while. Don’t miss Chatham County Line when they come to your town. Bring a special little lady, too.


Read the recent BLURT interview/feature on Chatham County Line right here.



Album: Colfax

Artist: Delines

Label: El Cortez

Release Date: June 17, 2014

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In between penning novels and running the much-beloved Richmond Fontaine, songwriter Willy Vlautin started another project: the Delines, which revolves around his writing and the matter-of-fact intonation of former Damnations singer Amy Boone.

The result of the collaboration is a gorgeous set of songs set in late-night bars after work, as denizens tell their stories with the appropriate tenor of resignation and hope. Mixing country and soul with neither muss nor fuss, the sedate sextet highlights lovers separated by distance physical (“Flight 31,” “Wichita Ain’t So Far Away”) and emotional (“He Told Her the City Was Killing Him,” “The Oil Rigs at Night,” which boasts the devastating line “To live without love is easier than lying day and night”).  The band also pays tribute to folks trying to balance sobriety with getting by (“I Won’t Slip Up,” “I Got My Shadows”) or trying to help others do the same (the title track). The night comes in without pity, but we keep our candles close by – the narrator of “82nd Street” refuses to succumb to the decay and entropy around her, and that’s indicative of the album as a whole. “Darkness ain’t such a hard road if we don’t go down it alone,” Boone relates in “Calling In.”

With the Delines around, who’ve stared into the void of everyday life and still know how to crack a smile, you never have to be.

DOWNLOAD: “The Oil Rigs at Night,” “I Won’t Slip Up,” “Calling In”

ANDERS PARKER – There’s a Bluebird in My Heart

Album: There’s a Bluebird in My Heart

Artist: Anders parker

Label: Recorded & Freed

Release Date: June 17, 2014

Anders Parker 6-17


Not to be a dick about it, but thank the gods Anders Parker has rediscovered his electric guitar. His years in Varnaline and his first couple of solo records spoiled us – the marriage of singer/songwriter craft and loud rock was too perfect. The shift (descent?) into softer, more sedate sounds starting with his 2006 self-titled record seemed to enervate his songwriting as much as his studio performances. But there were signs of dissatisfaction on the overtly poppy Wild Chorus, the record he shared with his old pal Kendall Meade as Anders & Kendall, and that restlessness has apparently sent him back to his amplifiers for There’s a Bluebird in My Heart.

The blues-rocking “Animal,” grunged-out yet elegiac “Jackbooted Thugs” and bracingly rocking “The Road” soar to the skies or dig into the dirt in a way Parker hasn’t attempted in a good long while. This isn’t to say there aren’t quieter songs here. But folk rockers like the appropriately widescreen “Epic Life,” the gorgeous “Unspoken” and the exceptionally melodic “Don’t Let the Darkness In” sit in context, rather than dominating, and come off as that much more inviting and beautiful as a result.

If you’d given up on Parker after a few too many sedate navelgazers, perk your ears up once again:  There’s a Bluebird in My Heart is the sound of a great artist coming back home.

DOWNLOAD: “Epic Life,” “The Road,” “Unspoken”

THE TREMORS – Old-Fashioned Hillbilly Feud

Album: Old-Fashioned Hillbilly Feud

Artist: Tremors

Label: Brain Drain

Release Date: May 06, 2014

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Hailing from the unlikely rockabilly hotbed of Greensboro, NC, the Tremors commenced operations about a decade ago and have since amassed a sizable international following. The album titles telegraph the aesthetic: Scourge of the South, Invasion of the Saucermen (which came with 3-D artwork and accompanying glasses), Demon Boogie Fever. Likewise for this new one, which marries classic Sun Records sides and other ‘billy heroes of that era to more modern hiccup ‘n’ twang as practiced by the Reverend Horton Heat, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, Deadbolt, etc.

From the opening salvo of the riotous “Cabin Fever” and the feverish romp that is “Delirious” to the raveup shuffle of “Mean As a Snake” (about, incidentally, one of those dark-haired tattooed beauties your mama always warned you about) and the tenderly-rendered cover of “Wreck of the Old 97” that closes the set, the trio doesn’t waste a sec in waving the rockabilly flag high. Jimmy Tremor (guitar, vox), Slim Perkins (upright bass, vox) and Stretch Armstrong (drums) are all about efficiency and economy; only one of these dozen tunes runs more than two minutes, and the whole thing clocks in at just 22 minutes, making for a no muss/no fuss experience. It’ll have you shakin’, shiverin’, shimmyin’ and shootin’ for the moon, no lie.

DOWNLOAD: “Mean As A Snake,” “Delirious”


Album: Brotherhood

Artist: Holmes Brothers

Label: Alligator

Release Date: April 01, 2014

Holmes Brothers


Marking their 35th year together, the Holmes Brothers are an American musical treasure. And the genre might be called the blues, but it is impossible to listen to brothers Sherman and Wendell Holmes and brother-in-spirit Popsy Dixon without feeling good. This is music as hope and life and musical history. Brotherhood is their eleventh album since 1989 and fifth for Alligator. It is one of their best and perhaps their bluesiest album to date.

As anybody who has ever seen them live can attest, the Holmes Brothers are an incredibly tight and talented band. But what stays with you is the incredible soulful and uplifting harmonies of Sherman’s stark baritone, Wendell’s raspy baritone and Popsy’s beautiful falsetto. And while sons of the south—Virginia to be exact—the Holmes developed their unique sound in the tough blues bar scene of New York City in the 1980’s, where they captured the admiration of people like Joan Osborne. The result was that they can play and sing virtually anything from the Beatles to Ike Turner and make it a Holmes Brothers classic.

Brotherhood proves the point. It has everything from early rock and roll, soulful R&B, doo wop to blues to gospel. All of it tied together by their signature soaring harmonies and infectious beat. Either Sherman or Wendell handles the songwriting on eight of the 14 songs. A Wendell song—“Loving You From Afar”—is about as a beautiful as the blues gets. And the album is capped off with the band’s incredible version of the classic “Amazing Grace” which opens every one of their live performances. And if your soul is not uplifted and stirred after hearing that, you might want to check see if you are alive.

If you spent time, as I did, in the juke joints of Mississippi and across the south trying to learn about the blues, you soon learn the truth about the music and the painful culture that gave it birth and then went on to form rock and roll. There was not much distance between the sacred and profane. Wendell describes it, “We used to say we’d rock them on Saturday and save ‘em on Sunday.” And that is exactly what the Holmes Brothers do: their incredible, indelible sound will both rock your body and lift up your soul. You have to experience them in concert if you have a chance and get this album. It is one of their best.

DOWNLOAD: “Drivin’ In the Drivin’ Rain” “Loving You From Afar” “Amazing Grace.”



PETER HAMMILL AND GARY LUCAS – Other World / GARY LUCAS – Cinefantastique

Album: Other World / Cinefantastique

Artist: Peter Hammill & Gary Lucas / Gary Lucas

Label: Esoteric Antenna / Northern Spy

Release Date: March 11, 2014


Esoteric Antenna / Northern Spy /


It’s a constant amazement that New York based guitarist Gary Lucas has maintained such a long, productive and distinguished career while barely brushing up against the mainstream (outside of his session work with Joan Osborne and association with the late Jeff Buckley). Two recent albums, one released in March and the other last fall, suggest once again that the music-buying public should be paying closer attention to the prolific six-string maestro.

For Other World (March 11, via Esoteric Antenna/Cherry Red), he joins with another prolific underground legend, Van Der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammill, for a set of intimate art rock tunes. Dissonant weirdness like “Reboot” and “Black Ice” provide the necessary avant garde bonafides, with odd noises, doom + gloom and ebb-and-flow soundscapes a-plenty. But the heart of this record lies in more conventional fare, like the sneering social commentary of “Cash” and “This is Showbiz,” the fame-and-fortune morality tale of “The Kid” and the gorgeous break-up tune “Spinning Coin,” where Lucas provides masterful accompaniment to Hammill’s stentorian croon and poetic lyrics.

Hammill and Lucas have both pushed boundaries whenever they’ve felt like it, but on the surprisingly accessible Other World experimentation takes a back seat to simply serving the song.

Speaking of accessibility, one of film buff Lucas’ more popular pursuits is his soundtrack work – not for contemporary films, but for live shows accompanying silent movies. This has led to him often covering snippets of classic film scores, and now he’s finally released an album dedicated to that pursuit. Cinefantastique (Oct. 11, 2013, Northern Spy) finds Lucas bringing out both acoustic and electric guitars to perform unoverdubbed takes on themes from a wide variety of international films.

From “Our Love is Here to Stay” from An American in Paris, “Casino Royale” from the eponymous flick and “Baili Ha’i” from South Pacific to the themes from Medem’s Sex and Lucia, Tati’s Mon Oncle and Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God, Lucas ranges all over the map, veering from folky fingerpicking to atmospheric pedal manipulation along the way. (At Lucas’ record label page he’s authored a series of appreciations/remembrances of the various films and their songwriters and scores’ composers.)

Other delights include some TV bits (“Howdy Doody Time” and “Charlie Brown” [actually the “Linus and Lucy” theme] from A Charlie Brown Christmas), a pair of impressive mashups (“Fellini’s Casanova” with “Lullaby” from Rosemary’s Baby, his popular live staple blending the themes from Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Psycho) and, best of all, some of his original silent film scores, including the entirety of Entr’acte.

Cinefantastique may be the Lucas equivalent of a pop record, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also one of his best works.

DOWNLOAD: “Spinning Coin,” “The Kid,” “Entr’acte”

DIARRHEA PLANET 6/4/14, Northampton MA

Dates: June 4, 2014

Location: The Iron Horse, Northampton MA

diarrhea planet 017


Guitar bands may be dead, but no one bothered to tell Diarrhea Planet, the Nashville pop-garage-metal sextet that brings a front line of four of them to Northampton’s Iron Horse venue, plus a rack of pedal boards. Why on earth would you need four guitars? Well, one of them is yellow with a sunburst mandala painted onto it and filtered through a fuzz pedal for a spirally 1960s sound; that’s Emmett Miller’s ax. Set aside one for finger-tapping, all hands on the neck solos that Evan Bird favors; he sounds like Eddie Van Halen in his prime. Save another for sidewinding licks and massive metal riffs; that’s Brent Toler’s guitar. And then, clearly, you need to have an orange sparkly one for front man Jordan Smith. And hell, why not put them all together, preferably in drop-D tuning, for an all-out wall of guitar sound that is a little goofball, without being the slightest bit ironic.

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Diarrhea Planet opened with “Lite Dream,” which like all their songs is an oddly tuneful mash-up of hardcore and hair metal, but unlike some of the others, contains a sparkly, guitar-shreddy coda that sounds a lot like “Baba O’Reilly.” The show is totally kinetic, with all four guitarists lunging in and out, striking rock star poses, turning instruments upright for finger-blurring solos. It would be easier to identify songs if the vocals were turned higher (or if I’d prepped better), but there’s anyway something exhilarating about the sheer bludgeoning rush of sound, the toe-bouncing animation, the high slap-back altered harmonies that Smith and Emmett Miller sing into the same mic. The mix of metal and punk shifts from song to song. “Separation” is all big riffs and bluster. A newer song about crowd-surfing (the crowd, unfortunately, a bit sparse for this tonight) is Ramones-ish, a candy melody on speed, the band hopping up and down until the floor shakes.

This is a guy’s band, and the biggest fans upfront are big beefy guys with violent, head thrashing dance moves. One has brought a pineapple to the show, not sure why, but it sits on a stack of amps. Another two, together at the very edge of the stage, ask for “Skeleton Head” at pretty much every break. At first Smith says, “No, that’s a winter song,” but by set’s end, that’s what they play, as thick and dirge-ish and Sabbath-y as anything all night.

I should mention one other thing. When I get to the venue, there’s no guest list, and I talk my way in with an email from the publicist. That happens a lot. But what has never, ever happened before, is that Smith stops the set mid-way through, and says that he is sincerely sorry to have forgotten to deliver the guest list, he was calling his dad and forgot, and if there was a young lady in the audience who had gotten stopped at the door, he hoped it wasn’t too traumatic. (Um yeah, he called me a “young lady,” bonus points.)

My takeaway is that this is an ass-kicking band that gives everything it has every night on the road — and that they are also extremely nice guys. So if you get a chance, support this. Forget the silly name (which was, hard to admit now, the main reason I decided to go), and see Diarrhea Planet. You’ll be glad you did.

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party wolf

By the way, there were two other bands on the bill, both local, and both pretty good. Party Wolf (above) resurrected every classic rock guitar band of my misspent youth at one point or another, but the main reference points seemed to be Sabbath and AC/DC. The focal point for this band is its massively talented drummer and guitar playing singer – who often turns to face the kit and egg his bandmate on to ever more frenetic fills and bashes. The second was Walking Ghost (below), led by a spectral young man with blond hair over his eyes, and backed by an all-woman band; their sound was phosphorescent rockabilly and early rock, with a pretty strong whiff of the Cramps and Kid Congo.

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walking ghost



OBNOX – Louder Space

Album: Louder Space

Artist: Obnox

Label: 12XU

Release Date: April 08, 2014

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Ohio’s Lamont “Bim” Thomas is no stranger to stick-in-the-brain bandnames, having held down kit duties for both the Bassholes and This Moment In Black History, so whatever thinking went into the selection of Obnox for his newest project at least flirted with a smack-‘em-in-the-head strategy. Truth in titling? You’ll have to decide which side of the line in the sand you stand on with the “obnox” question after listening to the skronk-a-thon that is Thomas’ third long-player (available on either black or green vinyl). But to this jaded “rock critic” (term used, uh, loosely), it’s a symphony for my perpetually clogged ears.

Part of the fun with Louder Space, for me at least, has been playing the album for a store full of shoppers (at our sister business, Schoolkids Records), and gauging their reactions. Some visibly recoil, such as when the needle drops on opening track “Prime Time Sista” and a squalling, staggering, heavy metal variation on “Peter Gunne” assaults their senses.             Others seem to get on the horse right away, like with the Suicide-meets-Wire, motorik hypno-drone of “Mecca Son Shine” and the companion punk waltz of “Who Needs You,” moving in time to the low-end throb and bobbing their heads in deep concentration. And still others seem baffled by the way disparate sounds in the mix emanate, seemingly randomly, from one speaker only to slip away and reappear in the other one across the store. (How cool would it be to slip the Big Black-esque “Molecule” onto the platter at a high end audio salon and trick ‘em into using it in a speaker demonstration for some snooty customer?)

And with such additional arcane delights here as the spazzy, funky “How to Rob (The Punk Years),” the Nuggets-at-16rpm garage rock of “Best Time of My Life” and the impenetrably lo-fi (even lower-fi that the rest of this lo-fi album) hip-hop that is “Feeling Real Black Today,” pretty much all the musical food groups are represented. Think of Obnox as a musical teacher who is determined to get his lesson across no matter what. Hey kid, quit squirmin’.

 In an interview with BLURT earlier this year (in one of our “15 Questions For…” indie labels features), 12XU’s Gerard Cosloy noted that some of the forerunners who inspired him included (among many) Touch & Go, Dischord, Crypt and Siltbreeze. In an earlier era, Obnox would’ve been a natural fit on any of those, what with Thomas’ uncompromising sound and take-no-prisoners approach. Truth in titling? Check—in the best possible way. Smack-‘em-in-the-head? Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts and prepare for impact.

DOWNLOAD: “Prime Time Sista,” “Mecca Son Shine,” “Bitch! Get Money,” “Molecule”


Album: Fortune

Artist: Black Prairie

Label: Sugar Hill

Release Date: April 22, 2014

Black Prairie


For album #4, Portland’s Black Prairie decided to shake things up a bit. Instead of continuing its straightforward string band shtick, the sextet – essentially a Colin Meloy-less Decemberists plus guitarist Jon Neufeld and singer/violinist Annalisa Tornfelt – incorporated the rock rhythms and textures with which it had been experimenting on the road through covers like Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” and Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” (neither included here, alas). Thus Fortune, while still predicated on acoustic instruments, actually rocks. The menacing “White Tundra” translates classic rock to the band’s idiosyncratic approach. The burning “Let It Out” adds some distortion to Neufeld’s guitar and fire to Chris Funk’s jagged mandolin and Jenny Conlee’s busy accordion.

The swirling “Trask” presents a sort of Pacific Northwest take on Fairport Convention folk rock. The modest “Songs To Be Sung” chases, for better or worse, the acoustic pop vibe of Mumford & Sons and their ilk. The languid “Let Me Know Your Heart” luxuriates in an atmospheric haze somewhere between David Sylvian and Nico. The title track puts muscle behind a moody pop song that shifts to the kind of folky prog rock at which the Decemberists are so damn good. The evolution may be jarring to diehards who loved the band’s take on old-time string band folk, but Black Prairie’s skill at playing its own version of rock brushes aside any carping.

DOWNLOAD: “Let It Out,” “Fortune,” “Let Me Know Your Heart”