"Oh don't say that it's over," sing Joy Williams and John Paul White on "Eavesdrop," "oh, no, say it ain't so." For the tumultuous end of what was once the rocketing career of Nashville's platinum alt-folk duo The Civil Wars, the song -- and much of the duo's second and final album -- has particular lyrical resonance. As we noted when the album came out, it's "odd that a couple that could routinely finish the other's sentences would now be unable or unwilling to speak to each other." But now we get to pick through the remains, so to speak, of their music via the new Bare Bones EP at iTunes (exclusively) featuring alternate or acoustic versions of six songs from The Civil Wars. "Eavesdrop" is one of two "alternates" produced by legendary studio master and label chief Rick Rubin.
The Civil Wars - "Eavesdrop" (from the Bare Bones EP)
For The River and The Thread, her first album of original songs since 2006, Rosanne Cash and husband/co-writer/producer/guitarist John Leventhal traveled the American south in search of creative inspiration that would reflect what she calls "the resonance, beauty and longing of the region." From Arkansas boyhood home of her iconic father Johnny to William Faulkner's house in Mississippi to the small towns and Crescent City of the Delta, Cash says she started to "feel a deeper layer of the South than I had ever experienced." Stories were culled, lyrics penned, songs written. As with all Rosanne Cash albums, there's a subtle balance of traditional country overtones with acoustic folk and Americana leanings, Leventhal's shimmering guitar fills and a Cash's voice, plaintive and seductive. In many ways, The River and The Thread is a logical step from her 2009 album The List, a collection of country classics handpicked by her father that connected family roots to the distinctive, decidedly modern singer and songwriter Cash had become. Click through to stream "A Feather's Not A Bird."
Rosanne Cash - "Modern Blue" (from The River and The Thread)
"Awaken," the latest single from the 22-year-old Strat-playing Aussie Kate Martin, gets some artful touches and eyecandy imagery in the fetching new video that also serves as a preview to a forthcoming third album due next year. As we noted in our RADAR feature, "Awaken" is a "dazzling display of finger-picked fretwork, marching beat and driving bass line that dramatically delivers on the promise of her earlier work, particularly 2012's fine Hand Me My Bow and Arrow."
"This song moved me when I first heard it and still does today,” says John Mayer of Ken Yates' "I Don't Wanna Fall In Love" calling it "a REALLY great song." That kind of praise, particularly coming from one of your more notable influences, could easily go to your head but Yates, also named Sirius XM Coffee House Songwriter Discover of the Year, is flattered but unflappable. On his debut full-length twenty-three (just out via Mishara Music), the Canadian-born graduate of Boston's Berklee School of Music lays out his melodious and mostly mellow folk/pop with an artisan's skillful precision and an artist's creative eye (and ear, in this case). Recorded in Holland with producer Joren van der Voort, twenty-three offers personal lyricism and a winning way with a melody via Yates' finger-picked guitar lines, unassuming tenor and some Laurel Canyon-styled harmonies. Album closer, the six-minute "Heart on a Wire," is one of our favorite songs of the year, a touching ballad that quietly builds to a magnificent, guitar-soloing close.
About one minute into Ainslee Wills' "Stop Pulling The String," the song begins its gradual expansion from understated introspection to mesmerizing, pulsing art/pop. Forty-five seconds later, another shift to a snaking, off-beat rhythm as Wills steps back and then steps out onto a groove-tastic, atmospheric plane. Lifted from You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine, her 2013 album that has won praise from fellow Down Under performers Megan Washington and Missy Higgins, "String" becomes a simply-shot but hypnotic video of light and dark as Wills wades off a nighttime Australian beach and lets the song sweep her into sensuous display of movement and release. "I wanted the album to sound bigger, more dense, more… lush," she says. "I wanted something that wasn’t necessarily tidy." Her goal for the album was "letting go a little." Mission accomplished. Stream the full album at Wills' Bandcamp page.
Ainslee Wills - "Stop Pulling The String" (from You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine)
“We really feel at home with a lot of worlds of people that don’t really seem to fit together,” says Alynda Lee Segarra, an observation that seems perfectly in sync with Segarra's namesake Hurray For The Riff Raff. And, she continues, "we find a way to make them all hang out with our music." Small Town Heroes (February 11, ATO), the self-produced, highly anticipated successor to 2011's praised Look Out Mama, tosses folk, country, blues, southern soul and New Orleans roots into a fragrant and satisfying musical gumbo, elevating Riff Raff songs from campfire strumming and street corner busking to essential primer on modern Americana. Born in New York and settling in the Crescent City after a coast-to-coast wandering, the 26-year-old singer of Puerto Rican descent found a special kinship with the city, particularly after the devastating wake of Katrina. Songs like the devastating "The Body Electric" and the lovely title track (click through to stream) resonate with an assured clarity of artistic vision, songwriting and musicianship. Segarra, a major new voice, makes Small Town Heroes a very big deal.
Hurray For The Riff Raff - "The Body Electric" (from Small Town Heroes)
In advance of his 2014 album This Marauder's Midnight, Gabriel Rios has released a couple new videos of new songs including "Gold" and "Madstone" with a new song due the third Thursday of every month. The Puerto Rico-born, Belgium-educated and now Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter encamped to a small wooden chuch in upstate New York with Ruben (bass) and Amber (cello) to lay down tracks that may be demos or may be the final versions -- we'll have to wait and find out. Though he's been based in New York for the past three years and performs locally, Rios' bread and butter is still Europe, particularly Benelux, where he can regularly sell out clubs and theaters. Click through to watch the equally fine "Madstone."
Since we last checked in on House By The Lake a year ago, what was once the solo project of Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Strandskog Arnesen has been expanded to a full-fledged band. The output of Amesen and crew has been moving pretty much at glacier pace with the new track "Redwood" our first -- and only -- bit of new music since 2012's fine "Dark Horse" (click through to stream). And even "Redwood" is a band remake of Amesen's earlier solo version from a couple years back, a track that takes a while to get moving but ends up as a rather potent bit of indie folk/rock goodness.
Irish singer/songwriter and force of nature Wallis Bird has announced the release of her fourth album Architecture for April 11 so we figured we'd celebrate the occasion with this stark solo performance of one our favorite songs off her eponymous 2012 album: "Feathered Pocket." Legendary for her high energy performances -- "The sheer visceral energy of Wallis Bird could kick-start an entire economy," said the The Irish Times -- Bird turns in an intimate, if no less impassioned, performance courtesy fine German video website HausKonzerte. The song, she says, is about "documenting the electricity within you and the chemical charge that happens when falling in love…a great and good love."
"Nothing matter more than the vibe" became the mantra for the Australian alt-pop trio Whitaker when it came to recording their new EP Wichita. And the vibe, as it turned out, was not in any stuffy studio. Across their native Melbourne, Ryan Meeking, Simon Rabl and Brett Scapin along with engineer and producer Jono Steer and drummer Leigh Fisher searched for random spaces in old halls and various buildings that lent a special ambience to their on-the-fly recordings. The resulting five song collection, the follow up to their self-titled 2012 debut LP, is meticulously constructed and loosely constrained, songs like "Devil On Your Mind" those rare examples of folk/pop melodies worn comfortably, easily and without the need for shout-and-stomp grandstanding. Click through to hear "Hurricane" and stream the EP at Whitaker'sBandcamppage.
Whitaker - "Devil On Your Mind" (from the WichitaEP)