Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell – Did I find you, or you find me?

Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell – Sing Into My Mouth

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If you’re in dire need of a genre-busting collaboration, then turn the page. Look elsewhere. Move on. Because Sam Beam and Ben Bridwell are in no mood to reshape musical history. And good for them. This is an album that will keep their fans more than happy for now. It’s a covers album. That’s fine, except it means that at least one of your most cherished indie-folk heroes must be a closet Sade fan. In fairness, though, Beam and Bridwell’s version of the 1980s, late-night, faux-jazz balladeer’s ‘Bullet Proof Soul’ is one of the highlights of the set. Other artists covered include Talking Heads, El Perro del Mar, Ronnie Lane, and Spiritualized. Eclectic indeed. What’s striking, though, is that they’ve all been transformed into a very coherent sound. It’s not the pop symphonies of Sam Beam’s recent outings, or his early folk whisperings. But then neither is it Ben Bridwell’s rocked-out Americana. Instead, think more in terms of Band of Horses Acoustic at the Ryman and you’d be in the right ballpark. The lap steel is a constant presence and there’s a muted accordion in the background at times. It’s a gentle, but at times a mightily rewarding experience. Ben Bridwell’s ‘Straight and Narrow’ is more than worth the entrance fee. And it’s interesting to compare Sam Beam’s cover of JJ Cale’s ‘Magnolia’ with Lucinda Williams’ version from last year. Both are away from their babe in New Orleans, but whereas Lucinda Williams makes you feel like her heart is being wrenched from its very moorings by the absence, Sam Beam makes it sound like his heart is jumping with joy just to have someone down there who likes him. Sam Beam and Ben Bridwell will both be back to their day jobs soon enough, but in the meantime they’ve produced an album that’s simple in both conception and exposition, but one that’s well worth the effort nonetheless.

Music OMH review

Paste review

Consequence of Sound review

All Music review

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Gill Landry – The Long Way Round

Gill Landry – Gill Landry

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Sometimes it takes a while for albums to wend their way across the Atlantic. Gill Landry’s latest release is one such. It dropped in March in the US, but it seems to have gone the long way round to reach here. It’s more than welcome. This is a gem. Gill Landry is a member of the Old Crow Medicine Show. They can rollick like they rollicked in the good ol’ days, but they’re a bit of an acquired taste. Here, though, Landry is in plain old forlorn and hard-done-by singer-songwriter territory. What could be better? On pretty much most of the songs he sounds like he’s watching life, and love, go slowly by. In the middle, it all comes over just a little bit Calexico. On ‘Fennario’, the guitars start to pick and, courtesy of Nick Etwell from The Filthy Six, the trumpet begins to parp. But it’s a brief interlude. Soon we’re back on track. Throughout there are some great turns of phrase. “You were there, sitting in a kitchen chair, reading Bukowski in your underwear, looking fine”. There’s also plenty of religious and sacramental imagery. There’s a funeral in his heart. People are on bended knee. Her body is an altar. He feels crucified. But it’s always symbolic. There’s no message being rammed down your throat. And perhaps the highlight is ‘Take This Body’, which features Laura Marling, who has a distinct southern twang at one point. Bookended by a lovely melody, there’s a suite of sounds, stretching the genre in refreshing ways. Gill Landry is an old pro by this stage, but his new(ish) album reveals a different and very welcome side.

Pop Matters review

American Songwriter review

All Music review

Glide review

For Folk’s Sake review

Elvis Perkins – He Aubades

Elvis Perkins’ wonderful album, I Aubade, is being released in Europe today. This gives me the flimsiest of pretexts to repost my review from earlier in the year. But it’s pretext enough. Given I had the CD specially shipped to me from the US all those months ago, I think of it as just spreading the cost.

Elvis Perkins – I Aubade

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The tone of the songs on the new Elvis Perkins album may be hushed, but nothing is ever quiet. It’s like taking a walk through a busy city. There seem to be ambient sounds everywhere. Is that the low rumble of the subway? Are those fireworks in the distance? Is the wind really whistling through the gaps between those buildings? Listening to I Aubade, it’s like you’re hearing little snatches of conversations from the folks passing by and trying to make sense of it all. As if you’re catching quick glimpses of other people’s faces and hoping to put a name to them. It’s more than a little disconcerting. And yet also curiously diverting. Melodies gently collide, like in a Charles Ives symphony. Lovely little rhythms come and go. There are hints of the Caribbean. Nods to Latin American folk. It’s altogether difficult to place, but it’s no bad place to be. And through it all the lyrics remain wonderfully evocative. “I saw a woman out in the evening, Going her merry way up a city block, Stricken by a strange pose, bent out of shape, The pose of a puppet master gone”. And it’s no po-faced exercise in wordsmithery either. There’s some black humour too. “O I think I’ll finally write that biography”, he tells us, “It will read: ‘o so much aching, There was oh so much bacon, It was the massive coronary, Which opened my eyes to see'”. On I Aubade, one thing’s for sure. Elvis Perkins is no longer in Dearland. That might disappoint some. But he’s found somewhere new and compelling. And, better still, it’s a place that you too can visit for 47 beautifully beguiling minutes.

Paste review

Consequence of Sound review

Allmusic review

The Who – 55 Greatest Songs + 2

Mojo Music Magazine have just unveiled The Who’s 50 greatest songs. Don’t be fooled again. Lists are a serious business and there are some major omissions and missed opportunities. Here’s an addendum to Mojo’s list.

Omissions

Pure and Easy – Available on Odds and Sods
Oh Lifehouse where art thou?

Music Must Change – Available on Who Are You?
Well, perhaps try some too-complicated-to-play-live synths then

Long Live Rock – Available on Odds and Sods
Speaking from first-hand experience

Slip Kid – Available on The Who By Numbers
It’s no Baba O’Riley, but still

I Don’t Even Know Myself – Available on Who’s Missing
Humour me. This was never included on an original album, right?

Missed opportunities

A Quick One (While He’s Away) – Available on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus
This is the definitive version

The Acid Queen – Available on Acid Queen
It’s actually a Tina Turner classic, for goodness sake