Country & Folk

New album: The Kernal || Listen to the Blood

Tennessee native Joe Garner inherited the love for country music and a red polyester suit from his father Charlie, who played bass on the weekly concert broadcast Grand Ole Opry for 30 years. That’s how he started The Kernal, after the death of Joe’s father: “I thought, I’m going to put this old suit on and I’m going to be my own version of some of these country guys.” His new LP Listen to the Blood is the last of an album trilogy (the inherited red suit graces all record covers), which came about during a ten-year journey in which Joe wanted to prove himself as a musician, at the same time trying to tie together loose ends of the family history. The sound of the 9 new songs is fortunately not as dark as the somewhat disturbing and misleading cover photo and album title suggest. No, this is warm and uplifting contemporary Americana which is easy to enjoy. I’m curious what Joe will do now that he has dealt with the negative aspects of the past, because this project leaves you wanting more.

Listen to the Blood is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Single Lock Records

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || The Kernal

New album: Pigeon Pit || Feather River Canyon Blues

As stated in my AOTY list, I thought 2021 was a great year for music. If the early releases are any indication, 2022 seems destined to continue on that path. The Drolls and Sweet Knives already dropped great records, and here is another one. It is a record I found myself playing front-to-back this weekend while taking a walk outside in dreary weather – not skipping any of the songs. I am talking about Feather River Canyon Blues by Pigeon Pit, a band I admittedly hadn’t heard before.

I immediately warmed up to folky indie rock of Pigeon Pit, although I probably should also include emo, punk, bluegrass and country when describing the sound of the band. This broad range of musical genres may scream RED FLAG! to some, but Pigeon Pit pull it off and make it sound very natural. In addition to the classic drums, guitar and bass setup, Pigeon Pit tastefully incorporates the fiddle, pedal steel and banjo. Meanwhile, all 7 members of the band contribute vocals, giving the songs a communal feeling.

There are a lot of elements I enjoy about Feather River Canyon Blues. For one, the songs are as earnest as they are catchy. In their execution, Pigeon Pit kinda sounds like a mix of John K Samson/The Weakerthans, Nana Grizol, Pinegrove, Conor Oberst and Neutral Milk Hotel – all good in my book. Then there are the cool and slightly unnerving parts where multiple singers sing different lyrics over the same melody line, for example in the standout Milk Crates. Another strength of Pigeon Pit on this particular record is how they strike the perfect balance between more jubilant tracks and more introspective ones, giving the record exactly the right kind of flow that makes listening to the record such a rewarding experience. The sequence of Milk CratesThe RiverEmpties is a great example of this.

I can see myself playing this a lot this year!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

Dusted || The 10 Best Cover Songs Of December 2021

Not all new music is really new, as many artists cover songs. Sometimes these are songs by their favorite artists, eg as a tribute to such a musical hero for a special reason, or they simply feel that a song deserves to be dusted and polished to reacquaint fans with great songs from the past. Other times, bands cover songs as a parody. Regardless of intent, some of those cover versions are so good or so much fun, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in random order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.

We’ve already posted reviews of G​.​T​.​R​.​R​.​C.‘s compilation and Kepi Ghoulie & Vic Ruggiero‘s cover-rich album this month, I had to disregard Squid‘s Cover Versions EP because it is exclusive to Rough Trade shops, and I found out that I had overlooked a new, pretty good cover album by Deep Purple (Turning To Crime) last month, but these are ten other releases worth your attention.

Kiss Me Deadly || Cover: Chuck Prophet featuring Make Out Quartet || Original: Lita Ford
The most successful cover songs are often genre-transcending, with the covering artist differing considerably from the covered artist. That’s definitely the case here, where Chuck Prophet transforms Lita Ford’s 80s hard rock hit into a folk ballad with harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, violin and bells (not only the music but also the lyrics are more well-behaved now). It’s the closing song of four-track EP The Land That Time Forgot Revisited, out digitally through Yep Roc Records – Prophet re-recorded three songs of his most recent album, and this cover, live with a string quartet, on a linoleum floor on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in an empty barroom in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Music Year-End List || Dennis’ Favorite Singles and EP’s of 2021

You’ve already seen our lists with favorite albums – here‘s Niek’s list and there‘s mine – but also many shorter format releases were wantlist worthy. Below you can listen to an overview of the Top 50 singles and EPs that I thought were the best from 2021. I’ve excluded releases with songs that also appear on my album list. Links point to Discogs or Bandcamp (the headings), and to previously posted reviews (in the body text) – add to your wantlist (or collection) what you like!

1. Noah C Lekas || Sounds From The Shadow Factory
[Beat Poetry, US || Blind Owl] To be honest I haven’t been able to give this one as much attention as I would have liked. Not only because I mainly spent my time on full-length albums, but also for practical reasons: only two songs are shared on Bandcamp, YouTube, Soundcloud and Spotify, and unfortunately a physical copy wasn’t available in Europe (and sold out quickly in the US). Still, I didn’t doubt for a moment whether this should be at the top, simply because this was the most impressive release of the past year in all respects. Poems and rock music form a great combination here: “It’s jazz for the mind // It’s blues for the soul.” It’s Art!

New album: Kepi Ghoulie and Vic Ruggiero || Kepi and Vic: After the Flood

“I know you’re gonna break my heart so let’s just get this over with.” What an opening line of the latest collaboration by two veterans of the punk and ska scene. Kepi Ghoulie has been a positive force for decades with his bouncy pop punk (Groovie Ghoulies), his kids’ records, his paintings, his daily social media posts, and his kind and inclusive nature. Vic Ruggiero is a multi-instrumentalist who is most famous for fronting The Slackers, but he also released several solo-albums, played in bands like Stubborn All-Stars, SKAndalous All Stars, and co-wrote some Rancid songs.

As Kepi and Vic, the duo take us on a trip through their respective songbooks and those of others. After The Flood for example includes reconstructed versions of the Groovie Ghoulies classic (and a personal fav) Carly Simon and Highway Man. The twelve tunes on After The Flood were recorded in Ruggiero’s old basement appartment. They are old-timey songs, call it rhythm-n-blues, countryblues, or whatever. What shines through is two friends doing what they’ve been doing for decades: rockin’ out, having fun and sharing their passion for music. After The Flood is a warm and generous record that transports you to a dark and sweaty basement where you are boppin’ you head, stompin’ your feet and singing along. Keep doin’what you do, Kep and Vic!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Stardumb || Discogs

Overlooked album: Grace Petrie || Connectivity

There’s too much new music released to take it all in, so it makes sense to check out what admired artists and bloggers refer to as highlights, to reduce the chance of missing something essential. At Scene Point Blank, they asked a few dozen artists and record labels what their favorite albums were from last year. In the list of punk/folk hero Frank Turner, I discovered Connectivity, the most recent LP by UK singer-songwriter Grace Petrie, which I must have overlooked when it came out in October. There is some resemblance to Turner’s work (I even went looking for the credits to see if he had any involvement with the album, but that’s not the case: it was produced by Matt De Burgh Daly (Petrie and Turner toured together, and Turner has covered one of Petrie’s songs so they know each other’s work well)), which may explain his choice. Actually, that doesn’t matter, because in themselves these 12 new tracks are strong, with appealing stories, sung and played convincingly. These are powerful folk songs with a punk feel and poetic lyrics. If you can captivate without musical accompaniment as Petrie does for almost 4 minutes in Galway, you deserve as much appreciation as Ed Sheeran and Steve Earle.

“I’ve played rooms of hundreds // That have never felt so loud // Because it’s not the size of the crowd that’s in the gig // But the gig that’s in the crowd // And tonight’s, they are heroic // Their response enough to seem // Like they could fill a football stadium // When they’re a few short for a team”

Personnel: Grace Petrie (guitar, vocals, harmonica), Ben Moss (fiddle, melodeon, concertina, banjo, mandolin, vocals), Caitlin Field (drums, vocals), Jasmine Kennedy (vocals), Matt De Burgh Daly (piano, bass guitar, electric guitar, pedal steel, glockenspiel), Dom Potts (double bass), and Steve Pretty (brass on Great Central Way).

Connectivity is out digitally, on CD and vinyl double LP through The Robot Needs Home Collective.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

Overlooked album: Scott Hirsch || Windless Day

The ink of my year-end list hadn’t dried yet when I stumbled upon the first excellent album that I somehow missed when it came out two months ago. And shame on me, it’s from a well-known name. I was captivated when I heard Big Passenger pass by in a playlist, the standout track from Scott Hirsch’s new (third) solo LP Windless Day. Actually most of the record is pretty good. It’s late summer music – understated soulful folk – with a nicely balanced set of instruments (Hammond organ! Saxophone! Congas! Mellotron! Pedal steel!), and a very well produced sound. This one may be missing from my AOTY chart, but it’s definitely high on my wantlist right now. RIYL Steve Gunn, J.J. Cale, Natural Child.

Windless Day is out digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Echo Magic. In addition to standard black vinyl, there’s also a limited edition iridescent pearlized purple vinyl version, which is totally on trend, because that is more or less Panone’s Color Of The Year 2022 – Very Peri – which was announced today.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

Music Year-End List || Dennis’ Favorite Albums of 2021

All year long we look forward to this moment of looking back, escaping the continuous flow of new releases for a while, taking the time to recap what really stood out these 12 months. In 2021 I took my FOMO more seriously than ever: I’ve checked out 2,200+ new albums, twice as many as last year (this hobby is getting out of hand). The disadvantage of this is that you don’t get any sleep, but still it isn’t possible to give anything that looks promising the attention it deserves. Anyway, along the way I built up a longlist of 120+ LPs that are wantlist-worthy, which I now have brought down to a Top 50.

In any post on this website, we try to put into words which artists are involved, how their instruments and vocals sound, whether their songs are catchy or dreamy or energetic or dark, where their inspiration for lyrics came from, etc., but I have my year-end list compiled as I always have, simply in order of what I loved and played the most – personal taste preference as the debatable deciding factor. My choices are all about guitar-driven, authentic indie rock, power pop, garage rock, roots, and jangle pop, plus a little bit of soul, country, folk, and alternative rock.

New album: DeeOhGee || New Way of Life

For the past 10 years, Nashville rock ‘n’ roll band Blackfoot Gypsies has rocked stages in Europe and the US. They now have dropped that old name (it felt like a logical moment for a next step, with more self-awareness), but kept the same spirit. The new, honed premium brand in authentic American guitar music is called DeeOhGee, and they have three frontmen. Matthew Paige (guitar), Zack Murphy (drums) and Dylan Whitlow (bass) – they share vocal duties, and also grab timpani, pianos, banjos or harmoniums where necessary – play a combination of rhythm & blues, classic country, and glam rock. Their new full-length album, appropriately titled New Way of Life, is a testimonial of where they are now, a testimonial consisting of 11 swinging songs, that gets through best at loud volume. This is real music by skilled musicians – hooks! vocal harmonies! memorable lyrics! – and a sound to stamp along with a smile on your nodding head. This is fun to the max.

New Way of Life is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through WDGO Music.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || WDGO

New album: Andrew Gabbard || Homemade

You may know Andrew Gabbard from his – versatile – work with Thee Shams, The Buffalo Killers, The Gabbard Brothers (with his brother Zach), or as The Black Keys’ touring guitarist, but now he has his debut LP as Andrew Gabbard (as Andy Gabbard he released Fluff in 2015), recorded at home. When you listen to Homemade, you would almost think that the American musician has been able to watch an advanced stream of Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary, because I regularly think about the Lennon/McCartney collaboration, though we might as well cite Emitt Rhodes and Neil Young as references here. You’ll understand, this is classic, hazy pop infused with alt-country and psych vibes with beautiful harmonies, like sophisticated songwriters created in the late 60s and early 70s. That’s not a compliment to be taken lightly, especially since Gabbard not only wrote most of the songs (closing track Promises I’ve Made is an Emitt Rhodes cover), but also took care of the vocals, guitars, drums, bass, and piano. Listen to two of the standout tracks below.

Homemade is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Colemine / Karma Chief Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

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