Country & Folk

New album: Zoo || No Man’s Land

Zoo is the brainchild of Cincinnati-based songwriter, Cory Pavlinac. Pavlinac used to major in Jazz guitar at Belmont University (Nashville) but then switched to creative writing – a logical step after many late-night drives studying the words and music of Bob Dylan and Patti Smith. That backstory is relevant for two reasons: One, the musicianship of Pavlinac has a level of complexity and depth that is marvelous. There are hints of The War On Drugs and Kevin Morby, but Zoo sounds less bombastic and more nuanced than the former and more diverse and complex than the latter. Above all, No Man’s Land is highly accessible, and full of well written folky indie rock.

Two, Zoo is the kind of record where it pays off to take the lyric sheet out, and fully experience the record while reading the lyrics. The album deals with the challenges of dealing with intimacy, isolation and empathy as an introvert, and getting married and becoming a father. The personal and heartfelt lyrics create a synergetic experience while listening to the music. Conversely, the music sets the right tone and atmosphere for the words to hit even harder. Worry is a good example of this. Pavlinac: “I wrote this song at 2a.m., laying in bed one night with all these thoughts flying around my head, unable to sleep. The song took shape immediately when the first line popped into my head (“Staring At The Ceiling In The Middle Of The Night // I Got Worry On My Mind”), and I snuck out of bed to go record it.” But there is also the anxiety of political and societal polarisation in the album’s best song Sleeping Dogs. “There is maybe a little of myself in the caricature of this person who is waiting it out, while complaining about the state of the nation all the while, and day dreaming of societal fallout,” Pavlinac explains.

No Man’s Land sounds tailor-made for the season of falling leaves, rain and wind, and the occasional indian summer day. For those shelving their records in alphabetical order, you could do much (much!) worse than having Zoo as the outer bookend of your collection. Another strong release by Good Eye Records who brought us that acclaimed Spud Cannon record earlier this year.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Ike Reilly || Because The Angels

American singer / songwriter / guitarist Ike Reilly offers that rare combination in which everything is right: he is a great storyteller, has a distinctive voice with an attractive gritty edge, and his experienced band knows exactly how to create the necessary greasy sound. On the new full-length album Because The Angels you’ll hear ten perfectly produced rock ‘n’ roll songs with sharp observations. The ten songs vary in tempo and instrumentation, the poetic lyrics are always captivating, and the hooks and harmony vocals provide nice surprises. This is rebellious punk rock in a country blues package, dark and uplifting at the same time. The opening track Little Messiahs sets the tone: “Who will sing these working blues // For the working poor // Whose souls are oozing // Solvent as each day it passes on // And after the candidates are gone // And everything is said and done // Who will sing these working songs” – it should be clear who fulfills that role from an intrinsic motivation, and in an authentic way. Besides Ike Reilly himself (guitar, vocals), the band (The Ike Reilly Assassination) consists of Phil Karnats (guitar), Dave Cottini (drums), Pete Cimbalo (bass), and Adam Krier (organ). On the previously released single Trick of the Light, the front man trades lines with his sons Shane, Kevin, and Mickey, asking questions about faith, hope, family, money, and fate. We could describe song by song in this way, but in fact everything about this LP is beautiful, right down to Tony Fitzpatrick’s cover art.

Because The Angels is out now on CD via Rock Ridge Music. You can listen to the full album on all streaming services.

Add to want list: Discogs || Ike Reilly

Gimme 5! Stephen Steen of Megadose Shares His Five Favorite Records

With ‘Gimme 5!’ we take a peek into the collections of artists we admire. The premise is simple: artists WE like share 5 records THEY love.

It’s been a while since our last Gimme 5. Stephen Steen must have thought so as well, because out of nowhere he sent me his five favorite records. How did this happen? Well, when you release a superb record with the potential to cross over to a major audience, you get a lot of requests and e-mails all of a sudden. And it’s easy to mixup requests from different music sites. Our win! That superb record by the way is Wild & Free by his band Megadose (our review here). It’s a record that slowly wins you over; a record on which Megadose put their own spin on ’00s indierock. If you are a fan of acts like Bands of Horses, The Shins, Fleet Foxes, The War on Drugs and Frightened Rabbit, I believe you will like this band a lot. Recently, Megadose released its first video ever which should give you a good sample of their music. [post continues below]

New album: Wolf Willow || Old Guitars & Shooting Stars

Wolf Willow is a band from Regina (Saskatchewan) that makes me want to dust off the old country tag – arguably the least used genre tag on our site. To be more specific, Wolf Willow play countrypolitan, a subgenre of country characterized by a smooth sound with weeping steel guitar, strings, and sweet background vocals. The band is not afraid to dive into other genres though. They start their new record Old Guitars & Shooting Star with the surfrock instrumental Lovers Lane, and other songs sound more like classic country (An Old Guitar & A Shooting Star) or honkey tonk (Heaven Didn’t Seem So Far). Oh and don’t forget the tasteful addition of jazzy trumpets in certain songs, or the hints of Belle & Sebastianesque indie pop (All I Can Say, Love Letters Left Unsent). This is a sophisticated and delicate record full of pleasant surprises.

For some reason, I keep associating the songs on Old Guitars & Shooting Star with movie soundtracks. Perhaps it’s the orchestral sound, but there are songs on the record that would work in a Tarantino movie, whereas others would fit perfectly in a classic Western, and still others in a James Bond flick. Wolf Willow are a guilt evoking kind of band for not listening to this kind of music more often.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Pokey LaFarge || In The Blossom of Their Shade

American songwriter / musician / entertainer Pokey LaFarge has been releasing records for about 15 years, records with swing and blues-infused roots music that sounds like it came from before the rock ‘n’ roll era we love so much. On his seventh full-length studio solo album, In the Blossom of Their Shade, he has managed to keep the good of the past – the ten new tracks have been created with great care and an eye for quality -but it’s literally and figuratively a step forward, a bit more modern but also a bit more mature. We still hear jazz, folk and doo-wop influences, and somehow it reminds me a bit of Jonathan Richman too, but it fits surprisingly well in 2021. Actually, this LP should have been released three months ago, because this would have been a perfect soundtrack for the summer holidays. It showcases the positivity of coming out of the darkness and into the light (from Get It ‘Fore It’s Gone: “Don’t throw shade on my sunny day”). Only the tribute to the Netherlands’ coolest city (from Rotterdam: “Where I wanna be is not where you’d expect // They have a place for me down on Nieuwe Binnenweg”) and the beautiful closing time song Goodnight, Goodbye (Hope Not Forever ) make the purchase of this record worthwhile, but it contains more fine fine tunes.

In The Blossom of Their Shade is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through New West Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs || New West

New album: Emma Russack & Lachlan Denton || Something Is Going To Change Tomorrow, Today. What Will You Do? What Will You say?

Emma Russack and Lachlan Denton are prolific songwriters from Melbourne. Somehow, between recording with their respective bands (Snowy Band, The Ocean Part, Pop Filter and others), they find time to write records together. Something Is Going To Change Tomorrow, Today. What Will You Do? What Will You say? is their latest collaborative project, their fourth (!) in three years. How do they do it? Well, combine friendship, a desire for writing honest pop music, and efficiency – the record was recorded in about 12 hours on tape.

The result is 26 minutes of laid back indiepop tunes with beautiful melodies and harmonies (listen to Long Road for example). Some have an old timey country feel to them (Still Life), some are more folky (Oh Alice, Authenticity), whereas SIGTCTT and WWYDWWYS provide slacker rock mirror images to start and close the album. And then there is Grass Is Greener, which is 100 seconds of indie pop perfection.  SIGTCTTWWYDWWYS  is out now on Bobo Integral (EU) and Spunk Records (AUS).

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Spunk Records

New album: Sam Johnson || Along the Dark Edges of Everything

Boston-based singer / songwriter / guitarist Sam Johnson spent the past decade as frontman for post-hardcore outfit Choke Up, but in addition to his punk rock voice, he also has a country heart. He lets that heart speak on his debut solo album Along the Dark Edges of Everything, and that sounds softer than what we were used to from him. But as other noisemakers have proven before – think of Frank Turner or Fred Lee – the step to less ferocious solo work can turn out well, because the quality remains and perhaps comes across even more powerful. Here we hear twelve songs with thoughtful lyrics about gratitude and grief, stories about lost youth and travelling, over a mix of folk, Americana, and indie rock music. The observation that these tracks are beautiful certainly doesn’t mean that it’s a boring or passive album, because a patient approach can also rock hard. For example, listen to Black Sheep Wine, a love song to Sam’s wife, and Wildfire, that explores the delicate moments between finding passion and burning out in your creative endeavors.

“It’s not the fading of the flame that really scares me // It’s how little I want it back”

Along the Dark Edges of Everything is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through What We Talk About Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: L’Resorts || Vacation

If the singers of L’Resorts sound familiar to you, it’s likely you have heard Vincent Kircher’s work in Jaill, or Martha Cannon’s in Lady Cannon. Under the L’Resorts moniker the duo are helped out by other veterans from the Milwaukee scene, and write folky (electric) americana pop tunes that are as pleasant as they are soothing. From what I’ve read, the duo started working together after Cannon send Kircher a Facebook message. At first, they did their recordings remotely, but when they finally met, their chemistry wasn’t just musical. Now the couple live together in Milwaukee.

L’Resorts is quite the departure from the garagepop of Jaill, although I could easily see album opener and title track Vacation reworked in a Jaill version. I love how the band namedrops Velvet Underground and Camera Obscura as influences, because these two acts signal of the bandwidth of the sound of L’Resorts on Vacation.: Pop music, but the good kind. And with an edge. The playful instrumentation of L’Resorts (listen to Bubbles for example) makes Vacation a joy to listen to, and the dual boy/girl vocals give the songs a timeless pop feel. Having been quite the fan of Kircher’s work in Jaill, I am kinda ashamed this is the first time I’ve heard about L’Resorts. But the band has been prolific since their start late 2018. Last year alone, they released two full lengths: Bad Love and Sad Happens (a fundraising kids album). In my book, L’Resorts are worth (re)visiting!

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Langkamer || West Country

UK four-piece Langkamer blend rock ‘n’ roll and alt-country into a unique indie rock sound. After two EPs, they now have released their full-length debut album West Country. The 12 new guitar-driven songs vary in tempo and style, sometimes sweet and at other times raucous and abrasive, but always infectious and intriguing. If you write such fine songs, it doesn’t matter that you are The Ugliest Man In Bristol. I wouldn’t be surprised if Langkamer manages to attract a really large audience, but especially restless souls can indulge themselves in West Country.

West Country is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Breakfast Records / TINA Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Breakfast Records

New album: Robert Jon & The Wreck || Shine A Light On Me Brother

Robert Jon Burrison (lead vocals/guitar), Andrew Espantman (drums), Steve Maggiora (keyboards), Henry James (lead guitar), and Warren Murrel (bass) have been building a quality discography and impressive live reputation since 2011. The music of Robert Jon & The Wreck may be filed under the Southern Rock category, but it’s the way they mix rock & roll, country and blues with soul and gospel influences that makes their sound stand out. Their new full length album Shine A Light On Me Brother proves once again that we are dealing with first-class musicians – delightful playing and great whiskey drenched vocals. The record opens  ecstatic and euphoric with the title track, Every Day, and Ain’t No Young Love Song, then slows down for some ballads, to close with the party boogie of Radio – whether they’re rocking hard or slowing down the tempo, all ten songs are equally intense. These are songs you really have to experience live; it turns out that the band is on tour right now, so grab your chance.

Stream the full album below.

Shine A Light On Me Brother is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP via Continental Record Services.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Band’s EU/UK Store or USA Store ||  Discogs

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