Country & Folk

Dusted || The 10 Best Cover Songs Of October 2021

Not all new music is really new, as many artists occasionally play a song they know from one of their heroes. Often they are songs that deserve to be dusted and polished, simply because they should not be forgotten. Some of those cover versions are so good, 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.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door || Cover: The William Loveday Intention || Original: Bob Dylan
It’s unbelievable how much good music Billy Childish continues to create, with originals and covers, but also adaptations of his own earlier work. Last month, with CTMF, he released the great single Bob Dylan’s Got a Lot to Answer For (“Even an idiot must admit that Bob Dylan made some great tunes, but despite his many achievements it must also be said that Bob has got a lot to answer for, so we wrote him a complementary tune”), and from the moniker of The William Loveday Intention also appeared an impressive cover of the master’s Knockin’ On Heavens Door. It’s a classic that has been covered many times, but this is possibly the most epic one. That goes for the 10-minute vocal version, but the even longer instrumental is even more compelling. Out on 12″ vinyl through Squoodge Records and digitally via Damaged Goods.

New album: The Right Here || Northern Town

Twang is one of those concepts that is easily ascribed to a certain sound, but much harder to explain what it actually entails. In a literal sense, twang is “the resonant sound produced when a tense string is sharply plucked or suddenly released.” In another definition it’s described as “an ill sound in one’s pronunciation.” Twang is also associated with the sound of the Telecaster guitar, particularly when played relatively fast. Twang is usually associated with country artists, but is also frequently used to describe punkrock bands that have a rootsy, all-american sound with heartfelt vocals and countrified storytelling. Think The Gaslight Anthem, Think Dave Hause. Think Lucero. Think Arliss Nancy.

Minneapolis band The Right Here, who just released their fourth record Northern Town on Rum Bar Records, easily slide into that list. Thematically as well as musically:  “Northern Town represents our best attempt so far at capturing the tug of war between comfort and restlessness, home and the road, leavin’ and stayin’,” the band explains.

The Right Here serve up anthemic and honest rock-‘n’-roll songs like it’s all they’ve ever been doing. Northern Town is an easy record to fall for, with enough grit and pace to rile in the punk kids, and enough sonic depth to keep the americana crowd interested. And with songs like Here We Go Again, Every Once In A While and Good Luck Trying, The Right Here have the fist pumping, head bopping anthems to sway bars and venues around the globe.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

Gimme 5! Lake Artifik Shares His Five Favorite Albums

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.

One of my favorite discoveries of 2021 is Lake Artifik. This is the moniker under which Swiss musician Carlos E. Cordero writes and records beautiful, dreamy acoustic guitar songs. His debut album Dream Park consists of nine layered, mysterious and slightly sad tracks about past memories, a very suitable soundtrack for Sunday mornings. In the meantime he has also released the EP Bloom, with three new songs that are a bit more straightforward, pop oriented, and positive. Landgraaf in particular caught my attention, because I went to Pinkpop there a few times. The lyrics are about the fantasies that Carlos and his best friend at the time had about playing at the festival; as teenagers they dreamed of ‘making it’ with their band, thinking they were the coolest kids around since they performed gigs for their 60 fans (“For all the times we saw the sky // Thinking that we could fly // Jamming our songs through the night // Waiting for our time to shine”).

This seemed like a good reason to ask Carlos about his sources of inspiration. The explanations of his favorite albums make it clear that we are dealing with an artist who is a good listener, who also knows how to describe it well.

New album: Belaver || Lain Prone

If you’re not yet familiar with the music of Ben Godfrey aka Belaver, I suggest you start by watching the video of his song Driver (from his full-length debut album True Love of Crime), imho one of the best of 2019 (how is it possible that this only has 734 views?) – that gives an idea of the intimate, smart and mysterious music of the NYC-based songwriter. Pretty good, but slightly alienating – it could be a soundtrack from a movie starring Bill Murray. Belaver has now released his sophomore LP Lain Prone, again produced by Robert Ellis. The 14 beautiful new songs form a coherent whole, both in terms of theme and sound. “They say the world is gonna end” is the first line of the opening track (Here It Comes). “Take my cyber lyfe, take my megabytes, make it all go away” is the last line of the second track (In The R L). Next lyrics look back on better times: “We could have a 70s adventure slash comedy” (70’s Adventure). And so on. The cover art actually says it all: isn’t it best to stay cool as the misery of the world rages by? Yet this folky indie pop is more melancholy than gloomy, in a way similar to conversations you have with a good friend in the middle of the night about the meaning and purpose of life, and that the next morning you wonder what clever things you said then. Belaver helps you remember. RIYL Gold Star, Daniel Johnston, Refrigerator.

Lain Prone is out now digitally. Add to wantlist : Bandcamp

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

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