I have never been in a honkytonk (I don’t know if it’s one word or two, even). I’ve been in very few restaurants that offered complimentary peanuts without irony, my only cowboy hat was a gift from someone who bought it in Northern California, and my first real exposure to country music was the film Walk the Line. The first time I saw someone play pedal steel live was at a Lucero concert. What I’m saying is, I am probably not the individual who can discern what makes “real” country music.
With that caveat out of the way, I’m pretty sure that Jason Eady is as authentic as it gets. Listen to the walking bass line and simple pedal steel crying on “One, Two…Many”, and a begrudging (or eager!) smile is sure to come to your face. Eady has a clear voice with plenty of twang but none of the staged warbling quality of certain pop country artists. The instrumentation is clean and deliberate; you may not hear a new and innovative sound on this record, but the traditional approach really allows Eady’s songwriting to shine.
Several of his tracks do a fantastic job of capturing the mature nature of love lost. Bittersweet and melancholy instead of raw and bleeding, Eady’s songs are more for the person who knows how badly they’ve messed up instead of the ones searching for a reason why. “We Just Might Miss Each Other” is a fun romp through the always-pleasant activity of knowing your ex will be at the bar but going anyway, and the following title track “Daylight & Dark” is the perfect somber and sober follow-up to a night that didn’t go how you had hoped, wanted, or expected. Speaking as someone who has wandered home at dawn plenty of times, one eye blearily closed against the rising sun, more often than not what you need is a quiet voice murmuring to you and not the raging of electric guitars:
“There ain’t no conversation between the daylight and the dark,
It’s a worn out situation when you don’t know where you are”
Daylight & Dark is a solid album with a few tracks that are sure to get stuck in your head, and a few more than are going to get you stuck in there too. It may not be as gritty as some of our normal 9b fare, but sometimes the wound stings worse when you clean it. What a terrible metaphor.
Hey folks, your friendly West Coast 9b writer is here to lay down some internet knowledge real quick. These posts serve as a reminder that the online world is our oyster, and it’s dollar beer night down at the seafood bar.
I don’t really know what that means but I guess I’ll just get started.
Two Cow Garage Covers Uncle Tupelo – Yeah, brother, you heard what I said. From the upcoming Uncle Tupelo tribute album We’re All Criminals Here, everyone’s favorite 3 piece cover “We’ve Been Had”. I’ll wait for you to pick your brains up off the floor…
BEFORE BLOWING THEM RIGHT BACK OUT AGAIN!
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires Live Set – That’s right. The powerhouse of ‘bama punk rock’n’soul is touring constantly in preparation and support for their new album Dereconstructed, coming out on Sub Pop records which you should TOTALLY pre-order. I know I have. The Brooklyn, NY venue Shea Stadium is awesome about posting complete sets of shows to their Soundcloud. The Glory Fires play some old ones and some new ones, and if you want to be excited about the new album or haven’t heard these Alabama white boys play…man, you should.
House on the Hill Acoustic Sessions – New Alabama music booking firm Rocket City Sounds has started doing some cool acoustic sessions in a big empty house, and the fruits of their labor are visible for the internet to see. There’s even a new song from Todd Farrell, 9b regular.
TIAM Spotify Playlists – If you know Ninebullets, you know This Is American Music. Their ‘General Enabler’ Sean Courtney and ‘Quarterback’ Corey Flegel are masters of the art of playlisting. If you have a Spotify account (and there’s really no reason not to at this point), you should check out their public playlists. Summer Nights on the Porch Swing, Southern Indie, and the terrifyingly arousing Flegel Babies: a Journey into Smooth. The people who put out good music also listen to good music, and these guys are some guys to follow.
This has been our Sunday Morning Coming Down edition of Around the Web, with your host, Wolf.
If you don’t know who John Moreland is, it’s safe to stay you stumbled onto this site trying to find small amounts of ammunition for sale. Hello, friend! Put aside your worldly troubles and let’s talk about songs.
I saw John Moreland for the first time this past weekend, and matched my expectations. There was a magnitude 5.1 earthquake in Los Angeles while he played “Break My Heart Sweetly” and I didn’t notice. I think that sums everything up.
John was kind enough to take a few minutes and answer some questions outside the bar before his second show on a Saturday night. Here are the questions I asked him and the answers he gave.
9B: How do you feel about the expectation of access to the musicians that fans in our genre of music have? The hanging out before and after shows, the buying shots?
JM: Usually it’s fine. I’m down to hang out with people, it’s all good stuff. Maybe a couple times it’s been sort of weird, because I’m kind of a quiet dude naturally. I think there have been times when people have thought I was an asshole when I didn’t mean to be, but I just wasn’t as talkative as they would like me to be. Usually it’s okay. Sometimes on tour, you don’t always want to hang out…but most of the time it’s fine. People don’t usually buy me as many shots as they buy Ben Nichols, so that hasn’t been a problem.
9B: A lot of your songs have religious themes or references, but you don’t strike me as a very religious person. Where does that come from?
JM: I grew up religious, in a religious family, so I think it’s just a language that’s natural to me. It’s stuck with me, even though I’m not really in that world any more. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I feel about that stuff now that I’m not an impressionable kid anymore.
9B: Do you ever do research into these stories? Some of your references, like to David and Uriah in “Cataclysm Blues No. 4”, are very specific.
JM: I had to do a lot of research on that one, because I vaguely remembered the characters but didn’t remember what happened. Actually, that one came from Ryan Johnson from American Aquarium. He had an idea to write a whole song based on David and Uriah from Uriah’s point of view. I was going to help him write that song…and then I kind of just stole the idea and used it in my song instead. He had to bring me up to speed on that one. I sort of vaguely remember my bible stories. I used to always be embarrassed in Sunday school because I was like the Sunday school slacker who wasn’t up on all the stories and stuff…but that’s been enough to drop some references in songs and get away with it.
9B: A lot of your songs on In The Throes are love songs…do those come from situations or emotions that are still present in your life?
JM: They’re recurring. It’s stuff that’s always going to come back up. I wrote that stuff, and some of it was written, and I thought that it was over…and I find myself back in the middle of it, maybe with a different person.
9B: Do you keep the same set list for every show?
JM: Usually I’ve been playing ten or twelve songs. Last night I think I played around twenty, so I just played In The Throes as the first set and about half new songs and half old songs for the second set. I don’t have an exact setlist, but I have a general one in my head. It’s kind of broken into thirds. Certain songs go in the first third, or the middle, or the end. “3:59 AM” I’ve been playing last, I feel like it would be weird to play it third or something. Stuff gets moved around within its section, and certain songs come and go depending on what I feel like doing that night.
9B: Yeah, you played “Smoke and Cigarettes” last night, which was great to hear.
JM: I hadn’t played that one in a while until last night. Brought it back out to kill time, but I kinda dug it. I might start working that one back in.
9B: Talk to me about your ‘No Heroes’ tattoo.
JM: Well, it’s the title of a Converge album that I really like. There are people that I admire, of course, but it’s a reminder to be realistic with that stuff. I go through times where I kind of get caught up with hero worship bullshit. It’s not healthy, and it’s sort of demeaning to yourself. You forget that the people you’re putting on these pedestals are just like you, and you can do whatever you want to do.
9B: Have you played any shows recently with bands that took you by surprise?
JM: The first time I saw Adam Faucett, I’d never heard him before. I’d heard people talking about him, I knew he was from Arkansas. I saw him open for Ben [Nichols], and I ended up playing a couple songs that show even though I wasn’t on the bill. That fucking blew me away. I’ve been addicted to his records ever since. I played with Mark Utley in Cincinatti, he was really great. He had a line that said, “I started smoking again so I could spend more time with you.” I thought that was badass. I remember that. A couple weeks ago in Salt Lake City I played a show with this dude named Sammy Brue. He’s twelve, and he can play finger-style guitar better than me. He’s already really good, it’s just gonna be ridiculous to see how good he is in a few years. That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head.
9b: What have you been listening to on the road?
JM: This tour I’ve been listening to a lot of my friends. A lot of Adam Faucett’s new record, and Lilly Hiatt’s records. Aaron Lee Tasjan, his new EP that just came out…his old band, the Madison Square Gardeners? I’ve known him for a while, but I didn’t know that band until a few weeks ago at South By. I was staying with Chris Porter and Bonnie Whitmore and they showed me that stuff, I was just like, “Holy shit!” I’ve been listening to a lot of Madison Square Gardeners, and George Strait. Driving around Hollywood with the windows down blastic George Strait. That’s probably about it.
9b: What have you been reading on the road?
JM: I just read Willy Vlautin’s new book, called ‘The Free’. I heard about it, but I didn’t remember I heard about it; there’s a Drive-By Truckers song about one of the characters. Somebody in Alabama recommended I check him out. He’s from Portland, he’s in a band called Richmond Fontaine, and when I was going to Portland the other day it crossed my mind. I found it at the fanciest Barnes and Noble I’ve ever been to. So I read that last week, and it was great. Now I’m trying to find more of his books but they’re all out of stock at all the bookstores I can google, so I’m probably just gonna order them when I get home.
Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. I won two tickets to a show of my choice and picked a night at random; I had a last date planned with a girl I’d been seeing. I knew that I’d only have time to see the opener before heading to another show across town, but hell, free tickets are free tickets. We got to the venue right on time, just as the first act was taking the stage. He was one of the guitarists for the headlining band, but evidently they had him open for them sometimes. Well, alright.
Aaron Lee Tasjan, playing solo acoustic, proceeded to absolutely blow my mind. I had no expectations but was consistently amazed by the quality of his bluesy guitar playing, his lyricism, and songs that could turn on you unexpectedly. I was alternately laughing, stomping, awe-struck, and invigorated. It was the best case scenario of showing up early to catch the opener.
Aaron released his new EP, Crooked River Burning, on Tuesday, March 25. It has two previously unreleased songs, as well as three songs that were on his previous record, The Thinking Man’s Filth. I’m going to save a lot of my accolades for Aaron’s first full-length record, which I hope will not be long in coming. When it comes to this EP, I’ll say that I don’t particularly understand some of the production choices; I feel that Aaron’s strength is in his power as a stripped down force of nature, and layered vocals and instrumentation can distract from that. I’d also have enjoyed seeing more new tracks, having already played the hell out of Thinking Man’s Filth as soon as I knew it existed. But those complaints are minor. Every artist is concerned with their own direction, and Aaron has proved with his songwriting that he’s too smart to be lead someplace he doesn’t want to go.
These tracks are great, the instrumentation is solid, and if you listen hard enough you’ll find a line or two per song that really kick you in your gut. Aaron Lee Tasjan is a train you want to get on early, because it’s gonna get crowded quick. I’m going to let his words from the final moments of his recent Daytrotter session close this review out:
“My name is Aaron Lee Tasjan. I’m living proof that one good hat, a fuzz guitar pedal, and a sordid past can go a long way to keep you in free beer and good company in this man’s America.”
Buy Crooked River Burning on iTunes, and The Thinking Man’s Filth on Bandcamp.
The EP is only 5 tracks, so I’m not going to put them up here, but take a listen to these and pick some music up if you like what you hear.
Pain can take many different forms. What we’re used to, in this little corner of the musical world, is raw energy and brute force. Even our best singer/songwriters can cut loose when they want to, using volume and power to get the point across from time to time.
Cave States from St. Louis, Missouri has a different delivery. This album, The Great Divide, is delicate. Not every album can have a Tim Barry-style screamer on it, and even Tim Barry parses those out as necessary. Many of the songs on this album are love songs with lines or choruses that might seem trite at first listen. Taking each song in as a whole, though, you can note hints of unspoken pain.
Cave States takes great care, though, to construct all of the instrumentation and harmony with precision. The opening track, “Loose Shoes”, paints a very specific picture of the possible end of a relationship that’s been around for a while, and what’s it’s like to be the person willing to hold on. Perhaps tellingly, the last track of the album deals with the same theme, asking a loved one to ‘forget about the old days’.
This band is made up of St. Louis locals who have been around the block a few times and decided to band together to put out an album of their own stuff. It’s definitely a mood piece and may not be for everyone, but listening to the first song got me to listen to the rest of it, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need an album to do.
In Hollywood it’s very easy to assume the worst of folk bands: once you’ve seen one group of long haired, hat wearing, fitted vest adorned troubadours you feel like you’ve seen them all. Charming stage banter, tight vocal harmonies, polished album production…all of these can easily feel stilted, staged, and engineered. Once in a while, though, something unexpected comes along.
Jamestown Revival is a band from Texas that moved to California and then recorded an album in another western state’s mountains. That eponymously named album, Utah, is Essential Listening.
They seem too good to be true. Too pretty, too talented, too young, too appreciated to live up to any hype. Well fuck that. Don’t let this train pass you by. Whether it’s a barn burner like “Revival” or a slow ballad of a song like “Heavy Heart”, Utah is full of tracks whose melodies and harmonies will be lodged in you long after they’ve stopped playing. Of special note is “Golden Age”, a swan song for an era of country music long gone:
“Good times are over, didn’t you know?
Well I heard it on the radio”
The core of the band is Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, and these two friends work together exceptionally well. They share singing and songwriting duties, with Jon on guitar and Zach on keys. Live, Jamestown Revival is electric. They play for the joy of playing, not for the audience, and they sweat and swear and take shots with the best of them.
Too often in niche music, success is equated with falsehood and disingenuousness. Give Jamestown Revival a chance, catch them while they tour through your town. These are eleven solid tracks, and if you can honestly say there isn’t a single one on this album you love I’ll Paypal you a dollar**.
You can buy Utah by Jamestown revival on iTunes, from their Bandcamp, or grab a physical copy from Amazon.
Man, if you don’t know who Arliss Nancy is yet (are yet?) then you haven’t been reading this blog for very long. Consider this your education.
Arliss Nancy is five dudes from Ft. Collins, CO. They had an out of nowhere classic with Simple Machines, toured forever on it, and finally came out last year with Wild American Runners. Both album are littered with classics, and were labeled Essential Listening by the fine folks here at Ninebullets.
If you haven’t seen Arliss Nancy live, you’re missing out. Not only because the tightness of their musicianship and vocals have to be heard to be believed, but also because they’re some of the most radical dudes trying to make this music thing happen. I was fortunate enough to spend time with them when they were out here in Los Angeles, and was struck again by how friendly and genuine each of them are. Being a touring band is difficult and thankless, and more bands than any of us could name have fallen apart because they couldn’t handle spending 24 hours a day seven days a week in a passenger van with the same dudes for weeks on end. Much like their music, the friendship of this motley crew has no explanation as to how it’s so good…but the proof, as they say, is in the huevos rancheros.
Go see a show. Tell your friends in other cities to go see shows. Buy a t-shirt (they have like 16 designs or something). Say hi, give a sweaty smelly dude a hug, and tell him how well he played and make up for the shitty 6 hour drive between two dive bars.
Sometimes the best thing that music can be is fun. I call fun music I don’t expect to stay in my rotation ‘road trip music’. Nancarrow’s Heart is perfect road trip music. With the Twitter bio of “Farm Raised. Realtor. Country Singer.” it’s clear that Graham Nancarrow isn’t trying to compete with John Moreland or Jason Isbell, but that shouldn’t be a slight against his songs. Fun is fun.
The single from this EP, “Party”, is a bouncy song with a raucous chorus; it’s the kind that stays stuck in your head for a day and a half and you find yourself tapping a toe to without realizing it. Many of these songs are similarly catchy, with brash instrumentation that I imagine would lend to a live performance and lyrics that are relate-able if not insightful.
The imagery of going to a lake and having fun with your friends seems to sum up this record, and that’s the perfect time and place for it. Spend five bucks. Buy this record. Grab some cheap beer and some close friends, and put it on while you swap stories of awful first dates. Get drunk all day. Sleep it off. Play it on the way back, only quieter.
Merriam-Webster defines ‘punk rock’ as follows: “rock music marked by extreme and often deliberately offensive expressions of alienation and social discontent”.
It’s hard to get any more punk rock than Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Whether you know the story of Laura Jane Grace or not (you can learn more about it here), the circumstances that brought about the album could only make it interesting; it takes something else entirely to make the album good. I’m going to spoil it for you now: this album is Essential Listening.
The album starts off hard and fast with the title track. “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” is awash in lyrics that are gutwrenching because they come from a perspective you are not used to hearing.
“Your tells are so obvious, shoulders too broad for a girl”
“You want them to notice the ragged ends of your summer dress/You want them to see you like they see every other girl”
And what may be my favorite line of the whole album for its blatant nature and unapologetic confrontation:
“You’ve got no cunt in your strut/You’ve got no ass to shake”
I could go through track by track and line by line, breaking down to you the voice that Grace has finally found. Although it may sound sonically similar to Against Me!’s vast catalog, there is something new and beautiful and painful about the point of view being shared. It’s almost a guarantee that no matter how alienated or put-upon you’ve felt, it’s never been as bad as being a woman trapped in a man’s body in a very masculine and male-dominated industry (and sub-genre of that industry). “True Trans Soul Rebel”, the second track, seems stitched together between her own story and others she’s witnessed. “Paralytic States” feels the same, songs about different methods of trying to escape the past that never seem to work out.
The songs are short and mostly melodic; by the first few seconds of each I am ready to start singing along to the chorus. The sound is a natural evolution for Against Me!; this is a band that sounds better with every album. Some of the louder tracks (“Drinking with the Jocks”, “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ”) aren’t my particular cup of tea, but I’m sure there are plenty of fans who will welcome the raucous guitars and screamed vocals.
The last track of the album is undoubtedly my favorite. I was lucky enough to see Laura Jane Grace on the Revival Tour, about two weeks before she came out and told us she no longer wanted to be referred to as Tom Gabel. When she played “Black Me Out” I was floored at the passion and venom present in the song and the performance. This indictment of the music industry and the petty despots who clutch at power is easily translatable to whatever petty despots we find present in our own lives: “As if you were a kingmaker/As if, as if, as if”.
That sentiment sums up “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” for me. The emotions, the pain, the longing, the self-consciousness, the self-confidence, and the love are all things that I understand and identify with immediately, even if I haven’t gone through the same things that Grace has.
If you find yourself uncomfortable with the subject matter don’t be ashamed. Only be ashamed if you aren’t human enough to listen to this album and give it, and Laura Jane Grace, a chance.
RSV here! I’m snagging some space at the top to say that we’ve added a new writer to the fold here at 9B and I think he’ll fit right in with the crew. Hell he’s already flashed us, via email, once. So without further ado I’ll let him tell you about himself.
I really want to keep this brief so that we can get back to the music
My name is Gabriel di Chiara and I’m going to be the newest writer for 9b.
I’ve been reading the site for around five years now; when I was a junior in college I got a mix CD from a girl and on it was a really interesting mix. Terrible country, okay country, and then (then!!) a few things I’d never heard before: two Lucero songs, “Sweet Little Thing” and “My Best Girl”. I don’t know if you have ever been twenty-one years old, but they caught my attention. I spent that whole night looking up Lucero songs and illegally downloading Lucero albums and listening to this kind of music that I hadn’t ever heard before. Ninebullets.net was the first thing that popped up when I searched for the band, and I can tell you what happened soon after: Tim Barry, Drag the River, Cory Branan, the Fox Hunt, Langhorne Slim, and assorted other artists from our little corner of the musical world.
I moved out to Los Angeles about three years ago and wrote Autopsy IV a message thanking him for the music and how it was getting me through hard times. I’d never understood Glossary and Two Cow Garage until I moved to LA, but once things clicked (meaning I was heartbroken and lonely) I couldn’t stop listening to them (and still haven’t). Bryan was kind enough to send me a care package: some koozies, stickers, American Aquarium CDs, and the Matt Woods Manifesto. I’m thrilled he did because now I proudly call Matt Woods my friend, and have the drunken photobooth pictures to back it up. That picture up there is one of the coolest nights of my life, hanging out backstage at 3 Kings with Arliss Nancy, Micah Schnabel, and Michael Dean Damron.
The music that Bryan, RSV, and the others have championed here has become a big part of my life. The friends I’ve met at shows on and off the stage are some of the most important people in the world to me. I’m unbelievably excited to get to contribute in some way to Ninebullets, and hope you guys are excited to hear what I have to say about stuff.
I promise that my love of booze and tacos rivals the passion I have for music. I may prefer nachos to tacos, but I think we’ll all be able to get along. There is no good reason for me to go by ‘Wolf’ other than it being pretty funny, and with dudes like RomeoSidVicious, Autopsy IV, and Fast Eddie around I need to fit in. Some hobbies include cheap beer, good whiskey, and women that don’t talk to me anymore.
Without further ado, here are (in chronological order) some songs that I may or may not have tattoos of (I do).