End of Year

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Okay while some of us here at 9b are shaking off the Holiday Hangout Hangover ™ I’m looking towards the end of what has been a pretty fantastic year for new music and I’m wondering what I missed.

So what records/bands/etc did we not pay enough attention to this year? What slipped by us that you think should have gotten a little bit more attention?

Dexateens – Teenage Hallelujah

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Far and away the Dexateens are the most criminally underrated rock’n’roll band in America. I can’t think of another band that has been cranking out album after album of intense killer songs with so little notice being paid. I’m not sure what the explanation is for that. I’ve been onboard since I first heard them and everyone I’ve played them for turns into a fan in short order. Fortunately for us these guys clearly aren’t familiar with the concept of quitting, they’ve gone on a hiatus or two but it never sticks.

After one of those breaks they returned roaring with the 2013 EP (though at 8 songs I’m calling it an album) Sunsphere. It was a welcome return but shortly after it came out I started hearing about another album that they already had in the making. That album turned out to be Teenage Hallelujah. The wait seemed like forever but as soon as I heard the album I was enthralled.

Kicking off with a drum and bass groove giving away to a suitably nasty guitar “Old Rebel” is exactly the kind of song that every album should open with. It serves as a mission statement for the rest of the album in both lyrically and sonically. Elliott McPherson sings songs that are filled with “the southern thing” in a way that feels more authentic to me than just about anyone else. Granted I am sure as a California boy I miss the significance of some lines and I know for sure a few references are over my head. The honesty and lack of pretension shines through even to someone with my limited understanding.

With a solidified lineup of returning guitarist Brad Armstrong (who put an excellent album, “Empire” this year), drummer Brian Gosdin, new addition Taylor Hollingsworth on guitar along side founders Matt Patton on bass and guitarist singer McPherson the Dexateens travel the map on this record in a beautiful way. From the ragers that harken back to their “Teenager” years like “Eat Cornbread. Raise Hell” through the Replacements-esque “Boys With Knives”, the beautiful folky pop of “Treat Me Right”, the slinky “Jimmy Johns” and the near perfect “Curtain Call Candice” they turn over every stone on the rock’n’roll path. Many bands can do one of those types of songs well but few can excel at all of those styles  the way the Dexateens can. Co-produced by the band and Bronson Tew and recorded largely at Dial Back Sound in Mississippi, Teenage Hallelujah sounded like a straight up rock album to me at first pass but the closer I listened to it the more I noticed how incredibly weird it is. The sounds they captured are the musical equivalent of a fun and funky hole in the wall bar in a sea of sanitized corporate drinking establishments.

The crown jewel of the album is “Down in the Valley” kicking off with guitars smearing across each other as the bass and drums bounce along. The song never relents through a anthem chorus and a very classic rock (in the best possible way) musical outro that fades into a group chant of the mantra “Can I get a new, creation”. That line has been chasing me since the album came out. It reverberated in my head. It creeps in when I’m trying to write. It reminds me of a girl I dated shortly after high school. In a more perfect world this song would be a radio staple.

This album easily falls into the Essential Listening category. I can’t encourage you more to pick this one up. My vinyl came with a church fan which has got to be the best bonus included with an album of all time.  I don’t know if rock’n’roll really needs to, or even deserves to, be saved but if anyone can do it my bet is on the motherfucking Dexateens. It’s safe to say this machine kills americana.

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Micah Schnabel – Marching Band (These Divided States)

The world is pretty goddamned ugly right now. One big upside is the amount of art that is being created as a direct result. Micah has long been a political songwriter, in fact I’d argue that from the moment he found his own artistic voice just about everything he has written was political in nature. So it feels right that a few days before the election here Micah releases a new track.

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Help Caleb Caudle Make A Record

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I’ve mentioned before that I love crowd funding. No offense to any of the fantastic record labels that help get the music we all love out in the world but I am very glad to see artists be directly supported by the people who love their art. Right now one of the better folks making tunes without record label money is Caleb Caudle. His most recent record, Carolina Ghost, was crowd funded and anyone who heard the results can attest to how well it turned out. By crowdfunding that album Caleb was able to pursue his vision without being tied to anyone else’s budget and delivered a collection of killer songs that can stand shoulder to shoulder with any major label release.

And now he’s at it again, with your help.

This time Caleb is headed to the wilds of Los Angeles to team up once again with his longtime collaborator Jon Ashley. They also plan on a session or two in Nashville. It’s going to be a huge undertaking and you can help him out a bit AND get some perks on the way.

Boom over to his Indie GoGo page and toss a few bucks into the pot. Making records isn’t cheap but when it’s Caleb Caudle you know damn well it’ll be worth it.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/caleb-caudle-s-next-album-music-vinyl#/

M. Lockwood Porter – How To Dream Again

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After a snippet of “The Preacher and the Slave” and the sound of amps warming up M. Lockwood Porter and band kick into a rocking rumination on the current state of the American Dream. “American Dream Denied” is a bold choice for an opener for an artist whose considerable strength lies mostly in his well constructed lyrics and mastery of delicate melodies.  It’s a fitting intro to an album that might be a bit more angry than the previous album, 27, and it shows that Porter is as comfortable with loud guitars as he is with the gently picked beauty of “Bright Star” two tracks later.

Since Porter relocated from Oklahoma to San Francisco (with a pit stop at Yale) in 2009 I have been fortunate enough to catch him playing live on a semi regular basis. Due to that my first expierience with many of these songs has been in a live context often times at solo shows. It’s a pleasure to hear the fleshed out arrangements and contributions of band members Peter Labberton (Drums), Bevan Herbekian (Bass), Jeff Hasfield (Keys) as well as various guitar contributions from John Calvin Abney. The band’s ability to add flavor to Porter’s songs without overshadowing the frontman is in fine display on tracks like “Strong Enough”, one of the standout tracks on record. That being said Porter also knows when less is more such as the sparse “Reach the Top”.

Tracks like “Joe Hill’s Dream”, “The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be” and the frustrated “Charleston” ( “I know I barely understand / and I know my skin is white / but my father once told me / the guy who never questions how or why / can’t see the gap between what’s wrong and right”)  all mine some of the same lyrical territory that starts the album off. The blend of disillusion and defiant hope is the perfect message for the time we live in. The album isn’t entirely political in nature but it does explore these waters a fair amount. He even offers an explanation of  himself on “Sad / Satisfied” (Am I a coward to keep singing songs of sadness and love / with so much blood in the streets, so many bombs up above”). The album closes with the mirror image of the lead off track “Dream Again” a soaring lullaby that leaves us with a little bit of light to move forward with.

I often compare M. Lockwood Porter to the Old 97’s, mostly because his voice is articulate and perfect for delivering the blend of twangy folk and pop goodness that both bands share. I realized after listening to “How to Dream Again” a great many times on a road trip that the other reason I cite the 97’s is the comfort that both bring to me. This record (like 27) is one that I find reassuring and easy to listen to. It has a calming effect both sonically and lyrically that is hard to find other places. It’s not a Saturday night album, it’s not a Sunday morning album, but it seems perfect when you’re driving alone for long stretches of road and you want a trusted companion to have a chat with.

Buy “How to Dream Again” from Black Mesa Records and check M. Lockwood Porter out on his upcoming tour with John Calvin Abney.

Sat, 10/29 – Oklahoma City, OK @ The Blue Door*
Mon, 10/31 – Oxford, MS @ The Shelter*
Tues, 11/1 – Nashville, TN @ The 5 Spot ($2 Tuesday)*
Wed, 11/2 – Gatlinburg, TN @ Sugarlands Distilling*
Thurs, 11/3 – Nashville, TN @ The Basement w/ Joey Kneiser, Kent Eugene Goolsby*
Fri, 11/4 – Edwardsville, IL @ Stagger Inn w/ Beth Bombara*
Sat, 11/5 – St. Louis, MO @ Dead Wax Records w/ Beth Bombara*
Sun, 11/6 – Chicago, IL @ Uncommon Ground*
Mon, 11/7 – Davenport, IA @ Moeller Nights*
Sun, 11/13 – San Francisco, CA @ Neck Of The Woods w/ Anna Tivel
Fri, 11/18 – Oakland, CA @ Octopus Literary Salon*
Sat, 11/19 – Santa Margarita, CA @ Dunbar Brewing*
Sun, 11/20 – San Luis Obispo, CA @ TBA*

*with John Calvin Abney

RIP Chris Porter and Mitchell Vandenburg

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We are very sad to share that Chris Porter and Mitchell Vandenburg of Porter and the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes have passed away following an auto collision. Drummer Adam Nurre was injured in the accident and is currently hospitalized.

The following statement was released by This Is American Music:

“We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn this morning of the passing of Chris Porter. We don’t know many details yet, only that he and his band were in an accident in North Carolina last night. We’ve known Chris for a bit, going back to his band The Back Row Baptists and the lovely Some Dark Holler, who we were privileged to work with, up to his current project with Porter and the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes. But our bond with Chris went well beyond music – he was a dear friend and member of our family, quick with a smile and a quip and never disheartened by the struggles of trying to make a go in this crazy world… and Chris always helped make it a little crazier, weirder and more cosmic. Our thoughts are with Chris’ family and friends and the people who are close to the other band members who were lost and injured. We hope everyone will hug each other a little tighter today, and hold on a bit closer to those who mean something in your lives. As we make these trips around the sun, it is easy for distance to find its way into those bonds, and as Chris’ friend Will Johnson has so poignantly said, “Connect when the feeling strikes. Work on loving. Work to avoid regret. Because a lot of the time it’s hard to tell what the last time looks like.” We love you Porter, and we miss you already.”

This article is from the Austin Chronicle:

 

An auto accident claimed the lives of Austin musicians Chris Porter and Mitchell Vandenburg yesterday in North Carolina. Bandmate Adam Nurre remains hospitalized.

The touring trio, Porter and the Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, was on the way to a gig in Baltimore after playing in Charleston, S.C., the night before.

The wreck occurred in North Carolina on I-95 near Smithfield midday on Wednesday. According to local reports, traffic on I-95 had been stop-and-go due to multiple accidents that had occurred on that stretch of highway. The RV – a converted Ford shuttle-bus – containing the Austin musicians was stopped in traffic when a semi-truck rear-ended it, killing Porter and Vandenburg. Nurre was rushed to a hospital in Raleigh for non-life-threatening injuries and, according to friends, is conscious.

News of Porter and Vandenburg’s tragic and too-soon passing rocked Austin’s music community on Wednesday night – the widespread impact evidencing just how many people their music and friendship had touched.

Chris Porter, 36, was an Alabama native who fronted the Bama bands the Back Row Baptists and Some Dark Holler, then transplanted in Austin where he maintained his solo career as a deep Americana songwriter. His 2015 LP, This Red Mountain – produced by Centro-matic frontman Will Johnson – showed off his emotionally real-and-raw songcraft. At the time of that records release, Porter told the Chronicle that his primary songwriting influence was “humans.”

“There’s a ton of them just running around loving stuff, hating stuff,” Porter said. “I gravitate to darker themes in my material, but inspiration comes from a lot of directions. Humanity gets my motor running.”

Mitchell Vandenburg (left) with Starlings, TN (Photo by John Anderson)

 

Bassist/songwriter Mitchell Vandenburg was omnipresent and unmistakable force on Austin’s stages – serving as the energetic spark plug for every band he played in. Vandenburg played upright in psychedelic string band Starlings, TN and electric with burgeoning country songstress Carson McHone. The 30-year-old Colorado native, also played with Jackie Meyers, Horti – from the Whiskey Shivers, and Matt Coughlin & the Growlers. Vandenburg, who once served in overseas in the U.S. military (playing in the band, not on the battlefield) was also a gripping songwriter who sang and played acoustic guitar.

Adam Nurre is a classically trained percussionist from Ohio who also spent time playing in McHone’s band and plays with Garner Sloan – which featured Vandenburg on bass.

Porter, Vandenburg, and Nurre all lived together in Austin.

 

Jon Snodgrass – Carpet Thief

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I’ve always been disappointed with the album bloat that accompanied the CD era of music. Bands crammed ridiculous amounts of filler crap on CDs in an attempt to reach the 74 min maximum. Quality sacrificed on the altar of quantity. I’m of the opinion that 10 songs is a solid number. This gives the listener enough songs to get into the vibe but few enough that each song is given it’s due. Sometimes though a song can be so damn important that it deserves a little more of the spotlight, which is why 7″ records are sometimes my favorite format.

Jon Snodgrass’  new 7″, Carpet Thief, is a fantastic usage of the medium. The first track “1-2-3-4” is one of the strongest songs he’s written and that’s saying something. On an album nestled in with 9 or so other tunes it might not get the attention it deserves but here it justifies release as a track on it’s own. There is something special about this one. Written in the wake of Teenage Bottlerocket drummer Brandon Carlisle’s passing the track manages to pay tribute to the departed through melancholy memories while giving a sly smile. Snodgrass frequently uses the personal to make songs universal and this topic, this song, may be the best he has ever used this device. The details found in the lyrics are very specific to Brandon’s passing but the exploration of grief should feel familiar to anyone who has had to cope with the loss of a loved one. There tends to be an immediacy and off the cuff feel to much of what Snodgrass puts out, it’s part of the charm to his music. This song serves as a reminder that there is depth and repeated listening value tucked away just behind that “in the moment” vibe. The massive guitars and pulsing, dynamic arrangement are sonically complex in all the right ways. I don’t know if he felt this way when he wrote it but “1-2-3-4” seems like it’s going to be an important part of his catalog for a long while.

The second track is “Perfect Match” is a bit older tune with a pretty cool backstory. This track was written to accompany a vampire themed comic book for Paper + Plastick. I remember hearing it awhile back and immediately loving the opening line “You’re not  waking up..”. Perfect Match has Jon on vocals with all of the instrumentation by Stephen Egerton. It’s another great tune to add to Jon’s repertoire. Makes a nice pair with “Spiderman, Wolfman” for your halloween music mixes. Just a suggestion.

As is often the case there are also demo versions of the songs included. I am a big fan of hearing the process behind songs, it let’s you peek behind the curtain a bit and sometimes yields insight to the artists intent. In this case you also get witness Snodgrass being admonished for interrupting his daughter by making too much noise writing a song. It’s a pretty cool moment, I’m glad he left it in.

Go forth and download “Carpet Thief” from the Drag the River MP3 page. And stock up on some other tunes you may have missed over there while you’re at it.

Greetings! Also, Dexateens!

Hey everybody,

Just wanted to take a second to thank both Romeo and Autopsy for all the years of work on this site. I love it and I promise to try to honor the work those guys have put in over the years. We’ve got some great pieces to publish in the near future, lots of great music is being made right now and as always Nine Bullets will be doing our best to tell you about it.

For example right now MySpace (?) is debuting a new/old Dexateens track and it is badass! Go take a listen and let us know what you think

 

The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust

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Being a Jayhawks fan can feel a little bit like being stuck in the movie Groudhog Day. They’ve had more break-ups and make-ups than anything this side of a highschool relationship. I’m really glad they do.

In a lot of ways the Jayhawks were the first alt.country band I got into. As a fan of Soul Asylum I was exposed to the Jayhawks through Soul Asylum interviews and liner notes. It was during a time that I was really exploring music and I would obsessively read liner notes from albums I liked and look up the bands and musicians I found. The first song I heard of theirs was a cover of the Victoria Williams song “Lights”, which just happens to still contain my all time favorite guitar solo.  After that I picked up Hollywood Town Hall which is an amazing record. In my opinion it is an album that does Tom Petty better than Tom Petty. I also really enjoyed the following album “Tomorrow the Green Grass” which contained the closest thing they’ve had to a hit, “Blue”.  Then disaster struck when founding member, guitarist, and vocalist Mark Olson left the band. This seemed like an impossible situation for the band as one of their key features  was the harmony singing between Olson and the other songwriter,guitarist, singer Gary Louris. They did indeed soldier on however (adding Drummer,singer,songwriter, Tim O”Reagan before Olson left) and released their best and most interesting album “Sound of Lies”. Members came and went for another two albums until the band seemingly drifted off for good. Following a box set release Olson and longtime keyboardist,singer, Karen Grotberg rejoined the trio of  Louris, O’Reagan and founding member (and fantastic bass player) Mark Perlman and they rose from the ashes again. Unfortunately the magic was gone and the album that came from the reunion, “Mockingbird Time” , is the one I listen to least. The band once again split as Olson left for good this time. I figured that had to be it.

And then something happened.

Much like the first time they lost Olson the Jayhawks have returned again with a record that is an absolute artistic triumph. With the addition of Kraig Johnson the “Sound of Lies” lineup of the band was back in the studio under the eye of R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. The results are pretty stunning as far as I’m concerned and the new album “Paging Mr. Proust” is one of their best.

The album leads off with “a sigh”, the opening line of a song that almost perfectly encapsulates one aspect of the Jayhawks, the gorgeous “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces”. The song is poppy as hell in all the right ways. But like much of the Jayhawks best work it also has a serious case of melancholy. The entire record has that dark heart beating right under the surface. It’s the thing that makes Louris such a unique songwriter. He creates the best bitter pop, which is why the Jayhawks sound just as fresh to me in 2016 as they did in 1993. It’s the reason the songs sound lived in and comfortable the first time you hear them. Moments like the distant call and response in the otherwise sugary “Lovers of the Sun” or the weariness behind the beautiful hook of “I don’t want to fight” in “Leaving the Monsters Behind” display an unreal gift for blending darkness and light. In the past I thought it was a yearning that was coming out in the songs. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but lately I think it isn’t yearning but resignation. Accepting where you are in the world and not wanting to fight against that any longer but not necessarily being happy about all that. Or maybe I’m just projecting.

The band sounds confident and comfortable. Equally embracing the things that people love from all eras of the band and exploring textures they haven’t touched on often. “Comeback Kids” is an example of the latter taking dominance with a song that sounds more like something I’d expect a Finn Brother to write rather than Louris. It’s great to have the band bounce back yet again and still finding new paths for the songs to take. Art ’16

It’s getting tougher to find space to enjoy art without any expectations. I don’t know about you but I’m getting more and more anxious everyday. Things aren’t going quite right. It seems like we are all waiting for a moment, a moment when things are going to change one way or the other. Tensions are rising. But we still have to get up. We still have to go to work. And check in with our folks or our kids or our lovers or our friends. We still have to try to make it a little better. This album feels like the soundtrack to all of that. And fortunately for us the album also provides moments of beauty that reflect that part of our times as well as the downer parts do. I didn’t expect this from them but I am sure am glad to be surprised.

The Jayhawks are doing a western swing of dates starting July 18th with the exceptionally exquisite Fernando opening. That’s a nice bill friends, see it if you can.

This Might Be Good Podcast Interviews Michael Dean Damron

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From This Might Be Good:

“It’s our Deca-pod. And it’s a good one. John O describes a horrible, if all too common bathroom event, while Brian divulges a near miss! Michael Dean Damron is our guest. We talk about his life playing music and his most recent bands, I Can Lick Any SOB in the House and The Do Betters. Mike D plays us a couple great tunes in studio. And Brian and John O write a This Might Be Lyft song. Check it out! The Deca-pod has arrived.”

Take a listen