Drive-By Truckers “American Band” – by Morgan Enos

dbt_americanband_cover

 

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of pieces written for Nine Bullets by special guest artists, creators and other friends of the site.  Morgan Enos fronts the bands Other Houses and Hollow Sunshine.

 

It sometimes feels like an artifact of the Baby Boomer mentality to need a song to illustrate your times. But, I remember driving around with my dad listening to Neil Young’s Living with War when it came out. It’s another of Shakey’s “impulse albums” that was recorded as quickly as it was forgotten, calling for George W. Bush’s head. But, to my 14-year-old brain, it truly seemed like a cataclysmic political message, like that burlap packaging on the cover contained a letter bomb to Washington. It was 2006, but I felt like I was in 1966.

Ten years later, Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers appeared at the Democratic National Convention in support of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. It was stunning to see the Alabaman authors of “The President’s Penis is Missing” (Pizza Deliverance, 1999) as talking heads on the national news, a flash of authenticity onscreen. And as 2016’s American political climate parodies itself to a nearly psychedelic extent, we could do worse than Cooley and Hood as our musical ambassadors against the chaos. Now, we have American Band.

I actually wrote off Drive-By Truckers for most of my life. I’d sniff every time I’d hear someone’s rendition of “Bulldozers and Dirt” or “Women Without Whiskey” at a cafe or bar and presume whoever was behind it was unbearably hokey. It took James Jackson Toth of Wooden Wand penning a comprehensive piece about the band for Stereogum, which calls them “maybe America’s greatest extant band,” for me to realize how wrong I was. I quickly fell in love with the band’s body of work, with their multiple songwriters and needle-sharp narratives, accompanied by their go-to illustrator Wes Freed’s visual aesthetic of Cooley birds and tattered Southern landscapes.

American Band is their most streamlined work yet, and, on the surface, disposes of many of the elements that initially drew me to the group. Gone is the Wes Freed album cover, replaced by an unprecedented photograph of a muted, half-mast Old Glory. The songs operate differently, too. While the group’s past tunes set personal and mythological scenes against a changing American South, these songs fire outward against police killings, nationalist creeps and blind Rebel Flag waving. The Truckers have a righteous axe to grind.

It doesn’t hurt that the band sounds better than ever. Divorced from the sometimes compressed, distorted sound of recent albums like The Big To-Do (2010) and English Oceans (2014) the band sounds loose, energetic and wide-open. Cooley’s “Kinky Hypocrite” is yet another in his growing pile of Stonesy rave-ups (check out “Marry Me” or “Shit Shots Count” for the same kind of song) but it’s a wickedly funny put-down of the 1%. It’s not all finger-pointing, however: several songs reference co-leader Hood’s relocation from the Truckers’ home base of Athens, Georgia, to Portland, Oregon. His “Guns of Umpqua” finds the songwriter taking stock of his new life against the climate of a horrific recent shooting in Oregon. “When the Sun Don’t Shine” is a sweet, simple weather report of Hood’s internal world, in which he opts to “watch the moon peak into my room” rather than bask in some rays.

 

But it’s the weighty closer, “Baggage,” that is far and away the most potent cut here. To my ears, it’s the end credits to the band’s entire history, from the anarchic, inebriated makers of Gangstabilly (1998) or Pizza Deliverance (1999) to modern rock’s poet laureates.

In a revealing Facebook post from 2011 about the Truckers’ early song “Buttholeville,” from Gangstabilly (1998), Hood related his anger at his hometown of Florence, AL at age 24. “Things weren’t going particularly well on any level back then. I was very frustrated with everything in my life, personal, musical, financial, you name it,” he recalls. It’s a sense of despondency that’s seeped into his work ever since, but he spends the six stormy minutes of “Baggage” battling his demons in real time. It’s a fitting encapsulation of the current state of Drive-By Truckers as they near 20 years of existence. On American Band, Cooley and Hood crucially sharpen themselves as individuals and storytellers to go after our nation’s intolerance, violence, and poisoned traditions. Sometimes we do need a song.

– Morgan Enos
Keep up with Morgan on his website 

Micah Schnabel: Music as a vehicle for Truth – by Larry Fulford

Micah Schnabel at Twang N Bang 9/4/16 - photo courtesy of Holly Rohner
Micah Schnabel at Twang N Bang 9/4/16 – photo courtesy of Holly Rohner

 

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of pieces written for Nine Bullets by special guest artists, creators and other friends of the site. Larry Fulford has spent time on the mic as a comedian and behind the kit as a drummer. He’s a peach of a fellow and we asked him to reflect on a recent show he attended.

 

It was a Monday night, a night touring musicians dread even more than Sunday night, in Chicago, Cubs Country, during a Cubs game, in a city with a bar on every corner, a theater on every other corner, hundreds of ways to spend your money, and I was taking $8 to Uncommon Ground in Wrigleyville, a smallish craft-everything bar just down the street from where the Cubbies were playing, to see Micah Schnabel (Two Cow Garage) perform a solo/acoustic set on the second-to-last night of his most recent tour.

A capable two-piece, acoustic singer/songwriter accompanied by an electric lead player, kicked things off. The sound was outstanding but the room itself was kind of stuffy, seated with table service and drinks I couldn’t afford.

Maybe fifteen people sat at the tables, kind of spread out, making their pricey drinks last and nibbling on food I was jealous of. Fifteen in a room that, according to a sign, held forty-seven. It felt more like a cafe than a dive bar or rock club, the kinds of places I was used to seeing Schnabel and Two Cow. But the sound was incredible, so I told myself to hold onto that.

From meager, midwestern beginnings as a simple alt-country outfit that was heavier than most, to a soaring, driving-with-the-top-down powerhouse walking a tightrope over a quarry of punk rock, to saying “Fuck it” and diving headfirst into that quarry but climbing up for air long enough to keep things interesting, I’ve been a fan of Two Cow Garage since I saw them play to an audience of maybe 12 as though it were an audience of 12,000 without a hint of bitterness.

Years later, on an unassuming Monday night in Chi-Town, Schnabel alone took the stage (or place on the floor where a stage might be someday) and, just as I’d seen him lead the charge in front of 12 as though we were 12,000, stepped up to the mic to do exactly what he had come here to do, regardless of outcome or interest.

Except this time, for the most part, he left the old songs on the records, save for maybe one Two Cow Garage track (“Let the Boys Be Girls”) and an I’m Dead, Serious bonus track (“How to Quit Smoking”). The rest of the set I was mostly unfamiliar with, with the exception of a couple songs I’d seen live clips of on YouTube.

And this new stuff, wherever it came from, whatever triggered it, was captivating in the most brutally honest, unafraid to make you uncomfortable, beautiful way.

There were lyrics about uncertainty, about questioning your own identity and the idea of identity, our collective reasons for doing things as simple as making small talk, existence, fear, the illusion of an “American dream,” domestic violence, child abuse, gun control, greed, starving, and finding hope in hopelessness.

Ya know, real cock-sure, glamorous rock ‘n’ roll shit.

Certain lines had me smiling, others had me staring, taking them in, sitting with them, asking myself questions like “How does this make me feel?” and thinking things like “Holy hell.” The imagery wasn’t always easy on the ears, but real art, the good stuff, isn’t always something you necessarily want to hear. But Schnabel’s words kept the room pindrop-worthy and landed as relatable, or at least easy to empathize with, because, subtly, ultimately, the theme of the night was We’re All Just People Here, Flawed and Fractured, Trying Our Fucking Best.

Afterwards, as though nothing had happened, Micah and I and some buddies shot the shit about nothing at all, came up with ideas for t-shirts we’re never going to make, pretended we were friends with Seal.

But something had happened. Something I was aware of even while it was happening. We’d all been temporarily whisked away to Greenwich Village or San Francisco in the ‘60s, when people gathered in rooms that wouldn’t hold more than maybe forty-seven people and turned their attention to someone who was singing or saying things as though he or she had been somewhere we’d never been, and maybe would never dare go, and had come back to us with pockets full of postcards.

It’s been said “the revolution will not be televised,” because it won’t be. Because it’s slow-going and all around us and happening all the time. And it’s not always big, with explosions, castle-storming, chaining ourselves to trees. Sometimes, more often than not, it’s very, very small and personal, like a butterfly a million miles away, flapping its wings.

I was born too late to sit in a smoky speakeasy and watch Lenny Bruce launch verbal cannonballs into the sails of hypocrisy, or Dylan boldly declare outright “the times, they are a-changin,’” but this show gave me what I imagine were similar chills.

The whole “being a musician” thing usually begins simple enough. You want to learn how to play guitar (or drums, or bass, or sing) because you don’t just listen to music, music speaks to you, and you want to know what it’s like to speak that language, even if at first all that sounds like is butchering “Come as You Are” (or “Enter Sandman,” or “I Wanna Be Sedated” or anything-Zeppelin) while your parents knock on the door and ask if you’ve finished your homework.

Your heroes are outcasts, outlaws, rebels who shirked real life in favor of climbing on stages, suspended in a state of permanent adolescence, sweating and bleeding and leaving everything “real” behind for whatever reason; money, fame, chickz (or dudez), or purely because they felt they had nowhere else to go.

There are all sorts of reasons someone might start or join a band, but I think at the very core of every one is camaraderie. Whether you’re a misunderstood nerd with Rush posters all over your walls or a nerd-bullying jock dabbling in finding the only acoustic guitar at the house party to wow young ladies with Nickelback’s “Photograph,” there’s a sort of us-against-the-world feeling when you’re playing the role of rock star.

And I use “rock star” figuratively here to describe anyone who’s found a spotlight, be it at a dumpy coffee shop where someone blends drinks over your attempt at quivering out the tritest of trite lyrics about your last break-up, a garage with three friends who also happen to know “Say it Ain’t So,” or a lonely bedroom, sitting on the edge of a dirty mattress, strumming the ever-loving shit out of “Everlong.”

Myself? It couldn’t have been more about camaraderie if I’d known I was going to be writing this article one day and needed it to be. I became a drummer solely because my buddies in junior high were starting a band and needed a drummer, and back then, as now, there were no drummers to be found.

The thing about bands, and music in general, is over time it gets harder and harder to make time. People go off to college, get married, accept offers for “real” jobs, have babies, find Jesus, sometimes all of the above. The odds are stacked against you from the get-go. It’s as though every band is a camel that thinks it’s a tank, and life is a veritable desert covered in sand-colored landmines.

And, if your delicate endeavor does somehow beat the odds and sticks it out longer than, say, other high school garage bands in your graduating class, it’s almost inevitable that, eventually, the reason(s) you came together become filtered through reasons to continue to exist.

Why are we doing this? It’s clearly not the money. It’s not the fame. Chickz? Dudez? Expression? Sustainability? Legacy? Should we start dressing a little nicer onstage so, aesthetically, we look more like we’re in the same group? Where should each of us look in this photo? Did that make us look too depressed? How are we gonna pay for the next record? Why are we even bothering making a next record when we still have boxes of the old record? Do we know any mechanics in Des Moines?

It’s almost as though, to keep it going, you have to cling to some sort of goal, no matter how invented, farfetched, or out of reach, and start being concerned with things like marketing (blech), finding the right manager (blech!), and selling yourself (what in the actual fuck?!).

It’s a long way to the lower-middle if ya wanna rock ‘n’ roll.

Which is why it’s always inspiring when you come across a band or singer/songwriter (or, hell, painter, writer, comic, photographer, etc.) that refuses to be pigeonholed or let fashion and fleeting trends dictate the next thing that comes out of his or her hands and mouth, preferring rather to use their guitars, words, paintbrushes, and cameras as knives to cut out the bullshit and carve their own niche, searching for revelation, revolution, or simply a sigh of relief in the midst of a screaming world, where we all think we’re the centers of our own universes.

Those are the ones keeping the ball rolling. Those are the ones doing more than entertain. They’re fighting a good fight and an uphill battle blindfolded because, to them, it doesn’t matter if they never cross the finish line or get gunned down along the way.

They don’t do this simply because they want to anymore, they do it because they need to, because something in their brains or hearts or guts won’t let them set the tools of their trades down long enough to get a “real” job. There’s something burning inside and no extinguishing the flame. There is only breathing fire.

Some of these people have been at it for years and will be until their last gasps, when you can finally pry their reasons for existing from their cold, dead hands. They’ve missed loved ones’ birthdays, lost jobs, been evicted, had relationships crumble, and none of it has made them choose to slow down because there is. no. choice.

Micah Schnabel is one such “lifer” whose evolution I feel privileged to have had ringside seats for, and Two Cow Garage is one such band. And now, all these years later, when most groups at their level would be paralyzed with fear, carefully calculating what to say next, how to sound next, what to wear next, or deciding maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all, Schnabel is all but dismissing the surface, choosing instead to turn himself inside out, more interested in what we as human beings might be trying to hide rather than how we as entertainers look under those precious lights.

And, in turn, he’s writing some of the most important songs of his generation, and the generation after, and probably the generation before, and probably generations to come.

I don’t know how else to describe it.

Important.

I could try to explain it better, like how it kind of reminds me of Salinger with a guitar or Dylan with a sense of humor, but to be fair to everyone I’m name-dropping, Micah included, I’ll stop at “important” and hope you see fit to check it out on your own when he comes to your town or commits it to plastic.

I’d like to think true artists aspire to reach a point where they’re comfortable baring their souls. Some manage to get over themselves and find a way to dig that deep. Even fewer will dig that deep, hit a gas line, stash of marked bills, lava, or worse and still throw enough caution to the wind to unearth it into a song, painting, book, joke, movie, etc.

Micah now goes beyond that. He hits the skeleton of his soul, chips it away and fires the pieces into space with a slingshot.

And now that he’s armed with these new songs and ideas, that run the gamut from friendly reminders to scathing satire, I’ve decided the only thing I enjoy more than listening to him myself is watching people hear him for the first time.

– Larry Fulford
Keep up with Larry on Twitter – @LarryFulford

 

[GUEST POST] CYRUS JAMES – DREAMERS OF THE DAY

The following is a guest post by Laura Allmon, whom I met due to 9B and have shared many a drink with since.
cyrus

Cyrus’ new album Dreamers of The Day fully embodies the sounds that one would expect from a typical Texas honky tonk. When I heard Cyrus’ first album I instantly thought how his music would be a high point in my night if I were to hear it playing on the juke-box in my favorite dive bar or how I would be delighted to stumble into a central Texas dance hall and find him on stage. His strong husky voice is just the sound that makes a Southern woman swoon and every song tells a story and sells the emotions while backed by a sound that makes you feel like scooting your boots across the hardwood.

When I found out his second album was on the way I was beyond excited to get my hands on it. I knew I would be pleased but I did not expect to be this in love with it. I cannot stop listening to Dreamers of The Day. It hasn’t left my CD player since I received it and I tell everyone I meet about him. This album does not disappoint. It offers a variety of upbeat songs that speak to those begging for a lover to see the good side of person such as Bad Man and My Crutch and I Don’t Cry When it Rains. It also has notable tunes that tell the tale of dedication and love while keeping with the great classic country sound and avoiding the mushy pop love-ballad sound that becomes so saturated such as I’ll Be The Whiskey, which is my personal favorite, and True Love (Bonnie and Clyde). Keeping with the classic country sound Cyrus has included on this album Blue Collar, Old Friend (Desperado), Maria, Tumbleweed, and Long Way Down which tell the honest sad stories of life, love lost, and growing.

Perhaps I love Cyrus’ sound and songs so much because I grew up in a rural East Texas town and listened to similar music with my parents and it’s the nostalgia, or perhaps his music just reminds me that there is good country music still available that doesn’t include lyrics about a girl in short shorts on a tailgate being treated like objects, and it gives me hope. I suggest you get Cyrus James in your ears as
soon as possible and improve your life!

Bad Man
I’ll be The Whiskey
Tumbleweed

Cyrus James’ official site

GUEST POST: TAMPA/ST. PETE: TO DO: JOSHUA BLACK WILKINS

It took an amazing artist for me to ask Autopsy IV if I could write my first guest post after six years of visiting 9b. In August of this year, I compiled a list of my top five artists to see live that I’ve never seen live. This is my list in priority order:

1. The Weight
2. Joshua Black Wilkins
3. J Roddy Walston
4. William Elliott Whitmore
5. The Fox Hunt

In September, I was able to see William Elliott Whitmore. And, after this weekend I’ll be able to cross Joshua Black Wilkins off that list.

I discovered JBW’s music in 2005 after learning that Rich Gilbert of Frank Black & The Catholics was frequently playing guitar and pedal steel with JBW in the bars of East Nashville. In 2005, I bought Hellbent and Brokenhearted, copied it to cassette, and listened to the record as I drove the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco in my Eldorado. Immediately after coming home, I bought JBW’s first two records, Black Boots and a Suitcase and 17th & Shelby.

In 2006, Rich Gilbert produced JBW’s 5-song EP Pretty as a Junkyard and played guitar and pedal steel on the record. As a Catholics fan, I love the loud guitars, distortion, and feedback that are so much heavier than the acoustic songs of Hellbent and Brokenhearted.

JBW writes love songs, but with love comes lust, hate, and revenge. On While You Wait, JBW plays these songs with loud guitars. But, he also continues to write acoustic love songs that are much more about heartache like on The Girlfriend Sessions. No matter what your preference, if you love real country music, I bet you’ll love seeing Joshua Black Wilkins play his ass off and sing his heart out on Saturday night. Come to the Local 662 in St. Pete. on the 17th. And get there early, he’s opening for Face to Face’s acoustic set.

Joshua Black Wilkins – Jaded
Joshua Black Wilkins – Make Sure I’m Dead
Joshua Black Wilkins – Don’t Think That I

GUEST POST: RONNY ELLIOTT REMEMBERS DICK CLARK

AUTOPSY IV NOTE: Ronny Elliott feels strongly about Dick Clark. So when I saw that Dick had passed I thought it might be fun to see if Mr. Elliott wanted to type a few words about his passing. I hope y’all enjoy the history lesson….

Hank Ballard told lots of versions regarding the origins of the twist. All of them centered around him seeing a dance that kids in Tampa were doing and being told that it was the twist. Hank borrowed several ideas and wrote a magnificent song. It was intended as the “B” side of Teardrops On Your Letter. DJ’s began spinning The Twist and it was something of a hit. Hank had made up a dance for his group, The Midnighters, the same dance that everyone would be doing a year later. All of this happened in 1959.

Dick Clark, never one to leave a buck unmade, began to search for an artist in the Philadelphia area that he could control and record. After approaching the managers of several of the acts that he had promoted on his American Bandstand, he discovered a young man plucking chickens in the region, Ernest Evans. Clark’s first wife dubbed the young man Chubby Checker, lifting heavy handedly from Fats Domino. The owners of Cameo Parkway Records in Philly had cut a version of Hank’s masterpiece with the aspiring rock’n’roll star, copying the original as closely as they could.

Clark worked a deal with Syd Nathan, Ballard’s boss at King Records in Cincinnati,that gave the big Dick, himself, half of the publishing on the song, The Twist. In exchange he promised to use Hank Ballard’s single, Finger Poppin’ Time, in a slot daily for the next dance contest, assuring King Records of a big pop hit.

Chubby’s inferior copy on that very ugly orange and yellow label became a national phenomena and lapped over all layers and levels of popular culture. Word has always been that the mob was involved in Cameo Parkway’s ownership. So was Dick Clark.

Alan Freed was incarcerated by this time for payola. Fine. ABC TV’s hotshot attorneys had gotten Mr. Clark off with a slap on the wrist. It seems that the Bandstand host had altered and cleaned up rock’n’roll to make it more palatable to a broader, whiter audience.

Where we once had worshiped at the altar of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Gene Vincent, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis we now suffered Fabian. I didn’t like many of these losers. I particularly despised Frankie Avalon, keeping myself up at night worrying that he was doing Annette.

That probably would have been the end of what we have always called rock’n’roll if not for the one thing that old Dick Clark couldn’t control: the British invasion. The Beatles and their shaggy cohorts brought us back Arthur Alexander, Bo Diddley and the Coasters.

Clark couldn’t do anything about it. The Beatles would not appear on American Bandstand. They didn’t need to. Elvis had never gone on, either. Dick Clark changed his hairdo and pretended to like it all. We got some extra mileage before big business and crooked radio and greedy record company executives took it all.

R.I.P.
Dick.

Ronny Elliott – The Twist Came From Tampa

GUEST POST: JAMI LYNN – SODBUSTERS

Autopsy IV note: A couple of nights back I posted a help wanted post on the site in an effort to find some additional (and consistent) contributors. For the time being I am gonna post their posts as guest posts for a little while as we nail down the site since the great spam hack of 2011 and as they prove who will be consistent and who’s gonna decide this bloggery isn’t for them.

This post comes from 9B contributor pledge Old Sad Bastard. Lemme know what you guys think.

I know shamefully little about South Dakota, beyond recollections of a family trip when I was about four. And while I haven’t done too much to rectify the situation, other than scoping out google images of National Parks, I have had the pleasure of enjoying some new music from one of the state’s finest songwriters.

You may have heard Jami Lynn’s “Sweet Thing” as the opening cut of the latest 9B podcast. The song is also the first track on her new album Sodbusters, which she is self releasing. Lynn previously released an album (2008’s Dreamer) as Jami Lynn and the Aquila Band. She is accompanied on this “solo” album by her former bandmate Josh Rieck. Lynn’s voice shifts easily from indie rock croon to a full bodied gospel to a traditional folk storyteller, making each song unique, even when the arrangements, mostly banjo and guitar, are similar. The playing is good, and the spare instrumentation allows Lynn’s voice, along with Rieck’s harmonies, to carry the songs through. However, the haunting old-world acappella “The Falling of the Pine” is a standout track for me as is really lets her voice speak for itself. Her website identifies it as a song she discovered while researching her thesis on American folk music, and describes it as “a ballad from the time when “square timber logging” was popular during the Golden Age of Lumbering in northern Minnesota.” It conjures Frank Turner’s forays into old English folk music, and she clearly shares his interest and pride in the history of her music.

The album mellows a bit after the midway point, trading banjo licks for more guitar finger picking. Now, a few years ago, I’ll admit that I would have lost interest at this point. I wandered into Americana, like many punks who started looking for something new after turning 22, over a bottle of whiskey and memories of the stuff my dad listens to. It took some time time for me to understand where softer, more, eh, nuanced music fit into life. Now, however, the more music I hear, the more I come to appreciate musicians like Jami Lynn who don’t go trying to re-invent the wheel, but don’t settle for the same tired standards either. So even if the last quarter of the album is too soft for your taste, don’t drift off: the closer, “Don’t Let Her Love Go”, is another great vocal song, accompanied only by percussion, leaving you to walk away from the album with the tight harmonies in your head and a solid Americana album under your belt.

Jami Lynn – The Lame Soldier
Jami Lynn – The Falling of the Pine
Jami Lynn – Don’t Let Her Love Go

Jami Lynn’s Official Site, Jami Lynn on Facebook, Buy Sodbusters

GUEST POST: THE CAVE SINGERS – NO WITCH

Autopsy IV note: A couple of weeks back I posted a help wanted post on the site in an effort to find some additional (and consistent) contributors. For the time being I am gonna post their posts as guest posts for a little while as we nail down the site since the great spam hack of 2011 and as they prove who will be consistent and who’s gonna decide this bloggery isn’t for them.

This post comes from 9B contributor pledge Charles Hale. Lemme know what you guys think.

You know how new music can sneak up on you and sink in you like the venom from a rattlesnake? The Cave Singers’ third album No Witch is sneaky like that. The venom’s like you heard them for the first time while catching a ride with a girl you had met a few days before. Your car was in the shop, you needed a ride to work at the warehouse where you moved piles of boxes into other piles of boxes and you’d asked her for the ride the night before while sitting at the bar with her and some mutual friends. You’d done this a few nights before while the two of you put the stools on top of the bar at closing time and she’d said something like “wow, I don’t know if I’ve ever met anybody exactly like you” and you said “me, I’m the lucky one. Bourbon drinks and late night quiet, see you soon.” and she told you that’s what she meant.

No Witch was playing in her fairly old Chevrolet when she picked you up and you thought it was Iron & Wine on a shit ton of espresso for a minute but you finally had to ask. She told you who it was while turning up the volume. When “Black Leaf” started she was banging on the steering wheel like you figured your heart would be thumping later, when you’d see her after work at the bar and she’d drive you home and you’d lean in for the kiss.

Each song was rhythmic and charged with memorable guitar work and hauntingly effervescent lyrical delivery. Traffic was terrible and the ride to work was taking longer than normal but it didn’t matter to you because of the girl and The Cave Singers and by the time “Haystacks” played you thought that if things went as you were hoping; No Witch would be a great album to play next week when she stayed over at your house for the first time. You imagined moving with her to these songs that despite being rustic and grimy had heapings of soul to them.

You were so confident and engrossed that between songs you hit the power button and asked her if she would meet you at the bar later. “I want to get out tonight,” she said. “But I have to pick my boyfriend up from the airport and I don’t know what he’ll be up for.” You were crushed and pissed at your friends. They could have given you a heads up and you hit the power button again. The somber tones of the singer’s voice wrapping around you like the hoodie you wished it was cold enough to be wearing right now so you could cover and hide. Clearly you had read something wrong and you wondered if she could feel your face blushing. Suddenly you were reminded of how long of a shift it would be today.

Or, maybe you were just sitting at home on a Friday night watching music videos on Youtube because you hadn’t met the girl you asked to drive you to work one day even when you didn’t need the ride. One band leading to another and another till you found yourself listening to “No Prosecution If We Bail” four times in a row and your hair tingling a bit each time the singer howled. So you opened more beers and found more songs by these Cave Singers and ordered the album hoping you’d meet a girl interesting enough to play No Witch for in her fairly old Chevrolet.

And maybe she’d be wearing glasses and have two paperback books stuffed in her glove box.

Either way, No Witch is Essential Listening.

The Cave Singers – Black Leaf
The Cave Singers – Haystacks
The Cave Singers – No Prosecution If We Bail

The Cave Singers Official Site, The Cave Singers on Facebook, Buy No Witch

GUEST POST: EGIL OLSEN – KEEP MOVIN-KEEP DREAMING

Autopsy IV note: A while back I posted a help wanted post on the site in an effort to find some additional (and consistent) contributors. For the time being I am gonna post their posts as guest posts as we nail down and fix the site since the great spam hack of 2011 and as they prove who will be consistent and who’s gonna decide this bloggery isn’t for them.

This post comes from our 9B Norwegian correspondent Rune Letrud. Lemme know what you guys think.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Egil Olsen!

Egil Olsen, singer/songwriter from Ørsta. Egil Olsen from Norway. Egil Olsen, who is too big for China!

Egil Olsen, who easily have made one of the fines albums that this year will bring.

A couple of years ago, when Olsen turned 30, his wife surprised him by getting a number of highly prolific musician friends to play at his big birthday party and they even made a tribute album filled with his wonderful subtle songs.

After only two published records, one’s own tribute album isn’t something that happens to everyone. But then, it’s not just two everyday records he has released to date. I am a singer / songwriter from 2007 and Nothing like the love I have for you from 2009 are both pillars in their own right in any record collection with respect for itself.

The road leading to this album has been long and tortuous for Egil. Right from the days of his first band Uncle Institution, through his solo “success” with songs like “Santa Claus Is Gay” and “Walkie Talk To Me” – before he disillusioned he ended up in Hollywood, where many of the songs on I am a singer / songwriter were written and recorded. Despite the success and critical acclaim he received for Singer/Songwriter and it’s follow-up, Olsen was left far from satisfied.

In his own words:

“I often say that I found myself in Hollywood when I made “I am a singer / songwriter” And I did. I also found love with “Nothing like the love I have for you”. However, still on a high from love and the success with my new album, I felt a great need for more. I was more restless than ever, and found myself daydreaming and trying to escape. Greener grass, etc. To find myself in Hollywood was not enough, so I went back for more “

And found he did. Not only himself but along the way he also found Jonathan “Butch” Norton; former drummer from the Eels as well as session musician for everyone from Rufus Wainwright to Tracy Chapman – not to mention the drummer in Lucinda Williams band.

Together they recorded a batch of songs in the Hobby Shop in LA – before life, again, brought Olsen home to known shores in Norway. Back to Sunnmøre and the phenomenal Ocean Sound Studios at Giske before the album was subsequently completed in Egil Olsen’s own home studio – and here it is in all its glory for us to listen to and treasure.

There is nothing on this album that gets in the way of anything else, everything that enters the soundscape is building up to something concrete in the melody or the text. Some had to actually take their ears to work the day this was screwed together

It’s one thing how the sweet melodies wind their way into the listeners ears and never completely disappear from your head, but his greatest strength is the charmingly naive and at times very direct lyrics he writes. Lyrics that really enhance the product, far above similar albums that I’ve listened to lately.

In most cases he writes about what has happened to him in a way that’s universal enough that you won’t have to have come from the non-urban areas in Norway to feel at home. Take, for instance, the fantastic song “In the middle of Norway”:

“14th of April 1980
I was a brand new born baby
but this seemed like such a lonely place to be
born in the middle of Norway
… …
Cold – gray
Nothing was ever more than ok
in the middle of norway
… …
I’m not that brave, I’m Just Afraid
two give up and go home
get a life and a loan
and get stuck in the middle of Norway “

Another shining example is “Do It Yourself” where Olsen gives us a
broad range of invaluable advice along the way:

“If you’re bored and nothin’ happens
do it yourself
If you perform and nobody’s clappin’
do it yourself”.

We also hear a little about his frustration over living in the capital city of Oslo (where he previously vowed that he would never live) in comparison with his stay in LA where he elegantly boils it all down to the fact that it is easiest to have your home with you in your head all the time, then no matter where you are, you’re always home.

“Location location location
gotta do something soon
but as for now
I’ll just instead
live in my head “

I could go on because this album does not have one single weak moment. Not a weak point. Melodically, production or lyrically. It’s much easier that YOU go out and buy this album. YOU have deserved it, and Egil has deserved it. Even if you don’t like music, just buy it for the fantastic drawings on the cover, also done by Egil Olsen.

Egil Olsen – Location, Location, Location
Egil Olsen – In The Middle Of Norway

Egil Olsen’s Official Site, Egil Olsen on Facebook, Buy Keep Movin-Keep Dreaming

GUEST POST: JOHN PAUL KEITH – THE MAN THAT TIME FORGOT

Autopsy IV note: A couple of weeks back I posted a help wanted post on the site in an effort to find some additional (and consistent) contributors. For the time being I am gonna post their posts as guest posts for a little while as we nail down the site since the great spam hack of 2011 and as they prove who will be consistent and who’s gonna decide this bloggery isn’t for them.

This post comes from 9B contributor prospect John Allman. Lemme know what you guys think.

There’s a timeless feeling that comes with listening to John Paul Keith’s latest disc, The Man That Time Forgot.

It crosses so many styles but never feels anything less than cohesive. And the songs, whoa buddy, the songs really catch your ear.

Speaking of buddy, there’s a good chance that if you blindfolded a friend and made them listen to the first three songs on the disc, without telling them the artist, they would think that you had unearthed some long lost Buddy Holly record.

The jangly guitars, falsetto crooning and driving backbeat has all the hallmarks of Holly and the Crickets, and that my friends, is a good, good thing.

I was amazed at how familiar the songs felt, even upon first listen. They’re comfortable in a way that is comforting, not in an uninspired, same old same fashion. This is just solid song craftsmanship with catchy hooks and smart lyrics, everything that you want to make you hit repeat on the stereo instead of digging through a bunch of discs for something else to play.

The first part of the disc sounds like the soundtrack to a classic film chronicling the lives of young lovers and students trying to get by in the 1950s. Tracks like “You Devil You,” “Bad Luck Baby” or the standout “Anyone Can Do It,” were made for summer days driving to the beach with the convertible top down.

There are several top-notch rockabilly rave-ups that would be right at home in a drive-in exploitation film like “High School Confidential!” starring Mamie Van Doren. Songs like “Dry County” or “I Work At Night” would be perfect playing while all the tough guys and bad girls are driving out to the quarry to drink and get wild and let hands wander up under Angora sweaters or down the front of gabardine jeans.

Keith slows things down with two plaintive ballads, “Song For Sale” and the title track, “The Man That Time Forgot,” which also comes highly recommended. The dark and somber lyrics creep under your skin: “Everything we were is everything we’re not/Here I am/The man that time forgot”

Oddly, one of the best songs is the only song that seems out of place. “The Last Last Call” plays like a classic 1970s country radio staple sung by Conway Twitty or George Jones. Thematically, it doesn’t fit with the 11 songs before it, but musically, it’s a stellar track, a true ‘tears in your beer’ lament sung spoken-word style like a poor drunk’s sober up sermon to the world.

John Paul Keith – Anyone Can Do It
John Paul Keith – Dry County
John Paul Keith – The Last Last Call

John Paul Keith’s Official Site, John Paul Keith on Facebook, Buy The Man That Time Forgot

GUEST POST: RYAN SHEFFIELD & THE HIGHHILLS / WALLER

Autopsy IV note: A couple of weeks back I posted a help wanted post on the site in an effort to find some additional (and consistent) contributors. For the time being I am gonna post their posts as guest posts for a little while as we nail down the site since the great spam hack of 2011 and as they prove who will be consistent and who’s gonna decide this bloggery isn’t for them.

This post comes from 9B contributor pledge Mike Ostrov. Lemme know what you guys think.

I had heard one Ryan Sheffield song in my life, but it got me really excited, and coincidentally he was coming to Gainesville just a few weeks after I’d heard about him. So I twiddled my thumbs until his date came, went to work that day, came home, watched The Simpsons, passed out. I woke up at exactly the right time I needed to leave by to see the show at a venue and in a town that are notoriously late-starters. But, lo, when I got there, the local girl was just starting her set and thanked Ryan Sheffield and another band, Waller, for coming on down and letting her use their guitar. Woe was me, I missed them, but I bought their CDs because they obviously killed it and were a stand-up group of guys and gals. So here’s the super special double review of the recorded efforts of bands from the show I never saw:

Ryan Sheffield & the Highhills – Head for the Coast (Buy)

Ryan Sheffield is from Asheville, NC and he was helped out on this album by multi-instrumentalist and producer Bryan Highhill. Sheffield has much in common with current folk bands like Defiance, Ohio and The Wild—they share a life-is-worth-living-even-if-it’s-just-because-of-your-loving-friends songwriting ethos. But Head for the Coast is set apart by Highhill’s contributions: the trumpet, melodica, and flugelhorn.

What this album does:

  • Gets a massive production value out of two main players and a couple contributors.
  • Sheds some reassuring light on a dank folk scene. It might be the perfect foil of a Kill Country album.

What this album doesn’t do:

  • Let the minor wealth of instrumentation detract from the front porch feeling.
  • Induce vomit from too much happy-go-lucky-ing. The uplifting parts all come from convincingly downtrodden places.

Ryan Sheffield & the Highhills – One For The East Bay

Waller – My Poor Queen (Buy)

The real treat in the whole non-story of that show was coming was the Atlanta-based group Waller. My Poor Queen is a mighty seven-song mini-album. Vocalists Jason Waller and Tiffany Leigh Blalock trade-off leads like a co-ed Freakwater. The album goes from dry to wet–crisp bluegrass-infused country songs blend into a few swampy, even gospel-y, grooves. Standard, but rich, instrumentation from harmonica, banjo, and upright bass fills in the sound while allowing the songs some breathing room. The strength of the album is in the singers. Waller and Blalock harmonize wonderfully and wail just as good on their own. The album feels a lot like Georgia—it reeks of mesquite and red clay. There’s certainly some Steve Earle influence to be found in there, his respectful levity in dealing with bluegrass; also some of Gillian Welch‘s sparsity. My Poor Queen is up on Waller’s bandcamp for less than a tank of gas, so listen to the whole thing there, and I highly recommend picking it up.

Waller – Attleboro Drive
Waller – Hurricane Pills