Because Songs Matter


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     

1 Comment

  1. El Mander El Mander
    July 11, 2011    

    Ryan Sheffield album is excellent,check out the last track ‘There Are Times’.

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