Jan 072013
 

There were so many good albums this year that I couldn’t make the decision to rank them, and I know that’s not the most important decision anyway, so this year’s best-of list is in groups with no internal order. This is the art I spent my cherished/wasted time consuming this year. Hope everybody’s upcoming year is full of growth.

Albums, Best of the Best:

Albums, Rest of the Best:

EPs, 7″s, Demos:

Reissues, Lost Albums

  • Tony FlaminioThe Grim Repair - from the head of the Failures’ Union, reissue of 2003 cd-R
  • Karen Dalton – 1966 - haunting voice and banjo recorded over porches and kitchen tables at her cabin in Boulder CO
  • Michael Hurley – Back Home with Drifting Woods - unreleased 1964 sessions from the freak folker and gorgeous yodeler
  • Jawbreaker – Bivouac - the glory
Books

  • Padgett Powell – You & Me - nothing has to be as shitty as everything is; read this for energy
Reasons to Stay Alive Next Year
  • Drag the River, Lenny Lashley, Billy Bragg, Sebadoh,Tin Armor, and Failures’ Union full-lengths. Freakwater playing shows again.
Stay free,
Mike

 

Oct 272011
 

Compilations and split albums are always a treat, but rare these days. So is anonymity and novelty in general. Internet convenience robs some of the impetus for us to expand our comfort zones, when we can easily stay comfortable and just go deeper. That’s not a bad thing, you can fall into expertise as easily as into banality. But, from new music, I need both expansion and depth. I bought this album solely because I didn’t know the other three artists Chuck brought along with him and I trusted that he’d know where to find some good writers. I haven’t looked them up since, I think they’re all from the UK, but I don’t care–this review, like my listen to the record, will focus on the quality of the songs. The artists, along with Ragan, are Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip, and Helen Chambers–they each give three songs.

Chuck Ragan: Ragan totally commits to his “presenter” role–his songs are all covers, all by UK songwriters. The best of which is Leatherface‘s “Not Superstitious” done with accompaniment by Chris Wollard. His take on Darren Gibson‘s “This Company” is also a solid sad track; Ragan treats it with patience, a sign that’s it’s a song worth listening to.

Sam Russo: Russo’s songs feature the most diverse instrumentation on the album, which is only some keys, claps, and electric guitar, but it’s his phrasing and delivery that make his songs stand above the rest on the record. He keeps his voice so tense that even a subtle softening, like at the end of the chorus to “Tinned Peaches” feels devastating. The restrained howling in the background of “Rattling Keys” brings the perfect amount of fog to the track. The tempo changes of “Letting Go” shows some bravery, willingness to stretch. It’s his well-conveyed restlessness and effort to develop the songs that make Russo’s set rewarding.

Jimmy Islip: I said earlier I needed both expansion and depth from new music or else it’s hard to care. If I had to choose one or the other, I’d choose expansion, because I get bored easy, and boredom has no place in listening to new music. That’s why I don’t like Jimmy Islip’s songs. They’re just Frank Turner’s bullshit whining with some Brian Fallon bullshit vulnerability, done by a guy who’s not as creative as they are. Same strumming pattern on them all. Billy Bragg thrice removed, filtered through Frank Turner and Flogging Molly, diluted of all its urgency.

Helen Chambers: Her role as the album’s closer, the fact that Chuck covered one of her songs to open the record, and that she’s the only woman represented on the entire record gave me high hopes for Helen Chambers. I at least needed something to recover from Jimmy Islip. She’s got sort of a toned-down Anne Briggs vocal thing going on, but her guitar is boring. The last track, the a cappella “Speak Your Name,” is Chambers’ best here. To my ears, she’s trying to do to 60′s English folkers like Anne Briggs and John & Beverly Martyn what Chuck does to the Cash and Carter Family, but she’s not all the way there yet. “Speak Your Name” is a great end to the record, but Chamber’s set overall is lackluster.

Chuck Ragan deserves so much credit for following through on this project, exposing the world to a slew of artists from across the pond. It’s hard to keep Chuck’s non-stop touring schedule straight, but I think this record comes after Ragan’s solo tour through the UK, a US tour with the UK band Sharks, and before he goes back to the UK in Sept/Oct for a stretch of Revival Tour shows. That’s an incredible amount of energy he’s dedicated and it needs to be appreciated. I think it’s a beautiful way to say thanks to UK fans who have been long supportive of many American folk/punk/porch bands recently, especially Ragan and Gaslight. It’s a great ideal that he’s putting into practice, that established musicians should help the next crop ripen. However, the purpose of exposing artists is not to attract appreciation for yourself, but for the artists being featured–and on this attempt only one of the new folks makes an impression.

Chuck Ragan – Not Superstitious
Sam Russo – Tinned Peaches
Helen Chambers – Speak Your Name
Jimmy Islip – 1990

Buy the 4-Way Split, Buy it on iTunes (UK link, but also available in US), Chuck Ragan’s Site, Sam Russo’s Facebook, Jimmy Islip’s Facebook, Helen Chambers’ Bandcamp

Jun 212011
 

Jon Snodgrass recently released a new 7″ entitled The Tri-State Record featuring Chris Wollard, Addison Burns, Brandon Carlisle, and Stephen Egerton. He was kind enough to let me host a stream of the entire album for ninebullets’ readers.

The 7″ can be purchased from Paper+Plastic and all purchases come with a digital download code. So enjoy it here, lemme know what you think in the comments and then go buy it.

Side A:
01. Hey, Dennis
02. Weighing in on St. Micheal

Side A 03-01 by Autopsy IV

Side B:
01. Campaign Song ’93
02. Bad Kreuzach
03. Regi Song

Side B 04-01 by Autopsy IV

Jul 222010
 


I am so damned embarrassed about this! I’ve had these tapes going on months now and I completely forgot about them (probably because I can not play a cassette tape at all in my life). Anyhow, I told y’all about this back in May but to refresh your memory I’ll go over it again:

“They’re currently selling a Double Cassette (I know, I know, the print media really is behind the times) compilation to cover the costs of the next issue’s printing costs (at least they aren’t just begging for money like some magazines). The compilation has 23 tracks, featuring artists such as Jon Snodgrass, Joey Cape, Red Clay River, Chad Rex, Shane Sweeney of Two Cow Garage, and The Takers. If, like me, you have no way to play a cassette tape, each purchase comes with an mp3 download code. So head over to Fast Geek Press and order a compilation, then pat yourself on the back, knowing that you’re helping out another outlet for the bands we love to keep doing their thing.”

While you can still buy the compilation here, I have two comps to give away to the ninebullets.net faithful. So, if you have the ability to listen to cassette’s and the ability to email me then be one of the first two to email me and you’ll get this collection for free (as well as a couple of ninebullets stickers).

Track Listing:

Side A – 21:36 minutes

1 – The Takers – When My Shades Were Drawn
2 – Shane Sweeney of Two Cow Garage – Hallelujah
3 – Paige Anderson of the Anderson Family Bluegrass Band – Flying Rocks
4 – Charly “the city mouse” Fasano – Portland
5 – Possessed by Paul James – Take Off Your Mask
6 – Kevin Seconds – Oh American Girl
7 – Jon Gaunt – Every Drink Every Song

Side B – 20:34 minutes

8 – Micah & John Schnabel – Billy James
9 – The Enablers – Whatever You Like
10 – Red Clay River – Ain’t No Blues
11 – Michael Dean Damron – Dolls
12 – The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit – Bones
13 – Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves – Everybody Knows

Side C – 21:05 minutes

14 – The Anchor – Hot Dogs & Vodka
15 – Joey Cape – Good-Bye
16 – Careless Hearts – Joselina
17 – Andy Thomas – Spring Softly
18 – The Redemption Family – The Power A Secret Holds
19 – Larry & His Flask – Land of the F(r)ee
20 – Brian Polk – Let’s Get Stoned and Over Analyze NomeansNo Records

Side D – 22:50 minutes

21 – Jon Snodgrass – Song For Gibson
22 – In the Red – Overworked
23 – Chad Rex – Awhile
24 – Digger Barnes – Waiting for the Snakes
25 – Tom VandenAvond – El Paso
26 – Magic Cyclops – Teen Pregnancy
27 – woMANgione – Saggy

Full compilation stream:

<a href="http://fastgeekpress.bandcamp.com/album/lubricated-zine-mix-tape-volume-one-the-company-i-keep">When My Shades Were Drawn by Fast Geek Press</a>