MATT WOODS – WITH LOVE FROM BRUSHY MOUNTAIN

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It’s likely no surprise to anyone who knows me, whether in real life or via the internet, that I fucking love Matt Woods. There hasn’t been a musician whose body of work has gotten me this excited since I discovered Lucero in the mid-2000s, and that, my friends, is just about the highest praise I am capable of giving. So when his new album, With Love From Brushy Mountain (released today), was up for review here at Ninebullets, well, I threw aside my “no record reviews/interviews only” rule, sharpened my claws, and prepared myself for the inevitable fight that would ensue over who got to write it. Blood was drawn, first borns were promised, and knees were scraped (I won’t tell you how I acquired those), but, as you can see, I fucking got the review.

With Love From Brushy Mountain is, hands down, the best album Woods has put out thus far. I think it speaks to the quality of his writing and his art that there are several songs I can’t listen to unless I’m in a strong state of heart and mind, and I believe it’s because this is the most personal and vulnerable he has ever allowed himself to be on record. Sheldon Harnick, most notable for helping write Fiddler on the Roof, once said that “any successful lyricist has to be part playwright and has to be able to put himself into the minds and the hearts and the souls of the characters.” On With Love… Woods has not only done just that, but he’s done it the best he ever has, as can be both seen and heard in “Deadman’s Blues,” or, for that matter, at any one of his live performances.

“Deadman’s Blues” isn’t the only masterpiece on this album, though. “Lying on the Floor,” a song I’ve not seen anyone else mention yet, is one of my personal favorites, telling the story of a couple bonding “at the crossroads of their loneliness” to the bittersweet whine of a fiddle. “Drinking to Forget” was written by Woods’ drummer, Larry Fulford, while he was watching CMT’s countdown of “100 Greatest Drinking Songs” and thought to himself, “I want to write a drinking song good enough to maybe make a list like that one day.” That song is that attempt, and he wrote it with his buddy Rob Weddle back when they were in a band called Holidaysburg. The Waylon is strong in that tune, for sure, especially with Woods’ vocal delivery starting at the 2:16 mark. ”Tiny Anchors,” a heartbreakingly romantic song, tells the tale of a couple on the rocks: one holding on, the other being held down, and I believe it’s one of Woods more lyrically complex songs from a storytelling standpoint.

I can’t write a review of this album without mentioning its title track, “With Love From Brushy Mountain,” another fine murder ballad from Woods. (See “Johnny Ray Dupree” from Manifesto for the other.) In all honesty, it’s a song that grew on me after seeing Woods perform it multiple times over the last year or so. I don’t love murder ballads as a rule (gasp!), but even I can’t help but be moved by a line like “It’s love that put her in the ground; it’s love that put me here.”

All this being said, With Love From Brushy Mountain is, without a doubt, Essential Listening for anyone nostalgic for a time when country music was authentic and the songwriting within it was still regarded as the craft that it is… for anyone who misses the likes of Jennings and Kristofferson… and for anyone who wants to say they lived to see the day it made its comeback.

Tiny Anchors
With Love From Brushy Mountain
Lying On The Floor

Stalk Matt Woods on Facebook, visit his official website, buy With Love From Brushy Mountain.

ARLO McKINLEY & THE LONESOME SOUND – ARLO McKINLEY & THE LONESOME SOUND

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This cd found it’s way to me via Sarah Davis, a name you might recognize from another ninebullets fave, Alone At 3am. She was/is a part of the creation and was really excited to get it some radio play on it and after listening to a single track from it on youtube; so was I. A few emails were exchanged and suddenly I had the complete cd. Literally straight from the mastering house. Untagged mp3’s and all (my fault since I was the one who compressed the files).

Arlo McKinley and Co. come to us via Cincinnati, Ohio and in a rare twist they’re a band that spent a few years honing their sound before releasing any material. The band, having formed back in 2011 showed a patience we rarely see anymore by letting the membership and sound go through it’s normal flux before exposing us in the outside of Ohio world know who they were. Hell, there is still scant information on them on the internets right now. That said, the patience paid off in spades when the band entered The Southgate House Revival to begin tracking their debut album, live, in a single day.

With a little internet googles you will learn that The Southgate House Revival is a former Episcopal church turned venue/occasional recording room. Arlo and Co. chose to record in the upstairs room, known as The Revival Room which had formerly served the Sunday School spaces. It was a favorite of the engineers due to it’s high ceilings, open space and clean sounds. The resulting recording you hear is those sessions with but a few harmonies added via a “professional” studio.

My take on the cd?

Perfection. For the soundscape it lies in I challenge you to find a flaw in it. It’s almost scary how good this album is in my opinion. Like, unrepeatable good. If you’re a Will Quinlan fan you need to stop reading and buy this album now. Trust me. This really isn’t a prime-time Saturday night album but under much examination, I have found it perfect for work, cooking, driving and (once by accident) masturbating.

It’s undeniably Essential Listening and this kid might be one of my favorite bands.



Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound on Facebook, Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound on Reverbnation, Buy Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound

PETER BUCK – I AM BACK TO BLOW YOUR MIND ONCE AGAIN

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In early 1980 Peter Buck was working at Wuxtry Records when he met Michael Stipe. Chances are good that you know the rest of that story. But this record review is about a different story, the story of Peter Buck’s second solo record, I Am Back To Blow Your Mind Once Again, a grandiose title for a humble record. If you haven’t heard Buck’s first solo record from a couple years back then you are no doubt curious about what a Peter Buck solo record sounds like.

For starters, Buck sings. His voice is gruffy, confident and filled with snarls. But what does the music sound like? To me the record sounds like the music Buck would have made in 1980 if Stipe hadn’t started coming into the record store all the time. I Am Back… is filled with crunchy guitar driven garage rock with the kind of hooks that would make Joey Ramone proud.

I don’t exactly know why I say this, but it’s hard to believe that a guy that’s sold millions of records could make an album like this. There are no hints of pretense or success. However, there is urgency and debauchery mixed with an understanding of how to play loose and fast while crafting excellent garage rock songs.

Joining Peter Buck is longtime collaborator Scott McCaughey as well as Kurt Bloch and Bill Rieflin. Corin Tucker from Sleater Kinney sings lead on one song and Patterson Hood does one of his spoken word things about the fall of the south on a song. But throughout the record what is most prevalent is the bizarre and oddball joy that exude the grooves and must have been present in the recording sessions.

Normally this is where I would stick in a couple of songs for you to check out but since Peter Buck decided to only release I Am Back... on vinyl I can’t do that. But this website has some minute long samples you can check out.

Not only is I Am Back To Blow Your Mind Once Again Essential Listening, it is one of my favorite records of 2014 so far.

Buy I Am Back… Official word from Peter about the record

KEVIN SECONDS – OFF STOCKTON

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When I sat down to write this review I wasn’t aware that Kevin Seconds’ had released a ton of solo albums. That goes to show how much I don’t keep up with punk frontmen and their solo releases. I find these things are hit and miss with a decent amount of miss going on but then there are guys like Tim Barry and Chuck Ragan totally killing it so you really never know what you’re going to get. Off Stockton is in the vein we’ve come to expect from this subset of singer/songwriters in that it’s acoustic, stripped down, and almost twangy. However it doesn’t sound like Kevin took punk songs and tried to make acoustic numbers out of them. While that’s cool sometimes it gets old pretty quick. You can tell that these songs were written to be played like he’s playing them on this album and that’s what makes it as good as it is.

The tracks average just over two minutes in length with only two songs breaking the three minute mark but that doesn’t take anything away from their intensity, in fact, that’s part of its charm. While I said it doesn’t sound like an acoustic punk album that mentality is very visible in the writing and song length. It’s also a very personal album in that he’s telling us his story with his wife, Allyson Seconds, providing back up vocals and harmony. Shake all this together with the studio fuck-ups Kevin leaves on his work and you have an album that’s actually pretty touching in some places. While the struggles are there this isn’t a downer of an album at all. This is an album full of short and intense slices of life from Kevin’s perspective and overall he’s a pretty optimistic guy and occasionally that’s just what you need from your music.

I’ve spent a bit of time today listening to his other releases for some perspective and they are darker and moodier than Off Stockton. I am not sure what happened in between releases but it seems like this was written from a better personal place than the others. For me to consider an album without a single song about drinking Essential Listening feels a little strange but this really is just that. It’s not an alone-in-the-dark-drinking-bad-whiskey album but rather a sitting-on-the-porch-in-the-rain-with-your-best-girl album. It’s not one that’ll get you laid because it’s so sexy but it’d sure make good background music for a porch swing in the fall as the weather is getting a little chilly.

Love Or Hate
If I’m Honest
The Broken & The Bent

You can visit Kevin’s official web site, stalk him on Facebook, buy Off Stockton on Amazon

BOBBY CHARLES — SELF TITLED

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Light In The Attic Records recently rereleased Bobby Charles’ self titled record originally released in January of 1972. Bobby Charles may not be a household name but some of the players on this record probably all. Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Dr. John all make appearances but the strength of the album is Charles’s voice and songs. This is without a doubt, Essential Listening.

If you listen to my radio show at all you are most likely aware that I listen to as much old music as new music, moving in both directions constantly. One of the strongest differences I notice in records from different eras is the venue the songs and recordings were crafted for. This record is designed to be listened to at home. The songs are living room songs, songs with spaces in them, grooves that move subtly instead of in your face. Check out the bass work in the side A closer “All The Money” and the space between the notes in “I Must Be In A Good Place Now.”

So much of the music made today and written about here is created to be played live in a crowded bar. There is an onslaught and an immediacy to it, which I like as much as the next guy. But there is also the time for listening music and the self titled album from Bobby Charles has all the elements of an exceptional listening record. It’s low-down and grimy but with a tenderness that parallels your favorite sweet drunk. Now, all artists make their living from working the road and it’s natural that the art they create reflects that environment but it’s also nice to step away from that and listen to a record who’s songs shuffle along and into each other without the pretense of easy excitement.

Gabe (who I refuse to refer to as Wolf) once called me “the old guy at the back of all the good shows” and this review and album are clearly in that tradition. If your listening habits seem to be stuck in a bit of a rut look for something old instead of something new.

There are ten songs on this album and all ten are winners.

Buy This Record

PSALMSHIPS – SONGS FOR A RED BIRD

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Not entirely how this album ended up on my hard drive but I am sure glad it did. Psalmships is Joshua Britton out of Pennsylvania and he is writing a brand of music he self-describes as “ghost folk.” It’s a fair assessment I’d say since Songs For A Red Bird seemed to materialize out of no where in my life and became a near obsession after listening to it once.

You miss Jason Molina?
You love the Sad Bastards Song Club music?
You a fan of Doc Feldman and the LD50?

Meet Psalmships:

Red Bird
Buffalo Jane

Psalmships’ Official Site, Psalmships on Facebook, Psalmships on Bacncamp/Buy Songs For A Red Bird

THOSE CROSSTOWN RIVALS – HELL AND BACK

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Once upon a time, I coined the term “Heavy Metal Americana” and a little known band out of Kentucky adopted the term and put it on a tshirt. That band, was Those Crosstown Rivals. A band that, at the time, had not gotten too much run here on ninebullets or the the radio show.

Those Crosstown Rivals first landed on my radar after the release of their debut album, Kentucky Gentlemen. An album that, to be honest, I was not too keen on. Now, many months (year?) later I went back to it to see if I was just being overly judgmental the initial times I checked out the album I’ve decided that No….I was not. In the time between Kentucky Gentlemen and Hell and Back the bands sound has matured and grown a lot more polished. In hindsight, we should have seen this coming with the song “Kentucky Woman” they had on the split 7” with Arliss Nancy. A track, mind you, that I damned near wore out on Ninebullets Radio.

If the band can prove to be consistent from album to album Hell And Back is Those Crosstown Rivals announcement that they belong to be mentioned in the same breath as Arliss Nancy and other bands of that ilk.

Hell And Back is exactly what I want from a modern southern rock record; guitars, power, cuss words, dead people and drunken nights. Not only is it Essential Listening in my opinion, it’s top 10 of the year material.

Those Crosstown Rivals – Blood, Sweat and Tears
Those Crosstown Rivals – Six Strings
Those Crosstown Rivals – Hell and Back

Those Crosstown Rivals’ Official Website, Those Crosstown Rivals on Facebook, Those Crosstown Rivals on Bandcamp, Buy Hell and Back

ADAM FAUCETT – BLIND WATER FINDS BLIND WATER

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If I compared the music on Adam Faucett’s new record, Blind Water Finds Blind Water, to the novels of Daniel Woodrell would anyone understand what I meant? Would anyone agree or care?

 Woodrell lives and writes about the Missouri Ozark mountains, a town called West Plains, Faucett spent his childhood about 200 miles south in Arkansas. Not exactly neighbors but in the same neighborhood. But that is merely a surface level similarity. Both men produce art that is spooky, haunted and seductive. Throughout Blind Water.. you feel as if you are succumbing to an enormous hole but the ride down is so smooth and beautiful you don’t realize that the razor’s edge is slicing you as you go.

 Faucett’s voice is as compelling and gothic as they come. If he’s using vocal effects they’re at a minimum and it seems as if somewhere deep inside he possesses a natural reverb pedal that’s heartbreaking and terrifying. Listen to “Sparkman” and hear the control he has with his voice. He shifts delivery styles at a moment’s notice and if I hadn’t seen him do it in a youtube video I would think he couldn’t pull it off live.

 In an interview I heard Faucett describe his music as genre-less, slow, beautiful music and that rings true. Like the music of Will Johnson but cutting deeper and rubbing more dirt in the wound.

 This review has been terribly difficult to write. Blind Water Finds Blind Water shifts effortlessly from a few rockers to elegant and unique folkish songs. It is without a doubt Essential Listening but I still feel like I have not done it justice. I mentioned my trouble writing the review on facebook along with this sentence, “Adam Faucett’s new record comes out next week and I can’t wait for y’all to hear it. It scares the shit out of my and makes me question my existence and it comes close to making me cry. Also, I’m trying to figure out how to write a review of it. It’s a hard one.” To which a friend of mine replied, “I think you just did.” So I’ll leave it at that.



Official Site, On Facebook, Buy Blind Water Finds Blind Water

HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF – SMALL TOWN HEROES

SmallTownHeroesSleeveThere’s a casual effortlessness to Hurray for the Riff Raff’s new record Small Town Heroes. Throughout these twelve songs it genuinely feels like the band is sitting on your back porch with you and running through standards that you’ve heard a hundred times and they’ve played a hundred times. Everything from instrumentation to vocals to lyrics are understated and seductive.

Hurray… incorporates fiddle, banjo, piano, guitar and gentle, but well-placed drums and percussion. They are a folk band completely aware and engulfed in the tradition. Yet, they make no effort to convince the listener that they are the genuine article, either in image or in music. They just are.

Unfortunately, the strength of Small Town Heroes is also its weakness. The combination of understated and seductive instrumentation and vocal delivery lulls me away from the messages within several of the finest songs here. “The Body Electric” deals with the acceptance of domestic violence through the lens of the popularity of murder ballads. “Delia’s Gone,” made famous by Johnny Cash, is name-checked but because the story is told so subtly and the tone is so similar to “Blue Ridge Mountain” (a good song but not one dealing with such a serious issue) it really requires a careful listen to catch the message in the song.

I don’t want you to think I don’t love this record, I do. It’s Essential Listening, but I feel that the punches could be a little harder and the moods more exaggerated. I feel the same way about Gillian Welch records and I also think the stories that introduce some of these songs in a live setting would be more interesting and insightful than the songs themselves. (Think Todd Snider and “18 Wheels of Love”) But despite my criticisms, Small Town Heroes is an amazing record by a band that is in control of their art.



Official Site, On Facebook, Buy Small Town Heroes

THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY – LETTERS FROM THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

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The celt-punk scene is one I dabble in more than the rest of the crew here. I’ve often thought I should write more about the music and started to with The Tosspints late last year. You’ve probably read my mini-rants on hating the idea of genres but let’s face it, human beings like to categorize things. So while celt-punk might not fit in to the pigeonhole that I imagine 9B fits in for most you out there, the fact is I like the celt-punk genre and so I’m going to write about it more (which doesn’t mean anyone else on staff will). I mean what’s not to like about music about drinking, fighting, and rebelling? Hell they even have fiddles and banjos. Now with that rant out of the way I’d like to introduce you to The Ramshackle Army…

Celt-punk, in my less than humble opinion, should accomplish three things: first and foremost it ought to inspire one to sing along and secondly it should actually have a punk feel to it, and lastly it ought to make me want to leave work and head down to the pub for drink before noon. Letters From The Road Less Traveled fulfills all of these these conditions quite nicely. As I sit here, typing this instead of working, with these kids blasting in my headphones, I really wish I had a nice Irish whiskey to throw back. While the genre is pretty crowded at the moment, RSA quickly rises to the top when you start comparing what’s out there right now, due to a combination of great song writing (the ability to make people want to sing along) and a strong approach to keeping the Irish inspiration and layering the punk very nicely on top.

Another thing that sets RSA apart is that, for the most part, they aren’t singing Irish rebel songs. While the music is celt-punk the themes in the songs are from a distinctly Aussie view. To me this makes them even more interesting. Any band can invoke images of Athenry or Oulart Hill and try to bring a tear to the eye but it takes something extra to play the music and put your own experiences in to the lyrics. So while Letters From A Road Less Traveled is decidedly celt-punk it’s also something more. Of course there’s also the songs about drinking which we all know I love so it’s got that going for it. At the risk of upsetting the 9B purists out there (yes they exist) I declare this Essential Listening. Now while you listen to the tracks below I’m going to try and figure out the quickest way to get a drink in me today, sláinte!

I might be a fool
But at least I’m self aware
I might be a tool
But at least I’m useful

Anchors Aweigh
Drink it Dry
Signs of Rain

No go follow these kids on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram then buy their record on iTunes