Caleb Caudle – Carolina Ghost – 2016

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I think that a lot of music is hard to review. I know, I’ve been doing to for years, but that hasn’t made it any easier. Writing a review isn’t like talking a friend about about an album or chatting with your buddy who just dropped his new record on you. There’s something permanent about putting words on the web because the internet never forgets. I guess for some of us that doesn’t matter and there was a time where it didn’t matter to me and I’m striving to get back to that place, a place where I can talk about how music makes me feel, where it takes me, and really what it means to me. For me music never has to be perfect, vocals never have to be on key, but it does have to make me feel and the more it makes me feel the better I like it. So when Caleb dropped Carolina Ghost on me and we talked about it a little later, I already knew what I was going to say here.

The first thing I realized about Carolina Ghost was that it’s a record my dad and I could have listened to together and both enjoyed a lot. I realized this before he passed but I never did sit down and play it for him and I really wish I had. It was a rare thing when our music tastes crossed paths and this was just about the perfect album for it. So while I didn’t play it for him it brings him to mind and makes me smile. Of course I don’t think the rest of you will have that sort of emotional reaction but it’s still pretty damn cool to me and I absolutely had to share it with you. There was really no way I could keep that to myself.

Carolina Ghost isn’t an imperfect album that draws emotion out you through it’s flaws. In fact it may possibly be a little too polished for some but I think that’s usually a cop out complaint. What we have here is an album that really brings back everything that was good about country music when I was growing up and manages to leave out the slow descent in to what has become country radio these days. In fact, I’d venture to say that there isn’t a track on here that you couldn’t swing your significant other around a sawdust covered floor to. This is pure and honest country album with no aspirations to be anything but just that.

Now when you set out to make a record like this, there’s always the chance that you’ll end up looking pretentious but Mr. Caudle manages to avoid that and still walk the line. From the perfectly place steel guitar to the natural twang in the vocals each song gives the appearance of being effortless. There aren’t any barn burners on this one and I think I might have liked one but at the same time that may have taken away from mellow place these paint in your head. If I had to pick a best time and place to give this one a listen it would near the end of a road trip, the last freeway before home in your sights, with the windows down on a spring evening. It’s just that sort of feeling, at least for me, and maybe that’s partly because it feels like Caleb found his home in these songs.

Without any reservation I can say that Carolina Ghost is Essential Listening. The pure country ethos will be hard for anyone to match this year. If you’re already a fan then you’ll love this record, if you’re not familiar with Caleb just yet then this is a great place to jump in. So go on over to his Bandcamp page and jump in on the pre-order happen. Make sure you follow him on Facebook or stalk his pictures on Instagram.

Caleb Caudle, Porter and John Calvin Abney @ Club 603

Caleb Caudle at Club 603
Caleb Caudle at Club 603

Living in Baltimore there sadly hasn’t been a good venue to see acoustic that was worth bands playing so most of those shows went to DC or skipped our area as a whole. Enter Club 603 which is actually a house venue that’s been putting on shows since at least 2013 and with appearances from bands like Centromatic, John Moreland and Mike Doughty you can tell it’s not your average house show. I discovered the place when Will Johnson was playing there and finally went to my first show there last year to see John Moreland. The furniture is moved out of the living room, a bunch of chairs are moved in and with that the room can hold 50-60 people depending on the band’s setup which makes for a perfect setup for acoustic performances.

John Calvin Abney was the first to play on this night and since I knew absolutely nothing about him I was glad I got there just in time for him to begin. The crowds at these shows are interesting because they’re a mix of people that know about one or more of the artists and are there to see them, or it’s one of a dedicated group that comes to shows here trusting that they always book acts worth hearing. John’s set was full of what I tend to identify as Texas storyteller songs even though he is in fact from Oklahoma but either way one song in I knew I was buying his record as soon as this show was over. I talked to John after the show only to find out that he’d not only played on John Moreland and Samantha Crain’s records but that i’d seen him play with Crain in DC previously. His solo record Better Luck, which Moreland plays on, is just as great as his set was so give it a listen.

Porter and John Calvin Abney at Club 603
Porter and John Calvin Abney at Club 603
Up next was Porter who I hadn’t seen since his days as Some Dark Holler but I’ve enjoyed his new solo record, that Will Johnson produced, This Red Mountain since its release earlier this year. His set included songs from that record and new songs as well as some from previous projects like The Back Row Baptists which all flowed great together and were very well received by the crowd that was largely new to him. He then brought up John for a few songs and we were treated to some of their tour stories from his Natural Disaster run including a sleeping pill and ibuprofen mishap that resulted in a perilous drive to the next stop. The songs they played together were fantastic and left me wanted to see them together again.

Closing out the night was North Carolina’s Caleb Caudle who had previously played this venue in January so most of the audience was at least familiar with him. He started off with some songs from last years record Paint Another Layer on My Heart which it was obvious the crowd new well and loved. We were then treated to a mix of new songs off his forthcoming record as well as more songs from the previous two records. This room is dead quiet and with hardwood floors a voice like Caleb’s just fills up the place beautifully. It’s a rare treat to be able to sit/stand and listen to songs like these without the artist fighting to overcome some sort of crowd noise. I’m looking forward to all of these guys next stop through Club 603.

Have Gun, Will Travel – Science From An Easy Chair – Pre-Order

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This is American Music has announced the pre-order of Science From An Easy Chair by 9B favorites Have Gun, Will Travel. They’ve included a streaming track to whet our appetites, you know, just in case you don’t already trust HGWT and This is American Music. If you’re not jumping on this then I’m not sure I’m going to be buying you a beer next time I see you at a show!

Great Peacock – Making Ghosts – 2015

Making Ghosts

Today sees the first full-length release of the This Is American Music darlings Great Peacock. Centered around songwriters and-cofounders Andrew Nelson and Blount Floyd, Great Peacock is well on their way to proving that slow and steady really does win the race. Two years after the release of their self-titled EP, Making Ghosts (which features some re-recording of older songs) shows a band zeroing in on their sound and presentation.

Let it never be said that Ninebullets.net doesn’t have a place for polish: these eleven tracks reach us from the bubblegum-center of candy coated Nashville, and they’re as crisp and clear as you’d expect from a dispatch from that most polarizing and polarized music capital. But crisp and clear needn’t be insults, especially not when they’re combined with the sincerity and earnestness evident in these songs. There’s something refreshing about how good these songs sound, something comforting about knowing that like as not, Great Peacock will find an audience on terrestrial radio. The keening sorrow of pedal steel is practically a third vocalist on the album, and the tones are sharp enough to cut you to pieces.

There are the songs you know by now if you’ve been following the band: the uplifting anthem “Take Me To The Mountain”, the world-weary ballad of the touring band “Tennessee”, the bright harmonies of “Desert Lark”. These songs, in conjunction with the new tracks, demonstrate how capable artists can blur the lines between independent and pop; this is a record you can put on at a party without offending any of your friends’ varied musical tastes.

The opening track, “Making Ghosts”, features typical Great Peacock soaring harmonies and relaxed delivery. These guys know where they’re going and don’t mind stopping to smell the roses on the way, even during a love-lorn rock-driven beseeching of one’s love. The quiet and relentless “Church Bells” is up next, and it serves as a solid reminder that intensity doesn’t require shouting or wild electric guitars. The record is full of moments like this, little confirmations about the importance and influence of music.

Whether it’s with haunting vocals or complex and beautiful instrumentation, Great Peacock is a band endeavoring to draw an emotional response from their audience. If only all pop music was as sincere, as vulnerable, as welcoming.

Pick the record up on Bandcamp, like the band on Facebook, and check out the TIAM site for more great music

01 Making Ghosts

03 Tennessee

10 Arms

Bohannons – Black Cross, Black Shield – 2015

Black Cross Black Shield

It was our own Autopsy IV who wrote about the Chattanooga, TN based Bohannons:

“Are they country? Are they blues? Are they 70’s glam metal?
Yes.”

Their newest release Black Cross, Black Shield doubles down on the ‘blues’ and the ‘metal’ in that recipe. It’s an ocean of a record: broad, in ceaseless motion, with depths as chilling as they are dark. The Bohannons’ sound is still unquestionably Southern, occasionally reminiscent of the Drive-By Truckers or Neil Young but most often a beast all its own.

Guitars ring out just as clearly as the vocals, with the pitch and tenor of the Bohannons’ voices seeming to match their instruments exactly. The bass and drums lumber along methodically like a horror movie villain, never in a rush but always lurking. Black Cross crosses from haunting to raging and back again, occasionally in the space of a single verse. The bluesy riffs of the piano in “Death and Taxes” evoke sorrow while the guitars scream in frustration, and the harmonica in “Red, White, Black, and Pale” is just as fearsome as the horsemen the song describes, riding herd over the rest of the instrumentation.

The lyrical content of the album weighs on you just like the melodies do. The title track conjures the existential fear that is being poor and seriously ill in America; the singer alternates between begging the listener to tell neither his mother or his God that he’s sick. “Dias De Las Muertas” is a condemnation of the immigration witch hunts occurring across the South, lamenting the loss of a friend to ‘zip ties and cold asphalt’ while churning guitars ride roughshod over a plaintive piano. Several songs deal with death and loss from various perspectives, never shying away from the reality: someday someone you love will die, and it’s not going to be easy. This album isn’t about giving up, though…the Bohannons are exalting in our instinct to push through obstacles, to remember the past, and not to give up on the future.

Black Cross, Black Shield isn’t a feel-good record, but rock’n’roll isn’t always a feel-good endeavor. The Bohannons put out a record taking an honest look at the hardships facing human beings on a daily basis, at the dueling despair and drive present in most people on most days. It may not be the easiest thing to face, but it sure does make for a good rock and roll record.

Pick up Black Cross, Black Shield from their Bandcamp or over on This Is American Music

Black Cross / Black Shield

Dias De Las Muertas (Day of the Dead)

Red, White, Black, and Pale

 

 

HOLY GHOST ELECTRIC SHOW – THE GREAT AMERICAN HOLY GHOST ELECTRIC SHOW

HOGO Cover

 

The Great American Holy Ghost Electric Show is the perfect title for this band’s debut album. The folks over at This Is American Music have again brought us something strange, new, and righteous. The record pulsates with wild imagery in the Southern Gothic style, mixing a very modern search for meaning in life with the blood and fire of the Old Testament. This six man band is at times a soul train running gleefully off the tracks, and a somber exploration of different ways to express melancholy and longing at others. There is no one song that would sum this band up, but any song is enough to make you want to see the band play live.

This is a rough album, and I mean that in the most literal way. The music is played from the heart. Each member of the band expresses themselves very clearly using their instrument, but clear does not translate to polished. They seem to be playing not just the song, but off of each other. The lyrics are raw, blunt and esoteric all at the same time. The instrumentation seems like an expression of the lyrics, and the lyrics feel like spoken word that would flow out regardless of the music underneath; two voices speaking in harmony instead of unison. I don’t know what it is about the children of preachers writing songs, but they all seem to have this distance, this worldliness, this fear of knowing so little about this world but too much about the next.

Around now is when I’d start calling out individual songs, but I don’t think that works this time around. The Great American is an album that is meant to be experienced as a whole, as a journey from start to finish. You get the impression that it isn’t meant to be completely understood by the audience, that there are some deep personal impulses at play. The weight of the record, more in the tone than in the music, can easily feel overwhelming and as such this isn’t a record that will stay on repeat for me, but that’s okay. Some experiences are meant to be given space, to be considered before they book is closed on them.

To sum up: Holy Ghost Electric Show is messy and forceful and a little disjointed, but driven and fantastic and new. Most of all, the music is fun. I won’t pass up a chance to watch them play, and you shouldn’t either.

‘And why do I take everyone so personal? 
Tell me why do I take everyone so personal 
I’m comfortable with my mortality 
But I don’t think my mortality is comfortable with me’

Highway Towns
Fireworks Over Fairview
Kerosene Heater Blues

Buy The Great American Holy Ghost Electric Show, digitally or in CD format, at their Bandcamp, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

As always, much love to This Is American Music.

FIRE MOUNTAIN – ALL DIES DOWN

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When I first listened to All Dies Down I thought it was kind of a one note album. Over the next few weeks something kept tugging at me and trying to pull me back to listen it again. It turns out that I was wrong in my initial assessment and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I like to live by the motto “I’ll try anything two or three times, it may be an acquired taste!” The way its grown on me has been subtle but what hooked me and drew me back so that it could are the vocals. Of course that led to really paying attention to the lyrics which are, in the end, what sold me on this one.

Of course listening to this off and on over the last couple of weeks I’ve realized what didn’t catch me as well and that provides an interesting dichotomy. Take the first track, “Be Your Eyes”, with lyrics like:

Twistin’ on a line and hopin’ to unwind some pain
Let’s not keep the photographs of all the broken paths we take
Please don’t let this pain be your eyes…

which are utterly amazing. Then what, you might ask, didn’t grab me the first time? Well it’s the music itself to be perfectly honest. It’s got an “indie” vibe to it that just didn’t grab me. But then there are tracks like “Factory Line” which is perfect in its execution as far as I am concerned and I could listen to it just about any time. Of course that indie feel I mentioned is part of the heart of alt-country that I’ve never really understood. While standing on its own this album looks back at the heyday of Wilco and Whiskeytown and draws deeply from that well. While there are parts of that era that I really enjoy there’s a definite dipping in to the indie well that I don’t really feel. I know that actually admitting that makes me a Philistine but I really don’t care that much. If you’re a fan of that era then this whole album will grab you from the get go. If you’re like me it’ll take more than one listen but it’ll grow on you as it did on me. This is most definitely an album that deserves being given a chance.

Overall the songwriting carries the day on this on All Dies Down and that’s never a bad thing. Even on the tracks that harken to an era that’s not my favorite they are more than enough to have kept me coming back. This is another strong release from our buddies at This Is American Music (you should check out their catalog if you haven’t) and Fire Mountain should be damn proud of this record.

Be Your Eyes
Factory Line
I’ve Been Wrong

Buy All Dies Down from TIAM and stalk Fire Mountain on Facebook.

Around The Web – Wolf Style

Hey folks, your friendly West Coast 9b writer is here to lay down some internet knowledge real quick. These posts serve as a reminder that the online world is our oyster, and it’s dollar beer night down at the seafood bar.

I don’t really know what that means but I guess I’ll just get started.

tcg-utTwo Cow Garage Covers Uncle Tupelo – Yeah, brother, you heard what I said. From the upcoming Uncle Tupelo tribute album We’re All Criminals Here, everyone’s favorite 3 piece cover “We’ve Been Had”. I’ll wait for you to pick your brains up off the floor…

BEFORE BLOWING THEM RIGHT BACK OUT AGAIN!


lbiii-liveLee Bains III & The Glory Fires Live Set – That’s right. The powerhouse of ‘bama punk rock’n’soul is touring constantly in preparation and support for their new album Dereconstructed, coming out on Sub Pop records which you should TOTALLY pre-order. I know I have. The Brooklyn, NY venue Shea Stadium is awesome about posting complete sets of shows to their Soundcloud. The Glory Fires play some old ones and some new ones, and if you want to be excited about the new album or haven’t heard these Alabama white boys play…man, you should.

rcsHouse on the Hill Acoustic Sessions – New Alabama music booking firm Rocket City Sounds has started doing some cool acoustic sessions in a big empty house, and the fruits of their labor are visible for the  internet to see. There’s even a new song  from Todd Farrell, 9b regular.

 


ThisIsAmericanMusic_LogoTIAM Spotify Playlists – If you know Ninebullets, you know This Is American Music. Their ‘General Enabler’ Sean Courtney and ‘Quarterback’ Corey Flegel are masters of the art of playlisting. If you have a Spotify account (and there’s really no reason not to at this point), you should check out their public playlists. Summer Nights on the Porch Swing, Southern Indie, and the terrifyingly arousing Flegel Babies: a Journey into Smooth. The people who put out good music also listen to good music, and these guys are some guys to follow.

This has been our Sunday Morning Coming Down edition of Around the Web, with your host, Wolf.