The Roach Brothers aka Terry and Jamie Rouch have been part of the Jack Logan extended musical family for a long time, showing up on most of the releases that Jack has put out dating back to the monolithic and epic Bulk. Terry was a member of Jack’s band Liquor Cabinet and Jamie would drop some drums here and there and if the recordings happened at Big As A Barn Studios in Indiana, it was Jamie on the board. Jamie tragically passed in 2008, succumbing to ALS.
A couple of years ago while Jack was digging through a box of CDs, he found one labeled “Roach Bros. Inst.” which turned out to be backing tracks recorded in the 90’s intended for Jack’s vocals but never completed. Jack loaded them up on his trusty 4-track and laid some vocals on them. Satisfied with the results, he sent them over to Terry Rouch and posted a couple of tracks on his old website. Terry wanted to do a release of these songs as a tribute to his fallen brother. With some help from Matt Swisher of Failure Records and Tapes, he was able to do a small run of vinyl! In November, Jack announced the release on his new blog.
On Thursday, Jack announced from his blog that the vinyl is ready, and Failure is taking pre-orders for the vinyl due out February 5th and humorously titled What Is This.. Some Kind of Joke?, which is a limited-edition run of 300 multi-colored LPs. The first 50 orders will get Jack Logan buttons and stickers! The LP is $17 + shipping comes with a free digital download. You can also get the album as a digital download for $10 from Bandcamp.
What Is This… Some Kind of Joke? is a bit of departure from Logan’s last album, which was a collaboration with Scott Baxendale and members of The Drive-By Truckers titled Bones in the Desert. That album was closer to some of the label releases in that it was structured rock tunes with a focus on guitars. I think Bones is a good pairing with Mood Elevator. This new album is a lot more Lo-Fi experimental– a lot like some of the more outsider tracks on Bulk. You can check out the new album using the Bandcamp player below.
As part of the week of Grand Opening celebrations for the Brand Spankin’ New Daytrotter HQ in Davenport, Duluth, MN country blues aficionado Charlie Parr is playing a “Four O’Clock Rock” matinee show! Parr’s new album Stumpjumper made my list of “Top 20 of 2015.” Produced by another of my Top 20 recipients Phil Cook, it gives Parr’s signature boogie a much-deserved fleshing out.
The new digs for Daytrotter are a big upgrade over the old location in Rock Island– with its climate control issues and its control and live room dating back to its original use as a TV studio– but that was part of its charm, certainly. The expanded facility now has a live venue in it and I’m sure they brought some of the mojo from the old location with them. I bet that minifridge stocked with PBR is somewhere in the new space.
We’ve made it through another year of music. 2015 was another year of the music industry trying to figure out the future. Heavy hitters like Taylor Swift and Adele removed their music from online streaming services like Spotify– which might be interpreted as an ego move on both parts. Jay-Z’s Tidal enjoyed a bit of press due to Prince releasing two albums exclusively on it, though I still don’t know anyone who is using it. Adele’s last-quarter release of her much-anticipated 25 album has just surpassed 5 million copies sold. There is a lot of debate about the significance of this as it applies to the general health of the industry. Ultimately, though, I don’t think you can use this as any kind of barometer– certainly not an indicator of “rebounding.” One thing is for certain, though, her 50+ date tour in 2016 will be the top grossing.
In other re-warmed news, a reformed Grateful Dead with Trey Anastasio as “Jerry” played some high-grossing shows in LA and Chicago showing that baby boomers and Gen X’ers are willing to shell out lots of money to recapture even a brief glimpse of their youth. The shows seemed like a fitting celebration of 50 years and a kind of closure to the promise of the remainder of the band getting back together. The following “Dead and Friends” tour with John Mayer as “Jerry” has been benefiting from the exposure and in my opinion are an improved version of the Dead. His vocals and guitar work are top-notch and add a real polish to the proceedings.
Looking this list over, it shows that I spent most of 2015 listening to local artists. Iowa has really been stepping up its game for music and we’ve got some of the best music around. There were a lot of notable releases outside of Iowa, but I just didn’t find myself putting any of them on repeat. It says a lot– you don’t have to go far from your back yard to get world-class music.
Looking over other Best of Lists, I see some albums that I listened to and thought were good, but they just didn’t stick with me: The Decemberists – What A Wonderful World, What A Terrible World, Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell, Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear, Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly, Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color.
Here is the list in no particular order–
Dickie – Self Titled : Dick Prall moved back to Iowa and started a new project with Kristina Priceman crafting a wonderful string-wrapped package of retro-inspired pop rock. Somewhere between the Beatles, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly sits this collection of autobiographical songs with heart.
Younger – Self Titled : This one from the new Iowa City band Younger was a late discovery for me, but no less brillant. Former members of The Wandering Bears and Emperors Club have put out a Riot Grrl-ish album that people are drawing comparisons to The Breeders and Bikini Kill. To me it sounds more like Pylon and Throwing Muses. In any event, a fantastic record that I’ll be spinning a lot in 2016, I expect.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit : Yep. More edgy Riot Grrlish rawk. On almost everyone’s list for 2015.
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – Self Titled : I’ve been a fan of Nathaniel Rateliff ever since I saw him on the Daytrotter Barnstormer shows back in 2010 along with Delta Spirit. I’m a sucker for his well-crafted folk albums to date, but his transformation into an R&B powerhouse and seeing the nearly-universal embrace of it is pretty unexpected. Fantastic record and the return of Stax Records!
Holy White Hounds – Sparkle Sparkle : Des Moines band Holy White Hounds are gaining momentum by word of mouth. These guys make some pretty fantastic rock coupled with a great live show. Kind of 90’s throwback metal/grunge reinvented for the new century.
Phil Cook – Southland Mission : Hiss Golden Messenger sideman, member of Megafaun, producer and all-around great guy Phil Cook releases his first solo album with him singing. Due to a stupid security issue at Eaux Claires Festival this year, I missed his set, though it’s on YouTube. Rootsy, bluesy gospel-influenced boogie rock. I could put this album on every day and it puts the same dumb grin on my face every time.
Tom Jessen – Hunting Season : Former Iowa musician Tom Jessen released his first album in years– and that pent-up potential created what has to be the best snapshot of current American dystopia ever. Pretty damn fantastic portrait of how fucked up things are. LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM.
Charlie Parr – Stumpjumper : Speaking of Phil Cook, he produced the latest album from Minnesota retro blues and folk historian Charlie Parr. He was picked up by Red House Records which is a good home for him. This is the first album he’s done with a full band and the fleshing out of his sound really benefits the proceedings. “Over The Red Cedar” gives me goosebumps every time I play it.
Calexico – Edge of the Sun : Calexico tends to swing back and forth between full-on Latin-influenced albums and albums that lean a little more towards Americana-rock. This one ends up being more the latter. For me, I welcome the changes the band goes through– continually pushing the identity of what Calexico is.
Ryan Adams – 1989 : I did listen to this one a lot as soon as it appeared. It’s a really great album, but it seems like it is just an extension of last years self titled release– which isn’t bad at all. I like it, but I just about didn’t include it on the list because, for me anyway, Ryan Adams is a complete musician and songwriter, so I prefer to have more complete work rather than covers. I suppose some of this feeling is due to my relative unawareness of Taylor Swift’s blockbuster album it’s based on.
Dagmar – Afterlight : I can’t say enough about this Iowa duo. Atmospheric and sublime harmonies with unique counterpoint and rhythm. Jawdroppingly gorgeous album– somewhere between Philip Glass and Sufjan Stevens sits this baroque choral folk.
Pieta Brown – Drifters EP : The “lost” tracks from 2014’s fantastic Paradise Outlaw album. Brown is using this to launch her own “underground” imprint Lustre Records. Includes a remix from Justin Vernon!
The Pines – Pasture: Folk Songs EP : A kind of surprise drop from The Pines this year in the form of an EP of covers from Joe Price, Mance Lipscomb, Iris Dement, Mason Jennings & Greg Brown. No new ground broken here, but is a tribute to the songs that The Pines have included in their sets over the years.
Jim Viner’s Incredible B3 Band – COMANGO! : Jim Viner– Iowa drummer extrordinaire– assembled a collection of musician friends to create a retro B3-driven album with influences from The Meters and Booker T and the MGs. A really fun album that recalls the pre-Diplomette-vocals days of The Diplomats of Solid Sound. Destined to be part of the soundtrack to a cable TV show near you!
Kamasi Washington – The Epic – If I have any complaint about this sprawling masterpiece of Jazz, it’s that it can’t reasonably be digested in one sitting. But, if you’re willing to dedicate the time, this album is impressive in its diversity. I consider myself a fan of Jazz, but I don’t listen to much contemporary Jazz as I haven’t found much that really keeps my attention. I hope this signals a new generation of jazz artists who are willing to explore and innovate.
Thundercat – The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam – Thundercat works with Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington, and all three worked on the Kendrick Lamar album How To Pimp A Butterfly — noted for its adventuresome approach to the music. His short album (16 minutes, but Flying Lotus said it’s an album, not an EP) from this year featured him front-and-center singing and leading most of the music with his jazz and funk bass riffs.
Aero Flynn – Self Titled – Justin Vernon raves about Josh Scott as a songwriter. After a lot of years not performing music, he comes back with Aero Flynn. Atmospheric and swirling it sounds like a distant cousin of Radiohead when they made more straightforward songs (OK Computer, maybe).
Beth Bombara – Self Titled – Beth is back with her most polished and accomplished record to date. She continues her shuffling, pining folk and country. Dusty and awesome.
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free : Brilliant record– literary and scenic songwriting. Isbell continues to impress with one of the great records from this year– almost unanimously agreed.
Lyrics Born – Real People – Lyric Born has never been shy to work with live band. He did one tour with a full band behind him (documented on the Overnite Encore Live album), he contributed vocals to the 2007 Galactic album From the Corner to the Block. His new album Real People includes members of Galactic as well as a who’s who of New Orleans musicians including Ivan Neville, Corey Henry, Trombone Shorty, the Revivalists’ David Shaw and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Typically upbeat and tongue in cheek the album is a funk overload. Great record– not sure why more people aren’t calling it out (see what I did there?).
To add to the things we’re thankful for this year, The Pines are making a return to CSPS Thanksgiving Weekend! The combination of the soft atmospheric folk of this band and the passionate, attentive crowds and the huge ambience of the room (and frankly, well stocked selection of handcrafted beers and local wines) always makes for a memorable not-to-miss show.
Above The Prairie includes help from the extended Ramsey and Brown families with contributions from Greg Brown, Iris DeMent, Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey, who also co-produced the album with The Pines. The first listen we’re getting from the new album is “Aerial Ocean” with Benson Ramsey on lead vocals, it has all of the trademark nuances of The Pines– the chimey clean picking, the washes of synths, but owes a lot to classic Dire Straits. But, they always kind of had that same vibe as mellow Mark Knopfler as well as JJ Cale.
So, grab a quick sandwich of leftover turkey and dressing on your way out the door to CSPS Saturday night to see The Pines. I can’t think of a better way to cap off the weekend.
Sat Nov 28 2015 – 8:00 pm • CSPS Hall
$16 advance | $19 door
Above The Prairie tracklist:
There in Spirit
Hanging From the Earth
Where Something Wild Still Grows
Come What Is
Time Dreams feat. John Trudell & Quiltman
This week Pieta Brown announced a new EP for sale. Titled Drifters, it is a collection of outtakes from the sessions for Brown’s 2014 album Paradise Outlaw. Recorded at Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon’s studio April Base, Paradise Outlaw was another new spin on the ethereal folk sound Brown has crafted over six albums. Paradise Outlaw really seemed to capture the spirit of the sessions at April Base- like friends gathering around the campfire in the woods telling stories and singing songs. Crazy-talented friends who were writing songs at that campfire, but you get the idea. I exchanged emails with April Base engineer BJ Burton back in September 2014 about those sessions for the review I wrote for Little Village, but ran out of space, so I didn’t use it. Here’s what he said about those sessions.
…There are times when I catch myself smiling in the control room because I realize that I’m working with the best in the world. Working on Pieta’s record was one of those times. I wanted to capture the entire vibe of the session, and let each musician bleed into one another. More than any other record that has come out of April Base to date, Paradise Outlaw captures what the live room is capable of manifesting.
The six-track Drifters EP is released on Brown’s new, in her words, “underground label” Lustre Records and is currently only available from her website and from her at shows– tonight’s show at the Englert in Iowa City with Iris DeMent is the first opportunity to buy it directly from her at a show. Helping Brown out on the EP is Outlaw session sidemen Bo Ramsey, Jon Penner, Michael Rossetto, JT Bates and David Mansfield. Greg Brown, Constie Brown and Iris DeMent show family support on “Goin’ Up The Country.” The EP also includes a remix of the instrumental track “Little Swainson” by Justin Vernon and BJ Burton which was sacrificed when the album changed from being a double to a single.
Brown’s liner notes sum up her motivation for releasing the tracks,
After many sweet inquiries at shows from fans about the songs Goin’ Up The Country, Drifter, and Just Slip Away I decided to go back and listen to the outtakes. In spite of many rough edges, I could hear and feel the openness of the session and the music coming through. Offered now with love and hope for more musical experiments everywhere. x pieta
Drifters is available today via Pieta Brown’s website for $15 (which includes U.S. shipping) HERE. You can purchase most of her other releases here as well, including the fantastic vinyl pressing of One And All.
1. Goin’ Up The Country
2. Parataxis Blues
4. Why Now
5. Little Swainson (Remix)
6. Just Slip Away
On October 30th, we were blessed with the 20th Anniversary remastered reissue of Jay Ferrar‘s debut post-Uncle Tupelo album Trace. Widely regarded as one of the great early Americana releases, it was due for some reissue love and attention. For one thing, it got a much-needed 180g vinyl release, which saved me personally– I narrowly avoided spending $75 on a new-old-stock copy from Ferrar’s site (Discogs.com has had copies going for over twice that amount!). Secondly, the CD and download versions were expanded to include bonus demos and a 2nd disc of their February 12, 1996 performance at The Bottom Line in New York City.
Ferrar said in a recent interview about the show, “In terms of the Bottom Line show, yeah, it’s a live show, and there will be some hiccups here and there, but part of what I can hear is that it sounds like my singing voice is almost scorched from smoking cigarettes. You know, there was a very small dressing room at the back of that club, and it was probably the size of a closet. At that time, all five guys in the band were smokers, so that record could’ve just been called, Five Dudes Smoking in a Closet. [Laughs] I can still sing it seems like, but I can barely talk… It was recorded with that mobile recording truck on analog tapes, so you’re not going to get a better sound than that. I wish I had more information on that truck; I couldn’t really track it down. There was a similar show, if not this one, that was recorded with the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording truck. Doing a little research, their truck was in New York in 1996 when this show was recorded, but I just can’t say for sure it was the one.”
Here is the tracklist. We don’t know how the songs will be split up by LP side yet. It includes most of the songs from Trace (not the Ron Wood cover “Mystifies Me”) as well as some Uncle Tupelo songs and a Del Reeves cover.
Live from the Bottom Line/February 12, 1996
01 – Route
02 – Loose
03 – String
04 – Catching On
05 – Live Free
06 – Anodyne – Uncle Tupelo 07 – Windfall
08 – Slate – Uncle Tupelo 09 – Out Of the Picture
10 – Tear Stained Eye
11 – True to Life – Uncle Tupelo 12 – Cemetery Savior – from Straightaways 13 – Ten Second News
14 – Drown
15 – Looking for a Way Out – Uncle Tupelo 16 – Chickamauga – Uncle Tupelo 17 – Too Early
18 – Looking at the World Through a Windshield – Del Reeves cover
Here is a YouTube playlist I created of all of the songs that are conveniently there:
One of my favorite albums of 2013 was JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound‘s third album Howl. I was already a fan of the band and their cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” was a smart, if calculated play to get some attention from the Indie Rock crowd.
But for me, the more sparse, stripped down– both musically and emotionally– approach of Howl was eye-opening. The album is reminiscent of 80’s soul like Fine Young Cannibals or Terence Trent D’Arby and maybe a little like The Smiths at times (particularly the guitars). The video for “Rouse Yourself” is really great with Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson in it.
JC and band have been in the studio recently working on their fourth album. Brooks told me that they would be performing some of the new songs on their upcoming live dates, which includes a stop in Cedar Rapids at CSPS in New Bohemia on Friday night! This will be the first time I’m seeing the band live, and I can’t think of a better place to catch them. Beautiful, big, room with a cozy bar on the side with great beer on tap and wine. If you haven’t been to CSPS yet this would be a great first show!
Lissie has been playing a few new songs on her fall tour dates which come from her upcoming album My Wild West, which she announced today will be out on 2/12/2016. She’s already put a number of pre-order packages up on her online store which include orange vinyl, CD, a signed poster or a teeshirt and combinations of these. My Wild West represents the first full-length release on Lissie’s own Lionboy imprint which was also the home for her last EP of covers Cryin’ To You. The last couple of shows that I caught she was reenforcing the point that she is completely independent now, and really if anyone can pull this off with her collected base of fans worldwide, she should.
As part of the announcement today, she debuted a video for a new song from My Wild West, “Hero.” I had already heard two songs during the fall tour– one called “Ojai” which is the farewell song to her former home. She’s moving to NE Iowa! The other song is “Sun Keeps Rising” which is a tribute to her late aunt and is a gorgeous song I can’t wait to hear fleshed out on the album.
The video for “Hero” is pretty fun– made from footage shot by the filmmaker back in 1983! If you pre-order the new album, you get this song as a digital download.
The southwestern corner of Ohio might not be on the list of notable hotbeds of soul music like Memphis, Philly or Detroit but Loveland, OH is the home of Colemine Records. Label head Terry Cole has been diligently curating releases of hot Soul 7-inches and LP’s since 2007. I’ve been following his releases closely since about 2009 and next to Daptone, I think that Colemine is an important documenter of the new resurgence of R&B and Soul.
One of Colemine’s early releases was a 7″ from Brooklyn “Cinematic Soul” ensemble Ikebe Shakedown. Released in 2009 to acclaim, the record has been out-of-print for a few years and copies on discogs.com have gone for up to $60! For Black Friday Record Store Day, Colemine is re-issuing this landmark single in yellow transparent vinyl. There are only going to be 300 of these Ikebe Shakedown yellow 45s available on Black Friday Record Store Day and you’re going to have to go to an actual physical shop to get them. Ask your favorite record store to hit up Colemine if they are interested in stocking this rare single or any other of the fine releases.
So, you get this all sorted out and you’re asking yourself, “How can I avoid ever missing another Colemine release?!” Well, Colemine is here to help. Starting this week they have announced a groovy subscription service. This service seems to be MUCH more convenient than others I’ve looked at. For one, you are opting in to be informed of a new release (which will include rare pressings and alternate pressings) and will have one reserved for you. They’ll send you a PayPal Invoice for the release plus shipping and you have ten days pay the invoice before the offer expires. Easy-peasy and you don’t have to worry about being on the hook for a release.
Friday, October 23rd CSPS/Legion Arts will be presenting a show I’m really excited about– two Iowa bands with their roots in electronic music– but both taking it to different places.
The opening band, MAIDS, calls themselves “Midwest Disco” and although the music certainly leans to a clubby disco sound, I’m not sure that “Midwest” adds any discernible spin to their music. Danny Heggen and Mickey Davis make something between Postal Service and Four Tet with the occasional Scissor Sister in for dance floor leanings. Midwestern, certainly, since they’re both from Des Moines but for electronic pop it holds its own against anything spun in a dusky, crowded club outside the rows of corn here.
The headliner Jack Lion is one of my favorite bands out of Iowa in the past few years and I’m VERY excited to be able to see them at CSPS as I think they’ll be able to really take advantage of the beautiful acoustics and general vibe of the attentive and warmly supportive crowds. Jack Lion is a jazz trio of trumpet, bass and drums that fuses electronic and ambient creating some really engaging and immersive soundscapes. They’ve released two EP’s so far “JAC” and “K L” and are working on a third (“ION” presumably). I wrote a review of the JAC EP for Little Village last year comparing it favorably to Kieran Hebden of Four Tet’s side project with jazz drummer Steve Reid. When I listen to Jack Lion, I can’t help but think about the experimental directions Miles Davis took and I’d like to think that he might have taken his music in this same direction.