Five for Friday #3: Luke Winslow-King

I hope you have checked out Coffin Problem and Sarah Shook  & the Disarmers new albums. Be sure to check out these as well

3. Luke Winslow King: Blue Mesa

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He’s built up a big following and critical acclaim for his smokey vocals, clever lyrics, and respectable “throwback” sound to tin-pan alley goodness and New Orleans bayou blues. All of which is true and commendable. He also should be commended for being the handsomest SOB on the planet. Sorry Luke! it’s true.

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What I’ve always liked best, however, are his guitar chops. That fact that he never intentionally shows off is his biggest accomplishment. Instead, he focuses on getting plenty of tone and the sweetest sounds out of those strings. It’s never too much, always leaves you wanting a little more in the best way possible. His latest release Blue Mesa gives him the space to really showcase his guitar skills. I cannot think of a slide player who I enjoy listening to more. He also puts on a hell of a live show. Take a look:

Blue Mesa has plenty of that kind of spirit you see above to offer. The track “Thought I Heard You” is damn-near flawless. On second thought, it is flawless. There’s also the killer track “Leghorn Women.” Give ‘er a listen.

His lyrics are less notable on this album. Remarkably simple. But the album is better for it. It was high time he released a record that gave his guitar playing every bit of spotlight it deserves. Heady, clever lyrics wouldn’t have allowed this. He’s been at it for a while. I hope and doubt he’s stopping anytime soon.

Favorite Track: “I Thought I Heard You”

Find out more at www.lukewinslowking.com

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Five for Friday # 2: Sarah Shook & the Disarmers

2. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers:  Years

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That whole thing where some idiot says, “If you look up the word ‘dillweed’ in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of (fill in the dillweed)” is tired and annoying. But it actually does sort of make sense whenever it’s used. So I’m gonna play with it a bit. If you look up the word ‘badass” in the dictionary, the dictionary book itself will slam into your face, grow arms and bash your head against the wall, then it’ll yell ‘LISTEN TO SARAH SHOOK, YOU DIPSHIT!!!!” until you do. I both applaud and will purchase any dictionary that does this.

But Sarah, with her audio/visual mix of gutter punk, outlaw, and troubadour, isn’t just a flat out, blow-your-fuckin’-head-off-in-a-showdown badass. She’s also one of the greatest living songwriters out there. And she’s only 33 years old.

Her first release, the 2013 Seven playing under the moniker Sarah Shook & the Devils, was promising, at times brilliant, but overall missing something. In 2015, she’d choose a better band name and in turn make a better album with Sarah Shook & the Disarmers self-released Sidelong. This album is perfect, and I mean fucking PERFECTBloodshot Records wisely picked up the artist and album last year, doing a re-release of Sidelong.

I discovered the album while reading a glowing review of it in No Depression. This was the first time in years an album stopped me in my tracks, rang in my brain like the best siren you’ve ever heard, and has sat there on repeat since.  It sounds like country music should, with touches of religious fervor and agnostic curiosity aplenty. There to stay was just the right amount of slide guitar, train-engine rhythms, and vocal twangs. But what she added was plenty of punk saliva dripping off her microphone, and politically progressive ideas that, quite frankly, you just don’t hear in enough country music. The standout track “Fuck Up” is the best song I’ve heard in ten years. I’m not kidding, not being grandiose. It simply is. Here, listen.

Now, with her latest release Years, Sarah somehow manages to perfect an already damn-near perfect sound. This isn’t a huge departure from Sidelong. But the improvements lie in the overall musicianship of it. Her vocals have never sounded better, thick and meaty with more “don’t fuck with Sarah Shook” than she’s ever had before. The guitar licks are spot on, with solos to stretch her overall sound into new parts of country’s comfortably familiar territory. Lyrically, she joins the ranks of Gillian Welch, John Prine, and others, making big ideas sound simple. My favorite example comes from the title track, where she sings:

There was a time when you were good to me
And we took on new frontiers
There was a time that you were kind to me
But baby, it’s been years

Her lyrics are lean, to the point, but delivered in a ways that get you thinking. Here’s another example from the track “Good as Gold.”

I’m afraid of losin’
Not afraid of losin’ you
Cause I don’t think of you
Like a thing of mine
That I can just up and lose

So please, for the love of hell, buy this album and don’t stop listening to it.

Standout Track: “Good as Gold”

 

I find out that she was in Milwaukee last week, a place close to my heart and home. But unfortunately not close enough. Next time, I hope. In the meantime, check Sarah out by clicking on the word here.

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Five for Friday # 1: Coffin Problem

It’s officially Spring. And where I’m living, it’s finally not snowing anymore. It just stopped, like, a week ago. So the grass is green, people are gradually wearing less clothing and more flip flops, and some are even taking to the internet less, in turn complaining less about how out of shape and depressed they are. Probably because we’re all spending less time on the internet and more time outside. That being said, I’m currently inside, typing this on the internet. So, cool.

Anyshits, here is the first of the five albums I’ve been enjoying the most this week. They are all new releases. You should listen to them. Also, you should read everything below. But if you can only choose one, just listen to the them. To give each one more focus, I’m posting them separately.

1. Coffin Problem: So Good Nothing

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Jesus H. Christ, I love this album. I love it so, so much better than their prior debut, which I also enjoyed. This one, frankly, just sounds better. Each song is given the right amount of space and time to come to life, breathe, and then die a ghastly death that resurrects in your nightmares. Not kidding. They’ve well earned their moniker on this one.

The West Michigan-based Coffin Problem goes for the heavily layered, avant-metal vibes, with heavy doses of  spooky psychedelia that bands such as Wovenhand, A Place to Bury Strangers,  Swans, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and a host of others have already done well.  If they keep making albums like So Good Nothing, I can easily see Coffin Problem joining their ranks, possibly even surpassing them. I don’t give three shits how much this pisses off Scott Walker’s fan club. Which, if it does exist officially, should be named “30 Century Fans.”  You’re welcome, losers.

On their debut, Coffin Problem made a solid album with a gravestone on it. But their latest release is way more scary. It sounds like the soundtrack of a movie where everyone dies in the worst ways possible. I swear that’s a compliment. There’s a bloody, broken nails scratching against rusty tin vibe on almost every song, and it works perfectly. So Good Nothing is long, horrifying, unsettling, and better than just about anything I’ve heard in 2018 so far. It already makes this year feel better than the putrid 2017 we all barely Trumped. And it does so not by hiding the ugliness and horror that the very worst of humanity tries to cover up with used band aids and heavy doses of dishonesty. Instead, So Good Nothing  shovels off all the bullshit, rips off the band-aids, picks off the scabs, and lets the blood flow through each of the eight songs on it. And though you have to listen to it in full to totally get what I’m saying, doing so exposes some surprising shimmers of light hiding inside of the nightmare Coffin Problem has created.

Standout Track: The eery “Old Souls” is the best song I’ve heard this year, and best exemplifies what I tried to say above, albeit much less pretentiously.

 

Check them out by clicking here.

They’ll be debuting their release tonight at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, MI.

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House Concerts, Listening Rooms, DIY

Though we’ve covered a lot of ground, we will be shifting 90% of our focus onto venues, artists, advocates, etc. who deal with alternative venues, and the artists who play them. These include house concerts, listening rooms, DIY venues, all-ages, etc. More info to come! Stay tuned!
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The Smothers Brothers: Funny Politics

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In this post-Trump world of possible (ahem, likely) treason, rampant dishonesty, insane loyalty to a man who’s more insane than loyal, and the normalization of exclusion, we need political songwriters more than ever. But lest we all become too sour-faced, we also need songwriters & performers with a sense of humor. And though I think I saw one of them on a Carnival Cruise commercial recently, The Smothers Brother were as political as they were funny. So here are a few songs from this important duet. Brothers…we need you now more than ever.

1. The Draft Dodger Rag:

2.  The One on the Left is on the Right”
“Noel Harrison…comes to us fresh from his cancelled TV show.”
“The truth is not very commercial. But not getting along is, so here’s a song about not getting along.”

3. Big Time Crime
“Honesty isn’t in season…”

4. My Old Man
Just wait….

5. Steve Martin’s Socko Boppo Comedy Routine
Because Steve Martin rules

“Bragging” Folk Tune

There’s a lot of variety when it comes to old American folk tunes. One type that was popular was “bragging folk tunes.” Listen to the tune and lyrics. It’s not hard to figure out what this type of song is. Feel free to write your own bragging tune, though don’t blame me if someone calls you a self-centered prick:

Trivia Bit: McFarland and Gardner, better known as Mac and Bob, began playing together at the Kentucky School For The Blind where they were both students.

This is the school.
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This is the duo
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This is the bragging song.

Broken Social Scene To Release New Album

Just revealed today. They look really old. This is still cool. They only make solid albums so I can’t imagine this won’t follow suit.

Here’s a very cool, young pic of them. bss-1440x660.jpg

Here’s them looking older but cool, for the most part.

Album is “Hug of Thunder” out July 7th.
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Stay young in your heart, folks.