Friday, December 31, 2010

Windfarm 2010 All-America Music Team

In an attempt at doing something other than a traditional "best of 2010" list, I've taken a bit of a different route, and instead, listed my favorite albums in the form of an All-America Team. What you'll find are not necessarily the best musicians at every position, but players from my favorite albums of the year broken out by position. Thus, many great musicians get ignored, although my main concern was including at least someone from each of my favorite albums this year.

Yes, I also know some of these are a stretch, but I couldn't just have 14 first team vocals, so there are a few picks that aren't necessarily full time on the instrument they are assigned to. Next year hopefully I can solicit votes from readers and bloggers alike to get a better compilation for this list.

Most Valuable Musicians

Every member of The National - High Violet

First Team

Vocals: John McCaulley III, Deer Tick - The Black Dirt Sessions
Harmony Vocals: Julie Davis & Joseph Pope III, Nathaniel Rateliff - In Memory of Loss
Guitar: Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues
Bass: Murry Hammond - Old 97s - The Grand Theatre: Part I
Drums: Brian Moen, Peter Wolf Crier - Inter-Be
Banjo: Munly Munly - Munly & the Lupercalians - Petr & the Wulf; Slim Cessna's Auto Club - Buried Behind the Barn
Keyboard: Benjamin Tanner, Dylan LeBlanc - Pauper's Field
Pedal Steel: Jon Graboff, Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - III/IV

Second Team
Vocals: Win Butler, Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Harmony Vocals: Ryan Monroe - Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
Guitar: Seth Avett, The Avett Brothers - Live Volume 3
Bass: Reid Perry, The Band Perry - self-titled
Drums: Julian Harmon, The Morning Benders - Big Echo
Banjo: Winston Marshall - Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
Keyboard/Piano: Eric Earley, Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void

All-Texas Team
Vocals: Will Johnson, Centro-matic/South San Gabriel - Eyas
Guitar: Daniel Markham, One Wolf - One Wolf II: Secret of the Wolf
Pedal Steel: Colt Miller, Thrift Store Cowboys - Light Fighter
Bass: Brooks Kendall, Jr. - Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward - The Apology, Part I
Drums: Rob Sanchez, Monahans - 2010 Recordings
Banjo: Glen Farris - Doug Burr - O Ye Devastator
Keyboards: Adi Kanlic - The Lusitania - Rain & Rivers

Other First Teamers

Autobiographer: Keith Richards - Life

Documentarian: Gandulf Hennig - Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself

Live experience: singalong of "When My Time Comes" - Dawes - Fox Theatre, Boulder 06/19/10

Shameless Self Promotion: Windfarm - "The Proud Colorado Mountains of Townes Van Zandt" (Hey, I spent a lot of time on that post, so why not give it one more mention?)

Venue: Hi-Dive, Denver, CO

Song of the Year: "Red, Red" - Doug Burr - Specifically, the moment the drums come in on this song is the best musical moment of 2010 for me.

Close second place for song of the year: "Christchurch Woman" - Justin Townes Earle

Radio station: 1410 AM, KRIL, Odessa, TX

Record store find: Vic Chesnutt, Little (vinyl first printing)

TV show(s): Southland, Modern Family, Hard Knocks, Friday Night Lights, Dexter, Eastbound & Down, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, No Reservations, Human Target

Magazine Interview: "The Lost Lennon Tapes" - Rolling Stone

Sports blog: Feinstein on the Brink

Odd Celebrity Sighting: Vijay Singh on Pearl Street in Boulder (might have been 2009)

Best Daytrotter sessions: Nathaniel Rateliff - 06/21/2010; Dawes - 07/08/2010

Non-fiction book: Welcome to Utopia - Karen Valby

Album I rediscovered: The Dark - Guy Clark

Person who deserves Supporting Actor Nomination: John Hawkes in Winter's Bone

Best pick-up truck ever: This baby blue Chevy Scottsdale I saw at HEB -

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia - film review

It has been years since I saw the 1991 cult documentary Dancing Outlaw, a film that sparked a great deal of interest in the American South, paving the way for films like Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus and Seven Signs down the line. The trials and tribulations of Jesco White are fascinating, although ultimately the film paints a picture of an oft-forgotten America that is stuck in a holding pattern of poverty, violence, and substance abuse.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
picks up with the entire White clan approximately 17-18 years following the release of Dancing Outlaw. While Jesco White remains a cult hero of sorts to fans of the original movie, what hasn't changed is the culture in which he lives. In fact, this movie is a sobering and stark depiction of the effects of deep seated poverty in rural America.

In short, the movie breaks down the White family tree, detailing the lives of Jesco's siblings, nieces & nephews, cousins, and even his mother. What you find is a family history addled by the effects of addiction. Pharmaceutical abuse is a major undercurrent throughout the film, and its effects upon the family have been devastating. Prison time, deaths, and violence are commonplace in the family, to the point that many of the family members seem to known nothing other than such events. Of the entire clan, Poney White, who moved his family out of West Virginia entirely, is the only one who is shown to have achieved any level of stability.

Jesco White, sadly, is but a shell of a drug abused body, noting himself that years of gasoline huffing have left his cognitive abilities very limited. The gregarious mountain dancer who has been the hero of hipsters and frat boys alike over the past two decades has seen few, if any, benefits of his famed status. He is a tragic figure who in his 54 years of life has become a poster child for the exploitation of the impoverished. Those who have profited off of his personality have the distinct benefit of being able to leave when they are finished filming, yet Jesco and his family remain trapped in a neverending cycle of problems. White continues to live in rural West Virginia, where he is likely to live out the remainder of his life. Even if he or his family could see profits from their fame, the poverty cycle is too deeply ingrained for money to have beneficial effects, as it almost certainly goes right back out the door in the purchase of various drugs.

It's certainly your prerogative to take what you wish out of this film, but the sad truth is that this intriguing sideshow is in fact a portrait of real people. The Whites are representative of a sizeable segment of American society, and serve as a reminder to us all that no matter how great the opportunities many of us have, a substantial portion of the country is never exposed to education or the benefits provided by modern society. Sadly, it's not as though these people are so isolated that they can live "off the grid," as their rural lifestyle has been greatly affected by the availability of black market pharmaceuticals while programs to help them deal with the resulting large scale addiction are virtually non-existent, or at-best, ineffective and underfunded. The White family is concurrently hard to watch and hard not to watch, and while I think the film is a realistic depiction of them and a valuable reminder of the effects of poverty, it also remains an unsettling portrait of those who have fallen through the cracks in our country.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock - NYE in Marfa

Padre's in Marfa has West Texas' best New Years Eve show this year, as far as I can tell. Padre's is a relatively new venue in the region, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming a great stopover for some of the best musical talent in the country. This NYE show is no exception, bringing native West Texans, and 2/3 of the Flatlanders, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock (Yes, Butch finally has a Web site) to the Padre's stage. Opening the show is the fantastic Colin Gilmore, a long-time favorite of mine and an excellent performer and songwriter in his own right.

While the show itself is a bit of an early one, with a 7 p.m. start time, the musical lineup is so strong that I'd go see these performers at 7 a.m. if I had to. Check out Padre's Web site for more details. Advanced tickets available.

Doug Burr - Daytrotter session 12/29/10

Great to see one of my songwriters continuing to get the attention his work deserves. A new Daytrotter session for Denton, TX, based artist Doug Burr was posted today, and if you've been hiding under a rock for the last year, this is your chance to check him out finally. Check out the session here. Free download and lossless format downloads available.

Image via Daytrotter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monahans - 2010 Recordings

Today, Austin-based Monahans releases the final track in a 10-month project, known as the 2010 Recordings, in which the band has released a new free download every month since March. This great collection of new material followed on the heels of 2009's magnificent Dim the Aurora. Quite a brilliant plan, both artistically and from a marketing standpoint. You've gone to great lengths to get everyone's attention with the release of a new LP, so why not keep their attention?

Many independent bands often have long periods between albums, and there are always plenty of excuses to explain such times. What better way to make yourselves stay productive than to commit to a project like 2010 Recordings? Not only does it force you to keep the creative juices flowing in the realms of writing and recording, but it's also an innovative medium through which to distribute your music. I don't know that Monahans is the first to release a record in such a manner, but I can't think of any other artists that have made such a concerted effort to release an album of new material in this manner. Sure, plenty of bands release b-sides and various outtakes for download, but 2010 Recordings stands far superior to such ventures.

While they were at it, Monahans decided to go big on the final track, "Seabirds," although they still only subtly mention on the download page that Sinead O'Connor provides back-up vocals on the track. This on the heels of Robert Plant recording a version this year of "The Only Sound That Matters," a track from a previous project of some of the members, Milton Mapes. It's been a pretty good year for Monahans, and largely because they just keep making the music they want to, and releasing it the way they want. Don't pass up the opportunity to pick up this great collection of songs from Monahans while it is still available.

I guess the thought I'm left with is, why stop now?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Will Johnson - Marfa Book Company, 12/02/10

For obvious reasons, West Texas doesn't get the volume of high quality shows that one can find in Austin, but that's not to say that we don't get some amazing shows here and there that equal anything you might find on the I-35 corridor. Case in point, on Thursday, Dec. 2, Will Johnson will be in Marfa to play a show at the Marfa Book Company along with supporting act Candles (thanks to showlush for the heads-up on this one).

I started to say "Will Johnson, of Centro-matic fame," although these days I think it may be more accurate to say "Will Johnson, of Will Johnson fame." We've spoken previously of his live performances at the Ramble Creek SXSW party and his solo house concert tour with Anders Parker, both of which were simply awe-inspiring shows. In short, this is an opportunity West Texans shouldn't pass up. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Birds with One Stone: Fallon and Springsteen

Two thoughts to pass along. First, Springsteen was on Fallon last night. If you missed it, check out Hulu, because it was amazing. Not convinced? Well what if I told you that he played two songs with the Roots as his backing band? Yes, it was amazing. The interview was great. Hope you catch the re-run or the online version.

Secondly, through all the Conan/Leno business, a really funny thing happened. Jimmy Fallon became the best late night host on network TV. It's too early to compare him to Conan's new TBS venture, but the important comparison I think, is that his show is far more entertaining than Letterman now. His quirky humor has basically made it such that every night is like an SNL episode. Sure he cracks up at some of his own jokes, but that's what is so funny about Jimmy Fallon in the first place. Jimmy Fallon laughing in the middle of skits with Will Ferrell basically saved SNL in the 2000s in my opinion. I honestly did not think I would like him as a Late Night host, but I have been proven very wrong on that thought.

I don't know that he'll ever be in a position to take Leno's spot (and doubt he would want to), but as long as he can keep doing what he is doing in his current spot, I'll be more than happy. I used to love Letterman, but his humor is just a formula. Same thing night after night. What I love about Fallon is you just don't know what he's going to do or say next. I don't expect late night talk shows to be this funny, but he consistently is.

Here's, um, Neil Young performing Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair Back and Forth" with a very special guest from the 1980s.

Arcade Fire - Suburbs and SNL Performance

Well don't I feel uncool. It's taken me over 3 months to give the Arcade Fire's Suburbs a listen. This is a product of being busy and also not really ever getting into Neon Bible that much.

Apparently I just needed a little spark though, and this past weekend's SNL was just the thing. Check out the performance of "Sprawl II" below. Going back to the record, I can't believe how good it is, and to think, it's been sitting on my iPod for months. Nonetheless, I know there's also not much new that can be said about the album at this point, but you should definitely give it a listen if you haven't.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

West Texas area music calendar - 11/14/10

11/18 - Bart Crow - Rockin' Rodeo
11/20 - Casey Donahue - Dos Amigos
11/24 - Stoney LaRue - Dos Amigos
11/26 - Aaron Watson - Dos Amigos
11/26 - Bleu Edmondson - Graham Central Station
12/01 - Michael Martin Murphey, "The Murph" - Ector Theatre
12/03 - Jody Nix - Stardust Club
12/9 - ZZ Top - Ector County Coliseum
12/16 - Micky & the Motorcars - Rockin' Rodeo
01/07 - Thrift Store Cowboys and the Driftwood Singers - The Pine Box, 510 S. Big Spring St., Midland

11/19 - Ray Wylie Hubbard, Band of Heathens - Alpine Art Walk
11/19 - Ray Wylie Hubbard - Railroad Blues
11/24 - Sock Hop with the Royal Butchers - Ballroom Marfa
12/02 - Will Johnson - Gallery at Marfa Book Company
12/03 - Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - Padre's
12/04 - Soul Track Mind - Railroad Blues
12/18 - Max Stalling - Railroad Blues

San Angelo
11/19 - Charlie Robison - Graham Central Station
11/24 - Chris Duarte - Sealy Flats Blues Inn
12/17 - Max Stalling - The House of Fifi Dubois

11/19 - The Lusitania, Estelline, Colt Classics - Bash's on Main
11/28 - The Satin Peaches, Coppola, and Naked Pictures - Bash's on Main
11/30 - Birds & Batteries - Bash's on Main
12/09 - Thrift Store Cowboys, Brandon Adams and the Sad Bastards - The Blue Light

11/20 - Jamie Richards - Belle Opry House
11/26 - Mo Robson - Belle Opry House
12/04 - Paul Eason - Belle Opry House
12/10 - Blue Broussard - Belle Opry House
12/17 - Zach Harmon - Belle Opry House
01/01 - Jeremiah Houston - Belle Opry House

As always, send me show info if you've got it, with all relevant details. The above shows are basically just a quick sampling of what's going on. Call venues before traveling.

Mostly Texas country I know. That's why you need to email me with other events.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BBC Documentary - Hotel California: L.A. From the Byrds to the Eagles

L.A. music blog Aquarium Drunkard recently brought to my attention to a 2007 documentary done by the BBC that highlights the development of the Los Angeles music scene in the late 1960s. Hotel California: L.A. From the Byrds to the Eagles is currently available on Youtube, although I'm not entirely sure exactly how long that will last. In short, the film covers the early idealism of the country and folk-rock scene that emerged in Laurel Canyon, but which transformed into a corporate and money-driven scene in a relatively brief period of time.

I know what you're thinking after reading the title - "I hate the f***in' Eagles." Of course I can't argue about such an opinion. In fact, the documentary is very straightforward in presenting criticisms of the Eagles from a number of different musicians for their approach to music. Despite the title's mention of the Eagles, I should emphasize that the documentary covers a great deal of musicians before the Eagles, including Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (in various groups and solo), the highly regarded Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Gram Parsons, and others. In the style of recent documentaries on Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt, the documentary makes great use of many of the musicians and industry folks who were involved in the scene at that time. The result is a film that thoroughly documents an extremely fascinating time in American music. And as I always try to mention when applicable, the video even contains a bit of a West Texas connection in featuring J.D. Souther, who was raised in Amarillo.

The film is currently available on youtube in 7 parts, starting with the one below:

New Hayes Carll! KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) out 02/15/11

Great news! New Hayes Carll Album, KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) will be released Feb. 15, 2010. And no, I don't have any idea what the title means. Preorder is available now here (or click the image).

Friday, November 5, 2010

64 Years of Nix Music - Big Spring Stampede, 11/13/10

I wish I had more time to give this event a proper write-up, as it fully deserves it, but having had a number of things going on at work I wasn't able to do so. Nonetheless, I'll tell you what I do know:

This Saturday, November 13th, the Nix family celebrates 64 years of music at their very own venue, the Stampede in Big Spring, Texas. The venue was established by West Texas Swing icon Hoyle Nix, and is maintained today by his son Jody. Hoyle Nix may be best known to the mainstream for writing the song "Big Balls in Cowtown," which was recorded by Bob Wills and George Strait, among others. The family has quietly maintained perhaps the most important musical legacy in West Texas, so I must recommend you make the effort to check out Jody Nix and the Texas Cowboys at the Stampede. Entrance is $15.00, and you can make reservations at 432-267-2060. Catch Jody Nix at one of his other regional dates if you don't live within driving distance of Big Spring.

Image Source: Vance Lane

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Oh My Sweet Carolina" - Ryan Adams w/ Mandy Moore

Apparently it's just a soundcheck, but still simply amazing. Not sure if it will stay posted forever, so watch it while it's hot. Via RodBlackhurst.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The National - Terrible Love

By law, I am required as a music blogger to post this new video of The National's alternate version of "Terrible Love." It's funny how back in May, critics were announcing a gloom and doom of how the National's High Violet was a huge letdown and that their ability to become the biggest band in the universe was now in question.

Turns out now that after High Violet had some time to soak in, folks seem to be back in the mode of talking about how The National are the coolest band ever. They are having some serious difficulty finding a place to play where they don't sell out.

To throw in a bit of West Texas relevance to this whole story, the band even spent some down time hanging out in Marfa recently. Check out the pictures posted to their Twitter here and here and here.

As a NYC by way of Cincinnati success story, I feel like the National is the band that so many people who move to New York want to be. In the last 4 or 5 years, I'd be willing to bet that possibly hundreds of aspiring artists have moved to the city with the expressed intent of becoming the next National. Amazing how that works, and probably how so few are willing to to put in the years that they have to get to that point.

Bummer that I wasn't even close to being able to catch any of the band's recent tour dates. You can bet I would have been at the recent Denver show if I was still living in Boulder, but alas, some things weren't meant to be. At least I can rest assured knowing every other Colorado blogger was there.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Lusitania - Your Style

I hope you've taken the time to check out The Lusitania's new record Rain and Rivers. It's definitely worth your time and money, so if you haven't, maybe this great song and music video will persuade you. (Lyrics are very slightly NSFW, especially if you work in a church)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

West Texas area music calendar

Lots of great shows coming up around West Texas the next few weeks. Here are a few good ones I know about. Send West Texas area music listings to windfarmblog(at)gmail(dot)com if you want your show listed on Windfarm.

Go see Lucero in Lubbock this Sunday if you can. They are one of the better touring bands who regularly visits the Hub City, and even better, The Lusitania will be opening.

Oct. 8 - Hayes Carll - Blue Light
Oct. 10 - Lucero, The Lusitania - Bash Riprocks
Oct. 12 - Thrift Store Cowboys - Blue Light (CD Release)
Oct. 15 - Wovenhand - Bash Riprocks

Oct. 14 - Eli Young Band - Dos Amigos
Oct. 21 - The Deftones - Dos Amigos

San Angelo

Oct. 15 - The Derailers - Steel Penny Pub

Oct. 16 - Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward - Lucky Mule Saloon

Oct. 7 - Dale Watson - Padre's
Oct. 8 - Jon Langford - Railroad Blues
Oct. 8 - The Gourds - Padre's
Oct. 9 - Jon Langford - Padre's
Oct. 15 - The Derailers - Railroad Blues
Nov. 3 - Monotonix - Padre's
Nov. 19 - Ray Wylie Hubbard - Railroad Blues
Dec. 3 - Black Joe Lewis - Padre's

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Lusitania - Rain and Rivers

El Paso-based The Lusitania have been making the rounds touring across Texas and the Southwest for the past few years, steadily making a name for themselves with great songs and high energy performances. Their quality is apparent in the fact that they have found the support of fellow El Pasoan Jim Ward, known for his work with At The Drive-In, Sparta, and Sleepercar.

The Lusitania are yet another promising band in the canon of West Texas music. Out of a seemingly sparse landscape, great music continues to emerge, and not just run-of-the-mill music, but that which could hold its own in any major music market in the U.S. right now.

Rain and Rivers, produced by Ward and Gabe Gonzalez, was recorded at Clap of Thunder Studios in El Paso and is being released on Civil Defense League Records. You can download or buy a physical copy of the record here. The record finds the band re-recording some previously released material as well as putting a good deal of new material to tape as well.

Rain and Rivers offers new versions of Lusitania staples such as "Wolves," "Bottle Neck Blues," and the Bukowski-esque "Spoils of War," as well as the previously vinyl-only songs "Down the Tracks" and "Tributaries." Beyond that, however, you'll find a number of great new songs. "Your Style" far and away stands out as my early favorite, and I find myself either playing it on my ipod or singing it aloud in not always appropriate places. However, this new song doesn't stand alone, as the growling rocker "'Til My Heart Gives Out" fits perfectly in the Lusitania's catalog, adding some great vocal harmonies into the mix for depth. Alternatively, the album's second song, "A Line in the Sand" is more uptempo and should be a fantastic song for the live show.

The Lusitania have put in a lot of dues touring the last few years, and the release of R & R will only bolster their efforts. The album is a solid full-length effort that should be appreciated by fans both old and new. These guys are deserving of a great deal of success, and this album is a good step toward getting their names out. Spread the word.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hayes Carll - The Blue Light Lubbock, 10/08/10

Live singer/songwriter music in West Texas tends to be in the Texas Country/Red Dirt vein and rarely includes artists with a broader Americana appeal. However, if you're patient, some great acts will come through the region eventually.

In this case, one of the best up-and-coming roots rockers on the circuit, Austin-based Hayes Carll will be at the Blue Light in Lubbock this Friday, Oct. 8th, 2010. I've seen Hayes a number of times, and his shows are always well worth the money. Not only is he a great songwriter, but perhaps even better, he is a great storyteller between songs. Who knows how much of that he'll be doing given the sometimes loud Blue Light environment, but I suspect you'll get a great show nonetheless.

Last I heard, Carll was in the process of working on a new record, although I've heard no details about that release. Hear "Drunken Poet's Dream" by Carll and cowriter Ray Wylie Hubbard in the video below. And please check him out at the Blue Light this Friday.

Cory Morrow - Brand New Me

Living back in West Texas, it's inevitable I'll end up covering a bit more music that would roughly be defined as "Texas Country," although I still consider it essential to cover only those that I consider to be truly solid artists.

Cory Morrow is an elder statesman of the current Texas Country scene, so to speak, although he never quite saw the fame that others in the genre have seen. Regardless, he has continued to make good records, in spite of dealing with some very tough personal times along the way. As the press release for his new album Brand New Me notes, Morrow says this "the first sober album I've ever made."

Part of the reason I have long respected Morrow's music are his vocal melodies. In a musical landscape where many new songwriters think anyone who can write about beer and Texas is a songwriter, Morrow understands that true song craft revolves around a lot more. Brand New Me is introspective in many respects, all the while maintaining a very positive energy and a strong redemption theme. His melodies remain strong and his songwriting more refined than ever - as good or better than 2002's Outside the Lines, a record I have long considered his best.

Morrow may not necessarily be out to break down musical boundaries, as the record is a fairly straightforward mix of country and rock, but it is solid throughout on account of the always top-notch production abilities of Lloyd Maines. Rather, Brand New Me is more about personal development and the transition to a new existence, a narrative that Morrow no doubt adds to each day.

The theme of redemption that runs throughout the album provides a picture of a Cory Morrow who is thrilled to still be making music after the trials and tribulations of past years. "Second Chance" and the album's title track are upbeat songs that exemplify that theme best on the record, although one needs to listen to the entire album to understand the more complete story. The slower and more introspective "The Way I Do" and "Never Made it to My Lips" may be the best examples of Morrow's strengths as a songwriter, standing out among the 14-song album with their strong arrangement and production.

While sometimes improperly classified as being run-of-the-mill Texas Country music, Morrow continues to write good songs that likely deserve more attention than they receive. The story of Brand New Me is not one of completion, but rather one of new beginnings, and as such, I suspect you'll hear plenty more great music from Cory Morrow.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thrift Store Cowboys - Light Fighter

After four long years of waiting, with only a live recording from the Taos Solar Music Festival and a 7" vinyl split in between, Lubbock-based Thrift Store Cowboys are set to release their fourth LP, entitled Light Fighter. The 12 song effort shows a great deal of growth from TSC since the band's last record, Lay Low While Crawling or Creeping, and clearly indicates to long-time fans that the band's continued touring has done a great deal for them in refining their sound.

Best of all, the band has recently made the album available for digital download now, ahead of the Oct. 12th physical release date. You can go to this link to get a copy on iTunes right this second. In short, I like every song on this album. However, some high points should be pointed out. If there was ever a TSC song that deserves to be a hit, "Bright Fire" is the one. This song is among the best the band has ever done. Additionally, there is the song "Nothing," a tune that has been in the band's live show for years now, but which the recording brings a whole new life to. Amanda's two songs "Scary Weeds" and "Lean Into the Sway" will each stay with you as well, and they exhibit her continued progression as a songwriter both as a member of TSC and as a solo act.

The album artwork above is by Dirk Fowler, Lubbock's renowned concert poster artist who was recently featured on Texas Country Reporter. Fowler designed the band's last record as well, and continues to support local West Texas music even when he is doing work for national acts.

If you're new to the TSC game, then check out the free track "One Gentle Inch to Nine Violent Miles," a song that displays how far the band has come from their roots rock origins. It's also the lead track on Light Fighter.

TSC are going to be on tour all fall supporting the release of the album, but to highlight a few shows, they'll be doing a short run through Texas right around the album release.

All shows below are with These United States:

Oct. 12 - The Blue Light - Lubbock
Oct. 13 - The Golden Light - Amarillo
Oct. 15 - Hole in the Wall - Austin
Oct. 16 - Fitzgerald's - Houston
Oct. 17 - Hailey's - Denton

These are but a sampling of the band's upcoming tour dates. I encourage my old Denver friends to check the band out next week (Sept. 30) at the Hi-Dive. Otherwise, keep an eye on their tour dates for a show near you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Turnpike Troubadours

Sadly, a good deal of "urban" West Texas is pretty suburbanized and not as much Wild West as some would like to think or believe. It's a place where people go to Olive Garden for Italian food instead of a mom and pop place that's much better. Similarly, radio is mostly Top 40 country.

However, the nice thing about the strength of the Texas music scene is that because of the strong live music circuit, sometimes independent artists actually make it onto the radio here. I credit 96.1 in Midland with breaking away from the Top 40 mold just enough to introduce me to Oklahoma-based band Turnpike Troubadours. It took a bit of searching to figure out who it was singing the song I kept hearing on the station, but I finally turned up that it was these guys.

The sound of this band is a little country, a little bluegrass, and a little rock, but the most important characteristic I hear in their sound is potential. They've got something really good going with their song "Every Girl," which you can hear on their Web site or their myspace. Personally it gets stuck in my head for the better part of a day after I've heard it.

The band looks like they tour pretty consistently around Oklahoma and Texas. Check out their latest album Diamonds and Gasoline if you like what you hear. I'm just getting acquainted with their material myself.

West Texas folks you can check out Turnpike Troubadours:

Oct. 9th at Hoot's Pub in Amarillo
Oct. 23 at the Blue Light in Lubbock

(Image credit Justin Voight from

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nathaniel Rateliff - "Shroud"

My favorite song thus far from Denver-based Nathaniel Rateliff for some reason didn't make it onto their debut record, although even more oddly, "Shroud" was included on their U.K. release of In Memory of Loss. I tried to download the track through Amazon MP3 U.K., but apparently they put regional restrictions on the download, so you can't get it in the U.S.

All that said, Rateliff's Web site indicates that the song will be released in some form in the relatively near future, although no official date has been established. In the meantime, you can hear the new version of the song in the video below:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dirk Fowler - Texas Country Reporter

Texas Tech professor Dirk Fowler has been making concert posters for close to a decade now, at least as well as I remember, and during that time, he has come to be quite popular, making posters for national acts like Wilco, No Doubt, DeVotchKa, and the Raconteurs. Perhaps more importantly, he continues to support local music in West Texas and has brought a good deal of attention to many area artists through his poster art. Check out his Web site, or his profile to see his amazing work. I was especially excited to see this recent clip featuring Fowler and his letter press printing on Texas Country Reporter. (It is no secret how well-liked he is on account of the fact that 106 people have already shared the link to this video on facebook.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward - The Apology: Part 1

I love being surprised when good artists announce a new record release for the immediate future, rather than going through the whole process of announcing records 6 months or more in advance. We've been hearing about a new Arcade Fire for over a year, and now that it's out I haven't even listened to it yet. The new EP from Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward I found out about earlier today and I've listened to it about 3 times through already.

What I gather from the internets is that Parker & 50 Peso decided to release their new material in a series of EPs rather than wait to assemble a full LP, and thus, The Apology: Part 1 is the first installment in that process. For the time being at least, you can stream the entire EP at, although I expect that won't be the case forever. My first impressions are that the band has assembled a very solid and well-produced 5-song set.

The lead-off track, "Guitars" sets the tone for the entire EP, as the crunchy guitars lay a solid common groundwork for all of the songs. I don't wish to pigeonhole this band per se, but if forced to give it a label, I might say the sound on this record was a bit like a project from Robert Earl Keen and the E Street Band. "River Song" and "Megaphone" stand out immediately as favorites of mine, although there is not a weak song on the record. The album also draws upon a past strength of 50 Peso Reward, which is the diversity of drum sounds and rhythms - something that puts them head and shoulders above many other Texas acts.

In short, the 5 songs are a much appreciated addition to an already outstanding catalog for RP & 50PR, and the anticipation for the second installment can begin now as far as I'm concerned. More importantly, this release is needed to keep the band at the forefront of the Texas music scene, a scene which at times settles for clich├ęd and dull music, two characterizations that in no way describe Parker & 50 Peso. Rather, this is a band that deserves far more attention than many of the acts that dominate the airwaves, so please give them a listen and spread the word.

West Texas folks can catch Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward two times in September:

Friday, Sept. 24 - The Blue Light - Lubbock, TX
Saturday, Sept. 25 - The Golden Light - Amarillo, TX

Having just moved to Odessa, I am aware that the band has played Dos Amigos before, although I don't know how well they do at the venue. Hopefully we can expect to see them here in the near future.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nathaniel Rateliff - In Memory of Loss

This album should be nothing new to anyone that reads Windfarm, and while I've mentioned it a number of times, I am just now getting around to reviewing the record, four months after it came out. Denver based Nathaniel Rateliff released In Memory of Loss on Rounder Records at the beginning of May, and has received a good deal of acclaim nationally for it, so you likely don't need my opinion to sway you one way or the other.

I find it hard to describe the record without going way overboard with wordy descriptions, but it projects a somber tone throughout, buoyed by well placed lyrical phrasing and nearly impeccable harmonies. A couple of months ago, H. and I drove through the Kiowa National Grasslands in northeastern New Mexico while listening to this album, and I don't know that I'll ever be able to listen to the record again without it conjuring those stark and vast landscapes in my mind. In Memory is a soundtrack to loneliness that for some reason perfectly fit with that landscape. The lyrics are such that they seemingly could have been written a hundred years ago in that very place and setting, and you wouldn't question their authenticity.

As I've mentioned before, some of Rateliff's best material didn't even make it on to this record, apparently because they are slated for a follow-up release in some form, supposedly in the relatively near future. If you have not done so, I highly recommend you check out "Shroud" and "Pounds and Pounds" from the band's Daytrotter sessions (here and here). Those sessions are free, but I can't recommend strongly enough that you pick up a copy of this amazing full length record.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Catching up

Windfarm got quoted by the Guardian UK Web site. In their discussion of Dylan LeBlanc, they quoted a line from Derek's SXSW review of LeBlanc.

This interview with Justin Townes Earle has a lot of the new music from his upcoming album Harlem River Blues. Very different stuff from the last albums. I really like the title track.

New free track from Thrift Store Cowboys, off of their upcoming LP release Light Fighter.

Monahans recently posted the 6th track in their 2010 Recordings series. The songs are free. Check them out.

Yes, it's old news, but Arcade Fire went number 1 on Billboard a few weeks ago. Let that soak in a bit. I love it that indie bands (are you still indie when you hit #1?) continue to rewrite the way the music business works.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shamelessly liking radio country - The Band Perry

Started hearing this song "If I Die Young" from The Band Perry a good bit on the radio a few weeks ago, thinking it was going to blow up, because I have to say I thought it was pretty good and refreshing for country radio. Turns out that didn't really happen, at least as far as I can tell, because I haven't heard it at all the past few weeks.

Admittedly, it is awkward when you start your band name with the words "The Band," unless of course we're actually talking about The Band. If you want to mention them to a friend, you'd have to say, "Hey, have you heard that band The Band Perry?" Kind of awkward huh?

Well, at least one of the brothers has badass hair. Yeah, you know the one I'm talking about.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Don Williams Lubbock concert - 10/5/10

Lubbock, TX has hit the lottery, it appears, as Don Williams has chosen it for one of his "after retirement" concert dates. As you may or may not know, Williams played a farewell tour approximately 4 years ago accompanied by the announcement that he was retiring from public life. H. and I were lucky enough to catch him in Denver on that tour, but fortunately for us all, he is putting together a short tour in recognition of his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Williams may be playing Lubbock because of his West Texas roots, specifically that of being born in Floydada. The dates he has picked are limited and mostly regionally confined to the American South. Williams is often forgotten as one of the great country music artists of yesteryear, but his catalog is truly amazing. DO NOT MISS the chance to see him live. Williams is a true icon in his genre.

Williams will be playing October 5th at the Citibank Auditorium in Lubbock (Details here). For details on his other (mostly) October tour dates, check out his Web site.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Munly & The Lupercalians release date

After a tip from a good friend and some recent searching, finally some news about the release date of the latest record from Denver band Munly and the Lupercalians. Scheduled for release on Sept. 21, 2010, and entitled Petr & The Wulf, the record is the first in a series of albums detailing the fictional town of Lupercalia. Update: Now available on iTunes.

As I've found, the band is not often the first to make announcements about themselves. Rather, I almost always stumble upon updates accidentally. At one point the album was reported to be a double album, although the recent announcement suggests this record will be a single with continuation of the story in future releases.

While Munly's label Alternative Tentacles does not yet have the album for sale in the store, it is posted for presale here and at various other places on the web. It appears that the release will be available on CD and LP, as well as mp3 download.

Below is an abbreviated description of the album pulled from this press release:
The first installment in a multi-album set describing The Kinnery of Lupercalia, Petr & The Wulf is the correct telling of a story about which most have been woefully misinformed. This truth is courtesy of Munly (known as both a solo artist and as the co-frontman of Slim Cessna's Auto Club) and his extremely talented backing band, The Lupercalians (which includes Daniel Granbois of Slim Cessna's Auto Club and Tarantella). [...]

The record begins with Petr, "the last of the Northrops," who tells how he will bring his people back to greatness by rescuing Grandfater from the Bedlam. The Three Wise Hunters let all know that they can be hired to rid the land of whatever menace is present. The Wulf tells of his love for the Northrops despite their continued refusal of his offerings.

Munly writes, "Hopefully you will accept the current Lupercalians offering with open heart and understanding mind."
Having caught the Lupercalians performance to a packed house at this year's UMS, I am very excited about this record. Not to mention the fact that it has been 6 years since the brilliant album from Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, with very few updates about new material during that span. The wait should soon be over.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Best news yet - KRIL 1410 AM

Getting settled in Odessa, and what should we find? Perhaps one of the best country music stations of all time. And even better, it is on AM radio. 1410 KRIL plays tons of great classic country and mixes in modern stuff as well. Sure you'll hear Kenny Chesney from time to time but you're much more likely to hear the Hag or one of the Georges. As an added show of quality, the DJs actually talk about the music and have great stories about some of the songs, instead of what most country stations have, which is contests for Vegas trips or promos for foam parties.

Surprisingly, the station even has an internet stream, which you can find here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

don't know where I'm going...

Perhaps in U.S. cultural terms, I may be headed to the exact opposite of Boulder, CO. I'm packed up and headed to Odessa, TX. Clearly not heading there for live music but rather following a job and moving back closer to family. As much as I loved living near Denver, I think this move is going to be for good.

So what does Odessa offer as far as music/culture? Great question, I'm glad you asked.

It's not all that uncommon for people to have no idea where or what Odessa is. Friday Night Lights ring a bell? Yes, that's the one. Indie icons Explosions in the Sky hail from nearby Midland. Also, Guy Clark and Roy Orbison came from Monahans and Wink, respectively, Hoyle Nix established western swing in Big Spring and all around West Texas, and of course there's Larry Gatlin, Odessa's own hometown boy. "All in the gold, in California..."

It's not hard to criticize the much lesser presence of live music in the area, but in my new home, it's all going to be about finding the diamonds in the rough. Oddly enough, I have had two great musical experiences in my life in Odessa.

The first time, on the same night that my ex was getting married (My advice - never go, even when you're invited), I took the trip to Odessa to see Modest Mouse play at Dos Amigos. The show was literally played in the middle of a rodeo arena in the back of the venue. This was around the time of Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and it was an awesome show, not to mention much better than going to a wedding you don't want to be at.

The second time, a small group of us made the trek down from Lubbock to see Anathallo and the Colour Revolt play a tiny little honky tonk called Earls II. Pretty crazy place to see two indie bands, but it's one of those places where, when the right person promotes the show, the indie kids just show up. Promoters in this area come and go, but most of the time, someone gets up the energy/courage to start hosting shows again and the shows do fairly well, because the kids want to see live music so badly. Hoping I can play a very small part in making good shows happen from time to time.

But wait, there's more. As it turns out Odessa is a bit less than 3 hours from Marfa, the tiny town in deep West Texas that has turned into a substantial artist community. Unbelievably, this little town has hosted shows by Bon Iver, Jeff Tweedy, The Secret Machines, Yo La Tengo, Califone, Yeasayer. The list goes on and on. This place truly is an oasis when it comes to music offerings in the middle of the desert. In addition, Railroad Blues in nearby Alpine has a solid regular music calendar as well.

My musical landscape is changing, not ending. The blog will probably also change a bit. Expect general interest material about the West Texas region in general. This may include, but is not limited to Midland/Odessa, San Angelo, Lubbock, Marfa, Alpine, and Terlingua. I won't make any broad and bold statements about what will come of Windfarm in the next few years, but I hope to promote arts and culture in West Texas as much as time will allow.

Any West Texans who run across this blog, please feel free to pass along West Texas music events to me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I sure know where I've been

The time has come. My days in Colorado have come to an end. My four years in Boulder have exposed me to some of the amazing offerings of the Denver music scene, and I expect I will miss it more than I can really comprehend now. Here I take a moment to reflect on Denver music and my experiences with it.

The live show I was most excited about before moving here that did not let me down:
This honor far and away goes to Slim Cessna's Auto Club. The band continues to develop and I simply can't say enough about how amazing their live show is. Munly puts on an amazing show as well, but plays very rarely. Don't turn down the opportunity to see either of these bands.

Best Colorado act that emerged while I was here:
Nathaniel Rateliff has been around the Denver scene for some time, but only this past May has he really hit full stride. I still haven't gotten around to reviewing his album, but it is awesome.

Best act that emerged while I was here:
The Avett Brothers. I tagged along with a friend to check these guys out at the Boulder Theater 3 1/2 years ago or so and I've not been the same since. Have caught them a number of times in various venues and they remain one of my favorite national acts. They went from playing the Boulder Theater to a 3/4 full crowd to selling out two nights in a row in quite a short time. Hearing them open with "Left on Laura, Left on Lisa" the very first time is still one of my favorite music memories.

Best venue:
Hi-Dive in Denver. No contest. These folks bring in the bands that are going to blow up way before most anyone has ever heard of them. Sometimes they book bands that blow up between the time the show is listed and when the show happens. Fleet Foxes, Cold War Kids, The Morning Benders. The list goes on and on.

Best Boulder venue:
The Fox Theatre. A fantastic mid-size venue that brings in great indie bands on a regular basis. The Boulder music scene supports bluegrass and jam bands and electronic music most strongly, but I've seen plenty of great shows here. Bon Iver, Band of Horses, Lucero, DeVotchKa, Dawes. After it's recent merger with the Boulder Theater, hopefully both will keep going strong.

Best music store:
This is such a toss-up, because I really love them all. Twist and Shout is an enormous indie record store in Denver, but you can be rest-assured that you will spend half your paycheck there. It is not unlike Waterloo in Austin, but I think it has more square footage overall.
Albums on the Hill is a strong standby for Boulderites. They've rearranged a good bit recently and are bringing in lots of new and new used vinyl. Finally, at the beginning of the year, Bart's CD Cellar closed down - quite a sad time for the vinyl collector, as they brought in lots of new merchandise regularly. However, the original owner, Bart, has opened Bart's Music Shack on the far west end of Pearl St. It's a small store, but they focus on quality over quantity, so I highly recommend stopping by when you have the chance. Unfortunately it's more a of a destination place now, compared to the convenient location of the other store, but take the extra time and go visit them.

Best site in Boulder with historical significance that no one really knows about:
The apartment balcony where Townes Van Zandt fell/jumped off of while in college at CU. I realized during my last year here that this balcony was just a few short blocks from where I had worked for the past 4 years. I often went out of my way to walk by, trying to imagine the exact circumstances and how the fall might have actually happened. So many college kids have lived in the apartments since, likely not knowing and not caring of the significance of their residence. Well I think it's pretty cool.

What I'm going to miss a lot
Picking up my copy of the Denver alt-weekly Westword every Thursday. Between this magazine and the Denver Post Reverb blog, the city covers and promotes its music scene very well. Needless to say there is no alt-weekly where I'm going, and the coverage of the music scene by the newspapers is minimal.

The festival you will hear mentioned alongside SXSW more and more:
The Underground Music Showcase (The UMS). Now in its 10th year, this festival is turning into a fantastic event that does very well to utilize the South Broadway area of Denver. I wouldn't be surprised to see it go city-wide in the next 5 years, in order to bring in some of the larger venues in town. Currently the festival is run by the Denver Post folks, and with the right management, it could begin to employ a full-time staff, similar to SXSW. You should check out this festival soon. It is a steal for the money considering the amount of great music it offers.

Denver has got an amazing thing going with its music scene, and I will miss it a great deal.

One place of no musical significance, but still an important first for me - below is where I got hit by a car on my bike toward the end of my time in Boulder. The car was coming out of the alley, and I was on the sidewalk because the street was a dead end, coming from the right in front of the bluish/grayish garage, and we basically met in the middle, 'neath that old Georgia pine. Luckily neither of us was going to fast, so no long term damage.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Merle Haggard - Learning to Live With Myself

During a recent lull in summer television, I found myself watching a brand new documentary on Merle Haggard, from the American Masters series on PBS, entitled Learning to Live With Myself. I started out with relatively low expectations, but they were raised a good bit when I saw that the director was Gandulf Hennig, the same person who made the Gram Parsons documentary Fallen Angel, of which I was a big fan.

If you look up Hennig's IMDB profile, you'll see the aforementioned documentaries are the only two films he has made (that have made it onto IMDB at least). For a German national, who apparently now lives in Nashville, Hennig has an amazing ability to capture the lives of American musicians in a way that few other people can. He compiles interviews with a wide spectrum of people and his storytelling is simply perfect in its continuity and completeness. (Note: embedded video below may not show up in Google Reader).

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.

The documentary follows Haggard through his traumatic early life, largely a result of the death of his father when he was 9 years-old, and moves through his troubled early adulthood into becoming a country superstar. They do a beautiful job of portraying the somewhat contradictory roles he filled, being an outlaw of sorts, but also becoming a conservative icon following the release of "Okie From Muskogee." Not only does the film chronicle Haggard's life in depth, but it also stands as a detailed record of the important role California country music, specifically the Bakersfield sound, played in the diversification of country music in the 1960s and beyond.

Not unlike the Fallen Angel documentary, the strength of this work is in the wide breadth of interviews that were conducted. Keith Richards, Dwight Yoakum, Kris Kristofferson, and Marty Stuart are but a few of the stars who contribute to the film, but maybe even more importantly, family members and childhood friends were also interviewed, providing a very strong and detailed picture of a man who doesn't often reveal his public life. Hennig truly succeeded in his endeavor by gaining Haggard's confidence on a level such that there are many candid moments in his interviews with the artist.

One of my favorite moments in the film comes when it was discussed how Dick Clark one time told Haggard, near the peak of his mainstream success, that if he simply recorded a few pop music songs he could literally be one of the biggest stars on the planet. Haggard reportedly told Clark very simply "That's not who I am." Rather, Haggard took it upon himself to promote American roots music, recording songs with the Texas Playboys and releasing an album of Jimmie Rodgers songs.

This film far exceeded my initial expectations and is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Haggard or in the history of country music in the United States.

I don't know how long it will be available, but apparently you can watch the entire film online at the PBS Web site here (or click the link below the video above).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

UMS 2010 Preview

The time has come once again for Denver's best music festival, The UMS, taking place on South Broadway from July 22-25. It's like CMJ without the hassle, like SXSW but with less butt sweat. In short, it's well worth your time. I've put together a short list of the bands I most want to see. In my past experience, there will be someone good playing almost all the time, so this is but a sampling of what the UMS has to offer. You can still by a $30 pass that will get you through the entire weekend of music up through July 21st, so don't delay any longer!

While some of these set times are close together, the beauty of this festival is the proximity of all shows to one another. You can make it between the most distant venues in probably 10 minutes at the most, while it's less than 5 minutes between most.

These United States
- Friday, 11 PM @ the Hi-Dive
(Photo credit Sarah Law)

The UMS has been working the last few years to bring in national headliners, and These United States will be a fantastic act to headline Friday night. I've recently become quite a fan of this band on account of hearing their Daytrotter sessions, and have since bought their most recent LP Everything Touches Everything. The band should have a new record out for their performance at the UMS, which should result in the Hi-Dive being packed wall-to-wall for their

Munly & the Lupercalians - Saturday, 10 PM @ the Hi-Dive (Photo credit Gary Isaacs)

Munly shows have been quite rare around Denver as of late, and I believe his last two shows have been on New Years Eve with the Auto Club, so the chance to see him at the UMS should not be missed. Munly's double album continues to have no release date, but I expect that he'll be playing mostly material from that record at his showcase this year.

Thrift Store Cowboys - Saturday, 11 PM @ the Skylark Lounge (Photo credit Logan Caldbeck)

Having recently celebrated their tenth year as a band, TSC theoretically could have played at the UMS every year of its existence, but since the festival started out with locals only, and TSC hail from Lubbock, Texas, it just wasn't meant to be. However, now that they're both 10, their parents arranged a play-date for the two. TSC will have lots of new material to play from their soon to be released LP Light Fighter.

One Wolf - Saturday, 7 PM @ the Skylark Lounge

Another great Lubbock band, One Wolf plays their first UMS this year as well. With two great albums under their belt, and plenty of time honing their live show, this will be a set you don't want to miss.

Paper Bird - Thursday, 11:55 PM @ the Hi-Dive; Friday, 7:30 PM @ CarToys Stage (Photo credit Gary Isaacs)

I have somehow gone four years in Colorado without getting to see Paper Bird, but I continue to hear great things about them. Hopefully their two appearances this year will finally give me the chance I need to catch their show.

Amanda Shires
- Saturday, 9 PM @ Walnut Room Pizzeria

As 1/6 of the aforementioned Thrift Store Cowboys, Amanda Shires has come into her own as a songwriter with her recent West Cross Timbers. She basically lives on the road, so when it comes to handling a live crowd, Amanda is among the best. Don't be surprised to see a member or two of TSC backing her up on this gig as well.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

3 reviews and a story

Band of Horses - Infinite Arms

This album is poppy, but not in a bad way. If I was going to represent it visually, the album would be a plate (the album) with 12 southern biscuits on it (the songs), all covered with honey (the harmonies). I use this example partially jokingly because the harmonies on this album are THICK. They work though. There is no "Funeral" on this album, but in my humble opinion, you only get to write one song like that in your lifetime (with a few exceptions, of course). The songs are recorded such that they don't really get heavy even when it seems like it is a heavy part, but I have no doubt that a song like "Dilly" will sound amazing (and will be plenty hard-hitting) live, because I was lucky enough to hear them play it a few months ago. Don't expect to rock out to this album, but it's a great listen.

The National - High Violet

It seems most bloggers and critics were expecting this to be the album that conquered the world, and they were disappointed that it didn't. Even if it didn't, I think "Bloodbuzz Ohio," "Afraid of Everyone," and "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" are amazing songs that anchor a very strong album overall. Not unlike BoH above, some want the National to write "Fake Empire" again and again, except more mind-blowing every time. The National seem to just want to make good music, and I think they've done it again here.

If you haven't already, check out their Letterman performance of "Afraid of Everyone", featuring Sufjan Stevens.

Deer Tick - The Black Dirt Sessions

I'm a bit of a latecomer to Deer Tick, having picked up their first two albums in late March. I don't know exactly what to think of them sometimes. From what I know, the band tours constantly, parties hard, and they continue to write great songs. At times it seems like their outward image is an inside joke, where they appear to be an out of control rock band, but they can't say that's what they are doing because it would ruin the image. That's not for me to decide, and it doesn't really matter as long as they write good songs. In short, I like the second half of this album better than the first, with the exception of the second song "Twenty Miles," which is among the best on the record. Besides that opinion, though, I will never again be able to think about this album outside of this one experience:

Approximately a month ago, just after TBDS was released, H. and I were driving through rural west Texas, on a small Farm-to-Market road between Muleshoe and Morton, to be specific (see map below). Basically you see little more than some farm vehicles and meet cars maybe every 5 miles. In short, very little traffic. It just so happens we had been listening to this album, and had just reached the final song "Christ Jesus," which if you haven't heard, is, well, typical Deer Tick. Less than a minute after the song started, we came upon a semi-truck that had written on all sides "Jesus Christ is Lord, not a swear word." The trucks appear to have their origin with these folks (I pasted a picture below), although that is somewhat beside the point. It was a pretty odd experience, feeling a bit like two universes collided in the middle of nowhere and we were the only ones who saw it. So yeah, that's what I'll always think of when I hear this record.

View Larger Map

A picture of a similar truck that I found here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Halsted - Life Underwater

As I am sure is the case for many of you, I typically have enough new music to listen to from artists I like and from bands recommended to me by friends that I don’t often seek out even more new music from the countless blogs that are pushing someone new every day. Every now and then there are exceptions, and I am in the right mood to check out something that wasn’t even on my radar previously. That said, I am most drawn to bands that send me links with a good concise press release and who don’t sensationalize themselves with a bunch of industry speak.

Halsted, based out of San Francisco, was a band whom I had never heard the name of, much less listened to. You know how sometimes your friend says – “hey do you like the band so & so?” And you, trying not to sound out of touch, say “I’ve heard the name, but I don’t know their music.”

Maybe that’s just what I do, for some odd reason, but I couldn’t have even said that much about Halsted. I also hadn’t heard of the previous release by the band’s principle songwriter, Ryan Auffenberg, who released a record in 2008 entitled Marigolds.

So all that roundabout description is to let you know that I basically knew zero about this band before I pressed play. Typically this situation results in listening to 45 seconds of 2-3 songs, then stopping the music, deleting the mp3s, and playing something else. As it turned out with Halsted, I liked what I heard, and before I knew it, I’d listened to the entire album a few times through. I'm still listening to the album regularly a month later.

Often a band’s first record sounds like it was made from a recipe. Songwriter: 1) writes song, 2) finds bassist, drummer, and sometimes lead guitarist, 3) records songs with band, making them sound just like they sounded before, except with bass, guitar, and drums in the background. This is not the case with Halsted. Each song on Life Underwater sounds carefully crafted and well arranged, and the influences of this band appear to be diverse. At times the band brings up impressions of Wilco or the Gin Blossoms, although the resemblance to those bands is not overpowering.

The album is strong for its duration, although the current favorite for me is "Rising Tide," a mid-paced rocker that I have to imagine sounds great live. "White Hot City Lights," "Sellout," and "Knock on Wood" are additional high points, although there is seemingly a song for every mood on this album, such that any song may emerge as a favorite depending on your situation at the time. The album's tone sound is generally upbeat and filled with strong guitar arrangements throughout. In short, I am thoroughly impressed with Halsted, and look forward to hearing the band progress, as their sound is well-developed for a first record and indicates a promising future.

Check out "Rising Tide," among other songs, on their Myspace page. Life Underwater will be released on Ashbury Records tomorrow, July 13th.