Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Old 97s covers EP & free live EP

A somewhat surprising announcement from the Old 97s this week - they will be releasing a 4 song covers EP, entitled Mimeograph, next week. The album will be available for download on Amazon (and elsewhere probably) and physical copies apparently will be available only through the band's Web site or at live shows.

The track listing will be as follows:

"Rocks Off" - Rolling Stones
"For The Girl" - The Fratellis
"Driver 8" - R.E.M.
"Five Years" - David Bowie.

The band also just announced that you can get three live recordings for free if you Like the band on Facebook. Check out the "Notes" section on their facebook for details. The three tracks are "St. Ignatius," "Victoria," and "Four Leaf Clover."

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Justin Townes Earle cover art

It's only an album cover, but I'm already getting excited about this record. Harlem River Blues will be released September 14th on Bloodshot.

via JTE facebook:

Book review - Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower

There has got to be some level of self-fulfilling prophecy at work when you give a kid a name that simply sounds like they should be a notable person. Case in point is the author Wells Tower. You may or may not have heard of him, but the name instantly intrigued me when I first heard it. It sounds equally like it could be the name of a Louis L'Amour book or of a downtown skyscraper. I have seen Tower's name around here and there for years, but never really thought too much of it. I first read his work in Outside Magazine, where he is a contributor of various non-fiction pieces. I've been impressed with that work, but had not previously read any of his fiction, although it has appeared in well-respected publications such as Harper's and McSweeney's.

Over the last month or so, I've been making my way through his first book, a collection of short stories titled Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. I don't often seek out short story collections, but having liked his previous magazine work, it seemed reasonable to give this one a try.

What I found was an extremely engaging set of short stories that take a wide range of perspectives and engage a number of topics. It's hard to summarize such a collection in any cohesive way, but the book literally ranges from teenage angst to Viking pillaging. Yes, you read that correctly. For what it's worth though, I found myself instantly drawn in to each story, no matter how different each is from the last.

Sometimes short stories have the tendency of not establishing any characters or theme early enough in the work and when you finish you don't know what you've got. With Tower's work, I often found myself wishing that each story were a full book. For that reason, I hope to see a full-length book from him in the near future, and I expect with his talent that it can't be too far away. Also, did I mention how cool I think his name is?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ok, go watch this video because it's funny

Turns out Zach Galifianakis is hilarious to me even when he doesn't say a single word and barely even changes his facial expression.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book review - Lean on Pete, by Willy Vlautin

I don't spend a lot of time reviewing books, although in some cases, I try to give mention to authors that don't necessarily get as widespread attention as they deserve. In this case, it's as much about helping a musician in his second career as author as anything else. Willy Vlautin, who recently published his third book Lean on Pete, leads a double life as lead singer of the rock band Richmond Fontaine. I've seen the band play live once, and honestly have never really gotten into them, but I think more than anything, I respect the artistic output of Vlautin and try to support such artists when I'm able.

Lean on Pete follows 15 year-old Charley Thompson on a number of life-changing journeys. The story begins with Charley and his single father living in Portland, but progresses quickly as his search for employment finds him working for a racehorse owner, who owns, among other horses, a relatively successful racehorse named Lean on Pete. The story moves quickly and tends not to dwell on any one situation for an inordinate amount of time. Rather, I think the pace is very appropriate in depicting the actions and perceptions of a 15 year-old boy making decisions about situations well beyond his years.

Vlautin's writing tends to explore the lives of quite troubled individuals, and this book is no different. His previous books The Motel Life and Northline fit very well along with Lean on Pete, and none of them have an abundance of feel-good moments. The writing is clear and moves fast, such that you can probably finish the book in a day, and likely will want to as you follow Vlautin's troubled characters through plenty of tough spots in their lives.

When I saw Richmond Fontaine live about four years ago, Vlautin's first book had just come out, and he was still much better known for his music. However, in recent years his profile as an author seems to have increased a good deal and he appears to be moving forward with that endeavor with some reasonable success. I most definitely look forward to continued great work from Willy Vlautin.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Nathaniel Rateliff Daytrotter session

I know the non-Denverites amongst you may be resistant to hearing me rave about Denver's best new act, but I honestly believe you are all going to know about Nathaniel Rateliff before too long. His debut album In Memory of Loss has been out for around two months now and I continue to listen to it on a regular basis. You'll hear more about that album when I get around to my backlog of album reviews.

For now though, you should know that Daytrotter just posted a new session from Rateliff, and as usual, it is free to download. Check out the session here.

The four songs in this session are absolutely representative of Rateliff's amazing work, and his phenomenal backing band shows through on the tracks as well. "Brakeman" is one of my favorites of Rateliff's from his full length, and this version is outstanding as I would have expected. You'll also find a new song that is not on In Memory, entitled "Pounds and Pounds." I think I've heard the song live once before, and it's fantastic. Did I mention the download is free?

Rateliff recently played the Daytrotter Barnstormer tour, and my hope is that recordings from those shows will be available for download at some point in the foreseeable future. I have recently come to realize that I may not have the opportunity to see him again live before we move from Colorado, but at least he's put out two Daytrotter sessions and a full-length record that I can continue to try to make all my friends listen to. Just start listening now so I don't have to start hassling you about it.

Also, have I mentioned that Nathaniel looks a LOT like Daniel from Thrift Store Cowboys? If there is any way I can get them together for a picture at the UMS, I think the world may explode.

Image by Johnnie Cluney via Daytrotter.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dylan LeBlanc - "If Time Was For Wasting"

One of the better unexpected surprises at SXSW this year came from seeing Shreveport, LA, singer/songwriter Dylan LeBlanc play at the French Legation Museum. (Derek's write-up of that performance.) What was amazing was that this young songwriter didn't even have an album out at the time, although it had recently been announced that he signed with U.K.-based Rough Trade Records.

The wait for some recorded material for purchase is partially over, as Rough Trade recently released a 7" single of "If Time Was For Wasting" with b-side "Jack," as well as an iTunes download of the songs and a new music video, embedded below.

LeBlanc's full-length record, Pauper's Field, is set to be released by Rough Trade on August 23rd.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dawes - Boulder, CO, 06/19/2010

Saturday night brought Southern California band Dawes to Boulder's Fox Theatre for the first time. As lead singer Taylor Goldsmith noted, he played Boulder a number of years back with his former alternative rock band Simon Dawes, who opened for Band of Horses at the Fox. Having heard some of the old Simon Dawes material, I'm quite pleased with the direction the current band's material has taken, as their debut release last October is still in regular ipod rotation for me.

The crowd numbered about like one would expect for a buzz band on their first time through town, with maybe 150-200 people in attendance. As impressed as I am with this band right now, I have to say that thoughts definitely ran through my mind about how 5 or 10 years down the line I expect to be telling people about how I saw Dawes before they got huge.

Besides playing most of the tracks from their album North Hills, the band played a number of new songs that I look forward to hearing on a new release in the near future. Additionally, one of the best surprises of the night came with the band's cover of John Prine's "Pretty Good." They recounted that they played the song recently at Bonnaroo, where Prine also played, and were honored to have heard that he told an interviewer that he was glad to hear a new band {i.e. Dawes} was playing the song. I half expected they were going to say they got to hang out with him at the festival, but they were simply excited that he had even heard their name. Goldsmith was equally appreciative to the crowd throughout the night, expressing a good deal of gratitude for the enthusiastic audience that seemed to be made up about half of people singing along and half of people whose friends brought them, and who were soon to become new converts to the band.

I'll not try to hide the fact that, no matter how much I love their entire album, I was most anticipating "That Western Skyline" and "When My Time Comes," the latter of which initially drew me to the band. Neither song disappointed live, and "When My Time Comes" might have even exceeded my expectations, ending with Goldsmith initiating a singalong from the audience. They could have played the song a second time and I wouldn't have complained one bit.

If you are looking for new material from Dawes, you can get a live show download from a Daytrotter concert last fall at this link. On that download you'll find a couple of new songs as well as a number of other good recordings of songs from North Hills.

All in all, Dawes is a young band with barely more than one album's worth of material, but their incessant touring over the last year has made them into an extremely well-seasoned act that packs quite a punch in their live show. They have no doubt benefited from that experience, and they look to be doing all the right things to become a long-term fixture on the national circuit.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mind blown

So I've been way off the radar for the past 6 weeks or so, but I will be back more regularly soon. I'm sure you're all anxiously awaiting the day.

But seriously, I had to take a second to post about this, because I can't even really wrap my head around it yet.

To summarize, one of Austin's best bands right now, Monahans, contains members who were once in a band called Milton Mapes. The band put out some fantastic material, my favorite being Westernaire, which I just so happened to mention on Windfarm about a year and a half ago.

It's an amazing album, and the news today (full press release here) is that a song entitled "The Only Sound That Matters," off of the aforementioned Milton Mapes album, will be covered by Robert Plant on his upcoming album Band of Joy.

Yes. Robert Plant. The guy who was in that band. The biggest rock band of all time. Yeah, that Robert Plant. I can't even bring myself to type out the name of the band because I think my head would explode. Listening to the track today, it makes total sense. Should be a perfect fit.

I highly recommend that you track down a copy of Westernaire, and I don't know about you, but I'm definitely going to have to check out Robert Plant's new record this September as well. In the meantime, check out Monahans' 2010 Recordings, a project where they are releasing one new song a month through their Web site as a free download.

(image source)