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What the Brothers SangDAWN McCARTHY AND BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY
“WHAT THE BROTHERS SANG”

($13.99, Drag City)
dragcity.com

Digging deep into The Everly Brothers catalog, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and his frequent collaborator Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables have created a moving folk collection of Phil and Don’s mostly lesser-known material. Minus the brothers’ signature guitar-driving pace that was the audio equivalent of their sibling rivalry, the songs are unhurried leaving McCarthy’s warm Linda Thompson-like vocals and Billy’s gentle solemnity to embrace each line of longing and regret perfectly. The languorous “So Sad” and soaring “Omaha” should gain McCarthy and Billy a lifetime membership in the Grand Ole Opry thanks to the tenderness they show one another, rivaling that of Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons. “Just What I Was Looking For” made me think of (and I mean this in a very good way) The Partridge Family with its multiple layers of sunny vocals. That multi-colored bus must have popped in to McCarthy and Billy’s minds, too, since they included “Milk Train”, a song written by Tony Romeo who penned many a tune for David Cassidy and his on-screen family. A less glossy take on John Denver’s “Poems, Prayers and Promises” appears as do a couple of familiar Everly Brothers hits…a spot on version of “Devoted To You” and a fitting funereal version of “Kentucky”, the album’s closer.



Honk TonkSON VOLT
“HONKY TONK: PORTRAITS FROM A MUSICAL LIFE”
($9.99, Rounder Records)
sonvolt.net

Son Volt returns to a sound farther back than the group’s alt-country beginnings. It’s pure Bakersfield, CA radiating from this latest effort. A chorus of fiddles wind their way through the country waltz of “Hearts and Minds” while a pedal steel guitar sparkles on “Seawall”, and “Honky Tonk Angels” and “Ruminations on Life” are sung by front man Jay Farrar with a directness not usually heard. Farrar is renowned for his opaque, poetic lyrics, and here, he sings of true love (“Tears of Change”) and doles out encouragement on “Barricades” with lines like, “When the world around caves in/Lights will shine, let your life begin.” Perhaps the time Farrar spent in Woodie Guthrie’s lyrical vault to craft songs for 2012’s stellar “New Multitudes” album left him drawn to a more introspective and traditional mood. The downhearted “Angel of The Blues” will break your heart, as “Down The Highway” and its lilting bridge would make for a lovely Celtic lullaby. The second half of Son Volt’s album title is the key here…Portraits From A Musical Life”. Taking stock of one’s existence mid-life is the rigor for all musicians. And Farrar, in his mid-40s, goes one better by writing and publishing a musical memoir…



Falling Cars and Junkyard DogsJAY FARRAR
“FALLING CARS AND JUNKYARD DOGS”

($10.85, Soft Skull Press)
softskull.com/falling-cars-and-junkyard-dogs/

Unexpected is the best word for this. Farrar is a man of very few words on stage and off, never giving anything away. Instead, he’s spent his life playing witness to all that has gone on around him and poured it in to “Falling Cars and Junkyard Dogs”, a collection of biographical vignettes about growing up in southern Illinois, being a working musician and having an eccentric, ex-merchant marine father, “Pop” Farrar, who “harbored 13 cars in various stages of assembly”. The younger Farrar writes vividly and effectively in this memoir, often entering a story already in progress or exiting as the action continues. He has never spoken of why he quit his most notable band, Uncle Tupelo, until now.

Detailing the acrimonious split from his bandmate, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy who he coldly refers to as only “the bass player”, Farrar shares his awareness, then and now, that “nothing in the world could be more pathetic than two guys throwing punches in the early afternoon in a decrepit apartment on 11th Street in Belleville, Illinois”. Farrar cements the impossibility of a reunion ever happening as he revisits that old salvage yard, writing, “The experience was imbued with an overall sense of decaying nostalgia. So it goes for worn out cars and old bands.”

 


Sound CitySOUND CITY, Documentary by Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl
“REAL TO REEL” Album
($10.99, RCA)
buy.soundcitymovie.com

Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl adds Director to his resume with the documentary “Sound City”, an homage to the legendary analog recordings made at L.A.’s Sound City Studios. More specifically, it’s about one piece of equipment…a custom-built Neve 2028 recording console that was used to record 40 years worth of rock albums from Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Cheap Trick, Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine and more. So enamored of this console was he that Grohl up and bought the thing in the ruins of Sound City Studios shutting its doors, and like any kid with a new toy, he called up an impressive list of musicians to come over and play. The result is the BIG sounding “Real To Reel”, all-new songs heavy with guitars, drums and stadium-intended vocals featuring members of Foo Fighters, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Kyuss and Slipknot alongside an all-star list of Hall of Famers. Rick Springfield sings the 80s pop-rock infused “The Man That Never Was”, Fear’s Lee Ving delivers the comical punk-metal “Your Wife Is Calling” and Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen’s guitar leads the assault that is “From Can To Can’t”. Stevie Nicks radiates perfection on “You Can’t Fix This” while Paul McCartney fronts the remaining members of Nirvana on “Cut Me Some Slack”, which is a curious choice that on some level kind of works.



MORE RECOMMENDATIONS:

Wild ChorusANDERS & KENDALL
“WILD CHORUS”

($8.99, Nine Mile Records)
andersandkendall.com

Never has there been a gentler musical combo than that of indie singer/songwriters Anders Parker (Varnaline, New Multitudes) and Kendall Meade (Mascott, Sparklehorse, Helium, Juicy). Parker’s mild scruff along with Meade’s birdlike sweetness bends and careens over an assortment of styles. Be it the Buddy Holly-esque “Let’s Get Lost”, the dreamy 70’s girl/boy folk of “We’re On Fire, Babe” or the garage pop “Dreamers On The Ground”, Anders & Kendall easily avoid coming across as trite thanks to their ability to skillfully craft a song. “Oh, Love”, with its pure soothing harmonies over the gentle twang of a guitar, is as close to Doris Day-going-indie you’ll ever hear.

  

Molly DrakeMOLLY DRAKE
“MOLLY DRAKE”

($17.00, Squirrel Thing Recordings)
mollydrake.bandcamp.com

Rare is it to find an undiscovered musical treasure that is also a direct line to one of music’s most singular voices. Such is Molly Drake. She is the mother of English troubadour Nick Drake, whose gentle and stunning folk sound sadly found a worldwide audience after his 1974 death. A writer of poetry and musically inclined herself, Molly recorded songs sung at the family piano in the 1950s for her own simple pleasure. With perfect ladylike diction and lilting phrasing, Molly’s poignant delivery mirrors Nick’s sensitivity. “I Remember” and “Happiness” are the definition of melancholy. Correction, this entire 19-song post-war time capsule is a testament to longing and a wonder to hear.



Emmylou HarrisEMMYLOU HARRIS AND RODNEY CROWELL
“OLD YELLOW MOON”

($11.88, Nonesuch)
emmylouharris.com

Rodney Crowell met Emmylou Harris forty years ago and subsequently played guitar in her legendary “Hot Band”. It’s only now that the two found time to record an album together, resulting in the very traditional sounding “Old Yellow Moon”. Filled with songs they’ve hoarded over the years, including tracks by Roger Miller and Kris Kristofferson, the two even revisit their own material. Crowell’s “Bluebird Wine”, first heard on Harris’ 1975 “Pieces of The Sky”, is here but with new lyrics. Crowell re-wrote the first two verses believing the feelings of a then-22 year old musician just starting out wouldn’t befit two 60-something veterans. What is fitting, and radiating from “Old Yellow Moon”, is the sound of longtime friends embracing their love for the work that they do.



Kacey MusgravesKACEY MUSGRAVES
“SAME TRAILER DIFFERENT PARK”

($9.99, Mercury Nashville)
kaceymusgraves.com

Taylor Swift’s dominance might soon be over thanks to Kacey Musgraves, the breath-of-fresh-air singer/songwriter whose whip-smart and edgy songs make you realize Swift has backed herself into a corner that is an endless loop of her dating life. Musgraves goes broad, singing about the fear of taking chances (“Blowin’ Smoke”) and the monotony of life in the suburbs (“Merry Go ‘Round”). With simple instrumentation and harmonies, this 24-year old sounds a bit like Patty Griffin and tackles societal themes like Loretta Lynn did when she sang about “The Pill”. Musgraves radiates wisdom on “Follow Your Arrow” pointing out this judgmental world of ours, so you might as well do what you want…just “Make lots of noise/Kiss lots of boys/Or kiss lots of girls/If that’s something you’re into”.  

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 146 - December 2017
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