Thursday, May 24, 2007

More great Americana rock 'n roll

In the liner notes to Gold (see previous post), Ryan Adams thanks, among many others, the Old 97s. So I dug out the only 97s album I own, Satellite Rides, and gave it another listen, and I'll be damned if Ryan Adams isn't right - this album makes an excellent companion to Gold. Released in 2001, the same year Adams released Gold, Satellite Rides is the Old 97s at the top of their game. (And bonus points for the retro-cool packaging.)

The AMG says: "...There really isn't a lackluster performance here... The Old 97s sound is organic and natural, and on Satellite Rides they find the perfect balance between their roots in rugged (alt)country and pure chiming pop."

For me, there isn't a bad song on the album, but favorites include "King of All the World,"Rollerskate Skinny," "Bird in a Cage," and "Designs on You."

if you like what you hear, check out lead singer Rhett Miller's solo album The Instigator - also very good and in the Americana rock 'n roll theme.

Friday, May 18, 2007

'Gold' standard

I think that Americana is the natural counterpoint to all the British pop I've been listening to over the past month. It's no surprise that I suddenly can't get enough Wilco, Patty Griffin, Brandi Carlile and the like. But the real question is how did I go this long without discovering the amazing ear-candy that is Ryan Adams's "Gold"? This album's been around for five years already, and it's a modern classic, but it's taken me until this moment to fall in love with it.

If you're in a similar boat, get thee to a record shop! It's the best classic rock album you've never heard. Too many highlights to mention, but here's a video for the incomparably awesome "Answering Bell."

Seriously, forget the mixed reviews this album got at the time of its release and just get ready to fall in love.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Blown away by Brandi Carlile

A friend gave me Brandi Carlile's debut cd about a year ago, and while I liked it well enough, especially the song "Happy," I felt like the production sounded too generic and the songs were perhaps a little too similar to each other to distinguish the album from the other legions of female singer-songwriters then in heavy rotation (it was the summer of KT Tunstall, Anna Nalick and the like.)

But last night, I had the opportunity to see Brandi Carlile live at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, and all I can say is... wow. You absolutely must see her live to fully appreciate her. The show was far-and-away amazing, definitely in my personal top 10. (Which, given the number of shows I've been to, is saying something.)Even more incredible was the fact that Carlile performed almost the entire show without a guitar - a finger injury earlier in the day prevented her from actually playing on most of the songs. So we, the attentive and enthusiastic audience in this tiny venue, were treated to an unparalleled demonstration of the amazing power of Carlile's unique voice as it rose stunningly over her band.

They played songs from both the debut album and the newly released The Story. "Fall Apart Again," a solid track from the first album, absolutely blew me away live. Another standout was the lovely three-part harmony of "Josephine" from the new album. She chose to both open and close the show with covers - Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" respectively (though I suspect Jeff Buckley's rendition was fresher in Carlile's mind) - and both were inspiring when filtered through that distinctive voice. Another cover, CCR's "Fortunate Son" was a scorching rocker that sounded amazingly fresh.

She's obviously a skilled live performer - she did everything right last night. She mixed up the set with the perfect blend of rockers, ballads, and covers with a twist; she led an audience sing-a-long during one song; she bantered just enough in between songs that we felt like a part of the process but kept the pace moving; and most importantly, she gave it EVERYTHING she had.

And it blew me away.

(To get an idea, check out the clip below. Carlile performs "Fall Apart Again" live in LA.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

HOTT on the BBC

Just posted a new LTF playlist (at right) called "HOTT on the BBC." It's a collection of all the latest hits in the UK right now, including songs by Brit songstress Amy Winehouse, current darlings Arctic Monkeys (their album was just released there last week,) and local heroes Lily Allen, Mika, Just Jack, Calvin Harris, the Feeling, Take That, and Mark Ronson. Manic Street Preachers are currently #1 on both the singles chart and the album artist chart at - make sure to check them out.

I couldn't resist throwing a couple of my traveling songs in there as well - hence the Richard Julian and the Wilco, with which I am more and more obsessed every day.

So grab a crumpet and a cup o'tea and enjoy the playlist! If you get a chance, let me know what you think!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Back from the UK with much to share

I have recently returned from a jaunt to London with a few new artists to share. I will start with the incomparably stunning Nerina Pallot. Her voice is reminiscent of the ethereal beauty of Patty Griffin, but with more hooks to the music. Her newest album is still an import, called Fires, from which I heard the song Sophia on a UK compilation called Just Great Songs...

To listen to this exemplary song, visit her MySpace page. I love the spareness of the song, just her amazing voice (hence the Patty Griffin comparison) and a piano. Or, if you prefer, watch the video below.

Seriously lovely, no?