Airs & Graces – Voting At The Hall

With a mix of folk and punk with a dash of country Airs & Graces have that boundless enthusiasm and infectious energy creating a superb medley of melodies, chants and sing-a-longs that will have you howling for more!

Born in 2012 Airs & Graces are the latest in a long line of utterly fantastic German celtic-punk band’s to grace our scene. We have featured many German bands over the years and Germany has always been the country with the third most views every year since we started of (behind the ‘UK’ and the USA). We have a feeling to why celtic-punk is so popular in Germany so if you not tired of hearing it then head over to our review of Ghosttown Company’s debut album hereand find out. Just recently we have had reviews of records from Distillery Rats, Restless Feet and The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats and a new review will be coming soon of perhaps the best known of all German celtic-punk bands Mr. Irish Bastard.

Airs & Graces hail from the south-eastern German town of Regensburg but if you like me then you’ll be wondering what a maple leaf is doing as part of their logo. Well it turns out that the bands guitar player Arlyn is Canadian (a native of Saint John, New Brunswick) and has lived in Germany since 2008. She is married to Philipp who plays mandolin and sings lead vocals in the band, Together they were both members of celtic-punk band The Buccaneers till they disbanded in 2012. The Canadian connection does not stop there either with Ayron Mortely and Lindsey O’Connell from Toronto who were also part of The Buccaneers and who also play in Airs & Graces but are not featured on Voting At The Hall but do look out for their other celtic-punk band The O’Deadlys.

Airs & Grace from left to right: Arlyn- Guitar/Back Vocals * Philipp- Mandolin/Lead Vocals * Kerni- Drums * Asche- Bass

Voting At The Hall is the bands first official release after a four track Demo from October 2014, Six Men Were Put On Trial, with Matty from Northern-England folk-punkers The Roughneck Riot contributing vocals on one track and despite not having much of a recording history they certainly have made a name for themselves by word of mouth. A couple of high profile gigs have done them the world of good and with their debut album I’m sure they hoping to further capitalise on their good name. Here we have fourteen tracks and every one an original composition, composed by lead vocalist Philipp and arranged by Airs&Graces.

Starting off with ‘Card’ Voting At The Hall is fourteen tracks that comes in just under forty minutes. From the very off it’s reminiscent of 70’s/80’s English punk but with with some nice Celtic flourishes. ‘Cards’ is in fact one of the best tracks on the album with Philipp’s clear vocals shouting out loud and proud. It has a certain Dropkicks feel to it too with its catchy chorus and driving punk and mandolin. Excellent start. The lyrics deal with the betrayal of workers by their trade union leaders. ‘These Hands Master’ tells of working class life that was taken for granted until they realised that not only can these hands build they can also vote.

“These are the hands that built this cities walls, These are the hands voting at the hall”

Great as it is to hear such things I also like a bit of humour and ‘Ginger Red Bastard’ supplies it. Real foot-tapper this and may be a bit slower than previous and that English punk rock sound is even more clearer here with them reminding me of a band from my youth that I can’t quite put my finger on. It will probably come to after this is published! ‘Four Corners’ appeared on the MacSlon’s Irish Pub Radio compilation and was a standout track upon it even though surrounded by the cream of today’s celtic-punk scene.

Telling the story of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 it’s brilliant to hear history told this way. Never forget the past people. You can get the compilation here. The album continues with ‘Ringing of The Bell’ and it’s short and sweet and over in two minutes but me heads nearly falling off me shoulders before ‘Turn Her Into The Wind’ and you can hear in the songs that if you took away the Celtic instruments then Airs & Graces would still be a very very good punk band. Another standout here is ‘Throat’ with a memorable hook that would get you up on yer feet if you weren’t already and you can see why the band have got such a good reputation as these are songs that were made for the live setting. ‘Straighten Your Back’ is the shortest track here clocking in at dead on ninety seconds and its catchy as hell while they follow this up with ‘A Town So Black’ which is the most Celtic they get so far with mandolin kicking the song off before the rest of the band come clashing in. Seems the band have a score to settle here but that’s all i’ll be drawn on.

(‘A Town So Black’ featuring David De Prest from Boston punkers Continental)

We’re well over halfway now and ‘Refuse To Go’ continues with another solid slab of punk rock. Now you’d expect me to be biased in favour of the more Celtic numbers but my miss-spent youth and embarrassing photos of multi-coloured mohicans are testimony to my love of old school punk rock and that’s in plentiful supply here and on ‘Devil’s Factory’ where Airs & Graces prove they have a stock of catchy songs that are well played with boundless energy and abandon. ‘Three Sisters’ again has a great hook and singalong chorus and ‘bounce’ to it and the words speak of a landmark at sea that welcomes you back to home soil.

‘Never Wanted Trouble’ is another track that sails by in less than two minutes before ‘Pull Me Out’gs down the curtain on Voting At The Hall and a great ending. No slow songs here its just fast and furious celtic-PUNK rock. People I know who I have been lucky enough to catch them in concert remarked on their excellent live show and their it seems that Airs & Graces have managed to capture their live sound rather well here in the studio and that energetic, raucous and ‘shantyish’ punk rock sound has transferred well. They have a grand sense of history too and all working class people should be proud of our labour history. As someone once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. It seems an obvious thing to say so I will say it but lovers of Dropkicks style celtic-punk would absolutely love Airs & Graces and this album is full of good songs that these days the Dropkicks would love to play!

Aisha Badru – Pendulum

Aisha Badru makes an impressive label debut courtesy of Pendulum.

The LP puts its best foot forward as the opener ‘Mind on Fire’ takes hold of the ear. With an acoustic guitar clacking out a simple rhythm Badru, uses her melodic vocal tones to hum the backing track. The minimalist arrangement sets the stage for the New York artist’s confident, energized, and sweet voice.

The American sings:
“Have you seen the girl with the mind on fire? She set out to tell the world how they suppress our desires. Said she wouldn’t back down ’till the rules were amended and she didn’t give a f**k who she offended“.

It’s a strong lyrical offering that appears to tell of a protagonist looking to reignite her personal fire and make a difference to the world. It’s the LP’s most captivating track, which helps to propel the listener through the rest of what is an enjoyable auditory experience.

‘Bridges’ and ‘Navy Blues’ also impress on the album’s top half. The latter finds Badru reflecting on a toxic relationship with an antagonist who looks to tear down the partnership all the while maintaining the pretence of love.

Badru sings:
“you kicked me down I got back up now. The scars I wear are fading”.
The tracks instrumentation again plays its role well with the violin’s melody proving a gentle accompaniment to the singer’s journey out of her misery.

In promotional material for the project it was revealed that the musician found her producer by scouring the pages of Google. An unorthodox approach you might say, but certainly a prosperous one.

Chris Hutchison Brings the acoustic and the electronic together well, with the artificial complementing the acoustic rather than overshadowing it.

Whether it’s the futuristic distorted backing vocals on ‘Bridges’, the drip drip drip opening of ‘Fossil Fuels’ or, the piano drum combination on ‘Just Visiting’, the producer holds the listener’s attention, whilst maintaining a tranquil easy listening mood.
The second half of the nine-song set isn’t quite as strong as the first.

‘Fossil Fuels’ takes a good shot at being lyrically fresh but, stretches in trying to pair up “precipitation” and “reciprocation” as representatives for love and life. Meanwhile, album bookends ‘Splintered’ and ‘Dreamer’ fall into the well-trodden category of ‘life’s a bit crummy right now but the solution is within us if only we would wake up.’

The songs by no means make for a bad ending, but they don’t match up to the rest of the strong Pendulum.

Big Little Lions – Alive and Well

Indie folk-pop duo Big Little Lions are set to turn helpless apprehensions into hopeless optimism with their latest album, Alive and Well, a collection of songs that manage to capture this moment in time in a way only songwriters can. The group’s third studio album, set for worldwide digital release on February 23rd release (Far Flung, via The Orchard), features 13 original songs that deliver their signature folk-pop shimmer with a hint of Americana twang and a new lyrical edge inspired by the growing polarity of our world.Alive and Well is currently available for pre-order in the iTunes store.

The album’s title track, released earlier in January as a single, is also an instant-gratification track and will be available for immediate download when a pre-order is placed; two additional songs will be delivered to pre-order customers before album release (“Find Your Tribe” on February 9th and “Static” on February 16th). In addition to the digital worldwide release, fans can get physical copies of the new album atwww.biglittlelions.com. Fans can also check out the brand new video (directed by Greg Otten) for the first single and title track on B-sides and Badlands.

Big Little Lions’ most cohesive project to date, Alive and Well dances from songs that acknowledge human frailty and modern preoccupations to anthems of hope and resistance. It turns the duo’s illuminating songwriting to the tasks of buoying spirits, inspiring sing-a-longs, and lighting candles of optimism in difficult times. Watching Big Little Lions on the stage, audiences will understand what the closing lyrics of “Alive and Well” proclaim so clearly, when people gather to share music, “love is all there is.” The duo will kick off its Canadian tour in Red Deer, Alberta on February 23rd, followed by over 20 stops north of the border. Big Little Lions will then head down to the U.S. for a run from Ohio down to Florida in the month of April. The U.S. tour dates will be announced soon. Confirmed tour dates are listed here.

Big Little Lions is Helen Austin and Paul Otten, two successful songwriters and musicians who have also found collaborative success after joining forces in 2013. Since roaring onto the music scene, Big Little Lions has won an armful of awards for its work including first place in the International Songwriting Competition, Song of the Year in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition, and Ensemble of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

With Austin based in Canada on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and Otten based in Cincinnati, Ohio, the duo has been bridging geographic and cultural distances since their first collaboration when Otten produced Austin’s 2014 Juno-winning album Colour It. The legions of loyal fans they’ve gathered since agree: Austin and Otten have stumbled on a powerful musical chemistry. Big Little Lions has played renowned festivals including Shelter Valley, Islands Folk Fest, Mariposa, Summerfolk, the Alianait Arts Festival, the Paper City Music Festival, and the Vancouver Island Music Fest. The duo’s songs have also been featured across Canada on CBC and in the United States.

Clara Rose – The Offering

A SINGER-songwriter whose roots lie in Counties Fermanagh and Monaghan has released her second studio album, called ‘The Offering’.

The new recording from Clara Rose is a collection of 10 songs that bring the listener on a journey through folk rock, blues, funk, soul and contemporary folk.

Although Clara Rose now lives in County Meath, she has plenty of local connections.

Her grandmother, Elizabeth Monahan (nee Gunne), was born on the shores of Lough Erne and spent many summers rowing across to Trannish Island with her father to tend their cattle there.

Clara’s musical influences have come from a varied background.

Her grandfather, Eamon Monahan, worked as a musician until his retirement.

He performed across Monaghan and Northern Ireland with his show band, ‘The Northern Airs’.

Clara’s mother, Elizabeth Monahan (nee Deery), is a fantastic singer and songwriter and toured with many bands.

Her father Alan Monahan is a gifted guitarist and vocalist.
‘The Monahan Family’ have toured as a family playing shows in Germany and more recently, a mini-tour of Northern Italy.

Clara has an All-Ireland Medal for Sean-Nos singing at the age of 12.

With Irish traditional music being her influence at this time she then began to explore other influences and through her teens was a member of some ‘all girl rock bands’… the kind who never played a gig but practised every weekend.

In Maynooth University, while studying music, she was a member of the Classical Choral Society, The Maynooth Gospel Choir and formed her first blues band, ‘Jungle Train’, who did play gigs!

She began writing and performing her own music in university.

Her style developed and she began to play solo gigs on the Dublin Music Scene (Whelans, ‘The Ruby Sessions of Doyles) and Monaghan (McKenna’s Brewery).

As she developed as a songwriter/performer, this lead to the creation and recording of her acclaimed debut album, ‘A Portfolio’ which she independently released in 2010.

The album saw her embark on a nationwide tour with her band as well as achieve national and local radio airplay, TV appearances and critical acclaim.

Clara Rose is a featured artist on the 2013 album release from Irish Blues Harmonica legend, Don Baker, ‘My Songs, My Friends’.

She features alongside Sinead O’Connor, Finbar Furey, Mick Pyro, Liam O’ Maonlai, Brian Kennedy and Paddy Casey, among others.

Clara and Don formed a collaboration and recorded an album together, ‘Baker Rose’ (2016) and went on a national theatre tour.

In 2017, Clara Rose became part of a stage show called, ‘Ladies in the Blues’.

There are four women backed by a top-class band who tell the story of the blues through the female voice.

2018 promises to be an exciting year for Clara Rose as she releases her new album, ‘The Offering’.

It was produced and recorded by Gavin Glass in Orphan Recordings.

It features stellar performances from The Clara Rose Band – Sean Beatty, Tony McManus and Michael Black – aided by the musical professor Gavin Glass and guest appearances from vocalists Elizabeth Monahan, Claire McLaughlin and Paula Higgins.



Recommended If You Like: The Head and the Heart, Lumineers, Fleet Foxes, Vance Joy

… And I’m too afraid to be alone

At its core, attraction is a wondrous thing. How many stimuli have that kind of physical and emotional control over the individual? To be moved so vividly by someone else that your behavior changes in their presence; to feel that strongly about another human being; it’s natural, and yet it often feels totally unnatural. Attraction is as powerful as it is beautiful, an overwhelming sensation that Driftwood capture perfectly in their new song “Too Afraid.”

Oh am I falling for your lies again
Falling for your lies again
But you look so damn good

If I look into your eyes again
Look into your eyes again
Well it feels like going home

Listen: “Too Afraid” – Driftwood


City Lights - Driftwood

City Lights – Driftwood

.A song about falling uncontrollably hard for someone else, “Too Afraid” focuses on the fatal attraction experience: “Sometimes there are women that strike your fancy to the point where you lose a bit of yourself,” explains Joe Kollar (vocals/banjo).

It’s also easy to lose oneself in Driftwood’s music. The band pulls upon a pastiche of warm American roots and folk influences, landing somewhere in-between The Head and the Heart and The Lumineers in terms of sound, while offering a fresh, if not timeless perspective on the individual experience through harmonious music and lyrics. The group’s instrumental arrangement – which consists of Dan Forsyth on guitar and vocals, Joe Kollar on banjo and vocals, Claire Byrne on fiddle and vocals, and Joey Arcuri on bass – might be considered ‘traditional,’ but they wield their instruments with polished grace. In a music landscape where electric so frequently replaces acoustic instrumentation, Driftwood’s music provides an anchor to a past that is still very much the present.

Driftwood © Marc Safran

Driftwood © Marc Safran

“Too Afraid” opens with a sweetly seductive interaction between fiddle and bass, where the fiddle plays a hypnotic, repeating arpeggio sequence over punctuated bass hits. The combined effort is light, yet incredibly evocative: In a sense, it’s the perfect backdrop for a personal story. “Oh am I falling for your lies again,” sings Kollar as the verse opens. His words are raw and humble, his demeanor vulnerable as he places this interest over himself. That elevation of another, and the subsequent submission and reduction of oneself, becomes especially resounding in the chorus and second verse:

But I’m too afraid
Yes I’m too afraid to be alone

You talk like you should be my friend
Talk like you should be my friend
So tell me what it is that you want

Oh am I losing all my lines again
I’m losing all my lines again
But you look so fucking good

In his explanation of this song, Kollar notes that “Too Afraid” is, for him, about “the power of a beautiful woman,” but the song is obviously so much more than that. “I’m too afraid to be alone,” he sings. Sometimes we know something is bad for us, but we want it anyway. Loneliness is one of the hardest to cope with – so perhaps that special someone isn’t right for you, but at least it’s something. Rather than explore the intricacies of that mess, Driftwood stick to the surface and leave the diving to the listener.

“I think everyone knows someone (close or distant) that makes them weak in the knees and maybe act differently as a result,” says Kollar. Those who have known love, and perhaps more so those who have known a truly fatalattraction, can easily relate to Driftwood’s lilting melodies and uncertain, scrambling lyrics. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how confident you might appear. Every Samson has his Delilah.

River Whyless – We Are the Light

The second full-length from Asheville, North Carolina’s River Whyless further confuses labels of folk and indie, securing a region of their own that’s part folk-rock, part traditional folk, and part artful singer/songwriter commune, sometimes sounding as if Joni Mitchell and Punch Brothers got stranded together in a remote cabin with some decent recording equipment (“One for One,” “Bend Time”). The band occasionally wander into relatively poppier territory, as well, on We All the Light (“Falling Son”), but never forsake their acoustic core. Regardless of tempos or volumes, the full set is marked by creative yet refined arrangements that are by this point a distinguishing characteristic of the group.

Matt Townsend – “The Drifter and the Dream part 1”.

new EP from acclaimed North Carolina indie folk artist Matt Townsend entitled “The Drifter and the Dream part 1”.
The Drifter and the Dream (Part I) is the first installment of a two-part EP series. It features some of Western North Caroli-na’s finest musicians, such as Bill Berg (Drums on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks) River Guerguerian, Kat Williams, Franklin Keel, Jackson Dulaney, Carly Taich, Charles Gately (Doc Aquatic), Ryan Burns.

The album was produced by Michael Selverne (Welcome to Mars productions) at Echo Mountain Recording Studios. With this new offering, Townsend has moved (mostly) away from the solo acoustic sound of his first two albums, and has developed toward a more eclectic, spacious sound. Drawing on influences from American folk, 60’s rock and pop, american indie rock, and ambient music, The Drifter and The Dream maps out a fresh avenue in his growing catalog.

Matt Townsend is performing with his band throughout the East Coast in support of this album. He has also launched a Kickstarter for the project.

Share “Came Down from the Mountain” via Bandcamp: https://matttownsendmusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-drifter-and-the-dream-part-i

With his distinctive voice, and a world weary insight, Matt Townsend delivers his original songs, formed in the wells of Folk music, 60’s rock and pop, indie rock, ambient music and the American songwriting tradition.Live, his band flows from high energy rock and roll, to quiet folk tunes and back. Bob Dylan, Neutral Milk Hotel, Neil Young are counted among some of his musical guiding lights.

The Asheville, North Carolina-based musician has been performing across the country since 2012. 2016 marks the anticipated release of Townsend’s latest work, The Drifter and the Dream (Part I), a five-track EP, which is part one of a double EP series. The songs were recorded at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville with producer Michael Selverne (Welcome to Mars Productions), and features Bill Berg (The drummer on the Minnesota sessions for Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Cat Stevens, Leo Kottke). The first EP explores the personal relationship to social and political issues, spiritual connection, and humanness in a de-humanizing society. Along with recording and touring, Townsend is also the the founder of Eternal Mind Records, a new arts collective and record label in Asheville, NC.

In addition to recording his own album, Townsend was tapped to work with the Asheville Symphony for its latest release, The Asheville Symphony Sessions. Townsend’s song on the compilation, “For Now, We Are,” was arranged by Michael Bearden (Neil Young, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga).

To learn more about Matt Townsend and his upcoming dates, visit matttownsendmusic.com.
Band/Artist: Matt Townsend
Location: Asheville, NC
Styles: Indie-Folk, Americana, Folk-Rock
Similar to/RIYL: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Neutral Milk Hotel, Iron & Wine, Josh Ritter

CD: The Drifter and the Dream (part I)
Release date: December 2
Featured artist on the “Asheville Symphony Sessions” a collaborative record of 8 Asheville artists (including Steep Canyon Rangers and Lizz Wright) with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. http://ashevillesymphony.org/sessions/ , Also one of 3 artists who performed a sold-out show (1,000 cap club) with the Symphony for the release of this album.
Performed at LEAF Festival May and Oct 2015 and July 2016.
Will be playing the south Florida Folk Festival in January.
Opened for Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, Big Thief, Ballroom Thieves, Family and Friends.
Toured the Eastern US playing over 180+ shows across the rom 2014-2016.
Joined Welcome to Mars Productions.
Founded Eternal Mind Records, a record label/arts collective based in Asheville. (www.eternalmindrecords.com)

Matt Townsend – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
Bill Berg – Drums
Rodney Easter Jr. – Bass
Jackson Dulaney – Lap Steel
Franklin Keel –Cello
River Guerguerian- Percussion
Carly Taich – Backing vocals
Kat Williams –Backing vocals
Adam Bonomo –Piano and Organ
Michael Selverne – Acoustic guitar
Charles Gately –Synth
Ryan Burns – Organ

All songs written by Matt Townsend (ASCAP)
Produced by Michael Selverne
for Welcome to Mars
Recorded by Julian Dreyer at Echo Mountain Recording, Asheville, NC.
Mixed by Michael Selverne and Julian Dreyer at Welcome to Mars, Asheville, NC
Mastered By Eric Boulanger at The Bakery

The Great American Madness
Came Down From the Mountain
Roaming Twilight
Freedom is Calling Again

Instagram: @matt_townsend_music

Artist contact: [email protected]
Press contact: [email protected]independentmusicpromotions.com

William Tyler – Modern Country

Guitarist and composer William Tyler has been thinking about America for a long time in the aftermath of 2013’s loose, rambling, and beautiful The Impossible Truth, which referenced the country’s musical traditions and landscapes. Afterwards, he spent almost two years touring solo, driving back and forth across the country. In a short promo trailer for Modern Country he stated that, “The cultural geography of this vanishing America is what I sense as a slow fade on these long road trips….It still lives, even as the highways and the high rises push it to the fringes of the countryside and the static of the airwaves.” This album is his “love letter to what we’re losing in America. To what we’ve already lost.” He wrote the music in Oxford, Mississippi, recorded it in Eau Claire, Wisconsin with co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Phil Cook, percussionist Glenn Kotche, and bassist Darin Gray, then finished it at home in Nashville. At the album’s heart lies a pervasive sense of loneliness and a longing for a home that exists only in memory. “Highway Anxiety” recalls Bill Frisell‘s roots music recordings from the ’90s, but the expansive sonic palette here, with reverbed electric guitars, droning synth, gospel piano, lap steel, Kotche‘s rolling snares, etc. are more panoramic and kinetic. “I’m Gonna Live Forever (If It Kills Me)” is built on a single acoustic country vamp that kaleidoscopically advances, plateaus, retreats, and begins again as each instrument engages and disengages. Blues and folk roots inform the album’s two hinge tracks: “Kingdom of Jones” was inspired by the Mississippi county that seceded from the Confederacy during the Civil War, while the wistful “Albion Moonlight” is titled after Kenneth Patchen‘s novel about an individual so unwilling to heed any but his own counsel, it proves his undoing. “Gone Clear” is built from intimate, shifting melodies offered in rounds toward a series of striking interlocking rhythmic patterns that point directly at Steve Reich‘s Electric Counterpoint: Different Trains with Pat Metheny. Kotche‘s range of percussion instruments (bells, marimbas, low toms, etc.) provide the guideposts for the dynamic changes. Closer “The Great Unwind” commences as a melancholy, nostalgic, country waltz. Its circular theme is articulated by sweetly played melody from reverbed guitar accompanied by bass, drums, and piano. Guitar feedback and noise are stacked on top until it vanishes under their weight. A short silence is interrupted by singing birds who introduce a new harmonic line, one that recalls the iconic vamp from Prince‘s “When You Were Mine.” It too eventually fades, leaving only bird song to close the album. Modern Country is vast in scope and ambition, but tightly written and expertly arranged. The sprawl of motion, texture, and color is reined in by immense, emotive lyricism and dynamic group interplay, making this musical “letter” to his vanishing nation well worth repeated listening.

Iron Wine & Ben Bridewell – Sing into my Mouth

It turns out that bearded gents Sam Beam of Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses were friends in their hometown of Columbia, South Carolina back before they were ever touring-bill companions or Sub Pop labelmates (mid- to late aughts), and well before they recorded a covers album together. Perhaps a studio collaboration was inevitable or even overdue given their amity, frequent path-crossing, and shared tastes and influences represented small-scale here on the 12-track Sing into My Mouth. The title is taken from lyrics in the opening track, “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads, a sign of the relative diversity to come, which bridges Sade, John Cale, El Perro del Mar, and Peter La Farge. The Talking Heads tune is a toned-down take with acoustic and slide guitars, bass, piano, accordion, and light percussion, representative of an album full of slide guitar-heavy arrangements that fall squarely within folky expectations. Versions most similar to the originals include Ronnie Lane‘s “Done This One Before,” ’70s U.K. band Unicorn‘s “No Way Out of Here” (better known via David Gilmore‘s cover), Spiritualized‘s “Straight and Narrow,” and fellow South Carolinians the Marshall Tucker Band‘s beautifully spare “Ab’s Song” — all folk-inspired or twang-leaning to begin with, and covered affectionately with Beam and Bridwell trading lead-vocal duty throughout the record. Most altered are the duo’s reworkings of the strings-supported, Brill Building-esque “God Knows (You Gotta Give to Get)” by Sweden’s El Perro del Mar, which is slowed down here and given an earthy woodwind and guitar delivery; Sade‘s “Bullet Proof Soul,” which still sounds uniquely Sade despite a rootsy rearrangement; and Them Two‘s 1967 soul plea “Am I a Good Man?,” previously covered by Bridwell‘s Band of Horses and captured with enthusiasm on Sing into My Mouth by piano, reed instruments, electric guitars, bass, and percussion. Other songs include Bonnie Raitt‘s “Anyday Woman,” John Cale‘s “You Know Me More Than I Know,” and J.J. Cale‘s “Magnolia.” That kind of variety keeps things interesting, though none of the arrangements comes as a real surprise with the exception of the closer, “Coyote, My Little Brother” (later covered by Pete Seeger but recorded by its songwriter Peter La Farge in 1963), a yodeling, Native American-inspired lament that gets full dream pop treatment with Bridwell on lead. Still, the represented songwriters and the sequencing, which nimbly waltzes through 50 years of song selections beginning with a quirky new wave tune and ending with a howling cautionary ballad, are rendered with grace. Those attracted to the collaboration’s premise will very likely appreciate its results.

Lord Hurton – Strange Trails

On their follow-up, Strange Trails, Lord Huron settle into the Western themes and sense of open prairies that marked the band’s debut, Lonesome Dreams. Frontman/songwriter Ben Schneider fully embraces the American West/Troubadour character, illustrated even in song titles like “Dead Man’s Hand,” “Meet Me in the Woods,” and “The Yawning Grave.” The album’s lyrics tell haunted stories of adventure and survival (“On the night you disappeared/Oh, if I had seen it clear/But a strange light in the sky was shining right into my eyes”), with nature imagery (“In a grave out here where the carrions cry”), and the occasional old-time turn of phrase (“Before I commence my ride/I’m asking Lily to be my bride”). With warm electric guitar sounds, soft and constant reverb, harmonized vocals, and a faint but persistent twang, it’s a contemporary, specifically Fleet Foxes-reminiscent, indie folk-influenced rock haunted by allusions to the Old West. Listeners may envision fringe and spurs without any overt country presence (though there’s certainly a subtle one) outside of lilting vocals, such as on “Way Out There.” The band still focuses more on atmosphere and haunting, harmonic sound and rhythm than on progressions or memorable hooks, but the landscapes that they create are consistent and sound-defining, and there’s no shortage of eerie beauty in the melodies. “The Night We Met,” in particular, has a lullaby quality to its wistful, singsong melody (“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do/Haunted by the ghost of you”). The record takes a few interesting musical routes on its journey: the reverbed rockabilly and surf sounds of “The World Ender,” the campfire-gathering feel of “Meet Me in the Woods” with handclaps and female vocal harmonies, and the pulsing, ramblin’ road tune “Frozen Pines” all contribute to an impression of timelessness as well as a certain folksiness befitting the album’s well-established rural themes. There are no big surprises here; fans of Lonesome Dreams will surely be pleased, and Strange Trails‘ serene ambience and unconventional narrative may capture the imagination of inclined first-timers.