• NOW PLAYING

Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands

At the start of Dawes‘ fourth studio effort, 2015’s All Your Favorite Bands, lead singer Taylor Goldsmith kicks off the sanguine opener “Things Happen” by admitting “I could go on talking, or I could stop/Wring out each memory til I get every drop.” This sentiment, ripe with a post-breakup emotional stew of yearning, anger, and eventual acceptance, colors all the tracks on this tight, impeccably crafted album. Influenced by the passionate ’70s country-rock and singer/songwriter sound of artists like Jackson Browne and groups like the Band, Los Angeles’ Dawes have quietly built a loyal following with their own brand of memorable and often poignant folk-rock. Produced by journeyman composer and guitarist David Rawlings (Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, the Decemberists) at Nashville’s Woodland Studios, All Your Favorite Bands has a warm, organic texture that’s at once raw and immediate, sophisticated and polished. It’s perhaps the closest Dawes has come to capturing their live sound. Each song is performed with an intimate, personal intensity, making it feel like they’re playing it only for you. Cuts like the urgent, minor-key “I Can’t Think About It Now,” with its gospel-style female backing vocals, and the heartbreakingly honest “Waiting for Your Call” are rootsy anthems that combine Goldsmith‘s poetic, literate lyrics, crisp vocal harmonies, and evocative, Dire Straits-influenced guitars with the hushed ripple of a Hammond organ. These songs, while efficiently constructed, have plenty of breathing room — there are actual guitar solos here, and jazz-like drum accents. Of course, a big part of what makes Dawes‘ songs so palpable is Goldsmith‘s knack for highlighting those often mundane details in life that initially seem insignificant, but take on greater meaning in hindsight. On the title track he sings “When I think of you, you’ve still got on that hat that says ‘Let’s Party’/I hope that thing is never thrown away,” and later, “I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever.” Although most likely directed at a former flame, with the song’s insistent, piano-driven vibe it sometimes feels more like a message of goodwill toward the band’s own fans. Similarly, on the ruminative breakup number “Don’t Send Me Away,” Goldsmith transforms his car into a mausoleum of regret with the line “I’m getting on the freeway/Your jacket’s in my car/Your ashes in my ashtray/And I’m there with you, wherever you are.” It’s this gift for capturing intangible longing that drives much of All Your Favorite Bands. Goldsmith perhaps expresses this the best on the tragic ballad “To Be Completely Honest.” He sings “I think I know how it ends/The universe continues expanding while we discuss particulars of just being friends/And maybe that makes everything okay/Your memory the defect at the heart of every promise.” Ultimately, All Your Favorite Bands is a comforting album, leaving you with the notion that whatever happens in your life, good, bad, or indifferent, all things take on a beautiful if bittersweet meaning when viewed through the rear-view mirror.

Gregory Alan Isakov – The Weatherman

 
Warm, weary, wild, and wounded, The Weatherman, the third long-player from Johannesburg, South Africa-born, Philadelphia-raised, and Boulder, Colorado-based singer/songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov, picks up where 2009’s well-received This Empty Northern Hemisphere left off, presenting another stylistically austere yet emotionally charged set of lyrical and melodious indie folk songs that invoke names like José González, Bon Iver, A.A. Bondy, and Josh Ritter. Released on Isakov’s own Suitcase Town Music imprint, highlights include the languid and lush opener “Amsterdam,” the wistful “She Always Takes It Back,” the dreamy “Saint Valentine,” and the impossibly lovely “Suitcase Full of Sparks.”

Sam Outlaw – Angelino

Sam may be an outlaw by name but by nature he comes across as more of a soul searching, sensitive guy on his debut album. It’s a country record complete with sparkling pedal steel and tales of love won and lost and while he can write a good song within those parameters it often sounds to sedate and clean. It lacks the grit and dust to really demand repeated listens yet when he finds a chorus with a hook, as he does on the opener ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, it really works. Think a bloodless Robert Ellis or Laurel Canyon’s sweet sensitivity transplanted to Nashville.

Carrie Rodriguez

Pigeonhole Carrie Rodriguez at your peril.  Sure, she has gained notoriety as an Americana singer-songwriter as highlighted by last year’s studio effort, “Give Me All You Got”, which reached no. 1 on the Americana Music Charts. But musical predictability isn’t in her world view or her performing reality.

Rodriguez is equally renowned as a violinist, not only accompanying songwriting luminaries such as Lucinda Williams and John Prine, but also touring internationally with esteemed guitarist/composer Bill Frisell, who calls on her to play everything from surf rock to adventurous composed music to spontaneously improvisational jazz.  A native of Austin, Texas, Rodriguez is often pegged as a country singer, yet she also sings in fluent Spanish, and is currently working on an album featuring classic Ranchera songs from the Mexican songbook. If you ask Carrie how she would identify herself musically, she would do so with one word: collaborator.

Upon graduating from the Berklee College of Music, her earliest musical collaborations were done with legendary singer-songwriter, Chip Taylor, and resulted in four highly-acclaimed duet albums.  After a fruitful era of touring, co-writing, and recording with Taylor, Carrie released her debut album, “Seven Angels on a Bicycle” in 2006. Since then she has spent most of her days performing throughout the US and abroad, recording albums with world class producers such as Lee Townsend & Malcolm Burn, performing on numerous radio and television shows including Austin City Limits and The Tonight Show, and co-writing songs with many of her songwriting heroes such as Mary Gauthier and Gary Louris of the Jayhawks.

Most recently Carrie has been perfecting the art of the duo with her musical partner, Luke Jacobs, an unexpected and stimulating match for her artistic leanings. Jacobs, a multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter who hails from the north woods of Minnesota adds a compelling Garrison Keillor-esque element to their live show – spinning tales that have both captivated and cracked-up audiences on both sides of the pond throughout their last three years of constant touring. His cool, understated delivery is a striking contrast to Carrie’s earnest passion, and their chemistry is undeniable. Their duo show has been described as “lushly cinematic” by The Washington Post who also noted that “…the pair made a virtue of necessity.”  The London Times said, “both performers engaged the audience with their personalities as well as their music . . . as they progressed on a richly rewarding journey.”

Iris DeMent

It was by pure chance that Iris DeMent opened the book of Russian poetry sitting on her piano bench to Anna Akhmatova’s “Like A White Stone.” She’d never heard of the poet before, and didn’t even consider herself much of a poetry buff, but a friend had leant her the anthology and it only seemed polite that she skim it enough to have something interesting to say when she returned it. As she read, though, a curious sensation swept over her.

“I didn’t feel like I was alone anymore,” remembers DeMent. “I felt as if somebody walked in the room and said to me, ‘Set that to music.’”

So she did. The melody just poured out of her almost instantly. She turned the page and it happened again, and again after that, and before she even fully understood it, she was already deep into writing what would become ‘The Trackless Woods,’ an album which sets Akhmatova’s poetry to music for the first time ever.

‘The Trackless Woods,’ DeMent’s sixth studio album, is unlike anything else in her illustrious career. Beginning with her 1992 debut, ‘Infamous Angel,’ which was hailed as “an essential album of the 1990’s” by Rolling Stone, DeMent released a series of stellar records that established her as “one of the finest singer-songwriters in America” according to The Guardian. The music earned her multiple Grammy nominations, as well as the respect of peers like John Prine, Steve Earle, and Emmylou Harris, who all invited her to collaborate. Merle Haggard dubbed her “the best singer I’ve ever heard” and asked her to join his touring band, and David Byrne and Natalie Merchant famously covered her “Let The Mystery Be” as a duet on MTV Unplugged. DeMent returned in 2012 with her most recent album, ‘Sing The Delta,’ which prompted NPR to call her “one of the great voices in contemporary popular music” and The Boston Globe to hail the collection as “a work of rare, unvarnished grace and power.”

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, DeMent and her husband were raising their adopted Russian daughter in their Iowa City home. When she looked back on her own childhood, though, DeMent sometimes felt like there was some intangible element that hadn’t quite clicked yet.

“Growing up, a lot of what I understood about my parents—and many of the adults in my life that were nurturing me—I understood through music,” explains DeMent, who was born the youngest of 14 children in Arkansas and raised in southern California. “I remember noticing that people seem to be most their real selves when they were in the music. My dad would cry my mom would wave her arms around when they sang church music. So I figured out at some point that there was a breakdown there with my daughter. She was six when we adopted her, and there was a whole culture that had been translated to her in those critical years that I didn’t feel like I could get through to with the tools I had. So always in the back of my mind, I had this sense of wanting to figure out how to link her two worlds, Russian and American.”

Akhmatova’s poetry proved to be that link and more, as it drew DeMent into a remarkable journey through Russian political and artistic history.

“Her whole adult working life was marked by this constant struggle to do her work in the face of the Bolshevik Revolution, World War I, World War II, and Stalin,” DeMent says of Akhmatova. “The estimates are that between 20-80 million people died during those 30 years he was in power. One of her husbands was executed, one died in the gulag, and her son was sent there twice just by virtue of being her son. She often lived in poverty and out of other people’s homes, never owned a place of her own. She wasn’t some elevated star figure exempted from suffering, she was right there in it. All of her poetry came out of that.”

Akhmatova’s struggles weren’t unique for her time in Russia, but her poetry still managed to find beauty in a world of pain and ugliness, which DeMent believes is what makes her so deeply loved by the Russian people.

“I think if you listen to her poems, you can hear all that sorrow and that burden in them,” says DeMent, “but there’s always a lightness, a transcendence somehow, a sense of victory over all that inhumanity that she was living with every day of her life.”

It’s only fitting, then, that the album opens with, “To My Poems,” a short, four-line invocation recorded sparsely and simply with just DeMent’s voice and piano as she sings: “You led me into the trackless woods, / My falling stars, my dark endeavor. / You were bitterness, lies, a bill of goods. / You weren’t a consolation–ever.”

That stark pairing of piano and voice forms the heart and soul of all 18 tracks on the album, which were recorded live in DeMent’s living room under the guidance of producer Richard Bennett and with a small backing band that drifts in and out of the arrangements. The music is firmly rooted in the American South, with timeless melodies that could easily be mistaken for long-forgotten hymnal entries or classic country tunes. “From An Airplane” rollicks with a honky-tonk vibe, while “Not With Deserters” is punctuated by a mournful slide guitar and rich harmonies, and “All Is Sold” ebbs and flows over lush pedal steel. That DeMent can make the work of a 20th century Russian poet sound like Sunday morning on a cotton plantation is a testament to her versatility and depth as an artist.

“I learned from this project that I don’t have just one voice, I have lots of voices, and they’re all connected somehow,” says DeMent. “Something happened on this record because the music wasn’t tied to a place from my past or my family history, but it was linked to my daughter by way of her cultural history. I realized writing these songs that I’m linked in some way to another world, as well, and I can hear it in the music, in the way I sang and the choices I made.”

DeMent is quick to credit Akhmatova (and the translators whose work formed the album’s lyrics, Babette Deutsch and Lyn Coffin) for the album’s beauty and magic.

“All of the poems, particularly Babette’s translations, just felt like songs to me from the get go,” says DeMent. “The first four or five I did, the melodies came while I was reading them the first time. That still mystifies me. My gut sense is that they were songs, already. I think she wrote them that way, and Babette picked up on that. They flowed like that. I don’t think there’s any getting around that the music was already in the poems.”

There’s no getting around that the music is in DeMent, too. Twenty-three years after her debut, she’s creating some of the most poignant music of her career, bridging two seemingly disparate worlds with every note.

Elle Carpenter

Originally from Vermont, Elle Carpenter has been singing as long as she’s been walking. She spent significant childhood years touring around the country with four siblings and her mother, performing and doing workshops at folk festivals, schools and other events. At age 6 she recorded her first record as a back-up singer with the “Wee-bops” of Central Vermont. At age 8, Carpenter sang on another album as the youngest member of the “Fiddleheads”. From age 10 to 16 she toured with world music group Village Harmony, around the USA, UK, Canada, Denmark and Germany. In 2009, after recording and releasing her first solo album, Carpenter was flown to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to perform at the White Palace for a month.

Carpenter writes about life experiences – what she is living through or witnessing at the moment, and expresses true honesty in words.

Second album ‘With Open Hands’ was produced by Ignacio “Iggy” Elisavetsky and released November 12, 2011. Third album “Simple Girl” was a collaboration between Carpenter, brother Will Carpenter (Ships Have Sailed, 7lions) and Scotty Lund (Kansas City Bankroll): released Jan 2, 2014. In between writing and recording these albums, Carpenter has enjoyed touring the States, expanding a bit further each year.

Carpenter’s fourth album “Life Just Happens to You” is an unplugged story of the journey we take through life, from the most positive perspective. She was excited to return to her folk roots for this album, and will be touring the U.S. following its release: May 22, 2015.

Carpenter is also a working actor and has appeared on such TV shows as House M.D., Grey’s Anatomy, Conan’O Brien, Cake Wars, and Wave Goodbye.

Lindi Ortega

There’s a sign on the outskirts of town.

A buzzard sits atop it. The grass brown and parched below. It’s dusty, faded, chipped at the edges, graffiti filling the empty white spaces, a bullet hole or two visible in the large, black letters that read:

Welcome to Faded Gloryville. Leave your dreams behind.

In the eyes and imagination of acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega it’s a place we’ve all been, we’re all familiar with or will one day know all to well.

Some visit. Some stay. Some escape. Some leave only to return again.

And for Lindi, it was also the source of inspiration — in title and in spirit — for her stunning new collection of country-kissed songs that make up her fourth full-length release set to come out on new Last Gang Record imprint, The Grand Tour.

It is an album that is filled with the sights and sounds and souls of those who’ve found themselves in Faded Gloryville, brought to its saloons, flophouses and cheap motels by drink, by debt, by vanity, heartbreak, failure, fear or misfortune.

Her first glimpse of the place, oddly enough, was in another artistic vision, that of the Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart, which depicts a fellow musician exiled in a similar metaphorical town, down-and-out, drunk and debasing himself and his talents for those who could care less.

“I had a moment where I thought, ‘Could this be me? Could I wind up like this?’ ” says Lindi. “That was a very honest question to myself.”

That fact, the idea that she would question that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those familiar with the subject matter of her past work, specifically 2013’s Juno Award-nominated Tin Star, considering much of it was powered by Lindi’s experiences as a young, struggling artist in the equally as fabled and dream-dashing place of Nashville, where she now makes her home.

Just as it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those familiar with her incredible gifts that the feisty, fiery and fierce force of nature had no intention of taking up permanent residency in Faded Gloryville.

It was a pitstop. She took what she needed, saw the sights, hung with the locals, and high-tailed it out of there, hitting the road to capture its essence in three very different recording sessions.

The first two were with producers familiar to her work, Dave Cobb who was behind the boards for Tin Star, and fellow Canadian castaway Colin Linden, who helped her realize her vision for 2012’s Polaris Prize nominated Cigarettes & Truckstops.

The results of those, Lindi says, should be pleasing to those many fans who’ve discovered her over the years, fallen hard for her own unique take on the torch and twang of her country influences such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn that has taken her around the world to enthusiastic audiences everywhere.

The final session, though, was one that took her in a somewhat different direction, towards a more Muscle Shoals sound utilized by those that came before her such as Solomon Burke, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke — artists she expresses an affinity and fondness for.

Helping her navigate the new terrain were John Paul White from The Civil Wars and Ben Tanner from the Alabama Shakes, who co-produced in their studio in the deep south what Lindi describes as three of the album’s more “soulful tunes.”

“I feel like country music, itself, is all encompassing. There are different facets of it,” Lindi explains.“And I love all of it, and I’ve always wanted to explore all sounds country-wise. I’ve explored bluegrass, I’ve explored outlaw country, I’ve explored classic country. And now I’m exploring this vibe. Maybe it isn’t necessarily country but it’s connected to the south. So I feel that it makes sense.”

And despite the three different directions Lindi took in the recording process, together, the nine originals and a heartfelt cover of the Bee Gees’ classic “To Love Somebody”, do all make sense, delivering what is the singer-songwriter’s most assured, varied and engaging release to date.

It features everything from barnburner songs and the good ol’ foot-stomping, toe-tapping numbers to the ballads that Lindi has made her calling card, all delivered with an energy and emotional investment that makes them utterly her own.

And, of course, wrapped up in those fashionably tattered yet toney musical threads are the tales of those long-time denizens of Faded Gloryville, delivered with a remarkable amount of smarts, heart and humour.

“There ain’t no stars in Faded Gloryville,” she croons on the title cut. “We’ve chased our dreams into the ground/If disillusion has some hope to kill/Here nobody wears a crown.”And here’s where you’ll find the downtrodden and forgotten, the sinners and saintless, the jaded and jaundiced.

There’s Cheech & Chong-esque enabler couple in “Run Down Neighborhood”, whose derelict dates are down to the local convenience store.

There’s the victim of addiction in “Run Amuck”, who learns the hard way that, “When you run with the Devil you burn everything you touch/Bridges and money and everyone you love.”

And here, too, is the very Lindi-like subject of affection in the song “I Ain’t That Girl”, who warns her would-be suitor that his money, status and Mercedes convertible aren’t going to get the job done: “Ain’t gonna tell you any lies/I’ve got a thing for long-haired guys/You’re too clean-cut with polished shoes/I like ’em rugged with tattoos.”

These are just some of those that find themselves in that town where dreams are left behind and all but forgotten. They may be those we know. They may be us. They may one day be.

But lest you think that the album is one with no hope, an obituary for those who find themselves at the outskirts and on their way into a life from which there is no return, Lindi points to the opening song “Ashes”, which speaks of rising, Phoenix-like, out of that heartbreak and despair and finding oneself, evolving into something more. Ultimately this story, her story, everyone’s story can and should be one of redemption.

“I always look at it like in order to get to Paradise you have to travel through Faded Gloryville,” she says.

Amen.

And Welcome to Faded Gloryville.

Kristin Diable

When we called it the American Dream, what we really meant was “the American Myth.”

That myth convinced us that the right house/car/bank account/voting card could punch our tickets to a happily-ever-after, but for reasons too numerous and depressing to note, that myth is finally dying. Somewhere along the way, we realized the secret to mythology is not letting anyone sell it to you. You have to create your own. And now something new is springing up as we cast off the strange rules and crushing expectations of old. We’re rediscovering that freedom comes from the inside out, not from the outside in.

Kristin Diable has been exploring freedom and choice in her music ever since she picked up an open mic at a lounge in Baton Rouge and stunned the audience into silence. She rode that vibe, away to New York and then back to her native Louisiana like a storm front, one that shook New Orleans and cooled the air. And her newest album, Create Your Own Mythology, invokes her Louisiana and Americana roots, while firing a rock-and-roll shot across the bow of borrowed myths.

Producer Dave Cobb expands upon a stellar year that had seen Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Lindi Ortega’s Tin Star, and Jason Isbell’s Southeastern all arrive to critical acclaim–here he does double duty, producing and also standing the front lines on guitar. Cobb is known for spurring his performers to find their truest voices, and this is Diable’s richest and most elaborate album to date.

It takes a person to write an album, but a good album writes a person too. Kristin realized Create Your Own Mythology was fighting its way into the world during her force-of-will tour, which alighted in Europe and Africa in 2013. Cut loose from the norm, discovering new venues almost as fast as she could perform in them, she found swimming in her head new songs about holding on, letting go, patience, and faith in the face of futility. And about penning your own rules and your own reality.

From the gospel notes of “True Devotion”, written in Morocco during a Ramadan sunset, to the wistful universal waters flowing through “Deepest Blue”, Diable weaves a dense, bewitching net. The idea of embracing the infinite unknown and finding freedom, clarity through the trials we experience along our journey as human beings is explored in songs like the lead single, “I’ll Make Time for You”, and “Eyes to the Horizon”. The latter has been used twice in HBO’s Treme performed by the character, Annie.

Rumi wrote, “Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.”

Kristin says that music is her ticket on that journey to the soul’s distant elsewhere, and this new album is her invitation to the listener–not to follow her on her mythical path, but to go questing for their own. That’s a journey that will require some suffering, and acceptance, and evolution and honesty–these are the tokens hidden in these songs, smoothing that hard path, leading us away, and leading us home.

The Mississippi River makes a hairpin turn in Baton Rouge before swerving unstoppably into the Gulf of Mexico. As it slowly zigs and zags like a cautious alcoholic, rich sediment sloshes loose onto the sun-baked Louisiana turf. It’s lush country. Things grow here. New Orleans grew here. Kristin Diable grew here and is still growing. And myths grow here like sugarcane does: fast, tall, and sweet.

Allison Moorer

 “I started working with Kenny Greenberg again because, in the demo-making process, you have to get things done really quickly. Kenny is just the best guitar player that I know and he has this amazing way of making things sound famous really quickly.
“I was also excited about working with Kenny as a producer again because I felt we still had work to do together. Turns out he felt the same way, and we both feel very satisfied with this album, musically and emotionally.”
Greenberg produced Moorer’s first two albums, for MCA, including the Oscar-nominated “A Soft Place to Fall.” In many ways Down to Believing is a sequel to their second collaboration, The Hardest Part. “Loving turns to leaving every time,” she sang on the title track back then. The matching phrase here is “Don’t wanna say goodbye but it’ll set me free.” Allison often acknowledged the inspiration of her parents’ relationship for the song cycle that is her second album. Fifteen years later she’s sifting eloquently through the ashes of her own bust ups.

When an old friend at E1 asked what she was doing, Moorer shared some of those new songs. Offered a deal, she had to think about it. Art is a selfish thing; parenting is not. “Most of my life is about taking care of John Henry,” she says. “Doing my work, of course, but I do my work in the spaces between taking care of John Henry. As you do, when you’re a parent. And especially as I do because I have a child with special needs.“
No regrets. “He’s wonderful, he’s beautiful, he’s clearly bright, never forgets anything. But, it’s just something that you have to wait and see on. And I have figured out that wait and see is just about my worst thing.”
And then there was the constant creative challenge of making an album worth making. “I had to figure out what it was about, I had to figure out what it was that I had to say. And what was going to be a true reflection of who I am at this point in my life. Why make a record if you’re not doing that?”
The creative frisson between Greenberg and Moorer moves parts of Down to Believing closer to rock (well, country-rock), particularly the opening pair, “Like It Used To Be” and “Thunderstorm Hurricane.” “I think that particular thing is what happens when Kenny and I work together,” Moorer says. “Part of it is just what he does, but another part of it is what he brings out in me.”
Commuting back and forth between New York and Nashville, Moorer scheduled sessions around the needs of her son and the availability of her collaborators. Which meant working with a variety of people in a variety of studios, instead of buckling down for a month. “I’ve always made records the other way,” she says. “This gave me time to think, and I think it’s one of the best pieces of work I’ve done. And that may be why.”
Moorer’s publishing deal and stature in Nashville mean she can write with people like Keith Gattis and Tony Lane. “The great thing about Nashville is that it’s school. You have such an opportunity to soak up what all these masters know. It thrilled me to no end to still be a student.”

And, of course, there is the other songwriter in her life, ex-husband Steve Earle. “Among my many teachers,” she says, “he has probably been the most valuable one to me at this point. He taught me many things about songwriting. I think we taught each other a lot about art and the different ways you can make it, the different ways you can absorb it. Living with someone who is that talented for seven years rubbed off on me. He taught me a great deal; I have no regrets about our relationship.”
Still, it is the dissolution of their marriage which anchors Down to the Believing. At the center of the album lurk two splendid songs, a screamer titled “Tear Me Apart” and the piano-driven “If I Were Stronger.” “That’s the flip,” she says. “For me, the sequencing was thematic. Luckily, it worked musically. Here’s what, and here’s why.”
“Obviously,” she says later, “this is a record about family and relationships. ‘Blood’ is about my sister. It’s about loving someone unconditionally and always having your arms open to them no matter what. Sometimes that’s a painful thing, but you can’t change what just is and always will be. I feel obligated to talk about my son having autism because it’s part of my job as an artist to not only shed a light but to say to people, ‘Hey, guess what? I’ve got a child with autism, and you’re not alone.’”
But what must be reckoned with, in the end, because it remains hidden on all those records and buried beneath her back-story…is her laugh. There is a pause, first — a brief gathering against the surprise to come — and then the unmistakable music of joy cascades all the way to her blue eyes. The whole enterprise bubbling up from her diaphragm and gently rocking. A lived-in laugh that might have belonged to one of the characters inhabiting the shadows of Dorothy Parker or Dashiell Hammett.
It takes only an instant for Allison to gather herself. “I’m prouder of these songs than any I’ve ever written,” she says. “I guess that’s a good thing because all I really want to do is get better.”
“I’m Doing Fine,” she sings toward the end of the record, one of those great Nashville songs that undermines its chorus. “Gonna Get It Wrong,” she finishes, because we all are.
“I used to have this dream,” Allison says. “This dream that I would get to a certain point in my life and it would be smooth sailing. I could relax. I’ve about decided that’s probably not going to happen and it’s probably not something that I even want to happen.”
Which, for better and worse, is where the songs come from.

David Ramirez – Harder to Lie

  

Even taking all 260,000 of the miles tracked and traveled by David Ramirez‘s 2006 Kia Rio, there were still some journeys left unaccounted for — the inner explorations he undertook while driving all that way … alone. What he realized, at the end of the road, was that he needed to do some things differently.

Three years and one writer’s block later, Ramirez has emerged with Fables. Produced by Seattle singer/songwriter Noah Gundersen, it’s a tale of the reckoning Ramirez went through with himself and with his girlfriend. The open-aired and open-armed production gives Ramirez’s baritone voice room to roam through the songs.

The title of the set comes from “Harder to Lie.” While on vacation in Iceland, Ramirez and company were on the look out for the just-right visual setting to capture the song. They found it in Skaftafell, a preservation area in southeast Iceland.

“When my lady, our friend Clayton, and I began talking about a potential Iceland vacation, one of the first things we discussed was filming a song,” Ramirez says. “From the minute we left Reykjavik, our eyes were peeled for the perfect location. Funny thing about Iceland: Every location is perfect. One evening we crossed a long bridge that hung over a moon-like terrain. In the background were two giant, green mountains and sandwiched between them was a glacier. We pulled over at the next exit, set up camp for the night, and filmed ‘Harder to Lie’ the next morning. It’s a one-shot, one-take video, and it took us three takes to get it just right. Hats off to Clayton Stringer for filming barefoot on black stones in 10 degrees celsius to keep the sound pure. He’s a champ.”