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Alexa Rose – Medicine for Living Reviewed by Jon Hutchinson for TME.fm Radio

 

There is fascination in vulnerability, we are beguiled by a stranger who chooses to share their emotions and history, their short story relationships that turned out to be sometimes painful yet deficient chapters in a novel none of us ever seem to finish. We can be beguiled by the stranger who can create beauty from what seems broken.

Alexa Rose takes a paintbrush from her soul and draws broad strokes across yours. Born in the Alleghany Highlands of West Virginia, there is craft and history here, an awareness of those that went before her, rooted in the traditions of folk and storytelling. Alexa holds these values close and sews together fine threads of quiet mastery and confident clarity, adding her own personality to create a unique style. Alexa holds onto the words as she sings them, not wanting to let them go, wringing all the lasting meaning from them, each one a precious piece of endeavour. Frazey Ford is one of the very few others who can do this so well and to such effect.

The subtlety of the musical arrangements throughout this album is something that you immediately notice, it’s not intrusive, it’s not the centre, not what the song is about, it’s a canvas upon which an artist adds the foreground. The opening song, “Borrow your heart”, shows the promise of what is to come, “Can I borrow your heart, I think I lost my own”, the line is so simple, but hides deeper currents of unresolved thoughts. The thing about Rose is that her lyrics throughout the album can seem contradictory, there is a conflict of thoughts which becomes fascinating. There are times when she writes with such feelings of weakness, confronted with the enormity of love that has taken so much of her but is ultimately fruitless, yet other times when realism and optimism is embraced.

The title track “Medicine for living” is at once haunting and torn, “Can I ask you a question, I know you don’t want to hear, but I’m the heirloom at the mercy of the auctioneer, There’s a crack in the finish, but it’s easy to miss, Are you going to love me when it ain’t like this”. It’s the throes of a relationship that is failing, with all its inevitability and feelings of powerlessness.
“That’s the way love is”. This ballad with its minimalist backing leaves Rose’s voice exposed in all its complexity and range and once again the lyrical quality leaves you in no doubt that this is an artist with depth. The song is a search into perpetual disappointment mixed with eternal optimism.

This is such a promising work, a debut album which deserves all the attention it will no doubt receive, we await more, and what a time we have in store watching Alexa Rose develop her music.

© Jon Hutchinson 2019

 

Album review: Dan Bern – Regent Street

 

If Dan Bern didn’t exist, Jack Kerouac would have met him on the road and invented the character. Huddled over cheap scotch in some post-colonial hotel, the upper floors held up by long white planks and pretty windows that screech in complaint when pulled up, they shelter from the dark night drizzle, talking in slow, low voices. Dan tells Jack of the time he pranked an article he wrote claiming that Bob Dylan’s mother really penned all his songs. Bob was pissed, Bob took his revenge “Dan Bern is a scurrilous little wretch with a hard-on for comedy”. “Hey”, Jack said… “I’ve been called worse, I’ve called people worse, at least Bob Dylan spoke to you, you’ve got that”
Bern is prolific, he’s prolific at writing, song writing and painting, this is his 26th album or EP release, did I mention he’s prolific? Where some would find chaos and disorder, others find adventure and imagination. ‘Regent Street’ is the latest addition to his collection, it’s an album that claps and beats its way into your head. I have no idea what his influences are, but I listen to ‘Theresa Brown’ and if Bern was British, we’d be talking about Ray Davies, and that’s a good thing on our scale of lyric writing.
Maybe you like an album to be variations on a theme. Maybe you don’t like to be surprised, maybe you listen to an artist’s songs because they give you what you want and expect. Dan Bern isn’t offering that; he’s giving you a challenge. He’s going to take you in different directions, it might sometimes seem to be a Cul De Sac, but somewhere he’ll meet you, as the track ‘Not perfect’ suggests, “It’s not perfect, nothing ever is”. What works so well with this album is that is full of randomness, just when you think you’ve got a handle on Dan Bern, he goes and takes you off on his journey of thoughts. Sometimes it’s like trying to nail jelly to a wall, but there you still are, with hammer in hand, willing to give it a go.
‘America without the people’ departs from the often-whimsical writings of Bern, offering a discordant, dystopian view of his home country. The lyrical quality of this song is outstanding, despairing at cruel isolationism and the surrender of unity. It might be a depressing vision, but it’s one that deserves a hearing.

We’re never far away from poking fun though, not so much tongue in cheek as tongue piercing through the cheek and coming out the other side. ‘Dear Tiger Woods’ ponders on Wood’s father’s assertion that Tiger could become a greater humanitarian than Gandhi. It’s nonsense of course and Bern treats it with the sarcasm it deserves, but we shouldn’t ignore the musicianship that accompanies the track. What makes this whole album work is that for all the seemingly offhand lyrics and musings on subjects nobody else would probably consider worth writing about, it’s still the quality of the music that underpins everything.
I can only describe this as eclectic, comedic, political, irreverent. If you put your albums in alphabetical order, you’re lucky, if you put them into genres, good luck with this one.
“Maybe I’m the circus, rolling into town, grab your ticket find a seat, the curtains coming down”. ‘One Song’ is the final track, maybe Dan Bern is the circus, if he rolls into town, make sure you buy a ticket, find a seat, and watch the show.

© Jon Hutchinson 2019

Libby Koch to Release New Album, Redemption 10 in October

 

Libby Koch : Redemption 10 : Live At Blue Rock
Release Date : October 18th
Americana, Country, Folk
www.LibbyKoch.com 
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Hear “Just The Way” on Americana Highways

 

“In an era of widespread vocal sweetness, Libby Koch has that rare blend of powerful real-life honesty in her vocals that lends instant depth and credibility to her songs.”
– Melissa Clarke, Americana Highways

“Her music makes you want to persevere on the off chance that the new morning might yield an unexpected creation. Such moments may be fleeting, but there are none as rewarding.”
– No Depression

“Koch plays country the way it is meant to be played, with emotion, musicianship, and earthy, clever songwriting.”
– That Music Mag

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of her first album, Redemption, Americana singer-songwriter Libby Koch is releasing a full band, track-for-track reimagining of the original solo acoustic recording. Redemption 10: Live at Blue Rock will be released by Berkalin Records on October 18, 2019.

The format of this record was an experiment for Koch. Recording her 2016 album Just Move On on Music Row in Nashville hooked Libby on the energy of making a record with a band playing the songs together, recording live in the studio. She wondered what it might be like to add a live studio audience to the equation – to let fans be part of the experience as well. Koch found the perfect location for this endeavor at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberley, Texas. Blue Rock is a state of the art studio and performance space in the Texas Hill Country that has the capability to film and broadcast live performances while providing an intimate experience for the audience and capturing pristine audio of the performance.

With the location set, Libby enlisted her friend Patterson Barrett (Buddy Miller, Jerry Jeff Walker, Nanci Griffith) to co-produce the project and assemble an all-star band of Austin musicians to record Redemption 10 in front of a live studio audience at Blue Rock. Tickets quickly sold out. Libby and the band played the album straight through once and then played a second take of a couple of songs, but in the end they decided that the flow and the feeling of the first takes were the ones that needed to be on the record. It was a magical evening.

While not a traditional live album, the atmosphere and the feedback from the crowd absolutely fed the band and shaped the experience that was caught on tape. Koch and her band sound relaxed and in an energized zone that only a live setting can provide, but at the same time they have the tight knit sound of an experienced studio band. In the end the experiment was a resounding success. The record shows a Libby Koch that her fans have loved for a decade now and presented these tracks in a fuller more realized way. If Redemption 10 is your introduction to Koch, you are in for major musical treat.

The band of Austin all-stars included lead guitarist Bill Browder (Denim, Steve Fromholz), drummer Eddie Cantu (Bruce Robison, Maren Morris), violinist Javier Chaparro (Austin Symphony, John Denver), and Glenn Schuetz (Jimmy LaFave). Libby played acoustic guitar, harmonica, and sang lead vocals, while Patterson Barrett rounded out the sound of the record by providing pedal steel, piano, organ, mandolin, and harmony vocals.

When asked about the inspiration behind the project Koch says:

“Ten years ago, when I recorded Redemption, I was a young attorney at a big law firm in Houston. At the time, I thought this was probably the only record I would ever make, and I certainly didn’t anticipate I would ever have a career in music. Once I self-released the album and started playing shows and selling copies of the CD in Houston, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was building a career in music! Ten years later, I’ve put out a few more records (Redemption 10 will be the sixth), and I’ve played hundreds of shows across the US and Europe. It’s been an incredible adventure, and I’m most thankful for all the great friendships I’ve made with musicians and music lovers across the globe. Revisiting my first album feels like a fun and fitting celebration of the music and memories I’ve made over the past decade.”

 

Songs:

1. Houston: I wrote this song the day after I graduated from law school in Nashville. The movers had come and gone, and the house was empty. I was leaving for my new job and new life in Houston the following morning, but before I left, this song had to be written. At the time, I thought I was saying goodbye to a guy, but upon reflection I now see that I was closing one chapter and starting another.

2. Just the Way: This song is about the somewhat cyclical nature of “dating” (I don’t think the kids call it that anymore). It was written in a time when I was perpetually single and not particularly good at keeping it casual! This has been one of the most fun songs from Redemption to revamp and play live, both for the band and the folks on the dance floor.

3. Can’t Complain: Writing this song was an attempt to gain a little perspective after a breakup and remind myself that, at the end of the day, I was going to be okay. In true Texas style, I was raised to dust myself off and get back on the horse after you fall out of the saddle, and this song is part of that tradition.

4. Stay With Me: I wrote this song in law school. When I played it for my roommate, she said “oh my god, that’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard.” Little did she know, I was just getting started!

5. Redemption: One of the most interesting elements of this project has been revisiting the songs to see if they’ve changed, I’ve changed, or both! This is one of the songs that has grown in meaning and depth for me, as it was written for someone who I now know never really loved me back. Now I sing it for someone who really deserves these words.

6. How Long: This record definitely intertwines spiritual themes into love songs…How Long is a great example of that. I based this song on the text of Psalm 40, with lines of each verse and the chorus tracking the Psalm: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of a slimy pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand”

7. Down: This is probably the song that changed the most from the original version. I always heard this song in my head as a honky tonk number, but Patterson said “what if we make it a rocker?” Once the band kicked into gear on this groove it was clear that it was meant to be. We had THE most fun with this song!

8. Don’t Give Up On Me: This is a spiritual song that I wrote in high school. I got my start playing guitar in my church’s youth group and the Young Life band, so a lot of my early songs were written from a spiritual angle. At such a young age it was easier for me to write those spiritual songs than it was to write something personal about someone else…I was so afraid people would figure out the songs were about them!

9. Ready Now: This is another song I wrote when I was young that started out as a spiritual song, but ended up being a love song. It’s also one of the songs that has changed for me in the past decade since I recorded the original version. Now I see this song as a readiness to dive in headfirst to life and love to see what happens (spoiler: good things usually happen when you do that).

10. I Still Miss Someone: I decided to close the album with one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, I Still Miss Someone. The original Redemption version was just me, my harmonica, and my guitar…a really intimate version of the song. This live version ended up being a little more lively and faster than we anticipated, but I think we were all having such a great time and in a nice groove that it turned out the way it did. I love both versions and am so happy with how this entire project turned out.

 

www.BrokenJukeboxMedia.com
[email protected] 

Full length debut album from East Nashville resident, Nick Nace. Wrestling With The Mystery will release officially on October 25th.

Dust of Daylight premiered the first single, “Fly In A Bottle” last week. The record was produced by Jon Latham and is being released by Flour Sack Cape Records. Below is more info on Nick and the album, downloads and a private stream. A select number of hard copies will go in the mail soon, so if you’d like one please let me know. Nick is available for interviews upon request as well. Thank you all for everything you do.

Hear “Fly In A Bottle” on Dust of Daylight

“Nick Nace’s songs pair well with a good, long drive. Each one moves just at the right speed, poetically painting scenes of all those characters you meet out on the road — and all those thoughts you think alone behind the wheel. He’s not just a songwriter’s songwriter, he’s a troubadour’s troubadour.”
– Jaimee Harris (Songwriter)

“I love Nick’s writing style, reminds me of John Prine but with it’s own character also, check him out!”
– Mick Flannery (Songwriter)

Nick Nace’s path from Canada to New York City to Nashville has been one filled with music, but the acclaimed folk singer-songwriter admits his muse led him in a different direction throughout his younger days than it does presently. Even though he was raised on a steady diet of Queen, The Band, the Beatles and even Beck, it was the bite of the acting bug that led him to relocate from the Great White North to the Great White Way.

“I always loved music, but I was a drama kid,” he admits. Fresh out of high school in the late ’90s Nace moved to New York City to pursue acting, and it was then his musical urges began taking a greater hold of his spirit than ever before. He bought a cheap, blue guitar and found himself playing in student housing halls more frequently as the months passed. He was attending acting school, but that cheap guitar was guiding him towards the tunes.

“I loved acting school,” he remembers. “But I could feel this pull to the guitar and songs that I had never felt for drama. Then I heard Bob Dylan’s first record and my mind was blown. The rawness and energy floored me. I was hooked. then my friend played me some Velvet Underground and I couldn’t stop listening. It had soul, it had honesty. After that, I pretty much stopped acting.”

“Why would I be a conduit for someone else’s words when I could write my own,” Nace asked himself during that college-aged musical enlightening.

Soon after forming his first folk duo, A Brief View of the Hudson, with a friend from acting school, Nace found himself with prime weekly gigs, and eventually recording an EP and an LP with the duo. And for a while, that was enough. But the urge to grow as a songwriter and to tell new stories in new ways led him to discover that the Big Apple wasn’t where he needed to be in order to move ahead.

Nace has come a very long way since moving into an East Nashville basement apartment, sight unseen, in December of 2015. He discovered a community of talented, like minded writers and musicians and began working with them. He’s toured Ireland, Canada and throughout the United States, including prized slots at the Mississippi Songwriters Festival, Dripping Springs Songwriter Festival and even won the Gulf Coast Songwriter Shootout.

Wrestling With the Mystery, Nace’s latest full-length effort, is as open-hearted and sincere as it is addictively catchy and melodic, recalling the fine country-folk efforts of Hayes Carll, Justin Townes Earle, Slaid Cleaves and James McMurtry. Recorded with producer John Latham, who also provided guitar and vocals to the record, at Nashville’s Cafe Rooster, the album features stories that are intimately, even painfully, personal, touching and tragic.

The stunning Fly in a Bottle, looks into the sort of regrets we all have, though few of us ever admit to. It’s a great example of how Nace can turn something dark into something shining.

“At the time I wrote this my ex-wife was in a fairly bad and abusive relationship and it was very painful to watch her go through something that. It was very hard to understand. It made me think if perhaps I’d been a better partner she wouldn’t have ever put herself in that horrible situation in the first place.”

Inspired by a chance encounter one day after attending Easter church services in Mississippi, “Clarksdale Katie,” is the sort of out-of-nowhere tale that grabs the listener with a force that doesn’t let go until the track changes. Artists like Nace have a gift for taking each day’s interactions and chronicling them in ways most of us can’t fathom.

“I ended up meeting and sitting beside a nice young woman named Katie. After the service we were hanging out at a local watering hole and she was very worried about not hearing from this friend of hers. So, we drove over to the friends and knocked on the door but no one answered. Later in the day Katie disappears for some time. It turns out she had a bad feeling and went back to her friends place only to find her in bed half unconscious having swallowed a bottle of pills. Somehow, she gets inside, calls an ambulance and saves her friend’s life.”

When he sings, “I’ve given up on love, burned your wedding gown, given up on concrete, and riding underground” in album-opening “One More Song” he’s looking into the dissolution of not only a romantic, real-life relationship, but at his break-up with New York City, the place he thought he would live out his days living a different sort of dream.

To close out the record, Nace offers perhaps his most personal story. In a confessional, storyteller’s way that Guy Clark would be proud to hear, Nace sings about “Grandpa’s Old Guitar.”

“It’s the true story of my Grandpa’s old Gibson guitar he bought for $50 after getting back from WWII,”he says. “He loved to play guitar and sing old folk and country songs. He would play it at family picnics and gatherings, and towards the end of his life he offered to pass the guitar down to me. But the day I went by his place to get it he wasn’t home. Two weeks later he went into the hospital and never came out. My grandmother eventually gave it to me but I never got a chance to have that moment with my grandpa and I’ll always regret not making it back over there before he passed away.”

From Ontario to the Big Apple to Music City, Nick Nace has moved in order to experience, to grow. But through it all he’s continued to craft stunning song after stunning song based upon the people, conversations, trials and triumphs of the path that only he has traveled, and only he can share.
Nick Nace : Wrestling With The Mystery 
Release Date: October 25th
Americana : Folk
www.NickNace.com 
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Hailing from Perth, Western Australia, world-traveling singer-songwriter Gav Brown has now released his second studio album: Road Less Travelled.

Early International Success is following:

  • Debut Single “Railroad Track” goes # 1 in Hotdisc Country Top 40 1/9/2019 and has been in the charts for four weeks. The video has been featured on SKY TV in the UK for five weeks to date.

  • “Road Less Travelled” album has obtained multiple #1’s in Play MPE weekly top 20 charts for Downloads and Streams to Radio for: Adult Contemporary, Rock, Triple A, and Australia

  • All Tracks from the “Road Less Travelled” album have had strong rotation on Radio in America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe.

  • 760,000 video views for “Road Less Travelled” tracks, (released July 19, 2019) -most popular in Australia, Canada, England, and Malaysia. “Railroad Track” video viewed 168k times with most views from Canada.
  • Over 2.3 million music video views to date.

 “It’s awesome stuff. I began to play the album on Thursday and will continue to promote. There are some amazingly technically perfect songs like “Nashville” and “Railroad Track.” I chose, however, “Mood for Love” to lead off with as it has the same underlying audiological draw for me as “Greatest Player.” You sound more relaxed and certain of your incredible talent on this latest work. Having said that- the same characteristic vocals and same smoking hot lead and sax are working their magic here, just as on the first release. From a strictly radio standpoint- give me 50 albums a month like this and I’ll be quite satisfied, indeed.”

-Gerry Sorensen WAAY Radio (Ohio, USA)

“Road to You song reminds me of my time on the road. All the while missing my fiance. She said yes. She is my wife now. I can never be far from her. All the roads I would ever take now lead me back to my wife and boy.”

-John Ragsdale 

The Road Less Travelled Album weaves captivating songs, an instrumental tune, and a multi-layered masterpiece of musical styles into a musical delight.

Road Less Travelled follows the internationally successful release of Gav’s debut album, Sound Circus, which was released in November 2018 and enjoyed success in the Play MPE charts for 12 weeks, reaching #1 in Australian, Rock, Triple A, and Adult Contemporary charts.
Popular Sound Circus single “Peter Pan” spent 9 weeks in chart Tasmanian Country Airplay Charts and reached #15. Sound Circus’s idyllic track 1, “Artist’s Dream”, reached #14 in Hotdisc Top 40 during its 6 weeks in the chart, and the video for “Artist’s Dream” was featured on SKY TV in the UK for four weeks. All tracks from the Sound Circus Album have had radio airplay, with strong rotation in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and America and South Africa.

A regular on the live music scene in Perth, West Australia, Gav Brown has performed his soul-fuelled mix of country-rock, folk and pop around Australia, New Zealand, United States of America, Hong Kong and Singapore. A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Gavin uses guitar, banjo, piano, harmonica, mandolin, cigar-box guitar and ukulele to craft honest uplifting music that captures the spirit of a traveller.

Brown has a passion for music which is clear in his song-writing. His influences include George Gershwin, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, James Taylor, Carlos Santana and John Mayer and he has been compared to Tom Waits, Joe Cocker, The Pogues and Dave Alvin.

Regularly compared to The Pogues and Tom Waits, and inspired by his childhood heroes; George Gershwin, James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen, Brown’s use of guitar, mandolin, banjo, piano and cigar-box in his writing process create a rare and compelling musical palette. Combine this with his engaging and gravelly vocals, heart-felt honesty and addictively catchy melodies, and you can see why he’s mesmerising audiences across the country.

More information
www.gavbrown.com.au

    

www.gavbrown.bandcamp.com

Radio Promo Contact

Gav Brown
Mob: +61419818288

Susan Gibson To Release New Album, The Hard Stuff promoted by Broken Jukebox.

 

Folk : Americana : Country
Release Date: October 4th
Radio Add Date : September 23rd
www.SusanGibson.com 
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Hear “The Hard Stuff” on Wide Open Country

“When I listen to a Susan Gibson song, I know she is sharing a piece if her heart and soul with me. Susan writes about true stories in her life. She writes with courage puts forth her message with powerful and heartfelt guitar and vocals. It only takes a few lines of her recorded songs for me to recognize that “Susan Sound”
Her new record has that for sure. Enjoy…..”

-Lloyd Maines-  Music producer and musician.

 

 

Wimberley, TX. Take it from Susan Gibson: “Nothing lifts a heavy heart like some elbow grease and a funny bone.” That’s the conclusion that the award-winning singer-songwriter reaches on the title track to her long-awaited new album, The Hard Stuff (due out Oct. 4 on Gibson’s own For the Records), and it may be the best bit of practical advice that she’s put to music since, well … “Check the oil.”

That “oil” line, a father’s reminder to a young daughter heading out on her own in pursuit of “Wide Open Spaces,” has been sung along to by millions of fans around the world ever since the Dixie Chicks recorded Gibson’s song as the title track to their major-label debut back in 1998. It became one of the biggest songs in modern country music history, but Gibson wasn’t aiming for a “hit” when she wrote it some 28 years ago. She was fresh out of college and had yet to officially embark on her professional music career, let alone to have figured out the basics of what she calls the “craft part” of songwriting. All she had to work with at the time, sitting at her parents’ kitchen table in Amarillo, Texas, and wanting to tell “an honest story with some universal truths,” was “sincerity and instinct.” 

Three decades, thousands of miles and countless songs and performances (both as a member of the ’90s Americana group the Groobees and as a successful solo act) down the road, Gibson is now recognized by fans, critics, and peers alike as a master troubadour who very much has the “craft part” of her art down cold. But check under the hood of The Hard Stuff, and it’s clear her songwriting engine still runs on pure emotional honesty. The only difference, really, is the mileage: Instead of reflecting the carefree exuberance of youth, these are the songs of a life-wizened, full-grown woman whose indomitable spirit springs not from untested naivety, but from hardened and tempered choice. 

The Hard Stuff is Gibson’s seventh release as a solo artist and her first full-length album since 2011’s Tight Rope. Much like the stop-gap EP that preceded it, 2016’s Remember Who You Are, it’s a record deeply rooted in grief, as Gibson wrote many of the songs while in the midst of coming to terms with the death of first one parent and then the other in the span of four years, a time during which she admits her career became far less of a priority to her than her family. But it was that very period of slowing down for emotional recalibration that ultimately pulled her out of the dark and back into the light, resulting in the most life-affirming and musically adventurous recording of her career. 

Producer Andres Moran (of the Belle Sounds) had a lot to do with helping Gibson expand her horizons at Austin’s Congress House Studio. “I’m a fan of the Belle Sounds, but Andres was a bit of an unknown to me to going into this, and I didn’t really know what he was going to do,” Gibson admits. “But I liked what I did know about him. The thing is, I’ve actually never used the same producer twice, which I think sometimes makes it hard for me to measure my growth or compare one album to the rest and go, ‘Was that forward or backwards?’ But for this one, I knew that I definitely wanted to stretch a bit more than usual. I’ve been very inspired lately by my friend Jana Pochop, who’s a brave writer and just the most unassuming pop star you could ever meet, but also a really good study in how to trust a collaborator enough to let them do their thing, instead of just what you might want them to do. She’s been getting some really good stuff that way, just by not putting limitations on herself in the studio or being tied to her acoustic guitar.”

Moran took Gibson’s “no limits” directive and ran with it. Although still unmistakably a Susan Gibson album, with her warm, friendly rasp of a voice front and center in the mix and an abundance of buoyant melodies brightening even the darkest corners (with a special assist from her beloved banjo on the bittersweet closer, “8×10”), the arrangements throughout The Hard Stuff are full of surprises. Rife with bursts of pop elan, splashes of funk (horns!), and even flirty hints of jazz, it’s a bright, technicolor palette delightfully unfettered by the constraints of her usually solo acoustic live shows. But far from seeming even remotely out of her element, Gibson embraces it all with arms and heart wide open, delivering her most spirited performances on record to date , and 10 of the best songs of her career, each one illuminated by her refreshingly clear-eyed perspectives on life, love, work, and yes, true to album’s title, even death.

Which brings us back to that line about nothing lifting a heavy heart like “some elbow grease and a funny bone”: the key point being, it takes both. And of course, a little time helps, too.

“I feel like Remember Who You Are came out of a lot of really raw and immediate, direct grief,” she says, recalling the EP she made not long after her mother’s death and her focus at the time on “the ache of loss and the balm of letting go.” A lot of that ache lingers still on The Hard Stuff, compounded of course by the loss of a second parent, but the sense of healing is palpable. But the difference with this batch of songs is, they’re not scabs anymore they’re starting to become scars: scars that you can talk about and tell stories about, and even find humor in. I don’t think it’s a particularly ‘humorous’ record, but I do feel like the common thread in a lot of the songs is me trying to not take myself so seriously.” 

To wit, in the title track, inspired by conversations with her concerned older sister (and an old John Wayne quote from the movie The Sands of Iwo Jima), Gibson reminds herself that, “if you’re gonna be stupid, you better be tough,” while in “The Big Game,” she baits a light-hearted account of frustrated desire with the winking tease, “Why you gotta make it so hard / for me to be easy?” 

A little bit of that kind of playfulness goes a long way; but its the elbow grease  and hard-earned experience  that ultimately does the heaviest lifting. In the opening “Imaginary Lines,” co-written with her aforementioned friend Jana Pochop, Gibson shifts seamlessly from a country mouse in the big city anecdote (and an account of a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a contract-waving industry business suit) to an exhilarating chorus reaffirming her commitment to the independent music back roads less traveled but traveled hard and with a joyous sense of purpose. The extended metaphors in “Diagnostic Heart” and “Hurricane” hit like brutally honest, tough-love therapy sessions, and the achingly beautiful “Wildflowers in the Weeds” ,ostensibly written for her friend and fellow independent Texas songwriter, Terri Hendrix, but by Gibson’s candid admission just as much about herself  is a portrait of courage and resilience painted in rich hues of empathy and bittersweet truth. And even when Gibson gets around to directly singing about how much she misses her mother (in “8×10”), or about the heartbreak of watching her elderly father struggle just to keep up in the world as a widower in the final years of his own life, her sadness is counterbalanced with equal measures of deeply felt gratitude for the memories she shared with them and the wisdom she learned from them. As she sings in “Antiques,” “Getting older ain’t for the weak / it only happens to the strongest ones.”

That’s the kind of “hard stuff” that The Hard Stuff is really about. Not the kind that breaks, but the kind that endures. 

1. Imaginary Lines (4:12)
2. Antiques (4:07)
3. The Hard Stuff (3:48)
4. Lookin’ For A Fight (3:19)
5. The Big Game (3:41)
6. Diagnostic Heart (4:06)
7. 2 Fake IDs (4:21)
8. Hurricane (3:52)
9. Wildflowers In The Weeds (3:35)
10. 8 X 10 (4:05)

All FCC Clean
Focus Tracks : 1, 3, 8, 9

All Songs by Susan Gibson except:
“Imaginary Lines” – Susan Gibson, Jana Pochop, Michael Scwartz

Texas Songwriter Helene Cronin to Release Full Length Album, start listening on TMEfm Radio.

Helene Cronin : Old Ghosts & Lost Causes 
Americana : Folk
Release Date : October 11th
www.HeleneCronin.com 
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“Helene Cronin can flat out spin a lyric. Her ability to crawl within a subject and pull a story or emotion out the other end is what makes her a brilliant songwriter. Those writing chops delivered with those earthy vocals have made her one of the best artists I’ve heard in a long time.”
– Terri Hendrix, Songwriter

“I like songs that tell the truth. Helene Cronin’s songs do just that. Helene delivers her songs with sheer soul. She invites you into her world and it’s a great listen.”
– Lloyd Maines, Producer and Musician

“Helene is a master of words who writes and sings straight from the heart. Each song is a handcrafted mini-movie.”
– Zane Williams, Artist

Helene Cronin spent over 15 years performing and songwriting — often for other people — before she awakened to the idea that she needed to follow her muse and start making records that more accurately represent the songs coming from her own heart. Following 2 recent EPs, Old Ghosts & Lost Causes is her first full length offering, although Cronin is a seasoned player. Produced by Matt King and featuring Kenny Vaughan, Byron House and others, the album serves up Cronin’s phenomenal songwriting in a sonic landscape that runs the gamut of the label Americana with hard driving guitar and thoughtful, top shelf musicianship.

The crux of it all is the lyrical mastery and vocal delivery that made Cronin a New Folk winner at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival in 2018.  Starting off the album is the first single, “Careless With a Heart”, a reflective song that considers how we treat the fragile but resilient human heart. Following that is the blues-infused “Mean Bone”, a co-write with her novelist daughter, Alex, which examines the idea: what if someone did in fact have a “mean bone in his body” contrary to the popular use of that expression? From that song about the darker side of humanity, Cronin flows into what she calls a centerpiece of the album, the uplifting “Humankind” which celebrates people’s inherent desire to care for others. Later in “Riding The Gray Line”,  she turns her attention to a host of characters riding a Greyhound bus and weaves their stories over an acoustic-based bed. To close out the record Helene returns fully to her folk roots with “Ghost”, a six minute ballad, recounting from his perspective the story of a dead husband, performed completely solo long after the band had finished their work in the studio.

Overall, Old Ghosts & Lost Causes is the perfect vehicle for the precision of Helene Cronin”s songs. It showcases her versatility as a writer and performer while maintaining a cohesive overall feeling.  In a world obsessed with singles and rushing to the next thing, Old Ghosts will grab ahold of you and demand that you sit and give it the attention a proper album deserves.


Helene Cronin: vocals, background vocals, guitar
Bobby Terry: acoustic and  steel guitar, mandolin
Byron House: bass
Chad Cromwell: drums Kenny Vaughan:
electric guitar Heidi Newfield: harmonica, background vocals
Matt King: background vocals

Produced by Matt King
Engineered & mixed by Mitch Dane

JUSTIN PETER KINKEL-SCHUSTER – Take Heart, Take Care (Big Legal Mess)

 

What does a songwriter who has mined darkness do when he finds a measure of contentment?

This was the challenge that faced Fayetteville, AR songwriter Justin Peter Kinkel-Schusterwhen writing his new album Take Heart, Take Care. A songwriter who had success with Water Liars (including over 14 million Spotify streams) and Marie/Lepanto (his collaboration with Will Johnson of Centro-Matic) and has earned acclaim from NPR, Billboard, NY Times, and Paste Magazine now took time to reassess his writing process.

Characters are drawn to and away from other people. They seek both risk and comfort. In the album opener “Plenty Wonder,” he sings of balannce, allowing himself “Plenty wonder in this world still to be found.” Several songs look back at a younger self with curiosity. “Friend of Mine” belies the camaraderie of youth; “Cut Your Teeth” is about seeing abrasiveness around us but then finding and cherishing “a deep and gentle welcome place inside” and remembering the journey that brought you there and the maintenance needed to keep perspective. It also powerfully alternates from fingerpicked acoustic guitar to hails of overdrive.

“Name What You Are” may be the most autobiographical song here (a medium in which Pete does not usually traffic). “It’s being quietly amazed at the places and conditions you put yourself in and why and what that meant at the time and what that means now having more or less dedicated your life to it. The atmosphere of ‘what the hell’s going’ on but it not mattering as much as that you’re simply doing it. For lifers in terms of making music, I would hope it might pretty true.” Yet the fingerpicked guitar and melody is more about the reflection back than the manic activity remembered. When asked about the song, Pete quotes Harry Crews, “Survival is triumph enough.”

Several songs, such as “Take Heart, Take Care,” are in the second person as if speaking directly to those out there who can identify with his earlier, darker experiences. He sings, “Time, time is the mender, whose strange mechanics, yet untold, bid us rise entwined together.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and novelist Forrest Gander notes how this technique makes the listener lean in, saying, “You’ll notice a little delay in the timing as the tunes of JPKS’ “Take Heart, Take Care” back-eddy while he leans into and opens up the song’s long vowels. It’s almost as though the singer were pausing for a friend—that’s us—to catch up, to keep him company just before he turns to dive into the reprise. In fact, friendship is a recurring theme in this album. The second song is ‘Friend of Mine’ but other lyrics remind us ‘to keep it close’ so that what counts doesn’t go ‘asunder.’ Pete’s voice has an easy, unfeigned sweetness tinged with melancholy, and its warmth blows convincingly behind the alternately precise and fuzzy guitar notation that gives the album its definitive sound.”

The intimacy that Gander and Baker observe comes of both form and function for Pete: a desire to keep things simple aesthetically but also the limitations of time and money. His bandmate in Marie/Lepanto, Will Johnson, taught him by example how to build a record by yourself; Pete followed this method, playing all of the instruments except keyboards. “Will is a hero of mine and I’d grown to admire his way of working. We made the Marie/Lepanto record in 3 1⁄2 – 4 days and looking back, I was taken aback that we were able to do that. I take a lot of cues from Will,” he reflects. It freed him. The effect is cinematic yet direct, wind across the plains at times, humidity you can feel at others, and the occasional glimpse of a promised coastline, all of it from a view always in motion.

The sounds also provide a backdrop of a complicated world for Pete to approach his type of makeshift, hard-won providence. The underlying message is of hope, to others as well as himself. He states, “Here I’ve fumbled my way, as always, and of necessity, into a collection of songs that hold a light to the joys and comforts of life not given up on, those that appear over time as we are looking elsewhere, to surprise and delight us when we need them most. Sure, it’s me, so there are glimpses of and nods to the dark, but the dark is not winning anymore. I simply mean to acknowledge its presence. To me, that’s the most fundamental job of songs, of stories, of all art—to be allies, friends, companions, when we need them most and it’s my hope that these songs can do that work in a world that seems to need it.”

So what does a songwriter do when he finds contentment? He tries to pass on what he knows in hopes of helping the next person. 

– JUSTIN PETER KINKEL-SCHUSTER-
Website | Instagram | Facebook | Bandcamp

Nashville’s The Truehearts Release Songs For Spike

The Truehearts : Songs For Spike
Americana : Folk : Country
Release Date: June 21st

www.TheTruehearts.com
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Buy / Stream The Record 

Watch the video for “PFC Frankie Walker” on Ditty TV

Listen To “Won’t It Be Something” on Americana Highways

“This is as eclectic as any album can get but somehow it all hangs together because it’s so well thought out, arranged, and brilliantly executed. It’s not just a harmonious blending of voices; it’s that and the blending of so many styles that hit on a wide range of emotions too. Other bigger name duos will undoubtedly earn coveted awards, but the Truehearts are likely more deserving. This album is several cuts above the rest.”
– Jim Hynes, Glide Magazine

“Americana that blows open the ears and doors so firmly you really won’t know what to do with it.”
– Chris Spector, Midwest Record 

‘Songs For Spike is an excellent slice of Americana from start to finish from The Truehearts. It’s full of clever, compelling stories, set over a quite varied menu of musical styles!”
– Don Crow, Nashvlle Blues and Roots Alliance

“The Truehearts’ new album, Songs for Spike, is all heart the kind of album that tells honest tales of love and life with poetic clarity, heightened by the harmonies of co-leaders Debra Buonaccorsi and Steve McWilliams and their mesh of electric and acoustic guitars. The expertly played arrangements are a perfect fit for their lyrics, both settling into and slightly pushing the envelope of Americana and roots rock with flourishes of banjo and odd turns of six-string like the bubbling intro to Milky Way and the chiming expressionist colors that heighten the drama of the telling 2Late July. Songs for Spike is packed with simple truths which are the best kind and immensely easy to fall in love with.”
– Ted Drozdowski, Senior Editor, Premier Guitar magazine

“With a knack for melody and sharp storytelling, The Truehearts have made a terrific album of modern Americana. Steve and Debra blend everything from ’30s string bands, ’50s rock’n’roll, ’70s Petty, ’80s Ramones, and 21st century folk into a warm-yet-sharp blend of well-observed tunes, full of layered harmonies and apt arrangements. Keep your ears open for The Truehearts.”
– Eric Brace

“The Truehearts are aptly named. These are good people, making good music for right and good reasons.” 
– Peter Cooper, Country Music Hall of Fame

“The Truehearts write music with true ear-worm quality.”
– Melissa Clarke, Americana Highways

Steve McWilliams and Debra Buonaccorsi are the TrueHearts. And they are. They’re an item. They hit East Nashville from the DC/Baltimore area a few years back as the Hummingbyrds and released a terrific album called Purgatory Emporium  that fell into the melodic side of Americana sound. It was a solid collection of songs that they sold at gigs as they worked up a reputation in the crowded East Nashville music scene. All very nice. Lovely people too. Salt of the earth and reasonably normal.

And now comes THIS Songs for Spike  is their new album, their first under the TrueHearts moniker, and it takes their whole career up to this point such as it has been – and stands it on its cotton pickin’ head. Under the aegis of the increasingly popular producer/guitarist Dave Coleman (with Pete Pulkrabek on drums and Brian Hinchliffe on bass and cameos from Richard Bailey of the Steeldrivers and Paul Niehaus of Calexico) they have put together the best new record I’ve heard since Nick Piunti’s ‘Temporary High a year ago. This is not just more agreeable pleasant Americana songs and sounds (though there are elements of that), this is a quantum leap. This is a rocking damn gorgeous eclectic but unified set of songs, about the never-ending fight to come out on top in life. A guitar group with terrific vocals, songs that are about things with profoundly well-constructed arrangements on a comfy bed of Dave Coleman’s construction of wonderful electric guitars with subtle twists and turns like Tom Petty ‘ rest his soul ‘ and damn near XTC territory to my ears. There is a song ( Hey Hey ) that embraces a reggae vibe in the verses and then steps up and punches you in the face with a fifth gear rocking chorus. They thought out all this stuff really well. No song is less than inspired and they never repeat themselves   they embrace rock, they go to the country and get pensive, they shift the focus to a piano ballad or a close-up of an acoustic guitar, but they make joyous loud noises too, a lovely and appropriate amount of it. It’s bearing up to repeated listening as a gift that keeps on giving.

Enough of my yacking. Let’s go through some of the record. Things kick off with a ‘Wont it be Something’, a swinging guitar descending chord progression reminiscent of ’16 Tons’ or a trashier version of the Kinks ‘Sunny Afternoon.’ Complete with horns, it soars into an exuberant chorus:  Won’t it be something, to make gold out of nothing. I still believe in nursery rhymes. Sunshine & Violets  has traces of Aimee Mann with another chorus that lifts everything higher —  PFC Frankie Walker  is a return to more rural territory, a banjo-driven up-tempo minor-key folk tale and probably the album’s centerpiece. During World War II, Steve’s mother was 15 and PFC Frankie  Spike Walker was 18, and they had to be known to court and spark. He shipped out, went ashore D-Day +1 and was killed 2 months later. It highlights some of the struggle with the cards you’re dealt that permeate the record, making ALL the record songs for Spike, hence the title.   Manzelle Marie  is a chugging bo diddley verse that roars into a chorus that grabs you like all the ones have so far. —  Late July  features a gorgeous guitar figure —  32nd Street  is a free-swing rocker with shades of McMurtry — There’s much more. It’s all good too. Everything hits you musically, genuinely musically. In our world of everyone having a record out and anyone over 21 need not apply,  Songs for Spike  deserves to be heard, and considered one of the best albums to come out in 2019. I’m serious.

Scheduled for release on June 21, 2019, the Truehearts will be true to their hearts and continue to play both in Nashville and out in the real world. I don’t lend my name to just anything, so I close off this missive with what I truly know: they’ve made a solid damn record, and if you care at all about East Nashville music, or the whole Americana scene in general where they’re suddenly pushing the envelope, you must hear this album.
– Tommy Womack, 2019

  1. Won’t It Be Something
    2. Sunshine and Violets
    3. PFC Frankie Walker
    4. Mamzelle Marie
    5. Hey, Hey
    6. Let It Sing
    7. 32nd Street
    8. Late July (explicit lyrics)
    9. Milky Way
    10. Goodbye

    Focus Tracks : 1,3, 5, 6
    FCC Warning : Track 8 

Produced by Dave Coleman and The TrueHearts
Recorded and Mixed by Dave Coleman at Howard’s Apartment Studio in East Nashville, TN
Mastered by Alex McCollough at True East Mastering, Donelson, TN

Photo Credit : Stacie Huckeba

Ben Davis Jr. – Suthernahia, a cracker of an album, Go get yourselves a copy.

 

 

Ben Davis Jr. : Suthernahia
Americana
Release Date : August 16th.

www.BenDavisJr.net
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Hear “Just Let Me In” on Glide Magazine
Hear “I Think You Should” on Southern Sounding
Hear “Line Boat Blues” on Americana Highways


“Davis shows his impressive songwriting chops as he channels troubadours like Todd Snider, David Childers, and Steve Earle. ” – Glide Magazine

“Suthernahia is solid rootsy southern rock’n roll, the kind of album that you’ll want to listen to all the way through  and then you’ll put it on repeat.”
-Melissa Clarke, Americana Highways

 “A hard charging roots rocker with accent on the rock, Davis shows his sure fire pen on a dandy original set that fires up the blood taking looks as various topics that affect the contemporary psyche. Solid modern songwriting that stays on point throughout, here’s a smoking slice of life live from the heartland to you.”
– 
Chris Spector, Midwest Record 


“a noteworthy, memorable release”
– Will Phoenix, HVY

“Ben Davis Jr’s Suthernahia will stay with you long after the record’s over.”
– HR Gertner, Americana Highways

 “one of Americana’s brightest young artists”
– Don Crow, Don and Sheryl’s Music Blog

Born of the hills, hollers, and river valleys of southern Ohio, veteran singer-songwriter Ben Davis Jr’s appropriately-named new album Suthernahia is a dazzling cornucopia of roots based musical styles and heartfelt emotions. Anchored by Davis impeccable song craft and compelling vocals, the collection speaks to the primacy of personal responsibility (“I Think You Should”), enduring relationships (“Just Let Me In”), and honest work (“Line Boat Blues”).


Produced by Eddie Ashworth at The Oxide Shed outside Athens, OH, Suthernahia boasts versatile and full bodied backing by The Revelry (Erik Miller on drums, Levi Westfall on bass, Ben Ervin on guitar, and Ashworth on mandolin and keyboards) and various guest artists, including legendary North Carolina singer-songwriter David Childers (one of Davis’ major musical influences) who contributes vocals and harmonica. Stylistically, one hears elements of alt-country, punk rock, psychedelia, folk, and even 60’s sunshine pop reverberating in the carefully crafted tracks. Suthernahia is an album that rewards repeated listens with layers of meaning and sound uncommon in today’s musical landscape.

1. I Think You Should (4:12)
It starts like a runaway freight train of churning guitars and electric mandolin, with lyrics that call out to those who are going down in a suicide plane to right their course before it’s too late. Unexpectedly, it morphs into a spacey psychedelic jam complete with swirling theremin, mellotron, intertwining guitars, and phased background vocals. Then, at the last minute, the rock roars back for a final chorus to thrillingly close the song.
2. Can’t Get Enough (3:07)
 Davis celebrates his affinity for outlaw country and Bakersfield twang with this cautionary tale of obsessive love gone wrong, then somehow right. Incendiary guitar work and funky Wurlitzer lines complement Davis’ burly, effervescent vocals.
3. If You Ever Will (3:59)
A sweet folky bluegrass tune with high lonesome harmonies, clucking mandolin, and bouncy train beat. Captures that bittersweet tang of yearning for someone and wondering if that feeling is shared.
4. Porchlight (3:44)
Davis excels at capturing the sadness and sorrow of failed romance without becoming maudlin, and there is no better example of his skills than this song. By turns hushed, dramatic, and finally cathartic, the song’s lyrics perfectly capture the forlorn universality of unrequited love.
5. Just Let Me In (5:38)
Using the sound of a gentle rain (captured during one of the album recording sessions) as a segue, this song’s lyrics are traditional in the best possible sense. The line I’ve got a love/like they had way back when resonate over a bed of tape-echoed guitar, stately Wurlitzer, and interlocked bass and drums to create an instant classic ballad.
6. Sunday Morning (2:48)
Davis gets soulfully funky on this uptempo track that evokes the sounds of Motown and Stax records. Boasting a rip snorting baritone sax solo and galloping groove, the song celebrates absent friends and appropriate retribution.
7. Ramblin’ Bones (2:35)
Another folk infused track, with an old-timey feel complemented by fiddle and dobro. 
8. (I’m Doing) Fine Girl (3:03) 
Davis’ fearless songwriting range is on full display with this homage to the sunshine pop and soul of the 60’s. Combining a lighter than air verse melody with period instrumentation (Beatle-esque clavichord, bouncy finger plucked electric guitar, and once again theremin), this track provides a perfect balance to the more intense and introspective songs the album.
9. Line Boat Blues (featuring David Childers) (3:21)
 Davis has always lived on, or very near, the Ohio River, and his familiarity with its vagaries and the people who derive a living from it is evident on this track. Celebrating the folks who work long and hard to navigate the river’s line boats, the song features legendary North Carolina singer-songwriter David Childers on vocals and harmonica.
10. Carly (3:47)
The album closes on a melancholy note with this ode to a lost love whose life ended too soon. The track features Davis on acoustic guitar and voice (in contrast to the rest of the album’s finely wrought arrangements) and is all the more devastating because of it.

All Tracks FCC Clean
Focus Tracks: 1, 5, 9, 10

All songs written by Ben Davis Jr
Produced, recorded, and mixed by Eddie Ashworth
at the Oxide Shed, Coolville Ridge, Athens, OH

Additional recording by Chris Garges
at Old House Studio, Charlotte, NC

Mastered by Jeff Lipton and Maria Rice
at Peerless Mastering, Boston, MA


Photo Credit: Olen Queen