Darlin Darlin by Jason Sanchez
“‘Easy’ possesses a tremulous devastation, delivering a wracking emotional impact that blindsides you with both it fragility and fierceness. The drums shuffle along as the guitars glimmer in the cool light of the evening, and Guerrero’s voice shines like the moon as it guides her listeners through the encroaching darkness. There’s a chill in the air, and “Easy” effortlessly captures that hesitant anxiety.” – The Southern Sounding
New York has long been a hotbed for songwriters, from the Folk City-centered explosion of the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, to the anti-folk uprising of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, to the vibrant current scene that supports the ten-year-old Brooklyn Folk Fest and a healthy open mic milieu that finds true believers like Stephen Karl and Joanie Leon Guerrero pouring their hearts and guts out every night of the week.

Once upon a time, three-chord buskers and punk-fueled sensitive singer/songwriters ruled New York’s song-oriented clubs. These days, a new melding of singer/songwriters and highly skilled post-conservatory musicians are harvesting elegant, noisy, impassioned, and timeless tunes, as exemplified by this split single by genre-pushing comrades-in-song Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals and Darlin Darlin.

“There’s definitely a scene in New York of people who are in their late 20s to early 40s who went through serious academic music training, from Julliard and Yale, and now they’re [returning to basics] as songwriters,” said Karl, whose resume includes a master’s degree in classical guitar performance, guitarist for Antony and The Johnsons, and the driving force behind the experimental instrumental ensemble Redhooker. “I missed words. I missed writing words, and a lot of these people found a similar trajectory as me, where I’m not honoring my musical heritage if I’m just practicing Bach all the time. My community is more people like that, which is outstanding because it means a lot of the players are high level and we can put a band together where everyone’s got the chops and the ears.”

“I think we’re all just trying to create a community,” said Guerrero, singer and co-guiding light (with romantic partner and multi-instrumentalist Brett Parnell) behind Darlin Darlin. “I grew up in Virginia, and I really got into music after I graduated from high school and moved to [Washington] D.C. right after. There’s such a strong community of musicians there. Everybody goes to everybody else’s shows, and people are really supportive there. I feel like New York is all about curating a vibe. D.C. is more like, ‘Here, you guys have a good thing going on, do it here.’”

Towards making a scene, the two Brooklyn-based bands have played gigs together and collaborated musically and communally. The marriage is made official with a four-song split single EP released today. Karl’s tunes, “Shelter” and “Cyndi,” are pretty slices of life that evoke his Dylan-Minnesota roots and highlighted by trippy Bowie-worthy pop vocals, while Darlin Darlin’s haunting “Easy” and “Katy, TX” suggest fellow New Yorkers Ollabelle and the Golden Palominos. Both bands bring a raw freshness to a time-honored tradition.

“Joanie likes to describe Darlin Darlin as ‘Dolly Parton meets Nick Cave,’” said Karl, of his friends’ dark lilt. “My heroes are Prince, Springsteen, Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt. A lot of these tunes that were written around this time deal with romantic relationship struggles: ‘Shelter’ is an honest story of a relationship that is failing, but it does it in an honest, compassionate, and not-too maudlin way by acknowledging what I’m experiencing, and what I love about the woman I’m losing, and how I basically do want the best for her. I felt like it was important to show that side, but I also wanted to present a fun story, and ‘Cyndi’ is that—about a night when I was 25 and got a kiss from Cyndi Lauper.”

For both Darlin Darlin and Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals, “what comes out” is beautiful. And from the sounds of things, this four-song EP is just the beginning.

Release Date: May 4, 2018

Stephen Karl & Handsome Animals
1. Cyndi
2. Shelter

Darlin Darlin
3. Easy
4. Katy

Joshua James new single from album My Spirit Sister

On My Spirit Sister Joshua James digs into his own messy humanity to create a complex and chillingly candid album

Joshua James’ new album looks into the darkness that we all flirt with, the things we think and dissect through our internal monologues but rarely share with others. Questioning core beliefs, faith in the micro and the macro, being uncertain. These are tenets of James’ songwriting, and his life, and on his upcoming dark Americana album My Spirit Sister he looks to continue facing the unknown with a rabid curiosity.

The first single, ‘Millie’, written about grappling with himself while on the verge of having a child with his wife, premiered on Noisey last week, you can click through the image below to check out that track and his upcoming tour dates. You can also download and stream the full album after the blurb below that!

More Info On Joshua James’ My Spirit Sister

“Humanity,” said Dostoevsky, “is a mystery. It must be unravelled.” On his latest album, My Spirit Sister, Utah-based Americana artist Joshua James attempts to do just that, laying bare a narrative catalogue of his unraveling of the complexities and imperfections inherent in us all.

Joshua James was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he found solace early on in old records. James moved to Utah for university, where he began writing songs while studying nursing. “Leaving your home, your family, and living somewhere without the support of that structure is going to cause you to change,” he says. “I suppose it caused me to expand my view of the world, people, culture, god, the pursuit of a “career,” money and its affect on a man.” These themes and the hard-edged, stark landscapes of these states seep into the compositions on My Spirit Sister, which are stunningly beautiful yet somehow perilous and harrowing in execution. James draws on inspiration from the untidy and unseemly parts of ourselves that we tend to hide even from the people closest to us. He may find more questions than he answers, but his ethos of working to be honest about his own weaknesses led to a chillingly engaging record.

Upcoming shows:
4/2 – Maintenance Shop – Ames, IA
4/3 – City Winery – Chicago, IL
4/4 – The Ark – Ann Arbor, MI
4/6 – The Haunt – Ithaca, NY
4/7 – Word Barn – Portsmouth, NH
4/8 – Lizard Lounge – Boston, MA
4/9 – Parlor Room – Northampton, MA
4/11 – Higher Ground – Burlington, VT
4/12 – Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
4/14 – World Cafe Live (upstairs) – Philadelphia, PA
4/15 – Jammin’ Java – Vienna, VA
4/20 – Altamont Theater – Asheville, NC
4/21 – Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC
4/22 – Roasting Room – Bluffton, SC
4/23 – High Dive – Gainesville, FL
4/24 – Jaeb Theater @ Straz Center – Tampa, FL
4/26 – Eddie’s Attic – Atlanta, GA