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Tag: Jason Isbell

Videos Videos Videos: Acoustic, etc.

Brooklyn Doran’s jazz-standards vibe brings a classy aura to Lake Street Dive-esque charm. The band knows how to hit it and quit it, as Doran and her crew mesmerize in less than two minutes.

Mann Friday are trying to get the booker at Glastonbury to book them by dedicating a video to her. “Say Yeah (Emily Eavis)” might mark the only time that the booker of a festival has been immortalized in song. The acoustic-fronted pop-rock song is pretty great too.

Jen Chapin’s “Gospel” pays homage to historical and current protest movements around the world.

Acoustic fingerpicking; versatile, powerful female vocals; an intimate performance–what more could you ask for? Courtney Marie Andrews is impressive here.

Ryan Culwell’s “Red River” is a desolate, stark, moving tribute to the people and land of South Texas. Shades of Jason Isbell, but for a different people.

As they say on Imgur, “Always upvote Cancellieri.”

November MP3s: Sing Yr Song

Here’s November’s singles, over the next few days.

Sing Yr Song

1. “Echo” – Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders. Some people have the greatness inside them, and it’s present in flashes that don’t reveal the whole thing. That was Squires’ previous work, and “Echo” is the revelation: the yelpy vocals, the singer/songwriter lyrics, and propulsive indie-rock arrangements all come together to give me shivers. Color me thrilled for the new album.

2. “Strange the Way” – James Hearne. Here’s a tight country arrangement paired with a great chorus. There is some great country in the world, y’all. I’m not even throwing “alt” on this. It’s country. And it’s good. You won’t be aurally injured by listening, I promise. You’ll like the chorus, for sure. You like Jason Isbell, you know? It’s okay. Admit it. Country.

3. “Pretend With Me” – Great Spirit. Remember a couple of years ago when back porch-style folk was in? Great Spirit is on that porch, still doin’ its loose, warm, optimistic string band thing. Break out your mason jars. (I love mason jars. This is not ironic.)

4. “Breathe Your Last” – Jameson. Banjo, bright production, swamp shuffle percussion, and some grit on the edges of the vocals make this track a keeper. Oh, also the giant chorus.

5. “Wolf Hall” – Twin Lakes. Smooth, lush indie-pop with dramatic leanings.

6. “My Ears Are Ringing” – Sama Dams. That sort of yearning, desperate, indie-infused neo-soul that the Antlers have nearly patented, now with 100% more sweeeeeet, crunchy guitar solo.

7. “Sirens” – AM Static. Chillwave with some glitchy backbone and cooing vocals. I love it.

8. “Let Me Love You (Acoustic)” – Kylie Odetta. I’m a sucker for a torchy vocal, a lounge piano, and a sultry mood.

9. “Bell’s View” – Jason Lytle. Also a sucker for a dramatic piano line, a sad singer/songwriter, and a romantically morose vibe. (Ex-Grandaddy, just in case. I love me some Grandaddy.)

Jack the Radio … on the radio

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I don’t get sent very many radio sessions, but I think they’re real cool. As a fan of acoustic music, radio sessions often offer me a chance to hear noisy bands in the quieter arrangements I so dearly love.

Raleigh Southern rock/folk band Jack the Radio played a three-song set for WUNC recently, and it’s a really engaging set. The six-piece band sounds crisp and clear, with their vocal melodies really played up in the acoustic environment. If you’re a fan of Old Crow Medicine Show, Drive-by Truckers, or Jason Isbell, you’ll find much to love in Jack the Radio. If you find yourself in Raleigh tomorrow night, JtR is playing at Lincoln Theater.

Leif Vollebekk’s gorgeous music stands up to the glance and the scrutiny

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Gregory Alan Isakov was one of my favorite discoveries of 2013; his deeply romantic, gentle folk tunes moved me often. (This probably has to do with being in a relationship; sorry to all ye unrequited.) Leif Vollebekk has a similar vibe in North Americana, as his songs meld earnest and passionate emotions with relaxing arrangements.

Even though Vollebekk is a Canadian troubadour, you’d never know unless I told you: this is a Southern record through and through. He has a lilting Southern voice full of vibrato, grit, and regret. The opening track is called “Southern United States”; “Pallbearer Blues” has a New Orleans funeral feel (mmm, rag piano…) and a William Faulkner title. Standout “When the Subway Comes Above the Ground” namechecks Mississippi, Memphis, and Nashville. The storyteller pose that Vollebekk takes is a little bit southern bluesman, a little bit Leonard Cohen. The dude can even rock a harmonica. North Americana does not accomplish the insider’s perspective of Jason Isbell’s Southeastern; instead, it becomes a testament of appreciation for a place a little to the south of his Canadian digs.

That tender affection for the locations and people invoked and implied in these songs make it easy to transfer that affection. “When the Subway Comes Above the Ground” sounds like a gorgeous, expansive love song complete with organ–even though it’s mostly about travel and disappointment. If you don’t listen to the lyrics and just feel the emotion in his voice, it can be about anything or anyone lovely and rare.

While Vollebekk’s arrangements are beautiful, they never obscure his vocal lines. His trembling tenor is the centerpiece of things both expansive and minimalist. Quiet closer “From the Fourth” invokes the best moments of Josh Ritter in the crisp, light guitar playing; Vollebekk puts his own spin on it with a breathtaking, thoughtful vocal performance. It’s the sort of performance that emphasizes the subtle details of the vocal performance: the tone of voice, the length of notes, the timbre with which each word is sung. Someone else could sing it, but it wouldn’t be the same song. That is a sign of vocal and songwriting mastery.

Leif Vollebekk’s North Americana is an album that rewards both those who want the mood and who want to know the details. You can put this on and it will lighten the vibe of a room immediately; you can focus and hear all the little aspects that Vollebekk took care to give the listener. It’s top-shelf music either way you go, and that is very, very uncommon. It stands up to the glance and the scrutiny; I wish the same could be said of all music–and of me. Highly recommended.

SXSW Thursday: Henry Wagons / Amanda Shires / Jason Isbell

I love St. David’s Episcopal Church, because they host not one but two of my favorite venues in all of SXSW. Their chapel and hall are both excellent places to watch shows: no hustle and bustle, (usually) no noisy electronica, no nonsense, just good singer/songwriters. This year is no exception. I stepped in during Henry Wagons‘ set of rockabilly-inflected folk and was immediately impressed. Wagons’ pointed sense of humor, arresting baritone voice and jaunty tunes struck a great chord in me. The audience laughed through the punchlines and his fun stage antics, even getting involved when Wagons would call out various members of the audience as the “inspiration” or “dedication” of the song. I absolutely loved the set, and was glad to “point my head in the general direction of” Henry Wagons.

Amanda Shires played her whole set on a ukulele, which made this uke player incredibly happy. Her deeply lyrical tunes hung on each word she delivered, with husband Jason Isbell’s intricate single-note guitarwork providing melodic counterpoint to her voice and uke. She played several songs off her new album, which will be released at a date to be announced: fans of women songwriters with strong lyrical and melodious voices should take notice.

I was there in St. David’s to see Jason Isbell, who I first saw on one of my first days in Auburn, AL. As I am about to voyage out of Alabama in search of the next adventure, seeing Isbell was a fitting bookend to my time in the Yellowhammer State. Isbell’s roaring voice and emotional storytelling were absolutely gripping in St. David’s chapel; his voice and guitar filled the space. He played tunes off his new album Southeastern, which comes out June 11th, and I can tell you that I can hardly wait for the album. The new tunes were evocative lyrically and melodically, made even more poignant by Shires’ keening fiddle accompaniment. Isbell also played the crowd favorite “Alabama Pines” (which will most likely be how I remember Alabama) and even the Drive-by Truckers’ “Decoration Day.”

The audience was in his thall: when he sang a few tunes about war veterans returned to the South, the crowd was especially noisy in its appreciation. At the end of the set, he received a well-earned standing ovation immediately. It’s not often that you get to hear a master songwriter perform in an intimate setting, but that’s what happened last night. I thoroughly recommend Jason Isbell to you.

Concert review: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

So I’ve arrived in Auburn, AL, which means I have a whole new music scene to discover. The early frontrunner for band with the best name is Bottle Up and Explode, closely followed by The Bandar-Log. I’ll be seeing Bottle Up and Explode Saturday (hopefully).

But the first local band I saw in Auburn was Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Yes, Jason Isbell (ex-Drive By Truckers) is from North Alabama, which makes him local enough for me. He showed up minus a guitarist that was on the poster, but hey – I wasn’t familiar with Isbell or DBT before this show, and I didn’t notice the hole.

The audience, however, was familiar with his DBT work (the crowd loudly requested and then went nuts for “Outfit”) and his new stuff. His rootsy, folkier stuff held the audience in sing-a-long thrall, while his more Southern rock-tinged stuff seemed to lose some of the audience hanging out on the fringes of the venue.

I was one of those wallflowers, most impressed by the tender folk-pop of “Alabama Pines.” Isbell’s descriptive, emotional storytelling was best displayed on quieter tunes like these. His engaging between-song banter made the show even more enjoyable. All in all, I’m very interested in checking out “Here We Rest,” Isbell’s new album.