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Tag: Folk

Them Dirty Roads are rather nice.

It’s twice in a row now that Adam Hill has delivered. If another one of his discs winds up on my desk, he’s going to have to work hard to outdo himself again.

When examining Hill’s work, he starts to seem less like a folk musician and more like a folk composer. This album is not the work of a group that took the name of its leader. Hill, in fact, plays every instrument on Them Dirty Roads (except for the fiddle) and provides all the vocals (aside from some of the backups). Hill is in control of every aspect of the album and compiles it into a sort of an operatic Americana symphony.

Whereas his previous album, Four Shades of Green, was more subdued in tone, Them Dirty Roads comes off as restless and in need of wandering. Guitars, pianos, walking bass lines, and an almost total lack of percussion, along with Hill’s twangy vocals (which often come with some echoing reverb) provide an atmosphere akin to the wide open spaces that make up the album’s cover art.

Hill’s sound takes a more indie-minded turn in Them Dirty Roads, especially with the insertion of piano ballads like “Fool’s Gold” and his cover of Dave Carter’s “The River, Where She Sleeps.” The cover is especially wonderful with Hill’s choice to stick with piano and what sounds like wine glasses being played with spoons for the accompaniment to his vocals. The song exudes a sense of joy that will prove infectious to anyone.

In a sense, Hill also takes a turn toward classical music in the arrangement of the album. Similar to the way he put four versions of the song “Down In The Valley” in Four Shades of Green to provide cohesiveness to the album, Hill inserts transitional and framing tracks, “Prelude,” “Intermezzo I,” “Intermezzo II,” and “Coda” in Them Dirty Roads. These tracks are generally just a collection of sound effects, though “Prelude” includes a Bach arrangement played on trumpet over the sound of radio static. While normally I might write tracks like this off as superfluous to an album, when taken within the whole album, these tracks give Them Dirty Roads unity and cohesiveness.

Tracks of note are “Fueled Up,” which is very reminiscent of the later work of Johnny Cash, and the aforementioned “The River, Where She Sleeps,” as well as “State of Grace” and “Ribbons and Curls.”

Anyone who appreciates folk, bluegrass, or country should find something to love about Them Dirty Roads. And those who don’t should definitely give it a try as well.

Frolic with Mermaid Skeletons

On Mermaid Skeleton’s myspace, the group claims that the band began when frontman Joshua Hryciak was inspired by the movie “Bambi.” And while I am not sure if they are completely serious about this or not, it actually makes sense after listening to their EP Darlings. The songs on this EP make me think of wood nymphs and magical forests, so it’s not hard to imagine a talking young fawn, too.

But what does it sound like? Mermaid Skeletons is a large group, with nine current members, but their music is acoustic, making the mini-folk-orchestra sound light and airy. There are percussive elements, but no drums. You won’t notice this, however, when you listen casually. (“The rhythm’s in the guitar,” as John Lennon used to say before The Beatles had a drummer.) Think Belle & Sebastian-styled melodies with a hint of Sufjan Stevens quirkiness topped off with a very talented lead vocalist. Hryciak’s voice is quite high, but it never sounds strained or forced, and his vocals (justifiably) steal the spotlight throughout Darlings. The band’s press release uses the word “sugary,” and I think this is accurate, but not in a sticky-sweet-how-cute kind of way – it’s more like icing on a cake.

The opener “Happy Bell” is just what it sounds like – both happy and bell-like, with the inclusion of the glockenspiel. It’s my favorite on the EP because of the gorgeous and catchy vocal lines, perfectly executed harmonies, and its range of dynamics to build tension. And ya gotta love glockenspiel. Really though, all of the songs on this EP have their strengths, and since it clocks in at a mere twenty minutes, you should definitely give all of Darlings a chance. All six songs (including a short accordion interlude) are on Mermaid Skeleton’s myspace. I highly recommend this darling EP, and I hope that the band will release a full-length.

Attention Planet Earth: Corinne Gooden is Absolutely Amazing!

Released in 2008, All My Days is perhaps the most heartfelt album I’ve reviewed this year. Corinne Gooden’s voice has a warm country twinge which simply arrested me on first listen. Her voice is intimate and makes you have to sit and listen. Corinne’s feelings are obviously completely entwined in her words and notes. It’s impossible to listen to All My Days without feeling along with her. Corinne has a rare gift for drawing you in and letting you feel her love, her happiness, her pain, her heartbreak, and her hope.

Corinne’s voice can be haunting, especially on track three, “All My Days.” Corinne sings a melody here that’s so innately familiar, yet original in its own right. Her voice is painted over a perfect tapestry of her interlocking acoustic guitar and what seems to be a keyboard, the latter of which begins and ends the song. The drums provide perfect accentuation to the notes and lyrics. The lyrics are perfect, the chorus saying: “All my days/a world which pushes down the pain/I cannot make this go away/all my nights/a dream that haunts my sleep again/I cannot seem to make you stay.” Simply beautiful. Make no mistake – “All My Days” is a hit.

But Corinne doesn’t stop here. All her following songs are great (as well as those preceding “All My Days”). “Come This Far,” rocks pretty hard. The bridge is very powerful and Corinne’s voice really shines here, offering a nice contrast to “All My Days.”  “Come This Far” also lets her accompaniment shine; they really help Corinne to reach high in this album.

“17th Street” is a tragic yet beautiful song dealing with something many struggle with. The song is about how people pass a homeless man on the corner  in their cars, completely ignoring him. Corinne isn’t accusatory – she admits she does the same, and that this is even normal. The tragedy lies just in the fact that it’s normal. This song takes this example to expose the numbness in the human heart, a numbness which makes us forget that we need each other.

Corinne is talented as a songwriter and has the ability to draw the listener in and make him or her feel. I would definitely like more people to know about Corinne Gooden, because she is simply amazing. She is the best female vocalist I’ve heard this year, hands down. She has crafted the kind of album where, after listening to it, you feel like you know her.

She has song samples on both her site and her MySpace – be sure to check them out!