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Red River Dialect: Broken Stay Open Sky (PoB-039)

The London-based band (with Cornish roots) brings a windswept energy and daylight to a contemplative, gorgeously rendered suite of songs about inhabiting the landscape, and our bodies, in joy and pain alike. "Radiates a beaming light ... it feels like a burden lifted." – NPR Music Read More

Gun Outfit: Out of Range (PoB-036)

Like a stone eroded by years in the arroyo, Gun Outfit’s “Western expanse” aesthetic has become gradually smoother. Their fifth LP ranks as their most brutally beautiful statement yet. “Cactus-chewing, smoke-signaled rock music that perpetually rolls towards sundown... cowboy poetry swirled in honky-tonk postmodernism” – NPR Music Read More

The Weather Station: The Weather Station (PoB-035)

On her fourth album, Tamara Lindeman reinvents her acclaimed songcraft, framing her precisely detailed prose-poem narratives in bolder musical settings. It’s her most emotionally candid statement to date, a work of profound urgency & artistic generosity. “Few songwriters capture these subtle moments with such fluidity” – Pitchfork Read More

James Elkington: Wintres Woma (PoB-034)

Drawing from British folk, avant-rock, and jazz traditions alike, Wintres Woma—Old English for “the sound of winter”—is Elkington’s debut solo record, but you’ve likely heard his work with Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn, Michael Chapman, & Joan Shelley. “The guitar king… already a visionary in his own right” – The Fader Read More

Tracklist:

A1. “Juniper / The View” 6:55
A2. “Kukkuripa” 7:11
A3. “Open Sky (bell)” 4:01
B1. “Aery Thin” 6:30
B2. “Cinders” 6:48
B3. “Gull Rock” 5:55
B4. “Campana” 4:47

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (LP/CD/digital) |  Other Options (LP/CD/download/stream) | Local Record Stores

 

Pre-order Details

Contingent on manufacturing schedules, we will ship your pre-ordered album approximately a week in advance of the February 2, 2018 worldwide release date. All pre-orders include an immediate 320k MP3 download of lead single “Kukkuripa,” as premiered by NPR Music, as well as free MP3 downloads of Red River Dialect’s three previous full-band albums: the Bowing for the Rook EP (2017), Tender Gold and Gentle Blue (2015, PoBDistro-07), and “awellupontheway” (2012). Pre-order customers will also be entered into a drawing for one of five remaining copies of the scarce LP edition of Tender Gold and Gentle Blue.

For digital-only preorders, please visit Bandcamp (which also offers uncompressed, high-resolution audio files) or your favorite digital marketplace.

 

Album Narrative

Broken Stay Open Sky is the fourth full-length album by Red River Dialect, and their first for Paradise of Bachelors. The London-based band (with Cornish roots) brings a windswept energy and daylight to a contemplative, gorgeously rendered suite of songs about inhabiting the landscape, and our bodies, in joy and pain alike. Informed by songwriter David Morris’s spiritual practice, and recorded largely live in the studio, this is the band’s most ambitious and emotionally affecting work to date: atmospheric but deeply rooted, equally concerned with investigating the concrete and the cosmic, both quiet details of the everyday and looming matters of faith.

Morris shares the following testimony about how these recordings came about.

*

When writing the last Red River Dialect album, which was called Tender Gold and Gentle Blue (2015, PoBDistro-07), my everyday was infused with a magnificent, radiant sadness. A sudden space of loss had opened up and swallowed all sorts of exhausting but addictive inclinations: to hunt for volatility, nurture delusions and hide in distractions. Eventually these waves of sad-joy began to subside and I found myself back on familiar ground with a new understanding of what I was seeking: freshness, movement and vibrancy. I was learning how to feel perky and how to ride on the wind; the one that is called lungta in Tibetan (and is also a horse). I looked for this energy in chords, rhythms and words. When my friend, the great songwriter Joan Shelley, invited me out on a UK tour to play an opening set, I recognised it as an opportunity to develop these new songs and to try them out at shows. A couple of them took shape before the tour, but most followed after. Hearing Joan, Nathan Salsburg and Glen Dentinger play and sing every night brought me many glimpses of the fresh genuineness I was seeking.

I tried to turn those glimpses into songs. I wanted to make a whole album about lungta, to be called Windhorse, after the English translation of the term. It was also going to be a concept album about bells of all kinds. I used to ring church bells when I was a child in the English change ringing style. I have strong memories of the smell of old wood and damp stone, the delirious cacophony of the six bells, the sight of the dancing ropes and the fear of breaking the stay. The stay is the small piece of wood upon which the heavy bell comes to rest in an upright position when the ringing is done. If the bell is brought to rest too roughly the stay may be broken, causing the bell to flail around its axle and whipping the rope up into the tower. The leader of our group of campanologists, a Cornish stone-hedger by trade, told tales of ringers who had been whipped up along with the rope and killed, and my experience of ringing became fused with this fear of losing control. The coil of coloured wool around the portion of the rope that you grip is called the sally, a name derived from Latin and Old French words for leaping, salire and sailie respectively, and related to the English somersault and salmon, the name the Romans gave to the fish that leaps.

As I wrote the songs, this attempt at conceptual coherency started to crumble. Half-familiar sadnesses and new-old confusions poked through the rubble. For a time I tried to keep them out. Eventually I gave up, knowing that to treat these experiences like enemies or unwelcome strangers was dishonest and stale. And so each song that makes up this new album called Broken Stay Open Sky is a coming together of pain and love, selves and others, embraced together in the same broken heart, which is moving-joy and still-sad. The cover photograph portrays Gull Rock, as seen from Trebarwith Strand in North Cornwall. Once I had seen this image, the work of Dayna Cowper, it would not leave my imagination, and I hoped it could become a part of this album. Initially I wanted to conceal it inside the album’s sleeve; a double-lurking cave on an inside horizon of childhood memories. But it would not stay hidden, and strangely it shone through every other proposal for the cover. So now Gull Rock sits there like the hub shared by thirty spokes:

Thirty spokes converge at the hub, but emptiness completes the wheel. Chapter 11, Tao Te Ching

I am glad that this album is not entirely what I intended it to be, and even gladder for the companionship of the band who articulate these songs into a real-shared living. Simon Drinkwater, Coral Rose, Ed Sanders, Robin Stratton and I had spent a few years playing mostly acoustically, without drums or percussion. In the summer of 2016 we had a fortuitous meeting with drummer Kiran Bhatt, who then joined the band, allowing us to get a little more electric and dynamic once more. Over the summer we worked up these songs, recording over three days in October 2016 with our friend Jimmy Robertson at the console. We set up as a live band in the room, which was not a big room, and so there is a merging of our playing into each other’s microphones, a bleeding that even Pro Tools cannot efface without taking the song away too. There were, however, a handful of overdubs, a couple of tricks, and a little bit of corruption. There was a shadowed rock like a cave in the sky, from which the wheel of a ringing bell turned. If I could break into song, would I break my stay?

David Morris

 

Acknowledgments

There’s always a hint of sorrow to Red River Dialect, a feeling of unworthiness in the face of beauty. [The] first single already feels like a burden lifted. “Kukkuripa” radiates a beaming light. The band stretches out a rhapsodic melody like a ribbon chasing the wind, the fabric undulating over a thumping drone of violin and low-lying guitars.

– Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

Fuses folk-rock’s past with its future. Red River Dialect is a language open to all.

– The Quietus

Brave and different.

– Uncut

Evocative songs of Cornish coastal contemplation.

– MOJO

Strangely life-affirming sorrow … a tribute to the power of healing and reconciliation.

– AllMusic

So damn pretty … Always but a squall away from breaking apart.

– NPR Music

Tracklist:

A1. “Ontological Intercourse” 5:02
A2. “Landscape Painter” 3:09
A3. “Cybele” 2:40
A4. “Strange Insistence” 4:13
A5. “The 101” 2:56
B1. “Slow Realization” 2:47
B2. “Sally Rose” 3:06
B3. “Three Words” 3:58
B4. “Primacy of Love” 4:56
B5. “Background Deal” 3:42
B6. “Second Decade” 5:12

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (LP/CD/digital) |  Other Options (LP/CD/digital/streaming) | Local Record Stores

 

Album Narrative

Like a stone eroded by years in the arroyo, Gun Outfit’s enveloping “Western expanse” aesthetic of guitar levitations and honky-tonk hexes has become gradually smoother over time. Their fifth LP ranks as their most brutally beautiful statement yet. Drawing from mythologies both classical and postmodern, Out of Range builds a world in which Brueghel the ElderSt. Augustine, and the ancient goddess Cybele ride with John FordSamuel Beckett, and Wallace Stevens on a Orphic-Gnostic suicide drive towards the hallucinatory vanishing points of the Southwestern desert, debating the denouement of the decaying American dream.

 

 

“And Orpheus’ ghost fled under the earth, and knew
The places he had known before.”
– Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book XI

Orpheus had a hell of a time. Of all the evocative modern retellings of the Orpheus myth—by Jean CocteauMarcel CamusPhilip K. Dick, et al.—none equals the blunt power of Ovid’s version in Metamorphoses. After losing his lover Eurydice, the great musician Orpheus swears off women and turns instead to the love of young men. He refuses to worship all gods but Apollo, inciting Dionysus’ female followers the Maenads to tear him limb from limb. Orpheus’ severed head and orphaned lyre, still singing and strumming—his bewitching songs “made the pale phantoms weep”—float down the Hebrus River to Lesbos, and his ghost revisits the underworld where he left Eurydice.

It’s this lesser known beheading-ending of the story that L.A. band Gun Outfit recount in “Ontological Intercourse,” the opening track of their fifth full-length record Out of Range, their most brutally beautiful statement yet: “Seeds/the kind that sparrows eat/becoming the willow tree/that Orpheus took beneath/To play ballads for the dead/Till they buried his singing head/Because he worshipped the sun instead/Of the god of epiphany.” Next time the chorus comes round, singer and guitarist Dylan Sharp—who shares twin vocal and guitar duties with the incomparable Carrie Keith—sings a mutant doo-wop bass line. Ballads for the dead, indeed.

Those strange, arresting juxtapositions between classicism and postmodernity—warped tales of Western civ melting into those of the American West—abound on Out of Range, a potent, highly allusive elision of mythologies and sounds that the band refers to as “Western expanse” music. Following “Ontological Intercourse,” the brooding “Landscape Painter” and “Cybele” wrestle with Dutch Renaissance artist Brueghel the Elder and the Anatolian goddess Cybele, respectively—not your average fodder for rock and roll lyrics. The album goes on to build a world in which St. Augustine rides with John Ford and Wallace Stevens on a Orphic-Gnostic suicide drive towards the hallucinatory vanishing points of the Southwestern desert, debating the denouement of the decaying American dream. (“I wanna lay my world on you,” Keith proclaims in “Sally Rose.”)

Meanwhile, other songs inhabit concerns more terrestrial and immediate, though no less profound: the open road (“The 101”); human love (“Three Words,”); death and the failures of faith (“Primacy of Love”); and the damages, deceits, and delights of drugs (“Strange Insistence.”) The latter quotes the Old Testament (Numbers 21:17: “Spring up/O well”) soon after reciting, ironically, the deadly seductions of narcotics: “Speed makes you a genius/Cocaine will make you rich/LSD shows you divinity/And everything’s alright on opiates.” “I tried to quit/before I quit again,” it begins with resolve, but after all, “lies can make you famous.” Throughout the album, the strange becomes familiar, and the familiar strange, a desert mirage of music and language; or, as Carrie sings in the Waylon-esque “Background Deal:” “The things she says/you never heard ’em before.”

And therein lies the magic trick: Out of Range somehow manages to contain Gun Outfit’s most conceptually sophisticated and lyrically ambitious material, while remaining their most musically subtle, understated, and accessible album to date, completing their gradual metamorphosis from punk aesthetics to a truly cosmic country—wherein “country” is a geography, a structure of feeling, not a genre. Yes, that’s the iconic Monument Valley landscape on the album cover, but in an impressionistic daylit photo by a family member, denuded of its cinematic magic-hour drama. Sharp explains the approach as “a kind of American neoclassicism, running through an enormous empty set piece of the historical frontier, the only stage on which our kind of puritanical decadence can successfully perform the irony of its existence, and thus salvage small chunks of high value scrap from the culture that now threatens the world with death.” (On the ballad “Slow Realization,” he sings, apologetically and archly, “Pardon me for the hippie talk.”)

Sonically, Gun Outfit has never sounded more confidently awash in its collective strengths and nuances, its players never more sensually attuned to each other’s playing. Like a stone eroded by years in the arroyo, the band’s enveloping aesthetic of guitar levitations and honky-tonk hexes has become gradually smoother over time. Sharp and Keith have become highly sensitive, idiosyncratic singers and guitarists—two voices that meld and ascend into a wild, honeyed helix. Drummer and founding member Dan Swire (drums, percussion, guitar) and Adam Payne (bass, guitar) comprise the rare rhythm section able to vault a song into the strata through sheer will (as on the kinetic, anthemic “Sally Rose”) or show remarkable restraint when required (“Primacy of Love.”) Henry Barnes, the legendary mastermind of Man Is the Bastard and Amps for Christ, has gone from mentoring multi-instrumentalist accomplice to official band member, scarifying these songs with his singular guitar, dulcimer, bouzouki, and fiddle parts as well as his own homemade hybrid instruments like the “sibanjar” and “springocaster lap-slide.” Engineered by Facundo Bermudez (Ty SegallNo Age) and mixed by Chris Cohen (Weyes BloodCass McCombs) in Los Angeles, the recording process spanned the 2016 presidential election. Dylan recorded the vocals for “Cybele,” a song about a religious cult, drowned antiquities, and the end of empire, ten minutes after the election results were announced.

Out of Range ends with the moving “Second Decade,” an unusually autobiographical and candidly self-reflexive meditation on the experience of playing together in a decade-spanning band, and the effects of of time on art. Using the stage as metaphor, each of Gun Outfit’s singers assumes a role in a Samuel Beckett play, Carrie as Winnie from Happy Days and Dylan as Estragon from Waiting for Godot: “Ten years attention/Trying to hold on/You were akin to Winnie/While I was doing Estragon.” They’re existential antiheroes, each half of an enduring partnership, who have returned underground, like Orpheus, to the out-of-range places they’ve known before, to play ballads for the dead: “Oh my/Caroline/Can you believe how hard it is to keep a love alive?/Ten years of working/And playing all our parts/We had to call it a country/Because it was bigger than a work of art.” And the pale phantoms weep.

  • Deluxe 140g virgin vinyl LP features heavy-duty reverse board jacket, printed inner sleeve, and high-res Bandcamp download code. CD edition features heavy-duty gatefold jacket and LP replica artwork.
  • RIYL Steve Gunn, Terry Allen, Promised Land Sound, Chance, Amps for Christ, Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, Waylon Jennings, Lee Hazlewood, Blaze Foley, Townes Van Zandt, Kurt Vile.
  • Album page
  • Artist page/tour dates
  • Also check out Dream All Over (PoB-023), Gun Outfit’s previous album

 

Acknowledgments

Cactus-chewing, smoke-signaled rock music that perpetually rolls towards sundown… a cowboy poetry swirled in honky-tonk postmodernism. “Strange Insistence” is a song about giving into pleasure, and discovering the joys and pains of consequence, centered around an irregular groove that squiggles like heat waves off baked asphalt.

– Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

Warped, warm, and hollow, between a burned-out monotone and a jumpy quaver, [Dylan’s] voice bears all of this experience, suggesting a modern Merle Haggard or Terry Allen. In tandem, he and Carrie Keith fashion a web of briars with their guitars, their low-key psychedelic lines perfectly warped into complementary tangles, tapping a vein of cosmic country gold until the sun finally sets. That’s a drug that Sharp never mentions, but is written into every moment of this great little dispatch.

– Grayson Haver Currin, Pitchfork

I take solace by listening to Gun Outfit’s “Strange Insistence” several dozen times in a row. The band’s excellent new record, Out of Range, is a kind of paean to breathing in and dropping out.

– Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker

8/10 (lead review). Excellent. There are elements of folk and country in their music, but it’s also the sound of the desert, the ocean, the prairie, and the loneliness of LA. Gun Outfit can sing from the heart as well as from the brain.

– Peter Watt, Uncut

The reliably great California band [is] behind some of the decade’s coolest classic-feeling psych folk. True to form, Out of Range finds Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith trading lines of metaphysical poetry over hypnotic guitar runs… intoxicating.

– Patrick McDermott, The FADER

Expansive rock songs that have as much to do with the heartache of Lucinda Williams and Townes Van Zandt as they do with the humid sprawl of Sonic Youth… via the consistently great Paradise of Bachelors label.

– SPIN

The music Gun Outfit writes—breezy, slow-going, cosmic country tunes drenched in scholarly musings and West Coast vibes—live removed from the cultural vacuum of anxiety-inducing messaging on 24-hour blast. The songs protest the marketing frenzy of present-day, a dismissal of social media strategies in favor of the beauty and simplicity of emptiness.

– Pitchfork

‘Out of Range’ acts as a sort of sonic Ayahuasca ceremony, Sharp and Keith the shamans inviting you to purge of your toxins in the only place left largely untouched by human constructs.

– Pitchfork

This band is luminous and mesmerizing. Out of Range is serene and difficult, trippy and literate… a zone-out record with a library card. Not many albums simultaneously slow down your pulse rate and rev up your brain, but this one does.

– Jennifer Kelly, Dusted

4/5. Easily among the best of the Cosmic American bunch. Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith back their deftly penned songs with the kind of delicate sonic weirdness that demands attention without distracting from the principal communicative mission of the tune and its lyrics.

– Record Collector

8.8./10. Its most fully realized release yet; the ideal form Gun Outfit has been evolving toward for years.

– Paste

8/10. Gun Outfit know how to sound murky and dank, but it’s their literary slant and patient delivery, along with Sharp’s baritone and Caroline Keith’s vocal style that make their latest their strongest to date. There aren’t many bands making music right now with a clearer vision than Gun Outfit.

– Daniel Sylvester, Exclaim!

Now a five-piece also featuring Henry Barnes (Amps for Christ, Man Is the Bastard), the band’s fifth album both honors the ideals of classic country rock and rages against it with a freewheeling reflex to push at the genre’s edges.

– Randall Roberts, LA Times

Five albums in and Gun Outfit are still showing us new tricks and still making albums that feel instantly classic.

– Post-Trash

Even more esoteric than its predecessor, Out of Range‘s drowsy academia plays out like an abstract road trip through the Mojave in a windowless, beatnik jalopy. 

– AllMusic

Gun Outfit explore the calm expanse of cosmic Americana without a journey’s end in mind. Concise rustic ballads like “The 101” and “Landscape Painter” describe the scenic beauty of the city with streams of gleaming melodic chords. Singers Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith carefully duet with their unusual cadences as slow-burning arrangements smolder with the vivid sparkle of an opal’s gleam. 

– No Ripcord

Dreamers wielding slide guitars. A tradition-warping band, with a punk aesthetic deep at the center and double-guitar desert-rock psychedelia at the surface. ­

– The New York Times

With its echoing grooves, drifting landscapes, and new textures—bits of bluegrass banjo, homemade electric sitars—it has the blue-sky sensibility of a soul-searching road trip. You want to get lost inside of it, to turn it up on a road trip that lasts for weeks.

– Pitchfork

Peyote for the ears… Expansive, arid, and dusty.

– Uncut

Tracklist:

A1. “Free” 3:07
A2. “Thirty” 3:40
A3. “You and I (on the Other Side of the World)” 4:41
A4. “Kept It All to Myself” 3:09
A5. “Impossible” 3:23
B1. “Power” 4:36
B2. “Complicit” 3:34
B3. “Black Flies” 2:10
B4. “I Don’t Know What to Say” 2:49
B5. “In an Hour” 2:54
B6. “The Most Dangerous Thing About You” 3:32

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (LP/CD/digital) |  Other Options (LP/CD/digital/streaming) | Local Record Stores

 

Album Narrative

On her fourth (and tellingly self-titled) album as The Weather Station, Tamara Lindeman reinvents, and more deeply roots, her extraordinary, acclaimed songcraft, framing her precisely detailed, exquisitely wrought prose-poem narratives in bolder and more cinematic musical settings. The result is her most sonically direct and emotionally candid statement to date, a work of profound urgency and artistic generosity. 

 

 

The Weather Station is the fourth—and most forthright—album by The Weather Station. The most fully realized statement to date from Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman, it is a work of profound urgency, artistic generosity, and joy. Self-titled and self-produced, the album unearths a vital new energy from Lindeman’s acclaimed songwriting practice, marrying it to a bold new sense of confidence.

“I wanted to make a rock and roll record,” Lindeman explains, “but one that sounded how I wanted it to sound, which of course is nothing like rock and roll.” The result is a spirited, frequently topical tour de force that declares its understated feminist politics, and its ambitious new sonic directions, from its first moments. Opener “Free,” with its jagged distorted guitar, is wryly anti-freedom—how very un-rock-and-roll!—in response to mansplaining chatter: “Was I free as I should be, or free as you were? Is it me that you’re talking to? I never could stand those simple words.” The song ends as strings conjure an unsettling “devil’s triad” chord, shifting between dissonance and order.

Lindeman’s songwriting has always been deconstructive, subtly undermining the monoliths of genre with her sly sense of complexity and irony. She has generally been characterized as a folk musician, and yet with its subtext of community and tradition, the term “folk” has never quite fit The Weather Station’s work; the songs are too specific and lacerating. So appropriately, Lindeman’s so-called “rock and roll record” suspiciously stares down those genre signifiers—big, buzzing guitars, thrusting drums—and interweaves horror-movie strings and her keening, Appalachian-tinged vocal melodies. Reaching towards a sort of accelerated talking blues, she sings with a new rapid-fire vocal style, filling a few of these short, bruising songs with enough lyrics to populate a full album. As she hits the climax of “Thirty,” a poignant, bittersweet story of a passing crush, you realize she has been singing incessantly for the last two minutes, with nods to gasoline prices, antidepressants, a father in Nairobi—how she “noticed fucking everything: the light, the reflections, different languages, your expressions.” The song is overbrimming, as though attempting to expand the borders of what can be said within a three-minute pop song. “I don’t know what to say,” she sings elsewhere, “so I say too much.”

On past records, Lindeman has been a master of economy. Here her precisely detailed prose-poem narratives remain as exquisitely wrought as ever, but they inhabit an idiosyncratic, sometimes disorderly, and often daring album that feels, and reads, like a collection of obliquely gut-punching short stories. It is not a careful record, or an abstract one. Instead of the hushed airiness of Polaris Prize-nominated predecessor Loyalty (2015), we get something more direct and piercing. The characters of The Weather Station are navigating the unknowable, the frontiers of anxiety, empathy, and communication. On “Power” Lindeman expresses desire for strength and control as decline rather than ascent: “I felt like I was descending some strange inverted tower, looking for my power.” On the prospect of marriage, the narrator is open but afraid: “I asked for your hand in it, some infinite understanding. But I don’t know nothing of what I am asking; I have no idea of what it will entail.” “Black Flies” conjures a natural world as discomfiting and forbidding as the distances between us: “Straight line of horizon, and the ocean painful wide … Every crooked word spoken still ringing in your ears like the whine of mosquitoes.” Heatstricken “Complicit” raises the specter of climate change; as “all the hot winds blow,” and her guitar knots itself into a helical riff, Lindeman reminds us, “you and I, we are complicit” in the escalating disaster.

After two records made in close collaboration with other musicians (Daniel Romano, Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas), Lindeman self produced, taking full creative control for the first time since her debut. The band comprised touring bassist Ben Whiteley, drummer Don Kerr, and disparate guests, including Ryan Driver (Jennifer Castle), Ben Boye (Ryley Walker), and Will Kidman (The Constantines). But the heaviest thumbprint on the record belongs to Lindeman; she wrote the dense, often dissonant string arrangements and played most of the wending, tumbling guitar lines. “I produced the record,” she reflects, “because I was the only one who understood it, and the only way I could explain it was just to make it.”

The cover of Loyalty memorably featured the back of Lindeman’s head. On the cover of this record, by contrast, she stares directly into the camera, insouciant in blue jeans, frozen in an artless, almost awkward pose. The Weather Station is her most direct and candid record, and the first one to include tracks one might characterize as pop songs. Yet amidst fizzing tambourine, nimble bass, and the jangling rhythm guitar of “Kept It All to Myself,” she alludes to mental disarray—how “kind faces would change on me, eyes and nose and mouth, unfamiliar assembly.” On the final song, she observes, addressing an oblivious dinner companion, “The most dangerous thing about you is your pain—I know for me it is the same.”

Throughout, the record grapples with some of the darkest material Lindeman has yet approached: it is, according to her, the first album on which she touches on her personal experiences of mental illness. And yet the gesture inherent to the record is one of unflinching embrace. Despite it all, the characters “fall down laughing, effervescent, and all over nothing, all over nothing.” “Well, I guess I got the hang of it” she sings wryly, “the impossible.” By saying more than ever before, The Weather Station seeks to reveal the unnamable, the unsayable void that lies beneath language and relationships. It’s willfully messy and ardent and hungry. And that, perhaps, is very rock and roll, after all.

  • Deluxe 140g virgin vinyl LP features heavy-duty board jacket with full lyrics, full-color inner sleeve, and high-res Bandcamp download code.
  • CD edition features heavy-duty gatefold board jacket and LP replica artwork.
  • RIYL Steve Gunn, Hiss Golden Messenger, Ryley Walker, Itasca, Bill Callahan, Joan Shelley, Kurt Vile, Angel Olsen, Meg Baird, Julie Byrne, Aldous Harding, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Linda Perhacs, John Martyn, Shirley Collins, Richard Thompson, Fairport Convention.
  • PoB artist page and tour dates
  • Also check out Loyalty (PoB-19), The Weather Station’s previous album

 

Acknowledgments

The new record I’m most excited about right now is by the Weather Station, a folk outfit from Toronto fronted by the singer and songwriter Tamara Lindeman. “Thirty,” the first single from “The Weather Station,” the group’s fourth record, which comes out this fall, is a song that could take a punch to the face—an urgent retelling of her thirtieth year, its triumphs, its jokes, and its failures, and how difficult it is, sometimes, to tell those things apart. Lindeman has a poet’s eye for precise, unsentimental detail (“I noticed fucking everything,” she sings, recounting a scene at a gas station), and the rigor of her narration recalls Courtney Barnett’s “Depreston,” maybe the best song ever written about ennui and real estate. “That was the year I was thirty, that was the year you were thirty-one,” Lindeman sings. How does a person suss out the proper arc of a life? She doesn’t know, either. “That was the year that we lost or we won.”

– Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker

I’ve been a fan of The Weather Station for a while now and always quite enjoyed her albums, but this one is on another level. These songs sit in a place between thought and expression, where the music flows confidently from heart to tongue. It’s filled with feminist politics, kindred spirits, conversations and heartbreak, all well played as inspired gems. She’s lived these words. They are her being. They are her stories.

– Bob Boilen, NPR Music First Listen

8.0 From front-to-back, this is the first The Weather Station album that sounds as fleshed-out and powerful as the world it contains. It’s a balancing act that can swerve in a heartbeat from romantic comedy to psychological horror.

– Sam Sodomsky, Pitchfork

9/10. Lindeman could never pass unrecognized. No one else is writing true-life songs with such a command of nuance and ellipsis, with such generosity of unguarded emotion and careful economy of means, like Sam Shepard writing haiku.

– Richard Williams, Uncut

#4 Album of 2017. Tamara Lindeman deftly moved her career into a new phase this year. She artfully transcended her folk background, rocking out a little without ever losing intimacy and focus, or detracting from the precision or valence of the exceptional poetry with which she stocked her songs. 

– Uncut

Lindeman’s latest is a bolder demonstration of her talent and of the turbulence that’s always threatening to overwhelm the more placid kind of beauty in her songs

– Uncut (feature piece)

4 stars. Getting direct to the emotional nub of a song, but with words aplenty, more like a Raymond Carver short story than Joni [Mitchell] or Bill [Callahan], so closely woven are these 11 tales of love (lost and found) and memory.

– Martin Aston, MOJO

My favorite songwriter these past few years. Self-titled, the LP is a show of force in both what she sings and doesn’t. Another triumph.

– Duncan Cooper, The FADER

Lindeman is a brilliant, opaque storyteller, with a writerly eye for natural landscapes and the shifting, momentary micro-climates of relationships. If the album was made by someone meditating over a state of turmoil, its confidence and transporting quality leave the listener struck by an artist exhilarated by new possibilities.

– Alasdair Lees, The Independent

An inspired continuation of a rich tradition of intensely-disciplined, self-interrogative pop songwriting. The taut arrangements on The Weather Station, adorned here with aerial surges of strings, create The Weather Station’s own specific music universe, at turns claustrophobic or extending all the way towards a distant horizon.

– Winston Cook-Wilson, SPIN

Though the self-titled LP is every bit as gorgeous and engrossing as previous triumphs, it’s looser, more enraged, and far more restless. It’s a set of songs about defining oneself, about recognizing the changing winds that swirl around us, and dedicated to poring over the words and ideas that bind us together. It’s Lindeman’s most accomplished and seems to reveal more brilliance with each listen. 

– Jason Woodbury, Aquarium Drunkard

9/10. Tamara Lindeman, aka the Weather Station, is one of Canada’s best songwriters. The Weather Station is Lindeman’s loosest, most confident album yet, but it may also prove to be her most deeply psychological; she doesn’t hold back.

– Sarah Greene, Exclaim!

9/10. The fourth album from Tara Lindeman aka The Weather Station is this year’s most remarkable feat of songwriting. It shares a commonality with the greats. Lindeman is an orator of life, one that is so superb that she is beyond it, while simultaneously being embodied within its light, colours, joy.  Great works contain multitudes, and that is exactly what you’ll get here. It captures so much that its beauty is almost unbearable.

– Emma Madden, Drowned in Sound

8/10. These songs—even the quiet ones—are bold, messy, unflinching, humming with life. Lindeman’s lyrics, laid out on the page in full sentences, read more beautifully than song lyrics have any right to; each one a succinct, evocative, pithily observed short story. On record, her words translate effortlessly, almost miraculously, into songs that are by turns chatty, fluidly melodic, and in spots, deftly hooky.

– K. Ross Hoffman, Magnet

8/10. “I noticed fucking everything”, Tamara Lindeman snaps on “Thirty”, the remarkable first single from her superbly energised fourth album under The Weather Station guise. That’s as good a description of the Toronto-based songwriter’s style as any.

– Janne Oinonen, The Line of Best Fit

If other songwriters fight to fit their words within a song’s measure, Tamara Lindeman takes the opposite tactic as the Weather Station. Her verbose songs are chock full of words — their inflections adding rhythmic scope, their syntax unraveling deeply personal confessions. 

– Amanda Wicks, The Bluegrass Situation

The power of Tamara Lindeman’s music is in the details. Even more than her stark melodies, which often share the persistent flow of a car in motion, her lyrics provide the momentum, unfolding her narratives with patience and precision. As things move faster, she suggests that these subtle, shared moments are how we mark time. Few songwriters capture them with such fluidity.

– Pitchfork 

Four albums in, The Weather Station reveals an artist in full bloom, as Lindeman has pruned her process to move beyond the beautiful, confessional style of critically acclaimed albums past to create an elaborate, holistic statement that honors the complexity of the artist who created it. Lyrically, Lindeman finds the freedom to celebrate intimacy and lament distance, acknowledge beauty and trace old scars-all enmeshed in a wild bouquet of musical varietals from sparse solo piano to pulsing near-rock rhythms and guitar lines. The Weather Station inhabits the intersection of personal and polished like few albums can.

– Matt Conner, Under the Radar

Another fervent chapter in The Weather Station’s story, conjuring up the kind of subtle magic that can lend the heaviest of blows. Her exquisite compositions are able to light up whichever room they find themselves despite – or perhaps in spite of – the heavy-heart that seems to drive the whole project forward.

– Tom Johnson, Gold Flake Paint

4 stars. Dynamic, with a flint-like toughness.

– Record Collector

Timeless… Measured, perceptive storytelling. A singer with an unmistakable & communicative voice, able to convey hope & hurt with equal clarity.

– Pitchfork

She writes literate songs with unusual precision & sings them in an understated, open-hearted way that lends good poetry the directness of conversation.

– Uncut

One of Canada’s finest folk songwriters and guitarists.

– Caitlin White, UPROXX

Tense and uncertain, The Weather Station will keep you tuning in.

– Bill Meyer, Dusted

The Weather Station’s arresting folk-country “Thirty” is going to make you feel some feelings. Guaranteed.

– The Fader

Is Tamara Lindeman Americana’s best-kept secret?

– The Observer New Review

Bob Dylan aside, the singer-songwriter I’ve listened to most over the past year, & to whom I expect to be paying attention for many more to come, is Tamara Lindeman, who, under the name the Weather Station, performs songs notable for a conversational fluency, a diarist’s powers of observation, & a quiet refusal of emotional simplicities.

– Richard Williams, The Guardian

Brash, boisterous, and ballsy. A defining moment in an intriguing and hugely rewarding output.

– Del Day, Shindig!

87/100. her fourth outing is by far Lindeman’s strongest so far, and a significant artistic progression from her previous work in almost every way. It’s hugely satisfying to see a follow-up that marks such a pronounced evolution from past works and, with their self titled album, The Weather Station have crafted a truly excellent album.

– Gigsoup

4 stars. Her most complete work yet. A sublime take on the songwriter’s need to confess and confide.

– Gareth Thompson, RnR

Bundle Info

For a limited time, get our 2016 and 2017 official, exclusive, limited-edition Record Store Day releases, Mike Cooper and Derek Hall’s Out of the Shades EP, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Nathan Salsburg’s Untitled EP, respectively, for a special discounted price, while supplies last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tracklist:

A1. “Make It Up” 3:19
A2. “Hollow in Your House” 3:18
A3. “Wading the Vapors” 4:05
A4. “Grief Is Not Coming” 2:50
A5. “When I Am Slow” 2:53
A6. “The Parting Glass” 1:33
B1. “The Hermit Census” 3:40
B2. “Greatness Yet to Come” 4:55
B3. “Sister of Mine” 3:42
B4. “My Trade in Sun Tears” 3:25
B5. “Any Afternoon” 4:54

 

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (LP/CD/digital) |  Other Options (LP/CD/digital/streaming) | Local Record Stores

 

Album Narrative

Drawing from British folk, avant-rock, and jazz traditions alike, Wintres Woma—Old English for “the sound of winter”—is James Elkington’s debut solo record, but you’ve likely heard his masterful guitar playing and arranging, even if you didn’t realize it. Elkington (an Englishman living in Chicago) is an inveterate collaborator who brings his lyrical compositional and improvisational sensibilities to any group. He has toured as a band member, recorded, and/or collaborated with Jeff TweedyRichard ThompsonSteve GunnMichael ChapmanJoan ShelleyNathan Salsburg and Brokeback, to name just a few of his many enthusiastic admirers. His assured album, recorded at Wilco’s Loft, is baroquely detailed and beautifully constructed, featuring both his baritone vocals and some of Chicago’s finest, including Tomeka Reid.

 

 

Somewhere around 2011, James Elkington stopped writing songs. He had been the leader of a band called The Zincs; a partner in a band called The Horse’s Ha; and had released an album of guitar duets with his friend Nathan Salsburg, but the question of what this British-born-but-Chicago-based musician was going to do next loomed large, and he didn’t feel as if he had much to say.

A change is as good as a rest and, being a natural collaborator, an immediate answer was to start playing in other people’s bands. As both musician and arranger he commenced to work with Richard Thompson, Jeff Tweedy, Steve Gunn, and Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier and, after a few years, found that contributing his energies to the music of others had somehow returned to him the energy for his own. Part of that renewed creative vitality came from exploring the acoustic guitar in a new tuning (in which he wrote all the songs on Wintres Woma) and, cashing in on downtime from his touring schedule, by working assiduously to hone both guitaristic and lyrical techniques.

Wintres Woma is Old English for “the sound of winter,” a phrase that Elkington found appealing when he encountered it in a book about the historical English imagination. It seemed to resonate in both the sound of his new compositions—the icy limpidity of the arrangements, the snowy tumble of guitars and strings—and with his gnawing consideration of how much cultural upbringing brings to bear on one’s own creativity if given half a chance.

Elkington was brought up in England during the ’70s and ’80s—a time when traditional and acoustic music was largely shunned in favor of the new wave (to which his largely-destroyed copy of The Fall’s Perverted By Language will attest)—but found after his first forays into songwriting that some semblance of the folk music vernacular had crept in and wouldn’t leave. On the advice of a friend he started to investigate his own musical heritage, and that investigation began to inform both his outlook and his output.

Elkington’s music, however, is anything if retroactive, and anything if folk music:

“It’s not folk music,” he asserts. “I may use the mechanics of folk music to put across my own ideas at times, but it really doesn’t fall into any specific community or songwriterly tradition. The album’s lyrics do seem to have a preoccupation with unseen powers at work and other dimensions, both of which seem to show up in traditional English music, but it’s based on my own experience and understanding, not anyone else’s.” These lyrics contend particularly with the continuing strangeness of living in a different country: “For the most part it’s very liberating, but England is old, and there is a weird energy that comes from that country, an energy that doesn’t seem to feel the same in America. It took me moving away from home to feel it at all. I was so used to it that I didn’t know I was feeling it until I didn’t feel it anymore.”

Wintres Woma was recorded at Wilco’s studio, The Loft, in a five-day sprawl with engineer Mark Greenberg. Elkington played and arranged all the instruments, with the exception of upright bass from Nick Macri, percussion from Tim Daisy, and string performances from Macie Stewart and Tomeka Reid, all of whom are veterans of Chicago’s collaborative improvised music milieu.

At times the results conjure Kevin Ayers delivering a Dylan Thomas or Gerard Manley Hopkins poem over a Bert Jansch song, all the while speaking in Elkington’s singular voice, and shot with indelible melodies. The opening track “Make It Up” takes off at breakneck speed propelled by the snaking rhythm section, as Elkington pointedly recounts the time he almost crashed his car trying to get to a séance on time (mostly fiction). “Wading The Vapors” deals with one of those memories so distant that it has ceased to feel like it really happened and showcases an astounding cello solo from Tomeka Reid. “Greatness Yet To Come” features Elkington’s labyrinthine guitar front and center in a tale of 1980s mid-teen hallucinogenic excess (mostly non-fiction), dissolving soon after into a cinematic reverie recalling Ennio Morricone at his most languid.

Each of these songs wrangles with memory, and even prophecy, in its knotty language and elegant, unpredictable progressions, drawing on the uncertain past—both personal and historical—in order to negotiate the uncertain future. In that sense, despite James’ protestations, perhaps it is folk music.

  • Available as 140g virgin vinyl LP, with heavy-duty reverse board jacket, printed inner sleeve, and high-res Bandcamp download code.
  • CD edition features heavy-duty reverse board gatefold jacket and LP replica artwork.
  • RIYL Steve Gunn, Michael Chapman, Kevin AyersBert JanschRyley Walker, Jim O’Rourke, Scott Walker, or Talk Talk.
  • PoB artist page and tour dates
  • Also check out Ambsace (PoB-21), James Elkington’s duo record with Nathan Salsburg

 

Acknowledgments

The combination of Elkington’s sonorous baritone and virtuosic fretboard forays makes a strong case for him as the spiritual heir to the late U.K. folk legend Bert Jansch. But for all of Wintres Woma‘s links to a scene that was approaching its peak when Elkington was a zygote, the dominant artistic voice here is an unflinchingly singular one. The lyrics, in particular, travel a path that seems entirely their own, with imagery unusual enough to force your synapses into new configurations, and a bittersweetness palpable enough to take you by the tear ducts and squeeze. With Elkington’s intimate, plum wine vocals and tactile guitar work at the core throughout, each track feels like a stylishly scrawled diary entry we’ve somehow wrangled the permission to read. His combination of timeless folk flavorings and an artful modernity blend into a wistful but never forlorn kind melancholy. It’s the kind that steps far enough back from the shifting of the seasons of life to know that the whole thing is just a dream to be played out, a dance to follow through, on the way to becoming one with the true sound of winter.

– Jim Allen, NPR Music First Listen

Jim is a great guitarist and a tremendous, empathetic listener. 

– Richard Thompson

Jim can play all of the things I pretend to know how to play. When he plays my parts, it’s like looking in a mirror that reflects a more handsome version of yourself.

– Jeff Tweedy

With Wintres Woma, Elkington finds the space between fire and smoke, tangling complex fingerpicking into quiet, glowing melodies.

– Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

An alterna-folk epiphany. a cryptic storyteller and dazzling acoustic guitarist. More than just another bustle in your hedgerow… Elkington’s guarded introspection makes for a subtle tension that the killer guitar playing gently dissolves.

– Rolling Stone

8/10; I’m New Here feature. The ex-pat Brit displays an affecting, fluid picking style… Merging a love of English folk with the influences of his new home, it’s an uncluttered but nimble collection, as likely to draw comparisons to Nick Drake as James Blackshaw. 

– Wyndham Wallace, Uncut

4/5 stars. The sublime waltz “Wading the Vapors” proves that Elkington, aided by cellist Tomeka Reid, can provide abundant depth and beauty, while the perhaps prophetic “Greatness Yet to Come” illustrates a willingness to blend hot-picking with something more cinematic. 

– Fred Dellar, MOJO

Looking for a thread connecting some of the year’s best records, from Joan Shelley to to Michael Chapman’s 50? Look to guitarist James Elkington. Now, Elkington adds another record to the list of this year’s most engaging: his own LP, Wintres Woma. Recorded over a handful of days at the Wilco Loft, the album recalls Bert Jansch’s California recordings and Kevin Ayers’ most pastoral moods, subtly blending English chamber folk with rock and jazz touches. It’s deceptively casual, revealing more humor and depth with each listen. Strange characters, seances, cursed week days, and astral musings make Elkington’s songs, which showcase his progressive pop tendencies (“Make It Up”), dreaminess (“Wading the Vapors)” and prove he can amble with the best of them (“Hollow in Your House,” “Sister of Mine”).

– Jason Woodbury, Aquarium Drunkard

4/5 stars. James Elkington has been acclaimed by such knowledgeable figures as Richard Thompson and Jeff Tweedy as one of the most dazzling fingerstyle guitarists around – a reputation confirmed here by his propulsive, cyclical picking on tracks like “Make It Up”, providing a deft counterpoint to his wary, murmurous vocals. His songs are clusters of dark, foreboding images – “Spray your days with coffin nails”; “Entrails made into garlands to welcome my way” – reaching an apogee in “Greatness Yet To Come”, a mystic vision akin to the Crossroads Myth. But the darkness is spiked with sweetness in songs such as “The Hermit Census”, which finds him acknowledging, “There’s no time to make a meal of sorrow, when the rabble is hungry for mirth”.

– Andy Gill, The Independent

An album that is at once beautiful, complex, and assured… it makes itself easy to like.

– Jesse Jarnow, Pitchfork

4 stars. A convincing, warmly whirling weather system of his own.

– Jude Rogers, The Guardian

Starkly gorgeous. Wintres Woma is less a debut than a timestamp of a road warrior’s present state of being. It sings with his collaborations, his influences, and his ingenuity.

– Will Schube, Noisey

The guitar king … already a visionary in his own right.

– Duncan Cooper, The Fader

James Elkington’s Wintres Woma is the one folk guitar album you must hear in 2017.

— Caitlin White, Uproxx

The music’s effortless grace contradicts the experiences of temporal and cultural unease that Elkington sings about in ways that’ll keep the listener guessing and the record spinning.

– Bill Meyer, Magnet

The sheer force of Elkington’s virtuosity is an attraction unto itself, but the amazing thing about it isn’t the playing. While it’s clear that Elkington could’ve taken his place alongside William Tyler and Daniel Bachman in the new pantheon of instrumental fingerpicking masters, he’s gone another way. He’s still playing like an absolute beast, but he’s also presenting himself as a quiet, contemplative singer-songwriter. And somehow, that makes his work even more impressive. The album sounds sharp and pristine and layered in a way that most of Elkington’s solo-acoustic peers never get a chance to equal.  Wintres Woma has the same full, oaky quality to the recording that Pink Moon does. It’s great zone-out music, music for staring out windows and getting your thoughts together. And during a time when we can’t help but get tiny stress seizures every time we pull out our phones and check our newsfeeds, there’s real value to an album like this. It’s a balm, a shelter. “Take your time any afternoon,” Elkington counsels on the album’s closer. It’s good advice, and he’s made a piece of music that might help you follow it. 

– Tom Breihan, Stereogum “Album of the Week”

A fingerstylist of tremendous prowess, but also as a bright and cogent arranger. Gentle traces of Nic Jones and Bert Jansch are deeply embedded in his style here, but the roguish writhings of Bill Callahan and Nick Cave are equally as present. Elkington helps to breathe new life into a variety of beloved folk traditions in a refreshingly candid manner.

– Joseph Darling, Bandcamp Daily “Album of the Day”

On his first solo album, Elkington, who has performed six-string duties for Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Steve Gunn, and more, combines his virtuosic guitar playing with accomplished singing and songwriting. Wintres Woma is the latest serene gem from rootsy indie label Paradise of Bachelors.

– Entertainment Weekly

The album emphasizes Elkington’s sleepy baritone voice and lyrical, fingerstyle guitar playing. Curlicue figures on songs like “Make it Up” will send aspiring guitarists to the woodshed. Although working with folk-based accoutrements, Elkington’s instincts are shaped as much by Television and the Smiths as they are by Nick Drake and Davey Graham.

– Jeff Elbel, Chicago Sun-Times

 James Elkington has an effortless skill, the kind of picking prowess that dissolves like smoke into mood and atmosphere. He is a very good player, a lovely relaxed singer (in the vein of Bert Jansch) and an eccentric writer, whose songs borrow liberally from British folk tradition, but veer into unexpected directions. But if you want to know what’s mesmerizing about this slow burning beauty of an album, listen to the intervals, where Elkington dreams jazz-inflected fever reveries… It is there, between verses, that these songs blossom.

– Jennifer Kelly, Dusted

8.4. A lovely document of not only his top-shelf guitar abilities, but also his sharp songwriting skills and sturdy singing voice. Wintres Woma simultaneously has an earthy and an astral bent to it. It’s possible those emphatic strings and the fervent guitar work was recorded a few months ago, but it’s also possible this is music from four centuries back.

– Paste Magazine

Wintres Woma sees Elkington exercising his strengths, creating intricately woven webs of acoustic delights to complement his sonorous singing … A beautiful platter of avant-folk that presents itself gently but lands with great weight.

– Chicagoist

10/10. This album is a direct descendent to all of those classic English folk records by Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Ralph McTell, Nick Drake, and Michael Chapman. Yeah, it’s that good. And it’s that good with the songwriting, the guitar magic, an almost Kevin Ayers-like baritone voice, and lovely maverick spirit. 

– Bill Golembeski, Soundblab

Calling James Elkington a ‘guitarist’ is putting it lightly. The England-born musician has the kind of sound that makes you question if it’s just one guy playing; he can conjure up an entire six-string orchestra with his sprightly and nuanced fingerpicking. 

– Art Levy, KUTX “Song of the Day”

It is superb. It consists of beautiful fingerpicking that suggests he has more than the average number of fingers matched with a wonderful folky feel bringing to mind the autumnal hues of Nick Drake, Richard Thompson and Bert Jansch. Elkington’s voice and delivery have something of the Jim O’Rourke about it—traditional enough to be placed within the folk canon but with something of the contemporary about it. There are Fahey-esque instrumentals, wandering autumnal watery folk, beautiful orchestration and of course terrific guitar playing . It’s a winner alright. 

– Norman Records

The music on Wintres Woma reflects Elkington’s interest in folk traditions from his native Britain as well as his adopted country, assembled with poplike concision and graced with the same sophisticated melodic sensibility that made the Zincs stand out from their indie-rock kin.

– Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader feature

Evocative, gorgeously rendered… envelops you like a warm wool blanket on a dark, snowbound evening. Elkington creates a warm, deeply nuanced sound that’s at once traditional and forward-thinking. It’s the small, inventive epiphanies, like staring at images in swirling snow, that make Wintres Woma such an unexpectedly transcendent delight.

– AllMusic

A collection of mainly acoustic gems that is as musically magical as it is at times slightly humorous. The lyrics of the songs in this album are chock-full of observational humor and understated elegance. It’s a wonderful album, absolutely fucking wonderful.

– Kwame Anderson, Free Press Houston

An elegant acoustic album.

– Chicago Magazine

Like a stream peppered with stones and winding through eddies of life… this album is going to feel like a constant companion come autumn. Few songs here aren’t built for the brisk inhalation of decaying fauna underpinned with the rustle of breeze acting like natural percussion. Elkington is an almost preternatural songwriter, plucking songs from the air like they’d always existed. 

– Raven Sings the Blues

Juxtaposes gorgeous finger-picked circular melodies and lyrical wisdom with dark imagery and the occasional dissonance. The album is sure to assert Elkington into the already crowded crop of folk musicians who have been pushing the guitar to a new frontier for the better part of the decade, its compositions warm as they are at times unnerving and haunting. 

– Since I Left You

Deserves a lot of attention from careful listeners. Elkington’s strength is his ability to meld a few very specific influences into something wholly his own. A superb slice of music.

– A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed

A strong suite of compositions that canter and curl with commanding calmness.

– Delusions of Adequacy

81/100. Wintres Woma is an album of crystalline clarity; one where every note is accounted for and where every small touch exists to serve the song. It’s a carefully made album but not self-consciously so, and is all the better for it. Meticulously crafted and performed with finesse, this is an excellent debut album from Elkington. 

– Gigsoup

Elkington shows just what a buoyant arranger he’s become, as his vocals stretch out and constrict to complement his re-tuned guitar playing and strings. Wintres Woma is a great showcase for this extraordinary folk hero.

– Exclaim

Elkington’s guitar snakes through Wintres Woma like streams of ectoplasm in an old spirit photo. Those pictures of mediums summoning the invisible world were undoubtedly faked. Elkington’s magical mystery tour is the real deal.

– Pat Moran, Acoustic Guitar

It is an autumnal flurry of baroque intricacy that slips onward to its wintery aural landscape…willowy, wiry, windswept, haunting.

– Ian Abrahams, Record Collector

Tracklist:

A1. “Beargrass Song” 2:33
A2. “Wallins Creek Girls” 2:12
B1. “Fare You Well, My Little Annie Darling” 3:20

 

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (Vinyl/digital) |  Other Options (Vinyl/download/streaming) | Local Record Stores

 

Album Narrative

N.B.: Both previous PoB 7″ EPs—by Hiss Golden Messenger and Elephant Micah (PoB-04) and Messrs. Mike Cooper and Derek Hall (PoB-25)—are now on sale for just $4 each. For a limited time, you can also bundle the Mike Cooper and Derek Hall EP and the Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Nathan Salsburg EP Record Store Day releases for only $12 for the 7″s or $5 for the MP3s.

*

“Our names are Sals and Bonnie, two rounder boys you know”: In which the intrepid Louisville duo gamely paddle forth to explore two Kentucky creeks, singing an ode to Beargrass and meeting their match in two hitchhiking, car-riding young ladies of the Cigarette Crew.

 

 

Paradise of Bachelors is honored to shepherd unto your ears and hearths this charming first recorded artifact by revered songwriter, singer, and actor Bonnie “Prince” Billy (né Will Oldham, aka Palace Brothers, Songs, and/or Music) and Nathan Salsburg, curator of the Alan Lomax Archive and distinguished writer, solo guitarist, and accompanist to Joan Shelley and guitar partner of James Elkington (see also their Ambsace album, PoB-21.)

Historians and statisticians may note that this untitled treble-jewelled travelogue, moving and amusing in equal measure (and available in a limited edition of 2000), is our second Record Store Day release and third collaborative 7” Extended Play record, following in the formidable footsteps of Hiss Golden Messenger and Elephant Micah (PoB-04) and Messrs. Mike Cooper and Derek Hall (PoB-25).

Grab a paddle and hop in. Heed the words of Sals and Bonnie, who write:

This “Beargrass Song” was made at the behest of filmmaker Morgan Atkinson for Beargrass: The Creek in Our Backyard, his 2016 documentary about the history and status of Louisville’s Beargrass Creek. Nathan wrote the intro, and Bonny birthed the subsequent bulk.

Wallins Creek Girls” isn’t so much about a creek, but a brief impression of two free-spirited women who spent one long ago September 11th (a Friday) bumming cigarettes and hitching rides around the Harlan County coal camp of Wallins Creek, Kentucky. It was presumably composed by Dawson “Little Daw” Henson (1886–1974) of Clay County, who recorded it for Alan Lomax in 1937. His singing opens: “My names is Hicks and Henson, two rounder boys you know.” Who Hicks is in fact sadly we don’t know.

 Nor do we know much of Henson except that he kept a farm on Billy’s Branch of Goose Creek and is buried in nearby Goose Rock. With Daw on our minds, we enlisted a demo made of what he performed as “Fare You Well, My Little Annie Darling” (more commonly known as “My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge/Smokey Mountains,” or “My Own True Love”), a song that we had worked up as a contribution to a 2015 celebration of Lomax’s Kentucky recordings at Appalshop’s annual Seedtime on the Cumberland festival in Whitesburg, Kentucky.

  • First-ever recording of the Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Nathan Salsburg duo.
  • Available as a deluxe 45 rpm 7” EP with heavy-duty full-color board jacket, full-color labels, and notes by the artists.
  • An officialRecord Store Day 2017 exclusive release—PoB’s second—limited to an edition of 2000.
  • Digital edition will be released on June 9, 2017.
  • PoB artist page: https://www.paradiseofbachelors.com/bonnie-salsburg

 

 

Acknowledgments

Acclaim for Bonnie “Prince” Billy:

His intelligent, huge-hearted outpourings showcase Americana at its very best.

– The Quietus

Oldham is perhaps the greatest of human singers, in that he sounds like a real person.

– Pitchfork

Acclaim for Nathan Salsburg:

One of those names we’ll all associate with American folk guitar.

– NPR Music

Wherever Salsburg goes, it’s always a pleasure.

– Aquarium Drunkard

Tracklist:

1. “By the Rain” 4:18

 

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (all digital formats) |  Other Platforms (MP3/streaming)

 

 

About the Single

On the eve of their first-ever tour of the UK and EU, Nashville’s Promised Land Sound holed up in the studio with Pat Sansone (Wilco) and Billy Bennett (MGMT) to cut their first official recording since their acclaimed 2015 album For Use and Delight. It’s now available as a digital-only single above, or via your favorite platform for digital music.

Thanks to Clash for premiering the song and for their kind words:

“Promised Land Sound retain shards of Nashville’s country heritage, blasting these into a cosmic framework. 2015 album ‘For Use And Delight’ charmed the outernational psychedelic underworld, winning no small degree of praise in the process. Packing up the tour bus, Promised Land Sound have announced a string of European shows, including – glory be! – some UK dates. Alongside this, the Nashville group are ready to unveil the heavenly hymnal that is ‘By The Rain’. At times sparse and fragile, at others grandiose, Promised Land Sound seem ready to tune in, turn on, and play the game by their own rules.”

Here’s what the lads have to say:

“We were excited by how seamless working with Pat and Billy was, and how supportive they were while working on the project. We definitely can’t wait to work with them further. This song is about someone anticipating a positive change that ends up being an unexpected and unwelcome one.

The painting is by our friend Emma Schwartz.” 

 

Acknowledgments for For Use and Delight

#37 Best Album of the Year. On constant rotation in the MOJO offices was this second album from a young Nashville five-piece who appear to have studied every great country-rock LP of the 1970s and added their own special mix of eerily hypnotic riffs, cryptic lyrics, and hazy, plaintive harmonies.

– MOJO

4/5 stars. Redolent of a summer road trip from the hazy Memphis of Big Star and Jesse Winchester to the shining Los Angeles of Tom Petty’s Full Moon FeverFor Use and Delight is by turns plaintive and rocking, a wistful rhythmic journey into a band’s true beating heart … One of my LPs of the year.

– Andrew Male, MOJO

The loveliness and vitality of “She Takes Me There” reflects all of For Use And Delight. With a sound that’s at once more focused and wider-ranging than on its first album, the group shows why psychedelia is always a great aesthetic to revive: It provides plenty of historical touchstones, from The Byrds to the Rain Parade to Promised Land Sound collaborator Steve Gunn; but because the psychedelic experience is about mind expansion, it always goes somewhere new. Sad or happy, calm like this track or ripping up the studio, this band is on a path that’s deeply pleasurable.

– Ann Powers, NPR Music

Their current lineup is the very definition of synergy; every element enhancing and reinforcing the others until the finished product exceeds anything that could’ve been achieved alone. By the time the last 40 seconds of lead single “She Takes Me There” spin out into a cosmic, ragged howl of guitar noise, the track has already offered such an empathetic, yearning story about its subject that no other ending seems possible. What feels real is the power of this song to transform the past into a rippling memory, carrying it into the present on the wings of a melody. 

– Caitlin White, Stereogum

8/10. Promised Land Sound approach their folk-rock source material with both wide-eyed wonder and deep understanding. Lead guitarist Sean Thompson displays precocious virtuosity, spinning out bent-note filigrees that recall the work of his legendary namesake. Joe Scala summons a strident quaver, evoking Dylan and McGuinn amid lysergic guitar splendor, suggesting this throwback band has a bright future. 

– Bud Scoppa, Uncut

Loosely wandering but tightly composed forays into garage rock with a blurry, psychedelic edge. They may be from Tennessee, but their second LP, For Use and Delight, is more evocative of Dylan’s Infidels than Nashville Skyline, jetting off into lush and layered territory that pulls from Link Wray and the Band. 

– Marissa Moss, Rolling Stone

In the past, the group’s music has referenced Gram Parsons; now, you can also hear the influence of British psychedelic band The Pretty Things.

– NPR’s World Cafe Live

The energy and the choogle remain firmly in place on the Nashville-based band’s sophomore effort, but For Use and Delight is a quantum leap forward in terms of songwriting, interplay and general righteousness. The immediate standout is “She Takes Me There,” a woozy heartbreaker that suggests a mid-70s collabo between Neil Young and Chris Bell. But the rest of the LP is stellar as well. It’s more the overall, locked-in vibe that ultimately stands out, as Promised Land Sound conjure up The Dead, the Byrds, and Blonde on Blonde, along with some killer sidetrips into krautrock, folk forms and deeper psych. This is the sound of a band coming into its own. 

– Tyler Wilcox, Aquarium Drunkard

Tracklist:

A1. “Jump for Joy” 4:15
A2. “Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing on a Sweet Potato Vine?” 6:10
A3. “Pinnacle Mountain Silver Mine” 4:18
A4. “Furniture Man” 4:40
A5. “Bells of Rhymney” 4:02
B1. “Billy Button” 4:45
B2. “Canyoneers” 4:34
B3. “St. Brendan’s Isle” 3:53
B4. “Lowe Bonnie” 6:44

 

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (digital/physical) |  Other Online Options (digital/physical) | Local Record Stores

 

Album Narrative

Entrancing guitarist and singer Jake Xerxes Fussell follows his celebrated self-titled debut (produced by William Tyler) with a moving new album of Natural Questions in the form of transmogrified folk/blues koans. This time these radiant ancient tunes tone several shades darker while amplifying their absurdist humor, illuminating our national, and psychic, predicaments. Featuring art by iconic painter Roger Brown and contributions from three notable Nathans—Nathan Bowles (Steve Gunn), Nathan Salsburg (Alan Lomax Archive), and Nathan Golub (Mountain Goats)—as well as Joan Shelley and Casey Toll (Mt. Moriah).

*

“Thus is nature: beyond all things is the ocean, beyond the ocean nothing.”

– Lucius Annaeus Seneca, from Natural Questions, c. 65 AD

Roger Brown, whose preternaturally vivid paintings grace Durham, North Carolina guitarist and singer Jake Xerxes Fussell’s second album What in the Natural World, is usually associated with the loose confederacy of artists known as the Chicago Imagists, but at heart he was fundamentally a Southern boy whose Alabama origins root his work. (He grew up in Opelika, about thirty miles northwest of Fussell’s childhood home in Columbus, Georgia, and counted Elvis Presley as a distant cousin.) Influenced both by comics and the folk and self-taught art he collected, Brown’s distinctive landscapes—which oscillate between architectural and natural, urban and bucolic, busy and barren, depicting the incursion of culture on our environment—are meticulously rendered in a stylized idiom of alien symmetries: recursive, patterned terrains as saturated with vibratory color as with psychological and political subtexts.

Both Brown and Fussell approach their art as a consequence of their practices as collectors and scholars of Southern vernacular culture—material culture and music, respectively—imbuing their own inventive work with the clarity and vigor of folk traditions, while reframing their durable, multivalent strangeness for our own times. Fussell has become a masterful interpreter and mutative performer of American folk and popular music, always allowing the songs he selects to breathe and swell with oceanic ambiguity, never closing them off to contemporary contexts and sonics. It’s the result of a lifetime dedicated to apprenticeships with master storytellers, from Piedmont blueswomen Precious Bryant and Etta Baker to documentary artists Les Blank and Art Rosenbaum.

So if What in the Natural World feels both several shades darker, and unsettlingly funnier, than Jake’s self-titled 2015 debut (produced by brother-in-arms William Tyler), you need only look around at our national predicament in 2017 for clues. Since then Jake has played around the country, opening for Wilco, dueting with Tyler, and touring with Mt. Moriah, Nathan Bowles, and Daniel Bachman … and the territory he’s traversed, for many of our fellow citizens, doesn’t brook much hope.

This time round Fussell has sourced his repertoire from beyond his primary Southeastern foraging grounds, including songs from the Southwest (“Canyoneers”) and even Wales (“Bells of Rhymney”). He encounters monsters, literal and figurative, everywhere in this landscape of loss and longing—from the hellhounds of “Jump for Joy” to cruel Mr. Brown in “Furniture Man(“a devil born without horns”); from the oppressive mine owners (“they have fangs, they have teeth”) of “Bells of Rhymney” to the demons and dragons on “St. Brendan’s Isle.” Unlike his debut, the majority of these songs are not nominally traditional; they don’t hail from what Jake calls “the weird void of folk anonymity and the dark, fertile past.” Five of nine are attributed to specific artists, both canonical (Duke Ellington) and obscure (Helen Cockram), and all are recast in vibrant, assured recordings that elide genres and dissolve the false binaries of tradition and innovation, folk and modern, old and new.

What in the Natural World was recorded by Jason Meagher (Steve Gunn, Michael Chapman) in Orange Co., New York, and by Nick Petersen (Horseback, Mt. Moriah) in Orange Co., North Carolina, and features contributions from three notable Nathans—Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, piano, melodica; Steve Gunn), Nathan Salsburg (guitar on “Pinnacle Mountain”; Alan Lomax Archive), and Nathan Golub (steel guitar; Mountain Goats)—as well as Joan Shelley (vocal on “Lowe Bonnie”) and Casey Toll (bass; Mt. Moriah).

Throughout, Fussell poses Natural Questions in the form of transmogrified folk/blues koans. These nine elliptical riddles, spare but sturdy, driven by Jake’s limpid guitar and understated singing, both absorb and reflect the conditions of their listeners, refusing to offer easy answers. Though the album title lacks a question mark—it can be read as exclamatory or interrogative—all of these songs contain axial, and anxious, questions about the Natural World and our tenuous position within it.

“All the hounds, I do believe, have been killed/Ain’t you thrilled?” The minimally arranged “Jump for Joy” (from Duke Ellington’s eponymous 1941 “Sun-Tanned Revu-sical”) and “Billy Button” (an odd relic of nonsense verse with likely roots in medicine shows and minstrelsy) anchor Sides A and B with mutual echoes. Fussell’s nimbly fingerpicked chord progressions, buttressed by Bowles’ piano and melodica, hew an achingly bittersweet mood of yearning from rough doggerel about “groovy pastures” and “hog meat”—transforming their absurdist lyrics into affecting statements about mortality and the distant promise of paradise. What to do when we finally “stomp up to heaven and meet old St. Pete,” when we arrive in “the happy land of Canaan”? “It’s a long way to travel, and the money for to spend.”

“Have you ever seen peaches growing on a sweet potato vine?” Can nature yield further fruits? Instead of a response to the titular paradox we get sleepily affectionate flirtation: “Wake up, woman, take your big leg off of mine.” (“She’s a married woman, but I love her just the same.”) Bowles shuffles winningly.

“What kind of business has the poor man got/dealing with the Furniture Man?”Furniture Man,” a desperate tale of poverty, dispossession, and imminent homelessness—its cascading guitar refrain descending into a quiet pit of resignation—is as relevant and heartrending now as it was when first recorded in the 1920s.

“What’s in a man to make him thirst/for the kind of life he knows is cursed?” Pinnacle Mountain Silver Mine” (by Appalachian Virginia singer Helen Cockram) and “Canyoneers” (by Arizona producer and Lee Hazelwood associate Loy Clingman) explore the rugged topography of risk and impossibly remote rewards. Pinnacle Mountain holds a “secret I may never know” (intimated by Salsburg’s charming, filigreed guitar), but the “lonely river rats” of “Canyoneers” seemingly toil for purely existential reasons. “Have you ever wondered what you’d do when all the chips were down?”

“‘Is there hope for the future?’/Say the brown bells of Merthyr.” The arcane coal miner’s lament “Bells of Rhymney” shares its text, by Welsh poet Idris Davies, with the song popularized by Pete Seeger and the Byrds, complete with personified, protesting bells, but here Jake supplies his own gospel-tinged musical setting. “St. Brendan’s Isle” offers a faux-Celtic companion piece by Arkansan Jimmy Driftwood, wherein monstrous mine owners are replaced by actual brimstone and scaly “monsters that be.”

“How can I live, how can I live?/You wounded me so deep.” The hero of “Lowe Bonnie,” a chilling Alabama variant of the Child murder ballad “Young Hunting” (aka “Henry Lee”), is slain by his jilted lover (voiced here by Joan Shelley) in a deathly embrace, as he watches her “pen knife” spill his “own heart’s blood” onto his feet. Jake’s guitar shivers.

In his first-century scientific and philosophical treatise Natural Questions, Seneca interrogates his environment for answers, venturing some, but warning that “a single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject.” Maybe the meaning of a thing reveals itself only through tradition, through time, through iterative summoning and study. You get the sense, listening to Fussell’s music, and looking at Brown’s paintings, that they would agree.

  • Available on 150g virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty 24pt matte jacket with detailed song notes and sources, color labels, and high-res download code for the entire album.
  • CD edition features heavy-duty matte gatefold jacket and LP replica artwork.
  • Artwork features two paintings by iconic Chicago Imagist artist Roger Brown (1941–1997).
  • PoB Artist Page for Jake Xerxes Fussell.
  • RIYL: Michael Hurley, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Dave Van Ronk, Jim Dickinson, Raccoon Records, Joan Shelley, Nathan Bowles, Nathan Salsburg, William Tyler, Daniel Bachman, Wilco.

 

 

Press Acknowledgments

Fussell has a deep respect and affinity for the Southern folk vernacular, though he also maintains his childlike awe for it. [What in the Natural World] marks a move into more existential questions … vignettes of Southern life, with an open-hearted groove that would please scholars and little kids alike—Fussell’s burly, winking voice is made for storytelling. “Have You Ever Seen Peaches” is a hair over six minutes long, but that drone could sustain it for hours … running unbroken and buoyant as a shoal of fish darting downriver, and counterbalancing his open-hearted picking.

– Laura Snapes, NPR Music

9/10 (Full-page Discovered review.) Achingly beautiful… a record that yields a procession of hidden treasures. There’s an almost carefree swing to much of Fussell’s music, the easy authority of his silvery guitar work matched by an invitingly cordial voice that makes these arcane songs shine. Like Ry Cooder, Fussell has an uncanny ability to illuminate the present by propping up a window against the past. Whatever the raw material’s vintage, the protagonist’s pursuit of abstract notion—freedom, empowerment, danger, fulfillment—is every inch as pertinent today.

– Rob Hughes, Uncut

While some have called Fussell’s music “atmospheric,” the descriptor misses his historical grounding; on the flipside, any implication of “root” overlooks the ease and freeness of his sound.The image of a river, featured on both of his albums’ covers, is well suited—the history of each song selection, like tributaries, flow into the main waterway, feeding a powerful current of evolution and exchange. And here is Jake Xerxes Fussell, floating down that river, strumming away. 

– Jack Rosenberg, The Oxford American

It’s difficult to imagine another contemporary interpreter delivering a tale of desperation and sadness with such tenderness, warmth, and grace. The room he leaves for the song to breathe allows it to flourish into its own fully-formed, nuanced world – one as familiar today as during the time of its origin. Here, Fussell taps into those roots and in turn carries the pathos across an entire century, creating something wholly his own. No small feat and just one of the many exhibits that display a truth as absolute as the suffering in this song: Jake Xerxes Fussell is a national treasure.

– Chad Depasquale, Aquarium Drunkard

#44 Album of 2017. At once scholarly and swinging, a roistering investigation of the traditions of the Southeastern states. Easygoing virtuosity—co-conspirators included Nathan Salsburg and Nathan Bowles—and an idiosyncratic character ensured, too, that everything felt much more like a party than an historical enactment.

– Uncut

The otherworldly guitar player has an innate ability to infuse traditional folk songs and older works with a revived sense of purpose, a freshly calibrated compass. It’s an album of lost and forgotten folk ballads revived and resuscitated with surgical touch and precision. 

– Will Schube, FLOOD Magazine

He has a lot of mountain in him. His creations float over the world like some kind of omniscient cloud, touching down long enough to share wonder and then floating off into the ozone on their own. There hasn’t been this kind of timeless delivery in a very long time. The beauty of Fussell’s recordings is they remain of this earth but also seem beamed in from another zone, all at the same time.

– Bill Bentley

4/5 stars. Here fellows have fangs, and devils are born without horns: a blurring of beasts that augurs for today. Assigned with the jaundiced spirit of a bar-propping raconteur such as Shane McGowan, Fussell interprets these folk tunes of plucky frontiersmen and rogue seamen like the great American writer Ambrose Bierce after a session sipping loopy juice. Fussell has the gift of the gab, born to tell his tales with a dark humor that raises these fabulous fables up to splendid life.

– Spencer Grady, Record Collector

A singular combination of pedigree, experience, education, and talent.

– The Oxford American (Georgia Music Issue)

Swinging Southern folk… blessed with killer technique and a depth of vernacular knowledge.

– Uncut

4/5. A sense of timelessness is a tough trick to pull off, but Fussell has somehow carved a path that detours around dusty Americana retroism and detached modernism to occupy a strange little niche of his own. Overall a more unsettling collection than his debut, Fussell still offers a unique experience and applies his distinctive take on Southern American music that is like no one else’s.

– All Music Guide

His big, distinctive voice can hold you via sheer volume and timbre even if you don’t listen to a word he says, and his robustly picked electric guitar is a band by itself.

– Bill Meyer, Dusted

8/10. The Georgia-bred Fussell has a calming force of a voice that draws you in, like a good storyteller should, and he treats the precious pieces of heritage he chooses to cover with the utmost respect. Mining obscure minstrel music, poetry and work songs, Fussell has a knack for curation, and that shines on What in the Natural World.

– Glide Magazine

9/10. It takes a lot of work to sound this relaxed. On his buoyant self-titled debut, North Carolina-based, Georgia-raised folksinger and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell wields guitar chops gleaned from years of apprenticeship and deep study to spin the most vibrant yarns. Although the songs are Fussell’s adaptations of traditional folk and blues material, in Fussell’s curatorial hands, they sound neither old nor self-consciously shiny and new; they simply make you want to dance. 

– Sarah Greene, Exclaim!

A lively and wholehearted gem of folk, country and bluegrass… not only gorgeous, but also a hell of a good time. Quietly, but unmistakably, the poignancy of this group’s paean to the vistas and spirits of their land take hold of you. And you don’t want it to let go.

– Chad Depasquale, Aquarium Drunkard

Beautiful and inspiring.

– The Green Man Review

A human jukebox, a raw and penetrating voice out of time, a genuine bluesman with the heart of a mystic. His debut, Jake Xerxes Fussell, just out from Paradise of Bachelors, is pretty damn perfect. This is the kind of record I feel like I was born to listen to. That voice. That guitar. Man.   

– William Boyle, No Depression

 

Artist Testimonials

Jake isn’t just a rare bird, he’s the professor you always wished you had, the friend you never get tired of epic hangs with, the human jukebox, the guitar player and singer who makes any band that he’s in better. He’s a southern scholar and gentleman in the tradition of Jim Dickinson, George Mitchell, and Les Blank. He’s a Dave Van Ronk for SEC country.

– William Tyler 

Jake is one helluva bluesman: my favorite of his generation, in fact; and, in my opinion, the best young traditional blues artist performing today.

– George Mitchell

Jake X. Fussell is certainly one of America’s finest young tradition-based songsters and guitar pickers. He had an ideal start: as a kid traveling the back roads of Georgia, Alabama, and even out to the Indian regions of Oklahoma with his folklorist dad, hearing and absorbing not only the vocal styles and guitar licks of such greats as Precious Bryant, but also developing a sure sense of the expressive core of Southern roots music. From Georgia’s Sea Islands and Chattahoochie Valley to the Mississippi Delta to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Jake is still listening and learning, and coming up with music that takes us to a deep place in the American spirit.

– Art Rosenbaum

Jake Xerxes Fussell is one of my brothers in song. A finer guitar picker, and more heart-centered interpreter of American song you will rarely find.

– Jolie Holland

Jake Xerxes Fussell is a miracle worker, reviving old songs and revealing the continuing vitality of our intertwining musical traditions. This beautiful new record is another chapter in his journey through the hidden and forgotten corners of the American soundscape.

– Dr. Charles L. Hughes; Author, Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South

Tracklist:

A1. “Restore & Slip” 6:45
A2. “Gravity Wake” 11:50
A3. “Glossolaliac” 3:34
B1. “Gray Clearer” 6:27
B2. “Splintering” 6:02
B3. “To the Edges” 4:54
B4. “600 Miles Around” 4:52

 

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (digital/physical) |  Other Online Options (digital/physical) | Local Record Stores

 

Album Narrative

The new album by the ever-evolving project of Jaime Fennelly is his most ambitious and spellbinding set of roiling, meditative recordings to date, and the first to supplement his foundational arsenal of Indian pedal harmonium, analog synthesizers, and incantatory voices with a full ensemble, including Janet Beveridge Bean (Eleventh Dream Day), Jim Becker (Califone), Haley Fohr (Circuit des Yeux), and Jon Mueller (Death Blues). Undying Color braids folk and formal, praise and play, within its heady swells and troughs, invoking American vernacular musical traditions and pulsating avant-garde electronics alike. With prayerful patience and ceremonial gravity, it conjures and celebrates the cyclical rhythms of nature: tidal surges, human breathing, cicadas in the wilderness gloaming.

 

 

“The snow is melting into music.” 
– John Muir (1938)

The Driftless region of Southwestern Wisconsin is a geological anomaly, a deeply carved riverine landscape untouched by glacial drift, its soil and topography remaining as a result entirely distinct from its surroundings. It was here, in a cabin on Red Clover Ranch, about twenty miles east of the Mississippi River, that Jaime Fennelly spent two solitary weeks spanning the winter solstice and the turning of 2016 recording the harmonium and synthesizer tracks that comprise the skeleton of the bracing new Mind Over Mirrors album Undying Color, his sixth and most accomplished full-length to date under that sobriquet. Although the album was fleshed out considerably in the spring with overdubs by other players at Chicago’s MINBAL studio—deftly assisted by recording and mixing engineer Cooper Crain of Bitchin’ Bajas—the Driftless proved an apt, even osmotic, origin for this set of compositions. With prayerful patience and ceremonial gravity, these seven extraordinary songs conjure and celebrate the cyclical rhythms of nature: tidal surges, human breathing, cicadas in the wilderness gloaming. The record’s forty-five minutes uncannily subsume listeners within an enveloping sensation of primeval remoteness, the heady wonder and instinctual trepidation of sleeping alone beneath the stars.

The immersive soundworld that saturates Undying Color elides the physical and the metaphysical. To wit, twelve-minute centerpiece “Gravity Wake,” commandingly sung by Haley Fohr (Circuit des Yeux, Jackie Lynn) and Janet Beveridge Bean (Eleventh Dream Day, Freakwater), is likely the eeriest and most sensual paean to Einstein’s theory of general relativity ever composed. And the album itself, following its punning title that substitutes “dying” for “dyeing,” is dedicated to Fennelly’s recently departed uncle, as if the transmutations of color into cloth analogize the potential transmutations of death into music. Belying the freezing winter weather from which it emerged, Undying Color glows with warmth, untouched by the iciness associated with so much music nominally categorized along the vectors of electronic music, ambient, or drone—inadequate taxa to describe this most recent transmutation of the ever-evolving Mind Over Mirrors praxis. Despite the academic and abstract valences, Mind Over Mirrors has always been body music. In live performance, Jaime’s feet are constantly pumping his harmonium’s pedals, emphasizing the music’s essential corporeality (in the sense of Harry Partch’s designation of “corporeal music.”) With Undying Color, more bodies bring a corresponding increase in heat.

While the project emerged in 2007 along a decidedly solo axis, following the dissolution of Fennelly’s prior group Peeesseye (with guitarist and fellow PoB artist Chris Forsyth and drummer/visual artist Fritz Welch), Mind Over Mirrors now resembles a band, or a constellation. In addition to the role Crain plays in making this Mind Over Mirrors’ most ambitious and spellbinding set of roiling, meditative recordings yet, Undying Color is also the first to supplement Fennelly’s foundational arsenal of Indian pedal harmonium and Oberheim synths with a full ensemble of players, including Jim Becker (fiddle; Califone, Iron and Wine) and Jon Mueller (drums, percussion; Death Blues, Volcano Choir). Fohr—who also contributed to antecedent album The Voice Calling (2015)—returns as a featured vocalist and lyricist, her incantatory vocals serving as foil to the more placid, honeyed lull of Bean. The potent combination of both singers on several songs recalls a fantasy duet between Catherine Ribeiro and Julee Cruise.

Beyond the incorporation of new textures and timbres into more complex arrangements, the revelation is a hypnotic new foregrounding of rhythm: the steady, stately throb of the concert bass drum on “Gravity Wake” and “Gray Clearer”; the helical sawing of fiddle strings that lends urgency to “Restore & Slip” and “Glossolaliac”; the rhythmic harmonium filtering that summons a choir of synthetic crickets atop “To the Edges”; and the electronically simulated harmonium brushwork of “600 Miles Around,” the album’s melancholy, elliptical coda. The absence of sharp percussive punctuation on “Splintering,” which features Mike Weis’ singing bowls in lieu of drums, imparts a conspicuously contrasting driftlessness, a feeling of ropes pulling against the moorings of rhythm.

Undying Color also asserts the interwoven formal and folk aspects of Mind Over Mirrors more dramatically than ever before. This sense of simultaneity, of braided vernacular and academic musical traditions, recalls Henry Flynt’s fusion of Appalachian music with avant-garde tactics, aligning Fennelly with other iconoclastic American composers like Charles Ives and Moondog known for similarly syncretic methods. Jaime specifically cites the Mississippi Hill Country fife and drum music of Otha Turner and the rhythmic mouth organ music of the Apatani of Northeastern India as influences on Undying Color (most directly noticeable in the syncopated, baritone snare drum-fueled rush of “Restore & Slip” and the harmonium exhalations of “Gray Clearer,” respectively.) Both vernacular instrumental traditions are linked through breathing to the bellows of the harmonium, still the foundation of Mind Over Mirrors’ sonic palette (its undying color). The persistent choice of the humble harmonium—a 19th-century pump and pedal-operated reed keyboard instrument that once featured prominently in North Indian and European classical and religious canons as well as the vernacular music of Scandinavia, the American South, and seagoing vessels—is significant for its historical, cultural, and folkloric associations (its human dimensions) as much the self-imposed compositional or technological limitations. Here it assumes a durational, devotional centrality, reconciling electronic and acoustic compositional elements in dynamic equilibrium, and tethering them in turn to the elements of air and earth.

What naturalist John Muir described in his journal as the sound of snow melting into music is the sound of a state change and motion: ice transforming into rivulets of water, moving toward creek, river, and finally to sea. The ancient Driftless terroir of Undying Color likewise contains evidence of Mind Over Mirrors’ enduring colorfastness in the midst of state change, from fixity to flux, maintaining clarity through change. 

  • Available on 140g virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty matte board jacket, full-color printed inner sleeve, and download code for the entire album.
  • CD edition features heavy-duty matte gatefold jacket and LP replica artwork.
  • Artwork by Timothy Breen.
  • PoB artist page for Mind Over Mirrors.
  • RIYL: Brian Eno, Henry Flynt, Moondog, Popul Vuh, Sun Ra, Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes, Arthur Russell, Laurie Spiegel.

 

 

Acknowledgments

The music Jaime Fennelly makes under the name Mind Over Mirrors creates a sense of everlasting wonder … Undying Color is shaping up to be praise music for the American landscape.

– Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

Near-religious drone. The effect is kaleidoscopic: not one outcome, but a shifting pattern of constants, their shape wont to change on each listen and with each listener. Undying Color, with all its complexity and potentially conflicting ideas, is contemporary folk without cliché – a thoroughly modern mythology and a lens through which to more freely interpret the watertight exactitudes of our 21st-century way of thinking and of moving through the world. Or, more accurately, this album is a two-way mirror from which either side can see an entirely familiar landscape… where the signifiers remain the same but are rendered uncanny by the strangeness of what they signify.

– Karl Smith, The Quietus

4/5 stars. Pulsing, cyclical grooves which ally grounded, folksy timbres to minimalist methods… the solemn bass drum and droning harmonium have the oceanic desolation of a drowned shanty.

  Andy Gill, The Independent

The most diverse Mind Over Mirrors release so far, featuring detailed sonic textures, percussion-led rhythms, and a web of singing that opens up new spaces in the music.

– Marc Masters, The Wire

Devotional ambient dreamscapes, oak-aged kosmische jams, a kaleidoscopic game of drones… Undying Color offers a rich, textured experience. This psych sound world demands full sensory immersion, but once inside there’s much to enjoy, as it follows in the fertile footsteps of Terry Riley and Alice Coltrane.

– Stephen Dalton, Uncut

Ambient tones and drones recall the time-lapse of an epic nature documentary but soon transform into a theme or a groove, rendering the compositions active listening. It’s refreshing to see a musician approach their work with such intention, such mindfulness, such clarity of vision.

– Justin Joffe, The Observer

Grade: A. The cumulative effect is like tripping balls with Steve Reich on Roscoe Holcomb’s back porch. The outstanding results span from roots potency to the edginess of the avant-garde with iconoclastic warmth a constant. The experimental music field gets frequently and somewhat unfairly portrayed as a rather cold milieu, but Mind Over Mirrors diverts from this stereotype.

– Joseph Neff, The Vinyl District

8/10. There are natural forces at work in the sound of Mind Over MirrorsUndying Color. Its meditative drones move forward with a sense of direction, their weight determining their course. While so often synthesizer music seeks to make the listener feel weightless, Fennelly finds beauty in binding, securing forces.

– Jason Woodbury, FLOOD Magazine

Across seven tracks, Fennelly delivers striking, life-affirming folk with electronics experimentations.

– The Quietus

The new album contains some of his strongest compositions… hypnotizing layers of harmonium and synthesizer. The extra voices don’t disrupt Fennelly’s meditative, cosmic-rustic sound—instead it blossoms with a much richer and better developed palette of timbres and a broader dynamic range.

– Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

Massive, hypnotic, endless … shoots straight for the stratosphere.

– Pitchfork

Stirring, introspective music that sounds like something plucked out of an Andrei Tarkovsky film, or produced by mapping the orbits of celestial bodies on an LP record.

– Blouin ArtInfo

4/5 stars. Hypnotic… illustrating a tension between reflection and action.

– Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, Financial Times

Trance-inducing rhythms and million-mile-stare drones… sonically inducing transcendence.

– Bill Meyer, Magnet

Vocalists Haley Fohr and Janet Beveridge Bean add to Fennelly’s stratospheric soundscapes with textural vocalizations that bring to mind the orbital beauty of Steve Reich while achieving an analog warmth all its own.

– Miles Bowe, FACT Magazine

Immersive sonic worlds… The rebounding sounds that dominate Undying Color have a cumulative effect, and form a kind of aural mist within the listener can get lost. Charming. 

– Alun Hamnett, Record Collector

Fennelly ploughs his own unique furrow, blending ethnic sources from North India and everywhere from Wisconsin to Mississippi to Appalachia in his homeland, assembling it all in Chicago. What lifts this set… is his embracing of collaborators to spice his soundscapes, always underscored by his own evocative foot-pumped organ and Oberheim synth combination.

– Keith Bruce, Herald Scotland

Devotional and alarming … an out-of-body experience.

– NPR Music

Fennelly’s keys churn and cycle like one of Terry Riley’s vintage all-night flights… synching with violin and Haley Fohr’s voice. A cosmic trip that condenses expansive minimalist explorations into delectably concise three-minute lengths.

– Pitchfork

Wintry designs, warmed by the likes of Bitchin’ Bajas’ layering instruments, voices, and electronics.

– MOJO

Rough, absorbing and hypnotic, like a rural American wilderness folk take on the explorative instrumentalism of Battles.

– Loud and Quiet

A luminous swirl of exuberant fiddle tunes and melancholic drones … a rushing mashup of La Monte Young-style minimalism and Appalachian folk.

– Tiny Mix Tapes

The new record is already shaping up to be one of 2017’s most visceral experiences … a searing, spectacular instrumental soundscape that confounds and delights in shifting but ultimately equal measure.

– Gold Flake Paint

His most assured statement—among many qualified others—yet.

– Ad Hoc

An incantation of synthesizers, drone, beating heartbeat pulses and nature magic. Beware: This one is likely to put you in a trance.

– Vanguard-Online

A staggering album of zen wisdom and awe… a monument of sonic wonder… a beacon for what’s possible if fearless experimentation is pursued. This is an album that can either be played from the bottom the darkest mine, from the highest point of any landscape, or in the smallest space between your ears; it escapes the usual measures. Imagine a strange place where dropping a cathedral to the bottom of canyon is possible. It’s just fucking massive.

– Pop Bollocks

Tracklist:

A1. “A Spanish Incident (Ramón and Durango)” 5:05
A2. “Sometimes You Just Drive” 4:41
A3. “The Mallard” 5:45
A4. “Memphis in Winter” 6:50
B1. “The Prospector” 6:39
B2. “Falling from Grace” 6:32
B3. “Money Trouble” 4:33
B4. “That Time of Night” 6:11
X1. “Rosh Pina” 5:07 (CD/digital bonus track)
X2. “Navigation” 5:14 (CD/digital bonus track)

 

 

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (digital/physical) |  Other Online Options (digital/physical) | Local Record Stores

 

Album Narrative

After five decades of recording and touring, veteran British songwriter and guitar sage Michael Chapman has finally made what he calls his “American record,” and the aptly titled 50 now stands as his late career masterwork, a moving legacy statement by a legend. Backed by a collaborative group of friends and acolytes—Steve Gunn (who also produced), Nathan Bowles (Pelt), James Elkington (Jeff Tweedy), Jason Meagher (No-Neck Blues Band), Jimy SeiTang (Rhyton), and fellow UK songwriting luminary Bridget St John—Chapman tears into both bold renderings of new songs and radical reinterpretations of material from his revered catalog, the crack band adeptly scaling the same rarefied sonic heights of classic Harvest albums like Fully Qualified Survivor, guided by a true survivor’s instinct, wit, and wisdom. The result is a sublime chiaroscuro self-portrait, more shadow than light, as an invigorated Chapman wrestles with weighty themes of travel, memory, mortality, and redemption, his world-weary whispers assuming the incandescent power of prophecy.

The deluxe LP package includes tip-on jacket, printed inner sleeve, lyrics, and download card with two bonus tracks; the CD features a gatefold jacket, lyrics, and two non-LP bonus tracks. 

 

 

I dreamed the blacksnake rode the guitar
Down the river

– Frank Stanford, “The Singing Knives” (1971)

The poems of Frank Stanford manifest a febrile surrealist blues of the American South, especially when exploring his favorite themes of nature, music, and death, a symbolic trinity invoked succinctly by his couplet about a snake adrift on a river, coiled in the soundhole of a guitar-ark. Orphic guitarists (and snakes) recur in Stanford’s work, in which he consistently associates the twin mysteries of mortality and music: “The one in front had a guitar on his back/The other one had a chainsaw,” begins one harrowing passage from “The Snake Doctors.”

The stowaway snake and the guitar-chainsaw duo offer apt metaphors for iconic British songwriter and guitarist Michael Chapman’s music, suffused (like Stanford’s work) with the crooked logic, unfulfilled longing, and existential danger of dreams, but shaded with his own wry sensibility of Northern darkness. He ranks among the innovative midcentury English guitarists—Davey Graham, Richard Thompson, and Michael’s old friend Mike Cooper are others—who transposed the atmosphere and syntax of the blues to a British context through reinvention and deconstruction rather than imitation. But Chapman uniquely deploys his liquid virtuosity and his resonant, slurred Yorkshire burr as vehicles for his mournful (and often barbed) musings on the pleasures and perils of hard living. Like a peaty whiskey (or Bob Dylan), the smoky gravitas of his playing and singing has grown more trenchant and entrenched with age; no one else sounds like him.

It’s difficult not to describe Michael’s long career and his vast, masterful body of work obliquely, by reeling off his musical genealogy, the astounding roll call of collaborators, comrades, and disciples with whom he’s shared stages, studios, and his sturdy songs. His emergence in 1967, alongside Wizz Jones, as a self-taught jazz freak, recovering art-school student, and part-time photography teacher on the Cornish folk circuit preceded a series of classic late 1960s and ’70s albums for Harvest, Deram, and Decca. (But whatever you do, don’t call him a folkie; he feels more kinship with the improvisatory outer orbits of jazz, blues, and the avant-garde.)

A peer of legends like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and Roy Harper—but arguably more mercurial and less classifiable over the long haul than any of them—Chapman is probably the only musician in history to have played and recorded with Mick Ronson, Elton John, and Thurston Moore. (True stories: David Bowie enlisted Ronson in the Spiders from Mars as a direct result of his superb playing on Chapman’s Fully Qualified Survivor, John Peel’s favorite album of 1970. Elton John tried to recruit Michael to his band thereafter, but producer Gus Dudgeon interfered.) Following a millennial resurgence and reissue campaigns by the Light in the Attic and Tompkins Square labels, Michael’s songs have recently been covered by Lucinda Williams, Kurt Vile, Hiss Golden Messenger, Meg Baird, and William Tyler, and he has performed and toured with younger devotees including Bill Callahan, Jack Rose, Daniel Bachman, and Ryley Walker. But this litany of comrades and admirers is only one vector by which to chart the undiluted potency of Chapman’s artistry and its deep currents of influence on three generations of musicians.

His new record 50, titled to commemorate fifty years of touring—and released four days before Michael’s seventy-sixth birthday—stands as a formidable monument of retrospection and introspection in his adventurous catalog (last we counted, approaching fifty records.) A return to the gloriously ragged kineticism of Rainmaker (1969), Fully Qualified Survivor (1970), Wrecked Again (1971), and Savage Amusement (1976), Michael’s first “American record”—an elusive goal for decades—embodies his undeniable late career masterpiece. It is his first album in years with a full band, assembled around the versatile core group of friend and producer Steve Gunn (who also contributes guitar, drums, and vocals): Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, keys, vocals; Pelt, Black Twig Pickers); James Elkington (guitar, piano; Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson), and Jimy SeiTang (bass, synthesizers, vocals; Rhyton, Stygian Stride). Michael’s dear friend and fellow UK songwriting luminary Bridget St John furnished her gorgeous, shivering vocals, a dramatic counterpoint to Chapman’s road-worn gruffness. Gunn’s touring bassist and longtime engineer Jason Meagher (No-Neck Blues Band) recorded and mixed at his Black Dirt Studio in Westtown, New York. The inherently collaborative nature of 50 shows in its ambition and execution; never has Michael ceded such generous control to other musicians, and he sounds both invigorated and liberated as a result. Gunn’s and Elkington’s guitars knit with Chapman’s in easy intergenerational dialogue; sparks fly.

The album includes both radical reinterpretations of obscure material from Michael’s catalog as well as three new compositions: “Sometimes You Just Drive,” “Money Trouble,” and “Rosh Pina.” A longstanding but freshly urgent preoccupation with (as Michael sings in a beloved early tune) “time past and time passing” is evident straightaway, from the album title and the first line of the first song through the final lyric of the record. Never before in his storied career has Chapman gazed so steadily into the abyss of time lost and regained; never before has he engaged so intimately with his legacy and the changing meanings of his own music over time. That he manages to do so without succumbing to nostalgia or sentimentality bears testament to the steely fortitude of his ruminative, tough-minded songs, which survey both inscape and landscape with the same stoical detachment.

Chapman’s spare writing on 50 displays a refined economy of gesture, often unfolding in episodic parables (see “The Prospector” and “A Spanish Incident”), wherein regret and redemption elide symbolically in a sublime chiaroscuro self-portrait, more shadow than light, his world-weary whispers assuming the incandescent power of prophecy. The boozy good humor and resignation of “Money Trouble” and “A Spanish Incident” find traces of comedy and camaraderie amid the absurdity of a world in which we lose our words, our way, our faith. The menace and anxiety of “Sometimes You Just Drive,” which poignantly conflates the End of Days with the end of one man’s days, and “Memphis in Winter,” a hellish Bluff City travelogue, contrast with the naked vulnerability and remorse of “Falling from Grace” and “Navigation.” In lead single “That Time of Night” Michael confesses, movingly, “you know I don’t scare easy, but I do get scared.

With 50, Chapman faces mortality with both guitar and chainsaw in hand, and endures. It’s the unguarded sound of Orpheus descending, the snake riding the guitar down the river Styx and returning upstream to tell his story. Listen.

  • Michael Chapman’s first “American record” was produced by Steve Gunn and features a band comprised of Gunn, Nathan Bowles, James Elkington, Jimy SeiTang, Jason Meagher, and the incomparable Bridget St John. It is his first album with a full band and to include new songs in years.
  • Available on 140g virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty tip-on jacket, printed inner sleeve, lyrics and download code for the entire album and bonus tracks “Rosh Pina” and “Navigation.”
  • CD edition features heavy-duty gatefold jacket, lyrics, and bonus tracks “Rosh Pina” and “Navigation.”
  • PoB artist page for Michael Chapman

 

 

Press Acknowledgments

Mesmeric. Amid a chiming, atmospheric mix of acoustic- and electric-guitar arpeggios as autumnal as the lyrics, Chapman’s appealingly leathery, lived-in voice takes a backward glance at a long line of memories that are part of a “thread that can’t be broken” running through all of our lives. Brilliantly and succinctly capturing the blend of world-weary toughness and emotional vulnerability that is crucial to the song, Chapman at one point sings, “You know I don’t scare easy,” before displaying a master’s sense of timing by waiting a beat before adding the punchline, “but I do get scared.”

After 75 years on the planet, and 50 spent putting his reflections to music, Chapman may have developed a thick skin, but the soul inside of it can still speak to the uncertainty that lives in all of us. Still, even in the midst of the dark night of the soul he conjures up here, Chapman remains defiant and unapologetic. For all his regrets and misgivings, he nevertheless declares, “Take me for what I am or not at all,” fully owning the place on the planet he has come to occupy after all these years. By the time the cyclical barroom piano line in the tune’s coda starts repeating, it feels as though the hazy, dreamlike reverie Chapman has been moving through is beginning to tumble over itself and spirit him off with its ragged momentum — either to dive more deeply into this dream, or to begin another one.

– Jim Allen, NPR Music’s Songs We Love

4/5 stars (Album of the Month, Feb. 2017). Alongside the album’s end-of-days feel there is also a valedictory mood, the sense that, as with Blackstar and You Want it Darker, here is a man closer to the end than the beginning, haunted by memories and auguries, and communicating something of their uncanny twilight power.

– Andrew Male, MOJO

8/10 (Lead Review; 7pp. feature). 50 is a finely tuned piece that surveys the looming thunderclouds of mortality and the biblical gloom of the times, and —quietly, unshowily—transcends both… the downhill trudge of declining years reimagined as a stately victory parade. Eight affecting songs, sensitively performed and crisply recorded… His stellar vocals and Steve Gunn’s atmospheric production elevate this to one of the guitarists’s best. Vindication here we come.

– Jim Wirth & Tom Pinnock, Uncut

#29 Album of 2017. British folk’s fully qualified survivor celebrated an ornery half-century in the game with one of his best albums in decades: a full band electric set, cooked up with a bunch of young Americans led by Steve Gunn.

– Uncut

Even as it draws on new and old songs, 50 presents a startlingly current and nearly apocalyptic vision of America; it’s an album full of brimstone and brine, perhaps more perfect for this moment in history than we’d like to admit. The riffs sound coiled and compact, as though propelled by some outside source, and the solos rarely announces themselves as such. Somehow the album sounds American, especially on the high-lonesome “That Time of Night” and the haunted “Falling from Grace,” and that suits Chapman’s brusque cadence and seen-it-all voice perfectly.

– Stephen Deusner, Pitchfork

A rich, haunting, collection of forlorn love songs, apocalyptic picaresques, and bewitching instrumentals that marks the latest stage in a remarkable career renaissance … by the godfather of new cosmic Americana.

– Andrew Male, The Guardian

9/10. Few musicians hold off until they’re well past the official retirement age before creating their masterpiece. Michael Chapman may just have done that with the spellbinding 50. The different strands cohere into a seamlessly unified, thoroughly inspired and profoundly moving record that never really sounds like anyone but Michael Chapman. Easily strong enough to act as an ideal entry point to Chapman’s extensive discography, and quite likely the veteran’s definitive statement, 50 deserves to reap all possible plaudits.

– Janne Oinonen, The Line of Best Fit

4/5 stars. Chapman has taken advantage of his status as the elder statesman of experimental blues on this haunting album. For the most part there’s a cloud of darkness engulfing 50… it gives this late-career triumph mystery and weight.

– The Times

4 stars. The 75-year old’s voice can render homespun parables as biblical portents, in much the same way that Rick Rubin reinvented Johnny Cash as Nostradamus.

– Spencer Grady, Record Collector

4/4 stars; Stand Out Album. The radical fretwork and deadpan unflinching songs put a poetic cap on his mighty legacy. Transcendent and emotive shredding… universal themes of survival, mortality, and redemption. Certainly something to celebrate.

– Daily Mirror

Vital new versions of older tunes as well as some striking new songs, with the accompaniment of a new generation of Chapman acolytes. Five decades down the road, Jansch, Martyn, and Drake have all left us, but at 75, Chapman remains a force to be reckoned with.

– Jim Allen, Bandcamp Daily

Age has proved meaningless in the altogether radical output of Chapman’s career. On his first self-professed ‘American Record’ to date, Chapman is routinely unpredictable, combining re-imaginations of deep cuts from albums past alongside new compositions. ‘Sometimes You Just Drive’ finds Chapman boldly confronting the End of Days … [sounding] renewed, further proving the transcendental power of his music.

– Aquarium Drunkard

A brilliant collaborator. “Falling from Grace” floats out on a gorgeous cloud of fingerpicking and lap steel… “The Prospector” gets a kind of Crazy Horse treatment from Gunn and his group, Chapman’s verses playing call and response with an equally long, gnarled Zuma-like lead, round and round for seven minutes that could be 17.

– Sam Davies, The Wire

A meditation on the perseverance of the artistic spirit and the power of collaboration.

– Noisey

“Masterful songwriting from the venerable British singer-songwriter. The Leeds-born Chapman’s voice has an alluring Dennis Hopper-esque weariness.”

– The Arts Desk

4/5 stars. 50 focuses on songs, with the warm drizzle of Chapman’s gnarled Yorkshire burr lending a bluff character to tableaux.

– i

A master guitarist and songwriter … The godfather of experimental rock guitar … Calls to mind the fabled intricacy of Pentangle heavy-hitters John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, the muscular authority of Jimmy Page, and the maverick edge of Roy Harper, without once compromising its own indisputably Chapman-esque character. Anyone who thinks Jim O’Rourke was the first to combine rock structures, world-weary vocals, American Primitive-tinged guitar instrumentals, and avant-garde noise interludes is in for a shock.

– MOJO

A world-class songwriter. Terrifically unpredictable … beyond any genre tag.

– Pitchfork

Acute emotional reporting in a gruff seaman-poet’s voice, supported by the quiet ingenious strength of his acoustic-guitar motifs.

– Rolling Stone

A master … a distinctive talent who stands comparisons to John Fahey.

– Uncut

The sound of a real songwriter who’s lived a real life and all that entails.

– Q

 

Artist Testimonials

He shreds on acoustic guitar the way Kandinsky wails with a paintbrush.

– Thurston Moore

Michael Chapman’s rugged sensitivity and passion as a working musician continuously inspire me. His visionary and introspective songs span a half-century—playing, listening, traveling, reflecting. His endless drive and unique voice serve as a model of what it means to be an artist. His story and legacy are something to cherish; he has seen and lived it all. This album reflects that beautifully.

– Steve Gunn

48 years my brother through music, Michael has been a constant through and around my musical life since 1968 and my first gig at Les Cousins on Greek Street. Our musical paths have zigzagged all over the UK and Europe and more recently in the US, and our connection down all these days is one of true friendship. He is a stubborn man in the best sense—truly a fully qualified survivor. He will say what he means, and he is always authentic in his writing, playing, and singing—what you get is who he is.

– Bridget St John

Michael Chapman is a titanic guitar picker and personality, and his passion for life and music is as deep as his affection for people. If album titles reflect a person’s path in the world, then Fully Qualified Survivor could not more accurately sum up a man like this, who is heroic and inspiring in his approach to living for his music. 

– William Tyler

Michael is the ideal kind of craftsman, the kind of player and songwriter who draws deeply from traditions, personal wanderings, and inspirations in a way that speaks to the wild reality of his tenure on the planet. This record projects that same reality with stoicism and vulnerability in equal measure. I’m humbled to call Michael a friend and collaborator.

– Nathan Bowles

Michael Chapman sets a very high bar lyrically—he is the best. Something to aspire to.

– Kayla Cohen, Itasca

Mike Chapman and I go so far back I can barely remember where and when exactly we met. Maybe one of the legendary all Saturday night sessions at Les Cousins folk cellar in London? Maybe a bar in Hull (where Mike lived) where I recall the bartender was a Jamaican with his name, Julia, tattooed on the inside of his lower lip; or at another venue held monthly in a disused tin mine somewhere in deepest Cornwall, so far away from London (let alone Hull) that it took two days by train to get there.

Wherever and whatever, we seemed to become friends and toured together playing the “folk circuit” in the UK in the late ’60s in his Volvo (he wouldn’t drive anything else, he said), which was convenient for me because I don’t drive, and he loved to, and still does probably. At that time I was doing my Blind Boy Fuller impersonations, and he was doing his Mike Chapman impersonations. He was already Michael Chapman, you see, but I was yet to become Mike Cooper.

We met again recently in Poland after not having seen each other for something like 40 years. He was still Michael Chapman, and I was Mike Cooper now, but we still got on well, despite the years and the different musical roads we had travelled, and shared another musical evening together, as we had in those days so long ago that I can barely remember where and when they were.

I did enjoy the trick you showed me that night in Poland where you flicked a glass of red wine from the table in front of you over your left shoulder, and it landed, still full, on the table behind us, without spilling a drop. Your guitar playing wasn’t bad either that night—still. Love and hugs and long life, old friend, and I look forward to your collaboration with Steve, another genius. Does he drive?

– Mike Cooper

I don’t know if I’ll ever meet another man more content after 50 years on the road. 

– Daniel Bachman

Tracklist:

A1. “Amarillo Highway (for Dave Hickey)” 4:00
A2. “High Plains Jamboree” 3:33
A3. “The Great Joe Bob (a Regional Tragedy)” 4:43
A4. “The Wolfman of Del Rio” 5:39
A5. “Lubbock Woman” 3:36
B1. “The Girl Who Danced Oklahoma” 4:19
B2. “Truckload of Art” 5:24
B3. “The Collector (and the Art Mob)” 2:03
B4. “Oui (a French Song)” 2:21
B5. “Rendezvous USA” 2:45
C1. “Cocktails for Three” 2:58
C2. “The Beautiful Waitress” 5:37
C3. “High Horse Momma” 3:03
C4. “Blue Asian Reds (for Roadrunner)” 3:48
C5. “New Delhi Freight Train” 7:28
D1. “FFA” 1:12
D2. “Flatland Farmer” 4:18
D3. “My Amigo” 3:21
D4. “The Pink and Black Song” 4:00
D5. “The Thirty Years War Waltz (for Jo Harvey)” 6:33
D6. “I Just Left Myself” 2:10

 

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp (LP/CD/digital) |  Other Options (LP/CD/digital/streaming) | Local Record Stores

 

Album Narrative

Legendary Texan artist Terry Allen occupies a unique position straddling the frontiers of country music and visual art; he has worked with everyone from Guy Clark to David Byrne to Lucinda Williams, and his artwork resides in museums worldwide. Widely acclaimed as a masterpiece, his deeply moving (and hilarious) satirical second album, a complex memory palace to his West Texas hometown Lubbock, is often cited as the urtext of alt-country. Produced in collaboration with the artist and meticulously remastered from the original analog tapes, this is the definitive edition: the first to correct the tape speed inconsistencies evident on all prior versions; the first U.S. vinyl reissue; the first CD to restore the full track listing; and the first to contextualize the record within Allen’s 50-year career. Deluxe 2×LP package includes tip-on gatefold jacket with lyrics, printed inner sleeves, download code, and 28 pp. book with related artwork and photos, an oral history by Allen, and essays by David Byrne, Lloyd Maines, and PoB. 2×CD edition features replica jacket, sleeves, and tipped-in 52pp. book.

 

 

Lubbock’s got a hard bark, with little or no self-pity; its music has an edge that can be smelled, like Lewter’s feed lot. No one from Lubbock ever apologized for what they were or where they lived.

– Terry Allen (2016)

Three hundred forty-four miles of “blue asphaltum line” separate Ciudad Juárez, Mexico from Lubbock, Texas. Just four years separate Terry Allen’s first and second albums and consecutive masterpieces, Juarez (1975) and Lubbock (on everything) (1979), but the two records inhabit completely different systems of worldbuilding, wildly divergent in terms of sonics, scope, and circumstance.

Arguably Allen’s most widely beloved and most easily approachable album—it contains his two best-known and most oft-covered songs, “Amarillo Highway (for Dave Hickey)” and “New Delhi Freight Train” (famously first recorded by Little Feat)—Lubbock is his complex memory palace to his West Texas hometown. Rather than frantically covering ground like Juarez, with its map-happy, burnt-rubber pursuits and escapes, it instead digs down and burrows inward, to the heart of one rather plain High Plains city in the heart of the Llano Estacado, or “Palisaded Plains,” an interminably flat mesa larger than the state of Indiana that spans eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas. Compared to its sparsely produced predecessor, it represents a much more collaborative, even collective, effort with a local Lubbock studio band, complete with rhythm section, pedal steel, fiddle, and horns, and helmed by master guitarist Lloyd Maines, who became Terry’s frequent musical partner, producer, and the de facto bandleader of the Panhandle Mystery Band.

With these twenty-one songs, written largely in self-imposed exile in California (all the while “cussing Lubbock”), Allen shifted modes from the sordid, violent mythology of Juarez to piquant prodigal-son satire. Instead of the corrido conjure of Jaurez, its eviscerations, elisions, and repossessions of roving identity and cartography, Lubbock incarnates an accidental capitulation to love, to home, to rootedness. Yes, it’s satire—at least until the final few songs, which take a turn towards the nakedly personal—but it’s also deeply affectionate, compassionate, and empathetic towards its subjects, even when they are ridiculous or pathetic. Especially when they are ridiculous or pathetic—and at their most vulnerable—these all too human characters come alive. The way the songs wield cutting humor like a scalpel—managing a high-wire balance between literate and guttural, acerbic and affectionate, cynical and sanguine—is more reminiscent of the surgical satire of Mark Twain or Kurt Weill or Randy Newman than the cris de cœur of fellow “outlaw” artists like Waylon or Willie or Terry’s close friend and collaborator Guy Clark. As Terry told me, revealingly, about songwriting, “If it’s not a lie, it’s probably satire.

They are love songs, one and all, but obliquely so. The songs that describe romantic or erotic love or chart the narrative arc of such relationships—“High Plains Jamboree,” “The Wolfman of Del Rio,” “The Girl Who Danced Oklahoma,” “The Beautiful Waitress,” “Cocktails for Three,” “Blue Asian Reds”—appropriate love song tropes and functions towards other metaphorical ends, grasping at ways of meaning far beyond the basic bilateral syntax and sentimental idiom of love songs. The songs are nominally about Lubbock and its denizens, but they angle for universality—the album could just as well have been called Lubbock (on everywhere). True to its title’s winking, extravagant ambition, the record not only summons a city, but likewise attempts to encompass everything, sublime and banal alike, in a great, untidy embrace: love and heartbreak; marriage and its (dis)contents; family and childhood; driving and travel; the art world and its classist contortions; booze and pills; sports and play; agriculture and foodways; the ambitions, failures, frustrations, and satisfactions of labor and art; crime and war and violence and peace; the mirages of memory; the passing of time; and finally, poignantly, the dissolution and disappearance of the self (the devastating “I Just Left Myself.”)

Lubbock movingly reflects one of the weirdly wrenching and reassuring processes of adulthood, the realization that you have been irrevocably shaped by your past, your hometown, and your family, whether you like or it not. The tension between masking and unmasking evident throughout Lubbock and its cast of conflicted characters suggests this ingrained ambivalence about escaping our pasts, the impossibility of permanently leaving home behind. Despite our best efforts to molt and forge independent, separate identities, we carry the stale freight of home, of our childhoods, with us everywhere on our backs, for the remainder of our lives, whether we see it or not, like deluded turtles. The question is how to crawl along with some measure of grace.

Lubbock’s intellectually tough transmutation—through Allen’s detailed and idiosyncratic songwriting—of honky-tonk’s flinty foundations into something altogether stranger and subtler took a pickaxe to the notion that country music as a form is fossilized, fixed, or inherently conservative, influencing generations of artists. Songwriters from well beyond West Texas and the increasingly insular and constrictive confines of country continue to discuss the album with breathless reverence, citing how it changed everything for those who were listening. It forces you to rethink the possibilities of the form, to consider the subversive potential of operating within a loose country genre context without feeling hidebound by its traditions. Even if Allen’s music is more accurately described as art-country, Lubbock (on everything) sowed the seeds of alt-country’s emergence a decade later. It’s no accident that Lloyd Maines went on to play on classic albums like Uncle Tupelo’s Anodyne (1993) and Wilco’s A.M. (1995), and to produce Richard Buckner, nor that Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell perform “Amarillo Highway” in concert. This is the urtext, the template for everything that followed.

  • The definitive, deluxe edition of the art-country classic: produced in collaboration with the artist; remastered from the original analog tapes; first U.S. vinyl reissue; first CD to restore the full track listing; first to correct the tape speed inconsistencies evident on all prior versions; and the first to contextualize the record within Allen’s 50-year career.
  • Available on virgin vinyl as a 2xLP, with heavy-duty tip-on gatefold jacket, lyrics, printed inner sleeves, download code, and 28 pp. book with related artwork, an oral history by Allen, and new essays by David Byrne, Lloyd Maines, and Brendan Greaves.
  • 2xCD edition features scale replica gatefold jacket, inner sleeves, and tipped-in 52pp. book.
  • Terry Allen artist page

 

 

Acknowledgments

9/10. The well of great songs here runs deeper than deep. A world of gridiron heroes gone to seed, factory workers who fantasize about Gay Paree, and women who refuse to be tamed by any guy dumb enough to try. The gold standard for a wry vein of Americana.

 Jason Anderson, Uncut

The 21 tracks on Lubbock (on everything) are rear-view mirror songs … restless travelogues, songs of feeling out of place and in search of home. Time changes everything, they suggest. 

– Dan Fox, Frieze

5 stars; ‘50 Essential Albums of the 1970s.’ Eccentric and uncompromising, savage and beautiful, literate and guttural.

– Rolling Stone

8.5. A lavish edition. Like any enduring piece of art, [it] embodies its moment while transcending it. This double-LP is still a powerful dreamscape, capturing a West Texas that may never have quite existed, but Lubbock (on everything) certainly makes it feel like it did.

– Pitchfork

Allen’s songs extract strangeness from the known world and use it as a means of acquiring greater knowledge.

– The New Yorker

He’s pretty close to a master lyricist.

– The New York Times

Raunchy, pithy, and deeply redolent … lines quiver with a raw vision rarely heard in folk or country.

– Pitchfork

A masterpiece. One of the finest country albums of all time, a progenitor of what would eventually be called alt-country.

– AllMusic

Genuwine laugh-a-minute highbrow-lowbrow. From football heroes gone wrong to noble floozies to farmers fiddling while Washington burns, he’s a tale-spinning poet of the Panhandle.

– Robert Christgau

The most succinct commentary on the West Texas condition ever captured.

– Texas Monthly

Riveting.

– NPR

Nobody else does country music like Terry Allen … There’s not a wasted word or extraneous musical lick. ­

– L.A. Times

4 stars. Like Randy Newman via Raymond Carver. As it progresses, Allen’s blend of compassion and despair satirises but ultimately celebrates the everyman. Like all great country albums, it’s really about everywhere and anywhere. Treat yourself to a road trip.

– Record Collector

Allen carries the dust of West Texas in his throat, with a voice like a coyote’s yip and a twang like wind-thrummed barbed wire. No singer personifies that region quite like Allen. Imagine Bob Dylan recording Blonde on Blonde down in Lubbock with a crack roadhouse band (led by producer/ steel virtuoso Lloyd Maines), or fellow Lubbockian Joe Ely cutting Rain Dogs, and you have an idea of Allen’s irascible sound and vision.

– Andy Beta, Bandcamp Daily

Terry Allen explored the weird fringes of American country music before most musicians knew the fringes were even there for exploring. His 1979 album Lubbock (on everything) is a stone-cold classic.

– Spin

Terry Allen is a Texas legend and a fucking genius. His masterpiece Lubbock (on everything) was/is a towering statement of both affection and disillusion… a classic. Terry Allen is an artist everyone should know. He simply defies gravity on this record.  

– The Big Takeover

4.5 stars. An awe-inspiring package with beautiful pictures, well-written essays and an interview with Allen that provides an oral history of the album. If anyone was in doubt from the start that Lubbock (on everything) was a work of art, they shouldn’t be now. Universal… transcends time and place. 

– All About Jazz

Revelatory. A masterpiece ….. You can feel the dust, the sun of Texas. Do yourself a favor, complete your Americana music collection with this album. Allen is the not-so-missing link between Townes and later masters like Isbell, Simpson, and Williams. 

– No Depression

I love Terry. He’s a funny son of a bitch.

– Guy Clark

People tell me it’s country music, and I ask, “Which country?”

– Terry Allen

Tracklist:

A1. “Buddy” 2:54
A2. “Henfight” 3:35
A3. “No Consequence” 2:52
A4. “G.B.” 3:56
A5. “Layman’s Banquet” 3:57
A6. “Carousel” 4:22
B1. “Just for Tomorrow” 3:43
B2. “Angel” 3:58
B3. “Daylight Under My Wing” 2:54
B4. “Right This Time” 3:30
B5. “Bonafide” 5:47

Or support via:  Bandcamp (LP/CD/digital) |  Other Options (LP/CD/digital/streaming) | Local Record Stores

 

Album Narrative

The music of L.A.-based guitarist, singer, and songwriter Kayla Cohen is mutable and multivalent, richly allusive of the hermetic worlds of private-press canyon-cult mystics and East Coast noiseniks alike. Her adept fingerstyle guitar work—nimble but unshowy, always at the service of framing her plaintively unspooling modal progressions and gorgeous, moonlit voice—centers these melancholy pastorales in a hazy, heat-mirage space equally suggestive of familiarity and distance, community and anomie. Itasca’s enchanting, acid folk-inflected PoB debut is also the first to feature a full band. 

*

As I was walking
I came upon
chance walking
the same road upon.

— Robert Creeley, “Kore” (1959)

In his 1959 poem “Kore,” Robert Creeley conjures a roadside encounter with chance, personified as a woman with dark eyes and earth in her hair, “accompanied/by goat men” and stepping in time to a “double flute.” The poem’s title historicizes the incident, cloaking it in an obscure classical ambiguity: Kore, or “maiden,” can refer either to Persephone, the mythological Greek goddess of the underworld, or generically, to ancient Greek sculptures of young women, mortal or divine, characterized by a stylized, enigmatic grin known as the “archaic smile.” This uncertainty shades the poem’s spare beauty with a stippling of sun-dappled dread; does the appearance of the lady chance, with her Mona Lisa smile and her satyrs, prefigure an occasion for love or death?

It’s fitting that Los Angeles-based guitarist, singer, and songwriter Kayla Cohen, who records and performs as Itasca, cites Creeley, and “Kore” in particular, as an influence on her enchanting, quietly assured new album Open to Chance. A hue of emergent classicism colors the stately pace and graceful carriage of these eleven understated, helical songs, suggesting both the dirt tangled in Persephone’s hair as well as the esoteric wordplay and sly musical tactics of a trickster. With Cohen’s gorgeous, moonlit voice, Open to Chance sings out an archaic smile; it poses that same inscrutable riddle of the maiden.

The idea of chance made manifest in the guise of a traveler appeals to Cohen’s symbolist songwriterly tendencies, which embrace both the arcane (her recurring, veiled references to tarot and the occult) and the quotidian (the album jacket photos were shot at the Santa Anita racetrack in Pasadena, a crucible of bad luck for gamblers). Like Creeley’s poem, Itasca’s ostensibly concrete, rustic songs—populated by chickens, mice, roses, rain, and pigpens—often pivot on a detail that reveals the limpid observational imagery in fact to be in thrall to other, sometimes unsettling forces, natural or supernatural. However, far from sounding ponderous, these juxtapositions of the everyday and the extraordinary are always subtle, even droll—winking incursions of faint magic into otherwise grounded, guitar-driven songs about a young woman’s various relationships. They also happen to reside within airy, inviting ballads—country songs in the loose, sun-shot Southern Californian sense (lots of pedal steel and space)—with melodies like arid blooms effortlessly issued from a dusty abode of adobe and tile.

And so the gentle riverine roll of opener “Buddy” punctures a dream of romantic Arcadian domesticity with the darker religious ramifications of holy debt: “I thought it would be nice/To live on the mountain by your side/Love you in the sun-warmed lake/Forget my dues to the saints.” “Angel” features both a “dancing Pan” and a “seedsman” with vines in his hair, a figure from the same street as Creeley’s kore. The icy solo piano number “Carousel” includes a chilling couplet that guts the modern, bourgeois notion of the five-day work week, and all that entails, with a pagan sacrificial scene: “And the weekends are filled with the act/Of dressing and toasting the death of the calf.” These are, perhaps, “the pleasures of the unknown” of which Cohen sings, but they are disconcertingly normalized in porch-friendly country-rock form, available at an altar near you come quittin’ time on Friday. The critic Harold Bloom praised John Crowley’s postmodern faerie novel Little, Big (1981) for the way it “renders domestic the marvelous”; something similar, it seems, is afoot throughout Open to Chance.

Just as the word Itasca itself is equivocal—a 19th-century pseudo-Ojibwe place name and portmanteau of the Latin words for “truth” (veritas) and “head” (caput)—so too is Cohen’s musical project mutable and multivalent: fundamentally unconcerned with genre, but richly allusive of the hermetic worlds of private-press Californian canyon-cult mystics and East Coast noiseniks alike. Tellingly, her songwriting idiom emerged gradually from her longstanding noise and drone practice. Her evocative, out-of-time recordings as Itasca—refined over the course of several releases, including the acclaimed 2014 LP Unmoored by the Wind—reflect her Janus-faced gaze towards both baroque, acid folk-inflected songcraft and deconstructive, textural sonics.

Though deeply informed by the mythology and iconography of the modern American desert West, Cohen likewise finds kinship with a lineage of English iconoclasts such as Michael Chapman and Bridget St John. Her adept, fingerstyle guitar work—nimble but unshowy, always at the service of framing her plaintively unspooling modal progressions and sonorous vocals—centers Itasca’s melancholy pastorales in a hazy, heat-mirage space equally suggestive of familiarity and distance, community and anomie. Open to Chance is her first album to feature the full band with whom she currently records and tours, including pedal steel player and frequent collaborator Dave McPeters, drummer Coleman Guyon (and occasionally Kacey Johansing), and bassist and vocalist Julia Nowak. The result is Cohen’s most accomplished, beguiling, and finely rendered record to date, the most complete invocation of the Itasca ethos.

The poem “Kore” ends with an aptly anxious question: “O love/where are you/leading/me now?” Maybe the mysterious woman on the road brings the promise of both love and death. As Cohen asks of chance in “No Consequence,” “Who is this blind god who walks with no regrets?

  • RIYL: Michael Chapman, Bridget St John, Mike Cooper, Steve Gunn, Kenny Knight, Ryley Walker, Meg Baird, Jessica Pratt, Linda Perhacs, Sibylle Baier, Bert Jansch, Vashti Bunyan, Gram Parsons with Emmylou Harris, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Current 93
  • Available on 140g virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty 24-point matte jacket, color labels, and download code; CD edition features heavy-duty gatefold jacket
  • PoB artist page for Itasca

 

Acknowledgments

Cohen brings an airy but mysterious late-’60s/early-’70s psych-folk feel to the fore, and this fanciful account of alfresco domesticity certainly feels like a slice of vintage Laurel Canyon balladry. The mellow glow [her music] generates is reason enough to want to bask in its evanescent light for as long as life’s harsher aspects can conceivably be held at bay.

– Jim Allen, NPR Music

4 stars. The world conjured by Kayla Cohen’s low, mournful voice, American primitive guitar, and hazy, wandering songs feels simultaneously familiar and unknown, like spectral early ’70s Laurel Canyon incantations from a singer whose name and face is always just out of the reach of memory … Simultaneously spare and complex, observational folk ballads turned psychic and strange by metal-stringed dissonance and troubling Symbolist metaphor. For Open to Chance, Itasca have become a band… breathing warm life into the ghostly riddles of cold watchmen and voices from the forest and releasing them out into the corporal world.

– Andrew Male, MOJO

7.8. A sprawling fascination with the natural world and the nature of people … a record about trying something new and journeying into unknown experiences with eager, if cautious, optimism. Much of that joy comes from Cohen’s guitar and voice, two finely-tuned instruments that are uniquely adept at conveying her ideas and images. It’s the appreciation of possibility, of the paths ahead and the ones left behind, that makes Open to Chance compelling.

– Marc Masters, Pitchfork

The steady acoustic canter, the sighing slide guitar, the serenely idyllic images: It all suggests the balm of a gentle breeze beneath the bright sunlight, a feeling you’d want to capture indefinitely. Cohen does exactly that, suspending an instant in eternal amber.

– Grayson Haver Currin, Pitchfork

With the early-morning, autumnal sound of her backing band, she is able to conjure up something resembling transcendence … an atmosphere recognizable to anyone who’s spent time with Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. Here’s hoping that many will soon be following in her path.

– Sam Sodomsky, Pitchfork

Given the time of year, the temptation with Itasca’s Open To Chance is to call it the perfect autumnal soundtrack. But the truth is, it would sound just as good had it been released in April, or July or February. There’s a power and authority to every moment here, whether it’s the wide-eyed reverie of “Buddy” or the heavy fog that seems to drift across the sonic landscape of “Bonafide.”

– Tyler Wilcox, Aquarium Drunkard

Gorgeous. Enchanting, mind-expanding.

– Victoria Chiu, Rookie

Just a lovely collection of songs, in which the serenity of voice and understatement of band create a humane intimacy … deceptively tranquil. The charms of songs like “Henfight” and “Carousel” accumulate steadily, insidiously, over repeat plays. One to file between Meg Baird and labelmates The Weather Station.

– John Mulvey, Uncut

At this point you really ought to listen to anything the Paradise of Bachelors label launches into cyberspace, and that must-hear policy certainly applies to “Carousel,” the latest advance single from Itasca’s Open To Chance. Like “Buddy” before it, this song is just exquisitely beautiful.

– Chris DeVille, Stereogum

Grade: A. Kayla Cohen’s latest is likely to be amongst the year’s best. Folks equally into Judee Sill and Bert Jansch should find Open to Chance to be a treat. Paradise of Bachelors is in the late stages of a brilliant 2016, and at this point is one of the handful of current labels where everything on the active roster is of immediate interest.

– Joseph Neff, The Vinyl District

Cohen’s voice rings with unearthly clarity, but also soothes. There’s a mystical thread running through the ordinary, a homespun clarity in the eeriest corners of these songs. Which is, I think, exactly what folk music does at its best, taking the traditional and making it fresh, relevant and a little bit spooky, as it connects woods and trees and kitchen counters to a spiritual seeking that we might not have realized we had.

– Jennifer Kelly, Dusted

The roots-music label Paradise of Bachelors seems incapable of releasing anything that isn’t wrenchingly beautiful. Case in point: Itasca. Fluttery, precise, pastoral folk reverie.

– Tom Breihan, Stereogum

Itasca has always been an arresting project, but it’s never sounded more full or more clear than on Open to Chance.

– Jordan Reyes, Ad Hoc

The album is a folk masterpiece combining recreating paganist creatures and stories in the singer’s own words. Cohen takes us with her on this weary journey that is often dark; championing the unknown.

– Songwriting Magazine

Itasca brings a slice of the early 70s psych-folk feel of Laurel Canyon to her new album Open to Chance.

– Tim Scott, Noisey

This feeling that we, as listeners, have been granted access into Itasca’s private inner sanctum is what helps give [Cohen’s music] its quiet gravity, and her ample instrumental skills and deft songcraft make this invitation well worth your while.

– Matthew Murphy, Pitchfork

Gorgeous acid folk reverie… This is a heady slice of lysergic ladies of the canyon, with the feel of tropical microdots that dominated the These Trails and Linda Perhacs sides given a slightly more baroque dream-time feel. Some of the guitar stylings have the kind of courtly appeal of Current 93 circa Of Ruine Or Some Blazing Starre, but when she gets into more complex vortices of steel strings she comes over like Robbie Basho circa Basho Sings. This one came out of nowhere and knocked us sideways.

– David Keenan, for Volcanic Tongue

The image of the solitary songwriter strumming away and singing her songs promises transparency, but a chief virtue of Itasca’s Unmoored By The Wind is that it doesn’t give up its secrets too easily.

– Bill Meyer, The Wire

Itasca shows a kind of total fluidity of delivery, where she sings anything she sings and the music slips and flows around her. Put it this way: once there was a song called “Walking In The Rain,” and that’s her style of playing now, too. The opening interlude and the instrumental passages here recall guitarist Peter Walker in contemplation—sharp, deliberate, suggestive in its minimalism—and, well, that’s Cohen’s voice, too, except for the sharp part. She’s more agile than Baier but just as direct.

– Chris Ziegler, LA Record

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