Cooper-in-Spain

Mike Cooper Reissues Now Available for Pre-Order.

Hello friends of Paradise,

After two years of tireless work to liberate these long out-of-print masterpieces from the vaults, we are thrilled to announce pre-orders for the first artist-sanctioned reissues—and first-ever vinyl reissues—of iconoclastic English-born, Rome-based folk and experimental music legend Mike Cooper’s classic trio of early 1970s avant-folk-rock records: Trout Steel (1970)Places I Know (1971), and The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper (1972). The latter two titles are presented for the very first time as the definitive double album, as Cooper originally intended them to be released.

Mike Cooper’s name belongs in the pantheon of folk and blues revival guitar masters–he turned down an early offer to join the Rolling Stones (Brian Jones took the gig), toured with Michael Chapman, and traveled in the same circles as Bert JanschWizz Jones, and Davey Graham, among others–but his work rapidly progressed into freer frontiers, toward the New Thing jazz of Pharaoh Sanders, Sonny Sharrock, and Derek Bailey, without sacrificing any of his lyrical songwriting or forsaking his established roots in the soil of the American Southern vernacular. The result was an alchemical music of astonishing power and singularity that must be heard to be believed.

Trout Steel presents a heady homebrew of lap steel blues traditions, melodically inventive songwriting, avant-jazz group improvisations, and studio explorations that presaged Cooper’s adventurous work for decades to come. His groundbreaking 1971-72 double album sessions veer from the impeccable conceptual folk-rock artistry of Places I Know to the utterly singular, long-form “songmaking” deconstructions of the more radical The Machine Gun Co. (Click the album covers below for more details.)

PoB-13-MC-Trout-Steel-front-cover

Pre-order Trout Steel LP/CD (PoB-13):

PoB-14-Cooper-Places-Machine-cover-B

Pre-order Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. 2xLP/CD (PoB-14):

Pre-Order the digital-only editions now ($10/$13) (via Bandcamp)

These deluxe reissues both feature remastered audiorestored artwork, and 16pp. liner notes chapbooks (20pp. in the CD version) with extensive essays by PoB and Cooper, oral history excerpts, never before published color photos, and lyrics. To purchase the album, and for more details, click the button below and select your preferred format(s). The gatefold vinyl LPs are available in a limited edition, featuring digital download coupons. The CDs are likewise housed in gatefold wallets.

Pre-orders will ship in advance of the official June 17 release date. Check out the stream and the story of “The Singing Tree” from Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. here (involving the mystical Persian poem “The Conference of the Birds” and a job painting swimming pools), thanks to the Wall Street Journal.

Cooper-with-guitars Cooper-onstage2

To celebrate these releases, all of our historical reissues are now on sale until June 3. While supplies last, use the coupon code “COOPARIA” during checkout to purchase copies of these critically acclaimed titles for 15% off:

PoB-033 (Pre-order)

Tracklist:

A1. "Every Time the Feeling" 3:12
A2. "I'm Bad" 5:16
A3. "Judgment" 4:16
A4. "Roses" 3:27
A5. "Follow Me Down" 4:02
B1. "You Like to Joke Around with Me" 2:39
B2. "Dull Me Line" 3:28
B3. "Sage" 5:02
B4. "Hearing the Bass" 2:28
B5. "White Disciple" 6:19
X. "Boats Appear" 6:43 (CD/digital only)

 

 

 

Or support via:  Bandcamp  (LP/CD/digital) |  Other Options (LP/CD/DL/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 March 9, 2018 worldwide release date. All pre-orders include an immediate 320k MP3 download of lead single "Every Time the Feeling," as premiered by NPR Music. Additionally, for the first time in PoB history, you will have the option of ordering the album on colored vinyl. There will be a limited edition of 600 deluxe copies of I'm Bad Now pressed onto pink vinyl; this is a one-time pressing. Use the drop-down Purchase menu above to select the regular or pink edition LP.

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

For a limited time, Whine of the Mystic (2015) and Thought Rock Fish Scale (2016) are both on sale for 20% off with coupon code BADNOW.

 

Album Narrative

The acclaimed Canadians return with an ambitious, allusive third album that achieves a new sonic clarity, depth, and range to match the effortless melodies and extraordinary writing. It’s the band's most transparent and personal set of songs to date, in which singer Nigel Chapman interrogates social, psychological, and spiritual milieus for clues about the elusive nature of knowledge.

 

 

In one inconceivably complex cosmos, whenever a creature was faced with several possible courses of action, it took them all, thereby creating many distinct temporal dimensions and distinct histories of the cosmos. Since in every evolutionary sequence of the cosmos there were very many creatures, and each was constantly faced with many possible courses, and the combination of all their courses were innumerable, an infinity of distinct universes exfoliated from every moment of every temporal sequence in this cosmos.

― Olaf StapledonStar Maker (1937)

The concept of the multiverse—the theoretical existence of infinite universes parallel to or interpenetrating our own—exists as a ripe conceit in fiction as well as physics, with Jorge Luis Borges’s 1941 story “The Garden of Forking Paths” perhaps the most famous literary contemplation. But British philosopher Olaf Stapledon’s description in his 1937 novel Star Maker is earlier and weirder, with its tactile, slightly foul, and rather terrifying description of universes “exfoliating,” like some kind of cosmic dandruff, from every critter’s every potential course of action. These convoluted circumstances are encountered by Stapledon’s first-person narrator, a human being whose disembodied “cosmical mind” roves unmoored through eternally expanding spatiotemporal scales, like some kind of cosmological detective searching for origins and eventualities.

Outside of science fiction—IRL—we rarely find those answers, or even those inquiries. They don’t usually arrive in digestible pop song or meme form. So the ambitious, allusive new album by the Canadian band Nap Eyes is an anomaly. These songs position the band’s enigmatic songwriter Nigel Chapman as a Stapledonian “cosmical mind,” an existential detective who interrogates social, psychological, and spiritual milieus for clues about the elusive nature of knowledge. In this role, the song-persona, if not the songwriter, resembles a monkish, beatifically stoned Columbo, vigilantly squinty-eyed in his metaphysical quest for self-understanding, despite ostensible bumbling on the physical plane.

I’m Bad Now, the most transparent and personal Nap Eyes album to date, constitutes the third chapter of an implicit, informal trilogy that includes Whine of the Mystic (2015) and Thought Rock Fish Scale (2016). The brilliantly reductive title is something I’ve heard my four-year-old son and his friends announce verbatim when roleplaying the perennial game of heroes and villains, “good guys” and “bad guys.” “I’m bad now,” he declares, but an equivocal binary is implied: it’s only a matter of time or trading places before he (or anyone) has the capacity for good again. Perhaps goodness will manifest in the multiverse, on a different circuit than this faulty, frayed one. Is that faith or fantasy? And what is the difference? The title is also, of course, a sly Michael Jackson appropriation.

While Nigel composes Nap Eyes songs in their inchoate form at home in Halifax, Brad Loughead (lead guitar), Josh Salter (bass), and Seamus Dalton (drums), who live a twelve-hour drive away in Montreal, augment and arrange them, transubstantiating his skeletal, ruminative wafers into discourses that aim to transcend what Nigel, in the song “Dull Me Line,” self-laceratingly deems “bored and lazy disappointment art.” The band provides ballast and bowsprit to Nigel’s cosmical mind. The nautical metaphor is not just whimsy: Nap Eyes are all Nova Scotians by raising and temperament, acclimated to life on an Atlantic peninsula linked narrowly to the rest of North America (“Follow Me Down,” with its “broad cove” and bay, and “Boats Appear,” with its “steam trails rising from the sea,” both offer an evocative sense of place for these otherwise mental mysteries.) Brad is a physical guitarist whose lyrical grace is matched only by the dark ferocity of his feedback-laced solos. Salter and Dalton exercise an unassuming mind-meld melodicism and vigor, and their gentle thrumming lends a new sonic clarity, depth, and range to match the effortless melodies and extraordinary writing. One couplet herein suggests the exalted life-force of rhythm in the estimation of Nap Eyes: “Hearing the bass as you enter your teens/Exit your life recollecting universal themes.”

The technology of these songs, bass frequencies aside, is essentially catechismal, taking the form of questions and answers posed to assert faith, or to defend doubt. Selected quatrains can tell the tale. The lyrics traffic in second-person address, but the “you” is often Nigel himself, a gaze inward and not, as in the “you” of most romantic pop songs, directed outward to others. The self-interrogation of album opener “Every Time the Feeling” arrives with a subdominant chord and a subdominant attitude, only switching to the first person in the (repeated) final verse, for this devastating admission:

Oh I can’t tell what’s worse:
The meaninglessness or the negative meaning
But I figured out a way
To get on with my life and to keep on dreaming

I’m Bad,” the almost-title track that deletes the temporal anchor of “now,” switches back to the second person self-address in a country-rock inclined tune that is stylistically different than anything the band has attempted, as well as mockingly self-flagellating. “You’re so dumb,” Nigel sings to himself, diagnosing his delusions. Each persona and decision, bad or good, multiplies futures in a recursive multi-mirror funhouse, and the album follows a slow arc toward self-acceptance, and maybe more: ambivalence begets paralysis; paralysis begets self-reproach; self-reproach begets acceptance; acceptance begets joy; joy begets ambivalence. “If there’s a right road, would you/Kindly show me?” he asks in the churning, static-electric “Judgment.” And then:

Think of every single moment in time
That would have faded from your mind
If not for the rewiring process
The synaptic protein fold caress

So choice is an illusion, memory a precarious neuroelectrochemical process, science and religion the two imperfect prongs of a crooked dowsing rod. The Socratic dialogues of “Sage” and “White Disciple” paint opposing philosophical portraits: “the doubtful sage” hopes, with humility, to vanquish “the damp, heavy disappointment of the wasted day,” whereas “White Disciple” pits a would-be novitiate against the dogma professed by a spurious, possibly sinister, guru. A half-baked application of the scientific method similarly fails to manifest the mutant truth, as the dream of “Boats Appear” reports:

It didn’t work when I fed the cells
Such a high ligand dose
Too strong, it masked the effect
The mutant wouldn’t even show

Solipsism may at times seem to be Nap Eyes’ primary investigative mode, but some of the loveliest moments involve rare glimpses of connection, anxious invitations to alien others. The galloping rhythmic rush of “Roses” locates an external “you” that remains a mirrored embrace: “People look for their reflections/Everywhere in everyone/Some like a soft glow, some a little sharper depiction.” “You Like to Joke Around with Me” offers such a sharper depiction in the form of a self-portrait:

In the background of a silent city
A hard-pressed individual scolds
Himself for entertaining self-pity
While a nightingale’s cool voice rolls

And yet our hard-pressed hero is redeemed by friendship: “Last night, my friends surprised me/With gestures of kindness I’d never expect,” catalyzing a minor revelation: “Tuning yourself/To catch another’s wavelength/Sure can make a difference/In this world.” The band itself is tuned to the wavelength of succinctly stinging, guitar-centric rock and roll—in other words, and by today’s genre standards, folk music. The indelible melodic clarity of the instrumentation, coupled with the calm, lucid inquisitiveness of Nigel’s voice elevate certain verses, like this one from “Follow Me Down,” to the heights of everyday poetry:

I went out walking with my headphones on
Classical Indian raga twenty minutes long
Then I listened to old American folk song
A little bit shorter, still a lot going on

Ultimately, nature (a nightingale’s song) and distance (walking alone in the cold) provide the potential of peace, an escape from the anxious tyranny of the self, as in the rousing finale of “Sage”:

Maybe far away
The night is beautiful and rustic and grey
The rain is rustic, the fields and pastures
Are a deep dark grey

We are very many creatures, with innumerable possible courses to explore. So let fly the cosmical mind into the gray night, dear listener. But don’t take my word for it. Again, Star Maker illuminates: “Barren, barren and trivial are these words. But not barren the experience.”

  • Deluxe 140g virgin vinyl LP features heavy-duty reverse board jacket, color inner sleeve with band photos and lyrics, and high-res Bandcamp download code. Pink vinyl (first PoB color edition) is limited to600 copies.
  • CD edition features 6-panel jacket with LP replica artwork and lyrics.
  • Available in other territories from You’ve Changed Records (Canada) and Jagjaguwar (Rest of World).
  • RIYL The Only Ones/England’s Glory, The Modern Lovers, Felt, The Clean, The Verlaines, The Go-Betweens, Bedhead, Kurt Vile, Courtney Barnett, Nikki Sudden, Belle & Sebastian, all things Lou Reed.
  • Album page
  • Artist page/tour dates
  • Also check out Whine of the Mystic (PoB-020) and Thought Rock Fish Scale (PoB-024), Nap Eyes’s previous albums

 

Acknowledgments

In just four short years, Nap Eyes have made much ado about meaninglessness with rock 'n' roll songs that shake just offbeat and smart lyrics wrapped in bemused ennui.

– Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

Possibly the catchiest, most immediate thing they’ve ever done, a deceptively thoughtful rocker that ambles along with a little extra verve.

– Peter Helman, Stereogum

Their relaxed, scholarly indie-rock imagines the Velvet Underground if they ditched the leathers for wool sweaters. But this languor contrasts with frontman Nigel Chapman’s hyperactive mind, yielding songs that are lucid with laser-like focus and freeze-framed detail.

– Stuart Berman, Pitchfork

Brimming with passion & protest. Immediately familiar, yet bracingly distinct… one the most intriguingly idiosyncratic lyricists this side of Dan Bejar.

– Pitchfork

One of the best rock bands in business today.

– The FADER

One of the most fascinating songwriters we have today.

– Newsweek

Purveyors of beatific, sun-drenched roadtrip tunes. Nigel Chapman is owner of one of the most beautiful voices I’ve heard in years.

– NME

Unvarnished diarizing in lean, art-pop songs.

– Uncut

Concise, understated alt-rock with cryptic, literate lyrics for Go-Betweens/Bill Callahan fans.

– MOJO

 

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PoB-039 (Pre-order)

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

Gentle, thoughtful compositions that mix straightforward observation with naturalistic imagery and philosophical inquiry.

– Uncut

Frenzied and fantastic... a radical, thundering realm. Alternates white noise with sweet, intricate harmonies, and an unrelenting pressure between the two. Songwriter David Morris credits his spiritual practice as the inspiration for these sweeping, massive songs that incorporate old world folk and the tension of noise and drone music with equal force.

– Uproxx

Brimming with glorious dizzying energy and tension, primitive and cut loose from modern constraints. Impossible to resist.

– Folk Radio UK

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

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PoB-036

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

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PoB-035

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

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PoB-034

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

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PoB-037+025 (RSD Bundle SALE)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PoB-037

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

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PoB-032

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

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PoB-038

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

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PoB-031

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

 

 

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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).

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“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

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PoB-029

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)

 

 

 

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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

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PoB-027

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

 

 

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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

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PoB-030

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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PoB-028

Tracklist:

A1. "Words Spoken Aloud" 6.02
A2. "Chiaroscuro" 3.26
A3. "Blank Range/Hog Jank II" 6.23
A4. "Moonshine is the Sunshine" 3.50
B1. "Gadarene Fugue" 4.53
B2. "I Miss My Dog" 10.59
B3. "Burnt Ends Rag" 3.10

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

 

Album Narrative

On his exquisite third solo album, Nathan Bowles (Steve Gunn, Pelt, Black Twig Pickers) again augments his mesmeric clawhammer banjo pieces with piano, percussion, and vocals. Instead of the programmatic place-based narratives of its predecessor Nansemond (PoB-16), Whole & Cloven offers a stoic meditation on absence, loss, and fragmentation, populating those experiential gaps—the weighty interstices and places in-between—with stillness and wonder. Straddling Appalachian string band music and avant-garde composition but beholden to neither idiom, Nathan proves himself heir to deconstructivist tradition-bearers like Henry Flynt and Jack Rose.

*

“Learn the true topography: the monstrous and wonderful archetypes are not inside you, not inside your consciousness; you are inside them, trapped and howling to get out.”

– R.A. Lafferty, The Devil Is Dead (1971)

The jacket artwork (actual, physical) for Whole & Cloven, the arresting new album by multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bowles, features a monochrome silhouette of a bull stretched to freakishly attenuated, Mannerist proportions, its stylized austerity belying the finely rendered anatomical details: horns and hooves, tail and testicles. Spanning front and back jacket panels, the bovine is cloven by the jacket’s spine, but also by its own animal architecture—a bright white stripe bisects its hide between head and hindquarters, interrupting its own body’s otherwise inky expanse. This bull totem—a detail from an untitled painting by Alabama vernacular artist John Henry Toney, which Bowles acquired from the artist while on tour—recalls both the work of fellow Alabaman self-taught artist Bill Traylor and Picasso alike, demonstrating the interpenetration of modernism and Southern folk forms. It’s an apt visual analog to the album itself, which examines, at both formal and emotional levels, and with a stirring sense of scale and scrutiny, both the aesthetics of discontinuity and the intersecting syntaxes of Appalachian string band traditions and avant-garde composition.

Since his last album Nansemond (2014), Bowles has sustained and strengthened his fruitful relationships as a ensemble player with Steve Gunn (drums, piano and organ, banjo); the Black Twig Pickers (banjo, percussion); and Pelt (struck and bowed percussion), while undertaking projects with new accomplice Jake Xerxes Fussell and old friend and mentor Michael Chapman, all of which inform this record. But he has also continued to refine his solo practice, carrying it far beyond the confines of any reductive and rote solo banjo designations. On this third solo album, his most exquisite, immersive, and ambitious to date, he again augments his mesmeric clawhammer banjo pieces with piano, percussion, and vocals (mostly wordless, some wordy). The result showcases the full range of Bowles’ compositional and performative versatility.

Instead of the programmatic place-based narratives of Nansemond, the seven songs on Whole & Cloven offer a stoic meditation on absence, loss, and fragmentation, populating those experiential gaps—the weighty interstices and places in-between—with stillness and wonder. Whereas its predecessor was directly inspired by the mutating environment, and his mutating memories, of his childhood home on the fringes of the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, the new album turns inward, exploring inscapes rather than landscapes. Since Nansemond, Bowles has moved from the mountains of Blacksburg, Virginia—his longtime home—to the Piedmont city of Durham, North Carolina, an uprooting and displacement that perhaps precipitated the divergent iterations and forking paths on display here. The overriding sense of rupture and return is also perhaps suggestive of the frailty and solidity of human relationships, familial and romantic—they way we live alternately as halves and wholes. But Whole & Cloven doesn’t require a linear, unified narrative; its richly detailed, diversified sonic topography—multifaceted, mosaic, mercurial—is captivating enough on its own.

Whole & Cloven unfolds as a series of seven discrete, but interrelated chapters. The album is bookended symmetrically by the two recordings that bear the most immediately discernable, and brightest, shapes. Opener “Words Spoken Aloud” (wordless, naturally), with its buzzing percussion and crisp progressions, serves as an invocation, prefiguring the concluding “Burnt Ends Rag,” a post-ragtime number inspired by Bowles’ friend Jack Rose, Dr. Ragtime himself. The gorgeous piano instrumental “Chiaroscuro,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Terry Riley album, ripples with liquid ostinatos, showcasing Nathan’s facility on his first instrument. “Blank Range/Hog Jank II” and “Gadarene Fugue” each skitter along with dark urgency, gnawing and diving respectively, the former comprising two haptic halves sutured together, and the latter drawing obliquely from Moroccan Gnawa traditions.

Though “Blank Range” prominently features Bowles’ voice, “Moonshine is the Sunshine” is the sole song with lyrics, providing some levity in the form of absurdist, rustic koan-couplets: “My family, they’re just a tree, I’m just one of the branches/I know a man who hates to farm, but he owns a hundred ranches”; and (our favorite), “The moonshine is the sunshine, shining twenty minutes later/and ‘crocodile,’ that’s just another name for ‘alligator.’” It’s a Jeffrey Cain cover, twinning elements of two different versions: the original, from his debut For You (1970), and the version from Whispering Thunder (1972), both released on Jesse Colin Young’s Raccoon Records (briefly home to Michael Hurley, the Youngbloods, et al.) Album centerpiece “I Miss My Dog” contains teeming multitudes of memory and regret in its eleven vaporous minutes, crawling from stately, deep-water soundings to torrents of hiccupping, densely woven banjo and piano latticework redolent of anxious longing. It sounds like storm-blown rain.

As a whole (ahem), Whole & Cloven repeatedly swaps lenses, wide angle for macro, demonstrating a new comfort with long shots and close-ups alike. Inside the record jacket (actual, physical), Bowles himself, in a photograph by Brad Bunyea, spreads jam on a biscuit—split, of course—with an unnecessarily sharp knife, head tilted quizzically, grinning wryly. He looks like a guy who’s maybe learned the true topography.

  • The third solo album by multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bowles (Steve Gunn, Pelt, Black Twig Pickers) is his most exquisite, immersive, and ambitious to date.
  • RIYL: Steve Gunn, the Black Twig Pickers, Pelt, Jack Rose, Michael Chapman, Daniel Bachman, Jake Xerxes Fussell, Hiss Golden Messenger, Henry Flynt, Clive Palmer, Terry Riley.
  • Available on 140g virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty 24-point reverse board matte jacket (featuring artwork by John Henry Toney), printed inner sleeve, and download code.
  • CD edition features heavy-duty gatefold jacket.

 

Acknowledgments

Bowles has the power to transform the sound of a banjo—and traditional folk music—into something transcendental, often bringing the spirit of Americana to new heights. Nansemond positioned Bowles as a crucial force in folk music, showcasing his ability to interweave the genre’s communal spirit with chilling moments of ambient introspection. Whole & Cloven, Bowles’ colorful, uplifting follow-up ... is an album that reshapes folk music into something boundless and new. Remarkably, it uses traditional folk elements and instrumentation to reach something closer to New Age music. “I Miss My Dog” is an exercise in subtlety, a gorgeous and impeccably paced elegy. 

– Sam Sodomsky, Pitchfork

Nathan Bowles spends his third solo album, Whole & Cloven, splitting the difference between Jack Rose-ian acoustic romps and Henry Flynt-y drone jigs. Bowles' "Gadarene Fugue" isn't actually a fugue, but it does whip a meditative clawhammer banjo melody into a fury. With light percussion that clacks and shuffles in the background, a Gnawan-influenced bass line jolts the tune forward like swine compelled to run and drown in the river.

– Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

Nathan's music is marked by both his deep study of vernacular American forms and his years-long dedication to the development of his own voice. He is a musician who respects tradition as he values experimentation, an artist whose work commands careful listening. This balance is what makes Nathan's voice singular: as a player, he is fearless, challenging. And as a listener, I am grateful and inspired.

– Steve Gunn

8/10. He belongs to a school of contemporary musicians—guitar players such as William Tyler and Steve Gunn—who are rethinking folk music as an avant-garde form. On his third solo album, his style is scraggly yet sophisticated, ranging boldly from country drones to rambunctious rural ragas... Sounds like Philip Glass playing to barnyard animals. The standout is the 11-minute epic "I Miss My Dog," which balances the cerebral with the soulful. 

– Stephen Deusner, Uncut

His best effort yet, with timeless melodies blending seamlessly with hypnotic minimalist moves. He makes these juxtapositions seem as natural as a rolling mountain stream, while still dazzling with his impeccable technique. His rhythmic instincts are essential here, and set him apart. Wrapped up in lovely artwork by John Henry Toney and beautifully recorded by Jason Meagher, Whole & Cloven is wholly terrific.

– Tyler Wilcox, Aquarium Drunkard

4/5. Banjo picker for Steve Gunn et al., alone Bowles applies his clawhammer style to reverberating experiments, ragas, and an 11-minute meditation on loss. Lovely.

– MOJO

Fluidly melodic digressions and pungent dissonances generate a forward momentum and haunted atmosphere. Emotionally compelling statements.

– Bill Meyer, The Wire

8/10. Bowles pushes in a new direction, setting out not to make a cohesive album so much as to seek out new ways to tie an album together, to figure out whether or not the broken can still seem complete. With Bowles' new record, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen, it’s the cracks that let all the best, most revealing light through.

– Matt Fiander, Popmatters

8/10. Filled with shimmering, ecstatic moments ... that explore the emotional ground between gentle melancholy and almost unbearable sweetness. A blend of soulful country boogie, avant-garde minimalism, and ancient string-band traditions.

– Jason Woodbury, FLOOD Magazine

Nathan Bowles writes songs for the quiet night of the heart. A banjo can speak, but Bowles makes it talk. It’s in the midst of trying to discern whether he’s making it speak on grief or the absurd that you’ll realize they’re one and the same. Come for Zen koans in backwoods plucking, stay for unsettling moments of noisy dissonance.

– Caitlin White, Uproxx

4 stars. The songs share an uncanny knack for completely engulfing the listener; you may find yourself losing track of time. It all hangs together brilliantly to form a restless, thoughtful, and constantly engaging collection that deserves to be heard by many.

– Record Collector

A mesmeric, shape-shifting music that walks effortlessly between the invisible boundaries of Appalachian tradition and avant-garde composition. Powerful and compelling.

– fROOTS

His ability to combine traditional compositions with a uniquely modern sensibility has set him apart on his two solo albums to date.

– Noisey

A. Combines flawless playing with a deep understanding of tradition and a healthy engagement with the avant-garde. Intersecting advanced technique and a unique point of view, Whole & Cloven is the best of [his solo albums].

– The Vinyl District

A gentle pusher of musical experimentation, and his third solo long-player is almost entirely without vocals and almost entirely interested in art-enhanced folk music.

– Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

The feeling is not just one of a misty mountain ramble, but of a more connected, experiential movement, something secretly providential. Running his fingers along the banjo strings is the same as along the spines of library books. It is, at its core, an engagement with our shared cultural inventory.

– Tiny Mixtapes

A vast terrain of acoustic music that is his most gripping to date. Take this album and go, go wherever you want with it. Like water or air, it will naturally fill in whatever space you find yourself in, and you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in it.

– Tahoe Onstage

Wry, sad, troubled, and mesmeric compositions imbued with a spooked and grainy Appalachian potency. Rich chaparrals of deep buzzing color you could lose yourself in forever.

– MOJO

He could play forever without boring himself or anyone listening.

– Pitchfork

A portal through time.

– NPR

Stunning. A Terrence Malick film with just a handful of strings.

– Steven Hyden

I have huge respect for Nathan as a musician on so many levels.

– Michael Chapman

Nathan Bowles is like my spirit animal. It’s the real shit … beautiful then, beautiful now. Timeless.

– Kurt Vile

Nuanced picking, waterlogged drones, and rowdy singing … captures the same spirit as his mentor, Jack Rose.

John Mulvey, Uncut

Mesmerizing! "America's Instrument"—the 5-string banjo—has found a profound new exponent in Nathan Bowles. His writing for the instrument is exploratory, at times wonderfully dissonant and always soulful; his playing sure-footed and hypnotic. One of my favorite musicians playing today.

– Glenn Jones

A stunner from start to finish. It’s a transporting collection of sounds that fuses age-old Appalachian traditions with cosmic drones, in the process creating something that sounds fresh and vital to these ears. The long, deep solo rambles that take up a good portion of the record are beautiful excursions that conjure up strange and spectral southern landscapes. Nansemond is mostly instrumental, but Bowles is nothing if not a storyteller, taking you on an evocative, transfixing journey.

– Aquarium Drunkard

Hypnotic. Like John Fahey, who conceived of American Primitive Guitar as a means of purging inner demons, Bowles has turned his emotions, memories, and preoccupations into a multifaceted work of art that can draw you in even if you don't know a thing about the guy that made it.

Magnet

Truly a revelation. It's a supremely visceral, fried slice of backwoods Americana... an updated vision of traditional American song form without the pastiche.

Other Music

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PoB-026

Tracklist:

A1. "The Juarez Device (aka Texican Badman)" 1:23
A2. "Dialogue: The Characters (a simple story)" 2:08
A3. "Cortez Sail" 6:10
A4. "Border Palace" 1:48
A5. "Dogwood" 4:31
A6. "Writing on Rocks Across the U.S.A." 2:50
A7. "The Radio … and Real Life" 4:45
B1. "There Oughta Be a Law Against Sunny Southern California (Jabo I, II, III)" 4:30
B2. "What of Alicia" 5:03
B3. "Honeymoon in Cortez" 2:36
B4. "Four Corners" 4:22
B5. "Dialogue: The Run South" 1:26
B6. "Parts: Jabo/Street Walkin Woman" 1:41
B7. "Cantina Carlotta" 3:15
B8. "La Despedida (The Parting)" 5:03

 

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 celebrated as a masterpiece—arguably the greatest concept album of all time—his spare, haunting 1975 debut LP Juarez is a violent, fractured tale of the chthonic American Southwest and borderlands. Produced in collaboration with the artist and meticulously remastered from the original analog tapes, this is the definitive edition of the art-country classic: the first reissue on vinyl; the first to feature the originally intended artwork (including the art prints that accompanied the first edition); and the first to contextualize the album within Allen’s fifty-year art practice.

*

Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes. Of a certain size and color. A certain weight. When their meaning has become lost to us they no longer have even a name. The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place. And that is what was to be found here. The corrido. The tale. And like all corridos it ultimately told one story only, for there is only one to tell.

— Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

Juarez is not just an album, at least not in any ordinary sense of the word. Songwriter and visual artist Terry Allen describes it instead as a “haunting.” For nearly five decades, Juarez has served as the elusive, enigmatic axis mundi of his artistic and musical practices. Never discrete or static, the Juarez mythos continually accretes a growing constellation of new meanings, mutations, and manifestations, defying linearity and finality, appearing as drawings, constructions, songs, prints, installations, texts, a screenplay, a musical theater piece (co-written with David Byrne), a one-woman stage play, and an NPR radio play (both starring his wife, the actor and writer Jo Harvey Allen).

Herein Juarez inhabits the ur-corrido sonic artifact, a cycle of fifteen songs and recited poems—austere, atmospheric, cinematic—as recorded over the course of a few mornings at San Francisco’s venerable Wally Heider Studio in 1974. Its stately, minimal arrangements—Allen on piano and vocals, with guitarists Peter Kaukonen (Link WrayJefferson AirplaneBlack Kangaroo) and Greg Douglas (Van MorrisonPeter RowanSteve Miller Band)—belie its sinister, mongrel strangeness, its anxious hilarity, its casual alloy of spirituality and profanity, its uncanny enormity as story. Originally released in 1975 by print workshop Landfall Press in an edition of fifty, with a set of nine lithographs (reproduced in full for the first time in the reissue’s extensive book), the record encompasses both conceptual corrido and cosmic cartography, song and séance, at once hermetic and wide-open. In these fifty-two minutes, geographies, climates, and spectral bodies collide and elide, dragged and fate-flung across the parched Southwest, over mesas and arroyos and through the abraded lens of colonial history, throwing dust, shedding blood, and further blurring the already arbitrary, and forever contested, boundaries of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

As described in one of the periodic narrative “dialogue” interludes spoken by Allen, Juarez recounts a deceptively “simple story”: a bleak journey, told in nonlinear terms, from Southern California through Colorado and into the Texas-Mexico borderlands. Like many cross-country road trips, it’s as harrowing as it is humorous, often within the margins of a single song or even an isolated line. The action revolves around two couples and their fateful—or arbitrary—murderous meeting in Cortez, Colorado. Sailor, on leave from the Navy, meets Spanish Alice, a prostitute, in a Tijuana bar; they get married and honeymoon in a mountain trailer park in Cortez. Meanwhile, on a crime spree detour, pachuco antihero Jabo and the witchy “rock-writer” Chic Blundie drive North from L.A. to Cortez on their way South to Jabo’s hometown of Ciudad Juarez (until recently the homicide capital of the world). Only one couple emerges from the bloody trailer, escaping across the New Mexican desert to Juarez, where they part, assuming (or absorbing?) new identities.

Terry Allen is no stranger to the ramifications of border-crossing—it’s something he’s been doing both literally and figuratively, geographically and professionally, for his entire adult life. A native West Texan who now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico—he hails from Lubbock, also home to Buddy HollyWaylon Jennings, and the Flatlanders—Allen occupies a unique position straddling the disparate worlds of country music and visual art. We’re not sure that you could say the same about anyone else, ever, and certainly not with the same level of aplomb, acclaim, and success—not to mention the same biting, self-effacing sense of humor about it all.

Allen’s artwork resides in the collections of the MetMoMAthe Hirshhorn, and Los Angeles’ MoCA and LACMA, among many other institutions, and has been exhibited internationally at Documenta and the São PaoloParisSydney, and Whitney Biennales. You can encounter his public commissions across the U.S. He is the recipient of Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships. In the realm of music, in addition to several projects with the aforementioned Byrne, Allen has likewise collaborated closely with Guy ClarkLloyd Maines (pedal steel master, producer, and father of the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie), and the Flatlanders (Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore). His songs have been covered, recorded, and championed by the likes of Dave AlvinLaurie AndersonBobby BareRyan BinghamDon EverlyJason IsbellRobert Earl KeenLittle FeatRicky NelsonPeter RowanDoug SahmSturgill Simpson, and Lucinda Williams.

Forty years later, Juarez is widely regarded as Allen’s first masterpiece, timelessly relevant, resonating with works of film and literature as much as other music, recalling the existential violence of Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973) and informing successors like David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy (1992-98), and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (2004).

Paradise of Bachelors will reissue Terry Allen’s critically acclaimed 1979 double album Lubbock (on everything), the follow-up to Juarez, later in 2016.

  • The definitive, deluxe edition of the art-country classic: produced in collaboration with the artist; remastered from the original analog tapes; the first reissue on vinyl; the first to feature the original artwork (including accompanying lithographs); and first to contextualize the album within Allen’s 50-year art practice.
  • Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with expanded, heavy-duty tip-on gatefold jacket, printed inner sleeve, download code, and 24 pp. book with related artwork, lyrics, and essays by Dave Hickey, Dave Alvin, and Brendan Greaves.
  • CD edition features scale replica gatefold jacket, inner sleeve, and 48pp. book.

 

Acknowledgments

The path that Allen chose was even wilier [than his country music contemporaries]: smuggling his outsider storytelling into the art world, leaning on his gnawing Texas twang to ground his imaginings in an uncivilized landscape. With Juarez, Allen conjures a still-Wild West, at once romantic and grotesque, nourishing and mystical.... It's a dialogue between the freedom to move, to flee, to choose one's destination, and the power to dominate — or the powerlessness of being dominated. The juxtaposition of such notions makes human agency feel vital, tenuous and jealously guarded indeed. The fact that Allen isn't the least bit hung up on being linear or realistic in his telling of these tales make them all the more riveting. 

– Jewly Hight, NPR Music's Songs We Love

A singular moment in the history of country music [and] one of the most singular and underrated works in the history of US conceptual art. Lubbock (on everything) and Juarez are restless travelogues, songs of feeling out of place and in search of home. 

– Dan Fox, Frieze

Mr. Allen’s magic strength is that he can keep two or more big ideas in the air at once, juxtaposing them without explicitly merging them until they kind of belong together: sex and real estate, love and colonization, greed or guilt... He’s pretty close to a master lyricist.

– The New York Times

Allen’s songs extract strangeness from the known world and use it as a means of acquiring greater knowledge. This is an old man's confirmation of a young man's speculation, which is as good definition of wisdom as any. [Juarez is] a series of beguilingly off-kilter songs about Texas, California, and Mexico, held together by spoken interludes that gave it the feel of a movie. 

– The New Yorker

Grim, funny, epic and intimate all at once, Juarez belongs in a genre unto itself ... timeless. His catalog, reaching back to 1975's Juarez, has been uniformly eccentric and uncompromising, savage and beautiful, literate and guttural.

– Rolling Stone

9/10. A lovingly remastered version of the nebulous country classic. This riveting artifact, now with Allen's original artwork and extensive booklet, only improves with age. A thing of intense beauty... 

– Rob Hughes, Uncut

Juarez is a remarkable album in every sense... a beautiful package.

– Garth Cartwright, The Guardian

Terry Allen’s Juarez is a cornerstone work of Americana. Drawing on elements of Tex-Mex and norteno music, and delivered by Allen with a wild, lonesome spirit, it’s like an American offshoot of the Mexican narco-corrido tradition. It’s a fascinating oddity streaked with sex, violence and sorrow, a sort of seedcorn of the Robert Rodriguez aesthetic, presented complete with the lithographs that accompanied the original.

– Andy Gill, The Independent

8.0. Juarez retains its kick 40 years on. What stands out in revisiting it now is the stunning poetry of the lines themselves … [which] quiver with a raw vision rarely heard in folk or country. While Juarez has been reissued a few times over the decades, only with Paradise of Bachelors’ deluxe new reissue are Allen’s peculiar visuals again wedded with the music.

– Andy Beta, Pitchfork

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

– Los Angeles Times 

He’s one of the last wild geniuses left who hasn’t been commercialized by the media. For 50 years, he’s sung neo-honky-tonk art songs in a thick-tongued Lubbockian drawl that makes Waylon Jennings sound as patrician as William F. Buckley Jr.

– Observer.com

A masterpiece, one of the great songwriter records. It stands equal with classics like Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Newman’s Good Old Boys, and it stands equal (or above) any made in the decades since.

– Dave Alvin

The single greatest concept album of all time... Juarez is an experience, one that can break your heart with the sweetness of “What of Alicia” or “Dogwood” or put the sting of whiskey in the back of your throat with the hard, crass thumping of “Border Palace” or “There Outta Be a Law Against Sunny Southern California”. This little-known Terry Allen album deserves a larger audience, a new and much bigger set of listeners to puzzle over this eccentric classic.

– PopMatters

Grounding high art. Every sound and insinuation on this 1975 recording is the farthest point from passive and will stay with you like a tattoo. The music and performances (bad-ass piano playing, slide guitar, and a voice that you’d better take seriously or else) on this work are only to be experienced and not explained.

– Richard Buckner

One of the more fascinating country albums of its time, like Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger as reimagined by Tarantino. There may be no greater maverick than Terry Allen in all of country music from the mid-'70s onward. 

– AllMusic

A true modern day Renaissance man... renowned for his effortless command and outrageous combination of disparate genres and media, according to the task at hand.

– Dave Hickey

There is just one person whose art has been seen in highbrow museums around the country and is an inductee of the Buddy Holly Walk of Fame in Lubbock, Tex. He is Terry Allen, [and] he favors a style you might call Old West Psychedelic. 

– Ken Johnson, New York Times

Seminal 70s recordings Juarez and Lubbock (On Everything) are resolute, meant to be absorbed in their entirety. With humor and a gift for songwriting, each finds Allen subtly giving the middle finger to any and all expectations of what Country is or should be... Very few concept albums drum up and maintain the sincerity and reverence that Juarez encapsulates. 

– Aquarium Drunkard

Not quite country and not quite rock, the music of Juarez is as unique as the man himself. Allen’s voice is incredible; he shifts from mellow Texas drawl—a more nasal Randy Newman—to bloodcurdling intensity from line to line. Against the darkness of the material, Allen’s singing and songcraft manage to convey humor and warmth, elevating the story and music out of the realm of pulp.

– Clinton Krute, BOMB Magazine

4 stars. This is barrio poetry writ widescreen … an atmosphere where Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys meets Dylan’s Desire, with Cormac McCarthy buying shots. Repeated listens will quickly have Juarez clawing at the brain and the heart. Here finally is a soundtrack for an imaginary film where your imagination is allowed to run wild in the borders between myth and reality. 

– Mike Goldsmith, Record Collector Magazine

A vortex of sex and violence.

– David Byrne

The songs are vivid, desperate, poetic, and brutal, like the anti-Randy Newman.

– MOJO

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

Little official country music is this good. The music cranks and lopes along, stops and starts again; there are a lot of holes in it, a high-plains silence that always waits behind the music, as if to tempt Allen into shutting up again.

– Artforum

Throw Lynch's violent masterworks Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart in a blender with Burroughs's Naked Lunch and Bowles's The Sheltering Sky, and you're getting warm.

– Houston Press

A. His music defies easy categorization, as it uses his home state of Texas and the American West as a canvas to explore the drama and humor of existence. Juarez endures as one of the great concept albums and underlines Allen’s value as a true original.

– Joseph, Neff The Vinyl District

Juarez continues to sounds fresh and contemporary today. His ability to spin a memorable yarn that continues to echo in the mind long after it’s gone can leave one mute with admiration. Terry Allen is a fucking genius.

– The Big Takeover

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

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PoBMerch-004

Product Info

Today's rainbow is tomorrow's tamale.

Is there any more potent and perfect koan? Not for our money here at PoB. In celebration of our deluxe, definitive reissues of Terry Allen's Juarez (1975, PoB-26) and Lubbock (on everything) (1979, PoB-27), we are proud to present the Terry Allen Tamale T-shirt—as far as we know, the first such item to exist in the wold, and long overdue—featuring the immortal line from Juarez and the cover of that abiding masterpiece of music and visual art on the front, with the PoB logo tastefully deployed on the back.

Available in White or Slate, sizes XS through XL, these 100% cotton, American Apparel fine jersey short-sleeved t-shirts are screenprinted by hand in Philadelphia, in a very limited edition. Perceptive fashionistas will recognize this as the second installment in our grand tradition of apparel featuring hirsute smoking men.

 

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PoB-025 (ON SALE)

Tracklist:

A1. "Paul’s Song" 3.20
A2. "Darlin’" 2.33
B1. "Livin’ with the Blues" 2.57
B2. "Skillet" 2.51

 

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

 

Album Narrative

N.B.: To celebrate the release of our Bonnie "Prince Billy & Nathan Salsburg EP (PoB-037) on Record Store Day (April 22, 2017), 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" or $5 for the MP3s.

*

First-ever reissue of folk and experimental music icon Mike Cooper’s historic earliest recordings and PoB’s very first Record Store Day exclusive release. Named for The Shades, the Reading, UK folk club where Mike Cooper regularly performed, and which housed prodigy Derek Hall—“a guitarist who could actually match Davey Graham both in technique and musical ideas” —this super rare EP was issued in 1965.

*

In 2014 Paradise of Bachelors reissued iconoclastic English-born, Rome-based folk and experimental music legend Mike Cooper’s classic triptych of early 1970s avant-folk-rock records—Trout Steel (1970) and Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper (1971-72)—to widespread critical acclaim, including Best New Reissue recognition from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. But Cooper sowed the seeds of his deconstructivist music five years earlier in his rare earliest recordings, until now scarcely known and never reissued—fitting fodder for PoB’s very first Record Store Day release.

Named for The Shades, the Reading, UK folk club where he regularly performed, and which employed and housed guitar prodigy Derek Hall—who later played on Cooper’s 1969 debut LP Oh Really!?—the little-heard Out of the Shades EP was released in an extremely limited edition by local label Kennet Recordings in 1965 as KRS 766. The songs were recorded live to a single microphone in the kitchen/bathroom/former outhouse of Mike’s rambling Georgian apartment, on a portable Ferrograph reel-to-reel that the engineer otherwise used for “recording birds and trains.”

By 1965 Mike had already progressed beyond and exhausted his interest in electric Chicago blues with his first band The Blues Committee. He was now a peer of British folk scene stalwarts like Davey Graham, Wizz Jones, Bert Jansch, and John Renbourn, hosting folk nights up to five nights a week at venerable Reading and London clubs like Les Cousins, The Latin Quarter, The Elephant, and The Shades, Hall’s home base. Cooper recalls his former partner’s artistry and skill with fondness and wonder:

Derek was a phenomenal guitar player, incredible, and he could play all of Blind Blake’s stuff note-for-note. He could actually match Davey Graham both in technique and musical ideas. It was one of those weird things that happens from time to time whereby someone does something really incredible, and there’s someone else doing the same thing somewhere else, and they are not aware of one another. Derek and Davey were one of those cases.

On Out of the Shades you can hear the first, faint strains of Cooper’s restless reinvention of vernacular traditions, the ways in which his reverence for the Piedmont and country blues of the American South was showing subtle signs of fraying and unraveling into the tangles of more expansive improvisatory terrain. Cooper and Hall were still very much operating within the bounds of the British folk and blues revival, as you can hear on their masterful renderings of the traditional folk-blues numbers “Darlin’” (which Derek, who likely learned it from King of Skiffle Lonnie Donegan, performs solo) and “Livin’ with the Blues” (popularized by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee), classics populated by blind captains and drivin’ wheels.

Those songs form the inner core of the EP, but the two performances bookending the 45, inhabiting its outer and inner edges, demonstrate how the duo was pushing gently against the bounds of folk forms. “Paul’s Song,” an original written by Cooper and “local folkie” Paul Lucas, is reminiscent of the contemporaneous work of American expat Jackson C. Frank; it features a gorgeous, minor melody that in its brittle world-weariness belies Mike’s mere twenty-three years. The helical, cascading guitar part represents Cooper’s only playing on the EP (at this point, despite his prodigious talent on his trademark National resophonic, he considered himself primarily a vocalist, and here he mostly sings and plays harmonica.) The closer “Skillet,” sung beautifully by Cooper, utterly transforms Uncle Dave Macon’s 1924 recording of “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy.” Hall’s woozy, note-bending vamping unspools the second half of the song into an extraordinary instrumental passage full of mercury and momentum. It’s a song about extreme appetites—cooking every hour, keeping Nancy “drunk and goosey all the time” on brandy—prefiguring Cooper’s later hungry experimentation.

A brief but brilliant intersection of two divergent artists, the Cooper and Hall duo did not last long. Mike went on to tour as a trio with Michael Chapman and Ralph McTell, and then, bowled over by avant-garde jazz, he collaborated with producer Peter Eden on his series of increasingly daring albums of “songmaking.” Derek moved back to London shortly after recording Out of the Shades, eventually settling into a quiet, reclusive life in Northumberland—no phone, no internet—where he taught guitar to locals but no longer performed. A few years ago Mike tracked him down and reestablished contact. “The last time I saw him was maybe 1967, and it’s odd, because he's playing exactly the same now as he was all those years ago,” Cooper reflects. “It was so strange. He was a million times better guitar player than I would ever be. It was like Charlie Parker, if he was alive today, playing the same thing he did in 1945.”

It is this internal tension between tradition and innovation that animates all great art, Out of the Shades included.

  • First-ever reissue of Cooper’s rare first recordings and PoB’s first Record Store Day exclusive release.
  • RIYL Mike Cooper, Michael Chapman, Jackson C. Frank, Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Wizz Jones, or Clive Palmer.
  • Available on virgin vinyl as a limited-edition 45 rpm 7”, with heavy-duty color jacket, restored original artwork, and notes; or as digital album.
  • Purchases directly from this website include an immediate 320k MP3 download of the entire album; 7" does not include a download card.

 

Acknowledgments

Right from the start Cooper’s career trajectory is highly specific—a respected British blues exponent who drifted off in several unexpected directions all at once, like a glistening drop of oil emulsifying its way through some kitsch, liquid-filled ornament.

- Clive Bell, The Wire 

Though the material on the EP is firmly rooted in the folk/blues idiom, the multitudinous musical avenues that Mike would later explore in his career are bubbling just under the surface. Heartily recommended.

- Austin Matthews, Shindig!

If your heart has ever warmed to Davey Graham’s mixture of suaveness, globe-spanning curiosity, and slick picking, you have room in it for this little record.

- Bill Meyer, Dusted

Acclaim for Trout Steel (PoB-13) and Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. (PoB-14):

8.6: Best New Reissue. Sung verses alternate with extended jamming like honey running from a spoon... the gracefully exhaled quality of a master statement.

- Pitchfork

Best Reissues of 2014. A folk-rooted prodigy navigating the rapids of psychedelia.

- Rolling Stone

9/10. Exceptional LPs. Stinging playing… A completely blitzing rapprochement of folk, blues, free improvisation, and avant-garde tactics.

- Uncut

Gorgeous, tender, moving… A work of art that experimented with the idea of music being one vast universe with song being its poetic and foundational heart.

- Allmusic

4 stars. Warm folk songs venturing into Pharaoh Sanders-inspired skronk.

- MOJO

Cooper was forging connections between folk and experimental musics long before America got New or Weird.

- The Wire

Trout Steel really steals the show.

- The Guardian

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PoB-024

Tracklist:

A1. "Mixer" 4.36
A2. "Stargazer" 4.13
A3. "Lion in Chains" 6.40
A4. "Don't Be Right" 2.24
B1. "Click Clack" 4.29
B2. "Alaskan Shake" 5.11
B3. "Roll It" 3.05
B4. "Trust" 2.41

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

N.B.: For a limited time, to celebrate the release of I'm Bad Now (PoB-033), Whine of the Mystic (PoB-020) and Thought Rock Fish Scale (PoB-024) are both on sale for 20% off with coupon code BADNOW.

 

Album Narrative

Recorded live to tape, with no overdubs, on the North Shore of Nova Scotia, Nap Eyes’ quietly contemplative sophomore record refines and elaborates their debut, offering an airier, more spacious second chapter, a bracing blast of bright oceanic sunshine after the moonlit alleys of Whine of the Mystic. But the briny, cold Atlantic roils beneath these exquisite, literate guitar pop songs, posing riddles about friendship, faith, mortality, and self-doubt.

 *

There is a short poem by the mystically inclined minimalist poet Robert Lax, the entirety of which comprises this single sentence:

the angel came to him & said

 I'm sorry, mac, but
we talked it over
in heaven
& you’re going 

 to have to live
a thousand years

It’s delivered as an apologetic aside, a joke (“sorry, mac”), but this epigrammatic curse carries a weirdly devastating weight. It’s not immortality that this blunt angel promises—if you can accept the unfathomable premise, living forever might have its fringe benefits, I guess—but just a millennial attenuation of desire, of pain. In the immortal words of Charlie Brown and Kris Kristofferson, why me?

The spectral visitation that occurs in the Nap Eyes song “Alaskan Shake,” a centerpiece of the Halifax band’s gorgeous new album Thought Rock Fish Scale, invokes, oddly and unbidden within the song’s narrative context, a black swallow with a crutch, a familiar who heralds “the ghost of the early morning.” “Speaking like a bell”—an apt description of how songwriter and guitarist Nigel Chapman intones his alternately cryptic and concrete lyrics—this unnamed ghost incites little boys and girls to “stand up and be peaceful” and to memorialize a thousand years of foremothers. The song ends with a generationally unspooling refrain of “My old great, great, great, great, great, great / Grandmother mother mother mother.”

It’s one of several movingly ineffable moments on the album that gathers loved ones and legacies at a cautious if affectionate distance, folding them into carefully articulated but centerless koans. Like the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” in “Click Clack,” these eight songs are deceptively simple and gentle, almost radical in their purity of intent and populist subject matter—they are, after all, minimalist rock and roll ruminations on family, friends, work, faith, feelings. But Chapman’s plainspoken poetry, divested largely of description and rhetoric, renders them enigmatic, oracular, allegorical. So in “Stargazer,” ennui and indecision are distilled to a base need “to be clean and try to control my body / ’Cause nobody else going to.” In “Trust,” what shrinks call “trust issues” catalyze somatic paranoia: “Somebody look at me / Do I have a glass eyelid? / Do I have a glass forehead? / Can you see through it?” And in the shivering, anthemic “Lion in Chains,” the eponymous beast hangs, heraldic and haunted by hometown nostalgia, above singer and audience alike—but only following a beautifully banal stanza about the hot water heater problems at the laboratory where Nigel works as a biochemist.

Nap Eyes recorded their second album in the crisp daylight of late May 2014, in the living room and screened porch of a seaside family home near Pictou, a small Nova Scotian town whose evocative name derives from the Mi’kmaq word for “explosion.” Like all of their recordings to date, the album is framed by a set of severe self-imposed strictures: a mere four days to capture as many songs as possible completely live, with no overdubs, to a temperamental old TEAC four-track ¼” tape recorder. The result is a document pristine in its intentional imperfections.

After the dark, drunken night of Whine of the Mystic (recorded nocturnally in Montreal), Thought Rock Fish Scale brings blinding sunlight and blue horizon to these elemental stories of water, fire, and spirit. Compared with its predecessor, this album is far less concerned with the effects of alcohol—excepting “Click Clack,” with its admission that “Sometimes, drinking, I feel so happy but then / I can’t remember why … Sometimes, drinking, I don’t know my best friend for my best friend”—and more concerned with negotiating the mornings after, all the hungover or otherwise creaky, tentative new mornings of a life assembled from discrete days.

Musically, a new delicacy and tautness manifest here as well, a patient willingness to wait; Josh Salter (bass), Seamus Dalton (drums), and Brad Loughead (lead guitar) exhibit consummate restraint. Sonic touchstones remain similar—The Go-Betweens (particularly Robert Forster’s melancholic bite), The Only OnesLou ReedNikki SuddenBedhead—but here the players circumnavigate the negative space of those artists’ styles, summoning them with fond absence, with silences. (Listen to how “Mixer” uses the space between ringing chords to deconstruct a coed party episode—the most archaic and trite of teen pop tropes—into an analytical out-of-body experience, charting a path from the mall to “my Jesus” to a local judge’s recriminations.)

Thought Rock Fish Scale deploys the language of anxiety and self-reflection as a sort of symbolic vernacular. (“Heavy with moral learning / you grumble and bite,” Nigel sings in “Don’t Be Right.”) Chapman’s songs ask us to consider the ways in which we stupefy and medicate ourselves into passivity and longevity; to consider how we seek to lose ourselves within ourselves; how we endeavor to reorient the mind, or if you will, the soul, to disappear into ease and forgetting. Indeed, Nap Eyes make soul music, in the sense that their music describes, from a position of uneasy humility, the often mundane maintenance of the fragile human soul. How long can we keep ourselves buoyed or crutched, even provisionally, like that sad swallow in “Alaskan Shake”? As Nigel asks in “Mixer,” “Then again what else is there / Another life, some other way?”

  • RIYL The Only Ones/England’s GloryThe Modern LoversThe CleanThe VerlainesThe Go-BetweensNikki SuddenBedhead, and all things Lou Reed
  • Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty chipboard jacket, full-color inner sleeve, and lyrics, as well as on gatefold matte CD and digital formats.
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon.

 

Acknowledgments

8.0. Chapman has one of those voices that feels immediately familiar, yet is bracingly distinct... one the most intriguingly idiosyncratic lyricists in Canadian indie rock this side of Dan Bejar. Even in its quietest moments, Thought Rock Fish Scale is an album brimming with passion and protest. It finds confidence in humility, power in relaxation. Its lethargy feels like an act of defiance against the hyper-speed pace of modern life. Its pledges of sobriety and good health constitute affronts to peer-pressured intoxication and food-blogged indulgence. And its purity of vision amounts to a declaration of war against a culture that encourages mass distraction. Let this record be the first step in your rehabilitation from information overload.

- Stuart Berman, Pitchfork

The year’s first classic indie rock album. For my money, Nap Eyes are one of the best rock bands in business today, handily spanning the space between Bob Dylan and The Microphones. Nigel Chapman’s songwriting grips like the best of them. A timeless release, already. 

- Duncan Cooper, The FADER

An existentialist indie pop daydream. Wonderfully and beautifully frigid — frozen in time and place, despite its humid surroundings. 

- Colin Joyce, SPIN

Chapman has been compared to Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Jonathan Richman, among other singularly compelling singer-songwriters. If tracks like "Roll It," "Mixer," and the seven-minute epic "Lion in Chains" are any indication, this album is only going to cement Chapman's status as one of the most fascinating songwriters we have today.

- Newsweek

Nap Eyes are one of my favourite bands in Canada. Four cats from Halifax recording lazy, rangey rock’n’roll –  "Roll It" is a rocker’s stoned jam but it’s also epistemology – a marauding dissertation on what we know and how we know it. Nigel Chapman sings his lines with a certain distance, Father Superior and his riddles, but the band is affectless, profane, casual as a bowl of cereal. I figure this is usually the way with gurus: well-spoken long-hairs and their roving, loyal, merry men.

- Sean Michaels, The Globe and Mail

It's easy to imagine Lou Reed's ghost giving Nap Eyes his gruffly benevolent blessing, impressed by their unvarnished diarizing in lean, art-pop songs that channel his spirit. But along with kitchen-sink detail, there's real poignancy in the Canadians' second set. Astutely played, instant charmers. 

- Sharon O'Connell, Uncut

4/5 stars. It's almost a relief to hear the stoical guitar-bass-drums simplicity of this quartet. Concise, understated alt rock with cryptic, literate lyrics for Go-Betweens/Bill Callahan fans.

- MOJO

You don't wanna miss them: purveyors of beatific, sun-drenched US roadtrip tunes, they're a laid-back, summery affair at first glance. Dig deeper though and there's much to get lost in. Subtle and intricate, they're an impressive outfit... Frontman Nigel Chapman [is] owner of one of the most beautiful voices I've heard in years. He's a fucking great singer, and an impressive lyricist to boot.

- Matt Wilkinson, NME

4/5 stars. There is a down-at-heel yet often sublime feel from Nap Eyes’ second album. Of the album’s eight tracks, it’s almost impossible to single out one that doesn’t hit the singular mark between structured and untidy, but the likes of "Stargazer," "Lion in Chains," and "Trust" nonetheless manage to convey the vagaries of control without in any way spoiling the end result. Reckless? Wistful? A little bit skewed? All these and more.

- Tony Clayton-Lea, The Irish Times

Incredible album. Nap Eyes is a great band that will remind you of a lot of great things. Songwriter and guitarist Nigel Chapman, a biochemist by day, is the kind of preternaturally smart lyricist who inspires comparison to Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and Van Morrison, and the many odd musicians who fall between. There’s a lot of good connections one could make listening to something so clearly labored over but also seemingly effortless. If you haven’t been listening to much rock music lately, Nap Eyes will make you remember why rock’s good in the first place.

- The FADER

Best New Artists of 2016. Lou Reed isn’t dead, he’s just living in Halifax. This would be “slacker rock” incarnate, if slackers asked heady questions about the impermanence of consciousness and the naiveté of trust.

– The Observer

To live with this record is to hear it unfurl a beauty and intelligence some might have feared extinct. Awash with delicate wit and poignancy, this is traditional rock music only in that these are well-read kids from an isolated location who have made the music they hear inside their heads, not off the internet.

- Sean Rabin, Sydney Morning Herald

8/10. One of the most enjoyable and insightful albums released this year so far. It sounds like Pavement, circa-1999, playing a stripped down Stax Records house band slow jam... like Lou Reed hanging out with Guided by Voices. As you get more and more inebriated it all starts to make sense, making it the best thing you’ve ever heard!

- Nick Roseblade, Drowned in Sound

The effect is something akin to the talking blues antics of Mark Kozelek's last few albums, but with a lot more self-control and no references to crab cakes or Ben Gibbard. So it goes for the rest of Thought Rock Fish Scale as well, with Chapman poring over his existential fears and failings as a human while he and the rest of the band rumble along quietly in the background invoking the spirits of Flying Nun Records and Sarah Records’ past.

- Robert Ham, Paste

34 minutes of soothing acoustic melodies that will transport you from the cold and rain of our bleak isles to the warmth to the warmth of a Nova Scotian log cabin in the space of a single listen.

- The ShortList (UK)

Some of the Velvet Underground’s best moments came with the volume turned way down, and that’s precisely where Nap Eyes picks up the story. Nap Eyes hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and it’s easy to hear that rainy chill in its music. “Mixer”–from Thought Rock Fish Scale, out February 5 via Paradise of Bachelors–is all atmosphere. You’re looking over Chapman’s shoulder as the room comes into view. 

- Art Levy, KUTX

Chapman’s questions are heart-wrenching in their simplicity. Get ready to get a little existential.

- Collin Robinson, Stereogum

Acclaim for Nap Eyes' Whine of the Mystic:

Nap Eyes moves from psych-riffs to astrophysicists; from Rubaiyatic poetry to punctuated bass, in easy fluid motions. Chapman’s calm, steady voice can be as pained as Bob Dylan’s, and his lyrics can be just as profound.

- Adria Young, Noisey

Unkempt rock songs that are steeped in tradition yet impossible to pin down. Nigel Chapman sings with an observational deadpan that echoes back to the likes of Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, and David Berman. This guy spends his days studying the infinite complexity of seemingly simplistic cells, and his songs function the same way. There are worlds inside [these] little three-chord lament[s].

- Chris DeVille, Stereogum

Whine of the Mystic is a necessarily dense title for a band like Nap Eyes, its multitudes containing additional multitudes. This is a drinker’s album, for the kind of drinker who does so alone, publicly, poring over popular 11th-century tomes.

- Ian Cohen, Pitchfork

These spindly, sophisto-naïve songs about friendship, uncertainty, belief, and heavy drinking suggest Lou Reed reared on The Clean and The Verlaines. But rather than a drawl or sneer, there's vulnerability on Chapman's lazily charming voice.

- Sharon O'Connell, Uncut

Nap Eyes' Whine of the Mystic is a ragged splendour, one of the best things in ages. A band from Halifax with a sound like young caterpillar and old silk, like the Velvet Underground and Electrelane and Destroyer and Guided by Voices. Like liking a drink you know isn't good for you; that's good for you, that's good for you, that you know isn't good for you. They are a rock band just so faintly tripping. They are priests of Shaolin and the Holy See, with electric guitars in their hands, with an un-fancy drum-kit. Nap Eyes' songs are mazey and riddled, but ambivalent about their mazes, ambivalent about their riddles; in this way they remind me of good smoke, holy incense smoke, always true to its incantation.

- Sean Michaels, Said the Gramophone

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PoB-023

Tracklist:

A1. "Gotta Wanna" 3.32
A2. "Legends of My Own" 2.23
A3. "Matters to a Head" 3.09
A4. "Compromise" 3.06
A5. "Angelino" 4.53
A6. "Came to Be" 2.32
B1. "Scorpios Vegas" 3.32
B2. "Pass On Through" 2.49
B3. "In Orbit" 3.07
B4. "Blue Hour" 3.35
B5. "Worldly Way" 3.42

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

 

Album Narrative

On their most refined and ruefully elegant album, Gun Outfit perfect their incandescent sonic signature: a dusky, canyon-cult blues fueled by melodic dual-guitar weaving and seductive male/female incantations at zero hour. It’s the nocturnal sound of desert-damaged L.A. burnout, a soured American surrealism in rock and roll creole: white line fever, paint fume flashbacks, a stranger wading out alone into the black surf. 

 *

“Inflammable desires dampened by day under the cold water of consciousness are ignited that night by the libertarian matches of sleep, and burst forth in showers of shimmering incandescence. These imaginary displays provide a temporary relief.”

- Kenneth Anger, Fireworks

Opening credits. One weekend in 1947, teenaged filmmaker, music video forefather, fledgling occultist, and eventual Mick Jagger collaborator Kenneth Anger shoots a short film of homoerotic surrealism called Fireworks in his parents’ empty house in Beverly Hills. The stated intention is to capture “the explosive pyrotechnics of a dream,” and it does so with ghostly brutality, distilling a potent, symbolically charged amalgam of desire, dread, violence, and the tentative trappings of magick that would occupy Anger (an Aleister Crowley acolyte) in later years.

Almost seventy years later, Dream All Over, the fourth full-length album by the cinematically-minded Los Angeles rock and roll band Gun Outfit—and their first with Paradise of Bachelors—describes a comparable flickering and dimming of dreams, that moment when the lights go up, and the “temporary relief” of sleep’s “imaginary displays” dissolves into stark, deadening lucidity. The songs are suffused with a slyly cynical hangover/hangman’s humor that evokes, from the perspective of “a stranger / getting stranger still,” L.A.’s disorienting simulacrum kingdom of crawling pictures: “I looked familiar in a foreign land / I couldn’t speak, but I could understand / From another life I rode / Into a desert of my own / And when I put my blanket down / I’m going to dream all over” (“Legends of My Own”).

The dangerous California obliquely mapped by Gun Outfit herein bears little resemblance to Tinseltown fantasies, except insofar as the incantatory dialogues of singers Carrie Keith (guitar, vocals, slide) and Dylan Sharp (guitar, vocals, banjo, balalaika) throw off a muted, wary carnal heat, the lingering afterimage of spent desire. (“Isn’t enchantment what we like?” asks the song “In Orbit,” dubiously.) Instead the inscape drawn through Dream All Over navigates the dark side of the moon—the Hollywood Babylon L.A. of Kenneth Anger and David LynchFather Yod and Charlie Manson, muscle cars and drought—as reflected upon a pair of road-weary human hearts. As Dylan sings in “Only Ever Over,” “Out here on the West coast where the ocean eats the sun / We’ve known for a long time the end’s already come.”

The band members, all of whom have made or worked on their own and others’ low-budget, homebrew art films in various capacities, draw from the syntax and systems of cinema, in two senses: the songs invoke imagistic memories and unfold like dreams unremembered upon waking, but they also rely on staunchly collaborative team processes. The unmistakable rhythm section of Daniel Swire (drums, percussion) and Adam Payne (bass, also of Residual Echoes) fuel Dylan and Carrie’s spacious, enmeshed guitar work with a corporeal throb, and all decisions are democratically decided. Friend and mentor Henry Barnes (Amps for Christ/Man Is the Bastard) plays three different homemade electric sitars on the record. Facundo Bermudez (Ty SegallNo Age) engineered and co-produced.

Although reared in the realm of hardcore punk aesthetics, these days Gun Outfit bears a greater sonic and songwriterly kinship to the likes of Lee Hazlewood or Blaze Foley than to anything released in the heyday of the SST label. But there is an unspoken understanding throughout their recordings, but pointedly so on Dream All Over, that punk rock is folk music, certainly as much as honky-tonk belongs to the American folk tradition. But the band somehow communicates this kinship by barely acknowledging the formal tropes of either genre. It’s a compellingly elusive aesthetic strategy articulated in the withering “Gotta Wanna”: “I wanna squirm around / I’m a wild primate / Can’t never make no art / When my clothing chafes.”

There are many such moments on Dream All Over, deflating lyrical reversals that frame these plainspoken riddles with devastating regret and resignation, in the manner of all great country songs. The existential beach-blanket bingo ritual of “Came to Be” (“futility,” we learn, is “the reason for the partying”) ends with a scathingly dismissive indictment: “And that’s what I know of Paradise.” “Worldly Way” finishes with a desolate aphorism: “Oh world, what knowledge do you teach? / To grow a tail and chase it / Or sit awhile in grief.” The album begins with a cautious, nodding admission of our powerlessness to resist the dominion “Of the often noticed clock / And its fascist frame.” But it ends with a glimmer of prehistoric hope, a “temporary relief”: “So cup a little coal / Try to make it glow / We’re going to have a fire before we go.” End credits.

  • RIYL Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Steve Gunn, Lee Hazlewood, Blaze Foley, Amps for Christ, Ty Segall, desert noir
  • Featuring Henry Barnes (Amps for Christ/Man Is the Bastard); engineered and co-produced by Facundo Bermudez (Ty SegallNo Age.)
  • Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty reverse board matte jacket, as well as on gatefold matte CD and digital formats.
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon.

 

Acknowledgments

8.1 Dream All Over recalls the most crucial lesson of all underground rock music: become your own sound, and create a universe for it to exist in… [It’s] Gun Outfit's most consistent record by some margin. With its echoing grooves, drifting landscapes, and new textures—bits of bluegrass banjo, homemade electric sitars—Dream All Over has the blue-sky sensibility of a soul-searching road trip. Levitating hooks and an emotional heaviness co-exist in their impressionistic songs, like the light-and-dark glow of a perpetual magic hour. 

- Jenn Pelly, Pitchfork

Dreamers wielding slide guitars. The band’s songs, particularly on its 2015 album Dream All Over, commemorate a forgotten, more foreboding side of California, hidden just beneath the traditions of glamour and gumshoe noir.

– The New York Times

This band has a punk aesthetic deep at the center and, especially now, slow and drifting, double-guitar desert-rock psychedelia at the surface. Dream All Over is the latest installment in the output of a band that’s remained open-ended, slow and steady.

- Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

NPR Music's Favorite Songs of 2015: "Gotta Wanna." This L.A. bummer-punk band rides the sweet spot between choogle and apache beat for three and a half zenned-out minutes.

- Otis Hart, NPR Music

As the Olympia punks in Gun Outfit have stretched out and let their hair down, the band’s vibe has followed suit, getting looser with each record. Recorded just before the duo’s move to L.A., Dream All Over is a dusty piece of good-time rock ‘n’ roll that just wants to hit the open road.

- Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

8/10. Peyote for the ears... Expansive, arid, and dusty. Darkness and trippiness coexist with the West Coast sun. Key is that cinematic, slight dreamy quality combined with the desert sun. Lo-fi and understated, the twin vocals of Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith are also strong throughout. 

- Marcus O'Dair, Uncut

It’s postmodern malaise re-imagined as simple country dream poetry, languid and crawling with ennui. Dylan Sharp salutes his namesake with figure eight phrasing, and Carrie Keith’s dreamcatcher alto is always just around the corner, blowing on the coals of the chorus till they catch fire.  Stoic and weird as ever. 

- Caitlin White, Stereogum

Exquisite, shambolic songs.  Dream All Over is full of droning ragas, sunburned country twang, paisley underground vibes, electric folk rock, and West Coast mysticism—its punkness is ideological. They’re as capable of drifting up into space as descending into the canyons, cosmic like a midnight drive.

- Jason Woodbury, FLOOD Magazine

Harmony-rich, slow-building, guitar-rock glory. It's easy to get psychically lost in these songs: some are jaunty, some are more menacing, but they're all perfectly designed for some long, Vanishing Point-esque car ride to nowhere along a clay-colored, distinctly American stretch of highway.

- Patrick McDermott, The Fader

Supported by two tessellating guitars and a rhythm section that seems stuck in an infinite, italicized shuffle, ["Gotta Wanna"] is a classic get-free anthem, sourced from the great, open American tradition that birthed the Grateful Dead and, more recently, Brightblack Morning Light or even Kurt Vile. "I wanna squirm around/ I'm a wild primate," sings Sharp, his voice cresting at the end of that line, as though a smile has suddenly crossed his lips. That's the at-large feeling of this hymn for liberation, too, a song so simple but subtle you want to get lost inside of it, to turn it up on a road trip that lasts for weeks. Or you can just build a one-song playlist loaded only with "Gotta Wanna", and let it cycle forever as summer slowly relents to fall.

- Grayson Currin Haver, Pitchfork

The latest outing from Gun Outfit crystallizes from nothingness like a Yo La Tengo song slowly surfacing out of primordial ooze. Lazily lilting guitar lines slowly meander into recognizable shapes, drums putter and clatter until they lock into a kraut-lite groove, and intersecting vocals dance around the slowly forming structures as if they’re seeking out the sticky melody they’ll eventually settle on. This is music of becoming, indie rock that sounds more like the process of making a pop song than a pop song itself.

- Colin Joyce, SPIN

This release is a whole barrel of lovely. If you consider the Jim O'Rourke years to be Wilco's greatest era, then a) you'd be right, and b) Dream All Over could be right up your dusty street. Sharing vocals with Carrie Keith, Dylan Sharp has a drawl to die for, especially when he's burring out lines about "trying to buy some time to fuck around". Most of Dream All Over's cuts are under four minutes long but they feel lengthier, in a good way, twisting and writhing around, with the guitars, sitars and other bits and pieces of stringed wooden apparatus weaving in and out of one another like a rustic Sonic Youth with one ear to India, as East meets Wild West.

- JR Moores, The Quietus

Cinematic... a groove so sexy it's doubly devastating. This expansive collection tunes plays like a post-party, pre-hangover wander under a freeway.

- Mariana Timony, Noisey

A devotion to disharmony and an amused understanding of an absurd world exemplify just how punk Gun Outfit is to their core. A perfect blend of grace and unrest... elegant songs both for easy listening and for deep introspection, depending on what you’re in the mood for.  

- Ava Myint, Impose Magazine

A tradition-warping band. Draws strangely close to unpuzzling mellow rock while still remaining puzzling.

- Ben Ratliff, New York Times

As warmly elegiac as any late-summer sunset.

- Under the Radar

"Gotta Wanna," our first taste of the L.A.-via-Olympia outfit's gorgeous new full-length, is a dusty outlaw anthem, featuring Carrie Keith and co-vocalist Dylan Sharp trading off narration over desert-hued guitar tangles. Listen close enough and you can almost hear the buzzing of neon bulbs in some low-lit Old Hollywood dive.

- The Fader

Transcendant dust-rock.

- James Rettig, Stereogum

A band whose currency is the yawning soundscapes of the expansive American West.

- Ad Hoc

This is hardcore for the nature scene.

- Recommended Listen

The casual profundity in [their] existential musings hits hard. Gun Outfit is a group incapable of making bad record. In a time when it’s hard to tell what’s a band and what’s a brand, it’s a long-game approach. 

- Seattle Times

The way the rhythms spread out across the cymbals and the liquid guitars stream sounds downy and welcoming. I keep listening to it, again and again.

- Autumn Roses

Wonderfully evocative, channeling a line of road-worn blues that exudes Zen-like calm and collectedness. Sublimely textured guitars spin off one another into an ether of faded memory, next to skeletal patches of warm, crawling psychedelia. One of the most overlooked guitar bands going. 

- Jenn Pelly, Pitchfork

Dylan Sharp is starting to remind me more and more of Lee Hazlewood as both a singer and writer, and Carrie Keith’s voice has bent into something between Stevie Nicks and Courtney Love, rasping with beautiful, weatherbeaten soul. 

- Doug Mosurock, Dusted

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PoB-022

Tracklist:

A1. "Push and Pull (All the Time)" 5:13
A2. "She Takes Me There" 4:48
A3. "Otherworldly Pleasures" 3:40
A4. "Through the Seasons" 3:49
A5. "Dialogue" 3:20
B1. "Oppression" 3:33
B2. "Golden Child" 4:29
B3. "Canfield Drive" 4:43
B4. "Better Company" 3:50
B5. "Northern Country Scene" 4:10
X. "Within Sight" 6:41 (CD/digital bonus track)

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

 

Album Narrative

Nashville’s finest purveyors of febrile root-work psychedelia return with a dizzyingly accomplished second album that highlights an expanded band (including members of the Paperhead and Fly Golden Eagle); bigger, bolder arrangements featuring more and louder guitars, squally strings, and Steve Gunn; and road-ripened songwriting that veers between the frenetic and tender, recalling Jim Ford, the Pretty Things, the Grateful Dead, Dennis Linde, and the Byrds at their most eight-miles-fried.

When you’re a young dude in Music City, a lot can happen in a couple years. The Promised Land Sound whose debut country-rock burner Paradise of Bachelors released in 2013, when its members were all at or well below the quarter-century mark—all garage-gang vocals, ragged Telecaster licks, and buzzing Farfisas—is not the same band that recorded the ambitious, nuanced second album For Use and Delight.

Firstly, the lineup slimmed almost immediately following the first record’s release, and they toured as a ferociously efficient trio for a spell: de facto frontman Joe Scala on bass and lead vocals, his brother Evan Scala on drums and vocals, and the virtuosic Sean Thompson on guitar and occasional vocals. The current lineup likewise prominently features invaluable Nashville stalwarts Peter Stringer-Hye (The Paperhead) on additional vocals and rhythm guitar and polymath Mitch Jones (Fly Golden Eagle) on keyboards, as well as handling co-production and string arrangements on the record. That’s Peter singing on “She Takes Me There” and “Northern Country Scene,” and providing honey to Joe’s vinegar on “Through the Seasons”; his chugging rhythm parts allow Sean space to explore the stratosphere. Mitch’s complex but understated organ and electric piano parts color and thicken things throughout, providing a subtle glaze to the proceedings.

But beyond key personnel shifts, sometime over the course of the last year, after serious time spent writing and weeks on the road with Alabama Shakes and Angel Olsen, something ineffable crystallized. For Use and Delight is the album on which Promised Land Sound finds their distinctive idiom, the distilled articulation of their mutable live performances, during which songs expand and contract, guitars flicker, flame, and gutter, and the Scala Bros. rhythm section achieves a full-throttle locomotive choogle that locates the common/contested ground between J.J. Cale and Can. So the title—a reference to a line by 17th-century herbalist John Parkinson—is archly appropriate, suggesting that a recording is a vehicle of both utility and pleasure, at once a workaday, arbitrary document of a specific time and place and perhaps something much more than that, something potentially elemental, transformative, even magical, the site of “Otherworldy Pleasures.” (More literally, the herbal connotations also suggest the much more seasoned band they have become, and perhaps recreational affinities as well.)

In this case, the time and place are significant; the band recorded all the foundational tracks with engineer and co-producer Jason Meagher at his venerable Black Dirt Studio in Westtown, New York. Rural upstate New York is a long van ride from their native Nashville, a city overflowing with fine recording facilities, but the Nashville exodus was intentional and symbolic: Black Dirt happens to be the longtime studio home of the band’s friend and mentor Steve Gunn, where he recorded both Way Out Weather and Time Off with Meagher at the boards (and sometimes on bass too.) Steve sits in on the instrumental “Dialogue,” and his presence inspires the incredible guitar kineticism that animates “Golden Child” (summoning full Blue Öyster Cult biker-boogie intensity); the extended jam that ends “Within Sight”; and particularly album opener “Push and Pull (All the Time),” which elevates the unhinged energy of the band’s early material to the sublime, unfurling a helical riff and vocal melody that feel inevitable and inexorable, only to unexpectedly unravel, slow down, and open up to the rising sun at the halfway point.

If the first album resembled, as Uncut enthusiastically described it, “what the Byrds might have sounded had Gram Parsons joined the band a year or two earlier,” then For Use and Delight suggests a heavier, darker potential meeting of Jim Ford and S.F. Sorrow-era Pretty Things (without all the conceptual baggage, but retaining the razor-wire guitars and unabashed ambition.) But that’s all fantasy rock and roll gaming, and lest you think Promised Land Sound is a band that aspires to sound like the sum of their record collections, think again: the fact is that there just aren’t many other bands writing and inhabiting rock and roll songs of this scale and structural and performative sophistication. The Chiltonisms and chiaroscuro of “She Takes Me There” recall Big Star, but not so much in sound as in sentiment—the melancholy dislocation of a Southern band in a Southern city, but existing strangely out of time and pushing beyond geography. Listen to the bittersweet swagger of “Otherwordly Pleasures” or “Oppression”: despite the classic psych and pop influences, Promised Land Sound is in some essential sense a staunchly Southern band, unselfconscious classicists eager to anchor their songs in traditional forms while tearing at the edges of the vernacular.

  • Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty matte jacket and color insert, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats.
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon.
  • CD and digital editions include bonus track "Within Sight."

Acknowledgments

#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

The Young Nashville band have quietly established themselves as folk-rock revivalists par excellence over the past couple of years, artful connoisseurs of jangle and twang. "She Takes Me There" reveals a group of ever-expanding potential, though, recalling  as it does mid-'70s Fleetwood Mac at their most exquisitely hazy. 

- Uncut

4/5 stars. Picks up where their debut self-titled album left off, taking the cosmic Americana of The Byrds, Burritos, and Band and adding light touches of psych and dreamy melodies to create a sound which burns brightly. Gorgeous. PLS transcend their influences and stand on their own as major contenders.

- Paul Osborne, Shindig!

For Use and Delight expands on the group's already excellent foundation. [It] conjures the best parts of Southern rock and country, but Promised Land Sound adds a grittier edge that separates them from the flood of wishy-washy, too-pristine pop country. 

- Allison Hussey, The Bluegrass Situation

8/10. If your promised land is full of warm harmonies, rich guitar, and well-crafted songs of cosmic country rock then you’ve died and gone to heaven.

- PopMatters

4/5. Manages a robust rock clamor that sways with an earthy Big Pink-meets-Workingman's Dead spirit. The music is beautifully captured with an overwhelmingly organic feel in spite of being festooned with plenty of wah-guitar and other tasteful effects. From their clever songcraft to the very natural manner in which they've presented it, Promised Land Sound have delivered a gem with a rambling country-folk feel and plenty of rock vitality.

- AllMusic

4 stars. Steve Gunn's technique of psychedelia through exploratory musicianship has clearly encouraged PLS to let their songs travel, and the result is a second album of distinct personality. With three vocalists, and a perfect balance of swing, punch and sensitivity, this is music that casually enters a room and wins the attention of everyone present.

- Sydney Morning Herald

4/5. A slow-burn intensity that’s remarkable. The overall sound here—certainly one must single out the ghostly intimacy of the vocals, with the harmonies recalling better-known contemporaries Dawes and the subtle yet expansive keyboard fills at the arrangements’ edges are lovely—is good enough to draw the attention of the majors and their bigger budgets and bigger studios. 

- Blurt

Delight finds the youthful members of PSL focusing hard on creating smart pop hooks that are more polished than their raucous debut. Delight is a mature outing well beyond its time, with refined sensibilities in guitar playing and vocals. If you wanted to characterize PSL as alt-country before, you will find that they have evolved into much more sophisticated territory. Their references are thoughtful and classic, and their melodies are catchy and mesmerizing. You can hear an intense passion in these songs.

- Glide Magazine

There is a kind of shimmer to this whole album. It’s in the production, but most importantly it’s in the songwriting. Every song and performance feels as if it has been presented just as it is meant to be. There is an incredible amount of honesty and ingenuity in this music that really shines through.

- Slate the Disco

Scuzzy melodies and chiming guitars combining to encapsulate the sounds of summer in song form. The rosy lyrics and shimmying chords take you back to warm bonfires and the glow of fireflies during hot July evenings. It’s enough to make you ache for the summer that’s already beginning to slip away.

- Stereogum

Reminds me of Eggs Over Easy & the Link Wray albums—a version of country-rock that isn’t too glossy, that still has gravel stuck in the boot toes.

- William Tyler

What the Byrds might have sounded like had Gram Parsons joined the band a year or two earlier. Exemplary!

- John Mulvey, Uncut

Brisk country-rock tunes that might make a young Gram Parsons kneel down and pray.

- PopMatters

 

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PoB-021

Tracklist:

A1. "Up of Stairs" 3:49
A2. "Invention #4" 3:04
A3. "Dim Recollection" 3:24
A4. "The Narrowing of Grey Park" 2:52
A5. "The Unhaunted Williams" 3:13
A6. "Carrots" 1:08
A7. "Reel Around the Fountain" 3:37
B1. "Great Big God of Hands" 3:15
B2. "Fleurette Africaine" 3:27
B3. "Bee's Thing" 4:04
B4. "Rough Purr" 2:54
B5. "Stern and Earnest" 3:15
B6. "Slow Train" 1:21

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

 

Album Narrative

The second album of astonishing duets by guitarists James Elkington (who has toured and/or recorded with Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson, and Steve Gunn, among others) and Nathan Salsburg (an accomplished soloist deemed by NPR “one of those names we’ll all associate with American folk guitar”) is a sublime suite of nimble, filigreed compositions by two singular stylists. Belying its title—“ambsace” is the lowest throw of dice; snake eyes—the record thrives on a gentle empathy and generosity of spirit, sitting sneakily protean original compositions alongside gorgeous arrangements of songs by Duke Ellington and The Smiths at the same big hand-hewn table.   

They say the only good thing to come out of Indiana is I-65 South. At least that’s how Nathan Salsburg heard it while growing up in Louisville, which receives the highway as it departs the Hoosier state and crosses the Ohio River into Kentucky. And if I-65 North actually left Indiana and made it as far as Chicago, where English-born James Elkington has lived for the past fifteen years, the joke could apply on his end too.

Be that as it may, it’s well known that of the five hours that connect Louisville to Chicago on the Eisenhower Interstate System, the four that bisect Indiana tip to tail and vice versa are among the most soul-bruising. Jim and Nathan can vouch for it; they've been making the drive for years: the former, when he and his wife (a childhood friend of Nathan’s) come to visit his in-laws in the Derby City, and the latter, when he goes to visit with Jim and family in Chicago. On either end, they’ll watch college basketball, hit the record shops, do some guitar playing. It was initially Jim’s idea for the two of them to do some guitar playing together, sharing as they did then and now a love for the traditional musics of James’ native isle (particularly as expressed by Bert Jansch and Nic Jones) and Nathan’s native state (especially in the hands of its darker practitioners like Banjo Bill Cornett and Roscoe Holcomb.)

Their first record, Avos (2010), was the not entirely anticipated product of this good idea. And after playing three shows in honor of its release, they returned to more typical pursuits: James, touring and recording with a small army of collaborators — Jeff TweedySteve GunnRichard ThompsonBrokebackFreakwaterDaughn GibsonKelly HoganJon LangfordThe Horse's HaEleventh Dream Day — and Nathan, as curator of the Alan Lomax Archive, as well as a solo guitarist (and accompanist to Joan Shelley) whom NPR has deemed “one of those names we’ll all associate with American folk guitar.”

Ambsace, their not entirely anticipated follow-up record, was from its inception an antidote to getting soft in the fingers; despite the playing done independently on both sides of I-65, both James and Nathan attest that there’s no guitaristic workout quite like playing with one another. (It’s a cheeky reference at that, as “ambsace” is a defunct term for the lowest roll of the dice; it’s also, perhaps more cheekily, something worthless or unlucky.) This second iteration of their twenty-finger collaboration achieves and sustains the limpid, architectural elegance and rakish formality suggested by the first album. Masterful miniatures like “Up of Stairs” and “Invention #4” strut out from the parlor with a spidery sense of swing, the cascading runs recalling the leaf-dappled play of sunlight on water (or on wine, or whiskey.) Elsewhere (e.g., “The Unhaunted Williams”; “Carrots”; “Rough Purr”), the intricate cross-currents of their duets liquefy and pool, demonstrating a mastery of restraint and space.

The record was composed and recorded in Jim’s attic studio over two late summer sessions, one year apart. Joined later by Avos alums Wanees Zarour (violin) and Nick Macri (bass), Elkington and Salsburg each brought in parts to be submitted to the experience, which was animated by plenty coffee before three, plenty beer after, with songs taking shape in some cases over many stifling hours (e.g., “Bee’s Thing”); in others, over a matter of manic minutes (e.g., “Stern and Earnest”). Tunes grew out of constituent elements assembled like a round of Jenga, with the occasional crash to the floor and outbursts of laughter. When the teetering edifice seemed complete, it was played till structural integrity was achieved and it sounded good enough to record. Their ten new compositions, plus the further inclusion of three covers—by Duke EllingtonNorman Blake, and the Smiths—offer an adequate representation of the influences brought to bear on the playing of Ambsace in particular, but also the players of Ambsace in general. When taken as the sum of it parts, “ambsace” in fact means a couple of aces.

  • RIYL Bert JanschJohn RenbournStefan GrossmanMike CooperNic JonesRoscoe HolcombRichard ThompsonRichard Crandell and Bill BartelsDaniel Bachman, and Steve Gunn
  • Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty matte jacket, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats.
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon.

 

Acknowledgments

Their melody-first sensibilities are perfectly suited to each other. Ambsace features playfully complex guitar work that sounds as if it was tossed off in an afternoon of whiskey and laughs. Their cover of The Smiths' "Reel Around the Fountain" makes it seem like it was always a front-porch jam.

- Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

A great record takes you outside of yourself and reorganizes your world until it feels like you’re in a different environment, a different season, a different age. It’s rare to come across an album that manages to both get inside of you and force you further out of yourself, into some new expanse, but this one achieves both. Ambsace sounds like winter has always been approaching, like Indian summer never quite fades, like fall isn’t built around loss. James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg have made a record about chance and memory, telling stories completely in guitar vignettes that communicate universal archetypes wordlessly. But the quirks of the players themselves don’t get lost, even in a project with such a magnificent scope.

- Caitlin White, Stereogum

Its overall effortlessness sights why both of these dudes are some of the most highly regarded guitarists in the country. It’s almost shocking to hear guitars being played this way in 2015. Just when you think the instrument has nowhere left to go, you’re proven wrong by a pair of capable hands. Well, in this case, two pairs of capable hands.

- Randy Reynolds, The Big Takeover

The pair weave an intoxicating, intricate web that calls to mind the Renbourn/Jansch axis without being slavishly devoted to it. Nodding towards britfolk and blues forms, the album throws a few curveballs into the mix with covers of the Smiths and Duke Ellington — their reinterpretation of the moody Ellington/Mingus/Roach classic “La Fleurette Africane” is a surprisingly perfect fit.  Wherever Salsburg and Elkington go, it’s always a pleasure.

- Tyler Wilcox, Aquarium Drunkard

Both men are careful pickers, disinclined to either flash chops or improvise around blind corners. They’re adept at tracing out lattices of interlocking melodic figures that invite you to notice structure and ensemble progression rather than either guitarist’s contributions. The same care and instinct for nailing whatever is essential that enables Salsburg and Elkington to make other musicians sound good turns out to be eminently transferrable to their own music.

- Bill Meyer, Dusted

A winding track that takes you on a journey, a dreamy yet lively trip, with each string bend and pick. Elkington and Salsburg’s complementing styles shine throughout, their verses blend perfectly, while still owning their individual place. It’s a genuine mellow folk tune, the perfect soundtrack for a lazy summer day. 

- Lisa Brown, Stereogum

That was an inspired idea, because Jim is a great guitarist and a tremendous, empathetic listener.

- Richard Thompson on Jeff Tweedy inviting James Elkington playing on his new album Still, to Premier Guitar

Both of these men aren’t peripheral to the folk/acoustic culture but central fixtures in their respective settings, which is probably why their combined force yields such richly varied, textured guitar work. The best part of their music is the entwining lines of southern acoustics and British styles, two artists at the zenith of their powers engaging in fascinating conversation... Their guitar parts move succinctly but with quick instinct, the way fewer words are required the deeper you know someone.

- Caitlin White, Stereogum

5 stars; Album of the Week. Few things are better than stumbling upon an astounding new instrumental acoustic guitar record made by two pickers who never let their dazzling technique get in the music's way. 

- Carla Gillis, NOW Toronto

Featuring beautiful fingerpicking and a symphony of warm acoustic melodies, this is the perfect music for enjoying a lazy Friday afternoon.

- Paste

Praise for James & Nathan and their previous album Avos:

Their playing and guitar tones are so complementary, so perfectly wed that I wouldn’t hesitate to put the duo up there with some of the very best acoustic guitar partnerships: Stefan Grossman and John Renbourn come immediately to mind, as does the work of Richard Crandell and Bill Bartels on their excellent, make that classic, duet record Oregon Hill.

- Raymond Morin, Work & Worry

One of those serendipitous things that seems to have come out of nowhere but once heard begs the question of why there's not more yet.

- Ned Raggett, AllMusic

An album of delicate, insightful playing by two young talents.

- Fretboard Journal

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PoB-020

Tracklist:

A1. "Dark Creedence" 4.20
A2. "Make Something" 4.57
A3. "Tribal Thoughts" 2.33
A4. "Delirium and Persecution Paranoia" 7.18
B1. "No Man Needs to Care" 3.50
B2. "Dreaming Solo" 4.17
B3. "The Night of the First Show" 2.20
B4. "Oh My Friends" 2.51
B5. "No Fear of Hellfire" 7.33

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

N.B.: For a limited time, to celebrate the release of I'm Bad Now (PoB-033), Whine of the Mystic (PoB-020) and Thought Rock Fish Scale (PoB-024) are both on sale for 20% off with coupon code BADNOW.

 

Album Narrative

Drink wine, for it is everlasting day.
It is the very harvest of our youth;
In time of roses, wine and comrades gay,
Be happy, drink, for that is life in sooth.

- Omar Khayyám

Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes is the greatest band you’ve never heard, and Whine of the Mystic is their first full-length album, a brilliant small-batch brew of crooked, literate guitar pop refracted through the gray Halifax rain. Recorded live to tape with no overdubs, it’s equal parts shambling and sophisticated, with one eye on the dirt and one trained on the starry firmament, inhabiting a skewed world where odes to NASA and the Earth’s magnetic field coexist easily with songs about insomnia and drinking too much.

The record’s punning title references (and wryly deflates) the great 11th-century Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet Omar Khayyám’s famous propensity for wine-soaked mysticism. Songwriter, singer, and rhythm guitarist Nigel Chapman’s songs share with Khayyám—a rather quaintly old-fashioned inspiration—a certain vinous preoccupation that may well lubricate the similarly conversational tone and philosophical focus. Throughout the record, workaday details punctuate (and puncture) cosmic concerns, as Nigel wrestles with air and angels, struggling (and often failing) to reconcile the Romantic rifts, both real and imagined, that define our lives: between chaos and order (or wilderness and paradise, as in “Tribal Thoughts”); solipsism and fellowship (“Dreaming Solo” vs. “Oh My Friends”); the anxiety of social (dis)orders both big and small (“The Night of the First Show”; “No Man Needs to Care”); and the various intersections and oppositions of religion, art, and science (“Dark Creedence” and “Make Something.”)

The latter three collapsing categories ring particularly relevant for Chapman, a biochemist who spends his weekdays in a research lab, mutating the gene/DNA encoding of a cell-surface receptor protein. As with us all, our diurnal labor and studies inform our creativity, day creeps into night, and so it’s no surprise that sicknesses of “brain protein aggregation” and “up-regulated oncogene” appear in “Make Something,” infecting, by proximity, the more traditionally songwriterly tropes of heart sickness that haunt “Oh My Friends” and “Dreaming Solo.” The two longest and most ambitious songs here, “Delirium and Persecution Paranoia” (which takes place, in part, within the Earth’s core) and “No Fear of Hellfire” (which takes place, appropriately, on a Sunday morning) clatter and buzz along with heedless momentum, tackling, respectively, unstable psychology and geology, and the riddles and contradictions of faith. The songs resonate because they manage to delicately balance the cryptic and the quotidian, rendering a compellingly honest equivocation without evasiveness, a relatable ambivalence without apathy.

Originally released in 2014 by Plastic Factory Records in a highly limited edition of 200 LPs, Whine of the Mystic has gone largely unheard beyond the finely-tuned ears of Montreal and the Maritime Provinces, so Paradise of Bachelors is delighted to introduce it to more Southerly climes. In typically insular Halifax music scene fashion, Nap Eyes shares three of its four members—Josh Salter (bass), Seamus Dalton (drums), and Brad Loughead (lead guitar)—with two other notable local bands, comrades and sometime touring partners Monomyth (Josh and Seamus’s project) and Each Other (which includes Brad as well as Nap Eyes recording engineer Mike Wright.) Though the indelibly wistful vocal melodies are Nigel’s, Josh, Seamus, and Brad are the primary architects of Nap Eyes’ keen sonic signature, which cruises briskly and beautifully along the dog-eared axes of jangle-jaded Oceanic pop music (The Clean, The Verlaines, The Go-Betweens), and through the backpages of Peter Perrett (The Only Ones, England’s Glory) and Nikki Sudden (Swell Maps, Jacobites), via all things Lou Reed and Modern Lovers, without ever sounding very much like anything else happening today.

Part of the secret of Nap Eyes may reside in their avowed recording method, which eschews any overdubs in favor of capturing the immediacy and singularity of full-band live performances. Nigel explains their methodology best: “You get the feeling of the song; everyone’s feeling, all as one take in time, so things fit together naturally, and even mistakes sound natural. This not to discredit any of the incredible recordings made by different principles; it’s just its own kettle of fish.” As a result, both lyrically and musically, Whine of the Mystic articulates the urgency of youthful grace. It’s the sound of being young and alive in the city, a tenuous and impermanent counterpoise of recklessness and anxiety, archness and earnestness. “The very harvest of our youth,” indeed!

Nap Eyes will release a follow-up album of all-new material in early 2016, likewise brought to you by You’ve Changed Records (in Canada) and Paradise of Bachelors (throughout the rest of the world.)

  • RIYL The Only Ones/England’s Glory, The Modern Lovers, The Clean, The Verlaines, Nikki Sudden/JacobitesThe Go-Betweens, Bedhead, and all things Lou Reed.
  • First widely available edition following an initial extremely limited-edition Canadian release.
  • Available from You’ve Changed Records (in Canada) and from Paradise of Bachelors (throughout the rest of the world.)
  • Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty chipboard jacket and lyrics insert, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats.
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon.

 

Acknowledgments

Unkempt rock songs that are steeped in tradition yet impossible to pin down. Nigel Chapman sings with an observational deadpan that echoes back to the likes of Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, and David Berman. This guy spends his days studying the infinite complexity of seemingly simplistic cells, and his songs function the same way. There are worlds inside [these] little three-chord lament[s].

- Chris DeVille, Stereogum

Nap Eyes moves from psych-riffs to astrophysicists; from Rubaiyatic poetry to punctuated bass, in easy fluid motions. Chapman’s calm, steady voice can be as pained as Bob Dylan’s, and his lyrics can be just as profound.

- Adria Young, Noisey

Nap Eyes' Whine of the Mystic is a ragged splendour, one of the best things in ages. A band from Halifax with a sound like young caterpillar and old silk, like the Velvet Underground and Electrelane and Destroyer and Guided by Voices. Like liking a drink you know isn't good for you; that's good for you, that's good for you, that you know isn't good for you. They are a rock band just so faintly tripping. They are priests of Shaolin and the Holy See, with electric guitars in their hands, with an un-fancy drum-kit. Nap Eyes' songs are mazey and riddled, but ambivalent about their mazes, ambivalent about their riddles; in this way they remind me of good smoke, holy incense smoke, always true to its incantation.

- Sean Michaels, Said the Gramophone

7.0. Whine of the Mystic is a necessarily dense title for a band like Nap Eyes, its multitudes containing additional multitudes. This is a drinker’s album, for the kind of drinker who does so alone, publicly, poring over popular 11th-century tomes.

- Ian Cohen, Pitchfork

7/10. These spindly, sophisto-naïve songs about friendship, uncertainty, belief, and heavy drinking suggest Lou Reed reared on The Clean and The Verlaines. But rather than a drawl or sneer, there's vulnerability on Chapman's lazily charming voice.

- Sharon O'Connell, Uncut

Full of melodic lo-fi guitar-based goodness that tips a hat to Tom Verlaine, The War On Drugs, Swell Maps, The Modern Lovers and a smattering of Lou Reed. 

- John Freeman, The Quietus

“Dark Creedence” would be my favorite kind of music if it were a genre. I’m into chooglin’, but mostly in an evil way.

- Steven Hyden, Grantland

The band definitely deserves a wider audience. The strummy, appealingly loose grooves hark back to a variety of top-notch antecedents, including the Velvet Underground and the Modern Lovers, with a nice dash of the Clean's shambling energy. Every spin of the album has lodged its contents deeper and deeper into my brain.

- Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

Stunning. Chapman seems to be exploring an emotional complexity that matches the knots in his words. A wiry voice, a cluttered lyric sheet, and subtly nuanced, live-to-tape instrumentals: Whine of the Mystic is a fascinating listen, oscillating perfectly between sourness and brilliance.

- Portals

A thoughtful, complicated, and knotted debut that manages to feel grounded even as it explores the stars.

- James Rettig, Stereogum

Modern Lovers. The Verlaines. Early Pavement. Parquet Courts. If you know these bands, you know the vibe. If you don't, think jangling guitars, sub-punk pace, and just enough vocal melody to make a sneer seem sweet. On Whine of the Mystic, the quartet sets singer/songwriter Nigel Chapman's overcast warble and brainy lyrics (he's a biochemist by day) against a jumble of rumbling drums and guitars that chug and chime. But where the aforementioned bands were always ready with some standoffish snarl, Nap Eyes tend to follow a path that's more pastoral, perhaps reflective of their roots in the relatively isolated music scene of Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

- Ben Salmon, Portland Mercury

Frontman Nigel Chapman is a Halifax punk rock preacher cast in the mould of those holy ones: Jonathan Richman and Mark E. Smith. The album is full of ragged, glorious guitar tunes, and in all its idiosyncrasies, gushes heart. A ne'er-do-well you can really root for.

- Chart Attack

Recorded at the elusive Drones Club, this saintly record radiates with the light of the community from which it was born. The instrumentation of Halifax veterans Josh Salter, Seamus Dalton, and Brad Loughead mutate Chapman’s empathetic folk into anthemic grooves. 

- Weird Canada

8.4/10. It’s a record that captures both the spirit of youth and the wisdom of age. This is my record of choice for coming home from a late night of drinking cheap wine in a friend’s basement. This is going to be my record of choice when I find out my child is putting me in a retirement home.

- Transmissions

8/10. Each successive listen yields countless untamed pleasures. However good this album is, nothing will prepare you for the monumental nature of the final cut, “No Fear of Hellfire”, the closest that Canada ever will get to fusing together Krautrock with a kind of Yo La Tengo meets Galaxie 500 shimmer. It is, in a word, awesome. Listen with your eyes closed, and be carried away with bliss.

- Invisible Ink

You really feel like you're in the room with them. Between the lyrics and constantly shifting sounds and tempos, you’ll never get tired of exploring Whine Of The Mystic. It's a tremendous listen. 

- Hear Ya

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PoB-019

Tracklist:

A1. "Way It Is, Way It Could Be" 3.40
A2. "Loyalty" 4.00
A3. "Floodplain" 2.49
A4. "Shy Women" 2.48
A5. "Personal Eclipse" 3.34
A6. "Life's Work" 3.30
B1. "Like Sisters" 4.40
B2. "I Mined" 4.57
B3. "Tapes" 4.17
B4. "I Could Only Stand By" 3.15
B5. "At Full Height" 2.22

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

 

Album Narrative

The record was called Loyalty from the beginning—it was the first decision I made about it. It’s a word you usually see written in copperplate script, a virtue: LOYALTY. But the songs don’t treat it that way, just as a thing to unpack. It’s a force that you have to reckon with: loyalty to the dream, to the “work,” to the mythical idea of “you” that somebody thought they saw. It can be a weakness as much as a strength; it can keep you from the reality of your own life, your own self. 

- Tamara Lindeman

In excess virtue lies danger, or at least limits to pragmatic action—it’s a lesson hard learned by anyone disillusioned by the erosion of youthful mythologies. Strict fealty to a fixed ideal of identity doesn’t do us any favors as adults. Loyalty, the third and finest album yet by The Weather Station (and the first for Paradise of Bachelors) wrestles with these knotty notions of faithfulness/faithlessness—to our idealism, our constructs of character, our memories, and to our family, friends, and lovers—representing a bold step forward into new sonic and psychological inscapes. It’s a natural progression for Toronto artist Tamara Lindeman’s acclaimed songwriting practice. Recorded at La Frette Studios just outside Paris in the winter of 2014, in close collaboration with Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas) and Robbie Lackritz (Feist), the record crystallizes her lapidary songcraft into eleven emotionally charged vignettes and intimate portraits, redolent of fellow Canadians Joni MitchellLeonard Cohen, and David Wiffen, but utterly her own.

Lindeman describes La Frette, housed in an enormous, crumbling 19th-century mansion, as “a secret garden, a place of enchantment and grace”: walls mantled in ivy and lions, corridors piled high with discarded tape machines, old reels, and priceless guitars. As she puts it, “Recording where we did meant we embraced beauty—we weren’t afraid of it being beautiful.” Like the record itself, it’s a quietly radical statement, especially since certain passages achieve a diaphanous eeriness and harmonic and rhythmic tension new to The Weather Station. The stacked vocal harmonies of “Tapes,” the drifting, jazz-inflected chording in “Life’s Work,” and the glacial percussion in “Personal Eclipse” contribute to a pervading sense of clock-stopping bloom and smolder, recalling the spooky avant-soul of Terry Callier’s Occasional Rain.

Beyond the decaying decadence and vintage gear, the brokedown palace atmosphere of La Frette afforded a more significant interior luxury as well, one stated with brutal honesty in the stunning “Shy Women”: “it seemed to me that luxury would be to be not so ashamed, not to look away.” Accordingly, Loyalty brings a freshly unflinching self-examining gaze and emotional and musical control to The Weather Station’s songs. She is an extraordinary singer and instrumentalist—on Loyalty she plays guitar, banjo, keys, and vibes—but Lindeman has always been a songwriter’s songwriter, recognized for her intricate, carefully worded verse, filled with double meanings, ambiguities, and complex metaphors. Though more moving than ever, her writing here is almost clinical in its discipline, its deliberate wording and exacting delivery, evoking similarly idiosyncratic songsters from Linda Perhacs to Bill Callahan.

Outside her musical practice, Lindeman also happens to be an accomplished film and television actor, and it’s her directorial eye for quietly compelling characters and the rich details of the everyday, Bressonian in its specificity and scope, that drives the limpid singularity of The Weather Station’s songs. As in Bresson’s films, there is no trace of theater here, no brittle singer-songwriter histrionics, but rather a powerful performative focus and narrative restraint, a commitment to what the auteur called the “simultaneous precision and imprecision of music.” Despite the descriptive delicacy, the album never lapses into preciousness or sentimentality, instead retaining its barbs and bristles and remaining resolutely clear-eyed and thick-skinned. Lyrically, Loyalty inverts and involutes the language of confession, of regret, of our most private and muddled mental feelings, by externalizing those anxieties through exquisite observation of the things and people we accumulate, the modest meanings accreted during even our most ostensibly mundane domestic moments. (“Your trouble is like a lens,” she discerns in “I Mined,” “through which the whole world bends.”)

“Tapes” and “I Could Only Stand By” expose and exalt the quotidian—“the little tapes” hidden beneath a lover’s bed, “the sunken old moorings” at the “bruise-colored lake”—without romanticizing these scenes of, respectively, grief and guilt. “Like Sisters” analyzes the darker contours of a friendship with devastating scrutiny. The breathless momentum of “Way It Is, Way It Could Be”—“both are,” she sings of the way we sometimes live, for better or for worse, amid multiple truths—hinges on a mysterious moment when two brown dogs die underwheel, then don’t, and that gut-sickness is overturned, a sin redeemed with a second glance. “Floodplain” and “Personal Eclipse” are also road songs about traveling through, and owning, the empty places in-between, literally and figuratively—what Lindeman deems “the various ways people try to disappear from themselves, in physical distance, in politeness.”

To invoke Melville (author of PoB’s namesake story), “extreme loyalty to the piety of love” can be a destabilizing force, a kind of bondage from which we must emancipate ourselves. The line is from his strange masterpiece Pierre, or the Ambiguities; The Weather Station’s Loyalty could quite easily support the same subtitle for the fascinating ways it navigates the deep canyons between certainty and uncertainty, faith and doubt.

  • The third and finest album yet by Toronto artist Tamara Lindeman, recorded with Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas) and Robbie Lackritz (Feist), Loyalty crystallizes her lapidary songcraft into eleven emotionally charged vignettes and intimate portraits, redolent of fellow Canadians Joni MitchellLeonard Cohen, and David Wiffen, as well as past collaborators Doug Paisley and Daniel Romano.
  • Available on virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty matte jacket, full-color inner sleeve, and full lyrics, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats.
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon.

 

Acknowledgements

- Uncut's #16 album of the year; Uncut Editor-in-Chief John Mulvey's #3 album of the year.

#2 folk album of the year. Lindeman’s work reminds us that sometimes the quietest voice is the one most worth listening to, the slowest moments might be the most brilliant, and the most valuable qualities are not visible to the naked eye.

- Caitlin White, Brooklyn Magazine

Loyalty is nominated for the Polaris Prize.

8/10. Lindeman writes literate songs with unusual precision and sings them in an understated, open-hearted way that lends good poetry the directness of conversation. [The songs are] insidiously constructed, and scored with such subtlety that the craftsmanship of the playing can easily go unnoticed, so engaging are the words and Lindeman’s voice. There are many wise, deceptively simple insights on this wonderful album.

- John Mulvey, Uncut

A stunningly beautiful thing. Lindeman’s voice has acquired a new depth, a smoky, distant, intriguing quality, while both musically and lyrically this is an intricately constructed piece, exacted with a cool gaze and sensuality reminiscent of Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen. 

- Laura Barton, The Guardian

The best folk album of the year.

- Duncan Cooper, The Fader

Loyalty is imbued with the crisp intimacy of the coldest season, the allure of the city of lights. Lindeman’s voice floats by in the higher registers of head voice, never breathy but, instead, misty and amorphous. Lindeman’s songwriting catches your attention and holds it. She’s clever without any smugness, rendering every day events into existential pictures of uncertainty, poking and prodding at subconscious desires without ever fully exposing them.

- Caitlin White, Stereogum

Every song exudes a strong and individual musical personality, each one wrapped in a carefully shaped arrangement. When I started reading the words, my interest in the album redoubled — just like that. These turn out to be short stories in prose-poem form, arranged with great scrupulousness and performed with imaginative sensitivity. At the moment I’m finding it hard to listen to anything else.

- Richard Williams, The Blue Moment

Tradition-spanning contemplative folk that captures rare beauty in both lyrics and melodies.

- Rolling Stone

9/10. Loyalty is an exceptionally affecting masterpiece, at once timeless and very much of its time, highly personal in its specificity and universal in its emotional accessibility and resonance.

- Popmatters

7.8. Lindeman’s third and best LP, Loyalty feels like a 40-minute glimpse into a secret world, where familiar people (sisters, mothers, lovers) and traditional sounds (a fingerpicked guitar, a patient piano) lead intriguing, uncanny lives. It’s a place that demands to be revisited. [The songwriting] puts Lindeman in the company of Bill Callahan and Joni Mitchell, songwriters whose careful combinations of pedestrian details and profound insights also created secret, self-sovereign worlds. And like both of those songwriters, she’s a singer with an unmistakable and communicative voice, able to convey hope and hurt with equal clarity. These are public folk songs about the private problems—breakups and makeups, depressions and deaths—we’ve all suffered.

Grayson Haver Currin, Pitchfork

9/10. Loyalty is the album we’ve been waiting for from The Weather Station.

- Exclaim!

One of the year's most stirring and understated folk records, a masterful collection of humble, ethereal, and introspective music.

- Sean Maloney, Magnet

4/5. Instantly recalls the work of fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell, due to her phrasing and the sweet airiness of her voice, but musically speaking, Bill Callahan is more of a kindred spirit. These 11 country and folk-toned songs draw from both the US and British traditions and are as ravishing as they are effortlessly sophisticated and precise.

- Metro

Timeless. Recalls the vignettes of another Canadian folk divinity [Joni Mitchell.] But the measured, perceptive storytelling at hand is purely Lindeman’s, singular in both its quiet clarity and compelling relatability.

- Eric Torres, Pitchfork

4 stars. Emotionally charged.

- MOJO

A moving, melancholic though magnificent piece of work.

- The Line of Best Fit

Joni Mitchell has been casting a large shadow over folk music recently as we remember and celebrate her legacy. And it's hard not to hear her whisper behind the voice of Tamara Lindeman.

- The New York Times

Pure folk wonderment.

- NME

4/4 stars. The 11 songs on third LP Loyalty feel like eavesdropping on a private conversation within a car on a long winter road trip: something warm and intimate boldly travelling through the centre of a cold, empty landscape. For listeners compelled to hitch a ride, Loyalty rewards with a beautifully delivered collection of quiet revelations. 

- Rolling Stone Australia

If I have any chance of getting through the day without breaking down in a fit of rage and depression, it’ll be because The Weather Station was the first thing I heard. That’s how good the songs are.

- The Big Takeover

This is pure, low-key, expressive modern folk music, with sparse arrangements that hit with a strange power (that kick drum on "Shy Women" might punch a hole in your chest). Singer-songwriter Tamara Lindeman sounds like a lucid, late-day Chrissie Hynde, her voice floating over the strings, electric piano, acoustic guitar and deep well of bass like the spirits watching over us all. Her lyrics evoke the human condition, taut and immediate, effortlessly blending moods with descriptors to the point where it's hard to separate the poetry from the feelings they drag forth. With absolutely no pretense or juked feelings, Loyalty is the kind of record that could save folk music as it exists today, and announces that the Weather Station's development period is done, as Lindeman and her side-players usher forth in full bloom. Outstanding!

- Doug Mosurock, Other Music

An album full of wonderful, enigmatic murkiness, an album that should earn The Weather Station a place at the top table of Canadian songwriters. To say I was completely blown away by it is an understatement. "Way It Is, Way It Could Be" is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year. 

- Folk Radio UK

When I heard The Weather Station's "Shy Women" for the first time last month, I felt like I had found the elegant, fragile folk music I'd been waiting for years for someone to make. Her new song, "Tapes," is just satisfying and even more gorgeously languorous. Her voice is the aural equivalent of watching a sparrow coast across a gray sky. She may be rooted in an old American folk tradition, but her melodies are so effortless that they keep sounding fresh.

- Molly Long, The Fader

Her lyrics are nothing short of stunning: as she sings of being "shy, from knowing too well," she captures the rare intimacy of understanding someone to the point that you hardly need words to communicate anymore.

- Allison Hussey, The Bluegrass Situation

One of the best albums of 2015 so far. A collection of skeletal folk songs that render tiny miseries into tender comforts.

- Stereogum

There’s a clean-ness to these compositions, a space for the air to move through. Loyalty can slip into the background if you let it, receding into prettiness until you miss the uncompromising intelligence and honesty. Yet that in itself is a triumph. 

- Jennifer Kelly, Dusted

Her specific, detailed visuals are not opaque, but rather offer a portal for the exploration of enigmatic emotional relationships: parabolas and possibilities and perspectives. They show, don’t tell. The album is a lush and beautiful musical chapbook of lyrical prose poems, carried with clarity by Lindeman’s lucid voice.

- Emily Hilliard, WAMU Bandwidth.fm

Part travelogue, part monologue. The Canadian’s filigree-acoustic songs, whose lyrics boast a linguistic verve comparable to Joni Mitchell’s, contrast the pictorial geography outside her car with the emotional topography inside her head.

- Christian Science Monitor

My favourite records don’t give answers. Instead, they ask questions. They wonder about the world and equip the listeners with tools to deepen their own sense of wonder. Loyalty is such a record. [Lindeman’s] songs are small puzzles, rife with koans of keen insight: “Your trouble is like a lens through which the whole world bends, and you can’t set it straight again.” I feel these songs like the lips of a good kisser: curious, tender, insistent, and a little fierce.

- Southern Souls

There's something confidential, something almost painfully intimate, in the gorgeously bucolic imagery of The Weather Station's music. Each song is a secret whispered in a dark alleyway that may or may not have people listening in on your conversation.

- Nooga

One of those old-fashioned, pure-at-heart folk records one must listen closely to lest a rousing metaphor be missed... full of character insights and effortlessly charming and clever. Loyalty will be one of 2015’s well-loved releases.

- Tyler Mcloughlan, The Music

A collection of folk-leaning songs so rich in lyrical detail that reading the liner notes is an acceptable initial approach to the record. Hearing it is pay-dirt, though, as Lindeman’s winsome voice glides over gentle, downcast tunes buoyed by her guitars, banjo and various keyboards.

- HMV.com

Across these 11 songs, Lindeman effortlessly draws us into her confidence, shares her insights, her fears, her greatest regrets. For forty minutes at a time, Loyalty makes us feel less alone, even in the face of life’s worst tribulations.

- Quick Before It Melts

Lindeman manages to channel the Canadian greats Joni Mitchell, Mary Margaret O’Hara, and Kathleen Edwards all in one heart-breaking, haiku-like, cautionary lament.

- Lefort Report

Within Lindeman's wispy delivery are striking depictions of landscape and relationships that read like stand-alone poems or essays. Loyalty is a collection of soft songs bathed in falsetto—sounds that feel like a web illuminated by late-afternoon sunlight. The melodies can be minimal, but the tradeoff comes in moments of such delicacy that the songs seem to be breathing. There's a stillness and observant quality that makes Loyalty feel—to use another buzzword—mindful.

- The Portland Mercury

Loyalty creates a world of its own. Like the album cover suggests, it sounds like a cloudy and quiet morning falling upon a serene lake. The meditative and contemplative mood of this album is straightforward enough to be captivating, but otherworldly enough to be mesmerizing.

- Colorado Daily

A sublime song cycle with lyrical baggage far heavier than her avian voice lets on.

- High Plains Reader

Hazy and eternal. She makes her songs rush quietly with life’s endless complexities, so their hearts beat and their spirits glow.

- Autumn Roses

When a voice emerges with a clarity and purpose that places it midway between a spectrum with Laura Gibson on one end and Joni Mitchell on the other, we can’t help but sit up and listen, arrested, enthralled.

- Stereo Embers

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PoB-018

Tracklist:

A1. "Does He Hide" 3.22
A2. "One Down" 3.32
A3. "All My Memories" 3.24
A4. "Carry Me Down" 3.32
A5. "Jean" 4.48
B1. "To Be Free" 5.46
B2. "Baby's Back" 2.05
B3. "You Can Tell Me I'm Wrong" 4.11
B4. "Whiskey" 3.25
B5. "America" 3.04

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

 

Album Narrative

The first-ever reissue of the private-press country-rock rarity by Colorado auto body painter, Marine, and garage band lifer Kenny Knight—he played in the original '60s Black FlagCrossroads recalls a homebrew American Beauty-era Grateful Dead in its world-weary, low-key mood and indelible songwriting. Faded, anxious, melancholy, and beautifully woozy, this out-of-time document belies its 1980 release date. Produced in cooperation with Numero Group, it features liner notes by writer and collector Michael Klausman and Kenny himself.

***

“I’ve been shook up, stood up, and refused.
I’ve been put down, shoved round, and confused. 
It won’t be long; I’m holding on.”

I met up with Kenny Knight in the parking lot of a Guitar Center at the southern end of Denver a couple years back. He was there to drop off a guitar that needed to be repaired, and I took that as a sign that he was still involved with music. He did confirm that was the case, for which I was glad. Despite the intervening decades since Kenny had released his sole LP, it was easy to recognize him as he stepped out of his pickup truck; although his hair was shorter, he still retained the compact frame and thoughtful gaze you see on the cover of Crossroads. He struck me as being somewhat shy and diffident, a person who values his privacy and probably wary about some random guy being interested in the music he’d made long ago.

About a year and half before our meeting, I came across Kenny’s record sitting in the bins at a shop in Denver, and it just had that look: sepia tones, a rugged guy hanging off a train, all original songs, a pedal steel player in the credits. Promising stuff, the only thing I was unsure about was its 1980 release. Yet from the first couple of notes I was totally elated, for these were beautifully well-crafted songs, timeless, really, and impossible to date if it hadn’t been for the copyright on the back of the LP cover. It turned out there was nary a mention to be found on Google of this album, and none of my collector friends had ever seen it. Now, I realize there’s nothing more obnoxious than reading liner notes which paint some self-aggrandizing portrait of the heroic record-digger, and that’s certainly not what I’m trying to do here. The fact of the matter is this LP and its songs, which are simply undeniable; if I hadn’t picked up Crossroads and passed it around, it would only have been a matter of time before someone else did.

There’s a very singular combination of world-weariness and hope running throughout Crossroads, a still timely grappling with the realities of getting by in this country. You can hear it most clearly in “America,” which is at turns a paean to this nation, as well a plea to it: “don’t lock me out.” This juggling of sophisticated dualities extends even to his love songs, as on “One Down” (possibly the album’s finest track, and one which could sit comfortably next to American Beauty’s best), where he asks, “how much can one heart take?” while still acknowledging that he’ll “stay in love forever more.

As so often is the case, life got in the way of Kenny’s music, and even after crafting such a perfect LP, his hopes and dreams would remain unrealized, with family obligations and service to his country ultimately having to take precedence. As we talked in that Guitar Center parking lot, I discovered a quietly humble man, proud of the album he’d made and seemingly appreciative that I’d expressed interest, that the folks for whom I’d been playing it also thought it was great. It was sadly obvious, though, that he didn’t think Crossroads had received the reception he felt it had deserved; he told me rather regretfully that he had tossed all the leftover copies of the pressing into a dumpster at some point during the 1990s. And while he didn’t expressly say it, I got the sense that he had no other choice but to throw them out, as if he just couldn’t face the album’s commercial failure any longer. Some records take a while to find their audience, however, and Crossroads is one of them; it’s just a matter of holding on.

Michael Klausman
Longmont, Colorado
January 2015

  • First-ever reissue of the private-press country-rock rarity by Colorado mechanic, Marine, and garage band lifer Kenny Knight
  • RIYL The Grateful Dead, The Youngbloods, Gram Parsons, Gene Clark, Lawrence Hammond, F.J. McMahon, pedal steel guitars, and Leslie speakers.
  • Available on 150g virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty reverse board matte jacket, and liner notes by Kenny Knight and writer and collector Michael Klausman , as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon

 

Acknowledgments

The only album Kenny Knight ever released is about American Sadness: the especially poignant, timid melancholy of a people who are raised up to believe their dreams are destined to come true, the cold desolation that settles in when they don’t. These are cowboy lullabies with their outlaw instincts replaced by middle class ennui, and they are phenomenal. Each song on Crossroads sounds like it could spawn its own album, which is bound to happen when a songwriter of this generous, prolific nature is confined to releasing only one record. Crossroads is the railroad blues as told by someone who couldn’t make it out of Denver, and its reissue by Paradise of Bachelors doesn’t just feel timely, it feels necessary. Whether Knight knew it or not, his album title was a prophetic description of American history — the nation was certainly at a crossroads. 

- Caitlin White, Stereogum

An understated Colorado country rock gem, unknown and unloved since its release 35 years ago. It’s bound to get the audience it deserves this May, however, thanks to a reissue from the Paradise of Bachelors label. Blending the dusty acoustic rambles of the Dead circa 1970, the world weary ache of White Light-era Gene Clark and Knight’s own brand of faded Americana, the ten tracks here offer up a shot of pure, private press pleasure. While the pedal steel and warm backing vocals are as lovely as a Rocky Mountain sunrise, there’s an intensity and melancholy seared into every moment here.

- Tyler Wilcox, Aquarium Drunkard

Kenny and his mostly female backing group straddle the fence between seasoned focus and jagged tranquility as finely as Grateful Dead protégés New Riders of the Purple Sage on their first few releases. Pedal steel player Sandy Dodge weaves, rises, and shines as strikingly as when Jerry Garcia sat down in front of the same instrument for the excellent first New Riders album. Just squint your eyes to the sun and hoist a salute in the direction of Paradise of Bachelors for unearthing another rugged piece of Americana of a very peculiar vintage.

- Tony Rettman, The Wire

A must-listen. Crossroads sounds alternately like a classic from the early ’70s Laurel Canyon scene and like a contemporary record (think the Men’s recent work, minus the noise). Wall-to-wall beauty... a treasure.

- Maura McAndrew, Coke Machine Glow

There’s a hint of the sidewinding seventies on Crossroads, some Laurel Canyon gentleness, and bits of backwoods stubbornness, but the crown jewel on this album is the swaggering, bitterly terrified jam called “Whiskey.” It rumbles and bops with a friendly, warm freight train feel, before descending into the kind of liquour-induced existential paranoia that the Irish knowingly dub “The Fear.” Between a Cheshire cat bass line and scratchy, playful guitar that rattles around Knight’s anxious story-telling. One of the purposes of country music is to turn a prevalent horror like driving drunk, or death itself, into a manageable matter. On “Whiskey,” Knight cloaks mortality in wink-and-a-grin insouciance. It could be Springsteen, it could be Elvis, it could be Waylon. But it’s not. It’s Kenny Knight, finally being heard. 

- Caitlin White, Stereogum

The kind of album that deep diggers are already sweating bullets over, a dusty, bedraggled example of prime-cut rural rock. Knight's songwriting talent is undeniable; "Jean," with its solemn acoustic strumming bolstered by haunting Leslie cabinet electric leads, immediately enters the canon of Ultimate Folk Downers, dragging its feet with whatever resolve it has left, while "Whiskey" becomes an instant, favored mellow groover. I can't stress how satisfying it is to discover a record like Crossroads, which fulfills the promise of the search some of us go through to find great examples of mostly-unheard music.

- Doug Mosurock, Other Music

An album full of songs evocative of all things wonderful about the cross-pollinating music of the 70’s. Great songwriting abounds on this LP. Crossroads is not only a welcomed addition to the collection of anyone who digs on 70’s singer songwriter fare but also for those looking to dip their toes into the more curious world of private press and loner folk musics. Thankfully the work of Kenny Knight and many others like him are just now being unearthed and appreciated for the wonderfully personal work they have left behind in thrift stores and record shops across America. 

- Randy Reynolds, The Big Takeover

With a gentle means of wrapping his vocal around a lyric, Knight maintains an ace storyteller’s perspective on each song of his that he handles on the record, deftly displaying a myriad of emotions within a singular, vibrant verse. As a previously undervalued representative of the music of an era gone by, Knight’s Crossroads is amongst the best.

- PopMatters

The terse taking-stock anthem “Whiskey” sounds like a distillation of everything good about the Grateful Dead c. 1972. Anyone who digs recent Woods, or likes digging into the post-psychedelic Grateful Dead catalog, could find plenty to like here.

- Bill Meyer, Dusted

It's a classic.

- Chris Robinson, The Black Crowes

The album possesses unfussy warmth that is quiet and easygoing, and divulges with each spin heartstring hooks and compositional depth. Songs such Carry Me Down and America have so much singalong potential that it's hard to understand how their appeal was missed the first time around. 

- Sydney Morning Herald

Your new favorite old record.

- Doom and Gloom from the Tomb

A long-forgotten masterpiece. Sounds unbelievably fresh.

- Westword

Fox 31 Denver TV piece about Kenny Knight

- Colorado Public Radio profile

- Fox 9 News Denver TV profile on Kenny Knight

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PoB-017

Tracklist:

A1. "All in Down and Out" 3.14
A2. "Let Me Lose" 5.06
A3. "Star Girl" 4.04
A4. "Raggy Levy" 4.00
A5. "Rabbit on a Log" 3.11
B1. "Boat's up the River" 4.05
B2. "Man at the Mill" 3.10
B3. "Push Boat" 5.47
B4. "Georgia Buck" 2.07
B5. "Pork and Beans" 4.02

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

 

 

Album Narrative

The Southern half of the Georgia-Alabama border follows the Chattahoochee River, which cleaves Columbus, Georgia from its decidedly less reputable neighbor, Phenix City, Alabama. Georgia’s second city is the hometown of “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey and novelist Carson McCullers, but it was local hillbilly duo Darby and Tarlton’s 1927 hit “Columbus Stockade Blues” that first immortalized Columbus in popular culture. Back in their day, if you ended up in lockup in Columbus, chances are you did your dirtiest deeds across the river. Historically rife with vice of every conceivable variety—gambling, prostitution, moonshining, and endemic corruption and violence perpetrated by both gangs and police—the notoriously anarchic Phenix City was once known as “The Wickedest City in America.”

A similar frontier liminality and skewed sense of place characterize the music of Durham, North Carolina singer and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell, whose self-titled debut record, produced by and featuring William Tyler, transmutes ten arcane folk and blues tunes into vibey cosmic laments and crooked riverine rambles. Jake Xerxes (yes, that’s his real middle name, after Georgia potter D.X. Gordy) grew up in Columbus, son of Fred C. Fussell, a folklorist, curator, and photographer who hails from America’s Wickedest City. Fred’s fieldwork took him, often with young Jake in tow, across the Southeast documenting traditional vernacular culture, which included recording blues and old-time musicians with fellow folklorists and recordists George Mitchell and Art Rosenbaum (which led Jake to music, and to some of the songs herein) and collaborating with American Indian artists (which led Jake eventually to his graduate research on Choctaw fiddlers.)

As a teenager Jake began playing and studying with elder musicians in the Chattahoochee Valley, apprenticing with Piedmont blues legend Precious Bryant (“Georgia Buck”), with whom he toured and recorded, and riding wild with Alabama bluesman, black rodeo rider, rye whiskey distiller, and master dowser George Daniel (“Rabbit on a Log”). He joined a Phenix City country band who were students of Jimmie Tarlton of Darby and Tarlton; he accompanied Etta Baker in North Carolina; he moved to Berkeley, where he hung with genius documentary filmmaker Les Blank and learned from Haight folkies like Will Scarlett (Jefferson AirplaneHot TunaBrownie McGhee) and cult fingerstyle guitarist Steve Mann (“Push Boat”); he appeared on A Prairie Home Companion. He did a whole lot of listening, gradually honing his prodigious guitar skills, singing, and repertoire. In 2005 he moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he enrolled in the Southern Studies department at Ole Miss, recorded and toured with Rev. John Wilkins, and in 2014, met up with acclaimed artist William Tyler to begin recording his first solo album.

Collaborating with Tyler and engineer Mark Nevers in Nashville was a conscious decision to depart cloistered trad scenes and sonics for broader, more oblique horizons. Tyler, a guitar virtuoso known for his own compositions that untether and reframe traditional six-string forms and techniques, helmed the push boat in inimitable fashion, enlisting crack(ed) Nashville session vets Chris Scruggs (steel guitar, bass, fiddle: Bonnie “Prince” BillyMarty Stuart), Brian Kotzur (drums: Silver Jews), and Hoot Hester (fiddle: Bill MonroeRay Charles) to crew.

So it’s no accident that Jake approaches the songs and styles represented here with both interpretive respect and unfussy irreverence, imbuing them with equal parts vaporish, percolating atmosphere and academic rigor, honoring the folksong headwaters by emphasizing their liquid mutability, alien strangeness, and sly humor above preconceived notions of static authenticity. Fussell recognizes that folk revivalist preciousness about spurious genre boundaries often feels absurdly at odds with the unruliness and restlessly inventive practices of tradition bearers—no revival or reenactment gear is necessary when the music lives and breathes and throws around hips and knees like these. Likewise, when you examine their lyrical content, ostensibly linear tales about rivers and work (labor of the hands, as in “Boat’s up the River” and “Man at the Mill” and labor of the heart, as in “Star Girl” and “Pork and Beans”) reveal themselves as fractured, riddled with narrative lacunae that open up the texts as squirrelly riddles or gentle metaphysical jokes.

For Fussell, these odd disjunctures demonstrate the way that verses and choruses, the stories we tell, disintegrate and erode over time, worn smooth as river stones and transmogrified by their repeated telling, more lovely for their fissures and absences than for any imaginary original integrity. (Aptly, “Chattahoochee” may mean something like “writing on rocks” in Muscogee or Yuchi.) Each song rendered here contains its own twinned inversion—its own Columbus, its own Phenix City—and Jake navigates their shoals with intuitive grace and authority.

  • Produced by and featuring William Tyler on guitar, with Nashville session vets Chris Scruggs (steel guitar, bass, mandolin: Bonnie “Prince” BillyMarty Stuart), Brian Kotzur (drums: Silver Jews), and Hoot Hester (fiddle: Bill MonroeRay Charles)
  • RIYL Michael HurleyJohn PrineDave Van RonkJim DickinsonRaccoon Records, and associated realms of critterdom
  • Available on 150g virgin vinyl as an LP, with heavy-duty reverse board matte jacket, liner notes detailing the songs' sources, and full-color LP labels, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon

 

Acknowledgements

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

How wonderful that a record company has finally recorded an album by Jake Fussell. He 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

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!

8/10. Finest worksongs reworked. Beautifully loose arrangements of playful, resilient songs.

- Alastair McKay, Uncut

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

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

There’s an in-the-blood knowledge of these traditions at play, but with Tyler and others following along, it’s always Fussell’s sense of discovery, the looseness of wandering, that wins out. Even with all the history built into these songs and this record, Fussell still emerges as a fresh and vital new voice, as a singer, a musician and a torch bearer for every true sound he’s come across to now.

- Matt Fiander, PopMatters

William Tyler produced it. Chris Scruggs and Brian Kotzur play on it. Paradise of Bachelors, arguably the best label in America right now, released it. And if that's not enough to convince you it's a must listen, well, it's got some of the most vital and fresh re-imaginings of traditional American music you are gonna hear in 2015. It's not radical, it's not crazy, just beautiful and wonderful.

- Sean Maloney, The Nashville Scene

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

The guitarist William Tyler and the singer Jake Xerxes Fussell are more than mere musical lifers; they were born into the very sounds and traditions they've made careers of updating. On his recent Tyler-produced debut LP for Chapel Hill label Paradise of Bachelors, Fussell reinterprets ancient songs he's heard along the way with bright-eyed enthusiasm and youthful candor.

- Grayson Haver Currin, Independent Weekly

Wonderful. Bouncing folk jams with an emotional core that hits hard. Fussell’s powerful voice lands somewhere in between The Tallest Man On Earth and Levon Helm. 2014 is Paradise of Bachelor’s introduction to the world. Jake Xerxes Fussell’s pushing for an even better 2015.

- Will Schube, Passion of the Weiss

4/5. Gorgeously understated.

- NOW Toronto

A near perfect travelogue for the journeyed old-time bluesman. Assembling 10 traditional tunes — imbued with pastoral grandeur by producer and contributing guitarist William Tyler — Fussell imprints his own distinct personality onto songs taught to him by pickers all across the country. What’s impressive about Fussell is how convincingly he owns this heavily travelled and clearly back-dated material.

- Jordan Lawrence, Blurt

If Fussell wears his numerous influences on his sleeve, he also manages to craft his own sound (aided by a crack Nashville band). When he sings old words we believe him: “you don’t believe I’ll fight? You can meet me tomorrow night / and we’ll bout it out on the battlefield.” 

- The Oxford American

From the swinging, loose waltz of "All Down and Out" to the closing, clipped chug of "Pork and Beans," they are nearly all immediate earworms. They are crisp, charming translations. 

- Allison Hussey, Independent Weekly

On his self-titled debut, Fussell takes everything he’s learned over the years and makes his mark with a unique blend of faithful retelling and subtle irreverence. The foundation for each song is familiar, but the lyrical emphasis and expansive production not only breathe new life into old songs, but also allow Fussell to make them fit his preferences and personality—a process in folk music that’s as old and as important as the songs are.

- Christian Williams, Utne Reader

These songs are delicate yet at the same time as comforting as sitting with an old friend for the first time in too long. Whatever recording tricks are done to make an album sound like the singer is in the chair next to you, they have been used here. An exceptional record… Infectious.

- Nine Bullets

Fussell's debut—assured, eloquent, great—feels like a meditation upon a continuum of circumstances, like building a new fence from old stones.

- Patrick Wall, Independent Weekly

Fussell demonstrates respect for original melodies but succeeds throughout in subtly reinterpreting and reconfiguring the songs. Fussell's confident but restrained performance style is nicely complemented by the production of Nashville-based William Tyler, who provides subtle backing on guitar and organ, as well as judiciously employed fiddle, steel guitar, mandolin, acoustic bass and a simple drum kit. An impressive debut and evidence of the elasticity of traditional music in the right hands.

- Scott Barretta, The Clarion-Ledger

A fascinating and often sublime collection. What is striking is the immediate and yet enduring poignancy of the songs. Fussell successfully performs a songsmithing alchemy that results in songs that are fresh and altogether beautiful. Fussell’s ability to synthesize beautiful old folk songs into sublime new ones is surpassed only by his knowledge of obscure, near-forgotten and constantly amazing rural music.

- Aaron Texeira, Glide Magazine

There’s enough twanging guitar and silvery steel licks to situate this music in the country, and the rhythm section’s sturdy beats and swinging acoustic pulses take their cues from the pat of Fussell’s foot. But there’s also enough atmospheric filigree to awaken associations to the cosmic rock of The Notorious Byrd Brothers. Fussell digs into the songbooks of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, Olla Belle Reed, and some guys who turned up at a North Carolina fiddling convention, streamlining each in turn so that it feels like a meditation upon a continuum of circumstances.

- Bill Meyer, Dusted

These songs feel well-worn and lived-in in the best way… comfortable and warm, like that old quilt that’s been in your family for as long as you can remember. 

- Allison Hussey, The Bluegrass Situation

Fussell borrows and blends different versions of old songs, a bit like a hip-hop beatmaker, until he is well able to justify the copyright Trad. Arr. Fussell. When he turns his guitar-picking skills and convincingly withered pipes to a song, it's almost as if it's chosen him. He's really good!

- Nick Bollinger, Radio New Zealand National

The material comes from the great rural blues and folk traditions of the South, but his interpretations are relaxed, unfussy, and full of his own unique personality. Fussell rolls through an often obscure yet timeless set of early blues and folk tunes with an understated grace and easy charm. He's not afraid to mess with the formula a bit, but neither is he showy. The way everything hangs together so seamlessly suggests a poise beyond his years. This is the kind of subtle record unlikely to make immediate waves, but with a staying power that will call for repeated listens.

- AllMusic

My surprise was not in how these old songs could sound so fresh, but because in my mind they are so fully adapted into something different and new, so infused with Fussell's artistry that he could easily have claimed them-- but didn't. On Fussell's self-titled album, it is the pointed and rather humble decision to credit all of his sources and influences that is salient. 

- Nothing in the House

When you hear Jake’s renditions of these old songs they sound like they’re his songs, like he wrote them. Jake’s adding to the lineage of the song’s life. The production on the record—by William Tyler—matches Jake’s song sensibilities perfectly and brings the songs out in a way that seems fresh and classic at the same time.

- David Swider, The Local Voice

It sounds like it’s the purest music you’ve ever heard. All ten of the self-titled’s songs are relic-like masterpieces. Feels like a trip through a time and place I’ve never been anywhere near.

- First Lsnr

Fussell's interpretations of this music sound like a back porch hangout. That's where you'll find me when I put this one on.

- Adobe and Teardrops

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PoB-016

Tracklist:

A1. "Sleepy Lake Bike Club" 8.48
A2. "The Smoke Swallower" 2.47
A3. "Jonah/Poor Liza Jane" 7.12
A4. "Chuckatuck" 5.27
B1. "J.H. for M.P." 3.11
B2. "Golden Floaters/Hog Jank" 9.55
B3. "Sleepy Lake Tire Swing" 10.14

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

 

Album Narrative

It does not seem to me … that we understand the laws governing the return of the past, but I feel more and more as if time did not exist at all, only various spaces interlocking according to the rules of a higher form of stereometry, between which the living and the dead can move back and forth as they like … – W.G. Sebald, from Austerlitz (2001)

Nansemond is the name of a fading dream as much as it is a place name; the word has largely disappeared from maps of Virginia. The eponymous American Indian tribe, once part of the Powhatan empire but now numbering only 200 members, lent its name first to the Nansemond River, and later to a now-extinct county incorporated in 1646 but renamed in 1974. This region of tidewater Virginia was once predominantly underwater, beneath the blackwater and cypress groves of the million-acre Great Dismal Swamp, since drained to a mere fraction of its former span. Escaped African American slaves, as well as subjugated Nansemond Indians, took to these vast swamplands as fugitive maroons, lying out in secret settlements amid the labyrinthine morass. Now Nansemond is a ghost-choked locale, the tendrils of its spectral swamps grasping for purchase among parking lots, subdivisions, and peanut farms.

This is the wetlands landscape Nathan Bowles conjures with the cinematic suite of contemplative set pieces on his remarkable second solo album. Although he now resides in mountainous Southwestern Virginia, in a crucible of old-time music, he grew up on a body of water improbably called Sleepy Lake, on an estuarine peninsula surrounded by the Nansemond and James Rivers and Chuckatuck Creek. Nansemond aims at reconciling childhood memories, historical narrative, and recent life-changing events by revisiting the changing sites that connect and punctuate those hazy temporal nodes, both real and imaginary. It’s a record deeply engaged with how our memories colonize and transform a sense of place.

Although his recent solo recordings prominently feature his virtuosic banjo, Bowles is also widely recognized as a drummer, and he considers himself first and foremost a percussionist, with banjo as a natural extension of his interest in percussive drone. The seven songs on Nansemond deploy banjo, percussion, piano (his childhood instrument), tapes, and—for the first time—his robust voice to explore the rugged country between the poles of Appalachian old-time traditions and ecstatic, minimalist drone, moving effortlessly between composed sections, improvised passages, and field recordings. This forking-path approach follows his wide-ranging work as an ensemble player with the Black Twig Pickers (banjo, percussion), Pelt (struck and bowed percussion), Steve Gunn (drums, piano, banjo), Hiss Golden Messenger (banjo), Jack Rose, and others. For this record, he has assembled a sensitive group of collaborators from beyond the rosters of those groups: Tom Carter (guitar), Joe Dejarnette (guitar), Steve Kruger (fiddle, voice), and Jason Meagher of Black Dirt Studio (recording, production, mixing.)

Whereas his debut solo record A Bottle, A Buckeye (2012, Soft Abuse) concentrated on cracking the harmonic, rhythmic, and compositional possibilities of five-string banjo played in its deeply traditional, rhythmically specific clawhammer style, Nansemond expands the scope and scale of investigation exponentially. While still carefully articulating the subtleties of the banjo’s timbre, these new songs demonstrate the elasticity of Appalachian and Piedmont stringband music and the inherent connections, when those forms are distended, dilated, and dissected—as in the “Sleepy Lake” pieces, “Chuckatuck, or “Golden Floaters/Hog Jank”—to contemporary improvised and post-minimalist avant-garde music. On this new set, Bowles digs deeper into the banjo’s fascinating nexus of African and European sonic cultures and its bridge between the menacingly alien and comically familiar vectors of Southern song, embracing its strange double life as preferred accompaniment to the most bone-chilling murder ballads and trance-inducing, syncopated country blues alongside the bawdiest minstrel comedy and goodtime hokum. (In the process, he incidentally renders utterly irrelevant the instrument’s recent pop resurrection as a signifier of spurious overalls-and-newsboy-cap Americana earnestness.)

On Nansemond the folk tunes “Jonah/Poor Liza Jane” and “J.H. for M.P.” (aka “John Henry”), chosen by Bowles for their resonant, evocative, and open-ended lyrics, provide ballast for the more atmospheric, less linear paddles through further reaches of the Great Dismal. Bowles’ inventive playing somehow finds common ground between tradition-bearing masters like Dock BoggsDink Roberts, and Etta Baker and the outré compositional experiments and extended techniques of Paul MetzgerClive Palmer, and Henry Flynt. But these two strains always feel purposefully and organically integrated, not distinct or hierarchical, and that elegant and novel elision is perhaps the most notable accomplishment of these hypnotic recordings: they respectfully refuse to accept the porous boundaries between Southern vernacular music and modernism. It’s a sound, and an attitude, that’s hard to find on a map.

  • The second solo album by Nathan Bowles (Black Twig PickersPeltSteve Gunn) deploys banjo, percussion, piano, and voice to explore the rugged country between the poles of Appalachian old-time traditions and ecstatic, minimalist drone.
  • Available on 150g virgin vinyl as an LP, with full-color inner insert and LP labels, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon

 

Acknowledgements

Nathan Bowles is like my spirit animal. When I bought A Bottle, a Buckeye off him at a Steve Gunn show (where he pounded out some amazing organic-style drums), I took it home and put it on the turntable, and it immediately took me back to the nostalgic sound of the old time and bluegrass records my dad played perpetually as I was growing up. You know, the real shit: no irony, just beautiful, ethereal blues licks and folk licks from the banjo... Of course, he's got the modern edge too, and the experimentalism thing down, and it sounds totally modern as well. That's why it's so great. It's not too much of either: old or new, just timeless. I took a video of him playing "The Cuckoo" backstage in Montreal (complete with me drunkenly singing the lyrics behind my phone), and the clip says it all. I guess that's why he gets first place in bluegrass competitions when he gets back home to Virginia between touring. So when I got home between touring I showed it to my dad—the true test—and it blew his mind. My dad didn't grow up in any DIY, or punk, or indie era. He just kinda knows about the older primitive stuff, and the classic stuff, and he knows the real shit when he hears it. So I guess I'm the next generation, and I know it's the real shit too, so... beautiful then, beautiful now. Timeless.

- Kurt Vile

4 stars. A series of wry, sad, troubled, and mesmeric compositions imbued with a spooked and grainy Appalachian potency. It's the longer, stranger cinematic wanderings that really capture the listener: rich chaparrals of deep buzzing color you could lose yourself in forever.

- Andrew Male, MOJO

Stunning. The album wanders from bluegrass toward a highly cinematic form of prairie psychedelia. It’s as if Bowles is directing a Terrence Malick film with just a handful of strings at his disposal. 

- Steven Hyden, Grantland

Nansemond evokes Bowles' swampy Virginia homeland with nuanced picking, waterlogged drones, rowdy vocals (a first) and an inspired duel with the electric guitar of Tom Carter, from Charalambides on "Chuckatuck". Best of all, there's "Sleepy Lake Tire Swing", a culmination of Bowles' downhome and transcendent adventures, that captures the same spirit as his mentor, Jack Rose.

- John Mulvey, Uncut

Mesmerizing! "America's Instrument" -- the 5-string banjo -- has found a profound new exponent in Nathan Bowles. His writing for the instrument is exploratory, at times wonderfully dissonant and always soulful; his playing sure-footed and hypnotic. One of my favorite musicians playing today.

- Glenn Jones

There's a deep distillation of Nathan Bowles' musical past and present on his second solo album, Nansemond: from the old-time Black Twig Pickers to the abstract drone of Spiral Joy Band to the band that sort of splits the difference, Pelt. But Bowles also carves out his own corner of this clawhammer-banjo-based music and takes a portal through time while keeping one foot in the ether. Built on a hypnotic banjo melody that drones more like a sitar than something out of Appalachia, "Chuckatuck" sounds like something recorded in a bunker and long since forgotten. 

- Lars Gotrich, NPR All Songs Considered

Bowles sounds like he could play forever without boring himself or anyone listening. He attacks his strings boldly and sharply, yet he continually adds small variations and minute adjustments, viewing each iteration of a chord or phrase from a slightly different angle. This subtly-evolving consistency creates an intriguing blend of comfort and tension. You can settle your ears into Bowles’ grooves, or you can lean to the edge of your seat wondering what little shift will come next. Often, you can do both at the same time... Think of this record as a musical river—a flowing body of work that’s dependably solid and rippling with variation. For Bowles, the rich potential of simple traditions is as crucial as the water that fills a stream.

- Marc Masters, Pitchfork

Nansemond is an important progression for Bowles, a confident step beyond the elementary though endearing exercises of A Bottle, A Buckeye. If A Bottle, A Buckeye was a sequence of simple snapshots, Nansemond is where Bowles chips at a clear picture until it begins to break into abstraction. Nansemond should make it harder still to call him a solo banjo player.

- Grayson Currin, Wondering Sound

A stunner from start to finish. It’s a transporting collection of sounds that fuses age-old Appalachian traditions with cosmic drones, in the process creating something that sounds fresh and vital to these ears. The long, deep solo rambles that take up a good portion of the record are beautiful excursions that conjure up strange and spectral southern landscapes. Nansemond is mostly instrumental, but Bowles is nothing if not a storyteller, taking you on an evocative, transfixing journey.

- Tyler Wilcox, Aquarium Drunkard

Hypnotic. Like John Fahey, who conceived of American Primitive Guitar as a means of purging inner demons, Bowles has turned his emotions, memories, and preoccupations into a multifaceted work of art that can draw you in even if you don't know a thing about the guy that made it.

- Bill Meyer, Magnet

Truly a revelation. It's a supremely visceral, fried slice of backwoods Americana... an updated vision of traditional American song form without the pastiche.

- Other Music

Though these songs often start near a familiar folk base, they hurdle headlong into melancholy drones and noisy abstraction, sky-searching improvisation and reserved introspection. This dense, amorphous record reworks the past into an intentionally unsettled present. On Nansemond, Bowles finds a welcome, exciting midpoint between his work with the old-time band The Black Twig Pickers and the legendary long-tone ensemble Pelt. It pushes him from the place of solo instrumentalist (these days, a dangerous and busy field) into arranger and conductor of one.

- Grayson Currin, Independent Weekly

Channels streams of African-American, European and Native American traditions into [an] ecstatic Appalachian clawhammer trance. Nansemond is, somehow, an entirely original and contemporary album of deeplyrooted, old-time banjo music. It’s going to take more than a few repeat listenings to try to fathom that mystery out, and this stuff is as sweetly satisfying and addictive as that old Golden Virginia.

- Ian Anderson, fRoots

The avant-folk underground's favorite banjo player--yep--stretches out. The ghost of his old cohort, Jack Rose, loiters approvingly.

- Uncut

A banjo in the hands of Nathan Bowles can turn Appalachian hillbilly dirges into cosmic droning cinematic wonders.

- Tiny Mix Tapes

A concerted drone wavers through Bowles’ jaunty picking, partially inspired by 20th century avant-garde ideas, but still drawing from rural America.

- Dave Cantor, Paste

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PoB-015

Tracklist:

A1. “Way Out Weather” 6.18
A2. “Wildwood” 5.38
A3. “Milly’s Garden” 5.34
A4. “Shadow Bros” 4.29
B1. “Fiction” 5.44
B2. “Drifter” 3.59
B3. “Atmosphere” 5.09
B4. “Tommy’s Congo” 6.34

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

 

Album Narrative

In Donald Barthelme’s 1982 story “Lightning,” the narrator, a journalist investigating lightning strike survivors, reflects that “lightning changes things; the soul burns, having been struck by lightning.” He wonders about aesthetic (and supernatural) dimensions—is “lightning an attempt at music on the part of God?” Three decades later, as the catastrophic effects of climate change encroach upon the realms of science fiction, how might our communications and social conventions change, becoming correspondingly weirder and darker? Weather is, after all, both a formulaic conversation starter across cultures and a shared condition that connects us experientially. So what happens when “How about this weather?” becomes a less banal and much more compelling, and dangerous, question?

While ecological unease worries at the edges of Steve Gunn’s bold new full-band album Way Out Weather—the breathing sea of the billowing title track, the bad wind and moon over “Wildwood,” the polluted pyramid and blue bins in “Shadow Bros,” the desert heat sickness of “Atmosphere”—the resonance of the title is primarily metaphorical and oblique. Written largely while on tour, the record is an elliptical but seductive travelogue, more engaged with navigating foreign (“way out”) emotional landscapes, and with grasping at universal threads of language and narrative, than with bemoaning rising sea levels.

Despite the album-opening lyric to the contrary, “Way Out Weather” is an uncommon song in Steve Gunn’s discography. Sonically and lyrically the album demonstrates a radical evolution, lighting out for lusher, more expansive, and impressionistic territories; it’s his first major work as an artist for whom the studio provides a critical context. A more enigmatic and elevated affair than its predecessor, Way Out Weather completes Gunn’s satisfying transformation into a mature songwriter, singer, and bandleader of subtlety and authority. It ranks as most impressive and inviting record yet, an inscrutable but entirely self-assured masterpiece.

The critically acclaimed Time Off (2013), his first full-band album highlighting his vocals, represented the culmination of Steve’s steady fifteen-year migration from the frontier fringes of the guitar avant-garde, where he is regarded as a prodigy, and toward his especial style of more traditionally informed (albeit deconstructed) songcraft. Those songs developed from years of woodshedding and performance, offering a linear, local narrative that mapped the contours of Gunn’s Brooklyn neighborhood and a matrix of musical friendships, earning him a broad new following.

Less patently intimate, Way Out Weather angles for something far more cosmic, dynamic, and widescreen in sound and sentiment. In contrast to the interiority of Time Off, these eight decidedly exterior songs aren’t grounded by the specifics of geography, instead inhabiting headier, more rarefied altitudes (see in particular the ethereal “Shadow Bros,” “Fiction,” and “Atmosphere.”) They step beyond home and hover above horizon, unmoored from immediate circumstances and surroundings. Here Gunn’s discursive, mantric guitar style, at once transcendent and methodical—and as influenced by Western guitarists such as Michael Chapman and Sonny Sharrock as by Ghanaian highlife, Gnawa, and Carnatic forms—maintains its signature helical intricacy and mesmeric propulsion, while buoyed by a bigger crew of musicians, a wider instrumental palette, and higher production values than ever before.

Belying their ambitious new scale and scope, most of these songs arrived at Westtown, New York’s scene-seminal Black Dirt Studio as skeletal solo demos. An enthusiastic and generous collaborator—recently he has partnered with Kurt VileMichael ChapmanMike Cooperthe Black Twig PickersCian Nugent, et al.—Gunn assembled an accomplished group of comrades to flesh out the full arrangements, trusting the germinal songs to an instinctual process of spontaneous composition, transposition, and improvisation. The WOW studio band comprised longtime musical brothers Jason Meagher (bass, drones, engineering), Justin Tripp (bass, guitar, keys, production), and John Truscinski (drums), in addition to newcomers Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, keys: Black Twig Pickers, Pelt); James Elkington (guitar, lap steel, dobro: Freakwater, Jeff Tweedy); Mary Lattimore (harp, keys: Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile); and Jimy SeiTang (synths, electronics: Stygian Stride, Rhyton.)

This preternaturally intuitive and inventive band allowed Gunn to sculpt the album as a composer and colorist as well as a player. The cascading runs of “Milly’s Garden,” the menacing urgency of “Drifter,” and the alien, galvanic syncopation of album closer “Tommy’s Congo” (the latter unlike anything Gunn has heretofore recorded) display a thrilling mastery of heavier, increasingly kinetic full-band arrangements. His vocals throughout are more present, commanding, and refined, revealing a restrained but highly nuanced baritone capable of remarkable grace. Way Out Weather is Steve’s career-defining statement to date. Lightning changes things; the soul burns.

  • A radical widescreen evolution, featuring a larger band and lusher arrangements, this is the virtuosic guitarist and songwriter’s career-defining statement to date
  • Available on 150g virgin vinyl as an LP, with deluxe tip-on jacket and full-color inner sleeve, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon
  • Featuring photography by KT AuletaDan Murphy, and Constance Mensh

 

Acknowledgements

Recognized among the best releases of 2014 by NPR Music, MOJO, Pitchfork, The Wire, Uncut, Aquarium Drunkard, Magnet, Rough Trade, Ad Hoc, Tiny Mix Tapes, Other Music, Urban Outfitters, the Philadelphia Inquirer, et al. 

5 stars; #6 Best Album of 2014. Way Out Weather motors slowly but powerfully, like some 70s muscle-car cruising lazy coast-roads, safe in the knowledge of its own killer torque. The album title may abbreviate as a guileless “WOW!”, its bright melodies flickering like autumn sunlight on evening waves, but Gunn’s rolling lyrics deal with darker aspects – the ill omens of climate change, society’s lonesome outcasts, occluded Dylan riddles of impending apocalypse – that infuse the meander and drift of these lazy beguiling songs with a manifest chill, the dark rain clouds up ahead on that perfect summer drive that says sweet times now, bad times coming. You couldn’t wish for a more fitting musical soundtrack to the rest of your 2014.

 - Andrew Male, MOJO

8.0. Way Out Weather is the fully formed pinnacle of his career. With a full band and plenty of instrumentation behind him, the care he puts into every nook and cranny of a song is evident. It’s lush but without lacquer, detailed without being dense. These songs live in hollowed out holes of America’s past; it’s as easy to imagine him playing in front of a disused gas station off an Oklahoma highway as it is to hear his band booming out of a roadhouse on the Mississippi Delta. At times, there’s so many guitar tracks it it feels like in the middle of a pickup jam session with Jerry Garcia, Duane Allman, and John Fahey.

- Jeremy D. Larson, Pitchfork

The guitarist blends the traditional and the avant-garde, fusing the sounds of John Fahey, The Grateful Dead and Will Oldham into back-porch masterpieces. Gunn's virtuosic guitar work is still the main attraction, but his backing band of session players gives the [album] a Rolling Stones-circa-Exile on Main Street vibe. Simultaneously earthy and epic.

- Otis Hart, NPR's All Songs Considered

This is masterful, textured and gorgeous. The double-tracked melodic lead guitars billow in like warm sheets of rain. You can sense, as a listener, that every single player has the same overall shape in their mind, and you can feel them all pushing towards it.

- Jayson Greene, Pitchfork

Way Out Weather marks the completion of Gunn's transformation from a master guitarist into a songwriter who can trust in his own voice and arrangements as much as his spectacular fretwork. He's thrown open the windows and let the light in, as he embraces pristine, lush production that makes guitars sparkle and drums crack.

- Max Savage Levenson, NPR Music

Our heads are blown. How did this NY guitarist become a cosmic-psych visionary? Assured groover "Milly's Garden" feels like it's been around forever.

- MOJO Playlist, September 2014

4 stars. The melodies seemed soaked in a timeless well of American music: the album feels both new and familiar at the same time, every song a clever layering of Gunn’s guitars.

- Michael Hann, The Guardian

8/10. Steve Gunn is managing the transition [into a classic singer-songwriter] with uncanny elegance, fold[ing] his old jamming imperative into beautifully constructed songs. He sings plenty, with engaging huskiness, while leading his band down ever more inventive tangents… Eco-fear played out with a sun-damaged languor.

- John Mulvey, Uncut

Way Out Weather is big-hearted and expansive, its windows thrown open to the world, [its] lines and contours beautifully rendered. Perhaps the best thing he’s ever done… relentlessly inventive. Way Out Weather unquestionably accomplishes its goal: fully transforming Gunn from a guitar hero into a respected songwriter. That's no easy feat.

- John S.W. MacDonald, The Quietus

Following 2013’s excellent Time Off, this is a fuller, richer-sounding album. Gunn is an incredible guitarist, [and this is] a sun-dappled, easy highway song, the gleam of guitar pressing against the tarriness of Gunn’s voice.

- Laura Barton, The Guardian

Mesmerizing. Gunn’s singing echoes his playing: It is relaxed and intimate, like a late-night conversation with a trusted confidant, and it gently draws you into the hypnotically beguiling songs...  Maybe my favorite guitarist right now. Breathtaking.

- Steven Hyden, Grantland

The complexity of the songwriting on Way Out Weather is a clear indication that it’s the work of a seasoned professional going someplace deeper. There is a profound craftsmanship to what he does here. Gunn really pushes the boundaries of what an acoustic guitar can express... It sounds like the bastard lovechild of La Monte Young and Jerry Garcia or a slightly sinister Krautrock meets Laurel Canyon-flavored version of Terry Riley’s “A Rainbow in Curved Air.”

- Richard Metzger, Dangerous Minds

8.5/10. Way Out Weather mixes various musical styles - folk, classic rock, psychedelia, space rock, dub hues, West African grooves, open-tuned raga drones - to arrive at a genre-defying, expansive sound that's simultaneously tight and totally, winningly loose, sparsely uncluttered yet richly textured in a way that rewards repeated spins. The outcomes are frequently sensational… A giant leap forward.

- Janne Oinonen, Line of Best Fit

Way Out Weather is the moment where every note Gunn has ever played in his career coheres. The album brims with confidence, unfurling over 7-minute tracks that pull every sound he’s worked with in toward an oceanic center, the guitars, pianos, harps and banjos and organs all moving in even swells. The music is like a sea breeze through an empty house.

- Jayson Greene, Wondering Sound

It’s a record that still shows Gunn’s incredibly wide arsenal of skills on the guitar, both acoustic and electric, but he and his band trade dust in the light for glimmering shards that shape themselves into the beautiful mosaic this album is.

- Matthew Fiander, PopMatters

This is the most elaborately arranged thing Gunn has ever done, jammed full of understated yet excellent guitar. Perfectly placed licks that reference Richard Thompson, Jerry Donohue, Robert Fripp, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, and Ali Farka Toure make it a veritable encyclopedia of guitar sounds. It moves with a blend of head-down purpose and furtive apprehension—an apt soundtrack for a world where you need to keep one eye on the street and the other on the weather.

- Bill Meyer, The Wire

Channeling both John Fahey and Philip Glass, his riffs purl back on themselves to form odd, impossible shapes. The result forays into wildly diverse territory, as though folk and blues, jazz and raga, psychedelia and heavy rock were simply points on a map.

- Stephen Deusner, Wondering Sound

It’s impossible to just talk about Steve. He’s too good! I just want to listen to him. Hearing Steve, I was completely blown away, beyond. It made me want to be a part of it myself.

- Kurt Vile

My favorite new artist.

- J Mascis, Pitchfork

Appalachian mandalas. Cosmic folk songs that feel highly intricate and effortlessly propulsive, like Robbie Basho sitting in with the Doors.

- Chris Richards, The Washington Post

Gunn is blessed with a voice as rich and warm as Tim Buckley or a young Van Morrison.

- Nick Southgate, The Wire

After last year's exceptional Time Off, the new guitar master continues to expand his vision.

- Uncut Playlist

Goes from ramshackle Southern-fried folk-rock to psychedelic intrumental jam and back again. It’s a gorgeous piece of work.

- Tom Breihan, Stereogum

An immensely intuitive sense of songcraft. … Weather paddles out to the horizon of what is possible without ever losing sight of the shore… spiritual and visceral, laid back and intense, challenging and mellow.

- Sean Maloney, Magnet

4.5/5. His marriage of folk music with Grateful Dead style psychedelic rock has reached a state of perfection. A gentle and generous helping of soul food.

- The Sun (UK)

An LP full of thoughtful and progressive songwriting. The introspective guitar-driven music somehow works for every mood. It's Gunn's most personal record yet.

- Eric Sundermann, Noisey

Way Out Weather sees Gunn delving deeper into folk rock contemporization, now applying more intricate production and atmospheric arrangement, somewhat akin to early-'90s Crazy Horse playing a show in a city on the clouds.

- Mike Sugarman, Ad Hoc

With a larger ensemble in tow, Way Out Weather is more colorful than its predecessor, evoking the full band interplay of Fairport Convention or Van Morrison and band live at Montreux in 1974. The band sounds exuberant, like prime Dead.

- Jason Woodbury, Aquarium Drunkard

Gunn is a wonder to behold on his new album. By turns cosmic and circuitous, Way Out Weather ushers Gunn into classic singer-songwriter territory.

- James Reed, The Boston Globe

An ethereal yet crusty, backwoods-style gem. Gunn offers world-weary introspection and pedal-steel–bathed radiance, shuffling ditties and homegrown swamplands chug.

- Brad Cohan, Time Out New York

Perhaps the most cohesive track-by-track performance released this year. Its existence is in flux—the tracks interact in such a way as to create newness with each listen. His work is strangely familiar; an acid flashback less jarring than it is a friendly reminder that present reality isn’t the only realm of possibility.

- Will Schube, Passion of the Weiss

One of the foremost players of his generation, skilled yet never flashy. Much like fellow Philadelphians Kurt Vile and the War on Drugs, Mr. Gunn tucks nimble, folk-indebted guitar work into a rock-band setting.

- Andy Beta, Wall Street Journal

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. All star musicianship, songwriting, production, and the best Steve's singing has sounded yet. Steve is a living legend, an MVP. One of the best guitar players and songwriters of our time.

- Kevin Morby

Way Out Weather is a tour de force filled with a seemingly endless array of awesome guitar tones, fantastic interplay and powerful songwriting. It’s Gunn’s most lushly produced effort to date, and this approach works out perfectly — it’s a record you’ll get lost in, whether you’re playing it at home or taking it for a spin on the open road (we highly recommend the latter.)

- Aquarium Drunkard, Best Releases of 2014

8.5. It’s likely you’re going to find something profound about his ninth studio album, Way Out Weather. Gunn’s newest expansion of his aural minefield is ripe with explosive pockets of brilliance. This record sounds alive, breathing, organic and full of potential and exploratory ambivalence.

- Ryan Prado, Paste

Though Gunn’s throaty baritone and stunning guitar work remain pillars of his earnest sound, a new sheen of blues-inspired grittiness abounds.

- Josh Terry, Consequence of Sound

Meditative and mellow, the songs float along on soft waves of intricate, hypnotic guitar lines and the Brooklyn singer/songwriter’s low, gently exhaled lyrics. Call it otherworldly country blues. His trance-like finger-picking, earthy vocals and brooding, abstract lyrics put you into a fugue state. 

- Carla Gillis, Now Toronto

Way Out Weather is the type of transcendent rock explosion that makes you feel like you’re swirling through space and time, images of dandelion fields and amber waves of grain, and you know, America, all lazing by your eyes.

- Philadelphia Inquirer

Gunn's become something of a new troubadour in the process of the last couple of records, equal parts JJ Cale and Tim Buckley. He's got plaintive pathos to spare and Way Out Weather draws the listener in with promises of smooth porch rockers that blossom on further inspection into weightier material, much to our delight. It seems certain that fall has found a new companion in Gunn, and this may well end up your soundtrack through the end of 2014. 

- Raven Sings the Blues

Exhilarating. This is the new, ghostly classic rock.

- The Big Takeover

Way Out Weather is an expansive journey of sound and memories. Absolutely brilliant.

- Ben Young, The Revue

Steve Gunn's definitive statement. Evocative slow-burning majesty.

- Richard Lewis, Bearded Magazine

Steve Gunn’s cotton baritone has a casual malleability that lets him morph into whatever his songs need him to be. His Deadhead tendencies are coupled with an ability to turn a phrase in a way that can make his songs sound like instant classics. 

- Joel Oliphint, Pitchfork, Best Tracks of 2014

Gunn’s arguably hit his creative peak with Way Out Weather, but his eyes, certainly, are ever on the horizon.

- Dusted

The premiere artist in the John Fahey inspired, post-Jack Rose realm of fingerpicked, raga-meets-American folk. With Way Out Weather, he takes an even grander step forward both in terms of arrangement and improvisation, as well as the roster of musicians he has aboard.

- Dog Gone Blog

9/10. What is truly remarkable about Steve Gunn’s new album is the magnificent poise and direction that flows through the compositions. Without a doubt, this is the best release of the last quarter of 2014.

- Glide Magazine

A truly captivating ideal of Americana. The unity heard and felt within each composition and how harmonious it is as a whole is nothing short of brilliant. 

- Randy Reynolds, The Daily Dot, Best Releases of 2014

Way Out Weather is indeed way out: more salt of the stars than salt of the earth. A unified sonic whole: a blissed-out and detached color-field: experiential, subjective, psychedelic, sublime. 

- Ad Hoc, Best Releases of 2014

- Premier Guitar Feature

 

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PoBMerch-003

Product Info

"It's a shit business." So says the High Roller, and who are we to argue?

Friends of Paradise will want to sport one of these stunning t-shirts, our first piece of PoB apparel, in order to embrace and to represent more fully the sound, the vision, the ethic of the Bachelors. As seen on PoB artists and boosters worldwide, this super-soft, 100% cotton, power-washed American Apparel jersey short-sleeve shirt boasts a mesmerizing High Roller illustration by artist Mike Paré and design and typography by PoB.

Available in CremePewter, and Lilac in various sizes, it's suitable for both ladies and gents and the perfect piece for a day at the races or a night on the town.

N.B.: Power-washed American Apparel shirts tend to run up to a size larger than their regular sizing.

 

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PoB-014

Tracklist:

A1. “Country Water” 3.04
A2. “Three Forty-Eight (Blues for or Against Andalusia)” 3.49
A3. “Night Journey” 5.09
A4. “Time to Time” 8.27
B1. “Paper and Smoke” 3.55
B2. “Broken Bridges” 4.38
B3. “Now I Know” 4.57
B4. “Goodbye Blues, Goodbye” 4.53
B5. “Places I Know” 2.25
C1. “Song for Abigail” 9.02
C2. “The Singing Tree” 5.36
C3. “Midnight Words” 3.28
D1. “So Glad (That I Found You)” 15.19
D2. “Lady Anne” 5.15

PoB-14-Cooper-Places-Machine-cover-A

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

 

Album Narrative

After two years of tireless work to liberate these long out-of-print masterpieces from the vaults, Paradise of Bachelors is proud to present the first artist-sanctioned reissues—and first-ever vinyl reissues—of iconoclastic English-born, Rome-based folk and experimental music legend Mike Cooper’s classic trio of early 1970s avant-folk/rock records: Trout Steel (1970), Places I Know (1971), and The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper (1972). The latter two titles are presented for the very first time as the definitive double album, as Cooper originally intended them to be released.

Listening to Cooper’s recordings retrospectively in sequence reveals a rangy narrative of perennial reinvention from document to document through a playful approach to the deconstruction of “folk” musics and all that gross genre signifier implies and denies. By the time the Rolling Stones invited him to join the band in the early ’60s, and he politely declined (true story; Brian Jones took the gig), he had already progressed far beyond the circumscribed bounds of their early, hip-histrionic Albionic blues. By the time he was rumored to have retired from music in the mid ’70s, disappearing from his home in Southern England into Southern Spain to become a fisherman (an amusing fiction; he suffers from seasickness), he had already moved beyond his heady homebrew of progressive, free jazz-framed songcraft into increasingly less conventionally structured frontiers of open improvisation and later, electronic composition.

The Machine Gun Co. band (named for the 1968 Peter Brötzmann album) coalesced around Cooper’s desire to continue the improvisatory path forged on Trout Steel in a more sustainable manner, with a steady core group of likeminded musicians able to buttress its daring, long-form improvisatory vaults with a bedrock foundation. Peter Eden (Donovan, Bill Fay, Clive Palmer) produced the historic sessions, which veered from the impeccable conceptual folk-rock artistry of Places I Know (as Cooper explains, “the secret of the title of this record is that it was meant as a kind of covers record, or an homage to some musicians and songwriters that I liked at the time, the ‘places’ in the title—I was interested in seeing if I could emulate some other people without actually sounding like them”) to the utterly singular "songmaking" deconstructions of the more radical The Machine Gun Co., wherein the band erects lapidary arrangements reminiscent of Tim Buckley, only to dismantle them into virtuosic passages of Beefheartian free-jazz scree and skronk. According to Cooper:

What was initially planned was a double album, with one record played by the Machine Gun Co. and the other with arrangements by Mike Gibbs and his orchestra. Those two records were conceived as a double album aimed at covering the wide range of music I was interested in and gently leading the listener from the more accessible Places I Know, with its Mike Gibbs arrangements, into the more (for the times) extreme areas of The Machine Gun Co. That never happened, and they were released as two separate records a year apart.

Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper is Paradise of Bachelors’ attempt, two years in the making, to correct this historical oversight and offer this masterpiece as it was designed to be experienced, as an extraordinarily ambitious document spanning Cooper’s song-based and improvisation-based styles of the early 1970s.

  • First-ever artist-sanctioned and vinyl reissue, two years in the making
  • Available on 150g virgin vinyl as a gatefold 2xLP, in a deluxe limited edition, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats
  • Includes 16 pp. chapbook (20 pp. CD version) with an essay by Mike Cooper, lyrics, and never published color photos
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon

 

Acknowledgements

8.3: Best New Reissue. The albums mostly move in long, heaving sighs—long, free-flowing sections where Cooper plays in open tunings and clusters of instruments take their turns speaking to each other around him…  Sung verse[s] alternate with extended jamming like honey running from a spoon. [His] bands could do anything and go anywhere while preserving the fluid, good-natured energy of Cooper's music. In a way, he's like Van Dyke Parks; equally in love with traditions and in thrall to eccentricity, someone whose solo records build an alternate set of rules that their maker has no intention of spelling out for you. 

- Jayson Greene, Pitchfork 

Gorgeous, tender, moving… the opening of a musical world so wide that all boundaries between the music in his subsequent recordings would be erased completely…. The Machine Gun Co. was not simply an experiment that worked; it was a work of art that experimented with the idea of music being one vast universe with song being its poetic and foundational heart. This disc is easily Cooper's greatest musical achievement.

- Thom Jurek, Allmusic

9/10. These exceptional LPs reflect the freedoms and open-minded spirit of the times. Places I Know is a good-natured retrenchment into Michael Chapman-ish folk rock, which also finds time for a spellbinding piano ballad, “Time to Time,” that would have done Bill Fay proud. The Machine Gun Co. summarizes the breadth of Cooper’s 1960s and 1970s explorations in potent small-group format. Stinging playing… One of Cooper’s landmark LPs, and a completely blitzing rapprochement of folk, blues, free improvisation, and avant-garde tactics.

- Uncut

4 stars. A deconstruction of folk music that simultaneously bypasses the mainstream rock of the day, sustained on a knife-edge by Cooper’s underlying guitar... It’s completely unconventional, immediately setting Cooper apart from anybody else in the early 70s folk circle. A rewarding, intriguing body of work.

- Mick Houghton, Record Collector

Cooper was forging connections between folk and experimental musics long before America got New or Weird…

- Keith Moliné of Pere Ubu, for The Wire

Imbued with an undeniable Englishness, but the chug of its rhythm carries a rootsy American flavour.

- Laura Barton, The Guardian

Essential reissues. Taken together, Trout Steel, Places I Know and The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper provide a suggestive map of the post-modern eclecticism that's blossomed in an age where the extremes of the world's collected music can be accessed with the few taps of a button. Saxophones shriek beneath simple chords. Would-be ballads veer suddenly through psychedelic spirals. In retrospect, Cooper's decisions feel suspiciously prophetic, like a long-range weathervane more interested in the future than present atmospheric conditions. 40 years later, Cooper's work remains germane, even prescient. 

- Grayson Currin, Independent Weekly

Trout Steel and Places I Know / The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper are both excellent records, but they also tell a vital story about an important musician in modern music. These two albums capture Cooper at a pinnacle, where his newly honed songcraft and his knack for complicated sound and space met, clashed, and also combined in exciting and brilliant ways. These are reissues, but they may as well be new albums. They are as fresh as the latter and as lasting as the best of the former. By turns challenging and beautiful, earthen and ethereal.

- Matthew Fiander, PopMatters

Remarkable, groundbreaking albums that fuse folk, blues, psych, and avant-garde free jazz. Each of these records presents Cooper’s career in microcosm, shifting fluidly from country blues to psych rock to free improvisation and jazz idioms.

- Clinton Krute, BOMB 

The work of a unique artist, one whose songcraft is always bolstered by relentless experimentation.

- Aquarium Drunkard

Hauntingly beautiful. His clear yet weary voice is the kind that’s made for storytelling, and Cooper sure tells some fascinating narratives across these records. Not only are his songs an evolved collection of should-be classics, but they’re also a piece of history that’s longing to be uncovered.

- Maeri Ferguson, The Horn

You only need to listen to these three albums to appreciate how far ahead of the game he was.

- Folk Radio UK

 

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PoB-013

Tracklist:

A1. “That’s How” 4.22
A2. “Sitting Here Watching” 3.14
A3. “Goodtimes” 3.29
A4. “I’ve Got Mine” 11.22
A5. “A Half Sunday Homage to a Whole Leonardo da Vinci (without words by Richard Brautigan)” 1.36
B1. “Don’t Talk Too Fast” 3.24
B2. “Trout Steel” 2.25
B3. “In the Mourning” 5.21
B4. “Hope You See” 4.20
B5. “Pharaoh’s March” 7.16
B6. “Weeping Rose” 3.23

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

 

Album Narrative

After two years of tireless work to liberate these long out-of-print masterpieces from the vaults, Paradise of Bachelors is proud to present the first artist-sanctioned reissues—and first-ever vinyl reissues—of iconoclastic English-born, Rome-based folk and experimental music legend Mike Cooper’s classic trio of early 1970s avant-folk-rock records: Trout Steel (1970), Places I Know (1971), and The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper(1972). The latter two titles are presented for the very first time as the definitive double album, as Cooper originally intended them to be released.

With the oddly evocative choice of his third solo album’s title, appropriated from Richard Brautigan’s 1967 surrealist-pastoral novel Trout Fishing in America, Mike Cooper might very well have been describing his own mercurial musical practice. “Trout Steel” suggests a reflective, highly mutable, quicksilver riverine element, an apt metaphor for the lap steel runs summoned from his trademark National resophonic guitars and his restless, constantly evolving development as a singer, composer, interpreter, and improviser. Listening to Cooper’s recordings retrospectively in sequence reveals a rangy narrative of perennial reinvention from document to document through a playful approach to the deconstruction of “folk” musics and all that gross genre signifier implies and denies. Because of his staunch refusal to settle on any single sonic palette, his career has maintained a slippery, elusive, and multihued character—troutlike, eddying—full of permutations, sudden departures and transformations, and unexpected articulations and detours.

By the time the Rolling Stones invited him to join the band in the early ’60s, and he politely declined (true story; Brian Jones took the gig), he had already progressed far beyond the circumscribed bounds of their early, hip-histrionic Albionic blues. By the time he was rumored to have retired from music in the mid ’70s, disappearing from his home in Southern England into Southern Spain to become a fisherman (an amusing fiction; he suffers from seasickness), he had already moved beyond his heady homebrew of progressive, free jazz-framed songcraft into increasingly less conventionally structured frontiers of open improvisation and later, electronic composition.

The molting began in 1970 with Trout Steel, on which Cooper took a decisive step away from the folk and blues scenes in which he was well-known—he had toured with Michael Chapman and traveled in the same circles as Bert Jansch, Wizz Jones, and Davey Graham, among others—toward the New Thing jazz of Pharaoh Sanders, Sonny Sharrock, and Derek Bailey, without sacrificing any of his lyrical songwriting or forsaking his established roots in the soil of the American Southern vernacular. Producer Peter Eden (Donovan, Bill Fay, Clive Palmer) assembled a crack team of English and South African jazz and folk musicians (including Mike Osborne, Harry Miller, Geoff Hawkins, Stefan Grossman, and Heron) to record these remarkable sessions, and the results are absolutely sui generis, a compelling mix of tradition, group improvisations, and unfettered studio explorations that presaged Cooper’s adventurous work for decades to come.

  • First-ever artist-sanctioned and vinyl reissue, two years in the making
  • Includes 16 pp. chapbook (20 pp. CD version) with an exhaustive essay, lyrics, and never published color photos
  • Available on 150g virgin vinyl as a gatefold LP, in a deluxe limited edition, as well as on gatefold CD and digital formats
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon

 

Acknowledgements

8.6: Best New Reissue. Trout Steel has the gracefully exhaled quality of a master statement. The album mostly moves in long, heaving sighs—long, free-flowing sections where Cooper plays in open tunings and clusters of instruments take their turns speaking to each other around him…  Sung verse[s] alternate with extended jamming like honey running from a spoon. In a way, he's like Van Dyke Parks; equally in love with traditions and in thrall to eccentricity, someone whose solo records build an alternate set of rules that their maker has no intention of spelling out for you. 

- Jayson Greene, Pitchfork 

Best reissues of 2014. The sound of a folk-rooted prodigy navigating the rapids of psychedelia. What puts his music in a league of its own is his taste for free-jazz-style instrumental play, with his own slithery slide guitar darting through abstract arrays of horns, strings, piano and percussion. Here, his singer-songwriter and experimental sides form a gnarly yin-yang marriage.

- Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

One of the pre-eminent players on the Brit folk and blues scenes. Given his organic approach to composing; his truly dazzling abilities with acoustic and slide guitars; and his predilection for just the right sidemen and arrangements, Cooper was among the most poised musicians of his generation, and Trout Steel proves the point time and again over its 11 tracks. What a ride Trout Steel is: exhilarating and adventurous each time it is played.

- Thom Jurek, Allmusic

8/10. For those of us interested in how roots music can intersect with the avant-garde, the rediscovery of guitarist Mike Cooper is a fortuitous one. These exceptional LPs reflect the freedoms and open-minded spirit of the times. Trout Steel showcases singer-songwriterly craftsmanship in the Jansch mold, occasionally dissolving into free jazz drift (the 11-minute “I’ve Got Mine” is a fidgety, minimalist precursor to Wilco’s “Less Than You Think.”)

- Uncut

4 stars. Charts Cooper’s “voyage out” with his warm folk songs venturing into Pharaoh Sanders-inspired skronk… with a grasp of the infinite worthy of the Incredible String Band.

- Matt Poacher, MOJO

4 stars. A deconstruction of folk music that simultaneously bypasses the mainstream rock of the day, sustained on a knife-edge by Cooper’s underlying guitar... It’s completely unconventional, immediately setting Cooper apart from anybody else in the early 70s folk circle. A rewarding, intriguing body of work.

- Mick Houghton, Record Collector

His 1970 album Trout Steel really steals the show as a whole.

- Laura Barton, The Guardian

For the lot of us uninitiated to Mike Cooper and his 1970 LP, Trout Steel, it’s a doozie. Earnestly reissued by Paradise of Bachelors and produced by Peter Eden (Donovan, Bill Fay), Trout Steel eloquently connects brit folk to free jazz with ease and originality. An exploratory work that makes a lasting impact on the folk genre… and puts Cooper in a world all his own. One can’t help but feel that there are many artists (both past and present) who owe a debt to Mike Cooper – whether they know it or not.

- Randy Reynolds, The Big Takeover

Cooper was forging connections between folk and experimental musics long before America got New or Weird…

- Keith Moliné of Pere Ubu, for The Wire

Essential reissues. Taken together, Trout SteelPlaces I Know and The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper provide a suggestive map of the post-modern eclecticism that's blossomed in an age where the extremes of the world's collected music can be accessed with the few taps of a button. Saxophones shriek beneath simple chords. Would-be ballads veer suddenly through psychedelic spirals. In retrospect, Cooper's decisions feel suspiciously prophetic, like a long-range weathervane more interested in the future than present atmospheric conditions. 40 years later, Cooper's work remains germane, even prescient. 

- Grayson Currin, Independent Weekly

Trout Steel and Places I Know / The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper are both excellent records, but they also tell a vital story about an important musician in modern music. These two albums capture Cooper at a pinnacle, where his newly honed songcraft and his knack for complicated sound and space met, clashed, and also combined in exciting and brilliant ways. These are reissues, but they may as well be new albums. They are as fresh as the latter and as lasting as the best of the former. By turns challenging and beautiful, earthen and ethereal.

- Matthew Fiander, PopMatters

Remarkable, groundbreaking albums that fuse folk, blues, psych, and avant-garde free jazz. Each of these records presents Cooper’s career in microcosm, shifting fluidly from country blues to psych rock to free improvisation and jazz idioms.

- Clinton Krute, BOMB 

The work of a unique artist, one whose songcraft is always bolstered by relentless experimentation.

- Aquarium Drunkard

Hauntingly beautiful. His clear yet weary voice is the kind that’s made for storytelling, and Cooper sure tells some fascinating narratives across these records. Not only are his songs an evolved collection of should-be classics, but they’re also a piece of history that’s longing to be uncovered.

- Maeri Ferguson, The Horn

You only need to listen to these three albums to appreciate how far ahead of the game he was.

- Folk Radio UK

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PoB-012

Tracklist:

A1. “Come Out Singing” 4:17
A2. “Gypsy John” 4:08
A3. “Waltzing Will Trilogy” 5:43
A4. “Georgie Pie” 3:00
A5. “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” 3:12
B1. “Back in the Closet Again” 3:33
B2. “I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You” 2:40
B3. “To a Woman” 2:54
B4. “Straight White Patterns” 4:21
B5. “Lavender Country” 3:53

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

 

Album Narrative

Widely recognized as the first openly gay country music album—and cited as such even by Nashville institutions like the Country Music Hall of Fame and CMT—the landmark self-titled 1973 LP by Lavender Country stands as nothing less than an artifact of courage, a sonic political protest document of enormous power, clarity, and grace.

At once a scathing indictment of the injustices perpetrated on the homosexual community, a proud proclamation of gay identity, and a love letter of bracing intimacy and eroticism, the album radically appropriates the signifiers of the conservative country genre, queering its heteronormative vocabulary into a deeply personal language. Songwriter, singer, and guitarist Patrick Haggerty, a fearless first-generation gay liberation activist and artist, seasons his songs with Yippie deviousness; in the manner of the Cockettes, the laughs both sharpen and sweeten the impact. To our ears the inimitable aesthetics and glimpses of cockeyed humor recall some ethereal psych-folk nexus of the Flatlanders and the Holy Modal Rounders as much as any standard country and western forebears, rendering the biting poetry in an even more otherworldly and timeless light.

The record reflects Haggerty’s experiences: his upbringing on a tenant dairy farm in rural Washington, on the Canadian border; his dismissal from the Peace Corps on the spurious grounds of his sexuality; and his righteous struggles as an outraged young gay man navigating the Pacific Northwest in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall. He designed Lavender Country as a vehicle for what he deems “The Information”: valid cultural communications intended to resonate with those unable to access similar resources. (Playing “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears,” one of the indisputably great country song titles ever, cost a brave Seattle DJ her FCC license.)

This deluxe reissue includes includes a 32pp chapbook with an oral history by Haggerty, never before published color photos, a download code (vinyl version only), and full lyrics to these ten moving songs of gay liberation.

  • The first openly gay country album
  • First-ever vinyl reissue of this countercultural classic
  • Includes 32 pp. chapbook with an oral history by Patrick Haggerty, curatorial essays by PoB and Jeremy Cargill, and never published color photos
  • Available on 150g virgin vinyl, in a deluxe limited edition, as well as on CD and digital formats
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon
  • When purchased from our website or iTunes, digital edition includes digital liner notes chapbook

 

Acknowledgements

Best New Reissue: 8.6. Masterful—sexy, sad, and tender all at once. Haggerty's songs  are resonant and wonderful, folding pain into jokes and vice versa and exuding heartbreak and anger and wry good humor. It's a tremendous feat, a remarkable act of bravery and honesty as well as a statement on the universality of love and lust and belonging. Pop songs are limited vessels for social justice, but the good ones do a remarkable job of teaching empathy, a few minutes at a time, and Haggerty's songs build a better world to live in, for forty minutes or so. There aren't many achievements more exalted than that. Now that the resourceful and adventurous North Carolina label Paradise of Bachelors is reissuing Lavender Country, the enduring richness of Haggerty's achievement can be appreciated again.

- Jayson Greene, Pitchfork 

Extraordinary gay anthems. The lyrics on Lavender Country are funny, furious, explicit and touching: the album's impetus may have been political, but its content is deeply personal. Gay themes aside, Lavender Country is in many ways a classic country record, with its keening harmonies, rolling piano and cracked heart.

- Graeme Thomson, The Guardian

- NPR Dinner Party Download feature

Pioneering ’73 gay country LP, musically in Holy Modal Rounders territory; odd, reedy renderings of [Haggerty’s] caustic, political themes with ramshackle arrangements. Beautifully packaged with a moving oral history.

- MOJO

For all its strides, our culture remains woefully inadequate when it comes to producing gay country songs. Thankfully, the excellent North Carolina–based indie label Paradise of Bachelors has stepped up to rectify this situation by reissuing the trailblazing (and until now scarcely available) self-titled 1973 debut by Lavender Country. For all the out contemporary artists, few dare to be as explicit about the frustrations and pleasures of being a gay man as Haggerty. If Lavender Country were only a historical curio, it would be a fascinating listen. But it’s also an often pretty and delightfully strange proto-indie Americana record that predates backwood eccentrics like Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Bill Callahan.

- Steven Hyden, Grantland 

- CBC Radio feature

A compelling musical time capsule that melds humor, protest, and pride into a sonic canvas in the vein of contemporaries the Fugs or a wryer incarnation of Ray Wylie Hubbard and The Cowboy Twinkies. Plaintive fiddle lines and rambling piano fills situate the album firmly within a Nashville-bar-band idiom, while Haggerty's nasal tenor is so distinct as to discourage comparison. Lyrically, the album is often humorous and painful at once, a feat that makes tales of exclusion and institutionalized homophobia all the more compelling. When Haggerty sings, "He won't get no restitution," about a gay victim of electroshock therapy, it's enough to give you goosebumps.

- Andrew Aylward, BOMB Magazine

In a different world, would Lavender Country already be a part of country music's storied history? Would Haggerty be an icon alongside greats like Willie and Hank? This is music that matters and stands on its own two feet. Patrick's storyline isn't a crutch, but the backbone of a brilliant record. Country music at its best has always been a medium that conveys deeply personal, intriguing stories, and in that sense the album is a triumph. Lavender Country encapsulates the rebellion and defiance of old country music, a music that sprang from a boundless culture that refused to give up its rural, lawless freedom, and there's a sense of that backwoods lawlessness in Lavender Country. It's that kind of determination—a determination toward kindness even amid the horror stories it tells—that marks this as a country record in the tradition of great country records.

-  Caitlin White, MySpace

If the sound of Lavender Country sometimes recalls the style of similar post-countercultural efforts by such avant-garde folk performers as Ed Sanders and The Holy Modal Rounders, Haggerty's lyrics provide a tour of the battered psyche of a man who simply wants to live his life free of equivocation… Much like a '70s mainstream country singer, Haggerty laid out a social reality that may have seemed foreign to many of the era's listeners. Moe Bandy sang about the terrors of infidelity in 1974's "I Just Started Hatin' Cheatin' Songs Today," while Haggerty explored the somewhat more life-threatening rigors of gay life in Lavender Country's greatest track, "Waltzing Will Trilogy," a song about mental institutions and sadistic prison guards who abuse gay inmates. It's safe to say no Nashville country songwriter of the era would have written about "straight white honky quacks."

- Edd Hurt, The Nashville Scene

Patrick Haggerty is a 70-year-old man who, in 1973, wrote and recorded a gay country album that is one of the most punk rock things you will ever hear. As righteous and as ribald as they come, Lavender Country is like a raw Hank Williams platter that tells queers to come out and homophobes to go fuck themselves. Forty-one years later, this unjustly arcane disc is still revolutionary. 

- Barry Walters, Wondering Sound

A fascinating listen both in context and on its own. The album sounds like something Webb Pierce might have put out – Haggerty’s sharp twang isn’t dissimilar to Pierce. Lavender Country's most effective weapon, however, is that which had no historical precedent: its lyrical content. This is brazenly out in a way few albums from the period across any genre could be… A small but significant reminder that love is universal, that it comes in many forms in many places, and that it doesn’t have to sound like Steve Grand.

- Patrick Masterson, Dusted

Forty years on, the album holds up as a fascinating and somewhat psychedelic piece of music, full of spirit and spunk and often couched in humor that thinly veils the grit and anger underpinning the songs. Without any recognition from the establishment, it was a different strain of outlaw country right in line with that movement as it was crystallizing with Willie, Waylon, Merle, and Kristofferson.

- James Reed, The Boston Globe

So here's the story: a Seattle man named Patrick Haggerty wrote and recorded an openly gay country album as Lavender Country in 1973. This is because he is a steelier person than you or I. He included a waltz called "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears" because he's funnier than you or I. And he loaded the song, and the album, with exquisitely personal and painful lyrics that raged against the hypocrisies, large and small that defined his life. It is a document of protest, but not a strident one. For years, this album was a rumor, a piece of cocktail conversation amongst hardcore record nerds. It is reentering the cultural conversation, deservedly, now that Paradise of Bachelors are reissuing the record.

- Pitchfork

The ’70s were a groundbreaking time for country music—but few innovators were as fearless as Patrick Haggerty… The album showcases Haggerty’s wit, heart, and outspoken grace as he sings about homosexuality and liberation in a musical environment that was less than inviting. Lavender Country is simply a beautiful piece of ’70s country, mildly psychedelic and with hints of rustic folk.

- Jason Heller, A.V. Club

A brave and powerful manifesto, a country album with a punk-rock message: “I’m gay, so fuck you.”

- Dave Lake, Seattle Weekly

Radical in 1973, and would still raise eyebrows in Nashville today.

- Alastair McKay, Uncut

Inverting, subverting, and perverting conservative, conventional country with cockeyed sarcasm and deviant rebel yells, Lavender Country’s landmark LP is not only an important artifact, but also serves as a time capsule containing an oral history chronicling, through the use of music as a medium for critical cultural communication, a singular experience of socio-political protest and gay liberation.

- Kateri O’Neil, Flavorpill

Several decades after the fact, Lavender Country still works because Haggerty was a talented songwriter whose lyrics range from the randy pleasures of "Come Out Singing" and the screed against sexual gamesmanship "Crying These C**sing Tears" to the tales of institutional abuse in "Waltzing Will Trilogy" and the bitter political messages of "Back in the Closet Again." Haggerty also built these songs around simple but sturdy melodies, and his voice (which suggests Will Geer's hipper younger brother) had a sly insouciance that expresses humor and anger equally well.

- Mark Deming, AllMusic

Tunes like "Back in the Closet" and "Cryin' These Cocksucking Tears" might initially appear to be novelty songs, but they're drenched in authentically down-home fiddles and lovelorn harmonies, and the overall mood is more heartfelt than cheaply sarcastic.

- Falling James, L.A. Weekly

The album’s stunning liner notes are as moving and powerful as the music itself.

- Bunch Family

Honesty that most artists would not touch with a ten foot pole.

- Jesse Monteagudo, Gay Today

Out Magazine feature on Lavender Country

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PoB-011

Tracklist:

A1 “Balthazar’s Song” 3:18
A2 “No Lord Is Free” 5:03
A3 “Bad Debt” 2:57
A4 “O Little Light” 4:13
A5 “Straw Man Red Sun River Gold” 3:59
A6 “Far Bright Star” 2:02
B1 “The Serpent Is Kind (Compared to Man)” 3:33
B2 “Call Him Daylight” 3:37
B3 “Jesus Shot Me in the Head” 5:15
B4 “Super Blue (Two Days Clean)” 3:06
B5 “Roll River Roll” 3:17
B6 “Drum” 2:28

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

 

Album Narrative

M.C. Taylor recorded this spiritually devastating, austere antecedent to the widely celebrated Hiss Golden Messenger albums Haw (2013, PoB-06) and Poor Moon (2011, PoB-02) direct to a portable cassette recorder at the kitchen table of his pine-entwined home in rural Piedmont North Carolina in 2010. It was the dead of winter and the pit of the financial crisis, a moment when the dire ramifications of debt—in its economic, political, and personal senses—had assumed a rank immediacy and terror for many working people around the world, not least of all in the American South. Taylor, his one-year old boy Elijah sleeping in the next room, was compelled to chart the sacred valences of debt, doubt, and family in fresh ways, in the process stripping bare and reinventing his songwriting idiom. In his own words:

Bad Debt comes from ten dense acres of oak, cedar, and apple trees in Pittsboro, North Carolina, directly south of the Haw River. The house where it was made was built in the early 1970s by a hippie cohort that settled along Brooks Branch; though this may sound like some kind of brag, I offer this to explain just how cold it was during the fall and winter when this record was conceived. Most hippies—except for the most famous one, of course, and probably a few others—are shit carpenters.

The record is about my God: that is, whether I have one, and whether there is a place for me in this world. I don’t go to church, and I am not saved. I can party too. I can do a saxophone now and again, bang the drum. Bad Debt was my revelation, and there are many for whom I’ll never make a record better than this one.

Ruminating on the riddle of faith, a firstborn son, and thorny existential questions large and small, the album laid the lyrical and compositional foundations for HGM’s critically acclaimed releases to come. Half of these domestic devotional songs appear elsewhere in the HGM discography in radically reinvented arrangements and permutations—Taylor’s writing practice revealed itself following Bad Debt as essentially iterative, the deliberate enunciation and re-articulation of koans—but they exist here in germinal, psalmic purity and economy, as unadorned and plain and perfectly ragged as the cedar floorboards in that Brooks Branch cabin.

Three years after the destruction of much of the first, CD-only edition of the album in a warehouse fire during the London riots, this deluxe reissue, featuring the original gatefold artwork and a download coupon, restores the stark masterpiece to its intended full song sequence, including three additional songs, one of which, “Far Bright Star,” has never previously been released in any form. (In 2011 Taylor released three vinyl editions of 100 each, now collector’s items, on his own Heaven and Earth Magic imprint.) This moving, intimate document, until now available only in limited numbers and difficult and dear to acquire in any format, is critical for fans and new listeners alike.

  • The first widely available release of the landmark album that reinvented Hiss Golden Messenger
  • Available on 150g virgin vinyl, in a deluxe, gatefold limited edition, as well as on CD and digital formats
  • Vinyl edition includes digital download coupon

 

Acknowledgements

Taylor writes lucid, often heartbreaking songs about God and frailty and the passage of time. Bad Debt—rendered, as it was, in a drafty kitchen on a portable tape recorder—is vulnerable and immediate. There are times, listening to it, when I am splayed by its intimacies, made fully prostrate by them. Bad Debt feels like an apotheosis, almost. It is unadulterated in its portrayal of a person desperate for peace.

- Amanda Petrusich, The Oxford American

Intoxicating. His world-weary meditations – on God, demons and, yeah, debt – sound ancient, pulled out of the dirt, yet as immediate as a foreclosure. It’s lean music for lean times.

- Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

In the “evocative-backstory-for-a-home-recorded-folk-album” category, Hiss Golden Messenger's Bad Debt has a stunner: Years before the first proper Hiss Golden Messenger's full length, M.C. Taylor sat awake at his kitchen table while his one-year-old slept, privately wracked by anguish and fear over the collapse of the global economy and its consequences. The songs he recorded at that table, directly to cassette, were little efforts at emotional reckoning, prayers he set to tape. Then the CD version of the album was destroyed in a warehouse fire during the London riots, and is only seeing reissue now.  That's some enviable lost-classic baggage. It seems to have arrived on present-day shores untouched, a message in a bottle bobbing serenely on turbulent seas, as simple and immediate as the evening it was recorded… Simultaneously fraught with anxiety and shot through with wondering calm, an emotional cocktail that anyone who’s sat awake while their child sleeps will recognize instantly.

- Jayson Greene, Pitchfork

9/10. It’s an extraordinary set… a lullaby for uncertain times, a moment of sudden clarity in a moving, mystical trip. This is Taylor’s For Emma, Forever Ago.

- Alastair McKay, Uncut

North Carolina songwriter M.C. Taylor doesn’t describe faith as a safe place so much as the destination across some unbridgeable gulf.

- Chris Richards, The Washington Post

A thing of gentle charm and unmistakable cosmic American beauty.

- The Independent (UK)

Bad Debt is an unflinching examination of faith, the self, doubt, rescue, redemption, parenthood, and coming to terms with the intertwining worlds of flesh and spirit. A quiet, stirring, utterly arresting collection by one of our best songwriter/poets.

-  Thom Jurek, AllMusic

The recordings are raw and incredibly intimate. When you hear them, you get the same kind of chills you get when you listen to Springsteen’s Nebraska–another great home recording. From the first second, you can hear the sound of the room, caught live onto cassette. You can hear Taylor’s shoe tapping out the beat on the floor. It puts you right in the kitchen with him. Taylor’s voice is arresting, filled with world-weariness, but also hope and tenderness.

- KUTX Song of the Day

Pairs some wholesome country fingerpicking with Taylor’s expressively cracking croon, shakily forecasting good news with a hand-hewn simplicity that feels very not-of-this-time and but also wholly American.

- Emilie Friedlander, The Fader

It’s a crucial