Watch Out! The Whistles & The Bells ‘Skeletons’ [VIDEO]

The Whistles & The Bells - Skeletons

When Bryan Simspon walked away from the new-grass quintet Cadillac Sky in 2010, writing that “The vision for my life post C-Sky is still coming together” few could imagine that he meant this.

The fruit of his vision is the newly released The Whistles & The Bells. ‘Skeletons’ is a twitchy dark gem that menaces with ripping guitars and slithers with scattered banjo to build into a sound that owes much to the garage and southern varieties of rock. It’s quite the dark boot-stomper.

The stop-motion video, directed by Joe Baughman, is an excellent accompaniment to running down things that get out and just won’t stay hidden no matter your puny efforts.

Pick up the The Whistles & The Bells self-titled release here)

Celebrate National Train Day – Top Train Songs


No other technology has held a thematic sway over roots and county music like the the railway system (okay, maybe distilling) The train has been a symbol of freedom that has catured the iamginction of songwrietrs or generations.

In celebrate National Train day here are some my personal and fan picked favorites.

As a teenager Eaglesmith hopped a freight train out to Western Canada, and began writing songs and performing. It;s natural he’d write a great son about them.

Steve Earle’s post-addiction and post-prison is arguably his best. The GRAMMY-nominated “Train a Comin’ featured older material written when Earle was in his late teens but it;s maturity is evident in songs like “Sometimes She Forgets,” Mercenary Song,” and “Mystery Train part II” whose lyrics finished the day it was recorded.

“Orphan Train” tells the story of the orphan trains operated between 1853 and 1929, relocating about 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children to foster homes located largely in rural areas of the Midwest. Julie Miller adds just the right atmosphere to this contemporary dirge,

500 Miles is a folk classic credited to Hedy West and made popular by acts like Peter, Paul and Mary (it was the second track on their US #1, May 1962 debut album).A slightly altered version was a hit by Bobby Bare in 1963. Roseanne Cash does a hulluva version from her release “The List.”

Billy Joe Shaver, with his late son Eddie picking in the strat, made an instant classic with this one.

Guy Clark wrote “Texas – 1947” bout the first time a diesel sped through his hometown of Monahans in West Texas.

“Ben Dewberry’s Final Run” by Andrew Jenkins was covered by Johnny Cash, Jerry Douglas, Steve Forbert, Bill Monroe, Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Snow. Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings give it fine turn.

Orange Blossom Special” is a classic by Johnny Cash. Johnny burns up the mouth harp on this one at San Quentin.

City of New Orleans” is a folk song written by Steve Goodman describing a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans. Arlo Guthrie had a hit with i on his 1972 album Hobo’s Lullaby. The way I see it, when Willie Nelson does a song it stays done.

Music Review: The Secret Sisters – “Put Your Needle Down” [Universal Republic]

The Secret Sisters Put Your Needle Down

On their debut release the country/folk duo The Secret Sisters (Laura and Lydia Rogers from hallowed Muscle Shoals, AL) featured mostly covers. They showed impeccable taste by interpreting legendary gems by George Jones, Bill Monroe, Buck Owens, Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra. But even with the inclusion of a couple of originals the spirit of the Sisters seemed buried under that considerable musical history.

Since their 2110 debut the sisters haven’t rested on their well-received laurels. The duo honed their craft by working with Jack White’s Third Man Records, with Dave Stewart on a solo album, with The Chieftains on a tribute album. if that weren’t enough they supplied a cut for a Hunger Games soundtrack. This busy schedule has done wonders to refine their craft and that refinement is put on full display on “Put Your Needle Down.”

The opener is a clear example of that expertise. “Rattle My Bones,” written by Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth, sits atop a Bo Diddley beat on this cooking tune about man regret that has the sisters mingling sibling harmony in a way that only experience (and genetics) can.

“Let There Be Lonely” is a dreamy lament to hard love that yearns and burns right through you.

“Dirty Lie” is an unfinished, bootleg only, Bob Dylan song from the 80’s that was brought to the sisters by producer and spiritual leader T Bone Burnett. They finished ou the song later after that meeting in their hotel room and the result is striking. Less folky obtuse defiance than a full torch mode Peggy Lee fronting a gypsy-jazz ensemble.

“Luka” is a slow-simmering tale of a woman attempting to escape an abusive father that slithers toward a dark en. Violins cry siren-like and meld into the high register singing that balances piqued emotion and harmonic beauty. “Pocket Knife” also employs violins to further turn up the heat. Flanked by a whinnying slide guitar and tribal drums the song builds an environment of the claustrophobic world that the women headed towards an unwanted marriage is living in.

“Lonely Island” is a lovely showcase for the sister’s more relaxed style. It lulls you into weeping in your umbrella drink. “If I Don’t” swings into a different take on Tammy Wynette as standing by your man comes with caveats that things better change and fast.

T Bone Burnett beings his sophisticated ear to shade the arrangements with just the right amount of funky antiquity. His direction and the extraordinary band build an atmosphere of parlor room intimacy that sounds like the best house concert you ever attended.

Listening to a Secret Sisters release is a crash course in the great American songbook. There’s more grit and heat in these performances than on their previous effort. They seem more assured. Less winsome demeanor and more poised audacity.

The 12 songs on “Put Your Needle Down,” many self-penned, proves the Sisters are no mere extraordinarily talented throwback novelty act. They are now interpreting the ages in their own impeccable style and making their own way.


Official Site | Buy

Watch Out! Johnny Cash – “She Used to Love Me a Lot” [VIDEO]

Johnny Cash - She Used To Love Me A Lot

On March 25, Columbia/Legacy will release “Out Among the Stars,” an album of lost songs recorded by Johnny Cash in the early 1980s produced by Billy Sherrill.

You can now see a video for the album cut “She Used to Love Me a Lot”, directed by filmmaker John Hillcoat (the man behind The Proposition, The Road, and Lawless as well as music videos for Nick Cave, How to Destroy Angels, Depeche Mode, and others)

The video is a collection of snapshots of the American Cash championed in song and deed intercut with shots of the Man in Black himself.

In Hillcoat words from an accompanying statement:

The lyrics seemed to speak to America as it is now, to the nation that loved him and to the great divide he fought so hard against. This divide has only grown exponentially since he died, so we wanted to show America under this stark light and as a homage to the very reason Cash always wore black: to the shameful increase of the disenfranchised and outsiders. At the same time, we wanted to reference the great man’s own struggle and journey from the love of his life to the burnt out ruins of his infamous lake house home, personal photographs, the cave where he tried to take his life but then turned it all around, the place he last recorded in and his last photo before his passing.

“She Used to Love Me a Lot” was written by Dennis Morgan, Charles Quillen, and Kye Fleming. In 1984, David Allan Coe was recorded the song on his album “Darlin’, Darlin”. Listen to the Elvis Costello remix of Cash’s version here.

True Detective Season Two – Top 10 Music Recommendations

True Detective

After 8 all-too-brief spellbinding and perplexingly metaphysical episodes the first season of HBO’s True Detective has finally reached its conclusion. The ending was such a hit that the millions hitting HBO GO service crashed the system for much of the show.

It’s no wonder it’s a hit.

The spirit of the show is reflected in the taunt writing of creator Nic Pizzolatto. Then there’s the stellar performances by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as the dysfunctional Det. Rustin Spencer “Rust” Cohle and Det. Martin Eric “Marty” Hart bound together to catch a dark killer.

Another star of the series was the music selection that provided atmosphere and texture in a way that you hardly realized you were hearing songs by Wu-Tang Clan , Bob Dylan and Austin’s 13th Floor Elevators.

The soundtrack also included a great selection of Americana, country, gospel, and blues. John Lee Hooker and Slim Harpo sit aside Steve Earle , Buddy Miller , Lucinda Williams and Father John Misty.

And then there’s that stunning opening segment backed by The Handsome Family excellent performance of the T Bone Burnett-penned “Far From Any Road.” (below)

I reached out on twitter to ask folks what bands they most would like to hear on True Detective season two. Some of the choices were obvious, some surprising. All great and would fit nicely.

If Nic Pizzolatto stops by (‘sup Nic) I hope he considers some these great artists and allows them to set a tone and allow the greater exposure.

Enjoy and leave you choices in the comments.

Lincoln Durham is a consummate stage performer and brings grit, soul and blood to his craft. Perfect for end credits or a bar fight.

Elephant Revival’s warm and inviting sound could lull in a audience in just before a particularly gruesome bit of work.

The Ben Miller Band kicked my butt in Nashville and their performance has stuck with me. Bar scene or panning a rugged landscape.

Valerie June. Who am I kidding. Put Valerie June in any segment and she’ll steal the scene.

Lee Harvey Osmond is a master of atmosphere. He’d fit right into a scene needing a slow simmer. Love scene, hands down.

Lindi Ortega is as good as it gets. Her sound is a great fit for an opening credits or as a a pan of the killers quarters.

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club oozes chaos and menace. Add to something violent.

16 Horsepower sounds as old as the hills and as deep as a grave. Opening credits or main character reflective moment.

Hiss Golden Messenger’s darkness is always bolstered by a joyful reverence. Perfect for a moment of hoe or resolution.

Rachel Brooke was born to back a show like True Detective. Her sound is of the ages and has a playful darkness and perfect for a late-night rainy drive away from something unspeakable.

Watch Out! 10 Murder Ballads for Halloween

Johnny Cash - Delia's Gone

Hello ghouls and goblins! Halloween celebrations in some form has a long and rich tradition in 16th century European and Scandinavia. At roughly the same time the murder ballad evolved right along with it. Both washed up on these US shores with the pilgrims and were shaped, over time, with our own uniques cultural influences and musical styles.

Gallons of blood, and scores of lifeless bodies, have been detailed in many harrowing ditties. The genres of folk, bluegrass and country music count more death and malice
than in metal and gangster rap combined (to be fair, they have had centuries to stack up bodies.)

I bring to you this spooky season some contemporary versions and variations of the murder ballad. From the Wilburn Brothers’ version of “The Knoxville Girl,” an Appalachian murder ballad, derived from the 19th-century Irish ballad The Wexford Girl. There also modern takes like Lindi Ortega’s menacing “Murder Of Crows.”

Enjoy these dark treats and leave your favorites in the comments.

Wilburn Brothers – Knoxville Girl

Rachel Brooke – The Black Bird

Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers – Where’s the Devil?

Lera Lynn – Bobby, Baby

O’Death – Lowtide – Video

Stab – The Pine Box Boys

Lindi Ortega – Murder Of Crows

Porter Wagoner – Cold Hard Facts Of Life

Bobbie Gentry – Ode To Billie Joe

Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone

Watch Out! – The Handsome Family – “Woodpecker” [VIDEO]

The Handsome Family - Woodpecker

When Greil Marcus coined the phrase “Old Weird America” in his book Invisible Republic, he wasn’t describing The Handsome Family. The line that Marcus drew from Harry Smith’s Anthology of American pre-World Folk Music to Bob Dylan and his work with The Band could easily continue it’s sonic trajectory to the husband and wife songwriting duo Brett and Rennie Sparks.

The video for the single Woodpecker, from their new release Wilderness, is shot in moody greys by director Chris Hefner. Acoustic guitar and mandolin delicately accompany this tale of Mary Sweeny, a woman who has a irrepressible obsession with smashing windows lands her in a state institution, where the remedies do more harm than good. Woodpecker follows The Handsome Family’s Gothic-folk style and narrative that harkens back to folk tales brought over by our ancestors.

Wilderness is out now on LP, CD, and as a deluxe box set.

A companion book of original artwork and essays by Rennie Sparks, also titled Wilderness, will expand on the meticulously researched and little-known enigmas of the natural world explored on the album: immortal jellyfish, woodpecker tongues, dancing octopi, fly royalty, the secret language of crows, and mysterious ant spirals. A 72-page, 12”x12” full-color edition of the book will be included with the deluxe box set, along with an 11”x17” color poster and a six-postcard set, all with original art by Rennie. A black and white edition of the book will be available separately.

Wilderness Track Listing
1. Flies
2. Frogs
3. Eels
4. Octopus
5. Owls
6. Caterpillars
7. Glow Worm
8. Lizard
9. Woodpecker
10. Gulls
11. Spider
12. Wildebeest


6/20 – Cambridge, MA @ Club Passim
6/21 – Fall River, MA @ Narrows Center for the Arts
6/22 – New Haven, CT @ Café Nine
6/23 – Hudson, NY @ Club Helsinki
6/27 – New York, NY @ The Slipper Room
6/28 – Philadelphia, PA @ World Café Live
6/29 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Knitting Factory
7/19 – Friday, Minneapolis, MN at The Cedar Cultural Center with Azita
7/20 – Madision, WI, @ The High Noon Saloon, EARLY SHOW (with Azita)!
7/22, – Chicago, IL @ Pritzker Pavillion – 6:30pm*
7/24 – St. Louis, MO, @ Off Broadway with Danny Barnes
7/25 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop with Danny Barnes
7/26 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners with Cathy Irwin and Danny Barnes
7/27 – Athens, OH @ The Union with Danny Barnes
7/28 – Ann Arbor @ The Ark with Danny Barnes

*Free Show

phrase “Old Weird America” as described in his book Invisible Republic, which deals with the lineage connecting the pre-World War II folk performers on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music to Bob Dylan and his milieu.

Listen Up! Neko Case – “That’s Who I Am” from Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

GhostBros_cover_5x5_rgbI haven’t seen the Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, the collaboration by horror author Stephen King and , roots-rocker John Mellencamp and Americana godfather and singer/songwriter T Bone Burnett, but if the soundtrack gives us any insight into the Southern Gothic musical it’s going to be a killer.(heh)

I already posted an Elvis Costello cut from album. Now we have a sweet cut from Neko Case. A femme fatale reels off a long list of libido-fueled plays over a shuffle. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Neko’s character is not one of the good guys.

It’s been years since I’ve heard this country music tinged sound from Neko and I am a fan. What do you think? Leave it in the comments below.

June 4th, 2013 as the project’s new release date. Check the trailer for the soundtrack below.

The Felice Brothers Cover Nirvana, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and The Band [VIDEO]

I’m a huge of of Upstate New York’s Felice Brothers. I always suspected that Big Pink molecules must still dwell in the area and were breathed in by the band as infants leading them to their dark roots musical destiny. Or something…

As great as their originals are the band picks some choice covers on the road. I found some cool covers done by the band and thought I would share.


Music Review: Lindsay Fuller and The Cheap Dates – Lindsay Fuller and The Cheap Dates [self released]

Seattle based artist by way of Alabama and Texas, Lindsay Fuller plumbs the deep, dark well of Southern Gothic narrative and, with the help of her excellent band the Cheap Dates, hauls up a mossy bucket of songs splendid in rich narration and bitter in their wretched fates. Southern Gothic yarns are bleak by design but reveal simple tales of moral beauty without being moralizing. Guilt tugs at the mind but crimes are inevitably committed and silver is pocketed. Fuller is a craftsman of such tales and sufferers no lazy couplets or threadbare allegory.

The album takes off like a freight train with You Can’t Go Back to Where You’ve Never Been. A barraging tale of a hard start (“I was baptised by the spittoon and the chamber pot at three/and I never saw the faces of the ones who conceived me”) leading to a desperate man hurtling head first into a violent, hard destiny.

The tempo cools to an icy stretch with Good Country People, a bittersweet folk ditty about a drifter motivated by insecurity to the theft of a prosthetic leg and the palatial yearn of My Dark Tower, which features exquisite guitar work by Jeff Fielder. Before I Sour begins fittingly with a church organ but is punctuated by eruptions of rock blasts to vast away the shadows. The spare beauty of On Holiday showcases Fuller in her powerful, open nerve of a voice.

Unlike many that use the Southern Gothic style in music Lindsay Fuller is not about camp and irony but is a dead-on wordsmith singing dark but beautiful tales of common people in hard times in sometimes peculiar circumstances that are told in a way that seem like it’s as natural to them as rolling out of bed in the morning, and then killing the neighbor.

The CD cover has Fuller standing in a field. Wearing a simple cotton dress, axe in one hand and an old fashioned typewriter in the other. This is a perfect visual metaphor for the work contained within. As Winter covers this morally wavering Nation with a cold, grey blanket sit back with a Cormac McCarthy or William Gay book and put on Lindsay Fuller and The Cheap Dates as a fitting accompaniment.

Official Site | MySpace | Buy


Lindsay Fuller – You Can’t Go Back to Where You’ve.mp3
Lindsay Fuller –  My Dark Tower.mp3