A decade after her smash hit “Thank You” put this English singer on the pop map and five years after 2008’s “Safe Trip Home,” Dido reemerges with this concise album that brings together all the nuances of her style, blending folk-rock, electronica and straight-ahead pop. The album opens with the acoustic ballad “No Freedom,” whose lyrics reflect on the necessity of allowing people to have freedom within the confines of a relationship. The title track makes a playful allusion to the lover “who got away,” the sort of utopian dream-like person who many of us were unable to keep by our sides. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Meg Bitton
“American Idol” might have brought us talent like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and then-unappreciated Jennifer Hudson, but there were many other promising artists who ended up vanishing even if they did well on the show. While some flamed out soon and wound up playing minor parts in off-Broadway shows, some used the exposure to create a niche audience and build a solid career once the cameras were turned off.
An example of this is Ohio-born Crystal Bowersox, who was runner-up during the show’s ninth season (defeated by Chicago’s Lee DeWyze) in 2010. Signed to Jive Records that year, she released “Farmer’s Daughter,” and despite positive reviews and reasonable sales, she was dropped after RCA disbanded her label. She has since signed with indie label Shanachie Records (which also includes Ruben Studdard—another “Idol” veteran—in its roster) and is in the works to put out her sophomore album “All That For This” under the production of Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. Read the rest of this entry »
Who says busking on the New York City subway (or any mass transit platform where you can be heard) has no future? It was there that Queens-based Freelance Whales honed their skills playing folksy electronic music with unusual instruments (glockenspiel, banjos, xylophone) until they became indie-music darlings after the release of their debut “Weathervanes” back in 2009.
The band’s name comes from the band members’ perception that everyone in New York is a freelancer in one way or another (not sure if the folks down on Wall Street would agree with that). Their releases have been well received both by critics and fans, and some of their tunes have appeared in TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Chuck” and “Skins.” Their music seems a bit minimalist—drums are played with brushes, and their arrangements are both creative and subtle, which allows vocalist (and main songwriter) Judah Dadone to comfortably convey his message without having to scream over the sound. Read the rest of this entry »
Listening to “We Can’t Make It Here” from the 2005 album “Childish Things” immediately makes you respect James McMurtry: his lyrics are a direct indictment of the hypocrisies of the right and also of big-box discount stores like Walmart who encourage companies to ship jobs overseas in order to reduce costs to their customers.
The son of novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry, McMurtry has been part of the folk-rock scene since John Mellencamp produced his debut “Too Long in the Wasteland” back in 1989. He has since collaborated with the likes of John Prine and Dwight Yoakam (in the “supergroup” Buzzin’ Cousins) and has regularly recorded and toured with his backing band, the Heartless Bastards—though the band is no longer billed in that manner because of confusion with the Ohio-based band of the same name. Read the rest of this entry »
Joe Pug may not call Chicago home anymore, but it’s still a homecoming whenever the husky-voiced folk singer with the old soul rolls into town.
“Every time we go back on the road, about twenty percent more people come,” Pug says by phone from Austin, where he now lives. “People come five times in two years, and people there at the first show are still at the fifth show. At the end of the day, it’s a little family of people who come out to shows.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Ernest Barteldes
The latest release from Brooklyn-based Chicha Libre is a feast to the eyes even before it reaches your ears. The words “Canibalismo” shout out in bright yellow, white and red letters with a background of rainforest vegetation–a clear reference to the late 1960s tropicalismo movement that started in Brazil as a response to the psychedelics of America and Europe during that time.
Asked about the cover, French-born Olivier Conan (who also co-owns Barbès, an alternative performance space in Brooklyn, NY) says that the reference was intentional. “We meant to reference Tropicalia,” he says over an e-mail interview. “The album is named ‘Canibalismo’ after Oswald de Andrade’s autophagous manifesto, which was Tropicalias’ manifesto—and while the graphic style wasn’t derivative, it does evoke that era.” Read the rest of this entry »
Setting up a residence near the Ohio-West Virginia border seems like a sensible move for Jorma Kaukonen, Jefferson Airplane’s lead guitarist and eventual founder of Hot Tuna with his longtime friend and Airplane bassist Jack Casady. Out there in the boondocks at his Fur Peace Ranch, Kaukonen stages workshops, features guest instructors and has gone so far as to host a music festival to pull in some hippie-college-kid money—Ohio University’s just twenty minutes up the road. Kaukonen’s best-known group was never considered too functional, but Hot Tuna’s been able to persist for decades beyond most other sixties San Francisco groups. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Dusdin Condren
The stylish album covers that make up Sharon Van Etten’s growing discography ink together portraits of despair and disenchantment, or at least disappointment. Yet the wide-eyed stares and looks of disconcertion that populate these covers paint a decidedly different, far more inelegant portrait of the Brooklyn songstress than the songs themselves. Tonally, a majority of her songs are dark and bleak, speaking to the horrors she has experienced throughout her life (most of which are of the romantic variety)—but that doesn’t stop them from being infectiously catchy. Read the rest of this entry »
When Bill Wyman left the Rolling Stones in 1992, fans of the septuagenarian bassist thought he would simply retire and concentrate on Sticky Fingers, his United States-themed cafe (according to Keith Richards’ best-selling autobiography) and his signature metal detector. However, nothing could be further from the truth. He has kept quite busy with his Rhythm Kings, a band he founded in 1998 with longtime musical partner Terry Taylor. Read the rest of this entry »
Everyone has a friend they were close with who moved away. Sometimes years pass between meetings, even as each interim conversation is nothing other than pleasant. But finally getting together with a friend you grew up with in the suburbs and finding this person attired in cowboy garb is troublesome. That’s what John Doe’s career feels like. Ditching home for Los Angeles back in the seventies, Doe hooked up with some local punky characters to form X and record a few of the most thoughtfully crafted albums of the punk era. Read the rest of this entry »