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by Brice Ezell

20 May 2015


Described as Christian Gibbs’ “most schizophrenic but unified album to date”, C. Gibbs Sings Motherwell Johnston is rooted in a curious identity. You might wonder who exactly is the Motherwell Johnston that Gibbs is singing; if you can’t come up with an answer, it’s probably not for lack of knowledge. Instead, it derives from the fact that Johnston is an alias of Gibbs’, invented, as the press release for the LP explains, “to try new songs live without having any expectations from those who might be familiar with his past work (Lucinda Black Bear, C. Gibbs, Morning Glories)”. Although Gibb’s voracious musical tastes and past projects can be clearly heard on Sings Motherwell Johnston, with this outing he is creating a singular, new space for him to explore songwriting.

As a preview of what’s to come on Sings Motherwell Johnston, you can stream the track “Unchaperoned” below. Featuring bluesy, soul-tinged lead guitar that is retro in all the right ways, “Unchaperoned” is an excellent harbinger for the record.

by Brice Ezell

20 May 2015


Photo: Laura Heffington

Eleni Mandell keeps herself plenty busy. Since her debut in 1999, Wishbone, she has kept a steady pace in releasing albums, including her most recent outing, last year’s Let’s Fly a Kite. It’s a testament to her tenacity as a songwriter that she hasn’t lost steam yet, as evinced by her new record Dark Lights Up, out not but a year after Let’s Fly a Kite. The aesthetic of Dark Lights Up was informed by a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville while she was on tour. Upon encountering the music of Roger Miller, she “was really struck by how simple his production was, and how central his voice and how open the sound was on the record… There aren’t a lot of layers, and the melody and his voice and the words were more beautiful for it. It made me want to de-clutter and strip away and make something simple that still sounded full and beautiful.”

by Brice Ezell

19 May 2015


Don Rooke, the frontman of the Toronto-based folk outfit the Henrys, describes their sound as “old instruments—new sounds.” He’s not wrong; although there’s plenty of old-style folk to be heard in the band’s music, due in large part to certain instrumental choices such as Rooke’s historic Weissenborn and Kona lap steel guitars, they evoke plenty of current sonic architects as well. Rooke, in particular, evokes the stylings of maestros like Ry Cooder and Bill Frisell.

It’s been six years since the Henrys have put out a full-length studio recording, but that time has now come to an end with Quiet Industry, their new LP. Below you can stream “A Weaker One”, which begins as a seemingly simple folk tune that blossoms with a dissonant post-chorus section towards its conclusion.

Other players on Quiet Industry include Hugh Marsh (Bruce Cockburn, Don Byron, Jon Hassell), John Sheard (Stuart McLean, Rita Coolidge), Andrew Downing (Kelly Joe Phelps, David Tronzo), Davide DiRenzo (Holly Cole, Cassandra Wilson, Jacksoul), Jonathan Goldsmith (Jane Siberry, Nick Buzz, Sarah Slean), along with harmony vocalist Tara Dunphy (The Rizdales).

by Brice Ezell

19 May 2015


Following their Grammy-nominated collaborative LP with Bobby Rush last year, Decisions, Laramie, Wyoming’s own Blinddog Smokin’ have readied their next studio outing, High Steppin’. Populated by funk grooves, rock shredding, and a healthy dose of New Orleans style, the LP showcases the well-practiced union of high-energy instrumentation with frontman Carl Gustafson’s vivid lyricism.

On “Bayou Lady”, Blinddog Smokin’ pull off a fine feat: making an eminently danceable tune that also gets you to think. Gustafson’s understanding of the ways in which people overlook their own damage to the environment is on point—and it helps that his point is made with such jubilant music.

by Brice Ezell

18 May 2015


“In general, I’m a nostalgic person,” singer/songwriter Josh Gilligan says in relation to his new record Steady On. However, he qualifies this by also suggesting, “I don’t think retrospective behavior is completely healthy.”

From its homey sleeve art to its gentle, acoustic guitar-led songwriting, Steady On is the kind of album one could mistake for a nostalgia-worshipping hipster who’s imbibed one kombucha too many. The songs he writes, however, paint a different picture: a picture of someone who has taken in and has a deep respect for old-fashioned songwriting. Steady On may be a nostalgic affair, but it’s not nauseatingly so; it’s the sound of how to look into the past without worshipping at its altar, all the while bringing in a new perspective.

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