Justin Townes Earle ended up moving to Vagrant Records and surprised his fans with not one, but two, new albums within a year. The companion pieces, Single Mothers and Absent Fathers, are not concept records, but complimentary, as he describes, “like the two parts of Springsteen’s The River.” Earle reflects on how his songs change over time, and how his touring band pulls from his all-time favorite band, and friends of Country Fried Rock, Centro-Matic.
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There were a lot of strong k-pop releases throughout the month of June, but two separate competitions dominated the conversation. A battle of the top boy bands played out through the beginning of the month, only to be followed by three highly-anticipated girl group comebacks in the second half.
Now that the dust has settled, let’s return to the latest U2 album, Songs of Innocence, and get to the bottom of it, shall we? What say we ignore the media hullabaloo, the obligatory mini-biography insert, the wooden appraisal of legacy, you know, the standard machinery of criticism in general, and just focus on the songs on hand?
With a brief and elegant run of notes, bassist Tim Midyett gently announces the opening of “Contempt”, the first track on Silkworm’s Lifestyle, the album which is the subject of this 12-week, one track a week, Between the Grooves series. It’s so slight that a listener still settling down after dropping the needle might miss it. And then suddenly, all at once, the rest of the band including Andy Cohen, the singer on “Contempt”, join in. However, the vibe here is unusual. If Silkworm have a reputation (and that is meant in the most speculative sense of the conditional, i.e., “Does Silkworm’s music have a general reputation?”), then perhaps it is as a dude’s band, a point noted by fan Dan Mohr in Seth Pomeroy’s 2013 Silkworm documentary Couldn’t You Wait?, a treasure of a film and a source we’ll turn to more than once in the coming weeks. Silkworm: Three dudes who make dude music. Big guitars. Big drums. Songs about World War II. Songs about life on the road. Songs about Julius Caesar. Music to go with steaks and beer. For goodness sake, Tim Midyett is even the inventor of a delicious, world class meat rub. Dudes!
With a voice like scorched earth and a guitar played as though its strings were ablaze, Benjamin Booker has taken the blues straight to hell. His songs, mini-dramas of sun-bleached rock, trade on the old-time traditions of players like Son House, Lowell Fulson, and Brownie McGhee. Booker’s approach is to push the perimeters of the blues to its most uncomfortable and perilous extremes, affording his music the cautious air of danger. His self-titled debut, released in 2014 on Rough Trade records, is a revelation of pantheon dimensions, a temple of ancestral and present influences which has carried Booker’s collection of work to esteemed heights.