Music

Various Artists: Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From the Second Decade

Lake Street Dive

If the importance of a label can be judged by its talent, then Signature has done pretty good in its 20-plus year existence.


Various Artists
Label: Signature Sounds
Title: Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From the Second Decade
US Release Date: 2015-03-03
UK Release Date: 2015-03-03

If you listen to a lot of Americana and roots music, you’re probably familiar with Signature Sounds – if not by name, then through some of the artists on their roster. Based in Massachusetts, the label started as a local folk artist imprint and grew from there, expanding their scope to include musicians outside the folk genre and in a wider geographical area. If the importance of a label can be judged by its talent, then Signature has done pretty good in its twenty plus year existence.

Lake Street Dive were the critic’s darlings last year, and are one of Signature’s flagship bands at the moment, the group’s retro-infused jazzy roots-rock capturing the attention of record buyers as well as publications such as Rolling Stone, which named them 2014’s best new band. Chris Smither, Crooked Still (feat. Aoife O’Donovan), Caroline Herring, and Peter Mulvey are a few other well-known names that call Signature home.

With Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection: Rarities From the Second Decade, the label celebrates its success in a unique way. The predictable route would have been a greatest hits / best of compilation, but instead the collection is composed of tracks previously unreleased, EP or single only, download only, and new recordings. These are not cast-offs or lesser works. Some rival the best a particular artist has released, as with the exhilarating “Tree in the Lung” from Winterpills.

There are 18 songs by 18 different artists here, so a lot of musical terrain is covered. What unifies them, makes them part of the same landscape, is a similar aesthetic and connection to the roots of the music – whether those roots lie in folk, bluegrass, country, jazz, or rock.

Parsonsfield, sounding here like early Jayhawks, takes the traditional “Moonshiner” and gives it a full arrangement including accordion, glockenspiel, banjo, and mandolin. On a faithful cover of Ernest Tubb’s 1960 country hit “Walkin”, Eilen Jewell conjures up the ghosts of Patsy Cline and other classic country singers of yore.

There are plenty of unreleased originals as well, including Crooked Still’s old-time, jazzy “Lovesick Red Stick Blues” and a new version of Chris Smither’s “Drive You Home” from his 2013 Still on the Levee sessions, marked by a shuffling beat and Smither’s deep, weathered vocals.

There are some twists and turns in the path: Joy Kills Sorrow take on the Postal Service’s electro-pop single “Such Great Heights”, totally transforming it with lush banjos and mandolins, finding the song’s true heart. Barnstar! does “Carey”, originally on Joni Mitchell’s classic Blue album, making it less folky singer/songwriter and more a raucous tavern sing-along.

And what of Lake Street Dive? “What I’m Doing Here” (originally only on a Record Store Day special release single) is a heartache-drenched torch song, carried by the soulful vocals of Rachael Price. The band also gives us a “secret” bonus track, a goofy “Signature Sounds Theme” hoedown. The track, short as it is, encapsulates the family vibe of the label. As Signature Sounds president Jim Olsen says in the liner notes, “Our artists tend to be friends and tour partners, which lends a real sense of community to the label.”

It wouldn’t be a longshot to bet that Signature Sounds will continue to leave their signature on roots music for another 20 years.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.