Acoustic CD of the Month December 2016

In 2015 on a cold, January night in Washington DC, friends, fans, and some country music royalty came together at DAR Constitution Hall to play the songs of Emmylou Harris. She is known to music lovers as not only a fine songwriter, band leader and singer, but a tastemaker who has covered songwriters like Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams bringing them to prominence. On display was the love of her fellow musicians of her as a person, but also how she influence them. Rodney Crowell, who as lead guitarist turned successful songwriter and singer came of age as a member of Harris’s Hot Band, sings “You’re Still On My Mind.” In the tribute Alison Krauss sings “Til I Gain Control Again”. This Rodney Crowell song has been covered by many, but it was Harris that first sang it in 1975.

This sense of back and forth between Emmylou Harris, songwriters and musicians, is brought forth over and over during the course of an evening. Buddy Miller and Don Was are part of the house band. Other favorites like Sara Watkins and Sam Bush play on most tracks.

Not only does this tribute cover the early years with Graham Parsons, and the Hot Band, but some of the eras where Emmylou Harris “reinvents” herself. She won a Grammy for her album that she did with Daniel Lanois, Wrecking Ball. She also did an album with Mark Knopfler, “All the Roadrunning.”

Most of the music during this evening is played and sung by others. WNRN has been playing a lesser known song from Wrecking Ball, “Blackhawk,” featuring her along with Daniel Lanois from the tribute, The Life and Songs of Emmylou Harris.

December 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Featured, Miscellaneous|

Acoustic CD of the Month for November 2016

John Prine‘s For Better For Worse is the November 2016 Acoustic CD of the Month.

John Prine has released another album of country duets called For Better, Or Worse. Prine teams up with an all-star array of female singers to cover vintage country tunes. In a sense, it is a follow up to 1999’s In Spite Of Ourselves. This album is Prine’s first album since emerging victorious from his second struggle with the cancer. His voice is rougher with time and treatment for the illness, but in this context it serves to make him more like the guy next door.

While other artists use duets or cover albums to a strategically attempt to make themselves commercially relevant again, Prine has been recording for his own label since the 1980s and answers to no one. The cast on this new CD includes a ‘re’-pairing of Prine along with Iris DeMent and Fiona Prine. The talent also includes Alison Krauss, Kacey Musgraves, Susan Tedeschi, Amanda Shires, as well as Miranda Lambert, Lee Ann Womack and Kathy Mattea.

Prine sings one of the three Hank Williams songs with Hank’s granddaughter Holly Williams in “I’m Telling You.” He also takes on the Ernest Tubb/Loretta honky-tonk classic “Who’s Gonna Take Your Garbage Out.” On a happier note, the pairing of Morgane Stapleton and Prine on “Look At Us” reassures us that there can be songs about domestic bliss that fit into this profile of partnership.

Although some fans may miss hearing new songs from Prine, he does use his voice and delivery to bring these songs to life as if they were his own. This fan is grateful for the new role John Prine is playing: curator of classic country music at its best. (Photo: Josh Britt)

November 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Featured, Miscellaneous|

Acoustic CD of the Month October 2016

Hiss Golden Messenger’s Heart Like a Levee is the Acoustic CD of the Month for October 2016.

Hiss Golden Messenger return on October 7 with Heart Like a Levee, their 7th studio album, the first in two years. WNRN added “Biloxi” this summer and has been anxiously awaiting the whole album.

M.C. Taylor says about Heart Like a Levee, “I wrote these songs during a time of transition and doubt. The process was raw, but also joyous. I spent a lot of time with these words and chords in all types of weather. In the end I learned more about myself making this record than any in the past, and that’s one important way for me to gauge whether an album was worth making.”

The new release was self-produced by Taylor and Bradley Cook and recorded in Durham, NC, with Taylor’s close-knit North Carolina collaborators: brothers Phil and Bradley Cook on piano and bass, respectively; Matt McCaughan on drums; Tift Merritt and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig on backing vocals; and Matt Douglas and Michael Lewis on horns.

There is so much to dig into on Heart Like a Levee. The songs deal with leaving and returning, belief and trust, guilt, honesty, and life on the road. “Say It Like You Mean It” sounds like the next radio single.

October 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Featured|

August 2016 Acoustic CD of the Month

The Acoustic CD of the Month for August 2016 is Caveman’s third album, Otero War.

This five piece indie rock band from Brooklyn came together in 2010 after the dissolution of the members’ former bands. Caveman has been compared to Wilco, the Shins, and Tears for Fears because of its use of synths and rhythmic guitars to create cinematic, heady, melodic indie folk-rock. The reviews of the first two albums praise the quintet with creating complex musical ideas with grabbing melodies and atmospheric warmth.

The cover art of Otero War looking like soundtrack to a sci-fi movie just adds to the idea of the cinematic quality of Caveman’s bright melodies and dystopian lyrics. Any of the songs would easily fit behind movie or tv scenes. “Never Going Back” has a great hook and shows that talent for writing songs that stay with you. Matthew Iwanusa vocals are one of the highlights throughout the album, including “Life Or Just Living”, “Human,” “80 West,” and “All My Life.”

You can check out the recent interview that WNRN’s Melissa Goode did with Caveman at: http://www.wnrn.org/?s=caveman

August 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Miscellaneous|

Acoustic CD of the Month for July 2016

The Acoustic CD of the Month for July 2016 is the 13th studio album from Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger.

Paul Simon does not believe in writers block. Good work takes time. Stranger to Stranger is his first release in five years. Featuring musical experimentation infused with custom made instruments, collaboration with many musicians including Italian electronic artist, Clap! Clap!, background vocals from Bobby McFerrin and samples of the Golden Gate Quartet, these songs shows Simon’s desire to tell good stories and place them in the perfect environment.

The first three songs on the album use the custom-made instruments created by music theorist, Harry Partch, in the mid-twentieth century. These instruments allow 43 tones to an octave  giving a different approach and sound to “The Werewolf,”  “Wristband,” and “The Clock.” A teacher who was in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that Simon knew inspired “The Riverbank.” “Proof of Love” and “In the Garden of Edie” are tributes to Simon’s wife, musician Edie Brickell. Tying it all together, characters and a variety of instruments make appearances through out Stranger to Stranger.

July 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Featured|

June 2016 Acoustic CD of the Month

The Acoustic CD of the Month for June 2016 is the Darrell Scott’s album, Couchville Sessions.

Darrell Scott is a successful country songwriter, placing songs with the biggest names in country music, including several major chart hits. Travis Tritt made “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” a hit. The second single from the Dixie Chicks’ Home was Darrell Scott’s “Long Time Gone”. For over 20 years, Scott has worked consistently as a studio musician and released a series of his own solo albums. He also performed as part of Robert Plant’s Band of Joy tour.

For this new career spanning release, Darrell Scott recorded 5 covers and 9 originals. Some of these new songs were recorded back in 2001 and others as recent as last year.  The album version of “Down to the River” includes a story made up and told by the late Guy Clark. One  covers is Peter Rowan’s “Midnight Moonlight.” Through out the whole disc, you get the sense of his range as a singer, master musician and performer.

June 2016 Electric CD of the Month

The Electric CD of the Month for June is 2 from Mudcrutch.

Mudcrutch moved from Gainesville, Florida to LA and in 1974 they put out one single. The following year the band broke up, but in 2008 Tom Petty, Tom Leadon, Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell and Randall Marsh reformed Mudcrutch and made their debut. Their second album, 2, was just released and feels loose and fun, like Tom Petty got a chance to go play with his friends.

Throughout 2, there seems to be an ethic of ‘you wrote it, you sing it.’ “Welcome to Hell” sung by Benmont Tench has a great boogie woogie swing, that the longtime pianist and organist pulls off with style. Mike Campbell is challenging his inner road warrior on “Victim of Circumstance”. Randall Marsh adds “Beautiful World” that enjoys a current sense of indie rock. Tom Leadon wrote “The Other Side of the Mountain”, a song that wants you to dance around the bar room floor after you applaud for the banjo player, Herb Pedersen.

Petty adds in seven original songs include “Beautiful Blue” and “Hungry No More” that clock in at more than 6 minutes each. There is also a gorgeous lullaby in “I Forgive It All” sung over an acoustic guitar with wisdom that comes with age or at least a change of pace. “Trailer” is a crazy, slice of life ride and “Dreams of Flying” will also give you that sense of longing for a simpler life that a star like Petty might never know again.

2 will be a great road trip album for you this summer. Enjoy it!

May 30th, 2016|CD of the Month, Featured|

May 2016 Electric CD of the Month

Cleopatra by The Lumineers is the Electric CD of the Month for May at WNRN. Their second full length album doesn’t stray far from their 2012 debut, but the Denver trio has given themselves time to craft their follow up and it shows. Throughout this sophomore effort the band has been precise and not added an extra note or syllable. Although the raucous quality of The Lumineers  felt unbridled Cleopatra doesn’t feel contrived, it feels accomplished and understated.
The beginning notes of “Sleep on the Floor” quietly bring you back into The Lumineers world and once you think you know where you are the song opens up and the four years since their debut melt away.
The suite of feminine songs that make up the first half of the album include “Angela” with descriptions of a love for the modern time for a flawed character. There is also “Cleopatra” where Wesley Schulz becomes the character of an aged woman who is looking back on her past lives. With “Ophelia” TheLumineers start with a stomp similar to their well known “Ho Hey” but the song becomes a sophisticated romp.
Throughout Cleopatra The Lumineers find new ways to tell unique stories, weave lovely compositions and use their percussive style of stomping, rhythm guitar and stomping to remind you that the sophomore slump has skipped a generation.
The Lumineers have planned two stops in Virginia, at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion on September 13th and then at Richmond International Raceway on September 16th.
May 3rd, 2016|CD of the Month, Featured|

May 2016 Acoustic CD of the Month

Andrew Bird’s Are You Serious is the May Acoustic CD of the Month. This is the work of a high-caliber musician.  Known initially for working with Squirrel Nut Zippers, Andrew Bird has been putting our critically acclaimed albums since 2003. All are immaculately written, full of surprise with a different pallet of instruments and arrangements than the average singer-songwriter. But Andrew Bird is not average.

For this new work, Bird issued his own challenge then answered it with this project. Bird said, “That friction between the tone of the music and what the lyrics are saying creates the humor and melancholy that helps us deal with it all. If its dark on dark my eyes glaze over or I think ‘are your serious?’ In fact, that’s what I was thinking of calling this record, I guess because the songs got into a personal territory that, dare I say, are almost confessional, and that naturally makes me a bit uncomfortable.”

In Bird’s personal life since his last album, he has gotten married, had a child — and his wife battled cancer. The single, “Capsized,” sings uncharacteristically in plain terms his experience with a break up. The title track teases that he “used to be so willfully obtuse, semantics like a noose, get out your dictionairies” and declares “this is all non-fiction.” In the duet with Fiona Apple “Left Hand Kisses” confronts love’s charm and vulnerability. Other favorites are “Puma” and “Saints Preservus.”

May 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month|

April Electric CD of the Month

WNRN’S Electric CD of the Month for April is Pete Yorn’s Arranging Time. His sixth album has found him collaborating with multiple producer/multi-instrumentalists including R. Walt Vincent who had been a part of Yorn’s breakout debut musicforthemorningafter 15 years earlier. The parings make for a multi-faceted album shown in songs like “I’m Not the One” with the Casio-style electric piano, the sharp guitar edges of “Screaming at the Setting Sun” or the near-classically arranged string section and grand piano on closer “This Fire.”

Highlights for me on this album also include “Summer Was A Day”, I was hooked at first listen. Although his voice sounds road-weary, to me “Roses” has some sort of timeless appeal, like this piece could have been written and adored anytime in the past 40 years.

April 1st, 2016|CD of the Month|