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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.

By |July 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Featured|0 Comments

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!

By |May 30th, 2016|CD of the Month, Featured|0 Comments

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.
By |May 3rd, 2016|CD of the Month, Featured|0 Comments

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.”

By |May 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Featured|0 Comments

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.

By |April 1st, 2016|CD of the Month|0 Comments

April Acoustic CD of the Month

The April 2016 Acoustic CD of the Month is the new album from Mavis Staples, Livin’ On a High Note. Staples grew up singing in church, with her family’s band, The Staples Singers, joined the Civil Rights movement, and has a 50 year solo career. Rolling Stone calls her “one of the greatest singers of all time.”

Mavis Staples and producer, M. Ward, put out a call for notable, “friends of” songwriters to have a once in a lifetime chance to write for her. The result goes beyond a collection of new songs to add songs to Staples’ canon. These are songs that were tailor made for her range and sense of place in history. The single and title track, “High Note” is by Valerie June. WNRN played several song from June’s critically acclaimed debut, “Pushing Against Stone.” Other notables are Benjamin Booker, Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs), Ben Harper, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Nick Cave and a co-writing effort between Neko Case and Laura Viers.

You can see Mavis Staples at The Paramount in Charlottesville on April 9th. M. Ward will be at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville on April 30th.

By |April 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Miscellaneous|0 Comments

March Electric CD of the Month

The Electric CD of the March is Lissie’s My Wild West. As she was writing
songs for her third album Lissie realized that her subconscious was saying she
needed to get out of California and find those “forty acres in the sun” she
references in the song “Hero”. Upon Completion of this album she moved to a
farm in Iowa.

More than just a manifestation of her life’s path My Wild West has a great rise
and fall of introspective songwriting teamed with a driving rock beat. “Don’t
You Give Up On Me” and “Daughters” might highlight this best. Enjoy the
reflection of life on “Go For A  Walk” and “Ojai”. “Stay” and “Hero”  have
that haunting feeling that reminds me of Lissie’s first album Catching a Tiger
and songs that reveal themselves to you with multiple listens. You know, that
“this song gives me chills” feeling.

By |March 11th, 2016|CD of the Month|0 Comments

March Acoustic CD of the Month

Lake Street Dive’s release of Side Pony marks a new era for this Boston based group. It is their first on a major label, Warner’s subsidiary, Nonesuch, and was produced by Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Anderson East). With the help of this new muscle, they are able to bring their own way of writing, singing, and playing that brought them to some prominence with Bad Self Portrait to a wider audience.

On its fourth record, lead singer Rachael Price’s voice leads the way through all the tracks and can turn from vulnerable to sassy on a dime. The bands other considerable powers are the interplay as well as shared songwriting duties.  All of their collective and individual strengths and charm shine on this new release.

You can see Lake Street Dive at the National in Richmond on March 19th or at the Ntelos Wireless Pavilion in Charlottesville on June 11th. (picture, Danny Clinch)

By |March 1st, 2016|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Miscellaneous|0 Comments

February 2016 Electric CD of the Month

Exceptional. Weird. Accessible.

15 years ago in Philadelphia, Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman started writing The Psychedelic Swamp which was the music that would lead to the creation of Dr. Dog. The sessions were put onto cassettes for fans in the year 2001, but was ressurrected last year when Dr. Dog decided to re-record the songs and collaborate with a theater troupe to bring the character of Phrases, a swamp inhabitant, to life. Think of it as Dr. Dog’s Rock Opera.

Dr. Dog isn’t trying to leave you completely confused by their idealistic musical creation. On the contrary, they just want you to come to The Psychedelic Swamp and enjoy yourself.

I would suggest listening to the album in its entirety to let the concept wash over you, but highlights for me include the subtle harmonies of McMicken and Leaman on “Dead Record Player” and the surf guitars of McMicken’s “Swampadelic Pop.” You should listen to “Bring My Baby Back” where Leaman has crafted a solid song that could easily have been included on any of Dr. Dog’s albums and “Engineer Says” in which Leaman pulls you into a bluesy world that develops into organized chaos.

By |February 9th, 2016|CD of the Month|0 Comments