The Dustbowl Revival is a Venice, California-based collective that merges old school bluegrass, gospel, pre-war blues and the hot swing of New Orleans to form a spicy roots cocktail. Known for their roaring live sets, Dustbowl bravely brings together many styles of traditional American music. Some call it a string band-brass band mash up. Maybe it’s swing-grass or good old Americana, however you spin it, Dustbowl creates and curates infectious, joyous music - a youthful take on time-worn American traditions.
Honesty, confidence, and respect permeate Eilen Jewell’s music, dating back to her self-released Boundary County album in 2006. Since then, the Boise native has recorded five studio albums for Signature Sounds with her road-tested touring band, and two more as a member of the Boston-based gospel-charged Sacred Shakers, which includes that well-oiled band at its core. Her latest, Sundown Over Ghost Town, is a masterful culmination of Jewell’s work to date, and rolls out May 26.
As hard as it is to categorize Jewell’s music—terms like alt-country, roots-rock, country-noir, and Americana get used a lot—it’s even harder not to become thoroughly enraptured by the singer/songwriter’s powerful versatility, musical stories, and images. And that gorgeous voice makes you feel like she’s singing just for you, out on the breezy back porch or by a crackling campfire. She does so much, so well.
Rich with cinematic visions, elegant sweet and smoky vocals, and hauntingly autobiographical songs, Sundown Over Ghost Town is bursting with stellar performances and is likely her most personal, fully realized album yet. And that’s saying a lot! The record, with all its songs penned by Jewell, is a poignant, ever-so-flavorful reflection of her return to Boise after nearly a decade in the Northeast.
“Going in, we said ‘lets make a bad ass indie rock record with a sound as big and dynamic as we can, without compromising one single heartfelt lyric."
Singer-songwriter Heather Maloney did just that on her newest LP, Making Me Break. Working with Grammy-nominated producer Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses, Avett Brothers), the two crafted and delivered on an artistic vision to merge Maloney’s folk roots with indie rock.
“The sounds I love in indie rock are so lush, and textured, and intricate, like someone spent a lot of time on this, so they must really care,” Maloney explains, citing influences such as Ben Howard, The Shins, and Io Echo. “And as a singer-songwriter raised on folk, I am drawn to lyrics that that are meaningful, intelligent, tell a story, paint pictures... that care. So I just wanted to make an album that cared musically and lyrically. Some sort of a bleeding heart meeting a distant, unaffected, sparkly rock band. That was the goal.”
Maloney’s new music has a definite edge, but it also has a classically trained voice that delivers well-crafted lyrics over a technical arrangement—a combination we’ve recently seen getting mainstream appreciation once more. Suddenly, the term “singer- songwriter” carries serious weight again. Chalk it up to a revival of everything 90s and Maloney’s influence from “those bleeding hearts,” as she calls them, referring to artists’ like Fiona Apple, Tori Amos and Aimee Mann.
Violets are Blue is Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem’s fifth release, a collection of rollicking, wistful and wise “love songs from the hill.” Seven originals and five covers look at partnership through the kaleidoscope of midlife, finding forgiveness, perseverance and self-awareness in funny, mindful, longing, and satisfied songs with a wide range of moods. Where some pulse with drums, bass, accordion, electric guitar, fiddle and rich four-part harmony, others hang like spacious webs from the shimmering thread of Arbo’s alto. Confident, diverse, reflective, and loving, Violets are Blue is a bouquet from an Americana band in its prime.
As solo artists, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell have been making critically acclaimed albums since the early 1990s, and each have contributed harmonies to every one of those albums. But with the exception of 1998’s one-off Cry Cry Cry album with Dar Williams, the two songwriters have never made an album together - that is, until now. And it’s been worth the wait.
As The Pine Hill Project, Lucy and Richard have released Tomorrow You're Going, an Americana masterwork produced by multi-instrumentalist and two-time Grammy Award winner Larry Campbell (best known for his work with Levon Helm and as part of Bob Dylan's touring band, as well as sideman for Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson). The album also features bassist Byron Isaacs, pianist Bill Payne (Little Feat), and drummer Dennis McDermott.
Tomorrow You’re Going is an evocative, sometimes rollicking, deeply moving collection of 11 songs from writers as diverse as Greg Brown (“Lately”), Nick Lowe (“I Live on a Battlefield”), even U2 (“Sweetest Thing”), and Elizabeth Ziman ("Open Book"). There’s also the lovely, wistful country twang they bring to Little Feat's “Missing You”, and Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton's "Making Plans” from which the album’s title is culled.
Recently called one of “the Western Mass. indie scene’s brightest creative lights” by Pitchfork, Northampton, Massachusetts’ And The Kids recently released their debut full-length album, Turn to Each Other (Signature Sounds). Turn to Each Other is more than an album title: it’s a statement of fact for the band, whose bond — as musicians, friends and creative foils — is as tight as they come.
The album features 11 tracks full of ringing guitars from Hannah Mohan, knotty rhythms from drummer Rebecca Lasaponaro and bold accents from synthesizers and percussion by Megan Miller. Together, they create “apocaplyptic pop”, a dizzying stop-start ride with lush, intricate soundscapes that frame Mohan’s lively lead vocals. NPR Music recently raved, “Guitarist Hannah Mohan’s striking vocals rival the vibrato and boldness of Siouxsie Sioux… [And The Kids] make music that’s both fearless and entertaining.”
An ongoing struggle with border issues for Miller, a Canadian citizen, initiated the addition of bassist Taliana Katz to the touring ensemble. Katz made her debut as part of the band at their NPR Tiny Desk Concert and continues to carry the energy of the album to the stage.