Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 20 Roots/Folk/Country/Blues/etc Albums of the 2013

1. Sturgill Simpson - " High Top Mountain" (High Top Mountain Records/Thirty Tigers)
The former leader of Sunday Valley delivers his solo debut and what an album it is. Drawing from Hard Country, Bluegrass, Outlaw Country and more Sturgill crafted a colossal album and he's now reaping the benefits of it. I do miss SV but this softens the blow.

2. Jayke Orvis and The Broken Band - "Bless This Mess" (Farmageddon Records)
The 2nd album from Jayke Orvis since exiting .357 String Band is yet another feather in the cap of one of Roots music's finest musicians and songwriters. With The Broken Band finally having a solidified line up of Liz Sloan on Fiddle, Jared McGovern on Upright Bass and James Hunnicutt on Guitar, this album shows why Jayke Orvis and company are among the premier acts in the Roots scene.

3. Possessed By Paul James - "There Will Be Nights When I'm Lonely" (Hillgrass Bluebilly)
Possessed By Paul James has been steadily writing better and better songs and albums over the years, and while not losing the wildman edge that his early work was defined by, he has certainly rounded some of the sharp edges off. However, what he may have sacrificed in the area of lunacy, he has more than made up for in the songwriting and musicality department.

4. S.S. Web - "1933" (Wayward Parade)
"1933" is the 2nd album from  Milwaukee's S.S. Web, and shows the group to be continually improving on there already stellar sound. One of the best and most original groups in the greater Roots music scene, S.S. Web has crafted a sound all their own with elements of Country, Punk, Folk, Americana, Rock, and much more. The sound is nearly indefinable, so I suggest you see them live and pick up this album as well as their debut "North".

5. Crow Cannons - "Texas Rain" (Self Released)
This 2 piece band from Terre Haute, IN has quickly made their mark with 2 great albums and one of the most intense live shows you're likely to see. Combining balls out, Blues Rock swagger with a bit of Country and Roots, depending on the track, Crow Cannons are melting faces whether on disc or on stage.

6. ToeKnee Tea - "Elkhart County Jail" (Self Released)
Another Hoosier, Toeknee Tea plays Blues, with a few hints of Punk underlying the surface, and in the last couple years has quickly made a name for himself as one of the premier one man bands around the midwest. This full length fullfills the promise shown on his debut EP, "Disappointing Noises".

7. Hangdog Hearts - "Under The Floorboards" (Self Released)
"Under The Floorboards" is the 2nd album from Indy's Austin Stirling, under the moniker The Hangdog Hearts. The group has bounced back and forth from being a one man band project of Austin's and having various other backing members. The first album, "Good Ol' Fashioned Gentleman's Music" showed the immense talent and songwriting ability of Austin but lacked a bit of the raw power and intensity of his live performances. "Under The Floorboards" remedies that issue and shows HDH stripped down to a primal level that evokes a wealth of emotion and shows with even greater detail the depth of this man's heart and soul.

8. The Devil Makes Three - "I'm A Stranger Here" (New West Records)
The Devil Makes Three have been at it for awhile now, long before many of the other Roots and String Bands even dreamed of picking up a banjo. After toiling away in relative obscurity, playing countless shows where they earned a reputation as one of the premier live bands in this scene, and releasing one great album after another, it seems they are finally getting some of the recognition they deserve.

9. The Goddamn Gallows - "Acoustic Bootleg" (Farmageddon Records)
This very limited edition CD release from Farmageddon Records captures an intimate live acoustic performance from The Goddamn Gallows at a Tattoo shop. Not only is it interesting to hear an acoustic performance from these lords of misrule, but it also includes them doing a few covers that are not available on any other Gallows' release.

10. Austin Lucas - "Stay Reckless" (New West Records)
Bloomington, IN's Austin Lucas has been writing great songs and albums for years now, whether as a member of various Metal and Punk bands or as a solo Country and Bluegrass performer, and his latest is no exception. Excellently crafted songs that display great songcraft and exceptional musicality.

11. Mikey Classic and His Lonesome Spur - "Self Titled" (Farmageddon Records)
This is the self titled solo debut from the front man of The Goddamn Gallows, Mikey Classic. Old school Country Blues jams with Mikey's unmistakable voice and style. Excellent songs and it shows even more just how versatile Mikey Classic is.

12. Townes Van Zandt - "Sunshine Boy" (Omnivore Recordings)
"Sunshine Boy" is a collection of unreleased studio tracks and demos from the greatest songwriter of all time Townes Van Zandt. This double disc set is especially cool because the tracks are mostly just Townes with a bare minimum of extra instrumentation that always seemed to plague his studio albums from this same era. Also, this collection includes for the first time anywhere, studio versions of his cover of The Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" as well as a few other tracks that TVZ never recorded on any other album.

13. Jason Boland and The Stragglers - "Dark and Dirty Mile" (Thirty Tigers/Proud Souls Entertainment)
"The Dark and Dirty Mile" is the 7th studio album from Jason Boland and The Stragglers, and it could very well be his best work. He has made a career of writing great songs but so far has largely remained somewhat unknown outside the Red Dirt scene, hopefully this album will change that.

14. David Hanners - "There Are No Secrets In This Town" (Self Released)
David Hanners is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has became a well respected Singer/Songwriter. He's recorded a few albums now of great Folk/Americana jams and his newest is perhaps his best. "There Are No Secrets In This Town" was inspired by an interview given by a woman who had been a madame in Terre Haute, IN for several decades during the city's era when it was known as "Sin City". Hanners wrote songs based on her stories and on the people she talked about, as well as historic events in the city's past. Its a great album regardless, but for anyone from Terre Haute or the Wabash Valley, it is of exceptional interest.

15. Hank III - "Brothers of the 4x4" (Hank III Records/Megaforce)
The newest album from Shelton Hank Williams III, while having an awkward title, is actually his best work in  a few years in my eyes. While I am still a big fan of Hank, his recent output has been uneven at best, and nowhere near the level at which his earlier works like "Lovesick, Broke, and Drifting" and "Straight To Hell" were at. It has seemed that he really needed someone who could help him edit his works and say "maybe leave this song off". While "Brothers of the 4x4" is not as good as his seminal albums, it is a much more enjoyable album than anything he's done in recent years, and despite a few questionable tracks or awkward lyrics, its a fun record and hopefully a stepping stone for Hank to return to his former greatness.

16. Jason Isbell - "Southeastern" (Southeastern Records)
This is the 4th studio album from Jason Isbell, the former member of The Drive By Truckers, and has garned almost universal acclaim this year. Recently getting clean and sober and surviving much turmoil, Isbell turned all that drama into great songs and perhaps his defining work, that may even eclipse his previous group's best efforts.

17. John Moreland - "In The Throes" (Last Chance Records)
"In The Throes" is the 3rd album from Oklahoma's John Moreland and should be the album that introduces him to a wider audience. The tracks vary in style to some degree from more Singer/Songwriter and Folk type jams to songs that are more Rock influenced. The common thread among them all however, is Moreland's exceptional songwriting ability. The man may one day be remembered along side people like Graham Lindsey and William Elliott Whimore as one of the finest songwriters of his generation.

18. Guy Clark - "My Favorite Picture of You" (Dualtone)
The newest album from the legendary Guy Clark is an emotional and powerful record. Guy's wife and longtime companion, Susanna Clark, died prior to the writing of this album and as such became the inspiration behind the album. Guy has long been one of America's greatest songwriters and will always be connected to his friends and fellow legends Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle, but this album is among Clark's best and most poignant work, as it is a tribute to the woman he loved.

19. J.B. Beverley - "Stripped To The Root"
"Stripped To The Root" is the long awaited solo album from the frontman/leader of The Wayward Drifters and former frontman of The Murder Junkies (post GG), J.B. Beverley. This album may surprise many who are expecting a new Wayward Drifters album because it is most definitely NOT that, and isnt really even a Country album. The album varies greatly from song to song but is carried by just how personal the material is to JB. There are originals and there are covers, there are Folk songs, Rock songs, Country songs and Bluegrass songs. It is a very different record for JB but shows just how diverse the man and his influences are.

20. Robbie Fulks - Gone Away Backwoods" (Bloodshot)
The latest album from Robbie Fulks, "Gone Away Backward", is yet another great album in a career that is full of them. The Illinois resident has released over 10 albums and is still going strong as evidenced by the greatness of this album. One of the most purely "Country" albums on this list, this record is a must own album for anyone who is a fan of TRUE Country music and is tired of the god awful shit pouring out of Nashville on through the radio these days.

Andy Sweitzer

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Awesome Bands You Should Know...PRIMITIVE MAN

PRIMITIVE MAN is a intense, devastatingly heavy band from Denver, Colorado. The group is comprised of current and former members of CLINGING TO THE TREES OF A FOREST FIRE, DEATH OF SELF, WITHERED, & REPROACHER. The group formed in Denver back in  February 2012 with Ethan Lee McCarthy on Vocals and Guitar, Jonathon Campos on Bass, and Bennett Kennedy on Drums. The trio soon set about crafting savage material drawing elements of Doom, Death Metal, Black Metal, Noise, Drone, Sludge, Crust, and more. Their efforts would soon begin to take form and in October 2012, they entered Flatline Audio, in Denver, with egineer/producer Dave Otero. These sessions would yield their debut LP, "Scorn". This nihilistic, oppressively heavy record would initially be released in January/February 2013 by the band themselves, in conjunction with Mordgrimm and Throatruiner Records. The album was released only on Vinyl in a limited pressing, and featured 7 tracks of audio violence, utter devastation, and ominous atmosphere.

The record opens with the title track, "Scorn", which clocks in at a monsterous 11:44, and demonstrates right out the gate that this band is not to be fucked with. Collossal riffs and ear shredding feedback collide with McCarthy's scorched vocals and misanthropic lyrics, and within this massive first tracks the weak shall be weeded out. This is not for the faint of heart. The meek shall inherit nothing. PRIMITIVE MAN are here to trample the weak, hurdle dead, and get fucked up in the process. During this opening onslaught, the band demonstrate they can not only play slow, pulverizing Doom and Blackened Sludge, but that they can also briefly bust out faster tempos that hearken to the Grind of McCarthy's other main group, CLINGING TO THE TREES OF A FOREST FIRE. Its interesting because in some ways, PM is almost like the reverse version of CTTTOAFF, as PM play a Blackened Sludge/Doom with brief elements of Grind and Death Metal, while CTTTOAFF play Grindcore with occasional elements of Sludge and Doom. "Rags" follows and opens with a hellish groove that would make EYEHATEGOD proud, before slowing the pace to a Death/Doom crawl. Next is "I Can't Forget", the first of a couple disturbing, atmospheric, interlude type tracks. Its quite haunting and truly adds to the overall disturbing aura of the record as a whole. The second longest track of the album follows this, in the form of "Antietam" a 9 minute war of attrition that is all hate and power. After the first 2 minutes of slow motion devastation, things pick up and we get some Crust Punk infused bursts. After a bit we return to a crawling pace for several minutes, before hitting a nice groove inflected stomp for a bit, and then ultimately returning to a slow trudge by songs end. "Black Smoke" is another horrifing interlude piece that is difficult to describe but adds to yet another layer of menace to the proceedings. "Stretched Thin" is the shortest track on the record at just under 3 minutes and is easily the fastest and most Grind and Crust/Punk infused of all the tracks. Its not super fast in the grand scheme of things but in the context of the album, it seems like they're fucking flying off the rails. Finally, we come to the closer, "Astral Sleep", which features huge chunks of Blackened Sludge and Death Doom for most of the track but also rallies the troops for one last blast of faster paced action before closing things out in feedback. Shortly after the release of "Scorn", PRIMITIVE MAN would part ways with Bennett Kennedy, and pick up Isidro "Spy" Soto as his replacement on Drums. About a month after the release of "Scorn", the band would offer up an EP for free via digital download, by the title of "P//M".

This EP would feature 3 tracks of more atmospheric, Ambient and electronic material, including a PORTISHEAD cover. Fastforward to June 2013 and PRIMITIVE MAN would get signed to the prestigious extreme music label, Relapse Records, who would re-release "Scorn" on CD, Digital Download, and limited edition Vinyl LP. The re-release Vinyl LP would be see a pressing of 1000 copies, 700 being standard Black with the other 300 being a "Beer" colored LP that is a beautiful golden brown. This Vinyl reissue would have the same tracklisting as the initial release, however the CD and Digital versions of the Relapse version would include 3 extra tracks, "Lifetime", "Innard$" and "I Am Above You". In a very short amount of time, PRIMITiVE MAN have asserted themselves as one of the foremost bands in Extreme Metal. "Scorn" is one of the best albums of 2013, without a doubt, and for fans of extreme Doom this is your new favorite band. 2014 also looks to big a big year for PRIMITIVE MAN as they are starting the year off with a bang by dropping not 1, but 2 new releases.

First, they have a new split 7" with XAPHAN coming out in January, through Init Records that will feature one new song. This 7" is being pressed in a limited edition of 1000 copies. The 2nd release is due out in February through Tartarus Records. This release is a new cassette tape that focuses more on the Noise and Drone side of the band. It will include the materian from the digital P//M release plus a number of new tracks including a CROWBAR cover, for a total of almost 90 mins of brutality. This cassette is being pressed in a limited number of 100.

There are countless Extreme Metal bands these days and an ever growing number of Extreme Doom bands that take Doom more extreme directions like Death/Doom, Blackened Doom, Sludge, Funeral Doom, etc, etc but tuning low, and playing slow doesnt necessarily result in great music, in and of its self. PRIMITIVE MAN have shown they have what it takes to create interesting, and truly powerful music that while rooted in the slow and crushing end of the spectrum, is also quite capable of utilizing other elements such as Noise and Ambient, to create a more lethal end result.

Check out all PM news, go here... http://primitivemandoom.com/
For merch, go here... http://primitivemandoom.bigcartel.com/
To here these jams, go here... http://primitivemandoom.bandcamp.com/

Andy Sweitzer