Tag: alt country

Perhaps best known as a founding member, primary songwriter and frontwoman of renowned indie rock act Howling Bells, along with Glenn Moule (drums), her brother Joel (lead guitar) and Gary Daines (bass guitar), the Sydney, Australia-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Juanita Stein has developed a reputation as a solo artist of note with the release of last year’s solo debut America, an album that thematically focused on the iconography and cultural landscapes of a country that had always fascinated her from afar.

Slated for an August 31, 2018 release through Nude Records, Stein’s sophomore album, Until The Lights Fade will further cement her long-held reputation for crafting twangy and old-timey country-tinged indie rock — but this time, the album thematically speaking is concerned with thoughts, feelings, stories and characters rooted far closer to home. “I feel like the two albums are different sides of the same coin,” Stein explain. “If America was the starting point of a journey — the musical equivalent of me spreading my wings, but also treading carefully, trying to figure myself out having come from such an intense period of camaraderie in the band; then this record is me starting to gain a bit more traction, feeling more confident in where I’m coming from and what is I’m doing.” When the opportunity arose last year to spend a week in Austin, TX with Stuart Sikes, who has worked with Cat Power, The White Stripes, Loretta Lynn, Stein grabbed it. “When you reach a certain point in life and moments like that appear, you have to go with it. Up ’til now, everything I’ve done has been planned and laboured over, but this album was very impromptu, very spur of the moment — a couple of the musicians I was working with, I had only met for the first time that week. It was like nothing I’d ever done before.” Naturally, that impromptu nature of the recording sessions wound up influencing the material’s overall sound — and with album single “Easy Street,” there’s a ramshackle and free-flowing vibe that underlies the material’s deliberate attention to craft that brings to mind 70s AM radio rock, thanks in part to the song’s anthemic hooks, twangy power chords. As Stein says of the song, “‘Easy Street’ was written very immediately. Everything about it felt intuitive and direct. Touring the songs off America for the last couple of years has given me some unique insight into people and their situations. You’re clocking up some good miles across various cities and countries, you see people getting by, doing what they can, being inventive with their realities. Hope/desperation isn’t limited to geography, everyone’s looking for an easy way out essentially. This song is about someone running from their reality and trying to find a better life for themselves.”

Adding to a growing profile as a solo artist, Stein had a recent run of dates opening for The Killers that included a SXSW stop — and since then she’s toured with renowned Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry, made some stops across the international touring circuit that included Latitude Festival, Green Man Festival, and Black Deer Festival. Building up buzz for her sophomore effort, Stein will be playing a number of dates across the UK. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates 
24th     June     Black Deer Festival, Tunbridge Wells
8th       July      TRNSMT Festival, Glasgow
14th     July      Latitude Festival, Southwold
20th     July      Spain, Benicassim Festival
24th     July      Finland, Helsinki Arena (with The Killers)
26th     July      Luxembourg, Esch-sur-Alzette, Rockhal (with The Killers)
18th     August Green Man Festival, Crickhowell
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Currently comprised of founding members Willy Vlautin (vocals, acoustic guitar and electric guitar) and Dave Harding (bass, backing vocals), along with Sean Oldham (drums, percussion, vibes and backing vocals), Dan Eccles (guitar) and Paul Brainard (pedal steel, piano, acoustic guitar, trumpet, backing vocals), the Portland, OR-based alt country quintet Richmond Fontaine can trace its origins back to 1994 when the band’s founding duo met at  Portland Meadows Racetrack, where they bonded over betting on the ponies and their mutual love of Husker Du, Willie Nelson, X, The Blasters and The Replacements, and they quickly decided to collaborate together. After a lineup change with the band expanding to a quintet, they developed  reputation for a sounda that frequently meshed elements of rock, country, punk, folk and Americana paired with Vlautin’s narrative-like songwriting, which resulted in praise from the likes of nationally and internationally recognized media outlets including UncutQ MagazineMojoThe IndependentThe Sun and others.

Interestingly, over the past decade, the band’s Vlautin has developed a reputation as a critically applauded and commercially successful novelist with his debut novel The Motel Life winning a Silver Pen Award from the State of Nevada and landed on the The Washington Post’s Top 25 Books of 2007 — and later, the book was adapted into the critically acclaimed motion picture, The Motel Life which starred Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson.  Vlautin’s 2008 sophomore novel, Northline was a San Francisco Chronicle Top Ten Bestseller. 2010’s Lean on Pete won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and was named Hot Press’ book of the year. 2014’s The Free continued an incredible run of prolificacy which included the band’s 9 preceding full-length albums, an instrumental soundtrack for Northline, two live albums and an EP.

After a three year hiatus from recording, the  members of Richmond Fontaine returned to the studio with their long-time producer and collaborator John Askew to write and record, 2016’s You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, which was released by one of my favorite labels, Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and Decor Records across Europe. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you may recall that I wrote about album single “Wake Up Ray,” a jangling bit of old school country-influenced alt country with Vlautin’s novelistic attention to detail, which managed to created a very real, lived in world in which the song’s characters wake up every single day to a lonely life and an even lonelier house that they’ve learned to hate — and yet they’re aware that because of the choices they made, that their position (if not, their very fate) is largely inescapable. But underneath the surface, is a wistful and mournful recognition of life and love’s impermanence.

Following the release of You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, the members of the band formally announced that it would be their final traditional album and tour; however, as the band’s Vlautin was putting the finishing touches on his fifth novel, Don’t Skip Out on Me which is slated for a February 13, 2018 release through HarperCollins, he was able to round up the band to record an instrumental, companion soundtrack, and while a digital download of the soundtrack will be bundled with the book, Richmond Fontaine’s long-time label home felt that it deserved it’s own release — February 16, 2018 with an extremely limited vinyl release both in the States and in Europe, through Decor Records.

Soundtrack single “Horace And The Trophy” while clearly nodding to classic, 60s and 70s Renegade Country, 70s AM rock possesses an obvious cinematic quality, as though it should be part of the soundtrack of a deliberate, thoughtful road trip movies, featuring rugged, heartbroken and rootless loners crisscrossing the continent, fleeing a troubled past or an uncertain future.

 

New Video: Introducing the Spectral Sounds and Intimate Visuals for Lola Kirke’s “Not Used”

Lola Kirke is a British-born, New York-based singer/songwriter, musician and actress, best know for starring roles in Mistress America and Mozart in the Jungle, as well as a supporting role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl; but along with that, she’s also the daughter of drummer Simon Kirke, best known for stints in Bad Company and Free and Lorraine Kirke, the owner of Geminola, a vintage boutique known for supplying outfits for Sex and the City. As a singer/songwriter, her self-titled debut EP features four, plaintive songs that Kirke has personally dubbed Cosmic American. 

The self-titled EP’s latest single “Not Used” is about learning to live with a lover’s absence and as a result, the single possesses a visceral longing and ache paired with a spectral yet old-timey, honky tonk-like arrangement . But at its core, is the acceptance of the lingering ghosts of one’s past and the awkward attempt to move forward with one’s life to the best of their abilities.  And interestingly enough, the recently released music video was directed by and stars Lola Kirke’s sister, who spends the entire length of the song vigorously exercising in her small apartment — and as Jemina Kirke explains about the video treatment “Those transitional, soul-level-change moments we experience are never dramatic. Epiphanies don’t really happen. They’re a myth. Real transformation is boring and uncomfortable, like working out on your birthday when you have no plans. Change slips in unnoticed while you’re busy trudging through something pretty unremarkable.” 

New Video: The Gorgeous and Highly Symbolic Visuals for Rogue and Jaye’s “Golden Lady”

Comprised of the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Courtney Jaye, who has spent stints in Nashville, Atlanta, Austin and elsewhere; and Bay Area-based singer/songwriter Zach Rogue, the frontman of indie rock act Rogue Wave, the country music duo of Rogue and Jaye can trace their origins back to a December 2013 songwriting session, in which the duo quickly recognized they had an instant and easy-going simpatico — perhaps based in their backgrounds as songwriters influenced by country, whose material frequently possessed a wistful, late night, drinking in the honky tonk vibe and the results the critically applauded debut single together “Til It Fades.” As Zach Rogue explains in press notes “We have this thing, and I don’t really know know why, it’s just a comfort level. We have this easy spirit with each other, where I like hearing here sing and I feel very comfortable proposing ideas.”

The duo’s debut effort together, Pent Up features a backing band consisting of Bands of Horses’Bill Reynolds (bass), Floating Action’s Seth Kauffman (guitar) and Grace Potter and The Nocturnals’ and Natalie Prass’ Michael Libramento (drums) and was recorded and engineered by Logan Matheny at Bill Reynolds’ Nashville-based Fleetwood Shack Studio and mixed and mastered by Mikael “Count” Eldridge in San Francisco. Officially released earlier this month, the album has been released to critically praise from a number of major media outlets including The Associated Press, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, American Songwriter and others, with Rolling Stone Country recently naming the duo one of their “10 New Artists You Need to Know,” and when you hear the album’s latest single “Golden Lady,” you’ll see why as the duo pair an easy-going, 70s AM rock and late night honky tonk twang with Jaye’s gorgeous yet wistful vocals. And while clearly drawing at Americana, 70s Renegade Country, indie rock and pop without being too tethered to them, the song also finds the duo subtly nodding at psychedelia with some pedal effected guitar.

In fact, much like the sources the duo draw from sonically and thematically, “Golden Lady” reveals the duo’s cool self-assuredness as the single is a recording featuring a bunch of old pros, who’ve made it seem way too easy — but at the same time, there’s an understated emotional honesty; the sort that comes from living a full and messy life of mistakes, foibles, joy, heartache, loneliness, being lost and found and lost again, and profoundly life altering experiences and experiencing them as completely and fully as possible — and with an effortless gracefulness.

As the duo’s Courtney Jaye explains, their latest single details an all-too common frustration with the universe and one’s seeming inability to cope with a personally damaging situation and learning how to be patient, how to be alone and how to love yourself before loving another and learning how to trust yourself and letting things go at the time and pace they’re supposed to. And in fact, the recently released video  Ben Bennett and shot and edited by Stefan Colson is shot in hazy, golden light and throughout Jaye is shot hemmed in and trapped in a person-sized tube and cocooned in fabric. And while Jaye is struggling to break free, there’s a sense that some of this is self-inflicted. In fact, as Jaye explains in press notes, “this video symbolizes being trapped by your own fear, self-doubt and lack of trust in universal timing. 

Comprised of the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Courtney Jaye, who has spent stints in Nashville, Atlanta, Austin and elsewhere; and Bay Area-based singer/songwriter Zach Rogue, the frontman of indie rock act Rogue Wave, the country music duo of Rogue and Jaye can trace their origins back to a December 2013 songwriting session, in which the duo quickly recognized they had an instant and easy-going simpatico — perhaps based in their backgrounds as songwriters influenced by country, whose material frequently possessed a wistful, late night, drinking in the honky tonk vibe and the results the critically applauded debut single together “Til It Fades.” As Zach Rogue explains in press notes “We have this thing, and I don’t really know know why, it’s just a comfort level. We have this easy spirit with each other, where I like hearing here sing and I feel very comfortable proposing ideas.”

The duo’s debut effort together, Pent Up features a backing band of Bands of HorsesBill Reynolds (bass), Floating Action‘s Seth Kauffman (guitar) and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ and Natalie Prass‘ Michael Libramento (drums) and was recorded and engineered by Logan Matheny at Bill Reynolds’ Nashville-based Fleetwood Shack Studio and mixed and mastered by Mikael “Count” Eldridge in San Francisco. Officially released earlier this month, the album has been released to critically praise from a number of major media outlets including The Associated PressRolling Stone, Entertainment WeeklyAmerican Songwriter and others, with Rolling Stone Country recently naming the duo one of their “10 New Artists You Need to Know,” and when you hear the album’s latest single “Golden Lady,” you’ll see why as the duo pair an easy-going, 70s AM rock and late night honky tonk twang with Jaye’s gorgeous yet wistful vocals. And while clearly drawing at Americana, 70s Renegade Country, indie rock and pop without being too tethered to them, the song also finds the duo subtly nodding at psychedelia with some pedal effected guitar.

In fact, much like the sources the duo draw from sonically and thematically, “Golden Lady” reveals the duo’s cool self-assuredness as the single is a recording featuring a bunch of old pros, who’ve made it seem way too easy — but at the same time, there’s an understated emotional honesty; the sort that comes from living a full and messy life of mistakes, foibles, joy, heartache, loneliness, being lost and found and lost again, and profoundly life altering experiences and experiencing them as completely and fully as possible — and with an effortless gracefulness.

 

 

 

 

New Video: The Comic Visuals for Old 97’s “Good with God”

Comprised of primary songwriter Rhett Miller (vocals, guitar), Murry Hammond (bass), Ken Bethea (guitar) and Philip Peeples (drums), the members of renowned alt-country quartet Old 97s can trace their origins back to their formation in Dallas, TX back in 1993. Initially, a very popular band in Dallas’ scene, the band quickly caught the attention Bloodshot Records, who released Wreck Your Life, which later caught the attention of the folks at Elektra Records, who signed the band in the hopes that the then-Dallas-based quartet, along with bands like Uncle Tupelo, Drive-by-Truckers, Whiskeytown, The Jayhawks, Bottle Rockets and others, which were at the forefront of the alt-country sound would be the next big thing after grunge’s decline. However, unfortunately for both Elektra and the members of Old 97s, despite receiving a fair amount of critical applause, the band and its sound didn’t quite catch on commercially in the way that the label expected, and they were subsequently dropped from the label.

And although being dropped from a major label, can have a devastating impact on a band and their career, the band has managed to build a cult-favorite status and in the iTunes and blogosphere era, building up a devoted and supportive fanbase will provide you with an attainable and sustainable level of professional success. The band’s latest effort Graveyard Whistling reportedly deals with both life and mortality — but with the band’s distinctive and ironic sense of humor and heartfelt tenderness.

Graveyard Whistling’s latest single “Good with God” is a collaboration with renowned labelmate Caitlin Rose, and its a swaggering track that sonically owes a debt to Sun Records and renegade-era country and rockabilly; while thematically, the song’s narrator talks about being a wild badass, who has made a certain level of peace with his life, as he’s fucked things up and “made his bed and will lie in it,” and while he’s made peace with God, he isn’t sure if God has accepted it. So one level the song expresses the acceptance of a full and messy life, but an uncertainty of what happens once we’re no longer here.

Directed by Lee Kirk and produced by Michael Kristoff, the recently released video for “Good with God” features Jenna Fischer as an MTV-like VJ doing a prototypical 120 Minutes-styled interview; however, the band’s drummer is missing and Fred Armisen, who just happens to be at the studio is recruited to play the role of the band’s drummer. And although the show’s director tells Armisen’s character to just sit there and look like he was in the band, he can’t help himself from interrupting and eventually taking over the interview, much to everyone’s exasperation. As an interviewer myself, it’s painful and hilarious. Of course, it’s followed by a blistering studio performance of the song with Armisen actually playing drums.

New Video: Canadian Singer/Songwriter Terra Lightfoot’s Gorgeous Rendition of a Christmas Season Classic

Lightfoot’s sophomore effort Every Time My Mind Runs Wild was released earlier this year through Sonic Unyon Records and if you’ve been frequenting this site, you may recall that I had written about the Canadian singer/songwriter’s bluesy and heartfelt single “All Alone,” a single reminiscent of a more muscular version of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” and “Walkin’ After Midnight,” complete with the same heartache at its core. Just in time for the holidays, Lightfoot released an understated solo rendition of the Christmas season classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” which she played for the first time at CBC’s Sound of the Season last year and she recently recorded live at McMaster University’s LIVELab. Interestingly, Lightfoot’s self-accompanied guitar arrangement draws from Chet Atkins’ instrumental rendition.

As Lightfoot explains in press notes about her rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas: “I think I feel comfortable delivering a song like ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ because I can really live inside that gentle mood and melody. The heartfelt lyrics, that sense of fragile security. The melody and chords are stunning, but as a songwriter I also appreciate the uncertainty and underlying tension in the plot: you’re not sure if you’ll make it home, or maybe your home is long gone and you’re wishing you could go back. I don’t know if I would be able to deliver a song like ‘Joy to the World’ with quite as much conviction. ” Interestingly, in some way the tension within the song shouldn’t be surprising as the song was originally written from the perspective of troops separated from their families by war — and considering that families are being uprooted from their homelands and separated from each other by seemingly unending conflict or from politics, Lightfoot’s understated rendition gives the song a subtly modern context, while sounding as though it could have been released in 1957.

Personally, I think what makes Lightfoot’s rendition one of the more compelling renditions I’ve heard in some time is that the Canadian singer/songwriter’s voice conveys a painfully lonely ache and longing — the sort of longing that comes from lengthy periods apart from loved ones and from home.

New Video: The Atmospheric and Cinematic Sounds and Visuals of RF Shannon

Born and raised in the Pineywoods Region of East Texas, singer/songwriter Shane Renfro writes and records under the moniker of RF Shannon — and as RF Shannon, Renfro’s sonically specializes in sparse, atmospheric and lush sound that he has dubbed “desert blues” as its largely inspired by his current obsession with the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas — while also nodding towards classic country and Americana, and as you’ll hear on “Had A Revelation” off his Other Trails EP, the single thematically focuses on a lonely man morosely drifting about burdened by his own regrets, helplessness and thoughts under a vast and uncaring expanse of sky and blacktop. Sonically speaking, the song pairs Benfro’s plaintive falsetto croon fed through gentle amounts of reverb, with shimmering pedal steel, steady yet minimalist drumming to create a sound that nods at Caveman’s shimmering, enveloping sound, psych rock and 70s singer/songwriter rock but with a moodily cinematic feel.

The recently released video follows Renfro throughout the course of a long day and night of lonely contemplation broken up by drinking at bars, dancing in strobe lit clubs, riding amusement park rides and playing with cows — and the one consistent thing is that the video’s protagonist is extremely lonely.