No Quarter – May 5, 2017
Louisville’s Joan Shelley is known for her quiet, soothing music and beautiful, clear voice – Joan Shelley is elegantly all of these things, and a quietening listening experience throughout. The album begins with the quiet track, “We’d Be Home,” featuring a pair of guitars churning softly beneath Joan’s voice as she repeats “if you were made for me, we’d be home.” On “Where I’ll Find You,” the space is filled with shuffling, brushed percussion and a light organ – the song’s highlight is Joan’s vocal duet in the chorus. My favorite of the album is “Even Though,” a brief, simply-orchestrated song of plodding, finger-picked guitar and voice that manages a beautiful, melancholic fullness in its sound. Piano is added to the texture on “Pull Me Up One More Time,” with electric guitars crying softly in the background – Joan addresses her sister, “have I lingered too long, sister?” before reaching out for a hand, “pull me up one more time, for I have fallen.” The album ends with a droning, dissonant acoustic guitar on “Isn’t that Enough,” where piano doubles Joan’s voice several octaves below during the verses; her final lyrics of the album ask, “isn’t that enough, that you were meant to be free?”
The talent of the album’s remarkable collaborating musicians James Elkington, Nathan Salsburg, and Jeff and Spencer Tweedy is in their subtlety and restraint, adding only what is essential to the texture of these songs. Joan Shelley is an utterly appropriate title for its namesake’s fourth LP – despite the album’s superstar collaborators, Joan’s signature voice and songwriting are the driving, dominant force behind this music. I’d recommend this album with headphones, so you can catch every beautiful, nuanced note beneath the surface.
Tracks I Liked: We’d Be Home!!, Where I’ll Find You!, Even Though!!!, Pull Me Up One More Time!!, Wild Indifference!, Isn’t That Enough!
Ben Southworth – May 1, 2017 – Kenwick Place
Self-Released – December 4th, 2015
The first time I saw Small Batch perform, they were set up on the porch of Griffin’s Modern Motel as we celebrated the mounting of the Colonel Harland Sanders weathervane on the building’s top-most turret. But even though I’d never seen these five perform together before, I had heard many of them perform in other groups before –
in fact, these five have played in so many groups between them that I really can’t think of a good way to type it all out here. All this is to say – Small Batch is comprised of some very talented and experienced musicians, and True Loves is reflective of this.
True Loves is named for the album’s second track, an up-tempo coming-of-age song ruminating on the joy of youth and navigating family dynamics. The songs here come across as honest and personal reflections, and the album is made more interesting by the fact that no two songs in a row are sung by the same person. Though Small Batch ends up having three lead singers over the course of these songs – Reva Williams, Tree Jackson, and Warren Byrom – the consistently tight instrumentation and vocal harmonies keep True Loves sounding like one, cohesive work. What is gained from this is a feeling of well-roundedness – it’s nice to glean some philosophical and musical insight from each member of the band individually.
Standouts on the album for me are “Dark Days,” “Home,” and “Tickled Pink” – each for a different reason. “Dark Days” is a model for what a good lead-off track can sound like: it starts off simply, gradually adds texture and energy, and possesses a really gorgeous chorus that showcases Reva’s voice and the band’s knack for vocal harmonies. “Home” is a song of Warren’s (also recorded on his album, The Fabled Canelands) that shows off Small Batch’s ability to flesh out a member’s ideas for a song – adding what needs to be added, but with restraint. “Tickled Pink” is light, fun, quick-shuffling, and short – in much the same way that “Dark Days” was the perfect way to start the album, “Tickled Pink” is a great way of closing it.
It’s certainly worth mentioning that for all the great songwriting chops that the three singers bring to the band, they’re backed up by two very talented rhythm players. With Scott Wilmoth on bass and Robby Cosenza on drums, the group is held together sturdily, but in a way that both musicians are able to add their own sort of signature on the sound. Either’s presence on True Loves is felt as strongly as any other, and between all five members you’ve got a group of very talented, tasteful, and experienced musicians making some very good music. True Loves is honest, refreshing, insightful, and an album that I’m very hopeful people will decide to hear.
Tracks I Liked: Dark Days!!!, True Loves!, Jubilee!, Arizona!, Home!!, Tickled Pink!!
Ben Southworth – November 27th, 2015 – Mount Horeb
If you recall, back in December, Warren Byrom and friends released a seven song sampler of holiday tunes. That album was done in collaboration with Apartment Four, the same folks responsible for this one. Unlike that Christmassy collection that had a certain endearing sound of folkiness and relative lo-fidelity throughout, this compilation features artists from several genres of music. It’s front-loaded with a pair of electronic tracks, heads through some acoustic, rock, blues, hip-hop, and more – giving the collection a variety in sounds and moods. But much like that release from December, Apt. 4 is staying in line with one key thing – they’ve brought together several musicians to create an album that hopes to benefit a local charity. Though it’s hard to say whether the musicians on this album were ever all in the same room (while a handful were recorded at Apt. 4, several were recorded and submitted by the artists) they’ve all convened at the idea of helping out a good-doing organization – this time Seedleaf. Moving beyond this, the music isn’t just a cheap collection of mediocre music to drum up a little money for a good cause – though there’s a wide array of sounds, they’re all of high quality and great musicality. The tracks that were recorded on-site at Apt. 4 have a wide variety of sounds and tone, and show that the folks behind this project have more than just charitable intentions in their wheelhouse of abilities – they’re able to capture music effectively. If you’re wanting a great array of local musicians, and want to feel philanthropic at the same time, I’d recommend grabbing a copy.
Ben Southworth – June 6th, 2013
Genre: Acoustic Emo-Punkcore
This EP is not like music I typically receive – even though I’d call it “acoustic,” it’s pretty far from the typical twang that I usually pursue. Seasons//Changes by Here, Hear – the one-man project of Louisville’s Davin Jones – is a seven song collection that comes in sounding a little like a cross between Connor Oberst and early Modest Mouse. Why Connor Oberst? Because it’s downright dreary in atmosphere for the most part – it comes pretty close to the confessional songwriting of much of his material, and at times his vocals even sound a little like him. Early Modest Mouse? I got this vibe mostly from the sixth song, “The John Hughes Blues,” with its picking and bends, but the whole album comes in with a certain amount of lo-fidelity that can be found on their earlier albums. The sound on the album is interesting, because lord knows, that with the type of equipment available today for low cost, it’s not that difficult to make a recording of guitar and voice sound crisp and clean – I tend to think that it was a bit of an artistic decision by the musician, and it certainly adds to the ambiance of the album. This suspicion of intentional-sound-choice is only made stronger for me when I see on his Bandcamp page “all recordings were done in one session.” It puts across an air of catharsis and release, that these songs were all put out in one big purge – appropriate for their subject matters. If you’re young and familiar with feelings of emotionalism and vulnerability, this one might just be for you – as so many already have, Here, Hear uses the song as an art form for expression. As I read Andrew Bird recently wondering, “Why is the song safe?” It doesn’t have to be universally so, but for some people it is, and to varying degrees – that’s what makes everyone’s music unique from one another.
Ben Southworth – Rockport, Massachusetts – June 4th, 2013
I imagine that this is a topic I’ll be blogging about more than once – especially as it seems like I hear about plans for a new album to come out almost every day – but here’s the first installment. Let me tell you about a few local albums that I’m looking forward to.
And you should be too!
Englishman – Unsafe & Sound
If you read the blog very often, you’ll know that I’m particularly fond of acoustic/singer-songwriter music. In fact, it’s what first drew me to Englishman’s eponymous LP. Since my first impressions of his first album – which was both a uniquely and beautifully recorded piece – my tastes have changed quite a bit. I’ve retained my love for the “easy-listening” that made up much of his first few releases, but have also learned to get excited for stuff with a little more grit. From the sounds of the first-released track on this upcoming EP, it sounds like English has too – there’s heavy synth-basslines and distorted guitars all around, things that definitely didn’t make it onto his first albums. That said, his recognizable sound and lyric-writing are both still strong here, and I’m very excited to see where he’s going with the rest of the songs. That, plus artwork from Robert Beatty (that I think is somewhat different from the image to the left,) as well as a few other things, make this a really exciting release.
Hear “More Than Insects” –
Warren Byrom & Fabled Canelands
A lot like Englishman, Warren Byrom and the Fabled Canelands were one of the first groups from around here that I got into – both of them are still favorites of mine. Though I’m not super sure what exactly it is that Warren and the boys have in store for us, from the last couple of times I’ve heard them – I think it’ll be good. Warren has been hinting around (and downright telling us) that they’ll be going into the studio to record eleven new songs within the next month. If I heard him correctly at his show with Joan Shelley on Friday, they’ll be doing their work at Shangri-La – Duane Lundy is a talented engineer, and Warren, Jose, Seth, and Robby have all got no shortage of chops. If you liked their first album, one that did a great job of sounding clean, while retaining the energy of their live performances, I think that this upcoming release will be great as well.
Hear their first album, “The Fabled Canelands”
In addition to these two, there’s some more that are on their way – I’d write about them now, but I don’t know much about them at the moment – I’ll have some words about them soon!
- Mayonnaise – 7-Song Demo
- The Rough Customers
- They Yearn For What They Fear
- Cheyenne Mize – Among the Grey
- Everyone Lives, Everyone Wins
- And yes… The WRFL-Live! Summer 2012 Compilation (keep your eye here and on our Facebook page, I promise we haven’t forgotten about it!)
I’m sure I’m forgetting something, and there’s always more to come, so I ask you this:
“What local releases are you looking forward to??”
– Ben Southworth