Self-Released – August 12, 2016
It’s great to have some new stuff from Warren. His first full length, The Fabled Canelands, lives in a special, sentimental part of my mind with records like Jeffrey Lewis’ A Turn in the Dream Songs and Yellow Ostrich’s The Mistress – all albums that populated the playbox at WRFL during my first semester of late-night/early-morning shows. I’ve revisited that album – especially songs like “Sidewalk Kings of New Orleans” and “Home” – several times since the spring of 2012, and I’ve taken something new from it upon each repeated listen.
With references to the French Quarter and “the storm” as well as to Old Frankfort Pike and Henry Clay, Heavy Makes You Happy listens like a love song to Warren’s homes – past and present – in New Orleans and Lexington. Alongside these more direct references to place, live more personal life experiences. “Elkhorn Flood Blues” is a night in late summer, paying homage to the might of our own, modest Elkhorn Creek when it occasionally swells past its banks. “Ice” is a live take from UK’s Chandler Hospital that recalls the sounds of trees shedding limbs after an ice storm, and “Water Tower” opens with the line “there’s a lot of love in this land locked town, some days I try and drink it down.”
“Get Real” is an altogether beautiful song, and fantastic close to the album – a breathtaking reflection on life in New Orleans “after the storm” that slowly heats up until it boils over with emotion. By the time the song nears that emotional break, I can’t imagine hearing “when the mud starts rushing down and crushing through the town, I better find some loving hands and hold on for dear life” with dry eyes.
Heavy Makes You Happy tells stories of experiences we’ve shared collectively through the lens of the individual. I remember being without power for nine days following the ice storm of 2009, the yearly flooding of the Elkhorn Creek, and watching helplessly from Kentucky as Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans at full force. Warren has chronicled his own memories of these experiences, and many more, into songs that add up to an emotional album that feels relatable and bittersweet from start to finish. For someone who has lived in Lexington his whole life, this album makes me homesick, even though I still live here.
Tracks I Liked: Elkhorn Flood Blues!, Ice!!, New Best Friend!, Water Tower!!, Get Real!!!
Ben Southworth – August 28, 2016 – 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
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
With songs that were recorded mostly in one take, this album brings some of Lexington’s most important musicians together making music for a good cause. It features Roddy Puckett, James Eaton, Caitlin Broderson, Ainsley Wagoner, James Friley, Reva Williams, as well as many more over its seven tracks. I happened to run in to Warren the day he released it, and he told me that it served as a fun project, and as a sort of a warm-up that moved him past the daunting idea of beginning another full-length project. The proceeds from sales of the album will go to benefit Moveable Feast Lexington, and is the first release from Apartment One – a not-for-profit studio that works to advance independent musicians while donating a good portion of their money to charitable causes. The music is great, and it is timed perfectly, with Christmas right around the corner (Check out the original Jesus Christ, The Christmas Tree’s On Fire.) Enjoy it folks!
Tracks I Liked: Christmas Time is Here!!, Lost in the Stars!, Baby It’s Cold Outside!!, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, The Christmas Song!, Blue Christmas!!!, Jesus Christ, the Christmas Tree’s On Fire!!!
Some additional links you might find helpful:
– Ben Southworth