Heard Lately

Americana

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Haiku of contrition:

Low key is not dull. Tolman is a natural. With nothing to prove.

Artist: Russ Tolman
Album: Goodbye El Dorado
Release date: April 19, 2019

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The deal. I’m lucky to love my hometown of Queens, New York. I’ve read a fair amount of stuff written by people trying to escape where they’re from, and I just can’t relate. I can see the problems of Queens (not really — it’s perfect), but the benefits far outweigh the challenges for me (challenges? Or opportunities?). Consequently, I tend to identify with artists who love where they’re from, adopted homes or otherwise. Anecdotally, the hometown lovers seem to be people from the Los Angeles area (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, Minutemen, and Charles Bukowski, for example). I’ve only been there once, so I don’t feel the pull of LA, but I respect the adoration. …


Haiku of contrition:

Painting song pictures.
Taking us to new places.
It is VR folk.

Artist: Erisy Watt
Album: Paints in the Sky
Release date: July 26, 2019

Erisy Watt album cover
Erisy Watt album cover

The deal. I’m always impressed by artists who can convey different states of mind. Giulia Millanta did a fantastic job conjuring different moods from song to song on her 2018 Conversations with a Ghost (my review is here). …


Haiku of contrition:

American sound.
Relaxing as a long drive.
Windmill hole-in-one.

Artist: Have Gun, Will Travel
Album: Strange Chemistry
Release date: July 12, 2019

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The deal. Workaholics, a guilty television pleasure of mine, once had a funny throwaway scene, the setup of which probably never mattered, featuring the three leads in a bald eagle-painted convertible, top down, Seven Mary Three blasting from the speakers, all drumming along to the tugboat of a song. “We are so American,” Adam DeVine tells his friends. “This is the most American thing we can do right now.” While American music is much more complicated than a simple chant over a simpler groove, there are some albums that simply resonate at a more American frequency. …


Haiku of contrition:

Not scared of country.
Rayna Jaymes gave me courage.
Too bad she’s not real.

Artist: The South Austin Moonlighters
Album: Travel Light
Release date: May 17, 2019

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The deal. Growing up in the heavy metal haven that was (and might still be) suburban Queens, when you asked people what they listened to, they’d inevitably say one of two things:

As a child/teen/young adult, my only exposure to country was occasional snippets of it on TV and in movies. You didn’t hear it on the radio and I didn’t know anyone who even knew anyone who was a fan. So while I’ve learned to appreciate, and even enjoy, country music, it’s not an easy genre for me. There’s a subtlety to it for which I’m just not naturally wired. And that’s what I enjoyed so much about The South Austin Moonlighters’ Travel Light: it’s country that’s not subtle. …


Haiku of contrition:

Low-key Tim Baker
This is a happy album.
Not in a dumb way.

Artist: Tim Baker
Album: Forever Overheard
Release date: April 19, 2019

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The deal. One thing that’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around, as a 40-something in 2019, is singer/songwriters embracing electronic elements. I’m very wedded to the James Taylor/Carole King model of an artist performing their own songs in front of acoustic instruments, preferably backing themselves. Baker’s solo debut strikes a nice balance between the acoustic and the electronic. …


So much amazing music comes out all of the time. I review what I can as quickly as I can, working my physical and digital piles as efficiently as possible, but things fall between the cracks. Rather than giving up on things that are a little past their prime, contemporary-review-standards-wise, I’m going back for the overflow that deserves to be heard — even if it’s a little late.

Haiku of contrition:

Brandon Santini.
He has a strong sense of self.

Longshot is true north.

Artist: Brandon Santini
Album: The Longshot
Release date: March 15, 2019

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The deal. Blues rock is a tougher genre than it might seem. There’s a sweet-spot that allows the music to rock, while also sounding familiarly bluesy. If an album drifts too far into one of those genres, the entire enterprise collapses. Or at least it’s less of an enjoyable listen. Singer/harmonica player Brandon Santini’s The Longshot perfectly walks that highwire of a blues rock line. The album rocks, but there are also some nice, authentic blues touches. …

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Heard Lately

Rather than giving up on reviewing albums that are a little…

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